Ramble On

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Brewing a Porter with Local Flavors

The specialty grains in a porter are
usually dark roasted, so you get a rich
brown beer with chocolaty flavors.

For my fourth and final post of the week, I guess I’ll press on with posts about brewing – very much at the risk of becoming some kind of boring beer nerd.  So here goes.

To begin with, one of the holiday gifts I asked Mary for was the White House Honey Porter recipe kit from Northern Brewer – described as follows:

This original recipe brewed by White House staff is both a callback to the favored beverage of our Founding Fathers as well as an opportunity to come together in an election year and share pint across the aisle.  More than just simply black and roasty, this porter builds consensus with generous applications of sweet caramel and toasty Munich malts, while moderate bitterness and a pound of honey lets all find common ground.  In a year of divisive politics, we think it’s especially important to remember what we have in common:  homebrewing!

She obliged, and I decided that I would brew it to celebrate the upcoming inauguration (although it won’t be ready until a week or two after – more like ground hog’s day).  

To give this brew a local touch I added honey from Luray,
a pack of US Fuggles hops a friend grew.
I also had a thought about doing something to make this one a more local brew – I posted a few weeks ago about the honey I acquired from some friends in Luray, specifically for the purpose of brewing with it (and I have enough left to try another recipe or two).  Then when Dan gave me some local US Fuggles hops that were grown in Luray, I figured I had a couple of items that would make the product unique, even though it comes from a recipe.

So, this was a stay in Alexandria weekend, and I took advantage of some time on Saturday to brew the porter. 

First off, as I steeped the specialty grains, I noticed the dark color coming up – and the aromas of the roasted barley with hints of chocolate. Great stuff.

When that was over, I followed the recipe, bringing the sparge up to a boil and adding the honey and extract syrups, and then hopping it on 15 minute intervals.  While a one ounce package of Hallertauer hops was included for the final application, that step in the process was where I substituted the US Fuggles.

The new wort chiller!
Just like Dan with his new plate chiller, I had a new gadget to try out as well – Mary also gave me a wort chiller.  

I coupled it with a siphon, since I don’t have a threaded sink to connect to, and cycled ice water through it a couple of times.  It reduced my normal wort chilling time by at least half, and maybe even by two thirds – it’s typically an hour long process to get the temperature from boiling down to less than 100 degrees. 

This chilling activity is a critical step because you can’t pitch yeast until you have the temperature down to an optimal level.  I usually shoot for 70 degrees but recipes vary.  I pitched the yeast and moved my ale pale down to the basement, where the beer will ferment in primary a week before I move it to the carboy for secondary.

Finally, all was said and done except for the cleanup.  I’ve been lucky so far:  no major kitchen mishaps, although it’s inevitable that I will have one. 

The final hops application, after the boil ended.
The minor one that happened this time was having the hose slip out of the filter set up I had on the ale pale, and a little bit of chocolaty-brown wort spilled out on one of the rugs in the kitchen.  And there were some spatters- but nothing’s worse for wear and tear.

The question stands about the name of this beer – I did use a recipe, but I made it my own with some key ingredients.  There is a White House out in Luray, just off of 211 near the Shenandoah.  It was used as a hospital during the Civil War, and there was a ferry there for a long time.  So I may just call this the White House Ferry Honey Porter, to acknowledge its local context.

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