Friday, November 1, 2013

Honey Blonde Tasting

Reviewed 8/8/13

This beer came and went very quickly- easy come easy go as they say, right?

Generally well received at the bridal shower that it was brewed for, and even more well received at our house as it was basically just what Kelly wanted it to be- crisp and satisfying and uncomplicated.

Appearance: CRYSTAL CLEAR!!! Well... until the yeast on the bottom is roused. Light golden yellow with a standard grainy head.

Smell: Like a lager, it is crisp and ever-so-slightly sulfuric. Yeasty, wet stone, some honey, and maybe apricots are there too. There are hops in the nose, but not present enough to be notable.

Taste: Lager-like. A hint of apricot wine on doughy crackers with a very faint and generic dry-floral and slightly spiced bouquet underneath it all. The balance is nice, but there is a whisper of a tangy zing from the biscuit malt (think quince paste) that I wish wasn't there.

Mouthfeel: Light to med bodied with high carbonation. "Sudzy".

Overall: Success. Nice in its simplicity, but I think it would do well with the biscuit malt left out-- would help the subtleties of the crackery base malt shine.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Estate Cider Tasting

Reviewed 5/15/13

It was slightly rough around the edges at first, but it’s getting better:

Appearance: Chill haze, sunny yellow, very bubbly, no head, skinny legs.

Smell: To put it simply… Golden delicious apple skins. Nice, firm, but not super strong.

Taste: Clean, crisp, unsweetened apple juice and slightly tart before the finish. Some minerality mid-palette, and no alcohol (unlike when it was young).

Mouthfeel: Very Lively carbonation, light body, with a slight oily slickness in the finish (I can’t taste any diacetyl, but maybe this is it?)… very slightly tannic, thanks to the skins I reckon.

Overall: Drinkable as hell, but also kinda boring. I think the balance is amazing, just generally “light” and lacking some complexity. I think the apples on my grand folks’ tree were a pretty perfect variety for an unblended cider… nice and tart, mineralic, and tannic enough to keep it crisp and refreshing… but the cider could benefit from some blending and a more interesting yeast. Fun stuff though!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Blanche Niege Tasting

Reviewed 8/2/13


This one got lost in the shuffle last winter. I brewed it during the holidays as the “Winter White” and it has had mixed reviews. In the beginning it was kind of a cluttered mess that lacked any depth or backbone, but over the months it has rounded out a bit and proved to be a great summer beer. Go figure, a light Wit in the summer ;)

Definitely at its best with a slice of lemon.
Appearance: Milky yellowish white. The head was never spectacular, which was a disappointment given the style and relatively thick body for such a small beer, but still showed strong enough. It definitely pours too clear if I forget to give the bottle a shake first to rouse that wheaty yeast.

Smell: Has always smelled weird, especially given the style—tart, sweet, and yeasty, not unlike a sourdough loaf with a lemony glaze. There is a faint hint of spicy oak, but it lacks a lot of the crazy bubblegum and spice associated with Wits. Smells inviting, but not a whole lot like beer.

Taste: As it has settled down over the winter is has changed from overwhelmingly tart and cerial-ish to a nice and smooth, thick, wheat beer with a tart and lemony finish and a hint of Vanilla. The oak, lemon, and yeast make for a nice, but unconventional combo. There is a slight bubblegum and cloves thing developing, but barely.

Mouthfeel: Thick and creamy. Smooth, and clean finishing thanks to the lemony tartness with a hint of vanillin in the finish.

Overall: Turns out fermenting this yeast strain at the low end of the spectrum makes for a strangely clean and slightly acidic beer. All and all it is just an OK beer—I’ll probably use the same grain bill again, but leave the oak out in lieu of some other spices or fruity hops and let it ferment slightly warmer. I do really like the acidity though.

Hello Again

Man, it has been a min or two since my last post… too much cycling and a great new job at my new company have left me too busy to brew, much less blog.


Some updates on what you’ve been missing:


Lots of riding. The best cycling community anywhere, a couple of new bikes, and an endless supply of fun road has kept me up in the saddle quite a bit. Get stoked.


New job at Interior Motions. Great folks. Complete 180 from my previous position in hell.


New place. Kelly and I moved a few blocks down the street into an incredible apt. Its huge and my brother lives with us now!


“New” Family. Laurel and Rowan got married in BC and it was beautiful.


Hopefully I’ll be brewing for the first time in some months this weekend, but in the meantime I’ve got a backlog of reviews to post up. Enjoy!

Monday, July 22, 2013


Brew day 6/27/13

I am not in the habit of brewing beers using malt extract. In fact, of all of the batches I’ve made a grand total of 4 have not been all grain. The first two were the first two batches I ever made- an oak aged stout that came out wonderfully despite a long list of mishaps, and a Belgian pale ale that I didn’t like. I wasn’t keeping the blog up yet at that point so they have no write-ups. I also did  a sour brown with cherries this winter  that will be in bottles soon and is showing quite a bit of promise (write-up to come). The fourth was a recent Table Strength Saison that has me more convinced than ever of the merits of extract brewing if used for the appropriate beer. There’s just something about the using extract that seems “cheap” to me, but the more I get past the point of pride I’m realizing that it can be a great way to save A TON of time without sacrificing much—you just have to keep a few things in mind:

Don’t use extract if the sublty of the malt is something you want to showcase-- I brew a lot very simple recipes, and usually I rely on the subtle complexities of the base grains I pick to be the source of much of the malt character. For these beers, I think it is very important to stick with all grain as it provides the flexibility needed to really control the water profile, nuanced malt selection, and delicacies of FG and the body of the beer.

Don’t use extract if you are worried about a lower final gravity—Extract brewing takes away your control over the mash temp, which means you don’t know how dextrinous the wort will be. From what I’ve read (and my super limited experience of 2 clean batches) the maltsters make super dextrinous extract that will rarely get near a FG that even hints at being dry.

Don’t use extract if you want to use any un-malted grains that at don’t bring their own diastic power to the equation—we all know that adjunct can’t be steeped, so if you’re looking to use some corn for your Classic American Pilsner or some oats for your Dry Stout, mashing is the only option.

Otherwise, go for it! I reckon extract could make a great option for something like a porter or stout that has a long list of specialty grains that generally overpower any subtleties from the base grain… or maybe a super hoppy Pale where the whole beer is overwhelmed by icky-sticky aromatics anyhoo, or anything particularly yeast driven (given that the water treatment and finishing gravity restraints don’t get in the way) like a triple that is all about sugar and yeast. I’m also convinced that extract with steeping-grains is a pretty perfect solution for sour production as I think sours need a very neutral water profile and the high FGs are a sure way to make sure that the brett and bacteria in mixed cultures have plenty of wort to funkify during secondary fermentation.

So where does this Strawberry Saison fit in? The all grain recipe I wrote was pilsner malt only with some table sugar and was so low gravity that I had no reservations about it not finishing dry enough (not to mention Saison yeast will generally chew through very dextrinous wort with ease), and I was looking for all of the character in the beer to come from the esters and phenols from the yeast and the addition of 8lbs of whole strawberries. So I converted it to useing Pils extract, and it was sooo nice and easy.

Pilsner Liquid malt extract (100% pils) and sugar for a traditionally dry and neutral malt presence, soft water to keep the malt and hops in the background, the Dupont yeast strain and leftover brett bugs living in my dedicated brett bucket for that wonderful earthy/ spicy/ fruity blend of black pepper/ pear skins/ and flinty lemon notes, SUPER low gravity because I want to session the hell out of this one, and 8lbs of frozen strawberries because I think they will be just the thing to pair with the expressive Dupont yeast.

The Recipe (6 Gallons into fermenter):

5lbs Pilsner Liquid Malt Extract~ 87%
.75lb Table Sugar~ 13%

8lbs Whole Frozen Strawberries into Fermenter at k/o

2oz Hallertauer (aa 5.4) @ 30min Boil
2oz Perle @ k/o for 20 min steep between 180F and 120F

Oakland tap water untreated for calculated Ca: 5 ppm and SO4: 7 ppm. Calc Mash PH 5.5 ** hoping that the yeast nutrient and long boil process used to froduce LME will provide the extra calcium needed for the yeas health**

LME and Sugar added to 6.5 gal boiling water for 30min boil.

1 whirlfloc and dose of WY yeast nutrient at k/o

WY3724 DuPont Strain

OG: 1.034
FG: 1.004= 4% ABV
Calc SRM: pink ;)
Calc IBUs: 25 avg

6/27- Pitched 1L slurry of WY3724 @ 69F and left in Miguel’s Basement for ambient in the mid to high 70s.

7/8- checked SG @ 1.008

7/16- Miguell found the bucket leaking!! He quickly transfered the remaining 4.5gal to a different bucket.

8/18- Bottled for 2.6 vol CO2 into champagne bottles. Quite a gnarly pelicle on top and the samples taste awesome. Unfourtunately the brett has overtaken the strawberrys in the nose, but the taste is subltly and sublimely earthy and berry kisse. FG@1.004

Friday, June 7, 2013

Rough Rye Tasting


This was quite a hit at the Wedding Shower. I’d say it hit pretty dern close to what I wasaiming for, with the exception on it being an absolute grapefruit BOMB when it was green. After just a few extra weeks in the bottle thought the cascades have integrated and it is drinking right along the lines of the spicy, woody, citrusy IPA I was going for.

Appearance: Hazy golden yellow with a thick sudsy head that stands tall for most of the session. Think thunder bumpers. Apparently vigorous carbonation rising from the bottom of the glass in steady streams.

Smell: About all you can hope for from a “west coast” IPA- Big juicy grapefruit and musky wood with pepper and pine spicing-up the backdrop. It really smells like Twain Harte in the summer to me… like sap and mtn misery.  Again, quite spicy with some generic English esters coming through on the faintly crackery malt.

Taste: As expected after smelling it the first impression is all grapefruit. The Citra actually shows much more in the taste than in the nose with it’s awesome sticky passion fruit and more grapefruit pith. The spices from the hops all combine with the bit of fermentation handled by the French Saison yeast to put out quite a “woody” flavor. I’m definitely getting some of the rye “rawness” along with the otherwise neutral, slightly crackery, barely sweet malt base. I really like the way the spicyness seems to exist equally between the rye malt, Chinook hops, and yeast notes.

Mouthfeel: Full and thick without any sticky. Mostly the earthy spice of the rye, but there is also a nice numbing mint hint from the hop oils.

Overall: Yup, pretty great. Like I said, it was a bit citric and one dimensional at first, but at this point the bouquet has really opened up and made room for several other layers. This wouldn’t be a beer I was stark raving mad about buying if it were a commercial offering (Hella! on the other hand, I’d stock weekly!) but I’d say it can easily hang with some of the greats. Next time I’d say a tad more Citra will be in order to really dial this one in.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Barf's IPA without Simcoe

Tasting notes 5/28/13

IPA #2 from the Trade: Zythos, Nelson, Galaxy IPA 7.5%

I believe this is the same beer as the last IPA I had of his, but without the Simcoe in the DH- 7.5% ABV on the label.

Appearance: Same reddish amber as the one with Simcoe. Nice Khaki head that falls to lace pretty quickly, and decent clarity for the dark color.

Smell: It’s funny… this one smells more like Simcoe to me right now than I remember the one that actually HAD Simcoe in it…. Orange, citrus candy, and some mango with a peppery bite and a tiny hint of pine. Again, like the other with the bing cherry overtones—maybe it’s a trick of the brain because of the color? The malt seems less apparent in this one, which doesn’t really make any sense (because they were the same beer) and goes to show how situational tasting impressions are. This one also has that same lovely aromatic biscuit and toast pushing through the hops pretty strongly.

Taste: Still very toasty in the malt department… not very caramely but still sweet and rich. The malt easily stands up to the super bitter hop resins. The hops come through as soapy-bitter with a killer sticky bite and an awesome candy type fruit punch impression… but with hints of darker tones coming through in the background as funky grapes and passionfruit. The bouquet integrates so nicely with the malt that this is pretty crazy drinkable.

Mouthfeel: Overwhelmingly bitter, with nice carbonation (lower than the last bottle?) and tons of hop oils in the finish. Not boozy, not sticky, but still warm and full.

Overall: I think I like this one better than the one with Simcoe. It seems more “intact” and has an easier to explore depth to the hoppyness. [SIDENOTE: I find that I prefer hoppy beers that focus on a main characteristic as the prominent impression and then layer other complimentary flavors on it to round it out. I think beers with TOO much complexity get to be hard to pick anything out of and make for a generally muddling impression. I kinda’ liken it to finger-painting: it looks pretty neat until you et too crazy. Start with yellow and red and get neat orange patterns, but then add just a few more colors and it all turns brown… The hop combo in this beer does a nice job of pushing the envelope without going overboard] All and all a pretty awesome beer. Again, maltier and a bit high on the IBUs for the finishing gravity than I would go with the style, but well put together.

Oh, one last thing: Ward reckons that the fining he used in the IPAs stripped some of the hop flavor out, and I think he may be right. It is quite potent still, but not the monster that was the Black Ale or the Imperial Red Rye.