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.