Sunday, July 22, 2012

Aged Homebrew - Summit APA Tasting

It's been a little while since I reviewed one of the "aged homebrews" I found in my cellar. This is the third of four beers that were among the very first beers I brewed and which have been sitting in my cellar for a couple of years. So far, both the Irish Red Ale and the Scottish 60/- Ale have held up pretty good to the test of time. I wasn't sure what to expect with this current beer. The mysterious "APA?" on the cap leads me to believe that it is the last surviving bottle of my first attempt at making a red American Pale Ale. Apparently, I didn't know about the "American Amber" category at that point, since I have since learned that what I was attempting to brew pretty much falls under that category. Now that I think about it, this beer can probably be considered to be the genesis of my "Little Rhody Red" recipe that I have been trying to perfect.

However, this beer, at the time that I brewed in back in the summer of 2010, was decidedly NOT good. It wasn't all bad - the aroma was actually quite nice and it looked exactly like I was hoping it would - a nice, reddish orange. Really made you want to drink it. But, the flavor completely did not live up to the promise of the first impression. In fact, I would say this beer was downright deceitful. It looked and smelled delicious, but upon tasting the beer, there was an unmistakable, in-your-face onion flavor. Yes, onion. I've since attributed this flavor to the batch of Summit hops I used. Summit is apparently a somewhat hit-or-miss hop - when its good, it has this wonderful tangerine character (which is what I was going for). But when it's bad, you get onions and garlic (NOT what I was going for). This beer scared me away from Summit, but it is probably worth another shot given that others have had great success with it. In any case, I waited a few months to see if the flavor would dissipate, but it never really did, so most of this batch went down the drain (my only dumped batch so far). I didn't remember hiding a bottle away, though I am glad I did since it gives me the opportunity to see what happens to that onion flavor over the course of a couple of years. Amazingly, time has done great things to this beer.

Appearance - Deep red-brown with a foamy tan head that shrinks away pretty quickly. Darker than it was originally, which seems to be a common characteristic of these old beers. Clarity is excellent.

Aroma - Subdued, but with some hints of roast and caramel. I can definitely still smell some citrus fruit from the Summit hops. Some oxidation is evident as well, but not really cardboardy. More sherry-like. Although different from what I remember it being, this beer smells really quite nice.

Flavor - Rich malt. Some vinous oxidation flavors, but they come across quite nicely, adding a dark fruitiness that makes this beer very interesting. Raisiny perhaps? Still a decent amount of bitterness, though malt clearly dominates. A faint tartness was evident in the first sip, but is harder to detect as I drink. Most importantly though - NO ONION FLAVOR!! Absolutely no hint of it. This beer is 100x better at 2 years old than it was fresh. Once again, these tastings have taught me to never dump my beer (at least not before giving them a couple of years to age). Amazing.

Mouthfeel - Medium body, moderate carbonation. Not as "chewy" as I would have expected given the malt profile. I was expecting something akin to the aged Irish Red. Given the foamy head and the slight tartness, I wonder if there was a bit of a bacterial infection in this bottle, which would also thin it out some. Wish I had thought to take a gravity reading before drinking it all.

Overall - I'm going to sound like a broken record about these old beers, but I'm amazed at how well they have all held up. I had no problem drinking this bottle and wish I had more of it. It's certainly not an American Pale Ale anymore, if it ever was. Not an American Amber either. Given the maltiness and sherry-like flavor, it seems much more 'British' than 'American' at this point. Of course, it might not actually be the beer I think it is - the '?' on the cap and the complete lack of onion off-flavor gives me some doubt, but I cannot think what else it might be. It is different enough from the other aged batches that I have tasted so far and I don't have anything else in my brew log that matches the general specs of this beer. So, I guess I have to conclude that it is indeed my 'Summit APA'. Go figure.

Summit "APA" - original recipe & specs
Partial mash
OG: 1.053
FG: 1.017
SRM: 11.6
IBUs: 36.4

28% Pale Malt
14% Munich Malt
4% Crystal Malt (40L)
2% Roasted Barley
52% Extra Light DME

Summit @ 60 min, 20 min, 8 min, 2 min, & dry hop
Palisades @ 20 min, 8 min, & 2 min
WLP008 East Coast Ale

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sunbeam Kölsch Tasting

I figured a 92°F, humid day was the perfect time to post some tasting notes for my Sunbeam Kölsch (Sonnenstrahl). I brewed this as the companion beer to this year's altbier, using the same yeast, but trying out some Opal hops for the first time.

Appearance - Pretty much crystal clear, yellow-gold with a thin white head that quickly fades.

Aroma - mild, grainy, some fruitiness (not sure if this is from the Opal hops or the yeast).

Flavor - follows the aroma - grainy up front, hint of fruity sweetness and a touch of spice. Bitterness comes through at the end to balance the malt nicely, but doesn't linger. Nice, dry finish makes this extremely easy to drink. I do get a slight touch of astringency towards the end, but it is minor.

Mouthfeel - light body, moderate carbonation (could maybe use a little more).

Overall - perfect beer for a hot and humid summer day, especially after doing some work around the yard. Might actually be my best beer to date from a technical standpoint. It goes down real smooth - in fact, I had to be careful to take my time with this one so I could take some notes. I'm no Kölsch expert, but based on the BJCP description, this could be an award winner. Not sure if I would change anything if I brew this again.

Monday, July 9, 2012

2012 Altbier Tasting

About time I got around to posting some tasting notes from my springtime altbier. Somehow the Spring just rushed past into summer. This is my third attempt at brewing a traditional Düsseldorf Altbier and I think I'm getting close.

Appearance - Clear, orange-brown with a thin, creamy, slightly off-white head that persists while drinking.

Aroma - Mostly grainy malt with a slight touch of spicy fruitiness.

Taste - Solid bitterness that lingers a little before dropping off. Good malt flavors - grainy and nutty. The malt is nicely balanced with some spicy hop flavors. No caramel or noticeable roast, though certainly some grainy sweetness in there. Nice, dry finish. There's also a flavor that I am attributing to the Spalt hops - hard to describe actually - subtly floral maybe, but not perfumy. Overall, for lack of a better descriptor, this beer tastes "German".

Mouthfeel - Creamy head. Light body. Pretty smooth though a touch of lingering astringency. Moderate carbonation. Easy drinker.

Overall - An excellent beer if I do say so myself. As my third attempt at a Düsseldorf Altbier, I think I am slowly dialing in the recipe. My friend and his Düsseldorfer wife give this beer high marks for authenticity. The real test though will be when her father visits sometime in August! Next time, I think I will bump up the IBUs a tad - maybe shoot for 45ish. I also want to try to remove that bit of lingering astringency. I wonder if it was from running a decoction with a mash that was too alkaline (I only recently invested in some ColorpHast strips so I can monitor the mash pH). All in all, this was a very successful beer.
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