This is one I should have written about a long time ago. However, in the midst of the madness of preparing for our first child to come along, and other things going on around the house, the blog took a bit of a back seat at the time. Fortunately, this one is still (just barely) in process, despite having been brewed on March 31.
Anyway, here was the idea for this one…
So many Christmas beers, in my opinion, rely too heavily on spicing. Some just drop a boatload of alcohol in there. Some, like Lakefront’s Holiday Spice do both. I’m just not much of a fan of that. I always thought that the traditional culinary add on to Christmas-time fare was fruit. Lots and lots of fruit. You always hear old stories about kids getting oranges in their stockings back in the day because they were THAT special. Fruitcakes weren’t meant as a punishment from the culinary gods, they were simply an effective method of preserving fruit from earlier in the year.
So I decided I wanted a great, clean, dark beer that has lots of fruity flavor going on. Not so much from the yeast, but more from the malts and process. So I simmered a pound of blueberries in a little water and a pound of raw, comb-in honey. Accented that with some dark malts and dark candi sugar. Then I tossed in a little barrel time for some added complexity. Here’s what I came up with.
- 1.0lb Belgian Special B
- 0.5lb Weyermann Chocolate Wheat
- 0.5lb Belgian Chocolate malt
- 9.15lb Munich LME
- 3.15lb Dark LME
- 1lb Belgian D-180 Dark Candi syrup (@ 15 min)
- 1.5lb Honey
- 1.0oz Perle (@ 60 min)
- 1.0oz Perle (@ 30 min)
- 1.0ox Hallertau Mittelfruh (@ 10 min)
- White Labs WLP833 German Bock Lager (tossed on yeast cake from Emmett’s Einbock…which I just noticed needs a write-up as well!)
- 1.0lb blueberries (simmered in diluted honey, in primary)
- 1/2 whirlfloc tablet (@ 15 min)
- 1tsp yeast nutrient (@ 15 min)
Vitals (according to the EXTRA handy Brewer’s Friend):
Steeped specialty grains 45 minutes at 165˚. Temperature held steady with burner on “3”. Also started simmering the blueberries, honey, and about 16oz water at the beginning as well. Let everything roll in separate pan until it was time to throw everything in primary. The blueberries and honey were super aromatic.
The steeped wort smelled super chocolatey. A little bready and malty, but mostly chocolate.
Added the first 6 pounds of Munich LME and about 2 pounds of the Dark LME to start (otherwise I would have overflowed the pot!). Fail to plan/plan to fail, moment. But I rolled with it, and added the rest in as the boil-off allowed extra room.
Once it came up to boil, the unhopped, partially-malted wort smelled even more chocolatey, but also had a great, dark-fruit smell. Raisins, dates, etc. That’s exactly what I was after.
And as it boiled more, I realized, I like to live dangerously. The boil was awfully close to the rim of the pot. Vive la Fermcap!
The first hop add (@ 60) added some brightness to the chocolate/fruit aroma. A little bit of floral notes as well. However, just as quickly as those bright/floral notes showed up, they were buried by the malt.
The second hop add (@ 30) also presented me with the perfect opportunity to add the remaining LME. Despite more hops in the boil, the malt/chocolate/fruit notes remained at the fore, joined by a nice caramel aroma as well.
At the 15 minute mark, I added the Belgian Candi, whirlfloc, and yeast nutrient. More dark-fruit aroma rose up, as well as a toasted caramel/possibly molasses character. Loving the depth of this wort. Hope the beer turns out!
At the final hop add (@ 10) a little more floral quality and brightness came back. Smells a little more balanced, but still tilted toward the malt.
After flameout, quick-cooled everything with immersion cooler, and tossed on top of the Emmett’s Einbock yeast cake, and also tossed in the honey/blueberry mixture.
Transferred from primary directly into post-Emmett’s barrel. I didn’t have much to lager in, so that’s what I went with. Probably not my best idea, but nothing wrong with a little oak.
Last brewing-related thing done before becoming a father! Transferred to a brand new glass carboy for extended lagering. Let her sit in the fridge until…
Bottled with half a pack of Safale US-05 (as a result of the extended lagering) in a melange of 22oz bombers, 750mL bottles, and a 6-pack of 12oz bottles (just in case). Measured FG at 1.020. A little dryer than intended, but it may not have had the punch I originally wanted going in. Plan on cracking one of these open first time on Christmas Eve!
Either way, smelled GREAT going into the bottles! Can’t wait!