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teucer 09-28-2011 05:00 AM

Campfire Ghost Story Beer (critique please)
 
For Halloween weekend, I'm looking to brew a beer that conjures up the idea of sitting around a campfire swapping ghost stories. I'm looking for something black or nearly so, reminiscent of s'mores in having a toasty base character with strong chocolate notes. I'm also looking to get a muted but woodsy hop aroma, a warming quality, and a little bit of roasted or even smoky flavor, to call up images of a campfire, along with a hard-to-pin-down unusual feature to put drinkers a little bit off their guard - this is a horror beer, after all. I also like the idea of keeping the gravity sessionably low; a good campfire with good ghost stories can last late into the night, and the beer should do the same.

I'm open to suggestions of a different way to do this, but my current thought is a Southern English brown with a little bit of chili pepper for heat. Here's my draft of a recipe:

7# Maris Otter
1# chocolate malt (UK)
1/4# caramel malt 60L
1/4# roasted barley
(estimated OG 1040, color 33L)

1/2oz Northern Brewer 60'
1/4oz Northern Brewer 10'
(18 IBU per Tinseth)

Wyeast London ESB yeast

I'm undecided about how much chili pepper to use, but I was thinking of adding it along with the second hop addition so as to keep the aroma present but understated.

Any input?

jfr1111 09-28-2011 01:30 PM

Southern Brown per the BJCP should have less roasty notes and more caramelly notes. Note that there are a lot of people who argue that the whole Southern/Northern separation between brown ales isn't as clear cut (if it exists at all). This looks more like a brown/robust porter. Which is great, since fall IS porter time.

My recommendations would be:
1) Get rid of the roasted barley
2) Lower the Choc a tad (you are in very roasty brown porter territory here)
3) Up the crystal to 3/4 a pound to a whole pound
4) Don't add chili to this please pretty please.

Biscuit would be a good addition for some graham cracker and nuttyness. Something like half a pound.

teucer 09-28-2011 02:16 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jfr1111 (Post 3337105)
Southern Brown per the BJCP should have less roasty notes and more caramelly notes. Note that there are a lot of people who argue that the whole Southern/Northern separation between brown ales isn't as clear cut (if it exists at all).

I think the distinction is a lot stronger in BJCP style guidelines than in English real ales, yes.

Quote:

This looks more like a brown/robust porter. Which is great, since fall IS porter time.
Yeah, this isn't really a beer where I necessarily want to be precisely to style for anything, but I definitely want it to be appropriate to late fall. Brown ale and porter both fit that intention nicely, and if it lands somewhere in that range I'll be quite happy.

Quote:

My recommendations would be:
1) Get rid of the roasted barley
2) Lower the Choc a tad (you are in very roasty brown porter territory here)
Hm. Since I want something to remind me of fire, wood smoke, and s'mores, I'm definitely trying to get a reasonable amount of a roasty or even smoky character as well as the chocolate notes; I was even thinking about using black patent malt instead of the roasted barley. How about replacing the roasted barley with black patent, and only using an ounce or two? Alternately, losing the roasted barley entirely, how much smoked malt should I use if I want it as a subtle smoky accent rather than making something that tastes like a rauchbier?

Quote:

3) Up the crystal to 3/4 a pound to a whole pound
At that quantity, I usually want to be using two colors. How about 1/2# C60, 1/4# C120?

The one thing I'm a little nervous about for such a thing is that, while I like the flavors crystal can give me, I still want a relatively dry finish. Something heavier on the dark malts and lighter on the caramels will do that; I'm definitely going to want to keep it to under 10% crystal.

Quote:

4) Don't add chili to this please pretty please.
I'm not sure if I would like to or not, but if I do it would be a very small amount to get a subtle warming sensation. I'm very definitely not looking to brew a chili beer.

Quote:

Biscuit would be a good addition for some graham cracker and nuttyness. Something like half a pound.
Ooh. Good call.

bwomp313 09-28-2011 02:21 PM

If you want smokiness, how about a little cherrywood smoked malt?

jfr1111 09-28-2011 02:44 PM

I only use roasted barley for dry stouts and color in bitters. I have never found it to give any smokyness unless you are using the 500L+ stuff in good dosages. Black patent in small amounts might work, it's your beer after all :D, but I don't see it adding smokyness. Chocolate malt never tasted much of chocolate to me either.

3/4 of a pound of C-60 would do it for me. Split it if you want. I wouldn't bother, but I get heartburns if I see more than 2-3 speciality malts in the Beersmith window :D You can always mash a tad lower, add sugar or just use an attenuative strain if you want a drier finish. My special bitter is 1.040 and uses a shade under 10% of crystal, but I control my attenuation by the amount of sugar I add and the strain I use (I mainly mash at 155F). It always finishes @ 1.009-1.011, depending on the strain.

The chili is personal preference. The beer has enough going on without adding non-beer related stuff in it. I'm far from a Bavarian purist, I use sugar in pretty much all my brews, but I draw the line at chili :D

If I could offer up a yeast suggestion, wy1275 Thames Valley would make a marvelous beer in this, especially if you want a drier finish.

teucer 09-28-2011 03:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jfr1111 (Post 3337334)
I only use roasted barley for dry stouts and color in bitters. I have never found it to give any smokyness unless you are using the 500L+ stuff in good dosages. Black patent in small amounts might work, it's your beer after all :D, but I don't see it adding smokyness. Chocolate malt never tasted much of chocolate to me either.

I've always thought of chocolate malt as tasting like chocolate in the same way roasted barley tastes like coffee - there are some flavors in common, but you're not going to mistake it for a beer that has actual chocolate in it.

Large amounts of black patent taste like ash to me. I'd never use more than a tiny bit for exactly that reason, but it's why I thought of it. Smoke doesn't really seem essential here, though I am considering using some smoked malt. (If I did, it wouldn't be very much - I don't want this to be a rauchbier - and I would definitely leave out the chili pepper.)

Quote:

3/4 of a pound of C-60 would do it for me. Split it if you want. I wouldn't bother, but I get heartburns if I see more than 2-3 speciality malts in the Beersmith window :D
Heh. I tend not to want to use too many ingredients either, although the Caribbean stout I made had quite a few and came out very nicely.

Quote:

You can always mash a tad lower, add sugar or just use an attenuative strain if you want a drier finish. My special bitter is 1.040 and uses a shade under 10% of crystal, but I control my attenuation by the amount of sugar I add and the strain I use (I mainly mash at 155F). It always finishes @ 1.009-1.011, depending on the strain.
How much sugar do you use in that? 1.040 and just under 10% crystal seems like about what I'm going for here myself.

Quote:

The chili is personal preference. The beer has enough going on without adding non-beer related stuff in it. I'm far from a Bavarian purist, I use sugar in pretty much all my brews, but I draw the line at chili :D
My rule of thumb is, everything in a recipe other than the water needs to be targeted to flavors you feel are at the core of the beer. When I use sugar, it's because I'm brewing something that needs a lighter body than its gravity might suggest, such as a strong Belgian; while I'm waffling on the chili in this, if it goes in it's because a warming quality would do well at creating that campfire feeling.

Quote:

If I could offer up a yeast suggestion, wy1275 Thames Valley would make a marvelous beer in this, especially if you want a drier finish.
I've never used that one, but reading the description on Wyeast's website it looks like an excellent suggestion.

DeNomad 09-28-2011 03:29 PM

If you are after smoke consider adding liquid smoke to the secondary. It is basically water that has wood smoke driven through it. It is commonly used in beef jerky marinates and BBQ sauce. Should be in your local grocery store next to the BBQ sauce.

teucer 09-28-2011 03:29 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bwomp313 (Post 3337265)
If you want smokiness, how about a little cherrywood smoked malt?

That could be delightful. I don't want a rauchbier or anything else strongly smoky, but a subtle smoke character would be entirely appropriate. I've never brewed with smoked malts before, but one of my local microbreweries has a smoked porter where 15% of the grain is smoked over hickory. That's too much; it tastes like I'm drinking an ashtray (although in a porter some of that may actually be from black patent malt, now that I think about it). But I could see doing something in the 2-5% range.

jfr1111 09-28-2011 03:48 PM

I use anything from 5% to 10% sugar in my special bitters, depending on the yeast strain used, but bitters tend to need a lighter body to get the initial bitter impression and counterbalance the maltyness/crystal.

I use liquid invert, which is very easy to make if you have a good candy thermometer (something I didn't have for my first go and I ended up scorching the sugar):

1) One pound cane sugar, cover with water. 1/4 tsp of cream of tartar is used as an acid.

2) Boil off excess water. Once the temp starts ramping above 235F, you'll know you have boiled off a good chunk of the excess water.

3) Keep between 240F and 245F for 20-30 minutes. This is where the mixture becomes a syrup. If you go above 250F, add water again and keep it at 240-250F for an additional 10 minutes: this will get it "thin" again in the jar.

4) OPTIONAL: you can cook the sugar further by allowing the temperature to raise above 250F. This will darken it and open up new flavours. Ramping up to 325F will produce a good all around amber syrup. You just have to ramp it back down to 240F-250F by water addition and hold it there for a few minutes. It'll get back to syrup form. If not, the syrup becomes a brick that is hard to work with.

Straight cane/demerara sugar will also work: I invert mainly for the color contribution and because I love the process. I have only used invert in the last 3 batches I have done. All my other bitters used cane or even table sugar and they also came out good.

1275 will probably attenute just fine without any sugar though.

teucer 09-28-2011 06:52 PM

So here's the current draft of the recipe. It's got a lot of ingredients, but they each have a specific purpose.

6# Maris Otter - because you need a good base malt
3/4# chocolate malt (UK) - for color, and for the rich roast and chocolate notes it clearly needs
3/4# caramel malt, 80L - just dark enough to fit the theme, without being all 120 which seemed a little much to me
1/2# biscuit malt - to give it that bready, graham-cracker undertone
1/4# cherrywood-smoked malt - a couple percent is an accent, rather than making a true smoke beer, but it definitely captures the campfire idea. I may up this to 1/2#.
1/4# rye malt - a friend suggested this one to give it that faintly off (in a tasty way) quality I think makes sense with the ghost story idea. It's not enough rye to taste like rye, but it'll give it the rye mouthfeel. I may omit this entirely.

Same hop schedule. No spices or peppers, and Wyeast 1275 for a dry finish. Thoughts?


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