Tromp L’oeil – Imperial Golden Coconut Milk Stout

The first all grain brew that I ever did was an Imperial Stout that clocked in about 10.4% alcohol. My friend Josslyn (at the time, Josh), drove like an hour and a half from the Philly-ish area of New Jersey to my dad’s house and I learned how to do everything that I’ve now been doing for years. It was honestly my third brew ever, first non-extract, second non-kit, but it turned out amazingly. That tends to happen when you combine a decent recipe with Jamaican coffee and Bulleit-soaked oak chips.

However, a few years later, I found a recipe from another homebrewer, that I have long since forgotten, for a golden stout (I found it, it was courtesy of /u/gnarstow on reddit’s /r/homebrewing). This is about a year before Stone released their Master of Disguise and before BrewDogs did their janky fucking “most expensive beer ever” bullshit with gold leaf and truffles and a hand-blown jeroboam bottle. It was an awesome concept that I had honestly never thought of. A tricking of the senses to create a schism between what you saw and what you tasted. Fucking beer magic. [Note: “Golden stout” is not a real style. It’s fucking golden ale, but that’s not as catchy]

Naturally, I had to catch this lightning in a bottle.

I took the recipe from my original imperial stout, stripped out all the dark malts, and then incorporated them back into the recipe as pale base malt. A little bit of lactose and boom. Imperial golden milk stout. But, that wasn’t enough. This was the beginning of the magical age of flavored adjunct imperial stouts, and I wanted to make my own goddamn frankenstein. So, in addition to the coffee and the cacao nibs, I wanted coconut.

The resulting beer was what one would refer to as “naughty juice” – deceptively smooth for such a punishing ABV. I ended up bringing a sixpack of it to the July 4th cookout that the gastropub I work at was hosting for our staff. It was a hit. It was also a terrible (or great) decision.

As of 2014, I haven’t brewed it again. I ended up acquiring a whiskey barrel towards the end of last year, and it’s been on my mind that I’d wanted to re-brew this one to age in it. However, as part of the 4th anniversary for the joint, we’re embarking on a series of collaborations with some awesome local breweries. To this end, the beer is finally going to be brewed again for the first time in literal years. Shout out to Jared and Ben at Collusion Tap Works for putting up with our (my) obscene ideas. [Note: this iteration of the beer is still actually in the process of being made. It’ll be officially put on draft somewhere in the realm of May 20th]

Them Digits

Batch Size: 5 gallons

Mash Temp: 154F for 60 min.

Boil Time: 60 min.

Batch Efficiency: 75%

Original Gravity: 1.096 // 22.9 P

Final Gravity: 1.016 // 4.1 P

ABV: 10.5%

IBUs: 49

SRM: 18.7 EBC // 9.5 SRM

Recipe

Malts

  • 15# Maris Otter Pale | 73%
  • 1# Flaked Oats | 7%
  • 1# Flaked Barley |7%
  • 1# Lactose (added during boil) | 10%
  • .5# Caramel/Crystal 40L | 3%

Hops

  • 1 oz Nugget @ 60 min.
  • 2 oz Willamette @ 20 min.
  • 2 oz Tettnang @ 1 min.

Yeast

  • Wyeast NB NeoBritainnia (1945) – Fermented at 72F

Spices ‘n Such

  • 8 oz. // 1 cup Gold Star’s Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee (whole beans) [This was before “drybeaning” was cool]
  • 4 oz. Cacao Nibs (soaked in vodka before adding to primary/secondary)
  • 8 oz. Organic Shredded Coconut (unsweetened, toasted to a light golden color)

 

Notes

From what I remember, this beer was easy to make, but a goddamn nightmare to bottle. Big mouth fermenters were really a thing yet (or at least I didn’t know about them), so there was just a metric fuckton of loose coconut flakes everywhere. I distinctly recall trying to afroneer cheesecloth over the end of the autosyphon to avoid clogging up the head to no avail. Somehow, we managed to get most of the beer out of the carboy. I’m pretty sure I ended up slowly pouring it into a strainer that was lined with cheesecloth, then into the bucket. Logistical nightmare are real, and any homebrewer will confirm that for you.

That being said, this is probably the beer that I absolutely became sure of two things. First, that the Wyeast NB strain is probably my favorite yeast to use in stouts. Second, that adding Tettnang hops to big, dark beers at the end of the boil is pure motherfucking magic. All those subtle, spicey noble hop tones meld into the darkness like a svelte velociraptor getting caught in a tar pit, finally relinquishing itself to the gaping maws of impending darkness, only to emerge on the other side a goddamn fossil worthy of being in a museum for people to admire. If you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend it.

Back to the “naughty juice”. For being a golden stout, it was money. Coffee and chocolate abound. If you closed your eyes, you would never have guessed that this beer was anything near the color of a pale ale. The oats and the higher mash temp did their job, and tag teaming with the additional mouthfeel boost of the lactose, formed a bond like Edge & Christian circa Wrestlemania 2000.

The real star of the show, honestly, was the coconut. Having spread it out on a baking sheet and slowly toasting it at like 250F for like 10 minutes, it just opened up from that nasty shit on top of creme pies and what gets stuck in your teeth after a Mounds bar into just vanilla and mashmellow. So, that combined with chocolate and coffee? Jesus, it was almost like an alcoholic frappuccino from Starbucks. Don’t get me wrong, this beer was probably the caloric equivalent, but so smooth and delicate. For just adding shit willy-nilly, it somehow was perfectly balanced where nothing dominated competely over the other and every comingled like Three’s Company’s sexual tension.

As of this month, this is officially the first beer recipe I’ve ever revisited, discounting the fact I brew my base saison jawn like all the time with different variations here and there. I’m looking forward to drinking it again.

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