I often tell this story as an example of experimentation gone wrong. I find people new to brewing are keen to try crazy flavours and techniques before getting the basics down, which I have no problem with – homebrewing should be fun – but recounting this beer gives a good example of the downside of that ‘kitchen sink’ thinking.
My idea, as is often the case, came from thinking of an existing flavour combination that I would like to see in a beer. In the case of this beer I was thinking white russian cocktail; creamy, vanilla and coffee and thick sticky mouthfeel.
My thinking was that I could use lactose to give the beer a sweetness and ‘stickyness’ and combine this with actual white chocolate in the boil for that milk and vanilla characteristic which I would further emphasise by fermenting the beer on vanilla pods.
The first issue was that I had never used lactose before and rather than working out how much residual sugar I wanted in the final beer I thought I’d just add the full 1kg bag that I bought it in. I wanted the beer sweet right?
Stout was the obvious beer style to go for, with complex vanilla and roasted coffee flavours it would theoretically be complimented by the flavours I was planning to add.
White Chocolate Stout
Batch Size: 15 litres
FG: 1.039 (Actual – 1.043)
3kg Maris Otter – 58.8%
1kg Lactose – 19.6%
0.3kg Chocolate – 5.9%
0.2kg Dark Crystal – 3.9%
0.1kg Carafa II – 2.0%
0.5kg Rolled Oats – 9.8%
20g Chinook @ 60 mins
Beta Glucan rest at 45°C for 15 minutes
1 bar of 100g low fat white chocolate added to the boil @ 10 minutes
Split 3 vanilla pods and soaked in vodka before adding everything to the fermenter
Well, the title of the blog post has probably given you some indication of how this beer went. I like to call it a dessert beer because you can only drink it in small doses due to the overwhelming sweetness.
Annoyingly, all the flavours that I wanted were in the beer but just overwhelmed by a sickly sweetness that made the beer undrinkable.
What Would I Do Differently?
Firstly, I think this beer was a good idea. I still stand by the white russian stout. That being said, this was a few years ago and I’ve not tried to re-brew this beer so maybe I’m just kidding myself.
The first, most obvious change I would make is to lower the amount of lactose used. Maybe not even use any lactose or at most, under 10% of the recipe.
I think the base stout recipe is good but I’m not too sure why I used Chinook to bitter. It was probably all I had to hand at the time but I think I’d go with my usual favourite of Magnum for bittering if I did this again.
I’d most likely leave the chocolate out too. I liked the idea at the time because it seemed unusual but I’m not sure how much it added to the beer. I’d up the vanilla slightly and maybe add some cold press coffee.
Lastly I’d up the carbonates in my water as much as possible to really soften the harshness from the dark malts, maybe even sparging through the dark malts rather than mashing in with them so they aren’t contributing as much.
Thinking about what I would do differently has made me want to brew this again now…
Any homebrewers reading this, tell me what your worst beer ever has been and what you would do to change it!