Jade Otter (2013) Tasting Notes

Original Post: Jade Otter
Style: Belgian Pale Ale?
Brew Date: November 27, 2013
Tasting Date: August 21, 2014
ABV: 4.3%
IBUs: 41 (tastes much higher…)

This is a lively beer. I didn’t quite fit the whole bottle in my Chimay glass because of the voluminous, fluffy, white head. The color is light orange-ish yellow and it is not as clear as I’d expect a beer of this age to be. I get a lovely, bready scent with hinds of that Duvel yeast. I’m surprised by the malt in the aroma.

The first sip is prickly. Between the high carbonation and the bitterness, it stings. But pleasantly. Past the initial impression, the beer opens up to the spicy yeast and more malt flavor. Pepper is the dominant yeast character. The Maris Otter brings fresh baked bread.

The hops bring… bitterness. At almost a year old, I wouldn’t expect much hop aroma to stick around, but there isn’t really any at all that I can tell. It is still bitter, though. Too bitter. I don’t think it is quite as harsh as it was initially and I really think the yeast has come through a lot stronger with time, but it is just too bitter.

It is crisp and dry, which is good normally, but it brings out the bitterness even more in this case. I am getting more flavors now as it warms up. There is something earthy coming out. Almost like a winter squash? Does that sound crazy? I don’t know, but I’m getting squash and some slight hints of vanilla. I’m thinking this is mostly tricks of the yeast. Wherever these strange but delightful flavors are coming from, they’re being undercut by extreme bitterness as soon as the beer passes to the back of my mouth.

Jade Otter 2013 is a seriously flawed beer, but it is also very interesting. I’m pretty sure that I’ve corrected the over-bittering problem, but I’m starting to think it could have been fun to keep the Duvel yeast. I love the Saison II yeast I used this year, and I’m excited by the idea of using it in a bunch of similarly low gravity, highly hopped beers, but I have less experience with this yeast and I’d like to learn more about it.

Well, I just finished the beer, so I guess that is all of my tasting notes. I’m excited to try this year’s batch a few short weeks. Okay, they’ll probably be long weeks.

Jade Otter 2014 Brew Day


I am writing this while mashing this year’s Old SMaSHy. I hope to get my ideas about how this year’s Jade Otter should work out now and then I can add what actually happened later tonight. Hopefully they don’t diverge too greatly.

Here is the idea in a nutshell: Table Cat with Maris Otter and Pacific Jade hops. Last year’s Jade Otter was about 4.5% ABV and way too bitter. This year, I’m taking a gravity down and moving all of the hops into the last fifteen minutes of the boil. I have a feeling the gravity may be lower on its own because I think I can get more extract on the first runnings than I did last year, leaving less behind, but if not, I’ll be kicking the volume up until I get a pre boil OG of just over 1.02.

Then I’ll be keeping the hopping schedule exactly the same as Table Cat, unless the volume is significantly lower, in which case I scale it proportionally. I’ll even be fermenting with the same yeast, White Labs’ Saison II. I plan to keep this plan for a couple more beers. There is a Belgian Dark Strong Ale in my near future and the second runnings of that will be used to create Table Cat After Dark, with this same basic recipe and a new variety of hops.

Okay, now back to brewing. I’ll write more after I have this year’s batch of Jade Otter boiling.


Jade Otter 2014 is on the stove now. Still waiting to get a boil going. If you’ve never boiled four plus gallons of liquid on an electric stovetop, the best advice I could give you is don’t try it.

I over shot my gravity. By a lot. I was planning on maybe three to four gallons of 1.025ish wort and ended up with over four gallons of 1.035ish wort, pre-boil. I’m still debating how much I want to water it down after the boil. I want this to showcase the hops, so adding a bunch of water is not ideal, but I was hoping for this beer to be sub 3% ABV. I may have to settle for sub 4%. Most of you are probably thinking that is a win, and I guess it’s no good reason to complain, but I really loved Table Cat at 2.6% ABV this Summer.

Finally got it boiling… Not only does it take all but an hour to get it going, boiling over four gallons in a five gallon kettle on the kitchen stove is just plain risky business.

Anyway, I’ve filtered, boiled and begun refrigerating an extra gallon and a half of water. My current thinking is that I should add just enough to keep the ABV under 4%. I have about fifty minutes of boil time left to change my mind, though.

I’m finished brewing both beers. After the boil, I ended up with somewhere under four gallons of wort at around 1.040. I added water to bring it up to 5 gallons in the carboy and the gravity is now 1.028. This is on the high end of what I was planning on, so I’m happy. To try to make up for the extra water, I added an extra ounce of hops at flameout.

I won’t post a full recipe because I’m not even sure how to do that, but for a five gallon batch with all Maris Otter to a gravity of 1.028, here is the hopping schedule:

60 minute boil
.5 oz Pacific Jade @15 min
.5 oz Pacific Jade @ 10 min
2 oz Pacific Jade @ Flameout

Then ferment with Saison II and bottle straight from primary when it’s clear. This should end up right around 3% ABV and it should be ready to drink in less than a month. I recently polished off the last of the Table Cat, so I am hotly anticipating this beer.

Old SMaSHy 2014 Brew Day

Twenty-five pounds of malt, I’m told is the maximum capacity for a ten gallon mash tun. Unsure of how much water I’d able to fit into my cooler with the twenty-five pounds of Maris Otter called for in this recipe, I prepared way more than I needed. I’m making a second runnings beer, so the water will be put to good use later, but for now I like to know that I have more than I need.

Once the mash water reached the temperature I needed, 170º, I added half of my grain to the mash tun and began adding water, half a gallon at a time. Normally, I’d add all of the water, give it a few minutes to warm up the cooler and then add all of the grain. In this case, I planned to just add as much water as I could fit. To prevent having too much water, I wanted to add the grain as I went, making sure it all fit. To prevent dry pockets, I added half and then some water and stirred it up good before adding the rest of the grain, more water, stirring again and then topping off with as much (or slightly more) water as would fit. It ended up being somewhere around six gallons of water.

After seventy-five minutes, I drained off about two gallons of wort, giving me enough room to give the mash a good stir. After I had mixed everything up as well as I could for a few minutes, I added that wort back in for recirculation. Then I began draining again, this time only taking about a gallon and recirculated again.

After that, I drained the mash and checked the volume of wort I had obtained. Again, I prepared a lot more sparge water than I actually needed because I wasn’t sure what I would need and the extra will have use in the second runnings beer.


I found that I collected close to five gallons of wort, more than expected. I added three gallons of sparge water, stirred the mash again, pulled off a gallon and recirculated and then ran the sparge into the wort I had already collected until my volume reached seven gallons, then cut it off, despite having more liquor in the mash. I saved that for the second runnings beer because I had the volume I needed.

Last year, I boiled Old SMaSHy for ninety minutes, adding four ounces of hops with sixty minutes left, another two at twenty and two more at flameout. This year, I bumped the boil time up to two hours. The bitterness level was perfect last year but the hop flavor and aroma were lacking. I blame that, in large part, on the yeast selection. I am using a drier, more hop forward yeast this year, but to hedge my bets, I added an extra ounce at flameout, leaving the rest of the additions the same.IMG_3516

Checking my notes from last year, I couldn’t help but notice that the Alpha and Beta Acid contents on my pound of East Kent Goldings hops were identical last year and this year. This makes me think these are likely from the same crop of hops. I like to think I’m getting fresh ingredients, but there isn’t a good way to check on the age of the hops I’m buying and this really opened my eyes to the need for harvest dates being provided on hop packaging. I could be wrong, but I highly doubt that two years of EKGs ended up with exactly the same acid content. I will say, though, that these hops still smelled great when I opened the vacuum pack. Hopefully the great packaging makes up for the age.


Anyway, after the boil, I checked the gravity and volume of the wort and found some problems. My gravity was higher than expected and my volume was much lower. I didn’t actually measure the volume, but I could tell it was low. The gravity was 1.112, though. I was aiming for around 1.100. I still had some of that extra water left, so I added some, slowly until I reached 1.100. This also helped speed up the wort chilling and it was a small enough amount of water that it shouldn’t change the hop profile much. When I racked into the carboy, the volume was perfect. I guess my boil is just more vigorous than planned.

Speaking the racking to the carboy, this wort went right on top of the yeast cake from Fruit Spectrum IPA. I racked that beer off (and took a very small sample… tastes great) only minutes before. I added a bit of yeast nutrient and the fermentation took off within a few hours. I topped the carboy with a cap rather than a rubber stopper because I expect it to go crazy for the first couple days and it would likely blow the stopper off. Once it calms down, I’ll add a stopper with an airlock to keep the bugs out. The active fermentation should keep it safe on its own.

With the water added, this year’s OG was .002 lower than last year’s. I expect this yeast to dry the beer out a bit more, though and expect the ABV to be a little bit higher than the 10.5% I got last year. I was and would still be perfectly happy with that number, but we’ll see where things go. My recipe is below.


Old SMaSHY (2014)
Style: English Barley Wine
Brew Date: August 13, 2014
Serve Date: October, 2014
OG: 1.100
Expected FG: 1.022
Approximate ABV: 10.5%
IBUs: 85

100% Maris Otter

Hops (120 minute boil):
4 oz East Kent Goldings @ 60 min
2 oz East Kent Goldings @ 20 min
3 oz East Kent Goldings @ Flameout
3 oz East Kent Goldings Dry hopped 7 days

White Labs WLP007: Dry English Ale

Jade Otter 2013

With the second runnings of the inaugural batch of Old SMaSHy, I brewed this Belgian Pale Ale. Or at least that is what I called it. Belgian Pale Ale is not a style that I’m very familiar with and this beer was basically an American Pale Ale fermented with Belgian yeast.

The yeast in question was White Labs’ Belgian Golden Ale, or Duvel’s strain. This yeast is normally used in much higher gravity beers and usually with some sugar adjuncts. I was interested to see what it would do in a lower alcohol beer with a quick turnaround.

Keeping with the theme of the single malt and single hop Barley Wine, I stuck with a single hop for this beer, too. Pacific Jade is not a hop that I was familiar with (sensing a theme here…) and that is why I picked it. I wanted to test it out. Then I came up with the name Jade Otter and knew that I had made the right choice.

The recipe formulation was not as well thought out, though. The beer ended up way too bitter and the actual flavor and aroma of the hops (and even the yeast) were mostly lost. This is the same issue I had with Biere De Table Cat and after this, I finally learned my lesson. I cut out the sixty minute addition and added all of my hops within the last fifteen minutes of the boil on this year’s Table Cat and the results were great. I plan to copy that idea for this year’s Jade Otter as well.

I ended up with about a case of this beer and drank a good bit of it, but managed to hold onto some. I recently drank a bottle and was surprised by how good it was. The hops were gone but that included the overly bitter bite, which allowed the yeast to shine. The body is a little fuller and there is obviously a lot less alcohol, but the Duvel yeast character really did finally come through. I will do tasting notes with another bottle soon.

Despite turning out well in the end, I am drastically overhauling the recipe for this year’s batch. This is still a smaller change than I originally planned, though. The idea was going to be to try a different hop each year with the second runnings from Old SMaSHy, but I don’t think Pacific Jade got a fair shake last year. Also, I just love the Jade Otter name and label.


Jade Otter (2013)
Style: Belgian Pale Ale
Brew Date: November 27, 2013
Serve Date: December, 2013
OG: 1.042
FG: 1.010
ABV: 4.2%
IBUs: 41

100% Maris Otter

Hops (approximately 2.5 gallon batch):
.25 oz Pacific Jade @ 60 min
.75 oz Pacific Jade @ 15 min
1 oz Pacific Jade @ Flameout

White Labs WLP570: Belgian Golden Ale (Duvel)

Old SMaSHy 2013

I have not been a huge fan of American Barley Wines, in general. The current trend, as far as I can tell, is to basically make a slightly stronger and far less attenuated Double IPA with way more Crystal Malt. This all adds up to, in my opinion, a big, sticky mess.

Personally, I like a Barley Wine than leans a little bit heavier on the barley. I love Double IPA, but I don’t love the trend of IPA taking over the entire beer market. What I like even less, though is a big, strong beer that is sticky sweet with loads of Crystal Malt. Brewed to the gravity that I think is appropriate for a Barley Wine, i.e. 1.100 and up, I think subtler malts bring plenty of character and complexity that, when added to the high level of alcohol, long boil and extended aging times required for a Barley Wine, simply get muddled with too much specialty malt.

I decided, after my first disappointing attempt at a Barley Wine, that too much specialty malt was probably just any specialty malt at all. Munton’s Crisp Maris Otter Pale Malt has plenty of flavor and with twenty-five pounds of it in a five gallon batch, there is character to spare.

Once I decided to go the single malt route, the idea to go single hop as well seemed obvious. Even more obvious, though was the decision that East Kent Goldings would be the hop of choice. I have used East Kent Goldings more than any hop other than maybe Cascade. It is the go to choice for any British style beer and works great for bittering with its mid-range acid content, flavor with its herbal tea like character and an aroma that intensifies the tea notes while staying smooth.

There was, honestly, not a lot of thought put into those ingredient choices. A lot of thought went into the hopping schedule, but really, the biggest decision was what yeast to use. Ultimately, I landed on White Labs’ Brithish Ale, also known as Ringwood. I had used this yeast a couple of times before with mixed results, but falling in line with other peoples’ experience, I found that if given enough time to clean up after itself it created a distinct and deliciously malty beer.


Since I was looking for an antidote for the overly hopped American Barley Wines and planned to give the beer plenty of time for age before bottling, this seemed like a good choice. It did end up making one of my favorite beers that I have brewed thus far, but ultimately, in this year’s second batch, the yeast was the one thing I decided to change. I found that the hop character was mostly lost in this beer. The malt, alcohol and complex fermentation notes were all fantastic, but I wanted a bit more of those delicious EKG hops to come through. I will talk more about that decision later this week, though.

For now, with all of the ingredients covered, I’ll spend a little bit of time on the process. Yes, I used twenty-five pounds of Maris Otter Malt in my ten gallon cooler mash tun. According to the internet, this is about the maximum that you can reliably fit to mash in a ten gallon container. I fully believe that to truly make a Barley Wine, it is necessary to push your equipment to its limits. Considering this was a single malt beer, the malt bill was very easy to calculate.

I wanted a full bodied, malty beer without any specialty grains, so I pushed the mash temperature as high as I was comfortable with. I normally keep my mashes very close to 150º and have never used a 158º mash on any other beer, but it worked great for this. I mashed for seventy-five minutes, which was longer than I normally did at the time. Considering the high mash temperature, I don’t think the extended mash was necessary, although I’ve gotten into the habit of longer mashes in general since making this beer.

For the hopping rate, I pushed a little past what is standard for an English Barley Wine, at least according to my brewing software. I doubt that, at this gravity, my bitterness extraction is nearly as efficient as iBrewmaster says. So while the BJCP guidelines say that up to 70 IBUs are appropriate for this style and iBrewmaster says that this beer should be 85, I thought it would be well within the arena. The results bore my reasoning out. The bittering was perfectly balancing. The hop flavor and aroma were slightly lacking.

I added two ounce of hops with twenty minutes left, two at flameout and another two ounces in the dry hop. I still think this was an appropriate amount, despite wanting a bit more hop character in the final beer. I hope and believe that the change in yeast will help bring out more of the hops in this years batch. Despite the lacking hop character, this is still, as I said, one of my favorite things that I’ve ever made.

I recently entered the beer in the Lititz Craft Beer Fest Homebrew Contest. The beer was brewed last November and entered this August and I had no reservations about that. Fresh is normally best, but this beer has aged gracefully. More vanilla notes have come out as the alcohol mellows and the hops were already lacking, but the bitterness still balances.

There are about twenty bottles of this beer left in the basement, a lot more than I’d expect because I feel like I drink it all the time. That is the lovely thing about a beer that you only drink of per sitting, though. I can’t wait for this year’s batch to be ready so I can try them side by side. I will have tasting notes for the original later this week and the new one when it is ready around the holidays.


Old SMaSHY (2013)
Style: English Barley Wine
Brew Date: November 27, 2013
Serve Date: February, 2014
OG: 1.102
FG: 1.022
ABV: 10.5%
IBUs: 85

100% Maris Otter

Hops (90 minute boil):
4 oz East Kent Goldings @ 60 min
2 oz East Kent Goldings @ 20 min
2 oz East Kent Goldings @ Flameout
2 oz East Kent Goldings Dry hopped 7 days

White Labs WLP005: British Ale Yesat (Ringwood)

Old SMaSHy Week

IMG_3262I brewed two batches of beer last week.  Normally, I like to make a brew day post on the same day that I brew.  This time, though, a last minute schedule change at work gave me an unexpected afternoon free last Wednesday and I couldn’t resist moving brew day up by a week.  Now I have more time for bottling and bottle washing this week.

So what did I brew last week?  For the second year in a row, I brewed Old SMaSHy Barley Wine and with the second runnings, Jade Otter.  Both beers’ recipes changed a little, one much more than the other, but both are very much in the same spirit as last year’s versions.

These are the last two beers I brewed last year prior to beginning to plan for this blog and I believe that they are the newest beers that I have not yet covered here.  That will change this week.  I have two beers to write about from last year, two sets of tasting notes for those same beers and two brew days for this year’s versions and that will take up the whole week.  I am looking forward to sharing these beers with you, one of which may be my favorite thing I’ve ever brewed and the other of which was sort of a letdown but showed potential to hopefully be built upon this year.

5 O’Clock Ordinary Bitter Tasting Notes


Original Post: 5 O’Clock Bitter 
Brew Date: January, 2013
Tasting Date: August 15, 2014
Approximate ABV: 3.7%
IBUs: 35
This beer is much older than it should be, but it looks and sounds great. Perfect carbonation pop and perfectly clear. It is light orangey-amber with very fluffy pure white foam.

The hop aroma is gone, but it doesn’t smell bad or cardboard-y. There is not a lot of aroma coming off it at all, actually. It is slightly malty but very restrained in every order.

The first sip brings a little bit of the oxidized old-homebrew-flavor, but it isn’t too bad. Despite the lack of hop aroma, there is still a good bitterness along with a nice blast of malt flavors. The Special Roast comes through and is quite surprising after seeing the color of the beer. The roast blends well with some caramel sweetness and just a bit of crusty bread flavor blended in.

Foam never got out of control, but it is sticking around and it’s very pillowy and soft. I expected beer this old to be a bit prickly or just plain bland and this is perfectly lively without getting out of hand. A nice surprise.

Don’t get me wrong, this is well past its prime. The hop flavor is sorely missed and while the oxidation is not as extreme as it could be, it still takes away from the overall beer. I feel like some of the fermentation character is lost in the oxidation. I don’t remember which yeast I used, but I know it was a characterful English yeast and I’m not getting much of that at all.

As I get closer to the bottom of the glass, the roast character may be a bit much. With hops over top, I remember it being nice and subtle, but now it is coming out a bit more with each sip. It isn’t unpleasant, but this is a beer meant to be drunk in quantity and I think it could get in the way of that over time.


Overall though, I’m surprised how well this 3.7% ABV beer has held up. Between Ordinary Bitter and Mild, I think I should keep an English session beer around at all times. I’ve brewed a lot more Mild, it me be about time to revisit the Bitter.