Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Review: Imperial Doppelweizenbock

Imperial Doppelweizenbock

This beer was dynamite at kegging. An unkegged sample had loads of chocolate and toffee waiting for me. I liked it. kegging made the beer different but better? You'll remember this bee is inspired by, a beer inspired by a tripple weizen bock. I brewed it over a year ago and let it age. Fermentation blew the bung off and I can report no infections took hold because of that.

Appearance: (B+) it looks dark but clears up when held to the light. The picture at right doesn't do it justice showing just how beautifully brown this beer is.

Aroma: (A-) Dark fruity malts are pushed up by the carbonation, they are active where as scents reminiscent of chocolate and toffee are lost somewhere under the alcohol and fruits.

Flavor: (A) Dark fruit, sweet caramelly toffee and subtle hints of darker chocolate. No roastiness meant that the sweet flavors were not checked by that harsh coffee char flavor roasted malts can have. The beer wasn't sweet persay because of sugar but it had a sweet flavor.

Mouthfeel: (B-) Perhaps I over carbonated it but it feels thin, it's either over attenuated, which I'll check, or over carbonated which I'll fix.

Overall: (A-) One of my best efforts. of the Imperial beers I've made I think this one is a keeper while the other two might see revisions.

Improvements: I might try this as a wheat wine with an English yeast strain.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Easy Cleaning a Keg Line

So the ideal way for many to clean a keg line is to take an empty keg filled with cleaner and flush the lines. Step 1 is repeated with sanitizer. I meant to do this prior to filling my brand new keg with Imperial DoppelWeizen Bock but the timing didn't work out. What's a man to do? I could clean out a keg of old IPA or Black IPA in my tiny apartment but that seems a touch on the difficult side given a lack of space. Instead I am going to improvise using an old empty two liter bottle and a device I made myself. For my results read past the break!

(Please read more after the break.)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Review: Belgian Dark Strong Ale

Belgian Dark Strong Ale Recipe

I brewed this beer in early 2013 and let it ferment and age for ten months. The aging was to let some of the harsher byproducts of fermentation mellow out a bit. Aging big beers has almost always improved them in my experience. The priming yeast worked its magic again offering a well carbonated beer after only 2 weeks in the bottle. a bit of haze in my sample could be attributed to this yeast because the beer was beautifully clear at bottling. 

Appearance: (B+) A bit hazy and only garnet colored against the light. Without the light it was brownish and without clarity it looked like a thicker darker beer than the recipe intends for.

Aroma: (A) Significant fruit in the nose. The fruity esters filled the glass and my nose. Deep aromas of blackberries and raspberries were identified by myself and Kyle. 

Flavor: (A) Trappist monks know their stuff. The recipe was spot on and I wouldn't change it. The same fruity esters are the show in the glass. You get a lot of them. I don't know if it's the candi sugar or the yeast but it works in this style. The beer is not to sweet and without knowing the finishing gravity I would guess that it's around 1.010.

Mouthfeel: (B+) Carbonated to my desired level. Allowed a larger beer of greater strength to be less formidable than it should have been. The ease by which it went down surprised me.

Overall: (A-) No complaining here. I loved it.

Improvements: I will do a side by side with my lone bottle of Trappist Westvleteren 12 around Christmas time and discover more. I remember not liking 12 as much as the 8. I liked mine a whole lot more than 12. Being that mine was a clone of the supposed 12 recipe I think that there is insight to be gained here. Look for a tasting notes post later this month.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

American Lambic Style Ale 2013

Pale Wort
After the failure that was my lambic tasting I have decided to modify things slightly. First I will only be using all grain batches, secondly I will be doing primary fermentation with the bugs, and third I will be using the more complex malt bill to feed the bugs. So The malt bill will be pale malt, wheat malt, oats and dextrin malts.

Why that malt bill? It's traditional historic, everything adds something and I am trying to give those bugs a lot of food to do something; something more than nothing. Oats allegedly add mouth feel even after the beer microbes have had their fill, wheat and pale malt are also very traditional.

(Read more after the break to find out what my secret weapon is this time.)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Review: Brew Like a Monk

This was a Christmas Gift from my dear mother. Thanks, Mom. It is also a book written by acclaimed brewing author Stan Hieronymus. If you were a fan of Hops, or Brewing with Wheat, you'll probably enjoy this. This book focuses on Belgian beers, and specifically those brewed and derived from brews made in monasteries, hence the title, "Brew Like a Monk". If you were ever curious what you could learn on a trip to Belgium but can't afford to go, this book is for you.

(Please read more about the structure and my personal thoughts on the contents of the book after the break.)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Sampling Sour Batch 002

Awhile ago I brewed a sour brown batch of beer for my home souring experiment. This was soured with dregs from a bottle of  Sang Noir. The time is upon me to do something with this beer so that I can continue to make make and drink sour beers. The malt bill for a sour beer is no more complicated than a conventional beer. As anyone who has read my blog before knows the secret ingredient is time. This beer has had ten months to age and it's time to see where the flavors are at and decide what if any fruit would be appropriate. The pelicle was still intact prior to my moving it, and the colonies of lactobacillus floating on the surface gave me pause that it might not be ready. Was it ready?

(Please read my sampling notes after the break.)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Auto-Brewery Syndrome

I came across this story from NPR about a man who was brewing beer in his gut. He would eat fermentable foods and then the Saccharomyces in his gut would get him drunk. Wild huh? I can't think of a worst brewing-yeast related predicament. I enjoy drinking beer because I like the flavors; truth be told I don't especially like being drunk. This man was eating pasta and getting drunk, yikes. Let this be a lesson folks, don't let the doctor accuse you of being a closet drunk just because you have a few beers now and again. If somethings not right, find a new doctor, or at least lay off the carbs.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Review: Imperial Chocolate Porter Two

I brewed this a while ago (10/8/12) but I bottled it a few weeks (7/28/13) ago and I tasted it last week(8/22/13). High alcohol beers take a little bit of time to age but when they turn out I find the wait was worth while. I was a bit pessimistic after the failure of my bourbon vanilla oak aged improvised imperial chocolate porter. The favors were okay once I got it carbonated but it wasn't what I wanted. 

This beer quietly aged in perpetual darkness from October to July. The dark beer remained steady with no sign of infections or other faults just sitting in a carboy. When I tasted it at bottling time I wasn't super excited but I had been given hope by the carbonated sample of my previous attempt. 

Appearance: (A-) Dark black with a brown/tan head about one half of one inch high. Slightly apparent carbonation.

Aroma: (B) a bit muted and underwhelming. Nothing exciting other than vague aromas, roast, chocolate, alcohol. A good palate to stand on but it needed more, or I needed allergy medication.

Flavor: (B+) Good flavor, surprising and subtle. The dangers in this beer are that it's higher in alcohol but is still not too flavor forward. I nice balanced imperial porter with some forward alcohol. I am glad I let this age because I have a feeling that fresh that slight edge of alcohol would have been more like the rock of Gibraltar than a rock in your shoe.

Mouthfeel: (B-) A bit under carbonated. Perhaps it was the head space? Perhaps it was the finishing yeast? Perhaps it was the sugar used to prime the bottles. Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps.

Overall: (B) Solid effort. On my second attempt I see the beauty and subtlety of this recipe. Turn up the specialty grains and you could have a solid imperial stout, turn down the grain/water ratio and you could have a solid porter. 

Improvements: I might consider adding more flaked barley or oats for mouth feel as well as force carbonating it in a keg. This beer is ready for a variation I think so the next batch might be 4 gallons, One gallon to add bourbon or chocolate too. I should brew this again in October, schedule permitting.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Time is tight as usual

Time is tight and I want to brew but I just can't get it in. Sigh. But that doesn't mean I am dead and gone. I have been working on bottling up last years high gravity beers. I have also been trading for beers from around the country to expand my palate and try new things. 

I recently completed a trade for some cascade brews I wouldn't have been able to get otherwise. I'll be getting to these in about 2 weeks when Derek is here but I wanted to tease you first.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Lambic Tasting and American Kriek 2013 Blend

So I finally got around to sampling the Lambics that I've made over the past two years and it was a humbling experience. I thought that I would have some tasty tart beers that were good enough to drink on their own and would blend together to form a magical concoction that I could ride to a home brew competition winner. Wrong. Two of the older lambics were undrinkable. They had an industrial solvent flavor to them. I can't imagine blending these to create anything other than paint thinner. To say that after 2 years of waiting this was devastating is a bit of an understatement. Some of the others were drinkable and I will blend bottle and age them in an attempt to get this going. 

(Please read more after the break to see what tasted okay, what I liked, and how the American Kriek came to be.)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Sausage, Friends, and American Independance

They say one of the things you never want to see is making sausage. I can't understand why. I have made sausage twice now and when you control what you put into it; It is nothing but meat you'd regularly eat. It's easy once you get the hang of it and learn what you are doing, and you can easily add any spices you want and make sausage to your tastes. 

Sure I made mistakes, the first time the meat wasn't nearly frozen enough and so it basically made meat paste it instead of grinding it and the the sausages didn't have the right texture. I also underestimated the spiciness from chili powder and kinda made uncomfortably spicy sausages for some members of my family, I liked it. I have invited Kyle up for American Independence Day to make and eat sausage. Two types of sausages will be eaten: Italian (pictured above), and Gyro.

(please read more after the break.)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Flanders Red Again

Third time is the charm, right? In year three I got the same Flemish ale strain as I had used in the prior two years. Al B's bugs have been working away for that length of time in my prior Flanders Reds. They have worked uninterrupted for that time. I haven't so much as moved them from their resting places since they began to settle there. These brews like many other traditional sours the Flanders Red is a blend. Blending allows you to achieve a complexity that is hard to achieve in a single batch brew. When this batch is around 6 months old I will blend the young and old Flanders Reds to produce my signature blend.

(Please read more after the break.)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Summer Yeasts: ECY29 Northeast Ale

With my scaled back 2013 brew schedule I've been brewing less beer. It's been a relief and a regret at the same time. I know what I want to do for the summer in a general sense. I ordered Flemish Ale Yeast for this year's Flander's Red Ale. Additionally I ordered North East Ale Yeast from East Coast Yeast and Microbiologist Al B:

ECY29 Northeast Ale: A unique ale yeast with an abundance of citrusy esters accentuating American style hops in any Double IPA or strong ale. High attenuation is expected. Suggested fermentation temperature 65-70ºF.

This should make a dynamite IPA. Rumor has it that this is the famed Conan strain used by the notoriously secretous brewers at The Alchemist. Their signature brew Heady Topper is consistently ranked as a top beer by hop heads who are lucky enough to get their hands on this silver bullet.

Conan Yeast is one that has a reputation on home brew forums, in the magazines, and on the lips of challenged home brewers everywhere. The First step is to know thy enemy:

Reading more:
Heady Topper is such a good beer that it has a loyal and devoted local following and a cult following from across the nation. If you Google "Conan yeast" there are no fewer than a dozen blog posts on culturing and reviving the strain. Why? I plan to find out. The only question remains is to try to clone heady or continue blazing my own path.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book Review: Wild Brews by Jeff Sparrow

First and foremost this is a book about the process of brewing wild beers. The science in this book can be applied to Flanders Ales, Lambics, American Wild Ales, Saisons, or pretty much anything else with funk. This is my go to tome for questions I have about brewing these kinds of beer.

What you'll find inside is more of the same from brewers publications. Jeff Sparrow writes about his treks across Europe sampling historic sour style ales. The breweries pictured in the centerfold are as beautiful as any centerfold model. Seeing the historic equipment gives you a feel for just how differently things are done in the commercial sour breweries. You get the sense reading this book that Jeff Sparrow really loves Flanders style ales and Lambic beers. The care he takes describing them and discussing them shows a reverence of the source materials that I think would make the traditional brewers happy.

(read on after the break to find out more of what was in this book.)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Book Review: For the Love of Hops by Stan Hieronymus

It's a book about hops. Done. Review over. Go home. 

Just kidding. This is another great book. It is of the quality that I think you can expect from any modern brewers publications book. Stan Hieronymus compiles facts, testimonials  and personal experience into a book based on age old wisdom supported with science. The book covers hops from cultivation through fermentation explaining how decisions at every level impact what you perceive in your glass. The content of the book ping pongs from highly technical to humorously simple as Stan moves from topic to topic attempting to explain how hopping a beer is both science and art. Read on to find out what is actually in the book. What I thought of what he wrote and more.

(please read more after the break.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Anheuser Busch Brewery Tour

I went to STL for a weekend of rest and fun recently and on it we toured the AB Brewery to see it when it was in full motion 9-5 Monday - Friday. There were a few different things to see at this time and it's easy to see everything. The tour is fantastic, it involves about 7 blocks of walking without covering your tracks at all. You get to see horses, large lagering tanks, mash tuns, brew kettles, and a bottling plant the size of a football field. They sell a lot of beer. At the end of the tour you get two free glasses of beer and a bag of pretzels.

(please read more after the break.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Collaboration Series: New Zealand Hopped Pale Ale

I collaborated on this beer with this blog's co-author Kyle. He recently downsized his place to get more flexibility in his life. He asked me to help him get started with small batch brewing; a request I was happy to fulfill. The recipe started out as a simple request for a pale ale and after some banter about "putting more hops in it" I came to a recipe I thought would work. After some thinking and doing a little inventory on my freezer I came to the recipe for a hoppy beer with British roots and Kiwi flavor.

(please read more after the break.)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Smoke: It's in the wood.

After watching one BBQ show on food network after another I came to the realization that there isn't one magic bullet for smoking woods. There are as many opinions on the subject as there are pit masters. There is controversy over bark or not, wet or dry, potency, and quantity. These are a matter of variety, mix and amount. This is a compendium on the consensus of the internet about what flavors each wood offers. After the break I will post the internet's response and my own along with pictures of the woods as I use them. I'll use all the woods I can find but I am not in a hurry to get this done. I'll also refer to the sources I have about adding wood to beer to contrast the flavors you get from soaking vs. smoking.

(please read more after the break.)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Jolly Pumpkin - Traverse City

Situated on the west coast of Old Mission Peninsula in the Grand Traverse Bay Jolly Pumpkin has a location few breweries can match. I was excited to go here on a recent day trip with my girlfriend. It wasn't the best part of my day but my complaints were few. JP describes the location as "historically situated among the generous cherry orchards and distinguished lakes of northern Michigan. Inspired by natural surroundings, our esteemed restaurant and brewery offers a rustic atmosphere marked by fireside warmth and earthy woods in a comfortable cottage like setting." This is an apt description of the structure but some good and bad things happened once I got inside. 

(please continue reading after the break.)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Book Review: IPA by Mitch Steel

IPA by Mitch Steel - Brewers Publications

Let me start out my saying that this is a worthy book. I am glad that I own it now. There is a wealth of knowledge from historical brewing to modern techniques contained within the pages of this book. If you're new to the style and you want to be brewing IPAs DIPAs BIPAs or WIPAs this book can help. Mitch breaks down all of the techniques from mashing to whirlpool hoping. He covers ingredients from hops to grains. He explains what impact your water may have on the beer. The section that I found the most interesting was the breakdown of modern brewing techniques from a man with a wealth of real world experience. He relates techniques used by Stone and others to things you could do at home. This review will focus on telling you what is in this book without re-writing the book on my blog. If you are looking for a cutting and pasting of the best tidbits so that you can circumvent the book you should look elsewhere.

(Please read more after the break.)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Guest Blogger: Rock Bottom Brewery Indianapolis IN

Kyle again, I am in Indianapolis Indiana for a few days this week for the annual Printing Industries of America Continuous Improvement Conference.  I got into town early Sunday night and had some time to burn, sooooooo I decided to samples the local beer flavor Downtown Indianapolis has too offer.

(Continued After Break)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Guest Blogger: Ciceros Beer School 3/14/13

Another week, another Beer School.  This week featured two speakers, Ryan Barron, a sales rep for Glazer Distributing and Paul O'Reilly, a genuine Irishman! With this week being St. Patrick's Day and St. Louis having a rich tradition of celebrating St. Patrick's Day; as you can imagine the theme this week was Irish Beers.  Up for tasting was: Rogue Irish Lager, John Smith's Extra Smooth Ale, Murphy's Red Ale, Murphy's Stout.

(Continued After Page Break)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Guest Blogger: Cicero's Beer School

Hello all;  my name is Kyle, you may have heard Don mention my name a few times, I will be writing a guest post about my experiences at Cicero's Beer School in Saint Louis MO.

Cicero's is a bar and grill in the Delmar Loop in University City here in Saint Louis, they were one of the first bar's in Saint Louis to start carrying craft beers, all the way back in 1996.  Beer School started in 2008 as a way for lovers of beer to have industry experts come in and talk about their products and beer making in general.  I have been to three classes now and can say it is one of the most interesting beer experiences I have had, the presenters have been knowledgeable and passionate about what they do, which always makes for a great time.

Beer School - 3/7/13 - Taylor Browning, Kona Brewing, Midwest Regional Sales Manager

On tap for tonight was Kona Brewing, Located on the Big Island in Hawaii, Kona is arguably the Flagship brewery in the state of Hawaii.  Kona offers three beers year-round; Longboard Island Lager, Big Wave Golden Ale, and Fire Rock Pale Ale.  Additionally there are three rotating Aloha Series beers offered throughout the year, as well as an Island Only line available only at the brewpub in Hawaii.  Beer School sampled the Longboard Island Lager, Big Wave Golden Ale, Fire Rock Pale Ale, and Koko Brown.

(read more about beer school after the break)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Guest Blogger: Kyle

My bestie Kyle is sort of the reason I got into brewing beer. He unintentionally kicked my butt into gear about realizing my dream to brew. When he first started home brewing he got some beer kits and found the whole thing a chore. Brewing my first 5 gallon batch was a chore too because I didn't always know what I was doing, so I can sympathize. In the interim two years we've brewed together several times. STL Brown Town and STL Wit came from his kitchen. He has been kind enough to drink my home brewed beers and give me honest feedback even when it was hard for me to hear. He has been attending beer school and plans to start brewing small batches of beer in his new kitchen. I've asked him to begin blogging on my blog in order to bring some fresh perspective and more content. Hopefully brewing can be another brick in the foundation of our friendship and ultimately bring us closer together.

More about Kyle:
Kyle and I met at Western Michigan University. He introduced me to finer beers like Bass Ale and Guinness  This sparked my interest in expanding my palate and eventually lead me to craft beers. Eventually he graduated with a degree in printing sciences(or something like that) and moved around before settling in the brewing capital of America. On my first adventure to STL he took me to the Budweiser brewery and to Schalfaly's micro brewery. Now he's looking to brew small batches in his spare time too.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Brettanomyces Project Round Up

Over a year ago I started the brettanomyces project in my small brewing space. It cost a bit more than some things because I had to use liquid cultures. The project had a simple enough aim: "to test 3 of the commercially available brett strains in my Belgian single recipe to see if what the fermentation profiles and characteristics were."

I am happy to report success was achieved on that front. I produced three reasonable beers with three 'wild' strains of yeast.You can read the review of Lambicus, Bruxellensis, and Claussenii by following the links. The world of brettanomyces is a vast and open frontier.

The brettanomyces bruxellensis was the best of the three. It had a crazy flavor of dry spicy hay. The other two brettanomyces didn't wow me in primary fermentation. I made a dark saison with Lambicus that was awesome when I retried it.

Try it for yourself, but be sure to keep your strains going to avoid buying fresh samples once you have your baseline. I am in this boat if I want to keep trying this and I don't really want to buy fresh samples so I might try culturing bottle dregs. I feel as though I learned some valuable things about these strains. If you do try it please let me know.

What's Next: 
What's next? nothing is imminent  I have a Brett Saison fermenting and I'll probably keep that culture going at least another generation. This was a fun test but I want to try out other things as I prepare myself to go after winning a competition in 2014. I think that brett as a primary fermentation agent could work as it has for Chad Yackobson but my focus for the next test, when I get around to it, will be brettanomyces as a secondary fermentation agent, or as blended strains.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Review: Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Belgian Single

Brett Belgian Single

So this is my final review of a brettanomyces pale ale. This is the third of the three strains of brett which I made a 100% fermented Belgian single. This was the best of the three. The brettanomyces Bruxellensis made the most funk of any strain in this wort. The beer was dry as can be. I liked is but it wasn't the most drinkable beer ever because the funk, flavors, and dryness were completely unchecked.

Appearance: Golden and clear with an active white head. The brett flocked well and dropped from suspension leaving a beautiful beer.

Aroma: Funk. This has a hay and spicy barnyard aroma to it. The aroma was great. This strain kicks off those signature aromas that brett is known for.

Flavor: The flavor followed the nose but because of the dryness of the beer it was a bit much as it warmed. I might have enjoyed it more with a bit of residual sweetness.

Mouthfeel: The mouth was bone dry and carbonation was at an acceptable level.

Overall: This was the funkiest of the Belgian singles. It was also the most enjoyable/least drinkable. I like the flavors but I think that this strain might work better in a more substantial beer or in conjunction with the other brettanomyces strains. I am going to rate this beer as a solid B and move onto phase II of the grand brett experiment.

Friday, February 22, 2013

No Posts? No Excuses

I've been hard at work recently. I am on pace to put in 60+ hours in 6 days so brewing hasn't been on my front burner. I will review a beer I've brewed tonight and post that review tomorrow. I will attempt to block out time next week to brew a Scotch Ale. Tax season is funny in that a week ago I was leaving at 5 and now I am leaving near 8. Crazy. Anyways I'm still brewing. I'm just a bit busy.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Stone Winter Storm

The stone winter storm is the stone fest of stone fests. It's their annual celebration of themselves featuring fans. They're committed to helping their fans get all of their great beers in one place. I was lucky enough to find this when I was thinking about a trip. I knew it needed to happen. The event is broken into two parts. A gourmet breakfast with samplers of beer and the rest of the week where anyone can wander in for amazing beers.

(Please read my summary and thoughts after the break.)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Beercation Three: California's Final Ride

Best Friends
The Bruery reserve society is beginning to feel a bit like the hotel California, "You can checkout any time you like, but you can never leave". At least for now I am making my third trip to California in three years to pick up beer. This will be my last vacation to this location to pick up beer. They're going to begin shipping within California and it's my hope eventually they'll ship nationally. So goodbye Southern California, it's a lovely place.

(Please read more about my trip after the break.)

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Final Chapter: California

This will be my last ride to California for beer. Not only after this trip am I going to declare California conquered, but I am hoping to see other places. I'd like to take a vacation in the summer to the pacific north west. I'd love to see the giant redwoods of inland California. I'd love to go to Vermont, Maine, Atlantic Georgia, and even French Belgium. I'd love to vacation with my long time Girlfriend. I can't be doing that when my vacations are tethered to the pickup window of the Bruery.

I haven't brewed much this month because I quite honestly haven't had the time. Visiting My Girl, work, and preparing for this vacation have all been more important. That will change after I return and report on my vacation.

A primer for the vacation. (3.5 Days LA/SD): Look Forward to reports on:

  1. The Bruery
  2. Beachwood BBQ
  3. In N Out Burger
  4. Stone's Calm Before The Storm
  5. Port Brewing
  6. Iron-fist Brewing
  7. Ballast Point Taproom
  8. Ale-smith Brewery
  9. Alpine Brewing
  10. Coronado Brewing
  11. Urge Gastro Pub
And much, much, more.... We fly out of midway tomorrow at 6:30 am local time...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Review: Oak Aged Belgian Single 100% Fermented with Brettanomyces Clausenii

Belgian Single 100% Brettanomyces Fermented on White Wine soaked Oak

Appearance: Clear, Carbonated, and Yellow. Brett makes a beautiful beer.

Aroma: Funk developed in this one. The scent was a bit of yeast and day old fruit rind. It was unique but I liked it. I'm struggling to describe it but I definitely liked it.

Flavor: Ehh, there wasn't as much flavor from the brett as I'd have liked. It had mild fruit tones but was largely grainy, and not sweet at all.

Mouthfeel: Carbonated and dry. Easy drinking.

Overall: Brettanomyces makes a unique beer. It seems as the flavors it creates are dramatically effected by the stress you put on it. I'd like to do more tests on brettanomyces and I probably will at some point. I'll see how brettanomyces does in my rustic saison before I pass judgement on how it works in a saison. The dryer beer leads to an easy consumption. Average overall because it lacked anything other than an interesting nose and slight funk. This beer is a C effort.

Monday, January 21, 2013

White Peach Golden Sour Review

Sanctification Clone White Peach

This was one of my highlights from last summer. When I went to rack my beer into secondary there was almost a gallon left over. So I quickly cleaned a one gallon carboy and filled it with beer. I had a golden opportunity to try something new and exciting! This became white peaches after a tour around Meijer's fruit department. The peaches were delicious, among the best I've ever had, very fleshy and sweet without any of the flavor I hate from canned peaches. The beer wasn't ready when I cracked the first bottle but the bottle I cracked was well aged. I became very hopeful after drinking it that I was doing good work.

Appearance: The body is a deep golden color. The wheat seems to have made the body quite cloudy. The thin white head is not quite as robust as I had hoped for.

Aroma: The aroma has a nice lactic note to it. The brett funk is earthy and barnyard like. There is that classic sour scent that let me know I was doing well.

Flavor: Lactic, horse-blanket barnyard, hay. The brett was funky and the lactic notes were pleasant  Brett Blend 9 and Bug Farm 6 made a great beer thus far. The white peach was a subtle note under the sourness and funk. The flavors were of a juicy peach right there under the funk and sourness when the beer warmed. This was a winner.

Mouthfeel: Flatter than I wanted. Dry.

Overall: This was easy to drink as it had next to no body. The carbonation on this could have been bumped up by 100% and I would have enjoyed it. I might try the carb cap and see if it dramatically improves things. I'm excited to bottle and drink the regular version of this beer that is still bulk aging

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Review: American Double Stout

First let me say that this beer did not carbonate in the bottles, I added red wine yeast at bottling along with sugar and it didn't turn out. I had bought some champagne yeast but couldn't find it so I used the red wine yeast figuring it would work. It did not. The first picture is of the flat dead beer. Zero carbonation developed in the bottle. I did what I could do; I used a clean empty two liter bottle and poured in the beer, I then used the carbonator cap to force carbonation of it.

Appearance: Rich, dark, nice tan head when carbonated. The beer coated the glass after drinking and the tan head remained as a ring throughout the experience.

Aroma: Somewhat limited; Roasty, and chocolaty. Rich is how I would describe it. Like a somewhat burned chocolate cupcake. Negligible bourbon, vanilla, or oak.

Flavor: Roasty! the roast flavor was upfront and had notes of bourbon and oak tannin. I never really got the vanilla from the beans or the oak. The chocolate wasn't as forward as I had hoped for. 

Mouth: The carbonation was on the high side for a russian imperial stout, it made the beer seem more alive that I'd have liked it to be. It was prickly where it should have been coating. The carbonator cap has its limits.

Overall: I am disappointed that the bottles didn't carb up. The flavors weren't as eye popping or distinguishable as I'd like. Aging for a year took some of the heat off but I think It could have gone even longer. I'll probably dump 2 of the three remaining bottles and save the last one for some future date. I'll resurrect it with about 8 psi carbonation and see down the road how everything turned out. I'd give the carbonated version of this beer a C/D because it was a roasty large imperial beer with plenty of alcohol. It lacked the bold bourbon flavors I had hoped it would have, and it didn't really offer the multi-dimensional roast/chocolate/vanilla flavors that I had hoped for. I've had worse imperial beers than this but I am dissatisfied with the outcome. We'll see next year what the second attempt yields.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Hopcat: 5th Anniversary & Oil Rigger Release

Saturday was Hopcat's fifth anniversary. Hopcat for those of you who don't live in Grand Rapids Michigan is the city and perhaps the state's preeminent beer bar. It's a place that has helped cultivate my love and understanding of different beers. Finding a place like this really helped me grow in my appreciation for styles by having many examples of a style on draft side by side. You can't really appreciate the nuances of something without a point of reference. Two Russian Imperial Stouts side by side is an experience in decadence; it also allows you to appreciate their differences as you sample one and then another. The fifth anniversary party taught me a few things that I didn't know before and gave me a great opportunity to try a great beer.

(please read more about my day out after the break.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Brew Goals 2013

Happy New Year!

Last year I had some brewing resolutions lets see how I did:

Brew a beer with lager yeast; I did, my Weizen Doppel Bock. Blend a sour ale from my stock of sour ales, attempt blending; Postponed. Manufacture Tap Handles for Atlas Ale, Howard Roark Red, and Golden One Pale Ale. Failed. Work out a recipe for my house pale ale based on feedback from Kyle, Derek & others; Work in progress. Work out a recipe for the house red ale based on my two past failures; Work in progress. Attempt to make a few more small sours & quick sours (post incoming); I made batch 001, batch 002, and my rustic saison. Brew and Keg at least 2 more beers; Done! Finish out my small brewery with a malt mill; Done! and, Keep detailed notes and measurements about my brewing. Work in progress. I failed at measuring OG for all of my brews.

So I did alright. Perhaps tap handles was a bit ambitious, brewing a pale ale/ red ale are on my horizon, and I utterly failed at taking measurements. Taking measurements is something easy that I could do on my way to making better, consistent, repeatable beer. I got a malt mill, a champaign corker, and additional small kegs. I've made numerous sours and plan to blend them. Last year I miss understood the timeline of sours; they work on their own schedule.

Next year I am going to set lofty expectations for myself again: 
  1. Brew 25 batches of beer, cider, or mead including:
    1. Rye Blonde Sour
    2. Artisanal Belgian Red
    3. American Red Ale
    4. American Pale Ale
    5. Belgian Dark Strong Ale
  2. Blend a gueuze from my lambics.
  3. Read and review the brewing books I already own.
  4. Enter a beer competition.
  5. Average six blog posts per month.
That sounds like a good start for 2013. I'll probably do many things I can't even really conceive of yet but If I start with some loose goals I'll be in a good position come 2014. In 2014 the NHBC comes to my adopted home town of Grand Rapids, MI. I'd like to enter a beer that I have refined from previous tasting notes into that competition. I am thinking that perhaps a splendid gueuze blended with the help of my girlfriend might be my ticket to victory.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Belgian Dark Strong Ale

The flavors of a Belgian dark strong ale come from the interplay of Belgian yeast and candi sugar. Traditionally the flavors in these beers are made with a very simplistic malt bill. It has been rumored that Westvleteren 12 is made with water, pale malt, candi sugar, local hops, and yeast. Those five things combine to form one of the worlds best beers. A while back I ordered a pitch of Belgian Abbey from East Coast Yeast so that gives me another ECY to evaluate.

My plan for this beer was to explore my home made candi sugar vs. the store bought kind but I can tell you after tasting the store bought one that it is better. I'm not sure how to describe the differences. The store bought one had the same deep caramel flavors as my home made variety. I would describe these as burnt sugar. It also had a metallic but pleasing flavor and a sugary flavor that added to everything else that was going on. The multi dimensional flavors of the authentic candi sugar make me want to use it in other Belgian beers moving forward.

(please read more after the break.)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Chocolate Ale: The Return of Small Batch Brewing

In the spirit of the Mayan apocalypse that came and went on the 21st I brewed a chocolate ale. Chocolate was first cultivated by the Mayans and was a big part of their culture. The might have gotten the end of the world wrong but they got chocolate right. I had my first chocolate beer when I had a bottle of Young's Double Chocolate Stout. It was a revelation in a bottle; the flavors were of an authentic stout but also very chocolatey. I've since had Ommegang's Chocolate Indulgance, Sam Adam's Chocolate Bock, and The Bruery's Chocolate Rain. Cocoa can add a lot to a beer. It really accentuates the robust flavors of dark roasted grains. The sugar leftover after fermentation combines with the dark cocoa in much the same way as as milk chocolate. I've formulated my own stout recipe around the idea of chocolate malts and

(read more after the break.)