Thursday, December 16, 2010

Special Finals Edition - Belgian Specialty Ale


Beer: Les Deux Brasseurs (A Collaboration between Allagash Brewery of Maine and De Proefbrouwerij of Belgium)
Category: Belgian and French Ale
Subcategory: Belgian Specialty Ale

I bought this bottle from the same fellow that sold me the bottle of Pliny, and thus I've been saving it for today when I finally finished my final exams. This is a strong Belgian pale ale fermented with two separate strains of Brettanomyces (wild yeast), one from each of the collaborating breweries. Pretty cool, huh? This should give the beer a more sour (but intentionally sour) flavor and some sublimely funky aromas and flavors in the mix. Let's see what we find!

Appearance: Gorgeous darker golden color, with more brown to it than red, so not really amber-colored. Wonderful clarity and a really nice white head that leaves great lacing.

Aroma: Sour apples and cherries with a slight vinous quality. Definite detectable yeasty character. Wild yeasts lend it that signature "horse blanket" quality for it. This is definitely some wonderfully funky stuff.

Flavor: Really nice oaky flavor up front, with almost a smoky and spicy quality to it. The brett yeasts add some really great funk to the flavor. There are lots of fruity tones...I detect apple, quince, and lemon. There is more hop bitterness than expected and a little bit of alcohol on the back of the tongue. The finish is also marvelously complex; very earthy yet surprisingly clean.

Mouthfeel: Very smooth, with medium-low carbonation and fine bubbles. Really enjoyable medium-bodied mouthfeel.

Overall: Man, this is a really interesting beer. I am still a rookie when it comes to wild beers, but this stuff is very complex yet very drinkable. It holds a lot of interest to the palate, especially offering up features that you might not get in other beers. I can't wait to try some more sour ales, because this has been an excellent experience.

Prost!
Der Braumeister

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Category 14: India Pale Ale


Beer: Pliny the Elder (OMG!!!!!)
Category: India Pale Ale
Subcategory: Imperial/Double IPA

IPA is a very hoppy, high bitterness, high hop flavor, high hop aroma ale with a strong malt backbone to balance out all of that hoppiness. This style originated when English troops were stationed in India, and they wanted to have an ale that wouldn't spoil so easily. Hops act as a natural preservative in beer, thus a hoppier style of beer was born.

Imperial IPA is a bigger still version of IPA, bigger in pretty much every way, including ABV. Pliny the Elder is pretty much the definitive version of this beer, and is, according to beeradvocate.com, one of the best beers on the planet. This beer is brewed in California and is very sought after and rather difficult to find. I acquired a bottle by *somewhat* questionable means and had been looking forward to drinking it quite a bit. I celebrated my finishing of grad school applications by drinking this beautiful beer.

Appearance: a lightish, pretty golden color with a small but persistent head and EPIC lacing. EPIC.

Aroma: holy moley. I could just stop right here. Complex hop aromas with gorgeous American citrus and floral notes with a very prominent tropical fruit character, particularly pineapple-like in nature. what a treat to even just smell this beer.

Flavor: just like the aroma, with American citrus and pineapple flavors jumping out with amazing complexity, and huge hop bitterness that is beautifully balanced out by the malts in this high gravity beer. for a beer that is so big in flavor, it is amazingly balanced, and incredibly complex. I am officially blown away.

Mouthfeel: really not much like anything I've experienced before. Medium body and medium-high carbonation, but it seems that it is either the high gravity, the copious amount of (dry) hops, or some combination of the two, that gives the beer somewhat of an oily feel to it. Once again, I am pretty wowed.

Overall/Drinkability: not much that I can say that hasn't already been said. This is a truly amazing, world class beer and I am a huge fan. I can only say that I wish it was more easily available away from the west coast...and this beer definitely is PURE west coast stuff. The tropical fruit/pineapple flavor and aroma are what really blew me away here. Not like anything I've ever really tasted before. Can't wait for the day that I can have one again. I'll be sure to share it with my dad, Jeff Cutts, Sr. who is a huge fan of IPAs and other hoppy beers!

Good news about this one is that the brewmaster of the Russian River Brewing Company who brews this beer has actually published a homebrew-friendly recipe for a clone of the beer. I will definitely have to partake of that very soon (12 ounces of hops in five gallons!!!).

Category 13: Stout


Beer: St. Peter's Cream Stout
Category: Stout
Subcategory: Sweet/Milk/Cream Stout


Thanks to Arthur Guinness and sons, we all know about stout. However, people always seem to think that stout is an overbearing "heavy" beer. Folks, stout can actually be lower in OG (original specific gravity) than your basic American light lager! It is flavorful and delicious, and the weather now is such that it is perfectly in season. Sweet, cream, or milk stout is a specialty kind of stout, made with a lower bitterness and lactose (milk sugar) added to the beer. Milk sugar is unfermentable with brewers yeast, and thus it leaves a nice lingering residual sweetness in the beer. This can be a nice beer to sip for dessert. Pick it up if you find one, as it is a lesser made type of stout.

Appearance: wow, this stuff is dark! As far as I can see, it is pretty much opaque with a small, tan, very creamy head. PS interesting antique green bottle on this guy...didn't seem to light-damage the flavor/aroma, which is a good sign

Aroma: chocolate, a little hint of coffee, and an earthy hint of molasses, somewhat buttery in nature

Flavor: very nice chocolate character up front with lower amounts of bitterness. some definite sweetness and creaminess...some buttery diacetyl hangs out in there, too. finish is like a nice cup of sweet coffee...mmmm

Mouthfeel: fine bubbles and very creamy, this is a wonderful attribute of this beer

Overall: a very nice beer, and a great example of the style. would be a perfect after-dinner/dessert beer, wonderful to be enjoyed with chocolate chip cookies (who needs milk?), truffles, or a piece of chocolate cake.

Makes me excited for the Hot Chocolate Stout, which I will be tasting in t-minus two weeks!

Category 12: Porter


Beer: Samuel Smith Taddy Porter
Category: Porter
Subcategory: Brown Porter


For those who don't know, there is one very distinct difference between porter and stout. Stout gets its color and flavor from an addition of roasted unmalted barley in the mash (with other dark malts often also contributing to this as well), while porter gets its color (and flavor) just from dark malts, such as chocolate malt, brown malt, or black patent malt. Brown porter is the most traditional example of the style.

Appearance: very dark brown, almost black, with a gorgeous khaki colored tan head with very nice lacing

Aroma: Beautiful. English toffee, dark chocolate/cocoa notes, and very good coffee with a little bit of sweetness.

Flavor: very much like the aroma, but better still...sweet caramel malt taste, and a little bit of bitterness coming both from the hops and the dark malts in the grist--gives the beer a nice hint of coffee/espresso flavor. combination of hops, yeast, and dark malts give the beer a nice little twang at the end

Mouthfeel: smooth, creamy, and wonderful, with a still present carbonation that compliments the flavor character very nicely

Overall/Drinkability: What a treat this was! Samuel Smith makes a lot of delicious beers, but I would have to put this one up front. This has to be one of my favorite porters that I have ever tasted. It's like a good cup of coffee, except with more complexity. Pretty much no flaws...wish I had more of it!

Category 11: English Brown Ale


Beer: Newcastle Brown Ale
Category: English Brown Ale
Subcategory: Northern English Brown

Ah, English brown ales. Tasty, low gravity, malty creatures that make for wonderful session beers and still never sacrifice flavor. They tend to be great for both cooking and pairing with food. When I found a mini keg of this in my local Publix in Naples, FL, I had to pick it up. Never did care for Newcastle in the clear bottles (skunkaroni!).

Appearance: Pretty, dark reddish-brown color. Nice cream colored head with decent lacing.

Aroma: Sweet caramel with some nuttiness and a dash of alcohol

Taste: A small amount of caramel sweetness develops into a nutty, slightly toasty, vaguely chocolatey flavor. Some bready maltiness and small kick of hop bitterness. Glad that the skunkiness is lost with the on-tap version, because the clear bottles pretty much ruin the whole beer otherwise. So much more pleasant this way. Great beer to drink with dinner!

Mouthfeel: Pretty smooth, fine bubbles, medium body and medium-high carbonation.

Drinkability: Well, out of the mini keg, this guy is pretty damn drinkable. It's tasty and goes down easy. Not bad at all. I kind of prefer some of the better nut browns like Samuel Smith, but on tap, Newcastle is alright by me. I definitely think that the two milds I brewed this summer were better, but English brown ale is a great style of beer, and very versatile.

Sidenote: I made some EPIC fish tacos using some Newcastle in my beer batter. I highly recommend it.

Category 10: American Ales

Got to have this one on the beach!

Beer: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Category: American Ale
Subcategory: American Pale Ale

For a category that originally started out as American versions of English Ales, the American ales of today really have found their own identity. Using very flavorful, citrusy American hops (particularly the ever-popular Cascade variety), these ales all tend to showcase delicious, refreshing hop flavor, and the subcategory is dictated by the varying types of malt backbone that these have. I decided to go totally definitive with this one, reviewing the classic example of the American pale ale, which is interestingly enough one that I had tasted but had never really drank critically before writing this review. Ladies and gentlemen, the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Appearance: a pretty, light golden amber, small white head with very nice lacing (even on my cheap plastic glass!)

Aroma: a bouquet of citrus. fresh American hops, a little earthy malt sweetness, and a little tang (perhaps from the hops themselves)

Flavor: Mmm mmm. Citrusy, fruity hops up front with a surprisingly nice malt background and a mall bit of complimentary sweetness. Moderate hop bitterness makes this a very balanced beer (this style can often be very unbalanced towards the hoppy side of things).

Mouthfeel: very smooth, medium body, and medium-high carbonation. not overcarbonated like other examples of this style can often be.

Overall: great example of the style, especially because it is not overdone on the hops. Honestly, I feel that this is what brewers should strive for when they brew American pale ales, because it is easy for this style to be too bitter with not enough malt support. Sierra Nevada did well with this one.

Category 9: Irish and Scottish Ale


Beer: Smithwick's Irish Ale
Category: Scottish and Irish Ale
Subcategory: Irish Red Ale


Scottish and Irish ales are characterized by a very solid malt character, moderate hop bitterness, and a distinctive baked cookie flavor exuding from the crystal malt-rich malt profile. They are very enjoyable, balanced ales when done well, so today I did a review of Smithwick's (pronounced smithix) Irish red ale.


Appearance: a deep reddish-brown with a healthy, creamy, off-white head that fades away at a moderate pace and leaves some nice lacing on the sides, dark but still quite clear

Aroma: definitely earthy, definitely somewhat caramel sweet, with subtle but detectable tones of scones or cookies

Flavor: very balanced, and very much like the aroma with a sweet, bready maltiness reminiscent of baked scones or cookies, but with a nice taste of earthy hop bitterness on the end. no hop flavor

Mouthfeel: wonderfully pleasant--deliciously smooth with medium-low carbonation and a medium body that complements the flavors perfectly...this is perhaps the best feature of the beer

Overall/Drinkability: incredibly drinkable ale because of the balanced flavor and the excellent mouthfeel. not earth-shatteringly exciting, but definitely enjoyable and a great session beer. I enjoy this quite a bit, but as I look back over all of my reviews of beers with comparable profiles, I would be likely to reach for an Oktoberfest or Schwarzbier first, which is funny because I consider myself more of an ale drinker, and those are of course lagers. That being said, I would definitely want to consider brewing this style because of its malt interest and excellent sessionability. I would strive to get a mouthfeel similar to that of Smithwicks, too!

Instant Gratification!

Dear Readers,

Today, you lucky folks can look forward to six BRAND NEW reviews that I have done over the last two weeks. The reason they are all being posted today is that they may or may not have been done, erm, out of order (GASP!). I wanted to post them in order, and now that I've filled in all the gaps, you get a bomb of delicious beer reviews today! And hey, it's only 4 pm on a Saturday, so you've got the rest of the weekend to taste these beauties. Good luck finding the last one, though (it's a special treat and surprise!).

Enjoy,

Der Braumeister

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Category 8: English Pale Ale


Beer: Tetley's English Ale
Category: English Pale Ale
Subcategory:
Ordinary Bitter

I love a good English pale ale. The first beer that I ever brewed was a special bitter, so I am certainly a fan of the style. Ordinary Bitter (as opposed to special) implies that the beer is lower in gravity, therefore lower in alcohol.

Appearance: Beautiful amber color with a pretty, creamy white nitro head. Brilliant clarity. Definitely a pretty beer.

Aroma: Nice malt profile with some fresh, clean graininess and minor sweetness. Small amount of grassy, earthy hops in the background.

Flavor: Nice flavor exuding from the crystal malt-rich profile, with some definite caramel and cereal grain character. Definitely a buttery diacetyl flavor. A small amount of English hop flavor floats in, but there is a nice pronounced hop bitterness on the back of my tongue. Really nice taste overall.

Mouthfeel: Creamy, smooth nitro feel. Medium body, very pleasant. I appreciate a good nitro English bitter, especially when all one usually sees in the US is nitro stout.

Overall: Great beer. Totally drinkable, but still plenty of complexity in this guy. I always find myself wishing that this were the style of beer that one could find on tap in every American bar, instead of Bud Light. At 3.6% ABV, this is a wonderful session beer that I could just drink all night. Definitely a style that I want to try my hand at brewing once I start up again.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Category 7: Amber Hybrid Beers


Beer: Anchor Steam Beer
Category: Amber Hybrid Beers
Subcategory: California Common

Love me some amber hybrids. Funny how certain styles can be born out of necessity. California Common, or steam beer as it is most commonly (lol) known, is fermented with lager yeasts on the lower range of ale temperatures, reaching back to the days when refrigeration was hard to come by. Anchor Steam Beer is the classic example of this style, and they only remaining brand of the original California Common beers, thus making it the golden standard for this subcategory. I've already had it, but I love it and I've never reviewed it, plus you can find it at most any decent beer store. Flying Dog Old Scratch is another great, more recent example of this subcategory.

Appearance: Pours a beautiful amber color with nice clarity and beautiful, visible bubbles sparkling through. Small but persistent white head. Some lacing. Overall very pretty. Not all that different from a nice IPA.

Aroma: Sweetness in the aroma, with the fruitiness of raisins up front. A little bit tropical pineapple as well. Very west coast. A little grassiness from the hops but overall lots of malt character.

Flavor: A nice toasty malt background with some cereal graininess and a little hint of sweetness. Definite detectable Germanic lager character with some sulfites present. Great west coast hop flavor, nice and floral but also a bit spicy and citrusy...definitely Northern Brewer hops. This beer is at once totally California and totally Germany, if that makes any sense. Completely balanced and totally satisfying.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, medium-high carbonation. Crisp like an IPA but with a lager finish.

Overall: Drinking this beer is always a pleasure. It is very balanced and very drinkable, with enough complexity to stand out over other "drinkable" beers. The fact that it is a lager but is fermented at ale temps and aged/conditioned in interesting ways definitely adds to the complexity. This is one of the few American styles of beer that doesn't just shove a mouthful of hops down your throat. That can be enjoyable, and there is a time and a place for it, but Anchor Steam is a very balanced beer that could stand up to any type of food and be enjoyed any time of year. Definitely just a great session beer.

Personal: I will always remember this beer for being one of the first beers that I thought of as my favorite. A little while after turning 21, I had this guy on tap (it is especially good on tap) at the Flying Saucer in Nashville, and I loved it. Though I have moved on and just love adventuring through all sorts of beers, I do love coming back to this one. It never fails me.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Category 6: Light Hybrid Beers


Category: Light Hybrid Beers
Subcategory: American Wheat/Rye Beer
Beer: Boulevard Brewing Co. Unfiltered Wheat

This is an interesting category that has required a bit of searching, as a lot of these beer tend to emerge around summertime. They tend to be very refreshing, fresh tasting beers meant to be drunk cold, and they tend to be tamer in flavor and thus are good "gateway" beers for people that are used to drinking the mass produced, flavorless junk of BMC (BudMillerCoors). These beers are *generally* fermented on the cooler side of ale temps (low 60°s) and then aged cold (34-50°). Other beers in this category include American Blonde Ale, Cream Ale, and Kölsch (I saw a bomber of French Broad Brewing Co of Ashville, NC's "Gateway Kolsch" in Fido this afternoon and was VERY tempted). American wheat beers tend to be cloudy like German hefeweizens, but without the phenolic/estery banana/clove character. They tend to have more hop flavor and a different yeast character. Harpoon UFO Hefeweizen is a really good example of this style, and a good one from my homeland. Well, here goes!

Appearance: Highly effervescent, hazy golden, very "wheaty" in appearance, small but very foamy brilliant white head. Very much like a German hefeweizen.

Aroma: Light, fresh lemony aroma with perhaps a little hop grassiness. Some definite malty wheat character. A little tangy zip, perhaps?

Flavor: Ooh surprising! Very fresh in flavor...this is actually very much like a German hefeweizen without the banana and clove esters. Definitely a light, tangy, lemony zip as the aroma would suggest. Great wheaty malt profile. Very low bitterness but some definite detectable hop character that certainly enhances the character. I am trying to pick up on the yeast character...there definitely is some, and it adds a nice touch to the beer (stuff is obviously unfiltered for a reason) but it is a really mellow yeast. I probably am just expecting the big character of a German weizen yeast. Stuff is certainly not "neutral," though. Overall, there are a lot of surprising, nice things going on in this beer! Lots to pick up upon but nothing overwhelming--very accessible "gateway" flavor.

Mouthfeel: High, fine-bubbled carbonation. Definitely effervescent. Not overdone, though. Body is on the higher side of "light bodied," and nicely smooth. Probably some oats in the grist. Very weizen-y.

Overall: I am very glad to have some of these early categories, some of which I am less familiar with, surprise me for the better. I have had some versions of kölsch and American hefeweizens, but I guess I didn't know much of what to look for in them, and maybe the ones I had weren't as enjoyable as this one, which I thought was actually quite good. Sam Adams Summer Ale is the same style, and I think that the Boulevard is a much better, more appealing beer that still satisfies that refreshing factor--pretty cool since people tend to really like Sam Summer! I see no reason to while away a hot summer day with a Bud Light when you could have one of these guys...they're pretty tasty and very refreshing.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Category 5: Bock


Category: Bock
Subcategory:
Dopplebock
Beer: Ayinger Celebrator


Mmmm, bock. Translated into English the word "bock" actually means "goat" in German, thus one will often see goats on bottles of bock, or dopplebock. Bocks are big German lagers, and dopplebocks are REALLY big German lagers. Bocks can be light (Helles/Mai bock) or dark (dunkel). The history of dopplebock is even more specific than bock beer, and it goes back to the Paulaner brewery when it used to be a monastery. The monks of Paulaner brewed the first known dopplebock, called "Salvator" so that they could maintain some level of nutrients in their system during their fasting seasons, particularly lent. Ever since then, this beer has been brewed by other breweries as well, often still with the "-ator" suffix to pay homage to the original. Thus, if you encounter a beer called Terminator, Alligator, Masturb- ahem....you've probably got a dopplebock. Ayinger Celebrator is one of the highest regarded versions of the style.

Appearance: SUPER dark. Almost opaque until you hold it directly up to a light, at which point you see some red and brown tones buried deep within. Small but beautiful and perfect tan head. Sticky lacing. Generally a beautiful beer.

Aroma: Brown sugar, molasses, and warm alcohol deepened with beautiful tones of dark fruit; figs, dates, plum, and raisins. A little spice on the nose as well.

Flavor: BIG complex flavor: raisins, figs, and dates accompanied by dark, natural sugars. Very similar to the aroma. Strangely enough, less alcohol in the flavor than in the aroma. Really balanced sweetness, not cloying. A definite perceptible roasty bitterness that is more like the crust on a good loaf of dark bread than like coffee or chocolate. Delicious bready malts round out the flavor (give us this day our daily bread...).

Mouthfeel:
Beautifully smooth, with a medium-full body. Not quite as "chewy" as I was expecting from such a high gravity, malty beer, but I think that the real mouthfeel is much more pleasant than a giant, thick one that just bogs the drinker down. Matches up perfectly with the flavors.

Overall: What a wonderful beer. I have tried other dopplebocks, and this is almost definitely the one that I have enjoyed the most. The complexity of it is incredibly exciting to the palate and begs me to come back for more. Very drinkable for a big beer, because the whole thing is really very balanced. This is definitely not a beer that you would reach for on your average trip to the beer store, but it is a wonderful treat for a special occasion and definitely a great warming winter beer. Would be a perfect beer to sip by the fire on Christmas Eve while watching the snow fall. Ahhhhhhh...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Category 4: Dark Lagers


Beer: Köstritzer Schwarzbier
Category: Dark Lagers
Subcategory: Schwarzbier

Ah, schwarzbier. This is a style of beer that we don't often get to see or taste here in the US. The name translates literally to "black beer" auf Deutsch. Sam Adams actually makes a fine version of this dark colored lager, but as I have already tried that one, I had to pick up this version, which is authentic German and has a good reputation! This lager tends to carry some chocolate and coffee/toffee/caramel notes like stout, but is much lighter bodied, less roasty/burnt flavored, often has more fruity tones, and of course has a different finish and flavor simply from the fact that is a lager instead of an ale.

Appearance:
Very very dark brown-velvety, dark chocolate color with a nice tan head that fades quickly but leaves beautiful sticky lacing

Aroma: figs, chocolate, toffee, and caramel; a clean little spritz of coffee as well...wonderful aroma

Flavor: similar to the aroma, the flavor has some dark fruit sweetness of figs at first taste, which melts away into some really nice toasty roasted grain flavor, with little chocolate and coffee notes, and just enough hop bitterness to balance out the whole thing (and actually emphasize the coffee flavor even more)

Mouthfeel: silky smooth and light bodied, with fine-bubbled carbonation...very NOT like stout

Overall: yet another style of lager that has pleasantly surprised me. This beer is incredibly drinkable without being boring. Much more interesting malt profile than a helles, and yet it's just as smooth, drinkable, and refreshing with its light body. Very, very nice.

Personal: Wow. I was really surprised by this. What an enjoyable, balanced lager. I would love to host a dinner and serve big steaks with fig and red wine reduction, a mug of this by each place setting. This is delicious and flavorful without being overbearing, drinkable and delicate without being a bore. This one is going in the "like" file...probably the best one I've tried yet in this tasting series!

Prost!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Category 3: Amber Lagers



Beer: Harpoon Octoberfest Beer
Category: Amber Lagers
Subcategory: Oktoberfest/Märzen


Ah, the wonderful beer that is Oktoberfestbier. Often called Märzen because it was traditionally brewed in March at the end of lager brewing season and then tapped in the fall at Oktoberfest in Munich. I have tried the most definitive versions of this style, Paulaner and Spaten, and I love them both so I thought I'd try an American example from my homeland, Boston.

Appearance: Poured from bottle into Vandy stein. Dark amber/copper colored with a nice creamy, off-white head. Hard to tell from the picture, but this beer is crystal clear, no haze or anything. Phenomenal lacing.

Aroma: caramelly malts, some definite breadiness, a little spice hanging out in the background (slightly cinnamon-like) and beautiful tones of sweetness and German lager yeast

Taste: nutty sweetness right up front, a bit like brown sugar as the beer warms, hop bitterness and some definite alcohol warmth and flavor, which is perhaps a little uncharacteristic of the style

Mouthfeel: medium body, medium carbonation, definitely chewier than the Helles and Pilsener, but a really nice drinkable in-between feel

Overall:
Not too shabby of a beer! As far as American Oktoberfest beers go, I would be more inclined to reach for the Sam Adams Oktoberfest in my local liquor store, but this one is certainly very good. For 5.5% ABV, I sure do taste the alcohol quite a bit on this one. The nose is really very nice though, and the taste still enjoyable. Not my favorite within this style category, but also not my least favorite.

Personal: I am usually an ale drinker, but when I'm in the mood for a lager, I definitely tend to reach for an Oktoberfest. When made well, it is a very balanced beer that is enjoyable to drink and pairs very well with food. Through the 23 categories, this tends to be one of my go-to styles when I'm looking for something good and relatively dependable.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Category 2: Pilsner



Beer: Victory Prima Pils
Category: Pilsner
Subcategory: German Pilsner (Pils)


No, not the gross "Pilsner" that Budweiser, Miller, Coors all pretend to be. Pilsner is a beer that finds its origins in the Czech Republic, Plzen to be specific. I have already tried and enjoyed some versions of this category (Pilsener Urquell, Sam Adams Noble Pils), so I decided to give a shot to one I had never had before.

Appearance: Poured from bottle into pilsner glass. Clear, very pale yellow/gold with a nice finger of bright foamy white head. Really really nice lacing!

Aroma:
bready malts, some biscuity cracker notes and bright, floral Saaz and German noble hops, a little yeast and some definite sweetness on the nose

Taste:
definite hop bitterness here, lots of floral and even some citrusy notes (may have some American hops in there?) - hops definitely dominate but there is a nice mild pilsner malt sweetness that lingers in the background. Slightly on the dry side, with a very clean finish.

Mouthfeel:
light-medium body with effervescent, fine-bubbled carbonation, very pleasant

Overall:
Lots of good impressions on this beer! The German pils style is a bit hoppier than the Bohemian/Czech style which I also really enjoy, but it is still very balanced. In many ways, I feel like this beer had some of what I felt was almost "missing" from the helles...essentially, a nice hop profile to go with the classic German malt flavors.

Personal:
It has been a little while since I have had a good pilsner, and this was a nice surprise to me. The Victory Pils was a nicely balanced beer with a good malt profile and great hop flavor. I'm not a really big lager drinker, but I really enjoyed this beer a lot with its interesting flavors and incredibly clean finish. As I look into the future of my homebrewing, I would love to explore the pilsner style (since I already have some lager experience...yes!) and brew at least one of these a year. Basically, I am quite impressed with the style and would love looking into it a little more.

Die Braumeister

Friday, October 1, 2010

Updates from home

Hey all,

In actual brewing news, I received word from Pops last night that he had finally kicked the keg of RyePA. I was very pleased to hear that it had been thoroughly enjoyed in my absence. Furthermore, the Hot Chocolate Stout has been moved into the garage for about two months of cellaring...very exciting. Every time I think about tasting that beer, it makes me very happy. As I have said previously, it will be a wonderful welcome home present to myself, and a great way to start celebrating the holidays. Good stuff happening with the stuff back home, now if I could only get some brewing going down here in Nashville. Soon, I say. Soon.

-Brewmaster Jeff

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Category 1: Light Lagers


Beer: Weihenstephaner Original Premium
Category: Light Lager
Subcategory: Munich Helles Lager


For people who have never had a Helles, it is a very light colored beer made under the German purity Law of 1516 stating that a beer may only contain water, hops, malted barley, and yeast. As such, Helles is a lager that focuses more on the malt flavor, with some hop bitterness and not much hop flavor or aroma. Here is my experience with the WOP Helles:

Appearance:
Poured from bottle into glass tankard. About one finger's width of brilliant white head that fades but leaves really nice lacing on the sides of the glass. Clarity of beer is decent, with apparent bubbles throughout. Very light straw color.

Nose: sweet malt with a light hint of lager yeast, with some nice fresh grassy aromas in the background from the light touch of hops

Taste:
very subtle sweetness, light earthy cereal graininess, a little zip from the hop bitterness with some fresh, clean grass on the finish, and taste does linger on the palate for a little bit

Mouthfeel:
light bodied and smooth, though more body than your average Pilsner or American Light Lager; moderate carbonation

Overall:
This is a relatively simple beer, but that is what's so excellent about it. It is beer in its purest form, and because of the simplicity you can really pick out the flavors in it nicely...I would compare this to drinking a very pure, back-to-basics mead as opposed to a spiced or fruit mead. This beer is very drinkable and would pair handsomely with a big yeasty pretzel or bratwurst.

Personal:
This is a fantastic beer, right in there with the style with a very refined flavor. I would love to quaff this from a big stein in a biergarten in Germany with some good German food. That being said, I don't think I could ever label this as my "favorite" style, because I often like something with a little more complexity.

Excited to be starting this new journey in the beer world!

Die Braumeister

New Project

Since my current outlets for brewing are minimal, I have decided to take on a new project for the sake of research and development in my brewing and tasting. I realized a few things recently:
-I love beer (okay, I've known that for a while)
-I want to make great beer better
-I haven't tasted every style of beer there is (and there is sort of an official finite number, at least to the categories)
-I don't know what my favorite style of beer is (gasp)

I have decided to taste and review one "definitive" and well-respected example of a beer from each of the 23 main categories. After I have done that, I plan to fill this in with beers from hopefully all of the specific subcategories. I'm going to try to do it in order, too! And it begins tonight.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

RyePA, Stout updates

Hey Friends,

Last night, we dipped into Jeff's homebrew reserves to try the ESB, witbier, and BowThai ales of yore. Also, after sampling a little English mild and putting the remains of the keg into a growler, I proudly tapped the JuniorSenior RyePA, the last Cutts homebrew to be drunk this summer. It is delicious. The hop character is bright and citrusy, and there is a lot of depth to the flavor. If I were to do it again, I would do it without a broken air-conditioner and actually get the fermentation temps down a little lower to mellow out the hoppiness (tehe) a little bit and really bring out the flavor of the malts I used. I used Wyeast American Ale II, which in my opinion didn't do the rye malt enough justice at my forced higher fermentation temps. The beer is still great though, and a perfect close to the summer.

The really exciting thing about my observations on my current brews is that with just one more try, I can turn great beers into revelatory brilliant ones. That, my friends, will be what we see in the coming year as I brew more and more and start to repeat (and slightly tweak to perfection) former recipes. Can't wait.

Stout's going in the keg today to be saved for wintertime. I am really excited to have my first real taste of it today and perhaps even more excited to forget about it for a few months! Haha it should be the perfect welcome home in December.

It's been a great spring and summer of brewing in Massachusetts, and I can't wait to continue my art down in Tennessee.

Prost,
Der Braumeister

Saturday, August 14, 2010

They love it!


Just got my scoresheets back from Sam Adams for my Longshot entry today! Although I did not advance to the semi-finals or finals, the judges at Sam Adams scored my BowThai Ale in the "Excellent" category, just a small step below "World Class" and even above "Very Good." The high scoring points on this beer were the flavor, which scored an 18/20; and mouthfeel, which scored a 5/5. In the "Overall Impression" category, I was given a 9/10 by one judge and an 8/10 by the other, which is truly awesome. Some feedback I got was that is was a "very balanced beer" with "just enough warmth from the cayenne" and "good hop flavor that balances out the Thai ingredients, which work surprisingly well with the beer." Needless to say, I am super happy with this even though I didn't advance. I am also super happy that I get to actually drink the three bottles they made me save for them! The feedback was great and I now have a full year to formulate next year's perfect recipe. I'm still in disbelief that this was only my fourth batch of beer ever! This gives me so much inspiration to keep brewing and expand on the awesomeness!

Cheers,

The Happy Brewmaster

PS the Hot Chocolate Cream Stout is still in secondary, but will go in the keg in a few days and be jealously guarded until it's time to try it out in the wintertime :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Today feels good


All it took was a few little hose clamps! I just tapped the English mild on my newly repaired tap system, and it tastes great. Nutty, toasty, a little sweetness, a little hop bitterness, and all together smooth as hell. I encourage any readers in the greater Boston area to come over and grab a pint, as I would really like to be able to try the RyePA before I go back to school in two and a half weeks!

-Your favorite beer knurd

Monday, July 26, 2010

Two in the keg, one in the carboy

Hey readers, today I have managed three major projects in the brewing department, so as of tonight, 1. The English Mild is in the keg 2. The RyePA is in the keg and 3. This winter's Hot Chocolate Stout is brewed and the yeast pitched! The stout will be wonderful. I refuse to disclose the full recipe, but here are some highlights:

-A pound and a half of chocolate
-Cayenne pepper
-Enough alcohol content to warm those winter chills away
-A touch of cinnamon
-A freakin pound and a half of chocolate!
-Oatmeal for extra creaminess
-Lactose, an unfermentable milk sugar to give some residual sweetness
-A full pot of coffee
-A POUND AND A HALF OF DAMN CHOCOLATE!!!

I can't wait to enjoy this beer. I will have finished my fall semester final exams and this baby will be amazingly aged and conditioned. Gosh darned liquid gold. And my kitchen smells like brownies :)

-Braumeister

Monday, July 19, 2010

Back on track

Hey folks!

I wanted to give people this weekend's updates, as we had a couple of exciting events that got the brewery fully back and running again. First off, the hop trellises are fully finished and the beautiful vines are now growing up the well-strung lines of sisal. Also, I re-brewed my English Mild that I so tragically lost just over a week ago. OG was up from last time, which means that our efficiency is getting better, and the stuff is already looking great and bubbling away in my air conditioned room. It is happily fermenting side by side with the RyePA, and they will be released consecutively in the coming weeks. As soon as those guys go into kegs, I will be looking to brew my winter Hot Chocolate Imperial Stout. I've been formulating the recipe, and I'm really excited to brew it as it should be lots of fun. It will, of course, be even more fun to actually drink it this winter.

And now...PICTURES!!!


My beauties side by side


Sweet homemade trellises


Lil' guys growin' up the guy lines

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Focusing on the positive

Okay, let me start by saying that this past Thursday, I brewed up the JuniorSenior Drye-hopped RyePA and it went rather well. The beer is chugging away in my air-conditioned room and should be excellent after a little secondary and dry-hopping. I sincerely cannot wait to try it and it should be wonderful. Unfortunately, that won't be for probably another three weeks. Now for the bad news...

RIP English Mild. Yesterday afternoon, I tapped the stuff on my corney kegerator system. It was delicious. A truly nutty, toasty, most definitely chocolatey beer begged my palate to taste more, and it being of lower gravity it was still delicate and refreshing. I was so excited about it...my first all-grain batch, and another delectable original recipe. I poured myself a half pint, tasted it happily, then drew a full pint off the tap and went upstairs for about twenty minutes to drink it. When I came back down for a third glass, the worst possible sight met my eyes. There was beer all over the floor. I opened up the fridge and beer flooded out. Basically, the "beer out" tube had become detached from the back of the tap inside the tap tower, and the beer had just shot out (since it was under pressure) all over everything. What a travesty it was to lose a whole batch of beer in such a way :(

I'm thinking that I may just brew another batch of English Mild and try to transfer the RyePA to secondary a bit early...if I force carbonate it, the mild could be ready to drink within about a week. It was a cheap recipe, too. That's what I think I might do with it. Anyway, I'm trying to stay on the positive and keep plugging away.

Monday, June 28, 2010

In the keg!

Today, I took the SG of the English Mild and saw that it was down to a perfectly planned 1.012...meaning I got to have my first taste of the stuff today. It is wonderful stuff with really nice notes of cocoa, nuttiness, and bready maltiness. I already really enjoy it in its flat, warm form, so I know that it will be wonderful when we tap it from the keg in a week! Kegging was definitely an interesting process, but much quicker and easier than bottling when it comes down to it. The keg is back up in my room for the last week of conditioning. Basically, I cannot wait to taste this stuff and draw it off my very own home faucet. Please feel free to stop by next week for a taste of the first draught (not to mention first all-grain) brew! It will surely be a treat. Just you go and see if you can buy English Mild in your local liquor store...you're likely to be disappointed. I need to map out the rest of my week and see when I can brew again. Tomorrow perhaps?? Hopefully soon, though. The RyePA will need some time to dry-hop condition.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New Pale Ale Thoughts

After recalling Saturday's wonderful adventure in Boston, I have decided to make a RyePA in order to add complexity to the pale ale...will probably tack another name on it in honor of Dad, who agreed that the Founders' RyePA was one of the best beers of the afternoon.

I am now totally legit.

Two days ago, I made a serious advancement in my brewing. I finally brewed my first all-grain batch of beer (I say "finally", but this was really just my fifth batch of beer...hard to believe!). For those of you who aren't brewers, I'll break it down for you:

-Beer is made by fermenting sugars that have been extracted from the complex carbohydrates in grains
-As a homebrewer, one can simply buy this "malt extract" in dry or syrup form, boil it with water and hops for about an hour, and produce excellent beer
-Instead of just buying malt extract for this recipe, I just used grain to make the beer, converting the complex carbs into sugars myself...this process is known as "mashing" and the whole process (including the boil) takes closer to 3 hours
-Because I have complete control over the grain content of my extract, I have a huge amount of control over the finished product of the beer, more so than if I just used extract
-This means better, fresher, more original beer (think eating natural, locally grown food instead of packaged stuff)

This means that in about a week and a half, we'll be pouring pints of my all-grain original recipe English Mild off of the faucet! I am so excited to taste it! As soon as the mild goes from the carboy to the keg, I'll be brewing another all-grain batch, an APA known as the Ballardvale Pale Ale. That'll give me time to fully ferment and then dry-hop that batch while we are enjoying the English Mild. Should be great!


It's important to maintain proper ale fermenting temperatures in these summer months


My beautiful brown mild bubbling away!

Monday, June 7, 2010

On the docket...

After all of my bottling excellence on labor day weekend, I have been forced into seven long days of work in a row and therefore no action in the brewing department. It's truly a sad thing--I have two empty fermenters right now. The delicious BowThai Ale is disappearing quickly, so come and get it while it's cold! Here's what I have planned in the brewing department for the next couple of weeks:

-Finishing my trellises and getting those hops going after the few setbacks I've had in that department
-Two beers to go into corny kegs to be drawn off the tap! I'm planning a dry-hopped APA that edges on IPA strength, and as soon as that guy goes into secondary, I'm going to brew an English mild, which will likely be ready to drink within almost exactly two weeks of brewing. Most people are unfamiliar with this style, but it is a sweet, light-bodied, nutty brown ale with emphasis on maltiness rather than hops.
-Three experimental one-gallon batches of beer, one or two of which will be brewed in larger batches this summer and aged until Christmastime--a "hot" (read: spicy) chocolate stout, a raspberry chocolate stout, and a spiced "cup of holiday cheer" brew that will be a sort of fruitcake of a beer...I'm really excited about these.

I'm hoping to accomplish all of this within the next month, getting at least one batch into primary by the end of this week! More updates to come as things actually happen.

-Brewmaster

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Rogue Mead

Bottled the Mead last night...well actually it was the wee hours of this morning...and it is just wonderful. The oranges, raisins, and spices make it a sweet, delicious, warming nectar. It sort of tasted like Christmas, and it made me want to make LOTS more and let it age until the winter months. The recipe was so easy since it was made with all household ingredients, I don't see any reason not to make a bunch more to be drunk when the weather gets colder. The recipe I made had a very mulled-wine-like character to it, and I see that as something that would be very pleasant in winter. I also want to try making some raspberry mead, as that would probably be amazingly delicious as well. So glad that I have a couple of one-gallon carboys and a great recipe for household ingredient-made Rogue Mead!

Nectar of the gods!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Whoa whoa whoa whoa

Forgot to mention in today's entry that I have officially procured equipment to go draught with my homebrew. I found a super inexpensive kegerator on craigslist that was in great shape, and I treated myself to two corny kegs and the proper connectors from Beer and Wine hobby. I am incredibly excited to be pouring my next batch off of the faucet! The only investment on the kegerator that I anticipate probably wanting to make is the purchase of a dual tap tower so that I can have two different homebrews flowing at once. Should make this homebrewin' summer even better!

First taste of the BowThai

Yes, I added a 'w' to the name of the beer...I decided that it looked better on paper as I was filling out the entry form for the Sam Adams Longshot Competition! Just tasted the BowThai Ale last night, and it is amazing. The initial flavor is that of a primo conventional pale ale accented by delicious citrusy Cascade hops, and that flavor then gives way to an amazing bouquet of the coconut, coriander, ginger, and basil flavors with a finish of just a little heat from the (red) hot chili peppers. This is truly an amazing beer, creative and differently flavored enough for "Category 23," with more than enough classic beer character to it. I would say that even the flavor itself is much better than when I tried it in its flat and warm state. I am SO excited to be drinking this for a while.

The Youzaho Light is in bottles, and I'm hoping to bottle the "Rogue Mead" sometime today. There are even a few bottles of Sunny's Ginger Wit left! Great times.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Baking bottles, graduation tankards, etc.

Just a few updates...

First of all, I would like to dedicate this entry to my classmates at Vanderbilt who graduated this past Friday. My readers will be glad to know that my friends and I celebrated with some homebrew, Sunny's Ginger Wit to be exact. Who could ask for a better graduation present, right? Delicious.

Tonight, I am baking bottles for sterilization as well as soaking a few in ammonia solution to remove the labels. By the end of this week, I will have bottled my Bo-Thai Ale, Youzaho Light Lager, and Rogue Mead. Two weeks from now, we will be quaffing tankards of ale and mead, just like medieval times! Delicious!!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bo-Thai Ale

I just had my first taste of my Thai-Spiced Honey Coconut Ale, which I have now given the quick and clever moniker, "Bo-Thai Ale." It tastes AWESOME. The coconut is present and delicious. No mistaking the flavor, but the whole thing still tastes like beer, which is thrilling. The Thai spices taste wonderful in the ale, and the delicious, citrusy Cascade hops manifest themselves as part of the whole spice mixture, which is incredibly pleasant. The hot peppers are a perfect and pleasant addition, contributing just the right amount of heat so as not to overwhelm the rest of the flavor in the beer. It is perfectly, subtly detectable. I am super happy about this beer. The honey and coconut compliment each other perfectly and their sweetness totally stands up to the Thai spices. I'm not going to jinx myself with this one, but this has some amazing potential in the Longshot competition, as it is incredibly interesting and different as a specialty beer, but it is still beer, without a doubt (as in, the other flavors don't ruin the integrity of the barley and hops). I am so excited to unleash it on the world! Bottling soon, and then fame and fortune!!!

Basic math:

+ + =...

SO DELICIOUS!!!!

-Bo-Thai wearer and brewer

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Been a while...exciting updates!

I will categorize my updates into categories for easy reading :)

Longshot Contest Entry:
My specialty beer, an all-original recipe brewed last night, is fermenting away in the carboy. I am very excited about the recipe, which I will of course not share it its entirety, but which is something along the lines of a Thai-spice coconut honey ale. Awesome, right? Yeah, you know it. I did a partial mash for this brew, which is a stepping stone for all grain brewing (meaning no malt extract, just malt from which one creates one's own extract). So, I used a manageable amount of malted grains and a much smaller amount of malt extract in this brew. This will make the brew even more "homemade" and make it taste even better and more refined. I ended up hitting my Original Gravity (OG) on the nose, so I know that I didn't screw anything up. After mashing in, I started the normal boiling process as usual, enhancing the beer with coconut, honey, and Thai spices including (but not limited to) basil and hot pepper. Mmmm did this stuff smell delicious. I used cascade hops to add a citrusy character akin to the lime accents that one often tastes in Thai food. I used a White Labs California Ale yeast culture for this one, just to pay a little more homage to the Pacific. After smelling this and tasting the unfermented wort, I think (hope) this will really be a winner! My only minor concern is with the temperature here in Andover, which seems to be fluctuating a lot but staying within range. I also took much longer to cool the wort this time because the boil volume was greater, so I definitely need to invest in a chiller. I think all of this will still be fine, as long as fermentation doesn't stop prematurely. The beer seems to be kraeusening just fine. I also NEED A CLEVER NAME FOR THE BREW, so I'm open to ideas.

Pictures from brewing:


Spent grains (left) and boiling wort (right)

Mmmm...Thai...

Hop Growing:
I now have three plants of Kent Goldings Hops and two of Cascade hops in my possession, thanks to a great afternoon with horticulturist and fellow homebrew enthusiast Peter Konjoian. On Saturday, I will prepare the patch of my yard for growing and make a trip to the Home Depot for trellis supplies. I plan on doing a tent-pole trellis, which should be very effective. It will definitely be a great construction project for Saturday. If anyone else wants to help me with edging, tearing up sod, digging holes, burying poles, doing geometry, and tensioning guy lines, you are more than welcome to join me in a fun and rewarding day. Currently, Peter's hops are almost all ready to put in the ground, and mine are still about ten days to two weeks away. His plants look beautiful, and mine are just today showing signs of sprouting. Hopefully some good weather will bring these babies out. Peter's have even grown since I brought them home on Sunday...that bodes well. Here's a photo of my beautiful flora, still in pots:


I promise to post trellis pictures this weekend.

-Your favorite homebrewdude

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hop Planting Day!

Today was a wonderfully exciting day in brewing progress for me! I made a visit to a new (new to me, anyway) homebrewing store in Woburn and stocked up on ingredients for my recipe that I plan to enter into the Sam Adams Longshot competition...more to come on that soon. I was pleased to see the selection at this place. They seem to have lots of stuff, especially in the equipment department. They have loads of ingredients and seem to be slightly more all-grain friendly than Jasper's but didn't necessarily have the yeast selection that I would prefer. It was definitely acceptable, but Jasper's is definitely much better, particularly in their Wyeast selection. Nonetheless, I modified my original and picked up a White Labs California Ale culture, which I think will go very well with my current plan for a "Pacific" Ale (I'll explain my methodology on the name and style later). Once again, the people that owned the store were wonderfully helpful and friendly, and I will definitely be back.

After my trip to Beer & Wine Hobby, I ventured to the hardware store for some pots and hyper-nutritious soil with which to get my hop rhizomes started growing. Once they have developed their root systems and I have fully planned and plotted my hop garden and trellis system for the vines, I will transplant them into the ground. This Saturday, I am meeting up with Peter to discuss hop growing and see his own system. Can't wait for all of this to happen! It is really very exciting.

A sad bit of news came today when I visited a restaurant that has no tap system and therefore goes through bottles extensively to inquire as to whether they would be willing to sell me some of their bottles. The manager who dealt with me was REALLY weird about it and had no good explanation to offer me other than that they had a contract with the recycling company. Would the recycling company realize it if this week, the restaurant had a couple dozen fewer bottles? Methinks not. Whatever, they're assholes, and it's more incentive for me to go draught with my homebrew sometime this summer. I'm trying to think positively. Meanwhile, everyone should SEND ME BROWN BOTTLES WITH PAPER LABELS THAT DON'T HAVE SCREW CAPS!!!

Love,
The Ever-Obsessed Brewer

Sunday, April 18, 2010

P.S. Trying new things!

Last night, I had the pleasure of indulging in some commercially made brews at Sunset Grill and Taproom in Boston. I tasted wonderful specimens of Saison, Rauchbier, and a Mocha Porter. I would really like to explore the first two styles a bit, as they were beyond intriguing. The Saison was bright, refreshing, citrusy, and altogether not all that comparable to other beers I have tried. The rauchbier was REALLY interesting stuff. Rauchbier is beer made from smoked malts, instead of the traditional kilned malts (crystal, Munich, mild, pale, chocolate, the list goes on...). This gives the beer a, you guessed it, very smoky flavor that went awesomely with burgers and would be great with other stuff too. I do think that if I were to make some, I would probably want to make a smaller batch of the stuff, because it is definitely not an everyday kind of beer...but boy is it good.

Birthday Wit!

The witbier is done, and it is just fabulous. The result of my efforts was an amazingly refreshing, flavorful brew. The color is a gorgeous wheat gold, and the mouthfeel is just wonderful. Thanks to some oatmeal in the grist, a somewhat unconventional ingredient in witbiers, the beer has nice head retention, excellent lacing, and a creamy yet crisply dry and refreshing mouthfeel. The carbonation is wonderful, for the beer is wholly effervescent but the bubbles are finer and incredibly pleasant. As for flavor, this guy is delish. It carries all of the usual notes of a witbier, a nice subtle fruity profile with clove and banana esters complimented by coriander and fresh citrus. The ginger added more depth to the flavor, with a dry, unsweetened ginger ale-like finish. So, while this beer is definitely totally within the conventions of witbiers, it offers lots of interest to the palate, much of which is reminiscent of more complex Belgian-style ales. The particular strain of Wyeast that I used for the recipe may have something to do with this as well, as it is often used for Belgian specialty ales. I am so proud right now, for this is my FIRST ORIGINAL RECIPE. Come by and taste some, and if you don't catch it now, it is VERY likely that I will be brewing it again this summer.

As for a couple of other quick updates, the lager has now been cold conditioning for about 3 weeks, and I feel I might need to do something about that. I need only to acquire some more bottles and get that thing carbonated and ready for drinking. It will certainly be refreshing and offer an option to those who care more about carbs than they do about living life...but I digest. Right now, my next adventure is to develop a recipe for the Sam Adams Longshot competition. The category for is specialty beers, so I will really be able to get those creative juices flowing! More to come on that soon...I keep that contest in mind as I look forward to my next trip to the homebrew store. It's going to be about time to make the trip soon! I already have a shopping list going for it. Perhaps I will venture there tomorrow, since I am off work :)

Prost. Sunny's Ginger Wit (aka Jeff's Birthday Wit) ftw.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The rhizomes are in!!!

The hop rhizomes that I ordered are in!!! I have one Nugget rhizome and one Sterling rhizome. The Nugget rhizome is a high-alpha hop, which means that it will be used mostly for bittering. The Sterling is a Saaz hybrid that will have a Czech Pilsener/German Noble Hop character to it. Should be wonderful in lots of different kinds of brews. I will likely be planting this weekend :). This will probably mean lots of updates, as hops vines grow and change rather quickly. I can't wait to get this project going!

My friend and comrade, Peter Konjoian, will be my guru for hop growing and will hopefully be bequeathing me with some Fuggle, Goldings, and Cascade hops. Fuggle and Goldings are English varieties that are absolutely delicious in English-style pale ales, bitters, brown ales, and stouts/porters. Cascade hops are a really popular American variety that will be primo for American pale ales, IPAs, ambers, and whatever else I can think of! So excited.

Now, I'll have to get working on my plot...soil nutrition and sunlight will be really important along with a place for the beautiful vines to climb and grow! I will be looking to set up some sort of trellis system for them, and that will be a project that I will look into rather soon.

Witbier should be ready to drink soon! I am so excited.


Monday, April 12, 2010

I need to take more original photos

It might be time to get on that...I should vow to take one picture with each activity in which I partake. I think it would make the blog even more enjoyable, and it would provide some great pictorial memories of my most favorite hobby OF ALL TIME.

Mead updates...

Yesterday I decided to check the mead and see how it was doing, and I noticed that it was crystal clear and that 6 out of 8 orange slices had sunk to the bottom of the jug, so I decided to give it a taste again. Man is this stuff wonderful. I have created some serious nectar here. The guy who invented the recipe/methods said that he had never waited long enough to see the oranges sink to the bottom, but he quoted the time frame of fermentation/clearing at about 2 months...hmmm. Maybe I just have a superhero awesome mead? I would think that I had stuck fermentation, but the stuff tastes great and the oranges thing is a dead giveaway that the thing has been sitting for sufficiently long. I doubt that some bottle conditioning would hurt it, anyway. I am going to carbonate half of it and see what we like better, carbonated or still, chilled or room temp! Exciting stuff, seeing as we have no standards for mead here :)

Cheers,

The Buzzing Meadmaker

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sunny's Ginger Wit...

...is in bottles. I am really excited about it. It tastes really great already, and I can't wait to see how the flavors develop. Now, with exactly ten days until my birthday, the timing should be just about perfect. It is a beautiful golden wheat color, and I just can't wait to chill it and drink its Belgiany deliciousness. Until then, I'll have to be patient, but I think I'll be just fine. Four bottles of ESB remain, so I'll have to ration them accordingly (I may also set one aside for a "beer archive" so that I can collect a few and then organize a tasting of a few of my excellent beers). Right now, it tastes really good. I feel like the character of the malt has really developed a lot. The beer has really developed a nice nuttiness to it, and the head/carbonation are of even higher quality now.

Now, the lager is still lagering and my primary is empty...may have to do something about that. I'm thinking about what my next brew will be, and what my approach will be for it. If I can get my hands on a couple of simple materials, I really want to try going all-grain (for those of you non-brewers, I will explain that when I actually do it). I just need a bigger brewpot and some sort of lautering system. I would really like to do something refreshing, probably either an American-style pale ale (which I will name "Ballardvale Pale Ale"), or a California Common beer similar in character to Anchor Steam, although that might have to wait until I can maintain proper temperatures.

This summer will be an exciting time for the brewery. I should be outputting a lot, and it'll be really fun.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Quick

Sorry that I haven't updated. The last couple of days have been crazy, and I will be bottling tomorrow. More to come soon.

Best,

The Brewer

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Weekend update:

Today, I did some sampling of my stuff. I tasted the witbier, which is now ready to bottle. Wow was it good. The stuff is really balanced, spicy clovey ginger coriander goodness combined with a bright yet mellow citrusy flavor. I have a feeling this stuff is going to be gone fast. What awesomeness for my first original recipe!

I also went out on a limb and tasted the mead today. It has been almost crystal clear for about a week and a half, so I decided to just check it out. It is showing some ridiculous promise. The flavor is wonderful. It is a sweet mead, but I think some more of the residual sugar will mellow out in the next month to give it lots of great balance. I have a feeling I will be making more.

Recap: the mead and the witbier are both delicious and beautiful, and I will be bottling the wit either tonight or tomorrow depending on how effectively I can get off my ass and do it. They will compliment this lovely summery weather perfectly, though :). Sunny's Ginger Wit will probably reappear sometime this summer.

Best,
Sunny the Brewgod

Sunday, March 28, 2010

An exciting time for the brewery

It truly is. Right now, I have a rogue mead that is halfway (one month) to completion, a lager that is in secondary cold conditioning (lagering), and my first original recipe, a Belgian witbier, in primary right now. Man does it feel good! There's so much to look at and so much progress to see! There's also loads of excitement as I think about a time when I will be able to taste all of them. There are a few bottles of ESB left, but the supply is dwindling slowly. It's just about time for a changing of the guards. Happy spring everyone! It's going to be great.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Holy witbier, batman!

As you can see, I am very excited about my witbier. I have just brewed and pitched the yeast (my first experience with liquid yeast culture, Wyeast 3463). I am really excited for this, my first original recipe. I already can't wait for it to be done...I have a feeling that it will taste delicious and refreshing, and it is likely that I will be brewing it again sometime during the summer. I know what you're thinking, what could be so special about this witbier? Let's just say that it takes the conventions of a witbier and expands them, without defying them. Sunny's Ginger Wit, as I am calling it, will be ready to drink in about three weeks. The really awesome thing about the release date is, if all goes according to plan, we should be cracking this batch open on my birthday, April 17th. That is pretty cool. I can't wait to taste the fruit of my mental and physical labors!

Prost,
Der Braumeister

Secondary lagering, wit to come

The lager is in secondary in the downstairs fridge and my 6.5 gallon carboy is currently sanitizing. I have to make a quick grocery run to get some extra ingredients for the wit, but I will hopefully be brewing that by some point today! I can't wait. It's my first original recipe, and I think it will be dynamite (go 'Dores). Whether or not this is currently obvious, I will not be posting the full recipe on my blog. All recipes I have used thus far have been publicly available, but I will consider this recipe to be at least moderately privileged information. Certain ingredients in the recipe will be obvious, because certain aspects of the recipe will be things I want people to get excited about. Anyway, I'm super excited and I can't wait for this beer to emerge just in time for spring.

-The Brewdude

Friday, March 26, 2010

Well I'll be an even bigger sonofagun!!

Just took the specific gravity of the Youzaho Light Lager to yield a couple of BIG surprises. One surprise that is only slightly big is that it seems to be completely done with primary fermentation. I got a SG reading of about 1.011, which means that it is definitely in range. The BIGGEST surprise, though, was the taste! I should begin by saying that I'm pretty much a huge snob when it comes to beer, and I am not the biggest fan of "Lite" beers. This one however might be, dare I say, one of the best light beers I've ever had? This made me pretty excited, especially this early in the game. The flavor is, well, light, but it is far from absent and it certainly does not taste like piss (a lot of them do). I can't wait for it to smooth/balance out in secondary cold conditioning (lagering), too! I'm glad that even after selling out, I've developed something of which I can be very proud. I'm sure it will be an instant classic with the "masses." This also means that other lagers are well within reach for me, now that I have the lager methodology down. Look out for that Oktoberfest in the fall!

Well I'll be a sonofagun!

For those of you who don't currently reside in the greater Boston area, the weather outside turned from about 65° yesterday to about 35° with a minute amount of snow today. Crazy, right? Guess whose garage is still the same temperature. That's right. The lager's airlock is bubbling at intervals of more than a minute now, which means that primary fermentation is either done or close to done. I'm excited because this means I'll be able to rack it into secondary and brew my first original recipe, Sunny's Ginger Wit, by this weekend. I cannot wait. Comments on specific gravity to come.

In other news, my mead is looking strangely clear after less than a month of fermentation. I will probably leave it for another month, but I have high hopes for the stuff.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hop Victory!

Just found a place today from where I could still order hop rhizomes! I ordered a Nugget rhizome, a high alpha hop, and Sterling, a Saaz hybrid. I am so excited to get my hop garden going. Peter the horticulturist will be the perfect mentor in this process. Now I just need to get some plans going for some sort of trellis system on which the hops can grow. Come early April, I'll be planting my first rhizomes, and they should be ready to harvest in August. This way, I should have a couple of pounds of fresh hop flowers to use for the winter months. In addition to the Fuggles, Goldings, and Cascade from Peter, I'll have these types as well. I am really excited to add this step and have another hand in the process!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Can't wait to free up my primary fermenter

Fermentation is slowing, haze is clearing, and the brew is nearing completion of its primary fermentation. I can't wait to get this thing into secondary, and that will hopefully happen by the end of this week. At that point, I will brew an earth-shattering, all original recipe for Belgian witbier! I am really excited about it...should be a great brew for late spring/early summer! I may even have to do another one mid summer if it goes well.

In other exciting news, I have been in touch with a fellow homebrewer in Andover who is a horticulturist by trade and grows five different kinds of hops in his garden! He has generously offered to split off his rhizomes so that I might start growing some of my own hops, so hopefully I will have some fresh buds of homegrown Cascade, Kent Goldings, Fuggles, Mt. Hood, and Willamette in my yard that I can use throughout the winter! This would make me BEYOND happy.

A shoutout to Dave and Brenda Bryan for putting me in touch, and a shoutout to Peter Konjoian for just being generally awesome!





Mmmm...hops!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I may have to brew more often...

It has only been about a week since we cracked into the ESB, and one of the two cases of beer has already been drunk...we're still a couple of weeks away from the light lager and the Belgian Wit (which hasn't even been brewed yet), and this worries me a bit. It's not a huge deal, we'll just be "rationing" a bit for the next couple of weeks. Hopefully I will be able to rack the Youzaho into secondary really soon, that way I can brew the witbier and have that done sooner. This is all a learning experience for me, though. Clearly, when there is good home brew to be drunk, more people want to drink beer. Thusly, I should probably brew more frequently this summer, and perhaps try to get some styles out that take less time to mature properly, and the two that I am most intrigued by are the English mild and brown ales. Both styles are brown ales that have nice flavor and delicate body and are fully ready to drink within about two weeks of being brewed (even a hair sooner than bitters). Since they use less malt (and in the case of the milds, fewer hops), they will be less expensive to brew. Furthermore, they are some of the only darker beers worth drinking in the summer, since even though they have a nice rich flavor, they tend to finish clean all around. Basically, I will likely be brewing quite often this summer, so please come by to partake of my nectar and learn the process of brewing, and PLEASE PLEASE DONATE EMPTY NON-SCREWTOP BOTTLES WITH PAPER LABELS, because the beer has to have somewhere to go!

Man does this stuff make me happy.

Cheers,
Brewmaster Cuttsy

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Three words: Perfect. Fermenting. Temperatures.

The garage has maintained an unbelievably constant temperature that has been wonderfully healthy for the lager. Furthermore, I officially have fridge room for the five-gallon carboy for some cold secondary fermentation (also known as "lagering"). This is definitely going to be great.

A quick shoutout to my family for putting up with all of the equipment being everywhere. Aw who am I kidding? I'm supplying them with nearly endless delicious batches of suds between now and August. Not to mention the fact that we have more than enough room for this stuff. Man, this is going to be a good summer.

-The Brewmaster

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Various updates

Hello readers! I've got some wonderfully happy updates on the following:

Mead: Wow, I caught a whiff of it the other day, and man does it seem like it will be wonderful nectar! The mead has still been bubbling away, barely slowing down since it started. It is also showing some signs of clear progress, namely some sediment in the bottom and some darkening of the color at the top. It has officially been fermenting away for two weeks, and I'm so excited to taste it in another month and a half. Hopefully it will be an instant classic, just like the NESB (New England Special Bitter, what what!). More updates to come.

Youzaho Light Lager: I'm starting to take some pride in this, especially because it's a lager and I'm trying to take some care with it so that it ferments properly. Turns out that my garage is a perfect place for lager primary fermentation, with the temperature remaining in the 50-60 range that is perfect for the Saflager S23 yeast. If this comes out well, I will definitely be trying some more lagers. It looks really nice, and is already past high Kraeusen. The best news about it is that there was a ladybug on the carboy this afternoon when I checked on it! Good luck? Yes. Luck of the Irish? Completely possible.

NESB: Man does this taste and look good. Come by for a bottle sometime! This recipe is going into the archives as a wonderful standby. Such a great first brew.

Equipment: I got a wine thief at the homebrew store last week. Makes my life so much easier! Now, taking specific gravities is as easy and dipping a thing into another thing. Yeah that's right, I went there. I also walked away with two spanking new airlocks so that I can use all of my carboys at once! Furthermore, this isn't exactly rocket science, but I am currently storing the remaining 3/4 of Hallertauer hops in a labeled mason jar, and I plan to do this any other time I need less than a full ounce of hops in a recipe. Such a great method for storage! Freshness in the fridge!


Happy St. Patrick's Day!

-Jeff

Monday, March 15, 2010

A real flavor update

Man does the ale taste good! Apart from the obvious beautiful color of the beer, the taste is wonderful. Inspired even. I can't believe this is my first beer. The taste has really blossomed since I first sampled the beer last weekend. This weekend really showed some wonderful character to the ESB, which is now proving to have a nice hoppy bitterness, the Kent Goldings giving off an earthy and mildly floral goodness. The malts provide a nice balance and make the brew super drinkable. The mouthfeel is beautiful, medium carbonation and silky light body, with of course the beautiful creamy head that I displayed in the last post. All I can say is, thank you St. Arnold!

I am totally excited about the beer, and everyone else seems to really like it, too. This beer is well-balanced and very drinkable, with tons of interest for the palate. Come by and try it, I guarantee that you've never had anything like it before!


In other news, today I sold out. My family likes light beer and requested that I brew them one, so with the help of some extra-light malt extract and some amylase enzymes, that is going to happen rather soon. I will be cold fermenting in my perpetually 50° garage and lagering, well, somewhere. Don't judge me, we're all whores. Honestly, even just throwing together another brew was really fun for me, and as soon as the Youzaho Light Lager goes into secondary, I'm going to brew my summer witbier. Very exciting. And in case anyone's interested:

2 lbs Munton's light hopped dried malt extract
1 lb Munton's extra light dried malt extract
2 lbs dried rice syrup solids
1/4 oz. Hallertauer hops, flavor, 10 min


Prost,

The Brewmaster