Thursday, July 30, 2009

Phat Squirrel

If there was ever a nutter beer, perhaps New Glarus Fat Squirrel would be it. Its claim is that it is a nut brown ale, but the color is too pale. The label provides a nice story and I like the imagery.

It pours a deep orange with a cream colored head. On the nose, there is noticeable caramel malt and hazel nut tones. I would swear there is a hint of vanilla as well. The start is sweet and it quickly turns toward nutty. Mid is all hazel nut and caramel sweetness. Alcohol is barely noticeable, given to its 5.8%. The hops is quite unnoticeable. Perhaps my sample has toned down over the time since bottling. I've had this box for well over a month and this is the first time I've tried this one. The finish is hazel nut with the slightest hint of hops.

Overall, this an easy drinking beer. It is smooth and refreshing. Nothing overpowers anything else. It is on the sweet side, so a good pairing would be spicy food, perhaps even food with lots of garlic. A quick swirl reveals strong nutty flavors and to me what smells of Munich malt. The head fads and moves down with the beer; nothing sticks to the side. I will look forward to the other bottles.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Checking the abbey

It is past time for a check of the "It's the Abbey" ale. So, into the freezer a bottle went for 20 minutes.

The area in which I am storing these bottles has been getting a bit warm these days. This is also where I ferment. The temperatures have been reaching 75 F, so the yeast esters are tending higher. The abbey will like that, but we will have to wait and see about the black ale. The latter has finally calmed down again. I hope to check the SG this weekend. I will also need more bottle caps before I tend to it.

Cold, the abbey ale has a nice smell. Hints of banana and clove are on the nose. The tip of the tongue receives the same, with a hint of hops. Mid-mouth, the sweetness kicks in, as does the alcohol bite, which is to be expected from the estimated 9.2% ABV. There seem to be traces of cinnamon in there too. The finish has a slight sour hint, but mostly it is esters and alcohol. There is some residual hop bitterness, but not much.

A few swirls and some warmth later, the experience becomes a bit more intense and alive. The finish adjusts to a bit more sweetness. The yeast esters are more enjoyable and smooth out the alcohol. I feel this beer is ready now, though squirreling some away in a cool, dark place would be a good idea too. Try it now and then again in October.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cincy Beer Fest - 2009

It would seem that Derek meeting Craig at the Jungle Jim's Spring Beer Fest was a most fortuitous event. This simple meeting lead me to be a photographer for the Cincy Beer Fest in Convington, Kentucky. The irony of the name and location are not lost on me, but is not something upon which I dwell.

Arriving at 1.30, it was a rainy start. The rain was off and on, but when it did, it poured. Those few who ventured out at that time were greeted by smiling volunteers. The visitor's delight was in the lack of lines. By about 3, however, the skies had cleared a bit and the crowd started to grow. Throughout the day, all it did was grow larger. There seemed to be very little limit to how large it would get, but it did finally stop. Turn out was great and everyone was very well behaved, despite the limitless nature of their tickets. Even the local constabulary hired to keep the peace remarked how well the drunks were behaving.

Most of the beers available were on tap, though some of the best were in half liter bottles. Though there was no Miller or Bud Lite on hand, there was Little Kings, PBR, Schlitz and PBR light. But there was also Guinness 250 and Stone Levitation. Over all, the beer selection was very good and only a few things ran out. Samuel Adams had two new beers for taste evaluation and voting, both were excellent. One was a pilsner, brewed by Jim for his daughter's wedding, and the other a basic American ale. It was difficult, but I chose the ale.

As the day worn on, taking pictures of people became easier. Many people asked if pictures could be purchased and more thought I was from a local paper. Even the photographers from the local papers thought I was from the other. Toward the end of the night, several, mostly women, insisted on taking my picture, so I am in several. The selling of my photos is new territory for me, so hopefully the site is set-up properly.

Overall, it was a long, tiring day, but great fun. Had it been typical July weather, I do think it would have been quite miserable. The cooler weather aided in getting people out in the late afternoon as opposed to mid-evening. The crowd was great and the attitudes better. The only negative I have is that there was very little representation from the breweries, so questions about some of the beers were not answered too insightfully.

Had a great time and met all manner of people. See you in February.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Русское пиво

Up tonight is Sprecher's Russian Imperial Stout. Typical of the style, the beer pours thick and the head is a medium color brown. Even a bit cold, it sits up nice.

On the nose is roasted barley, with nutty hints and alcohol looming in the background. At the start of tasting is all roasted barley, just like it should be. Mid-mouth, the beer balances to quite neutral with the malt sweetness toning out the roast. The alcohol is also less noticeable. Swishing it around show how fizzy this beer is. It finishes with roasted malt and alcohol.

I was quite disappointed with this beer, but I am more than willing to try it again. Perhaps my taste buds are off, but I've had better Russian Imperials.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Je suis belge

Due to the fires and meetings today, I had too much work leftover tonight to get to racking the black ale. Perhaps tomorrow.

I did get something constructive done during supper and that was a review of New Glarus Imperial Saison. Traditionally brewed as a seasonal refreshing beer, this version kicks up things a few notches. Should one have something sweet before trying this beer, one is best served by cleansing the palette first. The first hit of sourness has a good pucker factor which will be highly enhanced by starting with a sweet and non-neutral tongue.

At the start, sourness greats the nose and it doesn't disappoint. The tip of the tongue gets some of the sour, as well as the alcohol (8.7% ABV). Mid-mouth the malts, yeast and sourness do a nice dance around. There are some fruity flavors in there, especially the apricot. The finish is much like the start with sourness and alcohol. Both linger for quite some time afterward.

This one will have your mouth watering for more.

Monday, July 13, 2009

When the Piper plays...

Today Jungle Jim's finally had the Stone 13th Anniversary ale, so I picked up a couple of bottles. I'll let them sit for a bit and will review it later. Up tonight is Sprecher's Piper's Scotch Ale.

As there are two styles of Scotch Ale, I read the label to determine how to set my brain. This one belongs in the smoked malt category. Awesome, let's get started.

On the nose, there are hints of smoked peat and a smell that reminds me of biscuit malt. A peek at the website reveals Aromatic and Vienna, so perhaps that is what I am detecting. I will need to make something with these to better differentiate in the future. No hops or other malts on the nose. It has a nice light brown head, though not thick, and a red-brown color.

On the tip of the tongue is a bit of alcohol and smoked malt. As it continues to mid-mouth, the malt sweetness comes up to meet everything else. Crystal malt provides the sweetness and toasted malt aspects are well balanced. Nothing gets out of hand here. The delivery of a Scotch ale is excellent.

The finish is an interesting blend of smoked malt and Vienna malt sweetness. The alcohol presents a little stronger and lingers longer than anything else. A few swirls of the beer around the mouth will numb up the gums a little. Very nice.

The brew reminds me quit a bit of Highlander that used to be brewed by Henninger Bräu. Sadly, this beer is no longer available in favor of Radler. Papazian is right, the German beer culture is being lost. Highlander is a beer that was reported to be brewed with Whiskey Malt. I am not sure what Henninger Bräu meant by that, but it was a smoky flavored beer. Beer Advocate puts it in the Märzen/Oktoberfest category, but I'm not sure that is correct. At any rate, my mother really liked it and I've long been looking for a replacement for her to try. Perhaps now I've found one. I'll have to get more and see.

Overall, it is a nice Scotch Ale of the smokey variety and is one I would have again. I'd give it a B+.

A quick Google reveals that Henninger Bräu was purchased by Binding-Brauerei in 2001. Kind of a bummer for a brewery started in 1655.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Curious Case of a Beer Review

Ever wonder what a beer would be like if it was brewed it by mixing several styles at once? Say, mix malts that are used in ales and lagers, through in hops that run the gamut too and then top it all off with a Pilsner yeast. The result is eclectic blend of flavors, styles and expectations. The beer is quest is Shmaltz Brewing's Coney Island Lager. The weird clown face on the label is quite appropriate for this beer. Several of us tried it last Friday and there seemed to be very middle ground on this one. I was in the like it camp, while others disliked it out right. The very thing that makes it interesting is the very thing some dislike about it; it's blending of styles. One may either view this beer as a good attempt at blending or see it as a beer that has no identity. It is one I would drink again.

Tonight also marks a sanity check on the abbey ale. Based on a recipe from Cat's Meow 3 that claims to be a Chimay clone, I converted to extract and played with it a bit. The pour is a bit low in carbonation, but it has only been in the bottle a week. The smell is right on as well. Mid is good with a hint of an alcohol bite. At bottling, the gravity difference estimated the ABV to be 9.2%. As it ages, this might increase a bit. The weak part is the yeast esters. I used a Canadian/Belgian yeast. It has some Belgian character, but not quite enough. The finish has a hint of hops, but not much. That should tone down as the beer ages. This is one definitely goes in the "let's develop it a bit more" column.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Rating my own

I thought I would digress from my reviewing of Sprecher and New Glarus to review one of my own brews. It is unlabeled, but based on what poured, it is my Irish Red. The head is an off-white and looks thick enough to spoon out. As the drink draws down, it tightly clings to the sides of the glass.

The aroma reveals the hop bitterness and a hint of malt. As it warms, the malt becomes a bit better pronounced. On the tip of the tongue, the hop bitterness is about all there is. As it washes to mid-mouth, the bitterness is mixed with hops. The malto-dextrin gives the beer a full feel. Alcohol is noticeable, but not overwhelming.

The finish is hoppy with only the slightest hint of malt. The bitterness does linger in the mouth and the hops gives the beer a dry finish. The hop and malt mix is unbalanced and feels like a typical homebrew. I need to work on the recipe and hop schedule. The malt sweetness is good and the color is on the darker side, but in the red zone. The recipe holds promise.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Black Ale everywhere

What better way to blog about the black ale I am making than to include a review of Sprecher's Irish style Stout. I'll leave it to the reader to hold on and figure out which is which. My former boss didn't call me Mister Non Sequitur for nothing. I will try to leave Stacy Haiduk and Rosalind Allen out of it as this is no review of Sea Quest (or other odd movie).

Cold, it pours well with a light brown head. The aroma is of roasted barley and not much else. The tongue is meet with malt bitterness and a nice feel. The finish is clean with a bit of residual bitterness. Will let it warm up.

It took quite a long time for 4 gallons to start to boil, but the Munich malt provide a nice brown foam while waiting. Due to the nearly full nature of my 5 gallon pot, I put the Warrior hops in a bag to help prevent boil over. That is what is seen floating.

Steam starting to pick up now, bubbling is just at the start. The foam will be mostly gone when the hot break starts to happen. This is one of the main reasons to boil for so long. That, and to get the bittering hops to do their thing. One ounce of Warrior at 15.8% alpha for an hour is all it will take, though one ounce of Ahtanum (5.5% alpha) will go 20 minutes, so it will give a little bit to the bittering.

Now a bit warmer, the malt sweetness starts to become noticed. The bitterness is still there, but true to the Irish Stout, the drink is still quite smooth. Nod to the Green Isle.

Boiling really going now. Will have to put camera in a safe place in case it all breaks loose. The 3 ounces of Ahtanum will go in at 20 minutes to go, 10 to go and off. At 15 minutes to go will the Irish Moss and at 5 to go, 2 ounces of Malto-Dextrin. The ingredients list looks like so:
  • 8 pounds of LME (Pilsen Light 2-5 L)
  • 2 pounds De-Bittered Black (Dingemans 500 L)
  • 1.5 pounds Crystal Malt (120 L)
  • 1 pound Munich Malt (10.5 L)
  • 1 oz Warrior (15.8%)
  • 3 oz Ahtanum (5.5%)
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss
  • 2 oz Malto-Dextrine
  • 2 tsp Gypsum
Warmer still, head gone and stoutiness is thin. This does remind me of the 250 anniversary stout from Guinness. A bit thin, but good.

Now to today's mishap. Seems the airlock may have clogged, pressure built up and the boom! Two parts of the 3 part airlock went flying, complete with splatter on the ceiling and lots of overrun on the lid and around the bucket on the floor. It stinks that this closet has carpet. It will take some doing to get that out.

As for aroma, it didn't smell that bad, yet. I cleaned the bulk off the fermintor and moved it to the kitchen. Carefully removed the lid and inspected the contents. Nice bubble layer of CO2 and it smelled ok. Cleaned the lid and returned it to the basement, this time the laundry room since the sun was mostly down and no longer shining in the window. It is cooler in there too. A few minutes later, the airlock was bubbling away like it should be. Several paper towels, spayed cleaner and a purchased ShamWow later, all is quite. Still to come is clean the pots from last night and vacuuming the closet once it has fully dried. The stored bottles will also need to be returned to their resting place. On the fun of homebrewing!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

In defense of a (new) style

As I wait for the wort chiller to do its thing on the ale, I thought I give a few minutes to a post about this style. I did take some photos of things during the boil, I'll post them later.

The 1996 Samuel Adams Longshot bottle from which I poured some of my stout tells all about my confusion and incredulity of the black ale. One of the winning entries that year was for a black lager. This style is also know as Schwarzbier. I find it quite unbelievable that some homebrewer didn't take a version of this style and make it into an ale. Yet, search though I have, the only version I can find as an ale is Belgian.

This is a dark, yet not grain bitter beer. It is quite different from a porter or stout is this regard, little to no bitterness from the roasted grain. When I started to make some guidelines for my American ale version, I kept this requirement in mind. The bitterness would be all hops, with hop characteristics in the mid and after taste. I still submit this as a new style, though I am well aware that it may already exist, just be extinct in modern brewing. After all, it seems the going thing now is smoked ales, in particular a porter. Ok, Rauchbier, I've seen this before on the lager side.

So, I come to the end of the soapbox talk. I submit that the Schwarzbier and Belgian Black ales can be used as a guide to make a new American ale style. Dark and malty, with loads of hop character and no grain bitterness (unless one overcooks the grains and gets tannins). We shall see how it turns out and where it goes from here. It should be fun, none-the-less.