So I debated posting this as my first content simply because it is not something I typically brew. I am not your "kitchen sink" gonzo homebrewer type. I like brewing beers that have at least some tradition to them. Whether it be very traditional English and Scottish ales or more recent American craft brew inventions. Also, lately I have been very interested and enjoyed many low gravity "session" type ales. Seeing as how it was my most recent brew (brewed last Friday) and it fits my criteria of unusual or noteworthy here we go.
It is hardly an original idea on my part. This is just my interpretation. I have never thought the idea of using chili peppers in beer sounded like a good one. Despite the fact that I really enjoy spicy foods and peppers. However this concept tickled my fancy enough that I had to give it a go. So, what is it that I am brewing here and what do I envision it being? Well, I am basing it on the alleged Mayan drink concoction known as Xocolatl. A drink made from roasted cacao beans, chili peppers, maize, and vanilla among other ingredients. It was supposedly quite bitter and spicy and not really a sweet treat as we enjoy chocolate today.
So then, my vision of what this beer would be, since all brewers should have a flavor goal in mind when formulating a new recipe. I want this to be at heart a big boozy imperial stout. To achieve the unique character I envisioned a brew that utilized cocoa and cacao as bittering agents and not merely hops. I want it to have some heat but still be enjoyable and "refreshing". A sipping beer yes, but one you would be able to at least drink a whole glass of and enjoy. I do not envision it being chocolatey like a chocolate bar. I want it to taste of roasty chocolate. Dark and bittersweet but not too sweet. Complex and subtle characters without any one flavor dominating and knocking you over the head.
So I had my flavor profile. On to ingredients. I decided to use some adjuncts in this that hail from the southern hemisphere of the Americas. Namely maize and quinoa. Maize as it made up a part of the original drink and quinoa because it has a nice nutty taste which I realize may not come through at all but it intrigued me. Okay, so as far as I know quinoa is a food of the Incas and not the Mayans but hey, they did not drink stout either so... For the cacao character I used cocoa in the boil. I just purchased 6 oz. of roasted cacao nibs yesterday and will perhaps add those to the fermenter at some point if I deem it needs some more depth in that regard. I am still deciding on the peppers to use as I plan to infuse them at a later date. So far I enjoy the flavors of Ancho peppers but they do not provide enough of a heat impact. I am going to do some taste experiments with pasilla peppers as well, but again they are low in heat. I may end up making a mix of the aforementioned peppers for flavor and perhaps a very small portion of habenero or Scotch Bonnet peppers for a bit of heat. I decided to go with a clean neutral yeast to allow the other flavors to be apparent.
Though the brew is in the fermenter this is very much a work in progress. Though the base beer is there i will be monkeying with it as it ages.
So on to the recipe. I created this recipe as a 5 gallon batch just because I am most used to working in such amounts. I then scaled it down to 3 gallons though as I frankly felt a little more comfort going smaller with a project that is so unusual for me. A couple of notes first. I have a brewhouse efficiency of about 80% or better (and yes, i do use a corona mill!) however that would not necessarily apply this time as this is rather large gravity wise. Also I was uncertain of the extract potential I would get using whole quinoa. I guessed and plug 72% into my software (I use Beer alchemy, did I mention I am a mac user?)
For 3 finished gallons
A target OG of 1.096 and 3.30 gallons postboil
Preboil gravity 1.075 and 4.20 gallons
Target attenuation 75%
8 lb. Marris Otter
1 lb. Flaked maize
9 oz. of Whole quinoa (I used 50/50 red and white organic quinoa)
7.35 oz CaraAroma
7.20 oz. Chocolate
7.20 oz. Roasted barley
1 oz. Millennium hops at 15% AA (60 minutes)
136 g of Cocoa powder (10 minutes)
3 g Irish Moss (10 minutes)
2 packs of SafAle US-05
In the fermenter
Vanilla beans (amount yet to be determined)
Chili peppers (amount yet to be determined)
First step was to wash the quinoa to rinse off any saponin a bitter residue on quinoa. Next I cooked the quinoa (cereal mash) on the stovetop in 3 cups of water for 25 minutes.
Then after letting the quinoa cool a bit (so I could determine the proper strike temperature) I added it to my grist and doughed in. Mashed at 153F for 1 hour. Batch sparged to collect 4.20 gallons (actually closer to 4.25)
Boiled for 90 minutes. Added bittering hops at 60 minutes and the cocoa powder and Irish moss at 10 minutes.
I was a bit low on my preboil gravity ending up with 1.067 but fairly right on with volume. I suspect it was in part do to the unkown of the quinoa extract and part do to this being a big beer and not collecting more runoff. I ended up spot on with an OG of 1.096 but only had about 3 gallons left in the kettle. So, in the end I am estimating I will only have 2.5 gallons of finished beer. There is quite a lot of trub especially the cocoa that is settling out.
It has fermented at 66-68 for about a week now. In another 3 weeks I will rack it into either 1 5 gallon carboy or several 1 gallons. Then let it age. Have not decided when to apply the peppers and vanilla beans yet and possibly the cacao nibs.
Time and taste will tell.