Brew Day: Entry of Convenience (Baltic Porter)

Welp, I guess the last couple months got away from me. Lately that is my stock answer for when I don’t get around to doing things. “Sorry I didn’t do XXXX until now, the day/week/month just got away from me.”

The malt business has been keeping me busy. I was lucky enough to attend Brew Your Own Magazine‘s Bootcamp in San Diego with Muntons. In between talking to brewers, I was able to mingle with brewing luminaries. I sat in on a session with Mitch Steele and learn about Advanced Hopping Techniques, and Advanced Homebrew Techniques from Gordon Strong. I have already started to apply those lessons.

Additionally I have visited in no particular order Northern Maine, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Maryland, Pittsburgh, and Ontario. The good news is unlike my last lengthy gap in posting on the blog I have been brewing.

After entering a lot of competitions last year and picking up my first medals, I haven’t been active in entering competitions this year. Really I have been focusing on just brewing beers Jennie and Ilike to drink and enjoying drinking them on tap. It is crazy how much more homebrew we have been drinking since we have the keezer. As far as competitions go, the National Homebrew Competition is a different story.

This year I will be making my triumphant return to HomebrewCon. Instead of going as an attendee, I will be there as a vendor representing Muntons. Everyone at HomebrewCon is given a badge. The AHA also gives out ribbons to stick to your badge. Last time I received a ribbon for judging the final round at NHC. If memory recalls, vendors, presenters, and NHC finalists also got ribbons. I want to have as many pieces of flare as possible! I know I will get vendor and NHC judge ribbons; the one I want the most is NHC finalist!

To maximize my odds of having a beer advance beyond the preliminary round I applied for the maximum of six entries. The plan was to brew and re-brew my beers that had performed the best in competition. In the end I was only awarded four entries.

Pa’s Lager, my only first place winner is an automatic, and I rebrewed a three gallon batch. I was very happy with my first batch of Galloupe St Gold. Even though I did not entered it into competition, I am confident it can do well with a couple of tweaks. After taking a pull of Thomas Brady’s Ale I bottled it up and made that my third entry. I wasn’t sure what my fourth entry would be.

Eamon, my old boss at Modern Homebrew Emporium had applied for entry into NHC the past two years and not received any entries. I offered to brew a collaboration beer with my fourth entry and our marriage of convenience was formed.

Eamon’s suggestion was to brew his outstanding Baltic Porter. Baltic Porter being a high gravity and high alcohol style, I wanted to brew it as soon as possible to give the beer as much time to condition as possible. I took Eamon’s malt profile and approximated it as best as I could with the malts I had in my inventory.

Just like Gordon Strong suggested, I didn’t mash my colored malts.
Instead I added them at the end of the mash.

In his talk at the BYO Bootcamp, Gordon Strong was a big proponent of not mashing roasted malts. Adding roasted malts at the end of the mash and before sparging will provide color and flavor just like steeping specialty malt during an extract batch will. Most extract brewers steep specialty malt for 30 minutes. That is basically how long a mashout and/or sparge will last. The benefit is that this method extracts less harshness from darker malts.

A gas stove makes yeast starters so much easier!

Baltic Porter is a cold-fermented style. Lager yeasts are commonly used, but a relatively clean ale yeast can work if fermented cool enough. I made a 2000 ml starter of Darkness from Imperial Yeast. Like Guinness Blonde American Lager I would ferment the beer at a cooler temperature to produce a clean beer.

The beer isn’t quite at pitching temp, but my
controller is set for 64F. This setup worked great!

To control my fermentation temperature I fermented the beer in my cold basement. My basement sits in the low to mid 50s during the winter and has allowed me to brew lots of great lagers. To get into the temperature range of my yeast, I plugged in a heat wrap to a temperature controller. I purchased a thermowell stopper. The thermowell is a metal tube closed on one end. By putting the probe from my conroller into the thermowell, I can measure the temperature inside the carboy.

I fermented the beer at 65F, before ramping it up to 70F for a diacetyl rest, and then unplugged the heat and let the beer cool to basement temperature.

I bottle conditioned two gallons to make sure I had enough bottles for NHC as well as any other competitions I may want to enter the beer in. The remaining three gallons I racked into a keg for keg conditioning.

The samples I pulled were so smooth and full-bodied. The flavor reminded me of a Fudgesicle. I think the overall balance is there. The judges may think the beer is light for the style. We shall see!

See full recipe here

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