Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rhubarb Sour

Here it is, the crazy rhubarb sour beer.

Hazy burnished orange. The rhubarb added some color but not the vibrant red of its ripe stalks. Some small chunks of rhubarb appear to have made it through the sieve at bottling and float suspended in the beer but aren't perceptible when drinking. The aroma is mostly lactic sourness and a bretty funk with a slight earthy vegetal note in the background. The flavor starts off with a sharp, austere acidity and morphs into a rounded earthy, herbal bitterness. Not hop bitterness, but, well, rhubarb bitterness. The finish is bone dry, but not harsh despite the acidity and slight bitterness. Still, this is not a beer for the non-lambic lover.

I'm pleased with the rhubarb sour overall. I think one gallon was about the right batch size. Maybe I'll make more someday if I can get more rhubarb. The 11 bottles won't last long as everyone I told about this has been pestering me to try it for the past few months. I know which of them will be agog over it and which will just gag.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tasting: Foreign Stout

Take a gallon of Double Stout, blend with a bit of funky-sour beer and age for nine months.

All the 90% dark chocolate, espresso and peaty smoke is still there. Time and funk has brought out faint cherries, port and leather notes. The rough edges have been smoothed out but the beer still finishes dry with a nice roasted bitterness. That dry finish makes it suitable for a hot summer evening. This will likely continue to improve until I can no longer resist those last few bottles.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tasting: Summer Saison

I got in two saisons before getting fed up with the heat this summer. Given a couple slight changes I thought it prudent to drink aside each other so the effect of those changes stick out.

Another out of stock yeast at the LHBS again forced an on the fly substitution. This time I had to use the notoriously slow to finish Wyeast 3724 (DuPont) in place of the well-behaved 3711 French Saison. For the second batch I made sure to buy a package of 3711 in advance AND make a from-the-bottle starter of Dupont yeast (which I've never had trouble with) for a mixed ferment. Now on with the comparison...

As the summer tempuratures rose, so did my impatience with this yeast and I bottled before terminal gravity was reach. I paid the price of a couple cracked bottles and excessive carbonation. The taste is good though. Grassy hops, pepper and late summer fruit (apples, plums and overripe peach) dominate the aroma. The taste has a nice rusticity from the dried out base malts (Belgian pale, US pale, and Vienna) and noble hops (excepting the Styrian Goldings) used for all additions. A nice refreshing summer beer.

For the summer's second batch of saison I changed the late additions to just Saaz (an ounce each at 15 minutes and knockout). The blend of Saaz, Hallertau, and S. Goldings produces a nice flavor but I wanted to see if I could get away with something simpler. This one attenuated to 1.001 in a reasonable amount of time, so no over-carbonation problem. I'm not sure this one is quite ready yet as it has a raw yeasty smell that I've found with bottles that have not undergone enough conditioning time. There is a nice saison there, but I will have to show some patience for it to shine.

Next tasting: Rhubarb Sour.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tasting: Les Fleurs du Mal 2010

The beginning of August marks the start of my annual month long sabbatical from brewing. Only beers not in bottles are the sours, which calmly do their thing in the corner just passing the time until it's their turn. It is too hot and humid for brewing to be any fun. And there is fun to be had out of doors. But this is a good month to drink some beer and write, neglecting this blog a little less. First up in the August tasting notes series is Les Fleurs du Mal.

This one presented a bit of a challenge when I went to buy ingredients at the LHBS. With Wyeast 3942 (De Dolle) out of stock, I was left scratching my head for a substitute. 3864 (Unibroue) seemed a reasonable substitute. No Amarillo whole leaf hops also forced a choice between Cascade leafs and Amarillo pellets for dry hopping. I chose the pellets and I'm not sure it was the best choice as they were a pain to separate from the beer and they seemed to affect the flavor.

OG: 1.070
FG: 1.010
ABV: 7.9% ABV

The medium amber color is decidedly darker than previous years. I account for this with unexpected efficient and color extraction as the grist did not change much. Just two months after bottling, the citrusy aroma of the hops is fading. The Amarillo pellets for dry-hopping seemed to give a harsh edge to the flavor and aroma that I've not found in my whole leaf dry-hopped beers. The fading hops have struck a nice balance with the yeast and malt. There are fresh pears and apples. Maybe a bit of mango? A bit a honey sweet malt gives way to a bone dry finish accented by just enough bitterness.

I had not sat down and focused on the flavor of this brew but I'm glad I did. Even with the on-the-fly changes I am pleased with how this turned out. I doubt I will let more than a bottle or two get much older as previous batches turned too sweet, almost syrupy, when the hops faded.