BIAB#6: Sloan (Sloe Stout)

For the @brewstore Homebrew Society, August 2014 (random ingredient/style challenge)

As those of you who’ve read the blog before might well know, Kev and Jono are regular attenders at Edinburgh’s original, biggest and best (only?) Homebrew Club run by the marvellous people from Edinburgh’s original, biggest and best (only?) homebrew shop, Brewstore. These really are great evenings and are probably the one thing that has accelerated both our enthusiasm for, and proficiency at, brewing our own beer more than anything. It’s fun too and there are some really excellent beers on show every month. If you’re in Edinburgh, or have an equivalent nearby, do give it a try.

Anyway, digressing again! At the July meeting we played a little game. There were two bags there with slips of paper inside. One with a range of beer styles inside and another bag with a bunch of random ingredients. Yep, you guessed it, everyone interested drew one of each and that was their beer to brew for the following month. We gave it a go and drew Sloes and Stout. We were delighted with that as a result, especially when you consider some of the beers that others selected. Banana Lager? Liquorice IPA? Cardamom Eisbock?

Anyway, it was Jono’s turn to develop the recipe and this is what he came up with.

Sloan (10l)
GRAIN
1800g    Concerto Malt  (62%)
210g      Flaked Oats  (7%)
200g      Flaked Wheat  (7%)
130g      Chocolate Malt  (5%)
130g      Flaked Barley  (5%)
120g      Crystal Malt  (4%)
110g      Peated Malt  (4%)
110g      Roasted Barley  (4%)
50g        Lactose
30g        Black Malt (1%)
HOPS
10g       Fuggles / 6g Green Bullet @ 60m
10g       Fuggles / 6g Green Bullet @ 20m
ALSO
100g     Hazelnuts in the Mash (10g/l)
20g       Dried Sloes @ 60m
20g       Dried Sloes @ 20m
150g     Cocoa Powder / 25g Cocoa Nibs @ 10m
SECONDARY
60g       Lactose / 40g Dried Sloes / 2 vanilla pods for 7 days
YEAST
White Labs California Ale (2nd Generation)

VITAL STATISTICS
OG: 1066
FG: 1016
ABV: 6.8%
IBU: 48
SRM: 40

There were a few things to note with this particular brew. First off that it was, certainly in terms of using sloes, very much guesswork. The plan was to try and use their natural flavour as an additional bittering agent in the beer, hence the use throughout the boil as well as in secondary but we totally guessed in terms of quantities.

This was also the first time that we’d added some wheat to the mash for a Stout. Much as we’re already using a (too?) complicated grain bill in our stouts, this was added in to hopefully help with head retention.

The final new thing that we tried was bringing some hazelnut flavour in there to complement the sloes. A few months previously, we had sampled a Hazelnut Brown Ale made by Rory at Brewstore. The hazelnut flavour was clear, smooth and gorgeous and we thought this would work excellently both with a Stout and alongside the flavour of sloes. We copied Rory’s method to the letter (other than upping the amount of hazelnut, at his suggestion). This was to roast the hazelnuts for 15 minutes to release their oil before taking them out and transferring them between paper bags to remove as much oil as possible. We then blitzed the nuts into the size that you’d use as the topping for Brownies and added these bits for the full 60 minute mash.

Also, and maybe sightly oddly, we used WLP001 as the yeast. This was because we had forgotten to get any specific Stout yeast and there was some rinsed WLP001 sat in Kev’s fridge. It seemed far better to use that than to have to go to the shops the next day before pitching.

That’s that, really. Thanks for reading. tasting notes will follow but, as always, comments, etc. are more than welcome below. Cheers!

UPDATE: 21/10/14
Lots of good and lots of learning in this beer. Starting with the downsides, the sloes really didn’t come through anything like as much as hoped. The flavour’s kind of there, but nothing like prominent. A shame but, as mentioned above, we were totally guessing with quantities and I guess it’s better for it to be too subtle than overwhelming and ruining the beer.

The beer as a whole was grand, though, and the hazelnuts a revelation. Really like the smooth nuttiness these bring to the beer, adding a super tasty, nicely complex layer to our base stout recipe.

This one was, however, one of several beers in a row that we had overprimed. So can’t really comment on whether or not the wheat has aided head retention at all. Head taming was more the order of the day, truth be told!

Lots of potential for this one anyway, so might rebrew. Next time? More sloes at all stages of the process, keep the hazelnuts in, don’t mess up the priming sugar.

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