Adventures in Brewing: A Chai Porter

Since winter is here now, we decided to brew a porter. For the kit, we visited the new brew store, Learn to Brew, in Moore, Oklahoma. We spent fifteen minutes looking at the wide selection of kits, even though we knew what we wanted ahead of time. We had two porter kits to choose from: a “robust porter” and an imperial porter. We chose the robust porter. We wanted to add chai flavoring to this batch, and we thought the imperial kit would lead to too many competing flavors.

First, we made the mash. Here’s Scott steeping the grains.

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Then we racked the beer for the primary fermentation. We also did a secondary rack, which is recommended for darker beers.

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Before bottling, we added the “chai.” According to the Internet, there are a lot of ways to add chai to your beer. Some people brewed chai as part of their mash. Some people add chai concentrate at the end. Some people add just the spices before fermentation. Some add just the spices after fermentation. We modified this recipe for a spice mix since (i) the tannins from real tea can create an off-taste in the beer and (ii) milk from a concentrate can cause extra fermentation.

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At bottling time, we steeped chai spices (like cardamom, ginger, and pepper) in boiling water for about 15 minutes and added 1 ¾ cups of the chai water to the beer just before bottling.

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After bottle conditioning for two weeks and 2 days, we Scott tried the porter for the first time. I am sick – and beer (and chocolate, and bread, and everything besides lime popsicles) sounded terrible. Scott said the beer tasted a bit more like a nut brown. He can also taste the chai spices, but they are not very noticeable.

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Here’s the “recipe” for the chai part of our porter:

Chai Spiced Tea Ingredients

  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (plus casing)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 24 green cardamom pods, split
  • 2-4 shakes of black pepper

Preparing Spices

  1. Bring about 1 quart filtered water to a boil, then pour over spices and cover in a separate container. (We used a French press)
  2. Let steep for 15 minutes, then strain to remove spices. Cover tea and keep chilled until used. Alternatively, you can use them immediately (as we did for the porter).
  3. We blended about 1¾ cups of the chai spice liquid into the 5-gallon batch of porter. We tasted the mix after 1 cup and 1½ cups. The original recipe creator used 2 cups.
  4. Stir the mixture with a long spoon to mix in the chai spices.
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