Tuesday, December 27, 2011

'Tis the Season! Oatmeal Christmas Cookie Ale and Graeters BRC Stout

Before getting into the beer talk Blake and I wanted to wish a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday season to anyone stumbling across our little blog. There are a lot of really great traditions that all of our families share with one another over these festive times; decorations, lights, presents, and family dinners are just a few that our family takes part in every year. For me, the excitement of all these things can be a distraction when thinking about the true meaning of the season - taking a step back to appreciate all of the opportunity and support we have been blessed with by our great family and friends. With that being said, Blake and I would like to thank everyone that has supported us through 2011 in not only our brewing happenings, but also life.

Brewing with Friends Roll Call:
Blake, Kristin, Bo, Tina, Joey, Whit

Beer Talk:
Winter just seems to be so much more conducive to brewing than the summer season - there's just something about standing around a boiling kettle in 30 degree weather with friends and family enjoying the outdoors! We had two brewing sessions back to back in December and the brewmaster and I agreed that we wanted to help get into the spirit of Winter and Christmas...and what better way to do it than brewing beers that are fit for the season??

Oatmeal Christmas Cookie Ale -
When the brewmaster and I started discussing the two beers for this brew-sesh we immediately agreed that our experimental beer needed to fit the winter season (generally we brew one of our "staple" or "mainstay" beers along with an experimental recipe). We haven't had much experience brewing beers with special ingredients such as pumpkin, spices, fruit, etc - but with this sesh we fully intended on plunging into this head first...we agreed on a recipe that would mimic a delicious Oatmeal Christmas Cookie! The brewmaster authored the malt bill heavy on the oats for a creamy and smooth mouthfeel similar to the experience you would have whilst sinking your teeth into a freshly baked oatmeal Christmas cookie. We used some crystal malts to give it some color and also a bit of sweet carmel finish. After the malt bill was authored Blake put together a very inoffensive hop schedule keeping the IBU's (international bitterness unit) very low as to accentuate the complex and sweet malt bill. I don't know about you, but the last thing I would think about when eating a christmas cookie is bitterness, right? No thanks on the bitterness! So after that we started putting together our strategy for the fun additions to the beer and agreed on three separate ingredients to try and mimic the taste of the cookie. We used vanilla extract, cinnamon, and a healthy serving of brown sugar.


Blake calculated the proportions of each of the three special ingredients and we went to work! Shortly after finishing our mash/lauter we moved the beer to the kettle for the boil. The first 40 minutes of the boil were like every other boil, but those last 20 minutes were a doozy adding our special ingredients. The brown sugar and vanilla additions went over without any trouble at all...but that cinnamon sure through a wrench in the equation! The second we added the cinnamon it smelled like someone had dropped a cinnamon bomb on 801 Miami Avenue. Words cannot express how pungent the cinnamon was...I was immediately convinced the beer was ruined and that we had successfully created the largest boiling cauldron of cinnamon wort in brewing history! Despite my visible anguish and profane audible concern that the beer had been ruined right in front of my eyes, the brewmaster was as cool as the other side of the pillow. He calmly placed his hand on my shoulder and said 'relax brah, it will be fine'. The brewmaster rarely drops the word 'brah' in his everyday rhetoric, so as soon as those words were uttered I knew he meant business and we were in good shape. Shwuuu, close one.

It sure doesn't look like much...but boy it packed a cinnamony punch! 

When everything was said and done we moved the beer the primary fermentation vessel and shortly thereafter to the conditioning vessel. It has now been roughly three weeks since it was brewed and let me tell you - this beer turned out great for a first time brew! The beer is still pretty young, but the tastes are melding together nicely and the cinnamon/vanilla characteristics are both very subtle yet noticeable. The beer is still cloudy - so time will tell whether or not this beer will clear up or not, but the aroma, taste, mouthfeel, and carbonation are all turning out well. We will be offering a bit of this to some close friends tonight...so keep your fingers crossed that they will like it! And as always....feel free to stop by the house if you want to give the ole' Oatmeal Christmas Cookie Ale a try (that is, if, Bojangles doesn't drink it all first). 

Graeters Black Raspberry Chip Stout:
So, the brewmaster and I were sitting in the thinking room putting the finishing touches on our journal validating our design and concept for renewable energy that was to be submitted to M.I.T. for review prior to being sent to the Nobel Peace Prize committee. Just as we were about to hit send and basically solve all the worlds energy problems...Blake took a bite of Graeters BRC just as I took a sip of some amazing Left Hand Milk Stout and there was an immaculate epiphany! Mixing probably the worlds two best things...Graeters BRC and beer. At that point we realized we had stumbled on, scrapped our renewable energy concept and started sculpting our recipe for the one and only Graeters Black Raspberry Chip Stout. A big beer - lots of roasted malts, lactose sugar, dark chocolate, and of course raspberries. Following in the footsteps of our last beer (Oatmeal Christmas Cookie Ale) that used special ingredients this beer alike had several fun ingredients that we used in an effort to cross-breed two of our favorite things.

Blake, Bo, and Joseph preparing the mash for the Graeters BRC Stout!

Shortly after the mash was completed we moved the stout to the kettle to begin the boil. During the boil we added lactose sugar, dark chocolate, and OF COURSE a scoop of the famous and delicious Black Raspberry Chip Ice Cream.

After the boil finished we moved it to the primary fermentation vessel where we ran into some issues. We aren't exactly sure why the yeast didn't take off on an eating frenzy with all of the fermentable sugars, but it didn't. So we had to improvise - we re-pitched a yeast that was generally used for baking bread. We didn't have a lot of options at this point and rather than scrapping the whole batch we opted for plan B which was the bread yeast. Sure enough, within a couple of hours the yeast took off and was eating the sugars like crazy. Shortly after the fermentation was complete we made the raspberry additions!

We used red raspberries! 

Raspberries successfully added immediately after primary fermentation

We then let the raspberries condition in the beer for a week and moved to the final conditioning vessel where we added more dark chocolate! The beer is not ready yet - but we are anxious to get this moved into a keg so we can give it a taste test. There were a lot of variables that went into this beer - the biggest one obviously being the bread yeast we had to pitch with so it would ferment out. We hope that this will serve as a good first brew to understand the impact of both the chocolate and raspberry additions for future beers.

We are looking forward to our next brewing with friends on January 7th. Put it on the calendar if you have any interest in coming by...we are open to suggestions on brewing special beers and we will brew just about anything. We will probably start mid-afternoon 'ish and will finish up around 8-9PM. We are looking forward to it and hope you are too!

-Assistant Brewmaster

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