Monday, December 22, 2008

Rogue Chipotle Ale

Rogue never shies away from inventiveness, a word probably best used to describe this ale which uses actual chipotle peppers in the beer and is dedicated to Juan de la Cueva, who combined peppers and ale. The smoked Jalepenos end up overbearing the flavor although the spicy kick at the end is a pleasant surprise. The ale body is very nice, a mellow blend of cascade and willamette hops, however the overwhelming flavor is spice and smoke. For some reason I feel like this would go well with eggs.

Chipotle Ale: **1/2

Rogue Juniper Pale Ale

This is a light bodied ale, reminds me of a more well-bodied and flavored Stella Artois. For a lighter beer though, they've done a great job of mixing the hops and malt for just the right balance. I feel like I'm at somewhat of a disadvantage not being very familiar with what Juniper berries taste like, but I'm assuming it's the sweet residue in the aftertaste that lingers in your mouth. It's a nice touch, to an all around decent beer.

Juniper Pale Ale: ***1/2

Alaskan Smoked Porter

A common trend and popular beer these days is the Smoked Ale or Porter. In general, I'm not a huge fan of this style because most people tend to overdue it and your beer experience ends up being a little more like eating a cigar. Alaskan's 2008 Smoked Porter isn't that overwhelming, but there is perhaps a bit too much smokey flavor for me, which feels a little like eating applewood smoked bacon; maybe a breakfast beer?? The porter consistency and color is nice. There's a little bitter hops you can taste before the kick that seem well flavored, but very subtle. Overall though the smokey bacon is your aftertaste, which is strong at first but settles nicely. Definitely grows on you as you drink it too. I also want to credit Alaskan for refining this beer. I tried their 07 smoked porter and was really not a fan. This year they've toned it down some and ended up with a better result.

Alaskan Smoked Porter: ***

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Port Brewing Old Viscosity Ale

Port Brewing refuses to classify this beer under any beer style, but I'd say it's closest to a stout, and at 10% alc probably not far off from Imperial. Pours a beautiful dark color, close to black. Front end is smooth and unassuming. As it rolls back on your tongue you start to taste the slightest hint of bitters, but very contained and still smooth. The final flavor is sweet with the bitter hint of unsweetened chocolate. As you finish, the hints of chocolate turn to a subtle linger of smoke and sweetness. The ale is aged in bourbon barrels which definitely contributes to the oak and smoke taste. A great beer!

Old Viscosity Ale: **** 1/2

Saturday, November 22, 2008

AleSmith Old Numbskull Barley Wine

Unfortunately, I forgot to write a review of this one when I drank it, but it was very good. AleSmith has been making some very tasty and creative brews recently and I'm a big fan, this barley wine was no exception.

Here's my Dad tasting it, not sure why he's wearing a I heart NY shirt in LA.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sonoma Farmhouse Hop Stoopid

I don't know much about the Sonoma Farmhouse brand that Lagunitas created a few years ago, but their motto is "A traditionally brewed non-traditional all-malt ale." I know they've brewed a couple different styles, and I'm assuming this is their hop heavy version. It's a beautifully orange/ambered colored beer, not a lot of head, at least in my pour. The aroma is a pleasant sweet malt with just a hint of hops. The taste is similar to the aroma except with a hint of hops on the front end. But most of the flavor is a mellow malt that's great for sitting back and relaxing with.

Hop Stoopid: ****

Russian River Brewing Co. Blind Pig IPA

What's most impressive about this beer is the way they've managed to mix the malt and hop flavors for a very pleasing result for both tastes. There's a little bit of history behind the name that you can read about on the bottle, little details that I'm always a fan of. This beer tickles your tongue on the front end with hints of the hop flavor. As it hits the back of your tongue the first thing you notice is the malt and grain flavors, which then blend and finish strong with great flowery citrus hops. There's one final kick of bitterness to remind you it's an IPA. Suprisingly, this beer is only 6.1 % alv.

Blind Pig IPA: ****

Angelino Heights, Victorian IPA in the making

I've already finished and tasted my IPA, but I'm a bit behind in posting pictures of the process. So I'm posting some pictures of the 2nd fermentor and the bottling process here, and I'll talk about taste and show you the final brew in the next post.

In other news, I've decided to start calling my pseudo brewery, Angelino Heights, after my neighborhood, and this new brew is aptly being called, the Victorian IPA.

2nd Fermentor


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sierra Nevada Wet Hop Harvest Ale

This is a wet hop ale, meaning that the hops are added to the wort before they're dried. The idea being that the resins on the flowers aren't dried yet so they should bring out extra flavor. I can't say I noticed as much of the hop flavor since it was a pretty evenly balanced beer. Most of all I taste a heavy malt flavor. It has a beautiful color that reminds me of Rogue's American Amber, but it certainly doesn't have the same bite. Seems like a great late summer sipping beer although I wouldn't mind some added bitterness. Very smooth and even across though.

Wet Hop Harvest Ale: ***1/2

Port Brewing High Tide IPA

This is a fun beer to drink that really offers something for both novice and experienced beer drinkers. People not accustomed to heavy IPAs will appreciate the mellow front end and light body. The seasonal Simcoe hops bring a great flavor that is brought out in the dry hop process. I do wish it was little better balanced to the front which is clean and crisp, but lacking in any overwhelming flavor. However, there is a grapefruit finish and skunky kick that hits you right at the end that I just love.

High Tide IPA: ****1/2

Maui Brewing Company Coconut Porter

Don’t be fooled by the beer in the can. That has to be the motto for this surprising porter. I'm not familiar with Maui Brewing and I tried this on a recommendation. The body on this porter is perfect. It has a well balanced malt front end which turns to coffee tones. The back end goes a little bitter with little to no kick. I don't really taste the coconut, perhaps it's more sentiment than flavor, a lot more chocolate/coffee if you ask me. But all in all a very decent beer.

Coconut Porter: ***1/2

Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA

This beer has a statement on the box that says it's perhaps the best IPA in America. Apparently, they got this quote from Esquire. Ok, that's pretty obnoxious, however, that being said, it is quite good and it apparently it won the battle of the beer competition with Rogue three years in a row, which is quite a feat. It's actually an Imperial, so for those who don't like it strong beer, be advised. What's most noticeable is its strong malt and barley front end and sweet finish. The name comes from the boiling process, which is done to the wort during which hops are continuously added. I'm not familiar with the style, but my impression is that would make for a hoppier beer. However, my one critcism would be that for an Imperial IPA, the back end kick is really on the weaker side. Good if you like a smoother, sweeter IPA, but not if you enjoy a good bitter kick.

90 minute IPA rating: ****

Saturday, October 18, 2008

New brew

For those that are following, I started a new batch of brew last weekend. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures. It's an IPA, here's the ingredients I used:

Organic pale barley malt extract
Briess Caramel 60 degL
Briess Caramel 20 degL
Weyermann Carahell malt
Organic New Zealand Pacific Gem hops - bittering 36 IBU
Organic New Zealand Pacific Gem hops - flavor 18 IBU
Organic New Zealand Hallertaur hops - aroma
Irish Moss

I used a White Labs 1968 London Ale yeast, which according to what I've read should be the best for bring out the hop flavor.

The process has gone pretty well so far. I'm about to finish my fermentation, I'll probably switch carboys tomorow. My friend Matt, had the smart idea to boil the wort on two burners, which really sped up the process. The color has come out considerably lighter than the stout, but much darker than I would have expected for an IPA. My one concern is that during the boil I lost a lot liquid. So the beer could end up being VERY high in alcohol content, it will be an interesting experiment. More to come...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

My latest loot

I always try to keep a lot of good, interesting microbrews around the house and people are always asking me where I get my beer.

About once a month, I head down to a place in the Marina called
Beverage Warehouse. It's hidden at the end of this parking lot off of McConnel St; it's pretty tucked away, so unless you're looking for it, you won't stumble over it. Here's how I usually describe it: "If Toys R Us had alcohol, instead of toys... this would be that place." They have a really incredible selection of every kind of alcohol you could ever want and their staff has a really great knowledge about the different bottles. They also can order rarer things if you don't see what you like. I generally head down there once a month and pick up some beer, wine, and sometimes bourbon. They are always getting in new brands, limited editions and often have good specials that I like to take advantage of.

This latest trip was a great one; they trusted me enough to let me get a couple of beers out of their walk in and back room, which is where they store some of their favorite beers that they don't carry a lot of. Here's a picture of my loot:

From left to right I got: Coconut Porter (Maui Brewing Co, not usually my style to get cans or unknown, but the guy told me it was pretty good), Hop Stoopid (Lagunitas, I almost missed this was Lagunitas because of the big Sonoma Farmhouse written at the top), 12th Harvest Wet Hop (Sierra Nevada, no idea what wet hops are, but I'll find out), High Tide IPA (Port Brewing), Double Dead Guy (Rogue, cool red bottle, I don't really like Dead Guy, but I'll try almost any beer from Rogue and I'm a sucker for limited editions), Old Numbskull barley wine (Alesmith), Cali-Belgie IPA (Stone), Viscosity Ale (Port Brewing), Smoked Porter (Alaska), Blind Pig (Russian River), Pliny the Elder (Russian River), 90 minute IPA (Dogfish Head). Cheers!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Finishing the beer

It's been almost a month since I last updated and in that time I've finished my brew. Rather than having separate entries about each stage, I've included them all into this one post.

I let the 2nd fermentation go for about 5-6 days, the airlock was bubbling just over once a minute so it seemed like it was time to bottle.

I put together about 42 Pacifico, Dos Equis, Heineken, and some bavarian beer bottles. While I washed and sterilized them, I didn't have enough time to peel the labels and make my own. Plus, if the beer turned out to be disgusting, I didn't want to take full responsibility. Bottling was a breeze. I boiled bottling sugar, mixed it in with the beer and then filled each bottle.

I put a cap on each one, but waited to seal them as instructed by many of the sources I've been reading. Apparently, letting it sit for a few minutes will allow the the CO2 to fill the bottle and purge the oxygen. When I finally crimped the caps, I found that the bavarian and dos equis bottles wouldn't take the cap because of an exta lip they have.

In the end, I still had a quite a few bottles and it was off to let them sit for a few weeks. Out of curiosity, I tried one of the dos equis bottles I filled and couldn't get the cap on: green beer. Taste overall wasn't actually that bad, a lot of nice hop flavor but some roughness in the malt and yeast that was overbearing. I crossed my fingers again and hoped that the carbonation could even that that out in the next few weeks.

I tried the first one about a 2 weeks later, you can see it here.

It actually doesn't taste too bad; the consistency is perfect for a stout. You can definitely taste the oatmeal and there's a slight flavor of burned malt that hits you up front, probably a result of overcooking the wort just slightly. There's the slightest chocolate flavor on the back end, which is accompanied by a slightly yeasty flavor; I think had I been able to control the temperature a little better, I could have probably worked out this yeastiness entirely. The beer is also a little too carbonated, however, if I let it cool down from the fridge a little it gets just right.

All in all, I think it actually tastes pretty good, and most of all I'm just proud of the fact that it actually came out as beer as opposed to some sludge or non-drinkable liquid.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Brewing part 2: 2nd Fermentation

After 4 days, my beer's 1st stage of fermentation was complete so I siphoned it into the 2nd fermentor. All went without a hitch. Too early to say how it's going to turn out, but the aroma is great. It's got a very rich hoppy smell, so I'm going to keep my fingers crossed. You can see more photos of the siphon below.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Stone's Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

This is Stone's limited edition, 12th anniversary beer that supposedly combines two of their recipes for an oatmeal stout with an imperial stout made with oaxacan chocolate. I was excited to try this beer since it's probably the closest mix to what I've created with my first brew. At 9.2% alc/vl it certainly carries its weight as an imperial stout. They've done a great job with the bitters and the chocolate flavor really stands out well and mixes nicely in the body. I only wish I could taste the oatmeal more distinctly, otherwise, really great.

My Beer Rating
Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout: ****

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Anderson Valley's Summer Solstice Cerveza Crema

This summer beer is meant to be the seasonal polar opposite of Anderson Valley's famed Winter Solstice, which is increasingly becoming one of the most popular seasonal beers. Summer beers are hard to get right, partially because hot weather doesn't always lend itself to heavier beers with lots of hops. Because of this, most beer makers try to make their summer beers lighter, which ends up tasting a bit like a watered down brew.

As for this brew, it tastes perhaps a bit too much like the Winter Solstice, which is a good beer, however, it has peppermint flavoring that is great for winter, but is perhaps the wrong taste for summer. It does seem to have a more creamy flavor than the Winter Solstice-- perhaps a bit of honey-- but it's not enough to make this stand out in my mind.

My beer rating: ***1/2

Best things always come in the smallest portions

So, I took a rather long hiatus after my last post... A combination of a busy work schedule, laziness, and unfavorable Asiatic trade winds have kept me from blogging for, oh maybe a year and half. However, I am happy to say that I plan to do regular updates from here on out; probably not weekly, but enough to impart some enjoyable beer drinking experiences.

So picking right up where I never left off... I'm happy to announce that after 15 or so years of drinking beer, I brewed my first batch of home brew yesterday. Andrea bought me organic stout ingredients several months ago and ever since I've been waiting to find some spare time to buy the right equipment and spend a day brewing.

The ingredients I had were for an organic stout with a sort of chocolaty overtone based on the grain. I decided to take it a step further by adding oatmeal; here are the ingredients I used:

grain mix:
1/4 lb caramel malt
1/2 lb chocolate malt
1/2 lb carafa II malt
1/4 lb roasted barley
1 lb rolled oats

1 oz New Zealand Hallertaur hops- 40 IBU
1/2 oz New Zealand Pacific Gem hops- 9 IBU
1/2 oz German Spalt Select hops

Irish Moss
Irish Ale Yeast WLP004

Since this was my first batch and I pretty much stumbled my way through the process, I've decided to call this batch "Dave's Clumsy Chocolate Oatmeal Stout."

No matter how much prep and reading I did beforehand, there was no way of getting away from the fact that this was my first brew and mistakes were bound to happen.

The first issue was the grain tea getting too hot, it had just topped 180 degrees when I caught and brought it right down, but I'm worried that it may have added some burned flavor.

Straining the tea also presented problems. When I added the oatmeal, I didn't realize that it would thicken the tea, which made it very difficult to strain. Instead, I ran 170 degree water over the strainer, which worked pretty well.

After getting the tea in, boiling was pretty straight forward. It took a while because I used the full five gallons in a 30 qt pot. It was great smelling the hops and getting to drop them into the wort.

Chilling the wort proved to be really difficult. The recipe I used, said I should get it chilled to between 65 - 75 degrees. I used an ice bath in our bathtub and was able to get the wort down to 82 degrees. However, after an hour and a half of cooling, the thermometer wasn't dropping any lower. I decided to go ahead with the fermentation hoping that it would work anyway.

Luckily, it was ok and the transfer into the carboy knocked a couple more degrees off the wort. I added the yeast and used an airlock with a vodka in it to keep it sterile. Then the whole thing went into the garage for fermentation.

Despite all the errors, the brew had a pretty nice smell coming off it, bitter and very oatey with some caramel compliments. The whole thing was much more tiring than I would have imagined, but all and all it was a lot of fun; I can't wait to finish this batch and taste it. However, there are disadvantages to brewing....

... cleaning.

I'll post more as the process continues.