Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tabula Rasa (aka John) - Empirical Series 2011

"No man's knowledge here can go beyond his experience."

The original intent of my annual "Empirical" project was to brew a barley wine every year. However, I've since realized that, 1) I don't want to be limited to a single style for this series, and 2) the previous years' brews were, in fact, not actually barley wines. So, I've now decided that style plays little role in these beers and that the only "rules" are that they are big and that they are allowed to age for a year before drinking. Live and learn. The slate has been wiped clean.

The inspiration for this year's recipe was Deschute's Black Butte Porter. Now, the interesting thing here is that I have never had the privilege of tasting this particular beer, but by all accounts, it is wonderful. And as an avid listener of the Brewing Network, I had a good starting point for a recipe after the boys on CYBI brewed up a clone of this beer (podcast here; recipe here).

For my version, I increased the OG to 1.090 to help get me in the 9-10% ABV range and added some smoked malt for added complexity, especially in conjunction with a planned addition of oak. Also with these Empirical beers, I like to add 5-10% simple sugars to help increase the ABV as well as to help the yeast attenuate as much as possible. Given the nature of this project, I opted to experiment with a new-to-me sugar, sucanat - essentially, dried pure sugar cane juice. I expect this unrefined sugar to give the beer some rum notes, which I think will work well with the chocolate and smoked malts and the oak aging. I was unsure about the hop schedule, but since it seems to work for Deschute's, I figured I'd stick to it as close as possible - just increasing the additions to get me close to an estimated 70ish IBUs.

I ended up pitching three vials of yeast because I broke the growler of my intended starter and didn't have time to make up a new one. Fermentation took off quick and I had airlock activity for a good 7 days (the longest I can remember for any of my beers). I'll let it sit in primary for 4 weeks and then rack into a secondary carboy with some oak cubes for several weeks before bottling. I'll keep the bottles squirreled away until next winter.

Tabula Rasa - Empirical Series 2011
Brewed on 2/23/11

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 3.75 gal
Boil Size: 5.00 gal
Estimated Color: 29.2 SRM
Estimated IBU: 65.6 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 74.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes
OG: 1.090
FG: 1.020
ABV: 9.3%

7 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) UK - 60.87 %
1 lbs Wheat Malt, Pale - 8.70 %
8.0 oz Chocolate Malt (450L) - 4.35 %
8.0 oz Crystal malt (50-60L) - 4.35 %
8.0 oz Smoked Malt - 4.35 %
1 lbs Extra Light DME 8.70 %
1 lbs Sucanat - 8.70 %

0.75 oz Galena [13.00 %] (60 min)
0.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] (30 min)
0.50 oz Mt. Hood [6.00 %] (5 min)

0.75 oz Oak Cubes, Hungarian, Medium Toast (Secondary 4-8 weeks)

Dry English Ale (White Labs #WLP007)

Mash Schedule
Single Infusion
60 min 152°F

3/18/11 - racked to 3 gallon carboy for bulk aging; added oak cubes; SG = 1.020

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