Saturday, December 19, 2009

Last Tasting: Pliny Clone

Despite my quick consumption of this beer last spring, I held onto one bottle to see how some age affects it. I'm not expecting anything special, but just out of curiosity (and the fact that I'm house bound due to this blizzard), I thought I'd crack it open for a tasting. Here's the original with the recipe.
Aroma: Dank, musty hops up front. Plenty of citrus, resin, pine and almost a faint cheesiness to boot. This one obviously has not aged well. I'm almost picking up a metal, lead like note; really strange. Really no malt aroma, but a nice fruity, sweetness.
Appearance: Medium amber, bright orange color. Suffers from some chill haze, but otherwise clarity is good. Dense, white head trails down to just a quarter inch.
Flavor: Wow, there is some real off flavor in this one. The hops have transformed into a mish mash of this metal influenced, light bready sweetness. Bitterness has really been lost, and the malt body dominates. Oxidation isn't overly noticeable, but certainly there. Again, age has not treated this beer kindly. Really reminds me of some old beers that are too commonly found on the shelves of even the best beer store.
Mouthfeel: Carbonation is nearly the same, medium to low in bubble volume. Body is become seemingly bigger, perhaps due to the malt:hop ratio shifting.
Overall: This was purely experimental, and again proves the notion that hoppy beers to not age well. Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River is a huge proponent of this idea and covers (literally covers) his bottles of Pliny the Elder in quotes or drink now, drink fresh, do not age! In fact, they only keg their seasonal of Pliny the Younger in order to ensure it's drank in a timely fashion. It was a fun tasting, but I don't think I'll be able to finish this bottle.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tasting: Westmalle Extra Clone

I'm nearly through this keg, so I'm happy to get a sample tasting done before it kicks (like the melomel I tore through). I've had a couple folks try it, and while they enjoy it for the most part, there's something a little off about it. Well, for my first Belgian to tap, and first really straight forward beer (a SMaSH ), I'm pretty happy.

Aroma: The Belgian like esters are pretty straight up. A light spicy clove, banana, bubblegum followed by the spiciness of the Saaz hops. The strange one, is the green apple note I get. I was hoping it would dissipate with some age, but it hasn't seem to go anywhere. It's not bad per se, but I don't think it should be there. It's also quite fruity in the sugarplum kind of way and citrusy. Malt notes are mild if at all detectable. No DMS.
Appearance: This one, like most kegged beers, started out pretty cloudy, but it's now just to a hazy look. A bright light orange, dark straw color with a massive, fluffy, densely packed white head and lots of tracing. A really nice looking beer for a Belgian. Carbonation bubble stream up the center.
Flavor: The fruity esters continue to dominate this one. The bubblegum and banana are pretty prevalent. Malty flavors are stuck in a lightly bready, slightly biscuity flavor. Considering that it's just Pilsner malt (Belgian), it's got a nice profile to it. The Saaz hops are pretty noticeable, and the firm bitterness is snappy in the finish. Speaking of which, the finish is nice and dry making this an extremely quaffable beer.
Mouthfeel: Having sat and still holding at about 15 psi, the carbonation is nice and high and gives it a smooth, fluffy mouthfeel. That combined with the moderate bitterness and dryness, really make for a medium to medium low body.
Overall: I'm pretty happy with this beer but some of the off, apple something flavors detract a bit. I've since started normal chilling procedures with my beers and no longer am no-chilling. I've no idea if it has negetively effected these beers, but I'd rather go back to normal procedure. I think I might duplicate this beer again, but aim a bit more for a Belgian IPA (Green Flash Le Freak is one of my favorites that balances west coast hops with a moderate Belgian yeast presence).
Recipe and notes

California Common

Since the temps are starting to dip into the mid to upper 50s in my basement/fermentation room, it was time to reconsider what styles of beers I could make. A bit too cool for most ales, and too warm for lagers, why not try a hybrid? I've never made a Cal Common before, one of the few styles that comes from one "true" example: Anchor Steam. Anchor has trademarked the term "steam beer" so any other examples need to be called a California Common, or simply Common. The style is known for it's mildly fruity esters from the lager yeast, some light maltiness, and most notably, the use of Northern Brewer hops. It's not too difficult to come up with a good recipe, as you're basically trying to copy Anchor Steam, and the hops are well known as well as the certain type of yeast. Jamil's recipe is a bit bigger and maltier for the style, but other than that, he goes along with trying to copy Anchors'. I made only a couple adjustments (for efficiency) to his recipe (which I'm now using BeerSmith to copy over the recipe, a little nicer I think):

Recipe Specifications


Batch Size: 5.50 gal

Boil Size: 6.46 gal

Estimated OG: 1.056 SG

Estimated Color: 12.3 SRM

Estimated IBU: 43.9 IBU

Brewhouse Efficiency: 74.00 %

Boil Time: 75 Minutes



Amount Item Type % or IBU

9.00 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 77.39 %

1.00 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 40L (40.0 SRM) Grain 8.60 %

1.00 lb Munich Malt - 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 8.60 %

0.50 lb Victory Malt (25.0 SRM) Grain 4.30 %

0.13 lb Roasted Barley (300.0 SRM) Grain 1.12 %

1.00 oz Northern Brewer [7.80 %] (75 min) Hops 26.0 IBU

1.50 oz Northern Brewer [7.80 %] (15 min) Hops 17.8 IBU

1.50 oz Northern Brewer [7.80 %] (0 min) Hops -

1.00 oz Northern Brewer [7.80 %] (Keg Hop) Hops -

2L starter California Lager (Wyeast Labs #2112) Yeast-Lager

12/09/09: Brewed this morning. No exciting issues. Again pulled 2 cup of mixed first runnings to chill and pitch into decanted starter. Chilled normal to about 70 degrees or so and brought down into basement to chill the rest of the way. Fermentation started and boomed real quick within 24hrs with lots of blowoff.
12/16/09: After a week, this brew is only down to 1.026, a bit dissapointing. I'm thinking I either underpitched and/or drove it too cold too fast. I brought it up from about 56 degrees to room temp (fluctuates between 66 and 70) to get it to finish out. Flavor, however, is fantastic. Tons of fresh grassy, fruity hop flavors, solid malt background, and a nice clean lager character. I think it will turn out really well.
1/05/10: Kegged up this evening. FG sitting at 1.016, so 70% AA and 5.2% abv, pretty much on target. Flavor is very much balanced between a nice bready, toasty malt note and a fresh woodsy, herbal hop note. I added another 1oz of Northern Brewer hops to the keg to make it even hoppier. Very excited to see how it turns out. I also saved the cake for the upcoming cream ale.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Overdue Update and Poll Results

I have definitely been neglecting the blog for sure. To be fair, I haven't done a whole lot of brewing as evidenced in my "What's Brewing" section. Yesterday was the first time I brewed since well before Thanksgiving. I even rushed out to the store to get the ingredients and make a starter, and then let it go two weeks before brewing! With the holidays coming up, it's getting tighter and tighter to budget in some time (and money) to do much. The basement is cooling down to some nice temps for lager brewing (steady around 57-58 now). Unfortunately, it will also significantly slow down my sours. Last week, I did keg up the IPA, and damn that beer is nice. I think it'll take another week before it hits its prime.
One other piece of advice I'll give to any brewer as well (even though it should be self evident): calibrate your thermometers! I noticed yesterday while heating up my strike water that all three of my thermometers were reading about 10 degrees difference. It's likely the reason that I'm getting way over attenuated beers (probably have been mashing around 145-149). I'll take Mike's advice and invest in a good one. Any ideas?
And to the poll. There was a lot of discussion over at Beer Advocate about what is the best beer for a diverse and lengthy holiday meal, be it Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years etc. Honestly, I'm generally in the company of wine drinkers, so that's what I drink. I was surprised not to get one vote for it. I do agree, however, that Belgians (usually pale, and/or saisons) are probably the best at tackling a wide range of food.
Coming up, I'm looking at what lagers I want to try this year. Since I've got a Cal Common fermenting, I'm think of doing a cream ale with the cake and trying out these Citra hops I picked up. Along with that, a Schwartzbier to please my girlfriend, and a doppelbock. That may be it, but I'll see if I can squeeze something else in. (Perhaps a light lager for fun).
Look for the recipe and notes from the Cal Common, and a tasting of the Christmas Saison, IPA and Westmalle Clone soon.