Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Stonginton Pale Ale: Batch 3, Tasting

Though its been a few months since I've brewed SPA, batch 3, I opened one of the last remaining bottles last week. Its been drinking fantastic since about 3 weeks from bottling, where it was still a touch green at 2 weeks. Even now, perhaps a month past its truly fresh aromatic and resinously hoppy peak, it has still garnered accolades from friends, both new and old... ie."one of, if not the best IPA I've ever had...and I've had a few".

Yeah, these sort of statements really do stick in brewer's head.

The small incremental changes of going with C40 vs. C60 + increasing to 1lb vs. .5lb did, in fact, improve the beer as I had hoped. Any implied biting (too) dry character from the first two iterations has now given way to a smoother, rounder mouthfeel. Just a touch of soft sweetness and light biscuit malt introduces each taste before giving way to the incredibly American hoppy profile. It still leads with that terrific fresh green nose, just-peeled grapefruit rind and floral aromatics. An unaggressive bitterness finishes, builds a bit after the swallow, but never punches too hard. This is an aroma first, and flavor 2nd, and bitterness 3rd IPA, and I think I like SPA just like that.

But, there's almost always room for improvement, and this beer still elicits plenty of criticism from its creator.

I will certainly back down on carbonation levels in the future, as the overcarbonation flaw simply cannot be resolved with a slow, high pour given the unbelievable head retention from the wheat and hops. I also think I'd retain more of the volatile aromatics throughout the beer over the course of its enjoyment if I didn't have to resort to such remedial tactics, and would have a softer, more inviting quaff, as well.
I will revisit the grist, hopping schedule, etc. once I have the carbonation more in line with where it should be.

Ultimately, however, this beer is one that really would benefit from cold crashing + kegging, as that Chico yeast strain combined with tons of late + dry hopping renders this a particularly hazy beer. IPAs really shouldn't sit around conditioning for extended periods of time...the clock is ticking! Of course, bottling with all that turbidity results in a significant sediment in the bottle, which can and does adversely impact the pour. I will usually leave 3-4 oz of the beer (!!!) in the bottle for fear of introducing that sediment, which ends up muddying up the whole experience, both visually, and flavor wise. This also means this beer travels very poorly, so the advantage of bottle conditioning the batch to have a six pack to take away, always at the ready, is diminished by all that sediment stirred up and into the beer. I would love to cold crash the whole she-bang before dry hopping to drop the hop flavor stripping yeast out of suspension, then return to room temp, then rack to a keg for immediately chilling, carbonation and storage, but until then I'll dream of others' clearer IPAs that aren't saddled with all that beer-robbing sediment and head ballooning carbonation.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

pot&kettle, batch 2...tasting

It has been a little over a month since the pot&kettle batch 2 has been in the bottles, but I can't wait any longer for the first glimpse, er...taste. The only change I've made from the last iteration was to change the yeast strain. Discussion of that here.

Ok, so that's a huge change, but keeping the remainder of the recipe constant should better allow me to perceive impact.

Pulled from fridge, allowed bomber to stand for 20minutes. Slowly poured down the middle of the imperial pint glass, incrementally, allow the substantive head to form and fall, form and fall. All in all, took about 4 minutes. That's a long time to wait for your first taste, but I know I'll be rewarded with a full glass and a proper head.
A-OK, so I should have started with appearance, but the very second thing I noticed after the streaming black-brown pour was the powerful roast and malty aroma that almost immediately wafted over to entice me. I didn't even get a chance to look down to the bottom of the glass first.
So aside from the distractingly rich and pervasive aroma, you can tell immediately that this beer has great full mouthfeel.

What? ...what's the problem?

Oh, right this is 'appearance' section of the tasting notes...

I mean that you can actually see the fullness in the pour, you can tell this isn't a thin bodied beer in the pour. It just looks full. You'd have to be paying attention, very close attention to your beers as you pour them to know what I mean.

Of course this stout shades just south of black at the edges, a dark brown that appears to have quite a bit of haze to it, which is a bit surprising as I've let it warm a bit, and the Burton ale yeast should have had ample time to floc out. Nice substantial head that forms quickly, props itself up, and forms irregular and large bubbles. Slow to burst. See what I mean? It just looks like its got tons of velvety mouthfeel.
S-Ok, I've already covered this, but seriously, to all whom I give this beer to...take your time pouring this slowly. Let the head form and fall, form and fall. Anticipate. Wait for the aroma to make its way over to you, it is the perfect pre-quel for what's in store. Rich, melted dark chocolate, roasted grains, and a very 'bright' acid french roast coffee. Searching for any hops...nope, nothing but roast/cacao. Pumpernickel?

T-Smooth dark chocolate, french roast coffee, minimal sweetness. Smooth, not biting acridity on the finish. Dominating dark roasted malt. Complexity abounds, but mostly within the range of roasted grain. Hoping that the subtleties of dark prune/raisin flavors from the Special B appear over time, as the roast continues to mature and mellow. British yeast character in the background, not overly apparent, to me. Not overly attenuated, the british yeast left enough body, even with the 150F mash. Just like I hoped. Huge roasty dryness on the palate to finish. Dry, dark chocolate.

M-Velvety, coating mouthfeel. Thank you oatmeal. Thank you Burton ale yeast.

D-If you like stouts that lean toward the outer edges of roast character, then this beer will go down quickly, dangerously. Proper and smooth carbonation, adequately degassed from the slow pour. I have a big glass of beer in my stomach, and yet...I look over, and the imperial pint glass is down to its last mouthful, and I'm seriously considering cracking another. But I won't, I have an interview in the morning.

Brewing, filmed

As I mentioned in this post, I was filmed brewing up a batch of pot & kettle oatmeal stout by the public access TV group French Oak TV. Stay tuned for followup segments, where Summer (the host of their show) chooses a recipe, and we brew an extract + specialty grains batch. We'll discuss ingredients, boil and fermentation in a bit more detail and compare/contrast against all grain brewing.

The Art of Home Brewing with JC Tetreault from French Oak TV on Vimeo.

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