A Tribute to the Mighty Scotch Bonnet, Part 2: Jerk Beer

I don’t intend to waste too much space posting beer recipes on this site but in my opinion this particular recipe is both interesting and relevant enough to be worthy of sharing. This is what I call my “Jamaican Jerk Ale” and it is just what it sounds like – I use scotch bonnets and spices to brew a Jamaican-inspired beer.

I do not brew many experimental beers or beers with fruit/spice/etc additions so this is not my typical brew. However I had happened to find myself with extra scotch bonnets on hand one day and threw this recipe together on a whim. This is my third time brewing it and I have changed a few things this time (dried, toasted peppers instead of fresh, less allspice, added cloves, added some smoked malt) but for the most part I am happy with it as is. I considered adding paprika, thyme or brown sugar – all appropriate Jerk spices which may or may not be work in this beer – but I talked myself out of all three.

In previous batches I used fresh peppers and added both the peppers and spices to the boil. The flavor and (subtle) heat came through just fine, but I am hoping that adding the peppers and spices after fermentation has slowed down will preserve a broader range of flavors. Also toasting the dried peppers adds a savory characteristic that you can’t get from fresh peppers.

At any rate, here is the recipe for the current batch:

Grains:
5 lbs Pale Malt
2 lbs Cherrywood Smoked Malt
1 lb Crystal 40L
1 lb Crystal 80L
8 oz Flaked Barley
2 oz Pale Chocolate
Hops:
.25 oz Amarillo (10.6%) @ First Wort
1 oz Amarillo (10.6%) @ 15 min
Yeast:
1 Pkg Danstar Nottingham
Spice Tea:
6 Dried Scotch Bonnet Peppers
2 Cinnamon sticks
3/8 oz Allspice
1/8 oz Cloves
1/2 cup Wray & Nephew

Process.

Since I added the peppers and spices as a “Spice Tea” after fermentation had begun to slow, the actual brewing process was fairly unremarkable and I won’t bore you with too many details as there are probably 300,000 YouTube videos you can watch to see someone brewing beer in their backyard. But since I went through the trouble of taking pictures I will give you a quick and dirty visual tour.

First, Mash the grains for 60 minutes at 152’F in my trusty Home Depot mashtun.

Then drain off the first runnings and add the .25 oz of “First Wort” hops. Traditionally the first hops are not added until the boil has commenced but adding the hops to the first runnings supposedly contributes to a smoother bitterness and more hop flavor and aroma. I have no idea whether that is true but I just find it more convenient to do it this way so I prefer it. And I have had good results every time.

Next, sparge, fill the kettle and light the fire.

Boil for 60 minutes, adding the other ounce of hops with 15 minutes remaining.

Chill to 60’F , transfer to a traditional fermentation vessel (plastic bucket with lid and airlock), and pitch the yeast.

Beer Profile:
Original Gravity: 1.044
Estimated Final Gravity: 1.010
Bitterness: 26.7 IBUs
Color: 14.1 SRM
Est. Alcohol by Vol: 4.4%

Now the interesting part.

Take 6 or so dried scotch bonnets. Cut them up and discard the seeds (not to reduce the heat but because I didn’t want them clogging up my brewing/kegging equipment). Add 3/8 oz whole Allspice berries and 1/8 oz whole cloves and 2 sticks of cinnamon. Heat a pan and dry toast everything but the cinnamon.

Toast for a few minutes but be careful not to burn everything. YOU MIGHT WANT TO WEAR A MASK AND OPEN A WINDOW. THE FUMES ARE LIKE TEAR GAS. My nose and throat burned for an hour afterwards.

Once everything is good and toasted add 1/2 cup water and the cinnamon sticks. Boil for three or four minutes then pour the delicious concoction into a mason jar. Toasting contributes flavor due to maillard reactions, especially in the peppers, but boiling water extracts volatile oils from the spices that might otherwise go unutilized. At this point the fumes will have subsided and everything will start smelling like Christmas.

Top off with 1/2 cup Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum and mix well. The purpose of the rum (besides adding another authentic Jamaican touch to the recipe) is to sanitize everything and to help extract the heat from the peppers and the flavors from the peppers. Adding water and boiling does this as well, so between boiling and alcohol extraction I hope to get the fullest possible flavor from the spices. Also the water dilutes the rum ( at 126 proof there is room for dilution), which otherwise tastes reminiscent of distilled kerosene.

Once fermentation settles down (~3 days or so), pour the “Spice Tea” into the fermentor and age as usual. I let it age two weeks in the bucket then two weeks in a keg. The longer it ages, the more mellow the spices will be, so there is definitely a “sweet spot” that lasts about 2-3 weeks during which the beer is at its best.

I will report back with a picture of the final product and a taste review in three weeks or so.

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