Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Beer Review: Weissenoher Kloster-Sud

Nothing outstanding here, but a
very well balanced thirst quencher
I was attracted to this beer in the off-licence due to its bottle, however I have to say that I had never heard of the brewery, neither did I know what kind of beer I was buying. The beer is 5.4% ABV and is described as a Franconian beer. It is brewed by the Kloster Brewery (site is in German) in Germany.

It pours a lovely amber colour with a large billowy white head. It has a lovely fresh aroma, the smell is reminiscent of a pilsner in that the dominant aroma is from the noble hops. First taste and the hops dissapear and are replaced by a very malty and spicy taste profile. Light bodied and highly carbonated. Smooth mouthfeel and a very easy drinking, refreshing beer. Nothing outstanding here, but a very well balanced thirst quencher. Well worth a try.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Beer Review: Fuller's India Pale Ale

Fuller's IPA, the perfect
summer beer
Due to the fact that I am currently reading, and enjoying, Pete Brown's Hops and Glory: One Man's Search for the Beer That Built the British Empire, I thought it would be approapriate to review an India Pale Ale. Fuller's IPA is one that I have not tried before and so when my kind wife included a few bottles of it in a selection of beer she bought me I was delighted.

The beer pours a dark golden, almost amber colour. Crystal clear with a thick white head. A very attractive looking beer in the glass. Strong hop aroma is to the fore, presumably from the Goldings. It is a very light and refreshing beer, good smooth mouthfeel and very drinkable. Highly carbonated, probably due to being bottle conditioned, however this does add to the refreshing nature of the beer.

A lovely light refreshing pale ale that puts hops to the fore, an IPA that other English breweries should certainly look up to. Highly recommended and at 5.3% will make a good summer beer for those lazy evenings.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Beer Review: Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse, two beers in one bottle

Anticipation is a dangerous thing. We have all at one time anticipated the release of a new movie, read all the reviews, watched the interviews and then when we finally get to see the movie in question, it leaves us a little bit deflated. For the most part when we build up things in our mind we feel somehow let down when the reality is not as good as the hype. So would Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse live up to the hype?

Brooklyn and Schneider Breweries
combine to create the Brooklyner-
Schneider Hopfen-Weisse
I bought a bottle of this beer about a month ago and was waiting for a night when I could sit down and give it my full attention. Last week my wife gave birth to two beautiful twin boys and so the night before the gang were due home from the hospital I thought I would celebrate with opening the bottle of  Brooklner-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse that had been patiently waiting for me at the back of my beer fridge. This beer is a colaboration between the Brookyn Brewery in New York and the Schnieder Brewery in Germany. For this collabarative brew, the Schneider Brewmaster Hans-Peter Drexler travelled to New York and worked with Brooklyn's Brewmaster Garrett Oliver. What they created was a hybrid beer, a pale weissbock, fermented with Schneider's yeast but dry-hopped with a combination of American Amarillo and Palisade hops.

I could actually have written two separate reviews for this beer as due to the size of the bottle, and the fact that it is bottle conditioned, I experienced two totally different tasting beers. Let me explain, with bottle conditioned beer it is normally advisable to pour slowly from the bottle and to pour the whole bottle in one go leaving the last half inch of beer in the bottle, this is normally done in order to leave the yeast sediment behind, this sediment is nomally an undesirable part of bottle conditioned beer. However due to the size of this bottle it was impossible to pour all of the beer in one go and so the first pour gave a light refreshing hop filled beer, while the second pour gave a yeast heavy beer, very German in character.

First Pour:
First Pour: a light and refreshing
hop heavy beer, very moreish.
The first pour gives you a glass of light golden beer, lots of carbonation and a thick white head. The aroma is dominated by the Amarillo hops used in dry-hopping. The aroma is beautifully complex giving hints of citrus, spice and sweet malt. The beer is very light and refreshing on the palate which belies its 8.5% ABV. It has a clean mouthfeel with a slightly sour aftertaste and a subtle orange flavour that I imagine comes from the yeast. It is very moreish. A stunningly good beer, very German in character but then the lovely American hops kick in to allow this beer to be elevated to a different level. This combination probably should not work, but Drexler and Oliver have combined to create something very special.

Second Pour:
The second half of this bottle is like drinking a totally different beer. This 'second beer' is dominated by the yeast which imparts a very strong orange aroma and taste. The look of the beer is also very different, very cloudy with lots of yeast sediment, almost milky in appearance. The mouthfeel is still clean but feels heavier bodied with a stronger sourness on the end. Still very enjoyable but unusual in that it is so different from the first glass. Although the second half of the beer was nice, if the whole bottle had tasted like the first glass this would have been a truly spectacular collaboration.

Second Pour: a totally different
look and taste.
I have to say again that anticipation is a very dangerous thing. I had been eyeing this bottle of beer for a month every time that I went to get a beer from the fridge and on a number of occasions I had to stop myself opening it. I wanted a night where I could give this beer my full attention. After the first taste I had seriously thought that I had found my ultimate beer. Both German and American beers are the styles that I enjoy the most and a beer that combines the best of both of these was always going to be a winner. However after tasting the second half of the beer I was truly confused. Perhaps another follow up tasting is in order so that I can fully understand this beer, for the moment I would highly recommend picking up a bottle. Maybe for the next tasting I will decant this beer into my growler, leaving the majority of the yeast behind, maybe then it will show me exactly what it is supposed to be.

For those interested in trying to replicate this beer good ingredients information is provided on the Brookyn Brewery website:

Style: Pale Weisse-Bock
Malts: Two-row German Pilsner Malt, German Wheat Malt
Hops: Williamette, Cascade, Palisade, Amarillo

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

AG #3 - ISO Standard Stout - Kegging & Bottling

So I finally got around to kegging and bottling my ISO Standard Stout. This beer sat in primary for 11 days, and had fermented down to 1012. Slightly lower than my target gravity of 1014, however this is no harm as it will make the beer less sweet and a little bit dryer. The ABV came in at a very sessionable 4.02% and so this should make a good session beer to have on tap over the coming month.

Due to the fact that in the main I keg my beers, I always find that I do not have any bottles on hand for tastings or to give to friends or family. With this in mind I decided to make a larger brew than I have previously and so after fermentation I had a full 25 litres, this meant that I could fill a corny keg and still have enough for 13 or 14 500ml bottles.

Bottles in an old fermenter getting
the starsan treatment
First thing that needed to be done was to sanitise the bottles and keg I would be using. Many people describe an arduos and multi-step process to cleaning and sanitising their bottles, life is too short, and so I have a pretty simple and easy system. After a bottle has been poured it gets a rinse in cold water to remove any yeast or debris, it then sits in the kitchen until a few bottles have built up, all the bottles then get a wash in the sink with hot water and then they are thoroughly rinsed, drip dried and put away until bottling day. On bottling day they get a quick check to make sure they are clean and then they get the starsan treatment. After being submerged in starsan solution they are emptied and filled straight away. There is no need to rinse the bottles after using starsan, also you will notice there will be some foam left in the bottle from the starsan solution, you don't need to worry about this foam, it will not effect that taste of your beer.

Fill the keg from the bottom in order to
minimise the risk of oxidising the beer.
After all of the sanitation comes the filling of your keg and bottles. On this particular day I had a problem with not having the right tubing to connect to the tap on my fermenter and so I ended up using an auto-syphon and improvising a bottling wand at the end of this. It worked very well and in no time at all I had 13 x 500ml bottles ready to be capped (the caps, capper, bottling wand etc all have to be cleaned and sanitised prior to use). Next was the kegs turn, the end of the syphon tubing is placed at the bottom of the keg and the beer is racked. It is important not to oxidise the beer at this stage and so this is why the end of the tube is placed at the bottom of the keg. Once the keg is full the lid is put on and the keg is given a few bursts of CO2 in order to make sure that the lid forms a proper seal. Once this has been done you can leave the beer to condition for a week or more at room temperature or just place straight in your keggerator. Before force carbonation it is important to leave the keg in the keggerator for a few days before commencing carbonation, as cold beer will carbonate a lot quicker than beer that is at room temperature.

Last but not least it is time to design some labels for my bottles. I was never good at art and so my labels are nothing special, however it adds to the whole process. Here is what I came up for ISO Standard Stout:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Beer Review: 3 Hefe's, 1 Winner

Hefe Weissbier's are a personal favourite of mine and great to drink in the warm, sunny weather. Here are three Hefe's that I have tried lately:

Weltenburger Hefe Weissbier
not a beer I would buy again.
Weltenburger Hefe-Weissbier Hell weighs in at 5.4% and pours a very pale golden colour. Very cloudy with a small billowy white head. The yeast dominates the aroma with a sweet malt backbone. This beer is highly carbonated, with a very light body. Surprisingly this beer has none of the usual flavours I would have expected, no cloves or bananna flavours and it actually tastes quite thin and watery. The only redeeming feature you could say is the fact that it is light and refreshing. Not a beer I would be buying again, if I want light and refreshing I think I would grab a nice bottle of pilsner. However from this brewery I would recommend the Barock Hell, a beer I really liked.

Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier,
highly recommended.
Next up is Unertl Hefe-Weissbier, a touch lighter at 4.9%. This beer pours a lovely dark golden colour with a large white head that settles into a creamy consistant head. The aroma is lovely, dominated by ripe bananna and malts. Medium bodied with a nice refreshing frothiness on the back of the throat. Comparatively light for a Hefe Weiss, however it is very well balanced and would make a great summer session beer. Highly recommended.

Unertl Hefe-Weissbier, a great
summer session beer 
Last but not least is Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier. pours a golden colour, with a small white head and very cloudy. Bananna's and warm malt dominant the aroma. Again the level of carbonation is very high, this is coupled with a smooth medium bodied mouthfeel. A nice Hefe-Weissbier, very well balanced and drinkable and I could certainly see myself drinking a few of these. Well worth a try.

So if we discount the Weltenburger I think it is a close call between Paulaner and Unertl, however I am going to lean towards the Unertl. I like the lightness and relatively low ABV which makes this beer a perfect fit for sunny summer days, a refreshing beer with the perfect attributes to make it a great session drink.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Book Review: How To Brew - John Palmer

For anybody looking to get into homebrewing or even for experienced homebrewers, John Palmers How To Brew is a must have book. The book can be used by novice brewers looking to get into kit or extract brewing, but it also provides good information on All Grain for more advanced readers. Also the book is constructed in such a way that it will provide you with the basic information you need to get going, while also offering an in depth examination of some areas should you wish to understand the processes better.

For me this book has proved invaluable and is a resource that I can see myself revisiting time and time again throughout my brewing life.

A free version of the book (the first edition) is available online at, however I would highly recommend purchasing the updated third edition that is available through Amazon and other retailers. The book is split by brewing type and covers:
  • Brewing with Malt Extract
  • Brewing with Extract and Speciality Grains
  • All Grain Brewing
  • Recipes, Experimenting and Troubleshooting
Each of these four main sections then has a number of chapters, these chapters cover the processes involved as well as providing in-depth information on the different ingredients and equipement involved. Overall a very comprehensive and useful 'manual' for the homebrewer.

I have recently purchased the MicroBrewers Handbook, Hops and Glory and Clone Brews and will be reviewing these in the near future. Really loving the Hops & Glory book by Pete Brown at the moment.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Beer Review: Chimay Tripel

Chimay Tripel, Not
a beer for me.
I have not got a huge amount of experience with beers from the low countries, although I have enjoyed some beers from Belgium in the past (Leffe and Afflingen in particular). However I have never really enjoyed any of the Chimay beers that I have tried and unfortunately the Tripel is no exception!

The beer pours a golden colour with a large white head and a high level of carbonation. Fine dark material in suspension is very apparent, I understand that this is a bottle conditioned beer, however I am not sure what this dark material is? This is a medium bodied beer with a very dry fininsh with a slight alcohol burn on the end (no surprise as it weighs in at 8%). Quite a strong yeasty taste with the dominant impression being the effect the suspended dark material has on the mouthfeel, not a nice one.

Not a beer for me. No real strong flavour profile that stands out. Also the yeast and suspended material leaves an aftertaste I do not like. Maybe it is a type of beer not suited to my palate, or maybe it is just not a good beer! Save your money for something else.

Monday, June 14, 2010

AG #2 - Steam Punk - First Taste Test

After only 7 days this beer had cleared
very well and fermented to 1008
I had the first taste test of my Steam Punk brew last night. This beer was brewed on the 23rd of May and it fermented very fast meaning that I transferred to a corny keg for conditioning after only 7 days. Ordinarily my beers get about 10 days in primary before being transferred to secondary or to the keg. However on this occasion the beer fermnented very fast and very low (finishing at 1008), it also was very clear after 7 days.

I had a few problems on the brew day for this beer and so I did not hold out great hope for how it would turn out. However I have to say that I was presently surprised when I had the first taste only 20 days after brew day.

Nice strong head, good colour
but quite a lot of chill haze.
It poured a lovely dark golden colour with a nice red hue. Very strong persistant white head looked great, however there was quite a bit of chill haze apparent. The aroma is of nice spicy hops with a sweet malt background. Carbonation is a little on the low side (has only been at 15 psi for three days) but the beer has a nice light and smooth mouthfeel. Light bodied and tastes a little green. Overall I am happy with this beer however I feel it is probably a bit young to get a true view of how it will turn out. Probably needs another day or two of carbonating and then a week conditioning in the fridge before the next taste.

Once I feel that the beer is at its peak I will do a comparison taste with Anchor Steam Beer. Due to the fact that the yeast I used was different I do not expect it to taste the same, however due to the fact that the grain bill and hops were the same it will be interesting to see if the two beers share any characterisitics.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Beer Review: Anchor Porter

I have been reviewing quite a few American beers lately and todays post is no exception. Following on from my taste of  Anchor's Bock beer (a beer I would highly recommend) todays tipple is Anchor Porter made by the Anchor Brewing Company from San Francisco. According to their website Anchor Porter has been brewed since 1972 and was first bottled in 1974. It is an American style porter and weighs in at 5.6%.

The beer pours a jet black with a nice tan head. Subtle aroma is a little dissapointing as there is no dominant flavour that jumps out. It has a high level of carbonation (this beer is naturally carbonated) with a medium body. The mouthfeel is creamy and has a nice dry finish on the end. The flavours are of roasted coffee, with a smooth taste on the palate, this is enhanced by the perfect dry finish which makes you automatically reach for the glass to take another drink.

A really nice porter, very moreish, however at 5.6% not a session beer. Highly recommended and a beer I would always have a few bottles of in the fridge.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

AG #3 - ISO Standard Stout - Brew day

Brew day for my first ever stout went very well. Full recipe here. I was particularly pleased with this brew day as there were three new elements introduced to my brewing process and I thought I coped well with the changes.

My three tier system
with new mash tun
The first change to my brew day was that I was using a new piece of equipment. Up until now I have been using a BIAB type system that allowed me to mash in a converted fermenter. However due to the fact that this system limited the weight of grains I could use, I decided to purchase a cooler box mash tun from Hop & Grape in the UK. I was worried that I would make some form of error with this however everything went very smootly and I got a decent 75% efficiency which was slightly lower than I would have liked, but not bad for a first attempt.

The second change to my brew day was a process change. In my previous two all grain brews I had used a batch sparge method. However on this occasion, due to the fact that I had the new mash tun, I decided to try fly sparging. I found this to be a lot easier to do as you only have the one vorlauf to do and once you get your flow rates equalised you can pretty much leave the sparge to look after itself. It does take more time, but I think I will see a better efficiency as a result of using this method.

Fly Sparging using a perforated SS
plate and a colander to diffuse the
sparge water
The third change I made was that this was the first time that I have used a liquid yeast (WYeast 1084 Irish Ale). This involved making a starter during the week in which I dissolved 200g of DME in 2 litres of water and then brought it all to the boil and maintained the boil for 10 minutes. This was then cooled and placed in a 5 litre plastic container. The yeast was then added and an airlock placed on top. This was then left to ferment for four days. By the time I got around to making this brew the starter had fermented out and the yeast had formed a nice cake on the bottom. This yeast was then pitched directly into the wort. Due to the fact that this was the first time I had made a yeast starter I am hoping I did everything right, fingers crossed I get some fermentation activity in the next 24 hours or so.

I know that using liquid yeast offers you a much greater range of yeast than is availble in dry form. However I have to say that wherever possible in the future I will use a dry yeast as I thought the amount of effort in creating a yeast starter was a bit too much hassle. In my previous eight or nine brews I have used dry yeast and never had any problems with it.

AG #2 Update - I have moved my Steam Punk ale into the fridge after a week of conditioning at room temperature, I will leave this for a few days and then force carb for 3-4 days, should be ready for a first taste test by the weekend.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Beer Review: Two from Sierra Nevada

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was probably one of the first beers that I tried that started me on the road to beer geekery and homebrewing, to this day it is still one of my favourite American Pale Ale's and as my interest has widened and I have started to focus a lot of my attention on American micro brewed beers it is still a brewery that has a lot to offer. Two of the pale ale's stable mates for review tonight, the first a golden bock, the second an extra IPA.

Sierra Nevada Glissade is described as a Golden Bock and weighs in at an not insignificant 6.4%. Pours a beautiful golden honey colour, crystal clear with a small white head. The aroma is dominated by rich malt with a touch of noble hops coming through. It is light bodied with a pretty low level of carbonation. It coats your mouth which is an unusual texture for a light bodied beer and one I have to say I am not overly fond of. The strength really comes through on the taste along with the European noble hops. The complexity of this beer really comes through when it warms up a little bit. A beer that is definitely worth trying, however it is nothing to write home about.

Next up is Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA, I knew before I opened the bottle that I was going to love this beer. Sierra Nevada do Pale Ales so well, and American microbreweries have perfected the art of balancing strong beers with a good measure of hops which is a necessity in order to make this kind of beer work. This pours a lovely rust colour with a large fluffy white head. The complex aroma gives off hints of sweet malt and a combination of cirtus and spicey hops. Very clean on the palate, extremely smooth for a beer of 7.2%. A beautiful tasting IPA, cirtus hops hit you up front and only after it has gone down do you get a nice level of background bitterness with a little alcohol kick at the end.

This is a hop profile I really like (and one that I try to emulate in my homebrewing), big American C hops up front with a nice high level of bitterness in the background. A beer I would highly recommend and a beer that epitomises what I love about American Pale Ales.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The re-awakening of Irish Craft Brewing

Ireland's brewing history is a rich and colourful one. However if you were to ask somebody today to name an Irish brewed beer, you would more than likely get the answer of Guinness, or possibly Murphys or Beamish. You would be surprised to hear names like Galway Hooker, Helvic Gold, Clotworthy Dobbin, Headless Dog, Oir etc. However we have seen in recent years a re-emergence of micro brewing in Ireland, the latest addition being the Dungarvan Brewing Company from Waterford. So the question is, are we seeing a re-awakening of the Craft Brewing industry in Ireland?

A fews years ago some of the guys over on  decided to try and trace the rich history of Irish brewing and to create a map of Ireland highlighting all of the 'lost' breweries, currently the map contains references to over 160 breweries from Ireland's past. I am in no way suggesting that these type of figures could be replicated again, however with the launch of a number of micro breweries in the last few years it is undountedly a sign of progress, maybe even a re-awakening. Here are some of the new breed of Irish Craft Breweries:

Est.: 2010
Products: Black Rock Irish Stout, Copper Coast Red Ale and Helvick Gold Blonde Ale

Est.: 2006
Products: Galway Hooker, Irish Pale Ale

Products: Oir
Stockists: Currently limited availability, watch out for it on the guest tap in the Bull & Castle and other specialist pubs.

The question of course that all of this boils down to is whether or not there is a significant market in Ireland to support micro breweries that intend to maintain a focus on the local market? Here are some interesting facts:
  • There are just under 1500 Microbrewers, brew pubs and craft breweries operating in the United States, thats one for every 206,000 people. At that concentration the island of Ireland could theoretically support 30 Microbreweries!
  • The Irish beer market is worth approximately €3.2bn (2007 figure), if microbreweries could capture 1% of that market it would mean annual sales in the region of €32m.
The acid test for all of this is persuading consumers to choose not only something different, but something Irish. This is a task that will begin in earnest on the 1st of July with the official launch of Beoir, a beer consumers group for Ireland. More on this to follow.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

AG #3 - ISO Standard Stout

Hoping to brew this up at the weekend. It is based on a recipe from O'Flainnegain over on This will not only be my first time brewing a stout, it will hopefully also be my first time using my new mash tun (if it gets delivered before the weekend!).

Standard Stout

13-B Sweet Stout
Author: O'Flainnegain/Mark

BeerTools Pro Color Graphic

Size: 23.04 L
Efficiency: 75%
Attenuation: 75.0%
Calories: 155.11 kcal per 12.0 fl oz
Original Gravity: 1.047 (1.044 - 1.060)
Terminal Gravity: 1.012 (1.012 - 1.024)
Alcohol: 4.59% (4.0% - 6.0%)
Bitterness: 20.6 (20.0 - 40.0)

3270.0 g Maris Otter
550.0 g Barley Flaked
550.0 g Carapils®/Carafoam®
415.0 g Roasted Barley
275.0 g Chocolate 1060 EBC
38.0 g Goldings (5.0%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min
1.0 tsp Irish Moss - added during boil, boiled 15 min
1.0 ea WYeast 1084 Irish Alea