Sunday, April 29, 2012

Homebrew: Bourbon Dubbel - 01

Courtesy of the excellent Brooklyn BrewShop's Beer Making Book, I'm following a recipe to create what's called a "bourbon dubbel." The recipe they describe is mellower than regular bourbon-based beers, but I won't hold that against it. It might even be an advanced experiment and I might be underqualified, but in many ways I've let go of my ego and am willing, even eager, to make mistakes, thereby to learn.

What I like about homebrewing is what I like about stationery, absinthe, or smoking pipes: the ritual. I take it very seriously, perhaps to a degree others would find ridiculous. To prepare the kitchen I chased the cats out, put away the dishes, washed the counters and scrubbed the floor (my wife doesn't mind this at all).

The first thing to do was to soak some dark oak chips in bourbon overnight. Easily enough done: I'd recently picked up a lovely bottle of Woodford Reserve, so I let the French oak chips drink that up all night long. Apparently it doesn't matter whether you use chips, cubes, or spiral discs: these are all for wine but can be used for beer, and it's not a question of mass or surface area. I went with the chips anyway.

I picked up all the malts at Northern Brewer yesterday, but I was so excited to be gathering my own ingredients that I totally forgot to get the grains crushed there in the store. I've crushed my own grains before: I use a wooden mallet that I roll back and forth, with considerable force, over a plastic bag filled with small portions of the grains. Is it sufficient? I hope so, but when I poured it all into the stock pot of 160° water, some and maybe a lot of them looked perfectly intact. Just like with my last project, I hope this isn't as bad as I dread, and I hope it doesn't ruin the batch.

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