Sunday, July 24, 2011

Vaccinium - update

It's been a little while since I've said anything about my attempt at a sour cranberry ale with Brett. Well, this beer has been quietly sitting on the cranberries and the Brett for several months now and had developed a nice pellicle on and around the floating raft of cranberries. Much of the pellicle has actually fallen away by now and I figured it was time to get the beer off the fruit and into a tertiary vessel. So, I racked it into a 3-gallon glass carboy and added 0.5 ounces of medium toast Hungarian oak cubes that had been soaking in some Deep Purple zinfandel (BTW, this is a spectacular wine).

The beer is a a hazy pink with some nice sour and Brett aromas. The taste is actually quite mild, but not too mild - I definitely taste the cranberries and the Brett character. I'm assuming the Brett character will increase a bit more as it ages. I'm excited about this beer - I think it just might turn out really good, despite all the crazy things I'm trying with it (e.g. 14% acidulated malt, primary fermentation with a wine yeast, cranberries, Brett, wine-soaked oak cubes). However, the one thing that is concerning me is that the gravity is only down to 1.018-1.020 (I think my hydrometer is reading a little high, thus the range). I really expected this thing to be much lower by now. It still tastes great - much drier than I would expect given a 1.020 gravity. Everything I've read and heard seems to indicate that Brett pretty much eats through anything. This is precisely the reason I mashed high (~160°F) and used a wine yeast - to leave some residual compounds for the Brett to metabolize. I'm not sure why the gravity is still as high as it is. I've posted about this over at the Burgundian Babble Belt homebrew forum and the only thing that seems to have any consensus might be that the Brettanomyces claussenii isn't a particularly strong attenuator.

So, for now, my plan is to let it sit in the tertiary vessel for a month or so and see where it goes. I'm hoping to be able to bottle by the end of August so that it has a few months in the bottle before Thanksgiving. Not sure yet what my bottling plan is - I'd like it to highly carbonated, so ideally I'd like to cork and cage with 750 ml champagne bottles, but I'm not really set up for that and I'm not sure I should splurge for the equipment for just this beer (though if it turns out well, there will certainly be similar beers to brew in the future). In any case, I have some time to think about this.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tasting: Kahakai Blonde Ale

I brewed this beer specifically for my family's annual July 4th "Luau". I wanted a nice "summer beer" - something crisp, golden, not overly aggressive (in in alcohol or in hoppiness). Overall, I am very happy with the way this turned out - it worked perfectly for the event - though there are certainly some changes I would make if I made it again.

Tasted on 7/4/11. Perfect Cape Cod summer evening - clear, breezy, and comfortable. Poured into my Buzzards Bay Brewing Company (now defunct) tumbler.

Appearance - Clear, deep gold - a very pretty color. Thin white head that leaves some lacing that slowly dissipates.

Aroma - Some hop fruitiness and sweet malt.

Taste - Malty and sweet. I think there actually might be too much Carahell - it could use a little less residual sweetness. Slight sulfur that gives this a lager-like quality that is very nice. I would presume that this is from the California Lager strain in the American Ale Yeast Blend. Diffuse bitterness, not as crisp as I would like. Some unwelcome astringency that lingers - this might be from too high a mash pH extracting some tannins.

Mouthfeel - Good carbonation, good body (not too thick), very drinkable.

Overall - Maybe not as crisp as I would have liked, but definitely an easy drinker. Good beer for a hot summer day. Next time I think I would add some acidualted malt to lower the mash pH and cut back the Carahell to under 5%, maybe as low as 3-4%.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tasting: Sweet Caroline Amber

This is my first attempt at a formal description of one of my finished beers. Not sure I have enough experience to properly use the most accurate descriptors, but I'll do my best. For this beer I was trying to create a relatively straight-forward American Amber Ale that would have a quick turnaround and that would showcase Citra hops.

Tasted on 7/7/11. Hot, slightly humid evening. Poured into a Red Sox tumbler my son gave me for Father's Day.

Appearance - Pours a hazy amber-brown, more brown than amber and darker than the SRM estimate. Nice off-white head that leaves some thin lacing. Not sure why this beer remains so hazy - most of my beers have some chill haze, but this brew seems to have it worse than the others, even after a couple of weeks in the fridge. Also not sure why my beers all seem to turn out darker than the SRM estimate.

Aroma - Caramel and citrus. I get a strong grapefruit aroma when poured, but that quickly dissipates to more sweet fruit than grapefruit. The best descriptors I could come up with for this smell are ripe melon and mango. I assume this is the Citra hops.

Taste - Caramelly sweet, perhaps too much so. Nice bitterness that does not linger. Clean. Some fruity hop notes, which accentuates the overall sweetness of this beer.

Mouthfeel - Smooth, almost thick and creamy. Lower carbonation than I had planned for.

Overall - A very good beer (so good, so good?) - seems to hit all the style points for an American Amber Ale. Perhaps too sweet/caramelly and thick for my tastes though, at least on a hot summer evening. This reinforces my general observation that I tend to enjoy beers that use minimal crystal malts - my favorite brews have been the ones where I haven't exceeded 5% crystal malts. Next time I'll cut out some of the crystal malt and increase the carbonation to help dry and thin out the flavor and mouthfeel.
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