Developing an Idea
Any free time I get right now (however limited that might be) is being put toward developing new recipes, whether that be entirely new ideas or just tweaking an old recipe with something new and exciting. For todays Brew, we are tweaking an old Robust Porter I had brewed plenty before. As just a Robust Porter this beer was profoundly Malty, Roasty, and with a full punch of Chocolate and adding a new variable: Spice.
Creating a beer tends to be a lot of educated guess & check: Create a recipe based on tried and tested ideas, and slowly change the recipe over the course of multiple batches, finding out what you like about the recipe and what can be left out. The base recipe for the Robust Porter started as a very simple Maris Otter and Chocolate Malt based beer, which while good, was nowhere near where the base is today. But that is the joy of homebrewing, brewing, and cooking in general, just as you would make a pasta sauce you add a little more basil on first taste, maybe some black pepper on second taste, and a bay leaf afterward. Unfortunately unlike making a pasta sauce, we cannot simply adjust our recipes at every taste, as every taste comes after a day of brewing, 2 weeks of fermentation, and possibly additional aging time rather than every 5 minutes of simmering. Luckily this is batch #9 of Robust Porter, so our ideas are dialed in to the point where I feel comfortable throwing a complete monkey wrench in the process by adding Smoked Chipotle Peppers. While this beer was terrific on its own, it could definitely handle additional flavors to pair with the rich chocolate and roast. Typically when I make a Chili, especially one with a huge pack of heat I tend to throw in a few pieces of dark chocolate chips to add the extra mouth-feel and help round out the flavor, and that was my inspiration for taking this chocolatey beer and giving it that Chili
Building the Recipe: How to Pair Spice
Like most beers I tend to make I went with a very English base: Maris Otter (56%), which gives more character, nuttiness, and biscuit flavors than a standard American two-row malt. The second major contributor is Crystal 60 (12%) which gives a defined toffee flavor and an amber hue to an otherwise jet-black beer. Equal amounts of Roasted Barley (10%) and Chocolate Malt (10%) help pack the flavor you would expect from Cocoa Nibs (Bitter, roasted, nutty, dry). To make it a true English Robust Porter Brown Malt (8%) is also added to give an additional toasted and nutty flavor that can only be achieved using this unique malt which used to be the base malt of every English Porter before modern malting techniques were perfected. Unlike previous iterations of this recipe I decided to add Flaked Barley (4%) in addition to give an even deeper body to really make sure the spice is paired well rather than being overbearing. This is then mashed all the way up at 154F, leaving behind a ton of unfermented sweetness which is normally perfect for a winter night, but instead to be paired with the heat for a Summer night.
Since this is an extremely sweet base beer it also needs to be paired with a fair amount of hops to add complexity and to avoid a cloyingly sweet beer. The Hop profile for the Porter is relatively simple with Columbus as the bittering hop (Relatively standard for a lot of my beers, and adds a little pine and spice in this case), Saaz at the 15 minute mark for a clean herbal taste, and a big punch of Centennial at the end for a Citrus and spice kick, rounding out at about 50 IBU. We are not aiming for anything funky with the fermentation profile so we settled with American Ale yeast which tends to not add anything of note to the beer, but also does not subtract or overly complicate.
Spice: Baby Spice
Spice is the variety of life, and there are many ways to spice a beer. Well for this batch I decided Roasted Chipotle was the direction I wanted to go in, giving it a safe level of smoke and spice. These will be added by making a “spice tea”: first we’ll coarsely chop the peppers (with seeds) and boil them until softened. After the peppers are softened the liquid will be poured through a cheese cloth, saving the liquid to be added into the Bright Tank, or in this case directly into kegs after fermentation. This allows for a consistent addition of spice/flavor so this beer can be scaled up from the pilot system to the full system (thats a lot of peppers).
Putting it all together
This will be the next beer brewed, with an update on the Brewday and on the final taste. Really hoping this is the beer to bring to Chili Kickoffs and a generally good beer to pair with Barbecue, Ribs, and anything smoked.
Building the Brewery
As you have probably seen from the Facebook / Instagram posts, the Brewery build is finally coming together. We have the tasting room completely framed out, one of the two bathrooms built, and rapid progress being made to move forward. This week I’ll be ordering the PVC pipes and all the valves, solenoids, and controllers necessary to get the Glycol System (Refrigeration system) put together to get the Fermenters are hooked up and ready. As soon as the Fermenters are setup my next step will be moving onto the Brewhouse, getting a platform welded, ordering my Control Panel, and setting up a Mill and auger.