Homebrewing: The Third Experiment

Posted on January 23, 2010 by

Homebrewing : The Third Experiment “Bourbon Barrel Porter”

This batch was a very exciting…it was the day that I finally got to brew up a batch of beer that I have been waiting to do since I decided I was going to brew. I ordered a kit from Northern Brewers, the Bourbon Barrel Porter. Finally I was going to make something a lil more interesting, difficult, and especially dark!

The main reason this kit is a little more advanced for me is that there is an actual need for a second stage fermentation. Sure there are all the other reasons why you do a second stage, more ability to add flavor, clarity, blah, blah, blah, but this is going to be the first time I ever put anything it. Guess what that something is? Bourbon soaked oak wood chips.

This was also only the second time I’ve brewed at home, if your remember, the last time was at Jay’s house out on the lake. Anyway, I grabbed a beer and pulled out all my gear, got my sanitizer going and some water boiling. As the water started to warm up I tossed in my Simpson’s grain mix. It looked so beautiful.

One thing I did differently this time around was as the water broke 110 I started the steeping process instead of waiting till about 160 and trying to maintain 160 – 170 for 20 minutes. I just finished reading the last chapter in “The Joy of Homebrewing” by Charlie Papazian. This chapter is all about all grain brewing, which is still a bit over my head, but I read that during certain temperature of water, proteins and sugars break down better. I won’t get into any specifics, but at the temp of 113 – 122 F nutrients and amino acids are released to help keep my yeast healthy. Then at 122 – 140 F other enzymes break down proteins that help my chances of having some really good head on my beer. Then at temps between 126 – 153 enzymes attack the long strands of glucose, chopping it up into small easy to handle pieces for the yeast.

That may have been a lil to much to think about while drinking a beer and brewing, but the science is so amazing behind brewing and though I’m not doing an all grain, I thought this would help. Last time I steeped grains, I waited till 160 F to drop them in. We’ll see if I notice a change. If not, whatever.

So after that was done it was kind of back to the normal routine. I put in some dry malt extract and brought it to a boil. Today was awesome as today was the first day that I believe I maestro-ed the perfect hot break. I wish I had it on video. It came up and I managed it and it came up one more time and the foam was about 3 inches off the top of my pot and I adjusted temperatures and moved things around and it broke perfectly. I imagine it to be like landing a 747 with only one engine. Flawlessly…

Here is a tip…always pull your pot off the heat when you put syrup in like that.

I added my hops and let the puppy boil for 45 minutes at which time I added some dark extract. Here is a tip…always pull your pot off the heat when you put syrup in like that. It is just to hard to not burn it even a little bit on the bottom of your pot when using an electric stove. I dosed it with some more hops, brought it back up to a boil for 10 more minutes and put in a few more hops right before end. Soon as I felt it was ready I dropped it into a sink full of ice water. This time though I used two sink fulls of ice instead of just one. My wort was down to perfect temperature mixed with 3 gallons of water in 20 minutes. Here is what she looked like. Beautiful don’t ya think?

I’ll be adding oak chips after 2 weeks in the 2 secondary fermenter and letting that sit for another 2 weeks before bottling. It will probably the end of February or early March before I drink this special drink, but it looks like it will be worth it.

Brew Day Journal Stats

Specialty Grain

1 lbs Simpson’s Chocolate

.5 lbs Simpson’s Dark Crystal

.5 lbs Simpson’s Black Malt


2 lbs Wheat DME (60 min)

6.3 lbs Dark DME (15 min)


1 oz Chinook (60 min)

.5oz US Goldings (15 min)

.5oz US Goldings (15 min)


WYeast 1728 Scottish Ale


2 oz US Medium Oak Cubes (added to secondary)

16 oz Bourbon (Used Jim Beam Black)


O.G. 1.058 | F.G.: 1.020 | ABV: Around 6%

Brewed: 1/16/10
Racked: 1/30/10
Added Oak: 2/14/10
Bottled: 2/28/10

Video Review of Northern Brewer Bourbon Barrel Porter

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  • http://www.homebrew.fiftycal.net/ danielOut

    This is on my list to do, most certainly. You know I’m a dark beer kinda guy, but my wife really isn’t. I’ve contemplated doing a faux-barrel-aged lighter beer to satisfy her love for lighter beers and my love for anything that tastes like a tree.
    Buddy of mine tried this and mentioned to me that you don’t want to throw away the bourbon after letting the oak chips soak. He said it will taste particularly strong, and if you let it soak for at least a month you’ll have some really unique bourbon that tastes like it has been “double-aged” or something. I haven’t tried it, so he may be crazy… :)

  • mike

    I was thinking of tossing the bourbon in with the chips into the fermenter. My only concern is sanitation getting the fermenter open and the cubes in.

    As for brewing a dark beer. I was the same way. I made a deal though. I brewed up a batch of my wife’s favorite style first so she has a couple of cases to work on as mine comes to fruition. Then, like today, I’m brewing up another style she likes that is a much simpler brew. So by the time my porter is done, since it takes about 2 times as long, she will have 2 styles to my one. Regardless, I’ll drink them all so it doesn’t matter to me.

    Just a thought for ya!

  • http://goliki.com/ Troy

    Lets hope mine goes that smoothly, I read somewhere that you want to get your water 10 degrees above your target prior to putting your grains in… so that it will cool to the target temperature. We have yet another thing to compare! (and I’m looking forward to that, my guess is one will be maltier than the other…)

  • mike

    We will see. Thing is, mine will have been conditioning prolly 6 weeks longer to. I’m adding the bourbon on Monday. I have to say, the soaking of the chips looks tempting to just drink…

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