Monday, February 27, 2012

Black Dragons Tasting #1

Black Dragons is one of the 5 variations of the Here Be Dragons! Old ale/ Scotch ale hybrid attempt.  This variant was bottled with vanilla extract, coffee and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Appearance- This one explodes out of the bottle furiously and in the glass continues to have carbonation bubbles flying through it.  The body is a solid amber and is extremely cloudy with a large head that fades fairly quickly.  Looks pretty awful honestly.

Smell- Yeast, caramel, honey and a bit of an off medicinal phenol and vegetal character highlight the nose.  There's some good stuff going on here, but not all of it plays nice.

Taste- This one has improved in some ways since I first tried it a few months ago but has lost some of its spice.  The resulting beer is a caramel and honey taste with a bit of bitterness on the tail end and just a bit of peppery spice and alcohol.  The coffee, very strong when I first tried it, has faded to a background note barely noticeable in the complexity.  The off tasting phenol occasionally creeps into the mix but is not nearly as abrasive or present as when the beer was young.  That off flavor was also present in my attempt at a brown ale but has also largely faded from that beer as well.

Mouthfeel- After letting this sit for a couple minutes to let the mad carbonation relax some this one actually drinks fairly well.  The carbonation still seems a bit high with the mouthfeel a nice heavy syrupy character I was hoping for.

Overall/Drinkability- This beer is fairly strong in a lot of ways keeping down the drinkability to one or two.  The appearance and difficulty in pouring without spilling is also a big down note. On the taste side it has cleaned up pretty well but I miss the vanilla/coffee/pepper character that was there originally. While I hope to review the other HBD! beers this one probably came out the best and the others are all nearly identical (due to a strong malt bill to begin with, the over carbonation, that phenolic off taste and under spicing).

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chicago Beer Tour

A few months back I went on a month long business training trip to St. Charles Illinois.  While there is pretty much nothing in St. Charles itself (though the liquor store in-town that I took a 5 mile hike to had a very nice selection) it is only about an hour's train ride outside of Chicago.

I had never been to Chicago, or the Midwest for that matter, and didn't know what to expect.  While I won't get into all of my time spent in Illinois I must talk about the Chicago Beer Experience, a walking beer tour of the city.  While I was hesitant to shell out the money for it (my girlfriend Alyssa flew in for a weekend and suggested it due to it's great reviews) I gave in and sought out the chance to see Chicago with beer goggles.

The very nice Domaine du Page by Two Brothers at a very nice little bottle shop, one of the 4 stops on the tour
The tour is awesome and I highly recommend it.  Your tour guide/server for the trip is Bruce, a former lawyer turned food tour guide turned entrepreneur who was brilliant enough to start "the experience" himself.  While Bruce has his flaws (he isn't always the most knowledgeable source on beer) he is a really nice guy and great guide with a real love for beer and Chicago and he blends history, jokes, info on the brewing process, a wide range of beers, bacon, brewery facts and charm into an entertaining few hours.  I also enjoyed that the tour is in a less traveled part of Chicago giving a neighborhood experience that most might not experience otherwise.  If I had to recommend to someone how to spend a weekend in Chicago I would say to have a day doing touristy stuff (Willis Tower, magnificent mile, millennium park, etc...) and spend a nice chunk of the other with Bruce on his tour.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Irish Red - First all-grain

I decided to make an all grain Irish red to follow my Russian imperial stout. The idea was to get a moderately sweet and malty beer with a fairly low abv. I quite like Smithwicks and it's the type of beer that I can drink any time and have a few of or be content with just one.

Because this was designed to be a fairly small beer I felt it would be a good chance to do my first all grain recipe and came up with the recipe as follows: 

60% 5 0 Warminster Floor-Malted Maris Otter 35 5
24% 2 0 Briess Ashburne Mild Malt 34 5
6% 0 8 Carared 35 20
6% 0 8 Simpsons Medium Crystal 34 55
2% 0 3 Roasted Barley 25 300
2% 0 2 Sugar, Table (Sucrose) 46 1
Batch size: 5.0 gallons


boil 60 mins 1.0 Willamette pellet 4.9
boil 20 mins 0.5 Fuggles pellet 4.2
Boil: 4.0 avg gallons for 60 minutes

Irish Ale Yeast
 Like my partial mashes I chose to do the brew in a bag method (BIAB).  Being my first all-grain it's not a big surprise that this one drastically missed efficiency expectations and my OG which should've been 1.044 (with 75% extraction) hit just 1.032 (an extraction below 55%).  This is probably due to a number of reasons including too little mash water, not sparging and inaccurate thermometer readings.

Despite having some malt extract on hand it was an easy decision for me to just stick with the original plan and see how this one turns out.  As is the results may actually be in the range of an ordinary bitter albeit there might be a bit too much roast and the Irish ale yeast would be non-traditional. On the plus side this one should be low calorie, super drinkable and the hops might shine through more in the low OG than they would have had I hit my target, giving me more fuggle character that I look forward to. At worst this was a learning experience and a check mark for one of my goals for the year (all-grain batch).

In the future I plan to buy a better thermometer, mash longer and actually sparge.  I had planned to sparge this batch but began to make a big mess and gave up on that idea.
About 8 lbs of grain and just 1.5 oz. hops.
Less than 12 hours later it's bubbling away
in front of the Imperial Assassin,
doesn't look like it will be as red as I hoped

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Brew and Blog Schedule

I've found myself struggling to post as regularly as I would like to this blog for a number of reasons that range from too many ideas to too few. In the end I have decided that sticking to a semi-strict schedule and streamlining what types of posts I write should be the best way forward. The schedule which I have decided to use is:

  • Every Monday: 1 post on my own homebrew. This may be:
    •  A recipe
    • A tasting
    • A review of equipment/process
    • Other goings on in my brew life (e.g. Competitions, meetings, experiments, etc...)
  • One other day per week: 1 post on brewing in general. This may be:
    • A discussion of styles
    • An analysis of processes
    • Commercial brewery reviews
    • Brewery tour notes
    • Beer magazine/book reviews
    • Rants/complaints
    • Any general ideas or observations that don't seem to fall into things I am actually brewing/have brewed but might relate to homebrewing, the brewing industry or this blog in general.
  • Other Changes I hope to make include:
    • More updates as I move the beer from grain to glass
    • More links to find reviews from recipes and vice versa
    • Including full recipes here in addition to Beercalculus
With this set schedule I will have a better way to give the types of posts I want to for both myself and others to learn from and should improve the focus towards the end goal: Good Beer!