In October last year I attempted to make my first fruit beer, an American Wheat Beer fermented on dark, sweet cherries called “My Cherry Amor”.
“It is a promising flavour profile that will benefit from a good dose of carbonation,” I wrote, after tasting the raw fermented beer for the first time. “I primed it with a generous 150g of dextrose, aiming for a lively, Champagne fizz.”
Alas, upon opening the first bottle three weeks later, the Champagne fizz was conspicuously lacking. Three months went by, and the beer still refused to wake up. I was at the same fork in the road that I’d met with my Barley Wine, “Memento Mori”—holding a glass of great-tasting beer in desperate need of some carbon dioxide.
One of the great lessons I draw from “Memento Mori” is that there is nothing to lose and potentially much to gain from cutting your losses and making the best of things when a brew doesn’t work out as planned. After brewing a simple young beer and blending it with the non-carbonated main beer, I emerged triumphantly with one of the very best brews from my five years of experimentation.
I therefore decided that the fork in the road I had come to with “My Cherry Amour” would not be a choice between tolerating a failed beer or attempting to rescue it. Rather, I would send this beer off in two new, and radically different directions.
The first path was a relatively simple, straight thoroughfare without too much undergrowth: as with “Memento Mori”, I created a very small batch of young, yeast-innoculated wort and blended it in with the flat “My Cherry Amour”—krausening it, essentially.
I did that in the spring, and now this krausened Cherry Beer is lively and topped with the pink, pillowy foam that I had originally envisaged. There is perhaps a hint of some unruly phenolic compounds that were not there before, but overall this is a good balance between sweetness, tartness and mild funk. A qualified success.
The second path is my latest beer, “Black Forest Stout”. As the name suggests, my aim here is to create a sweet, indulgent, cherry-and-chocolate evocation of the famous gateau, by blending the non-carbonated Cherry Beer with a Stout.
In pursuit of that objective, I introduced two processes that are new to my brewing: cold-steeping the roasted grains; and adding lactose sugar to the wort boil.
Cold-steeping is a relatively modern innovation that has accompanied the rising prominence of so-called “Pastry Stouts”, which aim for smoothness and sweetness over the bitterness and astringency of traditional Stouts and Porters.
Because roasted malts such as Chocolate and Carafa malts or Roasted Barley mainly contribute colour, flavour and aroma to wort rather than fermentable sugars, there is no real need to mash them with the base and caramelised malts in your recipe. One disadvantage of including them in the mash, and especially in the sparge, is that these processes, while extracting very little fermentable sugar, can extract oxidised phenolic compounds from these grains, generating an astringent, sometimes metallic flavour. This is sometimes referred to as the herbstoffe effect. Cold-steeping the grains for around 24 hours aims to extract the desirable flavour compounds without creating these herbstoffe by-products.
My cold-steeped Roasted Barley and Chocolate malts certainly gave off a wonderfully rich, smooth chocolate and coffee aroma, with the subtlest hint of dark cherry in the background. It seemed that we were already some way along the road toward Black Forest Gateau! After steeping, I simply strained the liquid into the Maris Otter and Special B wort, which was already a deep chestnut brown. Then the mix went onto the boil as usual.
Lactose is sugar that occurs naturally in milk. It was first introduced to beer in the 1800s, when “Milk Stouts” were created by simply adding whole milk to the wort. Nowadays it tends to be added as pure sugar. Milk Stouts have made a comeback over the past decade, and the advent of “Milkshake” IPAs and fruit beers has shown what can be achieved when it is applied to different styles.
Lactose is a disaccharide composed of galactose and glucose. Most brewers’ yeasts are unable to metabolise this sugar in the absence of the enzyme lactase, which means that it survives fermentation and lends a silkiness to the finished beer and, above a certain threshold, sweetness. At 500g in the boil, I added a good amount, hopefully enough to give an indulgent lift to this Stout. Alongside a generous helping of wheat and oats in the mash, and a truly absurd dose of cocoa in the boil, my hope is that the result will be a luscious, thick, cakey, smooth pudding of a drink.
The perfect way to bring new purpose to an otherwise lifeless beer!
“Black Forest Stout” (August 2019)
In the mash:
- 4.5kg of Maris Otter malt
- 500g of Special B malt
- 400g of Wheat
- 400g of Oats
- 60 minutes of rest
- 250g of Roasted Barley
- 200g of Chocolate malt
In the boil:
- 40g Perle hops for 60 mins
- 3 litres of Cherry Wheat Beer for 15 mins
- 250g of cocoa powder for 15 mins
- 500g of lactose sugar for 5 mins
- 60 minute boil
Fermented with Wyeast Laboratories 1762 “Belgian Abbey II” (2nd gen.)
Starting Gravity: 1.062 / 15.2° Plato
Finishing Gravity: 1.022