After Ales for ALS I was probably overdue to brew my next batch of Curly’s Milk Stout, my flagship brew. I still have about six bottles left from Batch 1.3, I found four bottles from Batch 1.2, and still have a 22 ounce bomber from the beer’s first iteration Batch 1.1. Once this batch is complete I’ll have to do a vertical tasting of all four versions and notate any perceived differences.
Recipe-wise I had to make some last-minute changes. Whenever I buy a lot of ingredients at once I always forget at least one. This time it was the Medium English Crystal malt which augments the sweetness of the lactose. Instead of going out of my way to buy one pound of grain I substituted a half pound respectively of 60L American Caramel Malt and German Caramel Wheat Malt. These were leftover malts from earlier batches. Since I mill my own grain at home they were still fresh. I don’t anticipate this having much of an effect on the flavor, but I could be wrong.
One change I do think will have a noticeable effect is that this batch will be fermented with a different yeast. I haven’t used the Burton Ale yeast the recipe calls for in several months. I had a jar of yeast that I harvested from the Midlands Mild back in July. I tried to use it to make a yeast starter for this batch to build up enough yeast cells for fermentation and to save for future batches.
The first problem I ran into was that I couldn’t find a yeast stir bar. That’s the pill-shaped magnet that goes inside of the flask and stirs the yeast. In a year and a half I have lost three of them. I still thought I could make my starter without one by adding pure O2 to the starter and shaking it every so often. After two days there was no sign of krausen inside the flask, and there was a noticeable sulfur aroma. At this point I didn’t have time to buy new yeast and build a yeast starter.
Situations like this is where dry yeast can be a lifesaver. All you need to do is hydrate the yeast and pitch it into the wort. I used a packet of Nottingham yeast that had a “best by” date of February 2016, so it is good that I used it beforehand. Nottingham has a much cleaner profile than Burton Ale. When I do my vertical tasting of all four batches I can decide which yeast works the best in this beer.
Procedurally I experimented with boiling more of my wort. My electric stove-top isn’t capable of boiling the full volume of the batch. I tried to boil four gallons in my eight gallon kettle when I brewed my English Golden Ale. The boil was very soft and the resulting beer was cloudy. When I reduced my boil volume in my Cream Ale, the clarity greatly improved. Here I mashed in my right gallon kettle before transferring to my five gallons kettle to boil. I was able to brew about four and a half gallons this way. The lack of airspace in the smaller kettle and smaller diameter (which placed more of the wort over the burner) made a huge difference.
I still plan to make coffee and chocolate variants. I will use half the amount of coffee and double the amount of chocolate I used last time as I perfect the amount of both to add.
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