Thursday, January 29, 2009

Irish Beer, Part I

I recently returned from Ireland, a place known for beer. Painfully though, that is only one type of beer mainly from one brand that frankly sucks. Slowly though, Irish craft beer is making headway.

My first respite from nitro-stout came in Cork thanks to the Franciscan Well Brewery, which has been brewing since 1998. Their beers are available in Cork's better pubs with the Rebel Red reaching ubiquity. I find extensive tasting notes tedious to write and pompous, but here is my opinion of their beers.

Shandon Stout: Nitro-kegged stout. A step up from Guinness-Murphy's-Beamish with a bit more roastiness.

Blarney Blonde: A light, easy drinking blonde ale. Lacks character.

Friar Weisse: The brewery's wheat beer. The yeast character tasted like it needed more maturation time.

Bellringer: A spiced winter beer. Over spiced to near undrinkable. Why do brewers make these insipidly spiced beers? I have yet to drink one doesn't puzzle me.

Rebel Red: A wonderful red ale that shames industrial Irish red ales. Very fruity with distinct rasberry flavors. At 4.3% abv Rebel makes a great session beer (very important for beer in Ireland). By far the brewery's best and a beer I would gladly drink any time.

I only found these beers within Cork. Apart from the brewpub, Blarney Blonde, Friar Weisse, Shandon Stout and Rebel Red can be found at the Mutton Lane Inn and Sin É. You can also drink Rebel Red at the infamous Hi-B bar until you, like me, get kicked out for no good reason.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Brettanomyces Lambicus

We want the funk.

Now here we have a beer I am really excited about (more so than usual). A single strain Brettanomyces beer. For this one I kept the malt and hops simple to let the B. Lambicus shine. Unfortunately, I think using a new oak spiral may have negated that effort.

Higher than expected efficiency resulted in an OG of 1.064, a few points higher than I wanted. After 19 days the gravity had dropped to 1.020. I racked 1 gallon onto a pound of sliced Gala apples and the other 4 gallons to its own secondary fermenter. Other than taking longer, fermentation appeared normal.

At racking the beer smelled of cherries, pears, apples, tropical fruit and a touch of barnyard funk. The taste was similar but with the oak fighting for prominence.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Dubbel Chocolate

This ale is an adaptation of an extract recipe I made last winter. The original beer combined a fruity witbier yeast with some dark malts and a little chocolate powder in the boil. For this version I kept the malt bill the same and added an extra ounce of chocolate to bring out that flavor a bit more. In the previous batch I used a pound of the dark rock candy that the home brew store sells. It tasted great but was much too expensive. I substituted dark maple syrup and white sugar that I caramelized the night before brewing. An oak spiral was added to the secondary fermenter.

This brew started with a step mash similar to what is recommended in the excellent Brew Like a Monk. Mash in at 104 F 15 minutes and use infusions to raise the mash to 145F for 45 minutes and 158F for 15 minutes. Efficiency hit nearly 75% with this mashing scheme.

1 tspn Irish Moss
4 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder
1 lb caramel
375 ml maple syrup

Apparently I forgot to write down the final gravity but I think it was around 1.015. That would mean 77% apparent attenuation and 6.5% ABV.

Now for one of my favorite activities, writing extensive tasting notes.

Color: dark, off white head

Smell: Chocolate, oaky vanilla some dark fruit.

Taste: oak, vanilla, fruit, chocolate, dark malt, bullshit.

Overall: Good but too much oak.

Table Beer

I mentioned in my post on the red ale that I made a table beer from the second runnings off the mash. A 3% ABV beer ought to really test brewing skills, sanitation and all that.

As for recipe I collected 4 gallons of wort boiled with some Perle hops. Post boil I had 3 gallons of wort at 1.030 OG that fermented with White Labs 500 (a strain cultivated from Chimay). With little work to do the yeast settled out enough to bottle after 5 days. Final Gravity was 1.006. 3.1% ABV.

The resulting beer is similar to a watery Chimay Cinq Cents. The hops and yeast prickle the tongue with spiciness. There is also a touch of infection that has not increased in the three months since bottling.

Overall not a bad effort. Since most of my home brew is high gravity rocket fuel it is nice to have something light to reach for when I don't want to get knocked on my ass.

(PS. Can you name that coaster?)