Sunday, August 10, 2008

Four + Brewing Co. Rype

C+ / 3.15
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | drink: 4

Style: American Pale Wheat Ale
ABV: 4.00%
Purchased: $1.89 at Vintage Cellar in Blacksburg, VA

Pours a bright golden color with lots of carbonation but little head. The aroma is a sweet, nutty citrus, just right for the style. While not overpowering, the flavor is primarily citrus with very little malt character. Spiciness from the hops and heavy carbonation make it a refreshing summer ale, but it feels more like a soda on the palate than a beer. Easily sessionable if a light flavored wheat ale is your style but the carbonation is too much for me.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Orval Trappist Ale

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

Style: Belgian Pale Ale
ABV: 6.90%
Purchased: ~$5.25 per 12 oz. bottle at Countryside Classics in Salem, VA

Bottled on 24/06/2005, enjoyed on 30/07/2008. Two fingers of foamy white head cover a hazy, pale amber body in my snifter. The head retention is remarkable, settling at 1/4" and leaving a layer of lacing like snow coating frost on a window as the liquid below disappears.

The first whiff is mainly of sweet banana, with some residual clove as well. The banana is almost exclusive as the beer warms and is very rich, like banana pudding.

There is more clove than banana to the taste, although both are still present. The initial sour acidity yields to a sweeter bubbly foam as I roll it over my tongue. There's plenty of carbonation and a spiciness from the hops which is more prevalent at lower temperatures.

The quality of this beer is evident across the board, although I'd prefer the banana carry over more to the flavor to override the sourness of the yeast.

Avery Salvation

B+ / 3.85
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | drink: 4

Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale
ABV: 9.00%
Purchased: $6.99 per 22 oz. bottle at Vintage Cellar in Blacksburg, VA

Hazy, pale orange with minimal head. Nose heavy on sweet orange, rich with vanilla undertones, the way flavored Belgians should be done. Very candy-like, surprisingly low on phenols for a Belgian. Second pour produces 1/2 inch of head that settles very quickly with minimal lacing. Just not a strong point of this one.

The flavor exhibits a similar honey-candy-marmalade from the aroma, while the yeast pokes its head out a bit to add trace clove to the mix. The hops add a subtle earthy spice and are well-placed for the idea. However, while the aroma is warm and relentless, the flavor seems to peter out towards the end of the bottle. I feel that this is because the beer is under-carbonated, which consequently produces a more oily rather than dry mouthfeel.

Nevertheless, the alcohol is far less noticeable on the tongue than in the brain. It's not hard to drink, so heed the warning the 9% abv sign on the bottle.

Homebrew Session: Belgian Stong Pale Ale

At long last, I've tackled another homebrew, the first since I've begun this blog, but the 12th in my two-year brewing career. The reason for the delay (over four months) was primarily that I had been focused on upgrading my system to support all-grain mashing, and wanted to put every spare penny towards that goal. But the government stimulus funds didn't last long and the usual summer travel frenzy took care of the rest and I'm finding myself looking at Fall before I'm able to take the plunge.

As a consolation, I decided upon brewing my most ambitious beer to date in terms of strength, and resolved to eliminate all the mistakes that I knew I could control that seemed to plague me (and my short attention span) again and again. Specifically, to use only malts that need not be mashed (you have no idea how much I've done this even since I learned it was a mistake), to measure the hops carefully and not overdo them, to cool the wort efficiently but not too far, etc.

I then settled on a Belgian ale of some sort, a beer that is light enough to be thirst-quenching on a late summer evening, yet strong enough to obliterate all my previous attempts. From there, I picked out a yeast that would be both available to me at Blue Ridge Hydroponics, since I didn't want to wait to order anything special, as well as be robust enough to ferment in a range of temperatures. I selected the White Labs Begian Ale Yeast since it can ferment up to 78 degrees. In the end, this wasn't too important as I wound up doing the primary fermentation in my air conditioned computer room. More on that later. I also chose a Belgian Strong Pale Ale for the "style" as it gave me more room for experimentation, and did not require fermentation procedures or temperatures beyond the scope of my equipment.

Yeast Starter:

2 oz. Munton's Light Dry Malt Extract
2 cups filtered tap water
1 vial WLP 550 White Labs Belgian Ale Yeast (best before 8-5-07)

~5 gallons Kroger Spring Water
0.5 oz. 20L Crystal Malt (grains)
1 lb. 14 oz. Munton's Light DME
10 oz. Corn Sugar
1 lb. 8 oz. Private Selection Organic Sugar (cane)
6 lb. Blue Ridge H and H Super Light Malt Extract
2 oz. Hallertaur hops (60 min boil)
2 oz. Hallertaur hops (5 min boil)
1 tsp Irish Moss (15 min boil)
0.5 oz. Ground Coriander (purchased from Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op)

Yeast Starter:

7-26-08 Set out yeast ~ 5 hours before pitching. Realized yeast was out of date more than a year...Brought water to boil, added DME, boiled ~8 minutes, added slightly more water to remove stuck DME from scale tray. Transferred to 22 oz. bottle w/ funnel, both sanitized with no-rinse sanitizer. Set in ice bath in sink (3:30ish).
Pitched at 80 degrees F, 4:18 (48 min later). Very little activity noticed until 7/28; postponed brewing until 7-29, when i was still in a krausen phase, but slurry was forming on the base of the bottle.


Brought two gallons of water to 165F, added grains, covered at 175F @ 8:10 PM. Heat off, let steep for 30 minutes. Remove grains, add DME, corn sugar, cane sugar, and finally malt extract, in that order. Turn on heat, and bring to boil (8:53 PM). Boiling at 9:20 PM. Add 2 oz. Hallertaur hops at 9:28 PM. Hops could have smelled a little cheesy (due to storage issues from supplier), but could just be true to style. Hops bought from friend had sat in single Ziploc bag in fridge for ~3 months. Had him seal them airtight in 2 oz. bags prior to sale, put in freezer immediately after.

Added Irish moss 45 minutes after boiling (10:13 PM).

Added 2 oz. Hallertaur finishing hops and ground coriander at 55 minutes after boiling (10:23 PM). Removed from heat at 10:28 and cooled in ice bath in sink (two bags of ice rotated with water). Cooled to 78F by 11:00 PM.

O.G. 1.083 at 77F (1.085 corrected). Pitched yeast at 11:08 PM. Shook from 11:17-11:22 PM, put in front of kitchen A/C with blow off tube for the night.

Moved to closed air conditioned computer room the following morning. Steady bubbling noticed at 12:05 PM on 7-30, less than 1 second between bubbles. Room temperature 68-72F for majority of fermentation. Noticed room temp down to 62F at lunch on 8-5, so corrected quickly to 69F. Roused yeast continuously during fermentation but avoided oxidization from shaking. S.G. at 6:00 PM on 8-5 was ~1.026, and krausen still abundant, so fermentation left at least one more day.

Hoping for a 38 IBU, 8.5% abv spice Belgian Strong Pale Ale, sometime in September!