Christmas Thing

So it was time to do another brew, but this time I thought that I’d make something a little special.  Planning for completion around the holiday season I thought that I would make a special holiday stout – one full of interesting spices and ingredients.  True to my form I decided to throw the kitchen sink at (in) this brew.  In the end, Christmas Thing (I really need to come up with better names), is a Double Chocolate Gingerbread Peppermint Stout.  I’ll break down the ingredients and process to explain what this beer is.

First off, the grain bill.  Ashley crushed all the grain with my new Victoria Mill.  I originally had been using a really cheap pasta roller to crush my grains before, but that usually took me around 3 hours to process it all.  The new mill was really fast and made an excellent crush.  Its $70, but it is completely and totally worth it.  Its my new favorite thing.

9 lbs German Pilsner 2 row Malt Barley (the base grain, I have a ton of this stuff)

1 lb Flaked Barley (used in Stouts to add the creaminess and promotes that sticky full head)

9 oz Chocolate Malt (adds a dark colour and chocolate flavour)

9 oz Roasted Barley (adds a dark colour and a burnt, grainy, coffee-like flavour)

2.5 oz Biscuit Malt (I originally planned for more in the receipt but I didn’t have enough, it adds a bread-like aroma/characteristic – what I planned for the gingerbread element of the beer)

3 oz Special B Malt (oh those Belgians!  Adds a dark colour, raisiny pruny flavour)

2 oz Crystal 45L Malt (adds the caramel sweetness, what you commonly find in IPAs)

All the grain was added to the mash tun for 90 minutes at ~150F.

After the mash I transferred the wort into the boiling kettle where I commenced a 60 minute boil.  Here is the breakdown of the ingredients added during the boil.  A note, I decided this time around to put the hops in little cotton baggies instead of just throw them right into the brew.  This really helped to keep the amount of hop particulate matter down which really helped for after the boil.  Hop muck clogs everything!  So using the baggies eliminated any clogging issues so that I could easily transfer the wort from the boiler after the boil was completed.  Anyways…  this is what happened.

60 minutes – 0.5 oz Galena hops (for bittering)

45 minutes – 0.6 oz Willamette hops (for bittering)

20 minutes – 0.5 oz Perle hops (this noble hops smells amazing)

18 minutes – 8 oz Turbinado Sugar (a type of brown/molasses sugar – what I feel contributes to the Gingerbread element of the beer)

17 minutes – 8 oz Cocoa Powder (chocolate!!)

15 minutes – 1 Whirlfloc tablet (used to promote beer clarity during fermentation)

7 minutes – 0.5 oz Saaz hops (for aroma)

5 minutes – 2 Cinnamon Sticks (gingerbread)

5 minutes – 1 tsp of fresh Ginger (gingerbread)

3 minutes – 7 Peppermint tea bags (peppermint flavouring)

1 minute – Vanilla extract

You can see the baggies floating in this dark brew.  You can barely see on the right-side of the picture above my wort chiller (red garden hose) to the right.  Its a simple device, a counter-flow heat exchanger, that allows me to cool my wort down from boiling to less than room temperature in seconds with the aid of cool water from the tap.  5 minutes or so the boiling wort was cooled and transferred to my 6 gallon glass carboy.  I made sure that I properly aerated the wort by bear hugging the carboy and sloshing it back and forth vigorously.  Not the easiest or safest thing to do, but primitive and effective.

Yeast you ask!  I had carefully filled a swing-top bottle with the sediment juice from my last beer.  Let me explain.  During the primary fermentation, the processing beer drops sediment that collects at the bottom of your fermentation pail/carboy.  You see that junk when you transfer your beer off it into the secondary or bottling bucket.  Gross nasty stuff you say!  Nay, why there’s live yeast in that sludge that have fallen out of suspension because they have finished their work.  Carefully and cleanly I siphoned the sludge from my last brew into a bottle and placed it into the fridge.  This preserved the yeast in a sleepy state for later use.  What a novel way of keeping the costs down!  Not to mention that this yeast was stolen,, err um, acquired and grown from the little amounts of yeasty sludge from 2 bottles of Southern Tier Double IPA.  But that’s another story.

So, happily in the carboy, the wort and yeast started their magic in less than 14 hours.  I fitted the carboy with a larger blow-off tube as you can see in the picture.  This allows the beer to expel more CO2 than an airlock can provide and it also allows the beer/foam to blow off safely in case if the beer goes into overdrive fermentation.  I learned my lesson with my Orange Bastard beer which is a 9% monster that was fermented in the same 6 gallon glass carboy with only an airlock.  You know, its a real pain to clean hop particles and sticky beer from a ceiling..  Not this time, the blow-off tube runs right into a little jar filled with sanitizer water (which is covered with tin-foil in the picture).

Two days into the fermentation and the blow-off tube is pumping out large bubbles at a rate of 2 per second.  I took a good whiff of the blow off and all I can smell is chocolate.  Very interesting.  What’s even more interesting is the krausen (the foamy layer sitting on top of the wort/beer).  It started off with a dense thin layer, which looked great and completely normal.  However, that layer has fallen into the beer and these rather large sticky looking bubbles keep rising from the soup.  Ive never seen anything like this.  Kind of looks like the bog of eternal stench from the movie Labyrinth (think 80s David Bowie).   I’m thinking that the cocoa powder is the cause of this, but I’m not certain.  In any case its fermenting and it smells great.

The tentative schedule is to leave this beer in the primary until a few days before Christmas (~7 weeks) which is hopefully enough time for it to mature (still debating on if I should transfer this into a secondary after 2~3 weeks).  I kept this beer at around 6%.  Any more than that and I would fear it would take a few months to mature into a drinkable treat.  So hopefully the mass of ingredients will come together rather quickly (yes 7 weeks is quick) to be enjoyed by the holiday.  Yes, everyone here gets a bottle.  If its good, everyone gets to come over and enjoy it on tap!


7 Responses

  1. You, sir, are a glorious champion

  2. Wow! That is so many different ingredients that you have planned for this one… was this your own recipe or where did you get it from? Peppermint and gingerbread? Sounds like quite the festive treat.

    Your assortment of equipment is also extremely admirable! The brewing method I have been involved with just recently appears to be so much more crude and primitive compared to your sparkling, metalic, shimmering pots, drums and grinders,

  3. We are all glorious champions being beer enthusiasts! Pats on the backs for everyone.

    This one was my own recipe, thus, I cannot guarantee its success. The airlock smells like chocolate with a very slight hint of mint and molasses. We will all be enjoying this one soon Tom, you’ll get a bunch.

    My equipment is still nothing more than pots and pans -pans.. The equipment that you had for the Calamus Ale is pretty much all that you need to make beer. Big ol’ pot and a propane burner. (I saw a propane burner at Canadian Tire for $26, heads up to everyone on the lookout).

    Hey, just an idea. We should all join forces and get together to make a beer for breakfast home brew.

  4. I am completely down with that idea, perhaps over the Christmas break next month?

  5. Yessir! Hickory?

    Start thinking of a style of beer/recipe/ingredients.

  6. Chris, can you make a post about the method that you use for “stealing” yeast? Do you put it into a yeast starter, or just store it in the fridge as is?

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