Sunday, January 26, 2014

Burning Hills Cacao Stout Update

In the secondary
Today, after 8 days in the primary fermenter, I transferred the stout over to the secondary. Gravity reads 1.026 at 64°, which has a virtually negligible correction factor to 60° 1.026. Down from an original gravity of 1.062, this leaves around 4.7% abv at the moment. Assuming that the lactose in the recipe is almost completely unfermentable, I should be pretty close to final gravity with this one, judging by the calculations in BeerSmith.

Based on my tasting at the time of transfer, this is going to be an absolutely delicious stout. It is smooth and creamy, and I was pleasantly surprised to have a mild but distinct cocoa finish pop in a few seconds after each sip. However, it's also a "big" and hearty beer...I think I'm probably going to stick with almost exclusively 12-oz. bottles for this one. An 18- or 22-oz. pour would be just too filling to enjoy.

This transfer session is also notable as the first time I've used my "new" brewing setup in the garage. I finally got some time to swap out the old utility sink (which was covered in grease, old paint, and other grunge) and set up a re-purposed work bench. Just on this first run it is much more convenient than the kitchen counter!
The new brewery location...not in the kitchen.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Burning Hills Cacao Stout

It has been a long time since I brewed up a stout from scratch (four years, to be precise), so it is high time to get back into that game. I've done a few just-add-malt-and-water kits, which turned out quite well, but I wanted a bit more of a challenge. I have been looking for something with some body, so a milk stout seemed like just the ticket. And I like chocolate milk, so some cocoa powder came into play too (baker's chocolate and the like have too much fat to brew well). The whole recipe is named to commemorate the unseasonably dry weather and associated brush fires...because why not?

I am excited to try a few new things with this recipe (which is a modification from several I found on-line). First, I've never brewed with lactose is supposed to give body without adding much in the way of fermentables, and the only slightly sweet taste of the powder seems consistent with that. I've also never brewed with cocoa powder; given the small amount, I don't expect a huge chocolaty flavor, but just a hint is what I am aiming for. Finally, I spotted a new dry yeast at my local home brew shop--BRY-97 American West Coast dry yeast from Danstar. Apparently it's only been out for a year or so, and this is the first time I've seen it stocked anywhere. Given the clean flavor profiles of the liquid West Coast Ale yeasts I've brewed with before, this seemed like a good match for my beer. If I have success, I might move the BRY-97 into regular rotation when I can get it.

Burning Hills Cacao Stout

  • 1.5 lbs. 80°L crystal malt
  • 0.25 lbs. black (patent) malt
  • 0.25 lbs. chocolate malt
  • 0.25 lbs. roasted barley
  • 6 lbs. dark dry malt extract
  • 1 lb. milk sugar (lactose)
  • 2 oz. Cascade hops (whole)
  • 1 oz. cocoa powder (Hershey's unsweetened)
  • 0.5 tsp. Irish moss
  • 1 pkg. BRY-97 American West Coast dry yeast (Danstar)


  • Steep grains in 6 quarts of water at 155-160°, for 45 minutes
  • Sparge grains with 2 quarts of water
  • Top up brew kettle to 4 gallons, bring to a boil. Turn off heat, add dry malt extract. Bring back to boil, add hops.
  • After 45 minutes, add Irish moss. After 55 minutes, add lactose. After 60 minutes, turn off heat and add cocoa powder.
  • Cool wort and transfer to fermenter. Top up to 5 gallons and pitch yeast (already rehydrated per package directions).
  • Starting gravity was 1.060 at 74°, which adjusts to 1.062 at 60°. 

Peter's Irish Red Ale Transferred

It has been 7 days since I brewed up Peter's Irish Red Ale, so it was time to transfer to the secondary fermenter. Gravity, adjusted to 60°, is 1.019. With a starting gravity of 1.034, this registers at about 2.1% abv. Hopefully we'll get a little more to ferment out over the next few weeks. The gravity right now is on the high side for what I expected...I usually get down to around 1.012 or 1.014 on other batches (and the Windsor yeast can surely do that!). Hopefully the transfer will kick-start the yeast back into action (if that's what they needed). I am somewhat regretting not putting Irish moss in, as the beer is exceptionally hazy right now; this is going to need a good few weeks to finish up, I think! In any case, the flavor is pretty good, so I think it will turn out OK in the end.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Peter's Irish Red Ale

My buddy Peter got me an Irish red ale kit from a brew shop up in San Francisco, and today we brewed it up. I modified it a little from the directions that came with the kit (primarily in the steeping volumes and top-off volume), to hit a slightly higher gravity than BeerSmith calculated for a 5 gallon batch. This is the first time in my memory that I've brewed with aromatic or Carafa malts, so I'll be curious to see how the flavor profile ends up. I also didn't do Irish moss on this recipe, so I expect it will have a little more chill haze than my usual batches (and the wort seems to foreshadow this).

Peter's Irish Red Ale

  • 1 lb. 8 oz. Maris Otter malt
  • 8 oz. 30°L crystal malt
  • 8 oz. barley flakes
  • 8 oz. aromatic malt
  • 8 oz. Carafa malt
  • 4 lbs. pilsen light dry malt extract
  • 0.5 oz. Kent Golding hops, 5.61% alpha acid (first addition, 60 minutes total)
  • 0.5 oz. Kent Golding hops, 5.61% alpha acid (second addition, 30 minutes total)
  • 1 oz. Kent Golding hops, 5.61% alpha acid (aroma, steep ~20 minutes)
  • 1 package Windsor dry yeast
  • Steep grains in 6 quarts water at ~155°, sparge with 2 quarts of water
  • Top up to 4 gallons, heat to boiling. Turn off heat, add dry malt extract.
  • Bring back to boiling, add hops. Boil for 30 minutes, add second addition and boil for another 30 minutes (60 minutes total).
  • Turn off heat, add aroma hops, cool with cooling coil.
  • Proof yeast in 2 cups of warm water.
  • Transfer wort to primary fermenter and top up to 4.67 gallons, add yeast.
  • The original gravity was 1.034 at 74°, which works out to 1.037 at 60°.
  • The beer is a touch outside of the style guide for Irish red ale, with a slightly darker color and slightly lower original gravity than in the "ideal". Nonetheless, this should be a tasty brew!

Citation Porter Bottled

After one month in the secondary fermenter, I bottled my Citation Porter on January 5. Final gravity was 1.014; with a starting gravity of 1.054, this calculates out to 5.3% abv. I primed the beer with 1/2 cup corn sugar dissolved in 2 cups of boiling water. This is a little less than I normally do, but some of my other batches have been more carbonated than I like. Plus, porters are supposed to be on the low end of carbonation.

The final yield was 25 12-oz. bottles, 10 18-oz. bottles, and 5 22-oz bottles. At bottling, the flavor was rich and toasty, pretty close to what I had expected. I can't wait to try this one!