The White House dabbled in some homebrewing a while back, and of course the foodie blogosphere went crazy. Someone even went as far as to file a Freedom of Information Act for the recipe! Ha! It worked, or something worked. Because here we have it, from the WH itself:
We’ve brewed beer a total of three times since buying our starter kit in 2008. Yup, just three. It’s a bit of an emotional commitment, to be honest. Our first attempt was basically a disaster, swallowing an entire day and had us scrambling to create a makeshift cooling system with ice and fans and all sorts of things, already hours late for dinner — in retrospect, it’s a miracle the beer was drinkable. But it was! We threw a party, the beer was drunk to much toasting, and we were sufficiently encouraged to try again.
Here’s a vintage shot from our first attempt. (Note: this photo was taken pre-cooling, and therefore, pre-cooling-panic.)
Our second attempt exploded in our living room on Day No. 2 of fermentation, leaving our tiny spot stinking of a frat house on a Sunday morning. Still, we managed to salvage it and it, too, was pretty good. For our third attempt, we went so far as to make up our own recipe — chocolate coffee stout. We’re sure you’ve seen coffee stouts out there, and chocolate stouts, too, on the shelves of beer-tastic spots like Bierkraft. But have you seen chocolate coffee stouts? Exactly. We won’t be making that one again.
Still, for all our trials and tribulations, homebrewing is, once you figure it out, pretty straightforward. And it’s a lot of fun. And the pay off is pretty awesome.
So with the elections about a month away, the craziness mounting, and celebrations seeming more and more imminent (yay!), we decided it was time for Attempt No. 4. Like many others of you out there, we’d make our own White House beer with which to toast Obama on November 6th.
We picked up ingredients at Bitter & Esters, who also shared with us their recipe (which demystified many of the ambiguities in the White House’s original recipe) as well as some valuable tips and tricks. They didn’t have the honey called for in the recipe, so we picked up a pound of local honey at the Greenmarket Saturday morning.
So ingredients in hand, we dusted off our glass carboy (read: stuck it in a bathtub full of iodized water, to sterilize it!), rolled up our sleeves and got to work.
(For more homebrewing tips and techniques, may we recommend the Homebrewing column on Serious Eats for starters. It’s incredibly informative.)
white house honey porter: day one.
We’re brewing partial mash here — not all grain. All grain is tastier and has a more of a developed flavor, but with our starter equipment and tiny kitchen it’s simpler to brew a concentrated 3 gallon wort, and dilute it with two gallons of cold water at the end.
We followed Bitter and Ester’s well-explained recipe, as such:
Step one: Collect ingredients & equipment.
We hadn’t used our thermometer in a while, so we calibrated it.
Step two: Sanitize everything that will touch the wort after the boil — the carboy, thermometer(s), funnel, blow-off tube and stopper.
Step three. Steep the grains to make some yummy beer tea.
Step four. Boil the wort, adding hops, extract and honey as per the fabulous directions above.
Step five: Cool down wort to about 75F.
Step six: Pour wort into carboy, and dilute with cold water (we had two gallons in the fridge at the ready!) to bring the brew up to five gallons.
Step seven: Oxygenate wort. Rehydrate yeast, and pitch into carboy.
Step eight: Since we’re brewing five gallons in a five gallon carboy, we need a blow off tube. If we had a six gallon carboy, it wouldn’t be necessary, as a larger container would allow enough room for the foam produced during the early stage of fermentation. (We didn’t use a blow off tube in Attempt No. 2, hence the explosion.) So, seal with a blow-off tube running into a glass of sanitized water (thus creating a closed system) and set in a dark place at 75F ish degrees (i.e room temperature).
Step nine: Over the next three days or so we’ll monitor the blow-off tube, and when the foaming has settled, we’ll replace it with an airlock.