001 Robust Porter

I’ve probably spent equal amounts of time over the past 6 months trying decide what my first beer should be as I have researching the topic of homebrewing in general. You can only read about something for so long before diving in head first so for Christmas I made my trek to the local homebrew shop and picked up all the equipment for my setup. While there I spoke to the owner to get recommendations on potential recipes. I had gotten the advice from several folks that a brown ale or porter might be a good starting point as they are generally very forgiving. The owner happened to have one of his own recipes for a robust porter that had won a few medals. It has a lot of different grains in the bill but overall was not a complex recipe and so I decided to give it shot.


  • 11 lbs 7.1 oz Pale Malt, Maris Otter
  • 1 lb Carared
  • 11.8 oz Brown Malt
  • 7.9 oz Chocolate Pale Malt
  • 7.6 oz Flaked Oats
  • 4.9 oz Black Patent Malt
  • 3.9 oz Chocolate Malt
  • 0.9 oz Blackprinz Malt
  • 0.75 oz Hallertau Magnum
  • 0.5 oz East Kent Goldings
  • 1 Whirlfloc Tablet
  • 1 tsp Yeast Nutrient
  • 1 pkg English Ale Yeast (White Labs #WLP002)

Brew Day

I began by heating the water to strike temperature (165.5°). I shouldn’t have filled the kettle full of cold water because this took about an hour to fill and heat that much water. I think I can speed this up significantly by etching volume markings in my kettle which would allow me to fill it directly with hot water from the tap (maybe adding 1/4 of a campden tablet to remove the chlorine).

I’m doing BIAB (Brew in a Bag) but I wanted to attempt a crude sparge so I didn’t do full volume and started with 5.25 gallons. Once my water came to temperature I cut the flame, put the mesh bag in, and added in all the grains and stirred it up. Mash in temp was right at 153.7°. I then put the lid on it and wrapped a blanket around it to hold temperature. I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of heat loss but after 60 minutes I took a reading and was pleasantly surprised to get a reading of 150.8°.

At this point I pulled the bag and set it into a 5 gallon bucket and poured another 3.5 quarts of sparge water I had heated previously slowly overtop the grains. I did my best to squeeze what I could out but with the grains still being super hot and the bag being super heavy this was very difficult so I moved the bag to the sink and then added what was in the bucket back to the kettle to begin the boil. This is another part in the process where knowing where my volume was at would be have been very helpful. I’m also not convinced sparging here is making a huge difference towards efficiencies. A lot of what I read about BIAB is to skip sparging and just use full volume with a finer mill on the grain which I think is going to be my my move next time around.

It took some time to get back up to temperature but I was happy to see the gas stove at our house was able to push enough BTUs to bring the full kettle to a boil at 210°. Added my first hop addition as it started rolling and then the final addition, yeast nutrient, and Whirlfloc tablet at 10 minutes. When it came time to chill things down I had made sure I had all the adapters necessary to connect my wort chiller to the sink, but I was hoping to get a pump and have it recirculate through ice water to speed things up but I bought the wrong kind of pump (I bought a condensate removal pump which can’t be submerged) so I had to just go with the tap water which took about an hour to get down to 75 degrees.

I was religious about making sure things were sanitized at this point and had a spray bottle of it made up and ready along with all the tubing being and fermenter being covered. I setup the transfer and started draining. I have an SS Brew Bucket which does have volumes etched in there and unfortunately it was only at this point that I found out I had only produced 4 gallons. I took a reading my OG was 1.08 (expected 1.059). I quickly started to Google my options and found that many will add water to bring it up to expected volume so I went that route, although I had no sanitized water and ended up just adding from tap. Hopefully that doesn’t introduce anything problematic but something I definitely want to avoid in the future which probably means having a few gallons of distilled water on hand for situations like this. I tried taking a reading after adding the water to see if OG had moved but I think the water hadn’t mixed with the concentrated wort so I was still getting the same 1.08. I decided to just let it ride and keep making beer.

I didn’t really have a good way of adding in any oxygen given you can’t shake this thing like a carboy. I may end up getting a small O2 tank with diffusing stone but we’ll see. I could probably just transfer it in a way that agitates it a bit more than I did but I’ll have to read up more on what others do. I pitched the yeast, threw the lid on with a 3 piece airlock, and set this puppy in the basement to begin fermentation. We’ve already got a little activity today so I’ll be updating this post as things progress with this brew.

Fermentation and Bottling

I had airlock activity after 24 hours that was steady but not very active (I may not have had enough StarSan in the airlock or maybe the lack of oxygenation made it work a bit slower). I had trouble getting a good reading for final gravity due to the hydrometer sticking to the wall of the narrow cylinder I had (I’ve since bought a better glass tube but also a refractometer) so I decided to just let it ride for 2 weeks and then bottle.

Bottling went off without a hitch. I hooked up some tubing to a bottling wand and at the recommendation of many set the fermenter above my dishwasher and bottled right from the open dishwasher door making cleanup a breeze. My daughter even helped me out by dropping 3 carbonation tablets into each bottle (I went with the drops this time around instead of priming sugar so I wouldn’t have to disturb the yeast cake by mixing up the sugar). I got 46 bottles out of this batch. Stored them in the basement and left them for 2 weeks to condition.


I’m quite pleased with how this came out for my very first homebrew! The color is a nice deep brown/black. The head dissipated pretty soon after pouring. Carbonation is about right for the style, maybe a hair weak on that front. I might wish for a bit more body to this beer but the struggles I had getting the right OG might attribute a bit to that. It’s roasty with notes of coffee, tobacco, maybe a bit of smoke. Since my OG and FG readings suck I don’t know exactly what the ABV is but if I had to estimate I’d put it at somewhere in the ballpark of 6% based on the readings I took. This is definitely a recipe I will return to again with a bit of experience under my belt because at the end of the day it’s an excellent porter and it will be fun to compare to my very first attempt. All in all this was a blast and I’m looking forward to future brews!

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