Homebrew: Syzygy

Submitted by DM on Sat, 02/09/2017 - 08:19

Syzygy is the alignment of objects in straight lines.   This beer was named after the recent syzygy of the Earth, Moon and Sun to create the total solar eclipse seen in the United States last week.

After so many session strength sour beers and pale ales with grapefruit or tropical fruit hops in I thought it was time for a change. I found some coconut sugar in a supermarket and decided on a coconut stout, but thought I'd just use it as priming sugar as it's an unknown factor to me at the moment.   I still want it it be a dry beer, so I've kept all the mash temperatures low to promote the beta-amylase activity and convert more of the long chain sugars into ones small enough for the yeast to metabolise.

Water Treatment: 1 teaspoon of MgSO4, 1 teaspoon of CaSO4, 1/2 teaspoon of NaCl and 1 teaspoon of NaHCO3 were added to the water before the mash was begun to raise the mineral levels in my local super-soft water supply.

Mash: 1 hour 15 mins. Initial mash temp 62°C,  falling to 59°C after 30 mins, then boosted to 66°C and left to fall to 62°C at the end of the mash.

4Kg pale malt

510g crystal malt

270g chocolate malt

150g black malt

200g roast malt

Boil: 2 hours 15 mins

50g Fuggles hops (5.5% alpha acid) added 55 mins from end

50g Fuggles hops added 20 mins from end

30g Fuggles hops added 10 mins from end

8g Irish Moss added 10 mins from end

The wort was chilled to 22°C and yeast from my last beer - Sinister Brew -  used to inoculate it. The OG was measured at 1.068 and PG at bottling 1.020, which should give me a beer with 6.3% alcohol.    The calculated bitterness is 82 IBU.

Bottled after 5 days at 20°C and 2 days at 14°C.

Verdict on bottling: An intensely black beer, viscous and smooth with some alcohol warmth.

Version 1 had coconut blossom sugar added as priming sugar.

Version 2 had 5ml of a 60% lactic acid solution per litre added as well as sucrose priming sugar.

Version 3 had just sucrose added as priming sugar.

Version 3 - a thick, viscous, light inpenetrable black stout.   Not as dry as I'd like it yet, but that'll come with time.   The sodium bicarbonate water treatment is detectable towards the end of the first 500ml & annoyingly so towards the end of the litre.   Poor head retention - the initial head lasts about 30 seconds before disappearing without any trace at all.

Version 3 - better already.   The beer has dried out a little more now & the bicarbonate taste is less noticeable, but still gets a bit much towards the end of the 1 litre bottle.

Version 2 - better than Version 3.   Although the lactic acid isn't noticeable, it has reduced the bicarbonate taste considerably.

No matter how many books & forums I read advising sodium bicarbonate be added to the water treatment regime, I won't.   I wanted to give the incredibly soft local water some minerals to make the stout more authentic, but I'll stick to calcium sulphate & magnesium sulphate in future.

The bottles of stout without lactic acid already added are nice enough, but have that bicarbonate taste which grows after the first half pint, spoiling the enjoyment of this beer.   The bicarbonate is buffering the pH at too high a level, so I need to lower the pH and react away most of the bicarbonate.

If I had a tasteless acid I'd add it, but I only have citric and lactic.   I've added a tiny amount of citric and a teaspoon full of lactic to every bottle.   I've re-primed each bottle too so that the generated CO2 produces carbonic acid.   It only needs a little boost in the direction of acidity to improve this beer.

Verdict - the one bottle I've opened once the priming sugar has carbonated the bottles up was better already.   I managed to drink a whole litre bottle without any deterioration in taste towards the end.   Success.

Much better. The additions of lactic, citric and carbonic acids have reacted away the bicarbonate and I'm left with the stout I wanted! Still experiments must be tried and envelopes must be pushed.

A thick, viscous stout with loads of roast, liquorice and burnt flavours.