(Marco Cavagna, Christine Garnett, and Mike Marsh)
This beer is a sort of "work in progress." The idea was to have a strong, dark, malty beer with notes of apples and cinnamon, as a Winter seasonal. It hasn't worked out quite as we'd hoped, as of the pre-Thanksgiving tasting, but we'll be reporting on the progress as the batch ages. Note that this, as well as the Snapping Ginger Ale, are experiments. Some work better than others, but all are learning experiences.
9 lbs. amber DME
0.5 lbs. chocolate malt
0.5 lbs. roasted barley
1 lb. tart apples (cored, peeled, and chopped) — we used 6 Fujis
2 cinnamon sticks (boil)
5 cinnamon sticks (priming)
English ale yeast
Do the usual 30 minute steep of the grain between 150 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Strain and fill the pot to 2 gallons or more. Add the malt extract and 2 sticks of cinnamon, bring to a boil, and boil for an hour. Turn off the heat and let the wort cool to 180 degrees. Steep the apples between 150 and 180 degrees for 20 minutes. Strain out the apples and cinnamon, sparge and cool, and pitch when the wort is cool enough.
When fermentation is complete, boil 5 cinnamon sticks with the priming sugar for 10 minutes. Add the solution (with cinnamon) to the young beer (the alcohol will pull out a few more flavors). Bottle condition for at least two months.
There was a little (well under a pint) left after filling 17 1-liter bottles, so we tasted the primed young beer. Obviously, the priming sugar made it a little sweet, and it was room-temperature and flat. That being said, we could feel the cinnamon more than taste it, as a bit of tingling on the tongue and a bit of warmth. Because we used tart apples and no hops, rather than the bitterness to which we're accustomed, the beer was a bit sour. Based on this initial impression, we'd go with a less-tart apple next time.
The first tasting, at about 50 days in bottle, was better than the primed beer, but still disappointing. Without hops there's no head retention. The tartness is still present, and tends to overwhelm the other flavors (the cinnamon is basically undetectable). I'd describe the flavor as hard cider and weak coffee. Marco and I split a 1-liter bottle, but we ended up pouring out about half of it. We'll try it again in another month or two, but we don't expect it to ever taste the way we wanted. Cider takes awhile to develop its flavor, and this (inadvertently) is closer to cider than beer in character. The next time we'd use at least a little hops, and go with fewer of a sweeter variety of apple.
The second tasting, at 195 days in bottle, was considerably different. The sour flavors are essentially gone, leaving the cider and coffee flavors to dominate. While it would never be my regular beer, I found it quite drinkable, and consumed nearly the full 1-liter bottle myself. Marco still doesn't like it, but he seems not to like hard cider. The beer was at cellar temperature; another tasting with the beer chilled will be necessary.
Less than a week later (4/18), I chilled a couple of bottles and brought one out with me for my standard nice-weather sitting-on-porch-drinking-homebrew. The malt flavors were pretty thoroughly muted, leaving just the apple tartness. As the beer warmed, the coffee notes returned. I shared a bit with an intrepid neighbor, after warning him that it wasn't what we'd hoped for in terms of flavor, and he at least said he liked it. Apparently I'm not alone in considering this beer drinkable.
First Tasting: 11/19/07
Second Tasting: 4/12/08