April 24, 2017

Diabeetus Juice barrel aged imperial stout recipe

Does the world need more barrel aged imperial stout? I suppose it does if I need to pull out the whiskey character out of this whiskey barrel I bought. This barrel is a mere two gallon barrel from a young distillery near Dallas that produces a wheat whiskey and vodka. It's a solid barrel; not one of the thin barrels retailed to bars and consumers to age cocktails and spirits countertop. The long term plan is to use the barrel for aging sour beer but it needs at least a couple runs of clean beer to strip out most of the liquor and more assertive oak character. Imperial stout is a good first run because it's heavy flavors hold up.

My goal with this imperial stout is to balance the extreme attributes of the beer. I quickly tire drinking the super sweet, diabetes juice BA imperial stouts that are all the rage right now. I like the more bitter chocolate and coffee flavors over fudge and Starbucks mocha found in the sweeter variants that goes overboard in sweetness with the oak and whiskey draped assertively on top. I want the oak and whiskey present but just as I like the sweetness under control I don't want the stout to taste like a cocktail. So this recipe is lots of roasted malts and sits on the lower end of the ABV for the style so it further attenuates. 

But first, the barrel needs preparation.

Preparing the whiskey barrel

Soaking the barrel in water
Due to the size of the barrel and my plan to put to use for sour beer I needed to prepare it appropriately. That means prepare it initially for any kind of beer and second to restrict oxygen ingress. 

The distiller told me he emptied the barrel about two months prior and it probably didn't need to be soaked to swell the staves but I didn't want to take a chance. I gave it a quick soak to the heads for four hours on each side. The result, a nicely soaked barrel. I let it dry out on the exterior for a few days so I can wax it.

Once the barrel was dry on the outside I set out to wax it. Like many homebrewers I opted for the cheap route of parrafin wax. The wax melts down easily on the stove and I painted it on with a paintbrush after using masking tape to block off the portion I wanted unwaxed.

Given the small size of the barrel I knew I needed to wax most of the barrel to properly regulate air ingress. I don't find a compelling reason to allow even more airflow into the beer just because it's in a barrel. The barrel wax calculator here affirmed my idea. I ended up waxing the entire barrel minus a square around the bung hole.

I thought I had some pictures after waxing but I guess I didn't take any. It's sort of a messy look because I didn't flame the wax to melt in down. I might do that after the barrel is full. Putting a flame to a sealed cask full of alcohol vapors seems like a really dangerous thing.

The picture to the left is the barrel after waxing and wrapped in saran wrap. I wrapped it in saran wrap for a couple reasons. First, if it managed to leak after swelling and waxing the saran wrap would help keep a leak from turning into a mess too quickly. Second, the wax is crumbly and the saran wrap would help keep that from making a mess while moving the barrel around. I don't expect it to add any oxygen barrier nor do I think it is necessary beyond the wax.

I don't have a stand for the barrel but it sits comfortably on a folded bath towel. I added a rolled towel on each side on the counter to keep it from rolling over. It's janky and looks janky but I'll worry about finding a nicer support after I move it to a permanent location. 

Barrel aged imperial stout recipe

Batch Size: 2.25 gallons
Est. ABV: 9%
Est. IBU: 56
Est. OG: 1.089
Est. FG: 1.021
Est. SRM: 55
Expected Efficiency: 62%
Grain BillPoundsOuncesSRMPct. Grist
Pale malt64268.00%
Munich malt12912.20%
Roasted barley93006.10%
Flaked barley513.40%
Crystal 12041202.70%
Chocolate malt63504.10%
Black malt35002.10%
Aromatic malt2261.40%
Water Profileppm
Bru'n Water Black Malty Profile
PH: 5.5
Water AdditionsMashSparge
Epsom Salt0.6g00.2g
Canning Salt0.6g0.2g
Baking Soda
Calcium Chloride0.2g0.1g
Pickling Lime
Lactic Acid
Mash ScheduleStep Temp.Step Time
Single infusion mash
Mash volume: 3.1225 gal
Sparge volume: 1.01 gal
Infuse 3.1225 gallons at 166F152F75
Sparge 1.01 gal at 190F
Boil ScheduleVolumeUnitTimeIBU
120 minute boil
Belma [12%]0.6oz6056.7
Irish moss0.5tsp150
Fermentation Schedule# DaysTemp.
Yeast: WY1318
Pitch 1 smack pack
Pitch at 70F2070F
Age in barrel until flavor is right
Bottle to 2.3 vol CO2 with 1.3 oz table sugar

Brewday & Fermentation Notes

Brewed 1/28/17.

First runnings: 1.083
Preboil volume: 3.1 gal
Preboil gravity: 1.072
Mash efficiency: 69%
Post boil volume: 2.2 gal
Post boil gravity: 1.087
Efficiency: 59%

Racked to barrel 2.9.17. Flavor is great. Nice mix of sweet malt, caramel, coffee, chocolate, roast. Strikes right balance. Sweetness and roastiness balanced as hoped. Picture below of my fancy AF racking.

Bottled 2.24.17. Tasted two days ago and it was lightly barrel-y with a strong vanilla flavor. Let it ride and tasted today. Firm whisky/barrel flavor without being overwhelming. Another day and it's probably undrinkable. Tastes firmly of whisky, coffee and chocolate. Very happy with this. After racking out sent an adambier into the barrel.

Bottled with 2oz table sugar and added KV-1116 to bottles to ensure timely carbonation.

April 11, 2017

Robot Geisha Belgian Pale Ale Review

This is a long delayed review on this beer with the tasting notes flowing from early bottles on both the version with and without the Ethiopian coffee. This Belgian pale ale was primarily an experiment on multiple fronts:

  • Putting to use the jarrylo hops that have sadly sat in my freezer for too long;
  • Seeing what a light roasted coffee would bring to a beer;
  • Checking out how a Belgian pale ale would taste with a fruitier hop profile more in line with popular American pale ales than the typical Belgian pale ale with more restrained hop character;
  • Keeping my culture of WY1214 going.
So let's see how I did.

Robot Geisha Belgian Pale Ale (no coffee)

Appearance: Predictable copper color one expects in a pale ale. Slight haze. Head is huge, slightly off white with big, rocky bubbles. The head hangs around to the end of the glass with sticky lacing. It isn't the prettiest lacing, like Duvel, but leaves behind a huge archipelago of lacing.

Aroma: Mellow fruit is first to arrive but doesn't go on the attack like an American pale ale. The banana is there along with an Orange Julius-like orange aroma followed by honeydew, pear, lemon and strawberry. There's a little pepper in the finish if you're looking for it. Very little grain aroma but it has a lot of competition.

Flavor: Like the aroma the hops are first to strike. Banana is more prominent and slightly more banana candy than real banana. Orange is next with a really sweet and smooth orange flavor, like orange creamsicle. Melon salad, lemon, pear. Just a hint of grassiness that acts as a bridge between the fruity hop flavors and the rest of the beer. Grain hits in the middle with wheat bread, caramel and a touch of honey. The yeast make an appearance at the end with some pepper and clove. As a whole, it's kind of like your mom gave you a piece of really soft wheat bread with Dole fruit cocktail--minus the cherry--poured on top. But less sweet.

Mouthfeel: Moderate body a touch thicker than really dry west coast pale ales. The finish turns really dry which helps evade the sweet fruit flavors from giving the beer illusion of a heavier body. 

Overall: I was led to believe the jarrylo hops would be all fake, plastic-y banana. I was pleasantly surprised to find very little of that here--although there was some. (As the hops faded in the bottles over months the fake banana dropped off and very little banana flavor remained. The orange marmalade flavor of triple perle remained.) This beer was better than expectations but not necessarily something I would be wowed by ordering blind. I wasn't in love with the jarrylo hops and wouldn't acquire more but the beer itself could easily be a good base for a nice Belgian pale ale or saison either with a different hop or adjusting the other hops to accommodate for its absence. 

Robot Geisha Belgian Pale Ale with Ethiopian Natural Processed Coffee

Appearance: Same appearance as the coffee-free portion with a slight haze.

Aroma: Similar aromas with a soft mixed berry aroma in the mix. Aromas are less distinct and the grain-based aromas are slightly more prominent.

Flavor: Like the aroma, the same flavors are present but less distinct. Citrus outweighs the softer fruit flavors from the hops. Under the fruit cuts a smooth coffee flavor and an earthy blueberry flavor not unlike mosaic hops. There is tartness at the end provided by acids from the coffee.

Mouthfeel: Slightly heavier than the non-coffee portion with slight prickly acidity.

Overall: An interesting but not preferred beer. The coffee flavor is nice and adds an interesting element to the flavor profile. The problem is the acidity in the coffee. It's not a strong acidity in the flavor but the change to ph definitely mutes a lot of delicate flavors. A washed Ethiopian coffee would have been a better choice for this beer. A natural processed coffee might sit better in a sour beer where the acidity would add acid complexity.