Saturday, February 28, 2009

Homebrewed American Pale Ale - 1st Sampling

Tonight I popped the lid on my first bottle of my latest homebrew - an American Pale Ale. I usually have problems brewing lighter color beers, so I'm very proud of this one. The recipe is created as a combination of several different recipes I looked at on-line. I tweaked them a bit so I could call it my own. It poured a pale amber with a big fluffy head that lasted longer than I expected. This is a hoppier version of an APA, similar to Sierra Nevada's brew.

Here's the recipe for 2-1/2 gallons:

3.3lbs Briess Pilsen Light LME
2 oz 30L Crystal Malt
4 Oz Caravienne Malt
1/2 Oz Columbus Hops - 60 minutes
1/4 Oz Amarillo Hops - 15 Minutes
1-1/4 Oz Cascade Hops - 5 Minutes
Fermentis Safale US-05 Yeast

I heated up the grains in a gallon of water until it reached 165 degrees, then pulled them out. I then added the Columbus hops when the wort started to boil. After 45 minutes, I added the Amarillo hops, and the LME. When there were 5 minutes left, I threw in the Cascades. After cooling the wort in an icebath, I poured it into the fermenter and topped it off to 2.5 gallons before pitching the yeast.

I left the wort to ferment for two weeks, bottled it with priming sugar, and carbonated for 2 weeks. I threw a couple in the fridge yesterday, so I could sample today. Yummy, hoppy goodness!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Heavy Seas Winter Storm, from Clipper City

This is my second beer from Clipper City Brewing in Baltimore. Billed as an Imperial ESB, it's a new beer style for me. I love the labels on these Heavy Seas beers - after all, who can resist a pirate-themed beer, complete with a parrot? This is a bottle-conditioned brew, so there was a bit of yeast on the bottom, that kinda clouded it up a little. It was a nice ruby color with an itty-bitty head. This is a malty ale! It reminds me of a double bock - gobs of malt sweetness. Alcohol was at 7.5%, about what I would expect of an "Imperial" anything. It's a perfect cold weather beer - rich, sweet, and warming. After all, it's a "Category 5 Ale".

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ridgeway Brewing's Bad Elf Winter's Ale

From the label:

'Tis a heavy hand what adds the hops to this festive golden ale. Truth be told, there's near to three pounds of fresh hops goes in every barrel of this treasured brew. And it's conditioned ready for winter sipping from your best flagon.'

This is a pretty good description of this ale. It's filled with earthy English hop flavor. This is one of the best English ales I have tasted. Lots of malt sweetness and plenty of hop flavor and aroma. It poured a lovely golden color with a nice lacy head. It's a bit stronger than a traditional English ale, at 6% abv. This is part of a series of "Elf" beers from Ridgeway, and is the mildest of the group. It is accompanied by Very Bad Elf at 7.5%, Seriously Bad Elf at 9.0%, Criminally Bad Elf at 10.5%, and the appropriately named Insanely Bad Elf at 11.2%. I will definitely be working my way up the series! Oh yeah, there's a 4.5% version of this beer, but I don't see any sense in going backwards.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Okocim Mocne

Mocne is a uniquely Polish beer, essentially a Polish Strong Lager. Okocim's Mocne weighs in at 7% abv so it fits the description of strong pretty well. My Polish heritage attracted me to this beer when I saw it in the liquor store. It poured a medium golden color with a fluffy white creamy head, which left a nice lacy coating on the glass. The beer has a fuller body than most lagers. The nose is flowery and buttery, with a hint of the alcohol to come. The beer is sweeter than most lagers, probably due to the higher malt content, and again, the alcohol shows itself in the taste. It has a lingering floral hop character. My first sip was a bit underwhelming, but the beer improved as I worked my way down the glass. Okocim also makes a wonderful Baltic Porter, so check that one out too.

Monday, February 23, 2009

St. Feuillien Cuvee de Noel

St. Feuillien is an Abbey brewery established back in 1125 AD. I'm not sure what it is about Monks and brewing, but they definitely go together well. Tonight I tasted their Cuvee de Noel, which was part of a 3 beer assortment which also netted me the nice glass you see in the photo. There's something special about drinking a beer from a glass that was designed for it. Being a Christmas or holiday beer, this beer has a fuller body than many Belgian ales, and a vinous quality. Alcohol is at 9.0% abv, so it's a nice sipping beer, although it went well with my pork roast too. It tastes of dark fruit and has the traditional Belgian yeast character as well. St. Feuillien also makes a very nice Tripel, which was also in the assortment, and a Bruin rounded out the trio. I'm looking forward to trying the Bruin next.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Homebrewed Spiced Holiday Stout

Each year, I brew a holiday beer for the winter, and I'm always looking to surpass the previous year's brew. For this winter, I formulated a Spiced Imperial Stout, using traditional holiday spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, allspice and vanilla. I also added a secret weapon - 4 ounces of Jim Beam Bourbon. This is definitely an over-the-top sipping beer that's great for a nightcap. I used twice as much malt as I usually use, and beefed it up some more with 1/2 lb of Muscavado dark brown sugar. Muscavado is the richest, darkest brown sugar available. The beer pours inky-black, with ruby highlights and no head. The flavor is full of molasses, licorice, and dark sweet fruit. It is most certainly not a beer to be had with dinner. It's dessert all by itself. Alcohol level is probably around 12%, so it's very warming. I think this is my finest holiday beer yet. It's exactly what I was working toward.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

He'Brew - The Chosen Beer - Genesis Ale

Tonight I tasted another He'Brew beer from Shmaltz Brewing. This beer is their "Genesis Ale" and is described as a Light Brown Ale. It's a pretty accurate description, as it poured a deep amber with a light colored head. It's kind of a cross between a brown ale and a pale or amber ale. It's a little maltier than a traditional APA, and hoppier than a brown. It's actually similar to the Saranac I had last night. There was one thing that troubled me about this beer. It had a sour metallic flavor that was subtle, but a little distracting. I have to say that I have liked the other beers from Shmaltz better than this one.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Saranac India Style Brown Ale

Tonight's beer is from Saranac's "12 Beers of Winter", which I picked up this past weekend. It's a brand new brew for F.X. Matt - India Style Brown Ale. I was looking forward to this cross between a brown ale and an IPA. It poured a medium brown color with a small cream-colored head. The head didn't last long, but did leave a nice lacing on the glass. Unfortunately, the brew was not as inspiring as I had hoped. It lacked the sweetness of a brown ale, and wasn't nearly as hoppy as I was anticipating. Admittedly, I am a hop-head, so it's impossible to put too much hop character in a beer. I think the folks at Saranac were a bit too cautious on this beer. I would have liked to see them emphasize the sweet nutty character of a brown ale, as well as the overt hoppiness of the IPA. I'm just going to have to brew my own version of this beer, once I have a fermenter free again.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Spent Grain Bread

One of the by-products of brewing beer is a nylon bag full of wet spent grain. When I brewed my Porter this past weekend, I used 22 oz of various dry grain, most of which was dark in color. I had seen recipes for bread using these boiled grains, so my wife and I decided to try some. First, we made a batch of muffins, which turned out sweet and chocolaty from the chocolate malt I used in my Porter. (The sweetness actually came from maple syrup.) We then decided to try some bread. I don't know the precise recipe because my wife threw it together. She's the kind of cook who can toss a bunch of ingredients together without any recipe, and have it turn out great. The bread turned out as dark as the muffins, but with no sugar, it was more roasty than sweet. It will be a great sandwich bread. Here's a pic of the bread rising:

And here's another pic of the baked finished product:

It was perfect with butter.

We were unable to use all the grains that I had left over from my day of brewing, but we know that they make great breads and muffins! The grains work well in beer bread too. Just add a cup of grain to the beer bread recipe I posted about here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Some new beers!

Since I had the day off, thanks to Presidents Washington and Lincoln, I ran some errands and found myself at the Total Wine store in Orlando. I picked up a couple of nice assortments. The first one is Saranac's current "12 Beers of Winter" selection. F.X.Matt puts out a new version of this assortment each year, so it's something I look forward to. This year, it has 6 beers, 5 of which I have never had before. The assortment includes 3 new beers - Bohemian Pilsener, India Brown Ale, and Vanilla Stout. The other 3 are not new, but still interesting - Belgian Ale, ESB, and their "Season's Best" Nut Brown Lager. I'm most anxious to try the India Brown Ale, which sounds like a cross between a Brown Ale and an IPA. I'm also looking forward to the Vanilla Stout, since my own vanilla beer went seriously awry.

The other assortment is also from the Northeast, from Otter Creek Brewing in Middlebury, VT. It includes three 22 oz bottles of their special edition "World Tour" beers, as well as a nice Otter Creek logo glass. The glass looks like a nice size, and will probably hold a full pint - unlike the "pint" glasses that will only hold a 12 oz bottle. The three beers that make up the collection are as follows:

Otter Kilter - a Scottish-style Wee Heavy Ale
Otteroo - an Australian-style Sparkling Ale
Otter Mon - A Jamaican-style Stout

Now I just need to get all my new beers chilled! Check back as I try them out.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Brewing Today

Since my Vanilla Porter didn't turn out the way that I had hoped - it had very little Vanilla flavor, and tasted more like a brown ale than a Porter - I decided to try brewing another Porter today. This time, I went for a Robust style Porter, with lots of roasted and chocolate malt. It's in the fermenter now, with the yeast doing its magic. The Vanilla Porter I brewed a few months ago has improved with age, but just doesn't taste like a Porter. It's drinkable, but not what I was hoping for. Maybe this one will make me proud.

Sprecher Black Bavarian

Sprecher Brewing is based in Glendale, WI and I recently sampled their Black Bavarian lager. It's an American brewer's take on a Schwarzbier, which is one of my favorite styles. This is a fine example of the style. I couldn't help but compare it to Kulmbacher's Schwarze, which i believe epitomizes the style. Sprecher's version is much more chocolaty in flavor, and a bit more roasty as well. Schwarzbier is a lager style of beer, as compared to Porter, which is an ale. This is the third Sprecher beer I have tasted, and I'm still impressed. I also like their 16 oz bottles!

Great Divide Brewing - Saint Bridget's Porter

Today I tried my first beer from Great Divide Brewing In Denver, CO - Saint Bridget's Porter. Saint Bridget is a patron Saint of Ireland, and the story goes that she turned her bathwater to beer in order to provide it to lepers and clerics. The story doesn't say that the beer was a Porter. At any rate, Saint Bridget's Porter is in the Robust style, full of coffee and chocolate goodness. It poured a deep brown - not quite black - with a half-inch tan head. Mouthfeel was decidedly creamy and rich. This was a great introduction to Great Divide's family of beers. I'll be investigating others in the future!

I'm back

2009 has started off more difficult than I expected, which explains why I haven't blogged in a while. I kinda lost interest in it. Back on January 17th, my family had to make one of the hardest decisions we've faced in a long time. A week prior, our favorite dachshund Porter injured his back, paralyzing his front legs. We spent a week trying to nurse him back to health, but it wasn't to be. We had him put to sleep to prevent him from suffering any more pain. He was the best dog ever, and we cherish the 9 years we had with him. Needless to say, blogging immediately went to the bottom of my list of priorities. The pain has lessened somewhat, but some reminders still bring tears to our eyes.