Showing posts with label a homebrew log. Show all posts
Showing posts with label a homebrew log. Show all posts

Friday, August 12, 2011

Competition Time

Tomorrow is the Dominion Cup in Richmond, one of the largest homebrew competitions in Virginia from what I have read, and one of only 3 competitions that I will be entering this year.

Unlike last year I will be heading down to Richmond with a couple of other guys from the Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale to steward and, in the afternoon, do a bit of judging. Thankfully I am only judging one style, but it is one of my two favourite styles, a style that I love muchly and have been drinking since the very beginning of my drinking career.

Naturally I have entered a few beers for the judging, so hopefully they won't get massacred. One thing I am looking forward to very much though is meeting up with Eric, James and a couple of other bods I know and having a good day with a great bunch of beer lovers.

Every prospect pleases.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Decanting Dissolution Dubbel

As I mentioned on Monday, I spent Saturday up in Fredericksburg bottling the first beer produced by the Broederschap Brouwerij project. A quick recap about the beer, basically we brewed a straight down the line Belgian Dubbel, which we called Dissolution Dubbel. If you are interested in the recipe, you can see it here. On the day we brewed 10 gallons, which were then kegged and carbonated over a couple of weeks, and so Saturday was all about drinking the beer, bottling up a case each for Eric and myself to take home, and preparing some bottles for upcoming competitions, including the Dominion Cup on August 13th.

James took the picture above when he transferred the beer from primary to kegs, and over than being clearer and having a good inch of foamy white head, that's a good representation of the beer. As for the beer itself, well, the nose is a melange of ripe bananas, general fruitiness and a firm herbal and grassy hoppiness, with a hint of lemon which I am putting down to the Saaz. Tastewise it was bready and sweet fruit, like raisins, with a long, long, dry finish. Considering it boasts 7.5% abv, the alcohol was nicely integrated and just a touch warming. Overall then we were very happy with the way this beer turned out, and I am looking forward to taking some down to the next meeting of my local homebrew club, not to mention drinking plenty at home.

The label at the top of this post was drawn by a friend of James' and is rather apt in many ways, but if you look carefully at the three monks leaving the monastery, they are all carrying beer. I guess the next thing to do is start planning the next beer for the ongoing Broederschap Brouwerij!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Broederschap Project

It started with an idea. Craft breweries seem to love their collaboration beers, so why not get a few homebrewers together to do likewise? Then the idea morphed into, why not get a few homebrewers that also blog together, and how about doing it with guys I only get to see from time to time and whose company I very much enjoy? Thus I sent an email to James from A Homebrew Log and Eric from Relentless Thirst with a very simple question - would you be interested in designing and brewing a collaborative beer?

Both responded that they thought it was a great idea, and so a mammoth chain of emails developed (I have to say that using Gmail kept that nicely together as an easy to follow thread). In the course of the emails we decided to brew up in Fredericksburg, on James' brewhouse in the picture.

We decided fairly early on that we would brew a Dubbel, and so we all did our research and created recipes from which to design the final project. The only Belgian beer I had brewing before was a witbier, so I went off and bought Stan Hieronymous' book "Brew Like a Monk" (minor aside, while reading the book I kept getting this idea that to brew like a monk, get someone else to do the actual brewing). Eventually we ended up with the following recipe:
  • 18.25 lb Pilsner (2 Row) Bel
  • 1.00 lb Aromatic Malt
  • 1.00 lb Biscuit Malt
  • 1.00 lb Special B Malt
  • 0.50 lb Wheat Malt, Bel
  • 0.25 lb Caramunich Malt
  • 1.00 oz Styrian Goldings [4.60 %] (120 min) (First Wort Hop)
  • 1.00 oz Styrian Goldings [4.60 %] (90 min)
  • 0.50 oz Saaz [3.50 %] (90 min)
  • 1.00 oz Saaz [2.60 %] (35 min)
  • 0.50 oz Saaz [3.50 %] (10 min)
  • 2.00 lb Sugar, Table (Sucrose)
  • 1.50 lb Amber Invert Syrup (35.0 SRM)
  • 2 Pkgs Belgian Abbey II (Wyeast Labs #1762)
This was to be my first all grain mash, and I had assumed that the grain would be crushed in advance - we got our supplies from Northern Brewer, and I always get stuff crushed in advance. However, James has his own mill, which is an adapted flour mill replete with grinding stones.

Eventually we had 22lbs of crushed grain ready to mash.

60 minutes later we had the first runnings in the kettle, and while sparging the grains, we added our first hop addition, an ounce of Styrian Goldings. When we were designing the recipe, we decided that we wanted to be as classic and authentic as possible. The combination of Styrian Goldings and Saaz kept cropping up in our research so that was something of a no-brainer.

Rather than just chucking hops into the kettle, James has a hop bag that hangs into the kettle. Given that we were using leaf hops for some of the additions, it was inevitable that a few bits got into the boil itself.

During the brewing process we took the opportunity to crack into some homebrew, Eric and I had bought some bits and pieces, as well as a growler of the Brew Ridge Trail Collaboration India Black Ale. Eric brought a coffee porter which was delicious, and James had his converted chest freezer laden with goodies. On tap at the time were his version of the 1933 Barclay Perkins Milk Stout, a Warrior single hopped American Brown Ale and an American Wheat Ale hopped with Cascade and Amarillo (I think). All three were very impressive, as was his Pilsner which was bottled, but the highlight for me was the wheat ale, which combined the best elements of a hefeweizen with the best of an American Pale Ale - so drinkable, hugely refreshing and just down right gorgeous.

We ended up boiling the wort for 2 hours rather than the planned 90 minutes so we could get to our target volume of 10.75 gallons, and so we added a few more hops at the end of the boil just to add a touch of aroma. As part of our aim to be authentic, we included a healthy dose of sugar to the boil, both plain table sugar and the remnants of James' invert syrup that he made for the International Homebrew Project.

When all was said and done, we had 10.75 gallons of 1.068 (16.6° Plato) wort, into which we pitched a healthy yeast starter that James had prepared a few days in advance, and put the fermenting vessel in the fridge to do its magic.

The name for this beer is Dissolution Dubbel. The inspiration for the name was that Virginia was originally named for Queen Elizabeth I, aka The Virgin Queen, her father was Henry VIII and it was during his reign that England became a, kind of, Protestant country and in order to pay his bills, the King dissolved the monasteries and sold most of the property to his friends and supporters.

We decided that as we had such a good time planning and brewing Dissolution Dubbel, that we would make this kind of project a regular occurence, perhaps a few times a year, and so another of the names suggested for the beer itself became the name of our new project, Broederschap is Dutch for "brotherhood".

A fantastic day was had, top company, excellent beer and the prospect of more excellent beer in top company, what more could you ask for?

Monday, April 11, 2011

International Homebrew Project - The Tasting

Five weeks ago we brewed it, 3 weeks ago we bottled or kegged it, this weekend the day had arrived to taste it, and this morning I am blogging about it. "It", of course, is the International Homebrew Project brewing of a Milk Stout from Barclay Perkins, the recipe for which dates from 1933.

My first taste of the beer was on Saturday, while up in Fredericksburg brewing with James and Eric from A Homebrew Log and Relentless Thirst respectively, more about that project on Wednesday - suffice for the time being to say that we had a fantastic day and hopefully the result will be an excellent beer. Then yesterday I had the flat to myself for a little while, so took the opportunity to pop open a bottle in the peace and quiet and really get to grips with the beer.

First a note about the labels, they were originally meant to be black, but running low on the ink cartridge front, they came out brick red - which Mrs V actually think looks better than the black, and who am I to argue? So, to the beer, and as ever with my rare tasting note posts, my homage to Cyclops will be used.
  • Sight - very dark brown, ruby edges, persistent tan head
  • Smell - some chocolate, golden syrup, vine fruits, notably grape and blackcurrant, some spice and a touch of marijuana
  • Taste - bitter chocolate upfront, fruity aftertaste mostly blackcurrant, slight acidic tang
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
I was very surprised by the complexity of the beer, given the very low alcohol involved, only 3.7%. There were many layers of flavour, and the blackcurrant/grape thing was most unexpected. While the beer was medium bodied and had a silky finish, I had it in my mind that it would be smoother than it turned out, I also didn't expect it to be as clean and refreshing as it was. Over all I was happy with the beer.

So the International Homebrew Project comes to an end for this year, if there is enough interest from the people that took part then it'll be back in 2012.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Beer is not about Style

Beer styles piss me off at times. There we go, I've said it, and I feel pretty much the same as I did before saying it. Styles don't piss me off because they are stupid, or irrelevant or even just an excuse to create a new gong at a beer festival for egomaniacs to lay claim to creating something. Styles piss me off when people from outside a tradition try to explain that tradition and categorise it, and often get it wrong.

Take for example Czech dark lager, tmavé pivo or ?erné pivo as you will see it called. Unfortunately the fact that this type of beer is dark and a lager immediately, in the minds of some, means it must be a dunkel or schwarzbier, often with tmavé being equated with dunkel and ?erné with schwarzbier. The problem with such a simplistic view is that by Czech law, there is no such beer as a ?erné, only a tmavé. The deciding factor must always be how the brewers and drinkers in a style's area of origin understand the beer they are drinking.

Of course beer styles and how they are understood change with time, none more so perhaps than India Pale Ale and possibly Mild as well (though my inner cynic actually thinks it is more of a case of Mild being thoroughly misunderstood for too long). That fact in itself should remind us that styles need to be taken with a pinch of salt, and perhaps explains why tasting notes have been something of a hen's tooth on Fuggled. Not to mention that I haven't taken tasting notes at all in quite some time, simply put, it can become a chore when all I want to do is have a few pints with mates.

I wonder then if styles, while useful when starting out trying beers from around the world, actually take some of the joy out of drinking? Likewise with homebrewing. Trying to get a style right is useful when you are first making beer, but after a while all you want to do is brew beer to drink.

At the end of the day, if a beer isn't for drinking, then what's the bloody point?

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Future of the Pub

It has been suggested to me that I am more of a pub fan than a beer geek, and I guess that is a fair comment in many ways. All you need to do to understand this fact is look at the 40 boozers and bars that I chose from the many in Prague to go into my book. There are a few well regarded beer geek hangouts which didn't make the cut, simply because I didn't enjoy going there when I lived in the city. Conversely there are a few pubs that serve generic macrobrew that I enjoyed going to, in spite of the beer, because they had a good atmosphere.

One of my friends of Prague posted this slideshow about how pubs have changed in Prague since the Velvet Revolution and it got me thinking about how pubs changed in the 10 years I lived there. One of the first pubs in the city that I went to regularly is called Planeta ?i?kov. Back in 1999 Planeta served Lobkowiz beer, but today it is just another Staropramen pub. I guess these pictures are fairly recent, and it still looks pretty similar to the days when the manager of the language school I worked for would get drunk and sack everyone. A very good reason not to go to Planeta these days is the minor fact that right opposite it is the venerable U Slovanské Lípy, a proper boozer with awesome beer at insanely low prices.

Of course the slideshow and accompanying commentary by and large lament the changes in pub culture brought about by the free market, whilst ignoring the advances that the free market have bought to the Prague beer scene. Without the free market, would a place like Zly ?asy be able to offer beers from around the world, including Left Hand's magnificent imperial stout? Perhaps I am going out on a limb here, but without the free market would consumers be able to choose to go to a non-smoking pub like Pivovarsky klub? Let me clarify that though by saying I do not, never have and never will support a blanket ban on smoking in pubs (and I say that as a non-smoker). Sure it is nice to go home from the pub reeking of only booze instead of booze and smoke, but I have always held the opinion that I know when I go to the pub that people are likely to smoke, and so I make an informed decision whether or not to go.

As much as I hate to see pubs shut, and during a decade of drinking Czech lager I saw many of my favourite watering holes disappear or change under new management, I come to the conclusion that if the pub is to survive then it needs to adapt to the market place. One of the curses, for want of a better word, of the craft beer movement, at least here in the States, is that craft beer is more expensive that macrobrew. A pint of Pabst Blue Ribbon costs about $2.50 here in Charlottesville, whereas something from Samuel Adams usually runs to double that, and very "exotic" beers can cost as much as $15 a pint. In effect craft beer, at least in the US context, becomes a niche product only available to those sufficiently well off to pay for it, and runs against the grain of beer as the everyman drink.

The economics of beer drinking in the US is viciously slanted against pub culture, especially when the economy isn't doing so well. People will still drink, sure, but I wonder how many people are abandoning the pub simply because a 6 pack is a cheaper option than a couple of pints? Perhaps this explains why many people here brew their own beer?

An average batch of homebrew for me costs about $1.75 a bottle, and even my recent barleywine will stretch that out to only about $2.50 a bottle. Thus it was with interest that I read on about North Dakota possibly allowing home brewers the possibility of getting a license to sell their beer at trade shows. I think this kind of legislation is an excellent idea, and of course it promotes the free market (so no doubt the big brewers would be horrified at all the extra competition). Given the possibility of selling their wares, homebrewers would be encouraged to improve their procedures and recipes. If I could sell my beers for just $0.75 more than cost then I am making a little cash out of my hobby, and hopefully giving people something reasonably priced and good to drink. Now imagine you could get a license to sell your beer on draught from your kegerator, in your garage or basement, suddenly we are seeing a return of the public house.

Perhaps, and this is just romantic surmising I am sure, the future of the pub is a return of beer as a cottage industry?

Monday, January 3, 2011

International Homebrew Project 2011

Last January I organised the International Homebrew Project, whereby readers of this blog decided on a beer recipe to brew and then blog about. Due to various misfortunes, only myself and James from A Homebrew Log actually brewed and blogged about the American Pale Ale which was the chosen beer.

This year I want to do better, and so I am getting the ball rolling now. Over the coming weeks, I will post a series of polls to decide the following:
  • beer style
  • hops to use
  • yeast
My proposed schedule for actually brewing the beer and writing about it is something like this:
  • February 5th/6th - brew
  • February 19th/20th - bottle
  • Week beginning March 13th - blog
In the sidebar then you can see a poll, to decide the main beer style to be brewed, the poll is open until Friday. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Fuggled Review of the Year - Blogs

So to the final installment of the Fuggled Review of the Year, the blogs that I have enjoyed reading throughout 2010. Again making that final list of three is fraught with difficulty, thus requiring a list of honourable mentions again. I think today though, the honourable mention list will come first:

I have a tie for the best beer related blog from Virginia simply between Eric and James, of Relentless Thirst and A Homebrew Log respectively, cater to different aspects of my love of beer. Relentless Thirst has wide ranging posts of various aspects on the beer world which I find well thought out and thought provoking, whereas A Homebrew Log does exactly what it says on the tin - it is about homebrewing, but it is well written and always informative. I have had the pleasure of sharing beers, both commercial and homebrew, with both Eric and James, and they are top blokes, with a passion for beer and brewing. Keep your eyes open for an upcoming project the three of us are working on.

If you know anything about me, you know I love session beer, and what to see more of it produced over here in the States. Lew's The Session Beer Project then is an invaluable resource for keeping abreast of developments in session beer across the US.

What can you say about Ron that hasn't already been said? Challenging, backed up with facts rather than fables and recipes to brew historical beers! Not only is Ron's blog required reading as far as I am concerned, but the fact that it was one of Ron's books that inspired Devils Backbone to brew a 1904 London Stout recipe, which was one of my favourite beers of the year, has to be a good thing.

But as ever, the final few must become just the one, and so the 2010 Fuggled Blog of the Year is:
  • Shut Up About Barclay Perkins
Excellent reading all round and here's to another year of banging the drum about IPAs real nature!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Recording the Homebrew Log

Last Monday, James from A Homebrew Log wrote about three of my beers I had given him, and so today I return the favour and write about three of his beers. When we traded beers, he gave me a bottled conditioned saison, an award winning Octoberfest lager and his amber ale featuring homegrown Galena hops. In my fridge, I still had James' Inferno Chili Lager and his cider (proper cider that is, you know, the kind with alcohol).

James had given me a heads up that the saison had only been in the bottle a couple of weeks, so I am leaving that to condition further, and the cider I am planning a comparative tasting next to our cider, which is now a year in the bottle, and of the still variety rather than sparkling. That left me three beers to sample, so without further ado.....

First in to the ring is the Inferno Chili Lager.

If you read this blog regularly you'll know that I tried Eric's, of Relentless Thirst renown, poblano honey chilli ale a while back, so I was expecting something similar here - gently heat rising as the drinking went on. The beer poured a light copper colour and topped off with a thinnish, but persistent white head. The aroma was pure chilli, backed up by a touch of caramel sweetness, but it was chilli in the driving seat. Oh boy, clearly the driving seat this chilli is sitting in is for an Aston Martin because the flavour ramps it up big time, this is a spicy beer. Again there was a toffee thing in the background which just took the heat off a smidge, but hot chillies is the order of the day, a warm start which just builds and builds. If you like chillies, which thankfully I do, this is a really good beer.

Round two was James' American Amber Ale. As you can see from the picture, the beer is a dark amber with a billowing off white head. As you would expect from a beer using American hops, the nose was dominated by pine and citrus, but there was a sweet fruitiness lingering in the background. Tastewise, the beer was malty up front, the sweetness of caramel malt coming through and then being balanced out nicely by a healthy hoppy bite. This was a beer I could happily drink all night in the pub and drink plenty of, a very nice beer again.

Yesterday after working in the Starr Hill tasting room, I got home to a ready cooked dinner and decided to launch into the third of James' beers - the other two were enjoyed on Saturday. The Octo-Berfest, which won silver at the Virginia Beer Blitz, is obviously an Oktoberfest style lager, and had a fun label that made me wish I had an ounce of artistic ability. The beer itself was deep copper, the ivory head fed by a constant stream of carbonation. The nose was the classic noble hop aromas, floral and grassy with a slight edge of lemon, there was also a touch of caramel sweetness coming through as well. The malty, caramel sweetness was a major player in the drinking, backed with a firm bready quality that really worked well. Infinitely easy to drink and the alcohol was very well integrated. I don't often do this, but this beer would pair very well with a curried pumpkin soup and pot roasted venison served with fresh green beans, which is just as well, as that was dinner last night!

Once again James has come up trumps with his homebrew and more than ever I am glad that the entries I took down to South Carolina for him are not in the same categories as any of my beers! One thing I am learning is that Virginia is not only blessed with excellent commercial breweries, but also some excellent homebrewers as well.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Homebrewer of the Week

This week we come back to Virginia for the homebrew interview, up to Fredericksburg to be precise and the author of A Homebrew Log. As you probably recall, James and I swapped beers recently and you can my thoughts of 4 of his brews here, and here. I have a couple of his lagers sitting in the fridge and will be reviewing them soon.

Name: James Tweeddale

How did you get into home brewing?

About four or five years ago I was actually more into wine than beer. During that time my wife and I were doing a lot of wine tastings and tours of wineries and I found the whole production and fermentation process very interesting. So, I decided to have a shot at making a couple batches of fruit wine myself. I read a book, bought some equipment, and got started. My first batch, a peach wine, ended disastrously when a rubber stopper popped into the carboy and I didn't remove it. After a week with the stopper, the peach wine tasted like rubber bands so I had to dump it. The other batch, an apple wine, turned out to be pretty decent and drinkable. A few years later I had become more interested in beer and since I already had carboys, siphons, hydrometers, etc... from my wine making adventures, I decided to brew some up myself. I read a couple books (Papazian's The Complete Joy of Homebrewing and Byron Burch's Brewing Quality Beers) and started with a stovetop all-grain pale ale. The beer turned out pretty nicely although much lower in alcohol (3% abv) than planned due to a horribly inefficient mash. In hindsight I was pretty ambitious for starting out all grain but, for me, having already fermented beverages in the past, the mashing and wort production process was a grey area that I wanted to understand better. 

Are you an all grain brewer or extract with grains?

Although I brew predominantly all grain beers, I also enjoy extract brewing. Since I brew in a non-climate controlled garage, some times of year can bring extreme weather. Six or more hours in 90+ degree heat standing next to a hot mash tun and a boiling kettle can become uncomfortable and detract from the joy of homebrewing. Its times like that, or when I am trying to troubleshoot a fermentation, boil, or cooling related problem that I will brew extract recipes. Each method of brewing has its advantages. For many styles, I think the quality of beer you can make with extract & steeped specialty grains is just as good as what you can make with all grain. Good fermentation and sanitation practices make just as big of a difference regardless of which of the two methods you use to brew your beer. Extract brewing can help to focus on and troubleshoot certain aspects of brewing procedure while ruling out processes involved with mashing, sparging, etc.... The only beer I have had win a medal in competition, my Chili Pepper Lager, was made from an extract w/specialty grain recipe and fermented with dry lager yeast. All grain brewing certainly allows for a larger degree of control over the characteristics of the finished beer and many times additional opportunities for employing stylistically authentic or creative procedures and most of all, its fun!

What is the best beer you have ever brewed and why?
Its hard to pick only one, but, so far I would have to pick either the late hopped IPA or the Scottish 80 that I made in the past few months. The late hopped IPA because of the massive fresh floral citrusy hop aroma and flavor I managed to capture in it by adding a ton of hops during the last 5 minutes of the boil. The Scottish 80 because of the sweet malty caramelly breadiness that is derived from a high quality pale malt mashed at a high temperature followed by a long caramelizing boil. I like it when I can enjoy a beer and understand why and how the ingredients and techniques used in its production yielded the characteristics I enjoy.

What is the worst, and why?
 I went through a bad period of time this past Winter in which I had three beers in a row turn out infected with the same infection. None of those ever made it to bottling, but what I tasted was terrible and it sucked dumping out carboys full of beer that I spent so much time making. Eventually after tossing out all of my plastic hoses and plastic (as well as some non-plastic) equipment piece by piece and bleach sanitizing my carboys, I was able to beat whatever was causing the problems.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

 I can't say that I have a favorite. For one, I have brewed several beers that turned out to be wonderfully enjoyable to me. Also, I haven't spent much time re-brewing or tweaking the same recipe. I have only been brewing for about a year and a half and for the most part I have been brewing a different recipe or style each brew so I don't really have any "house" or regular beers.

Do you have any plans or ambitions to turn your hobby into your career?

Sometimes I daydream about the prospect of owning and operating a small brewery one day. But, then I wonder if it would be possible to maintain the same enthusiasm and enjoyment that I get from brewing if it were to become a job instead of a hobby/creative outlet.

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

 Like many others have said, its the one I'm drinking right now.

How do you decide on the kind of beer to brew and formulate the recipe?
One of my favorite things about home brewing is that can I brew whatever style of beer I am in the mood to drink. When it comes time to formulate a recipe, a find a good basic starting point in books like Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels, Brewing Classic Styles by John Palmer and Jamil Zainasheff, or more narrow scoped books like Brew Like a Monk by Stan Hieronymus and Farmhouse Ales by Phil Markowski. I also look at recipes homebrew bloggers post as well as recipes shared on forums like Once I have a basic idea for a recipe, I look at my favorite commercial beers of the subject style and tweak my recipe to include ingredients or procedures that give those beers the characteristics that I enjoy. After I brew a beer once, then the trick is to begin slowly tweaking the recipe in future re-brews to get it closer to where I want it to be for my system. I still have not brewed a beer that turned out exactly like I wanted it to.

What is the most unusual beer you have brewed?

That would have to be my Chili Pepper Lager. Its has a crisp clean golden lager base with lot of prominent smoky roasted jalapeno pepper flavor and a touch of habanero heat on the finish. Its a pretty funny juxtaposition to spend six or seven weeks slowly fermenting and lagering a beer in the style of a clean delicate golden lager that all the while has jalapenos and habaneros floating around in it.
If you could do a pro-am brew, what would you brew and with which brewery?

I can't choose one in particular, but I would be interested in brewing with one of the small micro or nano-breweries that are sprouting up around the country. I like the flexibility they have to be creative with small batches. I also like the way they are more closely tied to serving the area and community in which they exist. These kinds of breweries have the opportunity to form close relationships with the people who purchase and consume their beers and cater to niches of small demand that aren't profitable for larger breweries. There are small nano-breweries that have started up here in Virginia recently that I have been following with interest such as Wolf Hills in Abingdon and Shooting Creek in Blacksburg. As far as what kind of beer I would like to brew, today I would have to say a nice golden, hoppy, and aromatic American IPA but tomorrow it might be a big malty dopplebock.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Homebrew Log part 2

I mentioned on Monday that I had swapped some homebrew samples with James from A Homebrew Log. In addition to the IHP Pale Ale which was the original cause of the swap, we traded some other beers, in my case I gave him a 22oz bottle of Gael 80/-, LimeLight and a 12oz bottle of Black Rose. Coming the other way were 12oz bottles of James's Cider, Chili Lager, Apple Ale, Peter McCotton 80/- and Imperial Walker Texas Ranger Stout.

Last night I decided to try the ales from the collection, leaving the lager and cider to chill down in the fridge for a day or so, to be written about at some later date (probably a rare weekend post). First up was the Apple Ale, the recipe for which was inspired by a German drink called Graff, 80% cider, 20% amber beer.

As you can see from the picture, it is a nice golden colour, bordering on a light amber, topped off with a loose white head that thinned out rather quickly. I had no idea what to expect with this, other than a prevalence of apples on both the nose and in the mouth, and so it turned out to be. Behind the apples though was a very gentle sweet maltiness which added body to the liquid, I can't work out whether to call this a beer or what! On a hot, hot day, and yesterday is Charlottesville was a bloody hot, hot day, this chilled down was beautifully refreshing and something I plan to brew in the future, though possibly as a candidate for mulling in the depths of winter.

Following the Graff was Peter McCotton 80/-, an export ale in the Scottish style, which to look at was very similar to my Gael 80/-.

This one was definitely a beer! A deep ruby beer which had a very loose light tan head. The nose was very much coffee to the fore, with a slight toastiness in the background which kind of made me think of breakfast. The roasty notes from the nose played on through to the drinking, so be followed by a smooth gentle caramel flavour which rounded out the beer nicely. With the coffee and roastiness it would be easy to see this as a very toned down stout, but without the cloying feeling you sometimes get with stouts and porters. The finish was long and dry,

Having had stout in mind, it was time to move on to the big beast.

Imperial Walker Texas Ranger Stout is an 8.5% ABV brute of a beer which is very dark indeed, with just the merest tinge of crimson at the edges. Even before I got the glass to my nose I could smell the coffee, big walloping dollops of coffee, with an almost milky background and as the drinking wore on a distinct boozy glow. As with many a stout, coffee and chocolate dominate the flavours, espresso and dark chocolate respectively. In the depths of winter, this would be a great beer to come home to and sip by the fire, a lovely drop indeed.

So, 3 good beers from Fredericksburg and well done James!

Monday, July 5, 2010

IHP Pale Ale a la A Homebrew Log

The plan was simple, trade homebrew with a fellow homebrewer and blog about them. The original plan was to swap American Pale Ales brewed for the International Homebrew Project which I organised back in January and blog about them. Well, James from A Homebrew Log and I met a couple of weeks ago to swap beers, and last night I popped up his version of the IHP recipe.

As ever, I use my version of Cyclops.

  • Sight - amber, volumous rocky white head and lots of carbonation
  • Smell - grapefruit hoppiness, but not extreme
  • Taste - a nice balance between the hops and a smooth sweet maltiness
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 2.5/5
A very, very nice pale ale indeed! A nice smooth body with a long dry finish which was just perfect to end the day with. I could certainly, and happily, drink large volumes of this! One of my criticisms of pale ales at times is that they are thin and the hoppiness often makes drinking it like puckering up and sucking a lemon, James's beer is most definitely not in that ball park.

Originally I planned to drink this alongside my own version of the recipe, which I am calling Copper Head Pale Ale, but like a doofus I gave the remaining bottles of my version away. So this post ends a few paragraphs early, but you can read what James has to say about the Pale Ale and my Scottish 80/- ale here.

On Wednesday I will be writing about the other beers James gave me, and if they are as good as the pale ale, then it should be a fun Tuesday night's drinking preparing for a Wednesday's posting!

Monday, March 22, 2010

International Homebrew Project - The Beer is Here

After 5 weeks of waiting, yesterday I popped open the first bottle of the American Pale Ale I brewed as part of the International Homebrew Project. For those unaware, you can see the recipe that we chose to make here, but here is a quick rundown, we brewed an American Pale Ale, hopped with Centennial, Amarillo and Cascade, the choice of yeast was left to each participant, in my case I used the American Ale II from Wyeast and followed my usual fermentation and conditioning schedule, 2 weeks of the former and 3 of the latter.

Once the two weeks in the primary were up, my variant had gone from an original gravity of 1.046 to a final gravity of 1.014, giving me an abv of 4.3%. The OG was low for the report I got from for the same set of ingredients, which had predicted an OG of 1.058, but it was within range for the style apparently, so I wasn't unduly concerned. Anyway, enough of the geekery (another cynical thought, home brewers would be better served obsessing about flavours and aromas rather than numbers), and on to the beer itself, which you can see below.

For the sake of ease, I will, as ever, use my version of Cyclops to describe the beer.
  • Sight - amber, dark gold edges, tight white head
  • Smell - generally citrus, distinct grapefruit
  • Taste - sharp bitter up front, mellow sweet background
  • Bitter - 3/5
  • Sweet - 3/5
This is a nice beer, and one I will be brewing again, though perhaps modified a touch (read more hops and upping the malt), but overall I am very satisfied with my first stab at an American Pale Ale, and enjoyed deciding the style and ingredients of the beer by cyber committee. I know of at least one other person who took part in the project, James over at A Homebrew Log, whose beer is reviewed here. If anyone else took part, let us know and leave a comment with a link to your post about the beer.

There will be an International Homebrew Project 2 later on in the year, with brewing to take place the first weekend of September, so put a date in your brewing diaries!

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...