Have no fear though, when things go wrong, it provides you with another opportunity to get it right.
In my first attempt of cloning a Guinness Dry Irish Stout, I started off by using Jamil Zainisheff’s Dry Irish Stout recipe from Brewing Classic Styles as a base. That beer turned out fantastic. I made no water adjustments to it, and the final result was quite delicious. For the second round I wanted to try and match the highly alkaline water of Dublin, as well as add some acidulated malt to try and emulate the Guinness ‘twang’.
Water chemistry in brewing is a very complex subject, one that I certainly haven’t mastered. Most home brewers would say don’t even bother messing with it, but I want to find out how to make the best beer possible. I don’t want to make ‘good’ beer, I want to make ‘great’ beer, so I will mess with everything I can until I find out how to, even if that means having some casualties along the way.
The mineral concentrations as listed in Bru’n Water for Dublin are:
Calcium - 120ppm (Ca) Magnesium - 4ppm (Mg) Sodium - 12ppm (Na) Sulphate - 55ppm (SO4) Chloride - 19ppm (Cl) Bicarbonate - 315 ppm (CaCO3) Residual Alkalinity - 173
My water profile here in Toronto is:
Calcium - 36ppm (Ca) Magnesium - 9ppm (Mg) Sodium - 14ppm (Na) Sulphate - 29ppm (SO4) Chloride - 26ppm (Cl) Bicarbonate - 106 ppm (CaCO3) Residual Alkalinity - 57
Using Bru’n water, my additions were as follows:
0.23 g/Gallon - Epsom Salt (MgSO4) 0.29 g/Gallon - Baking Soda (NaHCO3) 0.8 g/Gallon - Chalk (CaCO3) 0.70 mL/Gallon - Lactic Acid
It was a bit tricky to hit the estimated mash pH of 5.4. The acidity from the lactic acid, acidulated malt and the roasted barley were working hard against the alkalinity from the chalk. Chalk is notoriously hard to dissolve in water, which made it even more difficult to adjust. As a loose rule of thumb, it helps to use double the amount of chalk to account for it’s insolubility. This is what I did after noticing that without it, my mash pH was too low. In the end, it settled in at 5.4, and conversion seemed to go smoothly.That’s all fine and dandy, but how did it taste? that’s the real question.
Well, the acid malt definitely gave it a lactic twang. It seemed to be the right amount, but I might drop it just a touch in the future if I decide to use it again. I tried an award winning Dry Irish Stout from a fellow Toronto home brewer in which he used a sour mash. I think that is the way to go because it has a much smoother feel to it, but the acid malt is a decent short cut. The big problem I had with this beer was that the body dropped right out of it. It was very thin and almost watery. Now this may not have been soley due to the water additions necessarily, I’ve used whirlfloc in the past and have had mixed results. For example, the first 2 times I used it, both beers came out tasting like coloured water. They were awful. I had brewed the recipes before, so I knew what to expect. Up until recently I had been using only Irish Moss, but decided to try whirlfloc because it was cheaper, people rave about it, and my supplier didn’t have any Irish Moss in stock. It is very good at clearing the beer, as you can see in the picture (which isn’t the stout btw), but sometimes it clears the beer too much. It strips the body and flavour right out of it. I haven’t had much sympathy from other home brewers when I mention this, but this has been my experience. Perhaps I added too much. I’ve since reduced the amount to half of the recommended 1 tab per 10 gallons. Hopefully that will help. It’s strange because sometimes it works great. I’ll have to experiment further to get to the bottom of it.
Some of you are probably saying, “Why even bother using whirlfloc or irish moss in a stout?”, and that’s a fair question. For me, it’s just personal preference, I like how it clears the beer, as long as it doesn’t strip the beer like I mentioned above.
In any case, this version 1.1 of my Guinness Dry Stout clone was a disappointment. After enjoying the last 2 bottles of the original batch this past weekend, version 1.0 is still the one to use.
See the recipe in my original post.