Despite it being a busy time of year for me at work, I've managed to get three batches of beer going. One that seems to be turning out quite good is a sort of Belgian-style Spiced Cherry Stout. Seeing that I didn't account for the fermentability of the tart cherry juice I used, I've gone back and estimated the alcohol content of this brew to be at least 9 percent alcohol. I knew I had a lot more alcohol in this batch than I thought after getting buzzed pretty good after a couple small glasses. That said, the alcohol content is not getting in the way of what I think will be a terrific beer. Even at just a couple months of age, there is a wonderful infusion of chocolate, roasted coffee and tart cherry flavors in this beer. There is also a slight cola flavor and a hint something else; sort of an undefinable complexity. I'm guessing this depth of flavor has to do with not just the Belgian yeast, but the subtle addition of cardamom and black pepper (about a tablespoon each.) This beer continues to sleep and shall do so for awhile; as at it's strength it should improve over the years.
Meanwhile, I've brewed a couple hoppy ales. The first mentioned a few weeks ago, is a Brewer's Best India Pale Ale kit. I tweaked the hopping schedule though, using one ounce of the included Columbus hops at the start of the boil and two ounces of the included Cascades at 15 minutes and an ounce of the rest of Cascades at five minutes left in the boil. I then dry hopped with two ounces of Simcoes that I already had on hand. I've already cracked open a couple of bottles of this brew (brewed 36 days ago now) and it's quite tasty, but has an underwhelming hop nose. I'm guessing the less than expected hop character is due to my Simcoe hops being old -- I think they had been in the freezer for about a year.
Finally, tonight I packaged a three-gallon batch of well-hopped pale ale. This latest batch is just under the BJCP recognized gravity of an IPA (at about 13 plato) but hopped to about 70 IBUs. Wyeast 1098 (British Ale), along with a pound of 60L crystal malt (20 percent of the grain bill) seems to have given some balance to this batch. The finish is still quite bitter though. I know this bitterness will fade over time, so I've added an ounce of hop pellets to the "cask" (Party Pig) for additional hop aroma. Most of this batch fit into the Party Pig with the left over bit filling a 1 liter swingtop bottle...and my glass. I'm a little worried about this batch due to the Party Pig not activating. I seem to recall the pressure pouch activating after priming it with the pump the last couple times I've "pigged" my beer. I'm hopeful that the carbonation created by the addition of priming sugar (dry malt extract) will create enough pressure to activate the pouch and that I'll be enjoying some tasty pale ale in about a month. A Promash summery of this recipe for this batch of pale ale is available here.