Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Roastaroma Brown Ale racked

I'm optimistic about the brown ale (see previous post). I racked to the secondary today, as I noticed that the airlock was no longer bubbling and the gravity was seemed a few points to high. The beer was quite murky, so there's still a lot of yeast suspension that I suspect will ferment the beer so more in the secondary. I'm hopeful that I'll be able to bottle in about five days.

The sample I poured off to take a gravity reading was very murky brown, smelled a touch sour and quite spicy (I could detect the spices from the Celestial Seasonings Roastaroma tea that I added at the end of the boil.) I could taste the spices, too. I couldn't detect any of the sulfur that was produced in the early stages of fermentation. The hops were kept in check. The brown ale flavor was good; mostly caramel flavor with a roasted coffee edge. The finish was tart, but also a touch bitter. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Summertime (brewing) Blues

I brewed a batch of brown ale the other day and I'm deeply regretting it. It hit 90 degrees (F) today and my fermenting space got up to 82. I had pitched some Safbrew T-58 and it's throwing some sulfurous aroma, not stinking up the room bad, but noticeable. I've read up on this yeast and it seems like the sulfur smell is fairly common for this yeast. Also, I've used the T-58 before in wheat beer with some tasty results, so I will relax and have a homebrew....which doesn't help me relax.

Why does having a homebrew not help me relax? Well, because my two saison-style brews that I've made this past summer and they're both not appealing to me. The first batch was brewed back in May and tasted a touch too sweet up front and too bitter in the finish with some banana-bubblegum esters in the nose. It wasn't too bad, but seemed a bit chewy. This batch as since improved in one regard; the esters have dissipated somewhat, the finish is drier, but on the other hand, the finish is bitter, hot and a bit solvent-like. I used Wyeast XL 3726 for this batch. The second batch I brewed with Wyeast XL 3822 (Ingelmunster Ale) and the first case tasted great. I added some lemon verbena to add a citrus-lemon character and it added an interesting character to the beer. The second case, however, is not as tasty: the citrus flavor from the lemon verbena has faded, the beer has become very dry and some of the bottles have been over-carbonated. So, perhaps you could see how these earlier wayward summertime brews might have me concerned about my latest attempt at hot weather brewing.

I have had success in summers past brewing some tasty ales in my hot third floor condo, but after this year I'm really looking forward to some winter weather and cooler (under 80 degree) room temperatures!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Getting in the Zōn with Boulevard - Part 2

As I've mentioned in earlier post, my friend Ryan recently brought back a bunch of beer from the Boulevard Brewing Co. in his boyhood home of Kansas City. Boulevard beer is an old favorite that's been out of my reach for quite a few years. I first tried Boulevard Irish Ale while I was in college and later tried the outstanding Bully! Porter. Since I've had these beers before, by good friend Ryan (who also enjoys Boulevard beer) brought back some of brew which haven't had the pleasure to taste. Tonight I'm tasting two beers from a mixed case that are both brewed with wheat.

First up is Zōn; a refreshing, straw-colored, cloudy wheat beer brewed with orange peel and coriander. According to the neck label on the bottle, Zōn is the Flemish word for Sun and this beer definitely is one to be enjoyed when it's hot and sun is shining. The nose is grassy and citric with very slight whiff of sour. The sip is lightly spicy, a touch bready and lightly spicy. I make certain to rouse the yeast at the bottom of the bottle in hopes of more complexity, but the character of the beer doesn't change much when more yeast is added to my glass. The mouthfeel is quite soft, with the wheat no doubt contributing to this character. The bitterness is very low (the Magnum and Simcoe hops the brewery says it uses in the beer must be added very sparingly) and this ale finishes slightly sweet and slick. This is a beer that is easy drinking, but I think it could be made better by being just a touch drier. Overall, Zōn is not bad Belgian-style wit (meaning: white or wheat) ale.

Next up we have Lunar Ale, a light brown wheat-accented ale with some ruby highlights. The aroma is fruity (I'm thinking figs), but there's a whiff of roasted coffee that is intriguing. At first glance I suspected that I'd be tasting something like a dunkelweizen or a weizenbock, but Lunar Ale is something a little different. The typical banana or clove German wheat beer yeast esters are absent (maybe a hint of clove), but the roasted coffee is what really grabs my attention. There's the caramel-wheat malt flavors of a dunkelweizen, but there is a roasted coffee accent that shows up again on the palate that I haven't tasted in other dunkelweizens. The yeast provides some tartness that makes this beer even more interesting. Finally, a fruity, but dry finish enhances the enjoyment of the beer and increases the drinkability.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Montmorency Brown Ale

Back in June I brewed a Belgian Saison-style of beer using Wyeast XL 3822 Inglemunster Ale. The yeast seemed to work quite well, although it wasn't quite as tart as I had thought. I saved the yeast from that batch (I harvested the yeast from the secondary) and saved it in a flask in my fridge. I brewed another beer with that yeast a couple weeks ago, which I've since bottled. This new beer is a light brown ale made with pale malt extract and a mini-mash of chocolate and aromatic malts along with torrefied (puffed) wheat. I used Hallertauer Hersbrucker hops for bittering. The hops were very low alpha acid, about 3.3 percent and I added one ounce at the beginning of the 60-minute boil and another ounce at 30 minutes into the boil. I racked 3.5 gallons of cooled wort to my plastic fermenter, then topped up with a bit too much water, before adjusting the amount and adding one gallon of pasteurized Montmorency tart cherry juice.

I used a sanitized mug to scoop up about about a quart of wort before adding the cherry juice so that the final amount of wort with the cherry juice would be exactly five gallons. I put the extra wort in a sanitized growler and added a little bit of Ingelmunster Ale slurry to it. It fermented just as quickly as the rest of the wort. I bottled it as sort of a control sample of the brown ale without cherry juice. I filled a couple 12-ounce bottles with this "uncherried" brown ale and then transferred the yeast slurry from the growler into a sanitized flask that I may pitch a third time in another future batch of beer.

This is the first time I've made a brown ale with cherry juice, but I've made a stout with the same type of tart cherry juice before and it turned out great. My original thinking was that the tart cherry flavor might be more intense in a brown ale and so far I was right, although the yeast I used, Wyeast XL 3822, may add some tartness, too. So far, I have a tart (if not sour) brown ale on my hands. I wouldn't call it a cherry beer, but more of a sour brown ale or "Oud Bruin". The one gallon of cherry juice didn't seem to add much pink or red color to the beer or cherry flavor, but it's kind of hard to tell at bottling time when there is so much yeast in suspension.

I was a bit surprised at how quickly this beer fermented, so we'll see if I have any bottle bombs or volcanoes, but my gravity readings told me that the beer fermentation achieved about 77 percent attenuation, which is about right on for the yeast that I pitched.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Up and down the Boulevard (of) beers - Part 1

I used to drink Boulevard beer a lot starting about 12 years ago when I as a college student in Western Illinois. Boulevard Pale Ale is a respectable pale ale and I wish the Illinois distribution reached the Chicago area. Although the aroma reminded me a bit of Berghoff Pale Ale (which is brewed in Wisconsin and distributed in the Chicago area), I think Boulevard's pale ale is a bit more refined than the Berghoff and closer in taste and body to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. The packaging is pretty refined; as this six-pack comes boxed with some nice artwork. The beer is described as bottle-conditoned, and I like that, as bottle-conditioned ales tend to have a bit more complexity than highly filtered ones. This golden pale ale starts pours with plenty of carbonation and a bright white head. I can't help but notice the hoppy, floral aroma. This beer has a good malt saltine cracker-like malt flavor, a slight fruitiness (almost like Juicy Fruit gum) with some pleasant tasting hops. The finish is bitter, but not powerfully so, with just enough hops to let you know you're drinking an American Pale Ale. Perhaps a bit thin for the style, which I suppose makes it a good pale ale for warm weather quaffing.

Boulevard Dry Stout is a tasty session ale of a stout. According to the brewery, the dry stout has the lowest alcohol by volume among all their beers. The stout pours with plenty of carbonation that forms an off-white head that settles to thin layer with a fine bead when roused. The aroma is full of dark chocolate with a touch charcoal. When warmed up close to room temperature, the Dry Stout is silky smooth. Wonderful dark chocolate and hints of espresso coat the tongue paving the way for a dry finish with roasted edge and solid bitterness. A fine stout indeed.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Goose Island harvests a new brew

I'd heard that Goose Island Brewing Co. in Chicago was going to release a Harvest Ale this year instead of an Octoberfest. I've been on a bit of amber ale kick lately, so I had to try it.

The Harvest Ale is a good looking amber ale (about the same color as the old Octoberfest) with a fairly thick white head that falls slowly, but never quite disappears, leaving a little lacework on the sides of the glass. I'm impressed with the leafy hop aromatics and how they mingle with aroma of what seems like toasted and caramel malts. The sort of Vienna malt character that seems fitting for an Octoberfest is present here, but with what tastes like English and American west coast hops mixed together for a spicy, piney combination. The bitterness is pleasant and just right for this rather sessionable beer. Perhaps a touch thin, but otherwise a delicious new seasonal brew from Goose Island.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Something else from St. Louis

I recently had the opportunity to try a new beer from St. Louis (no, it's not made by Budweiser). The beer is Schlafly Pale Ale. Thanks go to my friend Ryan for picking up a the bottles on his way to Kansas City. As you can see, the Schlafly Pale Ale (pictured to the right) is a light amber pale ale with incredible head retention. It is definitely more of an English-style pale ale, with a robust malt character and fairly thick, silky mouthfeel. Spicy hops up front on the palate increase the enjoyment of this ale. An English cookie-like maltiness is very pleasant and the right amount of slightly citric hop bitterness puts the hops and malts pretty much perfectly in balance. About halfway through this serving of ale, a fairly thick Brussels lace has coated one side of the glass. Schlafly has a very pretty, pleasant tasting pale ale here.

In the coming days I'll be sipping my way through an assortment from the Boulevard Brewing Co., very appreciatively brought back by Ryan to northeastern Illinois (where Boulevard was once distributed) from its source in Kansas City.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Beer-to-beer Combat: Part 3

This week Central Waters Ouisconsing Red Ale spars with Ale Asylum Ambergeddon Amber Ale. First up is the Central Waters, with deep amber-red hue and an impressive, extremely persistent, quarter-inch thick white head. The aroma of this beer is probably best described as fruity. I know that's vague, so I'll try and elaborate; I'm thinking about berries here, sort of light raspberry or blackberry fruitiness combined with caramel malt flavors. The texture of this beer is absolutely luxuriously smooth and fairly full-bodied, with the juicy sweetness of the malts balanced by the spicy hop finish. The dense, foamy head that I mentioned earlier persists after several sips and leaves some lace down the sides of the glass. This beer is one of the most delicious amber ales I've had, although frankly, it's drinking more like an outstanding British bitter than an American amber ale. Overall, the Central Waters Ouisconsing Red Ale is very tasty and seems very fresh.

The Ale Asylum Ambergeddon certainly sounds impressive, perhaps foreboding. It pours pretty nicely, with not as dense of a head as the Central Waters, but as the head falls, it does leave some lace. The nose is a mix of leafy spicy hops and sweet caramel malts. The Ambergeddon seems not quite as thick as the Ouisconsing from Central Waters. It has some of the same caramel malt flavors, but with a hint of chocolate (just a hint). It is less fruity, more hoppy with a drier finish. The finish is just a bit warming, which has me thinking that this amber ale is quite a bit stronger than the Central Waters.

I like both beers. At least tonight I prefer the Ouisconsing Red Ale due to its "sessionability" at 4.8 percent alcohol (as indicated on the label). The ultra smooth character, fruity complexity and moderate bitterness makes it very drinkable, but not boring. On the other hand, the Ambergeddon offers a good punch of hops with a delicious hoppy (almost peppery?) finish, but seems rather strong, as I perhaps downed it too quickly not knowing the alcohol content -- I guess I should have known it was strong what with the skull on the label and all, huh? Rumor has it that the Ambergeddon is 7.5 percent alcohol, so I can't see having more than couple of these in a session without being too intoxicated. Although I bought the Ambergeddon in Madison not too far from the brewery, judging from reviews on Beer Advocate I'm thinking my bottle might not be at its peak freshness -- some of the complexity and hop wallop reviewers on BA describe seems to be missing.