Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tasting: Wychwood Bah Humbug Christmas Ale

The shelves and aisles of my local stores are full of seasonal beer.   According to one chart I saw, this is peak season for limited offerings.  I doubt I will get through them all any time soon, and trying to purchase a decent selection is a costly undertaking with the price per serving much higher than the year-round beers. 

Tasting: Chilled to ~40 degrees (f) from a goblet.

Appearance: 3/3 Translucent orange with hints of red.
Head: 3/3 Nice head with very fine bubbles thick on the pour thins after a few minutes but doesn't disappear.
Aroma: 2/3 Nice hop aroma, subtle malt.
Flavor: 2/3 Nothing to really grab at; low carbonation, some hop bitterness, some sweetness, maybe some heat from the alcohol.
Mouth feel: 2/3 Medium to thick body, low carbonation, velvety on the palette.
Overall: 2/3 This beer doesn't make a lasting impression although it is good, and fairly balanced.
Buzz: 2/3 Light buzz after 2/3 glass.

The beer tasted better the longer I enjoyed it, it was a sipping beer, and hints of spice started to show as it warmed. 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tasting Briefs

Lots of seasonal beers and not enough time to take detailed tasting notes means I will summarize:

Stiegl Goldbrau Lager - Very malty and smooth Austrian beer, but a bit too sweet.

Sierra Nevada Celebration - Tasty beer, hoppy, red in color and reminiscent of Dogfish Head's 90 min IPA. 

Stone Levitation Ale - Very good, the lightest beer offered by Stone at 4.4% alcohol.

Alaska Smoked Porter - Amazing beer, like a great cigar or fine wine, complex deep and rich flavored.

Klosterbrauerei Weissenohe Marzen - A great beer, very malty, but not too sweet.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Brew 11 Extra Stout

I wanted to brew a good winter beer, and decided on a stout. I juiced it up with a bit of Agave syrup with a target gravity of 1.090. It came out with a bit too much volume, but considering that, the gravity was pretty good at 1.082. I discovered that my mash keg has a hard time maintaining higher temperatures. I will insulate it some more and try one more brew and if the problem continues I will replace it with a cooler.

Strategy: Dough in at 168, observe drop to 153,
rest 30 min.
Heat Decoction and mash out at 160

3:13 PM 11/8/2008 strike temp=168
3:33 PM 11/8/2008 Temp dropped too quickly, reheating water.
3:50 PM 11/8/2008 Temp = 164
3:52 PM 11/8/2008 Dough in - Mash temp = 152
4:05 PM 11/8/2008 Temp Check = 150
4:25 PM 11/8/2008 Temp Check = 151
4:30 PM 11/8/2008 Started Decoction - 1.5-2 gal
4:45 PM 11/8/2008 Decoction boiling
4:55 PM 11/8/2008 Stopped Decoction Boil, return to mash
5:34 PM 11/8/2008 Sparge Water = 180, starting sparge
5:54 PM 11/8/2008 4 gallons in boil kettle, started heat
6:11 PM 11/8/2008 Runoff complete, 9 gallons of wort!
6:13 PM 11/8/2008 Boil Started

6:22 PM 11/8/2008 Added Centennial and Galena hops
7:02 PM 11/8/2008 Added 15 min hops
7:15 PM 11/8/2008 Added 3 min hops
7:19 PM 11/8/2008 started chill
8:03 PM 11/8/2008 Og = 1.082, volume = 6.5 gallons

Update - The recipe had too little roasted barley, and too much agave. It packed quite a punch, and after 3 months was finally conditioned and tasted ok though.

13 lbs American 2-row
.5 lbs Crystal 60
.75 lbs Roasted Barley
1 lbs Chocolate malt
.5 lbs Dextrine Malt
.5 lbs Munich Malt
0.5 lbs Dry Light
1.5 lbs Honey
1.0 oz Centennial (8.70%) - added during boil, boiled 60.0 min
1.0 oz Galena (10.0%) - added during boil, boiled 60.0 min
0.5 oz Cascade (5.5%) - added during boil, boiled 5.0 min
0.5 oz Willamette (5.0%) - added during boil, boiled 5.0 min
0.0 oz Cascade (5.5%) - added dry to secondary fermenter
0.0 oz Willamette (5.0%) - added dry to secondary fermenter

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tasting: Brew 10 Pale Ale

This is my 4th effort to make a good pale ale, this time I increased the flavor and aroma hops as well as the bittering hops. For some reason the final gravity ended up too high, and the fermentation temperature was too high so I am not there yet, but I am getting closer.

Tasting: Chilled to ~40 degrees (f) from a pint glass.

Appearance: 2/3 Beautiful copper color, thick off-white head, champagne-like bubbles minor haze.
Head: 3/3 Light, thick head that lasts.
Aroma: 3/3 Nice hop aroma, surrounding subtle malt.
Flavor: 2/3 Somewhat dry, nice bitterness with strong hops, and some yeast a bit sweet.
Mouth feel: 2/3 Medium body (for a pale ale), somewhat overly carbonated, sweet flavor remains after swallowing fading to hoppy tartness.
Overall: 2/3 This is a very drinkable beer. The hops are a little more forward than necessary, and it is still a bit too sweet, but I think I have worked out why and will fix that in the next brew.
Buzz: 2/3 Light buzz after 2/3 glass.

I am quite pleased with this beer. It is more complex because I used 3 different hops, and the aroma and flavor that were lacking in the prior effort are there, perhaps a bit too strong. The bitterness is nice too.

Brewing Notes:
5:54 PM 8/22/2008 Heat started.

Strategy: Dough in at 145, observe drop to 135
Lauter/Heat until 148
Rest 30 min
Lauter/Heat until 160
Rest 30 min

5:13 PM 9/27/2008 Dough in at 145
5:18 PM 9/27/2008 mash temp = 135
5:23 PM 9/27/2008 mash temp = 140
5:27 PM 9/27/2008 Started heating sparge water
5:58 PM 9/27/2008 Mash temp = 158
6:06 PM 9/27/2008 Cooled to 150
6:28 PM 9/27/2008 Recirc up to 160
6:43 PM 9/27/2008 Start Sparge
8:22 PM 9/27/2008 Start Boil
8:28 PM 9/27/2008 Added .8 oz Chinook Hops
9:15 PM 9/27/2008 insert chiller
9:25 PM 9/27/2008 add 5 min hops + irish moss
9:30 PM 9/27/2008 Stop heat + add aroma hops + start chill
10:01 PM 9/27/2008 og = 1.054, taste is thin, not bitter.

3:11 PM 9/28/2008 Fermenter is bubbling away

11 lbs American 2-row
8 oz Crystal Malt 40°L
4 oz Crystal Malt 60°L
4 oz Carapils®/Carafoam®
.85 oz Chinook (13.0%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min
.5 oz Liberty (4.0%) - added during boil, boiled 5 min
.5 oz Cascade (5.5%) - added during boil, boiled 5 min
.5 oz Liberty (4.0%) - added during boil, boiled 0.0 min
.5 oz Cascade (5.5%) - added during boil, boiled 0.0 min

Notes on Lagering

N. Jufer (I am not sure if he wants to be quoted, but I need to attribute this to him since it is a direct quote)  responded to a question about lagering on the American Homebrew Association digest email I got today with an entirely different approach from what I used on the Pilsner I completed recently.  I used the Noonan (based on the German) method.  I think I will try this next time:

Rather than repeat rigid old school German lager practice (as in Noonan's "New Brewing Lager Beer"), I will relater to you what works for me (and works quite well judging by competition results). I drew on George Fix's similar experience as related in the Classic Beer Styles Book "Vienna-Marzen-Octoberfest". Also Palmer and Zainasheff have similar recommendations in "Brewing Classic Styles. My basic process is to pitch a big pitch of yeast on wort at 46 to 47 degrees F and let it ferment to completion at 50 degrees. Sometimes after a week to 10 days I will raise the temperature to mid-50's to finish the fermentation, but in all cases I let it ferment to completion in primary. This means, bubbling has virtually ceased and almost all the yeast has fallen and the beer is clear. This is generally fourteen to twenty eight days and is dependent on OG, fermentability of the wort, and on yeast strain, pitching rate, yeast health,  and the temperature regimen used.
Being a keg brewer, At this point I rack to the finishing keg and cool it in the refrigerator at 34 degrees. George preferred to cool the primary down to 34 degrees before transferring to keg (which aids in dropping more of the yeast still in suspension. I generally don't have room in my little fridge to do this so I transfer at 50 degrees F or whatever the finishing temperature was. Then the Corny keg is put in the fridge which is set at 34 degrees. I begin force carbonation immediately which by my process usually takes about 10 to 14 days to achieve. I usually don't hook up the out side of the keg during that period. When I do I pull off the yeast from the bottom and take two ounce samples every four days to a week or so until it clears to brilliant. This usually takes two to three weeks but the beer is not at its best until around four to six weeks (bocks and baltic porters even longer).