Beer and Pavement


Posted in Beer by SM on November 3, 2011

I’ve hinted and shared bits of information concerning two homebrews I currently have around to consume. Well, I’ve had a chance to enjoy and share these brews with others. That’s given me some insight into what I have inside all those bottles taking up space in my cellar. The numbers denote the how many batches I’ve done. There has been a cider and a couple of collaborative projects, but these put me at 9 and 10 batches of my own doing.

Batch #9 – Black Francis Imperial Stout (recipe)
This was to be part of a Christmas gift for people, particularly family, but that idea went out the window once we counted up the souvenirs we purchased in Spain. So, I’ve been drinking and sharing this beer, especially now that the weather has turned a bit.

Black Francis is a relatively big imperial stout (9% ABV) aged with oak chips, cocoa nibs, and vanilla beans all soaked in bourbon. Soaking the chips creates an effect similar to a bourbon barrel, but it actually allows for mor surface to touch the beer than a barrel. I wish I had aged it longer, but I worried about a potential exposure issue and I’m impatient with beer.

The beer itself contains an overwhelming amount of bourbon in the nose, but one can catch a bit of the chocolate if he’s paying attention. The vanilla doesn’t come through on its own. It seems the vanilla just augments the other flavors in the beer. The oak comes through a bit under the bourbon, but this may be the vanilla as the two components often bring the same flavors to a beer. I’ve used cocoa nibs before without much success. The vanilla, however, brings the chocolate out a bit. I’m hoping to save a few bottles to see if the bourbon subsides a bit, making room for the vanilla and chocolate to come forward.

Batch #10 – Simcoe-Dependency IPA (recipe)
This is my third go at this brew. The first was an extract beer and a huge success. The second time I tried to brew the beer, my thermometer boke in the wort, causing me to dump the entire batch. This time around, I brewed an all-grain batch with friends. Many remember the first batch and have been looking forward to trying this one.

Simcoe-Dependency is a single-hopped IPA, meaning that I only used one hop for bittering, flavor, and aroma. The Simcoe hop is one of my favorites. It adds a catty, grapefruit-like presence to a beer. For my money, it’s the most potent, identifiable hop out there and is the ideal hop to be solely featured in a beer. All my favorite single-hop commercial brews are Simcoe-specific.

This batch turned out rather different from the first. It’s dryer and features the slight tartness from the hop more so than I’m accustomed. The aroma isn’t as awesome as I remember, causing me to think that doubling the amount of hops in the dry-hop could have made a huge difference. The dryness comes from the dry yeast I used that seemed to eat up all the sugars, dropping my final gravity lower than expected. A sweeter beer might have showcased the hops better, but I have no complaints.

Another interesting aspect of the IPA is the patience factor I alluded to in my summary of the stout. For some reason, I have grown impatient with the time it takes to properly bottle condition my IPA’s. I brewed one in the spring as well as this one more recently. Both were not what I expected on the first few tries. However, as they sit around, they become more complex and the hop presence grows to favorable levels, almost completely changing the flavor and aroma of the beer over a matter of days or weeks. If there’s a lesson to be learned from these two brews, it’s that patience can make a world of difference between a good beer and a great one. Also, relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew.

16 Responses

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  1. johnking82 said, on November 3, 2011 at 7:28 am

    Like you, I’ve had issues with my vanilla coming through in my imperial stouts. I can usually get it on the nose though.

    Patience makes the beer better, I’ve learned the hard way.

    • Zac said, on November 3, 2011 at 8:51 am

      I think the vanilla never had a chance with the oak, bourbon, and chocolate. However, it seems that vanilla is good at making things stand out. For example, in most chocolate desserts, vanilla is a key ingredient. A friend did a similar stout only without the oak and bourbon. It didn’t taste like vanilla, but the chocolate flavors really stood out.

  2. Lyrics, Libations, and Life said, on November 3, 2011 at 8:02 am

    This is another problem with living in a two bedroom condo, homebrew is pretty much impossible.

    • Zac said, on November 3, 2011 at 8:49 am

      People do batches of 1-3 gallons all the time in their kitchens. It’s doable.

      • Lyrics, Libations, and Life said, on November 3, 2011 at 9:19 am

        Ha my wife would like to disagree with you.

      • Zac said, on November 3, 2011 at 9:27 am

        I hear you. Our house, while spacious, has a limited amount of storage. It drives my wife crazy that I use almost an entire closet under the basement stairs for beer and brewing equipment. The only way I win that argument is to explain that I could display all my beer stuff out in the open.

  3. JayZeis said, on November 3, 2011 at 10:06 am

    IMO, I think that Vanilla is best when it compliments other flavors in beer, especially in bourbon stouts. i dont like it to stand out too much.

    Your commentary on letting the IPA sit reminds me of one of the first bits of advice my brother (7 years homebrewing) gave me when I started to do it solo. I was all worried about not bottling soon enough, He told me that give the beer some time, and it will be better. I have found that true with most of my homebrews (of course you dont want to give IPAs too much time, fear losing some hop aroma). RDWHAHB. The last beer of the batch is always the best and worst, tastes the best, mad you don’t have any more.


    • Zac said, on November 3, 2011 at 10:16 am

      All good points. Honestly, the only beer that prominently features vanilla that I like is Southern Tier’s Creme Brulee. And even that is too much to drink more than a glass at a time. So, you’re point is a good one. I also agree with letting beers sit and drinking IPA’s right away. I will say that I rushed bottling these beers a bit so as to be ready to share at a party. Still, they turned out nice and I still have plenty to enjoy.

      • JayZeis said, on November 3, 2011 at 7:24 pm

        I totally forgot about Creme Brulee (even though it is in my Stout Day post). That is the ideal dessert beer.

  4. Lyrics, Libations, and Life said, on November 3, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Yeah, I have tried to win this argument, but my wife seems less willing to compromise on this issue. I’ll wear her down though.

  5. Holly said, on November 3, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    I agree that Black Francis is just so strongly bourbon that some of the other flavors aren’t as easy to pick out and it easily dominates the aroma. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing, though, because I think they add a subtle richness to the flavor that would otherwise make me ask why I’m not just having a shot of bourbon instead of the beer. It also had a really nice body to it. It would be nice, I suppose, if the bourbon aspects would fade just a bit, but I found it highly drinkable.

    The Simcoe Dependency… loved it. As did everyone at the IPA tasting. It beat out several “sold” bottles from various smaller, regional breweries.

    This may be me, but I think most heavily hopped IPAs get too sweet more than too dry. I might prefer Doublejack, for example, to Hopslam these days (but it’s hard to remember because FW wasn’t here during Hopslamania last year for a side by side). I found SD to be nigh on perfect to my tastebuds, but of course I’d welcome making another batch and adjusting things a bit and, particularly, trying the results!

    • Zac said, on November 3, 2011 at 12:59 pm

      I think the bourbon character will fade, but how will I ever hang on to this beer long enough to find out? Thanks for the body compliment. Somehow, I have found the secret to brewing extract beers that don’t taste or feel like extract.

      Actually, the more I think about the IPA, I think you’re right. The overt sweetness of some beers has really been off-putting for me lately. I need to drink more Simcoe-Dependency to study this issue a bit closer.

  6. Mark said, on November 3, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    These beers sound great. A simcoe single hop is on my list of things to brew sometime in the next few months (I may break down and put some other varieties, but I also love the simcoe aromas and taste)..

    I’ve been thinking about doing some bourbon cube/chip aging as well. I love the character that usually imparts in beer, but on the other hand, I’ve had some beers that overdo the bourbon (or scotch). Question: When you put the oak chips in, did you also pour the bourbon into the secondary? Or did you drain the bourbon and just use the soaked oak chips?

    • Zac said, on November 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm

      Simcoe is my favorite hop and can be added at any time in the process. This is why I think it’s the ideal single-hop beer. Try it with only Simcoe once. You won’t regret it.

      I soaked the oak chips for several weeks before separating it from the bourbon. I then tossed the chips into the secondary. Before adding the nibs and vanilla beans, I knew that I had to sterilize them. A friend used vodka, but I figured I’d just use the excess bourbon. The nibs and vanilla soaked for a couple of hours before being tossed into the secondary. I actually saved the resulting bourbon. We plan to use it for a dessert sauce at some point. I’m sure some bourbon made it into the secondary, but most was taken out or soaked into the chips, nibs, and beans.

  7. jeffmenter said, on November 6, 2011 at 8:28 am

    You’re one of the best extract brewers I know. You should be proud of both of these beers. They are both really good. I like how the Simcoe IPA dried out and the Black Francis didn’t.

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