Brewing at last in the new brew shed

After 6 months the first brew in the new brew shed happened, and it was pretty uneventful 80L of 5% hoppy pale ale. It was then quickly drunk in little more than 3 weeks!

Order is also slowly being acheived in the shed too!

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However this post is not about a hoppy pale ale it’s all about an underrated and massively under brewed style here in the UK  – the Dry Stout. It seems to always get over looked with people looking to brew bigger stouts which tend to do better in competitions as they tend to stand out more with bigger flavours and high alcohol levels. To prove this point, only 2 Dry Stouts were entered into the 2016 LSE comp, there were however 10 Oatmeal Stouts , 7 Sweet Stouts and 5 Export Stouts.

The best example of a Dry Stout I have tasted in UK is from Barngates Brewery, the brewery is round the back of the Drunken Duck Inn near Ambleside in the Lake District – It’s called Goodhew’s Dry Stout and comes in at 4.3%, it’s a proper session beer and it is floorless, for a cask beer its holds it head remarkably well and has a lovely smoothness to it with a dry finish and balanced hop bitter ness, it is a celebration of dark malts and British yeast all brought into balance by the bitterness.

Another great Dry Stout I came across was when I was in Cork Ireland for a weekend away, it’s brewed by the Cotton Ball Brewery and is called Lynch’s Handcrafted Stout. What I really liked about this was the dry almost grainy finish but smooth at the same time, and use of US and NZ hops in the finish really did work.

I spent a fair bit of time contemplating the grist for this brew, I consulted the usual  books – Brewing Classic Styles,  Modern Home Brewing Recipes and a cracking book called Brewing Porters and Stout, this last book is a must read for any one serious about brewing stouts and porters.

All the Dry stout recipes consisted of pale ale malt, flaked barley, roasted barley, and in some cases a small amount of black, chocolate or crystal malt. It was just simply a case of aiming somewhere in the middle of all the grist’s but not going overboard on the number of malts used, that and I had some helpful advice from the John the head brewer at Barngates Brewery

After much procrastination I came up with the following grist:

  • Pale malt                             66%
  • Flaked Barley                     22%
  • Roasted Barley                   8%
  • Choc Malt                            2%
  • Black malt                           2%

Hops were an easy choice as I had a load of Challenger in the freezer – aimed for 45ibu, with a single bittering addition in the kettle and a reasonable sized addition in the Whirlpool.

Water was built from RO to the specification for Dry Stout in the book Water, with acidification to make sure mash pH was 5.3.

Yeast used for the brew was WLP007, which is kind of my go to house strain at the moment, it really suits my setup using conical fermenters as it loves to flocculate and if not massively dry hoped it also drops bright quickly without the need to use finnings.

Approximately 2 days before wanting to brew I will start to propagate the yeast. For this brew it meant 2 x 25L starters on stir plates.

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My brewday starts the evening before normally as I need to make the brewing liquor, which when producing 2L a min from a RO machine can take a while especially when I normally need 200L in the HLT for a 100L batch.  The HLT then is heated overnight so that the following morning the HLT is about 78degC.

Then the first thing I do the morning of the brew day is to mill the grain followed by measuring out the salt additions for the mash, it’s then just a case of ensuring the strike liquor is at the right temp and then mashing in.

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The mash temp for ths brew as 64degC and the mash lasted 90 min with the aim of producing highly fermentable wort. The RIMS was used to maintain the mash temp and to also ensure a perfectly clear wort was produced, this was a single infusion mash with no mash out temp ramp. Following the 90 min mash, the run off/sparge was started with the aim of collecting 116L of wort in the boiler. I only aim to boil off 10% over 90min, i like a nice steady rolling boil, there is no need to try and boil off 20% of you volume!

Once the boil had started the bittering hop addition was added and it was just a case of waiting 80 min before the kettle finnings and yeast nutrient is added.

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It is normally about this time I put the plate chiller in the oven and get the whirlpool and the fermenter ready for use.

For the Whirlpool this normally means a rinse out with water and a spray out with peracetic acid. The fermenter however got a full CIP as I had emptied it the day before. For the CIP I use a 2% caustic solution and aim to get the inside of the conical up to 80degC – there is very little that will survive this environment.

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The fermenter is then rinsed out with water and sprayed out with peracetic acid, all the fittings which have been previously cleaned and sanitised are then fitted to the fermenter and it’s ready to be filled.

Following the 90 min boil the wort is pumped into the whirlpool and the whirlpool hop addition is added and then allowed to rest for 30mins before being knocked out via a plate chiller and into the fermenter.

Here is the hop/trub cone in the bottom of the whirlpool

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On knock out the wort was cooled to about 25degC using the plate chiller, I then use the chiller on the fermenter to drop the temp down to a pitching temp of 17degC. The wort was oxygenated at 2L per min for 3min, and the yeast was pitched shortly after, the temp is allowed to free rise up to 19degC and was then held at 19degC for 4 days before being raised to 21degC for a diacetyl rest. Fermentation was all done in 7days and the beer was perfectly drinkable. If you ferment this type of beer correctly there really is no need for an extended conditioning period.

My normal procedure once fermentation is complete is to crash cool to 2-3degC and hold the beer at this temp for 3-4days before kegging but in this case I omitted this step as just wanted to start drinking the stout!

The beer was transferred to 3 x 19L kegs, 1 x pin and about 20 bottles, the kegs were force carbonated and later that day the beer was on tap.

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On keg this is a solid dry stout, but I am more interested to see how this is from the cask when served through a beer engine and a sparkler.

The verdict – the fermentation was nice and clean, its got a good silky smoothness to it, it could do will a little more roast almost graininess that you can get for roasted barley so maybe increase this to 10% and may be increase the flaked barley to as much as 25%. Hops wise the overall bitterness is at a good level, the beer can take the 45ibu’s of challenger. I have to admit for the next batch I think I will substitute a small amount of cascade in for the whirlpool addition may be a 50:50 mix, the key here is to just add a subtly undertone and not try and turn it into a fruit punch, alternatively I may just add more challenger in the whirlpool.

Another question is – is it worth investing in mixed gas to get the classic nitro pour that’s associated with stouts? I may just have to invest in the mixed gas reg and a gas bottle to see!

As said above this is a solid beer and a great starting point, any changes made will be minor tweeks – all in all very happy. Its been entered into a upcoming competition so will be good to get some feedback.

Cheers

Rich

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