Thoughts on this Winter Warmer Recipe
Here is what I've got so far for my winter warmer. The taste I'm more or less shooting for with this is: Imagine being snowed-in in an old cabin in the woods, fire going and probably some old cigar smoke lingering on the furniture. Now put that scene in your mouth. A bit of a hodge-podge I realize, but I can see after some ageing these flavors all blending together really nicely. I'm not totally sure about the star anise, but I've always thought that smokiness and cranberries or dark cherries went well together. I'm not at all set on the hop schedule.
7lbs Light LME
2lbs Crystal 60
8oz Roasted Barley
4oz Smoked Malt
60min - 1oz Chinook
30 - .5oz E Kent Goldings
5 - .5oz E Kent Goldings
Additional junk -
A couple of cinnamon sticks (broken up), a few whole star anise, some nutmeg, and a good amount of black pepper all added near the end of the boil.
Added to secondary - Oak and dried cranberries soaked in bourbon, some fresh ginger (NOT in bourbon) and vanilla (extract maybe?).
A couple of suggestions. But first a question: What smoked malt are you planning on using? I doubt you'll get much if you use beech wood smoked at only 4oz, but with the rest of the recipe, that may be ok. Just keep in mind it makes a big difference which smoked malt you use. Peat smoked will be much more noticeable at 4oz.
Star anise can be quite strong, so just be careful on that one. I would suggest not going over the top on black pepper either. 2lbs of crystal may be too much since the LME often has some type of crystal malt in it. Try to check that out.
The main concern I have is "Oak and dried cranberries soaked in bourbon, some fresh ginger (NOT in bourbon)." How much oak? Chips or cubes? With all the things going on in this recipe, I would think you wouldn't want a lot of oak: an ounce or less if you go with chips. And how much in the way of cranberries? I've never used it, but be careful on that. The point is, in all of this amounts will matter A LOT.
At some point I want to do a peat smoked beer, as I'm a huge fan of Islay Scotch, but with this I was planning on going with the usual rauchmalt. As usual as smoked malts are at least. Looking at my LHBS it might be the beech wood variety, which should be fine, but It sounds like a may need more than 4oz for it to be noticeable. Then again, it's A) not really possible to have all of these flavors on the forefront and B) not really what I'm going for - a more subtle blend of everything.
I'm looking at a few individual "stars" of anise. Maybe 5 or so? I've heard that it's less potent than anise seed, which is why I went with the star rather than seed. As far as the black pepper, I was thinking a 2 tbsp. This seems like a lot, but as with the star anise, the boil should help some of those flavors be more "blendable" rather than sticking out of the overall impression of the beer. Is this sound thinking, or am I totally kidding myself with just 5 minutes of boil?
I'll have to put in some more thought about the crystal. I was mainly looking for that bit a sweetness and body, but the 8oz MD may have that well covered. I was also hoping to get a little extra color from in, which obviously won't come from the MD. Maybe putting just a few oz of chocolate malt in there with the roasted barley to get a darker brown.
With the oak and cranberries, as with the rest, my aim is subtly. I would much rather add too little and end up with an ok brown ale, without much going on. I'm alright if that's the "failure" of this recipe. I was originally leaning towards oak cubes, in which I would probably do a couple of oz, but because I'm impatient (i.e. still have a lot to learn from this hobby) I'm now leaning towards chips. Probably less than 1oz. With the dried cranberries, I was looking at quite a bit more, in the 4oz range. This doesn't seem like something that will come close to overpowering the malt of smoke of this in any amount less than lbs.
Thanks for the imput, I really appreciate the suggestions. Any thoughts on yeast? I don't think that it'll matter a whole lot, so I figured something basic and fairly neutral. Danstar Nottingham?
I would be surprised if you get any noticeable flavor from only 4oz of beechwood smoked malt. I bet you could go up to a pound and have it still be pretty subtle. I haven't ever used star anise (in beer), or black pepper (in beer), so I don't know the right amounts, but I'd suggest err on the side of too little. You'll get some difference from boiling 5 min rather than secondary additions, but I wouldn't count on too much.
I think you're right about the MD, and if you bump the crystal down to 1lb, you still will have a rather dark beer. Sometimes roasted barley is 300L, but most of the stuff I buy is around 500L, and if that's the case your beer will be quite dark and roasty.
You sound on target with the oak and cranberries. As for yeast Nottingham would work just fine. For more options, I would say that any of the Wyeast strains from the British Isles would work too. If you stick with dry yeast, US-05 is another alternative, and was always a favorite for me. Clean and ferments quite well.
I've had good luck with US-05 in the past (and my last two brews). Having reused it most recently, I had a huge cake and it took off like a rocket...literally, there was a mess to clean up, but it ate through over 1.100 in less than a week! Good stuff.
That's good to know color-wise about the crystal60. This is the first time that I've really had a goal in mind with color, so I don't have much experience giving it much, if any thought. With the spices, I'll probably end up doing a bit of a gradual add, sniffing and tasting as I go along to try and get the right balance.
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