Widmer Brothers Brrr

When the wind is a blowin’ and the snow is a fallin’, you need a strong drink to warm you up. You need a winter warmer. You need Widmer Brother’s Brrr. Especially since it is the coldest it has been in Chicago in two years. A winter warmer is a vaguely defined beer style. The only rules are that it is usually malt forward, and it always has a high alcohol content. A Christmas version brewed in America might also throw in a bunch of spices. Notice how I said Winter Warmers are  “usually”  malt forward. Widmer Brothers Brrr is its own creature.

It is a deep amber color, with a large off-white head and good lacing. The Aroma is straight American hops. Grapefruit, other citrus, and general American Amber Aleness abounds. After tasting, you immediately notice the intense dry bitterness of the beer.  A lot of hops (like I said, its own creature). A resin, grass, grapefruit character followed by a toasty, biscuit grain flavor.

Advertisements

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout and Veggie Soup

It being the winter, Helper Monkey Amy and I decided to make a delicious hearty vegetable soup. No meat, only veggies. Don’t worry, it has lots of body, and what the Japanese would call umami (i.e. a savory taste). As part of my post holiday focus on the fitness, I am trying to eat healthier. This may include less meat, but it does not include less beer (very convenient), because beer is healthy. It was a big pot of soup that lasted several days, and one of those days I had a Guinness Foreign Extra Stout with it.

Foreign extra stout is a beer brewed by Guinness for export to places like the Caribbean. Regular Guinness Stout is a very light, low alcohol session beer (contrary to what my unbeer-schooled college mind thought the first time I had one). To make the long trip to the hot Caribbean, they had to brew it to a higher alcohol content. This is essentially the same reason the British invented the Russian Imperial Stout, except for export in the opposite direction. For a long time, to get Foreign Extra Stout, you had to travel either to the Caribbean or to Africa. Now Guinness has decided to import it to the states, and we are all the better for it.

To be perfectly honest, an ideal food pairing for a foreign extra dry stout would probably be some sort of roast beast, but there is no point in trying to make the perfect pairing every time. Some time you just have to sit back and enjoy.

The beer is like chocolate milk made with semi-sweet chocolate. It has a bigger body and more sweetness than its sessionable little brother, but still retains some bitterness on the back-end.  I’d say the bitterness probably comes from the roast malt or barley, and not from any hops as you would expect from a stout from across the pond. It is very smooth with a medium to medium low amount of carbonation. The dark flavors went well with the kale and the root vegetables in the soup. It also added a bit of roastiness that a vegetable soup sans meat might be missing. It also has a nice warming alcohol feel that is good for any cold day. All in all, this was a great winter meal, and only a fire could have made it better.

The Pale Rider Porter

Because death needs something robust to get him through the end times.

Death_Rides_A_Black_Horse_by_sammykaye1

The winter is in full force, and my second beer of the season will be a bit bigger than my earlier Christmas Mild. I really like porters, and since I have never brewed one before, I figured that it was time. Porter was probably the first industrialized beer in the world. In 18th century England, patrons used to ask the bartender to mix the various beers they had in certain proportions to get the taste they want, sort of like a Black and Tan today. Legend had it that Porter (or originally called entire) was first brewed as an equivalent to a popular combination called “three threads”.

At least that is the legend I originally learned  from the Brewmaster Table, but according to Wikipedia, that story arose due to some misinterpretation of brewing terms in a famous history of porter written by John Feltham. It actually started out as a more aged version of the earlier brown beer. The first style of beer aged at the brewery itself, ready to drink out the door, and the first beer produced on an industrial scale. It was very popular with the street and river porters and the name stuck. Eventually porter fell out of favor, and all but the stout porter, or simply Stout died out. Even breweries like Guiness, now famous for its Stout, eventually dropped the beer it started with. It wasn’t until 1978, when craft beer was emerging again in the  UK, that the style started to come back.

What exactly makes a robust porter robust? It is more Robust than a brown porter of course. It has more alcohol, has more hops, and  has some black  patent malt. It also generally seems like it could be an American version of the porter. A glance at the list of commercial examples on the BJCP style guidelines basically lists American breweries making Robust Porter and English breweries making Brown.

I took my recipe from the Robust Porter episode of the The Brewing Network’s: The Jamil Show. You can find the recipes over at beerdujour.com, a site which only lists award-winning recipes. These recipes are probably similar,  or even the same as the ones in his book Brewing Classic Styles.

I adjusted the recipe, as I used dry malt extract, and his extract recipe calls for liquid malt. Let’s hit the main points:

SRM: 32.4
IBU: 34.1
OG: 1.064

I did a partial mash with the following ingredients:

1 lb 6 oz Crystal 60L
1 lb 6 oz  Munich Malt
10 oz Chocolate Malt
7.3 oz Black Patent Malt

This didn’t work out well. I tried to do brew in a bag. I used the recommended amount of water that Beersmith told me, but with the bag I had and the width of my pot, the water didn’t really cover the grain completely. This made it hard for the water to regulate the temp and different parts of the grain had widely different temperatures. I will have to change the method next time, probably with a bag that doesn’t keep the grain so tight.

After the “fun” of mashing, I brought the water up to boil, and threw in half of the 6 pounds of extra light Dry Malt Extract, and 1.7 oz of East Kent Goldings at 5.6% Alpha Acids. At 15 minutes I threw in a Whirflock tablet. This is the first time I have ever used a fining agent. A fining agent binds to the proteins and help make the beer nice and clear. Whirflock is essentially Irish Moss – a red Algae – in a convenient tablet form.

Then I threw the rest of the extra light DME in, and threw the last 0.75 oz of East Kent Goldings in at flame out. I chilled it down to about 65 degrees topped it off to 5.5 gallons and realized my original gravity was under by over 13 points. To fix this I threw in more extra light DME until it hit 1.063, and am hoping for the best.

I have been listening to the Jamil Show a lot, and he  is constantly stressing that proper  fermentation is the key to good beer. Therefore, I made a yeast starter for the first time. To make a yeast starter, you essentially take your liquid yeast and put it in some water with light extract (i.e. you make a low gravity wort) and let it start to ferment. During the first stage of fermentation, the yeast eats all the oxygen in the liquid and multiplies. Then you take your multiplying yeast and throw them in your beer to get a healthy fermentation. Unfortunately, to get the recommended amount of yeast with out a mechanical means to constantly introduce oxgen you need about 3.5 liters of yeast starter. Good thing I have a gallon jug and an extra 12 ounces of DME lying around. Every time I passed it, I gave it a shake help it along.

I pitched the yeast, aerated the wort, and took the bucket to the basement, where there has been a surprising lack of bubbles lately, The krausen did form, so something must be happening.

Founders Breakfast Stout for Breakfast?

What other time are you suppose to drink a Breakfast Stout?

It’s made with two different kinds of coffee, and there is a distinct coffee flavor.  It is very smooth, and tastes a lot like this particular Nicaraguan coffee that I enjoy (if you threw in a little chocolate and Irish cream). It is bitter, it is smooth, and it is massive in both body and alcohol. It certainly made my subsequent trip to Target a bit more interesting. I bet it would go great with a bowl of oatmeal.  I had no oatmeal, I instead had delicious doughnuts.

The first doughnut was sweet and intensely chocolate. It probably was a little too sweet to pair with the beer. I did think it improved the doughnut by cutting through the cloying sweetness. Fruit Loops covered the other doughnut. It tasted much better. Maybe that picture on the label is trying to tell you something. The fruit loop doughnut was a better balanced doughnut in general, and I enjoyed it a lot more. There is a reason you drink coffee with donuts, this is just a modern interpretation.