Homebrew 11

Brewday - 19/01/14

Guinless - 3.2% Dry Stout

This one was made specially for the Macclesfield Homebrew Club's big "Stout-off". A stout brewing competition that was conceived via Twitter last month. As yet, the date of the big judging is still up for debate but I decided to get in early and give my entry plenty of time to mature.

This was also the first brew I would ferment with my new temperature controller. Keeping the temperature in check helps to minimise fermentation off-flavours so I decided to have a modest ABV to really test myself. By doing this, there's nowhere to hide and any off-tastes would be noticeable.

I formed a recipe that was based on a trawl of Guinness clone recipes on online homebrew forums. It was pretty well agreed that a dry stout should have a backbone of Maris Otter pale malt, with unmalted roasted barley and flaked barley completing the grain bill. It's a pretty simple recipe really, finished with a tiny amount of Target bittering hops.

This was without a doubt the cheapest beer I've made. There was a grand total of 30g of hops in it, which is a tenth of the amount that goes into something like a black IPA.

I decided to call the beer Guinless, in reference to Red Willow, the Macclesfield brewery whose bar generously hosts each Macc Homebrew meeting and whose beers all end in "-less". The ABV also ended up less than I had thought it would and I still don't really know why. Perhaps either the flaked barley or the roasted barley don't contribute much in the way of fermentable sugars.

Fermentation went well, with the controller performing flawlessly. It was great to be able to simply type a temperature in and know for sure that that's what it would be. I chose 20.5C for the first 3 days and then upped it to 22C for the next 4, to keep the yeast active and allow it to clean up towards the end of the week.

I opened a bottle after a week and it was fine. Not exactly an abundance of flavour but then again, it is only 3.2%. More importantly, I couldn't detect any fermentation-related off-tastes, which was the main thing I was trying to achieve with this brew. The stout will definitely benefit from a bit of time to mature and condition further. I reckon it will be al least a month before it's ready.

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