Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Brouwerij de Isser, Enter the Tiger

This beer was probably most impulsive to date.  After reading about Georges Clemenceau, I was quickly motivated to both grow a mustache and brew this beer.  To tell the truth, I'm not really a fan of Saisons, so perhaps I shouldn't be making them.  However, this beer was such a perfect fit for the moment that I felt like it was a match made in heaven.  Here's the recipe:

Grain Bill
1lb Cara-Munich 15

6.6 lbs light liquid malt extract
1 lb light dry malt extract

60 min - 1.5oz Hallertau
15 min - 1 lb light Belgian Candi Sugar
10 min - .5oz Hallertau
10 min - 1 whirfloc tablet
5 min - .5oz Styrian Golding
0 min - 2oz crystallized ginger

WLP568 Belgian Saison yeast

This the crystalized ginger.

First time using Belgian Candi Syrup.

As you can see the mustache was in full effect and a very important part of making this beer.

Mustaches make your funny faces look even that much funnier.

Cleanup is always the worst part.

Pitching the yeast.

Enter the Tiger momentarily sits beside Cossack's Wisecrack.  The only photo of these two great powers taken together.

Process went pretty smoothly on this one, the only problem I encountered you can see below.  About a month in I started noticing these little circles forming on the top of the beer.  At first I was convinced it was mold, however, after doing some research and examining the closely, I discovered that they were simply tiny bubbles packed tightly together on the surface of the beer.

I have to say, reviews have been possibly my best beer to date.  Ironic, given that this really isn't my style of beer.  Once again I did have some trouble with carbonation, however, instead of being too flat, each bottle seems to explode upon opening.

Finally, here's the label and the beer.
The taste on these is fairly traditional Saison.  The ginger bites through with just a hint to give the beer some spice and uniqueness.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Brasserie Dubuisson, Scaldis Noel

Perhaps it's an odd time to be opening this Belgian Special Ale designed for the Christmas season, but as always I was swayed by its foil label and the lack of otherwise light beers in my tasting queue.  This isn't really a light beer, it has a dark amber color with a light body and no head.  But when everything ahead of it is a barleywine, stout, or black lager, a hot sunny day will start making this beer look like a pilsner.

Aromas bring images of apples, floral spices, belgian yeast, and a hint of the pear oil smell of Isoamyl Acetate.  The brew tastes much as the aroma advertises with the floral spices leading the way on the front end.  The light body opens up with a slightly syrupy, fairly spicy head.  This evolves somewhat evenly into a strong mix of malt and the Isoamyl Acetate from before.  It finishes with a reverberation of black pepper drumstrokes, which emphasize the sweet tones from before.

The skill is apparent here, but the end result simply isn't for me.  I appreciate the way it opens up, but the sweet and spicy overwhelms like an over indulgent cup of hot cider.  Perhaps my opinion would change if I drank this on a cold day in the appropriate season, however, I doubt it will ever get cold enough in LA to warrant this intensity of syrupy flavor.

Scaldis Noel: **1/2

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cossack's Wisecrack

It's been a while since I posted anything about my own brewing.  In part because I've been busy, but also because I've been working on two beers that ended up taking quite a bit of time, and alas, my setup is only two carboys and one bucket deep, so I can only do so much at a time.

However, I'm very happy to announce that I now have two beers finished and ready to drink, with one beer freshly bottled and ready within the few weeks and a double IPA busily churning away in the closet.  I'll talk about Cossack's Wisecrack, my Russian Imperial Stout, in this post, and I'll do separate posts about my ginger saison and blood orange hefeweizen.

The Cossack started out all the way back in December when I – heavily bearded at the time – was taken by the desire to make a heavy and powerful Russian Imperial Stout.  I had recently drank Avery's The Czar on tap, which is a truly incredible beer, and I wanted to see if I could make something in that vein.

The Recipe:

Grain Bill:
6 oz Carahell
5 oz Carafa III
5 oz British Chocolate
5 oz Weyerman Dehusked Carafa III
12 oz Cara Munich

12 lbs dry dark malt extract

3/4 lbs brown sugar

Hopping Schedule:
60 min - 1.5 oz Chinook
45 min - .7 oz Chinook
15 min - 1.5 oz Northern
0 min - 1 oz Willamette

SG: 1.104
Lastly, I used 2 packets of dry yeast for this since I wanted an aggressive ferment.

I was hoping to simplify my boil by using a propane tank and burner from a turkey fryer.  I figured this would help me get my heat up a lot faster, which I've noticed takes quite a bit of time with 4 gallons of liquid on a stovetop.  Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of this, but the process was unsuccessful.  I was able to get the heat up substantially quicker, but didn't expect the massive boil over that resulted.  The cooling time on my brew pot was also substantially longer, so in the end I think I spent the same amount of time boiling my wort as I would have on a stovetop.  On top of all that, you spend most of the time eyeing the device precariously, as it wouldn't take much for a strong gust of wind or knocked over burner to turn that propane tank into a massive bomb.

After a decent ferment, I decided to let this sit in the secondary for an extended period of time.  The alcohol content was getting up there, but I wanted to allow the flavors to work themselves through all that heavy body.  After a few tasty beers that hadn't backed themselves up in alcohol worthiness, I was committed making a beer that was high gravity.  In order to ensure this I added maple syrup to the end of the primary and beginning of the secondary to give the yeast a little more to chow down on.

After tasting this in the secondary about 2 months in, I had a real nice stout going, good burned grain flavor with some roasted tones.  However, I wanted to ensure this beer's place as a clearly defined Russian Imperial, not just a good stout, and that meant only one thing: bourbon barrels.

So I decided to try my first oak aging.  Unable to procure an actual used oak barrel, I settled on using oak chips.  I soaked new oak chips in around 3 cups of wild turkey 101 for around two weeks.  Afterwards, I added it all directly to the secondary for one week and then bottled.

I had read that new oak chips, which I used can quickly overwhelm a beer which is why I only left them in for one week.  But even after just that minimal amount of time, the beer was far too saturated with bourbon.

On the plus side, as you can see the body was heavy, thick, and rich, exactly how you want a Russian Imperial to be.  I gave the bottles an extra month to work out some of the bourbon flavor (they are currently on a month and a half), which seems to have helped a little.  The flavor is a heavy mix of bourbon with hints of oak and roasted grains.  I've now conceded that I'll never get completely back to that nice roasted barley flavor I found when I tried it from the secondary, but all in all it's a beer I'm pretty proud of for its stellar body and high alcohol content at 10.5%.

The major obstacle I've faced, however, is that about half the batch didn't get sealed properly for carbonation, so drinking these has been a little like drinking cold, heavy stout syrup.  The flavors still remain though.  I'm particularly proud of the labels on this one, which I've included so that you all can read.

And that's the story of the Cossack's Wisecrack. Next time, get ready for... Enter the Tiger

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Now now, before all you hop heads throw a fit over the brand and the name, let me make a case for this beer.  I've never been the hugest Dogfishead fan.  Some of you may be shocked, but I have two very good reasons.  1. Price.  They charge the same or more for a 4 pack that you'd pay for an expensive 6 pack.  2. They make incredibly interesting beverages, but I'm not always sure you classify them all as beer.  For example, to classify the Palo Santo as a porter does disservice to both the beer in question and the category of porters.  I think Dogfish makes some very interesting drinks though, and their 'beer,' is always worth trying.  So that being said, let's delve into this timely named Aprihop that I'm drinking in the month of April.

Not an incredible amount of head, smell is of citrusy dry hopping and strong apricots.  After a statement like that I'm sure there's cause for concern that this could end up being some sort of over sweetened travesty, tasting of syrupy fruit flavor like a framboise lambic.  But actually this beer surprises both in its maintaining of flavor and deliciousness.

The brew does a great job balancing the sweetness of the apricot flavor, which tastes like a real apricot, rather than some artificialness, with the strong alpha bitter hops.  It opens with hop flavor that quickly gives way to the light carbonation, but from there widens out into a great balance of hops, apricot and grains.  The apricot flavor meshes surprisingly well with the woody hop oils, leaving a slightly perfume-like bitter mix, neither overwhelming, nor absent.  The color is slightly more amber than you'd expect on this IPA, and the body is fairly light.

You'll want to drink this beer cold because as it starts to head towards room temperature the sweet flavors become overwhelming.  The lightness of the body and the sweet tones make this a great beer for hot days that is immensely drinkable, yet at 7% still packs enough alcohol to keep you satisfied that you're drinking a beer.

Aprihop: ****