Tuesday, May 15, 2012

ASB Tasting

Reviewed 5/13/12

The American Special Bitter has been in bottles for just under a month, and it is drinking pretty nicely. I want to make a habit of comparing my beers to appropriate commercial examples in these reviews, but I don't really know what to compare this to. Bitter American comes to mind for obvious reasons, but it is quite different in reality. Mine is less bitter, less sweet, more malty, uses English yeast, and is just generally mellower.

Appearance: Burnt orange with a very slight haze and a pretty pitiful head-- nice and bright white with a fine texture, but no retention. Lacing is present, but not impressive. I reckon the lack of head retention is due to the unusually long and low mash thanks to going out to lunch, and the fact that I went for a relatively low level of carbonation because because I don't like the club-soda like effect that too much bubbles has on mellow beers.

Smell: The malt and yeast put up a firm caramel apple smell with some biscuit warmth. The sweet, woody, fresh-hop aroma is very distinct from, but in balance with the malts underneath. The malt and yeast are ever-so-slightly more present than the hops in the nose, but just barely.

Taste: Real crisp. Smooth flavors with nice depth that I'm going to thank the Victory malt for. There is a mild caramel sweetness that makes way pretty quickly for a dry/ biscuit malt impression. Pretty mild. Citrus hops kinda' float in and out with a wood-like finish that could be from the yeast? Easy, beady, nicely fruity (like apples and pears), clean finishing beer with a very slight lingering bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Low carbonation and a light to med body. The body is almost too thin, but the low carbonation and hop oils in the finish make it feel bigger than it is. This is a bone-dry beer despite the mid sip caramel notes and apple/pear impressions in the nose.

Overall: Solid. I like it enough to do it again with just a few tiny changes to dial in the FG (either up the mash temp, or use the Fuller's yeast).

I ended up changing the hop schedule on this last min., but I'm pleased with the result. I was planning on making a moderately hopped ESB with a pretty mellow, earthy, floral, and spicy hop profile, but ended up unable to get the Willamette, Palisade, and Cascade hops that I wanted. So, on the fly I opted to go with a hop schedule I had planned for an IPA later in the summer (but that I was really looking forward to trying- just couldn't wait) but with the amounts dialed down to a lower gravity Pale Ale scale.

The citrusy Northwest hops, London Ale yeast, and some toasted Victory malt came together to make a very full-flavored beer for its moderate size (OG1.048- 5.3% ABV). The yeast finished a few points lower than I planned, but it didn't dry it out too much. I actually think if the yeast had slacked off and left it at the targeted FG1.011 the beer would have been a bit sweet for my tastes. As it stands, it is a very well balanced, easy drinking pale. It is only really lacking in body and head retention.

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