I came across some interesting trivia about a perennial favorite beer of mine, always a good choice when there’s nothing of interest nearby: Guinness Irish Stout. Yes, of course, it makes for a great St. Paddy’s day overindulgence, but it is, quite simply, the best and most widely known example of the style and is quite an interesting beer. The consumption of some Guinness the other night prompted the consumption of a very interesting fact/legend (since I couldn’t find a Guinness-direct reference, there is no official recipe posted by the brewery): brewers extract about 3% of the mash, SOUR that beer, then add it back to the secondary fermenter after boiling it for sterility. This gives that black heady treat a signature “tang,” non-reproducible by those unaware of this uncommon style component. After repeated confirmation of this tang, I wanted to dive a little deeper into the history of Irish stout and other beers that are blended for stylistic reasons.
So back in January I brewed a Chocolate Oalmeal Stout that I wasn’t particularly proud of. Reading about it here, I got some dirty astringency and other “green” flavors I wasn’t too proud of. Then again, it was only my 4th-ish batch of beer, and mistakes are usually going to happen in the early stages of learning to brew, hence the learning part. I didn’t think I was a good homebrewer. Much to my spritely young homebrewer-mind’s dismay, the only action I could take to salvage the beer was to… wait. Age it, my all-knowing beer club said, and all will come to pass.
I hated the idea! I wanted my stout to be delicious NOW! But I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. I socked it into my beer/liquor cabinet where it waited patiently. I forgot about it while I made more successful beers, and made a few more mistakes. The more I learned, the more I hoped that I could someday seek retribution from the hopefully-merciful god of fermentation and receive, in the wake of my newfound respect for beer, a miracle for the stout.
The waiting game was finally played out when Thanksgiving rolled around this year. I was looking for a delicious, warming beer to complement my impending after-turkey coma, when it hit me – I still had homebrew in the closet! Aged homebrew, the most coveted of all homebrew! On the day of giving thanks, the moment I opened the bottle cap my feelings of nervous excitement came to a point. I couldn’t wait any longer.
I tweeted my delight after sipping the first trappings of this truly decadent homebrew:
I was in heaven. My wish was granted. My beer had bettered ridiculously with age! The added Belgian Chocolate ingredients finally came through with a silky texture and dark chocolate taste that was complimented, surprisingly, by a citrus flavor. It reminded me of something you’d find in a Ghiradelli chocolate bowl at your grandma’s house. It finished with an amazing roasted malt and coffee flavor, which lingered until your next sip. It was a beer I could submerge myself in.
So lesson learned: sometimes patience is the most important ingredient in homebrewing.
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel for work this week. But this was no conference in the capital of commonplace cordials. This was a half week in the most craft-beer-productive state the United States has to offer, Colorado: where the sun and wind aren’t as strong as the imperial styles they serve.
Apart from hitting up some extremizlely productivizive days I’ve spent data harvesting from the fields of biotechonlogicazicativeness, I’ve also gone to the greatest extents to make the most of my stay here in Boulder. Each night, after a long day locked away from the natural 68 degree-sunlight that graces us this week, I’ve pushed out to downtown Boulder for some beerventuring.
Last night we hit the Walnut Brewery, on Walnut street in downtown Boulder. Apart from the largest-scale brewing system I’ve seen ever – 12 barrels per batch, plus 5 cask-conditioned beers tapped at a time – their list was impressive. I mostly feasted on Big Horn Bitter, which apart from it’s lack of real English bitter style adherence, was a quite pleasant 5.8% beverage. It was a little light in flavor and heavy in alcohol for a true English bitter that it claimed to be… But it went down easy and allowed me to have a great night regardless.
I’ve been here once before, in Oct 2010, and sampled the Buffulo Gold and Devil’s Thumb Stout, both delicious and satisfying. I’m sorry I don’t have more detailed notes on these beers, but I’m not about to pull out a notes ledger in front of my superiors and expect to be employed the next day.
Tonight was real treat. On a reccommendation from a local microbrew-shop owner in West Boulder, we hit Mountain Sun on Pearl St. in downtown Boulder. This, my friends, is the most successful brewpub I’ve ever seen or been to. With at least 15 brewpub beers on tap, with 5 on nitro tap, plus 3 guest handles from local CO breweries (including Avery, where I’ll adventure tomorrow), the reel of pint choices is as endless as the view of the Rockies.
We were met by Mike, a manager there, while we were waiting a bit at the tiny bar for our table. After commending our first choice in beer (Illusion IPA- gold medal GABF 2009) he decided we were worthy of more attention. Promptly downing 3 free 8oz sample glasses of their hoppiest offerings, we grabbed some imperial high-alpha-hopped IPAs and sat down to delicious burgers. Dessert came in the form of awesome dry Irish Stout. My Scottish-born superior announced that his Scottish Ale was the closest American creation to authentic Scottish ale he’s tasted.
After the beers were downed, Mike returned offering a tour of the 7-barrel brewhouse. I tried to relate as much as possible to what I do at smaller, homebrew scale – and to my delight, I’m doing most things right. Force carbonation happened at 20 psi for three days. Adjuncts, including fruit, chocolate, and coffee, were added at the end of the boil. It’s really nice to see that scale-up doesn’t have to be translated too far from the homebrew practices that I’ve been exposed to. They’ve got an amazing system setup there as well, shown in the pics below.
For all the hard work I’ve done for my real job since I’ve been here, I also took away a small glimmer of hope that one day, I’ll own a brewpub with my own recipes on tap. It’s far in the future, but I have great hopes that my real work retirement won’t stick, and I’ll succumb to brewpub ownership and operation.
P.S. Did I mention that I almost walked right by the AHA headquarters!? The actual building my homebrew idol, Charlie Papazian, works in? I might go in tomorrow and ask him to sign my breasts.
I had a glass of Cappuccino Stout the other day from Lagunitas while I was checking out the local music scene in Cambridge. I also had two of my beer-loving friends try it, and they had the same reaction as me: this isn’t right, it’s not a stout. At least not what I thought was a stout.
Maybe I need to redefine my internal style guide. “Stout” for me is a thick, malty beer with notes of coffee, cream, or chocolate. It pours dark with little to no light passage, a creamy head that leaves lots of trace foam, and finishes sweet and dry.
The cappuccino stout surprised me because a) it drank thinner and poured lighter than other stouts, even for it’s 8.0ABV, b) it finished kind of green and hop-ish, and c) there were a lot of different flavors and aromas happening, but not one dominating. BA rates it well within the “American Double/Imperial Stout” style, and especially since I had it on draft, I expected it to knock me over more.
Maybe I just have some more learning to do in order to appreciate all areas of a style. Nothing to do but practice, I guess!