One thing I’m learning about brewing is that it requires a certain foresight that I lack. Basically I get an idea for what might taste good right then and decide to brew it. Easy enough. But what happens in the interim (namely 1-3 months of fermenting, dry hopping and bottle conditioning) tends to put my awesomely seasonal idea about a full season behind.

This is the case with my latest project. A winter stout that my cousin and I worked on one weekend after some helpful guidance from our friend Jimmy the beer guru. Jimmy gave us a great starter recipe, which we followed. That is, until we had enjoyed a couple beers during the brewing process and went for an all-in approach. All-in as in “We’ve got 2 extra pounds of DME… Just dump it all in.” And then later “We’ve got 3 extra ounces of hops… Just dump it all in.”

The result is something extremely large and ungainly, if surprisingly good. It’s a winter warmer that gets you a little too warm. We call it Grandma’s Furnace, named in loving memory of my Grandma Ruth and the family holidays that were always spent at her house.

Winter gets cold in Jerome, Idaho. And old people get cold basically anywhere.  That meant that my grandma’s furnace was tilted to the extreme end of breath sucking warmth at all times. Doors and windows were religiously kept closed and curtained in the colder months. And when you added something like 22 extended family members to their modest-sized living room, cozy warmth became a heavy pillow not so subtly pushing into your face.

This was all before the chain smoking kicked in, an act several of my family members enjoyed with fervor. Hot, palpably smoky air, tinged with kitchen cooking smells, gurgling stock pots of tomato sauce, adolescent funk and the gentle din of familial bickering meant Christmas or Thanksgiving in a way that stockings or turkey never could.  In fact, it still does. The memories of fighting for a seat on the couch, picking at antipasto trays and even unpacking smoke laden clothes are still some of my favorites.

So this one’s for our grandma. The grandma who baked hams and scalloped potatoes. The grandma who made hands down amazing fried chicken on summer nights in our family’s cabin. The one with the ever-present Marlboro Light 100. And appropriately, the grandma who truly appreciated a stiff bourbon and seven. I say appropriately because our latest creation clocks in around 9%ABV.

As a beer, Grandma’s Furnace has plenty of malt to balance the alcohol. A subtle bitterness to it that comes through a little like pleasantly burned toast. And a nose of floral fruitiness from a new proprietary yeast we used from the Homebrew store. On a cool, 90 degree April evening in Austin it hits the spot. Now if I only had some fried chicken and scalloped potatoes.

Miss you grandma.

*My friend Adam Voorhes was kind enough to enjoy a few bottles of Grandma’s Furnace with me and take some pictures. You can see his work in Esquire, Texas Monthly and at voorhes.com. Thanks Adam, for lending your significant talents and classing up the joint a bit.

Grandma’s Furnace

This makes about 5 gallons and takes quite awhile to mature. I kept it in primary for two weeks, secondary for another two weeks and then it bottle conditioned for a good 2 months before it carbonated. At three months it tasted great.

9lbs Light DME
0.5lbs Chocolate Malt
0.5lbs Crystal 60L
0.25lbs Black Patent
2 oz Chinook – 60 min
1 oz Cascade – 30 min
1 oz Cascade  –  5 min
2 oz Cascade – Dry hop
Pitched a double hit of Greenbelt from Austin Homebrew Supply

8 responses to “GRANDMA’S FURNICE”

  1. Travis G. says:

    Wish we’d had your Grandma’s furnace and some of this brew in the cabin that winter, but I guess a case of High Life each and beans on the wood stove did the trick. Lots of Luckies too as I remember. Your writing on this site is proof that maturity definitely has its privileges.

    • Jake says:

      Good times. I wish I hadn’t fed my dog several bowls of said beans the night before a long car ride home.

  2. Michael says:

    That’s a great beer name. Any of the grapefruit from the cascade hops get through all the other big flavors? Never had a big stout with much citrus character, but I imagine it would be awesome.

  3. Victor says:

    Did I ever get any of “Grandma’s Furnace”? As your brother, I’m willing to entertain the notion that I may very well have had more than one bottle and blacked out. But I don’t recall it ever gracing my taste buds…at least not by that name.