Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Irish Stout Tasting

When people ask what got me interested in home brewing, the story always starts the same way; 'There I was, sitting at the bar of an old man pub in Cork, Ireland, drinking a few pints of Beamish Stout....' Looking back, it wasn't so much the beer that I was drinking that peaked my interest in brewing, for Beamish isn't exactly the be-all and end-all of Irish stouts, but rather the setting and beer culture that was seemingly infused in every pint. It was the old weathered bar, photos of Irish saints and sinners, the slow burning peat fire, and the tweed-capped gent who'd sit by the door of the pub each afternoon with a Guinness in hand and quietly read the Irish Times. It was the stillness of the place and the slow, content, passage of time... a far cry from the loud, drunken, and wholly obnoxious boozers back home. A place where once could sit and enjoy a beer without care or concern. That is, until the yobs came out to play.

This being my 200th post and all, of which I hope there will be many more, it is appropriate then that I am reviewing the beer style that started me on my home brewing journey. This beer was brewed in early August and while it is in no way supposed to be a Beamish clone, it sorta turned out that way. The principle difference with this Irish stout and those I've brewed before, is that I went back to using flaked barley and Pacman yeast. I also used a new water profile for this beer, one that was light on the sulfate and high(ish) on the chloride. In the end, I got a tasty beer out of it. Bonus points for those of you who remember Guinness' Brewhouse Series.

Cramer's Lane: Irish Dry Stout

Appearance - Pours an opaque black with a small tan head that quickly settles to a fine ring. Ruby highlights when held to the light. Retention is somewhat poor.

Aroma - Pretty standard for a low gravity dry-stout. Lightly roasted malt, chocolate, and weak coffee. Faint fruity yeast esters and no hop character. Smells nice, although the aroma could be stronger.

Taste - Similar to aroma. Chocolatey-roast and light, Americano coffee. Some bready malt character and the beer finishes clean, smooth, and moderately bitter. No hop character. Tastes like a more flavorful Beamish or Murphys, although it lacks the creamy-smooth contribution that the nitro tap provides. Simple, but good.

Mouthfeel - Pleasantly smooth and creamy, even with the low alcohol and moderately dry finish.

Drinkability & Notes - While it's not the Irish stout of my dreams, it is better than the majority of dry-stouts that I can get around here. It also gets top marks for drinkability and the flavors are quite nice, buuut.... it does seem a bit weak on the malt complexity. Need to work on that. Aside, I recently brought a growler of this beer to a party and it went over very well, with one lifelong Guinness drinker even mentioning that he'd regularly buy it. So that's good, I think? In short, for a 4.2% dry stout, this beer turned out well. Just a few things to work on.

Additional Thoughts:

First, the Pacman yeast did a great job. Fermented quickly, cleanly, and gave the beer a nice mouthfeel, which is important in small beers that need a low FG. Next time, I might increase the ferment temp a little, to try and coax some fruity esters out of the yeast, but all in all I am very happy with how the yeast did. So much better than WY1028 and WY1056. No comparison.

Things to improve on are better head retention/creamier mouthfeel - I'll probably give in and increase the flaked barley to 20% - and I would like more overall malt/roast complexity. Maybe increase the roasted barley %, or try out some other roasted barley. The amount of chocolate malt seems about right. Lastly, I was also very happy with the water profile, low sulfate and high(ish) chloride is the way to go. And no high sodium...

 4.2% ABV, 25 IBU, Wyeast 1764 Pacman. Recipe Here

7 comments:

  1. I'm glad this one turned out well for you. What pale malt are you using? The last brown/stout/porter I made was using Optic and boy was that a nice juicy fat malt when the beer was young. The beer was bottle conditioned so the character waned over time or I got used to it. I say that malt made the beer. Also, would you consider blending yeast strains to get both the mouthfeel of Pacman and esters from your favorite English strain? Or would that be too much trouble? Thanks for the post!

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    1. I've mostly been using Bairds and Muntons for my UK pale malts. I like that it has more character than regular two-row and also lets me save my MO and GP for beers where the malt contribution is more apparent. I've also been using German pale malt (Durst) and it has a nice character too. Bready, clean, sweet... very happy with this one. I'll have to try Optic again. It's been a long time.

      As for yeast blending, I bet some combination would work well, but I can't say which ones I'd use. Pacman does a good enough job that I'll probably just stick with it and raise the temp up from 60-62F if I want more esters. Also, I've found that wy1272 does a pretty good job of proving some extra mouthfeel and I have been very impressed with the Mangrove Jack M44. It might just be 1272 in dry form, but it makes a very nice beer.

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  2. Just curious but what would happen if you abandoned flaked and roasted barley (both 20th century innovations by Guinness) and used more chocolate malt and some kind of amber-colored malt (Carastan or other)? To my mind - I don't brew I acknowledge - this would be a better beer, no?

    Gary

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    1. Well, I'd probably end up with a more flavorful beer, but not necessarily a "better" one. Or even something that I could honestly call an Irish stout. Part of the joy (and heachache) of brewing low gravity Irish stouts is that they are damn hard to get just right. I could take the modern'craft' approach and bump the gravity up by 10 points and add character by adding munich and other more flavorful ingredients, but then I'd might as well be brewing something else.

      That said, what you suggest could make for a very nice beer in its own, non-Irish stout way, although I am more likely to keep true to the more modern standard of the style, than embrace the older one. Uh, what was the question??

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  3. Point taken, Will. You are I believe trying to make the current, dry Irish style as good as it can be, which is valid unto itself.

    Gary

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  4. Hiya!

    Just a bit of an unrelated question. I noticed that you used to use invert sugar in British bitters and you seem to have dropped it in the latest recipes. Any reasons for that?

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    1. Hello! Can't say there is a particular reason for not using the invert in these bitters, other than that I haven't been brewing many bitters of late and I wanted change things up. Although I will be making some light invert for my next attempt at a Horndeam Special Bitter clone. Should be tasty. Very nice photos by the way...

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