Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fanfare for the Uncommon Man Stout

For those of you who haven't been able to keep up with the goings-on of AfroDan Progressive Brewers, my family's move from the very-urban to the less-urban suburbs of Boston two years ago resulted in the need to annex our operations.

Last year, we opened the first of our two new facilities, AfroDan North. It took longer than expected, but last month the Emerson, Lake & Palmer-inspired Fanfare for the Uncommon Man Stout marked the inaugural brewing effort of our AfroDan South operation.

Actually, our new brew's namesake song "Fanfare for the Common Man" is an Aaron Copeland original, but as ELP was known to do, they took the classical composition and made it their own.

There was a time when I thought ELP's version was the theme song for ABC's Wide World of Sports. But, this myth was dispelled a few years ago. It may have briefly (or occasionally) been used as the theme, but the show's primary intro music was a Charles Ira Fox number.

But, those ideas about "Fanfare for the Common Man" were apparently not completely unfounded:

This beer was influenced by a recipe of mine from 17 years ago which I called Mr. Pither's Imperial Stout. But, several factors resulted in its evolution to this particular creation bearing a different name.

First, not all of the original ingredients were available at our local home brew store. A minor change to the recipe is one thing, but a few changes makes giving this one the original name feel a little wrong to me.

Second, we've been partial to naming our beers after prog-rock songs ever since we formed this brewing partnership in late 2007. Mr. Pither's was named after the main character in the Monty Python's Flying Circus classic episode "The Cycling Tour." While that's equally nerdy as prog-rock, it still strays from our mission.

Lastly, it didn't really turn out worthy of being considered an imperial stout. Despite using enough malt and fermentable adjuncts to reach upwards of 9%, it came in at 5.6% by our calculations. We thought we had solved the mystery of projected high octane brews not quite fermenting to their potential by using super high gravity yeast, but this brew's original gravity reading was mysteriously too low to come anywhere near the ABV we were expecting. Hopefully further research will be able to reveal the reason for that shortcoming.

This past weekend was the unveiling of our latest endeavor and we're quite pleased with the results. In fact, this one might be technically our best, even if it's not necessarily our favorite. What I mean by this is we love our 21st Century Schizoid Ale, and the 2010 edition is the consensus pick as our best brew to date, but it's extremely high alcohol content makes it not so easy on certain palettes. On the other hand, a lot of people—the wife included—aren't really big fans of stout, so who knows.

Anyway, we look forward to maybe sharing a Fanfare for the Uncommon Man Stout with some of you in the near future. If you're not one of those beer drinkers who hold certain prejudices against dark beers, I'm sure you won't be disappointed. You might not appreciate having to listen to a steady stream of Emerson, Lake & Palmer in the process—just like stouts, they're not for everyone either, I realize—but sometimes we have to make sacrifices in life.

Finally, here's the recipe for a five-gallon batch:

1/2 lb. roasted barley (steeped 20 mins.)
1/2 lb. chocolate malt (steeped 20 mins.)
1/2 lb. Belgian de-bittered black malt (steeped 20 mins.)
9.9 lbs. amber malt extract (boiled 75 mins.)
1 lb. dark brown sugar (boiled 75 mins.)
3 oz. Chinook hops - 13% alpha (boiled 75 mins.)
1 oz. Warrior hops - 13.7% alpha (boiled 75 mins.)
3 tsp. pure vanilla extract (boiled 30 mins.)
1.6 oz. Cascade hops (boiled 10 mins.)
1 1/2 oz. WLP099 (super high gravity ale yeast)

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