Sunday, October 26, 2014

Much Overdue Tasting Notes

So, I totally suck.  With our recent move, I actually just drank most of these beers without doing an in depth tasting and putting down some thoughts to improve on the brews.  There's a few in depth notes, but I screwed the pooch on a few of these.

The Southron Batch #2
So, no in depth notes on this one, but that's not all that depressing to me.  Overall, I was under impressed by this beer.  The problem lay in my attempt to combine some interesting ingredients I'd been using recently from several different styles.  The problem is that they came through quite a bit muddled.  Honey Malt and Flaked Oats are not entirely compatible in a hoppy IPA.  While the phrase "honey oat IPA" sounds delicious, in fact the manifestation of it is quite the opposite.  Don't get me wrong, it was entirely drinkable, but I think a drier, more simple recipe is what really makes the hops shine.

The Trapper (Chardonnay Oak Aged Saison)
Appearance - Pours a straw-colored, crystal clear beer.  I'm actually quite shocked at how clear this beer came out.  Can't complain.  The head is quite fluffy, but quickly dissipates to a light froth.  I'd take a couple of points off for that.  Despite how high I carbonated this, there isn't a lot of bubble action.

Aroma - I think there's a little too much of a fusel type smell on this one.  Could be some white pepper from a high fermentation temperature, but it's not an aroma that's especially pleasing nor present in many of the saisons I've made in the past.  This was my first attempt with actively heating a brew (and it was in the summer).  That probably has a lot to do with it.  Some wood character shines through with a distinct Chardonnay scent as well.  I'd probably go with a little more wood and a little less wine next time -- or a less flavorful wine (or no wine).

Taste - When this was around three weeks old, it wasn't all that pleasant.  It's quite a bit less green now at a few months old and the wood comes through nicely.  It's almost like a somewhat peppery, oak-aged helles.  There is definitely a bit of fusel alcohols in the background that detract from the beer.  Unfortunately, this one didn't turn out as I had planned in the flavor department.

Mouthfeel - As a saison should be, this beer is pretty thin.  The carbonation is probably less than ideal, which is surprising because I did pay a decent amount of attention to this factor.

Overall - I have to admit, this was a bit of a disappointment.  This was a beer that I tried to get creative on (perhaps too creative) and the slapstick nature of it is very apparent.  I think the idea is decent, it was just a flawed execution.  The changes I would make for the next time is maybe hop with more noble hops, ferment with WY3711 on a more restrained temperature schedule and carbonate to a higher degree.

The Acolyte (Trappist Single)
So this one got completely cashed out before I could do detailed tasting notes.  What I'll say is that it was a really nice, easy drinking Belgian beer.  The "Belgian" taste of it was quite restrained, but given the low OG, the yeast didn't really have much to work with.  In other words, it was a Belgian Single.  I think in the future, I'd prefer a higher OG, more ester-filled Belgian ale.  If you're looking for a nice, quaffable Belgian beer though, I'd give it a try.

The Scholar Batch #2 (Societe Brewing The Pupil Clone)
So no detailed tasting notes here either.  I think I preferred the first batch of this clone that I made, but I think I'm going to make some changes going forward with base malt, fermentation temperature and yeast.  Nonetheless, this beer ended up winning a Gold Medal and scoring a 40 at the Philly Homebrew Cup - Made on American Street Competition.  The color was a bit darker than I would have expected and next time I'm going to use a blend of Pilsner and 2-Row as base malts.  I'm going to use Super San Diego yeast but make sure that I have an appropriate cell count.  I've had issues with the health of this yeast from the online home-brew stores, so I'll be harvesting this from my latest batch to keep at my home yeast bank.  Additionally, now with my new fermentation chamber, I'm going to keep this thing at 65f for the duration of fermentation to get a nice, clean, hop-focused flavor.

The Scout (Modern Times Blazing World)
Appearance - Pours a VERY deep amber color bordering on black.  Some slight red hues around the edges, but it's largely opaque.  Fluffy lighter than tan head that's pretty persistent.  It's not really an amber, to be honest and the appearance is a touch muddled.  Not the prettiest beer.

Aroma - Tons of hops come through on the nose, potentially some berry from the Mosaic hops.  A lot of friends who are less familiar with hoppy ambers/black IPAs have been very surprised by the nose and were expecting something more stout-like.

Taste - Very smooth, hoppy flavors.  Some pine, some berry, some darker stone fruit type flavors but that could just be psychological with the darker color.  The flavor, like the color, is a little bit muddied as well.  I've had a difficult time getting some of these ambers to turn out how I want with some of the newer hop varieties.  I'm not giving up yet, but I'm beginning to think that maybe more traditional varieties like Cascade, Centennial and Nugget.

Mouthfeel - Moderate carbonation with a creamy mouthfeel.  I'm pretty happy with this aspect.  It's really a nice, chew mouthfeel.

Overall - I think that this beer has some potential with maybe a lower amount of roasted malts to slightly lighten up the color and possible some fining agents and a cold crash.  This beer hasn't scored that well in competitions, but the average friend I have has gone out of his way to complement it.  I've generally placed it in the Amber Ale category, which to be honest it doesn't really fit, so that's resulted in some point deductions.  Perhaps this would be a nice single-hopped Mosaic beer with a lighter color profile.

The Barista Batch #2 (Imperial Breakfast Stout)
Appearance - Pours a deep, dark, opaque black.  Forms a thin, tan head on the pour that lingers for a moment and bubbles away to a slight ring.  Head retention has always been a problem for me with the higher ABV dark beers, perhaps carbonation is the issue?

Aroma - Distinctly coffee from both the cold-press that was added but there's definitely a dark roast scent from some of the malts in this.  There's also a little bit of sweetness that comes through on the nose, not entirely unexpected given the FG.

Taste - Lots of coffee and roastiness.  The front of it comes off as quite bitter, but really softens within a second.  I think the higher than expected FG might have helped this one from being too much on the bitter side.  The balance between hops and malts is pretty spot on.

Mouthfeel - Nice and thick/chewy.  Could potentially benefit from a little more carbonation, but I'm being picky.

Overall - So, I really like this brew.  I think next time I might mash a bit lower or use a different yeast to get a lower FG.  This one is potentially a little too much on the sweet side, and although it balances some of the bitterness, I think a little more bitterness might be nice.  This brew took a silver medal in the Philly Homebrew Cup in the Spices, Vegetables and Herb category.

The Gambler (Sorachi Saison)
So, no detailed notes on this batch either.  Overall, I think the massive flameout hop addition led to a grassy flavor that just doesn't age out.  I also forgot to put a paint strainer bag on my auto-siphon (which is what I usually do) so a decent amount of hop material made it into the bottling bucket and then into the bottles.  Perhaps this contributed to the vegetal taste that sticks around.  I think this beer could be a success with a more measured hopping rate.  I haven't had a lot of success with excessively hopped saisons, and maybe this is for a reason.  Appearance, aroma and mouthfeel were all great.  It was simply the taste was a bit grassy.

Appearance - Pours a gorgeous, blood orange hue with a bright white, two finger, fluffy head.  The beer is semi-transparent, probably would be clearer if it weren't for the dry hops.  After a minute, the head drops down to a nice, white film that lingers for the entire beer.  Besides the slight clarity issue, appearance is great on this one.

Aroma - Lots of light, enticing fruit flavors in the nose.  A little bit of sweet apple with a lot of nectarine aroma in the back end.  The hops are definitely shining through.

Taste - Just beautiful.  It packs a ton of juicy, citrus, passionfruit flavor that you would expect could only be present in a higher gravity IPA or DIPA.  Lots of citrus up front with a blast of tropical fruit on the finish.  This is a really nice escape from the typical piney/dank West Coast APA.

Mouthfeel - Light to medium bodied, exactly as an APA should be.  Medium carbonation supports a lingering head.  No qualms here.

Overall - This is really a fantastic American Pale Ale and probably one of the better beers that I've brewed, which is surprising because I didn't really spend a lot of time crafting this.  The blend of Pilsner and 2-Row malts in a light colored beer is really a better base for hoppy beer than 2-Row alone.  This is going to become my House Pale Ale.


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