The Vanilla Porter is in, and MAN IS IT GOOD!!
The new system & Increased efficiency:
This was the inaugural batch on our new 10 gallon system, so a multitude of variables could have sent this beer into mediocrity. Instead, we have moved ahead with great excitement and brewed better beer. We enlisted our new grain mill, aptly named “The Barley Crusher“, for this batch. I think this is one of my favourite investments that we have made thus far. It is SO worth it. Now that we’ll be milling a greater amount of grain, trying to do that with our old Corona Mill just isn’t going to cut it. It was fine for starting out, but there’s no way I could go back to using it. If you’re at all debating about buying a grain mill, and you’re somewhat serious about brewing, just skip the beginner step and go straight for a good mill. Not only was The Barley Crusher pretty much ready to go out of the box, the platform sits perfectly atop a 5 gallon plastic bucket. It creates next to no mess when grinding, and ripped through 16lbs of malted grain in less time it took to just setup the Corona mill!
When we took our Original Gravity readings, we noticed that we had increased our efficiency by a whopping 13% ! A fellow home brewer named Russ, who I had been in contact with through the Bar Towel Forum, told me that buying a solid grain mill vastly improved his efficiency. I was kind of surprised when he said it brought him up into the 90-95% range, but I’m now a firm believer. Our system now stands at about 91%. When I shared this excitement with my wife, she of course couldn’t help but laugh out loud at my beer ‘geekiness’ (to use her words). Ahh the ignorance, this is serious! (and for the record, I’m not a geek, I never have been. I’m a Beer Enthusiast thank you very little!)
By brewing 10 gallons we now have the ability to experiment between each of the 6 gallon carboys we’ll be fermenting in. The obvious option is to try different yeast strains. I’ve read a huge amount of information on how large of an impact yeast has on beer. Up until now, we’ve just ended up with what we’ve ended up with and have really had nothing to compare it with. Our beers have been good, but I’d like to start learning about exactly what those impacts are. We chose to pitch 1 carboy with Safale S-04 dry English Ale yeast, and the other with Danstar Nottingham dry yeast. The S-04 was like a rocket and worked very well. The Nottingham, not so much. (I’ve heard there’s been some issues with the Nottingham Dry Yeast packs in the past) It was at least 8 hours behind the S-04, didn’t krausen as much and finished up before the S-04 did. I of course didn’t think to look at the package to see what the expiry date was, and when I did, yep, there it was, December 2011. Great, another lesson learned! (Thank you b.t.w. to my friend Richard Patmore of Brewtal Honesty and Intwine Design for the cool photo!)
I was very curious to see how much vanilla flavour we actually got from our Maui Vanilla bean as I had never used any in a beer before. I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t overpowering. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Subtle vanilla notes in between the roasty, slightly smokey taste. Perfect! As I mentioned in my original post, I can’t stand artificial or overpowering flavours of any kind in my beers, but porters, I’m finding, are a perfect base for subtle complimentary flavours, especially vanilla.
Safale S-04 Dry English Ale Yeast
- full, complete body (very happy with it)
- roasty/chocolate notes come to the forefront
- bitterness is apparent, but not overwhelming
- vanilla is slight, almost a mysterious compliment
Danstar Nottingham Dry Yeast
- body is thinner than the S-04
- roasty/chocolate notes are more subdued
- not as complex as the S-04
*** Now to be fair, the Nottingham was obviously past its prime. I’ll have to try another batch with some fresh healthy yeast to give a proper comparison. In order to compensate for the lesser character, and to experiment, we added 2 tsp of vanilla extract to the Nottingham batch. This brought up the vanilla notes and help balance out the beer more. After we had carbonated it, and now that it’s been in the bottles for a few weeks, it actually tastes much better and I’m torn between which version I prefer. They’re slightly different beers, but both are good in their own way.
This beer turned out fantastic.