Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Session – Winter Warmers

This Session posed something of a problem to me as it demanded a post about winter when here in the Antipodes it is in fact summer!. What was I to do ? imagine it was winter and write a piece on strong milds, pokered ale and firesides? It all seemed a little fake, just a bit staged until it struck me, I had a task ahead of me in preparation for next winter which was perfect to document for The Session.

Ever since the first time I leafed through Michael Jackson’s 1988 ‘The New World Guide to Beer’ , incidentally that occurred in mid winter beside an open fire, I have been captivated by Russian Imperial Stout. I travelled to Auckland in an attempt to try the Romanov Stout brewed at Galbraiths by the Australis Brewing Co, only to find the beer retired and my first ever pint of real ale waiting to change my life forever. I scoured bottle stores searching for Sam Smiths version, I eventually had to travel to Melbourne Australia before I got a chance to try it, I sent a shopping list with a friend who was visiting the UK and back she brought me a bottle of Pitfield’s version. Of course with these extensive breaks between drinks it became clear that I had to brew one my self, and so Merchant of the Devil was born.

I try to brew 2 vintages of The Merchant a year, its not a light undertaking as the brew day tends be at least 12 hours long, sometimes more, maturation time prior to bottling tends to last at least a month, tying up precious kegs and then there is the monotonous task of bottling to be carried out. There is however no question as to whether its worth it.

I use a multiple mash method to achieve the 1100 plus original gravity required for this intense ale. This means that first a grist of pale malts is mashed and the wort from this is then used to strike a second mash containing a mix of pale malts and roasted malts. It’s a time consuming method dictating a 4.30am alarm call but it results in unique rich enveloping malt character.

The recipe calls for a base of marris otter pale ale malt with a touch of pilsner malt with large amounts of roasted barley, dark crystal and chocolate malts providing the roasted coffee chocolate, leather and tobacco character that makes this style so special. There is a huge amount of New Zealand Super Alpha hops added all at the 60 minute point of the boil providing plentiful bitterness but leaving the malts and yeast to dominate the aroma and flavour of the beer.

5/11/07 Day beforehand prep. Grist for the first mash is weighted out and put through the mill.

6/11/07 Brew Day. 4.30 am and the gumboots are waiting.

First mash completed. Second and third dark mash's to follow.

The finished product. OG 1106 first kettle, OG 1094 second kettle.


Anonymous said...

Good stuff Kieran, and nice pics.
So how much of it are you making - about 40L or so?

I really must give this mashing method a go in the new year, as with my limited mashing capacity it would be the only way (apart from making a very small quantity which seems a lot of time and effort for little reward) to get such high gravity beers. I'd aim for just 20L, but I figure it should be possible.

It'd be good to talk it through sometime. Am also curious about your lautering system - maybe i could have a squiz at that too at some point.

If i can get a leave pass from the wife i might try and come down next thursday for a pre-xmas beer before i go to germany. will the bar be open?

Kempicus said...

Hot DAMN i'd pay money to try merchant of the devil!

Kempicus said...

Hey you're not eating cheese and pickles with that lager/stout are you? Kerry Tyack says that's Baaaad! hahaha

John said...

A top post there Kieran, proving once again that if you want something done right you've got to do it yourself. Keep it up

Barry Hannah said...

Awesome stuff Kieran. Do you find with such high gravities that your efficiency goes down a touch and you have to add more grain to compensate?
Interesting posting it under the "session" - be a bloody short session drinking Merchant of the Devil!

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Ed: I managed to reap about 37litres, there will be a fair few bottles to fill. Absolutly come down on Thursday.

Kempicus: Beer and cheese= good, Kerry Tyack= deluded.

Barry: I find that smaller batches have lower efficiancys. When I do double keg batches the longer sparge seams to increase the efficiancy. With beers like Merchant its hard to gauge as the double mash method totally changes everything.
Ofcourse its called the session because of the blogging event but I did serve The Merchant on draft at this years Winter Ales Fest. There have been certain nights when pints have gone down, usually followed by mornings where pints have come up.

yalnikim said...


Your ability to blog and brew so regularly make me jealous.

Looking forward to the next Merchant. I've got a nice Barley Wahine recipe for Winter Ales 2008 - "Mr Hardy's Cousin".

And, by the way, you were right: Fritha kicked up a stink at the stinky cheese (she must have been upset that I've not offered her any yet). It's now in the cellar, aclimatising itself for Geoff's belly! Any particular beer matches you'd recommend? I thought I could pull out a Bourbon Porter or a Epiphany.

Slainte mhath

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

When I first met Pip she said 'You! your the reason my fridge stinks of cheese!'

Epiphany would be ok, or perhaps something more funky, a lambic, or Orval.

Anonymous said...

That was a great post!

Boak said...

Beer geek question. What yeast do you use?

We might also benefit from further explanation of the multiple mash method, as it's not in any of our homebrew books...

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

I use saf s-04 the dried yeast which came from whitbread. Its a trooper. The ferments go off like a bomb at those gravitys.

Multiple mash method wont be in homebrew books as I came up with the process partly from reading brewing history books where it was discribed that the last run drawn from the mash (using modern terms as words like mash meant different things in the past) was saved to strike the next days mash. Also a similar method was discussed on the Brewing Network at some point.

The Dude said...

"This Session posed something of a problem to me as it demanded a post about winter when here in the Antipodes it is in fact summer!."

I know how you feel there Kieran. I was outside all day yesterday and actually got a sunburn. Oh well. Still like the big malty beers anyway... even during our Summer. If I waited for cold weather in Houston to enjoy those kinds of beers I wouldn't get to drink many of them. Adapt and overcome as they say. Happy brewing.