Beer #5: Spiced Irish Stout

February 15, 2011

To learn, one must make mistakes, right? This beer was one of those mistakes learning experiences…

Brewed on November 14th, 2004, this was supposed to be a Christmas beer. I now know that big, complex Christmas beers should be brewed between, oh, July and October – the bigger and more complex, the earlier. Being brewed too late was a minor problem overall. Yeah, the beer wasn’t drinkable by Christmas, but it also wasn’t drinkable by Easter, either. It never became drinkable and eventually ended up going down the drain.

This was my first non-kit beer. Looking at the recipe, I can say now that I’d reject this one outright due to its use of dark malt extract. I now brew all-grain, but if I were doing an extract brew I would use nothing but light DME and get all my color from steeping grains. When you use dark malt extracts, you lose control over your beer. You’re leaving it up to whomever made the extract to dictate your beer’s malt profile. This is fine (and even desirable) for beginners, but once you have a few batches under your belt, you really should be using nothing but light malt extract. I prefer dry at that, because DME has a longer shelf life.

All that said, the choice of extract wasn’t really the problem with this beer – the problem was the amount of spice – it was way over the top, even four or five months after bottling. It never came into harmony; it was always a plain-Jane stout enshrouded in a fog of spice. Take a look at the ingredients. That’s a lot of ginger. And orange. And cinnamon.

If you want to check out the recipe, it’s available here. As much as I (and my wife and family and friends) disliked this recipe, there are a lot of folks that seem to like it. I just did a quick search to see where the recipe came from and found it was posted online in 1995 by Johnny Yen. It’s got high scores in some recipe databases. The disparity could be explained several ways. First (and quite likely), the beer sucked because I brewed it. I don’t consider myself to be a very good brewer now; imagine how bad I was on my fifth batch six years ago. Second, the recipe was considered to be great in 1995 when quality homebrew ingredients and homebrew quality in general were not nearly as good as they are today. Third, heavily spiced beers might just be a taste that I (or my wife or friends or family) haven’t acquired. Whatever the reason, this beer was my first failure.

That’s a pic of the spices mulling with the honey.


Beer #4: English Brown Ale

February 14, 2011

All that I know about this beer is that I brewed it sometime in 2004 and it came from a Brewer’s Best kit. I know that I made it because at the time Jess was starting to take a liking to beer and Newcastlewas one she liked because of its mild taste. I don’t remember how it came out, but I know we drank it all, so it couldn’t have been that bad, right?


Beer #3: American Cream Ale

February 14, 2011

My third beer was brewed in November 2003, from another Brewer’s Best kit. I wanted to give some home-crafted beer to my dad & father-in-law for Christmas. Since they’re American Light Lager drinkers, American Cream Ale was the best style I could make for them without the ability to lager beer. Cream Ale is kind of like an American Light Lager – it’s light in color and uses corn to boost alcohol levels without boosting malt character or color. It’s also very lightly hopped. I remember the telling me they liked the beer, but I don’t remember what it tasted like. I’m sort of tempted to brew the style again for their sake.

I have no pictures or notes from this session to post.


Beer #2: Robust Porter

February 14, 2011

The second beer I brewed was made sometime in 2003from another Brewer’s Best kit. I have no pictures or notes from the brew session.

I don’t remember much about this beer. It was dark. At the time, I didn’t know what made a porter “robust.” I didn’t really even know what a porter was. It would be years before I would learn of the BJCP‘s existence. I do recall a friend of mine having a glass and saying something like, “Hey, this is good. Usually when I try beer my friends have made it tastes terrible!” I guess that was a compliment.

I don’t remember the beer, but I remember being excited about making it and sharing it with friends.


Beer #1: Irish Red Ale

February 8, 2011

This is a picture of the first beer I ever brewed. It’s the only picture I have of this beer.

It was an extract plus steeping grains kit from Brewer’s Best that came with the equipment starter kit I got from Jess for Christmas 2002.

We graduated from the local University in December 2001. That was a tough time to graduate. Neither of us had jobs waiting for us, so we had some time to kill. We discovered Good Eats, and got hooked on the show. After a couple of months, we’d both landed jobs but we still watched good eats. Sometime that year, the homebrewing episode aired. I found it to be intriguing. I had to give it a try. I got everything I needed for Christmas and a week later, on New Year’s Eve, I brewed my first batch.

I don’t remember much about how it tasted except “good,” and “yeasty.” To be honest, I didn’t know much about beer then. I didn’t drink much beer. Since AB made red ale on TV, we went with the same for our first batch. I didn’t know anything about beer styles. I didn’t know that the BJCP existed. Nonetheless, I brewed that batch of beer and was hooked.