Monday, August 31, 2009

Bock me in the Double

Up today is Sprecher's Premium Double Bock. A beer given to me by a friend of mine to try to inspire better beers out of me. Thanks.

In their infinite wisdom, Sprecher produces 16 ounce bottles. Sure they are twist offs, but I'm willing to overlook it in favour of the full pint of goodness. From the pour, it is as expected, with a light brown head, but the carbonation seems to be artificial. I thought perhaps I had poured too cold, but the impression persisted as it warmed up.

On the nose, sweetness and alcohol are noticed. A quick swirl and there is a hint of bread from the Munich malt. Caramel and Vienna malts mix in the dance of sweetness. On the tip of the tongue is the malty sweetness expected from a bock. There is the slightest hint of hops. Mid tongue, the subtle balance of the hops and the malts dance around. This is a drink to be savored and enjoyed. The finish is clean with the flavor of the Saaz coming forward. There is just enough hop presence left on the palette to make the drinker want more.

A very nice bock indeed.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Das Bier ist alt

In December 1996 I was able to visit my parents in Germany. I was just into my quest for beer knowledge and did not fully realize the questions I should have been asking. One night in a restaurant, I ordered an Altbier. What came was a small glass containing a dark liquid. It was much sweeter than I anticipated and contained an unusual taste. If I did track down this style, I have long forgotten. Skip forward 13 years. A friend gave me a 12 pack sampler from New Glarus and inside was an Alt. I've been looking forward to review ever since.

The pour is what to be expected for the style: a dark caramel with a white head. The color is what I remember. On the nose, there is sweetness and vanilla. There are hints of crystal malt as well. On the tongue, the sweetness of the style is noticeable. Underneath the sweetness, there are hints of hops, but it is not too strong. Mid mouth it is still sweet and the Hallertau hops are a little noticeable. The finish continues the same theme of sweetness and some hop presence.

This is a style I need to investigate more. The style in an interesting mix of ale and lager brewing techniques. Top-fermenting yeast is used, but there is secondary lagering of the beer, just at the warmer ale temperatures. There is also very little presence of esters. Like an ale, the New Glarus Alt gets more flavorful as it gets warmer. Very nice.

I do like the New Glarus take on the Altbier. Too bad this is in their "we no longer make it" pile. I will need to visit my favorite old school recipe site Cats Meow 3 for ideas. I do need to make one of these.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Checking the black ale

Since it was in the secondary for so long, I thought I'd get a reality check on the Kiss of Winter Black Ale. I chilled a bottle for 3 hours in the fridge.

The pour is thick and the aroma is of the Belgian malts. The head is a nice medium brown and somewhat creamy. On the nose are the malts and some hints of pine from the Ahtanum hops. On the tongue there is some sweetness from the Crystal malt and bitterness from the Warrior. The hop flavor is a bit weak. Some reviews of Ahtanum I read stated this and it seems 1oz was not enough. The finish gives some bitterness from the malt (not much, I did use debittered) and bitterness from the Warrior. For a 50 IBU beer, it does not seem as bitter given to the balancing of the crystal.

Possible changes:
  • 3 total ounces of Ahtanum with 1 ounce put in the boil at 20, 10 and 2 minutes to go.
  • Replace Ahtanum with Centennial
  • Dry hop with Centennial in the secondary
  • An ounce of Cluster added at 12 minutes to go
  • lower black malt to 1.5 lbs
  • use 40L Crystal instead of 80L
I'll check this one again in a week and see where it is. It is very nice now, just needs some tweaking to remove any hint of malt bitterness and kick up the hops a bit.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Two brothers and a guy named Christian

Tonight at Jungle Jim's, Christian from Two Brothers Brewing was in town to let us taste the brews and give tales behind each (much of which I cannot quote). They are a growing brewery in the Chicago area and have a good line of well balanced beers. There's nothing really over the top here, just good, honest beer with loads of character and flavor.

This evening's tasting was a bit of an oddity. The turn out was light and it started a bit late, yet it was done early. Normally we then talk in the store until they are shooing us out and then talk some more in the parking lot. But tonight, we were all done and gone by 10, even after I gave some of my homebrew out. Some are blaming it on our missing comrades, but who knows. Even speculation, on to the beers.

Dog Days Dortmunder Lager - 4.9% ABV, 27 IBU

Normally, I don't really go for the Dortmunder style. To me, it seems like a style that doesn't know what it wants to be when it grows up. This one was a bit different. On the nose, it was slight hops with hints of honey. Mid-tongue the noble hops came out to play. The finish was clean and refreshing. It definitely had you wanting more and is a nice summer beer.

Prairie Path - 5.1%, 28 IBU

This is what Coor's Banquet beer wants to be in its dreams. The Saaz hops is noticeable on the nose and throughout. There is some hop bitterness on the start and hints of peppercorn mid-tongue and on the finish. It has some Pilsner characteristics due to the use of noble hops, but it is an ale. Would make a nice session beer without getting sloshed.

Domain DuPage - 5.9%, 24 IBU

If there was ever a beer that would go with just about any food, this would be it. Malty from nose to finish due to the Crystal malt, this French Amber ale is all about enjoyment. The are some earthy tones mid and on the finish from the hops and the bitterness comes from the yeast. What hop presence there is balances the sweetness very well. Great balance on this one. I rated this one third best.

Bitter End - 5.2%, 36 IBU

Just about every craft brewery has a pale ale and Two Brothers final gave in and made one. It's name comes from the fact that the brewery held out "until the bitter end" before making one. This classic American Pale is all crystal malt and Cascade and Centennial hops. There are some Mount Hood hops dancing around in there too. With grapefruit on the nose, this one starts Cascade and gives way to malt and pine mid-tongue. The hop finish is a bit more pine than anything. The balance of all the flavors is again noticed. Not too bad.

Cane & Ebel - 7.0%, 68 IBU

Ever wonder what it would be like to make a Red Rye beer and add Thai Palm Sugar? Well, wonder no more and get this beer. I'm not sure of the bittering hop, but Summit is used in the last 3-5 minutes of the boil and during the dry hop. The result is a beer with hop and palm sugar on the nose, pine and grapefruit mid and a hoppy finish. The rye malt goes along for the ride and sometimes plays referee amongst all the other flavors and tones. This one is a wild ride for the mouth. I rated this one second.

Hop Juice - 9.9%, 122 IBU

Yeah, you read that right, 122 IBU, but this one does not have the bitterness to punch you in the mouth and steal your lunch money like a DogFish Head 120 might. Simcoe hops are used in the bittering and Amarillo on the flavor, but the abundant use of Crystal malts brings a balance rarely seen in an Imperial IPA. Very smooth and enjoyable. This was my pick for best beer of the night.

Bare Tree Weiss - 10%

Unlike the others, this beer is brewed with the same recipe every year. That means, no tweaking based on the current year's hop alphas and barley starch yields. This particular one was 10%, but no idea on IBU. Made with a wheat base (57%) and German hops, this barley wine is like none other I've ever had. Close your eyes and sniff and one would swear there was white wine in the glass. Grape and rye flavors dance around the tongue while sampling. Let it warm a bit and other spices start to come alive. Not a fan, but very unique.

Bonfire - 6.2%, 15 IBU

This aged Dunkel Weiss pours dark and fizzy. Meant to warm your backside when you are sitting in front of a bonfire, this beer starts with bananas and gives chocolate mid. Hop presence is very slight and no bitterness. A smooth dark beer for those who are afraid of the dark.

Red Eye - 9.3%

Ethiopian coffee beans are roasted and used in fermentation of this beer. The result is a strong coffee aroma and taste, without the caffeine. One would need to drink several bottles of this to get to a single cup of coffee. Mid-tongue, the malts become noticeable. The finish is clean. This one is for the coffee lover. This one I put fourth, just behind Domain DuPage.

All around, the beers were very good and very well balanced. The only negative I have is that their website sucks. Come on guys, get off FrontPage and make a real site. If you need help, please let me know.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tasting notes from 21 Aug 2009 - Part I

Friday, the 21st of August, a few of us gathered at a friends' house to help them make a dent into their beer store. The list is long enough to break into parts. Just how many parts will depend of how I far I get and when I feel like stopping. My notes are not too detailed, so the reviews will be short. Two beers that will not be included are my Cluster-Fuggles ale and "It's the Abbey" Ale. I will also include my rating out of 10.

New Glarus - Organic Revolution

An interesting place to start. Starts with a yeast smell, much like fresh bread. Hops are also on the nose. It is an interesting combination. Mid-mouth, it turns a bit malty and this stays through the finish. Solid 7

Heavy Seas - Holy Sheet

Traces of alcohol and sweetness on the nose. Not too bad. Balance is ok through mid, while there is a slight alcohol burn on the finish. 7

Steinhaus - Frugal Joe's Ordinary Beer

Unless this one went really bad, from the pour, one has to wonder why Steinhaus bothered to bottle this. If you think Budweiser is great beer, you might like this, but I wrote one word for this: Ugh. 2

Schlafly - Export IPA

For an IPA, this one is quite malty. There is a hint of hops on the nose, but that's about it. Usually IPA's have a big punch from the hops, but this one doesn't. Perhaps this is what an IPA is like after it has spent 3 months at sea going from England to India. 8

This one starts with hops on the nose and clean on the front of the tongue. Mid-mouth is a little malty with no real surprises. 9

Boulevard Brewing - Double-Wide IPA

Hoppy nose on this one, more like an IPA should be. Mid-mouth is clean and the hops are noticed on the finish. 8

Stout aged in barrels that held 12 year old Scotch. Definite stout nose with nice aromas from the roasted malts. Slight Scotch aroma and flavor. 9

Stout aged in barrels that held 16 year old Scotch. Smooth feel and quite chocolaty. Scotch a bit more noticeable over the 12 year old. 9

Stout aged in barrels that held 30 year old Scotch. Stout side of nose nearly gone. Taste is a wonderful blend of Scotch and roasted malt. This is one you side for days. 9

Pearl Street Brewing - Dankenstein IPA

Hops hit the nose nicely like an IPA should. It starts hoppy and it stays there all the way to the finish. A decent IPA. 7

Boulevard Brewing - Single-Wide IPA

Hops are on the nose and there is slight bitterness mid-mouth. Actually has a bit more IPA character than the double-wide, but not enough for what is expected of an IPA. 7

That's enough for part I. All post the over 11 at some other time. Don't forget that Friday, the 28th is Two Brothers Brewery tasting at Jungle Jim's.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Black Attack - From ale to pilsner

The black ale is finally bottled. The name of this brew is "Kiss of Winter Black Ale" and it is in the American Black Ale style I am developing. It smelled great while bottling, we shall see how it conditions. This one was in the secondary for several weeks and here's to hoping it aged to beauty.

Out of respect to Stone Brewing, I have decided to finally try and review their black Pilsner. This is their Juxtaposition Black Pilsner. A collaboration amongst them, BrewDog (the brewery in Scotland that is kicking it and taking names) and Cambridge Brewing Company. I found the story of this brew quite interesting and knew I just had to try it. It was of very limited release, but I was able to get some at Jungle Jim's in Fairfield.

From the pour, you know this ain't no ordinary pilsner done in a weird, black style. This is Stone, they do things over the top and this one does not disappoint. The pour is a bit thick and the head stands up strong and light brown. This is going into a Stone branded glass, of course, and it holds all 12oz well.

The aroma gives hints of hops and Belgian debittered malts. It feels like it wants to impart roasted malt tones, but the dehusked nature does not allow such. The hit on the tongue is all hops and hints of the Pilsner style. The chemical composition of the water needed for the malts differs slightly from that needed for Pilsner and it does show a bit. After all, this is a style taken to a high extreme. The hops presence though feels like a Pilsner; there but not overly bitter.

Mid-tongue, the magic that is Stone starts to happen. The feels is quite full given to its malts and a bit less refreshing than a Pilsner. The malt sweetness comes out and says hello. This is the same sweetness noticed in the nose. Again slight hints of the roasted malts give the enjoyer a chance to imagine a Belgian ale influence.

The finish lingers around a Pilsner then moves to a more hoppy base. The double dry hopping really shows up here. The bitterness felt is mostly hop, but there still is that lingering influence of the debittered malt. The roasted malt still make their presence known, they just don't overpower the beer's Pilsner ancestry.

I am sure some might want to call this beer a hybrid, Pilsner mixed with a Belgian stout, but I think that does a great disservice to what the brewers are trying to do here. Sure, this might be a one-off, but it may also start a new fade amongst the homebrewing set. Perhaps someday we may reflect at where it all started and thank the visionaries of Stone, BrewDog and Cambridge.

Thank you gentlemen.

Friday, August 7, 2009

On the road again

We are mostly packed and ready to head to Richmond, Virginia in the morning. A week's vacation at the in-laws. I hope I can relax a bit.

The black ale will spend at least one more week in the secondary. The chance to bottle just didn't present itself this past week. I cleaned and sanitized the airlock yesterday. The ale seems to be progressing nicely. Hopefully it will not get too warm while we are gone.

Recently I had some of my Cluster-Fuggles out of reused Sam Adams bottles. Some are ok, but some have an awful smell and taste just as bad. Something may have been in them or I did not sanitize well enough. Hopefully samples I have given do not have this issue.

I have not decided on what I will brew next. The last month or so has been crazy, so trying to find time to do brewing has been difficult. I do have another idea for a recipe circulating in the back of my head. I'm not ready to fire up BeerSmith and get to work, so I'll let it sit and veg a bit. Also, if anyone knows how to better use that software, please let me know. The User Interface is quite odd and annoying most of the time. I know it will do far more than I use, so I don't want money to have been wasted.

I big hello @taptheory: two young guys vlogging about beer. These guys are a bit brash and raw, but that's part of the charm. No real scripts, just off the cuff and open. They've asked me for a possible interview and it sounds like it could be interesting. Now just to find the time to get up to Toledo. Maybe I can turn them on to hoppier beers.

At the end of the month is the beer tasting for Two Brothers Brewery at Jungle Jim's. This brewery sounds interesting, but its three long weeks away.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Raspberry, likes it not

I had meant to do a review of Sprecher's Generation Porter, but after I spat it out, I needed something else. Perhaps the one I had was bad, perhaps it was too old or perhaps it is not for me, at any rate it was VERY sour. Even after pouring and letting it sit a bit, it was still way too sour for me. I like raspberries, but this porter was just too much.

So, what to try in its place? I had a report of some bottles spewing on people from some of the beers I made a few months ago, so I tried another one of those. By the looks of it, this is the kit porter I purchased from Listermann's. It has a nice roasted barley bite, though the hops have toned down quite a bit. Not as sweet as my stout aged into, this beer presents the tongue will somewhat balanced stout bitterness and ale hoppiness. I like it much better than when I made it, but it still has the feel of a kit. A nice introduction to the style; not much more. And no, the bottle did not spew on me.

For the locals, remember that Two Brother's Brewery will be at Jungle Jim's on the 28th of August. Call and let Ed know you are coming. Yeah, I know the new website design blows, that's why I am deep linking.

I was finally able to provide some of my local tasters with bottles of the "It's the Abbey" ale. This one started as a whole grain recipe claiming to be a Chimay clone. I converted it to extract and made my own changes. They liked the results, but stated it needed to age more. Nice. I'll do just that.

The Cluster-Fuggles ale has been a big hit. I will make this again soon, with just minor tweaks to the hop schedule. I want to see if I can start to brew some consistency into my beers. The barley wine will also get a second running soon. I need to ferment it before it gets too cold, but not while it is so warm. September perhaps.

'Night all.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

What is it?

I have a few bottles left of beer I made a few months ago. Since I didn't label them and used the same tops for various recipes, I've no idea which is which, especially in regard to the oatmeal stout version 1 and the kit porter. So tonight, I poured one of them and am trying to figure out what it is.

The pour is dark with a creme colored head. The smell seems to be that of the stout and so is the color. This stout has oatmeal and crystal malt. The is very little hops anywhere in the beer. It is very malty and the crystal sweetness is very pronounced. The finish is clean with a malty taste lingering.

My guess is that this is the stout due to all the crystal sweetness. The kit porter did not contain much crystal. It is quite good, though not as a stout. It is best described as an ale version of a dark Vienna lager.