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Recipe reviews/discrepancy?

I am looking for my next brew recipe (first time into 5 gallon all grain!).

I have been eyeing a specific recipe on Northern Brewer… Grandma’s Secret Stash. One of my favorite beers of the past few years, a local brewery made an oatmeal cookie stout for a beer summit I was at. I loved it a lot, but for some reason I have been unable to locate it commercially. I have tried a few others recently, all yummy but not as good. This has really led me to want to brew the recipe here on NB.

However, if I look at the reviews for Grandma’s Secret Stash, the all-grain only has 8 reviews (all 4 or 5 stars). The sheer lack of high-quantity reviews and the lack of critical reviews makes me skeptical. The extract version has 21 reviews, some pretty harsh… bringing the overall rating to 3 stars. Lots of those reviews say it turned out poorly and tasted somewhat sour.

So… my question is: with this much discrepancy, is brewing this beer even worth it? Can the extremely positive (and few) reviews on all grain be trusted? Why the discrepancy between extract and all grain? And if someone gives a bad review because something tasted sour or turned out much lighter in color than expected… is that even worth paying attention to? It sounds like some people made mistakes in brewing, and therefore the beer tasted bad… thus a bad review, even though it could have been their own fault. I just don’t know if I should take the risk. Thoughts?

There are some excellent extract brewers out there, to be sure.
However I think, on average, there are more beginners in the extract category, who, as you stated are more likely to make rookie mistakes and be unhappy with the results.

The skill set of most all grain brewers is a bit more refined and they may be getting better results.

I say give the all grain version a try.

I have around 50 all-grain batches under my belt. I haven’t ever had a batch turn out badly or undrinkable - only recipes that I liked more or less than others. The AG Grandma’s Secret Stash is one of my least favorite recipes of all that I brewed. It wasn’t bad, per se, but it wasn’t highly appealing either. Mostly, I think the flavor profile was just far different from what I expected based on the description.

A low number of reviews doesn’t mean it hasn’t been brewed or not a good recipe. Some people just don’t like to write reviews. I’m one of those people. I may have written three reviews since doing business with NB.

I plan to brew this recipe this Fall. I think I have learned enough brewing other dark beers that I can do this one right.

I haven’t looked at the reviews lately but do love the bad review sometimes seen where the brewer added a couple of things to the recipe and then fermented it hot.

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what would you say is the thing you didn’t like about it?

for instance, did you expect it to taste like an oatmeal cookie, but it really just tasted like a vanilla porter? Did you expect something cookie related, but it came out like a random brown ale? Or were you just expecting it to be yummy, and it tasted bland or bad? I just don’t want to waste my time/money, and I don’t want to get my hopes up if the beer just tastes wrong all over. If you are saying that it just wasn’t to your liking, maybe you have different beer preferences than me and I could still do it? Or was it just a weird beer that tasted nothing like an oatmeal cookie?

I have like 5 other beers on my “to-brew” list, so I can always skip this one. But if I were able to get it to taste like an oatmeal cookie, it would be perfect to brew in the fall.

Oops! I just realized we’re talking about two different recipes. I wanted to provide a more descriptive critique and decided to jog my memory by looking up the recipe on NB. I found that I had brewed the “Oatmeal Cookie Brown Ale”, not the “Grandma’s Secret Stash”. You can see how I was confused considering they’re both supposed to taste like oatmeal-raisin cookies.

Now, it no longer matters, but here’s how I’d describe the one I brewed. It tasted more like a random brown ale with a hint of cinnamon. The sweetness and hop character also clashed a bit.

Haha alright, well thank you so much for the update. If people dissuaded me from doing Grandma’s Secret Stash, I was debating buying 2 of the Oatmeal Cookie Brown Ale (BiaB) and then just making them as one big, 6 gallon brew. At the very least, I will not go down that road.

I wonder if anyone has had good or bad experience with this brew, though. Like I said, if this tastes OK I would be so thrilled. But, that’s a lot of emotional “investment” hinging on a beer with mixed reviews. I am leaning towards giving it a shot and praying for the best, unless someone can say definitively that I shouldn’t.

I happen to know the guy that developed this recipe, so I decided to shoot him a text on your behalf. He says while it won’t knock your socks off with cookie taste, it is very reminiscent of rum soaked oatmeal raisin cookies.

I say go for it, and if you’re using something like Bru’n Water - get it nice and malty.

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The recipe looks fine. Use black seal rum. Maybe a bit of molasses. Do a small batch first then tweak it to your liking

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Molasses would be nice. I’ve also been enjoying D180 as of late.

Nice, I will try this. How much molasses do you think I should add? And when should I add it (i.e. during the boil, during fermenting, etc. And if during the boil, how much time remaining?).

I was thinking adding 1-2 cups of molasses, halfway done with the boil. However, I have very limited experience when tweaking recipes, so I really have no idea what I am doing there. It was merely just a guess

Late in the boil is what I do. I just use a jar 12oz so that’s 1.5 cups for 5.5 gallon batch. It’s going to up the abv a bit

which would you recommend more for this application? I have never used either in my brews, but I am certainly intrigued. I like learning more and more about recipes and tinkering with things, but I also don’t want to just add something and assume it will work out. Sounds like there are lots of people who either tinker or make up their own recipes (I am not there yet in my brewing tenure). Which do you think would be better for Grandma’s Secret Stash?

Can’t say. I never had Grandma’s stash. Just do a small batch and you decide what it needs. You can scale any recipe down to 3 gallons or 2 1/2 and order ala carte. You don’t need to buy kits when doing all grain.

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I would brew the recipe as-is, then tinker with a smaller batch as @brew_cat has suggested.

I think people are more likely to write reviews when they don’t like something more than when they do like it. I’ve been brewing extract for many years. I tend toward the darker, less hopped brews. I made my first batch of Grandma’s Secret Stash extract earlier this year, according to the kit recipe. Based on that single batch, I would agree with the above “reminiscent of rum soaked oatmeal raisin cookies” as @Voltron said although it still tastes like a beer, not a cookie,. Early on, I found the cinnamon flavor to be overwhelming, but it settled after a few weeks. I think its a good “dessert beer”.

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Be sure to use unsulfured molasses if you do tweak the recipe.

A random thought just popped into my head, so I am sorry that I am reviving such an old thread. If I add 12 ounces of molasses to the end of the boil, would I also have to add extra hops to balance the flavor out, or are we expecting the added molasses to be almost a “necessary” addition?

Basically, I have added flavors before (usually citrus or dry hopping), and sometimes I needed to add extra hops to balance things out. Would I need to do it again? If so, do I add the extra hops to the boil or dry hop them in one of the fermenters?

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