This article outlines why I’ve started picking a style to brew and trying to make it well. That brewer got way more experimental than I ever have but still, I’m hopeful that this consistency will not only yield better beers, but a better brewer.
It begins! Long time readers of the blog might remember that last year, I tried making pale ales (every other batch, to be precise) in order to find and properly execute a recipe that I liked.
It was a good experience, and there will be more opportunities to make pales ales but this year, I’m changing to brown ales. Brown ales come in two major categories: English and American. I can’t say I have a favored style at the moment, I just know that the commercial versions of this style that I’ve had, I’ve liked. But they appear infrequently so it’s time to brew my own.
There’s a dark malt note in the nose (when I get to it) that isn’t flawed but…it feels incorrect.
Which is not a bad description for the beer at large. It’s drinkable, yes, but there’s also a molasses flavor, both sweet and sulfur, that is far, far too strong for the kind of beer I was aiming for.
As with my last beer, B#1 suffers from staying a little too long in the bottle. It doesn’t taste infected though, so whatever bonuses I can take from that, I will.
Brew date: 1/8/17
.5 light roast barley
1 lb chocolate
1 lb C 120
1 lb Carapils
Fermentables: 7 lb LME
1.5 oz Nugget @60
.5 oz Nugget @ 5
Yeast: Imperial Darkness (3rd use, starter made)
Forgot to get FG readings and…so I don’ t know how strong this beer is. That is too bad, as it could’ve told me some information but I think next time, I maybe have to leave out the roast barley.
I know what it looks like…it looks impossible.
It also looks infected: some of the other beers I have made have had similar issues, visually, which corresponded to something going wrong with the flavor.
I’m pleased to say that’s not the case this time: the nose is definitely more malty, with a pleasant orange sweetness wrapped in there. The taste is undercut by the effervescence, the pops of tiny bubbles sweeping away flavors. But it’s pleasant and drinkable and once I give the beer time for the head to settle out (five minutes, tops!), there’s even a smidgen of a hop bite at the end.
So what’s causing this?
Well, in January I was a steward for the Oregon Beer Awards, where a bunch of experts tried over 900 beers (we poured over 3,000 samples on Saturday alone, I was told), and at the end of Saturday the organizers said to the serving staff: “None of this beer can stay here. Take it all home!”
I walked out of there with three cases of hastily assembled beer from all over Oregon.
Drinking three cases of beer takes time. Even for me. The consequence of doing so, however, meant that all of this beer spent a few weeks longer in the bottle than it normally would and that, I believe, lead to the carbonation levels.
The proof will be in my next couple batches of beer, though. If those are also overcarbonated but taste fine then the hypothesis is supported. If not, well then maybe I just got lucky with this batch.
Brew date: 12/15/16
3 lb 2 Row
2 lb Metolius
2.5 lb Golden Promise
Fermentables:5 lb EXLME
1 oz Sorachi Ace@ 60
.5 oz Medusa@ 60
.5 oz Sorachi Ace @60
.5 oz Medusa & Sorachi Ace @5
Yeast: Imperial- Barbarian, 3rd use
Additions: 1/2 tsp Gypsum added to boil
Pinch of Irish Moss @flameout
Secondary 12/30/16: 1 oz Medusa in secondary
This did not turn out so well. I prefer to say that up front because I think it’s always better to front load information like that.
The nose has a little medicinal hit to it, which comes back at the finish. Really, that’s where it goes wrong and it’s enough to make this a disappointment. I’m not sure what’s got this beer off but I’m thinking two things happened urging my process:
First, I have been using a little less water when I’ve been cleaning bottles and I think that I may have to go back up to using a little more. While using more water isn’t ideal, neither is producing a corrupted beer.
Second, I didn’t produce a starter for the yeast. I have been overconfident with the volume of yeast I had available but it wasn’t enough. This delayed the start of the fermentation and could have provided a window where things could go badly.
I think this is less likely, as when I tasted the beer before bottling it seemed fine. If it’s infected, it’s usually pretty easy to tell right then. But having less-than-ideal bottles could be what turned this beer, because two weeks in contaminated vessels will make things go badly.
Brew date: 11/11/16
4 lb 2 row
2 lb Munich
2 w lb C15
Fermentables: 4 lb EXLME
2 oz Columbus @ 60
1 oz Columbus @ 30
1 oz Columbs .5 oz Zythos @ 5
Yeast: Imperial’s Barbarian-2nd use
Put into secondary 11/30
.5 oz Columbus and .5 Zythos added to secondary fermentation
There is something to be said for consistency. Doing the same thing, every time helps bring about results that are expected.
I’m pleased the say that it’s no different here: Mary MacLeod is a solid version of the Devil’s Mother. I just keep repeating that recipe, and it keeps on delivering.
The nose isn’t too strong and that is a slight ding against the beer. The dry roast coffee scent is there, if I dig into it but it’s not pushed at all. That is only bad because so much flavor is lost without olafactory stimulation!
(Sorry, I’m trying out some $5 words to keep from getting burnt out).
The beer itself though is solid as a brick. Full body, a touch of black licorice in there, almost certainly coming from the Black Patent malt, with nothing too sharp on the bitterness to make the beer too challenging to drink.
Brew Date: 10.22.16
1 lb black patent
1.5 lb chocolate
.5 black prinz
3 lb 2 row
4 lb Maris otter
7 lb LME
Additions: 1 lb Lactose
Hops: 2 oz Nugget @60
Yeast: Imperial Darkness
We are getting to the end of my year of pale ales. I may not have made it explicit, but I was trying to engineer a pale ale that I liked and could make regularly-or on request-because it’s a pretty common style. I’d like to improve on some basics and so a lot of practice was done in 2016. In this case, I went after a repeat of a successful recipe.
The hop nose is faint but I can tell the Columbus hops are there. The is a definite spike in the bitterness on the finish but before I get there it’s got a pleasant sweetness, very much like an orange with a tiny bit of caramel drizzle over it. It’s also pleasantly dense: got enough body to it to justify itself, along with encouraging having another beer.
I have to say, I’m fairly pleased with this and think that some version of it should work its way into my regular rotation.
Brew date: 10/14/16
1.5 lb Munich
1.5 lb Vienna
Fermentables: 7 lb extra light malt extract
1 oz Columbus @60
.5 oz Simco @60
Yeast: Imperial Barbarian
Secondary 10/28, added .5 oz Simcoe hops
When an IPA is made with rye malt, it’s pretty difficult to refuse a cutesy name. There’s rhyming schemes that human brains just like a lot and the temptation hangs out there, like a free beer.
But I’m not going to do it, I tells ya. Smarter (and dumber) people than I have had their way with the name and I just won’t do it.
The nose is a little resiny, nothing too strong but pleasant, for it’s faintness. The body is dense enough to hold up the bitterness on the finish. Definitely a sweet note in the middle that’s tempered with some orange flavor before that finish comes up.
It’s alright. But I mean this in the best way, because a good beer that hits the acceptable standard is sometimes hard to praise or talk up. It’s worth having and even getting another. That’s pretty good!
I don’t think it’ll win me any medals but it won’t make me any enemies either.
Brew date: 11-Sep
1 lb victory
1lb Maris Otter
Fermentables: 7 lb LME
1.25 oz Columbus @ 60
.25 oz Equinox, .5 oz Columbus @30
.25 oz Equinox, .5 oz Columbus @5
Yeast: Imperial Independence, 3rd use
1/4 tsp Irish Moss@ 5
.5 oz Equinox in secondary