Sunday, September 25, 2011

Brew Day: Bohemian Dark Lager

There are few beer styles that hold as dear a place in my heart as a quality made Czech dark lager. Having spent some time drinking my way around the Czech Republic, I quickly took a liking to darker lagers as it was a nice change of pace from the endless liters and half-liters of pale lager. So what exactly is a 'Bohemian dunkel'? It seems most examples are darker than their German counterpart, with more hop bitterness/aroma, caramel sweetness, and roast character. I've always though of them as a lighter and hoppier schwarzbier, if there could be such a thing. Regardless, as much as I like this type of beer, I've only brewed something like it once before - a U Fleku clone recipe I found on the brewer's association website, provided by the somewhat dubious Horst Dornbusch. The recipe included nearly 15% crystal malt and 5% carafa II with a pretty complex decoction regimen. The beer turned out well, though not really like anything I had at the brewpub. The recipe I am trying out today is considerably lighter in color, with smaller amounts of crystal and carafa. My yeast choice is wy2782 Staro-Prague lager, which I have heard so many good things about.

Czech Dark Lager: Tmavy/Cerny Lezak

Recipe Specifics:
Batch Size (Gal): 4.5
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.65
Anticipated OG: 1.048
Anticipated FG: 1.012
Anticipated SRM: 20
Anticipated IBU: 25
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

57.8% - 5.0 lbs. Munich Malt
34.7%  - 3.0 lbs. Bohemian Pilsner Malt
5.2%   - 0.45 lbs. Cara-Bohemian 75L
2.3%   - 0.20 lbs. Carafa II 
1.0 oz.Czech Saaz @ 60 min for 16 IBU
0.5 oz. Czech Saaz @ FWH for 9.6 (?) IBU
0.5 oz. Czech Saaz @ flameout

Yeast: Wyeast 2782 Staro-Prague Lager
Brewed on 25 September

Notes: Planned on double decocting this one, though I ran out of time. Single infusion mash.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Postmortem Tasting: Aussie Sparkling Ale

It's been a few months since I had this beer on tap. I brewed it in part as an attempt to clone the very famous Coopers's Sparkling Ale and to try out the WLP009 Aussie Ale strain that I had heard so many good things about. Three weeks after kegging, I tasted my version side by side with the original. I was a bit worried about getting a fresh bottle to compare the two, as this is not a beer that is easily found (in good condition) here in the States. Here are  the notes.

Coop' Sparkling Ale : Aussie Ale

Appearance – Mine pours a hazy, pale orange color with a small bright white head that settles to a fine ring. I gave the keg a little shake to stir up some sediment, as to simulate adding yeast from the bottle. The bottled version pours a brilliantly clear pale orange color, with a similar white head. The color on mine is a bit darker and has a lot less carbonation. I added the yeast from the bottle and it came out in a big solid chunk that I had to break up.

Aroma –  Mine is a tad estery with banana and apple predominating. Little to no hops, with a sweet, bready malt character. Smells quite nice, albeit a tad more fruity than I wanted. The commercial version is practically devoid of esters, maybe just a hint of fruitiness with a definite old malt and cardboard character. No hops. Not very similar at all.

Taste – Mine has a bready and sweet malt flavor that finishes very clean. The esters are restrained and the beer finishes a lot like a lagered cream ale. No hops and very low bitterness with no caramel presence either. Mine finishes quite dry. The commercial one tastes cardboardy and old. The malt character, or what is left of it, is thin and neutral. Hops are non-existent and the beer has an old yeasty flavor that is rather unpleasant. Bad or old bottle...

Mouthfeel – Carbonation on mine is a bit lacking. Considering this is supposed to be a sparkling ale of sorts, it goes down more like a bitter. The mouthfeel on mine is fine, the beer finishes dry and goes down very easy. The commercial product is pretty spot on for carbonation, lively and continually releasing a stream of bubbles that supports the head. 

Drinkability & Notes – Well, I am pretty happy with how my version came out, although there were practically no similarities to the commercial stuff. I knew it was going to be hard finding a good bottle to compare the two and unfortunately the bottle I received was very much past its prime. However, it is nice to think that the beer I brewed might in someway resemble the stuff they are drinking in Oz. Lastly, I don't think I'll be incorporating this yeast (wlp009) into my seasonal rotation, as it seems to have a pretty limited use. 

O.G: 1.047, F.G: 1.006, 5.3% ABV, 25 IBU, WhiteLabs 009 Australian Ale. Brewed 6 June.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Brew Day: English Brown Ale

I've had a hankering for a malty brown ale for a while now. Something with lots of dark crystal and lighter toasty-chocolate notes with a big malt profile and the slightest bit of diacetyl for some butterscotch richness. Mmm. Every time I stop by my local for a pint or two, I always hope they have something like this on tap, only to find out it's all IPA's and crazy Belgian-lighter fluid ABV beers. Where is the malty goodness?! The recipe for this one is just something I came up with while messing around on BeerSmith and I must say I like the look of it. Maris Otter, medium and extra dark crystal, a good helping of brown malt and chocolate malt, with fuggles and wy1768. I have high expectations for this one... let's hope all goes well.

Brown-Brown Ale: English Brown                                                                                                      Recipe Specifics:
Batch Size (Gal): 4.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.2
Anticipated OG: 1.052
Anticipated FG: 1.012
Anticipated SRM: 23
Anticipated IBU: 24
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

79.3% - 6.5 lbs. Pale Malt, Maris Otter
7.9%   - 0.65 lbs. Crystal 60L 
6.1%   - 0.50 lbs. Brown Malt (75L)
3.7%   - 0.30 lbs. Chocolate Malt 
3.0%   - 0.25 lbs. Crystal 160L    
1.0 oz. UK Fuggles @ 60 min for 24 IBU
0.5 oz. UK Fuggles @ flameout

Yeast: Wyeast 1768 English Bitter
Brewed on 15 September

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Scottish Oatmeal Porter Tasting

Anyone who is familiar with my brewing habits, usually knows I have a dark, chocolaty beer on tap most of the time and I often get requests for a "spare growler" or two of the "dark stuff." This beer is similar to almost every brown porter I brew, though with an addition of flaked oats for creaminess and fermented with some washed Scottish Ale yeast for a neutral character. I brewed this one just over a month ago and tapped it last week. Not all beer, especially the low gravity ones, needs a month to be ready to drink.

Oatmeal Porter : Brown Porter 

Appearance – Pours a jet black color with a two finger head that slowly dissipates to a fine ring. Leaves some lacing down the glass. 

Aroma –  Medium roast and chocolate with some sweet, dark crystal. Esters are very low to none and no hops. Not the most complex aroma, but it is still smells inviting.

Taste – Mmm... Dark chocolate and mocha coffee with a lingering caramel sweetness on the finish. A bit of dark roasted malt is noticeable, though without an ashy or burnt character. Bitterness levels are low and balanced with a slightly dry character on the swallow that balances the sweetness quite well. Very "moreish," as my Brit friend would say.

Mouthfeel – Carbonation is just about perfect. Creamy, silky, full mouthfeel, and goes down almost too well. Low carbonation makes this very drinkable - I've had two full pints just typing this up. :)

Drinkability & Notes – Low gravity with a big flavor. Everything I love about British beer can be found in such a pint. I am very happy with how the beer turned out, especially since I am using a new water profile for my porters. Improvements for next time are to work on aroma and better head retention. I bet 5% or so of brown malt would be a great addition and I will be sure to go back to a more characterful English yeast next time. Originally brewed as a 4.5 gallon batch, I'll be surprised if this keg lasts until the end of the month.

O.G: 1.045, F.G: 1.010, 4.6% ABV, 22 IBU, Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale

Monday, September 5, 2011

Brew Day: London Porter(ish)

While I try to avoid labeling Fuller's as the prototypical English brewery - many Americans are familiar with their products and most homebrewers see their beers as the benchmark examples for English ales - I have to admit they do make a good pint. Their London Porter is among of my favorite examples of a brown porter and I even like it a bit more than the very good Samuel Smith's taddy porter, which are really the only two examples of the style we have on this side of the pond. It is a shame brown porter is largely forgotten outside of England, as it is has all that one finds in a good strong porter but with the drinkability of a session pint. Regardless, I have a bunch of brown malt sitting around that needs using up and what better beer for the coming fall and winter. The recipe is closely based off the Fuller's, though with a few personal changes as usual. Maris Otter, Brown, Crystal, Chocolate, and a bit of Carafa II for some dark mocha. Fermented with the amazing Thames Valley II - is there a better English yeast out there? - and bittered with whole leaf UK Fuggles.

London Porter - Brown Porter

Recipe Specifics:
Batch Size (Gal): 4.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 9.6
Anticipated OG: 1.055
Anticipated FG: 1.014
Anticipated SRM: 38
Anticipated IBU: 27
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

73.0% - 7.0 lbs. Pale Malt, Maris Otter
10.4%   - 1.0 lbs. Brown Malt (75L) TF&Sons
 7.8%   - 0.75 lbs. Crystal 75L 
 6.8%   - 0.65 lbs. Chocolate Malt 
 2.1%   - 0.20 lbs. Carafa II                                                                                                                   
1.0 oz. UK Fuggles @ 60 min for 23 IBU
0.5 oz. UK Fuggles @ 15 min for 4 IBU

Yeast: Wyeast 1882 Thames Valley II

Mash 154F for 75 min
Brewed on 5 September

Friday, September 2, 2011

Brew Day: Special Bitter

As if I didn't have enough bitters laying around, I figured I'd make use of the five packs of wyeast 1768 I bought last week and brew up its namesake brew. For those of you who are not familiar with this yeast, it is supposedly the Young's (bitter) strain and noted to be similar to Fullers. While I would agree that the two yeasts share some similarities, I find the former to have a more neutral character with less esters and diacetyl. It also lets the malt and hop character to come through very nicely in the finished beer. Young's bitter is an all malt brew with Maris Otter and medium crystal with Goldings and Fuggles. I decided to go a bit different route and use Golden Promise with some dark crystal and all EKG's. I am also trying out a new water profile for my bitters. Should make for a tasty pint in a few weeks.

Young's Bitter: English Special Bitter

Recipe Specifics:
Batch Size (Gal): 4.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 7.5
Anticipated OG: 1.045
Anticipated FG: 1.010
Anticipated SRM: 9
Anticipated IBU: 25
Efficiency: 75%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

94.0% - 7.0 lbs. Pale Malt, Golden Promise
6%   - 0.5 lbs. Crystal 75L
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 1768 Special Bitter 
Mash 154F for 75 min
Brewed on 30 August