If you have ever been to the Samuel Adams brewery in Jamaica Plain the first thing that becomes evident is how small it actually is. On the tour, the tour guides acknowledge that almost all of the Samuel Adams products sold at the packie are in fact brewed at facilities in Pittsburgh and Ohio. The Boston Beer company only leases a portion of the old Haffenreffer Brewery which acts as their corporate headquarters and the site of their test brewery.
Developing and perfecting a recipe takes lots of trial and error. For the Hot Stove Porter I started with a blank slate and used several ingredients for the first time: malted oats, several of the hop varieties, and the yeast strain. It is one thing to have an idea of how all these different flavors would compliment each other in the final beer, it is another to see it in action.
The Hot Stove Porter pours a very dark brown with mahogany highlights. Lightly carbonated, the beer has a thin off-white head with good persistence. There is a roast coffee aroma complimented nicely with an earthy and unfortunate grassy aroma from the hops.
The beer is medium-bodied thanks to the malted oats. The malted oats don’t seem to contribute the same silkiness or almost sweetness that flaked oats would (like you would find in an oatmeal stout). I probably would want to mash at a slightly higher temperature to increase the body and leave a touch more residual malt flavor. The finish is quite dry. I don’t mind it, but it could some might find it to be bitter.
There is sweetness up front, then the hop flavor and a big roasted flavor kicks in. What was missing was any discernible citrus flavor. I actually added the tiniest Centennial hop pellet I had to a bottle, re-capped it, and tried it side-by-side with another bottle. My girlfriend didn’t notice much of a difference, but she may well have just been annoyed that I asked her to stop what she was doing to do some blind taste test. I thought the beer with the Centennial was better. For next year I think I will add some Cascade to compliment the Mosiac and British hops.
The beer also had a grassy flavor. This can be a defect caused by dry hopping for too long, hop material making it into the bottle, or hops from the boil making it to the primary fermenter. In this case I think it was just the hop varieties I selected. British hops are notorious for adding a grassy flavor when used in large enough quantities. Subsequent research indicated that Mosaic can do that as well. Hopefully tweaking the hops will reduce the grassiness as well as adding additional complexity of flavor.
I think the beer is good. It doesn’t taste exactly like a spiced Christmas beer, but it does have some spiciness to it. The esters from the Burton Ale yeast complemented the beer perfectly. By adjusting the mash temperature and adjusting the recipe just a little I think I can get this beer exactly how I want it to be. More trial and error is in order. Maybe I can try adjusting the recipe early in 2015 so it is how I want it next Christmas.