When we started planning Clocking Off there were a few things we had in mind from the get go. We wanted it to be indulgent, intense, with chocolate flavours and with a rich, smooth mouthfeel. We didn’t want it to be a pudding, it’s a grown up drink, but we wanted a luxurious dark beer.
We also wanted it to be pretty strong, but to still have a lot of sugars left after fermentation (for the aforementioned luxury). Alcohol comes from yeast processing sugars during fermentation, so to get both high alcohol and sweetness we needed a lot of sugar. Sugar in brewing usually comes from the malted grains (mostly barley, but also wheat, oats, rye and so on) so we needed lots and lots of malt. More, in fact, than would fit in our mash tun.
Because of this we did two mashes for this brew, one mashed overnight then sent into the copper, half filling it, and then a second mash following it to fill the copper to the top. We could have just boosted the sugar by tipping various processed sugars into it but that tends to add alcohol but not body. This beer was going to be worth a long brew day and a lot of malt digging.
We used a huge range of different malts, including our base Maris Otter Pale Ale malt alongside Carafa 3 malt which is a dehusked roasted malt, adding chocolate and coffee flavours but little bitterness; Special X malt is roasted for a short time, giving a fruity raisin flavour; chocolate malt is a highly roasted malt giving a dark chocolate flavour; Crystal 400 which is kilned when wet, caramelising it; Munich and Vienna malts to add a biscuity note; finally oats and wheat malt help add a fuller mouthfeel.
Once we’d finally got all that extracted into the copper we brought it up to the boil. Once boiling we added maltodextrin (which is a non fermentable sugar used to boost body) as well as dates and raisins. We also added a huge bag of cocoa nibs (minus a little bit that we couldn’t help but nibble on) and some liquid cacao.
After the boil we added Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe and Galaxy hops. This wasn’t going to be a hoppy beer but we thought it was important to include some punchy hops to balance out the richness of the malt ingredients. These hops added a fruity, tropical undercurrent to the beer.
The wort was then cooled and transferred to the fermentation tank, where it underwent an initially very vigourous fermentation as the yeast attacked the huge amounts of sugar available to them. “Very vigourous” is brewer speak for “all over the floor”.
Eventually it settled down to a steady, if fairly lengthy, fermentation. Eventually it reached its target gravity (which still had plenty of sugars left in it) and it was chilled down and packaged.
The resulting brew is a rich, chocolate treat. There is enough bitterness from the roasted malts and hops to avoid a cloying mess but there are plenty of luxurious smooth flavours to enjoy. Imagine if a fruitcake was dipped in chocolate, soaked in alcohol and blended into a paste. It’s like that, only nice.
We hope you enjoy (responsibly?) Clocking Off, the perfect way to round off a tough day, or even an easy one.