Thursday, September 1, 2011

Adventures in Homebrewing: Dry-Hogging

After 2 weeks of going buck-wild in the primary fermenter it was time to rack my smoked porter to the secondary where things would get more exciting. This is where I would dare to introduce meat to my precious beer. Appalled? Get over it.

In the hopes of imparting a pleasantly smokey-bacon flavor to this porter already brewed with smoked malts I decided to give "dry-hogging" a shot. It is essentially the same as dry-hopping but with bits of crispy bacon instead. I have a hard time deciding which smells better.

I also wanted to throw some maple syrup in there to balance out the possibly overpowering smokey characteristics with some sweetness and maybe even boost up the alcohol a bit. Oddly enough I was more nervous about this addition since I would be messing with the chemistry going on.

After some lengthy research on brewing with bacon I got my technique all laid out for this experiment. I preheated the over to 350 degrees and cooked 5 strips of bacon until it was very crispy but not burnt, which is a slippery slope.

Once the desired level of crispiness was achieved I took the the bacon out of the oven and started to ardently dry them with paper towels, trying to get as much grease off of them as humanly possible. The online homebrewing community seems to be split on just how dangerous this bacon grease would be to your beer so I figured it's always better to be safe than sorry. 

After drying I picked off the best looking bits, discarding the fattier parts, and gathered 5 oz. or so in a sanitized nylon hop bag. I was all ready to get my dry-hogging on.

Before racking the beer I poured about 6 oz. of the 100% pure maple syrup into the secondary and spread it around the bottom evenly. After I finished racking on top of the syrup I lowered the bag-o-bacon into the dark abyss which was already smelling fantastic. That wasn't so hard was it?

Four and a half days went by before I tasted a sample which I was pretty damn pleased with. The smoke wasn't as aggressive as I was thinking it would be which is a bit disappointing but it has a well roasted flavor to it. If I brewed this recipe again I would probably used more smoked malts to begin with and would even considering throwing in more bacon but seeing how this brew is meant to be shared with less adventurous drinkers than myself I suppose this is a good first road to take.

If all goes as planned I'll be bottling this one at some point this weekend and enjoying around a campfire in just a few more weeks. Stay tuned to see if it ends up being totally rancid or delicious.



  1. Will the maple syrup impart ABV if the fermentation period is already mostly done? Wouldn't you have had to add it to the primary for it to actually dry out the beer?

    Regardless, it sounds really interesting and would be fun to try something like it.

  2. Yes, the primary would have been the right time to do this if boosting the ABV was the main goal. I talked with a few people who said it was possible that the syrup could restart a brief fermentation. It doesn't look like that happened though, gravity readings were pretty stable. I'm hoping to get a bit of the flavor and sweetness more than anything.

  3. Yeah, I figured that was the point, just curious.