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Winter Sail (homebrew stout)

I have got another homebrew fermenting away. I’ve called this one “Winter Sail”; originally I was going to call it “Winter Sale” because, rather than following a carefully constructed recipe it is all about using up malt and hops that have been sitting in my store too long. That sounds rather prosaic though and, since I am clearing the decks, I’ll ride the waves with the more romantic “Winter Sail”.

For the grain bill I had 1425g of pale malt, 125g of crystal malt and 425g of chocolate malt. That is a very high amount of chocolate compared to what is normally featured in recipes but, since it was quite well past its best before date, I decided to throw it all in. My wort has a rich aroma, almost like burnt coffee but I am hoping this will result in a nice, chewy stout. I calculated the amount of water to use roughly based on Alexander’s A Guide to Craft Brewing (Crowood Press, Wiltshire, 2006, p75) although adjusted to not overwhelm the capacity of my vessels.

First I mixed the grains in my brewing bag, put them in the big stockpot, and added 3l of water at 60°C. This steeped for half an hour before I poured on a further 1.5l of water at 80°C, probably a bit too hot so I did lots of stirring until readings came out lower. I then kept the temperature (roughly) between 66-68°C for 40 minutes, raising it towards 75°C for another 10 minutes. I then used another 7.5l of water at 80°C to sparge the grains, using a plastic colander and another pot (and rubber gloves). My variable temperature kettle was a boon here as I could heat water in batches directly to temperature, pour it on and then give the bag a squeeze.

After emptying out and rinsing the bag, I added 16g of Fuggles hops into the bag and put it back into the wort, bringing the temperature to a gentle boil. This was the fuzziest stage as it took ages to reach boiling and so I probably spent over an hour rather then the 50 minutes I had planned. Another 16g of the same hops were then added for the last ten minutes; quite a high level of hopping but these were relatively old hops.
Trying to cool the wort took a long time. After several sink fulls of cold water, I eventually transferred it to a sanitised brewing vat and put it by the back door for a few hours. It turned out I only had about 10l (I thought I had a little more) so I could have gone with plan A, which was to fill up a heavy duty 10l plastic jerry can and leave it overnight. It did mean I could finish the brew off in the evening though. Once down to 21°C (OG 1.042), I pitched in my rehydrated Nottingham yeast (I’m not sure how much, as I’d used some from the packet previously). I gave the wort a good mix both before and after pitching using my stick blender to ensure adequate hydration to support the aerobic phase of the yeast’s life cycle.
This filled two 5l water bottles, which are now sitting upstairs with my new brew belt helping me apply a bit of warming from time to time. This morning, fermentation has clearly started so I now need to keep an eye on it and watch for the point where it levels off.

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