Saturday, February 1, 2014

Searching for Fame and Glory – Sea Salt Caramel Stout and Stout Month 2014

I largely brew for my own enjoyment. I also just do not take the time to plan my brewing around homebrewing contests. But my wife, who is not a fan of stouts, suggested that I make a sea salt caramel stout for Stout Month this year. She even went online a looked up a couple of recipes. She is a keeper.

StoutMonth is the glorious month of February when the Mountain Sun breweries put out about a dozen taps per day of the black gold (which rotate virtually every day). Past winners have included an oaked stout and one that tastes like a Girl Scout thin mint cookie (it's good). While a sea salt caramel stout is brewed by a few places, I thought it was intriguing enough that it might have a chance. Game on.

Countdown on the window of Under the Sun
For the ingredients, I combined an errand to pick up a Bob stroller in Longmont with a chance to check out a different homebrew shop - The Bald Brewer. The guy was really cool and we had a good conversation as I went around getting my ingredients. I adapted the recipe off of one that I found on BrewToad. I picked up some caramels from King Soopers and went back home to make the starter.

The Yeast Starter – Sat. 19 Oct.

For yeast I went with the White Labs WLP 002 – Engish Ale Yeast. The flavor from this yeast turned out great, although like Engish Ale yeasts it did settle out rather quickly. If I had it to do over again I would have roused the yeast after about a week of primary fermentation. The starter followed my usual procedure of 100 g of DME boiled in a liter of water for 12 minutes.

Brew Day – Sun. 20 Oct.

I mostly followed the online recipe. I did a full wort boil (all 5 gallons) spread out over two pots that I staggered by 15 minutes. I split the specialty grains, hops, sea salt and caramel equally (roughly) between both pots. Given that a stout does not have that many hop additions this worked well and was not too much trouble.
Pot on the left: malt extract added, pot: steeping the specialty grains
I made a few small modifications to the recipe – I cut out about half of the lactose. I did not want a cloyingly sweet beer. I also threw in a whole oz of perle (instead of the 1/2 oz. called for) because, well, what am I going to do with an extra half ounce of hops? I put the caramels and sea salt in with about 15 minutes to go.

Fermentation started pretty quickly and went strong for about a day and a half before calming down a bit.

Bottling – Mon. 4 Nov.

I gave this one a little over two weeks – which was probably a mistake. My reasoning was that my wife was about a month out from our due date and I wanted to make sure this was bottled in time for the stout month entry date on 4 Jan.

Other logistical notes

The brew day started at 5:55 and was wrapped up by 9 pm – a little over 3 hours. Bottling took around 2 hours. The starter took around 30 minutes. Total time was around 6 hours.  Total costs were $52.78 plus probably a dollar or two for the caramels (I already had the salt). We will just call the total costs around $55. I got about 48 bottles out of the deal for a price of around $1.15 a brew.


The beer turned out really good. As my Boulder friends will be sad to see, it did not win – but there are some good homebrewers here, so I feel it’s like saying “I didn’t win the Bolder Boulder” – people understand that you can still have done well.

After about a month some of the bottles turned out a little overcarbonated. If I did this one again I would give it another month or so in a second carboy. I do not have precise temperature control at the house and so I think it may have just needed more fermentation time (It has been a cooler winter). It is also possible that rousing the yeast could have helped. Oh well, I may just have to brew it again.

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