Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thalia Hibiscus Wit

Yes it's been almost a year since my last post, but it seemed fitting to revive this blog from the doorstep of death by posting my first homebrew label in a year and a half.

Thalia is a Beligian Witbier infused with hibiscus flowers, a combination pioneered by Dieu du Ciel! brewery in Montreal, Quebec. When Bailie and I went to Canada on vacation last year, Bailie developed a fondness for the beer, which is only sold as close as Charlottesville. During this year's vacation to Charleston, SC and other points south, we wound up in a spice shop which sold the dried hibiscus flowers by the ounce. Recognizing this as a great opportunity to try my hand at a hibiscus wit, I bought an ounce of the flowers to take home.

When I brewed this beer at Learn to Homebrew Day at Blue Ridge Hydroponics and Homebrew Supplies, my initial thought was to add half of the flowers towards the end of the boil to pull out aromatics, but it didn't seem like enough after grinding the whole flowers down to a powder. I decided to throw the rest in and see how it tasted after fermentation. Still lacking the pungent, floral, perfumy aroma and flavor I was looking for after 3 weeks in the fermenter, I started looking around for more hibiscus to infuse more flavor in the beer. Luckily, I found some just down the street at Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op.

The best way to add flavor and aroma post-fermentation is to create a tincture by soaking the dried flowers in vodka for several days or weeks, drawing a sample and adding small amounts with an eye dropper to that sample until the desired product is reached. You then figure out the number of teaspoons of tincture these drops for the sample produced, and finally scale that up for a 5 gallon batch and add at bottling time. In my case, I found that I needed to add 10 teaspoons of the strong potion (1.67 oz) to attain the desired character. This small amount of vodka adds only about .09% alcohol to the 5 gallon batch.

Intended to be a 5% alcohol beer, my brewhouse efficiency (amount of sugars produced after mash, sparge and boil) and attenuation (% of sugars eaten by yeast during fermentation) were so high that it wound up at 5.66% after fermentation. Add the vodka tincture to that, and you have a nice even 5.75% ABV.

Thalia is the Greek muse of comedy. I liked the name and found it fitting for this girly beer. Going with the comic theme, the label depicts Thalia farting on a Venusian volcano, causing it to spew hibiscus flowers into the atmosphere. Need I say more?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Kasteel Tripel by Brouwerij van Honsebrouck, N.V.

A- / 4.2
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | drink: 3.5

Style: Belgian Tripel
ABV: 11% ABV
Purchased: $8.19 for a 750mL bottle at the good Kroger in Roanoke, VA

Bottling on 090303 - I assume that's Belgian for March 3, 2009.

The first pour out of a traditional 750 mL green Belgian bottle is bright and clear golden with the faintest touch of haze evident. Tight bubbled swath of foam blankets the top with fairly good retention, eventually fading to a wisp. Effervescent.

Pleasant earthy noble hop nose, a bit spicy/herbal and perfumy. Fresh farm smells, deep and complex, balanced by breadiness and some light candy-like, almost banana sweetness - more with warmth. In the second pour, as more yeast becomes involved, aroma leans towards spicy lemon/orange esters, and phenols.

Again complex and deep with the flavor. Lemon-lime esters, earthy hops, crisp and spicy alcohol notes, just short of hot, probably a healthy dose of wheat. High carbonation, but just about right. Balanced spice from the yeast. Moderate bitterness. Finishes peppery, with a dry sweetness and some alcohol.

Easy to drink, though the alcohol is high enough that you feel it after one glass. Could be a bit too hot; I get a warming in the chest but also in the head. Ultimately, it's a very good shot at a higher than normal alcohol Tripel.

Serving type: bottle

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Beer Here (Nogne O) Morke Pumpernickel Porter

Style: Baltic Porter
ABV: 7.5%
Purchased: About $8? for a 500 mL bottle at Publick House Provisions in Brookline, MA

/ 4.55
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | drink: 4.5

Pretty damn dark and opaque with a dark tan head, fine bubbles which clump on the glass.

Tremendous depth to the aroma, with creamy caramel and toffee melding into fresh rye bread, pastry, and some black pepper at the end. Christmas pudding and and pumpernickel round it out. Spices enhance, but its hard to pick them out. Port-like undertones.

Very creamy, dextrinous, slick mouthfeel makes the caramel, chocolate, and dark bread flavors pop. Spicing is faint but brightens it up further. A touch of roastiness balances moreso than any hops. Dark raisin/plum flavors poke out with warmth. Carbonation is slight, letting the flavors linger on the palate longer. Could use a bit more bite, but makes for a highly drinkable beer. Alcohol warms subtly. Definitely check it out.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Great Divide Titan IPA

Style: American IPA
ABV: 6.8%
Purchased: $11.49 or so per 6-pack at 7-11.

/ 3.9
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | drink: 4

I'll start by saying when I bought this last summer, it had a far more intense hop nose and flavor. That said, the 3 or 4 times I've had it since, I haven't gotten the same effect, probably an east coast freshness issue. The appearance is one intangible, with a thick, clumpy froth leaving gorgeous lacing down the glass. Brilliant orange.

The nose on this one lacks the intense pine and citrus I remember from before. It is replaced with the biscuit and nuttiness reminiscent of UK base malt, and a fruity though subdued yeast character.

Citrus and pine hops remain in the flavor over the aforementioned malt. Resiny, but the biscuit flavor seems like more of a UK flavor than American.

Nice body keeps it fairly balanced and drinkable, not cloying in any sense.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Belgian-style Glacier Pale Ale

I decided to brew on Thursday last week for a couple reasons: one, to make sure I got another batch in for the upcoming Blacksburg Brew-do homebrew competition; two, to make sure I didn't flake out on brewing over the weekend and put it off again like last weekend; and three, because I was curious if I could brew an all-grain beer at night after work, and still make it to work the next day.

Indeed, though I didn't start heating my mash water until 5:15 PM, I got in a quick and tidy batch and pitched yeast by 10:30. Will L., Mike A., Chris B., neighbor Chris all stopped by to make sure I got my money's worth proving point 3. No significant hangovers.

The greatest source of anxiety for me over the past 5 or so months and numerous batches of beer has been my mash tun, a problem I recently diagnosed as a combination of warped mash tun floor and flattened out false bottom. After much debate on how to fix the problem (and nearly buying a new Rubbermaid cooler), I settled on drilling 4 holes through the mash tun floor, inserting bolts and pinning down the warped floor with nuts. The remaining 1/2 inch of bolt sticking up provides some reinforcement for the false bottom should it try collapsing under a heavy load of malt.

This mostly did the trick, much to my delight. However, my efficiency wound up extremely low (56% vs. 75% planned), which I am partially attributing to the leaks I created in the tun by not using washers or gaskets of any kind. There really wasn't much liquid coming out, but it may have filled up in the space between the plastic. It also may have been some of the more concentrated sweet wort coming out at the beginning, causing a more rapid efficiency loss. At any rate, I'll fix it for the next batch and keep my fingers crossed.

The lack of efficiency jacked up my IBUs a little and it's going to be seriously dry beer if my alcohol gets where I want it to be. Another bummer which lowered the OG (but not the efficiency) was the fact that I only had 6 ounces of corn sugar around, and I had been planning on using at least 8 ounces. So in the end, the strong Belgian IPA I was going for is going to be a hoppy, yet moderate-strength pale ale, which may be a blessing in disguise. I'd been waffling between brewing something moderate for the Brew-do or something serious for the Brewer's Guild's "Imperial Anything" competition. While I settled on something Brew-do-centric before brewing, I was still concerned my recipe would approach 7% ABV. This one should be in the 5.5% range, and will also finish fermenting quicker so it will have more time to meld and carbonate before the Brew-do, Oct. 24. Works for me.

6 lb. Belgian Pilsner malt
3 lb. Wheat malt
1 lb. Aromatic malt
.5 lb. Carapils Dextrine malt
6.3 oz. Corn sugar

Glacier hops 1 oz. 60 min, 15 min, and 10 min and 2 oz. dryhop.

White Labs WLP 500 Trappist Ale yeast

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ryezome Label

After a lengthy hiatus, the creative bug bit me again and I made another beer label for my latest homebrew, a hoppy brown rye ale. I settled on Ryezome as the name, a reference to the 3 pounds of rye used in the recipe, and rhizomes, the rootstalks of certain plants such as hops, that grow under ground and act as a liaison of sorts between the roots and shoots of plants. The label is just a representation of an image that popped into my head when daydreaming about the beer. I liked the idea of a root system being torn out of the ground by something as unassuming as a hot air balloon, and I found it fitting for both the style of the beer and the title. 'Nuff said. :)

The beer itself was originally supposed to be a hoppy amber rye ale, but while ProMash claims the color is well within guidelines for an amber, anyone who looks at it would immediately think brown, so I'm going with that. Since its right here in front of me, I might as well throw the recipe out there:

6 lb 2-row Pale Ale malt
3 lb Munich malt
3 lb Rye malt
.5 lb 40L Crystal malt
4 oz. Carafa malt

.5 oz Cascade pellets 6.3% AA (35 min boil)
1.1 oz Nugget pellets 11.6% AA (18 min boil)
1.0 oz Columbus pellets 12.3% AA (18 min boil)
1.0 oz Columbus pellets 12.3% AA (Dryhop)
.5 oz Cascade pellets 6.3% AA (Dryhop)

WLP001 California Ale Yeast - 1L starter made

After having serious issues with stuck mashes, I decided after this one stuck that I'd just siphon the wort out of the top of the tun instead of trying to get it to run out the bottom through the false bottom. It worked admirably, as I reached about 73% efficiency which is about as good as I've gotten (75% and up is ideal). I've since decided that my problems may be due to warped plastic on the bottom of the mash tun. :( A new tun may be in my future.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Wachusett Green Monsta Ale

B+ / 3.8
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | drink: 4.5

Style: American Strong Ale
ABV: 7.30%
Purchased: Birthday present from parents, in Massachusetts. Price unknown.

Thanks to the parents for a birthday 6-pack. Pours a stately orange-amber with a nice healthy swath of creamy head. Pretty hazy.

Slightly husky, biscuit, and caramel aroma mixed with some gentle noble hops for a balanced aroma.

While balanced in flavor as well, the malt is very interesting and almost more pronounced than the hops: sweet with light caramel, butter, and lmilk chocolate notes. The noble hops provide life and crispness to the beer, making for a very poundable beer.

Nice little brew...the head never went anywhere and the haze seemed to lift with warmth. Never guessed it was a strong ale, even with the "Big Pale Ale" note, until I saw the style and ABV on BA. Send more, Dad!