Saturday, April 30, 2011

Brewing After Success

On Tuesday I found out I passed the NY Bar Exam. I still feel like I'm walking on air. Anyway, I just brewed a celebratory batch of homebrew, which should be ready in a few months on account of its need to lager. That's right, I brewed one of my favorite obscure styles, a Düsseldorf Altbier. Recently I decided foreign Pilsner malt can suck it and that I prefer the cheaper Canadian stuff - it's just so much cheaper and has a more neutral flavor. But this recipe also has some lovely German Carafa Special II Malt for color (no domestic maltster makes anything that comes close to Germany's fine dehusked chocolate malt), as well as a judicious dose of German Munich Malt, Melanoidin Malt, and a pinch of Caramunich, as well. I expect this beer to have a complex, malty flavor, balanced by a floral noble-esque hop profile. This style is all about balance, and the best of the examples are also pretty dry, so I mashed at 148F for 60 minutes, to get it dry. I also bitched a large dose of yeast to help things get going. Visible fermentation began in a matter of hours.

Here's the recipe:

Recipe: Zum Esquire
Style: 7C-Amber Hybrid Beer-Dusseldorf Altbier

Wort Volume Before Boil: 8.50 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil: 6.13 US gals
Volume Transferred: 5.50 US gals
Volume At Pitching: 5.50 US gals
Final Batch Volume: 5.25 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.036 SG
Expected OG: 1.050 SG
Expected FG: 1.011 SG
Expected ABV: 5.2 %
Expected IBU (using Tinseth): 41.3
Expected Color: 12.0 SRM
Apparent Attenuation: 77.5 %
Mash Efficiency: 80.0 %
Boil Duration: 90.0 mins
Fermentation Temperature: 64 degF

Canadian Pils Malt 7lb 0oz (67.5 %) In Mash/Steeped
German Munich Malt 2lb 4oz (21.7 %) In Mash/Steeped
German Melanoidin Malt 8.00 oz (4.8 %) In Mash/Steeped
Belgian Caramel Munich Malt 60 8.00 oz (4.8 %) In Mash/Steeped
German Carafa Special II 2.00 oz (1.2 %) In Mash/Steeped

US Magnum (17.0 % alpha) 14 g Loose Whole Hops used 60 Min From End
US Crystal (5.6 % alpha) 28 g Loose Whole Hops used 20 Min From End
US Crystal (5.6 % alpha) 30 g Loose Whole Hops used 5 Min From End

Yeast: White Labs WLP029-German Ale/Kolsch

Mash at 148F for 60 min

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Drinking After Law School

I have been a major beer drinker since May 2010 when I graduated from law school. While I have also enjoyed the fine wine selection available at Costco and the Davis Food Co-Op, it's really the ability to buy singles of all the fine craft beer that has subsidized my homebrew consumption best.

Today I am doing something I have done before but this time I'm writing about it - the 12 oz single-style beer flight. No one is stewarding for me, so this test isn't blind, but I am drinking a few beers today (maybe more tomorrow) all from the American Pale Ale style, and I will write about them as I would if I were judging them in a BJCP competition. Here goes:

1. New Belgium Mighty Arrow Pale Ale

Minty, clean, noble-type and perfumey cascade aroma. No esters. No DMS. Clean malt aroma - no caramel or bread-like aromas. 8/12

Crystal crear. Light golden color. Good head retention. 3/3

Clean, hop-forward. Good, smooth bitterness. Hop profile is clean and noble-like. Minty, smooth, neutral-tasting. Not very citrusy or fruity. Not spicy. Nearly no malt presence. Pilsner malt? Unique for an American pale ale in that there is not a citrus-hop dominance. No esters or phenols. No alcohol. No off flavors. 13/20

Smooth, velvety, medium body. Low-moderate carbonation. 4/5

Overall Impression
A nice, clean, sessionable beer, but it lacks the hop presence that I expect from the style. I would also like a little more malt flavor, and the pilsnery taste seems style-inapproriate. 7/10


2. Flying Dog Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale

Nothing. Almost no aroma. Clean, extremely slight malt and hop aroma, slight sour aroma. 5/12

Beautiful pale amber color, crystal clarity. Moderate head retention. 3/3

Overly neutral. Slight cascade hop character coupled with very slight caramel sweetness. Not toasty or sweet. Bitterness is good. Some cascade in the finish. This bottle may not be particularly fresh. 10/20

Moderate carbonation, light-medium body. 4/5

Not my cup of tea. This beer lacked flavor overall. Just a not great beer. I believe the bottle wasn't as fresh as it ought to be, but I also don't think this beer is dry-hopped, which it properly should be. 5/10


3. Lagunitas New Dogtown Pale Ale

Unmistakeable cascade hop aroma - perfume, grapefruit, and grainy malt blend to smell like a pale ale ought to. 10/12

Deep gold to pale amber, very slight haze. Low head retention. 2/3

Firm bitterness almost balanced by grainy malt. No caramel. Hop flavor throughout (especially in finish), but the dominant flavor is the bitterness of the hops, leading to a very dry finish, despite the soft sweetness mid-palate that suggests some residual sugars. 16/20

Moderate carbonation contributes to dry finish. Medium-bodied. Smooth, but not incredibly sessionable. 4/5

Overall Impression
Excellent beer, but somewhat unpolished. I would prefer if it were clearer and perhaps had a pinch of Munich-type or caramel-type sweetness. It's a bit one-note with the cascade-type hop flavor and bitterness. Still, a fine craft beer, and what I expect a pale ale to taste like, plus some. 8/10


Day 2

4. Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale

Sorta weak on this one. I am already pretty sure this is not the freshest bottle of Mirror Pond I've ever had. Bready caramely malt and cascade hops. Appealing and it seems fairly drinkable - what I mean is that it smells neutral, but there is detectable hops and malt and some very soft fruity esters - if I closed my eyes, I would guess it was a pale ale.8/12

Minimal head with good retention. Very slight haze that doesn't dissipate as the beer warms up. Nice pale amber color. 2/3

Gentle cascade hop mix of perfume, grapefruit (white, not pink), and pine. Soft bready malt sweetness. Firm but gentle bitterness. Not harsh. Incredibly smooth. Easy. Very restrained fruity esters that become more apparent as it warms. Excellent - and much better at 50F than fresh out of the fridge. 17/20

Medium body. Low-moderate carbonation for the style (which I like). Creamy. Very smooth. 5/5

This is really what a pale ale strives to be. The restrained but noticeable yeast esters really push this one from "good" to "great" for me. I would prefer more dry hops and a bit more clarity, but an excellent beer all-around. 9/10.


5. Caldera Pale Ale (in a can!)

Intense cascade aroma. Citrus, perfume, and a hint of pine. Outrageously good. 11/12

Brilliantly clear. Small head that does not persist long. Beautiful pale amber color. 2/3

Smooth, but firm bitterness. Crisp pine and perfume. Grapefruit and candy-like maltiness. Excellent. Cascade-powered pale ale to and through. Minerally finish. 18/20

Medium body. Moderate carbonation. Not creamy. Very smooth. 4/5

A classic American pale ale. Cascade hops x^1000000. Cascade at its best - and backed by a fine smooth malt backing. So so good. This is a perfect example of what pale ale ought to be. 9/10


6. Widmer Bros. Drifter Pale Ale

Decidedly "new school" hop aroma - fruit salad. Melon, rock candy, and caramel malt. Sweet-smelling, and very inviting. 10/12

Honey-colored medium amber and crystal clear. Poor head retention. 2/3

Soft bitterness, sweet malt, fruity hops, and that's about it. But the hop profile is complex and very fruity. There is an ester-like quality, but I am almost certain that is just the hops - really serious stuff. 17/20

Decidedly medium-bodied, moderate carbonation. Slightly creamy and very smooth. 4/5

A very unique pale ale in that it is slightly darker and has an entirely different hop bill than the cascade-heavy standard for the style. Very nice, but it could be improved with a pinch more bitterness and more dry hopping. 8/10


7. Stone Pale Ale

Very mild. Citrusy hops and caramel malt. Some oxidation. 6/12

Medium amber color. No head, slight haze. 2/3

This beer has no hop flavor and it tastes old and really not fresh. Not unexpected for a bottle of such overpriced and unremarkable beer. 9/20

Medium body. Moderate carbonation. Not creamy. 3/5.

Overall Impression
The beer has seen better days. The age really shows and it is a problem. There was no hop flavor and basically the beer tastes of very little other than sweetness. 5/10


Monday, April 4, 2011

Brewing for a Presentation

So, my presentation before my club, the Greenbelt Brewers Association, is April 19, and my girlfriend and her friend visiting from Portland will be there, so I am extra enthusiastic about keeping it fun and easy to follow - hence lots of tastings and not so much lecturing. I'm presenting on American Pale, Amber, and Brown Ales, so I figured I would get a 6-pack each of pale, amber, and brown ales brewed from bonafide craft breweries, along with some sexy homebrewed exampled brewed by me. I purchased the craft beer in canned form, just because I thought it would be nice to give a little shout-out to those breweries who are helping craft beer lovers know that cans are a great way of storing beer. They are: Caldera Pale Ale, Boont Amber Ale, and Moose Drool Brown Ale. The homebrewed Pale and Amber Ales were described in the last post, but here is what I did with the Brown Ale.

Now American Brown Ales aren't that popular of a style these days, but one thing is for sure, they are malt-forward beers with a somewhat firm bitterness, not unlike their English counterparts. The point to brewing an American brown ale, for a homebrewer, is to build it to your taste, because the style is wide open for interpretation. I stuck with pretty neutral hops for this one and a caramel-sweet, gently roasty recipe with a good deal of quirks. I stuck with WLP001 because I had some on hand.

Hobo Clown Brown
Style: 10C-American Ale-American Brown Ale

Wort Volume Before Boil: 8.00 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil: 7.00 US gals
Volume Transferred: 6.50 US gals
Volume At Pitching: 6.50 US gals
Final Batch Volume: 6.22 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.041 SG
Expected OG: 1.049 SG
Expected FG: 1.012 SG
Expected ABV: 5.0 %
Expected ABW: 4.0 %
Expected IBU (using Tinseth): 29
Expected Color: 20.0 SRM
Apparent Attenuation: 76.4 %
Mash Efficiency: 84.0 %
Boil Duration: 90.0 mins
Fermentation Temperature: 60 degF

UK Pale Ale Malt (Maris Otter) 8lb 8oz (75.3 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Brown Malt 12.00 oz (6.6 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Medium Crystal (120EBC) 12.00 oz (6.6 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Extra Dark Crystal 8.60 oz (4.8 %) In Mash/Steeped
Canadian Honey Malt (Gambrinus) 8.00 oz (4.4 %) In Mash/Steeped
German Roasted Barley 4.00 oz (2.2 %) In Mash/Steeped

US Delta (6.5 % alpha) 23 g Loose Whole Hops used 60 Min From End
US Glacier (5.7 % alpha) 30 g Loose Whole Hops used 30 Min From End
US Delta (6.5 % alpha) 19 g Loose Whole Hops used 5 Min From End

Yeast: White Labs WLP001-California Ale

Mash at 152 degF for 60 mins