Homebrew III: The Experiment

It’s almost time to bottle my fourth batch of homebrewed beer, a clone of Pete’s Wicked Ale brewed from a Midwest kit, which means I ought to finally report on batch three…The Experiment.

The Experiment came about like this: not long after my successful Irish Stout, some friends were gathering to brew again. I didn’t have the money to purchase another kit — but I did have a “can kit” left over from a misguided venture (retold here) into brewing a decade or so earlier when we still lived in Michigan. The can was a Munton’s Export Stout kit, containing hopped dark malt syrup and abridged instructions. I had a leftover packet of dry brewer’s yeast from my Irish Stout kit (I used a Wyeast packet instead) and, stealing an idea from a molasses stout recipe I’d seen online, I spent a few dollars on raw cane sugar to add to the mix in place of several cups of corn sugar. If all went well, I would have two cases of good dark beer for about five bucks.

I did not follow the instructions to the letter, but combined them with my past two brewing experiences – which means, primarily, that I boiled the ingredients longer. Fermentation was robust the first few days, as expected — the smell from the airlock was sweeter that the Irish stout had been, but with a whiff of hops. Unfortunately I forgot to take a hydrometer reading before sealing the primary fermenter, then dropped and broke my hydrometer during the transfer process. Since I had already drawn a sample during the transfer, I took the opportunity to taste the flat, room-temperature brew. It was sweet—not quite cloying, but sweeter than I had hoped—reminding me at first swallow more of a doppelbock than a stout (or even Samuel Adams Triple Bock, which Dad and I tried once and (like many others) did not enjoy).

I tasted it again at bottling and was again struck by the sweetness. I had read that the raw sugar could lend a “rum” taste to the brew; I hoped the carbonated bottles would not be too sweet to be drinkable.

I opened the first bottle a few weeks ago. It was poorly carbonated, winey, and sweet. I drank about half the bottle and wasn’t crazy about it, but swirled the remained bottles and moved them to a warm place in hopes of further carbonating them. I tried another earlier this month, and while the carbonation was better, the head was still thin, fizzy, and brown, and the beer itself was simply too sweet for my taste. I probably should’ve used corn sugar as recommended, but at least I’ve seen something of the effect of raw sugar in that rummy/winey taste.

In the end, I dumped all but 12 bottles, which I kept for cooking. This weekend I cooked a pot roast in one – seared it first in a cast iron pan with olive oil, then put it in the crock pot with one bottle of The Experiment, two yellow onions (chunked), garlic salt, pepper, and Worchester sauce, and let it cook most of the day. The resulting meat was delicious – so the remaining 11 bottles will be good for something!

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