Grain Experiment

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SlowLow's picture
Grain Experiment

For quite a while, I've wanted to do a batch that was 100% Aromatic malt. I don't know where I got the idea, but theoretically (depending on who's numbers you look at) Aromatic can self convert. Once I ran some conservative numbers, I found out that it was really cutting it close. So, with half Belgian Pale, I get somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 Linter.

I'm not really sure what I'm going for in this batch. Near as I can tell, it will end up being some Belgian-style Amber/Brown or some other style-be-damned Belgian ale. I could even re-invent the Dubbel! Who knows, there is only one way to figure it out, and that's to waste some grain.

After thinking about it for quite a while, I thought why don't I make this a nano-mash a la Agatha Feltus' article “Nanomashing: Investigating Specialty Grains on a Small Scale” from Zymurgy May/June 2013. I thought if I was going to go to the trouble to do one, I might test out some other specialty grains that I've had some interest in and meld with what I was trying to go after. These are:

1. Briess' Special Roast
2. Briess' Extra Special
3. Simpson's Coffee
4. Crisp's Pale Chocolate
5. Castle's Special “B”
6. Briess' Rye Malt

These are kind of a diverse cast of characters, but we shall see where they will take me. So to further the experiment, I would use about 100 g of grain for each test sample with 400 mL of 155 F water in each sample. Like the Zymurgy article says, it should give me around a 1.055 starting gravity. I'll let them sit for an hour to steep. My wife and I will be the taste testers on each batch. Our tastes are very different, but I know when she wrinkles her nose, it isn't any good.

Of the 100 g of grain, I'll proportion it out like this:

1. Control sample, 50 g of Belgian Pale, 50 g of Aromatic
2. All other batches, 50 g of Belgian Pale, 40 g of Aromatic, 10 grams of specialty.

In some instances, I realize that 10% of the specialty grains might be a little in your face, but I think that's what I'm going for. I might have to tweak the percentage (I'm probably assuming that it will be down to 5% or less) for the special grains if I make a full batch. I also plan on mixing the 7 batches once they are done, to see if they compliment each other, etc.

Any ideas from the peanut gallery? Anyone done something similar and want to steer me in another direction?

SlowLow's picture
So, I got motivated to do the

So, I got motivated to do the project, and here's how it came out.

My taste notes:

Aromatic alone: Sweet, malty, and nutty aroma. Tastes a kind of sweet, cereal nuttiness with a hint of bread. A bit like a wort for a Munich Dunkel. Really nice by itself.
Rye: A little of rye spiciness in the nose. The same cereal notes came through before with maybe a rye spiciness. The color was lightened quite a bit from Aromatic only. Small twang in the aftertaste. Overall, not that special, and I think I didn't get a good crush out of it.
Special Roast: Aroma is much more bready. A tart breadiness that lingers in the aftertaste. The most acidic (perceptively) of the bunch. Pleasant.
Extra Special: A dark sweetness to the nose. Multilayered and hard to perceive. A dark toffee, burnt caramel thing going on. Maybe a little dark fruit with a lingering aftertaste. I'm not sure, but this might be Briess' take on Special “B” or an English crystal.
Special “B”: Aroma, a bit sweeter with a definitive raisin note. Toffee, raisins that plays very well with the Aromatic malt. Slight lingering bitter/astringent (but pleasant) finish with a fruit taste.
Coffee: Definitely smells like fresh brewed gourmet coffee with the aromatic in the background. Tastes of sweetened coffee, lingers exactly like you took a swig of fresh brewed coffee. A nice nutty, breadiness comes through presumably from the Aromatic. The coffee is layered very nicely with the other notes and not dominant. This is the most surprising of the bunch, especially considering that I'm not a coffee drinker.
Pale Chocolate: The aroma is lightly coffee with a bit of chocolate in the nose. Tastes slightly of dark chocolate with the vanilla notes present. It tastes like sweetened instant coffee a bit with a baked goods character. Aromatic flavor comes through nicely. Same aftertaste as dark chocolate.

Wife's notes (face index at the end of her notes):

Aromatic alone: Shredded wheat. :)
Rye: Sweeter & more bitter than above. Neutral. :|
Special Roast: Bitter. :|
Extra Special: Sweet smell, bitter at the very end. :(
Special “B”: Raisin sweet and smelly. :)
Coffee: Honey smell, cocoa powder taste. :)
Pale Chocolate: Smells like plaster (sweet). Small vanilla, dark chocolate mouthfeel at the end. :)

Out of the bunch, I think that our order of preference is Coffee, Special “B,” then Special Roast. While my wife didn't particularly care for the Special Roast, she agreed that it would probably be good as a background note to the many different combinations that you could get out of these worts. One takeaway was that Simpson's Coffee malt is really amazing. I've heard quite a few people poo-poo it in the past, but we really liked it.

Some combinations that I tried in equal portions:

Special Roast & “B” - Compliment each other very well, but “B” by itself was much better.
“B” & Coffee – coffee and dark fruit, they might detract from each other. “B” was upfront in the taste and finished like coffee.
Pale Chocolate & Special Roast – Twang w/ baked goods/cereal. Excellent aroma.
Coffee & Extra Special – Diluted flavored coffee. Coffee flavor diminished, not as apparent in the finish.
Coffee & Rye – Astringent, not pleasant. Do not compliment.

Did we discover a new style, probably not, but definitely a good novelty beer.

SlowLow's picture
If I could figure out how to

Here is a picture.

grain experiment

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You can add images with this

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experimental homebrew

SlowLow's picture
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So after much deliberation, I've decided on a recipe. It is not as bold as what this experiment was proposed to be, but I thought I would start on the light side and tweak it up if it needed it. I think I will brew it in another couple of weeks. So here's what I have come up with:

For the mash of 60 minutes or until converted at 150F:
5 g of Calcium Chloride (because my water is pretty sulfate rich in Tucson)
Belgian Pale 60%
Aromatic Malt 30%
Coffee Malt 5.0%
Special B 5.0%

For the boil of 60 minutes:
Magnum hops ~30 IBUs at 60 minutes
Strisslespalt ~ 1.2 IBUs at 5 minutes (14 g or 1/2 oz for a 5.5 gal batch)

Cooled and in the Fermenter:
A healthy pitch of WLP 575 Belgian Yeast Blend (I always use a starter and
The plan is now, to pitch this at 65F and just let it free rise in my fermentation chamber

So according to BrewSmith2, my vital statistics look like:
OG = 1.064
FG = 1.012
SRM = 25
IBUs = 32
ABV = 6.9%

I thought about adding some sugar to dry it out, but I think with this being a darker beer, I will enjoy the residual sugars, especially with the coffee and Special B toffee/raisiny thing going on. So, this beer perfect for cool weather should be ready right in time for 115F summer. :) Maybe that will force me to sit on it for 6 months instead of drinking it all down right away.

denny's picture
Very interesting! Looking

Very interesting! Looking forward to your results.

Life begins at 60....1.060, that is!

SlowLow's picture
So I finally brewed this

So I finally brewed this batch up.

It happened to be one of those days, and my give a sh*t factor was low. It didn't quite turn out as I expected. Among a few little things, I didn't measure my mash temp right away, and it was 5 degrees high. When I did finally measure it, it was a little too late. I pitched anyway, and things got off to a decent start. It was also the first batch of the year where I took my heat wrap off of my fermenter in my chest freezer. The daily temperature swings here were 30-35 degrees, and I didn't realize until a few days later it was varying the temp by 2-3 degrees from day to night. Excuses aside, it finished out at 1.017.

Despite all of this, the residual sugar is not all that apparent with the big malt flavors that are going on.

Tasting notes: Nice Belgian yeast character in the nose with a definite coffee note. On tasting it, you get the yeast flavors with a big dose of coffee up front. The aromatic malt flavor is so big it tastes doughy almost minerally (or chemical that I can't put my finger on) for lack of a better word. Maybe that the water or yeast, I'm not sure. A little yeast bitterness is apparent, but time will cure that. Mouthfeel is silky/substancial but doesn't linger in the finish. As the coffee diminishes, the Special B shines with a dark stone fruit maybe fig flavor that lingers on the pallet. Overall, the beer leaves me wanting another sip.
Wife: likes it much better than me, drank a whole glass of it.

Takeaways: Not my best beer, but drinkable for an off the cuff experiment. I think it will be a nice Christmas time beer. I might bottle it and save it for 6 months or so. It might round some of the edges off. If I were to brew this beer again, I would probably reduce the Aromatic malt 10-15%. As much as I like what Aromatic brings to a beer, too much is not a good thing based on this batch of beer. I like the proportions of Coffee and Special B. If anything, I might increase the Special B relative to the Coffee. Carbonation made a huge difference in this beer. I almost dumped the batch after I tasted it flat, usually my beers that turn out taste good right out of the fermenter.