Monday, August 30, 2010

Kit Hack #1 - Cascade IPA

When I first started homebrewing I bought a number of kits (a wheat beer, a dark ale and an IPA). Having been so dissapointed with my first kit (the wheat beer), I decided to skip the rest of the kits and proceed to extract. Since then the two remaining kits (simply a can of pre-hopped liquid malt and a packet of generic yeast) have sat forlornly in my ingredients bin surrounded by their more sophiticated relatives, pale malt, carapils, crystal, black patent and my personal favourite roasted barley. I never thought that I would brew either of these kits, however the other week after brewing my latest all grain batch I had an hour to kill and a spare fermenter and so I thought, what the heck!

I decided to brew the IPA and to dry hop it with some cascades to give it a bit of freshness. Now before I say how the brew went I must admit to having had a couple of pints of ISO Standard Stout and so this may have had an effect on the outcome.

The Recipe:

Coopers Selection - IPA kit
500g Light DME
300g Dextrose
1 Package of Coopers Ale Yeast


It had been so long since I had done a kit that I actually had to read the instructions to remember what needed to be done in what sequence. I dissolved the DME and sugar in 3 litres of warm water and then added this to the fermenter. I then topped up the fermenter to the required mark (23 litres), while I was doing this I had the kit can in a pot of warm water to loosen up the concentrate. Once this was done I opened the can and poured in the contents. Here is where the first problem came, the concentrate took a nose dive to the bottom of the fermenter and stayed there. I tried in vain to stir and slosh the liquid about to dissolve it, however I got bored of this after about 5 minutes and just threw the yeast in. In hindsight I should have added the concentrate to a little of the water, gotten it well mixed and then topped up the fermenter gradually. Because of this lack of mixing, when I took a gravity reading it was about 1035, far short of the expected, however this was of course due to the fact that the wort wasn't well mixed. I hoped that the vigours of fermentation would solve this!


Slightly slower to kick off than my all grain, but well under way after 24 hours and primary fermentation subsided after three days. Moved from Primary to Secondary after a week. Dry hopped in secondary with 25g of Cascades for one week. Kegged and transferred to kegerator a total of two weeks after brew day. Set regulator to 10psi and allowed the keg to force carbonate for a week.

First Taste Test:

This beer tastes really good! A little thin yet but the cascade aroma and flavour is really good with a nice level of bitterness on the end. I brought a growler of this to a get together at TheBeerNut's house last weekend and it went down really well. I passed around glasses with the introduction of "It's a kit hack but it's not offensive", however the feedback was all pretty good. The comments were all along the lines of "really tasty, very sessionable, however a little thin" and to a man everyone was pretty surprised with the taste and flavour that this kit managed to produce. I have to say I am pretty happy with the fact that I have 3/4 of a keg of this as I think it will only get better with time. Conclusion, kit beers can be really good!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Beer Review: Clotworthy Dobbin

Clotworthy Dobbin is a well known beer amongst Irish beer enthusiasts, it seems to be the go-to-beer for a lot of craft beer drinkers when they are looking for something Irish that hits the mark each and every time. I have tasted this beer a few times and really liked it and the other night I decided to taste it with a bit more of an analytical eye.
Brewed by Whitewater Brewery, Clotworthy Dobbin is , as the brewer describes, 'a rich ruby porter style beer', to me it is a mix between an Irish Red Ale and an American Amber Ale, it gets its malt profile from the former while balancing this out with a hop profile more associated with the latter.

The beer pours a nice rusty red colour with a thick off-white head. Aroma is of floral hops and crystal malt, the latter giving a sweet edge to the aroma. Medium bodied with a nice mouthfeel. The taste favours the crystal malts with a nice caramel flavour coming from these, however the hop bitterness kicks in at the end to balance out the taste.

To me this represents what Irish Red Ales should be, a strong sweet malt backbone, a bitter finish and a sprinkling of flavour and aroma hops.

A very well balanced refreshing beer. Highly recommended.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Unrivalled

No in depth notes on this one but I'll give my impressions. The Bull & Castle managed to source a small keg of Sierra Nevada's Unrivalled last week and I managed to have a pint before it sold out. This is a smoked rye beer that came out of the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp last year.

The Beer Camp is where Sierra Nevada bring together a group of competition winners for a brewery tour and this group also gets to determine what beer will be brewed on that particular day, the group then also names the beer. In order to enter the competition you simply send Sierra Nevada your entry (essay, video, audio etc) on why you should be picked to attend beer camp.

The beer pours a dark brown with a slight amber hue, it has a lovely hop aroma. The taste is light and refreshing with a nice subdued level of smokiness. Beer is very nice, light with a nice balance of smoke and hops. I would think this would be a great summer beer, however at 6.3% not one to drink all day.

A really interesting and flavoursome beer, pity we can't get more US kegged beer in Ireland!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Beer Review: 90 Shilling Ale

ODell's 90 Shilling Ale was my beer of choice during the week. The name comes from the fact that in years gone past a tax of 90 shilling was placed on the highest quality barrel of beer and it is with such expectations that I opened the bottle. The beer is based on a light version of a Scottich Ale and was the first beer to be brewed by ODell Brewing Company back in 1989, it has also won a number of awards over the years:

  • Bronze, British Style Ale, 2009 Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival
  • Bronze, English-Style Brown, 2006 Los Angeles County Fair
  • Bronze, American Amber Ale, 1991 Great American Beer Festival

The beer pours a deep, rich red colour, with a small white head. Aroma is of grapefruit backed up by a sweet malt profile. Medium bodied with a low level of carbonation and a lovely creamy mouthfeel. The finish is very clean with little or no hop bitterness. Hop flavour is subdued (only 27 IBU's) and the taste is dominated by the malt bill. There is no dominant malt flavour but there are subtle hints of toffee and caramel, all of this backed up by the merest hint of citrus hops.

A pleasure to drink and would make a fabulous session beer (5.3%), it is unfortunate that it is pretty rare to come across American Amber Ales (or is it an American/Scottish Amber Ale?) in Ireland as this is a beer style I really like. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Beer Review: Samuel Adams Cream Stout

Released as part of the Brewmaster Collection, Samuel Adams Cream Stout was a beer that I had looked forward to trying. I am a big fan of their Boston Lager and so how did the Cream Stout fare?

The beer pours a jet black with a thin tan head that dissipates to nothing! Aroma is great, choclate malt dominates with a nice background perfume of hops. Medium bodied, creamy with a subtle level of astringency on the finish. Nice sharp taste with the roasted malt very much to the fore, this is balanced by a nice level of hop bitterness on the end. The taste is not as creamy as some stouts (ironic given the name) like Dungarvan's Black Rock, however the strength of the hop bitterness apparent here would be a nice addition to some of the other stouts on the market. The finish is very different to a dry stout, in this case the finish is rather sweet.

A nice beer, however I found it a little sweet. I could certainly drink a few bottles but a little too sweet and heavy to make this a session beer. Worth checking out.

Good information on the website should you wish to try and emulate this as a homebrew:

Color: Deep black

Original Gravity: 13.9° Plato
Alcohol by Vol/Wt: 4.9%ABV – 3.8%ABW
Calories per 12 oz. serving: 189

Malt Type: Two-row Harrington, Metcalfe, and Copeland pale malts, malted wheat, roasted unmalted barley, Chocolate Malt, and Caramel 60
Hop Variety: East Kent Goldings and English Fuggles
Yeast Strain: Samuel Adams ale yeast

Friday, August 13, 2010

Beer Review: Black Sheep Ale

I have been focussing a little too much of late on American beers and so I thought that I should get back to sampling some of the ales from my nearest neighbours. Black Sheep Ale is brewed by The Black Sheep Brewery in North Yorkshire.

Black Sheep Ale, the more I
drank, the less I liked it.
It pours an amber colour with a small, loose white head that dissipates quickly. Floral hop aroma is very enticing with a perceptible malt background. Carbonation is a little high for my liking, but the beer has a nice complex flavour profile. The nice mouthfeel and flavour is let down by the high carbonation and the lack of any head retention. My initial thoughts were that, at only 4.4% and with a nice bitter fininsh that this could make the perfect summer session ale, however as I neared the middle of this bottle I found it to be actually quite heavy. Another part of this beer that I did not like is the fact that the taste of the Goldings hops starts to grate the more you drink. Used as bittering only, or as part of a combination of flavour and aroma hops I can take it, but when a beer is heavily influenced by late addition Goldings it leaves an aftertaste that I am not particularly fond of.

This beer started off really nice, however the more I drank the less I liked it. Maybe this is a good enough English ale and possibly it is just the hop profile I dislike, but this is not a beer I will be buying again.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Book Review: Hops and Glory, by Pete Brown

I recently finished reading Pete Brown's book Hops and Glory. The book serves two purposes. One is to act as a travel book describing Pete's journey from the UK to India carrying a traditionally brewed barrel of India Pale Ale. Secondly the book tells the story of the history of India Pale Ale, from its surge in popularity amongst the ex-pats in India, to the rise and fall of the numerous breweries in the UK that quenched the thirst of the colonists.

Hops and Glory: One Man's Search for the Beer That Built the British Empire
The book alternates chapter by chapter between the travel log and the history lesson and is all the more enjoyable for it. Some may have found a book dedicated to the history of a beer style a little hard to get through, but when it is interspersd with the entertaining travel stories of Pete's journey it hits the mark.

Pete Brown's journey began in Burton-on-Trent, he travelled across the atlantic twice, around the Cape of Good Hope and on to Calcutta. The description of the journey is at times laugh out loud funny, whereas the history of IPA is both fasinating in itself, but also offers an insight into the lives of those involved in its production and consumption. From the brewers of Burton, to the leaders of the East India Company, and from the lowly crew on the sailboats to the consumers of the beer in India.

Of course the whole reason behind the book was to answer a simple question. Was it the beer, or the journey that the beer endured that created the flavour so coveted in modern day craft brewing*? Highly hopped IPA's are one of the most popular craft beers at the moment and if you have any interest in the subject, or indeed if you simply enjoy travel novels, then I would highly recommend Hops and Glory.

* as the story goes, beer sent to India tended to spoil quite quickly while at sea, brewers in the UK found that if they highly hopped their beers that this acted as a preservative, the side effect of this was that by the time the highly hopped beers had made it to India that the hops had mellowed and the flavours had combined to create a superior beer.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Beer Review: Cutthroat Porter

I was browsing through my beer fridge last week looking for something to accompany a nice fillet steak I was having for dinner and decided that a nice porter would fit the bill. Not sure if it is from reading Zak Avery's blog but I am getting more interested in pairing beer and food and seeing how they can accompany each other.

Cutthroat Porter, a lovely balance
of dark malts and earthy hops
Cuttthroat Porter from Odell Brewing pours a lovely jet black with a creamy tan head. Lovely smooth mouthfeel and nice low level of carbonation that fizzes slightly on the back of your throat. The aroma is nicely balanced between the dark malts (choclate and roasted malt) and the earthy hops. The taste highlughts the dark malts once again with the chocolate less apparent than in other porters I have tried. There is also a very slight astringency on the end. Overall, like the aroma, the flavour is very well balanced. Smooth and creamy like a stout but with the flavour complexity you would expect from a good porter.

This is a very good beer. A perfect beer to enjoy with a nice steak, or at 4.8% it would also make a great session beer. I have really enjoyed the two Odell beers I have tried so far, this and the St Lupulin Extra Pale Ale, thankfully I have a few more in the fridge to try.

Friday, August 6, 2010

AG #4 - Session Stout

Following on from the success of my ISO Standard Stout when I got the opportunity for a brew last weekend I decided to try another stout. This recipe is based primarily on the ISO Standard Stout, however I made a few tweaks*.

Session Stout
BeerTools Pro Color Graphic

Size: 21.12 L
Efficiency: 70.56%
Attenuation: 72.1%
Calories: 166.96 kcal per 12.0 fl oz
Original Gravity: 1.050 (1.044 - 1.060)
Terminal Gravity: 1.014 (1.012 - 1.024)
Color: 69.08 (59.1 - 78.8)
Alcohol: 4.72% (4.0% - 6.0%)
Bitterness: 26.0 (20.0 - 40.0)


3500.0 g Maris Otter
485.0 g Barley Flaked
536.0 g Carapils®/Carafoam®
456.0 g Roasted Barley
293.0 g Chocolate 1060 EBC
44.0 g Goldings (5.0%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min
1.0 tsp Irish Moss - added during boil, boiled 15 min
1.0 ea Danstar 3767 Nottingham


Mash at 67c
Overall the brew day went very well. I was done and dusted in five and a half hours which I was happy with. The only brew day problem that I had was that I missed my volume calculation, this meant that my OG finished at 1050, four points above what I was aiming for. Not a huge issue, it just means that I will end up with a slightly stronger beer and unfortunately less of it. The other small issue was that my efficiency came in at just over 70%, this was dissapointing as I have hit as high as 78% with this system before. I reverted to batch sparging to try and get my efficiency back up however this did not do the trick. The possible explanation to this lower level of efficiency is that my mash tun has been losing a few degrees of heat during the 60 minute mash, I will address this with better insulation for my next brew and hopefully this will address the efficiency issue.

Looking forward to seeing how this beer turns out and comparing it to the ISO Standard Stout. This was my first time using Danstar Nottingham dry yeast and so I will be interested to see how this differs from the Irish Ale yeast that I used in my last stout.

* As highlighted by Biertourist over on IrishCraftBrewer, I had said after tasting this beer that I would not change anything, here is the quote:

"Very, very happy with this beer, certainly my best brew to date. I would not consider changing the grain bill for future versions (of which there will be many), but I would possibly up the hops slightly and maybe try brewing it with a different yeast."

However having been drinking this beer for a few weeks now I had decided that I would like a slightly more roasted flavour, and so I did what I said I wouldn't and changed the grain bill, along with the hop levels and the yeast!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Beer Review - St Lupulin Extra Pale Ale

Walk on the hoppier side of
life with St Lupulin
Todays beer review comes from a recommendation by the Stout Fellow. St Lupulin Extra Pale Ale from Odell Brewing is a Summer seasonal beer that is available from May through to September.

It pours a pale golden colour, a nice level of carbonation produces a small creamy white head. The aroma is very strong, with citrus and honey fighting for dominance, a lovely enticing aroma that screams 'hop monster!'. Medium bodied with a honey like texture. The floral characterisitics of the hops come through very strongly in the flavour, their prominance probably due to the dry-hopping that this beer experienced. The carbonation is nicely subdued which allows the flavour and aroma to combine beautifully, all of this is followed by a warming alcohol sensation from the 6.5% ABV.

This is my first experience of Odell's beers and I am happy to say that I have three more of their offerings waiting for me in my beer fridge. For those who like the hoppier side of life, this beer is highly recommended.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Beer Review: Jagged Edge IPA and Midnight Sun Porter

A night out in Dublin's latest gastro pub offered the perfect opportunity to sample a couple of beers I had not tried before. L Mulligan, Grocer based on Manor Street on Dublin's Northside represents a new twist on an old pub. Specialising in good quality food and a selection of Irish and International craft beers Mulligan's is a welcome addition to the growing number of specialised craft pubs in Dublin.

Mulligan's has a fantastic array of Irish craft beers on tap, including; Ór, Galway Hooker, Molly's Chocolate Stout, Porterhouse Plain, O'Hara's Stout and Belfast Blonde. These taps are complemented by a vast array of local and international bottled beer.

The Galway Hooker tap is impressive, to say the least.

So onto the beers of choice for the evening.

Jagged Edge IPA

Highly hopped American IPA that packs a punch at 7.3%. The aroma is all about the hops, piney and earthy on the nose, this follows through to the taste, coupled with a medium body and low level of carbonation. The upfront hop flavour and aroma is quikly washed away by a sea of alcohol. At this strength the hops really do not get the chance to fully shine before the rising warmth from the alcohol overpowers them. A nice beer and one that I enjoyed, but I certainly would not have more than one or two. Definitely one to try.

Midnight Sun Porter, fantastic!
Midnight Sun Porter
Spicy and sweet with a fantastic mouthfeel and body. Midnight Sun Porter is in a class of its own. It displays a lovely balance of malt; at one time chocolatey and the next roasty and this provides the perfect setting for the spicy hop profile. A very complex flavour profile that will be best appreciated at warmer serving temperatures, this is a fantastic beer and the first of the Williams Brothers brews that I have tried, I will certainly be looking to source some more.

Apart from these beers that I sampled my drinking buddies on the night enjoyed some Molly's Chocolate Stout, Galway Hooker, Ór and Hoegarden. A great night was had by all and if you are ever in Dublin looking for a good pub to tantalise your beer senses then you should certainly plan a visit to Mulligan's.