Saturday, April 14, 2012

Funky Oatmeal Stout - a mixed culture fermentation

Way back in September 2011 I walked out of my LHBS with the ingredients to make a simple oatmeal stout for the Fall weather that was going to be settling in.  However, as I posted earlier, life got hectic, brewing and blogging was put on hold, and the oatmeal stout never saw the inside of a fermentation bucket.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago.  I had the time and I had already brewed up the batches I wanted to get done between January and March (a Belgian Tripel, an Altbier, a Kolsch, and this year's Empirical Series brew) and I had this bag of grain sitting in my cellar.  Seemed like a waste not to use it.  But it also didn't seem right to brew an oatmeal stout with the warm weather settling in.  So, inspired by Jolly Pumpkin's Madrugada Obscura and a previous successful experiment of mine with souring dark beer (a tale for another day), I decided to try something different and funkify it.

The base grist is similar to the oatmeal stout I brewed in Fall 2010 with a few tweaks (I can't seem to leave well enough alone).  To that I decided to add some molasses and grains of paradise (available at my favorite spice retailer - the Spice House).  The molasses added some additional gravity and will give the beer a little more depth and character.  The grains of paradise should impart a nice peppery tone.  As if that wouldn't be enough (like I said, I can't leave well enough alone), I opted to ferment with a mixed culture that included a Belgian yeast (WLP500, harvested from my Belgian Tripel), an English strain (WLP023, which was the intended yeast for the original oatmeal stout), the dregs of one bottle of Jolly Pumpkin's Madrugada Obscura, and the dregs of one bottle of Russian River Consecration.  All these cultures were put into the same starter, so were pitched into the beer all at the same time.  How this will all play out is anyone's guess.  I'm just going to keep it in a dark corner of my cellar and patiently wait to see how things proceed.

Oh, and as luck would have it, the "Word of the Day" on the day I made my mixed culture starter was "selcouth"

Selcouth Stout
brewed on 3/26/12

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 3.75 gal
Estimated Color: 38.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 30.8 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
OG: 1.062 SG

5.5 lbs Maris Otter - 66.7 %
12.0 oz Oats, Flaked- 9.1 %
8.0 oz Melanoidin Malt - 6.1 %
4.0 oz Chocolate Malt - 3.0 %
4.0 oz Chocolate Wheat - 3.0 %
4.0 oz Crystal (56L) - 3.0 %
4.0 oz Roasted Barley - 3.0 %
8.0 oz Molasses - 6.1 %

26 g EKG [4.50 %] - 60.0 min
10 g EKG [4.50 %] - 20.0 min

1.00 g Seeds of Paradise (Boil 5.0 mins)

Mixed culture
 - Trappist Ale (White Labs #WLP500)
 - Burton Ale (White Labs #WLP023)
 - dregs of Madrugada Obscura
 - dregs of Consecration

Mash Schedule
Single Infusion, 152°F, Batch Sparge

Friday, April 6, 2012

Beer Blog as Digital Identity

I recently discovered Beer Blogging Friday (aka The Session) and thought it would be fun to start participating in it. Basically, the idea is that on the First Friday of each month beer bloggers all post on the same topic. The topic is determined by pre-identified organizer for the month. That same organizer collects all the links to the posts on their blog into single collection. I've done this sort of thing before on other blogs I used to write (but, sadly, have let languish) and found it a great way to connect with a community that shares similar passions. It's also a great way to discover other great blogs.

This month's Session is hosted by Brewpublic who has provided a topic of "What drives beer bloggers?".

For me, the obvious answer is that my passion for homebrewing drives my blog. It is after all nothing more than an journal chronicling my brewing adventures. At first, I though I would respond to this promt by writing about why I enjoy homebrewing and why I design my own recipes and brew the way that I do. But that's really what drives my beer brewing, not what drives my beer blogging, so instead I thought I'd concentrate on why I decided to take my brewing to the blogosphere.

I don't have a homebrew club or a group of fellow homebrewers to brew with, so, other than my local homebrew shop (Blackstone Valley Brewing Supply, a truly excellent shop) my brewing community is completely virtual. I'm a regular over at, I listen to a number of beer-related podcasts on my way to and from work (particularly most anything from The Brewing Network), have struck up a number of friendly correspondences with other bloggers (all through email, of course), and have even done a few beer swaps with folks I've only ever met via the internet. So, in a lot of ways, this blog is my identity within the virtual homebrewing community. You can learn a little about me every time you read one of my posts - what do I like to brew? what is my approach to brewing? what are some of the brewing ideas rattling around in my head? Both my brewing and writing style reveal something about me. For example, you can probably glean quite a bit about my worldview and general philosophy from the fact that I named an entire series of my beers "The Empirical" series, with each one given a name in Latin and honoring some important figure from the Enlightenment. Hell, even the fact that I even have a named series for some of my homebrew tells you something.

Blogging lets me share part of my identity and lets me be part of a larger group. We all want to feel valued by others within whatever community with identify with. I like to think that blogging about my recipes and my techniques and my successes and my failures provides value to other homebrewers out there. Perhaps something in my blog will help a new homebrewer figure out some brewing-related problem, or perhaps a recipe will spark an interest with an experienced brewer and lead them to try something they hadn't before. Like any sort of public demonstration of a creative pursuit, narcissism certainly plays a role (why wouldn't everyone want to read my blog?), but I think the larger driving force is the desire to be part of a community and to interact with others who share similar passions. So, I raise a (virtual) pint to you, my fellow beer drinkers and blog readers. You drive me to blog!
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