Brewing on a school night

One thing I tell friends about parenthood is that the important stuff sticks around. You may not be able to spend a weekend binge-watching shows anymore, but you’ll find ways to keep the hobbies that are important to you.

Jenny got me Adventures In Homebrewing’s Vanilla Porter recipe for my birthday. I’ve made this kit before and it’s tasty. So, last night after we got the girls in bed, I was able to brew a batch of beer.

I don’t have 6 hours to spare for an all-grain batch. It was satisfying to knock out an extract beer in 3 hours (including clean up). Sure it was a bit cold in the garage, but the nice thing about brewing in the winter is that the wort chills much faster.

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
5 gal 60 min 25.0 IBUs 22.8 SRM 1.056 1.015 5.4 %

Style Details

Name Cat. OG Range FG Range IBU SRM Carb ABV
American Porter 20 A 1.05 - 1.07 1.012 - 1.018 25 - 50 22 - 40 2.3 - 2.9 4.8 - 6.5 %

Fermentables

Name Amount %
Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L 8 oz 5.56
Black (Patent) Malt 4 oz 2.78
Chocolate Malt 4 oz 2.78
Pale Liquid Extract 8 lbs 88.89

Hops

Name Amount Time Use Form Alpha %
Cluster 1 oz 60 min Boil Pellet 7
Willamette 1 oz 5 min Boil Pellet 5.5

Miscs

Name Amount Time Use Type
Vanilla Bean 2.00 Items 0 min Secondary Spice

Yeast

Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
SafAle English Ale (S-04) DCL/Fermentis 73% 59°F - 75.2°F

What I’m Drinking: Bell’s Oktoberfest

Bell's Oktoberfest LabelIt’s September so tonight I’m drinking Bell’s Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfests are sometimes generalized as VMOs because of the overlap between the Vienna Lager, Märzen, and Oktoberfest styles.

Bell’s Oktoberfest is a great beer for when the evenings are getting colder, or in our case just as warm but rainy.

The main thing you notice from an Oktoberfest should be the malt. I enjoy a caramel sweetness in the finish that stays with you, almost cloying, and when the color also evokes caramel. There are definitely dryer and lighter takes on the style too. Bell’s hits the malt notes I love.

The malt should be balanced with noble hops. I couldn’t tell you what Bell’s is using, however I recently had Devil’s Backbone’s Vienna Lager and loved the taste of Saaz hops in the style. As a point of reference, Saaz is the signature hop taste of Bell’s Oberon.

Another Oktoberfest I’ve loved, at the suggestion of my brother Charles, is Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen. That my be the best example of the style available. If you can find a bottle this fall I strongly recommend you pick one up. I also really enjoyed Flying Dog’s Dogtoberfest although I haven’t seen it in Southeast Michigan in a few years.

On the flip side is Sam Adams’ Octoberfest. It’s a super tasty beer! But it doesn’t have the toasty sweet malt or noble hops I’m looking for in an Oktoberfest. It might be because I have killed my taste buds and need more malt & hops, but I look for more in an Oktoberfest.

Are there any other VMOs I should check out?