Friday, 31 May 2013

Taste Test: Brooklyn Brewery Brown Ale

I'm currently reading the book "The Brewmaster's Table" by a guy names Garrett Oliver. He just so happens to be the Brewmaster of the Brookyln Brewery in NY. The book is all about various types of beer, and how to pair beer with food, and one of his big recommendations is his brown ale with roasted lamb or beef. So when I found out we were having roast lamb for dinner, I jumped at the opportunity to try this pairing out myself

Fairly unassuming bottle
 When pouring, it looks almost like filling a glass with coke, with the dark reddy-brow colour and slightly browned head coming together in just the right way to look like a soft drink. Straight out of the fridge, the nose had a strong element of sweet musk sticks to it... Quite odd. After letting it warm up a bit, the aroma mellowed out to a more expected blend of sweet hops and coffee.

You'd think it was Coke if you didn't know better no?
The initial taste is sweet and floral, followed up by a rich body of dark chocolate and espresso coffee notes, accentuating the dark malt backbone of the beer, and tapers off to a bittersweet yet clean finish. The Body is medium to heavy, and the carbonation is very slight on the palate, verging on non-existant.

Went down a treat with dinner
The flavours paired extremely well with the caramelised, meaty flavours of roasted lamb and potatoes, and the beer had enough flavour to not be overpowered by the food. Overall, a fantastic brown ale, I'll give it a 9/10

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Cider Brewing Part 2: Failure... And Take 2

So... After a week of 'Fermenting', we took a Gravity reading on the ciders only to discover that they hadn't budged an inch. Meaning no fermentation had actually occurred. We attributed this to the fact that they'd been sitting in a garage in cold weather, and had been at an  average temperature of 14ish degrees. Obviously, this would not work

So began the epic trek for the day, first to Bunnings to buy a 120L plastic tub, then to Country Brewer to buy more yeast, then finally to a pet store to buy a fish tank thermoregulator.

From these bizarre parts, Melo managed to cobble together...

Pretty isn't it?
A ginormous water bath! After giving the original ciders a swirl and letting them spend an hour in the bath at 20ish (Temperature wasn't rising enough, so a whole lot of boiling water was added to... expedite the process), they started bubbling away just like they should have to begin with. So luckily we didn't kill our yeast, we just inactivated it

Next up, Melo made up another 3 Demijohns worth of cider (12L) with a new yeast, Safale S-04, an English Ale yeast as opposed to the American Ale yeast we used previously. They too are now fermenting away like mad

So much cider!
So hopefully soon we'll have 20 litres of cider to test and start doing dumb things to in the hopes of making something great!

Taste Test: Delirium Tremens

Just last week, my girlfriend Jen gave me a (slightly) belated Christmas present of 2 awesome Crystal Beer Glasses, a Beer Tasting Glass and a bottle of Delirium Tremens, a well renowned beer that was labelled as the "Best Beer in the World" at the 1998 World Beer Championships. Seeing this bold claim, I decided I HAD to taste it for myself, to decide whether it lived up to it's reputation.

Cool ceramic bottle, label in 8 million languages

The pour is cloudy and golden, with an abundance of frothy, white head, piled up in the glass like cappucino froth. The intial aromatics are bready yet spicy, with some subtle earthy and funky notes. Upon allowing the beer to warm a bit, a clear aroma of banana came through, along with a slightly 'hot' nose, likely caused by the 8.5% ABV

Awesome beer, and the glass to match!

The first thing you taste is an initial bitter, bready hit, likely a flavour from the yeast, before the sweet, fruit of the body comes through, mainly banana, with a hint of spicy clove. A lingering, bittersweet floral flavour will stay for quite a while, building over a few sips then slowly mellowing out.

A perfect pair

The body is fairly light, and the carbonation of the beer is made interesting by the way the froth mingles with each sip, adding texture and enhancing the bitter notes.

Overall, a great example of a Belgian Strong Ale, though I'm not quite sure it lives up to it's claim as the 'Best Beer in the World'. A solid 8.5/10

You can get Delirium Tremens from lots of bottle shops, but mine was bought along with the glasses from Beer Cartel in Artarmon, Sydney

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Quick Update - Stone and Wood Stone Beer

Got back from Breakfast to find a massive parcel on the doorstep. Opened it up and inside were two bottles of beer... One ordinary looking, one rather extraordinary.

 Both are bottles of the Stone and Wood Stone Beer (to be reviewed soon), but the one on the right is the "Special Release" bottle that they put out only a few of each year. It feels like it's made from some sort of ceramic, and looks the part too.

It feels as cool as it looks
It's obviously reusable as evidenced by the swingtop, and came with a tag on the side describing the changes from last year's Stone Beer, as well as part of the brewing process!

All the info one could need, and it's not printed on so you can re-use the bottle!

Can't wait to try this! Will be tasting the Stone Beer, along with all the other Stone and Wood beers soon in a Stone and Wood brewery roundup, where we'll try everything by them except the Garden Ale, which is a Summer seasonal

You can buy Stone and Wood Stone Beer from the Brewery's Website

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Taste Test: Green Flash Palate Wrecker

So I was shopping at Beer Cartel a few weeks back, looking for something super-duper hoppy. I'd tried the Mikkeller 1000 IBU, I'd tried the Sierra Nevada Hoptimum, and I wanted something different. After chatting with the staff for a bit, I settled on a beer: Green Flash Brewing Co.'s Palate Wrecker

Standard looking bottle... Hides the intensity of what's inside
The bottle looks fairly unassuming, although it's quite heavy for it's size, but the side of the label is where it gets interesting, with the brewers making the bold claim that the  beer is '149 IBU'. For the uninitiated, the International Bitterness Units scale is a way of measuring just how bitter a beer is. For reference, Toohey's Extra Dry rates about 15 IBU, and VB is around 26. The scale is technically limited to 100, but due to the way taste works, it's a little hard to fully quantify these things... So claims such as the 149 above get to stand, as long as the beer is suitably bitter.

The initial pour is a vibrant, cloudy orange colour with a slightly yellowed, lingering head

Pictured: Me needing a new camera
The aroma is of intense, grassy hops, with a backbone of earthy spice. It's hard to overstate how strong the smell is, it's like sticking your nose into a bowl full of hop pellets. Any malty aromatics are completely overshadowed by the hoppy goodness.

The initial taste is a light, sweet citrus on the tip of the tongue, which develops into a biscuity, crystal malt body, then rapidly hits you with a big wallop of hoppy bitterness, which lingers for a long time. And as much as it's definitely intensely bitter, I feel as though the Mikkeller may have the upper hand in the 'Hoppiest Beer I've Tried' stakes.

See here: My camera did some weird trippy focusing, then made a gif out of it?
The body of the beer is very full, almost syrupy, like a lot of strongly bitter beers tend to be, and carbonation was almost non-existant.

Overall, I'd say this was an enjoyable, super-hoppy ale, with a surprising amount of malt flavour showing despite the lack of anything but hops in the aromatics. Not a beer you'd give to someone who's recently into craft brews, but definitely overall a tasty experience. 7.5/10

Green Flash Palate Wrecker is available from Beer Cartel in Artarmon, Sydney

Homebrewing - When in doubt, Dubbel it - Belgian Dubbel

Today, after a few hours of uni work, got a call from Melo telling me to come over to his to help rack our IPA into the secondary. Upon arriving, I realised he'd lured me there under false presenses... An hour later, our fifth brew was underway. 

First step: weighing out the grains. Melo spent hours designing a grain profile for this beer, so the recipe's staying a little mysterious for now. Just know that we used 3 specialty grains, 2 hops and one BIG pot to boil them all up in

Super secret grain additions
What would brew day be without liquid inspiration?
Next step was putting all the grains in the grain-bag, and steeping at a whole range of different temperatures, each different temperature setting off a whole new set of enzymes to work their magic on our wort

Grains are a go! Not too much in this brew, it's fairly light

World's most ghetto brew stand. It held though!
After nearly 90 minutes of steeping, we started the boil, throwing in a whole load of bittering hops early, then finishing the boil with the tiniest little pinch of aroma hops, for the spicy, fruity, awesomeness known as hop aroma
Mysterious Hops (All 34g of them)
While this whole boiling business was going on, we racked the Trans-Pacific IPA into our new Secondary, which is basically just a giant bucket with some holes drilled in it

Look at that colour!
After the boil, we dunked it in the world's most jury-rigged bucket for a cold crash, cooling it down as fast as possible to stop the aromatic oils from the hops from evaporating

Ice Ice Baby
Finally, the cooled wort went into our freshly cleaned fermenter, taking over the space recently evacuated by our IPA. The Trappist Ale yeast was pitched in and stirred up, then the fermenter was sealed and swaddled up.

On the left, the Dubbel, on the right the IPA. Who's more fashionable?
Now they're both sitting, bubbling away, fermenting into the golden goodness we call beer. IPA should be nearly finished, we'll be dry hopping it on the weekend, and looking to bottle on Tuesday. The Dubbel will probably take 1-3 weeks in the primary, depending on how the weather is, as the room it's in is fairly temperature sensitive.

We have big plans for the Dubbel, specifically additives in the secondaries, so stay tuned to see what we do next!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Taste Test: Young Henry's Real Ale

A beer I first discovered on a drunken night in Newtown, Young Henry's Real Ale is a fantastic example of an English Bitter with an Aussie Twist. Having tried it from a bottle, on tap and from a hand-pumped tap at the brewery, I can say it's great in all three iterations, but today we have a review of the bottled variety

The bottle, in all it's 640 mL glory
As soon as you crack open the bottle, you know you've made a good choice. Right from the get go, you have a cloudy, reddy amber pour, with sparse off-white head, and it 100% looks the part

Pictured: Terrible photo of a glass of beer

The aroma isn't strong, but bready notes are complemented by spicy, earthy hops and hints of toffee sweetness. The initial taste is a sweet, biscuity hit at the tip of the tongue, followed by a slightly orangey, yet still toffeeish and sweet body, and a final bitter hop that lingers for just the right amount of time. It's medium bodied, and has a carbonation that's minimal, but enough to let you know it's not flat.

Pictured: A better photo than either of the ones above
Overall, at 4% alcohol you have a very sessionable ale that has me coming back for more every time. A good example of an English style bitter ale, which is often overshadowed by the American styles of ales in the craft brew world. I'd give it an 8/10, and will definitely be picking some more up soon. Might do a brewery roundup too, seeing as they're fairly close to uni

Young Henry's Real Ale is available from a range of Bottle shops.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Taste Test: Stone and Wood Pacific Ale

Seeing as we're currently brewing a 'Trans-Pacific' Ale, I figure it's only fair I review one of my favorite Aussie beers, Stone and Wood Brewing Co.'s Pacific Ale. I first tried this unfiltered, unpasteurized ale not too long ago, but I've been enamored with it ever since

Fairly unassuming bottle, it's what's inside that matters
The initial pour is a cloudy, light, straw colour, with a bit (but not too much) bright white head. The aroma is a strong, tropical fruit smell, with notes of passionfruit and grapefruit, with a spicy, herbaceous hop finish. 

Cloudy and straw coloured, picture perfect little head

The initial, tip of the tongue taste is crisp and clean, with hints of sweet tropical fruit, mainly pineapple, a moderately hoppy, slightly bitter body and a followup of a dry, slightly wheaty or bready finish. The body is refreshing and light, and there's enough carbonation there that it's spritzy but not overly fizzy.

A fantastic beer overall

Overall, a fantastically refreshing, crisp ale, with a sweet, fruity nose and big flavours to back it up. Extremely sessionable, and would be the perfect way to cool down on a hot day. A sure 9/10. 

Also of note: I have a couple of the S&W Jasper Ales in my fridge, as well as one of the Lagers, and the 2013 Limited Release 'Stone Beer' is currently on it's way to my place. Once it arrives, I'll do a roundup of the rest of their beers.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Cider Brewing Part 1: Battle of the Yeasts!

So we decided that we needed to brew a cider while we waited on the IPA to finish fermenting. A trip tThe Brew Shop gave us a whole of of brewing equipment, from six 5L demijohns to a hand-pump siphon, then a quick run to Woolies later, we had all the supplies we needed to get started.

Six pretty glass demijohns (And the essential brewing beers)

8L of Cloudy Apple Juice, 1 kg of Caster Sugar, 3 types of Hops and our 2 yeasts
The sugar's fairly self explanatory I assume. The juice was the cheapest cloudy apple juice we could find that had no preservatives and was non-pasteurized... was surprised that the Woolies home brand could fit those criteria, but there you go!

We were unable to decide if we wanted to use a white wine yeast, or a more conventional beer yeast, so we decided we'd run two batches, one with each yeast, and go with whichever came out better. The two we ended up using are the Safale US-05 for the beer, and the Vintner's Harvest CL23 for the wine yeast.

The hops... You'll just have to find out later.

First step was to sanitise our brand new demijohns
Drying after a nice Iodophore bath

In the meantime, we needed some inspiration, in the form of some tasty Belgian Trappist ale
Delicious Monk Beer
Once the bottles were dry, we started by adding 150g of Sugar to each, to add some fermentables apart from the natural sugars in the juice

Pictured: World's most fashionable jumper
Next step, the juice went in to the bottles through the world's smallest funnel, and got a big shake up to suspend all the sugar in the juice. After that, it was pitching time. We put about a quarter of each yeast sachet into the bottles, as we're only doing 4ish Litre batches, not 20. A good stir later, the job was done.
Yeast pitched, bottles swirled. All good

Wrapped them up in towels, and tucked them away in the garage, making sure to check up on the IPA while we were there. She hadn't changed much in the last few days, but the hydrometer reading was still quite high, so we popped in some yeast nutrient and gave her a stir. Hopefully both of these will be done next thursday, and ready for tasting/bottling!

The ciders, all tucked in and ready for bed

IPA, still bubbling away like mad

Next brewing update will come next Thursday/Friday, post bottling and initial tastings!

Pub Visit: The Local Taphouse, Darlinghurst

Pub Visit: The Local Taphouse, Darlinghurst

Went out last night to celebrate a couple of mates getting jobs, and what better way to celebrate than with a few cold beers? After a couple of Kilkennys at Scruffy Murphy's near Town Hall, we decided some fancier beers were in order, jumped on the 339 bus, and 10 minutes later we were at The Local Taphouse

Was rainy and miserable when we went there, so this'll have to do for a photo

As soon as we walked in, we could tell we were in a place dedicated to beer. Beers line the shelves above the bar, and twenty taps adorn the wall behind the bar. The beer list is split into two halves, on one side the twenty beers they have on tap, and on the other side a selection of another twentyish bottled beers.

The Tap List for the night we were there
We were given sheets of all the beers on tap, and told to select five for a tasting paddle. I chose the Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale, Happy Goblin Bitter, Mornington Peninsula BONZA IPA,To Ol by Udder Means, and the Clown Shows Blaecorn Unidragon, which were served in that order (from lightest to heaviest) along the paddle.

Pictured: Our Three Paddles, mine being partially finished at the bottom
Each of the beers was fantastic in it's own right, and the order they were served in really allowed us to appreciate each beer separately, especially given the palate-cleansing crackers supplied at the end of the paddle. A later beer review may cover the individual beers, but for now we'll look at the bar.

Following the paddles, we decided to try a few of the other beers of the list. Of particular interest was the HopDog Mocha Brown Ale, which was listed as 'currently being infused with vanilla bean, orange peel and chocolate orange pieces'. I grabbed a pint of the stuff, and I must say I've never had a beer that quite so much made me think I was drinking an iced coffee... The different infused flavours were all present, and overall it was a real flavour experience.

There was an open mic night going on, so we got to hear from a number of great performers
We stayed for a few more pints afterwards, going through a few favourites such as the Feral Brewing Hop Hog and the Stone and Wood Pacific Ale (Review coming soon). Eventually we had to head off, trekking back to central through the rain, all up taking about 20 minutes

Overall, a fantasic venue with great ambience, fun live music and an amazing selection of beers on offer. Would recommend to anyone keen on beer, and will definitely be going back!

Monday, 20 May 2013

Homebrewing - Trans-Pacific IPA Part 1

Homebrewing - Trans-Pacific IPA Part 1

Decided I'd do a write-up on the first day of brewing our IPA, that we started just last Thursday and it's looking like it's going to be a winner!

The recipe was an original designed by Melo and I one afternoon over a couple of beers. It went through a couple of stages, the first draft ending up as the "Gokarna Special IPA" which hit the front page of Brewtoad in a day and has been there for weeks. The final version, which is currently bubbling away something fierce, was the "Trans-Pacific IPA", a recipe we came to after deciding the GS wasn't hoppy enough, and a name that represents the Hops we used (Aussie galaxy and American Citra), and the Brewers (Jared being American, Melo and Me being Aussie).

We started off with a trip down to our local homebrew shop, Dave's Homebrew in North Sydney. There we picked up our Specialty Malts, our Malt Extracts, our Hops and our Yeast, then headed off to Melo's Nan's place to start brewing

Malt, More Malt, Hops and Yeast

The first step was dividing up the hops into the various additions we'd do, while waiting for our brewing kettle full of water to get up to 70 degrees. We then put all the grains into our steeping bag, and started the mash. Not forgetting to crack a couple cold beers to help with the process, of course.

Our 1.5kg of Specialty Malts in the steeping bag
Aaaaand going into the water
We had to keep the water at a constant 68 degrees C to ensure optimal flavour extraction, without extracting the tannins or burning the flavours through overheating... The generally meant we were turning the burner on and off every 5ish minutes for the half hour that we did the extraction over.
Magic Thermometer for Temperature Control
Once the grains were spent, and all the flavoury goodness was extracted, we whipped the grain bag our and topped the kettle up to about 18 litres. Burner up to full, and back up to a rolling boil. Now started the hour-long boil, where hops get added at various times to add bitterness, flavour and aroma. We added Galaxy hops for Bittering early in the boil, Citra for flavouring at 35 and 25 minutes in, then a mix of Galaxy and Citra with 5 minutes to go for the aroma. Between hop additions, we added our malt extracts, going from the lightest (extra pale) to the heaviest (caramalt) over time.

Once the boil was over, we let the wort cool a bit before tipping it all into the fermenter, and adding a whole lot of ice in an effort to cool it down. Turned out we'd bought far too little ice, and the wort was hovering around 45 degrees, far too hot for the yeast, so we popped it in the fridge overnight to cool down.

Come Friday we pulled the fermenter out and popped in the yeast, giving it a good stir to make sure it got going on the fermentation quickly

Top notch live yeast culture from White Labs

Melo putting the final touches on our fermenter
The beer's now been sitting at around 19 degrees for about five days. We estimate it'll take about two weeks for full fermentation and yeast settling, and we'll likely dry hop with around 10g of Citra 3 or 4 days before we bottle.

Here's hoping it turns out as good as it smells, because right now it's got an awesome citrusy hop aroma with a backbone of dark malt... Smells amazing!

Next update will likely be around the 30th, when we're bottling and tasting for the first time!

Cascade Brewery First Harvest: Impressions

Yesterday, an ad (on Facebook of all places) caught my attention. It was advertising a 'Limited Edition Film' about a 'Limited Edition Beer', made by Cascade. Clicking took me through to watch a short film about the creation of the Cascade First Harvest Ale. The film was said to be only available 'to the first 5000 viewers', and they appear to have come good on that as the film is now gone. In it's place, a page describing the beer in question:

Cascade First Harvest Ale Product Page

The film described how the ale contained a 'never before used experimental hop', and was limited to 5000 cases Australia wide.

I was intrigued enough that I decided to get some on the way home. After a quick call to my local bottle shop, I had a 4-pack put aside, and collected it on the way home from uni. On to the beer itself:

The Beer in Question

Upon pouring a glass,the thing that was immediately apparent was the gorgeous, crystal clear, dark amber colouration, with the sparsest little bit of white head around the edges. Not too much in the way of aromatics, with a faint, floral sweetness and a bit of a bready finish.

The body of the beer is medium to full, with just enough carbonation to keep it from feeling flat. The initial taste is a sweetness on the tip of the tongue, before the strong citrusy body hits you with a wallop of grapefruit, then mellows out to a biscuity malt ending with a lingering, side-of-the-tongue bitterness.

In terms of flavour, the beer was quite pleasant, although I was expecting a hoppier nose and a flavour considering the way the video made the 'experimental, first harvest hops' out to be a big deal.

Overall, I'd give it a 6.5/10, owing to the lack of hop aromas and flavours, and the fact that I wasn't blown away given the hype I initially faced.

Beer Blog: The Beginning

Hey everyone*, and welcome to my blog! I'll be writing about Beers I drink, Beers I brew, and everything inbetween. Hope it's entertaining!