'Twas the day after Thanksgiving and, for state employees like me, this year the day meant more than just feeling bloated and planning creative ways to use up all that cranberry sauce. This year, it meant taking an unpaid vacation day (i.e. a furlough day) to help address the state’s fiscal crisis in my own infinitesimally small way. You see, the State of Connecticut is projecting a deficit this year of almost $400 million, and is counting on its many thousands of employees to help plug those pesky budget holes by taking a few uncompensated days off before the end of the year.
Being loyal and humble public servants, we (my pals Eric and Scott are also state employees) decided that since we had to furlough, we might as well furlough in style. Breathe it in deeply and embrace it. Fill it with activities as far removed from work as possible.
Therefore, after a vigorous morning hike (on the blue trail) at Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden, CT, we got down to the serious business of bottling our Wallace Fogbottom's Strong Ale and brewing a batch of High Octane Furlough Stout.
Wallace Fogbottom's Strong Ale (8.4% ABV)
You can read about Wallace Fogbottom's conception here. We brewed the batch on August 29, pitched extra yeast (dry) on September 25, and bottled it on November 27. Initially, we planned to bottle it closer to Halloween, but laziness and the challenge of matching three schedules kept pushing the date back. Our brew had a hefty O.G. of 1.099 and an F.G. of 1.040, meaning the ABV came out to a respectable 8.4%. Fogbottom was based (ever so loosely) on Anchor's Old Lighthouse in the Fog Barleywine Ale, which has an ABV of 8.8%. The recipe we used gave us a target O.G. of 1.099 (bull's eye!) and F.G. of 1.032. With different yeast (i.e. a little more care), I think we would have gotten there. In any case, the green beer tasted great. Strong and sweet, though with a little less hop bite than I would have liked. Once this strong ale ages for another month or so, I think it will be a pretty special brew to hunker down with on a cold Christmas Eve.
High Octane Furlough Stout
Our Furlough Stout is based on a recipe for Wolaver's Oatmeal Stout from Charlie Papazian's book, Microbrewed Adventures. Our grain bill differs slightly from his insofar as we had to substitute the 10 ounces of crystal malt in his recipe for 7 ounces of Munich + 3 ounces of Vienna that we had on hand. To his recipe, we're planning to add 2 quarts of espresso steeped water after fermentation for a little umph!
Post fermentation, we'll be adding 0.5 lb ground espresso beans steeped in 2 quarts water.
We began by bringing 5 quarts of distilled water to 180° F, adding the crushed grains (Briess malt, British roasted barley, Munich malt, Vienna malt, and rolled oats), stirring to distribute the heat evenly, and turning off the heat. Over the next 45 minutes, the heat in the pot stabilized at about 150° F. The consistency in the pot was that of super hearty oatmeal. In fact, Eric claimed (after a few beers) that he planned to save the spent grains and eat them for breakfast the following week.
We then brought the temperature of the grains back up to around 167° F and strained them into a second pot, rinsing them with water that we heated in a small saucepan to 170° F. At this point, we added enough water to achieve 2.5 gallons in the pot, added our amber malt, wheat malt, and Magnum (90 minute) hops, turned up the heat, and turned our attention to Wii Sports. We brought the pot to a boil and reduced the heat at around 190° F.
An hour later, I'd lost every game we played (as usual), and we added our Hallertau (30 minute) hops. With ten minutes to go (80 minutes after adding the amber/wheat malt and Magnum hops), we added a tablet of Irish moss to help clarify, and nine minutes later we killed the heat and added our Cascade (one minute) hops.
We strained the brew into our fermenter, adding enough water to hit 5.5 gallons, and dropped in the wort chiller. Once we hit 70° F, we pitched our Irish ale yeast and sealed the lid. One week until we re-rack. Two weeks until we bottle and add the coffee. Then presto! Our High Octane Furlough Stout will be ready just in time for Christmas!