I’m not really sure where I stand with this one, but I guess it is pretty much what I was looking for; a middle of the road beer. I like the color, the balance, the malt profile… but it somehow misses the mark on drinkability. I guess there isn’t really anything solid enough to really draw you in. And there is a weird tang that I can’t track down the source of in our brewing process-- I’m thinking either it comes from the Special Roast/ rye combo, or possibly an extremely heavy hand with the Starsan (acid wash) at bottling. The grain bill would have been awesome as a “Belgian Amber,” and now I’m really disappointed that the Penny Bier half went sour.
Appearance: If it weren’t for the haze and lack of head it would be quite pretty as it is a neat marriage of red and yellow streaks in the light that come together to make a nice dark orange color in the dark spots.
Smell: This isn’t a very aromatic beer to tell you the truth. There are some subdued round and mellow caramel note, hints of dark fruits, and somehow some winter spice in the way-back. The hops are very subtle in the nose as a tinge of grapefruit from time to time over the malt. No yeast to speak of.
Taste: Bigger than the nose suggests, but still not huge. Spicy and caramel malt flavors with a slight biscuit note and some yeasty fruits like pears and plums. As it warms it starts to show some brown sugar sweetness mid-sip. There is a weird almost tart (but not sour) and raspy finish that I really don’t like but am not sure the source of, maybe the Cascades? The rye? … I want to call out a raspberry note, but I think it is just an illusion created by the combo of the tartness and dark caramel notes. The finish is sandpaper-rough from the lingering bitterness and rye.
Mouthfeel: Med to full bodied, low (too low) carbonation, at once rich and dry, with a rough lingering bitterness. I actually like the character of the bitterness, which is harsher than the mid-palette IBUs suggest, but in this beer it too heavy. Would be at home in a "meaner" beer.
Overall: Without the dry, bitter, and tart finish it could be a nice, mellow beer.Close, but no cigar. I’m not really sure how I want to remedy the recipe, I think it could be a great beer with just a small nudge in one of three directions: 1) Go bigger on the OG and switch the hops out for something gnarly (I’d probably do Horizon or Pacific Gem, maybe even Chinook) a-la Arrogant Bastard, 2) use a sweeter finishing English or Belgian yeast for a “warmer” beer, or 3) simply switch the Rye for wheat and Special roast for Crystal 60 for a similar mellow balance with an easier, smoother character. We’ll see, I’ll probably just move on.