Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Black ESB Tasting

I've got a backlog of tastings that I never got around to posting. One of those is my recent 'black ESB' or whatever you want to call it. It was a very hoppy, but not bitter, pale ale strength beer brewed from English ingredients, American hops, and jet black in color. I originally intended it to be a more sessionable form of the ever so popular black IPA, but with a restrained roasty character and more emphasis on hop aroma/flavor than bitterness. To do this, I cold steeped carafa II and roasted barley in a french press and used more floral hop varieties instead of the piney and dank ones. Well, that was my intention. I ended up dry-hopping this beer with an ounce each of simcoe and citra in the keg. I can't say I drank a lot of this beer when I had it on tap, but it was pretty popular with my friends. 

All is Blackened : Black ESB

Appearance - Pours an inky black color with clear, ruby highlights when held to the light. Head retention was very good when from the keg. This one is out of a growler and the carbonation is a bit low.
Aroma - First impression is of strong pine and tropical fruit hoppiness with a lightly smokey and roasted malt character. When the beer was young, the hop aroma was intensely piney, almost too much, but it has mellowed substantially with time. Surprisingly, the hop character is still clean tasting even after a month-plus dry-hop.

Taste - Initial flavor is of piney and fruity hops with a mellow roasty character. The beer has a very slight smokiness and some light chocolate and caramel flavors. Esters are low to none. This beer is mostly about the hops. I was hoping the amarillo and centennial additions would come through, but the simcoe and citra are the dominant flavors. The beer finishes clean and dry, with a mellow bitterness. 

Mouthfeel - Carbonation is adequate and the beer has a smooth and lightly creamy mouthfeel from the rather high finishing gravity.
Drinkability & Notes - I am somewhat torn about this one. I wouldn't drink more than one pint of this beer per sitting, but for my hop-head friends it was well received. I think I would like the beer better if I hadn't dryhopped it with so much simcoe and citra, as I don't care for the intensely piney and tropical fruit flavor you get when dry hopping with these varieties. A few people noted they would drink this beer over their regular commercial black IPA's if available, as it is more sessionable. I won't brew this beer again as it is, but I think it shows promise as an alternative to some of the hugely bitter and alcoholic black IPA's out there. Things to change would be to ditch the simcoe/citra dryhops and probably tone down the roasted malt and the sulfate in the water. Overall, decent. Still not crazy about wlp006 in black beers either.

O.G: 1.057, F.G: 1.015, 5.5% ABV, 50 IBU, Whitelabs 006 Bedford Bitter


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