Saturday, April 11, 2020

Mishmash brown ale

Apparently the definition of mishmash is a "confused" mixture. While this is definitely a mixture, it wasn't confused. I chose the ingredients deliberately in an effort to make something resembling a brown ale. In any event, this beer is made up of several leftover malts I've had around for quite some time. A brown ale sounded good, so I thought I'd pull together what I had and make one.

Nearly all of the malts are pretty old, probably at least a year for most of them, except the 2-row, which makes up the bulk of the grain bill. The chocolate malt is really old though. I bought five pounds of it from a shop in Fenton, MO in June 2014 and have used it here and there over the years, but I still have a lot left.

I like to experiment with beers to see what I can come up with. So that's what I did here. A little of this, a little of that, let's see what we get. I did do some research to try to stay within the guidelines of a brown ale; not to keep it within style per se, but just to make sure it tastes like a brown ale. For example, I reviewed an "averagely perfect" brown ale at Beer Advocate's homebrew forum, which has some ingredient overlap with my recipe.

Appearance: Deep brown with ruby on the edges and if you hold it to the light. Good clarity without use of gelatin. Light tan head.

Aroma: Roastiness. Coffee. Chocolate.

Flavor: Dark bread. Coffee. Dark chocolate. Modest hop bitterness, but definitely some astringency from roasted/kilned malts, but it's not unpleasant. Good carbonation. Fairly light body, but not thin. A good balance between sweetness and bitterness. Not overly dry and not sweet. No discernible hop flavor. I wonder if the old chocolate malt changes the flavor. Maybe kind of a dark fruit, oxidized flavor? I feel like when I've used fresher chocolate malt in the past, including in a January 2018 stout, there was a fresher, chocolatier flavor. Something to keep in mind for next time I guess. The flavor has sort of changed over time. I think I got a little of the brown malt when I first started drinking this beer, but it's completely lost now and I only taste the chocolate malt.

If I made this beer again, I'd probably cut back the chocolate malt to six ounces and maybe use less special roast too, but I think that malt is supposed to add "toasty" and "biscuity" flavors, so the heavy roasty, astringent flavor probably isn't coming from that. Another thing I'd do is use fresher chocolate malt. It was generally okay in this beer, but fresher malt would probably enhance the beer.

Brew date: 1/22/2020
Keg date: 2/1/2020
OG 1.052
FG 1.008
~5 gallons

5.5 lb 2 row
2 lb German pale ale
8 oz pale chocolate
8 oz caramunich I
8 oz brown malt
7 oz special roast
1.9 oz caramel 120

1 oz Willamette hops (4.2 AA) at 60 minutes for 17.42 IBU

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Civil Life Rye Pale Ale clone attempt

Civil Life Rye is one of my favorite beers. It's a great balance of malt and hops in a pretty low ABV beer. I had it recently and decided I would try to make it again. I made a previous attempt in 2014 but for some reason decided to add Citra hops, which made it nothing like the real thing.

Civil Life is pretty coy about the recipe details, listing the ABV and IBU. Malts are listed but not the quantities/percentages, nor the lovibond. The hops are simply describe as "American C-hops." The term "American" precedes the hops and the word yeast, presumably meaning the beer has american yeast as well, but they don't say the strain. In short, they give us clues but not a lot to work with.

I came up with a recipe and brewed it on January 14. I racked the wort onto the yeast cake from the Southern Passion rye pale ale. Fermentation took off quickly and was done within a matter of days. I kegged it on January 22.

First off, this is a tasty beer and I like it, but it's nowhere near the real thing and quite far off in terms of the pale ale category, as well. Though the ABV is fine for a pale ale, and the bitterness too, there's just too much punchy hop flavor and not enough background malt flavor to really make this a pale ale. Instead it borders on IPA and could probably be deemed a session IPA. Surprisingly it doesn't drink like one of those watery session IPAs that were popular about four or five years ago. Maybe that's due to the pound and a half of flaked and malted rye. It has a good body, maybe moderate, maybe chewy, but isn't sweet. It was fermented with the yeast cake from the Southern Passion pale ale (US-05).

So, where did I go wrong with my beer? Perhaps the most obvious problem before drinking is the color. It's yellow (and pretty clear; no gelatin on this one, just time), whereas the real thing is "deep amber." The only malt listed on the web site that could give the beer any color is caramel, so I will need a higher lovibond caramel malt next time, maybe 120. In addition, the real thing has a slight toasty/roast flavor in the background, which almost reminds me of brown malt, and i know Civil Life uses it a lot in their beers. But that's not listed among the ingredients. Again, there's just too much hop flavor here and not enough malt and the real thing is almost entirely malt.

Changes for next time? A darker color, achieved through caramel malt I guess. And way less hops. Maybe an ounce of Chinook? What gives it that sort of roasty/toasty flavor? Maybe a darker caramel malt? Mine does have a slight crackery malt flavor in the background at times, though hops is definitely the dominant flavor. Overall, mine is a tasty beer. Cheers!

OG 1.043
FG 1.007-1.008
~5 gallons

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Southern Passion Rye Pale Ale

Continuing with my trend of easy drinking beers, this is another moderate alcohol pale ale using Southern Passion hops, which I got at the Anheuser Busch hop giveaway in St. Louis in November. I had never heard of these hops before. Since I have a lot, maybe 3/4 of a pound, I thought I would use them in this beer. Apparently they're a South African variety.  AB purportedly bought a large amount and for a time maybe even all of them, per an article, which sort of prevented other breweries from obtaining them.

AB provided specs indicating the alpha acids are between 6% and 8%, at least for this crop. However, research indicates they can be as high as 12. I wonder if the AA is higher than 6-8%, because this is a fairly bitter beer. It's also a pretty dry beer, so there isn't much sweetness to balance out the bitterness. This beer may simply have too much hops, also. At four ounces for a five gallon batch of pale ale, that really may be pushing it. I recall when session IPAs were popular that they were pretty watery, even though they were sometimes around 5% ABV. It seems to me that a high quantity of hops in even a 5% beer can really alter the sweetness perception, making a beer taste very dry, bitter, and a little watery. If I made this beer again, I would use maybe only two ounces instead of four. Of course, it seems carbonation can alter a beer, as well. This beer was and may remain a bit over-carbonated. Hydrometer samples post-fermentation were sweeter and the hop flavor more pungent and fruitier.

The pungent fruitiness seems to have diminished. I have a hard time describing hops with words other than generic fruit. Maybe orange, particularly the bitter rind part. Aroma is somewhat modest in this beer, but is generally fruity.

I like rye beers, so this beer has some rye malt, which was pretty old actually. I got it three or four years ago and it's been sitting in a closet since. Incidentally, I think the rye "spice" flavor is a myth. It's a mishmash beer, too, with various types of malt, including 2 row, Munich, and German pale ale. No evident malt in the aroma. Some light malt flavors in the taste, maybe a hint of crackery malt. A touch of astringency as well, perhaps owing to the hop bitterness. It looks great, good golden/amber color, with good clarity from gelatin. Overall, it's a good but not great beer, and not really one I think of first when I consider which beer to have. It's also a reminder to be careful with recipe design. With a touch more sweetness, less bitterness, and maybe a maximum of two ounces of hops, this would be a better beer. Cheers!

OG 1.048-50
FG 1.008-10
~5.25 gallons

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Resilience IPA

I'm tired of hazy and juicy; NEPA; NEIPA; imperial; and adjuncts. I want to go back to basics, like traditional American pale ales and west coast IPAs; bitters; and European lagers. This of course has been a theme of this blog for quite some time. So I really took to Resilience IPA. It was one of my favorite beers of late 2018 and early 2019. I think I bought three six packs. It's a great beer for a great cause and it also tasted great. It was on my mind again recently when I made the APA. So I decided to make Resilience my next beer. Thanks to Sierra Nevada for making the recipe available. I brewed it about a month ago and it's been in the keg for several weeks.

Appearance: Deep golden, amber. Some chill haze that fades as the beer warms. No gelatin in this beer yet. It has cleared with time, but still has a slight chill haze.

Aroma: I think I'm getting something from the yeast, and it is not very pleasant. Gross description, I know, but a burp sort of has a yeasty taste that follows the aroma. This happened with the pale ale too and I have decided I won't be using BRY-97 anymore. It was free so I thought I'd give it a try, but next time I think I'll just use US-05, which has never let me down. Anyway, the aroma is almost rubbery. Some research indicates a rubbery or plastic flavor can be due to infections or chloramine in tap water. I've been brewing with my tap water for years without any issues like that. Infections have been a problem at various times over the years and the lagers I made this year were off (with the exception of the IPL). I think it could be the yeast. Update: I wrote this draft a few weeks ago. Since then the plastic-like aroma has sort of diminished, but the yeast aroma hangs around.

Flavor: Follows the aroma. A touch of that off flavor/aroma, followed by centennial and Cascade hops. Citrusy, maybe a little piney, but maybe that's just because that's a typical flavor descriptor for these types of hops.

Overall: It's an okay beer to drink. It's way better than some of the worst I've made over the years, but it's still disappointing. I imagined this would taste like the resilience I had last year, and it sort of resembles it, but the yeasty flavor really detracts from the finished product.

A note on canning. I canned this and the pale ale, about three six packs each. It was fun, but at 50 cents a can, I probably won't be doing it again soon. I thought for sure friends and relatives would be more impressed by the cans, but they didn't remark on them too much. I do like how they're easy to fill and seam and cleaning the work space and the device is pretty quick. I like how they eliminate oxygen and clear up keg space, since beer is in the cans and not in the kegs, which in theory would allow me to brew and keg more often. It's also very cool to have cans of my own beer. But the expense of the cans limits the viability of doing this on a larger scale. The only way to get cans at a reasonable price would be to buy a whole palate, but I certainly don't want to commit to so many cans and I don't have space for that many. I doubt the club wants to store so many cans either. So, for now I anticipate using the canner only occasionally.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Brew Day (Night): classic pale ale

Looking back over the six years I've been brewing, I can think of few times I brewed a good old classic American pale ale in the vein of Sierra Nevada's. I brewed Northern Brewer's Sierra Madre kit in late 2013 and once made a Maris Otter/Cascade smash beer. Otherwise, I've made farmhouse ales, IPAs (lots of them), some English styles, and lagers. But lately I've had a taste for more modest, yet tasty styles, including the aforementioned lagers. I've had enough of the "juicy" and "hazy" IPA and actually getting bored with those is not hard to do given I've had more than a few mediocre versions. So, for my drinking tastes lately, it's back to basics, like West Coast IPAs and C-hop pale ales.

That's what was on deck for this beer: a straightforward, yet flavorful American Pale Ale. I helped run a homebrew competition on Saturday, reward for which from the homebrew shop owner hosting the event was the option to take a yeast packet from a selection for free. I think I saw some Belgians, US-05, 34/70, etc. I also saw BR-97, a yeast I was until then unfamiliar with. I figured I'd take it if it was still there after everyone had picked through the various items up for grabs. It was still there when I left so I chose it.

I'd been meaning to brew an APA like this for awhile, but many times I'd end up changing the hops and increasing the amounts. Not this time. I went for 10 pounds 2-row and .5 lb Crystal 90, I believe, but the shop did not have that particular malt, so I chose 120 instead. For hops, I chose to use the leaf cascades I got for free at the Anheuser Busch hop giveaway I attended last December. I had vacuum sealed them, so they smelled very fresh.

Brewing was uneventful, aside from losing a piece of my wooden stir spoon in the boil. I also ran out of propane just before the boil, which necessitated a trip to Walmart in the rain for a replacement (I only own one tank). And the hose was not properly connected to the wort chiller, so when I turned on the water, it sprayed out of the connection and I think some got in the kettle.

Other details: I mashed in the 150s. My mash tun - an igloo cooler - has various temperature zones, so it's hard to tell the exact temperature. Chilled to around 85-88 or so, and left the kettle outside in the cold while I sanitized equipment. I'm sure pitching temperature was much lower. I squeezed the hop bag to get as much wort out of the leaf hops as possible. I ended up with about 5.25-5.33 gallons, and still managed to overshoot the estimated OG that Brewer's Friend gave me (1.055). The OG was 1.056-58. Nice golden color, a little lighter than I anticipated given the higher lovibond of the crystal malt.

This brew took almost six hours, though I did manage a tip to the gym and a trip to Walmart, and overall I took my time. I pitched the yeast around 10:15 and started reading about my chosen yeast. I was already aware that the yeast is known for a hefty lag time, but was surprised to read that some brewers had 72 hour+ lags. I was pleasantly surprised to see some minor airlock activity by morning and a creamy layer of krausen by lunch. As of the evening airlock is bubbling regularly.

So far this is shaping up to be a successful brew. Hopefully it is. I'm already planning to reuse this yeast on, maybe, the Resilience IPA and an English Mild recipe I saw on homebrewtalk today.

Update: the yeast took off quickly. Fermentation was well under way by lunch time the following day. I kegged the beer on November 6, eight days later. I was pretty confident that it was going to taste good, since the hydrometer sample was pretty good, but some of the initial pours tasted a little off. I think it was just a large amount of yeast. I have since carbonated the beer and clarified with gelatin. The gelatin is still working, so it's not crystal clear just yet, but getting there.

Taste is citrus, pine, orange, whatever Cascade tastes like. There's just a little alcohol burn in the aftertaste, but not overwhelming or unpleasant. Not overly bitter. It has a generic malt sweetness but no real discernible malt flavors. The beer was also a little heavy at first, and I wondered if that was due to the higher gravity and thus greater ABV (OG: 1.056-58 to FG: 1.010 = ~ 6% ABV). That seems to have gone away as the beer has cleared up.

Aroma: Pretty faint cascade hops.

Appearance: Just what I was going for. Light amber, honey. Good clarity.

Overall: Seems to be a successful beer. Everything seems in balance, including bitterness, hop flavor, and malt sweetness.

Recipe: 5 gallons, 10 pounds 2-row, .5 pound Crystal 120. 1 oz cascade hops at 50, 1 at 10, .4oz at flameout (because that's what I had left).

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Wormkiller Oktoberfest

A note on the name: after the boil, I was chilling this beer in the front yard. I discharged the circulated water into the grass, obviously irritating the worms that I could then see swimming to the surface. My girlfriend suggested the name Wormkiller for the beer. It’s not the most appetizing name for a beer, but it’s memorable and has a unique story to go with it. 

There is something really appealing, maybe even romantic, about brewing a beer in the spring for later consumption in the fall, maybe due to the old German origin of the style. This is the story behind Marzen/Oktoberfest. I have always wanted to do it and now I have.

I started thinking about an Oktoberfest earlier this year when I began my lager yeast experiment. I have never brewed one before, even though I love the style, which might be my favorite currently. I love Oktoberfest season, when breweries release this delicious, malty German lager. I like the Sam Adams version and the rotating iterations put out by Sierra Nevada. 
I read some blog posts and watched some videos. I saw a good looking Oktoberfest homebrew on the German Brewing Facebook group. Ultimately I settled on a recipe published by Chop and Brew last fall, which is a take on Jamil’s from Brewing Classic Styles. 

Brew day (6/9/19) was mostly unremarkable, except the mash was interrupted by a few errands. There were a few hiccups. I lost track of a fruitfly that had found its way into the airlock (this beer was fermented with the same yeast and same fermenter as the Pilsner). So it was either in the keg of Pilsner or in the fermenter. Also, the bottom of the fermenter was wet from sitting in the swamp bucket. When I moved it, some water dropped into the wort. 

Initially I was concerned about this beer. It was cloudy. Smelled a little musty and like Pinot noir. I grew to like it initially, but since then my opinion has changed.

Aroma: Bready malt. Lager sulfuriness.

Taste: bready. Lightly caramelized sugar. A slight tanginess that is not unpleasant. The aftertaste is a doughy, crackery, grainy flavor. To what can be attributed the tanginess? There are no off flavors per se. Instead I simply taste the ever so slight tartness. Could it be the hops? Could only an ounce of hops at 20 minutes or so impart such a flavor?

When I kegged the previous beer, the Pilsner, I noticed that I misplaced a fruitfly that had found its way into the airlock. I think it sucked back into the beer when i was moving the better bottle. Did it end up in the Oktoberfest wort? Evidently fruit flies carry acetobacter. I did not see a pellicle or anything funky going on when I racked this beer to the keg. 

The more I drink this beer, the more I think of yogurt. It has a tang in the nose and the flavor. Yet I’ve noticed a slight tang in some other Oktoberfest lagers. And the two prior beers were pretty clean. 

Another clue. These beers were built up from yeast from a bottle in Schlafly’s Lunar Lager pack (the liftoff Lager, a German Kellerbier). I built a starter and then made a one gallon batch, which I bottled. It was a defective beer actually. It barely fermented (to 1.020 I think). The hop flavor was overly strong. When I opened a few bottles a few months later, they overflowed. The FG, at 1.020, was pretty high. Was there additional fermentation in the bottle? Too much priming sugar? Or was there a bug in there that continued fermenting the beer?

And yet another clue. A dunkel lager I drank from the same Lunar Lager pack was quite tangy. So much so that I drain-poured most of it. 

Update 10/12/19: The yogurt-like tanginess actually is unpleasant. I don't care for it. It seems to really clash with the bitterness and leaves an odd lingering taste on the tongue.

Appearance: Amber. Copper. Clear with the aid of gelatin. Good carbonation so a good layer of bubbles persists. It's really a beautiful beer.

In the end, I'm glad I brewed the beer and it was a fun experiment to build up some commercial yeast. It certainly looks nice, but the tangy flavor overwhelms the bready malt in the background.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

IPL tasting

I brewed this on Memorial Day and kegged it the following Sunday. Final gravity was around 1.010, and fermentation had finished, at least I think. The krausen had fallen away but there were still some bubbles rising to the surface and then quickly dissipating. I mention this because the next beer I brewed with the yeast cake - a pilsner - finished at 1.005, much lower than I intended, anticipated, or wanted. So, was femrentation complete or did the pilsner pick up a contamination?

This beer tastes pretty good. It has a moderate body, enough sweetness to balance out a good amount of bitterness. My practice has typically been to dry hop my hop-forward beers, but I didn't with this one. As such - or maybe owing to something else - the aroma is fairly low. Color is a nice golden, honey-like yellow. It is still very hazy as I did not add gelatin. And I shook the keg in the last few days to increase carbonation. As I mentioned, the bitterness is fairly strong. I would probably dial it back next time. Some of that could possibly be due to the hop stand. Either way, I think my yeast experiment has been successful overall, though the attenuation of the pilsner is concerning. Nonetheless, I'm using the yeast cake for an Oktoberfest today.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Brew Day - Helles turned India Pale Lager

Using new brewing software and taking a break from homebrewing for several months can lead to mistakes. Today I intended to brew a Munich Helles, but I evidently forgot to specify the amount of Munich malt I intended to use, despite entering the malt into the recipe in Brewer's Friend. So the recipe thought my total grain bill was 8.5 and I was thinking it was 10. Brewer's Friend therefore was telling me to anticipate an OG of around 1.48-50. And ABV below 5%. Perfect for a Helles. I added 10 pounds of grain to my mash tun and started mashing. I then discovered my failure to enter the amount of Munich malt. Once I did, I saw I could anticipate a 1.060 OG and a 6% ABV beer. My last Helles ended up like this (more like a Maibock I guess). I had a dilemma: either brew a different style of beer, accept the beer as is, or dilute it. Diluting would have given me the desired OG and ABV, but I would have ended up with an extra gallon of wort. Rather than mess with that, I decided I would try an IPL, something I've never made before. IPL seems to be a fairly recent style, as until a few years ago hoppy beers (at least with American hops) were fermented with ale yeast and lagers tended to be less hoppy, malty beers. A crisp beer with pungent, fruity hops makes for a tasty beer.

I recall having fresh Alpine Duet a few years back and enjoyed the combination of Amarillo and Simcoe hops. I had these on hand (2016 crop) and decided to use them. I kind of regretted not making use of the 2015 Nelson Sauvin hops that have been in my freezer for about three years. Maybe that can be the next beer, assuming this one turns out okay.

I used the yeast from the gallon batch I made last weekend. The beer fermented by that yeast only attenuated to 1.018, from a starting gravity of 1.034. I assume the low apparent attenuation is due to my mash procedures and not the yeast, but I suppose I'll find out for sure in a week or so when today's beer should be nearing the end of fermentation. OG was 1.058-1060, pretty close to my target, but I was off on my volume for some reason. I ended at around 4.67 gallons. IBUs were off from my Brewer's Friend calculator, as the Alpha Acids in my hops were higher than the preset values in the software. But the wort sample I tried was not unpleasantly bitter. All in all, I think this will be a good batch of beer, to quote Don Osborn.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Brew day: hoppy helles / helles / German pilsner / starter

I read about Schlafly Brewing's Lunar Lager pack a month or two ago and was intrigued. The bottle designs are really cool, as is the packaging. Further, in recent years, lagers have become some of my favorite beers to drink. So I bought this variety pack and have sampled all of the beers. One - the Liftoff Lager - is a German kellerbier. I noticed when I poured out the beer that there was a significant layer of yeast at the bottom of the bottle. I've cultured up bottle yeast before (e.g. Chainbreaker Belgian yeast, Saison Dupont, etc.) and these have always been fun projects. It affords you access to a yeast you may not otherwise be able to obtain and it's also a means of obtaining yeast without having to pay for it at the homebrew shop.

So, I added some table sugar and water to the bottle and waited. After a few days, it had fermented the sugar water so I added more sugar and waited some more. Finally, last week I cooked down some solidified dry malt extract, decanted the sugar water mixture, and added wort and the yeast to a mason jar. It took a day or two to get started, but fermented out pretty well, and the yeast settled to the bottom. Schlafly told me via Facebook message that the yeast they used is WLP830 German Lager, which is apparently Wyeast 2124 or W34/70. I have used 34/70 before, so I was slightly disappointed to learn the yeast is the same strain I had used before (albeit from a different brand). I sampled the resultant beer. No apparent off flavors. Sweet, perhaps a little under-attenuated.

I figured the amount of yeast I had was too little for a full five gallon batch, so I decided I would try a one-gallon batch to step up the yeast again. I had purchased 10 pounds of Avangard pils malt recently, so I decided I would use that malt and make a helles. I came up with a recipe using the Brewers Friend iphone app (RIP Brewtoad), which is easy to use and had the added benefit of being free. This is my first one-gallon batch.

To further simplify things, I decided to brew in a bag and mash for 30 minutes instead of a full hour. I have used the BIAB method only one other time and it was a long time ago, so I needed to recalculate mash volumes. I ended up going with the same calculator I always use, but scaled down to one gallon. The spreadsheet told me to mash with a total of 2.4 gallons. I mashed for 30 minutes in the upper 150s/160. I aimed for about 152 but overshot.

I was concerned I might have too much volume, so I boiled for 15 minutes before starting the 60-minute boil timer. I started the timer and at the 20-minute mark (40 minutes remaining) I added .5 oz Hallertau Hersbrucker hops. At around 15 minutes I added just a pinch of Irish Moss. At flameout I added an additional .5 oz hops. I chilled to about 80, decanted the beer from the yeast, swirled it around, and pitched it. OG was way off from the calculated value. It was supposed to be 1.043 and I got 1.034. I did end up with extra volume (maybe 1.25-33 gallon) so I don't think I will attribute the lower OG to a reduced mash time.

The wort is very cloudy. Usually my beers are very clear going into the fermenter. This could be due to the shorter mash or the minimal amount of Irish Moss. Either way, I am anticipating a cloudy beer. And a watery beer. This low OG is going to make for a very low ABV beer. And fairly hoppy too. The wort tasted pretty floral and was not overly bitter. This beer so far is not quite turning out what I wanted it to be, but that's ok. Ultimately I'm building a starter for a five-gallon batch on down the road. Cheers!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Brown Lager - malt bomb?

Despite brewing a series of malty beers - Helles, Vienna lager - last fall, I was craving more malt, specifically a brown ale. I had been using lager yeast, though, and wasn't ready to toss it yet. So I decided to see what would happen if I took a bunch of ingredients that could fit in a brown ale but use a lager yeast.

I had a bunch of old malt on hand. I had purchased Biscuit, brown malt, and special roast in January or February 2018. The base malt -- Munich -- was about 2.5 years old--and it was crushed. In addition, the hops I used -- Fuggles -- were from the 2013 crop, and purchased and opened in 2014. A bunch of old ingredients combined with a lager yeast. Should be a winner right?

It's actually not too bad. With the hops used for bittering only, this is strictly a malty beer. The flavor is cocoa, toast, crackerjack popcorn, caramel, coffee. Maybe just a touch sweet. Could stand to be drier or maybe it just needs some more bitterness. It doesn't really have what I consider traditional lager elements: crisp, dry, sulfury. Either way, it's a tasty beer and kind of scratches that brown ale lager itch.

5 gallon recipe:

7 lbs Munich
1 lb Biscuit
1 lb Brown Malt
.5 lb Special Roast

1 oz Fuggles at 60 minutes

Wyeast 2308

OG: 1.052-54
FG: 1.014-16

2019 homebrewing:

I don't have specific beer plans for the year yet. It would be nice to brew some English styles again, maybe some American IPAs, and perhaps a straightforward dry American Pale Ale along the lines of Sierra Nevada's classic. All four of my kegs have beer in them right now, though, so it could be awhile before I fire up the kettle again. Cheers!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

November 2018 vienna lager

In 2016, I really got into brewing and drinking lagers. Along the way, I rediscovered Boston Lager. And learned that it is one of my favorite beers. I feel like it's been sort of cast aside by the craft beer community. It doesn't feature the sexy hops, it's not a stout, it's not a sour, it's not an IPA. And it's an old beer brewed by a company that really stretches the definition of the term craft. Still, it's a favorite. My first memory of it is from 2003. I was in DC for the summer and a fellow dorm resident found a six pack stashed underneath a staircase. He didn't have a fridge so we drank it on ice. I recall not thinking much of it at the time. It was so hoppy and bitter--completely different than Michelob Light, probably my favorite beer at the time. 

As the years went by and my interest in beer increased, I looked beyond Boston Lager. At the time, I was into pale ales, then IPAs, farmhouse ales, and sours--the usual craft stuff. But as I wrote above, I got into lagers in 2016 and started drinking Boston Lager. It's a really good beer and to Boston Beer's credit, it tastes the same every time. It has a perfect balance of crackery malt and Noble hops. And when I drink it, I'm transported back to Catholic University in 2003.

So, as a homebrewer, why not try to emulate it? That was the intent of this beer. Sadly I haven't had Boston Lager in quite some time so the comparison is only by memory. However, this beer is perhaps within the ball park. It has a nice golden, amber color sort of like Boston Lager. It's hop forward, owing to the four ounces of Hallertau Hersbrucker hops. Boston Lager doesn't use those hops, or at least not exclusively, but being a German varietal it should get me close.

Mine has cleared up nicely thanks to gelatin. It's crisp like a lager should be. It's aromatic--again, of the Noble hops. Sometimes the vienna lager is quite apparent. Maybe as the beer warms? Today as I drink it, it's all hops. However, there is a sort of biscuity, bready malt foundation. Next time I might leave out the Carafa (thrown into the sparge only, for just a few minutes). And maybe reduce the vienna a tad. This beer is very clean and crisp. No apparent off flavors. Oddly I occasionally get a really malty, bready flavor that, for some reason, I think of as "muddy" in mind--maybe it has a slight metallic finish? Maybe it's just a little earthy. Not detecting it as I drink this sample though.


5 lbs Vienna
4 lbs Weyermann Pilsner
3 ounces Carafa III

Hersbrucker hops, 1 ounce each at 60, 30, 15, and 5 minutes.

OG: 1.052-54
FG: ? (around 1.10-12 I think).