Thursday, January 12, 2012

Homebrew: Irish Chocolate Stout



Irish Chocolate Stout, the homebrew variety.  Not my homebrew, mind you.  I enjoy drinking craft beer, but I would not have the patience to craft it myself.  I'll leave that to people like my neighbor, Matt, who supplied this great beer for my tasting pleasure.  (Incidentally, I found out about Matt's affinity for beer when we ran into each other at Yorktoberfest, which I wrote about here and here.)

This was the first time that I've ever had the opportunity to try a homebrew, and I certainly hope it won't be my last!  I was impressed with how professional it tasted, especially since Matt tells me he brewed it in his kitchen!  I feel like it was something I could have bought at the local Mix-a-Six (even though there really aren't too many of those local to York, PA...but I digress).

Being that this is a homebrew, I was expecting to write that I didn't have any beery stats for you.  In fact, I even drafted the following:
Sure, homebrewers can have their beer analyzed at a laboratory in order to figure out the ABV and IBUs [1], but that costs money [2].  Precious money that could be put right back into crafting more beer.  I don't know about you, but I'd forgo the numbers in favor of more beer!
But it turns out that I was wrong - Matt tells me that the ABV should be around 4.5-5.0%, and using the beer's specific gravity, he feels that it's probably closer to 5.0%.  Also, the IBU was around 36-37.  He gave quite a few other details too - I'll share a few here.  The chocolate flavor was introduced using an extract.  (Incidentally, his next chocolate brew will use cocoa powder for comparison.)  Matt says, "I let my beer carbonate in the bottle.  It's an old school technique, but I think it allows the flavor to come through a little better and smoother than pushing CO2 through it in a keg."  It sounds like it takes at least two months until the beer matures:  one week in the primary fermenter, two to three weeks in the secondary fermenter (a glass carboy [3]), and about a month to age.  After that, Matt says he tests one bottle a week until he feels it's ready to drink.

Speaking of being ready to drink, let's get to the good stuff!

This stout was as dark as can be.  The frothy, caramel-colored head dissipated shortly after pouring.  A cursory whiff put me in mind of Tröegs JavaHead Stout [4].  A deeper inhalation brought a sweeter smell, almost a Hershey syrup scent.  My tastebuds soon realized the sweet flavor.  The initial impression: sweet, just like the smell.  As the liquid washed over the back of my tongue, the stout flavor kicked in.  Aftertaste was sweet as well, though not sickeningly so.  It had the right balance of strong stout and chocolaty sweetness to satisfy.

A very smooth, easy-to-drink beer, which backs up Matt's assertion that bottle carbonation lends to a better, smoother brew.  Overall, this Irish Chocolate Stout was excellent!  So do you craft your own brews at home?  What interesting combinations have you tried?  I'd be interested to hear what you have to say!  Just leave a comment or "tweet" me @BrewReviewMann.  Prost!

Footnotes:
[1] One of Justin's Brew Reviews's most popular posts, "How Does Your Beer Measure Up?", goes into more detail about ABV, IBU, and color.
[2] In the same post referenced in Footnote 1, I mentioned that you can have a laboratory perform this test on your beer for about $10.  Unfortunately, I did not cite where I found this information - I apologize for that oversight.  I just "Googled" it and found a helpful blog post informing readers that White Labs performs this testing for a reasonable amount of money.  For your consideration, homebrewing reader.
[3] Having no idea what a glass carboy was, I had to look it up (see picture on right, courtesy of this blog).  I've seen these before and knew that they were used in homebrewing, but I had no idea that it was called a carboy!  Wikipedia says that a carboy's capacity is typically five to fifteen gallons (that's 40 to 120 pints according to www.onlineconversion.com) and that they are also known as a demijohn (anyone else thinking about "Music Man" now, or is it just me?).
[4] Admittedly, I reference Tröegs' brews a lot.  What can I say?  I love 'em!  That being said, this comparison should speak volumes.