Saturday, March 1, 2008

Leap Beer

(Marco Cavagna and Mike Marsh, based on "Sparrow Hawk Porter")

My niece's birthday is February 29, so we had a big party for her yesterday evening. In honor of the occasion, we made a special batch of homebrew to keep the adults relaxed while a score of little kids ran around having fun. What I wanted, beer-wise, was a good February seasonal with a bit of a kick. It being Winter, we started with a nice dark porter. The "leap" part would come from the addition of dried chiles.

Unlike our previous recipes, this one is based on modifications to an existing recipe, "Sparrow Hawk Porter" (p.201). Consequently, we'll only list the modifications we made.

Beginning with the malt, we opted for amber (out of the choice between amber and light). For both types of extract, we used equivalent measures of DME, rather than syrup.

The aroma hops were as listed, though for the boil we substituted 2oz. of whole-leaf Golding. The higher quantity more-or-less compensates for the lower alpha acidity compared with the called-for Northern Brewer hops.

We used an Edinburgh ale yeast, since my brother-in-law's ancestry traces back to Scotland (and he's a fan of Scotch Ales).

The final modification was the dried chile peppers. Surprisingly, these were difficult to find. We ended up using dried California chiles, with which I'd never worked before. We added two of them (whole) at the start of the boil. During the course of the boil they split open, and some of the skin peeled off and rolled up into little tubes. There was also a distinct red tint to the blow-off.

The final result went over well at the party, though I still have a bit under half a keg left. The chiles had a much milder effect than I'd expected — future brewings will need a hotter chile, or just more pepper. While the keg was sufficiently pressurized, the beer wasn't as carbonated as it should have been. It's back under pressure now, and it should be interesting to compare the flavors of the relatively flat and fully carbonated versions.