Don’t boil your grains!

Homebrewing has come a long way since I started in 1987. The ingredients are better (especially the yeasts!), the equipment is better, and the instructions are better. A recent discovery in my mom’s home reminded me of this.

My mother found an old recipe that belonged to my father. I don’t think my father ever brewed beer, and I’m not sure why he had this, but … there it was in his recipe box. It was called “Dr. Brew’s Legendary Number 65.” The recipe included 1/2 cup of Black Patent malt, and the instructions said to boil them for the last 15 minutes.

number65

That’s not a good idea. But looking at that recipe explains something I’ve wondered about for a long time.

The very first batch of beer I brewed was a strong stout. That was a dumb thing to start with, but … what did I know?

I started with a recipe for a stout from an old book I had, then I took all the components that were going to make it dark and I jacked them up, then added some extra black patent malt on top of that.

That could have worked, but the instructions were probably like “legendary #65” above, and probably had me boil the grains.

I was so excited about my first batch of beer that I barely gave it time to condition in the bottle before I tried one.

It was awful. Astringent. Harsh. Just plain nasty. It was everything bad that people who don’t like dark beers say about dark beers. But I like dark beers!

I kept trying it, hoping it would get better with age, but after a couple months of faithfully trying a bottle every few days, I gave up, pushed it into the back of the storage area under my stairs and moved on to something else.

I brewed several successful beers after that, then about a year later I found that old case of stout, gathering dust and cobwebs. I figured I just needed to pour it out and reuse the bottles, but I had to try one first.

It was fantastic. It was everything I had wanted in a stout. Thick, rich, flavorful. Creamy head. Notes of coffee. I loved it. Unfortunately, by that time there was only about a half a case left.

Anyway, now I’m pretty sure I know what went wrong with that first batch. I probably boiled the black patent malt, and it took all that time for the nasty flavors to age out.

Steep your grains, but don’t boil them. In fact, you should probably remove them from your kettle before you get to 170F.

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