Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Time Heals All Brews

One homebrewing lesson I have learned many many times is that time does heal all beers.  Back in the fall of 2011 I had this great idea to try and replicate a 1722 style porter based on the history of the style described in Ray Daniels book Designing Great Beer.  So I jumped online, bought some brown malt, amber malt, and since I decided most malts would have been kilned over a wood fire back then, some cherry wood smoked malt.  I used 3 pounds of each of them in a three and a half gallon batch.  I was aiming for an original gravity of 1.072, but having never used two of these malts before (the brown and smoked were both new to me), I didn't realize the really crappy extract yield you get from them.  I ended up with an O.G. of 1.044.  I wasn't going to sweat it, I figured I'll be happy with a 4% beer, not the end of the world.
Prior to brewing this however, I made a mini cool ship for a starter to get some airborne yeast.  I let it go for a few days to make sure I saw some fermentation in it before pitching it into this porter.  My thought was that there was probably a lot of wild yest in these old porters as this was before they had isolated strands.
Next step, I let it sit for about a year (technically 13 months), adding some oak chips at some point.  I have no idea how long the oak was in there because I, like an idiot, forgot to take notes about that.  I actually forgot I added the oak till I was racking it into my bottling bucket so I'm guessing it was in there for at least 10 months.
When bottling I was almost certain I had a disaster on my hands.  It was an oak monster with a final gravity of 1.027.  Turns out not only did I have a crappy mash efficiency, but also my attenuation was quite low giving me a final abv of 2.2%.  I of course took a sip at bottling time and my first thought was, Now you've done it you blockhead.  I was almost certain this entire batch was going down the drain based on my sip at that point.  I bottled anyway, then after 2 weeks tested a bottle which confirmed that thought.  I tried a bottle again at 3 weeks, after a few sips I had to dump the rest as it was undrinkable.

Now finally, about a month out, I decided to try one last bottle that was going to decide whether or not I kept the rest or dumped them, and holy crap this beer is great.  All the smoke flavor is either gone or totally masked by the oak which is the dominant flavor.  It has a decent body, not much of a head and again a big oak aroma.  Any sourness or funk that I was hoping to get from the wild yeast is at most just slightly present in the after taste.  In fact after tasting this I had to go back to my original notes and verify that I did indeed use wild yeast to make this.  There is no brett character, or anything you would think of when thinking about a lambic or Flanders red.  Over all it is a decent session beer.  My original plan for this beer back in 2011 was for this to be a strong soured porter that I would then mix with a weaker fresh porter like the original ales of London.  Since this is neither strong, nor sour, I think instead I'm just going to enjoy this beer as is, a wonderful session beer.

No comments: