With the positive feedback both in the UK and in France for the first batch of 2 Craigs unstout, my first collaboration brew with the excellent Cromarty Brewing Co in Scotland, we decided to brew it again but with a couple of tweaks.
The idea was to produce a very low alcohol beer packed with flavour. We wanted to brew something along the lines of a stout with the classic roasty notes and smooth mouthfeel of this venerable style but at only 2% ABV.
In order to achieve this we used loads of un-malted ingredients and an unusually high mash temperature to make sure there was enough body left in the beer to give a stout-like feel. Unmalted barley and oat flakes and unmalted roasted barley made up about 40% of the grist, the balance made up by nutty British pale ale malt.
Mashing in (mixing the cereal grist with hot water in the mash tun) took place at close to 72°C. A more normal mash temperature is 65°C and by mashing this high we obtained an extract from the cereal which was relatively un-fermentable i.e. the fermentable sugars available for the yeast were deliberately more limited than would more normally be the case. As a result we were able to achieve a healthy fermentation which naturally stopped at a relatively higher gravity - the residual unfermentable sugars and carbohydrates give this little beer a fuller body.
Another trick we used was to perform an overnight cold-steep of a proportion of the roasted barley - a techinique Cromarty Craig picked up from his time in America - the idea being to extract colour and flavour from the roasted barley but to leave behind the astringency these grains can give. This time round we upped the cold steep to give a blacker aspect to the beer.
The first batch of this beer was hopped with some of our favourite American hops but this time round we experimented with 2 hop varieties from Alsace - Bouclier and Triskel. The Bouclier hops were used in the hop-back - a traditional brewing device placed between the kettle and the fermentation vessel, like a sieve that is packed with hop flowers through-which the hot wort flows during its transfer to meet the yeast! This allows for hop aromatics to be picked up en route and adds a subtle hop aroma and flavour to the finished beer.
The Triskel hops were added after the primary fermentation to the young beer - we thought the relatively high essential oll content of these hops would be ideal for dry-hopping.
Overall we're delighted with this second version. This is a big, little beer with the classic smooth espresso and liquorice-like qualities of a stout and a huge hop character, but at only 2% alcohol. The French hops give a more herbal aroma and taste and some subtle fruity notes and definitely have inspired us to explore the new Alsatian varieties being developed.
We invite you to enjoy this beer responsibly, the only way it can be enjoyed really!
Cheers from Craig + Craig