Saturday, 28 May 2011

Beer 4 - Fat Moley! Or maybe Desman...

Fat Moley is stout. Or it was supposed to be. What "Fat Moley" has turned out to be is an awkward sod of a beer.

The idea behind Fat Moley (now I know I can make something you can drink without going "GAH!" at the end) is that stout has a strong enough flavour that it's probably hard to get wrong. Also stout is nice. And what might be even better is oatmeal stout, which would have more body. And maybe even better than *that* is vanilla-oatmeal stout, with the vanilla giving it even more smoothness. And how do you add Vanilla to beer? Well apparently you soak the pods in Bourbon first. So at the end of this we have Bourbon-Vanilla-Oatmeal-Stout. Overkill?

For the record here's the grain bill -

  • 6.9 kg Pale Malt
  • 400g Dark Crystal Malt
  • 150g Black Patent Malt
  • 300g Roasted Barley
  • 600g Oatmeal

Now, at the 75% efficiency I hit last time, that was going to come out damn strong. 7% in fact. 7.5 by the time you added on bottling sugar. It was more than I was originally aiming for when I picked up the grain but then I found a kilo of the Sussex Beast grain mix and decided to chuck it in as well, to get to the totals above.

I started the same way as before, Sterilising everything and doing a 90 minute mash at 67C. Not that it was 67, it was 62 this time by the time I got everything mixed in, though some boiling water helped that. The tun didn't seem to hold its temperature quite as well this time, it's possible that after its use as a drinks cooler on a recent road trip that some of the seals are going. It got bashed around a bit. Anyway, mash done I started to drain the wort into a fermentation bin.

This is when the first problem started, the draining was really, really slow. I followed Sensible Mole's advice as before and passed the sweet wort back in to the grain bed to clarify it and compact the bed further. Which is when the liquid stopped pouring through. Hooray! Dammit... A stuck mash. I tried waiting, I tried tipping the tun, I tried shaking the tun. Eventually I had to open it, stir everything up, clear the wort-collection manifold with a knife, all sorts of stuff. Eventually I ended up making a huge mess, scooping the whole content of the tun into a mesh bag in a spare fermentation bin, and squeezing it out. Horrible mess, sticky wort everywhere, hot grains slowly burning my hands. Great fun. Eventually I got the grain back in the tun to sparge it. The sparging was still really slow, but eventually we got there. I put a few litres of spargewater into the wort for the boil and froze a couple of litres in case they were needed the next day.

The boil went pretty well, though as before it takes a long time to get that much liquid to boiling point on a hob. The hop schedule was as follows:

  • 27g Fuggles at 60 minutes
  • 60g East Kent Golding at 60 minutes
  • 40g East Kent Golding at 30 minutes
  • 40g East Kent Golding at 5 minutes
  • 30g Challenger at 5 minutes

Also there was an Irish Moss tablet and a teaspoon of yeast nutrient at 10 minutes. After the boil I stuck the wort into the cube and left it until after work the next day to continue the process. I didn't stick it in the fridge this time due to having broken a shelf AND defrosted everything in the freezer last time. Turns out 20L of boiling liquid is enough to do that. This time I also strained the hop material out before cubing it for the night.

Next step was to put the now mostly cool post-boil wort into a freshly sterilised fermentation bin. The yeast I whipped up with a small amount of the wort to start it, then chucked it in. The cube is smaller than the 25 litres I wanted to brew, so I defrosted and quickly boiled the couple of litres of spargewater I had saved, then topped the rest of the way up with water. Measuring the gravity I got 1.062, significantly less than what was supposed to come out. Efficiency was only about 62%. That was the second thing not right, the first being the stuck mash. Still, just means it's not going to be as strong as it was originally going to be. That's probably a good thing.

Third thing to go not-according-to-plan was that a week later it still hadn't finished fermenting. Unlike "Molebrau" though, it wasn't stopping and starting. Oh No. Fat Moley was going for it hell for leather! The beer calculators I used had said it was supposed to stop fermenting at SG 1.020. For the uninitiated Specific Gravity (SG) is a measure of the dissolved sugar in a liquid. The difference between the Original gravity when you pitch the yeast into the brew, and the Final gravity, tells you how much sugar has been converted to alcohol. Some sugars are not fermentable by the yeast and these leftover sugars are why the Final gravity is usually higher than 1.000. 1.000 is water. This give a beer body. Fat Moley was supposed to have lots of body. Even after the bad efficiency it was supposed to stop at 1.017. But no, Fat Moley carried on until 1.012. So now we're back up in the 7% alcohol range and the yeast has eaten the body.

Still, when it did stop I tried it and it tasted pretty great. That was when I mixed in the vanilla and bourbon. Then I tasted it again. And instead of the lovely stout taste we had before there was... vanilla and bourbon! Balls. To stop the vanilla flavour going any further I passed the whole brew through a mesh bag to catch the pieces of vanilla pod. Now Fat Moley is sat there, on the bench. Stewing. I hope it's drinkable after a couple of weeks to rest and then a couple of weeks in a bottle. If not, well, as I'm writing this I'm waiting for the sweet wort to drain on Fat Moley attempt 2. I think I might rename attempt 1 "Desman". A Desman is a type of Talpidae, related to moles but not a real mole.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Moley's Sussex Beast - results and tasting

I've been remiss in getting this one posted, as I have now drunk a fair amount of it but not shared the results with anyone but Gordon. Also the next beer (Fat Moley) is mashing in the next room, so I thought I'd take the time to write up my results. Here's the label:

Next time I'll have to make something up myself, the auto-label-maker only does three colours, and we've done those now. So, where were we. Ah yes, Moley's Sussex Beast. After clearing in Secondary for a week or so, Owen turned up in Australia and brought with him some Polypin bags. This would allow me to package the beer in an airtight way without needing it pressurised, something I thought may be more 'authentic'. Authentic it may be, tasty it was not really. At least I bottled half of it...

We took a box of beer, made up to look like wine in a box, on our road trip Up North to Karrijini, and sat in the dusty Karrijini sunset enjoying a few bottles of "Old Moley" from the chiller, before deciding to give the beast a try. Gordon summed it up nicely.

"I used to work in a pub, it tastes like what you get in the drip tray at the end of the night. Don't ask how I know that".

Truth be told, this one does not work without carbonation, it turns out that box beer is not the world's best idea. But from a bottle it's a different story.

And there's a bottle of it. When poured it holds a head (unlike Molebrau), it smells like you're opening a decent beer and the colour is a lovely light brown. So far so ale-like. Then there's the taste. Unfortunately this is not quite on target. I put this down to the use of American Ale style yeast and not British Ale style. Possibly also the slightly low mash temperature used in the making of the beer. Either way it tastes exactly like someone took all the ingredients of a British bitter, and then made them into an American beer. Strange that. Think about what would happen if you had the fresh taste of something like Sierra Nevada, but the actual taste components of a good English pint. It's also slightly over-bitter, which is not surprising as I did shoot for the top end of the bitterness scale for the type of beer I was making.

It is, despite its faults, actually pretty drinkable. Indeed last Friday a friend I inflicted it upon actually had a second bottle after the first, so it can't be all bad.

So there we are. Not a total waste of time and effort. Actually pretty drinkable. I have, of course, bottled the 10 litres that was originally in bags now. Those are in the back room, I suppose I'll try them later. I don't hold out much hope they'll be that good after being moved between bag and bottle so much, but they'll be worth a try. With a sugar tablet in each to kick off the secondary fermentation and provide the fizz, they might be redeemed. Either way, it's time for me to go now as I only have half an hour until Fat Moley is due to come out of the mash.

Fat Moley is stout :)