Thursday, September 25, 2008

Brilliant! Stout

Dry Stout is a misunderstood style, particularly when the general public is involved. (But isn't that always the case?) Sometimes called Dry Irish Stout due to its historical connection with and popularity on the Emerald Isle (Guinness, Murphy's and Beamish, Irish all, are the examples perhaps most likely to come to mind, in that order), here's a beer that tends to be light-bodied and low in alcohol (the three aforementioned brands being no exception) and yet is widely perceived as being the exact opposite – big, heavy, strong, overpowering.

Why? The first reason, of course, would be the color – jet-black and intimidating, not like those friendly, easy-drinking mega-lagers folks are used to. Then there's the flavor – strong (that is to say, existent), roasty, quite bitter. And finally the mouthfeel – a blend of CO2 and nitrogen (something many commercial examples, including the three above, feature) imparts a creamy, velvety texture to Dry Stout that is often taken for thickness, heaviness.

Of course, we homebrewers and beer snobs are wiser than this. Apart from its flavor – yes, Dry Stout is dark, coffee-like, rather bitter – there is in fact little in the way of alcohol content or body to put Dry Stout in the category of real heavyweights like Imperial Stout, Doppelbock and Barleywine.

Call Dry Stout session beer for a chilly day. Or for a hot day. Just don't call it "motor oil," and don't let your scaredy-cat pals call it that, either.

Here's my Dry Stout, very heavily based (hops and yeast being the differences) on a well-regarded recipe by Bob Girolamo.

The details:

OG 1.056 FG 1.013
ABV 5.7% AA 76.5%
IBUs 44 SRM 33

80% Crisp Marris Otter
8% Flaked Barley
8% Roasted Barley
4% Crystal 120

1 oz Magnum 60 mins (44 IBUs)


As you can see, the alcohol content on this one is pretty high by Dry Stout standards. Partly that's because I hadn't gotten my mill yet so I had ordered precrushed grains from an online supplier. As such, I wasn't sure what kind of efficiency to expect, so I wanted to err on the high end with my order. (I ended up with ~74% efficiency. Not bad.)

The name, selected by my girlfriend, is an homage to the recent Guinness advertising campaign, although I will note that this brew was never intended as any kind of Guinness clone, and was served on just CO2.

Not surprisingly, based on accolades directed at Bob G.'s recipe, this one turned out very tasty. A big hit among my girlfriend (who loves Dry Stouts) and everyone else who came over to sample it. I didn't perform any experiments on dyed-in-the-wool light-beer drinkers, but based on my friends' feedback (surely they're not just being polite??) I'd venture to say Dry Stout's potential for wide appeal is not to be underestimated.

On a more somber note, this particular beer didn't make it through a recent party. It had a good life, and put many a smile on many a people's face. Wish I had a glass right now...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Crazy Hot Break

Look what was churning around my boil kettle today. This has got to be the craziest hot break I've seen – big clumps of coagulated protein that look like angel hair pasta. (John Palmer has described it as "egg drop soup.")

The grain bill was nothing but Canadian Two-Row – 16 lbs. of it for a 10-gallon batch.

Click on the images for a larger view.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Session #19 – Deutsches Bier

Been meaning to do this Session thing for a while now, but dammit if I don't forget every month. And it almost happened again, but for a chance visit to Lew Bryson's blog today that jogged my memory.

This month's theme is "Deutsches Bier" – German beer – and how the world is a better place for it. (And it is, thank you.) Our September Session is being hosted (and shortly, aggregated and summarized) by lootcorp 3.0.

I'm tempted, really tempted, to use this opportunity to rail against Germany's famed Reinheitsgebot, a.k.a. "German Beer Purity Law" of 1516. I'm tempted to point out that it's an outdated (by, oh, around 500 years) piece of legislation whose original purpose was to protect the production of bread, not beer. Tempted to point out the fundamental flaw in this attempt to fix the acceptable constituencies in beer before we even knew about yeast. Perfectly tempted to go on about stifling creativity, expression and the free market for no good reason. I'm tempted to do all these things, but I won't. I'll leave that to this guy.

If we are to equate wild, rambunctious and unrestrained brewing practices with greatness (can you say "Belgium"?), then maybe we ought also to bemoan the Reinheitsgebot for keeping one of the world's great brewing traditions needlessly handcuffed and kept from achieving its true potential.

On the other hand, how about arguing that by forcing German brewmasters to limit the scope of their focus, perhaps, and by instilling a strict adherence to the doctrine of "beer purity," maybe that silly old law is to be thanked for the roster of outstanding, technically masterful beer styles Germany has to offer today.

Ooof. Such philosophical and academic exercises are downright meaningless when you're in the streets outside Zum Uerige, sipping fresh Altbier poured from a firkin. Or downing beautiful golden Helles from a giant mug in the Augustiner Biergarten. Or enjoying barbecue with a smokey, velvety, seductive Rauchbier. Or fighting back the pucker instinct gifted by a gloriously sour Berliner Weisse. (Take that, Belgium.)

Germany, I say give me your Doppelbocks, your Dortmunders, your Schwartzbiers. Your Weizenbocks, your Kölsches, your Märzens.

Let's be honest – how often do we demand that our beers have adjuncts and extraneous flavorings in them? What's in an IPA that would offend the German Beer Police? (You thought I was going to say "Beer Nazis," didn't you?)

The Olympics ended last month, so I hope you'll follow me on this: Without taking a moral stand on the Reinheitsgebot issue, we can step back and regard Germans beers like we do the Chinese athletes churned out from that country's gymnast-and-diver mills. Sure, there may be some government meddling involved here. OK, things might have turned out differently. But damn – they're still something to marvel at.
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