I made reference to this beer yesterday. It was days away from being bottled when fermentation seemed to be kicking back up. Steamtoberfest had recently become infected and it looked like this was going the same direction. I took a different route, though. I’ll get back to that later, first I’ll explain what my intentions were with this beer.
It had been close to a year since I had made CVP (Cherry Vanilla Porter), which was one of my favorite beers and it was time to do another porter. I did not want to do another flavored beer, realizing that Val’s Porty Porter with molasses and CVP were my only porter batches, it seemed like it was time to do a straight up porter.
I loved CVP, though so I wanted to stick fairly close to that recipe. In the time between the two batches, though I had moved to all grain. I kept the specialty grains from CVP, Munich and Chocolate Malts, and debated wether to go with American Pale Malt or Maris Otter for the base. I wanted this to be a Robust or American Porter, and leaned that way with the hops, but I thought the extra maltiness brought on by Maris Otter could be quite welcome. Ultimately, I decided to use a bit of each. I didn’t want the full flavor of the Maris Otter to interfere too much with the other flavors, but I knew it was a relatively simple malt bill for a porter and wanted to give it a little bit of depth.
Hops came up in the last paragraph. The hop bill was another internal debate. I wanted detectable hop character, and for some of that to be distinctly American, but I didn’t want it to be the main attraction. Tröegs’ Dead Reckoning Porter was something I was drinking at the time. It is very hoppy for a porter, with a lot of Chinook character. I decided to keep the bitterness restrained but add a decent charge late in the boil. An ounce of Cascade with ten minutes left gave a decent bump in IBUs but was mainly intended to bring the American hop character I wanted without being overpowering. Another ounce of Willamette at flameout was meant to add some Earthy hop aroma. Willamette hops are not as distinct as Cascade, thus they were added later.
For yeast, I went with Windsor dry yeast. I’m a big fan of this stuff, but it seems to have a lot haters on the internet. I’m not sure why people don’t like it. Personally, I like its character a lot more than S-04, the other dry English ale yeast that is readily available. There are a lot more options if you go with liquid yeast, but if you want dry, they may be your only choices. I’ve seen claims that Windsor often stalls out early, but I haven’t had that experience in a several times that I’ve used it.
My goal with this beer was a relatively strong, but balanced and easy drinking porter. Deep Chocolate Malt roast character backed up by bready Munich and Maris Otter malts. Mild citrusy American hop character with some Earthy, English hop like aroma and a subtle balancing bitterness. Characterful ester filled fermentation flavor from an English yeast and warm fermentation. Then there was the pesky wild yeast.
I can’t be totally sure, but I think that the infection came from the turkey baster I used to take gravity samples, which had previously been used for the same purpose on Steamtoberfest. That was, of course before the infection showed its face, but apparently after it had gotten in. I mentioned that I thought the infection got in from the air allowed in around the cap I had on Steamtoberfest’s carboy. It is possible that it originated on this turkey baster, though. It is the only thing I can think of that came into contact with both batches.
Wherever the infection came from, I caught it very early and was ready to bottle the beer anyway, so I made a possibly risky decision. I bottled it anyway. I didn’t know what was causing the renewed fermentation, but small patches of new bubbles were forming all around the top of the beer. Normally, you never want to bottle anything that is actively fermenting because you are likely going to be creating exploding bottles.
I do have one recipe that calls for bottling during fermentation, though. Yellow Cat Sweet Cider is bottled, allowed to carbonate and then pasteurized. That cider is very actively fermenting with predictable ale yeast, though. This was a wild yeast (or bacteria) of unknown origin. I bottled the beer before bed one night and put it into boxes, covered them and did what I could to ensure that if any of them did shatter, they wouldn’t scatter and shoot glass in all directions.
When I got home from work the next day, I opened a bottle and was surprised to find that it was just about perfectly carbonated. I opened a second and got the same familiar pop. It was time to pasteurize.
The beer definitely got a tart twist from whatever got into it, but it was caught early enough that it didn’t go full on sour. In the short time it was in the beer, the wild yeast did dry it out quite a bit. This was very dry and a bit thin for a porter. It was not what I intended, but it was still pretty enjoyable. I was a little surprised every time I opened one that they were all evenly carbonated. I am down to (I think) two bottles left and it has been a long time since I’ve had any. I will drink one of those bottles for tasting notes tomorrow and try to get more into the flavor that resulted from the infection. For now, my original recipe is below.
Hogun’s Mace Robust Porter
Style: American Porter/Robust Porter
Brew Date: August 20, 2013
Serve Date: September, 2013
Expected FG: 1.006
Approximate ABV: 7.1%
53% American Pale Malt
33% Maris Otter Malt
7% Chocolate Malt
7% Munich Malt
1 oz East Kent Golding @ 60 min
1 oz Cascade @ 10 min
1 oz Willamette @ Flameout
Windsor English Dry Yeast