Friday, November 29, 2013

581. New Glarus Black Top Black IPA

More New Glarus. Which is always special. And as with the last large influx of New Glarus beers, I have Veronica to thank. Which I do. Profusely. We’ll add this one to an ever-growing list that includes Cherry Stout, Staghorn Octoberfest, Saison, Raspberry Tart, Belgian Red, and Fat Squirrel Brown Ale. Here’s to former students that reward me with beer.

Black Top pours a crystal clear chocolate brown with a creamy eggshell head that has excellent retention; there are also garnet highlights from the light through the glass. In the nose, there is evergreen and the fresh, bright pine sap of newly-cut Douglass fir, followed by a hint of creamy roast and bread crust. Flavors open with chocolate, brown sugar, and toast before the pine and evergreen assert themselves in the middle. There are also hints of roastiness, licorice, and molasses in the middle and onto into the finish, which features a lingering spicy resin bitterness along with a soft twang from the roast malt that leaves an almost minty feel on the back of the throat. The carbonation is bright but gentle; it rounds the beer on the tongue, and carries the roast malt flavor from the middle into the finish. The citrus in the nose that the first couple of bottles had has fallen by the wayside, but I think I like it better without it: the evergreen, roast, and dark sugar flavors play well off one-another, creating a delightful beer just short of aggressive. This is one of the more approachable and enjoyable Black IPAs I’ve had—I would happily drink this all evening long. The bitterness is prominent enough to clean the palate with each sip, and yet still allows the myriad of other flavors to play across the profile of the beer. Excellent job, New Glarus.

From the bottle: “We invite you to discover this newest beer style Black IPA. Political debate rages over the origins of this jet black beer as both coasts feel they deserve credit. Our Black Top is a pleasant road connecting Villages and Communities statewide on a ride of Black IPA discovery. Expect this beer to pour a hop forward jet black brimming with aromatic bitterness. Brewmaster Dan skillfully weaves molasses and chocolate malt undertones with a soaring rush of clean citrus and pine hop notes, to deliver a drinkable Black IPA. Savor Black Top, like Wisconsin’s miles of licorice ribbons of ink that meander through armies of corn and bovine fields. Enjoy the journey on a road less traveled.”

ABV: 6.9%

Oh, Robert Frost.


Saison w/ Spelt Brewday

Since I liked the last version of this, I’ve been thinking about trying it again, but figured that I would wait until early next year to get started. Then Wyeast had to go and release another saison yeast—Wyeast 3726-PC Farmhouse Ale—as one of their seasonal Private Collection options. Consider that dice cast. And the yeast was nice and fresh too: that smack pack blew up like an offhand comment by Sarah Palin. Y’all know the routine: consider this my early X-mas gift to myself.

162. Saison w/Spelt
6 lbs. MFB Pilsener
4 lbs. Best Malz Spelt
1 lb. Weyermann Acidulated

Mash @ 152° F for 90 minutes w/ 3 ½ gallons RO water & 6 g. gypsum; collected 2 ¼ gallons @ 1.068
Batch sparge @ 163° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 gallons RO water; collected 4 ¼ gallons @ 1.024

Collected 6 ½ gallons; topped off to 7 gallons, brought to a boil (90 minutes), & added:
w/90 to go: 1 ½ oz. Cluster leaf 7.6% AA

w/20 to go: 1 oz. Styrian Golding leaf 2.9% AA

w/10 to go: 1 oz. Styrian Goldings leaf 2.9% AA

w/0 to go: 1 oz. Styrian Golding leaf 2.9% AA

Let stand for 15 minutes, chilled, & pitched Wyeast 3726 Farmhouse

Primary: 11/29/2013
Secondary: ; dry hop w/ 1 ½ oz. Styrian Golding leaf 2.9% AA

OG: 1.052

Tasting Notes:

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Brett-tastic Brewday

I’m running out of superlatives to describe all the Brettanomyces beers I’ve been making. Which is a good thing (I think), although since more are on the horizon, who knows? Chalk it up to experience and a basement that needs filling.

161. Brett-tastic
4 lbs. MFB Pale
4 lbs. Best Malz Spelt
3 lbs. MFB Special Aromatic
½ lb. Weyermann Acidulated

Mash @ 151° F for 120 minutes w/ 3 ½ gallons RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 2 ¼ gallons @ 1.082
Batch sparge @ 168° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 gallons RO water; collected 4 gallons @ 1.030

Collected 6 ¼ gallons; topped off to 7 gallons, brought to a boil (60 minutes), & added:
w/60 to go: 1 ½ oz. EKG 5.41% AA

w/5 to go: 1 oz. EKG 5.41% AA

Let stand for 10 minutes, chilled, and pitched slurry from 145b. (100/ECY04)

Primary: 11/27/2013

OG: 1.052

Tasting Notes:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Rockit Cup Mini-Cask Fest Brewday

As promised, my Rockit Cup beer for the December Mini-Cask Fest is the December 2012 Northern English Brown, the one Rockit Cup beer I didn’t make. Check that one off my to do list. After this, it will be back to finishing out all of the other Brettanomyces projects I have cluttering the house, and then on to next year’s focal style: for 2014, saison is the beer of the year.

160. December 2012 Rockit Cup: Northern English Brown
8 lbs. Maris Otter
12 oz. Caravienne
12 oz. Special Roast
4 oz. Chocolate
4 oz. Pale Chocolate

Mash at 154˚ F for 60 minutes w/ 3 gallons RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected almost 2 gallons @ 1.084
Batch sparge @ 165° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 gallons RO water; collected 4 gallons @ 1.026

Collected 6 gallons; topped off to 7 gallons, brought to a boil (60 minutes), & added:
FWH: ½ oz. EKG leaf 5.41% AA

w/60 to go: ¾ oz. EKG leaf 5.41% AA

w/ 10 to go: ¾ oz. EKG leaf 5.41% AA

Chilled, racked to carboy, and pitched Wyeast 1098 British Ale

Primary: 11/20/2013 @ 70˚ F

OG: 1.050

Tasting Notes:

Friday, November 15, 2013

580. Modern Times Lomaland

This beer is courtesy Brian Gallow, who sent me a text message asking if I was interested in splitting a couple of four-packs of Modern Times. To which I obviously said yes, although it was a tougher decision than you may have thought. For while I love the Mad Fermentationist (for information like this), I am annoyed and disgusted by the gratuitous use of “cock-staggeringly” in Modern Times’ advertising prose. Which started pretty much right out the gate. Still, they do offer “open source” brewing, which means all their recipes are open and available to the public. But no matter how cool the cool things are, the repulsion keeps creeping back in. I guess I will have to find some way to live with myself. I still feel dirty. 

Lomaland pours a crystal clear straw—look at that clarity in the picture—with a fluffy white head that offers moderate staying power. The nose is a mix of sweet candy Pils and corn; there are earthy hints of phenol pepperiness mixed with a perfume-y juicy Belgian yeast character and just a dash of Noble hop bitterness lingering in the background. Flavors start dry and crackery, although there is a slight sweetness, almost like you left a saltine cracker on your tongue and the acid in your mouth started converting the starches to sugars. The middle is peppery phenols and light hop bitterness; there is also some slight scratchy graininess on the tongue as the beer heads towards the finish via the carbonation, and there is also a bit of the corn grittiness that sits on the back of the tongue in the finish along with the hop bitterness. While flavors are bright, there is some soft roundness in the mouthfeel of the beer itself even with the dryness and attenuation—that’s the flaked wheat and corn talking—specifically in the front, although the sharp, clean carbonation hides the softness. This is a good beer, albeit a bit rough on the palate. I’m guessing, though, that’s the “rustic” referred to on the label—it is a bit outside the “classic” vision of a saison invoked by the likes of Saison Dupont, Fantôme, or even Ommegang Hennepin, but it is certainly in line with the burgeoning American farmhouse saison that is all the rage with the kids these days. Still, approachable and very drinkable, even with the poorly chosen verbiage to describe the brewery as a whole.

From the can: “Lomaland is an earthy, rustic Belgian-style farmhouse ale that’s both complex and quaffable. It smells like hay, pepper, and friendly sunshine. Its dry, cracker-like body and lightly-hoppy finish make it a beautiful compliment to food. We named Lomaland after the brilliantly crazy utopian community that was the first settlement built in Point Loma, the San Diego neighborhood where our Fermentorium is located.”

ABV: 5.5%
IBU: 30
FG: 1.006


Monday, November 11, 2013

The Great Brett Experiment II, part 1: Tasting Starters

I am finally getting around to stepping up the first four yeasts for The Great Brett Experiment II. I know, I know: pathetic. My only real excuse is the lack of carboy space in my house—I’ve tried to draw the line at fourteen three gallon carboys, but you know, some lines in the sand are meant to be crossed. Anyway, I used 375 g. of DME in 1.2 gallons of water, and split it into 4 half gallon growlers for a 1.030 OG. After sanitizing the mason jars, I poured myself a small sample of the starter fluid for tasting purposes prior to swirling the yeast into suspension and adding it to the growler.

EBY002: The nose is musty candy with slight hints of earth and mineral; there is also some of the stale cracker and biscuit I associate with B. bruxellensis. Flavors are subdued as well; slight tartness, a touch of sweetness, and low levels of gaminess. Maybe some grape and low levels of fruit in the background. Still, it tastes pretty watery.

EBY005: Here the nose is candy, horse blanket, and goat-y. Maybe some dirty feet as well. How do I get the candy in relation to the other aromas? Hard work, my friends. But I do it for you. Flavors are candy and a touch of the dirty band-aid with hints of lacquer and solvent. The nose in this one has more going on than 002, and the flavors have a wider range, although the body is about equally watery.

EBY008: So this one did have a few mold spots that initially grew in the starter before the yeast took off. Still, I’m game. The nose is sulfur and cooked vegetables, plus a touch of baby diaper. All are low, but there. There are some soft fruit flavors mixed with candy—grape and possibly citrus—but this followed by oxidized paper and dirty feet, giving it something of the flavor equivalent of the hot garbage smell found in a sour mash via Lactobaccillus. I do hope this one gets better, or at least more interesting.

EBY009: Probably the best of the lot at this point: candy, tropical fruit, and citrus/citric tartness. There is some cereal and cracker—another variant of the smell I associate with B. bruxellensis—but this one ends up tasting a little like Fruity Pebbles with a hint of lingering spent grain flavor. There is some low-level acidity emerging as well.

I’m hoping all the candy flavors aren’t from unfermented DME; the volume on these was too low for a gravity reading, so I’ll have to wait for the next round of starters to check. You know, more of the hurry up and wait. Boom bow bing, you heard the gunplay


579. TXOPINONDO Sagarnoa

TXOPINONDO is a traditional Basque cidery in Ascain, France. I picked this up because recently I’ve been reminiscing about the dry French ciders I used to buy when I lived in Buffalo, and I was hoping this would live up those memories. It did, and then some. And aged in barrels, too? You had me at French.

Sagarnoa pours a slightly hazy straw with no head (it is not carbonated); the cider in the picture is from the second half of the bottle, so some of the yeast was stirred up, giving it a bit more haze than the initial pour. The nose has quite a bit going on; the initial smell is tart and sharp, followed by an underlying earthy and musty character. Both sides accentuate the apple, albeit in slightly different ways: the initial tartness comes across more as yeast derived, with the crisp, Granny Smith-like apple sour tang coming in underneath that, while the earthy aromatics strike me as apple derived, with the musty dry character reminiscent of classic dry French ciders. Flavors mirror the nose, opening with soft apple before moving into a mineral-ly lactic tartness that brings beads of sweat to my cheeks; this is followed by dry, earthy apple and pear flavors mixed with faint soft kisses of apple sweetness. There is a slight tannic skin bite in the lead into the finish, followed by bright citric tartness combined with a return of the initial mineral tartness and a slight gritty chalkiness on the tongue. The body is dry and clean, with the tartness standing in for the crispness usually provided by carbonation. This is a delightful and nuanced cider. It reminds me of previous French ciders I’ve had—dry, earthy, and crisp—although it does have more yeast presence in the flavor profile than more traditional French ciders, which I’ll admit to liking. This is also certainly nothing like the traditional American ciders of the last decade—think sweet, think cloying, think uninteresting—although this may be something akin to the newest run of Americanciders that Jeff Alworth has been writing about recently. Sadly, Dayton is not on the cutting edge of cider innovation. Anyone want to help me change that?

From the Txopinondo website: “Sagarno (literally apple wine) made in Txopinondo is a fermented beverage made ​​from apples, matured on lees in barrels for a minimum of six months, refreshing and fruity, served cold (approx. 53° F) with grilled fish or meat. We produce it according to an ancient and traditional method from local and elsewhere apples.”

ABV: 6%


Saturday, November 9, 2013

SODZ Beer for [Women] Beer Judging

Today started out rather poorly. A certain unnamed someone (Jake Browning) offered to drive. Since I normally drive, I was quick to take advantage of his offer. Sadly, Jake forgot to heed Sarah’s advice and fill the tank with gas. I know, I know. That’s what a gas gauge is for, right? But said gauge is broken: as we coasted to a stop on the side of the freeway, it still read a quarter tank. Classy. You what is pretty low on my list of fun Saturday morning activities? Walking down I-70 at 8 a.m. in mid-40° F temperatures.

So after walking to the next exit, finding a gas can and walking back to the car (oh yes, the first gas station didn’t carry gas cans—classy touch, no?), we filled up the car, got some McDonald’s for breakfast, and rolled on to Zanesville. Surprisingly, we arrived right as judging started. I’m not sure how with an hour delay we still made it on time. It probably has something to do with the 100+ mph driving to make up lost time. I just imagined we were re-living a scene from Cannonball Run—the original film, not the hack Cannonball Run II. And yes, I expect you all to know the difference. Although in terms of rugged manly looks, Jake Browning is no Burt Reynolds—he’s more a Bizarro Thomas Magnum doppelganger (check out the shot of Magnum hosing himself off; that’s my man Browning’s style). But I digress.

In the morning I judged Belgian and French, followed by Dark Lagers in the afternoon. Easy flights, and a well run competition. After the competition, we sampled a couple of the fine products at Weasel Boy, and then Nate Cornett joined us for the ride home, which included stops at Buckeye Lake and Seventh Son.

And to reiterate: I stand by my complaint from 2011 regarding the title of the competition. Hence my modification of the name. Casual sexism. Results are posted here.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

578. Prairie Funky Galaxy

So Prairie beers are now in Ohio. Which is good. I consider this beer the official fruits of my Kickstarter benevolence. After all, where do you think that sweet branded glass came from? You all know I ain’t the “finding-and-purchasing-fancy-beer-glasses” type. But should a brewery decide to send one along to me along with a sweet t-shirt, well, I’ll happily make use of both. I almost forgot about the glass, actually, hence the two different glasses in the pictures. Yes, I used two glasses. Which is all just another way of pointing out how classy an operation we run around these parts. Our previous Prairie beer, Prairie Hop, was the inspiration for my aforementioned benevolence.

Described on the label as “a Galaxy hopped black Farmhouse ale,” Funky Galaxy pours a roasty dark chocolate with a cocoa-colored head that has solid retention and re-rouses easily. The nose is musty earth, citrus, and hay, with the citrus and roast malt combining into a tart, overly-ripe tropical citrus aroma that reminds me of the aroma of paw paws—with its alkaline and cocoa hints—although without the more intense tropical papaya and mango components to it. I find the nose actually quite beguiling. Maybe what I am circling around here is the passion fruit everyone speaks so highly of; having never tried passion fruit, however, I have no clue. Flavors open with a chocolate roasty sourness that tastes equal parts yeast- and malt-derived before heading into citrus and grassiness in the middle. There is also a slight vinous character, along with some bitterness, leading into cocoa and mineral bite that prefaces the finish, which offers a good healthy return of the tart, over-ripe citrus. As the citrus fades, chocolate, roast, and bitterness linger on the back of the throat. The body is medium—it is a bit heavier than I thought it would be—although the carbonation is bright and clean; there is some residual chalkiness and grittiness on the tongue from the dark malts, although the finish of the beer (not the flavors) is surprisingly clean. I do keep coming back to the nose of the beer as I drink it; I do like the beer, but the nose really stands out—the aromas hint at a sourness and acidity not found in the flavor profile. Which leads to my one criticism of the beer: I think it needs to increase the tartness/acidity/sourness in the body, either via an increased percentage of acidulated malt in the mash or through selectively augmenting fermentation with a Brettanomyces strain intended to accentuate the tartness of the beer. The snap provided by either would help pull flavors together—it would bring the body more in line with the current nose while maintaining the subtle balance between malt and hops. Still, an enjoyable beer. Here’s to Prairie being in Ohio!

From the Prairie website: “Funky Galaxy is a black ‘farmhouse ale brewed with 3 lbs. per barrel Galaxy hops. The beer is conditioned with 2 brett strains and wine yeast.”

ABV: 8.0%


Monday, November 4, 2013

577. The Bruery Oude Tart

Since it is my birthday, I’m pulling out the fancy beer. The last time I had Oude Tart was about 20 minutes before I was poured into the backseat of my Shuttle ride to LAX. You all remember that day, right? I know I do! I’m even using the same glass I got from that day. How it survived my drunken plane flight home is beyond me. But it did, and here we are something like almost three years later. Anyway, I’ll refrain from regaling you all with more of my quasi-obsessive Bruery fixation stories, and instead move on to the beer itself. Oh wait, you really do want to hear more? I wasn’t expecting that answer! Well, if you can’t figure out how to track down the other posts through using the search engine above, then the terrorist really have won. How’s that feel?

Oude Tart pours a clear orange-ish brown with red highlights; there was just the hint of a tan head that glazed the surface of the beer, followed by a decently lasting ring around the edge of the glass. The nose is musty earth and stone fruit, followed by oak and red licorice. There are hints of both lactic and acetic tartness in the nose—my cheeks did start to blush before drinking it—but it is decently behind some of the other aromas, specifically the creamy oak and stone fruit. In the flavor, both the sourness and tartness are much more forward, opening with a tart citric acid bite mixed with lactic sourness as well as leather and stone fruit—cherry and plum specifically, but also fig. The oaks come out in the middle, as does the touch of musty earth, which was more prominent in the nose. There are some residual brown sugar and burnt sugar flavors that transition into the acetic vinegar finish, along with a gentle tannic oak bite that lingers pleasantly. The body is thin, as to be expected, although the pleasant oak character helps round the beer on the tongue, and the vinous character of the beer also adds to the perception of mouthfeel, along with a slight creaminess. While the flavors are good, it could use more depth of malt complexity to balance the tartness in the beer—after the oak and sourness, it is a bit uni-dimensional. Still, the sharp tartness brings rosettes of sweat to my upper cheeks, and I do love that! So here’s to being another year closer to my death! 

From the bottle: “Pleasantly sour with hints of leather, dark fruit, and toasty oak from extended aging in oak barrels.”

ABV: 7.5%