Saturday, November 5, 2011

Second Homebrew Batch : Bad Santa Chocolate Cherry Stout

With one solid batch under my belt I was ready to start planning my holiday brew. After trying a delicious Stone Brewing Co. collaboration Cherry Chocolate Stout, I decided that was the direction I wanted to pursue.

I started with a Brewer’s Best English Stout base and added 1 lb of chopped Baker’s Chocolate at flame out. Brew Camp had just started ordering a line of pasteurized fruit purees from Vinter’s Blend and recommended the sweet cherry puree for secondary fermentation. A few recipes I read suggested cherry extract, but again I was much against adding artificial flavoring for fear of that “cough syrup” aftertaste. Vanilla beans were also a key part of this recipe. I used one chopped bean during the boil - the chopping helped extract the flavor, versus throwing it in there whole. In the secondary I sliced the bean lengthwise and scooped out the “caviar” insides, adding both to the secondary fermentation.

I followed the same schedule here - 1 week in primary, 2 in secondary and a month in bottle fermentation.  Because of the style of stout this one ended up being much lighter than I expected. I also found that the natural cherries were a bit tart. People definitely seemed to like the combination of flavors, but I definitely learned some ways to create more balance for the future when using fruit.

For the labeling I hired my very talented illustrator buddy Matt Synowicz to bring my “Bad Santa” to life. In addition I was really interested in trying wax bottle sealing a la Maker’s Mark. Much to my dismay it turns out that craft stores such as Michael’s and Joanns no longer carry wax beads for candle making and I found them to be outrageously expensive online plus the color choices were limited. Because the internet is amazing I was able to find a link to a homemade wax seal recipe using melted hot glue gun sticks and crayons, which allows you to customize the colors to pretty much anything you want. With the help of a very brave friend, we embarked upon the adventure of melting wax and glue in a soup can over my kitchen stove. There was a very fine balance of the right ratio of wax:glue, the right temperature and the ability to work extremely fast without burning yourself. It became a bit addicting to get “the best drip”. We did about a dozen of the bottles and were pretty happy with how it turned out. I will say though the feedback from friends was that the wax was extremely difficult to cut off, so it is probably something I’d do only for show and good photo opp in the future.