Wednesday, January 28, 2015

#38 Rye Ale #2 - Tasting

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

ABV: 6.0%
IBU: 36
Serving Temp: 38F
Carbonation: 2.6 vol
Grade: B

Rye Ale #2 is in the books.  Or rather my glass, I try to keep it away from books.  It's substantially different from #1; better yes, but not in the way I expected.  I missed my mark by a pretty wide margin, but the brew was clean and the beer is enjoyable in spite of itself.

To start with, the appearance is a surprisingly clear amber.  It seems the protein that gives wheat and rye ales their characteristic cloud has settled out since I kegged this batch several weeks ago.  It's also slightly lighter than I expected.  Whatever, appearance never really means much to me except as a clue to what's inside.

The aroma is mostly hops with pine and pineapple leading the way, and an herbal undercurrent rounding it out.  I really didn't expect it to be so fruity.  When I added the Columbus dry hop, I underestimated its citrusy qualities, hoping primarily for the pine side.  Lesson learned.

As I take my first sip, the taste seems to be dominated by again pineapple and grapefruit over a neutral malt base.  It's not clear whether this fruitiness is coming from the hops or the yeast, but it soon fades, indicating it was probably the aroma hops.  It's about this time that I notice how thick the beer is.  It's not sweet--actually it tastes quite dry, with a crispness (in a sense) you would expect from a dry lager--but there's a surprising amount of viscosity; it makes for an odd pairing.  Then as I swallow, a different set of flavors emerge.  The malt flavor come forward, with a bit of light toast and rye spiciness, then the hop bitterness dries it all up.  I'm really digging the finish; it's much closer to what I originally imagined.

I guess this beer came out closer to what I expected from the first batch than what I had planned for this batch.  The malts flavors are nice, but you have to excavate them from under the frutiness.  Columbus is definitely not the hop I was looking for, but I could see experimenting with Chinook, or one of several varieties of German hops.  I think next time I'll also add back the Crystal 80L malt, maybe just 5%.  It seems like it would help fill a gap in the malt profile that I can't articulate.  However it would also add even more body which might be something I want to scale back.  A protein or beta-glucan rest might be worthwhile to try to reign in the rye without losing its flavor, or dropping the gravity back on target could be sufficient.  Also I'm not sure it was worth using pilsner malt here.  This beer is fairly German, so I figured it would be appropriate, but it's subtle influence is buried under all the other layers of flavor and not worth the extra cost.  Last thing I want to experiment with is the yeast. I mentioned in the recipe post that I considered using alt or Kolsch yeast, and I'd still like to see how that idea turns out.

Now that I've started tweaking this recipe, it seems I have a lot of work to do before I dial in something I'm happy with.  At least it came out clean, with no major brewday faults, or rubbery off-flavors (I'm looking at you rye #1).  Simple execution goes a long way towards getting to know your recipe.

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