Thursday, 29 December 2016

20th Brew-versary Extravaganza!

This post is one part of a two-part piece (the other being a video) I've put together as part of my 20th anniversary as a home brewer - a milestone I hit a few weeks ago - December 5, 2016 to be exact.

To celebrate this milestone I set myself three goals - to prepare a video looking back on 20 years of brewing (embedded below, or available at my youtube page), to brew a 20% ABV beer to drink on my 20th brew-versary (recipe/brewday here, detailed brewing and tasting notes below the fold), and the biggest challenge of them all - I rebrewed the first beer I ever made, applying my 20 years of experience, to see if I could make a palatable version of that venerable brew (the brewing of which can be found in the video embedded below, tasting notes to follow sometime in early 2017).

Ironically, somewhere along the line I lost track of the true date of my brew-versary, and in many previous posts listed it as December 9...turns out the true first brew day was on a loose-leaf piece of paper jammed in the back of my old log book - a page I found with only weeks to spare, and containing a completely different (yet equally cheap) canned-malt kit beer.

If you don't want to listen to me ramble on for 20-ish minutes about brewing, that take home from my retrospective video is:
  1. The on-line brewing community has grown dramatically, and for the better.
  2. Ingredients are better and more plentiful.
  3. Equipment and techniques have evolved, generally for the better.
Without further ado, the video...

Brewing and tasting notes for the 20% beer can be found below the fold...I'll post a followup detailing my attempt at re-brewing my first beer early in 2017.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Mike's Export - Recipe & Tasting Notes

Glass of export in the
winter sunset
As readers of my blog may know, I occasionally brew with 'Mike' - my wife's uncle. Mike is a BMC lager fan who also doesn't mind some forms of craft beer. Brewing with him has been an adventure on my end, as its forced me to explore some of the lighter ale and lager styles I normally wouldn't brew - and in doing so, I've become rather enamoured with some of the maltier German lagers.

While leads me to today's post/beer, a Dortmunder-style lager ('German Helles Exporbier' in the new style guidelines) that Mike and I brewed a little over a month ago. I brewed this beer using the fast-lager method I've developed (based on Brulosophy work) over the past year, using another vial of the W34/70 frozen down in my "Freezing Yeast" video. The "warm lager" method I've settled on works as follows:
  1. Pitch a healthy dose of a warm-lager-comparable (e.g. W34/70) lager yeast into cellar-temperature wort (10-16C).
  2. Ferment ~ 1 week at cellar temperature, then warm beer to 20C for another weeks fermentation.
  3. Keg after 14 days fermentation, or transfer to secondary and age further at cellar temperatures .
This has turned around 5 lager beers, most in 2-3 weeks, all of which tasted excellent and without significant flaws. This is now my go-to method of brewing lagers. This Dortmunder was no exception - a fantastic beer whose only notable flaw was a mis-balance in bitterness and maltiness, due to a higher-than-expected starting gravity.

Recipe, brew-day notes and tasting notes can be found below the fold...

Friday, 16 December 2016

Tasting Notes - Vinland Kveik

Kveik in the Winter Sunset
My last post on my blog was the brewing of my advent beer for this year - a Norwegian-style Kveik, "reimagined" using ingredients that would have been available (minus the malt) to the Vikings who set foot in Canada over a thousand years ago.

Last night was this beers "turn" in my brew-clubs annual advent exchange, so its time for some tasting notes.

Appearance: Pours with an effervescent light copper body and a thick white head.

Aroma: A spiciness that is hard to describe - vanilla, pepper, and a bit of a generic "spice".

Flavour: When young the beer had a notable orange ester character, alongside a spiciness that had discernible vanilla, pepsi and allspice-like notes. As it aged these flavours mellowed into a more generic spiciness (still good, but without the dominant & discrete flavours) and a more subtle citrus-ish ester character. This spiciness was built on top of a malty backbone with a low-level hop bitterness. Balance is malt-forward. Aftertaste is a lingering malt sweetness and spiciness from the spruce.

Mouthfeel: Moderate-to-high body, creamy and smooth, but highly effervescent. A lower level of carbonation would likely have been better for this style of beer.

Overall: I really enjoyed this beer, both young and aged, but with a preference for the younger beer. When young, the beer had several flavour notes that stood out - vanilla, all-spice, and orange. Combined with the maltiness, these flavours created the ultimate Christmas beer with a character similar to that of a spice cookie. As the beer aged these distinct flavours blended to a more generic citrus & spice character - still pleasant and nicely balanced, but without the distinct flavour notes of the younger beer. When (not if) I rebrew this beer I'm only going to make a few minor tweaks:
  1. I'm going to further enhance the orange character by pitching less yeast and fermenting a few degrees warmer (in the range or 39-42C)
  2. I'm not going to bother tracking down native north American hops (hop character was minimal and I doubt you'd notice much of a difference with any other hop being used)
  3. I'm going to keg it much younger - traditional Kveik is usually brewed for 3-4 days before transferring to the serving vessel, whereas I kegged after 14 days.
Hopefully the warmer ferment and shorter fermentation cycle will capture more of the orange character and preserve those unique spice notes.