Smoked Porter 2012

>> Sunday, January 29, 2012

Today I'm brewing a Smoked Porter that with any luck should turn out similar to Alaskan Brewing Co.'s Alaskan Smoked Porter.

This was the first brew using my newly finished grain mill.  Everything worked well and I milled using the factory gap of 0.045".  I should get more predictable efficiencies regardless of whether I buy grain locally or via the Internet.

The original recipe called for WLP001 California Ale Yeast.  WLP001 is a pretty neutral yeast and ferments very clean.  I've never used Cry Havoc before but from what I've read it's also very clean when fermented at cooler temps.  It's worth mentioning, Cry Havoc is capable of fermenting at both ale and lager temps.  For this recipe, I'll be fermenting at 58F which is at the warmer end of this yeast's lager range.  Ester production should be minimal, so I'm expecting final results similar to WLP001.  Per the reviews I've read, this yeast can sometimes have a hard time fully attenuating.  Because of this, I'm going to mash lower than the original recipe called for.

8.75 # Briess Pale Malt
4.00 # Munich Malt 10L
1.25 # Chocolate Malt
0.50 # Black Patent
1 oz Chinook 60 min
1 oz Willamette 10 min
WLP862 Cry Havoc Yeast

Recipe Notes:  The entire grain bill was smoked over a combination of cherry, apple, and hickory woods.  Grains were mashed at 151.5F.  5.2 pH Stabilizer was used in the mash.  I've used the 5.2  pH  Stabilizer in a few batches now and it seems to be working well.  I don't have a  pH  meter, but I have  pH  test strips and it seems to do a great job of maintaining optimal mash pH.  It's pretty cheap and it's one less thing to worry about.

Brewing Notes:
Most of my brew days go smooth; today was the exception.  I had two boil-overs because I wasn't paying close enough attention during the boil.  I'm going to pick up some Fermcap-S one of these days so that I don't have to worry about messy boil-overs anymore.

I had a couple issues after the boil as well.  To chill the wort, I usually go from kettle to pump to hop/trub filter to plate chiller to fermentor.  This time I decided to try to recirculate from the chiller back to the boil kettle.  This should have resulted in cooling the entire batch at once.  A good idea but the hop/trub filter clogged on me...twice.  When I took the hop/trub filter apart, I temporarily misplaced one of the tri-clover gaskets.  Not the kinds of things I expected but all in all it was still a good brew day.  Hopefully DMS won't be an issue in this beer.

Also worth mentioning when brewing smoked beers, I brewed a rauchbier a while back and ran into some issues.  When brewing smoked beers, make sure the chlorine has been removed from your brewing water.  You can do this a couple different ways including pre-boiling or using a good carbon water filter.  If chlorine is present in your brewing water, you will most likely end up with chloropenols in your finished product.  Long story short it smells and tastes like plastic band-aids...not good.  From what I can tell, it doesn't age out, so if it's there you might as well dump the batch.

Updated 4/25/2012
This beer turned out great.  It has a nice mellow and subtle smokiness.  I actually prefer a bit more of a smoky profile but I think most people would probably prefer a subtle smoke like this one has.  Next time I'll probably use all hickory and smoke the grain a bit longer.  The Cry Havoc yeast seemed to work well although it didn't dry out as much as I would have liked,  That seems to be fairly common with this yeast.  On the plus side, there was no hint of any kind of band-aid flavors or DMS.

I had my wife pick up a bottle of Alaskan Brewing's Smoked Porter on a recent trip to Vegas.  I haven't had a chance to do it yet but I'll do a side by side tasting at some point.

Update 8/3/2012
As I mentioned before, this beer turned out great.  It recently finished 2nd place in my club's Porter competition.  It probably would not have done as well if the smoke character had been more pronounced like I wanted.