Friday, January 25, 2013

Winter Black Beerd Tasting

Reviewed 12/11/12

This is an over the topbeer. Not because it is extremely big or small or sweet or bitter, but because it is so damn chocolaty. Like brownies or fudge. It is a totally decent beer under the excessive chocolate, and I like everything going on with it, but it is dominated by the cocoa powder and vanilla. The Notty yeast was an unconventional choice that worked wonderfully at letting the rest of the beer shine through it’s clean fermentation, the golden naked oats are super rad, and the lack of crystal proved to be a smart move. Basically, this is just what I was looking for from the recipe save one major detail: the use of Black Patent malt instead of the intended Black Roasted Barley made for a SUPER mellow roast character. The body is there, the depth and warmth, the rich chocolate, the thick wooly body, all there but not that rich bunt-roast I love in stouts. Oh well, it is still plenty “stout,” and now I know for next time.
Appearance: Totally opaque black/ brown with a roasted marshmallow tan head. Soap-suds like lacing and the head never really falls. Dessert!
Smell: Chocolate. Sweet floral vanilla, some sweet malt and a hint of yeast. The vanilla and chocolate are overpowering, but is that really a bad thing? There is nice roastyness in the background, along with oatmeal graininess and some dark berry notes.
 Taste: Silky smooth palate with a hint of roast, super chocolaty, with an aromatic sweetness from the vanilla in the finish. This is not a sticky or malty beer, but it is very creamy. Basically, it tastes like double chocolate ice cream--You know…the chocolate kind with chocolate chunks and chocolate swirls. Did I say chocolate? It is not boozy, which I think goes well with the velvety body provided by the oats (to me boozy only really compliments beers that have a caramel sweetness which needs to be cut-through). It tastes sweet, but it is not syrupy or sugary. The hops do the trick of balancing by providing a nice resinous counter-point to the creamy sweet body, but I think the ridiculously desert-like personality of this one would be even more over the top if it were virtually hop-less and balanced instead with bitterness from more burnt/roasted malt. Or maybe some coffee.

Mouthfeel: In case you didn’t pick it up from the above, this beer is creamy. Smooth, thick, and creamy. Carbonation is light but foamy (read as: not prickly). Finish is a bit chalky from the cocoa powder and slightly bitter. Minimal residual sweetness.
Overall: Surprisingly good for such a silly beer. I like it, and so has everyone else so far. More roast and a ballsier yeast would make it better.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cuivre Tasting

Reviewed 12/6/12
This missed the mark for me. And I was so sure the recipe was right on. There is some weirdness going on between the toasty/ nutty Vienna malt and the earthy/ fruity Belgian yeast. I see now that clean and sweet pilsner malt as the base would have been a much more appropriate choice. I thought that the hint of roast in bigger dark Belgians could be toned down for a smaller dark Belgian by just using a subtly toasty base malt, but no sir. The richness and nuttyniess from the Vienna clashes with the spice from the yeast and hops and the earthy-sweet fruity Belgian yeast instead of complimenting them (I reckon the hint of roast in the bigger “Dark Strong Ales” works because it is exactly that- a HINT of ROASTED grains, not a foundation of toasted grains. Duh.) Not terrible, but only a tiny step towards perfecting my vision of a “Belgian Dark Table Beer.”
Apparance: Garnet red and crystal clear with a huge and rocky khaki colored head that stays the distance.
Smell: Weird. Quite aromatic but hard to put a finger on. Some classic Belgian dark-fruit type notes… plum skin and the like. Kelly nailed the strangeness when she called out a distinct “bee pollen” thing going on... I was thinking soil but her descriptor is more accurate. Smells almost tart (it isn’t tart though, no accidental sourness here). It is pretty herbal from the hops and not very spiced, although some biscuty/ baking spice notes are there. As it warms some baking bread starts to show from the rich Vienna malt. Definitely not the cinnamon/ banana/ clove aromas I was expecting from the hops and yeast.
Taste: Cloves and plum skin with a weird metallic thing in the background. After a quick wave of slightly tart fruit, a nice round bready malt shows through for a sec before it gives way to more earthy hints of that damn bee pollen. Weird beer that I’m not really sure I like. Raisin and some dark sweetness in the finish along with herbal notes from the hops.
Mouthfeel: Slick and foamy. Alcohol is noticeable but not“warming.” Bitterness is negligible.

Overall: Not really what I was going for. I would like to see more of the yeast and some more complex mid-pallet sweetness. Folks drank a lot of it at thanksgiving without complaining, but no one was really stoked on it. For good reason though, this one needs work.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Farmstead Rye

Brew Day 1/12/13

Justine's got an eye
Kelly and I had the honor of bringing our good friends Nicholas and Justine to Sonora for the weekend on our trip up to bottle Pale Rider. They are some of our favorite folks to share good beer with, they have never been shown around the wonderful sierra foothills, and they’re super fun… so what better way to spend a weekend than brewing beer in the snow and enjoying the Hills? I wasn’t sure what Nicholas wanted to brew up , so I put together a grain bill that would work for either a RYE IPA or a rustic Farmhouse Rye and left the yeast and hop selection up to the mood of the weekend. After talking it over on the drive up and weighing the alternative pros/cons  we settled on the Farmhouse. I reckon that given the circumstances the Farmhouse really was the better choice as I wouldn’t be able to make it back up to bottle for 5-6 weeks (too long for a proper hoppy beer in my book). The high 50’s ambient fermentation temp at my Pop’s house right now is WAY under the mid 70s that I would normally use this yeast at, but the cold was the lesser of two evils and will actually be a neat experiment to see how the re-cultured blend of French Saison and Brett C from La Rouge (which turned a corner recently and is becoming quite a nice beer- updated review pending) do in the cold.
This could be called a Saison, or a Saison Brett, but the WY3711 and WLP Brett C yeast “house blend” I made produces some A-typical flavors for a Saison (especially so this time given the  super low fermentation temp) so we’re calling it a “Farmhouse” instead. I’m expecting something yeast-wise more along the lines of a funky Biere De Garde, but way too dry and light to fit that style. Plus, this Biere I will not Garde so…. Yeah ;)
Saisons are up at the top of my list with good IPAs and sours and I don’t have one on rotation right now and I thought it would be fun to show Nick and Justine the ropes with a simple recipe. Plus, I was really excited to use the yeast I blended for La Rouge in a beer more suited to it’s character.
This is one of the first lighter beers that I have made in a while that won’t be heavily hop-forward. The central focus of the recipe is a rustic, easy drinking Saison-like, yeast forward beer. I started with the attributes of the Yeast that I really liked and built on it from there: a heavy hand of Rye Malt in the grain bill along with the traditional bready Pils base to compliment the spicy French yeast while the Brett C adds just a touch of funky depth. I wanted to keep it crisply hoppy without letting the hops shine through in the lead as too floral or fruity (I think that the Citra I used with this yeast last time clashed a bit and took quite a while to mellow out) so I decided to try the Styrian Auroras that I had in the freezer. Spicy Czech Saaz were a close second but lost out to the allure of using a new variety. Hopefully the Auroras provide just the right light and spicy/ herbal bite.
All and all a great weekend-- good food, good company, and good beer.

The Recipe (for 6 gal into fermenter):
Nicholas hard at work
10 lbs Castle Pilsner Malt- 83%
2 lbs Rye Malt - 17%
2 oz Czech Saaz @ 70min
1.5 oz Styrian Aurora @ 15min
1.5 oz Styrian Aurora @ f/o
1 oz Styrian Aurora Dry Hop in primary 1 week prior to bottling (DH total of 7 days)

Pitched 2L starter of “FarmHouse Blend” of WY3711 and WLPBrettC dredges from La Rouge @ 55F with 1 tab Servomicies. Allowed to free rise to ambient in the house. Likely to stay under 65 ‘cuz it’s cold out.
Used Sonora Tap H2O with 1.5 g/gal gypsum for pale hoppy water profile.

Mashed at 151F for 60min. and the 152F for 30min.  Mash Out at 168F for 10 min.
NO Sparge
90min boil

Collected 5.5 gal after boil and hop trub removal.

OG: 1.052= 76% efficiency!
FG: 1.004= 6.3% ABV
Calculated SRM: 4
Calculated IBU: Garetz 34, Tinseth 43

1/12- Pitched scarily inactive  yeast and put in tub with a blanket wrap for house ambient.

2/18- Bottled 5.5 gal with 4.25oz table sugar at 57F for target VOL 2.6. FG @1.004. Bitchin. Fruity. Dry.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Pale Rider

Brew Day 12/27/12

I find that I am often wishing my American Pale beers were paler, cleaner, more neutral, more hop forward, more crisp, and more assertive. Essentially, I think I am usually looking for something along the lines of a great German Pilsner, but with more kick. So that is what I made this time around… cut out all of the middle men and made a Pale Ale as an evolution of my favorite bitter Pilsners: Clean and crisp pilsner malt as the only malt, moderate gravity, an “invisible” fermentation profile but with an ale yeast to emphasize the hops and keep the sulfur out of the way, and a big floral/zesty/spicy hop profile but amped up with German and American grown descendants of the euro classics.

Pale Rider Ale (american xtra pale ale): No crystal malts, aggressive gypsum additions for amplified perceived bitterness, very late hop additions, and an ester-free yeast strain make this a pretty stark beer that should be simple enough to let each individual ingredient really shine. I am super excited to see how the recipe comes together. The high sulfate water treatment and no-sparge mash are two firsts in my process, along with the use of the highly recommended Saphir and Horizon hops. I'm also breaking from my usual stradegy of going with 15min, flame out, and dry hop additions and instead just going with a hefty 3oz dose at 10min and a HUGE 6oz DH dose. The idea here is to emphasize the spicy flavors and floral aromas in favor of the frutier, more pungent character that I belive the flame out addition enhances. Hopefully the new no-sparge keeps the minimalist malt bill tasting nice and robust, the high sulfate underlines the hops despite a pretty moderate bitterness level, and the hops ring true to their descriptions of fresh orange zest, bright floral, and noble spice. This one should be good. I think Kel is going to like it.

The Recipe (for 5.5 gal into fermenter):
12 lbs Castle Pilsner Malt-100%

1 oz Horizon @ 70min
1 oz Saphir @ 10min
1oz Horizon @10min
1oz Crystal @10min
3oz Saphir Dry Hop after 1 week in primary (DH total of 7 days)
2oz Horizon Dry Hop after 1 week in primary (DH total of 7 days)
1oz Crystal Dry Hop after 1 week in primary (DH total of 7 days)

Pitched 1 Packet Safale US05 “American Ale” Dry yeast and .5 pkt Nottingham (to help with clean up given it's ability to put in work at low temps) @ 60F with .5 tab Servomicies. Allowed to free rise to ambient high 60 in the house. Will most likely stay around 62‘cuz it’s getting cold outside.

Used Sonora Tap H2O with 2 g/gal gypsum for pale/ extra hoppy water profile.

Mashed at 150F for 40min. then up to 158F for 20 min. Mash Out at 168F for 10 min.
NO Sparge
90min boil

Collected 6 gal after boil and hop trub removal.
OG: 1.050= 72% efficiency

FG: 1.011= 5.1% ABV

Calculated SRM: 4
Calculated IBU: Garetz 51, Tinseth 64

12/27- Pitched extra yeast and put in tub with a blanket wrap for house ambient.

1/15/13- Bottled 5.25 gal with .5cups tabel sugar at 58F for target CO2VOLS of 2.4. FG @ 1.011. Hydrometer samples are blonde and taste like orange juice.

2/11/13- Drinking like an orange dream. Pilsner like crispness, sessionable balance. Love it.