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.

Barf's Imperial Red Rye

Tasting Notes 6/3/13

Simcoe, Galaxy, Mosaic, Topaz Imperial Red Rye 11.8%


Another Hoppy one from Barfdiggs trade. Super stoked on the hop varieties!

Appearance: Crystal Clear crimson red with a pretty weak head- but you can’t expect much from the head on a high ABV beer… alcohol will melt your brain ;) Seriously gorgeous color.

Smell: Quite aromatic- much more hops in the nose than either IPA, but not quite the stink bomb that was the Black IPA (obsess much?). Fruity, piney, jammy, and sappy with some weird honeysuckle and kumquat and that smell of freshly split green oak logs (not kidding). The citrus is strong and it is mixed with some sticky over-ripe tropical fruit which makes for a super complex and inviting proposition. Almost “messy”, but in a good way. The only malt aromas I’m getting are the generic tell-tale notes that there is a BIG beer under all of the hops.

Taste: Spicy and oily, bitter and thick. Earthy in a way that reminds me of extra virgin olive oil. The citrus and cat (that is right! This is officially the first beer that I’ve gotten the classic “cat-pee” thing from. I actually think it has to do with a recent Simcoe harvest, because a recent all Simcoe beer I made was all cat pee- none of the pineapple and pine with orange peel that made Simcoe my all time favorite. Bummed) really come through to the front in the sip, but there is some nice mellow honeydew there too as it finishes. Pretty dern mellow for a beer pushing 12%. Smooth and rich with a strong impression of dark honey.

Mouthfeel: Big, full, and prickly form the booze.

Overall: I think this is my favorite of his beers so far. Usually giant isn’t really my thing, but it is right on in this one. It embraces the hugeness with a full-on malt presence, and has an immense amount of hop complexity to keep it interesting instead of just overwhelmingly big.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Lake Beer: Mellow Yellow

Brew Day 5/12/13
The summer means weekends at the lake…. which means swimming and fishing and BBQ and drinking and sunshine and friends and rocks and family and all that… so to prepare, Ian and I figured a sunnyday brew should be done up to beckon the good vibes. I really liked Sunnyside as a kind of summer seasonal last year, and I wanted to do something similar but with a more sessiony bent. I love the crispness of hop forward pale ales as daytime drinkers, and we wanted to keep the ABV down to maximize refreshment and minimize drunken sunburns, so I made a low gravity hoppy pale with oats and Amarillos.
Peachy, juicy, citrusy, light, grainy, refreshing, smooth, mellow, and crisp were the targets, and to hit them I put together a pretty simple recipe:
-All Amarillo to maximize the floral, citrus, peachy punch without any of the “heavier” hop characteristics that come with other super aromatic varieties. There may be just a touch of pine, but I’ve always found Amarillos to be the cheeriest hop—basically void of any “dankness” and all fruit and flowers. Normally I really need some heavy darker notes in my hopped up brews to counter the punchier fruity tones and keep the beer from coming across as too sweet, but in this one I am going a bit lighter on the hops than I typically would for a hoppy pale, and am leaving the grain bill crystal malt free, so I figured that the perceived sweetness that Amarillo provides would be just right.
- I kept the gravity nice and low because lighter is better when it is hot out and you have lot’s of swimming and jumping to do.
- The grain bill is a super simple combo of Belgian 2-Row and flaked oats. The Castle malt is pretty awesomely full flavored without being nutty or sweet. I find that it has a great dry biscutyness that gives nice depth to paler ales. The flaked oats should make it silky smooth...I’m still pretty convinced that in hoppy beers crystal malt just gets in the way, and the oats will give all the body that a c malt would have but with a cleaner, smoother grainy fullness that will help the Amarillos really shine.
- The Timothy Taylor yeast I had in the fridge left over from ASBII should be the perfect partner for the Amarillos given it’s stone fruit notes, and I think smaller beers need low attenuation to help prop the FG up a bit and keep the beer from finishing down in watery too-low gravities.
So yeah…. Lake Beer: Our swimming hole refresher meant to enhance the lake-side summer weekends in Tahoe and Sonora. Simple and delicious.
The Recipe (6 Gallons into fermenter):
10lbs Castle Pale Ale Malt~ 91%
1lb Flaked Oats~ 9%
1oz Sorachi Ace (aa 12.3) @ 50min Boil
2oz Amarillo (aa8.4) @ 10min Boil
2oz Amarillo @ k/o for 20 min steep between 180F and 120F
1oz Amarillo into fermenter for “DH” at pitching
2oz Amarillo DH for 7 Days
Oakland RO water with 1.25 g/gal Gypsum for Ca: 78 ppm and SO4: 185 ppm. Calc Mash PH 5.5
Infuse 5 gal at 163F to hit 150F rest for 1 hr, add 3 gal at 165F to hit 156F for 20min rest. “No sparge” to collect 7 gallons for 60 min boil
1 whirlfloc and dose of WY yeast nutrient at k/o
WY1469 Timothy Taylor Strain
OG: 1.044 (66%eff)
FG: 1.008 = 4.7% ABV
Calc SRM: 5
Calc IBUs: 42 avg
5/12- Pitched 1L slurry of WY1469 @ 67F and left in Miguel’s Basement for ambient in the mid to high 60s.

6/3- DH with 2oz Amarillo. gravity at 1.010 and tasting lovely.

7/16- Transferred to bottling bucket onto 1 pkt gelatin and .55cups table sugar for target VOL C02 2.4. FG@ 1.008

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Rough and Ready RyePA

Brewed 4/12/13

I really wanted to bring an IPA down to the Bridal Shower… because after all we all know how exciting a fresh, crazy hoppy beer is- especially to folks looking for something exciting but without the focus to really delve into the nuances of something more subtle. I’ve been meditating on a Chinook/ Citra beer ever since the batch of Hella! I loved the way the Chinook in that beer lent the musty/ spice and woody grapefruit and thought it was a perfect grounded counterpoint to Citra’s sweet ripe melon, tropical, and apricoty fruityness.  I decided I wanted to brew a Rye IPA that featured the combo. (I’ll let Simcoe’s  amazing pine, pineapple, passion fruit, and orange juice complexity shine alone in an all Simcoe brew with the same grain bill as Hella! next time I do that beer… don’t need to muck it up with any other hops in the blend.)

No photos this time. This is Rye!
Rye seems to change beer the same way it changes bread… earthier, rougher, spicier, heartier. I also find that almost every commercial beer with rye seems to be a touch more bitter than similarly hopped beers without it. So, using rye to lend some depth and earthy layers under the Chinook hops and support the big fruity Citra hops seemed like a perfect choice. Also, I like that I can rely on it to help flesh out the grain bill without having to use any crystal malt for body or contrast… I’m finding that all of my hoppy beers are getting better and better the more I move away from using any crystal malts... and if you read this blog very often you know that I’m obsessed with making VERY PALE beers. The hops just taste better without any malt in the way J

I went for an even 1:1 split on the Chinook: Citra ratio and added a few ounces of Cascades at k/o and DH to try and capitalize on the whole candied grapefruit thing that they do so well. The grain bill is super simple Pale and Rye malt with just a quarter lb of Honey Malt to compliment the juicy Citra hops. I was pretty conservative with the sulfate (accentuates bitterness) levels on the water treatments on this one because A) the lack of crystal malt meant less sweetness for the hops to cut through, and B) I think Rye has it’s own bitterness enhancing properties and doesn’t need any extra help from the water with accentuating the harsh Chinooks. I also upped the calcium (accentuates maltyness) in this one because of the lack of crystal… hopefully it’ll help buoy the simple malt bill a bit. WLP007 seemed like just the thing to add some extra fruity sweetness, plus it clears so nicely….

… too nicely. I actually had this one stall out after a very vigorous 2 day fermentation and sit at 1.025 for a few days. I gave the carboy a good shake to rouse the flocked yeast, and it went down 5 more points, but wouldn’t budge and inch below 1.020! FUCK. I still can’t really figure out what went wrong, but I think it may have to do with the fact that I used Gelatin to fine it before the DH addition and the yeast was never really able to get swimming again. So, I used the good old French Saison yeast I have around (hungriest yeast EVER) to bring it down to 1.012 in secondary. At first I was really sad to have to use such an expressive yeast in a beer that I meant to be a hop varietal showcase, but the more I thought about it I figured that the final points of attenuation provided by the WY3711 were probably not enough to really get a lot of character from the yeast, and that even if it did I can’t really think of a more perfect match for this beer than the rustic, earthy, and spicy character of the French yeast.

The Recipe (for 5.5 gallons into fermenter)

6 lbs Castle Pale Ale Malt~46%
5 lbs Great Western Pale Ale Malt~39%
1.75 lbs Rye Malt~13%
.25 lbs Honey Malt~2%
.75 lbs Clover Honey in Primary

1oz Chinook @  FWH for 60min boil
1oz Citra @ 10min
1 oz Chinook @ 10min
1oz Simcoe @ 5min
1oz Citra @ k/o
1 oz Chinook @ k/o
2 oz Cascade @ k/o
DH 2 oz each of Chinook and Citra + 1 oz Simcoe for 10 days in primary
DH 2 oz Cascade for 9 days in secondary

Reverse Osmosis Oakland water with 1.25g/gal Gypsum in mash for finished water profile= SO4: 190/ Ca:78

Mashed in with 5 gal at 168F to hit 154F for 50min, add 3 gal at 159F to hit 159F for 15min. **Wanted to shoot for a higher FG to boost the maltiness in the absence of any crystal malt. Now I’m wondering if the Rye would have kept it up even without the higher mash temp**
 NO SPARGE. Collected 6 gal and 60min boil, 1 tab Whirlfloc and 1/4tbsp WYeast nutrient at k/o.

Collect 5.5 into bucket  after trub and hops
OG: 1.059
FG: 1.012= 6.2% ABV
Calc SRM: 6ish
Calc IBU: 80 garetz/ 50 tinseth

 Pitched 16oz starter WLP007 “Dry English” at 60F and left to ferment at ambient 60ish F.
4/12- Ran 180F work through “poor man’s hop back”  (hop pellets in hop bag in funnel) befor chilling in bucket to pitching temp- Pitched very active starter and left in cold house without an airlock.

4/14- good Krausen- added 12oz honey

4/17- added 5oz DH

4/21- Added 1 pkt gelatin (bad idea)

4/22- SG at 1.022- Pitched packet of Notty to help finish stalled fermentation and shook the bucket. Very active bubbling 10 min later. Might have just needed to rouse the yeast?

4/27- Stuck at 1.020 for 4 days. Transferred under “CO2” to another bucket onto 2 oz Cascades and  Pitched smack pack of WY3711 to finish ‘er up.

4/30- Down to 1.014- Added another packet of gelatin.
5/6- Bottled with .35c table sugar 2.0 VOL CO2. FG@1.012 (aiming kinda low on the carbonation because I’m pretty sure the WY3711 is going to keep going a few points. I’ll be moving all the bottles to the fridge once the carbonation gets to the right spot.)

6/4- Solid, spicy, woody IPA with some nice pine and big citrus on a hearty rye base.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Barfdigg’s Vanilla Chai Latte V3


My first bottle of Barf’s several iterations of Milk Stout. This one clocks in at 8.5% ABV and notes “overly spiced, tincture” on the bottle.

Appearance: Full black. No light penetrates anywhere. The head is creamy and light brown. Tasty looking beer.

Smell: Rooibos! So spiced it almost smells like a sweet shot of Fernet Branca, albeit with much heavier cloves and less licorice. The aromas are big and bold with cardamom, cinnamon, and vanilla. No hint that it is a stout if you weren’t looking at it.

Taste: Follows the nose, but with whole new dimensions of sandalwood and earthy (almost smoky) tree bark and more rooibos tea. SUPER DUPER SPICED. It tastes much more like Chai than the black licorice aroma suggested, and also lacks the vanilla kick that the nose has. The taste is where the roast enters the equation, but it is still quite a mellow undertone given how black the beer is. The bits and pieces of the base beer that I’m picking up through the force field of spices are amazing… Sweet without the heavy raisin, toffee, and caramel tones that I usually find to be overdone in high gravity stouts. Chewy sweet and lusciously thick. Overly spiced for sure, but pretty dern close to what it is aiming for: Exotic, sweet, satisfying.

Mouthfeel: Sticky, creamy, smooth, with some lingering roast in the finish and an impressions of tannins from the spices.

Overall: I think I love the base! Might be able to get some hints of balanced, rich, and roasty coffee/ chocolate if the spices weren’t cloying. The sweetness is so neutral it works really well for me in this beer. I usually find big stouts overwhelm my palette with molasses and booze and only slightly redeem themselves when they are overloaded with charred, roasted, toasted, and burnt malt to balance them out. This one however is pretty mellow on the roasted side (which is a good choice given that the spices- even if paired back quite a bit- would grate against too much char), and very sweet, but in a simple way that just helps balance. I’m looking forward to the bottle with the spices “just right”.

Barfdigg’s IPA with Zythos/ Nelson/ Galaxy/ Simcoe

Tasting #3 from the beer trade. After the wonder that was the Black IPA I’m pretty stoked to have another one of his hoppy beers.

This is one of several IPAs that he sent, all with slightly different hop blends listed on the bottles—I’m not sure if they are all the same base beer with different hops or all stand-alone IPA recipes (I’m guessing the latter over the former as I typically tailor the base beer to compliment the hop blend in hop forward beers). This one lists Zythos, Nelson, Galaxy, and Simcoe. Here goes:

Appearance: MUCH darker than I expected from an IPA. Dark gold in the light to very orange in the depths. It isn’t crystal clear, but clearer than it could have been considering the recent ride in the back of a UPS truck. I don’t think IPAs need to be super clear anyhoo… I feel like anything better than “muddy” works fine. Fine textured, pure white head that falls after a quick min but leaves nice rings as I make my way to the bottom of the glass.

Smell: The usual suspects-- Tropical fruit and orange juice with some black pepper and grapefruit. Sweetly hoppy nose with less “dark” skunky tones or pine notes than I expected from these hop varieties. Much more malt aromatics than my hoppy beers—layers of bread, graham crackers, and strawberry rhubarb pie. Surprisingly generic hop aromas after the Black IPA, but impressively complex in the malt department.

Taste: Oops—the hint of strawberry rhubarb pie in the background of the aroma is actually a cherry pie bomb in the taste. Even more complex malt than in the nose makes for the impression of a hoppy scone thanks to the way the tasty richness integrates with all the bright fruity sweetness from the hop aromatics. Much more of a bitter bite than the fruit punch smells suggest. The hops are more complex than the nose let on with cherries, apricots, pears, and… mesquite honey earthiness :)

Ever have one of those tin cans of fruit cocktail when you were a little kid? This reminds me of that with a graham cracker on the side and an overwhelmingly tingly-bitter finish.

Mouthfeel: Chewy and slick at the same time. Low to moderate carbonation with a fine texture that helps cleanse the extreme bitterness.

Overall: Maltier and more bitter than my hoppy beers and a surprisingly fruity sweet nose from the hops…. If I didn’t know better I’d be calling out a heavy hand of Centennial hops as the source of the “red punch” thing…but that is neither-here-nor-there.

I do LOVE the way it smells- almost comfortingly malty- but it makes the burning bitterness quite a surprise. The yeast is very neutral and off-flavor free to my palette.

Honestly, before Barf and I exchanged emails about his water I suspected that he had upped the gypsum additions to get sky high sulfate levels leaving the beer a bit thin (acidic) and accentuating the bitterness too much. It turns out though that his water treatments put his water around the same or just below the sulfate levels in my hoppy beers, so that wasn’t the issue… it was that this particular beer’s FG was 1.004!!

So, next time I’d just mash higher to up the FG to something better suited to carry the high bitterness, then compensate for the added body by stepping back on the crystal a few ounces. Or just aim about 20IBUs lower in the same beer… I think with any more body this would really start to taste like a Hoppy Red… it is an awesomely juicy beer with interesting malt complexity  that compliments the hop bill nicely. As usual- well put together!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Barfdigg's Black IPA

Another one from the trade.

Hmm… Mouteka (new to me) and Mosiac (LOVE ‘em in commercial beers) hops... “Kinda Sux” printed on the label… a style that I’m not a huge fan of… this will be interesting…

sorry for the shitty picture-
new phone has a bad camera.
Appearance: Blacker than expected. I know it is a “Black IPA”, but I find they are usually less inky. This one looks like a stout with a thin khaki head.

Smell: Woah! Feet, passion fruit, sticky-dankness, bruised nectarines. Hops overwhelm the aroma and only hint at the “blackness” in the malt underneath. Curry too. I love the nose.

Taste: Heavy. Strong papaya, some cucumber skin, more earthy than the nose suggested. Hippy skank for days. No malt is really coming through besides a slight lingering of burnt toast under the thick hop oils.

Mouthfeel: Dry with fine carbonation and a full body that I’ll say is mostly thanks to hop resin. Tongue numbing, but not especially bitter for an IPA. Great mouthfeel.

Overall: I wish it was exactly the same, but pale. I could do without the “black” part of this IPA, but what else is new… I kinda feel like a Black IPA should be the only sweet IPA, and this one is raw and dry like a proper pale one should be. This is AMAZING- I love it, Kel doesn’t like it… I get it.

I’m really surprised by the hop character though. The Mosiac beers I have had have been much more peach and pine with some flowers and watermelon… while this beer had almost none of that. Is is the Mouteka dominating with the gnarly feet and over-ripe fruit? ot a lot to say besides just leave out the black next time.

Barfdigg's English Dark Mild

This was the first beer Kel and I opened from the beertrade. It was a mellow Sunday afternoon and the beer was great daytime drinker—although it would have been more fitting on a rainy day.

Appearance: Clear brown-to red with a thin off white head that looks pretty and creamy but falls quickly to a thin film… but can’t blame a low carbonation beer for being a little shy.

Smell: Rich coffee and bread crusty notes with some roasted nut tones and a hint of cola sweetness in the background. Pretty aromatic for a small beer, with a complex depth that fades from fruit to roast and a lot of layers in between.

Taste: Smooth and rich with more toffee than the nose. Nicely full without being too sweet (the beauty of the style when done right IMO). Rich and nutty… almost a hint of poppy seeds. Finish is long and cozy, clean and light, pleasant.

Mouthfeel: Light bodied with light to moderate carbonation. I’d say it could use a bit more body—preferably more “cheweyness” from oats or flaked wheat/barley, but some extra “stickyness” from more c-malts would be fine too.

Overall: I love the layers of yeast and malt. It is quite captivating for such a low gravity beer. I’d love to know what is lending the subtle herbal and cola notes, and I think the super low bitterness (low even for the style) is a nice touch.

If it were my beer what would I tweak? It’s hard to say exactly because I don’t know what the recipe looks like, but I’d probably add some [more?] oats or up the mash temp quite a bit to try to get more body out of it. And, although I generally stay away from it I may make the [switch?] to Marris Otter as a base in an effort to bring even more malty flavors to the party. Really though, I think the yeast choice, malt bill, hopping, and water treatments are right on.

Any of y’all that haven’t had the pleasure of drinking an English Dark Mild, go find one!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Homebrew Exchange with Barfdiggs

I am a frequent poster on Beeradvocate’s Homebrewing forum, and I have come to trust some of the regulars on the board as amazing sources of knowledge and inspiration for recipe formulation, troubleshooting, history, and anything else brewing related.

One of the guys I have come to really trust and look to for (among other things) his very attuned palette, especially in terms of hop varietal characteristics, is Barfdiggs. I don’t know much about him other than: he lives in San Diego, he brews A LOT, he is working on some super serious studies, he likes corgis, and his is always enthusiastic about sharing recipe ideas.

EDIT: check out his new blog!

Recently the two of us set up a homebrew trade which consisted of shipping about a dozen bottles each.

The good man sent me the following (his names and descriptions are below):

“- Cabernet Barrel Flanders Red Ale (11 months in French Oak Cab Barrels)
- Black IPA w/ Motueka & Mosiac hops (Weirdest BIPA I've ever brewed, dank, rotting stone fruit)
- Imperial Red Ale w/ Rye and NZ Hops (30% Rye, 11.8% ABV)
- Vanilla Chai Latte version 3 (BA Mag Brew; overly spiced, flawed)
- Vanilla Chai Latte Version 4 (Finished version)
- English Mild (3.8% Biscuity, malty goodness, a favorite of mine)
- Brain Death Barleywine (14.5% English Barleywine; sit on this a little bit of banana remains but clearing; kinda 120 minute esque, contains special hops)
- Polynomial Hoppiness (West Coast IPA w/ NZ and US Hops, solid. Dry, bitter, hoppy, light toasty malt) [Simcoe as 3rd DH]
- Polynomial Hoppiness (West Coast IPA w/ NZ and US Hops, solid. Dry, bitter, hoppy, light toasty malt) [Galaxy as 3rd DH]
- Stone Enjoy by 5/17/13 **Already drank it, no review. Strong floral/ lemon thing makes me think it’s got some calypso hops up in it.**
- Surprise Beer (ended up being FoundersCurmudgeon Old Ale)"

Pretty exciting list, right?! I’ll be posting full tasting notes as I make my way through the box, so stay tuned. I'll link the tasting notes to this post-- just click the hyperlink of the beer name above.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Smokey the Poo 2

Brewed 4/7/13

Batch 2 of 3 for the wedding shower I mentioned in the blondie post. Smokey the Poo 2 is an evolution of last year’s SPB. Some pretty substantial changes, but built upon the same concept. A big, rich, roasty, Robust Smoked Porter.

Last year’s ended up being one of the best beers I’ve brewed, but a large part of it’s success was that it “contracted” a bad case of Brett C and ended up being a very interesting funky porter. I didn’t want to try to replicate the Brett secondary this time due to the happenstance nature of the infection and the quick turn-around I am looking for to get this ready in time for the party, so no funk this time around. Instead, I took the bold roast, the smoke and honey, the tangy Special Malt, and the neutral yeast from SPB and went bigger with everything. This is a pretty high-gravity beer by my standards, with a much more complex grain bill than I usually go for, but I felt like going for heavy-handed breadth over subtle depth with this one. Seemed like a fun beer for a BBQ party wedding celebration.

The recipe started with the same proportions as SPB with the biggest foundational change being the higher gravity. I substituted Crystal 60 for the Golden naked oats from last year because I wanted it to be a bit sweeter and stickier to stand up to the higher OG, the more intense smoke, and extra roasted malts I used this year. I also added a dash of Honey Malt to compliment the actual honey and again counter the smoke and roast. This year I thought it would be tasty to use some cherry smoked malt instead of the mesquite-- again to play the less subtle card and also to hopefully bring out more of the balancing sourdough twang from the Special Roast (that I think was one of the keys to SPBs success). I added some dried cherries in primary to again help add some depth and zing and went with Fuggle hops for their pipe-tobacco notes. I mashed high for huge body and used Nottingham yeast for its flocculation and easy/clean fermentation… plus it was cheap and easy to pitch the needed cell count to take care of the big OG.

This should be a pretty obtuse beer. A sturdy match for spicy summer BBQ pork and such.  

The Recipe (for 4.5 gallons into fermenter)

10 lbs Great Western 2-Row Malt~66%
2 lbs Cherrywood Smoked Malt~14%
1 lb Special Roast~7%
.75 lbs Crystal 60~5%
.75 lbs American Chocolate Malt~5%
.25 lbs Honey Malt~1.5%
.25 lbs Caraffa2~1.5%
.75 lbs Honey **to boost OG to target after boil**

1.9 oz Palisades @ 60min
2oz Fuggles @ 10min
6oz dried Cherries soaked in Whisky for Secondary

Reverse Osmosis Oakland water with .5g/gal Gypsum, .75g/gal Calcium Chloride, and .75g/gal baking soda in mash for “Malty Black” finished water profile= SO4: 75/ Ca:86

Mashed in with 6.2 gal at 167F to hit 153F for 15min, add 2 gal at 164F to hit 156F for 45min. NO SPARGE. Collected 6 gal for 60min boil, 1 tab Whirlfloc and 1/4tbsp WYeast nutrient at k/o.

Pitched 2 packets Nottingham Dry Yeast at 60F and left to ferment at ambient 60ish F.

Collect 4.5 into bucket  after trub and hops

OG: 1.083= 70%eff
FG: = % ABV
Calc SRM: 35ish
Calc IBU:  50 AVG


4/7- Collect 4.5 gal and pitch 2 pkts of yeast


4/14- Added 12oz honey to get calc OG up to 1.083.


4/21- Added 1 PKT gelatin. Gravity is at 1.025. Hella big.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Frog’s Breath Tasting

Reviewed 4/3/13

I brewed this beer to be an unbalanced hop fest with loads of dank/ green/ juicy layers over a very neutral malt base that would provide just enough body and sweetness to deliver something just this side of a hop soda. It worked!

The hops are great. Dark, moody, skunky, juicy, pithy… A pretty different direction from the pine and tropical fruit in Hella! Next time I think I’ll add a touch of Calypso or Amarillo to add some floral layers, but otherwise I love the heavy combo of CTZ/ Centennial/ Nelson.

Appearance: Yellow to gold, nice and clear ‘cept for some chill haze. Creamy white head that sticks like goo and drags it's way down the side of your glass as you sip. Thank you wheat malt.

Smell: Super smelly. Grapefruity citrus leads the charge with a backdrop of onion powder and some wet-stone like flint. Not earthy, not too fruity, with some white grape skin (the Nelson rumors are true), green, pleasantly heavy, crisply citrusy, maybe some Kiwi skin, and a hint of doughy malt. The yeast is very neutral.

Taste: Bright and spritzy with a heavy resiny bite. The doughy wheat malt carries the pithy hops nicely, although it could use a touch more sweetness.  The onion notes from the CTZ hops come through more than in the nose, as do the weird grape and kiwi flavors. Bitterness is citric but balanced (somehow??!!- 80-100 IBUs should hit a bit harder in a beer of this gravity). All and all a very “green” and crisp Pale Ale.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, bitter, clean, and dry with med carbonation. Pretty spot on for the style.

Overall: I highly recommend this hop combo—the Nelson is super interesting, the CTZ emphasize the “dark”/ heavy/ oniony mood, and the Centennial add some fruity punch to round it all out. Centennial is such an amazing blending hop! Not even in my list of favorites, but I can’t help but love what it does in the mix with others. The San Diego yeast flocked as promised, and I’d say is just about as “clean” but somehow not quite as “crisp” as Chico yeast… as in it isn’t fruity, but it doesn’t pop either. Next brew will be the same but subbing more C15 for the carapils, and I’ll most likely be using Calypso in place of Nelson next time because Nelson is so hard to find right now, and because I’d like to add some of the neat lemon blossom and pear skin layers that Calypso brings.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Brewed 3/16/13

the Happy Couple!
Kelly’s sister and long time partner are finally getting hitched this summer! The family couldn’t be more thrilled that they are going to tie the knot, and of course much partying is in order. They are getting married in Vancouver, BC in September, so to kick the summer off we are having a wedding shower at the folk’s house. Kelly is in charge of the party planning, and although she hasn’t solidified all of the plans, she will be partially focusing on beer-tasting related activities. Sigh… what a gal <3

I will be brewing 3 batches of homebrew to take down for “general consumption” and will probably be bringing some extra fancy commercial jobbers for some kind of tasting event.

The first batch I’ve gotten around to brewing for the party is a low gravity honey Blond Ale to serve as the session beer for the day. Low hopping, a hint of grainy sweetness on top of a cracker-like malt base, crisp and refreshing Kolsh yeast, and a tiny addition of apricots to the secondary fermenter should make for the ultimate spring chugger—light and refreshing but not at the expense of being boring.

Kelly played a big part in the recipe formulation for this one. I basically just tried to execute her request for a nice, fresh, easy drinker:

-Thanks to the very simple nature of the recipe and the low percentage of specialty malts, we wanted to make sure the base grain was just right as it would be carrying most of the flavor in this subtle of a beer.  So, we went through the grain bins together and munched on a few grains of all of the bases (PROTIP: malts taste as different dry as they do in wort ) and decided that the Castle Pale Ale malt was exactly what we were going for—dry, without being too toasty. The pils options (German and Belgian) were too grainy/ bready, the Great Western 2-Row was too plain and sweet, and the English was much too toasted and nutty.

-Next, I wanted to add a dash of Honey Malt to give it just a bit of a spring time flair, and Kelly thought that an equally tiny addition of biscuit malt would help with that full-yet-dry effect she was going for.

-WYeast Kolsch was a shoe in for this one as Kolsch was the inspiration.

-The final elements was an oz of floral and spicy noble hops and the secret ingredient of 4 halves of dried apricots in secondary to lend a sneaky little nip of stone fruit and sulfur notes to enhance what is already provided from the yeast. I don’t want either the hops of the apricots to stand out enough to be noticed… they’re just there to buoy the subtle nuances brought to the table by the yeast and malts.

The Recipe (for 4.5 gallons into fermenter)

8.25 lbs Castle Pale Ale Malt~90%
3oz Honey Malt~2.5%
3oz Biscuit Malt~2.5%
.5 lbs Table Sugar **to boost OG to target after boil**

1oz Hallertauer @ 60min
.5oz Hallertauer @ 10min
6(ea) dried apricot halves soaked in vodka for Secondary

Reverse Osmosis Oakland water with .75g/gal Gypsum in mash and .5g/gal Calcium Chloride added to boil (Calcium Chloride added to boil only to maintain appropriate target mash PH5.3, but still up the Calcium in the finished wort) “Malty pale” finished water profile= SO4: 110/ Ca:83

Mashed in with 6 gal at 160F to hit 154F for 45min, NO SPARGE. Collected 4 gal and added 1.5gal tap to top up (and mess-up water treatments—grr!)

60min boil, 1 tab Whirlfloc and 1/4tbsp WYeast nutrient at k/o.

Pitched 12oz starter Wyeast 2562 “Kolsch” at 60F and left to ferment at ambient 60ish F.

Collect 4.5 into bucket  after trub and hops
OG: 1.045= 60%eff
FG: 1.010= 4.6% ABV
Calc SRM: 6ish
Calc IBU: 15 garetz/ 20 tinseth


3/16- Pitched very active starter.

3/29- One pouch gelatin added to primary to help with flocc.

4/2- Transferred to secondary onto 6 halves vodka soaked dried apricots. Gravity @1.012

4/3- Added another packet of gelatin.

4/7- Bottled with .5cup table sugar for 2.6VOL CO2. FG@1.010

8/8/13- Finally got a review up. Came out almost perfectly... nice and crackery with a great subtle yeast profile but just a hint of metalic tang from the biscuit malt.  Next time I'll do it excatly the same but leave it out.