Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Upgraded Kit Means Upgraded Lytle Creek Kolsch

So, a lot seems to have happened this year in terms of my homebrewing setup despite only brewing one batch of beer recently. After become better acquainted with a mutual friend that also brews beer at home, I checked out his setup, helped him brew a batch of his own, and was inspired to upgrade myself from the rookie league Mr. Beer setup to... let's call it Double A for now with a new 5 gallon kit largely put together from a Northern Brewer kit thanks to a couple gift cards received at Christmas. After some deliberation on what style beer to break the new kit in with, I picked up a Kolsch kit at the More Beer store nearby my work. I am definitely grateful I have such a cool place so convenient to me. The stars finally aligned for brew day to commence and this process certainly was more of a chore than the simple Mr. Beer process. Basically the difference between out of the box cake mix and making cake from scratch. Let it condition for a couple of weeks, chilled a few of the bottles and now finally getting to test out the results.
Like most of my beers it seems the results don't quite come out as expected, but it still results in a beer that's worthwhile. While I'd still call it a kolsch, it doesn't necessarily fit the mold precsiely. It is pretty coppery in color, leaning to the more brown tones, with a good bit of haziness. The head on it is pretty small but lasts for a good while thanks to the good amount of carbonation. There was also a good bit of thick sediment thanks likely to my getting used to using the siphon to leave behind most of the sediment after fermentation. The aroma was lager like with a faintly sweet and musky smell. The flavor was pretty clean upfront but detriorated a bit with a slightly bitter and bit too much citrusy sourness. Probably should've pulled out the hop bags while cooling the wort instead of leaving them in and possibly could've avoided this though. Overall I was pretty happy with it despite it not coming out as planned given all the new processes I had to learn. Now, time to give away a good bulk of my 5 gallons of beer so I can make room for the next batch.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Winter Warmer and Hefeweizen Tastings

The Spiced Winter Warmer I have tasted a few times since about a 4 week initial conditioning. The flavor profile has changed a bit over time to be a bit more bitter, but the overall flavor is a malty, caramel sweetness up front with some of the nutmeg and cinnamon spice in the middle, and a drying bitter finish. It poured with a thick, lasting head and the aroma reflected the sweet and spicy notes in the flavor appropriately. Overall this was a pretty good beer, but it could've done with a bit more roasty flavor to balance the sweetness. It was also best fresh off of conditioning as it developed a skunky bitterness after a couple of months.


The Hefeweizen I was really psyched to taste test after a pre bottling sample indicated the tale tell banana flavors from the weihenstephaner style yeast. My first tasting of this I was pretty dissappointed as I left most of the sediment in the bottle as I typically do since most of my beers I've felt the sediment gave too much of a funky yeast flavor. The flavor resembled a slightly old pilsner, in other words, not good. Upon the second tasting I gave the bottle a light shake to distribute the sediment and the banana and wheat flavors came through quite distinctly. At our Christmass party I went through most of the batch between myself and giving everyone tastings. Since then I've had a few more bottles and despite distributing the sediment the pilsner flavor has returned unfortunately along with a skunky bitterness. In all it was a pretty good beer at the right time and with the proper pour, but it did lack in the wheat flavor and heavier body I'd expect from a true german hef. This is probably due to the not exclusively wheat malt used in the beer. I'll probably also go easier on the hops next time to ease up on the bitterness. Some good lessons learned though to aid in the next batch to produce some good homemade german hef.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

German Hef

I just bottled a batch of hefeweizen that utilized a strain of yeast based on Weinstephaner's. A little taste prior to bottling definitely indicated the tell tale banana and clove flavors that I love from a good German Hef. I can't wait the 4 more weeks until I can crack open a test batch. With the Winter Warmer also soon to be ready, December is going to be a good month.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Spiced Winter Warmer Bottled

I just bottled the recently minted Spiced Winter Warmer this past Saturday. I had a little tasting prior to bottling and this brew should be an interesting one after some conditioning. The taste started sweet with just a bit of nutmeg and cinnamon spice and then rounded out with a roasty smokiness and left a slight floral hop bitterness aftertaste. Can't wait to test out a bottle and open up the batch at our annual Brady Christmas party. Here's a preview of the label.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Currently Brewing

In the works now is a dark ale with a healthy dose of both saaz and sterling hops and a touch of nutmeg and cinnamon to make it ready for the upcoming holiday season. Should be an interesting one.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Abbey Ale Taste Test

I've been very anxious lately to test out the Abbey Ale bottled back in March and I decided yesterday it was close enough to its recommended 6 month conditioning time to crack open a bottle finally. It poured a clear coppery orange with a light, thin head. The aroma was sweet as was the flavor with an overall malty sweetness with a slight bitter and sour finish. It coated the mouth well and the slight carbonation helped to give it a lasting tingle. The orange started to come through a little as it warmed though. Overall, I wasn't all that impressed with it. It kind of fell somewhere near a tripel in flavor, but without the complexity typically found. It was decent, but the lack of flavors and the slight sour finish diminished any real pleasure from it. I'll let this one sit at least another month and see how it develops. I was hoping to have this available at my upcoming birthday party, but I think I'll just have to settle for my Lytle Creek Kolsch.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Tale of Two Breweries

While on a recent family trip to Porland, Maine I was fortunate enough to have some time to visit Allagash Brewing Co. in town and also Samuel Adams Brewery on our brief stop in Boston. These definitely helped to punctuate the typical family vacation of sight seeing and lounging around.


I've been a fan of Allagash's White for a long time, but have only started exploring some of their other offerings in the past year or so. This trip was definitely a treat to see inside a smaller size brewery still on its way up and witness the craftsmanship firsthand. There were just seven of us on a midweek tour, which made hearing the guide and asking questions so much easier. Our guide was also very nice and was able to answer every question I had, even those semi-technical ones. Their barrel room was quite impressive for such a small brewery with all their experimental beer. Although a very simple tour, its intimacy was superb. Well worth the short drive out of the main Portland area and the price of admission (free).


The tasting before the tour was definitely tops in terms of quality and quantity of beer, although I felt a little rushed trying to down some high alcohol beers. That possibly could've been because I was also finishing off the wife's beer as well. The Curieux, which I have been wanting to pick up for a long time was a real treat to taste as was the new Fluxus just released that week. I have tried other beers before that had been aged in old whiskey and wine barrels and was never all that impressed with the amount or type of flavors produced. The Curieux, however, was a definite delight with a strong aroma and flavor of vanilla from the bourbon that gave the base Tripel more depth. The Fluxus I am unfortunately having a hard time remembering much about. Possibly since the Curieux took up much more of my attention. We also tried the White and the Tripel, which seemed to be lighter in flavor than I am typically used to for the style. Both very refreshing though. I also picked up a bottle of their Confluence, which resembled the Tripel very closely with not much of the funkiness I was expecting from the brettanomyces they use in this ale.


Oh what a day it was to go on the tour at Sam Adams. The heat was sweltering on this day and waiting around for an hour and a half for our tour to start in the unairconditioned brewery with numerous other sweaty people was not looking like this was going to be a pleasnt experience. Thank goodness they were tasting some test releases outside in the shade. The maple-pecan porter was very tasty with a light roastiness and overall malt sweetness that did surprisingly well despite the heat. Hopefully that wins over the oaked ale, which I didn't find all that interesting.

We were fortunate enough to be the last ones to fit on the free trolley to Doyle's, which allowed us to be first off and able to grab a seat at the bar, get a quick beer (with a free sam adams glass, woo!), cool off, and head back to the brewery.

After snagging a couple of items at the now sparsely populated gift shop, our tour started off. There were a lot of us, so sometimes it was hard to hear and forget about asking a question if you end up at the back. Fortunately I didn't feel the desire to ask any. The guides were really nice and a lot of fun, especially when we got into the tasting room and had three taster size glasses of beer, including their Koggen which they have never released for sale. First up though, the Boston Lager. I have to say that I am not the biggest fan of their Boston Lager typically, but the one I had here fresh from the brewery was really quite good with great balance and not as much bitterness as I typically remember. And I don't think this was just the heat talking.

Second up was the Summer Ale, which I have enjoyed since they released it a few years ago. Although nothing particularly special, a great wheat beer to quench your summer thirst without compromising flavor.


Our last tasting was put up to a vote of the room. Fortunately the room nearly unanimously went for the Koggen to take advantage of this rare chance to try an unreleased beer. It was described as a Hef style beer and is supposedly one of the oldest recipes developed by the brewery. The clarity, aroma, and flavor was much lighter that a typical Hef though. It still had the primary wheat malt flavor, but it wasn't very strong and didn't stick around long on the palate. I asked our guide why it had never been released and he said that they were keeping it in their pocket if the market demand for Hef style beers grew, then they may consider releasing it. Although that may make sense, due to its relatively light taste, I would think that this would be a good beer to bring in average beer drinkers to the brand. Due to their heritage though, maybe they have a bit of a disdain for average beer and those that drink it.  Overall this was a pretty good tour that is appropriate for beer novices and connoisseurs alike that leaves you with a better appreciation for beer and the Sam Adams brand.