Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sovereign Hops, Bitter Tasting

Why is it that the 'save now' feature automatically triggers AFTER I accidently delete the whole post!? Therefore, I am not rewriting the tasting notes. Short story is that the beer tastes good, though I am not going to be using sovereign hops in large amounts for aroma additions. I found they gave the beer a very distinct 'hay-like' and/or 'dried sweet herb' aroma and flavor that I am not hugely crazy about. The hop aroma/flavor might be a bit more to my liking in a beer with a neutral yeast character. Regardless, I'll stick to using these hops in small amounts ( < 1 oz.) and probably not for a solo aroma addition.

Another thing worth noting is the huge impact that carbonation and temperature can have on English style beers, particularly bitters. In particular, I unintentionally* force carbonated this beer to 2.2 volumes of C02 and left it in the kegerator at 42F - as at the time the majority of my beers on tap were American styles. As a result, when I first took a sip of this beer, I hated it. All I could taste was a whole lot of hops and a big, lingering bitterness. However, after de-gassing the beer in the glass and giving it some time to warm up, the character of the beer completely changed for the better. While still not perfect, the malt and yeast flavors came out and the beer became nicely balanced and very drinkable

While it comes as no surprise that temperature and carbonation levels have such an impact on how a beer tastes, it still amazes me that so many American homebrewers and pubs still serve their English style beers both very cold and highly carbonated. I know English styles aren't too popular on this side of the pond to begin with, but jeeze, if your going to take the time and brew up an English beer, why not at least serve it properly?!

* Laziness.

Edit: This beer has really come into its own within the past week or so. The herb-y hop character has faded to a very nice floral aroma and the base malt character has finally shown up. I wasn't crazy about this beer a few weeks ago, though now I wish I had another keg. I'll definitely have to experiment with these sovereign hops a bit more.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Brew Day: Harvest Bitter

Harvest Bitter? While not really a specific style or sub-style per se, a "harvest bitter" is essentially a darker, maltier, and less hop focused bitter brewed around the fall. Many examples follow the traditional ESB style, though a few include chocolate and/or roasted malts for a bit of complexity. This is one of my favorite 'styles' for the late summer and fall, as it drinks with the ease of your favorite bitter and has a deep maltiness similar to that of a Scottish ale... with a bit more hop presence. For this recipe, I went with two crystal malts, some special roast - which adds a lovely toasted malt character to the beer, though not as intense as amber malt - and a touch of pale chocolate for color. Organic EKG hops were used for bitterness/flavor it was and fermented with the wonderful Thames Valley II. 

Harvest Bitter: Extra Special/Best Bitter 

Recipe Specifics:
Batch Size (Gal): 4.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.0
Anticipated OG: 1.054
Anticipated FG: 1.012
Anticipated SRM: 13-14
Anticipated IBU: 25
Efficiency: 75%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

87.0% - 7.0 lbs. Pale Malt, Maris Otter
6.2%   - 0.5 lbs. Crystal 40L
3.1%   - 0.25 lbs. Crystal 120L
2.5%   - 0.20 lbs. Special Roast
1.2%   - 0.10 lbs. Pale Chocolate  

0.75 oz. Organic EKG @ 60 min for 19.2 IBU
0.50 oz. Organic EKG @ 15 min for 6.4 IBU
1.00 oz. Organic EKG @ flameout 

Yeast: Wyeast 1882 Thames Valley IIMash 154F for 75 min
Brewed on 14 August

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Humphreys Lager Tasting

Some of you may remember that I had brewed a 'historical' beer a few months ago. While doing some research on turn of the century hop farming in CNY, I came across a brewing manual for a long defunct local brewery that had among its old and faded pages, a recipe for an 1880 "Wurtzburger lager" that listed Waterville hops as an ingredient. Now, a few years before this, I was given a rhizome of Humphrey Seedling hops with the intention that I would brew something with them once they produced cones. Well, for whatever reason, I never really got around to brewing with them until this year. Regardless, the recipe called for three ingredients, Bavaria malt, barley malt, and Waterville hops - which apparently is a mixture of the hops grown in the area, namely English Cluster, True Canada, and Humphrey Seedlings. For the malt, I decided to go with mostly dark Munich and a mixture of two and six row pale malt. Hops were added at 60 min and flameout, the latter being a half-ounce addition. For yeast, I used California Lager, as I thought it would be appropriate to have a bit more ester character in the beer. Double decocted this one.

Wurtzburger 1880 Lager : Historical Lager

Appearance – Bottle conditioned. It pours a clear, dark ruby brown with a pencil width off white head that dissipates to a fine ring after a few minutes. Carbonation is a bit low. 

Aroma –  First smell is toasted bread crust, light molasses, and a bit of grain. This is followed by some light citrus hoppiness and a prolonged woody, earthy aroma. Esters are low and pleasant. No diacetyl.

Taste – Pretty light tasting. Toasted bread crust, slight chocolate, and a semi-sweet grainy maltiness. The hops come through at the end with the same citrusy-woody-earthy character. I'm having a hard time figuring this beer out. It tastes similar to a dunkel, though has a bit of an English hop character to it that seems out of place. The bitterness is low and soft and the emphasis of this beer is squarely on the malt. Tastes better as it warms up a bit. 

Mouthfeel – Not as carbonated as I would have liked. Similar carbonation levels as an English bitter, which I think is a bit too low for this type of beer.  

Drinkability & Notes – Sort of weird. Tastes fine and pleasant, no off flavors, but this beer definitely has an identity issue. The best I can describe it is as if you brewed a traditional Bavarian dunkel with English hops and a slightly estery yeast. Whether or not this beer tastes anything like something brewed locally in 1880, I have no idea, though I am pretty pleased with how the beer came out. Drinkabilty is pretty good, goes down easy, though the hop flavor definitely seems out of place. In fact, I am quite surprised at how woody tasting the hops are, considering I have brewed with English Cluster hops before, and those tasted like grapefruit juice. Worth brewing again? Probably not. Fun experiment anyways!

O.G: 1.045, F.G: 1.010, 4.6% ABV, 25 IBU, WhiteLabs California Lager.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Session Amber Ale Tasting

I've never bothered to post about brewing this beer. In homebrew terms, this beer is about as boring as you can get for the style. Some pale malt, a decent amount of medium crystal, some carapils, gently hopped and bittered with three additions of Cascade, fermented with WY1056 for two weeks and tapped about a week later. This is indeed a simple beer... similar among the likes of grandma's pot roast, mom's apple pie, and the Christmas pudding; it's always good, it never disappoints, and tastes the same as last time you had it. It is also non-obtrusive and lends itself well to good conversation. I've brewed this beer quite a few times over and I can't say I'd change anything at this point.

Session Amber : American Amber Ale

Appearance – Pours a beautifully clear, copper amber color with a thick, doughy white head. Head retention is very good with nice lacing. Carbonation is medium.  

Aroma –  Citrus, peach, and concord grape hoppiness followed by a medium caramel sweetness. Little to none fruity esters. 

Taste – Medium citrus hoppiness up front followed by deep caramel flavor that comes and goes quite quickly. Some nice, sweet malt character in the middle, though not particularly biscuity. The bitterness is soft and comes in right on the swallow. The balance between malt and hops is about as good as I can hope for. As the beer warms up, I get more caramel and grapefruit hops.

Mouthfeel – Medium and slightly creamy. Carbonation is spot on for the style, enough C02 to make it drinkable, though not so much that it is prickling. 

Drinkability & Notes – Same as I said above. Nothing special really in terms of complexity of flavors, but nearly spotless for what it is. I could drink this stuff all day in good company and I can attest it goes exceedingly well with proper BBQ (still got to work on that!). A day at the lake and this beer in hand, I might just be in heaven. I am a big proponent of making and drinking session beers, especially English styles, though I have to admit American hops can lend themselves quite nicely to a sessionable pint.

O.G: 1.050, F.G: 1.008, 5.5% ABV, 22 IBU, Wyeast 1056 American Ale

For those of you who may be interested in brewing something like this, here is the recipe:
85% Pale Malt, 10% Crystal 60L, 5% Carapils. 1.0 oz Cascade at 60, 0.50 oz at 15, and 1.0 oz at flameout for 22-25 IBU. Ferment with 1056 for two weeks at 65F, crash cool, keg, and drink by day 21.