Wednesday, August 15, 2012

NWA Tasting

Reviewed 8/9/12

This beer has been the bottle now for two months and it is just starting to come around. It is still pretty harsh thanks to a combo of near IPA level IBUs, an overdose of dark roasted coffee beans, and the sandy roughness from the 14% rye malt contribution, but as the hops and coffee “integrate” with time (read as: fade) it is becoming an almost enjoyable beer. Almost.
It is interesting, and I think it has a lot going for it, but in the end I find it quite hard to finish a bottle. Its bitter, dry, earthy, strong, quite caffeinated, and has a so much going on between the malt, hops, and coffee that it is teetering on the line between “depth” and “noise.” I like the red, raisin, spicy, backbone quite a bit, as I do the earthy contribution from the hops and the eye-popping coffee aromas, but I feel that any one of those three strengths would be better as a singular focus. All together it is a pretty mean proposition.
Appearance: Hazy reddish brown with an orange streak where the light shows through. Thin off white head with no lacing but decent retention. Vigorous carbonation.
Smell: Sweet breakfast coffee. The coffee is extremely dominant. It has the earthy mild brown coffee smell that good light roasts have. The Earthy coffee notes mix in a nice way with a slightly apply yeast character and if you concentrate you can get a hint of biscuits in the malt. Hops? Yes, but in a regular, beery sort of way…. Could call ‘em earthy or floral, but a generic “hop smell” is more accurate. I think I get a slight apricot note, but it is way down there.
Taste: Again, overwhelming breakfast coffee; It is actually stronger in the taste than it is in the nose. Smooth and dry with more apricot notes than I expected behind the coffee astringency. The malt is just a backdrop; this beer really has an un-sweetened coffee soda feel with a dry and bitter finish. There is some grainy spiciness form the rye before it finishes with a rough texture and a quick, bitter jab. This beer could have been balanced exclusively with the bitterness form the coffee. The hops are just overkill.
Mouthfeel: Dry, bubbly, and medium bodied. Somehow reminds me of Coke.
Overall: I reckon I accomplished what I set out to… a pale beer that relies on a hop-forward balance and coffee aromatics to provide interest against a relatively blank malt and yeast canvas. Why I set out to brew a beer like this I’m quite sure anymore… I know that I really enjoyed a similar concept from To-OL, but I should have realized that that beer struck a much different balance between it’s massive Imperial IPA malt bill and big, smooth, nutty coffee roast that played much closer to sweet than dry. My rendition has a nice subtlety to the dark crystal tinged malt bill and a pleasant earthy hop profile, but the coffee is much stronger than it needs to be and the Rye only accomplished giving the dryness more muscle rather than smoothing it out the way it could have if I had brewed a bigger and sweeter beer. I guess my take away for next time is that I need to cool the whole thing off by countering the dry fermentation and harsh bitterness with more crystal malt or lighter coffee. But in reality, I probably won’t re-brew this one or anything close to it.

Fun beer though I guess. I would like to use parts of this beer as inspirations for later projects including one that uses a similarly modeled grain bill with a Belgian yeast, and a sweeter, less hoppy beer that uses the huge coffee presence… probably a nut brown… who knows….

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