Back on 10/23 (16 days after brew day), I took Snot Snout, my imperial chocolate stout, and transferred it to another primary fermenter. Awaiting in that second vessel were six full pounds of pasteurized, pitted and thawed cherries. Just like with my raspberry wheat batch from last spring, I just used the frozen fruit bags you can easily find at the grocery store. Even if cherries were in season and I would have had to freeze and thaw them before adding to the beer. Buying frozen saves me a step in the process.
One issue I had with the raspberries earlier this year was that they got mushed into a sludge when I heated them up to 170* for 15 min. to pasteurize them. In order to prevent that from happening to the cherries, I took the advice of my buddy Dave who said I should put the cherries into a kettle and then drop that kettle into a larger kettle of water, then boil that water. The cherries were able to heat to the proper temperature while generally maintaining their structural integrity. Good suggestion Dave!
To promote further complexity with Snot Snout, a week after dropping the batch on the cherries I took about 1/3rd cup of french oak chips and soaked them in a cup of California Zinfandel for an hour. Then I poured the Zin/oak mix into another fermenter and transferred the batch over to that vessel. As of this posting, the batch has been aging on the oak chips for a week. I’ll probably let it sit there for another two weeks before bottling. That’ll give it five weeks in the bottle prior to the Christmas release date.
I have some vacation to burn before the end of the year, so I’ve set myself up to take a few Fridays off in October-December and do some brewing (without having it monopolize my Saturday), the first of which was this past Friday 10/7. I set this brew day up for just six days after my last because I wanted to brew a really strong beer for Christmas 2011 that will be able to age well for a year or two. To properly ferment a beer approaching 10% ABV (OG was 1.081), I knew I’d need a large amount of yeast to work with. This means I’d have to pitch on an existing yeast cake from a prior batch. During last week’s wet hop pale ale brew session, I made sure to select a yeast strain that would be versatile enough to mesh well with a big huge stout. Though aiming to use WLP001, I ended up having to use it’s cousin, WLP051. 51 is a bit fruiter than 01, but flocculates well and can take on some higher gravity brews if need be. (more…)