Recipe: S’More Stout

Believe it or not, this is not our first time making a s’more beer. Last year, Tim’s girlfriend requested it, and, always up for a challenge, we gave it a go. It turned amazingly well considering our experience and the all the flavorings we introduced.

When thinking about s’mores, we tried to abstract the elements away to their essential flavors. For the chocolate, we used baking cocoa powder mixed with lactose. For the graham cracker, we used some biscuit malt for a breadiness and cinnamon. Finally, the marshmallow is kind of tough. We just figured most marshmallow’s have a vanilla flavor, so we used extract. We decided on the base of a stout because that malt profile can stand up to those flavors and keep it a beer as well as the acrid flavors being appropriate for a s’more made over a campfire.

Like I mentioned, the biggest problem was a grittiness from the cocoa powder. This year we tried to fix that. We made a tea out of the cocoa, lactose and cinnamon stick. We brought this up to a boil, stirring almost constantly. We tasted it on the way through, and by the end, most of the grittiness was gone. Hopefully, it will stay that way through fermentation. One final change is that we had some honey left over from our mead, and we used about half a pound added in at the tail end of our boil to add into that graham cracker profile.

Mash

  • 6lbs Maris Otter
  • 1.5lbs Biscuit Malt
  • 1lb 60L Crystal
  • 1lb CarafaII
  • 1/2lb Special B
  • 1/2lb Flaked Oats

We mashed at a higher temperature (between about 156-160ºF). It mashed for quite a while as we took the free time to head out for a run.

Boil

  • 1oz Fuggles (60 minutes)
  • 1oz Fuggles (30 minutes)
  • 1/2lb Honey (15 minutes)
  • Irish Moss (15 minutes)

In a second pot we mixed a bit of wort, half a pound of lactose,  cocoa to taste and a cinnamon stick. We let that boil down as our main boil went. Original gravity: 1.058.

Fermentation

We used Wyeast 1335 (British Ale Yeast II). We don’t want it to ferment too low, so it will stay a sweeter, desert stout. We’re looking for a Final Gravity between 1.017-1.020. We’ll let it set in secondary for a few weeks before we keg.

Beer Review: Rogue OREgasmic Ale

Chatoe Rogue OREgasmic Ale

Chatoe Rogue OREgasmic Ale

This is the first Grow Your Own (GYO) beer I’ve seen from Rogue. Every ingredient comes from their farm in Oregon. In fact, they proudly list their ingredients on their site:

Brewed using 100% OREGON Ingredients. Micro Barley Farm first growth Dare™ & Risk™ Malts; Willamette, Sterling, and First Growth Micro Hopyard Revolution Hops, Pacman Yeast and Free Range Coastal Water.

I can appreciate the fully integrated approach. It reminds me of the now Colorado based Leopold Brother’s Brewery and Distillery. They were a completely carbon neutral, certified green distillery, brewery and greenhouse. So, going back to my granola munching, Ann Arbor roots, lets give this a try.

Rogue describes it as:

Orange-amber in color, malty aroma, spicy fruity hop flavor with solid malt background and lingering finish.

It poured reddish, orange with a thick, creamy head that was about 2 fingers thick. It slowly laced away but a bit is still on top a few minutes after I poured. The aroma is almost all the malt profile with a bit of the spicy hops. The mouthfeel is amazingly smooth and creamy. The taste is nice, liquidy hops with a bit of with spice afterward. Some of the malt sweetness, character comes through, but it’s mainly the hops.

I’m curious to see where this vertically integrated experiment will go. It follows the movement of a lot of chefs getting more into the origins of their foods. Once there are multiple breweries doing this same integration, we can compare and contrast the different origins and their subtle variations.

Blending Brews

Beer blendingOne of the current popular trends in beer drinkg – and brewing by proxy – seems to me to be blending two different (finished) beers to create a distinct third kind. This happens not in the brewing process, or even when kegging, but rather when the beers are poured into a glass to drink.

Some micro-breweries, such as Founder’s in Grand Rapids, will give you a blend if you request it, with such concoctions as the “DubMudgeon” (a mix between their Curmudgeon Old Ale and Double Trouble Double IPA). Even some restaurants, not known for their beer, are conjuring up mixes. I’ve had the “Blasphemy” recommended to me, a mix between Founder’s Pale Ale and Bell’s Two Hearted IPA. This seems to be hitting the mainstream.

With that in mind, we decided to give it a go for ourselves. We have a number of bottled beers, and Beat the Irish Stout, Pepper Porter 2 (re-named “Couch Fire Ale” in honor of the Michigan State game) and the Boiling Greens DIPA on tap, in addition to a few microbrews, including a number of offerings from Short’s Brewing.

The obvious mix is Stout + Porter, because the styles are rather similar, and it would cut the excessive heat from the pepper. The mix is exactly as expected, with a flavor that’s mostly just a less-heated version of the pepper porter, with a little bit more body.

The more interesting mix was between Short’s Bloody Beer and the Pepper Porter. The concept itself mixes two beers that focus primarily on the non-beer flavors (capsicum for our offering, bloody mary for Short’s), and combine them in a proportion that might make the beer flavor reach a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Beer Review: Leinenkugel’s Big Eddy

Leinenkugel's Big Eddy

Leinenkugel's Big Eddy Imperial Stout - 9.5% ABV 74 IBU

First off, sorry for the blurry picture. My phone decided that focusing was a bridge too far, and there was only a limited time to snap this photo. Big Eddy is a special release Russian Imperial Stout from Leinenkugel. It’s 9.5% ABV and clocks in at 74IBU. An interesting note is that they do not propagate the yeast for this beer. They brewed it once before with a special White Labs yeast and spent a significant amount of money getting that same yeast for this version.

This beer is slated for release throughout the Great Lakes region. I got a sneak peek when I got to meet and talk with John Leinenkugel. After taking my first sip, in front of Binny’s beer consultant, Mr. Leinenkugel asked what I thought. It was a bit awkward.

Anyway, Mr. Leinenkugel thought the beer’s greatest asset is its balance, which is fair. Some RISs get to be too sweet or too chewy or too boozy, but this one walked the narrow line of moderation.

It poured like a fine motor oil into my glass with a nice tan head. The nose is almost all dark roasted malts with just a bit of sweetness. The taste has a bit of that acrid, burnt flavor, but not overwhelming. The sweetness of the malt is balanced out with an almost tart, fig flavor. The beer was thick, but not overly chewy, and it finished with a bit of an alcohol warmth.

Overall a good Russian Imperial Stout. More than the beer, the Big Eddy line of beers are an exciting turn for Leinenkugel’s. John Leinenkugel said he’s hoping that Big Eddy will become a series of experimental, extreme big beers. Successful ones will be saved and re-released while the others will become collectors items.

Meeting John Leinenkugel

John Leinenkugel

John Leinenkugel at the release for 2009 Big Eddy

I was bragging to my friend about living 2 minutes away from a Binny’s. He asked me if it was some sort of party store. The only proper way to explain Binny’s short of  a field trip is hopping on their website and seeing the breadth and depth of their selection. So I loaded up their website to copy a link and saw that John Leinenkugel (of Leinenkugels, natch) would be in their Lincoln Park store for a tasting and to talk.

It was a very relaxed event given that the CEO of a large regional brewery was there. They had bottles of Leine Oktoberfest, Classic Amber and Honey Weisse. I had had each of them before, but they you got a free tasting glass with it (I have previously been using an old fashioned glass or a plastic coconut Malibu shot glass), so I figured I’d give it go and had a taste of the Honey Weisse.

It was interesting talking to Mr. Leinenkugel about beer. His brewery has started putting out more extreme, one off beers under the Big Eddy name. The first was a big 10% double IPA. He said he had to scrape the hop taste of his tongue the next day. He prefers his beers to balanced between malt and hops, and claims that making hugely hopped beer, while expensive, isn’t that hard*. The hops cover a lot of mistakes, and there’s not much of a balancing act.

Leinenkugels Sunset Wheat

Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat

We talked about Sunset Wheat. When I told him a lot of my friends who don’t like beer like Sunset Wheat he asked me “and what do they say it tastes like?” I was a little nervous to say a beer his company makes tastes like Fruity Pebbles, but it… uh… does. He told me that is what 95% percent of people say it tastes like. This brought him to the topic of YLDACs (Young Legal Drinking Aged Consumers). 20 years ago, there was only yellow beer, limited wine and classic spirits. Now there are all sorts of flavored liquors, crazy wines from all over and a ton of competition in beer. Also, kids who are turning 21 and have been for the past five or so years (yours truly falls into this age group) have grown up drinking incredibly sweet sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, etc., and have a very different palate than people 20 or 30 years older. This shift in demographic was one or the reason they developed their more “flavored” beers like Sunset Wheat, Summer Shandy and Berry Weisse.

I also asked him how he thought Leinenkugel fits into the current beer landscape. It’s available in the lower 48, been around for over 140 years and sells 12 packs for about $11, yet it certainly doesn’t qualify as a macrobrewer. On the other hand, I don’t really think it falls in with my conception of a “craft brewer” (which isn’t a quality thing as much as not coming from the modern homebrewing movement). Mr. Leinenkugel says he considers his Leinenkugel’s a regional brewery, especially since 85% of their business is done in the Big Ten footprint.

Finally, he brought with him this year’s Big Eddy which is an Imperial Stout that clocks in at 9.5% ABV and about 74IBU. Expect a review of that up here shortly! It will be available in the Great Lakes area around Halloween.

Overall, it was really cool talking beer with someone who lives, breathes and drinks it everyday. He was really involved talking with people and had obvious pride in his beer (I think the Classic Amber was his favorite). He told me if I’m ever in Chippewa Falls, WI, I should ask for him at the bar. If he’s there, he’ll pour me a free pint.

* We’ve had our issues making hoppy beers

Beer Review: Hop Rod Rye

Hop Rod Rye

Bear Republic's Hop Rod Rye

So the problem with going to Binny’s is that despite the individual prices being lower, I always end up picking one or two extra things. After writing the review of the Cane and Ebel, this Bomber of rye ale caught my eye. It’s made by Bear Republic in Healdsburg, CA who describes it as:

…a high performance, turbo charged, alcohol burnin’, monster ale with dual overhead hop injection, made with 18% rye.

From what I’ve read 18% rye is pushing right to the edge where it becomes overpowering, but I haven’t met a rye beer I haven’t liked, so I picked up and threw it in the fridge for a piece.

It pours a very nice ruby brown with a really thick, creamy off white head. The hops aren’t quite as strong in the aroma as they are in Cane and Ebel or Red’s Rye and they certainly do not skew citrusy. The aroma is more floral or herbaceous with a sweet, spicy note. The beer has a medium to full mouthfeel with the rye spiciness right up front with a soft alcohol burn at the end.

Considering this is an 18oz bomber for $5, I’d probably pick it up again.

Beer Review: Two Brothers Cane & Ebel

Two Brother's Cane and Ebel

Cane and Ebel by Two Brother's

I was at Binny’s looking for a nice 6-pack to go along with the 12 pack of PBR I was bringing over to my friend’s house for a football game.  I still feel out of place looking through craft brews in Chicago. There are a lot more and very few of my standard Michigan beers. This is, overall, a good thing, but when I was just dropping in to make a quick purchase en route, I kind of wanted to go with something dependable.

Then I saw Cane and Ebel. It’s an American Pale Ale made with Rye that clocks in at 7% ABV and 68IBUs. It’s described by Two Brothers as:

Dry but with a creamy touch of Thai palm sugar and the spicy tang of rye, all balanced by loads of our wackiest new hops we could lay our hands on.  Yep, it’s an original. And it’s no sin.

Despite the brewer’s claim that it’s an original, I bought it because it reminded of Founder’s Red’s Rye (quite possibly my favorite “standard” beer), and rye is one of my favorite non-standard ingredients.

The beer pours a dark, reddish brown with a thick, creamy head that laces its way down the glass. There’s plenty of citrusy, grapefruit hops in the nose. The beer is smooth with a good mouthfeel. The grain bill manages to stand up to all the hops, and the rye gives it that unique, spicy flavor that gets me every time.

I’d definitely order this at a bar or pick up another 6-pack.