Biggest Brew Day- Peated Stout at Petrichor

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving of 2020, we brewed the biggest batch of beer we’ve ever done, 5 bbl. This was a collaboration brew thanks to Michael Crowell and his brewery in WingHaven, Petrichor. Michael was gracious enough to bring us in, teach us the big system, and brew our recipe for the Peated Stout.

We met a few weeks earlier to hammer out details. Michael was wanting to do a collaboration with local home brewers. Michael and I worked together at St. Louis Wine & Beer Making; he’s been to our Oktoberfests; we’ve served beer together at festivals; we go back at least to the origins of Brewminati; he’s an old friend and we were lucky that he picked us first.

There was discussion about which beer to brew. We wanted something appropriate for a December release, and in the end I’m honored that we went with my Peated Stout. It’s unique and original and award winning and now the biggest beer we’ve ever brewed.

I assumed that we would have to make a lot of sacrifices to make this beer at a commercial level. The sacrifices we made were minimal. Michael really wanted to stay true to what we were doing. The hops were bittering only so Fuggles and EKG make little sense at the commercial level. The house yeast strain was neutral and very good in the beers we tried that night. This is Omega yeast but at the last minute we switched to SafeAle, another robust, neutral yeast. All fine; this beer is not defined by the hops or yeast, so neutral changes there are no big deal.

We ordered the Peated malt sitting at the table. Michael did the conversion and came up with 3.75#. On brew day though I noted the grain bill listed 8#. Was Michael’s conversion incorrect? We used 4#. Was that enough? We’ll find out in a few weeks.

Brew day consisted of Charles, Rob, Kevin and myself. Michael gave us the full immersion and had has clean the fermenter first thing. It was warm and steamy brewing, and we all stripped layers quickly.

Cleaning the fermenter was mostly hosing out the chunks, clean in place pumped solution, dismantling all the attachments and washing and sterilizing those, rebuilding the fermenter, and sealing it up to get ready to receive our beer. It maybe took a couple of hours? We also cleaned out the mash tun, kettle, chiller, and hoses to make sure they we clean and clear.

The grain comes in to the brewery already crushed, so no mill. No hot liquor tank either; they use hot water from the kitchen (?) to mash in and sparge. We got to 164F strike water and mashed in at 154F; right where we wanted to be.

No automatic mash rake, so as one of us dumped in grains, the other hand worked the mash with a 8ft long, stainless mash rake. In many ways this system is very simplistic, not a lot of bells and whistles; it isn’t push a button and brew. I like that.

Mash temp held steady for maybe 30′, and then Michael ran a long vorlauf. He says it increases efficiency and the results were impressive.

Collected 5.7 bbl in the kettle and boiled. Added hops for 60′, whirlpooled, and ran in through the chiller for a cold break. We pumped the wort into the fermenter and pitched yeast. It was a good brew day.

Post Brew Day-

We had some learning curves on this first collaboration beer. We missed a few things, perhaps some roasted barley. The color looked brown during brew day and it didn’t get any darker in the glass. Not sure if this was a conversion issue or my maybe some grain was missed going into the mash tun. Regardless, this beer isn’t dark enough to qualify as a stout.

Additionally, Petrichor’s chiller went out which delayed our beer and a few others. We got together at the brewery the day Micheal cold crashed the beer, and we tasted it. It was fair, not dark enough for a stout, lacked body and mouthfeel for a stout, but I personally felt the beer was tracking correctly for a decent drinker. Michael wanted to “fix” the beer, but I said, in true homebrew fashion, don’t mess with it; I thought it was fine and would finish well, if not a stout.

It kinda messed with our marketing. Charles had already printed “Peated Stout” stickers, and now we were changing it to Peated Ale. Then, when the beer got canned, they didn’t wrap it with Petrichor’s labels. Charles stickers were intended to fit onto the Petrichor label so our labels weren’t working out at all. Heading into Christmas things didn’t look super awesome. However,…

The beer did turn out in terms of being a drinker. Michael even felt so. The beer is dark, almost brown color. The peat is present but not overwhelming, as it should be. And during the release party, everyone seemed to like it. We left with a truckload of beer in cans, half of which I took home. I’ve spent the holiday break hand labeling the beer to handout when I get back to work.

Overall, the beer is good. It’s not a stout, but it is a peated ale, and I like it. The AGU brewers all took a couple of cases, and they are liking the beer. I’m very happy with the project and hope we get to do more.

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