The Beer Blogger Brew-Off went about as smoothly as I could have hoped, given I was brewing in near arctic conditions.

After being pummeled by a snow storm earlier this week that created snow drifts in my driveway in excess of two feet, there’s no doubt winter has officially arrived in Minnesota. So it was nice hanging out in the garage with the propane burner cranked up as far as the dial would go, taking the edge off the single digit temps as the unforgiving wind howled outside the door.

However, while it was just slightly bearable in my garage, the cold did come into play during the mash. Thinking the cold mash tun and ambient air temp would make an impact on the mash temp, I overcompensated and heated my strike water to about 180 degrees, which resulted in overshooting the 152 degree target temperature by a couple notches. Not a big deal…the finished beer might come out a tad sweeter than expected, but considering the style I’m brewing it will likely go unnoticed.

During the sparge, the wort smelled fantastic coming out of the mash tun, tons of roast and chocolate. To make it a milk stout, I added a half pound of lactose to the boil with ten minutes remaining. The gravity reading (before I added the lactose) was 1.045, so very close to the target established by Peter at Simply Beer in the original brew-off rules.

I’m pretty excited for this one, as it’s been a while since I’ve had a nice, easy-drinking stout on tap. I’m even more excited to try the beers from the other guys taking part in the friendly competition and see how their secret ingredients made an impact (so far, I know one guy added maple syrup, and another toasted oats). To read about how the Beer Blogger Brew-Off went for the other homebrewers involved, check out the Twitter hashtag #brewoff.

Here’s a few pictures from the day: