Armenian Imperial Stout

Stout Top

This is beer number five, stout number two. It’s from Papazian’s Complete Joy of Homebrewing (3rd edition). I don’t know any story behind the name–Papazian gives none and as far as I’m aware there was never any Armenian Empire–so I suppose it’s just a takeoff of “Russian Imperial Stout” because Armenia is (almost) adjacent to Russia. Whatever. The point is that the beer is pretty damn good.

It’s a malt extract recipe, and I got all my supplies from the excellent Oak Barrel Winecraft in Berkeley, Calif. For a 5-gallon batch, the total cost came to about $40, which is a bit under a dollar a beer. This is pretty good by commercial beer standards–you won’t find one this delicious for that price–but a bit much for homebrew, mainly because there’s just a ton of malt extract. If you’re careful you can probably do a bit better (e.g. bring your own containers to fill with extract at the store, etc), but this beer is well worth it.

Stout Zoom

Ingredients
(This is what I used; they’re a bit different from what Papazian calls for but pretty close.)
Grain/Malt
6.5 lb amber extract
3.25 lb light extract
1/2 lb black patent malt
1/2 lb roasted barley
Boiling hops (60 min): 2 oz Magnum hops + 1/2 oz Cascade hops
Finishing hops (1 min): 1 oz Cascade hops
Yeast Wyeast 1056 American Ale yeast

Comments on the Brewing

This was a pretty standard stove-top malt extract brew. The specialty grain (black patent and roasted barley) was supposed to be steeped at 150-160 C for 30 minutes, but of course the temperature control was a bit wonky in practice. The amount of hops used was a bit of a guess–the recipe calls for hopped malt extract, and instead I put in the extra 1/2 oz Cascade for the boil. The result was not particularly over- or under-hopped, so it worked out. I tried to sparge (strain) the wort, but both the mesh bag and the metal strainer I had just got clogged, so it was about half-sparged. Finally, for various reasons I didn’t have a hydrometer at either the beginning or the end of the process, so I don’t know what the gravity was. (The recipe has O.G. 1.070 – 1.075, F.G. 1.018 – 1.025, which would give it an ABV of about 7%, which seems about right.)

I gave it about three and a half weeks in the carboy (with a blowoff hose for the first 24+ hours, which was an excellent idea), and three weeks in the bottle thereafter. The tasting notes I have in my brew notebook consist only of this: “Absolutely Delicious!!

(I will, however, take the opportunity to add a few more tasting notes here. The ale is quite bitter, but not hoppy, and very malty, but not at all sweet. It also has a very strong burnt or coffee flavor, which I find wonderful. If I were to make it again, this could go quite well with many types of additives: coffee, chocolate, vanilla, even chile would be excellent. Of course, it is also great as it is.)

Stout Full

Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge

This year's theme: hazelnuts Last Sunday, instead of celebrating our first anniversary by going out to a fancy restaurant (the plan I’ve been scheming for, well, let’s be honest, 12 months), Peter and I went to a beach BBQ to celebrate the birthday of our good friend David.  It wasn’t a tough call.  You see, David has a rather absurdly adorable baby who isn’t even 2 months old and is often in need of cuddling.  In the end, it was a perfect day to be at the beach, with a brisk ocean breeze to keep us from wilting in the sun.  It wasn’t until we received a “Happy Anniversary” card from my parents that I realized we had done absolutely nothing to celebrate (more proof that we are chronic under-celebrators).  I realize there are rules one can follow about anniversary themes, but it’s disappointing how few of them are edible.  So this year’s theme is hazelnuts.  (I thought briefly about making it chocolate, but if the point is to choose a different theme each year I couldn’t bring myself to rule out chocolate so early on.)

Mixing the fudge

The following recipe for chocolate hazelnut fudge is originally from Elana’s Pantry.  It is exceedingly simple and basically consists of roasting some nuts (after which your kitchen will smell like nutella) and making a chocolate ganache.  Unfortunately my ganache didn’t set up completely, which is probably due to the fact that the nuts weren’t roasted in time and I kept mixing the ganache to keep it from solidifying in the pot.  Despite a lack of structural integrity, the fudge has been quite popular, and is the most intensely chocolatey dessert I’ve eaten in a while.  If you prefer milk chocolate to dark chocolate, simply sub in milk chocolate chips.  I’m also thinking that the ganache would be amazing layered with a sweet peanut butter mixture (like lazy peanut butter cups)… maybe next year!

De-skinning hazelnuts

Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge (adapted from the recipe here)
1 3/4 (8 ounces) dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup coconut milk (unsweetened, the kind from a can)
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts, skins removed and roughly chopped

1) Line a bread pan or other similarly-sized dish with parchment paper to make a fudge receptacle.

2) Roast the hazelnuts for 10 minutes on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees F.  The skins will probably get pretty black, and you may be worried that you burned them, but don’t panic because you will be taking the skins off anyways.  De-skin the roasted hazelnuts by putting them in a clean dish towel and rubbing them together.  Most of the skins should come off very easily.  Chop the hazelnuts roughly and set aside.

3) Combine the chocolate chips and coconut milk in a small pot and stir constantly over low heat to melt the chocolate and form a smooth uniform consistency.  This really won’t take long!  Add in the honey and vanilla extract and stir to combine.  Finally, add the chopped hazelnuts and stir them into the ganache.

4) Pour the ganache plus hazelnuts into the parchment paper lined dish and let sit in the fridge for an hour or more until firm.  Cut into pieces and serve!  If your fudge insists on melting in your fingers, just eat it with a spoon; it will still taste amazing!

The finished fudge