There are special moments that need to be remembered. Some other moments pass without leaving a mark, or so we think at least. But, even when there seems to be no follow-up, we take something from it. It all started with a joke, one that went wrong. We never wrote about it, but in our defense, it was before this blog was even official.
A long time ago, in an attempt to inoculate wort with only the flora present in grapes, we made our first beer. It was a beer of Faith and Courage, like this one. But it failed.
With the failed Grape Ale attempt, we took at least one thing home: a water filtration kit to eliminate chlorine. Beginner’s mistake, it’s true.
One year later, with a few more stories to share about failures and victories, we came back with renewed Faith and Courage. We celebrate this special date with an equally special beer – or so we hope.
Even if everything goes wrong and this project never sees daylight, at least there is a memorable photographic record, even if not a very elegant one. We did like JJ and placed all the meat in the grill (this one will probably resonate best among those well versed in Portuguese trivia and football). No, we mean the whole malt in the brew kettle. The meat is for later.
One of the first beers we made was an Imperial Stout, a style that still lives today as one of the reasons for making beer at home, when they weren’t commercially available in Portugal. As styles can be interpreted so widely, it’s not surprising that the two are anything alike. Well, in color they actually are, other than that nothing is the same as the first one we did.
This brewing session should have occurred on a Tuesday or Wednesday at 8 pm, worthy of a Champions League soccer game (again with the football lingo. Pardon if you’re unfamiliar). As they do in these games, also here we have to present our best lineup. We ditched the scrawny Braumeister kettle that was not made for this and called a heavyweight to the game, a 50L pot. Yep, you read right.
All of this makes you want to write and dissert about the efficiency of each system. Unfortunately, this takes a lot of effort and needs references and mentions to books and links. Fortunately, if you follow the blog you probably like beer, and those who like beer should also have no trouble searching for more about it. We started today’s class at the end, our efficiency is pitiful, like that colleague who got an F in their exam. It’s beyond ridiculous.
Anyhow, among 18 Kg. of barley malt and other cereals, many sugars were lost – if we had the time, probably we’d done another parti-gyle – but today’s mission is more important, reaching 40º Plato. Is it possible? With Faith and Courage, everything is possible. Objective defined, now an execution plan is needed.
We open up our box of ideas on pastry stouts and here we go, embracing the modern styles. Salted Caramel Imperial Pastry Stout. This thing of embracing modern ideas comes from our confinement times, they say it made people crazy, we were no exception. In a world turned inside out, flooded with live streams and conversations, everything was seen. Time spent at home, the hours lingering, days seemed to be a constant endless cycle, nights spent awake. Fortunately, whatever the time, there is always action in some part of the world. We virtually jumped to the other side of the Atlantic, in a conversation between Richard Preiss and a large man from a brewery unknown to us, Fair State Brewing.
Opposite characters: one scholar, scientific; the other, a brewer, knows the practice but ignores the science behind it. Just like the grandmothers of this world, who never went to cooking school and could school many Michelin star chefs, here the “knucklehead” brewer also has stories and techniques to share.
Throughout a conversation with several topics discussed, from cocktails with beer, slushies, NE IPA, to Pastry Seltzers, there was one that remained in memory: Pastry Stouts.
It honored everything that defines the craft beer community, sharing, open, without fears or tricks. Together we are stronger, and only as such can we grow. Even with a more practical approach, with little focus on theory, the principle is aligned.
Mashing for 15 minutes at 71ºC, limiting the conversion of starches, and making a large part of the fermentable extract come from dextrose added to the boil. It seems simple, and it is: here the brewer simply seeks to hydrate the starches and limit the action of the enzymes that could convert them into simple sugars.
With the tun overflowing, we tried to get the numbers right, since we’ve grown lazy with all these electrical systems. Grain in the kettle – which, unsurprisingly, we couldn’t fit all inside. On the other hand, and yes, to our surprise, the desired temperature was reached.
As the cereal insisted on not wanting to enter the kettle, about 3 liters of wort came out that were caramelized separately, and gave way to the rest of the cereal. After 30 minutes, with the starches hydrated, we started vorlauf. We brought out the house’s small kettle to collect the wort.
Nothing much happening, just sparging the grain and taking this chance to demonstrate the best spirit of Portuguese creativity (the word is actually “desenrascanço” but has no translation in English). We pulled a “MacGyver” and right there on the spot we invent a contraption to press down the wort in order to extract the greatest amount of liquid and sugars within reach, or if you prefer a manual mash filter. Courage, faith and much strength are needed, as the 18 kgs still put up a fight to extract the necessary wort. After finally reaching it, we slowly rose it to a boil.
Now the storm of sugars starts, there is a certain concern that the kettle will become diabetic and lose one of its handles. The goal is set, now we have to reach it at any cost. How many sugars do you need to reach 40ºP?
It could have been just one source, but it wouldn’t be the same thing…
Manuka honey – honey with medicinal properties, but for us, it’s only a more classy sugar source than multiflora honey. Why? Because it existed around the house and we’re not ones to waste. It was also only 250 gr.
Molasses – another quarter of a kilo. How not to love some molasses notes in an Imperial Stout? That’s right, let’s go.
Brown sugar – it’s almost white sugar but has a little molasses mixed in to make it look healthier. If it was for health or calories, this beer didn’t even have a place on paper. We’ll share the calories later and compare it to a Big Mac, see who wins.
Lactose – it’s as trendy for beers as lactose-free milk is hip with the fitness people. Priorities.
Maltodextrin – this one for chewing and needs extra encouragement. Doubting whether or not there was enough of it, solution is to put more.
Five different sugar additions, then we let the wort boil freely and happily. To our delight, this means some free time to drink some beers. More accurately, 3 hours of boiling. Who could say no to that.
We measure pH, trying to ensure that it doesn’t drop below 5.2, adjusting with baking soda and watching the wort trying to jump off the kettle circus. In the final hour, already at 31ºP, we give it a good dose of hops, pointing to the 90 theoretical IBUs, contrasting with all the post-fermentation remaining sugars. After the last hour of boiling and some adjustments along the way, we give it an enhanced dose of nutrients so that the yeast can endure its heroic battle.
With Faith and Courage, our working day came to an end. The time has come for us to say a prayer to the yeast, so that it will have the strength and that it will be able to fight this fight until the end. Also because we should have made a starter for this monster beer, but we are not always planned and concise as we should and this time it didn’t happen. Now Faith and Courage take her side. The yeast needs it. Badly.
But the day was not closed without another adventure, we measured the final density and managed to invert the color scale on the refractometer. This one only goes up to 32ºP and at least that we had, but how much more platos for sure, nobody really knows. Luckily for us, we have the right friends in the right industry and a proper measuring device was found. And with that, we are pleased to inform you that we won The Plato Is Right and we took home a jelly with 40% sugar.
It was fun, challenging and uncertain, and we reached the goal, now we just hope the yeast can see it to the end too. It can be like The Tortoise and the Hare, do it calmly, and most importantly, get to the end.
Everyone give a cheer to WLP099 Super High Gravity Yeast, with Faith and Courage together we will succeed!
Salted Caramel Imperial Pastry Stout
Total Cereal 18 Kg.
Original Gravity: 1.175
Boil Time: 240 minutes
Cereal e fermentables
43.8% – 9 kg. Pale ale malt
14.6% – 3 kg. Salted Caramel Crystal Malt
12.2% – 2.5 kg. Munich I
7.3% – 1.5 kg. Golden Naked Oats
4.9% – 1 kg. Brown Sugar
2.4% – 0.5 kg. Carapils
2.4% – 0.5 kg. Chocolate Wheat
2.4% – 0.5 kg. Crystal Dark
2.4% – 0.5 kg. Lactose
2.4% – 0.5 kg. Maltodextrin
2.2% – 0.45 kg. Roasted Barley
1.7% – 0.35 kg. Black Malt
1.2% – 0.25 kg. Molasse
Bónus – 250gr. Manuka Honey + lactose mix, maltodextrin and brown sugar to get the right gravity.
150 gr. Columbus (pellet, 14% AA) @ 60min.
Yeast nutrient @ 5 min. – 4 times the usual dosage
Plus to additional doses during fermentation on the 2nd e 4th day
WLP099 Super High Gravity Yeast (we should have made a starter? should have…)
So4 to CL Ratio: 5
Note: this water looks strange and unbalanced, the salt coming from salted caramel malt (1% salt according to the technical sheet) will balance the Na and CL values for rounder numbers. In a lighter beer, we run the risk of excessive minerality, which can bring unwanted astringencies. But with an estimated high final plato (> 20ºP), this perception, we hope, will be lower. Once again, Faith and Courage.
Saccharification – 30 min. @ 71ºC
pH@ 5.2 mash
pH@ 5.2 post boil