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Homebrew #14: Acer Square

by Rob Friesel

Homebrew #14; the 11th as Tilde Gravitywerks, and my fifth original recipe. Acer Square is an assertive American porter with a touch of sweetness from maple syrup.

Acer Square, in all its glory

Sweetening a robust dark beer with maple is hardly an original idea. Vermont already offers two fine examples: 14th Star’s Maple Breakfast Stout and the venerable Fayston Maple Imperial Stout by Lawson’s Finest Liquids.1 Sierra Nevada did one, so did Brooklyn Brewery, and Sam Adams — and I’m sure there are many more out there. What I’m trying to say is, this isn’t like the time I decided to do a chili-pumpkin beer.2

We’d gotten a bunch3 of maple syrup from Square Deal Farm through our CSA this year and one afternoon it just came to me. The fall was on its way, and that meant robust dark beers. Why not sweeten one up a bit with a little bit of maple? I started my research which… Well, I may as well have just headed down to my local HBS in the first place.

I tinkered with a couple of ideas, got a recipe that I liked the looks of and come the first week of October, it was time to brew.

Making a maple porter. Oh yes I am. 🍁🍺 #homebrewing

Having made a partial mash recipe, and having learned a couple of important lessons last time, things went pretty much as I expected. Which is to say: fewer missteps with the mini-mash, and we rolled right into boiling and adding extracts and hops etc. The highlight moment was up-ending a pint bottle of maple syrup at the 45 minute mark and just dumping that whole thing into the wort.

We finished with an O.G. of 1.063,4 got the wort cooled to 72°F in about 25 minutes, aerated (shake!), and pitched.

Fermentation took off like a rocket, and I had to switch from the airlock to blow-off tubing after less than 24 hours.5 There was a steep drop-off in bubbling activity after about three days, but then it had an unusually long tail of moderate activity.

Racked after two weeks in the bucket.

Three weeks in the carboy to condition, and then bottling day. Boiled a pint of water with ⅔ cup maple syrup (Square Deal Farm again!) and that was our priming solution. Racked onto that, took gravity readings for an F.G. of 1.014,6 and packaged 24 × 22 oz. bottles, 6 × 12 oz. bottles, plus 2 × 1 pint flip-tops. Just shy of the hoped-for target 5 gallons? I’ll take it!

(Oh and the preview sample pint was delicious.)

Packaged Acer Square today…

Fast-forward two weeks and… Well, it came out just about perfect. Opaque, dark brown in the glass (almost black) with at least a finger of fluffy off-white head that seemed happy to stick around. Aroma has some toast and biscuit character, with a whiff of that maple. Solid malt backbone with a porter’s paradigmatic roasty flavors complemented with a touch of the lactose sweetness and then again with the maple. Finishes with an assertive hop bitterness, but nothing that lingers. Mouthfeel leans to full but isn’t mouth-coating. Oh so good, and such a great beer for the chilly fall as we move into winter.

But now the dilemma: I’d half-expected ArtsRiot to run another homebrew competition to finish out the year, but… no sign of such a competition on the calendar. Do I cross my fingers and try to sit on the batch, be first in line to enter? Or do I go ahead and start drinking up this masterpiece?

Decisions… Decisions…

Recipe

The partial mash recipe for Acer Square is as follows.

Mash Grains

  • 12 oz. chocolate malt
  • 4 oz. flaked oats

Fermentables

  • 3 lb. amber DME
  • 8 oz. lactose
  • 2 lb. dark LME (15 min. late addition)
  • 1 lb. maple syrup (15 min. late addition)

Hop Schedule

  • 1 oz. Galena (60 min.)
  • 1 oz. Willamette (5 min.)

Yeast

  • Wyeast 1272

Prepare a 1 liter starter 2-3 days before brew day.

Brew Day

  1. Collect 10.65 qt. (approx. 2.6 gal.) water and heat to 160°F. Add 12 oz. chocolate malt and 4 oz. flaked oats to filter bag and add to water. Hold at 156°F for 1 hour.
  2. Mash out. Heat to 168°F over 7 minutes; hold for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove filter bag from water. Squeeze filter bag to extract as much liquid as possible for wort.
  4. Bring mini-mash to a boil. Add 3 lb. amber DME and 8 oz. lactose and return to boil. Add 1 oz. Galena hops.
  5. With 15 minutes remaining in the boil, add 2 lb. dark LME and 1 lb. maple syrup.
  6. With 5 minutes remaining in the boil, add 1 oz. Willamette hops.
  7. Cool to 70°F as rapidly as possible and top off the fermenter to reach 5 gal.
  8. Aerate wort and pitch Wyeast 1272 yeast from starter.

Beyond Brew Day

  1. After fermentation completes, rack to a carboy.
  2. Allow beer to condition for approx. 3 weeks.
  3. Use ⅔ cups of maple syrup to carbonate on bottling day. Combine maple syrup with 1 pint boiled water; cool and pour into bottling bucket. Rack beer into bottling bucket and bottle.
  4. Allow at least 2 weeks to carbonate.
  5. Enjoy.

Details

Acer Square, an original porter with maple by Tilde Gravitywerks

Original Gravity 1.063 (14.2%Br)7
Final Gravity 1.014 (7.6%Br)
ABV 6.5%
Attenuation 77.78%
IBU 39.4
SRM 27.6
Links Untappd
Flickr
  1. Someone once told me that this beer wasn’t brewed with water but instead with sap. But that’s not what the Lawson’s site says so we’re going to have to chalk that up to being apocryphal, at best. []
  2. Which, if you haven’t read that post, you really should. But also, and (oddly) I don’t think I mentioned that in that post, whenever I discussed the idea of a chili-pumpkin beer with other brewers, their eyes always lit up with that Why didn’t I think of that? look that people get when something was obviously what they should have done all along. []
  3. 4 pints? Of which, I think we’d already used one, had another in-flight, and then two more unopened. One of which I promptly claimed as my own. []
  4. Granted, the target O.G. was 1.054 but somehow I have a bad habit of going over? []
  5. This was enough for me to consider just always starting with blow-off tubing in the future. []
  6. Right, so the finishing gravity reading for this beer was (shall we say?) a bit of a controversy for someone so focused on the numbers. I took a refractometer reading prior to racking to the bottling bucket and got 7.6%Br which, given the 0.95785 Brix Correction Factor, would give an S.G. of approximately 1.010. But that seems too high for a 5 gallon batch with 8 oz. of lactose. That and I’d taken a reading when we racked to the carboy and gotten 5.2%Br — so how did that number go up? (It’s tempting to say “out of calibration!” here but I’ve been disciplined about checking the instrument each time that I use it and recalibrating as necessary.) The bummer part here is that I forgot to grab the sample for the hydrometer reading until after mixing it into the bottling bucket along with the priming solution. That being said I don’t think that ⅔ cup of maple syrup is raising the gravity from the 1.010 I got off the refractometer to the 1.020 that the hydrometer read. I went looking for resources to help me figure this out and came up empty. In the end, I split the difference and decided that it must be something in the vicinity of 1.014 which seems to make sense with everything else I know and/or observed about this batch. (Which, as an aside to this aside, it casts a bunch of scrutiny upon the refractometer, but I think I just need to spend a little more effort calibrating it and then figuring out what I’m doing (or not doing) that’s causing these kinds of discrepancies from reading to reading.) []
  7. Target O.G. was, if you didn’t read the previous footnotes, 1.054. []

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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