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