Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Old Stout Review

I cleaned out part of my brew stash yesterday and came across a forgotten box of old beers that had been gathering dust for some time. Most of the bottles are unlabeled, though a few have just enough cryptic markings on the caps to give me a hint of what they could be. It seems most of the bottles date back to late 2008, which would correspond to my 'dark' brewing phase when 8-10% abv black-as-night stouts and porters were my session beers of choice. The beer I picked for this review is my "Oblivion Stout" a big American stout that is closely based on Deschutes Obsidian stout. I no longer have the recipe, though I do remember using a lot of black malt, brown sugar, and an absurd amount of hops. It was an all-grain batch, though the beer was practically undrinkable for most of its life; it was too alcoholic and tasted not unlike an old ash tray. Let's see if 1.5 years or so of aging have helped this beer out...

Oblivion Stout : American Stout

Appearance – Black as night with medium-high carbonation. Pours a tan/brown head that quickly fades to a thin rim of foam. The beer is very clear with little sediment in the bottle. Ruby highlights when held to the light.

Smell – I was expecting to smell sour olives and cigarettes, but the aroma is surprisingly nice. The first smell is of black roast, molasses, chocolate, and toffee followed by a huge wallop of slightly old citrus and piney hops. As the beer warms up the aroma really becomes quite strong and pleasant.
Taste –Similar to aroma, medium black malt character (though not ashy), molasses, chocolate, and some rich caramel similar to what you'd find in an old bottle of Fullers ESB. The hop presence is pretty strong considering its age and has a firm bitterness. The flavor reminds me a lot of a slightly oxidized black IPA. Just a hint of alcohol at the end, though hard to find if your not looking for it. I would guess this is somewhere around 9%. I was expecting this to be marginally tasty, but I actually finished off the pint pretty quick.

Mouthfeel – Just a tad over carbonated and as such has a pretty thin mouthfeel.

Drinkability & Notes – Tastes pretty decent! If I got served one at my local, I'd probably order another one if the price was right. The hops could be a bit fresher and I'm pretty sure there is a bit of oxidation going on, though nothing unpleasant. I sort of wish I had more than one bottle left, though I figure I can let this last bottle sit around for another year or so. I do remember fermenting this batch with Ringwood.

O.G: 1.085 (?), F.G: 1.015 (?), 8-9.0% ABV (?), 60 IBU (?), Wyeast 1187 Ringwood.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Food Post 1.0

Whether you readers like it or not, I'm going to include a few posts about cooking stuff once in a while. I did say something about "brewing, cooking, drinking..." somewhere around here and it pains me to think that I had not been delivering on what I had promised. Ha! Therefore, I get to blabber on about the weird food I make and you get to look at crummy pictures of my work - and if you want, try to replicate them for your friends... or depending on your cooking ability, your enemies.

With that said, one of the things I have been making a lot of recently has been pita bread. I got a fantastic, old school recipe from a friend and have been trying  to replicate the finished product for some time now. I have the process down pretty well, though I'm not 100% happy with my results so far. Anyways, tonight I thought I would try something new and make pizza dough using the pita recipe. The results were a Buffalo chicken pizza made with blue cheese, boneless chicken tenders, and hot sauce. All homemade mind you. The other pizza was "Sfiha" a type of Middle Eastern open faced meat pie that is made with lamb and spices. I grew up eating a lot of the stuff at my local Lebanese restaurants and eventually got to try different versions of it during my travels abroad - it is one of my favorite foods. To go with the Sfiha, I also made some 'Lebanese' spinach greens. Here are some recipes - I don't measure anything so these are just estimates.

Sfiha: Most versions are made from some type of pastry dough and can somewhat sweet. I prefer it made with bread dough so it's more along the likes of a Turkish pizza (Lahmacun).

- 3/4 lb. Lean ground lamb
- Small red onion, diced
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 3/4 T dried Aleppo pepper*
- 2 T Flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 T Mint, fresh chopped
- 1 tsp Dried lemon peel
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- Feta cheese (optional)
- Olive oil, salt and pepper

Mix everything together in a bowl and set aside. Prepare your pizza dough and thinly spread the meat mixture over the dough. Cook in a 450F oven for 15-20 min. Serve with chopped parsley and lemon.

* Aleppo Pepper is a fantastic, oil cured dried pepper commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking. It is mildly spicy and has a flavor that is reminiscent of dried raisins and cumin.

Lebanese Spinach Greens: While not traditionally Lebanese by any means, this stuff goes great with Middle Eastern foods and are a very tasty (and healthy) way to eat your spinach.

- Fresh or frozen spinach
- Large onion, chopped
- 1 can chickpeas, drained
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley
- 2 T mint, chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp dried lemon peel
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 T Aleppo Pepper
- Splash of red wine vinegar
- Feta cheese (optional)
- Olive oil, salt, pepper

Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Add spinach, spices, and chickpeas. Cook over low heat, partially covered, until spinach has wilted. Add liquid and herbs. Continue cooking until spinach has reached desired consistency, no more than 15 min. Serve with lemon, feta, and good olive oil.

Well that was relatively painless.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Brown Ale Tasting

I was hoping to get out on the river today for some fly fishing, though Mother Nature has once again conspired against my fishing efforts. It has been raining off and on again for the past few days and the rivers and streams in the area are nearly flooding their banks. Muddy, brown water and white caps on the creek are not conducive to good fishing. Oh well. I guess I'll have a few pints and find a game to watch. I brewed this beer on 14 March and kegged it on the 28th. It's been nearly three weeks on the gas - I figure it was about time to give it a proper review.

Point Q : American Brown Ale

Appearance – Pours a dark, almost black color that glows a lovely ruby red when held to the light. Has a sturdy off white head with decent retention. The color is probably is a bit too dark, though I do remember throwing in a bit more chocolate malt. 

Smell – Aroma is pretty nice. Lots of biscuit, caramel, chocolate, and typical Munich malt aromas. The yeast character comes through too, with a characteristically
sweet, candy aroma. The hops make an appearance with an earthy/citrus aroma right at the end. Not enough hop presence to really call this one an American brown, smells more like a brown porter.

Taste – Pretty soft flavors, again some biscuit, nutty chocolate, and dark crystal. The Munich malt makes more of a presence here, providing some melanoidins and bready flavors. It is pretty apparent this beer is not made with Maris Otter as the (base) malt profile is a bit linear and lacks some of the richness that MO provides. The hops are pretty much non-existent with only a touch of citrusy hop flavor at the end. Bitterness level is medium, enough to balance the malt. Nothing off or bad here, but not exactly what I was looking for. I think the Munich malt detracts from the beer a bit.

Mouthfeel – Very low carbonation, probably too low. (I dropped my C02 tank with the regulator attached down the stairs the other day by accident and ended up breaking the regulator. It is not maintaining a set PSI and I'll have to buy another one - I was just glad the 20lb C02 tank didn't explode!). With the low carbonation, the mouthfeel is pretty creamy and the beer finishes a bit dry.

Drinkability & Notes – Again, nothing bad about this one, but nothing that great either. Pretty much a "meh" beer for me, though it got good reviews from my beer snob friends. Next time I brew this I'll drop the Munich malt and go with an all out assault of citrusy American hops. I probably could have used a different yeast too - as much as I love WY1318, I don't think this is the beer for it. Lastly, it turns out the name fits, "Point Q" is about as far off the mark as anything else. I'll probably give the keg away for someone else to finish. 

O.G: 1.054, F.G: 1.010, 5.7% ABV, 30 IBU, Wyeast 1318 London Ale III

Monday, April 11, 2011

Brew Day II: Foreign Extra Stout

I must have got my brewing seasons mixed up. Springtime finally arrives and I go and brew three high-gravity dark beers - but all winter I brewed practically nothing but low gravity, thirst quenching session ales. Though in my defense, strong dark beers are popular in Jamaica, Ceylon, Nigeria, and other places with oppressive heat. Anyways, the beer I brewed (on Sunday) was one that I have brewed a few times before and enjoyed thoroughly. The recipe is mostly of my own creation and dates back to my early days of homebrewing when most of what I knew came from the Joy of Homebrewing or Designing Great Beers. I've tweaked the recipe a bit over the years. For this batch, I'm using Ringwood as I had a spare pack, though I would normally use Pacman.

A bit of motivation...
The Duke : Foreign Extra Stout

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 4.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 12.30
Anticipated OG: 1.072
Anticipated FG: 1.015
Anticipated SRM: 50.0
Anticipated IBU: 45.0
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

75.2% - 8.5 lbs. Pale Ale Malt
8.8%   - 1.0 lbs. Crystal 80L
6.2%  - 0.70 lbs. Roasted Barley
4.4%  - 0.50 lbs. Chocolate Malt  
3.1%  - 0.35 lbs. Special "B"
2.2%  - 0.25 lbs. Flaked Wheat

2.50 oz. US Goldings @ 60 min for 45 IBU
0.50 oz. US Golding @ flameout  for 0 IBU

Yeast: Wyeast Labs 1187 Ringwood 
Mash 152F for 75 min
Brewed 10 April

Brew Day: Smuttynose Porter

The Northeast finally got some nice spring weather this past weekend - 60F for Sat and Sunday - and I finally got around to brewing a few beers that I had been meaning to make for sometime. The first one I made was a close variation of Smuttynose Porter, an American style robust porter brewed in Portsmouth New Hampshire. I got the recipe directly from the brewery, though I made some very minor tweaks in the grain % and type of hops used - for instance, the recipe calls for Cascade hops but I only had Amarillo on hand. The grain bill may seem a bit clunky with an almost absurd amount of crystal malt, but it all belongs there. The crystal malt gives the beer a wonderful, silky mouthfeel and a rich residual sugar flavor that is similar to a chocolate milkshake. It's good stuff!

The first version I made
"Smuttynose Porter" : Robust Porter

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 4.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 9.75
Anticipated OG: 1.064
Anticipated FG: 1.015
Anticipated SRM: 38.0
Anticipated IBU: 35.0
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

71.8% - 7.00 lbs. Pale Ale Malt
8.2%   - 0.80 lbs. Special "B"
7.2%   - 0.70 lbs. Crystal 120L
6.7%   - 0.65 lbs. Chocolate Malt  
3.6%   - 0.35 lbs. Dark Carastan 35L
2.6%   - 0.25 lbs. CaraFa II

1.25 oz. Amarillo @ 60 min for 35 IBU
0.50 oz. Amarillo @ flameout  for 0 IBU

Yeast: Wyeast Labs 1056 American Ale
Mash 154F for 75 min.

Brewed 9 April

Friday, April 8, 2011

random mini-update

Been a while since I've posted anything, though I've done a bit of brewing. Made the Humphreys Lager, a Coffee Oatmeal Stout, and a small batch of Berliner Weisse that I'll probably go crazy on and add some random sour dregs and cherries... maybe even add some hibiscus syrup and go totally nuts. Talking about hibiscus, one of my favorite summer beers is a standard American Wheat that is brewed and dry hopped with dried hibiscus flowers (sepals) and a bit of ginger/cinnamon. Turns out ruby red in color and tastes great - very similar to the "Flor de Jamaica" drinks you get in Mexico. I'll have to brew up another batch sometime this summer, it was a big hit with the ladies too.

This weekend will consist of two brew sessions - Tomorrow I'll be making 'the' Smuttynose Porter, as I was lucky enough to get the real recipe a few years ago. Smuttynose makes some excellent beer and their porter is among the best out there. And then on Sunday, I'll be brewing up 'the Duke' - a mean Foreign Extra Stout that I've brewed a few times now and enjoyed. No special bitters or dark milds or brown porters. I need a break from those.