Northern Brewer Oatmeal Stout Kit

This week Johns quest for brewing a good stout takes us to the Northern Brewer Oatmeal Stout Kit. Brewing kits is becoming an easier way to explore styles with a proven recipe and John knocks it out of the park with this one. Smooth rich dark chocolatey goodness sums up this kit.

This kit starts with Maris Otter base malt and uses equal parts dark crystal, English chocolate malt and English roasted barley, each at half a pound each. To get that smooth oatmeal mouth feel the kit uses a pound of standard flaked oats. When we shot the video I was taken back by the intensity of the chocolate flavor. The kit doesn’t indicate which brand of malt is being used so we could comment on camera about it.

Well I did reach out to Northern Brewer and they were very helpful as always. They told me that the roasted barley was from Crisp malting while both the crystal and chocolate are from Simpsons. Looking at the website the chocolate is indeed 450L and the crystal is likely 75-85L. I think these two thing together really make that chocolate flavor and aroma shine through.

John used my tips for toasting the oats and slowly raising the fermentation temperature. He commented on how quickly the fermentation went. Which is. It a surprise as English ale yeasts tend to work very quickly. That’s why I like to raise the temp towards the end to increase their activity level before all the sugars are gone the they flocc out of solution. The toasted oats really drive home the nutty quality and make the oats taste a little more like something good vs just bland oats.

Do you have experience with NB Oatmeal Stout? Let us hear about it. How about other kits?


Nelson Sauvin Braggot Brew Day

I have been living a life of exotic hops lately. My wife asked me why I have been brewing so often. I told her because the time is now. I have no idea what I am saying anymore. I am all hopped up on hoppy hop hops.

Beyond the BIAB experiments with Mosaic, El Dorado, and Equinox, this dreamed-up braggot has been on the schedule for a while. I put the recipe for this mead with Nelson Sauvin hops in it back in late March so it’s about time I got around to brewing this one. It’s too bad; this one will be great next year at this time – a real winter warmer. It could be ready before the end of this winter though.

On to the brew day! With only 4.5 pounds of grain to brew with, I made a no-sparge mash. I filled my mash tun with enough water to get me a 4 gallon runoff for the boil, which I did.

I modified the recipe a bit with by using just two ounces of Nelson Sauvin hops. I put a half ounce in at the start of the boil, another half ounce with 15 minutes to go, and then 1 full ounce at flame out.

Even though the majority of my grain bill was Pilsner malt, I stuck with a 60 minute boil. I know there is advice out there to boil for 90 minutes to reduce the chance of perceiving dimethyl sulfide in the finished beer. With the vigorous boil and evaporation rate along with my quick chilling, the 60 minute boil was insurance enough for me.

After it was chilled, I combined everything in the carboy – honey, wort, and enough water to bring the full volume to 4 gallons. Even with some good stirring, much of the honey dropped to the bottom of the Better Bottle so I had this Jello 1 2 3 (Google it) look going on.

The other big change to the recipe outside of dropping Warrior hops was the change in yeast. The Wedding mead turned out too dry using the champagne yeast so I went with D-47 dry yeast instead.

A day after the brew session and fermentation is in full swing. Here are some photos from the day:

The dream was to make a white wine-ish braggot. We’ll see how close I get.

You know what we say – Brew On!

Using Sorbates

Last week we talked about metabisulfites and how one uses sulfite compounds to stabilize must or other fermented beverages. These we we talk about another compound SORBATE! Sorbate is a commonly used preservative found in many products that are high in sugar. You’ll see it a lot in fruit juices to keep naturally pressed juices from fermenting on store shelves. The combination of these two products can be applied to manny aspects of brewing wines, ciders and meads.

Unlike Metabisulfite which can be found with a fancy name like Campden tablets; sorbate usually simply comes as…sorbate. Most all sorbate you’d find is usually a potassium salt because it is made from reacting potassium hydroxide with sorbic acid.

Sorbate can penetrate into the cellular spaces within mold and yeasts, lower the pH and disrupt the metabolism of the cells themselves. Sorbet does not directly kill cells, but like metabisulfite it prevents the cells fro dividing. We say that these compounds are microbial-static.

Sorbate can be applied in two ways. Prior to the start of fermentation you can use sorbate (dosage generally is formulation dependent and indicated on the bottle) to stabilize the presence of wild yeasts, molds and some bacterium in your must. You then add a sizably larger pitch of your favorite cultured yeast to ferment. This process works because while the sorbate may slow down some of your pitched yeast there is generally too many live cells to be effective. In this example, one must adhere to the idea that less is not more. Enough to stave off the growth of wild microbes due to lower population numbers is good. Too much sorbate will then begin to inhibit even your pitched culture.

The second use of sorbate is to assist in back sweetening a wine, mead or cider. When fermentation is complete many of these products under go an extensive aging process and or a cold crash. This causes reduction in cell counts in suspension of your pitched yeast. Adding sorbate at this point will limit the future activity in the yeast. Once inhibited you can add fresh sugars, juices or must to back sweeten your product; then bottle. One the home-brew scale this is easier said than done. I’d have never heard of too many folks that don’t get some referment in the bottle even when using sorbate. So its vitally important to watch out for over carbonating bottles as a precaution.

When using in conjunction these two preservatives help to create long lasting versions of your favorite non beer product. We tend to not use these in beer making because beer making involves a long boil sterilization process that eliminates the concern of wild microbes. Beer is also not generally a long lived shelf stable product. Most beers are meant to be consumed fairly soon and packaging contamination generally doesn’t have much time to show its effect.


BIAB Series – More One Gallon Batches

Brewing in a bag has been a fun series this year. I have brew a few experimental batches using this method. The first one was the great wheat malt experiment during the summer. The most recent BIAB sessions have been the hop explorations.

Mosaic was the first one I did and then when I had time, I was able to brew a SMaSH El Dorado hop ale and a SMaSH Equinox ale. The two gallon fermentors are hanging out in my upstairs closet together, getting ready for being bottled later on this week.

They both received dry hop additions during the weekend, and will be in that phase for four days. If you are keeping score at home, here was the hop schedule for each of these one gallon, BIAB, SMaSH ales:

.25 ounces of hops added with 60 minutes to go in the boil.
.25 ounces of hops added with 15 minutes to go in the boil.
.25 ounces of hops added at flameout.
.25 ounces added to the beer after a week of fermentation and left in contact with the beer for 4 days.

Since the schedule was the same for each different SMaSH, we should have beers that will showcase each of the hops’ characteristics the same way.

I am sure you have added up each of the hop additions – yes, I only used an ounce of hops for each batch. The small batch allowed me to keep costs down and maximize the hop flavor.

After the brew day, I stored the remaining quarter of an ounce of each hop in the freezer, clearly labeled. I imaged that if I screwed up and put the wrong hop into one of the beers, then my experiment would be over. When I plan, I make sure I don’t set myself up for mistakes.

Looking at the calendar, these experimental beers should be ready for consumption before the end of the month. With our wacky Wednesday video posts, we’ll wrap up what these beers taste like and if they match up to what the descriptors say about each of them.

Jester Hops

A hop variety from the UK that has the aroma and flavor profile of an American one?  How can this be?  Well, these Brew Dudes are about to find out.

I was contacted via Twitter by Ali Capper who runs Stocks Farm in Worcestershire, England. She let me know that they had a great harvest and that they had hops to purchase. When I went to their site, they had a clear call out to homebrewers to review their goods.

They had nine different varieties to choose from but the one that I noticed right away was Jester hops.

With measurements using the metric system and prices in GBP, I damned the torpedoes and bought some of these hops. The good thing is that the amount is enough to experiment with in a small batch before using them in a recipe for a 5 gallon batch.

Here are the vital stats for Jester hops:

Origin:  UK – from the Charles Faram breeding program. Their breeding program is based in Newland.

Aroma/Flavor: The three main descriptors I found out there were aromas and flavors of grapefruit, lychees, and blackcurrant. The big test will be how much they differ from the some of the American varieties that have similar profiles like Legacy hops.

Alpha Acid: 7.0 to 9.0%

Typical Usage: With its US-esque hop profile, I think this would be a good one for late boil additions. From the commercial examples that I have seen, it appears that they are definitely a flavor/aroma hop.

Beer Styles: Pale ales and other hop forward beers.

Certainly we will have more to report on these hops after they are shipped over the Atlantic to us. I am excited to be buying them straight from the farm that grew them. Once they arrive, I can update this post with an unboxing and then we’ll BIAB with them for a gallon batch or two.

Hey – here’s an update. Look at this photo:

Jester hops

Thanks again to Stocks Farm for the head’s up and the chance to try out their hops. If you are interested, check out their site when you have a chance. It was very easy to buy from them using PayPal, especially with the conversion of US dollars to British pounds.

Watch this space and Brew On.