Tag Archives: amber


beer comparisonThe beer pictured on the left is Widmer’s Deadlift. The one on the right is an amber beer that I made myself.

Deadlift is Widmer’s take on the imperial IPA style and it’s pretty good. I had a chance to try it recently at the Belmont Station at a Widmer tasting. The Widmer rep (and I’m sorry I don’t remember his name) was very helpful in explaining why the Deadlift was more expensive than most Widmer brews; they added twice the hops and malt. It’s a good beer too; an imperial IPA that, as you can see from the picture, is surprisingly clean.

The W’10 was also available to sample and it was a revelation for me. I haven’t liked Cascade Dark Ales but this was a pretty good beer. I was told that instead of dark malts, they used a malt syrup from Germany made in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot.  As a result, the Widmer beer didn’t have the acrid, astringent coffee flavor that’s turned me away from the style. I was honestly stunned I enjoyed it.

Plus, Rob Widmer was at the event and he was gracious enough to answer a few questions I had. He elaborated on the malt syrup used in the W’10, saying it was something you could put on ice cream, and told me why the Deadlift took just a little longer to make than their regular line of beers; the equipment in Widmer’s brewery is calibrated to brew the best Hefe they can.

Which blows my mind a little. Someone has geared their equipment to make one kind of beer.

Rob also told me that the X-114 hop that they brew the excellent X-114 pale with at the Gasthaus is going to be called Citra.

I’ve said it before; X is cooler and they should’ve left it as the X-114 hop.

Now why the heck did I put a picture of a beer I made on the right?

Well, to underscore a couple points. First, I have a ways to go before I can claim any kind of mastery. Second; the masters? They really know what they’re doing. But third; that beer I made? It’s still pretty good. It’s not as clear and the effervescence is still inconsistent but I did alright for myself. Look at it as something to aspire to, not as a recriminating comparison.


airlock soakingThe photograph shows an airlock that I’m soaking in order to clean it. This is because that for the second time in as many beers, I’ve had yeast come out the airlock and overflow onto the carboy, creating a gnarly crust on the glass and a wet bread substance on the floor.

The first beer is an amber that I’ll be talking about more. The second is the third iteration of a ginger stout I made during ’09.

I just didn’t expect this kind of fevered reaction in my beers. Yes, I’ve been reusing yeast and that usually means a quicker startup to fermentation but the last two have really gotten up and gone. It’s been messy and forced me to replace the airlocks which expose the wort, for however brief a time, to the air. That’s always a cause for concern because consistency is probably one of the goals of any good homebrewer; the other is probably innovation, and having the beer exposed is a risk, albeit a small one. Even now I can hear the stout gurgling away and the amber is ready to put into secondary so I’ll know more about that soon.

I don’t mind cleaning up the mess if the beer comes out well.


With Dad’s visit, I’ve had the opportunity to get into a host of beers I’ve been saving over the past year. I can’t tell you what he had, just that overall he liked what I gave him. But here’s what I drank:

A Lala IPA (the first IPA I made this spring) was very tasty but overcarbonated and a touch minerally. The nose faded quickly and the malts were subdued but it was still a decent brew. It was old though and I think that’s why there was that mineral flavor at the end.

The Chisick mild held up great. Still a very easy drinking brew and very flavorful. I was really surprised because my previous mild didn’t age as well, although I did keep it in the bottle for longer. I probably got this one drank before the shelf-life expired.

The Pale_qm was carbonated even after all this time. Hop nose faded very quickly though. I guess that can’t be too surprising, given the age of the beer. Still a very tasty drink.

There was also what I think was a belgian amber ale, pictured to the left. It has a very sweet back end and huge caramel nose. The reason I don’t exactly know what it is, is because sometimes my titling system of beers is…random. So while there’s writing on the bottlecap that should tell me what this beer is, the information was incomplete. I’m going to have to include that data on the spreadsheet in future brews too.

I also had an IRA that was all malt and no hops. Not bad, but the bummer? No carbonation! Even after all that time. Still, the malts provided a bold roasty caramel flavor so it wasn’t a loss.

All in all, I’m more than a little surprised how well these beers held up. Considering they’ve been in my basement just gathering dust and they were all still drinkable, I feel like that’s a pretty nice accomplishment.

Amber completed

I think I’m going to have to try this beer with other ambers next to it. Rogue’s Dead Guy, or Alaksan’s Amber ale. I think it tastes right, but it’s been so long since I had a regular amber beer I just don’t know.

After a little research, it looks like Dead Guy isn’t an amber but a maibock, so I got myself an Alaskan Amber ale, and this is what I got from that beer: very clear and with a quickly dispersing head. But the carbonation is consistent and almost lager-like in quality; even as I type little fountains of carbonation disturb the surface of my beer. The beer is very clean, and very malty. There’s a hop nose which is skunky. I don’t go for that, but the bitterness doesn’t show up, so you can swallow this beer in great gulps, but still find it very tasty if you want to sip it. The label says it’s an alt style beer, but I don’t have it in me to get more ambers to compare.

In comparison my beer isn’t as clear as ambers ought to be. Nor is it quite as vigorously carbonated. The bubbles are smaller, almost like champagne. They exist, but are so faint that they don’t really provide the drinker (me I guess) much to smell. There’s a faint bitterness to the flavor however, which is good because my amber is a bit too sweet. This hinders the drinkability of the beer, making it less of a session ale. Once again, I think I added the yeast too soon. With the next beer (an IPA) I think I’ve solved that, but I wasn’t as attentive to the wort temperature as I should’ve been and I think this beer shows it. The clarity is also slightly troublesome. I’ll have to ask if there’s something I’m doing that is making my beer cloudy. 

So this needs a little more work.

You want what you want

I have become tired of stouts and IPAs. Not in a ‘oh man it’s miserable’ sense but all the beers around me lately are of those styles, and I just want something cleaner and not as dense as those two beers. Fortunately, I’m in a position to do something about that.

I went with an amber style although I’m really shooting for something in between and amber and a pale ale. This probably doesn’t exist as a style, I just want a place to start.

I steeped these grains at about 160 degrees F.
1.5 lb Munich 100
.5 lb Victory
4 oz Pale Chocolate (British)

The tiny amount of Pale Chocolate is in there to give the beer a little color and maybe a hint of flavors that wouldn’t be present in your standard amber ale.

The other malts I used where 6 pounds of Golden Light malt extract, and 3 pounds of Amber malt extract, added for color.  It took awhile for this to dissolve, and for quite a bit of time the top of my boil looked like this:

1  3/8th oz Newport at 60 minutes.
1 oz Autanum at 30 minutes.
Since there are quite a bit of malty flavors going in, I felt ok about using the stronger Newport hops for the full boil  This ought to give the beer a bitterness which I hope will balance the sweeter flavors. The Autanum hops were new to me but smelled raisiny, like UK Golding hops only a bit more intense. My notes say it has 8 % AA, which shouldn’t be a problem if it comes with that raisin flavor. 

Then at 10 minutes left in the boil, I added 1/2 tsp of Irish Moss to give this beer some clarity. I got a gravity reading of 1.07.

The yeast I used was Rogue’s Pacman. I had two packets of this, but one of them burst on me when I smacked it to activate the yeast. My plan is to let this beer ferment for a little longer in primary because I didn’t have as much yeast as usual to get to work. So far so good though; the beer is percolating along just fine.


Not quite right
Not quite right

The amber I made didn’t work out. You can probably see that in the growling of my face.

Oh, it’s drinkable. I can’t say it’s a failure, but so far it has not met expectations.

The nose on this beer is nice and sweet; UK Golding hops serving me well here, the boiling of hops that I’d used in a dry-hopping process working out just fine. The beer isn’t bitter, but it does have some body to it.

Once again, however, it’s just not carbonated. Now I’d bottled this beer before finding out about the trick of re-introducing yeast to the beer so hopefully this problem will be eliminated in the future. Beer ought to be carbonated (at least a bit) and I don’t feel like waiting another three weeks or more for the stuff to behave. However, if all goes well, this will be the last time I have to deal with this problem, so huzza!

What’s more troubling is that there are strange black particles at the bottom of my glass.  Tiny black ashes. It’s like there were burnt malts that were allowed to stay in the beer, somehow. Or who friggin’ knows what went wrong there.

There really is only one proper response to this kind of situation; open up another beer, and find out if it has the same issues.
~you’ll have to imagine me getting a beer at this point~

So, now that I’ve had the next beer, I can say that this doesn’t seem to be a pattern. This beer is clearer, and while there are particulates at the bottom of it, I don’t think they are the same kind. The previous one probably came near the end of the carboy, where more yeast and other particulates can make it into the beer.

I’m still drinking flat beer, though. Sigh.