Thursday, January 30, 2014

#16 Americanized Kolsch - Tasting

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

I think this is the first beer that I've brewed that people really liked.  It's light, it's clean, it's hoppy, not too bitter, generally the things that make for a popular beer in Seattle.  I have a feeling that since this batch is the inaugural keg for my new kegerator it will go pretty quickly, so I better take some notes while I can.

It's a pale yellow color, similar to a macro lager.  I took samples as the keg was carbonating, and I found the  Kolsch yeast took forever to drop out, but once it finally did the beer improved significantly.  Kolsch yeast is known for being a slow flocculator, and this was readily apparent as it conditioned alongside the dark mild brewed with Fuller's yeast.  However even after the yeast dropped out, the beer remains a bit hazy, probably from the polyphenols in the dry hops or maybe the wheat proteins.

As I take a sip, my first impression is that it's more of a pale ale or session IPA from the signature Simcoe hop aroma and light clean body.  The Kolsch yeast gives it a smoother feel than the pales and IPAs I've brewed with the Chico yeast though.  As I swallow, the malt peaks forward, especially the wheat, leaving a noticeable french-bread finish.  I notice I must be drinking this too quickly because I'm stranding big gobs of foam on the sides of the glass as I drain the beer.  Thanks again Kolsch yeast for the great head retention.

This is certainly not a classic Kolsch: the hops--American ones--are far too prominent, the OG and FG are a tad high, the yeast flavor (initially) is too prominent.  The hallmark of Kolsch is subtlety, and while the flavors here couldn't be characterized as bold, they are just a bit strong for the style.  If I were to adapt this to actually brew a Kolsch--which I plan to eventually do--I would drop the dry hop (duh) and also reduce the wheat by maybe 25%-50% to rein in the breadiness.  Also, the Vienna malt was not as prominent as I hoped.  Next time I might swap it for Munich and drop the percentage a hair.  At bottling I worried the hop flavor and bitterness may have been too prominent, but now that it has faded a bit I wouldn't touch them.  A faint hint of Simcoe flavor, while not strictly to style, can be a unique touch that adds a unique touch to a well balanced Kolsch package.  (EDIT: This seemed true at first, but over time the pine flavor has subsided in favor of some sort of stone fruit.  Lower than expected attenuation could be a factor, as sweetness can accentuate the fruity flavors of American hops, but maybe next time I'll try it with chinook or a chinook-based blend.)

As I explained in the recipe post, this was never intended as a classic Kolsch.  It was intended as something I would want to drink after skiing, and I think it definitely hits the spot there.  The malt character leans a bit further toward the soft bready side than I intended; I would have liked a bit more of a grainy, dry, toast flavor.  Regardless, this makes a great session beer, not in the sense that it is low alcohol, but in the sense that it's quite drinkable, and its arsenal of flavor is still apparent after a pint, or two ... or how ever many it took to put together this post.

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