June 18, 2018
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A stout success and outdoor spring brewing

Nick McCrea | BDN
Nick McCrea | BDN
Bangor Daily News copy editor Nick McCRea's first home-brew venture resulted in a batch of Broadway Brown Ale, a middle-of-the-road beer with more flavor than a light beer but less overpowering than a porter of dark brew.
By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

Another brew, another success. Just like the Broadway Brown Ale, the Bangor-to-Brussels Stout turned out to be not only drinkable, but also delicious. If things keep going this way, I may develop a bit of a brewing ego — and that will be when things go awry.

Pouring the first Belgian stout into the glass, I was taken aback by how much it resembled most beers that are close to my heart. This stout was a deep, dark brown — just a shade under the black color of a Guinness.

To describe the characteristics of this brew, I’ll continue with the Guinness comparisons, since that’s probably the best-known stout. The Bangor-to-Brussels doesn’t have the thickness of a Guinness, making it feel like less of a meal, but it’s far from being “light.” In taste and aroma, the two beers share some similarities, but the Belgian stout replaces a portion of Guinness’ coffeelike flavor with a touch of sweetness, which I would attribute to the candi sugar from the brewing.

This being a stout, my hope was that it would have a good kick to it. It’s time to whip out the calculator to see if my expectations were met:

Percent of alcohol by volume (ABV) equals [1.05 times (starting gravity minus final gravity) divided by final gravity] divided by 0.79 times 100.

ABV = (1.05 x (1.069 – 1.016) / 1.016) / 0.79 x 100

That makes this beer’s alcohol approximately 7 percent. Not too shabby, but I’ve heard rumors of 10 and 12 percent beers, which I may delve into next time.

While I enjoy the results of this Belgian stout endeavor, I have another brew — a nameless pomegranate-raspberry concoction — bottled and carbonating. I took the brewing of this batch to the great outdoors (OK, my driveway) on a warm mid-March day.

The steps to brewing this batch were much the same as with the others. However, I noticed that a propane-powered turkey burner brought the liquid to temperature and to a boil much more quickly than the electric stovetop I’d used for previous brews.

Brewer be warned: When brewing outside, it’s wise to keep a lid on the pot as much as possible. If one gust of wind carries wild yeast or the wrong bit of debris into the pot, bad things can happen. Once the insects come out, many of them probably would be attracted to the sweet malt extracts, so keep an eye out for them. The last thing you want is a bee and its pollen in your wort.

After adding the grains, malt extract and hops during the cooking process on the turkey burner, I put the pot of boiling wort into what was left of the snowbank next to my driveway. This was a relatively quick way of cooling the brew to about 170 degrees so I could add the pomegranate concentrate.

The cool-down period is meant to prevent the pomegranate concentrate from getting too hot, which could add a film to the beer. Despite only using 8 ounces of concentrate, the fragrance of pomegranates immediately filled the outdoor air. Based on the smell alone, I have a good feeling about this brew.

I would have liked to have used fresh pomegranate in this beer, but it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to find in this part of the country after a long winter. Calls and visits to several grocery and specialty stores revealed that the fruit was well “out of season.” I had to settle for a $10 8-ounce bottle of preservative-free concentrate from Natural Living Center. Expect to pay a bit more if you’re brewing with any out-of-season fruit products. Pomegranates are in season during the fall and early winter months.

The raspberry didn’t come into play in this brew until just before bottling. I allowed the beer to take its time in the primary and secondary fermentation buckets, but when I racked the beer into a third bucket to eliminate any remaining sediment and add priming sugar, I poured in just a few ounces of raspberry extract. This stuff is very potent — you can smell the raspberry through the container even when it is capped and sealed. I just added it slowly, mixing it in, tasting as I went until I got to a point where I was satisfied with the flavor.

Based on those sips of warm, uncarbonated beer, I have a feeling the end product will turn out great.

Some readers might call me out on the fact that I used extracts and concentrates rather than real fruit. I have two responses: I tried, but you go try to find me a pomegranate and see how well you do; and extracts are much easier to use and the result should be nearly identical to what it would have been with fresh fruit.

Other readers (mainly my friends) have teased me for making a “girly” beer. I say to them: Try a sip when it’s done, then talk to me.

However, I would agree that the fruity beer isn’t my usual style. So for my next brew, expect something richer, darker and with a solid kick.

Bring it on. Brew on.

Unnamed raspberry-pomegranate beer ingredients:

Specialty grains:
½ pound Cara-Pils
¼ pound Caramel 60

Malt extract:
2 cans Briess Pilsen Light

2 ounces Cascade pellet hops (1 ounce for 60 minutes, 1 ounce for 15)

Safale S-04 dry ale yeast

8 ounces pomegranate concentrate (or to taste)
Raspberry extract (to taste)

Cost of ingredients: $49

Hopeful Hopster contest continues

The Hopeful Hopster has finished his first nonkit beer. It’s carbonating in the bottles, but is still without a name. I’m leaving it up to readers to help me determine what I’ll call my pomegranate-raspberry beer. The contest will be extended until April 7 to allow for more submissions. By that time, it will be carbonated and ready to drink.

Post suggestions for names for the brew on The Hopeful Hopster Facebook page, or send suggestions to me at nmccrea@bangordailynews.com.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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