Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bourbon Smoked Porter

Back in October, I brewed a double batch of Smoked Porter. The idea was to split the wort, ferment it with two different yeasts, and hit one keg with Bourbon.

Here's how I started out:

OG 1.062* FG 1.015*
ABV 7.2%** AA 75.5%
IBUs 44 SRM 37

39.6% German Rauchmalt
29.2% North American Vienna
16.7% Canadian two-row
6.3% British chocolate malt
4.2% Crystal 60
2.1% Roasted barley
2.1% Crystal 80

29 IBUs Magnum – 60 mins
11 IBUs Magnum – 50 mins
4 IBUs (1 oz.) Glacier – 10 mins

* Wort only
** After Bourbon addition; original ABV was 6.2 %

At this point I had about 11 gallons of chilled wort. Half the batch was fermented with US-05 dry yeast; the other half with Wyeast 2450 a.k.a "Denny's Favorite 50." This strain was first released last year as part of Wyeast's Private Collection series – apparently it's to be released again this summer, albeit with a new designation.

The half fermented with US-05 got a helping of Bourbon on its way into the keg. I wanted something decent but not too expensive; I settled on Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage, a pleasantly good Bourbon in its own right and maybe even a little surprisingly so, since I don't otherwise drink Evan Williams. I worked with small samples, testing proportions until I settled on what worked out to 18 oz. Bourbon for the 5 gal. keg. If that seems like a lot, maybe it is – the hooch contributed 1.1% extra alcohol, and others had no trouble picking up the Bourbon.

The smoked malt got a little lost underneath what turned out to be a relatively more assertive Bourbon character. It's not over the top (at least, not in my opinion), but there is some discernible wood on the nose and Bourbon flavor on the palate. The not-insignificant 44 IBUs, in conjunction with some dark notes from the roasted barley and chocolate malt, tighten things up nicely on the finish. There's not much contribution from the yeast, as to be expected, and I'm not sure if you'd pick out any 10-minute hops if you didn't know better.

Nevertheless. The combination of roasty malt flavors, smoke and charcoal/oaky Bourbon notes seemed like a winning trio, and indeed they yielded a tasty brew. True, I could go for a little more smoke (which is usually the case when I drink any kind of Rauchbier, even supposedly 100-percent stuff like Schlenkerla; this means I'm basically hopeless) but overall I'd say the integration of flavors is rather nice, with a tasty chocolate note thrown in for added complexity, and despite others' comments, I don't think the Bourbon stands out too much. Just as important is the fact that, although 15% of this beer's alcohol came from straight liquor, the end result isn't too boozy or hot. Credit the high-quality Evan Williams as much as my mixology skills, probably.

The shame of it is, this keg just blew today and I've been so focused on giving this beer away and clearing space for the next brew, I'd never enjoyed it as much as I have just now. Pity.


Michael Reinhardt said...

I just did an 11% thick Stout and added some Bourbon and wood chips to it. Really turned out nicely. I also hit the chips with a propane torch and gave it a touch of smoke. Don't you love making beer...what a joy to experiment.

Brad said...

That beer sounds like no joke Michael.

Michael said...

It's not...and it's pretty thick. I originally wanted to go for 14-15% ABV and counted on my little brother to get a starter going for me. He accidentally used a packet of London Ale Yeast rather than the Imperial that I got, so I ended at 11%. It's ok though (at least that is what I tell myself). Of course, the Bourbon jumped it to 14%, so I achieved it that way, but I was hoping for a little more.

Brad said...

Did you consider pitching champagne yeast to get more attenuation?

Michael said...

I considered a couple different options and what I chose would have been robust enough to handle the ABV that I wanted, had the starter been done correctly. At any rate, I ended up being really happy with the thickness of the beer. In fact, I would maybe have the same level of attenuation next time, but I would have to increase sugar a bit to get more alcohol but keep thickness.

mark taylor said...

You mentioned adding the bourbon to taste. What is your process for that? Do you add it to a small sample and extrapolate out or keep adding to the keg and decanting from your kegerator? Thanks.

Brad said...

Hi Mark,

The first option – I worked with small samples and then did the math.


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