Friday, 28 August 2015

2015 Hop Harvest

Left: Cascade, Right: Goldings
Another growing season has passed, leading to another hop harvest. In past years I've always done a fresh-hop ale; in fact, that is the main reason I grow my own hops as there isn't really any other way to brew such a beer at the homebrew scale. Unfortunately, life has gotten in the way and a 2015 harvest ale is not on the menu.

We had an odd summer this year, leading to less than ideal growth  - after drying I ended up with ~200g (~1/2 lb) of Cascade and a meagre 70g of Goldings. That's a 30% and near 80% reduction in yield compared to last years harvest. I think my hops get too much sun, but unfortunately, there is little I can do about that.

Anyway's the hops are dried down, bagged and in the freezer. Hopefully a bitter or brown ale will make the September brew schedule, where the Goldings can shine as a late addition. Given how good it has been the past few years, most - if not all - of the cascade's are going to make their way into a variation of my Black Mamba Imperial Rye IPA (batch 1, 2).

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Tasting notes - 2.5 Years of Gnarly Roots

As I have written about several times in the past, I am a fan of long-aging beers and the evolution of flavours that aging brings upon these beers (posts 1, 2, 3). Indeed, one of the earlier homebrew's I discussed on my blog was the brewing of the Gnarly Roots Barley Wine - a classic barely wine recipe from Charlie Pappazian's Hombrewers Companion, which has the notable feature of also being a funky beer that is aged with B. bruxellensis and B. lambicus.

This beer is very nearly 2.5 years old (specifically, it is 890 days, AKA 2 years, 5 months and 7 days old). I've posted two tasting notes about this beer previously - one at bottling, when the beer was ~7 months old, and a second when the beer was ~1.5 years old. Over that time the beer began t age nicely; the original strong bitterness had begun to fade, classical aged flavours (sherry, caramel) had begun to form, and some hints of Brettanomyces had begun to emerge. Its been almost another year since I posted the last set of tasting notes, and its time for a new one, as I think the beer is finally nearing its peak.

Appearance: The beer pours a bright coppery-red, crystal clear, with a soapy white head. But you have to pour carefully - proteins are beginning to precipitate out, meaning a poor pour leaves the beer cloudy, with noticeable chunks at the bottom of the glass. This loss of protein (plus the 12.8% alcohol) causes the head to be short-lived, although a thin ring persists around the edge of the glass until the end of the pint.

Aroma: Malt sweetness dominates, complemented with with a pleasant blend of sherry and fruit notes. A subtle funk is present in the background, as is a slight alcohol note.

Flavour: The beer has achieved a fantastic balance - the extreme hop bitterness of the young beer has faded, while the sherry and caramel notes typical of aged beers have become the dominant flavours. As the beer warms a fruit character emerges - a mix of classical English fruitiness plus some bretty-stone fruit. In the background is a small hint of leathery funk, lending a subtle refinement to the flavour. There is almost no alcohol heat, and no fusel hotness at all. It is amazing how this initially unbalanced beer has achieved such a great balance of complex flavours, through nothing more then time in the cellar. The aftertaste itself is one of lingering sweetness and a subtle leatheriness.

Mouthfeel: The body of the beer is medium, but is fading as the brett continues to slowly consume the remaining dextrans - also resulting in an increase in carbonation, with the beer now quite effervescent. While above what is normal for a barley wine, the prickling sensation of this higher carbonation accentuates a slight alcohol burn in the aftertaste - the only real indication you get that this beer is over 12% in strength.

Overall: This beer embodies everything about aged beers that I enjoy - a continual building of complex flavours, ever changing balance between flavours, and a unique character that cannot be replicated through any process other then long aging. This is a beer for sipping; good for a quiet afternoon on the deck (or, in winter, in front of a fire), where you can take the time to enjoy the complexity of the beer and the changes in flavour that emerge as the beer warms. It was a fair bit of work to get it to this point, and only half the batch remains, but the end product was well worth the effort and wait.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Brew Day - Summer Rye Saison

Northern Brewer, Tettnanger & Coriander
So despite my less-than-ideal results with my Berliner Weisse, I'm still quaffing a litre of it a day, meaning the keg is rapidly approaching empty. As we're smack-dab in the middle of the hot and humid phase of summer another easy-drinking and refreshing beer is on the menu - specifically, my favourite summer beer Saison. In the interest of having a beer in the keg within 2 weeks there's nothing funky about today's recipe - its a modest-gravity recipe, crisp thanks to the use of rye, a subtle spiciness provided by a dash of corriander, and a driness provided by a mix of low mash temperature and a dose of sugar in place of malt.

Beautiful day to brew outside!
To ensure a rapid ferment I'm blending the finicky Dupont strain (whose flavour I prefer) with ol' reliable Wyeast 3711 (French saison), and ramping temperatures from 18C to 26C over the ~10 days of fermentation.

As always, recipe and brew-day notes are below the fold.