Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Brew Day: 4PM Darkness (Imperial Stout)

Below is an unpublished post from 2019 I wrote for another website. In addition to a regular Brew Day post, I took more of a "how to" approach like I did in some of my earlier posts. 

I own four five-gallon glass carboys. When any of those carboys are empty it feels like a waste. Those carboys are taking up space in my basement when they could be aging some perfectly good beer!

With most of the standard strength ales I brew these days I don't bother racking to a secondary. Living in New England my basement is at a fairly steady 50 degrees during the winter. I can take advantage of the temperature to brew a lager and use one of my carboys for lagering. I can also use my carboys for aging sour beers or ciders. My favorite thing to use them for is to age high-alcohol beers. Long conditioning time in a secondary fermenter gives the complex flavors time to meld, and the alcohol time to mellow.

A year ago I brewed an imperial stout with my colleague Sven from Muntons. I took a recipe from a Gordon Strong book and adjusted the recipe to use ten different Muntons malts as a way to give Sven hand-on experience with as many of our malts as possible.

I was legitimately blown away with how great that beer came out. When I racked the beer after a week to a secondary it was delicious even then. I entered that beer into the National Homebrew Competition (NHC) where in the first round in Boston it won second in it's flight to advance to the final round.

While the beer didn't medal at the final round, and I didn't get my picture in Zymurgy, I did receive some solid feedback. I took that to heart while deciding how I wanted to tweak my recipe. At both rounds the judges thought the beer was maybe a little too roasty. At the first round in Boston the judges thought it was maybe a little too hoppy for a higher score. When the same batch was judged three months later, the hop flavor had subsided, but the judges still wanted more sweetness. With that in mind, here is the recipe I settled on:

Boil Size: 10.13 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.63 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.25 gal   
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.110 SG
Estimated Color: 77.6 SRM
Estimated IBU: 78.4 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 72.0 %
Boil Time: 180 Minutes

14 lbs           Maris Otter Pale Malt (Muntons) (2.6 SRM)        Grain         60.9 %             
3 lbs            Munich Malt (Muntons) (8.1 SRM)                  Grain         13.0 %            
2 lbs            Wheat Malt (Muntons) (2.5 SRM)                   Grain         8.7 %               
1 lbs            Chocolate Malt (Muntons) (520.3 SRM)             Grain         4.3 %              
1 lbs            Crystal 150 (60L) (Muntons) (76.1 SRM)           Grain         4.3 %               
1 lbs            Roasted Barley (Muntons) (634.5 SRM)             Grain         4.3 %              
8.0 oz           Black Malt (Muntons) (634.5 SRM)                 Grain         2.2 %              
8.0 oz           Crystal 400 (150L) (Muntons) (203.0 SRM)         Grain         2.2 %              
1.00 oz          Nugget [13.50 %] - Boil 60.0 min                 Hop           43.9 IBUs                 
1.00 oz          Northern Brewer [8.10 %] - Boil 30.0 min         Hop           20.2 IBUs               
0.25 tsp         Irish Moss (Boil 15.0 mins)                      Fining        -                      
1.00 oz          Fuggle [4.90 %] - Boil 15.0 min                  Hop           7.9 IBUs                
1.00 oz          Phoenix [9.80 %] - Boil 5.0 min                  Hop           6.3 IBUs                
1.0 pkg          Irish Ale Yeast                                  Yeast         -                       

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Full Body, No Mash Out
Total Grain Weight: 23 lbs
Name              Description                             Step Temperat Step Time     
Mash In           Add 7.39 gal of water at 167.9 F        156.0 F       90 min        

Sparge: Fly sparge with 5.60 gal water at 168.0 F

The only ingredients that a homebrewer might not be able to find are the Muntons Wheat and Munich malts. If you can't find those, I strongly suggest a quality imported substitute like Ireks White Wheat and Munich Malt.
Brewing high gravity beers like this does require some extra steps. Before I was with Muntons, I worked part time at a homebrew shop. When inexperienced brewers would come into the shop wanting to brew high gravity beers I would try to talk them through what to do. If I felt like the customer wasn't getting what I was trying to explain, or maybe didn't have the equipment needed, I would strongly suggest to the customer that they stick with a lower gravity brew.

Here are some of the challenges with high ABV brewing, suggested best practices, and what I did with this brew.
  1. Yeast Pitching Rate - A high alcohol beer requires a high amount of fermentable sugar, which in turn requires a high amount of healthy yeast to ensure a thorough and clean fermentation. 
    1. With liquid yeast this usually means making a yeast starter and/or buying multiple pitches. I used to hate making yeast starters on a weeknight to be ready to brew on the weekend. Free samples of Proper Starter pre-made starter wort from Homebrew Con hooked me on the product immediately.
    2. My favorite method for building up yeast cell counts for a high ABV beer is what I call a starter beer. Instead of making a 1.040 wort for the sole purpose of yeast propagation, I'll brew a batch of beer that is moderately hopped and has a similar gravity as a yeast starter. Bitters, Scottish Ales, English Porter, and Irish Stout are great styles for this method. For this batch I brewed an English Porter as a starter beer, which left me all of the yeast I needed for the imperial stout at the bottom of my fermenter. 
    3. If you don't have time to make a yeast starter or brew a starter beer, dry yeast is the easiest and cheapest way to go. Earlier this year I brewed an English Barleywine that got two packets of Nottingham. For any brew with an SG of over 1.080 I suggest pitching two sachets of dry yeast. No reason not to spend an extra $5-$8 to make sure your high ABV beer has enough yeast to ensure a full fermentation with no off flavors.

    4. I pushed my system to it's limit.

  2. Grist volume - When brewing a high ABV beer make sure your mash vessel can handle the volume of grain in your recipe and the strike water needed. I own a Brewers Edge Mash & Boil. The grain pipe in that system can only hold around 15 pounds of grain. Other brewing appliances of similar size like The Grainfather and RoboBrew have similar limitations. Instead of mashing in the Mash & Boil, I mashed in a ten gallon Igloo cooler. The grist and strike water filled the cooler to the very top. I could barley close the lid without pushing out hot mash water. Making sure you have enough room for your mash is just one reason to use a thick mash.

    Good luck batch sparging this

  3. Sparging - If your mash tun is as full as mine was, batch sparge or no sparge methods are out of the question. Fly sparging is your only option. That means you need a hot liquor tank with a ball valve that you can either gravity feed over your mash bed, or a pump to pump your hot liquor. If you don't have one, a sparge arm is a great investment to keep your grain bed level and avoid channels developing, which can lower your efficiency.
  4. Efficiency - Whatever mash efficiency you normally achieve on your system, expect it to go down. A consequence of needing more water for your mash is that you need less sparge water to achieve your normal pre-boil gravity. One way to compensate for this is to sparge for longer, then boil off for longer to end up with the same batch size. Goose Island does a 180 minute boil when brewing their Bourbon County beers. With this batch I planned to try the same method. To handle my pre-boil volume of 10.5 gallons, I had to use my propane burner. That meant I was outside in Massachusetts in December. When my propane tank ran low on gas I lost my boil. When I switched tank I was able to get a rolling boil, but I did have to boil for longer. I am also hoping the longer boil gives me some kettle caramelization to give the beer additional sweetness.  
  5. Malt extract is your friend - Some all grain brewers look at malt extract the same way an avid mountain biker might look at a toddler's trike. Well, you shouldn't. More professional brewers use malt extract than people realize. Muntons sells dry malt extract in 55lb boxes to professional brewers, and we sell them by the pallet. Instead of employing a long boil like I did on this brew, take a pre-boil gravity reading and adjust your gravity with DME to hit your target. The imperial stout I brewed last year with Sven got 13oz of DME after the mash. If you are brewing on a brewing appliance with a limited grain capacity, just replace some of your base malt with malt extract. It's that easy.
  6. Wort aeration - With a normal gravity beer splashing your wort in your fermenter will introduce enough oxygen into your wort. High ABV worts are a stressful environment for yeast. Your yeast will need more oxygen for a full and healthy fermentation. I ran an aeration pump for over half an hour while I was cleaning up from my brew day. That along with pitching plenty of yeast made sure my beer was fermenting within a few hours after pitching. 
  7. Temperature control - With all of the fermentable sugars in a high gravity beer, active fermentation is active indeed! That will generate quite a bit more heat than normal fermentation. Even if you pitch at the right temperature, the temperature can quickly rise too hot. With my beer I kept my fermenter in my 50F basement. and attached a heat wrap. I plugged the heat wrap into a temperature controller to keep my beer at a steady 68F

Monday, February 22, 2021

Falling out of love with New England IPA

About six years ago I interviewed for a job with a decent sized craft brewery. The brewery was looking for a sales rep in my area. I was a sales professional in another industry and thought that might make me qualified for the position. The brewery was gracious enough to bring me in for an interview despite my only industry experience being a brand ambassador. I subsequently met the candidate the brewery hired. He was infinitely more qualified than me. 

During the interview I was asked a question along the lines of "What was the most impactful or influential beer you ever drank and why?" I completely choked on the question. Beer for me has always been a slow journey of incremental steps. Budweiser, to Sam Adams seasonals, to relatively hoppy beers like Harpoon IPA, it was an evolution. In hindsight one of my answers could have been Double Dry Hopped Fort Point Pale Ale from Trillium.  

Six years after I drank that beer for the first time, it was unlike anything I had drank before.  Sitting here in 2021, I remember my boss at the time buying that thick belgian bottle for me. I remember opening it at my cousin and occasional brewing partner Andy's home and sharing it with everyone on our brew day. That beer was so aromatic, and yes so juicy. A true revelation.

To be fair to myself, based on my first visit to Trillium in 2015 I may not have appreciated the experience fully. In that era any aggressively hopped IPA was called a West Coast IPA, so I erroneously lumped Trillium in with that crowd. 

One of my first hazies from 2015. Clear by 2021 standards. 

My early attempts at brewing IPA were not great. I needed a lot of help to brew a clone of The Substance. That recipe from 2015 is nothing like how the beer is now. Bissell Brothers have intentionally made the beer softer and hazier. I did learn a lot about brewing IPA generally from that experience. Within months of that visit to Trillium, I brewed my first hazy pale ale. A year later, as part of my US of IPA project in 2016 I brewed another New England IPA. In 2017, I wrote a post for HomebrewTalk sharing best practices for homebrewing New England IPA. 

The last NEIPA I brewed was 28 July 2018. Well, that's half true. I attempted to brew a Double NEIPA recipe I believe one of our commercial customers screwed up. I ended up screwing up the beer myself and dumping it. One of these days I have to give that recipe another try just to prove a point.

Anyway, over the last few years my brewing has shifted mostly to sessionable beers be it British styles, pale ales, lagers, or fruit and spice beers. As store shelves have become more and more full of New England IPA, we would buy commercial examples and I would brew styles that were becoming harder to find commercially.

The notion of regional variations in IPA isn't dead yet, but it might be dying. When I was in Michigan last year there were amber ales everywhere, but also plenty of hazies. Summer in Minnesota was similar, but with cream ales and kellerbier in place of ambers. During a whirlwind week in Texas where I visited Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin, and Houston, it was pale lagers and hazy IPA. A legacy brewery in Denver wanted pricing to buy one of our distributors entire yearly allocation of El Dorado hops.  Even in San Diego, the mecca of West Coast IPA, in the afternoon I spent there in early 2020 there was as much if not more hazy IPA than West Coast IPA at the couple of places I visited. 

The more I drank New England IPA all over the country a few things became apparent. The more I drank NEIPA, the more not great examples I found. Just being juicy or aromatic wasn't enough anymore. As I drank more beers that were too aggressively dry-hopped, or were packaged too soon, I was getting "hop burn", and getting beers that were overly phenolic. I've gotten off flavors and aromas like cut grass, smoke, struck matches, and even lighter fluid. This is to say nothing of oxidized cans that poured brown with no hop character.

I have even had poor experiences from hyped breweries with huge Untappd ratings. One homebrewer shared on a "Currently Drinking" Slack channel I am on that he was drinking a newly released NEIPA from a prominent brewery. When asked how it was he said, "It's a bit spicy, as usual with day-of releases. But the tropical fruit is off the charts." He, like a lot of beer drinkers have been conditioned that when they buy a beer at a brewery itmay not be at it's peak of flavor or aroma. I've had similar experiences where I let the beer sit in my fridge for a week or two to smooth out. Twenty bucks for a four-pack doesn't buy what it used to.

With any beer style there are only two ways to really make a unique product: ingredients and process. With New England IPA the ingredients and processes are becoming increasingly similar. This has resulted something else I have noticed: a lot of hazy IPAs that taste the same. The grists tend to be very similar. There's a better chance that a brewery will talk about the unmalted adjuncts in the beer like flaked oats and flaked wheat than the actual malt. That is if they talk about the grains in the beer at all. Most breweries ferment with some kind of London III or Conan strain. If a brewery uses dry yeast it's probably Safale S04. The esters that used to make NEIPA unique compared to American ales fermented with neutral ale strains are now fairly similar across the board. Breweries having a house yeast with a house character isn't much of a thing anymore.

Hops are one area where there can be a difference if the brewer eschews the ubiquitous, but admittedly delicious Citra/Mosiac combo. Hop growers are selecting for varietals with tropical fruit flavors. As these new varieties are used in beers, they do make fruity and juicy IPAs. I am sure there are drinkers that can, or at least think they can pick out unique flavors from all of these hop varietals. There are plenty of times that I can't.

It would be easy to fall into the trap of blaming NEIPA for everything I don't like about beer in 2021. Breweries are business and brewers have stakeholders they are responsible to. Instead of complaining about NEIPA, I go out of my way to buy other styles I like when I see them. That's also a big reason why after three and a half years in the industry I have never fallen out of love with homebrewing. If I wan't variety, I can brew it myself. I am finally at a point where I have the knowledge and equipment to brew almost any kind of beer that I want.

Just because I don't drink New England IPA as much as I used to, doesn't mean I don't drink it at all. When I am in the mood, I still enjoy a well-made example. While I am working to get healthier, Jennie will offer me a sip of her beer which is usually hazy and hoppy. Sometimes the beer is great; other times she asks for help identifying an off flavor.

For the most part what is gone for me is the love. It's rare that I pour a hazy IPA, take a whiff of hop aroma, and feel close to the same excitement that I used to. 

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Monday, February 1, 2021

Revisiting beer, food and health

Originally I was merely going to reshare this post from 2015 on my Facebook page along with a quick update. As I was writing the post on Facebook my commentary was starting to get a little long. Instead of reposting, this is a topic that needed to be revisited in full. 

Plenty has changed for me since I wrote that post in 2015. I never did achieve much consistency with diet and exercise. At one point in 2016 I was starting to get back into a nice groove with exercise. The company I worked for at the time would have fitness activities all the time. I was making it to the gym at least somewhat regularly. Then in fall of 2016 I slipped chasing a train and tore my left rotator cuff. I didn't need surgery, but I needed months of physical therapy to regain rage of motion and try to build strength. 

By the time my shoulder started to feel better, I took my current position with Muntons. I went from 8-5 at an office to a job that required lots of travel and visiting breweries. By 2019 I was as heavy as I ever have been. Early that year I knew I needed to do something. I needed to get the food under control, and find an exercise program I could do anywhere. I started DDP Yoga when Chris Jericho mentioned on his podcast that he could do the workouts in a hotel room. I was doing really well for about three months until I tweaked my shoulder again. After a month back in physical therapy my shoulder was fine, but I had lost my focus.

By the time the pandemic hit I had given back all of my progress from 2019. For awhile I was going on long walks and shorter run/walk intervals just to get out of the house. The consistency still wasn't there. By the time the weather was starting to cool, I didn't want to go outside. 

By December I realized I had wasted all of this time I had at home. Instead of waiting for the New Year, I decided I needed to exercise and I needed to start right away. I have been doing DDP Yoga workouts 3-4 times per week. The key has been to play it extra safe with my shoulder. I stared over-modifying a lot of the movements. There were a few times I cut workouts short when my shoulder started to feel sore. I feel like I am slowly starting to rebuild strength and flexibility. 

One goal I have is to try playing golf again. I was invited to play in a tournament by a customer a couple of years ago. When I tried one practice swing without holding a club, my shoulder was immediately sore. If I can get through a bucket of balls at the range or even a round I'll know I'm doing well. If I can play without pain I can worry about not sucking. 

As much as DDPY helps burn fat, improve flexibility, and build strength, I've always missed higher intensity workouts. I missed the feeling I had after a CrossFit WOD: completely exhausted after giving maximum effort. When I work out I like to feel like I pushed myself. I have been working in 1-2 HIIT, Tabata, or home WOD workouts per week to replicate that feeling the best I can at home. I purchased an ab mat so for sit ups and a pull-up bar with plenty of bands to try and get my pull-up back. 

The deal I made with myself is that I would start exercising immediately in December and start attacking the food after the holidays. I have been journaling my food as a way to keep myself accountable and to stay on track. 

One of the things Diamond Dallas Page talks about in the DDP Yoga program is goal setting. I didn't necessarily start with a goal in December, but after a week or so eating better I wrote down what my goal was. 

I want to fit into a men's large size t-shirt again by Memorial Day

That is a very aggressive goal. The last time I fit into a large was probably 2012, or maybe a brief period in 2014. What is the point of setting goals if they are not ambitious?  I will probably need to lose 15 pounds per month between now and then depending on how much muscle I build. Looking at my belly that's probably a fair estimate.

From the time I wrote my last post on this topic in 2015 until now, there probably hasn't been a day I didn't regret getting healthy only to give it all back. I am trying to imagine myself looking my best, but most importantly feeling my best as the summer rolls around. Maybe I can get a new headshot for work with one less chin!

The only way to aggressively burn the fat that I want to burn in the timeframe I want to do it in is to run aggressive calorie deficits. That does not leave a lot of room for a 16-ounce NEIPA coming in at 300 calories. In January I drank five beers all month. Coincidentally or not I went two months without brewing a batch. My last batch was Pa's Lager weighing in at 5.3% ABV, and 170 calories for 12 ounces. 

There are plenty of people who drank more than five beers this month that are not overweight. I am sure there are people who are able to enjoy the occasional pizza, or burger and fries that are generally healthy. Once I achieve my goals, I want to be one of those people. I want to be a healthy person that can also enjoy life. This video by YouTuber Adam Ragusea really captures what I am going for here. To do that I need to catch myself if the occasional indulgence becomes more frequent.

The key is going to be to not lose focus. When I do reach my goal, I need to continue monitoring my weight and how my clothes fit. If I start slipping, I need to tighten up sooner and not continue to slip for months and years. Developing a routine I can do at home, or do anywhere at any time will help me stay on course and eliminate excuses. 

I have 18 weeks from now until Memorial Day to get after it. 

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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Catching up on re-brews for NHC

My plan for this years National Homebrew Competition (NHC) was to rebrew beers that had done well in previous competitions, or that I really enjoyed and thought would do well.

Employee Orientation 101

I have written a brew day post on this batch. I sent it to be published on another blog and have been waiting for that to go up before publishing here.

The grain bill pushed my mash tun to the limit.
I boiled ten gallons of wort down to less than five. 

With this brew advancing to the final round in 2019, I was always going to rebrew it for 2020. I took the feedback I received from the judges and changed my recipe and process for this batch. The idea was for the malt flavor to be even richer. I increased the amount of Munich Malt to punch up the sweetness and breadiness in the flavor and the aroma.

During my brew day to improve my efficiency and increase the Maillard reaction in the wort, I extended my boil. When on a tour of the barrel room at Goose Island the tour guide said that Bourbon County has a three hour boil. I thought it would be interesting to try the technique at home with my imperial stout. 

The brew day went fairly well. With my extended boil I ended up with around 4.75 gallons of wort and had an SG of 1.116. I pitched a huge amount of yeast from Derby Wharf Porter and fermentation took off right away. This was going to be great! 

Then a few days after the brew day I went on a work trip. I would come to learn the difference between a 1.116 wort like this batch, and a 1.096 wort from the original batch was more significant than I realized. While the 2019 batch was almost fully fermented out and tasted pretty good after only seven days, the 2020 batch had stalled out and was noticeably boozy.

The higher gravity wort had stressed my yeast and resulted in a poor fermentation. The yeast needed added yeast nutrient and oxygen to finish fermenting. I should have added the yeast nutrient and hit the wort with my aquarium pump a couple days post-pitch, and then probably again a couple of days later.

I racked the beer to a secondary hoping the alcohol would mellow and perhaps the wort would pick up some oxygen and frement a bit more. After more time aging, I still wasn't happy with the beer and decided not to enter it at all into NHC.

I do want to brew this again. When I do, I will make sure I am home to add the yeast nutrient and oxygen this wort needs.

Uncommon Harvest

This was a rebrew of a 2018 recipe I made with my first harvest of homegrown hops. That year I planted Willamette, Northern Brewer, Chinook, Cascade, and Centennial rhizomes. Northern Brewer was the one plant that produced more than a few cones that first year. Anchor Steam is known for using Northern Brewer hops, so California Common was a clear choice for style to use those hops in. The beer I made didn't have much in the way of hop flavor, but the malt flavor was outstanding. Even though the lack of hop character made it miss the mark for style, I still thoroughly enjoyed that beer.

When I rebrewed the batch I wanted to use a domestic base malt in this quintessentially American style. I used Mapleton Pale Malt from my friends at Maine Malt House as my base. The specialty malts were all Muntons. To be sure the hop flavor and aroma was to style I used Northern Brewer pellet hops I purchased instead of my homegrown hops. The samples I tasted were if anything too bitter, but the beer could mellow with time.

Before I kegged the beer, I wanted to use my new toy to cold crash the beer. At the same time, I needed a temp controller for another batch. I thought I could just put the beer in one of the fridges, and use the dial thermostat that is built into the fridge. I turned it all the way down that should have gotten my wort to near freezing. I mean this is a mini-refrigerator not a mini-freezer after all. When I went to keg the beer it looked like this:

Yup! Frozen solid
That's two batches that would not have made it to NHC. I froze my California Common a couple weeks before the entry deadline. That gave me just enough time to brew another beer. I brewed a different style that I thought I could turn over quickly. That batch was a new brew and I'll talk about that batch in a separate post.

Fredward Wit

Last year I casually mentioned Fredward Wit took an honorable mention in the New England Regional Homebrew Competition. Fredward Wit, named after our cat, was a beer Jennie and I developed together and brought to the North Shore Brewer's 25th anniversary party.

The grist and hops are loosely similar to my previous Walk-Off White. When I was scooping the base malt brewing the first batch, I noticed that instead of the Pilsner Malt I had intended to use, I was scooping Muntons Super Pale malt. I thought to myself that Super Pale should work just fine. 

Super Pale is a very interesting malt that a lot of brewers aren't familiar with. Lighter in color than even our Pilsner Malt, Super Pale was developed specifically for hoppy beers. With it's light color, the malt flavor is as restrained as possible which allows other flavors in the beer to come through more such as hops in IPAs. Super Pale is also a great choice in yeast-driven beers like saison. In Fredward Wit it really allowed the citrus and spices to come through. Super Pale is going to be my base malt of choice in all of my fruit beers going forward.

Where I did depart from Walk-Off White was the spice blend. For the most part Fredward has a sweet disposition, except when he demands treats, windows to be opened or immediate attention and pets. As such I wanted a sweeter spice blend. I replaced the lemon and grains of paradise with chamomile and vanilla. Jennie and I decided to use bitter orange and decided to use a bit more to balance the vanilla.

The judges feedback from the first batch was they thought the beer was a touch too hoppy. In the re-brew I eliminated the small flavor hop edition from the first batch and kept everything else the same. I think I may have liked the last batch better, but this second batch might be more to style. I can't find any glaring flaws in the second batch. I think it would have done well at NHC. I may have to brew it again for NHC 2021.

Spring Training Stout

Last year I wanted to bring back both of my house Irish beers, Rundown Irish Red and Spring Training Stout. I only had time and space to brew an extract version of Rundown Irish Red. I couldn't have been happier with how that batch came out. It had the complexity and drinkability I have always wanted my Irish Red to have. If I had entered it in competition I also think it would have done well.

While I could have easily rebrewed Rundown for NHC, by 2020 it had been five years since I brewed Spring Training and I missed it! While I thoroughly enjoyed Derby Wharf Porter, after finishing the keg I found myself craving a dryer and roastier stout. 

As I revisited a five year-old recipe, I researched Irish beers and thought about how I would approach brewing Spring Training. Many Irish Stouts are brewed with British Pale Malts like Maris Otter or Planet Pale. Those are both great malts, but they are designed for all-malt brewing or brewing with a small percentage of un-malted adjuncts. Irish stouts can use quite high percentages of un-malted flaked barley to give the beer a full body. I read how one Irish craft brewery that uses a step mash to activate the enzymes they need to achieve full conversion of the flakes in the mash. Several Irish malters make a "Stout Malt" which isn't quite as flavorful as a pale malt, but does have a higher diastatic power than a British pale malt to convert more un-malted flaked barley typically used in Irish stouts.

Revisiting my last batch of Spring Training, the batch was a partial-mash with a base 5lbs of Stout Malt, 2lbs Flaked Barley, and 3.3lbs of Maris Otter Extract. My current batch was all-grain with Planet Pale as my base malt. I didn't want to try a complicated step mash. Being moderately concerned about the Planet Pale converting a large amount Flaked Barley, I replaced 1lb of the Flaked Barley with Wheat Malt. The Wheat Malt will add body, while also bringing it's own enzymes to the party because it is malted.

This change worked perfectly. The finished beer is rich, but drinkable. It is roasty with coffee notes, but not harsh or overly dry like some American-made stouts. That tells me that my water chemistry was on point.

One other change I was forced into was with my yeast. I pitched two jars of my House Irish Blend that I harvested from a prior batch. I didn't make a yeast starter, and the slurry never really took off. I sprinkled a sachet of S-04 which did a perfectly fine job fermenting the beer. In my mind the beer would have been better with my House Irish Blend, even if the beer is enjoyable as it is.

Enjoying my Spring Training stout on St. Patrick's Day while
watching the Dropkick Murphy's.
Similar to Rundown, I think this recipe for Spring Training is perfect. For this batch I benchmarked one of my favorite beers, Guinness Extra Stout. The color is jet black with an off-white head. It has a nice roasty aroma. I am absolutely brewing this for next year's NHC and making a yeast starter for my House Irish yeast.