Yellow Cat Mulled Cider (2013) Tasting Notes

Original Post: Yellow Cat Mulled Cider
Style: Dry Cider
Brew Date: Fall, 2013
Tasting Date: October 13, 2014
ABV: 7%
IBUs: N/A
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Cinnamon and some mild citrus are the predominant aromas. It also gives off some vaguely “old” character. As soon as I take a sip, though, that mild unpleasantness is gone. Sweet, spicy, orange and maybe a little bit of apple. Yes, the apple is not one of the stronger features of this cider.

I remember it had too much orange initially after using only the mulling spice on it, thus I added some vanilla and cinnamon. That cinnamon is strong and welcome. It blends with the orange, without completely overpowering it. The combination tastes like Christmas.

This stuff is very sweet. I back sweetened with Splenda, which I was nervous to do, but it seems to have worked out fine. I liked the initial results but I was afraid it wouldn’t age well. The Splenda doesn’t seem to have changed the way the cider has aged at all, though.

There is a lot of carbonation, but the tiny bit of head that rose when I first poured it disappeared almost immediately. Aside from the lack of foam, the cider looks great. It is crystal clear, though I don’t remember that being the case when it was fresh. The color is pale yellow. This began as dark brown, cloudy cider but it now looks a lot more like apple juice. I’m always surprised by how light cider gets when it has cleared.

There is a lot more spiciness going on here. The cinnamon and orange are the immediately obvious flavors, but clove, nutmeg and all sorts of unidentifiable spices are lurking behind. I was surprised last year how much this stuff reminded me of Christmas time. Most of these spices are much more associated with Fall and Pumpkins, but somehow, the orange brings it straight into Winter.

I mentioned that age came through in the aroma, but as I drink more, I can tell its age in the flavor a bit, too. It is not bad, but things seem a bit more muddled and less bright than they did last year. The spices have certainly not died down much, if at all but they have lost some of their liveliness.
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This was one of my most surprising batches. It did not turn out how I expected, but it turned out quite well. After close to a year in the bottle, it is a little worst for the wear, but I didn’t leave much for this year anyway. There is so much going on in this that the 7% ABV is never the least bit noticeable. I would be interested to see how high the ABV could be pushed before it became more of a presence in the cider. I’m not planning to brew this exact recipe this year, but I am going to use it to guide me in another sweet cider I’m planning.

This bottle is about done for. Stay tuned for details on the new batch I am planning for the coming weeks, though.

Yellow Cat Dry Cider (2012) Tasting Notes

Original Post: Yellow Cat Dry Cider
Style: Dry Cider
Brew Date: Fall, 2012
Tasting Date: October 3, 2014
ABV: 7%
IBUs: N/A
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This stuff is remarkably clear. It is an off-white, extremely pale yellow color. Similar to a white wine. The aroma is fantastic. It is well carbonated, but the foam dissipated extremely quickly. Other than the small stream of bubbles from the etched glass, there is already no head left.

As soon as I popped the cap I got a good whiff of apple. It only got stronger as I poured it out. It is all apples in the nose, but they strangely seem like the tart Granny Smith variety. I guess it makes sense because it is extremely dry, but the original cider was definitely not tart.

It is mouth puckeringly dry. The first sip reminds me of sour apple candy, without of course, the sweetness. It is still all apples. The tartness is still surprising me. I think that this cider has aged very well, but it is so crushingly dry that it is almost hard to drink.
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Every sip seems to dry my throat out. I want some water to go with the cider. It has been a long time, I think that this has gotten better with age but it still is not really my thing. It isn’t quite as one dimensional as I remember, but it is far from refreshing. There are no off flavors to speak of, there is nothing specifically wrong with it. I really think that it is well made, it just isn’t for me. Amy and a few other people have given it glowing reviews. This is not a stat based overview, though, it is my own opinion and I’m just not crazy about this cider. It was still a good experiment and I’m glad I made and glad that I saved some for a couple years.

Yellow Cat Sweet Cider (2014)

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First of all, in my post from Sunday, which I wrote on Friday, I mentioned that I’d be starting my batch of Sweet Cider later in the day on Sunday. Well, I ended up starting it on Saturday, because realistically, this gives me a better chance of getting the tasting notes done by next Saturday, which is the whole idea for this week of blog posts.

Now, onto the actual brew day. Or whatever you call starting a cider’s fermentation. Anyway, there is not much to add to what I’ve said before about this cider’s recipe. One thing that I do think I should mention, though is that I used Dark Brown Sugar. I normally buy Light Brown Sugar just for general use, but this time, I purposely bought the more flavorful dark stuff. This is what I used the first couple times I made this cider, before I kept anything in the house for cooking, or especially baking needs.

Beyond that, I just followed the count, as I previously described. I will, of course, explain again here, though.
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1 pack of ale yeast.
2 cinnamon sticks.
3 pounds of brown sugar.
4 gallons of fresh, no preservative apple cider.
5 days of fermentation.

And if that isn’t enough, here is the step by step:
First, I let the cider get to room temperature. You don’t want to start with very cold cider, but since there are no preservatives, your cider will most likely start to ferment on its own after a couple days sitting out. I find that it normally takes about a day to go from the cold cider you buy to room temperature.
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Take a gravity reading for the plain cider. Mine was around 1.055. I use that for a guide, though I’m shooting for the final gravity to be quite a bit lower.. I want the flavor to be similar to the fresh cider, but between the alcohol and carbonation, it doesn’t take as much sugar to taste sweet after fermentation.

Once my cider is up to room temperature, I add the first gallon to a pot on the stove top with the two cinnamon sticks. The heat should be around medium, although it won’t take long to do this step, so it isn’t too important how hot it is. Start adding the sugar slowly, stirring the whole time. You don’t want to scorch the sugar, but the heat will help dissolve it.
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Once all the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat down, or off. I like to add another gallon to the fermentor, then add the sugar loaded one with the cinnamon. Just in case the sugar isn’t as dissolved as you thought, this will help mix it a little more. And dump those cinnamon sticks right along with the cider. This portion of cider was barely any warmer than the rest, this time. You don’t want to get it too hot, as it will ruin the fresh flavor.
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With two gallons in the fermentor, I add the third to the pot to make sure there is now sugar left, then add it to the fermentor along with the last gallon. Now, take another gravity reading. Mine was up to 1.076.
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After you have recorded the gravity, it’s time to add the yeast. Normally, I use a packet of Nottingham dry yeast, this time though, I happened to have some S-05 yeast left from fermenting Moist, though and used that instead. I think this will get it done even quicker than normal.

The cider was visibly fermenting within an hour. I will be checking the gravity and flavor around Tuesday. The plan is to bottle on Thursday, but that could be moved up or pushed back. The fermentation went crazy and I’m nervous that it will be too dry.

Check back later this week for more updates on this batch.

Cider Week II

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Here is the plan: I’m going to start a batch of Yellow Cat Sweet Cider tonight and post about it tomorrow. Then, around Thursday, I’ll bottle it and pasteurize it the next day. I’ll write about the stovetop pasteurization process and write tasting notes on that same day (to be posted the next day). The rest of the week, I’ll be posting tasting notes for a bunch of the other ciders I’ve made. I have extra, so if something goes off the rails with the new batch, I’ll be able to patch in extra tasting notes. This should be fun, here’s hoping I get a good batch of sweet cider for next weekend.

Satellite Hop Yard Update

This will be a quick one, but I promised to update on the hops I planted at the cabin. I was planning to stick it into a batch update post, but I haven’t brewed in a while and I don’t have much to update on. I finally made it up to the cabin last weekend, though. This is what I found.

IMG_4384If you don’t remember, I planted two Cascade rhizomes in the Spring. One is in front of the cabin under a wooden trellis that has been hanging since my parents bought the cabin without being used. The other is by the shed, where there is a fence with a birdhouse hung on an extended post. Both rhizomes showed growth. That is exciting. Both looked like something was eating the leaves. That is perplexing.

I’m not sure what would eat hop bines and I’m not completely sure that is what happening, but it looks that way. Both bines were around six inches and stripped completely of leaves. There was a bit cut (chewed?) off that actually still had leaves intact.

IMG_4388This is a lot less growth than I had in my first year hop yard at home, but I’m happy that both rhizomes sprouted. I haven’t done anything to keep up with these things and they both at the very least, survived. I’m anxious to see what next year will bring.

Mount Hoodie (2013) Tasting Notes and 2014 Comparison

Original Post: Mount Hoodie 2013
Style: American Amber Lager
Brew Date: Winter 2012/2013
Tasting Date: October 14, 2014
ABV: 4.8%
IBUs: 32

IMG_4530This is mainly meant to be tasting notes on the first batch of Mount Hoodie, but that beer is well past its prime. It should have been consumed well over a year ago. I happen to have some of the 2014 batch, which is already a bit out of date as well, so I’m going to try to compare them. In my memory, the first batch was excellent fresh. One of my favorites, thus leading to the follow up. That re-brew was botched, though as you might remember and while the beer turned out okay, it was a disappointment after the great first batch.

I poured both beers and got a huge head on each. The color of both are similar, though the older batch is much clearer and as a result appears a little lighter. The color is light for an amber lager. It is barely into the orange range and the highlight definitely qualify as yellow. It may not be what most would expect from “amber” beer, but I like it quite a bit and I still think it qualifies, though I wouldn’t call it red.

Taking a sip, I don’t get a lot of aroma without looking for it. Once the beer is in my mouth, it still has some nice malt flavor, but there are no hops left. It isn’t too badly oxidized, considering its age, though there is some of that problem.

IMG_4534It is a real shame to lose the Mount Hood hops that lend this beer its name. The lighter color comes from less of the malts that give most amber beers their defining characteristics. I like the lighter malts in this when it is showcasing hops, but now that the hops have faded, the maltier version would be welcome.

Getting back to the comparison, time to break into the newer version. There is definitely more hop presence in this. It is still less than I’d like, but I could identify Mount Hood hops in this, both in the aroma and the flavor. The aroma is lightly citrusy with some earthy spice. These aromas are echoed in the flavor, although they are cut even more by the malts. The malt flavor is very similar to older version but has held up a little better with a year less aging.

In their current states, the newer version is far superior. I don’t doubt the original was much better fresh, but I do wonder if it hasn’t also been built up in my mind. It was my first lager and the clean, crisp fermentation was new to my homebrew. I hope to brew another batch of this beer in the coming Winter. I plan to up the hops a little bit and keep the malts pretty consistent.

While I still have some of the newer beer left, I have finished the original, so I’m going to say that is a wrap on these tasting notes.

My Favorite Labels

For this week’s installment of my series about homebrew labels, I’ll be talking about some of my favorites and going into a little bit more detail about how I made them. I use a lot of different methods to make my labels, many start at sketches, most pass through Photoshop and they all end up in InDesign.

BeerLabelTARTThe first one that I’d like to single out as a favorite is Tart Cider. I mentioned this label last week in my post about updating labels because I recently repurposed it for my new batch of Yellow Cat Tart Cider. The original image was created in Illustrator. I sketched it several times by hand before finally drawing it with the Pen tool, creating a vector graphic. That means that the image is actually just a mathematic equation which is scalable to any size without degradation instead of an actual static image. I broke that feature, though by editing the color in Photoshop.

LabelMoistA

Anyway, the original label is still Amy’s absolute favorite but the added text, explaining how to drink the cider has bugged me since the moment it was too late to change it on the original. I got rid of it and incorporated the text into the picture using Photoshop layers and the Overlay layer styles.

BeerLabelBitterOldManIPAAside from Amy, most of the people who I share my homebrew with seem to agree that the Old Man series are my best labels. They all know my Dad, though, so I’m not sure their opinions are completely unbiased.

BeerLabelOldOldMan

For these labels, I start with a photo of my Dad and draw over it in Photoshop. These are not vector graphics, they are drawn, or traced to a certain extent, with the pencil tool. All three of these labels are rough and sketchy but for some reason, my Dad is easy to caricature. Really, I have tried this method with other people and the results are usually not as good. Kory worked out okay on Kory’s Peachy Pale Ale, but that took more tinkering than any of the ones of my Dad. I had the idea of Old Old Man almost immediately after finishing Spicy Old Man, but I’m still not sure what next year’s will be.

SpicyOldManLabelSpicy Old Man is my favorite label of the series. The drawing is okay, but I really like the layout of the whole label. I wish I liked the beer better.

DawnOfTheRed2014

Dawn of the Red was a label that I made quickly, somewhat last minute. Despite that, I really like the way it turned out. I found the font from Dawn of the Dead and I made a simple label incorporating it with a red sunset. It is, I think, a pretty striking image. The overall label is hurt by the label template I was using at the time. The added text at the bottom and the smaller proportion of the art take away from the overall effect. I hope to update the label for an updated recipe next year.

LabelTripleValor

One of my recent favorites is Triple Valor. For this label, I propped my camera (phone) on a platform (DVD case) to keep the position fairly consistent and took a picture of Valor. Then I moved him and took another, then another. I edited the pictures with some very rudimentary Photoshopping into one image. Luckily, these labels are pretty small because I think it looks pretty good on the bottle. Blown up, the editing would be pretty obvious, but that’s okay. I plan to take the same approach for my upcoming Quadruple Grim.

If I wrote this post again on another day, I’d probably come up with a totally different list, but as of this very moment, I think these are my favorite labels.