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.

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