Gluten-Free Frankenstein Porter w/ Oak January 21 2021, 0 Comments

I've made 6 batches so far (I think). It's been a ton of fun and I've learned a lot. One thing I haven't tried yet is a dark beer. And since we're going into not just winter but pandemic winter, I better have some dark beer on hand to get me through those short days and long nights.

Another reason I'm making a dark beer is that it makes a good Frankenstein Beer. At some point, most every homebrewer has made one of these. It was a yearly occurrence for me when I was making glutenous brews. You've got a fairly random assortment of ingredients, a few ounces of this, a couple ounces of that, laying around. Not enough to feature in a beer, but too much to toss.

So you make a Frankenstein Beer. With me, it usually ends up being a porter. I was given a bunch of small sample packets of a wide variety of gluten-free malts. And while I didn't throw ALL of them in this brew, I did throw quite a few in. And keeping with the theme, I had just a smidge of whiskey and a smaller smidge left of dark rum, so I soaked a couple of oak staves from an Old Sugar Distillery barrel and will toss them into the secondary fermenter.

The Recipe

  • 8lb White Pale Millet Malt from Grouse Malting Co
  • 1.5lb Crystal Rice Malt
  • 1.3lb Light Biscuit Rice Malt
  • 8oz Munich Millet Malt
  • 8oz Chocolate Millet Malt
  • 7oz Gas Hog Rice Malt
  • 4oz James Brown Rice Malt
  • 4oz Crystal Rice Malt
  • 4oz Biscuit Rice Malt
  • 3oz Dark Rice Malt
  • 2lb Rice Hulls
  • 1lb D-180 Belgian Candi Syrup (Boil)
  • 1/2lb Maltodextrin (10 min)
  • .65oz Magnum Hops Hops (60min)
  • 1oz Wisconsin grown Cascade Hops (flame out)
  • Lallemand London ESB dry yeast
  • 1 tsp Wyeast Beer Nutrient (10 min)
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (10 min)
  • 1/2 Campden Tablet (pre-mash)
  • 15g Ondea Pro brewing enzymes (mash)
  • 10g Ceremix Flex brewing enzymes (mash)

The Mash

I'm experimenting with my process a bit to see if I can bring out a bit more body without losing efficiency in the process. But I also don't want to change too much at once, so I know which changes are making the difference. So this time I increased my mash temperature to 165 and decreased the amount of enzymes I used by about half. Next time I think I'm going to try a step mash and fly sparge instead of batch sparge. But for this batch, it's a single infusion mash with a batch sparge at 175F.

This will be a theme throughout this post, but the mash went perfectly. Hit the mash temp right on the nose, after 90 minutes everything was converted, hit my volumes just right, and the wort heading into the boil kettle was quite clear.

The Boil

My volume was dead on coming out of the mash, so I didn't have to audible anything on this one. Pretty simple boil, 60 minutes, some hops right at the beginning, some additives at 10 minutes, and some hops at flame out. It went great. Seriously, I don't remember the last time I had a brew day go this smoothly.

After chilling the brew down, I filled my fermenter with exactly 5.5 gallons and had a gravity of 1.064. Since the target was 1.063, I'll take it!

Maybe I just have to smoke some burnt ends every time I brew. Those were delicious too :)

Post Boil

This is the first time I've fermented with the London ESB dry ale yeast. I've read that it is a quick fermenter and leaves a little bit of sweetness and body behind. Both of these turned out to be correct.

After 5 days, fermentation was completely finished, even though the fermentation temperature was a little low, around 65F. And the gravity was 1.023. And the beer tasted really nice. Definitely has a roasty character. And there is a little residual sweetness, but once it's cooled down and carbonated, I think it'll be just right.

After a week, I transferred the beer to a 5 gallon carboy and added 2 oak staves made from Old Sugar Distillery whiskey barrels that had been soaked in whiskey and dark rum. I went ahead and added the booze as well, it was only a couple ounces. I left it in the secondary fermenter for 2 weeks on the oak and then kegged up the batch.

Two days before kegging, I added some Super-Kleer finings. I had read that beer fermented with London ESB dry yeast can end up looking pretty turbid, and after three weeks in the fermenter, it definitely did.

Final Verdict

Even though I'm a hop head through and through, this is a really nice beer. Pours with a solid, thick head, the beer is dark but when held up to the light is a brilliant amber-reddish color, has a nice body, is malty but not cloyingly sweet, pleasant roasty and chocolate characters, some raisiny flavors, a hint of oak and booze, just a good winter brew.

If I would change anything, I think I would want a little more roast / chocolate / coffee / burnt character in there. Just to make it a little more "portery." But a real fine beer overall. 

Lessons Learned

  • Keeping good notes is so important. Each brew session has gone more smoothly than the previous one, and I think a lot of it is really taking note of what works, what doesn't, how much liquid is left in a vessel, etc. Tracking all of this information allows you to keep tweaking your processes and what assumptions you use in your brewing software (I use BeerSmith) and recipes.
  • I need to plan for more time in the fermenter when using oak. While I didn't want this beer to taste like a tree, the two weeks on the oak staves was not enough. Next time I think I'll try and double it.

Up next is either a light lager or yet another IPA, this time loaded down with Sultana (Denali) and Azacca hops!