Poor Yorick's Skull-splitting Barleywine created by B.F. Skinner
B.F. Skinner always fascinates Alchemanians by the elaborate descriptions of his recipes. He shares his experiences of homebrewing with us in this article.
"One of the things we love about the world of craft brewing is that expression across multiple dimensions - the artistic labels and logos on bottles and cans, the architectural design of the brewhouses, the clever beer names and stories they tell and, of course, the breadth and scope of the many many styles, interpretations of those styles, and variations across a seeming infinite array of recipes. ", Skinner said.
1. Please introduce yourself a bit to us. When did you begin your brewing journey with ALCHEMA?
We are a group of behavioral psychologists but, more importantly, we are craft beer enthusiasts. Really, we are fans of all artisan fermenting including meads, ciders, and wine. However, one of our group recently was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, a severe gluten intolerance, and therefore could no longer enjoy beer, which is typically brewed from highly-glutinous grains. The commercially available gluten-free ales and lagers left much to be desired in regard to taste and creativity, and local craft breweries rarely produce gluten-free selections. We both had some prior home-brewing experience, and often talked about creating our own Celiac-safe recipes. When I saw a reference to the Alchema system on the internet, I immediately ordered it. Since mead, cider, and wine are naturally gluten-free, it seemed an easy way to provide opportunities for some creative fermenting.
2. What are your favorite kinds of drinks to make with your ALCHEMA?
I enjoy the challenge of adapting ALCHEMA to brew Ales.
3. Which of your recipe creations are you most proud of and why?
The community-favorite seemed to be the Klingon Bloodwine; it was delicious, full of superfruits, and had a great pop-culture reference that apparently resonated with other Alchemanians (perhaps better to call them “Alchemaniacs"). My personal favorites were the Phileas Fogg’s Great Global Stout and Poor Yorick’s Skull-splitting Barleywine because they both had great complexity and depth of flavor.
4. What’s the background story of that recipe? What inspired you to come up with this combination?
The gluten-free malt often used in brewing beer is Sorghum syrup. However, Sorghum can impart a sour flavor to the brew, so the goal is to combine it with other sugars and flavors that balance or conceal that sour taste while still maintaining the robust mouthfeel and layered flavor of a beer. Both the Stout and Barleywine had flavors very consistent with those beer styles, even though they weren’t brewed in the traditional way. I’m proud of being able to “simulate” those flavor profiles with countertop fermenting and gluten-free ingredients.
5. How would you describe the flavor of this drink? What would it pair well with?
The Stout was a rich blend of coffee, chocolate, anise, and a hint of smoke. It would pair well with any chocolate dessert, or become a dessert unto itself with a scoop of vanilla ice cream floated in its glass. The Barleywine had a deep sticky-toffee, caramelized dark-fruit profile; figs, dates, and raisins but balanced with floral hops to dry out the palate and avoid cloying sweetness. The brandy-barrel oak chips added a warming spiritous mouthfeel that makes this brew perfect for an after-dinner drink, similar to ending the evening with a whiskey or cognac (pairing very well with a fine cigar, by the way!).
6. Which steps are the most critical to follow when creating your drink recipe?
I’ve found that adding hops directly to the pitcher has not well-infused the brew with those desired floral, earthy or piney flavors, An easy hack to correct this problem has been to add the hops to boiling water, reduce heat and simmer for 15-30 minutes to essentially make a “tea". After the liquid cools, it can be added to the pitcher through a strainer when prompted to add the hops, and again when adding the water at the end.
7. Did you use the ALCHEMA app to adjust the recipe to fit your taste? If so, how did it help you?
The app is very helpful in determining the amount of malt and other sugars in calculating target alcohol content and the desired level of residual sugar.
8. Any advice for your fellow Alchemanians who are attempting to create their own recipes for the first time?
We have been complimented for “thinking outside the box” in regard to our recipe development, and also for our creative descriptions. At the intersection of imagination and science lies craft - artisan expressions of human interest and achievement. One of the things we love about the world of craft brewing is that expression across multiple dimensions - the artistic labels and logos on bottles and cans, the architectural design of the brewhouses, the clever beer names and stories they tell and, of course, the breadth and scope of the many many styles, interpretations of those styles, and variations across a seeming infinite array of recipes. I would encourage the ALCHEMA community to celebrate that craft, let loose the imagination, think outside the box, and always find a reason to raise a glass.
Are you ready to give it a try?
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