Short on Supply, High on Concepts

I’ve had a couple years’ run wherein my brewing has been a gently purring animal.

Tastes have become recipes. Those recipes have met practices on brewdays, and then found their way through the cell membranes of various yeasts, until the whole was poured into pint glasses. Those glasses were emptied into dozens of parched mouths; occasionally, a few of those mouths gave coherent, positive feedback. My three & some odd years of homebrewing have led me to a fine place where the only limits have been my imagination, palate & budget.
Now comes the looming specter of the global economy … shortages in the worldwide barley crop. A viciously scorching Siberian summer drove wheat prices to historic highs. And, now the hop harvest pits the incoming crop’s lethargic yield, against the unwavering demand for more citrusy IPAs and amped-up pale ales.
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Kinderweiße Cheese Fondue

Serves 8

  • 2 1/4 cups NB Kinderweisse, or a Berliner Weiss of your choice
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch
  • 1/2 lb. Chimay Grand Cru chees
  • 1/2 lb. Emmenthaler cheese
  • 1/2 lb. Appenzeller cheese
  • 1/2 lb. Swiss or French raclette cheese
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Cubed day-old country bread for dipping
  • Fresh fruits such as apples, grapes or pears

Tasting: Twa Oats Roastie

Hello, stout … nice to see ya. It’s been a long time; you’re just as lovely as you used to be.

I’m sorry, Conway Twitty – that’s your song, and this is an oatmeal stout.

Twa Oats Roastie? It’s my own pidgin Scots for “Two Oats and Little Roast-flavored One.”

The two oats in question are flaked oats and oat malt.

Flaked oats, being raw oat kernels first gelatinized and then roll-smashed into mash-ready flakes, give beer that velvety and creamy texture and full mouthfeel you want in an oatmeal stout; but they don’t taste like much, especially when buried under an avalanche of roast malt flavors.

Oat malt is made from oat kernels that have been partially germinated and then kilned (malted – natch), and so have some diastatic power on top of oats’ innate texture-creating properties; plus the kilning (4 Lovibond) gives oat malt a built-in grainy, toasty flavor that both cuts through and enhances the chocolate-and-coffee roast character of stout.

The inspiration for the recipe came from Maclay’s Oat Malt Stout, of which many a pint was enjoyed by your author in his formative beer nerd days. Sadly it’s no longer brewed, so like so many other defunct and rare beers, we homebrewers have to take matters into our own hands. However, I never set out to clone it – Maclay’s Oatie Maltie Roastie was a jumping off point, much like Mr. Twitty’s song was for the opening to this post. Thanks again, Conway.


Twa Oats Roastie

10.5 gallons, all-grain
OG 1.053

  • 153 F 60″
  • 168 F 10″
  • 2 oz Centennial (whole, homegrown) @ 60″
  • 2 oz Liberty (whole, homegrown) @ 20″


Half of the batch is still in the carboy, making friends with 6 oz of cacao nibs; more on that later. But here are my impressions on the half currently on tap in Schloss Dawson:
Looks: Black. Like a stout. It’s clear though … garnet-red when held up to a bright light.

Smells: Kinda hard to believe the cacao nibs aren’t in this batch – very chocolatey, with a balance of burnt roast, baking bread (thanks NeoBritannia!), and toasty oatmeal backing it up.

Tastes: Roasty from front to back (predominantly baking chocolate and light roast coffee) with the dark malts’ acidity pairing with hops to square off with all that oat-, Maris Otter, and yeast-derived nutty sweetness. Sweetness almost wins out, but a bitingly bitter last-minute rabbit punch from the roast malts at the very finish makes it tough to call.

Texture: Vvvvelvety, dense, but the roast malt acidity keeps it from seeming like one is drinking a pint of whole wheat bread.

— update:

The second half of the batch – Twa Oats Nibbie-Roastie. After six weeks’ intimate contact with cocoa nibs in the secondary, my Scottish-accented double oatmeal stout was nitrogenated, and now is on what I believe to be the keg’s penultimate pint. So I figured I better make with the tasting notes while that is still possible:

looks: jet with garnet edges and what a sticky, dense head …

smells: the nitro dampens the bouquet, moreso for the roast grain than the oat malt, interstingly – comes through  more biscuity than roasty. Reminds me of Central American coffee sweetened with demerara and Nutella on whole wheat toast. How’s that for pretentiously specific?

tastes: crusty, crunchy oats and crackers with baking chocolate and a hint of yeasty fruit which comes on stronger towards the end, giving way to a drying and roasty/100% cacao chocolate bar-like finish

texture: creamy, luscious, dense, and silky

And as a corollary, last week I conducted an experiment I’ve long wanted to try: I pulled a doppio espresso (the Peace Coffee blend) in a shot glass, then dropped the shot glass into a pint glass and poured stout on top of it. Real-time coffee stout – it was transcendent. The 1.5 oz of hot liquid exhorted new intensity from the stout while at the same time infusing it with incredible bittersweet chocolate and caramel notes and a very fresh coffee character.

Send it back

I had a bottle of really bad beer last night.

On the surface, this one appeared to be a potential winner. A high gravity anniversary beer from well-respected Unibroue, brewed just over 5 years ago. After a hard time removing the Belgian-style cork, I poured into three glasses to share with some friends. The carbonation was surprisingly low.

The aroma and flavor was pretty much terrible. I don’t think any of us finished our glasses. To call it “sherry-like” would have been generous, it was really just terribly oxidized and tasted like cardboard (oh, and cherries too). I picked this bottle up at a beer store earlier this year, so I have no idea about its handling and storage up to that point. Everything I can see points to a failed cork, which is a common wine lover’s lament.

On the complete opposite end of the bad beer spectrum, I recently had an extremely young example of a Minnesota classic lager called Grain Belt Premium. The glass fairly reeked of sulfur and butterscotch. It didn’t surprise me much when I read this article from the site shortly afterwards, explaining that the brewery was having trouble keeping up with demand. Another blog post I read recently notes a series of product recalls from big players on the craft brew scene, including Bell’s and Goose Island.

Not to be a hater; I’ve definitely made some foul beer before. Perhaps the wost offender was a unintentionally sour porter. It was the dead heat of August in my basement, I was dry hopping with some unusual ingredients, and the surrounding brewing area was none too clean. When I went to bottle it I found that it had likely been infected with acetobacteria and had an unpleasant enteric taste. I tried everything to use that beer, mixing it with regular porter, replacing cooking vinegar with it, using it as a brine. The only thing that worked was giving it away to a friend of mine with very undiscriminating tastes (always good to have one of these as a homebrewer).

How about you, ever had to send one back or dump a batch?

Chip's Open/Closed Patersbier

[editor’s note: this piece was originally published on the Brewing TV blog]

Hello everyone. Chip Walton, the guy behind the camera, here.

When Michael Dawson (or Jake Keeler) says JUMP – I say HOW HIGH?! In Episode 6, Dawson issued our first Brewing TV Challenge. He suggested viewers brew a five-gallon batch of Patersbier, split it into two 2.5-gallon batches, ferment one closed, ferment one open. I took this challenge to heart. Read more