Friday, March 14, 2014

#19 Irish Red Ale - Tasting

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

ABV: 5.1%
Serving Temp: 45F
Grade: A-

Well this beer is certainly an odd duck.  I can't say I know what to make of it, so I guess I'll just have to have another.  And maybe another if that doesn't do the trick.  I don't know if I've had a beer quite like it.  Maybe somewhere between Smithwick's (sans the iron flavor when cold) and my hazy memories of Red Trolley, but then folded back in on itself.  It's not quite bold enough to elicit a strong reaction.  I desperately want to have something to say here, some sort of dramatic opinion, but it's too cohesive and mild to really feel comfortable dissecting it in detail.  If I would just shut up and drink it I would remember that it's a really nice, well-rounded beer, but that's not much of a blog post.  Anyway, here goes:

The primary flavors are a balance of the chocolaty bitterness from the roast malt against the fruity esters from the yeast.  At first the chocolate seemed most prominent, but as the beer warms, the fruitiness elbows its way to the front with a hint of toffee flitting around the edges, until finally the flavors meld into a nice caramel as it approaches room temperature.  That sounds extremely pretentious, but only because it is.  I challenge you to try the beer and come up with a better description yourself.

Overall I'm again pretty pleased with this batch.  I feel like I've really gotten the hang of making good beer, but the next step is to get the hang of making really good beer.  It's solid, and should be an easy sell at our St. Patrick's Day party, but it doesn't quite capture the intense, dry caramel flavor I imagined.  (I guess that makes it more true to its Irish heritage though.)  The color is a shade darker than I hoped as well, and--as you can see--significantly more hazy.

I'll have to work my way to the bottom of the keg before I decide how this rates and whether it justifies another attempt.  It's definitely an intriguing semi-session beer, but with summer coming I think that slot on the kegerator will likely be filled with hoppy American wheats and pale ales.  To those of you who try this beer, please feel free to drop your thoughts below.  I'm curious to see what comes up besides "good," "awesome," and a polite if transparent "ok."

UPDATE 4/1/14:
Now that I've had some time to drink about this beer--I mean think--I have to say this beer is definitely a win.  It may even be my best yet, hard to say.  It's so well balanced, and though it's reserved, is actually more flavorful than some of the the commercial examples I've had since.  (Field research, very important.)  This is the first beer I've brewed that I can really say stands up to what I intended, even if it's not yet perfect.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

#18 Dry Irish Stout - Tasting

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

Wow, I pretty much nailed this one.  There was a lot that didn't go according to plan on brewday, but the end result is a pretty solid beer, and definitely one I'm happy with.

After it finished carbonating, the first pour from the tap looks exactly like Guinness--complete with rolling, cascading foam--despite the lack of nitrogen.  The mouthfeel is about as you'd expect from the look of it, deliciously creamy.  I love slurping it through the cap of dense foam.  The taste is not especially bitter, with a hint of milk-like sweetness that may be a bit out of style, but is still pretty tasty.  It's--like the oatmeal stout-- not as roasty as I hoped, but definitely the kind of beer I go back for sip after sip without thinking about it.

Since it's an Irish stout and St. Patrick's Day is coming up, I better say a few words about how it compares to Guinness.  The last time I had a Guinness was almost two years ago, but I've had so many before that I'm pretty confident I remember what it tastes like.  As I mentioned above, the appearance is pretty dang similar--thicker if anything considering I don't have it on nitrogen. The foam on mine is more of a grayish tan than the clean white on a Guinness, but it's a small difference.  Once it hits your lips, the Guinness has a bit of a dry, sharp, burnt taste to it with an acidic/sulfury note in the background (it's been awhile, please leave a comment if you have a better descriptor).  The roast malt bitterness on mine is substantially more reserved, and melds into the faint, creamy sweetness for a smoother, if less flavorful package.

This beer is definitely not perfect, but I would say it's closer to what I was aiming for than it is to Guinness.  As I noted in the brewday post, the mash temperatures got way out of hand, lending it that extra body and sweetness.  A rebrew would be substantially drier, and I would definitely up the roast malt to bring the bitterness more to the front.  Then again, I'm enjoying this beer as it is, so I guess either way works.  I'm especially enjoying the flaked barley; it has a subtle flavor that I really love, and I will definitely be using it in more beers that call for that extra creaminess.  Stouts obviously, but any other ideas where it would be appropriate?

UPDATE 4/1/14:
When I wrote this I was really excited that it even came out well considering all the difficulty on brewday.  Maybe it's not quite as good as I made it sound--all the flaws mentioned in the last paragraph certainly still apply--so I have some work to do, but at least it's recipe tweaks rather than process flaws.  Drawing up new recipes is the fun part.
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