Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pretty Things St. Botolph's Town - Review

Well, due to some kinks in the works of UHaul, I am currently stuck in Massachusetts...with no more homebrew (Egads!).  I decided that I had to make the most of it and enjoy a beer from one of my favorite up-and-coming NE breweries, Pretty Things of Cambridge, MA.  They really impressed Dad and me at ACBF last year with their Jack D'Or and Baby Tree, and I decided to check out St. Botolph's Town (which I wanted to try at ACBF but that Pretty Things had run out of by then!).  Here goes:

Appearance: Poured from a bomber into Dad's prohibition-era glass beer mug.  Gorgeous off-white head that has a very creamy quality, dissipates slowly, and leaves nice lacing on the side of the glass.  Dark brown color with subtle garnet hues.

Aroma: Very earthy, with beautiful caramel/toffee notes and light sweetness

Flavor: Wonderful sweetness with rich toffee, and coffee/chocolate mild roastiness in the background.  Brown sugar notes throughout the taste, with a surprising amount of pleasing bitterness on the finish. 

Mouthfeel:  Medium carbonation and lovely smooth, rich body

Overall: Probably the best brown ale I have ever had.  I want to brew something like this.  Pretty Things, any chance I could get some hints on the recipe/specs?  Such depth and complexity that could be enjoyed any time of the year, and could go really well with food.  Almost reminds me of a brown porter...and some of the better milds I've had, honestly.  At 5.9% I'd almost classify it as an imperial mild.  Absolutely delicious.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Princeton Brews

My move to Princeton will mark the return of kegged homebrew, and as such, I'd really like to have a plan for the first few brews.  After being back and forth on a lot of different things, I finally have an idea for the first three or so that I'd like to crank out.
  • SMaSH (single malt and single hop) English bitter: Maris Otter is extremely well known as a versatile and flavorful base malt with a sweetish, somewhat nutty flavor, so that will be my single malt of choice, and I'm still contemplating what hop variety I want to use...I'm pretty keen on East Kent Goldings since they're a classic for English bitters, but I'm also considering Styrian Goldings, Fuggles, and Williamette
  • Steam Beer: I LOVE Anchor Steam and have been wanting to do a steam beer ever since I started brewing, and now that I have the option of kegging, I will be able to condition it properly.  Steam beer is fermented with a LAGER yeast at ALE temperatures, and then it's best if bulk-aged at around 50° for about three weeks.  It's easiest to do that in a corny keg because they fit in the fridge easily.
  • Smoked Mild: I've been digging the idea of a smoky beer lately, and I thought it would be cool to do a sweetish English brown ale (mild) with some Briess cherrywood-smoked malt.  I also thought it would be fun to age two gallons of that on some smoky chipotle peppers, to give the beer further smokiness and a little kick.  Should be fun...this one would probably be bottled since I'm doing a split batch.
Can't wait to get the beer flowing again.  I'm running a little low on homebrew's been very popular lately and the Christmas ales won't be ready until, well, Christmas.  Thus another reason why I've chosen the SMaSH bitter (see first entry)--it will be done FAST. 

More updates soon once I have a chance to brew.  Prost.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Belgian Table Beer - Review

I've tried to wait as long as possible to review this one, just because its character has changed a bit since it was first bottled.  I also wanted to make sure to review it before I run out, so therein lies the dilemma.  Here goes...

Belgian Table Beer, brewed 6/19/11:

Appearance: very pale golden color, and now brilliantly clear (was a bit hazy from suspended yeast at first); a finger of brilliant white head dissipates into a nice ring of foam with some decent lacing

Aroma: bready, sweet malt aroma with mild spice, banana, and bubblegum notes in the background; not as super pronounced as in other Belgians, but actually quite lovely and delicate

Flavor: really nice biscuity flavor from the Pilsener malt, with a light sweetness (though the beer is quite dry) and smooth creaminess, floral and slightly earthy hop flavor all throughout the middle from the wonderful EKGs; subtle, quintessentially Belgian notes of spice, fruit (especially pear) and bubblegum towards the end with just enough bitterness at the back of the tongue

Mouthfeel: I was intentionally conservative with the carbonation on this one, and it really paid off.  Low to medium carbonation with a silky light body and wonderful smoothness/creaminess from the flaked wheat

Overall: This is a perfect summer beer, and next year I'll probably brew a batch earlier in the year so that I can start drinking it right in June.  I have loved how the flavor of the beer has evolved since I cracked the first bottle, which is good because it encourages patience, truly a virtue when one is a homebrewer.  As Ryan said on his blog, this beer pairs handsomely with food, particularly summer flavors like barbecue.  I noticed that it went particularly well with a light, lemony vegetarian pasta dish that we made, too.  Basically, I loved this beer and I am really excited to do some variations of it, particularly something along the lines of Ryan's dark version, which I think would make for a great autumn table beer.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cicada Imperial Red Ale - Review

So, it must be the time of day or something, but I was unable to get a decent picture of the beer this afternoon...needless to say, I will try again and have a picture of the beer posted on this review very soon.  Rest assured, it is quite pretty.  I just wanted to get a review posted before that wonderful fresh hop aroma and flavor fades.

Cicada Imperial Red Ale, brewed 5/29/11:

Appearance: wonderful, rich deep amber with copper red hues; thick and rich creamy head that persists throughout with sticky lacing on the sides of the glass; slight haze from high hop content

Aroma: hops hops hops! grapefruit, complex fruity citrus and pine, with a light amount of cinnamon spice character, small nutty sweetness in the background

Flavor: bright, piney citrus up front with mild pineapple fruitiness and light cinnamon in the back of the hop character; bitterness is high but far from overwhelming...a deceiving 71 IBU on this bad boy (not to mention a deceiving 7.8% ABV...doesn't taste even close to that!); hop character melts into caramel malt flavors and light sweetness with a clean, dry finish

Mouthfeel: nice, big body with a really smooth feel; medium carbonation (I have had a 1-2 slightly overcarbonated bottles, but this one is perfect...glad I was conservative on the priming sugar)

Overall: This is a great beer, and I wouldn't really change anything about the recipe.  To me, this is my ideal big, bold, American ale.  More malt complexity than an Imperial IPA but tons of great American hop character, which is something that I tend to crave pretty often...must be in my Amurrican blood (my dad is also a bit of a hop head).  Definitely a beer that I can see brewing AT LEAST once a year.  Also, I think this would be amazing with New York extra-sharp cheddar.  Can't wait to brew this again and put it on tap (and thus have more control over uniform carbonation).