Monday, June 29, 2009

Jimmy Crack'd Wheat

While I wait for the next time to test my homebrew, it is time for another beer review. This time it s New Glarus Crack'd Wheat. The label promises something a bit out of the ordinary for a wheat beer. This is a mix of a true German Hefeweissen and an America Pale Ale. Not being a big fan of wheat beers, I like the idea. This also means I tend to pour it like homebrew, leaving most of the yeast sediment in the bottom.

The beer does pour fizzy and alert. The white head is a bit more energetic, perhaps from the bottle conditioning. The head does settle down rather nice and the color is a pale, cloudy yellow. On the nose is clove with just a slight touch of cinnamon. The fruity yeast esters are also quite noticeable while cold, but not overpowering. The nose presents the promise of a refreshing wheat.

The tip of the tongue gets some spice, but sweetness comes out as it roles over. Mid-mouth brings the taste of clove and cinnamon. The yeast and hops provide enough citrus for me, I would not add a lemon slice to this one.

It finishes with a bit of hop bitterness, quickly overshadowed by the sweeter wheat. Clove is still present afterward, as is the citrus. For a wheat, the finish is clear, but not light. It does refresh, but leaves on wanting "just one more sip".

As the beer warms, the various flavors become more alive, but still well balanced. The clove becomes more noticeable on the nose. A quick swirl returns a layer of the whitehead and releases more of the smells. Mid-mouth the flavors become more full and the finish becomes a bit less tart.

Overall, this is a nice wheat beer, but has enough ale like flavor to get the non-wheat drinker to try it again.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sprecher Mai Bock

Tonight is a review of Sprecher Mai Bock. This is a seasonal brew for the spring, hence the name Mai, which is German for May. True to the style, it has a nice orange-gold color and white head. At temperature, it has a nice sweet smell with a slight hint of hops. There are also hints of yeast esters. The tip of the tongue is met with this mixture as it washes over.

Mid-mouth, the beer remains a bit sweet and the alcohol makes itself present. Esters and malt sweetness swirl around with the very slightest of hop presence. The beer finishes with some hop bitterness and something that reminds me of vanilla.

Overall, this is a nice example of the Mai Bock style. Nothing really stands out. It is better than some, but not as good as others. Next time, I'd like to try this brew a bit fresher. It isn't really one that will keep for long past the season.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

American Black Ale

The next recipe I am working on is for a winterized version of an American Black Ale. Only one problem, that style doesn't seem to exist. Sure, I've been able to find recipes for Belgian Black Ale and there are several version of Black Lager, but no Black Ale. There are browns, but that's not black. So, what is a black ale? Think of a stout without the roasted malt bitterness and more hops.

"Isn't that a porter?", you may ask.

No, a porter is lighter than the needed color and still has too much malt bitterness. The target is little to no malt bitterness, only malt sweetness and really dark color. The hops and yeast are more of the ale style.

So, I will go about creating this style, if nothing else just to let me explore what I want. Maybe someday it will be a recognized style and no doubt some craft brewer will make a gold medal winning example. I have no delusion that I will get any credit. I will just smile and know I first push the rock.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sprecher Winter Brew Lager

Next up on the review parade is the Sprecher Winter Brew Lager. This is a seasonal beer and is a sampling from last season's run.

Like most Sprecher beers, this one pours up nice and foamy. The head is a light brown and the body of the beer is dark, very dark. This one falls into the dunkel (dark) bock style, with some added flavors for winter.

Due to the use of German dehusked dark malts, the beer is quite smooth for its dark character. The malty sweetness is noticeable with only a hint of bitterness. On the nose is a combination of malt and hops. The Cascade is the first hop that comes to mind. The crystal and Munich malts dance around the tongue while the carbonation dances. The finish is full with Chinook giving some bitterness. Looking at the website I see there are two other hops in use (Mt. Hood and Tettnanger) that add to the mix. I am not able to distinguish either of those, but I am still relearning to identify the hops by smell and taste.

Overall, this is a good beer and would probably be better enjoyed mid-Winter, as intended. This would go well with a nice Gulaschsuppe and Brotchen, especially after a good day on the slopes. Raise your glass and toast the winter snow.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Abbey Cometh

Today I was finally able to get to racking the Chimay clone to secondary. Before doing so, I took a gravity reading of 1.010. It's been in the primary for two weeks and it started with a gravity of 1.080. The yeast in question is Wyeast Labs #3864 Canadian/Belgian. This yeast tolerate to 12%, so there should be some left over for carbonation when I bottle it in a few weeks.

Yesterday, I tried Stone Soup by New Glarus. This is a nice take on an abbey ale, complete with a yeast cloud. For an abbey, it is quite light and fruity. Very nice beer to enjoy out on the front porch on a hot July evening.

Did another check of the Cluster-Fuggles ale. I like the maltiness, but there is too much of a bitterness bite from the chocolate malt. The hop bitterness is not bad, but conflicts. It has some nut brown qualities and seems to wonder between a porter and a brown ale. It was bottled on the 7th of June, so it has only been in 2 weeks. I have some ideas on changes, but will try again in another week.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Waiting for tomorrow

What a crazy week this was. Nearly a week since my last post and so much to write. I did find my Flying Dog notes, but have not posted them. I never did rack the Chimay clone to secondary, but I hope to do it Saturday. There are others things to discuss like the new gravity measuring tool I bought off e-bay. There's the AHA conference on the left coast. Papazian is traveling through Holland discussing all manner of interesting beers. But who cares about all that? Tomorrow is Friday.

I sure some are wondering, "Yeah, so what?" So what? Tomorrow is Friday, the 19th of June, 2009!

"Again, so what?"

It is time for the Spring Beer Fest at Jungle Jim's! I will be there, with camera in tow. Last Saturday I was over there buying priming sugar and looking for Gypsum (they didn't have any of the latter) and an employee in the beer/wine section asked if I was bringing my better camera equipment this time. Yes, I am. Ok, the better stuff is not mine, but I am borrowing it.

Here is what I will have with me on Friday. My trust Nikon D80, my dad's Nikkor 18-70mm AF-S 2.5-4.5 G ED lens and the Sigma EF-500DG Super flash (my dad and brother split this). Yeah, the lens is a heavy beast and the flash is really made for the D70s, but I could not swing the SB-900 AF yet (ok Waxie, get some good plays out there, 6 bad months is enough) and the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 XR Di LD is still out of reach. After a few samples it may feel like I have a bowling ball around my neck, but at least I'll "look" a bit more professional. So, if you are there and I stop to take your picture, smile and give me a good pose. I'm not just some wack-o looking to take pictures. I'm some wack-o looking to record great memories. As with the pictures from the Stone tasting, if you want a print of some of them, let me know and I'll send them to your nearest Wallgreens.

Time to pack it in and get some good sleep in prep for tomorrow. It is going to be one crazy evening.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Beer review and some sampling

Next up on beer reviewing is Sprecher Premium Reserve Abbey Tripple. I poured the beer cold on purpose. The beer is a nice yellow color with a bit of yeast cloud do to it's unfiltered nature. It starts sweet with hints of the wheat malt on the nose. The sweetness stays fairly constant as it warms up. The hop presence is very slight and not bitter due to an IBU value of 13. Mid-mouth and finish are quite fruity, with a hint of alcohol. As abbey ales go, I find it quite enjoyable and would put with Anderson Valley's tripple as a comparison.

If I get a chance to test my Cluster-Fuggles ale, I will update the blog.

The edit.

The Cluster-Fuggles was bottled on Sunday, so just 6 days in. There is the hiss of carbonation when opening and it pours to a deep brown color. It almost qualifies as a black ale, but not quite. The head is pronounced and a light brown. It stays with the drink the whole way. The aroma is that of Fuggles and malt. The Munich malt is noticed mid-mouth as is the Fuggles. The finish has hint of the chocolate malt and hops. Not quite a hop-heads delight, but is more than a typical ale. This mix holds much promise. There are many modifications I want to try with this recipe, but I will do one at a time. The first will be to increase the Munich malt to a pound, then I would like to try more hops and have a better blend from Cluster to Fuggles. Say, move some Cluster into the flavor and some Fuggles into the bittering. At some point I will try a darker Crystal malt (say 60-80L). I like the alcohol where it is at 5.2%.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Beer review: Sprecher Special Amber Lager

My friendly neighborhood Sprecher supplier wants me to review some beers given to me, so I am finally obliging. First up is their Special Amber Lager.

I first let it warm a bit from the fridge for about 10 minutes (ok, I had to get the kids in bed). It pours well with a nice white head. The beer is a bit of an orangy-gold color. On the nose are hints of malt and hops (my first guess being Hallertau). Already it is an interesting blend. Almost an Oktoberfest without the spiciness. The tip of the tongue delivers hops and mid mouth it gets sweet. An Oktoberfest with a hint of Vienna? Or is it the other way round? The finish is midly hop bitter.

As it warms some more, the hops become more pronounced on the nose and finish. It moves me to think of a hoppy Vienna style lager, but with lower alcohol. The blend of Cascade and Mount Hood hops is interesting. The latter showing its Hallertau roots, while the former pushes the idea of a lager around toward ales. I am not sure, but it seems the Cascade offer a bit more of the bitterness while the Mount Hood fill the nose and mouth.

A bit warmer still and the malt sweetness comes up more on the nose. Finish is now hoppier and more bitter. With IBU of only 22, it will not get too bitter and the Cascade has become more noticeable. All round, a well done lager that would go as well with corned beef and cabbage as it would a Rot Wurst mit Sauerkraut und Pomme Frits; perhaps a Goulash Suppe as well.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

New and old

What a crazy few days. Saturday I tried a different brew supply place: Paradise Brewing Supplies. It was a bit of a haul for me, but it was nearly all Interstate. The place is much smaller than Listermann's, but they do have a charm all their own. They have a better selection of equipment and a much better selection of bulk extracts, though they, like Listermann, do not know the SRM for any of them. I was there to get the supplies I needed for my next endeavor. I converted to 8 lbs of a light Pilsen liquid extract. I also picked up a wort chiller. It is the immersion type and worked great. With the cold on a slow trickle, it brought my wort down to pitching temperature in about 10 minutes.

The place has a feel of a real hobbist shop. Along one windowed wall are plastic garbage bags of various grains. In the back there seems to be a TV repair shop. On one shelf there was a hard cider in secondary and mead was also being conditioned. The staff was quite knowledgeable and personable. They were incredulous for how far I drove and I would like to thank the homebrewer I met at the last tasting who told me about the place.

Once home and brewing, I made a few modifications, mostly out of necessity. The first is that I neglected the half pound of 60L Crystal malt. Oooppss. The second was that we had light brown sugar, not dark. No worries. I also added about a cup of some dark honey we've had sitting around for months. It is from a local beekeeper on Blue Rock road. I need to get more. The ingredients were so:
  • 8 lbs light malt extract (liquid)
  • 1.5 lbs Munich malt (5L)
  • 2 ounces Chocolate malt (350L)
  • 2 lbs light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon gypsum
  • 1 teaspoon Irish Moss
  • 1 oz Kent Goldings (4.5%)
  • 1 oz Hallertau (3.7%)
  • Wyeast 3864 Can/Belg
Hops boiled as per recipe. The Munich and Chocolate malt I did old school by placing in a gallon of water, bring to a boil, drain through a metal colander over the boil pot and 1 gallon of 150 degree water sparged through. I added the brown sugar at the same time as the extract, though I added the honey just after the Irish Moss. The color was on target and it was a bit sweet when going into the fermentor. The OG was a bit high at 1.080. We shall see if the yeast can handle it.

My brother was over Sunday and after dealing with the pool, I asked if he wanted to help me bottle the Cluster-Fuggles Ale. The final gravity was 1.012 giving 5.2% ABV. It smelled very good and had a nice dark brown color. Bottles are capped, labeled and put away. I will visit it in a week.

I also tried the Oatmeal Stout, version 2, again today. It is getting MUCH better, but still needs to age a bit more. I have given a few of these out and I'd really like to know what others think. In a week or two, I need to take a bottle by Listermann's and get some more opinions.

Until next time, the kitchen is closed.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Vintage Beer Review

It has been nearly a week since the Stone Brewery Rare and Vintage beer tasting event on the 29th, so it is past time I give my impressions.

Russian Imperial Stout 2006 (10.8%)
Noticeable alcohol on the nose with a hint of roasted barley. Feel is very smooth with alcohol on the tongue. If velvet was a liquid, this would be it. Best of the night.

Russian Imperial Stout 2007 (10.8%)
Malty nose with a hoppy finish. Malty mid-mouth and less smooth than the 2006. Shows were the previous year's was. Nice example of the style.

Russian Imperial Stout 2009 (10.5%)
Nice comparison to the previous year's batches. Alcohol on nose and hoppy. Flavor is less organized and more intense than those that have aged a bit. Buy 6 bottles of this and enjoy one each year starting in 2010.

12th Anniversary - July 2008 (9.2%)
Contains Argentinian cocoa to give bitterness due to the hop shortage at the time of brewing. The cocoa provides no chocolate flavor. Hints of coffee and chocolate from the malted grains. Smooth finish. It is a Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout.

11th Anniversary - September 2007 (8.7%)
Hoppy nose and mid-mouth. Very interesting flavors with a stout-like finish. I need to have this again as my notes are too incomplete. I may have returned to taking some pictures at this time.

Sublimely Self Rigteous (8.7%)
Heavy grapefruit notes on the nose and taste. Mid-mouth is malty. A nice bow to the hophead, without overpowering everything else.

Cali Belgique (6.8%)
A very interesting blend of two styles: Belgian ale and IPA. Nice golden color with a hoppy start. Hints of grapefruit in the hops. Finish is sweet. Best described as having an IPA start and a Belgian finish. This was my pick of second best of the night.

Double Bastard 2006 (10%)
Has a malty start with a slight hint of hops in the nose. Gets more malty mid-mouth and finishes with a slight hint of hops. Could be described as a slightly hoppy barley wine.

Double Bastard 2007 (10%)
Malty start and nose. Seems less hoppy than the 2006, which seems backward. Very nice beer to sip on a warm night.

Old Guardian 2007 (11.26%)
Begins malty, turns sweet mid-mouth and has a hoppy finish. By this time in the night it is all I can do to determine what I am drinking and write some notes.

Old Guardian 2008 (11.26%)
As expected, is hoppier than the 2007, mixed with malt sweetness. Alcohol and hops are more noticeable mid-mouth. My pick of third best of the night.

Old Guardian 2009 (11.3%)
Hops and grapefruit start, nose, mid-mouth and finish. The hopheads barley wine this. Get a case and let it age two years before opening the first one. Then open one every year or two. Let this one age a bunch.

The 12 beers, in order, right to left (yeah, I know it is backward, but it was arranged by a bunch of lovers, what do you expect??).

Afterward, I was able to fill a case with our empty bottles (12 x 22oz). I will now use them to bottle my own homebrew; let it be worthy. Saturday afternoon they had the 9 vintage beers on-sale (what was left from the brewery shipment) for $15 a piece, limit one bottle per type per person. The other 3 (Cal Belgique, 2009 Stout and 2009 Old Guardian) were on sale on the normal shelves. The Cal Belgique was going fast, so I bought it along with 3 of the vintage: 2006 Stout, 2007 Double Bastard and 2007 Old Guardian). All four are aging under my steps, where the temperature is cool, but unfortunately not 55. I will get examples of the 2009 vintage later.

Once again I would like to thank Ed and his crew for an excellent job on this tasting and Jungle Jim for having the vision to hire such people. It was more than worth the price of admission.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cluster-Fuggles goes secondary

Was able to rack the Cluster-Fuggles Ale to secondary. The gravity at the moment is down to 1.016, giving about 4.7% ABV. For one of my brews, this is quite low. I will find my notes and double check the OG. It does smell great though.

The Stone Brewery Rare and Vintage tasting at Jungle Jim's on the 29th of May was unbelievable. If you missed this one, you missed the best single brewery tasting the Jungle will ever and has ever had. Yeah, it was THAT fantastic. I took my D80 and took some pics, but I didn't have the good flash, so the crowd shots are a bit dark. The Spring Beer fest is coming up on the 19th of June, don't miss that one either. Over 50 breweries from around the world. All that, here in Cincinnati. Who would have thunk it.

I did another test of the Oatmeal Stout, version 2. The "official" name of the brew is Crystal My Oats. The head was excellent, but the feel and taste are a bit week. I will try this version again, but this time I am doing things old school by cracking the grains and then bringing them to a boil. No more steeping for 20 minutes at 150. With this "newer" method, I am not getting the results I did 10 years ago. I will still use a grain bag to help with the mess. I will try to brew version 2b soon.

After the tasting, I gave out many samples to several people, including some newly meet homebrewers (though I think I met one of them back during the Samuel Adams tasting). I have not heard back yet, but I will report here when I do.

A friend of mine has started his own beer rating site. My beers should start appearing there. I entered my brewery as "Brainmuffin's Beer Kitchen" so be sure to check it out. All complaints are automatically sent to /dev/null.

I see that Charles Papazian is now on Twitter and I follow him. To a homebrewer, he is THE MAN. I don't know if he actually reads anything I send to him, but at least I am a peep amongst the multitudes. I still have his book "The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing" copyright 1991 on my desk and refer to it often. There are other books these days and this one has a more up to date print, but this copy is near and dear to my heart. I read from it frequently and have yet to make every recipe it contains. Perhaps there is a small quest for me.

A thanks to all my bottle suppliers. I now have more to wash. This latest batch will no doubt host most of my Cluster-Fuggles ale. It is great fun to return these bottles full of homebrew.

Good night.