Wednesday, February 22, 2012

First Brew of the Year - Deception Cream Stout

The first brew of the year had to be a special one.  And there's something about a dark, roasty beer, with flavors of coffee, toffee, and chocolate that just goes perfectly with cold weather.  So when I came across the recipe for Deception Cream Stout on homebrewtalk.com, I knew it was going to be my next brew.  Just listen to the description:

Coffee and chocolate hit you up front intermingled with smooth caramel flavors that become noticeable mid-palate. Nice roasty finish rounds it out. Balanced and not cloying at all, but obviously leaning slightly to the sweeter side. Very smooth and creamy. You would think at least a little coffee or chocolate is actually used in this brew, and that is where it gets the name - Deception.

Brew it. Seriously. Do it. You will not be disappointed. It will be one of the best stouts you have had.
Sold!  I ran out and got all of the ingredients as soon as I could.


I made a yeast starter the night before -- that's what's in the growler with the foil cap back there.  It's basically like making a small beer to wake the yeast up and get them reproducing.  It's an important step to make sure they're ready for the job ahead of them, and to make sure there are enough of them (since I need a little over 200 billion for a beer this size).

Here are the steeping grains in my reusable grain bag.  These are what will give the beer most of its color and flavors.  The malts consisted of roasted barley, chocolate malt, and caramel malt.

Starting with regular 'ol Louisville tap water:

Steeping the grains (around 150 degrees for 30 minutes):


It's kinda weird how it went from being foamy to not rather suddenly.  And look at how dark the water got just from those grains!


Things really get foamy after adding in the DME (dry malt extract).  This is where you really have to watch for boil-overs.  For about 10 minutes I had to repeatedly lift the pot off the heat to prevent things from spilling over the top.  And look at the last picture -- I had about a quart of headspace in the pot!

Eventually the foaming calms down and everything can come back to a boil.

After boiling for 60 minutes and adding in the necessary hops and lactose (yep, this one's a milk stout), the beer was cooled in an ice bath in the sink before being strained into the fermenter.

This isn't the safest thing to do (as far as infections are concerned), but I haven't had any problems yet, so I topped up with more tap water.  Ignoring the potential dangers, this method is actually somewhat beneficial since it adds oxygen into the beer (which the yeast need to do their job).

After topping up and giving everything a vigorous stir for 5 minutes or so (to make sure everything is evenly mixed), it's time to take a hydrometer reading to see what the gravity is.  I was shooting for a gravity anywhere between 1.058 and 1.068, and it's kind of hard to see in the pic, but it came in at 1.065.

With the beer ready for the yeast, I pitched the starter I had made and sealed everything up.  Here's the beer safely tucked away in my new fermentation chamber.  Instead of using a classic airlock in the lid, I decided to rig up a blow-off tube since I was really hoping for a vigorous fermentation.  One end of the tube goes through the airlock hole in the lid, and the other end of the tube is submerged in a container of sanitizer (in this case, I re-purposed the growler I used to make the starter).

The fermentation took off just as I had hoped within 12 hours -- I've never had so much airlock activity!

After a few days, the benefits of using the blow-off tube became evident -- look at all that gunk that made its way into the tube!

That's the stuff that clogs traditional airlocks, causing the lid to literally explode off the fermenter.

It's been 3 1/2 weeks now, and assuming fermentation is complete, I'll be bottling sometime this weekend.  Look for that post to come soon!

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