Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Tasting Note: Naked Singularity

It is now a month into 2014, and I'm about half way through the last beer brewed in 2013.  This was my most recent attempt at replicating a beer I first brewed well over a decade ago - a beer still talked about by a few of my friends, and one I've not been able to replicate.

Sadly, it is still not what I remember - I'm actually starting to wonder if the reality of that beer is anything like my memories of it.  Regardless, this attempt is a good beer.  I'm not quite sure it meets its moniker of being a stout - not quite enough roast character or body - but it is a nice dark beer. Lets call it a session stout.

Appearance: Pours dark-black with a thick beige head.  The head falls over a few minutes, but a thin layer persists to the end of the pint, leaving traces of Belgian lace along the sides of the glass.

Aroma: Malt and roast notes. An almost a bready-yeastiness is present at the beginning, but this fades along with the head.

Flavour: A 50-50 mix of coffee and chocolate is the flavours that dominate this brew, but their strength is less than what I would normally except of a stout. This is balanced with some malt sweetness.  The hop bitterness is on the low end, as was planned in the recipe, and is not quite enough to balance the malt sweetness.  Aftertaste is a bit of mild roastiness and malt sweetness.

Mouthfeel: Due to the higher mash temperature there is a bit more mouthfeel than you'd normally expect from a 4.3% beer. It is, however, thin for a stout.

Overall: Overall this is a good beer, but I'm not sure it should be called a stout. Not as roasty as most stouts, not has heavily-bodied, nor not quite enough bitterness. This beer vacilates between being a roasty take on a dark ale and a mild take on a stout. A nice beer - probably a good way to convert the "I don't like dark beers" crowd; but a disappointment for the stout-lover in me and to my _likely inflated) memories of a beer brewed long, long ago...

Friday, 24 January 2014

We've Gone International! (AKA, A big thank you to my viewers)

I don't often look at my blog stats.  I should, they tell an interesting story.  Turns out I have quite the international audience.  Today having an international audience is not a big deal - the web makes these sorts of communications incredibly easy.  But if 5 years ago you'd have told me that I would have a blog with over 25,000 visitors a year, from all corners of the globe, I'd have thought you crazy. Via this medium I've managed to reach readers from 37 different countries, scattered across every continent but Antarctica. Even one lonely soul from Greenland has wandered by here a few times...

...Much to my surprise, non-English speaking countries dominate my top ten - Germany, China, Russia, France, Switzerland, Brazil & the Netherlands account for almost half my traffic.  I hope my consistently bad grammar doesn't impede their enjoyment of this blog.

But more impressive, to me, is how this blog has allowed me to reach out and share yeasts with brewers around the world (see map below).  To-date I've managed successful exchanges with over a dozen people from six countries (counting my home nation of Canada), on four different continents.  Much to my delight, my mailer system has worked without fail with brewers as far away as Australia and South Africa (and using regular letter mail to boot)!
Map of my yeast exchanges, click for full-size
So to my local, national, continental and inter-continental viewers, let me say thank you for your traffic, comments, video views and emails.  I hope this network continues to grow, and that yeast farmers from around the world continue to exchange and share their yeasts with me.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

All Brett Porter

It's a cold day to be brewing
in the garage!
Just a forewarning - this is going to be a long post. This weeks brew is an all-Brettanomyces Brown Porter.  As readers of my blog know, I'm interested in wild brewing - I'm also a huge porter fan.  Today's brew is a fusion of these two loves, forming what I hope will be a fantastic brew.  I find it odd that today's wild beers are largely based on lighter beer styles, as wild yeasts such as Brettanomyces have a long and close relationship with darker beers.  Indeed, in its heyday (1800's) Porter was one of the most widely brewed styles of beer.  Aged porters (often labelled as 'Stock' or 'Stale' porter) usually had gone through a secondary ferment with Brettanomyces that was resident in the ageing barrels. This flavour was reputedly a cherished and desired for characteristic by many beer consumers.

Todays brew is a modern twist on this old tradition - instead of secondarying with Brett I am instead using it as the sole yeast in the beer.  This is not as simple a task as one might expect - brewing all-Brett dark beers is a challenge for a range of reasons. One issue is that Brett has a tendency to accentuate the astringent aspects of dark malts.  Meaning the normal mild astringency in porter, provided by chocolate & other dark malts, can be converted by Brett into an unpalatable mouth-drying astringency.  Moreover, the polyphenols found in the hulls of darker malts can act as substrates for the enzymes in Brett which create unpleasant mousy and plastic flavours (e.g. 4-ethyphenol). As such, careful planning of the recipe and brewing methods are required to minimize the formation of these unwanted flavours.  Lastly, bretts digest a lot of the dextrins that provide body, meaning we have to provide body through other mechanisms.

But the use of Brett offers a number of interesting possibilities - most notably, the unique impact Brett  has on flavour.  Brett produces a rage of unique flavours through two mechanisms. The first of these are fermentation products, both phenols and esters. While the phenols can be desired (leather & earthy flavours/aromas) they can also be undesired (burnt plastic, mousy, old socks). The esters, however, are a unique canvass for us to work with - citrus & tropical fruits, cherries, stone fruits, etc, are all part of Bretts flavour/aroma palate. In addition, Brett expresses β‐glucosidase, an enzyme which allows Brett to degrade unique carbohydrates such as cellulose (wood) and some hop compounds. The later hop derivatives can also create some unique flavours/aromas, especially those of tropical fruits like papaya & mango.

Like I said, this is going to be a long post, so more details, the recipe & brewday notes are below the fold.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Tasting Notes: 42

A great beer for a snowy day.
Back in October I brewed 42 - a Belgian Dark Strong Ale made with homemade candi sugar (posts 1, 2).  The beer was kegged after a month in secondary, and a third of the batch laid down in bottles for long-term enjoyment.  I gave away a few bottles for Christmas - one recipient accused me of passing off a commercial beer as a home brew.  I'm going to assume that means he really enjoyed it!

Appearance: Pours with a thick, beige, long-lasting head.  Trails of Belgian lace follow the beer to the bottom of the glass.  Beer is dark red when viewed with backlighting; dark brown bordering on black when viewed normally.

Aroma: Pepper with some fruity esters.  Malt notes in the background.

Flavour: Fantastic.  The peppery character of Wyeast 3822 (Belgian Dark Ale, yeast bank #059) along with a pleasant maltiness dominates the flavour. Bitterness is mild and there is no other hop character.  The stone fruit and caramel notes of the candi sugar are present but subtle; if I remake this beer I think I'll up the amount of sugar, and perhaps cook it longer to exemplify the caramel character more. Aftertaste is mild, mostly malitness with a subtle pepperyness.

Mouthfeel: This beer ended at a lower than planned gravity - 1.007 - from a starting gravity of 1.069. Despite this, there is the right amount of body (med-low body) and the fruity flavours from the candi sugar provide some sweetness so the beer is not too dry. There is no astringency at all in the beer, and the aftertaste leaves your mouth feeling whetted.

Overall: One of my better beers in 2013 - excellent balance of flavours, complex but not overwhelming.  Easy drinking, not too heavy, and overall just a plain nice pint.