Rum Raisin Brown Stout

rum-raisin-brown-stoutpcThis is a beer that answers the question “What would it be like to brew up a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies?”

In the past, the term “stout” referred to a beer that was extra strong. Thus, we had Porter, and we had Stout Porter, which eventually became just Stout for short. Interestingly, what is now known as Stout is oftentimes rather low in alcoholic content while Porters tend to have an ABV of 5.5% to 6% or more. But historically, Stout was any beer that was as strong as the drinkers that were expected to consume it.

To make this brown stout, start with the ingredients for cookies: wheat malt, oats, sultana raisins. Add to this Maris Otter base malt, crystal malt, a touch of caramel rye malt, and some Cara Munich. Mash at a fairly high temperature to encourage the production of unfermentable sugars that will keep the brew more sweet and full-bodied. Magnum and Amarillo hops are assertive without being overpowering. Add golden syrup at the end of the boil to contribute more caramel flavors. Ferment with a fruity yeast such as London Ale. Soak sultanas in dark rum until they are soft, then whirl the mixture in a blender. Add some to the primary fermenter, and another batch to the secondary, along with a hint of vanilla extract.

The result is not so much a beer that tastes like oatmeal raisin cookies as it is an oatmeal raisin cookie that tastes like beer.

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Rum-barrel Hop-burst Robust Porter

RBRobustPorterPCRobust Porter is the best kind of porter. Who would want a pathetic porter? The freight porters of old were a strong bunch. This is a strong drink for them.

To add to this porter’s robustness, the brewer uses the technique of “hop bursting.” Hop burst recipes call for adding to the wort only one large charge of the freshest possible hops with fifteen minutes left in the boil. The result is considerable bitterness, but with a huge amount of flavor and aromatic oils retained in the brew.

But this is more than just Hop Burst Robust Porter. It is Rum-Barrel Hop-Burst Robust Porter! Take toasted oak cubes and cover them with your favorite rum. Let it sit for two weeks, and then pour the tincture into the secondary fermenter. You are rewarded with a thick, rich, wildly complex beverage. After a long day down at the docks, this is going to be a big reward. This is seriously good Porter.

Oaked Burton Ale

Oaked Burton This is a heavy one, and definitely a keeper. I wanted a barley-wine-style ale that I could age for ten years, to see how it develops. Oaked Burton was brewed in August, 2008, and it’s maturing very well.

My original tribute to the legendary Ballantine Burton Ale, Oaked Burton derives its name from the tincture, made from a half-ounce of home-toasted oak chips soaked in Everclear, which was added to the secondary fermenter. Significantly, this addition boosts the ABV by almost a point, to about 9.4%.

Oaked Burton is a partial-mash brew that is based on Munton light DME. The mash was 2-row pale barley malt, with additions of four kinds of crystal malt, English brown malt, chocolate and black malts, and roasted barley. Burton salts and gray sea salt went into the boiling water. Maltodextrin adds body. To further boost body and alcoholic content, I added Lyle’s Golden Syrup and Malawi demerara sugar.

Hopped with Northern Brewer bittering, Golding flavor and Fuggle aroma varieties, it is only moderately bitter, with the malt components dominating its profile. The excellent White Labs’ WLP023 Burton Ale yeast contributed its uniquely mild fruity character.

Oaked Burton pours a medium brown with hints of gold; almost an extreme amber. It has a tan, long-lasting head that leaves very little lacing on the glass. The aroma is malty, with hints of oak. The taste is of malt, with caramel, almonds and dark fruit like plum. Roasted grain, oak, and mild alcohol dance in the background. It finishes with a hoppy tang, oaky astringency and an alcoholic warmness.

No one is going to age a commercial beer for ten years these days. The era of the ancient barrel-aged Ballantine is over. But a home-brewer can certainly put a few bottles away for five years, and ten is only double that and well worth the wait–if you’ve got some West Coast Amber to tide you over in the meantime.

Big Burton!

Big Burton123
There’s more to Burton-on-Trent than mouth-puckering India Pale Ale. Back in the good old days (the late 1700s) the Burton brewers brewed a brew called Burton Ale. This was a high-gravity ale indeed, but with less of the high hopping rate that distinguishes IPA. It was often barrel-aged for several years.

Big Burton also draws inspiration from the tradition established by Ballantine Brewing Company, which produced a high-gravity ale for special occasions, often given free to established friends and contacts after as long as 20 years in the cellar. I don’t have 20 years to wait, and thankfully this recipe mellows out nicely in less than a year.

Burton salt is an important flavor component of Burton ale, as it recreates the hard limestone ground water of the Burton-on-Trent brewing area. The signature compounds in Burton’s water are calcium sulfate, potassium chloride and magnesium sulfate. Plaster of Paris mixed with Epsom salts, as it were. Fortuitously for Burton brewers, the mixture of minerals in their hard water allows the extra bitter flavor of the hops to come through without harshness.

Big Burton relies on a blend of five crystal malts of increasing darkness, from 10 Lovibond in color to 120 L, to provide a very rounded caramel profile. Small additions of chocolate and black malts complete the roasty flavor. Barley flakes create body and a firm head. Three kilos of Breiss light dry malt extract give it punch, with a starting gravity of about 13.5 Plato yielding around 6.5% ABV.

The full malty background of Big Burton allows it to carry plenty of hop character. High-alpha Summit hops offer significant bitterness, and Simcoe hops suggest citrus-like fruitiness. Centennial aroma hops are added at the end of the boil. White Lab’s Burton Ale Yeast ferments the brew out with a lot of subtle fruity flavors like apple, clover honey, and pear.

Burton brewers also perfected the art of dry-hopping their beer, and Big Burton pays homage to that tradition with an addition of Willamette hop pellets in the secondary fermenter with four weeks further aging. It’s a Simcoe-sensational brew with a nice citrus aroma and malty finish.