Greetings! I've been lurking here for awhile and it seems that I've gotten through my first batch of beer without screwing it up or losing my sanity, due in large part to spending way too much time on this forum. Thanks guys!
I'm getting my stuff from NW Brewer's Supply in Anacortes, WA, and started out with a Cooper's Dark Ale kit augmented with 4 pounds of amber malt extract. It's been bottled for about three weeks and seems to have turned out drinkable! Not anything to write home about just yet, but hey.
So given my typical tendency to jump in with both feet, I went ahead and brewed up a batch of their Wooley Porter next (am I allowed to link to the website?), which is currently in primary and what I'm curious about. I got a bag of mystery steeping grains, 2 packets of mystery hops, 7 pounds of amber malt extract, and a smack pack of the apparently-notorious Wyeast 1176 Ringwood Ale.
The recipe was for a 2.5 gallon boil. I had a big stockpot, so I boiled 4 gallons instead. Steeped the grains at 155 degrees F for 30 minutes, then added the extract and started to heat everything up. I was doing this on my stove and getting up to a no-kidding boil took FOREVER. Note for future reference: get a turkey fryer. Boiled for 70 minutes, Hop Packet A at boil and Hop Packet B at 60 minutes. Cooled it down, added another gallon of water, and got a OG of 1.068 at 74 degrees, which corrected to 1.070. That's about 0.016 higher that the recipe called for; which is my first question. What caused me to shoot up this high? Did taking so long to get up to a boil create more fermentables? Would that chemical reaction even affect the density of the wort?
Anyhow, pitched yeast at 74 degrees; they took about 2 days to get moving but then started bubbling away happily. Fermometer showed around 68 degrees for most of the first 3 days; I rigged a swamp cooler at about day 4 to try to keep things under control in my overinsulated condo. That whacked it down to 62 degrees (oops), so I backed off. Things stayed there until yesterday when they got back up to 68. At 9 days in, they've chomped it down to a 1.022 SG, which as I understand it is within in the expected attenuation limits for Ringwood. I'm debating stirring things up again, but either way it's sitting in Primary for at least another week.
That leads into my second question. I took a taste of my gravity sample last night. Wow. This stuff is roasty. I'm not complaining; I like my beer to stand up and smack me in the face. But it's to the point where I'd like to balance that with something else. There's no real hint of smoke, but more of a big coffee-like taste. No hint of butterscotch from the Ringwood. I've thought about racking to secondary and adding bourbon and/or vanilla beans; would lactose help to add some sweetness?
Finally, I looked over the BJCP style guidelines for kicks. With the gravity and tasting notes I'm reading, this doesn't seem to be in their "Porter" category. So what is this strange beast I've created? All I know is that it's going to be fun to see how it turns out.