Marzipan Chocolate Stout #1

The inspiration for our Marzipan Chocolate Stout home brew came from the brainchild of yours truly – and the lack of available ingredients. I initially dreamed up a chocolate hazelnut beer – and Frank put the recipe together. By the time brew day came around, we had not yet sourced hazelnut extract – or any other medium for getting hazelnuts in there. But, I did find almond extract – which smells exactly like marzipan! In the future, we’ll be trying a hazelnut chocolate stout. But for this recipe, it’ll be chocolate and almonds.

If you’re looking for inspiration from a chocolate stout, might I suggest Boatswain Chocolate Stout. I think that the Boatswain beer is very well balanced, and that the chocolate flavor comes out quite well. Moreover, in a world of expensive craft brews, the price is extremely reasonable.

The Malt

One fun thing about this recipe is the wide variety of grains used. The were light and dark roasted malts included, as well as oats. When photographed (below), the diversity of grains is apparent.

malt grain Marzipan chocolate stout home brew
The oats being added to the light and dark roasted malts for our marzipan chocolate stout home brew.

Fun fact from Brewmaster Frank: the difference between a sweet stout and your traditional stout is the choice of malts. And, what makes a milk stout is the addition of milk sugar to the brew. Since this brew is not a milk stout, we are not using milk sugar.

The add-ins

For our recipe, we used the Kroger (Vons private label) brand extract almond extract. The cacao nibs are from Navitas Naturals. Frank observed that they make a nice snack. They taste like dark chocolate on the end, although are very bitter.

Cacao nibs and almond are the add-ins our Marzipan Chocolate Stout home brew.
Cacao nibs and almond are the add-ins our Marzipan Chocolate Stout home brew.

One oz. of cacao nibs are put in the end of the boil. One oz. is also added to the secondary fermenter. Two oz. of almond extract went at the end of the boil. Adding raw, unsanitized ingredients to the secondary fermenter may have been the culprit of our fermentation issues – discussed in the gravity section.

The Wort

The wort was simply overpowered by the almond extract. Frank suggested that the wort reminded him of Amaretto. How wort changed into beer over the course of the process was surprising. As for the color – it’s a stout: the wort was black as night.

Marzipan chocolate stout home brew going into the primary carboy fermenter
Marzipan chocolate stout home brew going into the primary carboy fermenter

Original Gravity & Final Gravity

Perhaps it was the heavily roasted malt – but for our homebrew session for the weekend, we missed the greatest mark on our stout. Our goal was 1.066, with an actual of 1.058, for a difference of 0.008. Maybe the dark roast was in impediment to squeezing the bag of grain. The lesson remains the same: squeeze the bag harder. Alternatively, we can twice mill the malt or sparge via pouring hot water over the grains after soaking in the mash tun.

The final gravity also fell short of our target. Fermentation was incomplete – because of either one or two reasons. Firstly, there is the dastardly temperature control. Secondly is any contamination from from the cacao nibs into the secondary. While the latter is possible, the former is more likely.

The Verdict

After the cacao nibs and almond extract danced with our dark brew for six weeks we had our results! The resultant product was a smooth delicious chocolatey stout. Unfortunately, the marzipan was nowhere to be seen. This was quite distinct from the wort – which was over powered by the almond extract. This would appear that just like the floral notes added by hops to a brew, the contribution made by almond extract is ephemeral; it fades over time – and relatively quickly at that.

Chocolate Marzipan Stout #2?

The only possible solution – or the only solution that I can think of – is putting more almond extract, or at a different time. Instead of adding the extract to the wort, it will be added just prior to bottling, alongside the priming sugar.

The Recipe

Mint Chocolate Stout #2

This is Frank’s second attempt at a mint chocolate stout. This version has a small tweak compared to his last attempt. What’s the tweak? It’s not more or less mint and cacao. It’s not a different ABV. It’s a modification to what’s called the “body” of the beer. You know you’re a beer geek when you’re using such articulate language to describe a beer. And onto the recipe!

The Malt

As with all chocolate stouts, there is blend of lightly and darkly roasted malts. Check out the below. It is a prototype of what could arrive at your door for our all-grain mint chocolate stout homebrew recipe. Note the variety of grains used.

all grain mint chocolate stout homebrew

The Add-Ins

As with our other mint recipes, we’ll be using fresh mint (put in at the end of the boil), and mint extract (put into the secondary fermenter). There are contamination benefits of using an extract in the secondary – in that the extract is already pasteurized so there’s no risk of contamination from foreign organisms.  For our own test, we used fresh mint in the secondary carboy as well. To stave off bacterial infection, I soaked the mint in iodophor before it went into the secondary.

 

mint in the secondary for the mint chocolate stout homebrew made from all grain

 

To add a chocolate flavor to the brew, we’re using cacao nibs – which are delicious in beer as well as for a snack. To keep foreign germs at bay, the cacao can be added at the end of the boil instead of going straight into the primary fermenter.

The Wort

The wort was rich and sweet – as is to be expected. The mint was there – noticeable, but not overpowering. In my experience, add-ins present in the wort can disappear over the six weeks it takes for wort to change into beer. This is why sampling the wort with add-ins can be misleading.

Original Gravity

We off the mark a good deal withthis stout. Frank noticed a pattern on the short-comings for achieving original gravity: higher alcohol beers are the ones that come in most distant from the target. Perhaps this has to do with the smaller surface when the grain is in the pot. As we continue to brew, we’re refining our list of best practices. This will not only get us closer to our target ABV and final gravity, but allow us to share with you the best way to brew. (Yeah! That rhymes!)

brew-in-a-bag-for-mint-chocolate-stout-homebrew.jpg

The Verdict

Living in the micro brew capital of the world, our mutual friend Kyle Kiesel knows a thing or two about beer. He approves of our second iteration of the mint chocolate stout, noting:

It’s easy to drink.

The brew is indeed a crowd pleaser. The dark roast suggests a hint of coffee of the nose. The body is rich and thick – with the mint character adding yet another level to the beverage. And for that, I’m inclined to agree with old Kyle, the beer is good! I look forward to this beer being one of our first offerings.

Mint Chocolate Stout #3?

We may not necessarily need to do a third iteration of this beer. The only possible change is the amount of malt added. Otherwise, as a sweet, chocolaty, minty

The Recipe

Molé IPA

The inspiration for this beer came from a short bought of insanity. Having recently been enjoying New Belgium’s Lips of Faith specialty series offering, Cocoa Molé and having an uninspiring IPA brew kit lying around, I decided to invent a new beer: the Molé IPA. It’s just like regular IPA, but with all the add-ins that go into a molé. It may just be the most awful beer ever made.

If you’re not familiar with a molé beer, think of Mexican hot chocolate – which is hot chocolate with cinnamon and chile peppers and other spices added. Sometimes these molé brews are lumped into the broader category of chile beers – but molés are quite distinct from what would otherwise a be blonde ale with jalapeno added. So, consider molé beers as a sub category within the chile beer category.

xocoveza-the-inspiration-for-our-home-brew-clone-mole-beer.jpg

Wort

Thick! It’s so thick from all the stuff floating around in there. Going forward, I would extracts where possible for substitutions – and brewed coffee instead of coffee grains. This would help to clarify the beer. But, I will never make this beer again – because it’s terrible.

Add-ins

Just scroll down to the recipe below to see all the good stuff I threw in there:

•  vanilla extract
•  ground coffee
•  cocoa powder
•  cinnamon
•  jalapeno

add-ins-for-our-mole-IPA-homebrew-beer-using-brew-in-a-bag.jpg

Check out the photo above. You can see the bit of the jalapeno floating towards the top of the fermenter. Down towards the bottom of the glass carboy, you can see everything else – everything that will contribute it’s flavor to making our molé IPA.

Gravity

final gravity of our mole IPA, for homebrewing using brew in bag

The Verdict

The nose is floral. However, you can tell that there are lots of other things going on there. The heat is subtle, but lingers all the way down your esophagus. And then it stays there for a long time. It’s almost like getting heartburn. The other flavors are there too: cinnamon, coffee. The coffee is most subtle.

Jpeg

It’s not nearly as terrible as I thought it would be, but it’s still pretty bad. I poured myself a 12 oz bottle and I won’t be finishing it. All that said,I don’t think the mole IPA is a bad idea. It’s just the execution was a failure. Will I make a further iteration – testing the validity of the mole IPA idea? Maybe. But it probably won’t be anytime soon.

The Recipe

Molé Brown #1

The inspiration for this brew came from a couple different beers – but mostly from New Belgium’s Lips of Faith specialty series offering, Cocoa Molé. If you’re not familiar with a molé beer, think of Mexican hot chocolate – which is hot chocolate with cinnamon and chile peppers and other spices added. Sometimes these molé brews are lumped into the broader category of chile beers – but molés are quite distinct from what would otherwise a be blonde ale with jalapeno added. So, consider molé beers as a sub category within the chile beer category.

xocoveza-the-inspiration-for-our-home-brew-clone-mole-beer.jpg

 

Another simply fantastic molé beer is made by San Diego brewery Stone Brewing Co. Their Xocoveza has come out the last two holiday seasons – with the more recent release being even better than the first. It’s a combination of peppers, chocolate, vanilla, coffee and other spices. The beer is very flavorful, but not overly heavy.

The Malt

Our clone brew for the New Belgium Lips of Faith Cocoa Molé clone starts with the malt. As with all dark brews, we used a combination or light and dark malts. This includes rye, in addition to the usual barely. The grain was finely milled, once. We fined milled the grain to help us better achieve our target original gravity. Fine milling, over coarse milling, helps to further open up the malt, exposing their sugars that will be captured by the boiling water.

mole chile beer homebrew brew all grain in a bag - small

The Add-Ins

For our own attempt at a mole beer, we’ve limited our add-ins to just three very special ingredients:

•   whole cinnamon sticks

•   retail chile powder

•   100% pure cacao

All of the ingredients we used are available at your local retail grocery market. Though the add-ins are unusual for a beer, they are easy to obtain – as opposed to some of the more special hops we’ve used in our brews.

Original Gravity

As with our previous brews, the original gravity of the wort clocked in at 1.045 – which was short of our recipe’s calculation of 1.051. As a side note, we measured the original gravity with both an inexpensive hydrometer as well as more expensive refractometer. We’ve been experimenting with the repetition and level of milling. Even with milling the grain finely (as opposed to coarsely), we still fell short of our target gravity.

measuring original gravity of the homebrew mole chile beer using brew in a bag (BIAB) - small

The Wort

Sampling the wort, the add-ins were barely distiniguishable. Perhaps only the chili powder made itself known. However, there were ample hops in the brew that stood out in the wort sample. Will this beer be molé-y? We can only know that six weeks in. It will, however, definitely be bitter from the hops.

The Verdict

It’s not bad, if not a little underwhelming. The base of the brew is good with some chocolaty notes present. Then there is also a small to moderate kick coming from the chili and cinnamon powders. It’s not bad. But I want more – more of everything: more chocolate, more cinnamon, more peppers – and I want coffee and vanilla and nut meg too. In short, I would consider this a sort of mole-light. It’s a good introductory beer for those who are just ever so slightly adventurous.

our homebrew version of a mole beer using brew in a bag, a sort of a stone xocoveza clone

What’s more, the character of (some of) the add-ins persevered over the course of a few weeks. This is different from some of the other brews we’ve concocted – where the character contributed by the add-ins fades exponentially with age. Two and half weeks after the “drink” date (the drink date is usually two weeks after bottling), the presence of the add-ins were still there. Yay!

Iteration #2

As mentioned, I’d like to try additional add-ins, especially vanilla and coffee – closer to the style that Stone Brewing puts out in their Xocoveza. I’d also like to see what adding more cacao does – or what happens when introducing these add-ins at different parts of the brewing process. For example, instead of going into the primary fermenter – these add-ins could go into the boil. They may – or may not – help to impart more flavor of the add-in into the final brew. A final option for tweaking the add-ins could involve changing the granularity of the add-ins. Specifically, using a whole chile pepper instead of just chile power, or grading/shredding the cinnamon sticks and bit of cacao.

The Recipe

Coconut Chocolate Stout #1

The Inspiration

I can’t say definitely that any particular beer inspired this homebrew. However, this is one coconut beer in particular is absolutely fantastic: Oskar Blue Brewery “Death By Coconut.” It’s a very sweet, very smooth and all coconut.

The Malt

For a dark beer, we used dark malt. The details are covered in the recipe section.

The Add-Ins

For coconut, we used unsweetened coconut flakes. For this particular batch, we selected a premium brand, which advertised the lack of sulfides. (Sulfur is commonly used as a preservative – in both food and beer. Some brewers even opine that sulfur added as a preservative in beer is what causes hangovers.) Whole coconut flakes, as opposed to a more finely minced bits of coconut, may impart less flavor to the ultimate brew because of less surface area.

coconut chocolate stout homebrew in the primary using brew in a bag BIAB

100% cacao bar was used to impart the chocolate flavor. One disadvantage of this is that much of the cacao was left in the boil pot – never getting into the primary fermenter.

Both add-ins were put in at the end of the boil. Putting the add-ins into the boil gets rid of any contamination issues. An alternative could be putting the add-ins into the primary – but that risks contamination. The add-ins could be sanitized themselves, but is a cumbersome process. For example, I once soaked fresh mint leaves in iodaphor before adding them to the secondary fermenter.

Gravity

I missed the boat on the OG for this recipe. However, it was a good learning experience. The lesson: pour some of the wort into your device for measuring  original gravity first – and then into the fermentation vessel. If you go in the opposite order, you’ll be left with wort full of hops and/or other add-ins. In the case of this recipe, I was left with a batch of chocolate sludge.

The Wort

The hops are immediately apparent. For a beer that’s centered around coconut and chocolate, the hops seem out of place. Six weeks of fermentation will change the balance of flavors. A lot of the cacao did not make it out of the boiling pot and into the primary. This is a function of using processed cacao and not nibs. Using nibs would be ideal – but are not always available (as was the case w/ this brew).

wort of coconut chocolate stout homebrew for brew in a bag

The Verdict

What happened!? On bottling day, the beer was all coconut. Two weeks, it was a regular chocolate stout. The coconut flavor died over the course of two weeks. What a bummer!

Iteration #2

We’ve already created a second recipe. This second attempt will use twice the coconut. Maybe this change will convince the coconut to stick around. As a further alternative, there’s always coconut extract.

The Recipe