Saturday, December 20, 2008

Always a pleasure

If there's one thing I enjoy more than drinking my own beer, it's enjoying the beer of others--especially if it's well made. If the 'other' in particular has managed to make the leap to commercial brewing, there's not just the beer, but also the reminder that 'yes, it can be done.'

My office had its holiday luncheon, in combination with the class graduation luncheon, yesterday at DuClaw's. I've met their brewer, Bo Lenck, and he was very nice--even gave me a tour of the brewery, one-on-one, impromptu. Bo 'used to' be a homebrewer (a successful one, if the rumors I hear are true), and moved on to brew at DuClaw (I'm not sure if he's one of the founders, but it wouldn't surprise me). DuClaw's brewery up towards Aberdeen will even give away yeast to homebrewers (WLP-001, for the most part; that's their house strain). Nothing like coming away with a quart or two of yeast slurry...

Anyway, one of the students ordered the beer sampler yesterday. Now, I've seen the beer sampler before--it always seemed to be six or seven taster-size glasses of their 'usual' lineup. What they brought out yesterday, though, was fully twelve sampler-glasses, with one of everything they have on tap right now... Venom, HellRazer, Alchemy, Blackjack, Full Moon, Misfit, Kangaroo, Bare Ass Blonde, everything. Eep!

I went for what used to be my favorite, back before the hop shortage (ah, the good old days!), and ordered a Venom. Wow! They tweaked the hop profile; obviously, they still can't get everything the way they used to. It had a harsher, back-of-the-tongue bitterness that's difficult to describe; regardless, for all that it's still like chewing on a hop, it's not as smooth as it once was. I guess it's back to the Misfit Red, for me...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen Amber, and an upcoming brewday

This is overall a fairly pleasant beer. It's got a triply redundant name (Oktoberfest beers are, by definition, Marzens, and the lot of them are amber), which is odd by normal standards, but fairly tame by brewing standards. On the pour, the beer shows its 'amberness,' with a lovely pour; carbonation rises during the entire glass. The head is moderate and white, and dissipates fairly quickly. The nose is rich and full of malt notes, with a hint of a certain something I can't put my finger on, but tells me without a doubt that this is a Paulaner beer (I've noticed this same thing in every other beer of theirs that I've tried). First taste keeps with this impression: richly malty, with the Paulaner 'tang' following. The hop notes are a subdued spicyness, just strong enough to balance the malt. The finish maintains the lingering malt, but is quite dry. While a bit stronger than my average daily quaff, it's still very drinkable; it definitely falls into the "I'd order another" category. Let's say, 3.5 stars out of five...

I'll also be brewing again on the 14th. I'm leaning towards a fairly simple APA recipe; not too strong, not too hoppy. I think the compressor on my lagering chest needs a new charge of coolant--it's "just" holding a nice, cool 58 degrees--so it's ales for me for a little while, I think. (Somehow, I believe I'll survive.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Overdue Review

I've been quite remiss about getting this post in; the Thanksgiving holiday will do that to a guy. So, without further ado, here's what I've got to say about my selections on tap at present.

First, the Scottish 70/-. It pours a nice light amber, tending towards the brown rather than the golden hue of some beers. It's got a bit of haze, as well. The head starts nice and thick (about 1"), then dwindles down to a ring of bubbles that chases the beer down the glass. I'm afraid it's a little astringent; I probably over-sparged, or somesuch (I'd have to double-check my notes), and I *know* it's over-carbonated. The aroma is malt, but only weakly so--I'm not sure what I'd do to fix that, for my taste. (In fairness, I've never had a commercial 70/- that I can recall, so I may not be imagining it right.) The alcohol level is low, probably about 3-3.5%, which is what I was aiming for, so it has that going for it. And this is the infamous 'ever-carbonating' beer; I'm convinced, now, that it's got an infection of some sort (perhaps a wild yeast strain--aside from the tannic astringency, there's no flavor indication of anything else, that I can detect). Not bad enough, perhaps, to dump, but not really good. I'll rate this as 'probably not my favorite style,' and move on smartly from there.

The Belgian Dubbel came out a bit more like I had imagined. It's a lovely deep copper color, with a creamy head that dissipates to the expected lace after a few minutes. The aroma is primarily malt, with a good bit of fruitiness from the yeast; the fruitiness tends towards the darker, dried fruits (plum) with some of the caramelized sugar coming through in the nose. The body is medium, and its flavor follows the aroma fairly closely, with a touch of something roasted coming through in the end. I might ask for the flavors to be a bit more 'in-your-face,' but it's certainly not bad. It is of a significantly higher alcohol content than the 70/-; probably in the 5.5-6% range, but it doesn't have a fusel heat. It goes down quite smoothly, probably due to its having a cooler fermentation than I necessarily would have intended. Still, I'd order another--but I'll tweak the recipe, the next time I brew it.

All for now; I've got beers (and wine and cider) to rack, a mead that needs bottling soon, and assorted other chores that must be done before my next brew day. I *plan* on getting to that Paulaner by this weekend, but time will tell, as always.

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