Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Homebrew Tip: Dyeing your Beer

5 Mins of Soaking in the Boil Kettle
The color of a beer tells a lot about it's taste, style and grain bill.  Of the thousands of beers poured at my house to friends and family the 1st comment I get is on the color.  When you see a light yellow colored beer you expect it to taste like a Pilsner or a Kolsh.  The same applies with a dark color beer.  When you see a dark black color you expect a roasted, chocolate or more robust flavors.  

This got me thinking about "steeping" dark grain into the beer in nontraditional ways.   I have 3 black IPA's under my brewing belt, one of them was a perfect hit balancing the hops with the roast.  The others either seemed to be a little to far in either direction.  In one case the hops battled with the Roastyness of the grain for control and needed 3 months of cold aging to balance out.  

Tweaking my 4C's Rye IPA recipe for a base I decided to mill the 1# of Carafa II and .5# of Roasted Barley into a little bag at the homebrew store and drop it in the beer during sparging.  

On the left is a close up of the grain in a pantyhose leg that I cut at 12" long.  (I know what you are thinking, it looks a little dickish)  Wanting to keep the Chocolate, roasted and darker toasted notes out of the final beer I think is a great idea.

After my normal mash @154 degrees I laid the grain in the boil kettle and started my slow sparge on top of the grain.
 The light sweet wart started to change instantly.  Creating a dark swirl in the boil kettle.  Having a traditionally slow  sparge I wanted to leave the grain in the kettle for as long as possible.

At about 5 mins I dipped a glass into the wort and pulled out a sample.  The color was black as night.  Above left is the steeped sample.  To the right is the untouched wort. 

With any beer taste is important.  Taking the glass in and smelling the aroma on both the darker and original samples I could tell a difference.  The left was aromatic and roasty.  The right was sweet and clean.  For taste I could not tell any pronounced difference between the two. I hope that some additional hop additions and some yeast scrubbing will reduce the darker flavors even more before kegging. 

In homebrewing anything is possible and innovation guides our hobby.   I think this could be a great process for adding color without the additional flavor characteristics that the darker roasts bring.   Maybe a Black Saison Next?

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