Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Coffee Pumpkin Spice Tasting

Having just opened my Saison and having it erupt on me (guess it needs another week or two to finish carbonating) this seems as good a time as any to review my Coffee Pumpkin Spice Ale.  The pumpkin ales were made with traditional coffee spice flavors, but this half of the batch had cold brewed coffee added at boiling time for an extra kick.

Appearance-  The beer pours a hazy orange brown with a thin but lasting head.  Looks about what I expected, but seems to have a high carbonation already with lots of little bubblings showing through

Smell- Whoo is the coffee there. It overpowers almost everything else with only traces of the pumpkin pie spice and a little hint of sweetness peaking through.

Taste- While that smell is a kicker, and not overly enjoyable.  The taste is actually an agreeable balance of spice and coffee with only a moderate amount of bitterness.

Mouthfeel- The best part of this beer appears to be the medium body and high carbonation which make this one bite at the mouth a bit but also seem to dance around after and fill every taste bud.

Drinkability- Pretty low really.  Its become the beer I go to if I just want one more or am trying to give someone else the better homebrews to sample.  While this is definitely drinkable, I would not buy it or try to make it again with all the spice and coffee being WAY too strong and affronting.

Overall- Not sure why I made this one.  I do love pumpkin pie and have tasted a few in the style I enjoyed, and I think the main reason I made a pumpkin ale was to show up another homebrewer who a friend had raved about (and seemed to enjoy my version better) but honestly that was not a good reason.  All of that being said the coffee version came out of experimentation and curiosity and I don't hate the fact that I tried it the way I did.  The pumpkin spice one actually came out much better without the coffee and I'll review that soon.  Hopefully these will lose some of the coffee and spice strengths with a little age and will be more enjoyable in a years time.  In the end at most there isn't a big loss as the real cost of this was probably near $20.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Baltimore / D.C. Beer Scene

So let's face it, when one thinks of great beer spots and famous breweries few are going to name Baltimore MD or Washington D.C. on that list.  That said in the latest issue of Draft magazine there is a LOT of love for the brewers and beer selections of Maryland and D.C.  I thought I would give a quick talk about the local happenings and the magazines articles.

In the "Pubs We Love" section the highlight is on 3 DC belgian cafes (gastropubs) with great selections.  I've been meaning to try one of these for some time now but have not gotten around to it, maybe the next time I go to a show at the rock and roll hotel I will stop by the nearby and highly rated Granville Moore's to sample their mussels and awesome selection of belgians.

Moving on through the magazine we find "American Beer Overkill" an article about the upscale swing of the craft beer scene, with expensive bottles seeming to dominate the market.  While, for the most part, I don't agree with the author I see some validity as there are many overpriced and overpraised beers on the market and I would love to see a few more of the midrange ($6-$10 six pack) beers available.  One of the most intriguing parts of the the article was the emphasis on D.C. and Baltimore.  There is first a talk about Churchkey in D.C. with its wide selection and pricey beers, and the downstairs restaurant with its beer pairings.  The author then met with Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales the brewer of Stateside Saison, a $12 bomber I can't seem to justify purchasing, and the 2011#2 top new brewer in the world who he met at The Brewer's Art in Baltimore, a brewpub I have visited and didn't enjoy much, but they get high reviews and I intend to give it another try one day.  In fact, just several pages later in this same magazine their beer gets the highest review (a 96) in the biere de garde category.

There isn't much more about the area in the magazine but a mention of a farmhouse brewery in Mt. Airy MD and the event listing of a Beer, Bourbon and BBQ fest (sounds pretty awesome) and a reference to the impact of flying dog on english ales. There's also an add for Savor, one of the biggest beer events in the country which occurs in D.C.

Its clear to see that the area is an up and coming site for both brewing and, probably to a greater degree, high grade drinking.  In many ways this doesn't overly surprise me, the area has a large amount of the wealthy 30 and 40 somethings with money to spend on beer and a strong belgian food scene which encourages both imoported delicacies and new local takes on the styles.  For now I'll just enjoy a mild, but refreshing and lightly hoppy Heavy Seas Gold Ale from Baltimore's Clipper City Brewing Co.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Hefeweizen Salad Dressing

With lots of leftover lettuce from my birthday dinner my girlfriend and I decided to have a nice salad tonight.  She asked me to make the dressing...which meant that I had free will to experiment on this one.  I took some similarities to a recipe we made for the salad we made for my birthday but made a bit of a modification in adding beer.  The recipe below is an approximation of the recipe I made as I just eyeballed amounts which looked good:

1/8 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup bavarian hefeweizen
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp mixture parsley and basil (or italian seasoning)
1 tbsp. grated parmesan

This then went on a salad of romaine lettuce, croutons, parmesan cheese, olives and pepperoncini.  One thing is for sure: pepperoncini and hefeweizen go extremely well together.  There was enough dressing for several salads, and I even put it onto a sandwich the next day, delicious.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hefeweizen #1 Tasting

I brewed this Hefe in late December and am getting down to my last 12 pack but just now decided to write a review. (I apologize for the bad view on the pic, the camera was dying and I was in a rush when I took it)

Appearance- Pours a muddy tan.  Clearly way too dark in color for a true hefeweizen. This is almost certainly due to the extract darkening a little during the boil.  It still looks enjoyable with hints of light pale on the sides.  The head is huge and fades at a moderate rate leaving tons of lacing.

Smell- Yum, smells like banana bread and clove.  The smell is enticing and right about what you would expect. I might ferment a bit higher next time to increase those phenols but I'm happy with it.

Taste- The taste is like the smell but a little bit muted.  The banana and clove are there but are weak and theres a little more complexity going on that I find enjoyable but seems less to style.  When comparing mine side by side to a commercial hefe I found mine to smell and taste a little stronger but more muddled with the commercial (Stone Cat Hefeweizen) being clearer and less wide a range of flavors, even if lighter in taste

Mouthfeel- Just right, feels wheaty and goes down super easy.  The carbonation and body seem to be perfect for the style

Drinkability- Very high, but I would like a little more flavor to keep me interested.  I would certainly be willing to pay for this beer but probably wouldn't grab a six pack (although at the cost of this homebrew I'd pick up the two cases I made and more) I'll definitely try to make this style again as I enjoyed it as much or better than most commercial hefeweizens I've had and its an easy drinking style.