Thursday, December 30, 2010

Decisions, decisions

Thanks to my kind wife I have a great selection of beers to choose my New Years Eve drinks from. My wife contacted Drinkstore (the local and best stocked off-licence in Dublin) and Ken from Drinkstore kindly put together a hamper of beers he thought I would like, and I have to say he got the selection spot on.

A great selection of beers were included, mainly American but also a few European beers. Lots of new beers for me to try and also some classics like Dogfish's 90 Minute IPA, which I love. Some of the breweries represented include Dogfish Head, Anderson Valley, ODells, Goose Island, Sierra Nevada, Flying Dog,  Anchor, Saranac, Williams Brothers, Brew Dog. There are some really nice Amber Ale's, one of my favourite styles, and so I may have an Amber themed New Years Eve.

Also included in the hamper was a really nice Brew Dog beer glass that I used on Christmas day. It is quite an unusual shape but is really nice to drink from and although it looks small it actially fits a 33 CL bottle.

I look forward to sampling these beers over the next month and reporting back, thanks again to my lovely wife and Ken in Drinkstore for a great selection (and the fact that he fought through blizzard-like conditions in Dublin to deliver the hamper on the 23rd!).

Monday, December 27, 2010

Festive Cheer

To begin with on Christmas afternoon I decided to go with a bottle of Black Jack Porter from Left Hand Brewing Company. The beer pours a jet black with a nice thick tan head that dissipates quickly. The aroma is sweet and malty, but the taste is a total counterpoint to the aroma. The taste is very strong with concentrated coffee flavours with a hint of chocolate on the end, you also get a lovely vanilla aftertaste. Slightly over-carbonated but a nice light to medium body. Everything you would expect from a porter, nothing outstanding but a nice beer. I think I might have a second bottle of this before changing things up.

Next up was Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, had as a post dessert tipple. Pours a jet black with a thick tan head. Aroma is of strong dark chocolate, also hints of something sweeter in the background, possibly from crystal malt. Taste is very complex, dark chocolate dominates with a nice coco bitterness, with hints of burnt caramel and a very slight sourness, this is all competed by a lovely espresso hit on the end. Medium bodied with a nice level of carbonation. Certainly a beer to take your time with, strong complex flavours and a 10% ABV. This is one to slowly sip on a cold winters evening, perfect for Christmas night with a foot of snow lying on the ground.

Later in the evening I relaxed with a couple of bottles of Flying Dog's Doggie Style Classic IPA, this is a beer I have had before and really liked, my thoughs can be found here.

Last but certainly not least, Sierras Nevada Tumbler,described as an autumn brown ale. I had this on draft previously in the Bull & Castle and really liked it. Pours a lovely reddish brown colour with a thin off white head. Medium bodied with a lovely velvety smooth mouthfeel, this beer is all about the malt. Amber malt is very discernible with a hint of black and chocolate. A really nice beer, however I have to say that I preferred it on draft, the bottle version loses some of the sweet caramel plavour and surprisingly does not seen to have the same level of hops. Overall though a pretty nice way to finish the evening.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas day beers

I have been trying to decide over the past couple of days what beers I will enjoy on christmas day. I have decided to go with a couple of bottles of Black Jack Porter from Left Hand Brewing Company for the main course which should be a good pairing with the beef Wellington we are having. I have decided to follow this with a bottle of Brooklyn Chocolate Stout with dessert, I have been saving this beer for a while and so I am really looking forward to it.

I suspect Santa might bring me a hamper of beer as well so I should have plenty of choice for the evening! I'll report back on how these beers go down.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Red Hopper - Taste Test

Back in the middle of November I brewed an amber ale called Red Hopper (recipe here). This beer was born out of a discussion I had with The Beernut in relation to my opinion that the majority of Irish red ales were bland and uninteresting. I argued that in order for a red ale to be enjoyable it needed to have the characteristics of both an Irish red ale and an American amber. The red ale would provide the malty platform on which the ambers characteristically citrussy hops would sit. In researching a beer like this I came across Randy Mosher's recipe for India Red Ale in his excellent book, Radical Brewing. Having tweaked the recipe a little bit I was satisfied that it would deliver what I was looking for, a heavy malty beer balanced with a nice cirtus hop aroma and flavour.

Red Hopper - one of, if not the best,
beer I have brewed.

Well I am happy to say that I got exactly what I wanted from this beer. The beer pours a lovely blood red colour, nice clarity, with a thick creamy off-white head. The aroma is dominated by the American citrus hops (Cascades, Cascades and more Cascades) with a nice hint of the late addition Goldings. The mouthfeel is lovely, medium bodied with a nice low level of carbonation. This is a very hop forward beer, but this works as there is a strong malt base to back it up. The flavours you get are a hop focussed first hit with a nice caramel and toffee flavour in the middle, followed by a subtle but firm bitterness. This is exactly what I was looking for, and certainly one of, if not the best beer, I have brewed.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Headless Dog

Headless Dog from College Breen Brewery is one of a number of blonde ales that Irish breweries are producing, having already sampled Dungarvan's offering (Helvic Gold), next up it was time to give Headless Dog a second chance.

The beer pours a slightly unusual colour, orangey brown (?) and appears slightly cloudy. The nose reminds me of a hop I don't particularly like in pale ales (fuggles) however the label states that the beer is made with American cascade hops, having said that there is no hint of cascades from the aroma. Light bodied with a very refreshing mouth feel. Again no taste from the cascades, however you do get that bready taste from the munich malt. Again the only hops I can taste are fuggles. A nice, light, refreshing pale ale and would make a very good session beer, however if you are going to say you are using cascade hops, you need to use more than a token amount.

A grand refreashing pale ale, but I have to say probably not a beer I would buy again.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Very Large Monkey

400 Pound Monkey is an English Style Pale Ale from Left Hand Brewing in Colorado. The beer pours a very light golden colour with a thin White head that dissipates quickly. The aroma is malty with a nice level of floral and piney hops. It is medium to light bodied with a strong mouthfeel of hop oils which coat the tongue and throat.

The flavour of this beer is well balanced. A nice strong sweet malt profile is balanced with a strong floral and pine character, this is all followed by a nice stiff bitterness on the end and a dry finish. The bitterness lingers in the throat which is a nice way for an English IPA to finish.

Overall a very nice refreshing IPA, at 6.7% it certainly is not a session beer but one I could see myself enjoying a few bottles of. Not as good as Fuller's IPA but ticks all of the boxes for what you would expect from an English Style IPA.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Whole Lotta Hippo

I am unreservedly a self confessed hop head. I love big American hoppy beers and think that there is no other breweries in the world that can match the Americans in this style of beer. So tonight for a treat I opened my last bottle of Hop-A-Lot-Amus, from River Horse Brewing Company in New Jersey. This is a serious beer, an unfiltered double IPA weighing in at 8.5%.

The beer pours a burnt orange colour, with lots of haze. The head is ample and subsides to give a thin creamy head. A lovely aroma of grapefruit, orange peel and sweet malt, with a hint of the alcohol that this beer possesses. Medium bodied with a coating effect to your mouth and throat. The taste is very distinct, hops are to the fore and overpower every other flavour in this beer. The hops are so strong it is difficult to discern the flavours as the taste of the hops assault all of the flavour sensors in your mouth. There is a strong bitterness and dryness on the finish that leads you to take another sip, even if your mouth is still recovering from the last!

Many people will taste this and think that it is an oddity, a circus freak of a beer not to be tried again. I have to say that I would disagree, although it is unbelievably unbalanced, any beer that can have the effect of making you feel that you have been slapped in the face while you take a sip is a winner in my book. Enjoy, but maybe only buy the one to see if this is a beer for you.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Open It! - Part II

Having thoroughly enjoyed part I of Open It! Weekend I decided to follow up my tasting of I Hardcore You with tonights offering. A bottle of Celebration Stout from the Porterhouse Brewing Company. This particular bottle is from 2009 and typically Porterhouse produce a version every year. Celebration Stout is a bottle conditioned Imperial Stout weighing in at a hefty 7% (well hefty in terms of Irish beers), previous versions of this beer have been up to 10% ABV.

After a vigorous pour I was left with a jet black beer with a large fluffy tan head. Strong roasted character to the aroma with hints of dark fruits (that reminded me of Christmas cake!) and some earthy spice in the background. Medium bodied with a velvety mouthfeel and quite a high level of carbonation which acts to clean the palate of the velvet texture. Very complex flavours, chocolate is there, but muted, the roastiness does not really come through as expected, however what you do get is quite a large hit of alcohol and a slightly cloying sensation on the end, followed by a dry bitterness. This beer is possibly slightly too cold and too gassy, will leave it sit in the glass for a while before continuing......

Sometime later.....The large head that it started off with dissipated quite quickly to leave a thin tan line. Unfortunately the first notable change I get from this beer when it warms up is a diacetyl smell and some phenols. This beer is supposed to age pretty well, but from this I think this bottle may be beyond redemption. If you can block out the aroma the beer tastes ok, but unfortunately I can't get away from that aroma.

Unfortunately this has proven a very disappointing follow up to I Hardcore You. I have another bottle of Celebration Stout in my stash and so I will maybe reserve final judgement on this until I have left that age a bit further.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Open It! - Part I

This weekend is Open It! weekend for us beer bloggers, an idea by Mark Dredge of Pencil & Spoon, Open It! weekend is about digging deep into your beer fridge and opening up those bottles that you have been saving for a special occasion. For me unfortunately I do not have a beer fridge full of rare specimens, however there are a couple of bottles that I have been saving and this first post will be about I Hardcore You, a collaborative beer brewed by Mikkeler and Brew Dog. I Hardcore You is a serious beer, a 9.2% Imperial IPA.

I Hardcore You, a serious

The beer pours a rust colour with a thin white head. The aroma hits you from across the room, pine and pink grapefruit assault the nose, and this is the strongest aroma from this style of beer that I have come across, there is also a very slight funkiness. The taste is just wow, hops, hops and more hops, all backed up by a lovely warming sensation from the alcohol. The pink grapefruit flavour is up front in this beer, a nice malt middle is followed at the end by lemon juice and a nice stern level of bitterness. A chewy body is balanced by a nice level of carbonation. Although the aroma and flavour of this beer is very strong, as is the ABV, it is actually very drinkable and you would quickly forget that it is 9.2%.

An absolutely fantastic beer and I am sorry to say that this is the only bottle I have. A hop bomb that in my opinion is everything that a good Imperial IPA should be.

Part II of Open It! weekend will involve a bottle of Porterhouse 2009 Celebration Stout.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Summer Time!

Due to the fact that it is cold and wet in Ireland I thought what better time to clear out my fridge of summer beers that I did not get around to drinking earlier in the year.

First up is Sierra Nevada Summerfest. The beer pours a very light lemon colour with a thin loose white head. Very subtle aroma, sweet malt is apparent with a very light flowery hop aroma. It is light bodied with a very crisp clean finish. Nice malt character, sweet yet subtle, with a nice floral hop character and a hint of spice. Not as sharp as a traditional pilsner, but the flavours are soft and subtle making this a great session beer. Overall a very pleasing light refreshing lager, well worth picking up a few bottles.

Next up was Goose Island Summertime, I am a big fan of their IPA and so I was looking forward to this. The bottle describes this as a German style kolsch beer. It pours a light golden colour with a thin white head that dissipates quickly. The aroma is so subtle that it is nearly non-existent, very slight spicy character is apparent if you focus really hard. Light bodied, with a beautifully smooth mouthfeel. Lovely fruity flavours dance across the mouth, hints of lemon and melon give this beer an amazingly refreshing taste. A fantastic beer, one I would be stocking up on for when the weather picks up.

Last but not least is Anchor Summer Beer, an American style wheat beer, a style I have not tried before. Pours a light golden colour with a large white frothy head that dissipates quickly. There is an aroma from this beer that you would expect more from a pilsner, and definitely a million miles away from what I would associate with a typical German wheat beer. The large proportion of wheat used in this beer gives it a nice smooth mouthfeel, but the flavours are very subdued. The flavour is a little sweet, a little sour, with the merest hint of lemon. The combination of flavours just result in a pretty bland beer, refreshing but not very exciting.

And so the winners and losers:

1. Goose Island Summertime - a fantastically refreshing beer, perfect for a long hot summers day

2. Sierra Nevada Summertime - a nice refreshing drink, a little light but does the job.

3. Anchor Summer Beer - a distant 3rd to be honest, if this is what American wheat beers are like I think I will be steering clear.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Jackman's Pale Ale

Jackman's. a complex American
Pale Ale

Left Hand Brewing Company is one that I have heard a lot about but until now I had not had the pleasure to try one of their beers. Last night I sampled their Jackman's American Pale Ale.

Pours an attractive amber colour with a large white head that dissipates quickly. Aroma is a mixture of bready malt, lemon and grapefruit hops along with a slight spiciness. The malt is a lot more apparent on the nose than other American Pale Ales that I have tried recently that tend to be more hop focussed. Body is medium with a creamy mouthfeel and a nice coating from the hop oils on the palate (typically a sign of dry hopping). The taste follows the aroma, the malt flavours are bready at first followed by a hint of caramel from the crystal malt, hop flavours are spicy and lemony with a lasting bitterness. The finish is quite grainy with a lasting dryness.

Quite a complex Pale Ale, whereas most beers in the style focus on hitting you over the head with the citrus hop flavours (something I really like), this beer offers a lot more. For those who like a multi-faceted pale ale, highly recommended.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Doggie Style

Fantastic artwork adorns all
of the Flying Dog beers.

Not a very PC name for a beer, but what a wonderful label, the artwork is fantastic (and in keeping with the Hunter S Thompson quote that also appears on the label) and this is continued in the full range of Flying Dog beers. Doggie Style is described as a classic pale ale and is brewed by the Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Maryland.

The beer pours a burnt orange colour with a thick white head that dissipates to leave a thin but consistent head. The aroma is of lovely American citrus hops, not sharp like you get sometimes from citrus hops but very smooth and complex. Light bodied with a nice level of carbonation. The dominant flavours on the tongue are from the hops, pink grapefruit jumps out at you, but there is also a very slight earthiness, this is followed by a nice strong level of bitterness.

Doggie Style, highly

The bitterness that this beer finishes with makes it very moreish and a real thirst quencher. At 5.5% it is probably not a sessionable beer, but certainly one I could see myself having a few bottles of. Highly recommended.

Great information from the Flying Dog website should home brewers wish to try and replicate this:

ABV: 5.5%
Plato: 13
IBU's: 35
Specialty Malts: 120L Crystal Malt
Hops: Northern Brewer, Cascade
Process: Dry hopped during fermentation with shit loads of Cascade hops

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

AG #7 - Red Hopper - Brew Day

Had a chance last week to brew one of two beers I have planned for Christmas. This first beer is a hoppy red/amber ale called Red Hopper. The recipe for this can be found here. There were a couple of brew day challenges with this one, but overall I was pretty happy.

The grain bill came to just under 6kg, and the target ABV I hoped to produce was about 6.4%, there was quite a lot of crystal in this one, along with a little black malt. The brewing salts (white in the pic above) was just some PH 5.2 stabiliser, which for the moment is the only chemicals I use in my brews.

The first challenge I encountered on this brew day was the temperature. The air temperature was about 3 or 4c and this meant that I found it very difficult to hit my strike temeperature and also to hold the mash at the right temperature. I lost a staggering 11c in water temperature when I transferred my brewing water from the kettle to the mash tun. This led to me having to infuse the mash with two kettles of boiling water just to get the temperature to where I needed it. In future when the weather is this cold I will make sure that I heat my strike water to at least 15c over the target temperature.

Pleanty of aeration achieved when transferring to the fermenter. I pitched my starter of American Ale II yeast and the fermenter was happily bubbling away within 8 or 9 hours. However when I took a gravity reading after 5 days the beer had only dropped to 1026, ordinarily I find that my beers ferment out completely after 3-4 days. The reason for this I am guessing is due to my issues with the temperature of the mash. The low temperature probably produced a less fermentable wort and so there is not as much sugar in the wort for the yeast to consume. I think that what will be required with this fermentation will be patience and also maybe a little stirring to re-suspend the yeast and encourage them to continue their work. Hopefully a total of 2-3 weeks in the fermenter should do the job.

I mentioned at the start of this post that this is one of two beers I wanted to brew for the festive period, the second will be a version of Palmer's Lady Liberty Ale which I hope to brew in the next two weeks. I'll post the recipe once I have it finalised.

Monday, November 22, 2010

100% Irish Cask Ale

100% Irish Ale from White
Gypsy Brewery.
Last week I had the pleasure of tasting a beer made 100% from Irish ingredients, it's probably been 15 or more years since a fully Irish beer has been produced here. The beer was a blonde ale made with 100% Irish lager malt and Irish first gold hops. I had the opportunity to chat with the brewer, Cuilan Loughnane  from White Gypsey Brewery in Tipperary. Not only were the ingredients wholly Irish, but also it is the only Irish beer that I know of that uses wet hops (Cuilan's own crop), something that is becoming increasingly popular with American craft brewers. Wet hops simply mean that the hops are picked and used immediately, as opposed to the usual process of the hops being dryed first. The beer itself was very moreish, light and refreshing like a good blonde ale, but also having a nice sweetness from the first gold hops. The version I drank was a cask beer, and I am told that in the coming weeks it will also be available in a filtered and kegged version in the Porterhouse in Dublin.

This beer tasting was part of a wider event, the relaunch of the Messrs Maguires brew pub in Dublin. It has been two years since the brewing equipment in Messrs has been used, however with this relaunch it is envisaged that the brew pub will be producing beer once again. Last night I had the opportunity to try a number of their beers, an IPA, a red ale, a bock, a stout and also an American pale ale. The pick of the bunch was the stout and the American pale ale. The red was a little bland and the bock was far too sweet. The IPA was ok, but the American Pale Ale was very good and the stout had a lovely coffee flavour.

Messrs Maguires can be found on the south side of O'Connell Street bridge in the heart of Dublin and the brew pub is located in the cellar bar, definitely worth checking out if you are in the city.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Smiling Buddha

I was in the Bull and Castle in Dublin last night and had the opportunity to try the latest offering from the Franciscan Well. Called Smiling Buddha, this is an amber ale. Amber ale for me means toffee, caramel, even some chocolate with a powerful hop aroma and flavour to balance out the sweet malts. Smiling Buddha certainly has the malt profile you would expect of an amber ale, however there are no flavours that jump out from the malt. Similarly and unfortunately, it is the same case with the hops, you know their there, but in a beer like this they really need to be in your face and this certainly is not the case with smiling buddha.

So overall I would say that I am disappointed with this, however I think that it is better than quite a few of the Irish Red Ales on the market at the moment. Definitely worth trying.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Brew day schedule

I do not brew as often as I would like, maybe once every 6-8 weeks. Due to this I find that the day before a planned brew day I need to sit down and work out my brewing schedule. I am sure for most experienced brewers this becomes second nature, however due to my sparsity of brewing it is something I need a refresher on every now and again. Due to this, yesterday, ahead of today's brew day, I decided to put together a step by step guide or checklist that I could use on the day so that nothing got overlooked.

Below is my checklist, this of course is based on my brewing set up, however the vast majority of it should be part of any all grain brewers brew day. I would be interested in hearing any variations of this that you may use, or even if you have any comments or suggestions on my process:

Today I will be brewing this recipe, rechristened Red Hopper, due to the heavy hop schedule.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Week of British Beers - Part 3

Combined Harvest, overall
very disappointing
Last up this week for the week of British beers is Bateman's Combined Harvest. I was looking forward to trying this beer as it is slightly unusual. Unusual in the fact that it uses four different kinds of malted grains. It uses Barley, Wheat, Oats and Rye.

The beer pours a clear amber colour with a loose white head. Very sweet and malty aroma with a floral aroma of English hops. Light to medium bodied with an appropriately low level of carbonation. Although this beer focuses on the diversity of grains used, and you would expect this to result in a grainy, complex flavour, I have to say that I find this quite weak and disappointing. You get a sweet malty body that is bookended by the floral hops and a mild bitterness.

Overall very disappointing, light, sweet and not very interesting. Not undrinkable, just uninteresting! Not a beer I will be buying again.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Week of British Beers - Part 2

Continuing with my British theme this week, up next was Fuller's 1845. This beer promised a lot, it is bottle conditioned and matured for 100 days. It has also won numerous awards since it was first released in 1995 (to celebrate Fuller's 150th Anniversary) including the CAMRA best bottle conditioned beer award.

A rich, complex beer, highly
The beer pours a blood red colour with a thick creamy off white head that stays all the way to the last drop. Aroma is of Christmas cake, fruity and spicy, with plums and raisins very apparent on the nose. Medium bodied with a nice smooth mouth feel. After a very powerful aroma the taste is actually quite subtle. The amber malt that is used comes to the fore with moreish caramel flavour, this is backed up by a nice floral characteristic from the Golding's hops. The bitterness on the end is followed by a nice warmth from the 6.3% ABV.
A very complex, flavoursome beer and it really shows what can be done with bottle conditioning. Would make a great winter warmer for the forthcoming festive season. Highly recommended.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Week of British Beers - Part 1

A nice, light and fruity
Summer beer
Too often I reach into my beer fridge to pick up a bottle of British beer only for my hand to be drawn towards a big American IPA or Pale Ale. This week in an effort to focus my tasting I have decided to make it a week of British Beer reviews. First up is Badger's Golden Champion.

The beer pours a light golden colour with a decent white frothy head. Aroma is all floral hops, with a hint of orange, very light and refreshing on the nose. Light bodied with a lovely mouth feel, carbonation is a little high but the beer has a nice crisp finish. Very refreshing taste, this beer is all about the floral hops with a lovely taste of elderflower on the end. Not sure if after a few bottles the elderflower aftertaste would become a bit cloying but certainly for the first bottle it is refreshing and something a bit different.

A nice summer beer, light and fruity and would make a great accompaniment to spicy food. Nothing extraordinary but well worth picking up a few bottles.

British Beer week will continue on Wednesday, still weighing up what to go for next......

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Book Review - Brewing up a Business, by Sam Calagione

Every amateur brewer dreams of opening their own microbrewery and spending the rest of their days concocting innovative and flavoursome beers. Sam Calagione did just that in 1995 when he established the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware.

Sam has written a book telling the story of his entrepreneurial journey and the result is both a business manual and an interesting insight into one of the most respected craft breweries now operating in the United Sates. The book focuses primarily on the business side of the story and discusses issues around finding an idea, getting finance, marketing and PR, sales, leadership etc, however even if you have no interest in taking this journey yourself, the book is a fantastic read.

Sam, a college English graduate, is an exceptionally good writer, and mixes the important lessons of starting a business with the interesting anecdotes of some of his own successes and failures. He is highly driven and has an unbelievable entrepreneurial spirit, one example of his drive is that in order to open his brewpub in Delaware he needed to have the state law changed, which he did!

Dogfish Head is now world renowned for using innovative ingredients in their beer (chicory, raisins, peaches etc) and have grown to be one of the largest independent breweries in the US. If you are looking to eventually take this journey towards opening your own brewery/brewpub then this book should be your bible, if however you just have a love of good beer (or good business stories) then this book will prove highly interesting.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Honkers Ale

Honkers Ale, definitely worth
picking up a few bottles.
Honkers Ale by Goose Island is described as an English style bitter, so how would an American brewery fare when making a beer style that its US counterparts have pretty much forgotten about in the race to make their beers bigger, bolder and more extreme?

The beer pours a lovely light amber colour with a thick fluffy white head. The aroma is of warm sweet malt with a nice strong spicy English hop aroma (maybe fuggles hops). Light to medium bodied with a smooth creamy mouthfeel. The flavour is well balanced, sweet malt up front, a nice biscuity centre, with a hint of hop bitterness on the end. Finishes slightly dry and the hop bitterness lingers nicely at the back of your throat.

A very nice attempt at an English bitter, very drinkable and at 4.3% would make a great session beer. Definitely worth picking up a few bottles.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Brewdog Zeitgeist - Black Lager

Zeitgeist, overall pretty
I have never before tried a black lager (didn't Guinness attempt to lauch one recently?) and so when I came across a bottle of Zeitgeist from Brewdog, I had to give it a try. Brewdog are known for producing edgy, hard hitting beers and so I was interested to see what they could add to what is essentially a lager.

The beer pours a black colour with a very slight red hue. A thin off white head gives it an almost porter like look to it. Subtle aromas of malt and hops with no real dominant aroma on the nose. Light to medium bodied with a high level of carbonation. The taste is all about the crystal malts and the hops are not very apparent. This is probably my inner hop-head talking but I would have liked a bit of noble hop punch to this one.

Overal a nice, smooth, refreshing beer, however not overly exciting and not a beer I would buy again. Knowing the kind of beers that Brewdog can produce, this was pretty dissapointing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

AG #7 - Red Hopper - Recipe

Following a recent discussion with TheBeernut (see the comments section of this post) about the lack of oomph in Irish Red Ales I decided that I needed to brew what I had been looking for, so after much research I have decided that I will brew my take on Randy Moshers India Red Ale (from his excellent book, Radical Brewing). This beer should provide me with what I have been looking for, a malty red ale that has a serious hop kick.

Diaspora Red Ale

14-B American IPA
Author: Randy Mosher/Mark
BeerTools Pro Color Graphic

Size: 23.52 L
Efficiency: 75.0%

Original Gravity: 1.065 (1.056 - 1.075)
Terminal Gravity: 1.016 (1.010 - 1.018)
Color: 35.88 (11.82 - 29.55)
Alcohol: 6.4% (5.5% - 7.5%)
Bitterness: 75.3 (40.0 - 70.0)

3500.0 g Maris Otter
2700.0 g Munich Malt
400.0 g Crystal 60 EBC
260.0 g Crystal 100 EBC
60.0 g Black 1400 EBC
63.0 g Cascade (5.4%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min
42.0 g Cascade (6.3%) - added during boil, boiled 30 min
23.0 g Cascade (5.5%) - added during boil, boiled 30 min
18.0 g Goldings (4.8%) - added during boil, boiled 5 min
48.0 g Goldings (5.2%) - added during boil, boiled 5 min
1.0 ea WYeast 1272 American Ale II

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Treat for Halloween - Croglin Vampire

Last week I arrived home to a nice surprise, a box labelled Cumbrian Legendary Ales, and inside a bottle of their doppelbock, Croglin Vampire. A very appropriate beer I think for the forthcoming ghoulish festivities.

Firstly for those unfamiliar with doppelbocks (including yours truly), here is an excerpt from the ever reliable wikipedia, 'Bock is the term for a strong malty lager beer of German origin [...] doppelbock, [is] a stronger and maltier version.'  Simple enough, now that we know what we are dealing with lets dive in.

Croglin Vampire pours a lovely dark red colour with a thick off white head that dissipates to leave a thin creamy line. The aroma is wonderful, all sweet malt and caramel, with a hint of burnt toffee and dark fruits, the aroma reminds me a lot of Clotworhy Dobbin. The mouthfeel is something quite different, medium to full bodied (erring on the side of full) with a nice low level of carbonation, the beer coats every inch of your mouth but not in a cloying way. There's a saying in Ireland about a particular black beverage that there is 'eatin and drinkin in it', and Croglin vampire feels the same. There is a near chewiness to the caramel and toffee flavours that expand in your mouth and it is these flavours combined with the mouthfeel that hides the 8% ABV that this beer packs. This is a perfect beer for this time of year, a sipper that you can really enjoy while you sit warm and cosy looking out at those dirty autumnal nights.

Drinking a beer likes this from a small local brewer in England makes me long for a time when Irish craft brewers can brew beers like this. At the moment the handful of Irish Microbrewers seem to be intent on producing craft beers that have at least one eye on the potential of mass market, come on lads take some risks! Crank up that pilot brewery and produce some off the wall seasonals or specials.

A big thank you to Roger Humphreys and Cathy from Cumbrian Legendary Ales for the sample bottle, unfortunately it is probably unlikely that any of their beers will be available in Ireland in the near future, however if you are ever in Cumbria be sure to look for their beers on tap. Their cask beers include; the award winning Loweswater Gold, Dickie Doodle, Grasmoor Dark Ale, Melbreak and Langdale.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

First Impressions - Dr Jekyl, Dr Jekyl & Mr Hyde

Last month I brewed up my first ever parti-gyle recipe, from that I got three beers, a double IPA (Mr Hyde), an APA (Dr Jekyl) and during bottling I blended some of the beer to give me an IPA (Dr Jekyl & Mr Hyde). Last night I tasted the bottled version of Dr Jekyl.

Dr Jekyl, has a very
refreshing bitter bite to it.
First thing I must say is that I have been drinking this beer from the keg for a few weeks and ahead of this weeks ICB tasting night I decided that I should sample one of the bottles. The first thing that I noticed was that this beer turned out considerably different than the kegged version!

The beer pours a rich amber colour with a thick creamy head. The aroma is well balanced , quite malty but with a nice layer of citrus hop flavour on top. The bitterness of this beer is what hits you first when you taste it, however there is very little of the cascade flavour that was so dominant in the kegged version, thats very unusual. The bitterness and the low level of carbonation makes this a really refreshing beer. The amazing thing is that this beer smells and tastes very different to the kegged version. I would nearly think that I had mis-labelled the bottles, but I know I definitely did not. Overall very happy with this beer.

Certainly the most complex
beer I have ever brewed.
 Purely for comparison purposes I also tried a bottle of the blended beer last night and I thought this was fantastic. At 6.4% and having only been in the bottle for three weeks it is still very young, however it is really good. It pours a similar colour and appearance to Mr Hyde. The aroma has a lot more citrus hops, really nice grapefruit aroma, not overpowering, just nice. It has a medium body with a nice level of carbonation. The flavour is a nice balance of hops and malts. The citrus flavour of the hops is very apparent along with a marmalade like flavour. The bitterness in this version is rather subdued as it is drowned out slightly by these two dominant flavours. There is a slightly unusual, but not unpleasant, aftertaste that I can't quite put my finger on, it certainly finishes quite dry but there is something else there that I cannot quite identify.

I think this beer will only improve with age. You certainly wouldn't think it is 6.4%. This is definitely one of the most complex flavoured beers that I have brewed and I am really looking forward to trying it's big brother, the 8.4% Double IPA, Mr Hyde.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Indian Brown Ale - Dogfish Style

Dogfish Head Brewery make some great beers, especially their series of 60 and 90 minutes IPA's, we won't mention the peach 'beer'. So I was really looking forward to see what they would do with a Brown Ale.

The beer pours a very dark coffee colour with a thick tan head, almost stout like in appearance. Roasted malt dominates the aroma with a nice kick from the goldings hops (they also use liberty in this beer). Medium to full bodied with a tracle like texture. Nice level of sweetness (they add caramelised brown sugar to this beer) balances out the dry, bitter finish. As the beer warms up you get hints of apricot from the aroma which is very nice.

A very drinkable beer that hides it's 7.2% ABV with its smoothness. In a blind tasting I would probably think this is a porter and I find it difficult to discern the liberty hops, however I think this is a very good beer and I would highly recommend picking up a few bottles.
This beer has taught me something that has been screaming at me for quite a while now. In future I need to be patient and allow dark beers to warm up slightly before tasting. My fridge is too cold and invariably I drink a beer straight from the fridge and only when I am half way through do I start to appreciate the complexity of aromas and flavour that come out when the beer has warmed up a bit. Note to self: leave dark beers out of the fridge for at least 20 minutes before opening.

Friday, October 15, 2010

It's a Peach...but not a beer!

Should I even be writing about this, a beer blog that leaves the path most travelled by, is this even beer? I think not, but it was made by Dogfish Head and so I suppose I must talk about it.

The front of the bottle of Dogfish Head's Festina Peche describes the drink as a 'malt beverage brewed with peach concentrate'. interesting I thought. However this was a very unusual 'beer' in every sense.

Festina Peche, an unusual 'beer' in every sense.
It pours a cloudy light yellow colour, the head dissipates quickly to leave nothing behind. The look of it as I poured and watched the head dissapear reminded my of champagne or prosecco. It was not very enticing looking. Little or no aroma is apparent (although my wife thought the peaches were very apparent), certainly no malt or hops discernible on the nose. The taste is fizzy and watery. The peach flavour is there but it is not what you would expect. There is little or no sweetness and this characteristic is accentuated by the very dry finish. This may have started as a brewing experiment but I can't help but thinking that this should have never made it past the pilot brewery! Not a 'beer' for me*.
* Having said all that my wife drank the rest of the bottle and loved it, she decribed it as tasting like a posh lemonade!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Payback Porter

The Speakeasy Brewery in San Francisco make some great beers, Prohibition Ale being one of my favourite beers of all time. I had never tried their porter and so when I spotted an enticing* 650ml bottle I just had to give it a go.

A winter warmer, definitely
worth picking up.
The beer pours a jet black with a thin tan head. Very interesting aroma; raisons and cloves are very apparent with a warming alcohol in the background. There is also the vaguest hint of North Western hops fighting to be recognised. This beer has a very complex flavour, the raisons and cloves come through strongly in what is a very treacly body. All of this is wrapped in a very boozy flavour (7.2% ABV). Although this is a big bodied beer it has a surprisingly smooth and clean mouthfeel (the treacle effect doesn't last). As this beer warms up the booziness fades and the complexity of the flavours intensifies.

This is certainly a winter warmer, at 7.2% and coming in a 650ml bottle, it is a beer that can be happily sipped over a couple of hours. Definitely worth picking up a bottle if you come across it.

* enticing in more ways than one, yes the 650ml bottle is something I really like, but the other thing is that the labels for the Speakeasy beers are so striking. Harking back to the prohibition days in America they scream of gangsters and dames and are represented in a striking art deco style.

Monday, October 11, 2010


American IPA's are one of my favourite beers and Odell Brewing Company is fast becoming on of my favourite American breweries. I have sampled, and thoroughly enjoyed their; 5 Barrell Pale Ale, 90 Shilling Ale, Cutthroat Porter and  St Lupulin Extra Pale Ale. So no pressure then when I cracked open a bottle of their IPA.

A lovely, full-on American IPA
 The beer pours an unusual orange colour and the appearance is quite cloudy. A thick creamy white head settles quickly into a thin creamy line. Lovely aroma of sharp citrus hops with lemon and grapefruit dominating. Medium bodied with a low level of carbonation, clean smooth taste with a slightly syrupy characteristic. This is a lovely, full-on American IPA. The high hop profile is balanced by an assertive medium body that provides the perfect platform for those hops to shine. The bitterness on the end is strong but very smooth.

You can definitely taste the strength of this beer (7%) but it is still immensely drinkable. Very highly recommended.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Irish Pale Ale Debate - O'Hara's IPA

There has been a bit of a debate amongst members of Beoir as to whether or not Irish Pale Ale is a distinct style of ale. Many point to the number of Irish breweries who have a pale ale offering and believe that this alone should be enough to constitute a beer style, I have to say that I have my doubts.

Lovely beer and an interesting
take on an American style pale ale
 One of the beers often quoted as being part of this new style is O'Hara's Irish Pale Ale. This is a beer that I have tried before on cask but I had not sampled the bottled version, the cask version was nice but had an overpowering perfume aroma that I didn't quite like.

The beer pours a golden colour with a thick creamy head. Nice citrus hop aroma dominates which is nice to see in an Irish beer. Light to medium bodied with a smooth creamy mouthfeel. Lovely tasting beer, citrus flavours up front with a nice malty middle and a smooth level of bitterness on the end. Very easy drinking and I could certainly see myself having a few of these.

I have to say that I think this is a better beer than Galway Hookers 'Irish Pale Ale' and this is certainly a beer that I will be seeking out again. Highly recommended.

As for the debate about Irish Pale Ale being a dinstinctive style I think that if anything this beer proves that it is not. O'Hara's IPA represents an interesting take on an American style pale ale, it does this very well and maybe has a more malty profile than it's American counterparts, but this distinction alone does not justify the argument that this type of beer constitutes a separate style.

Friday, October 1, 2010

An Interesting Taste Sensation - Chapeau Gueuze Lambic

I have never before tried a Lambic beer but those who have invariably rave about it. I had imagined that it was one of those love it or hate it situations. For those who are not familiar with the Lambic style here is a quick overview from our friends at Wikipedia:

Lambic is a very distinctive type of beer brewed only in the Pajottenland region of Belgium (southwest of Brussels) and in Brussels itself at the Cantillon Brewery and museum. Lambic is now mainly consumed after refermentation, resulting in derived beers such as Geuze or Kriek.

Where has this beer style been all my life.
Unlike conventional ales and lagers, which are fermented by carefully cultivated strains of brewer's yeasts, lambic beer is instead produced by spontaneous fermentation: it is exposed to the wild yeasts and bacteria that are said to be native to the Senne valley, in which Brussels lies. It is this unusual process which gives the beer its distinctive flavour: dry, vinous, and cidery, with a slightly sour aftertaste.

So after seeking some recommendations from some Sour Aficianados I picked up a bottle of Chapeau Gueuze Lambic brewed by Brouwerij De Troch. The first thing that strikes you when you take the cap off is that it also has a cork, once uncorked the beer pours a red colour, nearly reminiscent of an Irish Red or American Amber Ale. The head is small and dissipates quickly to leave a thin line of white froth. Very unusual aroma (well, unusual for somebody who has never tried a lambic!), the dominant aroma is of cider apples with that sweet aroma that you would expect from a good craft cider, hiding somewhere in the background is also a slight funkiness.

So after my first sip, did I love it or hate it? I have to say that I instantly loved it. Thick, sweet, fizzy, with a lovely subtle sourness on the end. This for me is a bit of a revelation, where has this beer style been all my life, Belgium probably. The mouthfeel is so good, thick bodied and with each sip it coats your mouth and throat, but not in a bad way, this just allows the flavours to repeat in your mouth long after you have swallowed the beer. The sourness on the end is so subtle you would nearly miss it, but again that flavour characteristic stays with you for quite a while.

A fantastic beer, a fantastic new style to explore. I would highly recommend picking up a bottle of this.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

One Mash, Three Beers

So I got around to bottling and kegging my Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde beers today. The plan was to bottle all of the Mr hyde, about 26 x 500ml bottles, bottle 6 x 500ml of the Dr Jekyl and then keg the rest of the Dr Jekyl. In the end I actually bottled three different beers.

First off this was a parti-gyle style beer with a big beer (Mr Hyde) and a small beer (Dr Jekyl). This was the first time I had ever attempted this type of brewing and so the brew day threw up some unexpected results, however this has been a process that I have really enjoyed and something that I will certainly try again.

Not happy with just producing two beers when it came to bottling day I decided that it would be interesting to also bottle a blended version of these beers. Due to the fact that they both came from the same mash I thought that this would work well. At the end of bottling day I had:

5 x 500ml bottles and 1 x corny keg of Dr Jekyl - American Pale Ale (4.3%)

18 x 500ml bottles of Mr Hyde - American Double IPA (8.4%)

6 x 500ml bottles of Dr Jekyl & Mr Hyde - American Blended IPA (6.35%)

The proof as they say will be in the tasting, and I am really looking forward to trying these three beers in a couple of weeks time. The DIPA tasted really good from the fermenter, boozy but with a great hop kick. The APA on the other hand tasted a little thin but had a great hop flavour, hopefully this will develop a little body during its conditioning.

In a few weeks time I will post the results of the first tasting, I'll try the three beers in one sitting, this will be a little unfair on the DIPA as it will need more time to condition properly, but this should give me a good early indicator of how these beers have turned out.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Beer Review: Anchor Small Beer

Having recently brewed my Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde big and small beer I was interested to see a bottle of Anchor Small Beer in Hollands of Bray. This beer is made from the second runnings of the mash from which Anchor make their Old Foghorn Barley Wine and at 3.2% it certainly is a small beer, however the situation is helped somewhat by its packaging in a 650ml bottle.

The beer pours a pale amber colour, crystal clear, with a thin white head. Quite an unusual aroma, piney earthy hops are present and there is also a very slight funkiness. Very light bodied as you would expect and very clean on the palate. I would say it is overcarbonated which hides some of the flavour. Dissapointingly this beer lacks much flavour. The lack of flavour is understandable, a beer that is only 3.2% lacks body and an ale with no body lacks the platform on which the brewer can build flavour. The only redeeming feature of this beer is a nice level of bitterness on the finish.

Overall quite dissapointing and not a beer I would buy again.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Beer Review: Prohibition Ale

A couple of months ago I remember a night in the Bull & Castle consuming copious amounts of prohibition ale on draught, I thought it was a fantastic beer but needless to say the next morning I wished it had not tasted as nice. When I spotted some bottles of Speakeasy's Prohibition Ale in the off-licence I had to pick up a few.

A truly stunning beer.
The beer pours a dark amber colour with a thick off white head. It possesses one of the nicest aromas I have ever experienced, sharp sweetness from the malt is reminiscent of sticky toffee. This is balanced by a lovely citrus grapefruit hop hit. The taste is just fabulous; caramel, toffee and cinnamon are all present, all backed up by a fantastic amount of late kettle hops. Not really a session beer at 6.1% but one you could really enjoy two or three bottles of.

This is truly a stunning beer, an American Amber Ale that ticks all the boxes and one of the best beers I have ever tasted. If you ever see this in bottle, grab as much as you can!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Beer Review: Bass Ale

What does Bass taste like now?

Bass Ale, Not what it used to be
Over the summer I had read Pete Brown's book, Hops and Glory, this was a book I really enjoyed. It tells the story of the history of IPA and one of the main 'characters' in the book is Bass Ale. Recently while browsing through the beer shelves I saw cans of Bass and I thought, I wonder what it tastes like now?

Unfortunatley the answer is, not great! The beer pours an unusual red colour that reminded me of red lemonade. A thin white head dissipates quickly. Aroma is actually quite nice, sweet malt with the merest hint of hops. The taste however is very dissapointing, thin and watery to the point of having absolutely no flavour or taste. I know it is a difficult for a brewer to get flavour and body into a beer with such a low ABV (3.8%) however this tastes of nothing.

This is a beer stripped of all of its key components and is a far cry from the Bass that was part of a revolution in beer in the 1800's, however the brewer still clings to this past by proudly stating on the can "traditionally brewed for quality since 1777".

Monday, September 20, 2010

Beer Review: 5 Barrell Pale Ale

I have really enjoyed the beers from Odell Brewing that I have sampled over the last few months (St Lupulin Pale Ale, Cutthroat Porter and 90 Shilling Ale) and last night was the turn of their 5 Barrell Pale Ale. On the label for this beer Odell focuses on the part that hops play in the beer, they use four kettle additions, a hopback as well as dry hopping.

The beer pours a lovely amber colour with a small thin white head. There is a very sweet citrus aroma of lemon with a hint of orange on the nose, as it warms up you get a slight minty note from the aroma. Light to medium bodied with a very smooth finish. Lemon flavour carries through to the taste giving an immensely refreshing feel. Quite hoppy but the hop profile is very smooth.

Would make a lovely summer beer. Highly recommended.

Friday, September 17, 2010

AG #5 and #6 - Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde - Brew Day

For some time I have been wanting to change my brew day process in order to maximise my volumes due to the fact that I have less time to brew. With that in mind I decided to brew a parti-gyle beer which would allow me to create two brews from the one mash. Parti-gyle involves using a grain heavy mash and producing one strong beer from the first running and then a weaker beer from the second runnings. I decided to forulate a recipe that would produce an IPA and an APA. The recipe I came up with I called Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde.

One of the challenges with parti-gyle brewing is recipe formulation and gravity calculations and this is the one area where I fell down on this brew. I had estimated that I would be able to produce a beer of 1066 from the first runnings and then a beer of 1040 from the second runnings. The seconds runnings produced a beer of 1043 and so I was happy with that, however the first beer produced a monster of 1122! Obviously I had miscalculated along the way and so in the end I diluted this first beer down to a more manageable 1078.

Here are some pics of the brew day:

A total grain bill of 8.95KG was used, this was supplemented in the second runnings by the addition of 300g of DME. The grain used was Maris Otter, Munich, Crystal and Carapils.

One of the areas that I had struggled with in the past was to keep my mash temperature up, however having insultaed the mash tun much better I managed to only lose 1c over the course of the 60 minute mash. I mashed in at 68c and the temperature only dropped to 67 in the last 10 minutes.

This amount of grain was the most I ever used and certainly tested the max capacity of my mash tun. In fact I could not fit enough water in to give me the water to grain ratio I wanted and so I did a mini sparge of 5 litres to give me my target pre boil volume of 14.5 litres for the strong beer.

The first runnings appear very dark which is what you would expect from a 1122 wort.

No issues with the brew day as a whole (apart from the gravity miscalculation). Did two separate boils and the total brew day lasted 8 hours which was long, but at the end of it I had 20 litres of 1043 APA and 14 litres of a 1078 IPA. Fermenting both with US-05 and the next morning they were both fermenting happily.

Parti-gyle calculations:

Here is how I calculated my gravities, obviously it went drastically wrong somewhere and so if anybody can offer any advice that would be great. In order to get the total mash gravity I put all of the grain into beer tools and set it at a volume of 41.5 litres (14.5 for the big beer and 27 for the small beer). Beer Tools told me that this would give me a total batch gravity of 1044. If I split the batch into 1/3 - 2/3 then I estimated that I should get 1066 from the first third and 1040 from the second 2/3. Now obviously something went wrong as I ended up with 1122 from the first 1/3. Can anyone spot any obvious mistakes from what I did?