There was a time when if you happened to walk into my house on a weekend you'd likely smell some sweet barley aromas and see me bent over a large blue esky with a sack of barley on my shoulder. We got kicked out of that house a year ago and I hadn't made a proper beer since. Now a coopers homebrew kit is cheap as chips and makes a drinkable beer, but you can never hold up a chilled glass of that stuff and feel a swell in your chest cause all you really did was follow the instructions. This had to change and so a few weeks ago I made an order with the good people at Dave's Homebrew to organise a nice, big bag of grain and some other goodies delivered to my door, then I got busy making some real beer.
This tasty beverage is my first all grain mash in exactly a year, according to my beer diary. I keep a record of every beer I make, noting the recipe. I spent a long time honing two beers down to just how I wanted them, a cream stout and a lemongrass ale. Coming back into it, though, I wanted to mix it up a little so I decided to make a hoppy chocolate stout.
Most commercial stouts are pretty mild in flavour but I've been really enjoying some extra hoppy beers lately (in particular, Matilda Bay's Fat Yak) and I wanted to keep on drinking them from my own keg. So I set out to make the perfect chocolate stout. This is what I love about the DIY approach, you can create things just the way you imagine they should be, rather than relying on someone else's judgement of what the market wants (which invariably leads to the lager plague!).
My mash was made up of flaked barley, chocolate malt and pale malt, plenty of stouty flavours in there.
I'm pretty unsophisticated when it comes to the mash. Just a single grain infusion for two hours. Then out comes the sugary brown liquid. I drank a cup of it straight from the tub, all sweet and malty, and admired the wort as it boiled and turned green with bittering hops.
The new warm weather has made fermentation easy, in our slate-covered laundry it stays around 24 degrees most of the time. The perfect temperature for the californian ale yeast that I love so much. The brew took about 2 weeks to bubble right out and then went down into the keg with the finishing hops for a second in-keg fermentation. I let it sit there gathering flavour for a few more days until I couldn't wait any longer. I connected up the keg to the gas line to pressurise on Tuesday, then tapped the keg on Wednesday. What happened next was not an immediate success and the first of several lessons I learned that night. The finishing hops I'd added did not dissolve into the mix as I had imagined, they simply formed a mealy green layer at the bottom of the keg and completely clogged the lines as soon as I tried to pour from them. This took a little work to fix with my wife helping me strain from one keg into another through a layer of muslin. We lost most of the fiz that way (not a huge loss, but still).
After a lot of lifting, moving and wiping up spilt beer we finally had a pourable brew!
Turns out that the beer was delicious and weighing in at 5.6% alcohol it is not to be taken lightly. I held back a bit on the finishing hops, so it didn't really come out as hoppy as I hoped, but that was probably a bonus as the chocolate tones are also quite subtle and the balance of flavours is pretty much perfect. And now all there is to do is sit back and enjoy my tasty, tasty chocolate stout.