This Sunday I stayed in on a beautiful fall day and brewed Oatmeal Stout. This one is not destined for the Sam Adams Patriot Homebrew competition, since I'm pretty sure they wouldn't let me win twice in a row with the same beer!
I set out to duplicate the award winning recipe, but ended up changing it a bit because I ran out of two of the ingredients--that's what you get for not planning ahead! I didn't have all the the Black Patent malt that the recipe calls for, so I made up the difference with Carafa II, which has a slightly different flavor, but we're talking about less than 1% of the grain bill, so it probably won't be noticeable. I also ws out of Dextrine Malt, so I substituted Wheat Malt since the dextrine was for head retention anyway. Again this is a small amount, about 1.3% of the grain bill. It shouldn't end up tremendously different from the original, but it will be interesting to taste.
The third change was less dramatic (I hope), which is that I replaced the liquid yeast in the original (White Labs WLP001) with dry yeast (Safale S05), which is essentially the same yeast. The lag time was a bit more than I would have anticipated, but it started up OK and is fermenting strong as I write!
One of the funny things about winning the competition is that people ask me all the time if Sam Adams can't "steal" my recipe. First, they paid me a royalty for it, so it wouldn't be stealing if they used it in a more widely distributed beer. Second, I published the recipe in BYO magazine, so it is in the public domain now. Third, all they would really have to do is tweak it slightly to get essentially the same flavors but with a different grain bill and it would be a different recipe. Not that I expect them to do that, since they are honorable people, but that's all it would take. Heck, I tweak it myself, every time I brew to attempt something different or just because I ran out of some ingredient or other.
Brewing for me is about creativity. I have a great time trying new things and tasting the result. If I like it, then I'm happy, if I don't then I'll try again (and find someone who does like to to give the first batch to). That's how I got rid of the first batch of Oatmeal Stout that I made--my brother in law loved it! I hope this batch is good, but there's always another one in the queue. More on it when it comes out.