Coconut and dark beers (porters and stouts) can interact in a harmonious marriage. My favorite coconut porter is Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery’s Three Hour Tour. I was lucky enough to try this beer years ago by a friend who smuggled a growler on a flight from Minnesota. I had a few homebrew versions with a nice interplay between the roasted malts and sweetness from coconut – this has been on my list of “must try” brews for a long time.
A successful off-scale beer with weird ingredients should have a solid base beer and balance. For the base beer I decided to use my standard porter recipe which utilizes de-bittered carafa malt to keep the roast in check and a healthy dose of rye and oat malt to provide a full palate but dry finish. I increased the chocolate malt to get a heightened chocolate character and had a successful showing at a homebrew competition with my Chocolate Orange Cardamon Porter. For balance, I decided to take a wait and see approach – adding toasted coconut first to the hot wort as it cooled then adding more if needed. It turns out that while one pound of shredded coconut gave plenty of favor before pitching they yeast, fermentation completely scrubbed the beer of any sign of coconut. I then kegged the porter and dry-hopped with another pound of dried coconut shreds in a hop sack. The resulting beer was marvelous and one of my favorite beers I have ever made.
Recipe (5 gallons):
- 12 pounds Pale Ale Malt (Briess)
- 1 pound flaked oats
- 1 pound of flaked rye
- 1/2 pound of Carafa Special III (Weyermann)
- 1/2 pound Chocolate Malt (Thomas Fawcett)
- 1/2 pound of extra dark Crystal Malt (130L)
Mashed in with 1.3 qts of water per pound of grain 154F and went down to 151F over the course of 30 minutes. Second half of mash, the temps ranged from 154 to 152. Did not do a mash out, but my sparge temperature hit 170F. First runnings at 1.093 gravity and batch runnings at 1.030. Collected a total of 8.3 pre-boil wort at a gravity of 1.048. Boiled for 60 minutes:
- 1 ounce of Warrior (16% AA) at 60 minutes
- 1 pound of unsweetened coconut shreds, toasted at 350F for 15 minutes. Added this at flameout.
Collected a total of 7 gallons of 1.059 wort (only 6 gallons went into the fermentor) and cooled to 66F. Pitched a re-fed two liter stepped starter of Wyeast 1056 and oxygenated for 2 minutes. Interestingly, krausen and active fermentation had started by 3 hours, with little to no lag time. It is possible that fat content from the coconut could have provided extra UFAs to the yeast which subsequently lowered lag time.
IBUs: ~42 (Tinseth)
I brewed this beer almost three months ago and I have three bottles left. Below is a review of the beer:
Appearance: Pours pitch black and quickly froths to a two finger head. The head drops back to a thin lace within a short time. Honestly, I was surprised at the head formation since coconut is high in fat content and assumed that this would destroy the foam on the beer. Although not a rocking pillow that refuses to budge, it leaves some respectable lacing.
Nose: Baker’s chocolate and freshly cracked coconut. The aroma is dominant and enticing at the same time. Although one-dimensional, this is what I was looking for.
Taste: When cold, the beer does not give much in the way of coconut but the other malts pull through. Toffee, chocolate, slight roast and some darkened caramel notes. Mixed in the back-end is the coconut, but it is subtle and not overpowering. Finishes clean and the coconut lingers in a mellow fashion. The taste is reminiscent of chocolate covered macaroons. The bitterness is there but very gentle, providing just enough to hold everything together. Thanks to the oats and rye, the silky palate is full-bodied but the beer finishes dry.
Overall: I could drink pint after pint. I suppose I have penchant for coconut, but I actually hate eating it – the texture is off-putting. Several people have tried it and while some praised the balance others were surprised at the coconut screaming in their faces. I’ll chalk this up to different taste buds and keep this beer year around rotation.