September 20, 2011

Notes on a Brewday: Northwoods Double Porter

Seven grain mash, roasted grains ground in coffee grinder
Black ales are the adopted bane of homebrewers. It seems like from one's inception into homebrewing, the popular camp means to get us started on the campaign to disassociate dark ales from the idiom that these black liquids are 'thick and highly alcoholic'. Each of us is given that old Guinness recipe for Dry Irish Stout, with it's high percentage of flaked barley, and made to adhere to the gospel fermentation time frame that produces an opaque black refreshment that never fails either adjective.

Then, every so often you get the sneaky ambition to make a robust flavor bomb that appeals to the few who want stained pub glasses & coated esophagi. The palate-mindful seeking total sensory overload via an ever-increasing SRM beg you for it. Then on some night, after imperial cream ales have cruised past your lips enough to obliterate your filters for cautious suggestion, a recipe gets penned for a porter with more punctuated flavor than a nut brown, blacker than a molasses stout and more drinkable at that ...

When my wife brought to my attention some stout & porter drinking friends of hers that dared to look up at a new moon sky with the ambition of a full moon, my creative circuits flared. They conveyed to her lists of session stouts, simple porters & coffee or chocolate stouts that piqued their liquid interests. "What could I make them," they wondered, "with the smoothness of a stout or porter, the complexity of a Scotch drink and the gaudiness of a coffee or chocolate flavor-enhanced ale?"

I don't recall ever treating their candor-laden question with anything less than total creative appeal. I was floored to have the chance to load up a special occasion brew with layers of every different flavor profile that the most expensive bomber-bottled brews have come to earn through recipe & presentation. You should understand, though, that I'm no fan of stout faucets, and have had sketchy experiences with flavoring strong dark beers with any post-kettle ingredients. I prefer a malt profile that's focused on balance, but ready to accommodate nuances specific to the recipe's goal.
Viscous black first runnings
In this case, I was to make a completely black-colored strong porter showcasing end flavors of coffee and chocolate, and it had to be ready by the end of September. That was early August, so I wasted no spare time in creating & revising no less than six versions of what would become the Northwoods Double Porter. It features seven kinds of malts, well over the advised amount for simple & quality recipes.

The proportions of the barley players in this mash devote layers of flavor, proportioned with some advice from Brewing Classic Styles, but mostly adhered to be my own experience in shooting for the dark side of the moon to get a flavorful, dark-as-possible beer. The hopping was mainly influenced by the huge late-boil additions of Surly, but the selection of UK Fuggle comes more from single hop pale ale experiments that found Fuggles to be the hop with the most flavor-play per ounce of any of the 'classic' dark ale varieties.

The recipe showcases Wyeast's Ringwood Ale strain (A.K.A. Swedish Porter) and a lengthy secondary. I took this recipe beyond calculated final gravities with a 148 degree mash temperature & an overpitched 2 liter yeast starter. The end result calculated an FG of 1.018, which I threw to the floor at 1.010. I think the best addition was the Simplicity D-90 Belgian Candi Syrup, which made the wort uber-fermentable & imparted plenty of dark chocolate notes; backing up the roasty coffee flavor combination of Carastan, Special B and Roasted Barley.

Take this brew out for one last lakeside camping trip, a penultimate backyard bonfire, or save some for sipping beside the living room fireplace around the year's end. Whatever the occasion, brew it adventurously & throw the caution of dry session stouts or milds to the wind! Winter's on its way & the chances to brew something totally new abound.

"Northwoods Double Porter"
5 gallons, all-grain
OG: 1.077 FG: 1.010-1.018 (How low can you go?)

8 lbs. Rahr 2-Row (I also like Malteurop 2-Row)
2 lbs. Rahr White Wheat Malt
2 lbs. Crisp Brown Malt
1 lb. Light Carastan
8 oz. Rahr Rye Malt
4 oz. Simpson's Roasted Barley
4 oz. Belgian Special B
Mash at 148 degrees for 60 min.

Boil 75 min.
1.5 oz. German Northern Brewer @60 min.
1 lb. Simplicity D-90 Syrup @15 min.
3 oz. UK Fuggles @5 min.

Chill to 68 degrees & pitch 2L starter of Y1187 Ringwood Ale yeast.
Ferment 2 weeks primary, 6+ weeks secondary (add one campden tablet after 2 weeks secondary for extended aging)

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