Monday, April 30, 2012

Oatmeal Stout - Three Ways - Tasting and Evaluation

Back in March, I posted about using different finishing techiques to create distinctive beers from the same wort.  The basic idea was that homebrewers have a limited amount of time to brew beer, given real life demands and constraints.  Homebrewers also demand variety that cannot be achieved by producing multiple batches of exactly the same beer, even though producing a multiple batches are a more efficient use of time.  So, why not use different finishing techiques to produce different beers from the same initial brew.  I set out to try this process by creating the following beers from the same base oatmeal stout recipe:  oatmeal stout with tincture of grapefruit, oatmeal stout aged on sour cherries, and oatmeal stout aged on cocoa nibs.

Kenny, the owner of my local homebrew store, The Fermentation Trap, and I sat down to evaluate the results of the different finishing techniques recently.  Our goal was to evaluate each beer on its own merits and to see if the finishing methods really produced beers that were distinctive.

Oatmeal Stout with Tincture of Grapefruit: This version was used in the Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale (CAMRA) internal Iron Brewer competition.  The base beer was blended with a tincture made by soaking grapefruit zest in vodka.  Feedback from the Iron Brewer competition indicated that the beer, while well-made, lacked a strong grapefruit character.  When compared to the base beer, grapefruit was definitely present, but was very subtle when evaluated on its own merits.  Otherwise, the beer was very smooth and the wheat augmented the mouthfeel provided by the oats.  It is a recipe modification I will use in the future.

Oatmeal Stout with Sour Cherries:  This version of the stout originated from 1 gallon of unfinished beer, without the grapefruit, that had 1.5 lbs of frozen sour cherries added.  After aging for 10 days, the beer was racked off the fruit and bottle-conditioned.  The beer's aroma is dominated by cherries, almost to the exclusion of other characteristics.  The cherries even drove the beer to have a distinctive pink tinge around the edges of the glass.  The beer's entire flavor profile consisted of cherries, even down to a sour aftertaste.  It was very clear that the beer had lost all evidence of its stout base and was really a cherry - beer.  While not completely objectionable, we both wished that more of the stout came through in the finished beer.

Oatmeal Stout with Cocoa Nibs:  This version of the stout came from 1 gallon of unfinished beer, aged on top of 1.5 ounces of cocoa nibs.  Chocolate came through in the aroma of the beer, reminding both of us of unsweetened baking cocoa, blended with the smell of dry hot chocolate powder.  The flavor of the beer initially reminded me of the base beer, a solid oatmeal stout with increased creamy mouthfeel.  These flavors slowly transformed into dark chocolate with some medium roast coffee, while maintaining the same mouthfeel.  The flavor finishes with a lingering bitterness, but one that likely came from the roasted grains and cocoa nibs, rather than from hops.  This beer was our favorite by far, presenting both the characteristics from the base beer and capturing the intent of its finishing technique.  The cocoa nibs provided a richer creamy character with a solid chocolate presentation.  This version was definitely one I would make again on its own merits.

Playing with finishing techniques was a fun exercise a way to create three different beers.  I would highly encourage our readers to give it a try, if for no reason than you can create more variety, more efficiently.



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