This is shaping up to be perhaps my biggest brewing weekend ever.
Last night, I bottled the oatmeal toffee stout. Final gravity was just a hair under 1.020, which is a fuzz higher than Beersmith predicted - but is just fine (especially in light of the fact that I overshot my predicted OG by .002). More to the point, the gravity sample was absolutely delicious! I got some nice roastiness without it being bitter, and it had some really pleasant malty sweetness to it. Even better, I did pick up on some toffee notes, and the beer had some definite slickness to the mouthfeel. Of course, time (and carbonation) will tell the final result, but I'm pretty hopeful that I will have hit my target flavor profile.
I stacked those two cases of stout on top of the two cases of my Oktoberfest. The O-fest is a mere two weeks into the bottles, but in a stark contrast to the patience I displayed while lagering this thing, I'm having a really tough time not cracking open a bottle. I'll try one in another week; hopefully, they'll be carbed up, and I'll be able to move them to the basement (and out of the dining room, which my wife will appreciate).
I'm about to cold crash my starter for tomorrow's brew, which I have decided to dub "Royal Goblin". It's a rendition of Orfy's tried and true Hobgoblin clone recipe, except that I'm using WLP037 (Yorkshire square ale yeast) and I'm adding a bit of flaked barley for head retention.
Tomorrow's brewday holds several firsts for me. The simplest of these firsts is the fact that this will be the first beer that I employ the technique of first wort hopping on. Supposedly, first wort hopping imparts a smoother bitterness to the beer. I know that the commercial Hobgoblin beer (from Wychwood Brewery) uses this technique, and the clone homebrew version does, as well. I'm honestly not at all certain that my palate is refined enough to detect the difference, but I'm looking forward to deciding this myself.
Secondly - and, perhaps, most importantly - is the fact that I'm taking my first actual foray into water chemistry with this brew. I know that there are widely varying opinions on the subject; some experts believe that precise pH and mineral control is crucial to making great beer, while others (such as the owner of my local homebrewing store) feel that any water that is good enough to drink is good enough to brew with. I personally suspect that precise control probably can't hurt, and may in fact enhance the beer... but I am also aware that quite a bit of excellent beer is brewed without a single thought to water chemistry. With that being said, I love to geek out about the tiniest details of anything I am interested in, so my venturing into this arena was probably ever only a matter of time.
I'd like to extend a special thanks to Gregory Ellis, a brewer I met at reddit, who really went out of his way to help me figure out the basics to water chemistry. I'm well aware that I have a ton to learn in this area, but he got me headed in the right direction, helped me figure out my water report (heck, the guy actually contacted my water company on my behalf), and made some invaluable suggestions as to resources that would help me understand what I was doing. The guy even set up several spreadsheets to cover various recipes of mine, and each sheet had personalized water adjustment suggestions! I'm now doing this for myself, but being able to look at what he did for me before was absolutely invaluable. Thanks, Greg!
I'm looking forward to seeing if a few grams of this salt, a gram or so of that salt, and a few ml of lactic acid can truly improve my beer.
Finally, I have decided to take my first shot at baking bread that will include some of my spent grains. I've read rave review after review of spent grain bread, and I've always loved homemade bread. From what I can tell, the process is quite simple, but it has been more than twenty years since I last baked bread (and that was when I was a teenager, and was done under the direct supervision of my mother). Hopefully, it turns out as well as I'm hoping; I'm thinking that success in this area can only improve my family's overall opinion of my brewing.
Sleep calls. Wish me luck!
Tags for this post: bottling, first wort hopping, brewing, home brew, beer, water chemistry, spent grain bread