I’ve encountered a few average porters and stouts recently, which lead to delusions of grandeur about the Robust Porter I brewed in May.
I wanted to relive the perceived glory, so the same recipe was dusted off for last weekend-end’s home brew.
The same recipe was followed, in spite of what I first thought was too much dark malt. It turned out decent in the end, so I repeated that “mistake” in this batch.
A small tweak was to substitute half of the small amount of wheat malt for more oatmeal as I was aiming for an oatmeal stout and wanted a more prominent oatmeal flavour.
There were 2 other differences in this beer, one of which was actually intended.
The last time I brewed this recipe, incidentally also the first time I brewed all grain, I used my lauter tun for the mash.
Due to the nano-batches of beer I make, I use a relatively small amount of grain, leaving vast empty spaces in the lauter tun, causing the mash to cool down too quickly.
Ever since, I’ve been mashing in my brew pot, which allows quick adjustments of the temperature (on a gas stove) if it drops too far.
Other experiments have shown that if I put the lid on the heated mash, wrap the pot with towels and encase it in pillows, it loses nearly no heat over an extended period of time, even with significant empty space.
This mash for this brew was rather straight forward. Initial mash temp settled at 65ºC and held for 30 minutes, then raised to 67ºC for another 30 minutes and finally upped to 75.6ºC for 10 minutes before transferring it to the lauter tun.
After sparging, while the wert boiled, I prepped a yeast starter. I’ve been experimenting with reusing the same yeast I bought in May and thus far they’ve been quite the hard little workers.
For this brew I had a 3rd generation ale yeast lined up, which was harvested 2nd June, so I knew it was probably very fragile and handled it with extra care, giving it plenty of time to adjust to the various temperature differences.
By the time the boil had cooled, the wert was super syrupy with an appearance not unlike that of oil. I ended up with less wert than I had planned for so figured I might have over boiled a bit.
As I poured it into the fermenter it was a raging, foamy river of oatmeal stoutiness that appeared deep, muddy brown in the late afternoon sun.
It reminded me of a white-water rafting adventure I had on a river in Sabah, Borneo. It was summarily dubbed the Padas River Oatmeal Stout. SG: 1.064.
The yeast was pitched, the fermenter was wrapped up and the kitchen got cleaned before I went off to play Ultimate. This ritual follows most of my brewing sessions and, usually, by the time I get back from playing Ultimate, the fermentation would be in full swing.
The Oatmeal Stout, however, was a rebel.
When I returned from my outing about 3 hours later, there was such a lack of activity that the water-level on both sides of the airlock was still even.
I realised my ale yeast was a non-starter and panicked ever so slightly, as you do when you’re staring a failed batch in the face.
Plan B was a relatively fresh yeast harvest from the IPA I bottled recently. The only caveat being that it was a witbier yeast – but beggars can’t be choosers.
Over the next hour I thawed the yeast before making a starter that matched the temp of the dormant fermenter. The starter was pitched into the wert, vigorously stirred and put to bed.
All that was left to do was wait anxiously for the party to start.
Sure enough, less than a couple of hours later, the fermentation had kicked up and was happily bubbling away at the expected pace.
It would go on to be active for another 4 days before it started losing steam thanks to an exceptionally cold snap here near Franschhoek.
I made an effort to keep it warm for another 3 days before it died down completely, signalling its readiness to be bottled.