Thursday, January 15, 2009

Angelino Heights, Bourbon Vanilla Bean Porter

I had originally designed this beer thinking that it would be a christmas beer, coming out just in time for our holiday parties. As I'll explain later on, this beer just required more time and I didn't want to rush the process.

This was my first attempt to move off the recipes I've been using and add my own mixes and ideas. Having never made a porter and Winter being the time of stouts and porters, that was an easy decision. I wanted to give it some particular holiday flavor, so I decided to soak vanilla beans in bourbon that I could then use to add to the second ferment. I got these long vanilla beans, imported from Madagascar and soaked them in Eagle Rare bourbon for about 2 weeks.

Making the tea went much smoother than last time. I used much less water which allowed me to create it faster and then the wort went smooth from there.

During the fermenting the beer had a great kreusen foam at the top and had a wonderful rich smell that it emitted. I let it ferment for an extra week on the first go around since my last beer was a little weak. I added the vanilla beans when I switched over to the second fermenter. By this time the beans were really steeped with bourbon and had a really strong vanilla/bourbon mix.

And now, weeks later, I'm finally enjoying it. One thing I learned about the time in the bottle is the longer the better, so I made sure to give it a good two to three weeks this time. I also tried using a couple 22 ounce bottles. I have to say the beer is a little cleaner in the 22's than just the regular 12. I have also found that taking the beer out of the fridge for about 10 minutes and letting it warm a little brings out the flavor a bit more.

So far people have been really receptive to it. The front end has a little tinge from the strength of the bourbon. You can definitely taste a vanilla overtone throughout the body and as it finishes you catch the sweetness of the bourbon coupled with a slight chocolate flavor. The carbonation is about right for a porter, just supporting the flavor throughout the body. It has quite a bit of head as you can see too. However, the yeasty/sour aftertaste that ruined the taste on my IPA is also present in this beer. I'd like to try using better water and hops and see if this can work itself out.

It's a learning process, but it's always a lot of fun.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rogue, Captain Sig's Deadliest Ale

This beer, which is sort of an unclassifiable ale, starts off slow and has a very even gradual build towards the back and dipping underneath your tongue. The hops, which consist of Horizon, Amarillo, and Cascade, are much mellower than other bold ales, but are still very bitter in their kick. They blend well with the malts which espouse a surprisingly sweetened chocolate flavor.

Captain Sig's Deadliest Ale: ***

Friday, January 9, 2009

Russian River Brewing Co, Pliny the Elder

I first tried Pliny the Elder on tap and was blown away at the strength and quality of the hops that carried even throughout the beer's taste. While not quite as impressive in the bottle as on tap, it still retains its great flavor and taste. Simcoe hops have strong citrus flavors and Russian River has developed these to burst with grapefruit early and turn to or more lemon rind bitter at the end. One of it's particularly interesting and defining features is it's very light, almost gold, color, and the body is especially light for imperial IPA. Light enough even to enjoy on a hot day.

Pliny the Elder: *****

Angelino Heights, Victorian IPA

I'm back after a short hiatus for the holidays. After looking through some old posts, I noticed that I spoke a bit about making my home made IPA, but I never spoke about the best part, drinking it. Since I'm already run out of it and drinking my new brew, I thought I should take a second to finish talking about it.

While a lot of people seemed to like the IPA, overall I was unhappy with it. It had a very nice amber color, although darker than I would have hoped for. It started with a very promising front end: slight citrus tones and slowly building hops. However, the back end really fell apart leaving you only with bitter taste without any of the accompanying hop, citrus, or malt flavor. Here's a picture of the IPA, and below that a picture of my friend Chris and I drinking at Thanksgiving.

Not a bad try though for my first IPA. I'd really like to try using cascade or simcoe hops the next time I try an IPA though because I'm personally more partial to that brighter more citrus-y flavor. I also think longer fermenting times and using spring water could be very helpful in making the flavors a little richer. Interestingly enough, I tried one again, about a month after it was initially finished and it was much better. Perhaps all it needed was a little extra time in the bottle?