Simply Stout

Oatmeal Stout –  Just a nice mellow dark beer. No story behind it, just a beer I like to brew every so often. Smooth, rich, intensely dark but neither overwhelmingly strong nor particularly bitter. This is an English stout, not an Irish one.

Ingredients:

  • 7 lbs. 2-row pale malt
  • 1/2 lb. roasted barley
  • 1/2 lb. chocolate malt
  • 1/2 lb. dark crystal malt (120°L)
  • 1/2 lb. rolled oats
  • 2 oz. East Kent Goldings hop pellets (at 4.5% aa)
  • White Labs London Ale Yeast (WLP013)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar (for priming)
  • 1 cup lactose

Procedure: Crush grains. Heat 14 quarts water to 165°F, mash in grains and hold 60 minutes at 154°F. Heat another 14 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 25 quarts of sweet wort. Bring to a boil and add 1 oz. EKG hops. Boil 30 minutes, add the other oz. EKG hops. Boil another 30 minutes (60 total), remove from heat and chill to 80°F. Take a hydrometer reading and pour wort into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment at 65 – 68°F for eight to ten days. Rack to secondary and condition cool (50 – 55°F) for three weeks. Prime with corn sugar and add lactose (dissolved in 1/2 cup boiled water), bottle and age three to four weeks.

OG: 1056

IBU’s: 30

Note on ingredients: Lactose (milk sugar) is an unfermentable and non-sweet sugar that adds a bit of body and smoothness to the beer.

For more information on brewing stouts in general, I recommend consulting Michael Lewis’ contribution to the AHA Style Series, appropriately titled “Stout”.

Beer for the Shellfish…

We get our beer and wine deliveries on Wednesdays, generally, and when I come in to work mid-day, the first thing I usually do is check the beer cooler to see what new beers have arrived. I guess I slipped up the other day, though, because I missed one. Until a customer brought one up to the register later that afternoon. Whoa – what’s this? a new beer? and I haven’t tried it yet? Can’t tell you anything about it until I have one, now, can I?

The beer in question was the latest in Harpoon Brewery’s 100 Barrel Series, Island Creek Oyster Stout. Reading the fine print, just in case, I found that it was indeed a stout brewed with oysters. Hmmm. 5.5% abv, 35 IBU’s, and actually brewed with freshly harvested local oysters. I know it sounds really weird, possibly even disgusting. But this is not unique – there are a few current breweries who have experimented with the style, including Dogfish Head in Delaware. It’s also quite a historic style – the first mention of something similar is found in the writings of Charles Dickens.

I did hesitate a few minutes, I must confess – I have developed, in my adulthood, an allergy to shellfish. Or at least to mussels, so far. I have been spectacularly sick after eating mussels in Paris, Venice, and Chambly (Quebec). How would I do with a beer brewed with oysters? I decided to take the chance, as long as I could drink it at home.

It was very dark. The beer, I mean. Black, opaque, stout-like. With a thick beige head. I stared at it for several minutes, not quite daring to taste it. I was afraid. Would it taste like stout or like fish? or both? I approached the glass to my nose. So far, no fish. Just roasted malt, mild hop aroma, a few diacetyl, buttery notes… Perhaps it was psychological, but I did begin to detect a bit of a seaweed-like mineral scent. OK, time to taste it.

It was a mouthful – thick, full-bodied, smooth – before even tasting the beer itself, I could tell by the texture that it was very rich and smooth. The combination of flavors that hit me all at once included dark malts, roasted barley, salt/minerals, butterscotch, smoke… still no fish. There was a solid bitterness underlying the initial flavors, a roasted grain bitterness more than hops. Definitely a lot of roasted barley, a hint of sweetness. Still no fish. OK, so far so good. The aftertaste? Again, perhaps it was in my mind, but there was a mineral, iodine, salt-water, kelp-like taste way in the background. Not at all unpleasant, not offensive. Just… well, unusual in a beer?

If I hadn’t known it was made with oysters, I never would have guessed. I think I would have detected that there was something out of the ordinary in it, some additional ingredient, although it could have been a water-conditioning mineral taste. All in all, a very nice smooth, dark, roasty, stout.