Thursday, January 31, 2013

Xochiquetzal: an Imperial Stout worthy of the Aztec Goddess of Love

Seeing as this is my first post here, I should introduce myself. My name is Ryan Tarpley. I have been brewing since January 2006, when I finally pulled the trigger and bought my first brew kit. (Although many friends claimed they wanted to do this in college, I was the only one to go through with it.) I have been brewing on and off since college (Graduated from Ohio University in 2009 with a BA in Creative Writing, this is usually where I make the joke "Minor in Beer," because I spent the rest of my time drinking every craft brew and homebrew I could get my hands on.) and felt that I needed to step up my game. So in 2013, my goal has been to brew at least every two weeks. Thus far I have made 4 beers. More on those later, for now, let's get to the wonderful brew this post is about Xochiquetzal.

I have been with my girlfriend for going on 3 years in May. For our anniversary we decided to brew our first Russian imperial stout together.  For those who don't know, Russian imperial stout was a style first brewed for none other than Katherine the Great's Russian imperial court. Legend goes that she tried stout for the first time in England and ordered the stout beer be sent to her court. After finding that the beer spoiled on the trip to Russia, the brewers pumped up the stout by making it stronger, in order to better preserve the beer, and thus the greatest beer style ever was born, shooting straight to the top of the "best beer in the world" lists of two popular news prints: Paris's  Le Advocates de Beer and London's The Beer Raters. (Ok this sentence is a joke, but seriously, how many RIS's are on those "Best Beer Ever!" lists?)

Interesting side note, Stone Brewing ran into some crazy legal problems trying to get their Imperial Russian Stout named. The ATF people wouldn't let them use the word "Russian" because they believed it would mislead customers. Eventually, a chance run in with someone in Washington D.C. helped clear up the mess. And the brewing world celebrated, with tons and tons of Russian Imperial Stouts. But I digress. Xochiquetzal (sho-ki-KAY-tsal) Imperial Stout is a celebration of love...and adjuncts.

I have long dreamed of doing a frankenstout of sorts and this is a crazy one: We brewed up an Imperial stout and at the 15 minute mark added: 1lb of piloncillo, a type of unrefined, Mexican brown sugar with flavors of caramel and mild molasses.4 oz of dried hibiscus flowers, a flower used in Mexican cooking to make a drink called Jamaica (ha-mai-ca). The hibiscus flowers are a deep purple, almost red color with a wonderful tartness.  Right now the stout is in the fermentor, beginning to krausen. In 3 weeks we are going to ad: 8oz of tamarind pulp. Tamarind is a tropical fruit originating from Africa, but in the 17th century it was intruduced heavily in Mexico. It has a very tart, sour flavor, that also is a must have for Pad Thai (If you make your own, an endeavor I believe any brewer should make as it can be just as complicated and rewarding.) 1lb of cocoa nibs, 8oz of de-seeded and de-stemmed ancho chilies, 4 oz of cracked black and white pepper corns. and 4 oz more of hibiscus flower to hopefully give it a pink head. One thing I should probably mention: I love adjuncts and odd ingredients. So, why Xochiquetzal?

Once we started looking at the list of adjunct ingredients, I wanted to use an Aztec god or goddess to keep with the Mexican theme. Although I became worried when I started to look at the names of these gods and goddesses, seriously, look them up, Xochiquetzal and Xochipilli are some of the easier names to pronounce. We originally had picked Xochipilli (Literally "Flower Prince)" but after consideration and research, we found that Xochiquetzal was considered to be the Aztec goddess of love. In addition she was associated with beauty, female sexual power, and fertility. As a result of her being associated with female sexual power, she also happens to be the patroness of prostitutes. Can we just say that we picked it for Love? Because that's the truth. This imperial stout is our celebration of 3 happy years. I wish I knew the number of people who complimented us on our relationship, because I have never been happier with anyone and this beer is a celebration of passion, love and excitement.

Brew day was great! We loaded out mash tun with 20lb of grain, and had a thick mash using 1qt per pound of grain. Once that was done, we sparged with 7.5 gallons of water and stopped when we hit 7 gallons pre-boil volume. While we were waiting for the boil to start, my GF suggested that I take some of the second run-off for a starter for my Rainbow's End Irish Red that I am making Sunday. Once I pulled some of the run off, she commented that we could make another beer with it. This is called Parti-Gyle brewing, a process that has all but died out. The basic idea is that you make a big beer, add some grain, and make a smaller beer with the second runnings. Rather than add grain and take another hour, we took the second runnings and added honey, brown sugar and palm sugar (Another must have for Thai cooking.) we then added an ounce of galena hops and 8oz of hibiscus flowers and boiled for 7 min. It's fermenting in the boil pot next to the stout. Pictures will be posted soon, but for now, let me say Cheers and happy fermentations.
Throwing beer against the wall and seeing what sticks - Ryan Tarpley

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