Sunday, May 4, 2008

"School's Out" Stout a week later

It has been hovering between 66 and 68 ºF in the Main Fermenting Room (hall closet), and the brew has a creamy brown half-inch thick head. This has been a long, slow, steady fermentation. I'm used to a big, explosive action in the first few days, then a gradual tapering off. After a week the top of the beer is usually visible with a few islands of residual froth. I've never used this variety of yeast before--Wyeast 1338 or European Ale™. My regular source (7 Bridges) has this little descriptor:

From Wissenschaftliche in Munich. Full-bodied complex strain finishing very malty with full bodied profile, very desirable in English Style Brown Ales and Porters. Produces a dense, rocky head during fermentation. (emphasis mine)

I used Continental malts and hops with this batch, and I'm really interested in the so-called "German Ales" (Altbier and Kölsch varieties). Achieving proper lager fermentation temperature regimes is tough here at FSB. My hall closet rarely gets below 60 ºF and can get over 70 ºF on occasion--that says "ale" yeast (Saccharomyces cerevesiae) to me. I'm not much for "styles" when it comes to brewing. I almost never try to copy a commercial beer, and since I almost never enter contests, I don't build recipes around categories. My formulations are inspired not only by beers that I've tasted, but ones I've read about! I've never had actual Altbiers, only California-micro versions. I can't say I've ever drunk a beer from Köln. But the Germans are known for rich flavors from their decoction techniques and kilned malts, and I want to get that into my beers. I was weaned on the first wave of California micros, which used British descriptors (bitter, pale ale, porter, stout, etc.) for their interpretations. But these are mere labels. As a homebrewer, I have the freedom to experiment. I think this latest "stout" is going to have a unique flavor profile. Ultimately that is my goal--tasty, satisfying brews with the particular signature of the brewer and the brewery. What is a "stout," actually? Guinness would be the most famous example, of course, but that's just it. It is an EXAMPLE, not the DEFINITION. The American Homebrewers Association, god bless 'em, has a 289 KB file you can download that describes all the acceptable beer "styles" they can think of. They go on and on about all sorts of "stouts" and what the rules are for making and/or judging them. "Bah," I say. Dr. Michael Lewis, UC Davis professor emeritus of Brewing Science, had this to say about the word "stout" in his book of the same name:

To conclude, it was not difficult for us to decide that a stout is simply a black beer called a stout by the brewer who made it. (author's emphasis, p.66)

(STOUT, Michael J. Lewis, Brewers Publications, 1995, ISBN 0-937381-44-6. This book is part--no. 10--of the Classic Beer Style Series well known to homebrewers.)

In the end, a "stout" is what you make it. That sounds like a good credo for a homebrewer.

a.d. IV non. Mai.


Dave Bacon said...

Hey I heard a rumor that the Etna Brewery was for sale...true?

M.C. O'Connor said...

Have not heard that, but I will ask around.