Tag Archives: homebrewing

Once Upon a Two Year Old Stout

This past Sunday I hung out with the family for my nephew’s first birthday party. Much partying was had, the man of the hour seemed to dig the talking Cookie Monster and mini Oscar the Grouch we got him, and I left with a gift of my own. Ever since I began brewing, I would always bring a few bottles of my homebrew for my dad, brother and sister to sample. A few years back I brewed the Founders Breakfast Stout clone recipe published in BYO magazine and I passed out a few bottles to family and friends, keeping most of it, as usual, for myself.

For an extract brew, and the first Stout I made, I thought it turned out pretty nice considering it had been conditioned in the pantry of my apartment as I had no basement or extra refrigerator to store it. I just had to deal with the temps mother nature, radiators and wall unit air conditioning laid on me. Anyway, I drank just shy of 40 bottles of it during the winter of ’09-’10 so it must have been at least ok.  Well, a ghost of homebrew past jumped out at me when I went to grab a bottle of water for my drive back home from the coolest 1-year old’s birthday party I had ever been to. A couple of bottles marked FBS on the cap, in my handwriting, were sitting right in the door of the fridge. Sister and bro-in-law must not have been in a hurry to try it (or maybe they did and decided that those other two bottles were better left untouched). My lucky day. I stole a bottle back from them.

I’ve never had the patience to age anything I brewed for that long. Nor have I brewed many beers that would lend themselves to aging a few years in the first place. My sister’s garage fridge, filled with various beers, juice boxes, bottled water and soda, where this beer has probably been sitting undisturbed for the last 18-20 months has been a good home for it. So tonight, to celebrate the fact that the Blackhawks had their backs against the wall in a must win game and pulled through with a convincing 7-2 victory, I cracked the bottle. Besides, it is mid-April and its 30 degrees and loudly thunder storming a cold, hard, nearly frozen rain here in the western Chicago suburbs. Hockey and Stout feels right this Tuesday evening.

A pour two years in the making.

To my surprise, all of that coffee and chocolate is still very present. Big chocolate sweetness up front followed by a smooth, but quite noticeable, coffee backbone. Even the carbonation held up. One of the problems I remember with this beer was that the head dissipated quickly. I can recall reading up on this and learning that it is the oils present from the coffee beans used in secondary fermentation that work against head retention. I had made a note about doing a cold press for the coffee addition instead of straight beans the next time I made it. Time has done this beer well. I am down to the last few sips as I write this and a slight head remained on this beer throughout.

Two years...two sips remained...not for long.

As it warmed the chocolate took over. The coffee has definitely faded into the background but not in a bad way. Two years later, I’ve got a very nice, full-bodied Stout that falls just slightly on the sweet and smooth side of the style. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t make a great homebrew using extract. I wish I had more of this. I’d enter it in a competition or two and I bet this would score fairly well.  I will be brewing this beer again soon (all-grain this time) and plan on keg conditioning for several months through the summer. This will be a good one to tap sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Gifts keep on givin’.

A few old shots from the making of the Founders Breakfast Stout clone: April 2009. A lot in life sure has changed since then. Tasting great.

Coffee and chocolate just before being added to the boil.

The beer after being conditioned for a month with 2 ounces of Kona coffee added one week prior to bottling.



Enter The Garage

Garage Rock is loosely defined as a raw and primitive form of Rock ‘N’ Roll. That’s pretty spot on. I also like to think of it as Rock ‘N’ Roll in its purest form. The same words could be used to describe homebrewing.

Raw? Sure.

Primitive? I guess it depends on the brewer and their methods.

Pure? Most definitely.

Guitar, bass, drums and a microphone. Water, malt, hops and yeast. Figure out the basics, fire it up and go. You’ll likely get better and pick up a few tricks the more you play.

Many great breweries, and even more great bands, began in the garage…and many great ideas, innovations and inspired moments are conceived when one passionate person starts tinkering around with things in the garage. I’m going to work at creating more of these moments in my life. Many will involve beer.

I started homebrewing in 2007. The kitchen of the old Logan Square (Chicago) apartment that I shared with my then girlfriend became my brewery. Since then, I married that girlfriend, relocated to a house in the Chicago suburbs, moved the brewery out to the garage, and traded in malt extract for milled grain and bottles for kegs.

In this short period of a few years I’ve gotten a bit better at this whole brewing thing. I’m definitely a better brewer today than the day I began, anyway. I’ve still got much to learn and a long way to go. And I will. You can read all about it here if you like. I’ll probably also write about craft beers in general and Rock ‘N’ Roll some, too. I consider both to be saviours and inspirations and I always end up talking or writing about them sooner or later regardless. Besides, in my world, Beer and Rock go together like Bobby and Whitney. If I’m brewing up, I’m rocking out…in the garage.

Garage. Rock. Brewing.  And now you know how I named my brewhouse.

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