Monday, May 31, 2010

Beer Review: Something Old and Something New

Dry Irish Stout is the quintessential Irish Beer, made famous worldwide by Guinness. However there is a new kid on the block, so how do the two compare?

Bottles of Guinness Extra Stout are served in most pubs in Ireland and can be gotten 'from the shelf' in most good pubs (i.e. the bottle is not refrigerated). It pours a jet black with a strong frothy tan head. The aroma is mild and sweet with a no real roast or coffee flavour which would be expected from this style. It is light to medium bodied with a moderately high level of carbonation. It is a little thin for my liking. Initially this beer is underwhelming and a bit bland. However it got nicer as it started to warm up (I had refrigerated this bottle). My overall impression would be that it is a beer well worth trying (don't serve too cold) but it is pretty uninteresting.

and now to the new kid on the block.

Dungarvan Brewing Company's Black Rock Stout is bottle fermented and unfiltered and is slightly stronger than Guinness at 4.3% (Guinness is 4.2%). The first thing that strikes you is that this is a beautiful looking beer in the glass. Jet black with a strong tan head that laces the glass right down to the last drop. It has a smooth mouthfeel with a nice level of carbonation. Medium to heavy bodied but very dry which means there is no cloying heaviness on the palate. The taste is a revelation; light and creamy going down with a lovely body that presumably is enhanced by the lack of filtering. All of this is rounded out by a nice level of dryness. Don't serve too cold and make sure to have more than one in the fridge. One of if not the best Irish dry stout currently on the market.

In summary, as you may have guessed from the notes above, I think that Black Rock Stout is superior in every way; the look, the aroma, the mouthfeel and most importantly the taste. Black Rock Stout is how I imagine stout tasted in years gone by, a surprising conclusion when one thinks that Dungarvan Brewing Company only opened its doors this year!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Beer Review: Harviestoun Old Engine Oil

An unusual name for a beer? According to Harviestoun's website, when first brewed this dark thick beer reminded the breweries founder, Ken Brooker, of exactly that, old car engine oil. So he named the beer in honour of his love of all things automotive (he had previously worked as a prototype designer for Ford).

The beer pours a thick dark colour with a thin tan head. It has a lovely subtle aroma that gives hints of chocolate with a background of roasted barley. It is full bodied with a near syrupy texture that coats your mouth and throat. The low level of carbonation is perfect for this beer allowing all of the subtle flavours to come through. It has a very complex taste, with lovely hints of chocolate and roasted barley, and a very strong bitter aftertaste that balances everything beautifully. If you let this beer sit in your mouth for a few moments all of these lovely flavours come through.

Overall a very nice drink, complex flavours combine well to produce a very well balanced drinkable beer. At 6% it is certainly not a session beer, however I would highly recommend sitting down with a few bottles. I look forward to trying Harviestoun's other bottled offerings; Bitter & Twisted (Blond Beer) and Schiehallion (Lager Beer).

For those interested in trying to make a homebrew version of this, Harviestoun use Pale Malt, Roasted Barley and Oats, the hops used are galena, Fuggles and Kent Goldings.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

AG #2 - Steam Punk - Brew Day

For my second all grain brew I decided to brew a califoirnia steam beer, I named the brew Steam Punk. So all grain #2 was brewed on Sunday in the glorious sunshine. Brewday started at 9am and I was cleaned up and finished by 2.30, so 5 1/2 hours in total, not too bad for only my second all grain brew. I took a few pictures of the brew day and thought I would share these along with some of the brew day problems that arose.

Grains weighed out and in mash bag
First thing I did was to put 20l of water on to boil in the kettle, this would be my strike water. While this was heating I had some breakfast and then started to weigh out my grain. This was the first time that I had not added any DME to the recipe and so I used just over 5kg of grain. This was made up of 4kg of Maris Otter, .75kg of Munich malt, .25kg of Crystal Malt and finally .025kg of Chocolate Malt. The grain was all weighed out and then placed in my large mashing bag. My 20l of strike water was heated to a temperature of 72c to give me a strike temperature of 67c. In the end the water ended up overheating and was at 80c within 25 minutes, I cooled this with some cold water and mashed in. My strike temperature ended up at 66c, which was close enough. After 30 minutes of the mash I put 26l of water on to heat which would be my sparge water. I calculated that I needed 19l for my sparge, however it is always good to have extra sparge water on hand just in case it is needed. The mash tun maintained 66c throughout the 60 minute mash, this was obviously aided by the fact that the outside temperature was 22c. After the mash was complete I started to recirculate the wort from the mash tun in order to clear the wort of any debris from the grains, once the wort was running relatively clear this was drained into the fermenter (At this point I was using my kettle to heat the sparge water). The sparge water was added in batches of 9 ltr of 80c water, this was given a good stir and then the wort was recirculated again to clear the grain debris and then drained into the fermenter. By the end of the mash and sparge I had 27 ltr in the fermenter, this was then drained into the kettle and put on the heat. Pre-boil wort grabity was 1042. My day had started at 9am and the wort started to boil at 12.13.

Second hop addition and Irish Moss
First running from mash tun
After three additions of Northern Brewer Hops and some Irish Moss the wort was ready for cooling. I use an immersion wort chiller to cool my wort and this had the temperature down from 75c to 23c in 32 minutes. It is improtant at this stage of the brew to make sure that your wort cools as quickly as possible, this is mainly for two reasons. 1) it will help create a cold break, and 2) this is the most vulnerable time for your brew for infections, the quicker you can get the wort cooled and into the clean and sanitised fermenter the better. After the wort was cooled it was allowed to drain into the fermenter, splashing as much as possible in order to introduce oxygen into the wort, this will create the right environment for the yeast to work in. Although quite a lot of home brewers use electric paddles and other equipment to make sure the wort is well oxegenated, I find just opening up the tap and letting the wort cascade into the fermenter does just as good a job. After the wort had drained into the fermenter I then checked my OG which was 1047. The fermenter was then moved into my brew closet and the yeast added. The yeast for this beer was Safale US-05. This was rehydrated an hour before pitching, this is poured in and then the bottle is washed out with wort in order to make sure I get all the yeast I can into the fermenter. The blow off tube is then attached, as is the temperature probe (taped to the side of the fementer), and the yeast is left in the dark to do its work. After only 5 hours there was a vigorous bubbling from the blow-off tube.

Chiller goes in 10min before end of boil
Wort getting well aerated as it is transfered to fermenter
So for the most part the day went well, however there were some brew day problems:

  • This was the first time that I had used a full 5kg of grain and I think that my mash bag struggled a bit with that weight of grain, when adding the first sparge the bag slipped down into the mash tun and took a lot of coaxing to get it fixed in place again. Hopefully this issue will be resolved as I am trying to source a false bottom to use with this mash tun in future.
  • I found it difficult to get my wort to clear during recirculation and so quite a lot of debris entered the boiler, this may cause clarity issues in the final beer. Hopefully this issue will also be resolved by using the false bottom.
  • Unfortunately I only realised when going to transfer my wort into the kettle that the tap on my fermenter (where I had collected the wort) was a little unusual and so I had no tubing that would fit to it. This meant that I needed to pour the wort into the kettle, this may have caused some hot-side aeration.
  • I was aiming to get 23 ltr of 1050 wort into the fermenter, and in the end I got 21 ltr of 1047, I will need to adjust my calculations in future to try and make sure I get the full 23 ltr

    Safely tucked away in the brew closet

Saturday, May 22, 2010

AG #2 - Steam Punk

Tomorrow I will be brewing my second ever all grain beer. I have decided to make a californian common beer, or steam beer as it is sometimes called. This is an american ale that is traditionally fermented with a lager yeast at ale temperatures, however I will be using an ale yeast for this beer. The most famous commercial example of a californian common beer is Anchor Steam Beer from San Francisco. The recipe below is based on a clone recipe of Anchor Steam Beer, however due to the fact that I will be using an ale yeast I do not expect it to come out tasting the same but I will do a taste comparison to see what difference the yeast makes. Here is the recipe I will be using:

Steam Punk

7-B California Common Beer
Author: Mark
BeerTools Pro Color Graphic
Size: 22.56 L
Efficiency: 75.0%
Attenuation: 75.0%
Calories: 166.02 kcal per 12.0 fl oz
Original Gravity: 1.050 (1.048 - 1.054)
Terminal Gravity: 1.012 (1.011 - 1.014)
Color: 23.97 (19.7 - 27.58)
Alcohol: 4.91% (4.5% - 5.5%)
Bitterness: 43.1 (30.0 - 45.0)


4000.0 g Maris Otter
750.0 g Munich Malt
250.0 g Crystal 60 EBC
25.0 g Chocolate 1060 EBC
23.0 g Northern Brewer (10.5%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min
23.0 g Northern Brewer (10.5%) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
15.0 g Northern Brewer (10.5%) - added during boil, boiled 5 min
1.0 tsp Irish Moss - added during boil, boiled 15 min
1.0 ea Fermentis US-05 Safale US-05

I will take lots of photo's of tomorrows brew day and post it up in a few days.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Monthly Tasting Night

,Each month members of the IrishCraftBrewer forum meet up in Dublins Bull & Castle pub to sample each others home brews and to have a few beers. Last night was our May meet up and we had a great turn out. At about 7pm all of the homebrewers congregate at a few tables in the upstairs beerhall, laden with sample bottles of their lastest brew. Last night we had a great selection of beers including two weizens, four different pale ales, a wit, a bock and a number of porters and stouts. Each month we tend to get a great selection of different beer styles and it really shows the variety of beers that people are experimenting with.

The homebrewers at this meet were a selection of kit, extract and all grain brewers with varying levels of experience. It is great to be able to bring in one of your beers and get honest feedback and advice and it has really helped me to develop my brewing.

Last night the beer I brought in was my Hippity Hop Pale Ale that was brewed on the 21st of April. As you can see from my previous post I was really happy with how this turned out, but what was the concensus of my brewing peers? Overall it was very positive, a couple of guys did not like the level of bitterness (to much) but apart from that the feedback was very good. There was even one mention of the accolade 'fantastic' which was great to hear.

I am really happy with this beer and the feedback I received last night endorses that, I hope to make an all grain version of this in the coming months and it will be interesting to compare the results.

My advise for anyone out there who may be brewing in isolation, get out there and find some like minded individuals, feedback from other homebrewers will only improve your beers.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Extract #7: Hippity Hop Pale Ale - From Fermentation to Tasting

I brewed a full wort extract beer on the 21st of April and I have gathered together information in this post that brings you through from the end of fermentation to the first few tastings. This should give you a good idea of the post fermentation process that I follow but also I hope it will show how the taste of a beer develops over a pretty short period of time.

This was an extract recipe that I brewed on the 21st April, recipe can be found here. Ordinarly I would transfer my pale ales to secondary in order to either dry hop them or if I feel that they need a little more time to clear. However with this beer I was so happy with how it tasted and looked that I transferred straight from primary to keg after 10 days. It looked very clear and tasted really nice, with the cascade and amarillo hops working really well together. I think one of the main reasons this beer has turned out so well is that is was the first time that I made an extract beer using a full wort boil. This allowed me to be very precise with measurements and as a result I hit my original gravity (1048) and final gravity (1012) right on the mark (see pic to the left which shows final gravity reading). After transferring to my corny keg I allowed this beer to condition at room temperature for one week,  it was given two days in my keggerator thus allowing the beer to drop to serving temperature before being force carbonated. It was force carbonated at about 20psi for three days initially and this was reduced to 15psi for the fourth day. So the results for the first taste test on the 13th May?

First Taste - 13th May

Pours a dark golden colour with a strong persistent white head, quite a lot of chill haze apparent. Strong sharp lemon aroma out front with a more subtle grapefruit, nearly vanilla, aroma in the background. Light bodied and a little undercarbonated, good strong level of bitterness comes through at the end. Really happy with this beer so far, needs a little more carbonation and a little more time to condition, but already I can see this is going to be a really nice beer.

Second Taste Test - 17th May

This beer has developed really well in only five days since the first taste test. After the 13th I let the beer carbonate for a further day and it got to a carbonation level I was really happy with. The colour has darkened somewhat and it has a near reddish shine to it that is really nice. The up front lemony hop aroma has faded slightly and the background bitterness comes through nicely. The beer is still a little hazy, however regardless of that I am really happy with it. Normally when I brew a beer and have had a few tastings I start to make notes as to how I would alter or improve the recipe. In this case I am struggling to think of anything I would change, in an ideal world the only thing that would make this beer better is if the clarity was good, but to be honest I am much more interested in how it tastes, as opposed to the minor details of the aesthetic.

Tomorrow night I will be bringing a couple of bottles of this beer to the monthly IrishCraftBrewer tasting night. After those guys have had a taste I will post back their comments, hopefully they won't totally disagree with what I have said above.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Beer Review: Headless Dog & Weltenburger Barock Hell

Two completely different beers today, the first a light hoppy ale from Ireland and the second a pilsner style beer from Germany.

First up is Headless Dog, brewed by College Green Brewery. This was a 500ml bottle and came in at a light 4.2%, the bottle description states it is a 'pale hoppy ale, with US cascade hops and munich malt'. Pours a light golden colour with a good frothy white head. Very hoppy aroma however the cascade hops seem to have gotten lost as I cannot pick them out at all. Medium bodied with a nice velvety mounthfeel and a good level of carbonation. Taste is more reminisent of an IPA rather than an APA. Overall a nice refreshing beer. Nice and hoppy, however if you are going to tease us by putting on the label that you used cascade hops, then give them a bit more prominence. A nice Irish pale ale, however it is not as good as Galway Hooker, but certainly worth a try.

Next up is Weltenburger Barock Hell (What a great name for a beer!), brewed by Braueri Bischofshof in Germany. This beer weighs in at a decent 5.6% and so probably not a session beer. It pours a lovely pale golden colour, crystal clear, a frothy white head is thin but consistent. Smells like all good German Pilsner type beers with a lovely aroma of noble hops. very light bodied without being thin. Nice and smooth on the palate. A refreshing light German pilsner beer with a lovely hoppy aroma. Although very drinkable, at 5.6%, probably not one for a long session, however I would highly recommend picking up a few bottles.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bar Review: Bull & Castle, Dublin

A quick bar review today. For any of you living in Dublin or planning a visit, the Bull & Castle Gastro Pub and Beer Hall should be on every beer geeks itinerary. On Saturday night myself and seven friends decided that a steak dinner and some quality beers was the perfect night out, having been to the Bull & Castle on a number of occasions I suggested this as our destination and we were not disappointed.

The night began with a pre-dinner pint of the house Ale, Buckley's, a light hoppy pale ale. Weighing in at only 3.8% it is the perfect way to start a session. This in the most part was met with approval and a number of us stayed on the Buckley's for the next two or three pints. There was also those who tried some of the bars extensive range of bottled beers, Leffe and Weihenstephaner were sampled and enjoyed. Other members of the group tried some of the other draught beers available including Staropramen and Paulaner.

After a few pints of Buckley's I decided to stay with the pale ale and had a nice pint of O'Hara's IPA, this was very light and hoppy with a strong perfume aroma, certainly an interesting beer however I found the perfume aroma a little overpowering. After the O'Hara's I went for the tried and tested Galway Hooker, a lovely hoppy Irish Pale Ale and certainly one that should be tried by everybody who can get their hands on it.

Dinner was very enjoyable with seven out of the group of eight deciding that when in a bar owned by a butcher that you should always go for the steak. Everybody enjoyed their meal thoroughly and the rib eye steak that I had was fantastic. Dessert was by-passed in favour of a round of Mojito's.

A great night was had by all, and should you have the chance I would highly recommend a visit.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Beer Review: Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel, Augustiner Weissbier

A couple of German beers for review today, one a Dunkel and one a Weiss. I am a big fan of German beers and this comes from a school trip to Germany when I was younger. In Germany it is legal to drink beer at 16 and so it was a great feeling to be able to walk into a bar and order a beer at that age. Ever since I have always liked German beers, here are two that I sampled recently.

I recently reviewed a Hefe Weissbier from Weihenstephaner and my conclusion was that it was a bit bland, a bit ordinary, and all in all a very unexciting beer. So how would it's brewery stablemate, the Dunkel fare?

The beer pours a muddy brown, consistent with the style, however it has a muted head for a Weiss and this dissipates quite quickly to a thin off-white head. The aroma is a nice balance of ripe bananas and wheat malt. Medium to full bodied with a nice strong level of carbonation, it is smooth but a little cloying on the palate. The taste is very nice and refreshing. This beer as you would expect is all about the malts and the yeast with little or no contribution from the hops (14 IBU's according to the brewery website). It is very easy to drink and I could easily see myself drinking a few of these, a nice, if not remarkable, weissbier dunkel.

The second beer is an Augustiner Weissbier, brewed by Augustiner Brau. this beer has a long history, the brewery states that it can trace its roots back to 1328. With that kind of history weighing heavy on this bottle, how did it taste? It pours a lovely golden colour with a nice cloudy appearance and strong white fluffy head.                                                                                                      
The aroma is of ripe bannana and it is more subtle than you usually get with this style of beer. It has a nice medium body with a high level of carbonation that dances across the palate. So far it ticks all the boxes, however the taste has a distinct metallic note* to it that spoils the whole experience, if you could get past this it would be a really nice beer, but I can't.

Unfortunatley the metallic taste takes away from the beer and for this reason I could not recommend it, however I will definitely try this beer again and hope that this bottle was just a casualty of a bad batch.

* according to Palmer, this metallic note can be caused by poorly stored malts that can cause hydrolysis of lipids within the malts, not sure if this is what caused it in this particular instance, but this could be a factor.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Beer Review: Same beer, different results

So I thought I would carry out a little experiment yesterday. I decided to go to the Porterhouse North pub for some food and a few beers. Porterhouse Brewing Company has been bottling a lot of their brews of late and I had a couple of bottles in the fridge so I decided that I would try the draught version of these beers in the pub and then come home and sample the bottled beers. I was interested in finding out if a) the difference would be discernible and b) which type, the draught or bottled version, would taste better.

I decided to try the Porterhouse Red as my sample beer, as I had never tasted the draught or bottled versions of this beer. Porterhouse Red is an Irish red ale, 4.4%, according to the brewers website this beer has a 'traditional hop flavour to balance the fruit character of the yeast and the luscious caramel flavour notes delivered from the malts used'. Well the first thing that strikes you about the draught version of this beer is how it looks. A striking dark ruby red colour with an almost stout like creamy head that laces the glass right until the last drop, if beer was all about the aesthetic this would be a world beater. The aroma was a little dissapointing in that it is so subtle that it is hard to discern anything really from it. The mouthfeel however is fantastic, medium bodied with a smooth finish and a nice low level of carbination. The flavour is rather unusual for a red ale in that the dominat flavour is the hops rather than the malts. To be honest I think that the hops overpower the senses and you don't really get the 'caramel flavour notes' that the brewery describes. Overall a very nice beer however I would have liked to have seen the hops toned down a little bit to allow a little of the malt profile through.

So now to do the comparison. The bottled version of this beer is the same ABV at 4.4% and comes in a 330ml serving. The first notable difference is in the appearance, gone is the thick creaminess of the draught and you are left with a lighter colour and a frothy head that dissipates quite quickly to leave a thin white line of head. Again the aroma is very subtle, however this time it is possible to pick out the hops. The mounthfeel is completely different, the bottled version is light bodied with a crisp finish, a little too thin for my liking. The taste is similar in that the hops are strong (especially the Galena) and fruity, however the overall effect is quite different as the body and mouthfeel are much sharper and crisper and this leads to a harsh bitterness, as opposed to the creaminess of the draught. Overall I would say that I was quite dissapointed with the bottled version of this beer. I realise that it is not possible to emulate the taste of a draught in a bottle, however I felt that this was nearly like drinking a different beer! I would highly recommend trying Porterhouse Red on draught, however I think I would probably pass on the bottled version.

Should you wish to try and emulate this beer as a homebrew, there is good ingredient information on the website:

Grain: Pale Malt, Crystal malt, Wheat Malt, Chocolate Male
Hops: Galena, Nugget, East Kent Goldings