7pm Jealousy

I have come into Bailey’s after a few weeks away–happy holidays everyone!–and nothing stood out until I saw Caldera‘s Oatmeal Stout.

I am jealous of this beer. I shouldn’t be, because I am not a professional brewer and I do not have the same kind of expertise or equipment. But that jealousy exists, a dense little voice that is shaking tiny fists at the brewing gods.

The stout has a dense nose, like a cappuccino bean covered in chocolate and the oatmeal offers this beer a nice smoothness on my palate. It’s tasty and wonderful and….

And I made a stout that was not as good.

I’ll talk about that more in a few days but what it will boil down to is that I have come very, very close and missed the mark. Caldera’s beer? Dead on.

Now, after a year of improvement in my brewing it is a little frustrating to miss the mark. Especially to miss it by such a small (but critical) detail.

However we  celebrate the new year for a reason; to demarcate transitions, improvements, failures, to give ourselves an opportunity to amend what was broken, hold up trophies for what was good and say goodbye to the rest.

I hope everyone had a happy new year.

The Elysian Experiment

Makes for a pretty awesome photo, doesn’t it?

For those of you who don’t know what this represents, the Elysian brewery put out twelve beers in 2012, a new one each month, as a countdown to the Mayan Apocalypse. They enlisted illustrator Charles Burns to do the labels, and used unique ingredients for each month like beets, chilies, persimmons or blood oranges as adjuncts in the beer. From what I have been told, they didn’t do test batches; they just used their experience, formulated a recipe and rolled it out.

It was a really bold idea coupled with eye-catching illustrations and I instantly wanted to collect them.

The beers themselves were all over the map. The Torrent, a pale beet bock, really highlighted the beet’s earthiness without letting the flavor run over the beer. I’d say about half fell into this camp. Others, such as the Fallout which used cardamom, didn’t let the flavor establish itself in the beer. There was only one which I didn’t like: the Peste, using chocolate and chilies-but I don’t like spicy beer.

None of the beers were flawed, mind you: there were just times when I wish they’d been bolder. If you’re going to run with an Apocalypse theme, then don’t be afraid to make something that might be off putting.

On the other hand, I have to acknowledge that these beers are for commercial sale and need to be at least somewhat appealing, otherwise who’s going to drink them?

The upside of all of this for me is that the brewers at Elysian are more experienced in using different ingredients to produce more interesting kinds of beer. That’s awesome. Plus, if this experiment is successful, it will hopefully lead to some better partnerships with local ales and local designers: Burns lived in Seattle for a long time and his unique style of art was undoubtedly one of the cooler parts of collecting this series. More breweries could use a little visual flair to help their brand stand out, I think. Too many seem to be homogenizing behind a cleaner look and with beer becoming more local, why shouldn’t the look reflect that?

I look forward to the next cool thing.

Last IPA of the Year

Happy new year, everybody! I hope you had a great evening and a nice day off or, if you did not have the day off, got overtime pay.

Here’s the beer I’m drinking these days.

It’s more of a pale than an IPA and this result is reinforcing the need to dry hop and IPA so you get the floral, citrus or pine nose that is such a key element of the style. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a solid beer and I like it but there’s an missing piece.

The other drawback is a slight over-sweetness to it; think apple cider. I did do a starter for my yeast but it was a very short one-about three hours instead of an entire day. I feel it shouldn’t have a significant impact on the beer-stressed yeast can produce off flavors and pitching at temperatures that are too high can give off sweetness-but since I’m basically giving it a jumpstart of warm sugar water and nothing else to do for awhile, I figured it wouldn’t be a problem.

I may have miscalculated. I’ll be continuing to monitor this, mostly because if I can make a starter only three hours ahead of time instead of nearly a day, that would save me a bit of time and agony. Still, it’s a solid beer and it finishes very crisply. I’d drink it.

Recipe as follows:

Brew Date: 11.3.12

Steeping grains
1 lb C40
.5 C80
.5 Victory
.5 oz chocolate nibs

Fermentables
7 lb LME

Hops
1 oz Centennial (added at 140 degrees, before boil. New Technique!)
1 oz Centennial @ 60
1/4 oz Nugget @ 60
1/2 oz Nuggest @ 30
3/4 oz Centennial @ 15

Yeast
reused Pale 12 yeast-last use-Denny’s Yeast, Wyeast

Gravity
unknown, no hydrometer

Put into secondary on11.26

Bottled 12.14.