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.