With the weather being so cold and snowy here, I’ve been feeling like a good hearty beer. I returned to brewing by going to an old standby brown ale but now I wanted to brew something more. One of my favorite brews this time of year is Odell Brewing’s Cutthroat Porter, so I thought why not brew a porter?
Researching the porter style
I’ve only attempted to brew one porter before, and it tasted terrible. I think that was mostly due to contamination more than style or recipe, but nevertheless I’ve been a little gun shy about trying to brew another since. I needed to come up with a recipe so I did what I always do and started to research the style.
First I looked at the Brewer’s Association Beer Style Guidelines. Here I learned about the two main styles of porter: Brown porter and Robust porter. After looking at each of those styles I decided to brew a robust porter since I wanted a little higher alcohol content and stronger flavor. They describe a robust porter as having an original gravity of 1.045-1.060, color 30+ SRM and bitterness of 25-40 IBUs. From their description:
“Robust Porters are very dark to black. Hop aroma is very low to medium. They have a roast malt flavor, often reminiscent of cocoa, but no roast barley flavor. Caramel and other malty sweetness is in harmony with a sharp bitterness of black malt without a highly burnt/charcoal flavor. Hop flavor is very low to medium. Hop bitterness is medium to high. Diacetyl should not be perceived. Fruity esters should be evident, balanced with all other characters. Body is medium to full.”
After reading that I’m thinking definitely caramel malt and munich malt for sweetness and malt flavor; no roasted barley; and some black patent or chocolate malt. A recipe is starting to come together.
Now let’s look at the other definitive source for beer styles: The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) 2015 Style Guidelines. BJCP does not break it down as simply as Brown porter and Robust porter. They list Baltic porter, English porter, American porter and Pre-Prohibition porter as possible styles. After reading through the style descriptions it seems like the American porter is the closest thing to what I’d like to make. Under characteristic ingredients they describe using dark malts like black or chocolate malt. For yeast and hops they say British or American can be used.
After reading all of that and looking at a few other recipes I decided to use crystal malt, munich malt, pale chocolate malt and a little black patent malt with kent golding and fuggle hops and White Labs WLP002 English Ale yeast (full recipe below). I went with the UK ingredients because I figured it was originally a UK style even if we were making it a little stronger than the original. Additionally I wanted to try adding some cocoa powder and brewer’s licorice to give it a little something something. That’s the joy of homebrewing, you get to put what you want in your beer!
I already described in a previous post how I made the yeast starter several days before brew day. Then it was just a second trip down to the brew store to pickup my grain bill and hops and it was time to brew. My dad was in town and I thought it would be fun to introduce him to brewing and have someone to drink a beer with during the mash. My daughter call’s him “Papa” so that’s how the beer got it’s name. Anyway, on to brew day!
Notes from brew day
The brew day went well and the specific gravity of the beer in the fermenter at the end of the day was 1.060 which was right around target. Mash temperature may have been a little higher than I was aiming for but that’s ok, I didn’t lose much in efficiency and the worst that happens is the beer is a little more full bodied. Oh darn. Fermentation kicked off within 12 hours.
I tried some new things this brew day that were worth noting:
- First time adding cocoa powder to the mash – Previously when I’ve used cocoa powder in recipes, I’ve added it to the boil. After doing some reading I decided to add it to the mash, I guess it can be overly bitter if added to the boil or something like that. We’ll see if I notice a difference.
- New chiller – Previously I had a homemade copper immersion chiller made from 50ft of 1/4″OD refrigerator supply tubing. It had great surface area but the narrow diameter and long tube slowed the flow of water too much preventing great heat exchange, but for the most part it worked. As a wish list item, I asked for a 3/8″ stainless steel immersion chiller and I actually got one! Stainless does not have the same heat transfer capability of copper but it makes up for it in how easy it is to clean and how sturdy it is. When I got it I tested it to see the flow of water and found that it was great. In fact it was almost too good, which lead to…
- Recirculating ice water through chiller – If I were to use the new chiller hooked straight up to the hose outlet from my house, there would be a huge amount of water to come out over 10-20 minutes. In the summer that’s not usually too much of a big deal, I’ll just hook the outlet hose to a lawn sprinkler and water my lawn at the same time. But in the winter, I would just be turning my yard into an ice rink. So after looking around I stumbled on the idea of using a cheap submersible fountain pump (got mine from Harbor Freight for $35 plus a coupon) and a cooler of ice water. This reduces the amount of wasted water and in the summer allows you to circulate cooler water than the warmer ground water.
So how did it all work? I’ll have to wait until fermentation is complete to test the cocoa mashing. As for the chiller setup? It worked very well. I used snow from the deck in the cooler and that wasn’t the greatest plan. Next time I’ll definitely have a couple 10 pound bags of ice and a bunch of salt to throw in the cooler and really make the circulating water cold. I’d also do a better job of moving the inlet and the outlet further away from each other in the cooler though I don’t think that affected efficiency very much.
All in all, good brew day. This will sit in primary for the next 7-10 days and then in secondary for another few weeks. I’ll let you know how it tastes when it’s done! The complete recipe is below:
|Batch Size||Boil Time||IBU||SRM||Est. OG||Est. FG||ABV|
|5.5 gal||60 min||37.5 IBUs||31.2 SRM||1.067||1.024||5.6 %|
|Name||Cat.||OG Range||FG Range||IBU||SRM||Carb||ABV|
|Robust Porter||12 B||1.048 - 1.065||1.012 - 1.016||25 - 50||22 - 35||1.8 - 2.5||4.8 - 6.5 %|
|Pale Malt (2 Row) US||11 lbs||75.86|
|Caramel/Crystal Malt - 40L||1 lbs||6.9|
|Munich Malt||1 lbs||6.9|
|Pale Chocolate Malt||1 lbs||6.9|
|Black (Patent) Malt||8 oz||3.45|
|Goldings, East Kent||2 oz||60 min||Boil||Pellet||5|
|Goldings, East Kent||1 oz||15 min||Boil||Pellet||5|
|Fuggles||1 oz||2 min||Aroma||Pellet||4.5|
|Cocoa Powder||3.00 oz||60 min||Mash||Spice|
|Brewers Licorice||3.00 Items||0 min||Boil||Spice|
|English Ale (WLP002)||White Labs||67%||65°F - 68°F|
|Mash In||156°F||45 min|
|Download this recipe's BeerXML file|