Triple Valor Tripel Tasting Notes

IMG_4082Original Post: Triple Valor Brew Day
Style: Belgian Tripel
Brew Date: July 16, 2014
Tasting Date: September 29, 2014
ABV: 9.3%
IBUs: 38

First of all, this is under-carbonated. I still have hope that it will carbonate further, but it has been in the bottle for close to a month and I’m getting impatient. There is definitely some carbonation, a light pop when I opened the bottle, some thin and short-lived head and a bit of a prickle on the tongue, but especially for this style of Abbey ale, it is not nearly enough. You may remember that I toyed with the idea of using a secondary bottle priming yeast and eventually decided against it. Maybe that was poor decision.

Aside from the lack of bubbles, the beer looks nice. It is not perfectly clear, neither is it visibly cloudy, just not perfectly permeable by light. Just as I’de expect in this type of beer. It almost seems to give it more substance. The color is like honey. Pale orange with golden highlights, like its namesake.

IMG_4088The alcohol comes through in the flavor. It is immediately apparent that you are drinking a strong beer. It is not alone, though. There are tons of spicy phenols and hints of fruity esters. The flavor is complex to be sure, but banana bread is the immediate impression I get. Not the fresh banana associated with hefeweizen, but the cooked, overripe banana used in baking. It tastes like banana bread, but that is not to say that it has a bready malt flavor.

Speaking of hefeweizen, the cherry character that was very upfront in the wheat beer I used this yeast for first is present here, too. It comes in at the end, even more in the aftertaste. It is much more restrained than in the other beer, probably just because there is a lot more going on in this one.

The malts are minimal, if detectable at all, at least in the flavor. I think that the flaked wheat adds a good deal to the mouth feel. This finished drier than I expected, well under 1.01 but it doesn’t feel thin. It is a bit slick and oily on the tongue but at the same time, it fills the mouth. The unexpected body from the flaked wheat mixed with high alcohol content give it an interesting texture that never feels thin.

Which brings me back to the alcohol. I know I already mentioned it, but it bears repeating. This is a strong beer and that fact is not at all hidden. Personally, I can appreciate that fact. I like being able to feel the alcohol right up front, especially in this type of beer, but it could definitely turn a lot of people off. Amy, for one.

IMG_4083I haven’t mentioned aroma yet. That is because the aroma is not particularly strong. Most of the aroma that is present comes from the alcohol. The fermentation fruit and spice character doesn’t come through at all. There are actually hints of malt and earthy hops that aren’t immediately evident in the flavor. These are very mild, but they add to the complexity.

Speaking of hops, I went very close to the top end of the recommended hopping rates for a Tripel, in both bitterness and flavor additions, but if anything, I’d like to taste more hops in this. The bitterness level is just about right. It balances without ever getting in the way. The very mild hop aroma is hidden completely in the actual flavor. I’d like to get a bit more. An ounce of Tettnang at flame out and an ounce of Hersbucker at five minutes seems like it should be plenty but they seem to have been all blown off during fermentation. Maybe dry hopping would be the way to go. I definitely think Tettnang should be the focal hop but I think I’d skip the flameout addition and add them in a dry hop instead.

The beer is almost gone now. This is a wonderfully complex beer that is tremendously damaged by its low carbonated. If that corrects itself in the coming weeks, this has potential to be one of my favorite brews. As it stands, it could be enjoyable as an after dinner drink or a night cap, but can’t stand up without more sparkle. Still, I had no trouble finishing my bottle, which means that these tasting notes must come to an end. If there is a significant change, maybe I’ll do another set of tasting notes around the holidays.

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Lancaster Brewers Club September Meeting

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Last Wednesday, I went to my first meeting of the Lancaster Brewers Club. I had heard about this club from a couple different places, once online in a very old forum post and more recently from someone at a library function I went to with Amy. I’ve been wanting to check it out for a few months, but their meetings are on the same night as a 5k fun run at Snitz Creek, a local brewpub.

Anyway, I finally made it this month, and it was good one to attend. The club was conducting an ingredient experiment focusing on Crystal Malts. Nine members each brewed the same recipe, swapping out only the type of Crystal Malt and brought the results for everyone to sample and take notes on. The recipe was a basic American Pale Ale, with only Pale Malt and Crystal in the grist. The hop schedule focused on a blend of Simcoe and Amarillo late in the boil. The hopping was on the low end for a Pale Ale, intentionally to focus on malts.

We sampled starting at the lightest and going in order to the darkest. Some of the lighter ones tasted very similar, but the second to lightest, Cara Red was one of my favorites. I think this was the best actual Pale Ale of the whole night. Cara Red is a German malt that I have never used before. After this, I would like to give it a try. My notes say “toffee sweetness, more hop presence, fuller body, very balanced.” Not all of that has to do with the malt, obviously, but the toffee flavor was great and played perfectly with the hops.

Crystal 80 seemed to be a favorite for a lot of people. I listed it as my third favorite. I found that it had less hop character, and later found out that it was a partial volume extract brew, which accounts for that. The lowered hop presence made way for great malt character, though. I found this to have a very English taste, it reminded me of an ESB. An excellent beer and a reminder of how good extract brewed beer can be. I’m curious if the extract was English, though.

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My other favorite was Crystal 150. Keeping in mind that an equal amount, .75 pounds, of each Crystal Malt was used in each batch, you can imagine that this beer bore little resemblance to an American Pale Ale. It was dark, though not as dark in color as I expected. The flavor was dominated by contributions from the 150. Prune was big note that I made.

Cara 8, Cara Vienna, Crystal 40, Crystal 60, Crystal 90 and Special B were the other malts in the experiment. I could definitely make a huge post just covering them all individually, but I want to talk more about my experience with the actual meeting.

I had a great time. I’m generally pretty quiet and shy, so these types of things can be hard, but everyone was very welcoming and, with the addition of lots of beer sampling, they made me feel very comfortable. I felt bad that I didn’t bring any beer to share, but I will definitely try to make up for it in future meetings.

After we worked through all of the Crystal experiment beers, everyone shared some of their other beers. It was great to try a beer and then be able to talk to the person who made it and see what they did. I feel bad that I don’t remember more names, but the brewer of that extract Crystal 80 beer and a guy who brought his hard cider with vanilla and cinnamon were among the people who shared information about their process with me and I enjoyed both interactions.IMG_4012

The meeting took pale at their normal spot, downstairs at Lancaster Brewing Company. I was excited just for that, as it is right in the actual brewery. The tanks are visible from the dining area through an opening in the floor, but I had never been down there. I am a big fan of Lancaster Brewing Company, specifically their European style lagers and it was fun to get into the brewery proper.

I have not officially joined the club yet, but I plan to at next months meeting. We’re meeting at POUR, another great venue in Lancaster next month for a pumpkin beer competition. I’m not sure if I’ll bring Plumpkin to enter the competition or just a more recent beer to share, but I’m already looking forward to it. If you’re in the area and are interested in joining the fun, you should. The club’s website is at LancasterBrewers.com and there is a calendar there that will give you the information you need to find an event you can participate in. If you’re not in the area but you have a local homebrew club and you haven’t checked it out… do it. You know your other friends don’t want to hear any more diatribes about the relative merits of various colors of Crystal Malts. Give them a break.

Tasting Notes+ Week

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I went to my first homebrew club meeting last Wednesday.  That is where the “+” comes into this week’s theme.  I will write about my experience tomorrow.  Sometime later in the week, I’ll post the second installment of my series on labels.  The rest of the week will be all tasting notes, though.

I have a good mix of recent and older brews to write about this week.  I am down to only a few old batches to cover in my batch/recipe posts, so I’m going to be playing some catch up on tasting notes to get them back in line before I end my run of seven days a week posting.  Still going strong…

Hogun’s Demeanor Mild

In the middle of the Dark Times, I had one bright spot. On the same day that I brewed Hogun’s Mace Robust Porter, I made an English Mild with the second runnings. Dubbed Hogun’s Demeanor, this beer turned out quite well.

I surprised how light the color of the beer turned out. It was still full of flavor, though. All the malt flavor I was hoping for in the porter was here, albeit a bit thinner and lighter. I added some brown sugar to up the gravity slightly, which took the final ABV to around 3.5%.

The malts were well balanced by East Kent Goldings hops. I added the hops all at the beginning of the boil for a balancing bitterness, without much hop flavor, allowing the light malt flavor to shine through.

This ale fermented with S-04, an estery English yeast, adding another layer of complexity. Not too much, though. This was an easy drinking beer and it disappeared quick. Because of the low gravity, it fermented quickly and was bottled before its big brother became infected. I was lucky to have this consolation prize, I just wish I had had more of it.

HogunsDemeanorLabel

Hogun’s Demeanor Mild
Style: Mild Ale
Brew Date: August 20, 2013
Serve Date: September, 2013
OG: 1.036
Expected FG: 1.01
Approximate ABV: 3.5%
IBUs: 30

Fermentables:
53% American Pale Malt
33% Maris Otter Malt
7% Chocolate Malt
7% Munich Malt
Plus a small amount of brown sugar

Hops (approximately 2 gallon batch)
.4 oz East Kent Golding @ 60 min

Yeast:
S-04

Green Eye Rye Pale Ale Tasting Notes

IMG_4004This is not good. It tastes soapy. The hops are not detectable. The malt is hidden in the shadows. It tastes bad. Really bad. It is a similar off flavor to the one in this year’s batch of Amy Ni-Kölsch, only it is much, much worse in this beer.

I thought initially that this was a result of oxidation, but I don’t think that is the case because I don’t know how that could have gotten this bad. The only thing I can think of this point is that it is caused by some sort of residue from a cleaning agent on the carboy. This is when I really wish that I labeled by carboys so I could tell if this and the Kölsch were in the same one and I wish I took records of how I cleaned each carboy.

I have, in the past, used all kinds of different cleaning agents, but this batch, which I was very excited about when I brewed it a few months ago and knew was going to be terrible by the end of primary fermentation finally got me to just commit to using PBW and Star San for everything. The next step, which I haven’t taken yet, is going to be labeling each of my carboys and recording which ones each batch are fermented and aged in. If something like this happens in the future, I want to know which carboy needs to be inspected.

After this batch, I cleaned all of my empty carboys again, with a round of each PBW and Star San. I haven’t had an issue since, but I need to stay on top of this.

There is not much else to say about the beer. It smells fairly neutral, but as soon as it makes its way into the mouth, it becomes a very bad experience. I have a lot of beer left, but it is going down the drain. I have never dumped a full batch after bottling before, but I’m seriously considering it with this one.

N.E. Pilsener Tasting Notes

IMG_3646 Original Post: N.E. Pilsener
Style: Bohemian Pilsenrer
Brew Date: February 20, 2013
Tasting Date: August 21, 2014
ABV: 5.7%
IBUs: 47

This, again, is a beer well past its prime. I will not stop, though. If I have anything left from a batch, I’m doing tasting notes. So here we go.

It is lively. Not over carbed, but I’d say close. Bright, white, fluffy head. A nice mix of large and small bubbles. What causes that? Anyway, the beer itself is bright tan. I almost said yellow, but it is a little dark for that. Yellow highlights for sure, though.

The aroma is malty. Light bread. Not “light” like there isn’t much, light as in white bread. I guess I could have just said that. I remember this having a nice hop tilted balance, but I get no hint of that here.
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Taking a sip and the malt train continues. There is some cardboard-y old homebrew taste, but it is not too offensive. The malt is still the main highlight. I would say, in fact that this could pass for a decent Helles. The age shows, but it is still enjoyable.

Initially, I was concerned with how low the gravity of this beer dropped. Although I didn’t intend to age it, I think that low gravity may have helped it age a bit. It is almost like a cleaner Belgian Blonde. That may seem to contradict my previous Helles comment. It’s somewhere in between the two?

I’m not sure if that makes any sense what so ever, but neither does aging a Pilsner for a year and a half. I’ll tell you what, though, it’s going down nice and easy. I don’t mean to cut this short, but my beer is just about gone and you know the rules.

Yes. I just finished the beer. Tasting notes over. Overall impression: definitely diminished, but still more enjoyable than I would have expected.