Sunday, January 25, 2015

#40 Denny Conn's Bourbon Vanilla Porter - Brewday

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

Another solid brewday.  It don't get no better than solid.  Chris and Steve came up to help out, and we really tore through the work, brewing this porter, bottling the blackberry wine, kegging the session ale, and polishing off a growler of the rye ale.

The mash started off with a bit of a mistake.  I left the valve on the mash tun open so as I was dumping in the strike water I lost who knows how much.  The mash in turn came in under temperature at 146F, so I added a gallon of boiling water to bring it up to 151F.  The mash tun was filled right to the brim, but we didn't lose anything.  After that, I let the mash run its course--it's 90 minute course--and ran off as usual.

When I measured the SG and pH of the first runnings, it was a bit low at 5.09 (I usually target 5.4).  This batch features tons of dark and crystal malts in a thick grist/liquor ratio so it's no surprise that the mash is fairly acidic.  However, I thought I accounted for this using calculated baking soda and chalk additions to raise the pH.  I think part of the problem was that I forgot to give the chalk time to dissolve into the strike water (well at least as well as it ever does), instead I just tossed all the salts right into the mash at dough in.  Whatever, it shouldn't be a big deal.  The biggest drawback is reduced alpha amylase activity, but the 90-minute mash should have more than compensated, and Braukaiser even lists some benefits of a lower mash pH (as in 5.2-5.4).

After two batch sparges, I came up a little short on wort, but high on gravity.  Instead of adding more water to meet my target, I cut the boil 15 minutes short; the only reason I specified a two hour boil was to accommodate extra sparge water anyway.  The boil was uneventful, and with the extra hands, cleanup was a breeze.  I harvested 130 ml each of Chico and Denny's Favorite 50 yeast from the Willamette session ale split batch and pitched them into the two carboys.

Forgot to add yeast nutrient during the boil, 45 sec 02, yeast pitched at 60F, temp set to 66F.

3 Days: Fermentation is progressing, but no aggressive blow off.  Temp upped to 70F.

3 Weeks: Racked to secondary.  Fermentation looks like it was pretty tame.  The foam never reached any higher than in the picture.  Like with the session ale, the Denny finished a couple points lower than the Chico.  I'm worried we might have a tiny bit of autolysis here, not sure exactly what that's supposed to smell/taste like though so I'll have to study up.  I also tested out the bourbon (or in this case Westland American single malt) dosing on the gravity sample; it was tough to adjust the bourbon precisely with such a small dose, but I think 1.5 oz/gal will be good without being overwhelming.

3/10/15:  Mixed up two jars of vanilla and whiskey to extract and sanitize the vanilla.  6 oz and 1.5 vanilla beans each.  I used the Westland American single malt instead of the Maker's Mark the recipe called for (since we have it on hand), and ordered the Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans from Beanilla.

3/17/15:  After a week, we added the whiskey and bourbon to the fermenters.

3/29/15  This thing is finally in the bottles!  It spent two weeks with the bourbon and vanilla mixed in, in addition to the one the beans spent in the whiskey alone, and I think that was just about right.  I'm not sure how much more flavor it may have extracted from the beans--this is my only experiment with vanilla so far--but both the aroma and flavor are fantastic.  I get a nice caramely vanilla on the nose and a smooth, dry chocolate flavor with just a hint of bourbon and vanilla.  I aimed for 2.4 vol of carbonation (though since it has aged a bit, this could drop as far as 2.0 vol), but this beer tastes so good flat that I poured a little of the priming sugar solution out to avoid over carbonating it and losing the amazing balance it already has.

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