Sunday, November 1, 2015

Adventures in Homebrewing Peanut Butter Conspiracy Stout

Adventures in Homebrewing makes a number of all-grain and extract recipe kits for homebrewing.  During a sale earlier this year, I picked up their Peanut Butter Conspiracy Stout extract kit (on sale for $26.99 as of this writing in November 2015).  The kit includes:
  • 6 pounds of Pale LME
  • 1 pound of Flaked Barley
  • 1 pound of Carafa II
  • 4 ounces of Black Patent Malt
  • 1 dram of Peanut Butter Flavoring
  • 1 ounce of Willamette Hops (5.4% AA)
It is recommended to use Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale, White Labs 004 Irish Ale, or Danstar Nottingham.  Since I ordered the kit during the warmer months, I settled for Danstar Nottingham dry yeast.

Brew Day

The brewing process was:
  • Heat 2.5 gallons of water to 150-160F.  I used The Grainfather to do this.
  • Drop the bagged grain into the water and steep for 20 minutes.
  • Remove the grain from the water and let it drain, then discard.
  • In my case, while doing the above, I heated 3 gallons of water in a kettle on my kitchen stove and removed it from the heat, I dissolved the 6 pounds of Pale LME into that and made sure it was thoroughly dissolved.
  • I added the dissolved Pale LME to the existing wort and topped it off to 6 gallons with cold water.  Experience has shown me that The Grainfather boils off about a gallon in an hour.
  • I set The Grainfather to boil and stirred to ensure that the wort was well mixed.
  • When the wort reached a boil, I dropped the Willamette hops in a bag into the kettle.
  • While the wort boiled, I rehydrated the yeast packet.
  • After 55 minutes of boiling, I attached the wort chiller and began recirculating wort through it to sterilize it.  The output of the wort chiller went into the kettle to be re-boiled.
  • At the 60 minute mark, I turned off the heat.  I turned on the cold water supply and let the wort flow through the counter flow chiller and back into the kettle.  Past experience has shown me that the wort coming out of the chiller is often around 80F.  I wanted this to come out closer to the recommended 64-72F temperature when it reached the fermenter, so recirculating a bit before pumping into the fermenter would help accomplish that.  When the kettle temperature read 150F, I turned off the pump and put the cold wort out line into the fermenter.
  • The chilled wort was pumped into the fermenter.  The measured temperature in the fermenter was XXF, close to my desired range.
  • I pitched the yeast into the wort and sealed the fermenter, attaching an airlock filled with Star San sanitizer.
AIH's instruction sheet said that my wort should have an Original Gravity of 1.045, a final gravity of 1.012, and an ABV of 4.6%.  My pre-boil gravity was 1.047 SG, but the volume was a little low, so I topped it off with water to hit the right volume.  Post-boil gravity measured with a refractometer was again 11 Brix or 1.047.  My stout would be slightly stronger than designed.

I have to say... if you like chocolate this is a great beer to brew.  The malt combination here gives off a delicious dark chocolate aroma as the beer boils.  The minimal bitterness (estimated 18 IBUs) means that there isn't a strong hops aroma in the boil, either.

Yield was estimated at 5 gallons for the recipe.  I would up with 4.7 gallons in my fermenter at the time I pitched the yeast.

Fermentation Schedule

Because I don't have a fermentation chamber yet, the plastic bucket fermenter was placed in my basement, which maintains a 68F temperature pretty much year-round.

Fermentation didn't seem particularly vigorous.  I checked it a few hours after pitching the yeast and saw nothing happening in the airlock.  A day later, still no visible activity.  Finally, after seeing no airlock activity for two days, I popped open the fermenter lid to see a nice healthy krausen.  The fermentation was going fine and I was just too impatient.  I sealed the lid and left it alone after that.

I took small samples of the wort over the next week or so and watched the gravity gradually decline.  When it seemed to level out, primary fermentation was finished.  This happened on approximately Day X of the fermentation.

The AIH instructions say that the peanut butter flavoring should be added after the beer completes primary fermentation in about two weeks, then let it spend at least a week in secondary.  Since I don't rack off my beer to a secondary, I added the flavoring at the two-week mark and left the beer in the fermenter another week.

Bottling

I used corn sugar (just under half a cup) and water to prime the beer for bottling.  I boiled the mixture for 5 minutes and then allowed it to cool to room temperature while sanitizing bottles and the bottling bucket.  When the priming sugar was ready, I poured it into the bottling bucket and used gravity to transfer the beer from the fermenter to the bottling bucket.

The fermenter had a thin layer of dead yeast and other material across the top, one of the thinnest I'd encountered to date.  There was also a very thin layer of sediment in the bottom of the fermenter, about an eighth of an inch deep.  The sediment seemed almost stuck to the bottom of the fermenter, allowing me to transfer most of the beer to the bottling bucket.  The wasted beer in the fermenter couldn't have been more than a cup.

I bottled the beer in sanitized, recycled craft beer bottles.  I did only two 22-ounce bombers of this one, figuring that it's probably the kind of beer you won't want to drink a lot of at one sitting.  The beer had a definite peanut butter aroma.  A sample I used for measuring the final gravity 

Tasting Notes

The beer pours a perfect dark brown stout color.  The aroma has a strong peanut butter element, with some roasted malt, chocolate, and coffee behind that.  The flavor is predominantly roasted grain, coffee, and a little chocolate. The peanut butter in the flavor seems fairly subdued. Although stouts aren't overly carbonated, I think this one could do with a little carbonation.

It feels a little watery compared to a couple of stouts I've had recently from local craft breweries.  One of those was a nitro stout, so that's not an entirely fair comparison.  I would consider adding something to give this a little more body if I was going to make it again.

Hops bitterness is nicely balanced in this one.  The fact that it's not sweet or cloying tells you hops bitterness is included, but it's not what you'd call a hoppy brew.  The majority of the bitterness in it seems to come from roasted grain.


Post-Mortem

AIH rates this an easy kit, and I can't argue with them.  Steep the grains, add the extract, bring to a boil, add the hops, wait a bit, chill it down, pitch the yeast, ferment for a while, add the peanut butter flavoring, wait a week, and bottle. Not too tough if you've been brewing a while.

In terms of the brewing process on this one, the only part that was kind of a nuisance was dealing with the extract - but that's only because I wanted to do the boil in The Grainfather so that I could leverage its fast counterflow wort chiller at the end.  I don't plan to make a habit of using the Grainfather in this way as it's not really designed for it, and I'm planning to go all-grain as soon as I use up my remaining extract kits.  Dissolving the extract in another pot and transferring it to the Grainfather for the boil worked as a solution for dealing with extract and not triggering the Grainfather's scorch protection.

If I was going to make this beer again, I'd start with the all-grain kit instead of the extract. At the time I bought this one, I didn't have the equipment for an all-grain brew.  I would also add some oatmeal or something to improve the body, and perhaps some powdered peanut butter to enhance the peanut butter flavor (the aroma of peanut butter is perfect in this one, but the flavor is hard to detect).


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