Follow-Up Tasting: Witbier (Beer #19a)

October 18, 2011
Tonight I took some tasting notes on the witbier that I brewed in early April, that didn’t show too well in Cleveland last month.  It has changed quite a bit since I first tasted it.  When it was young it was a very nice witbier with plenty of citrus, coriander, and chamomile.  Now it is rather lifeless.  Here are my notes; they jibe well with those from the competition judges:

Appearance
Pale Golden color. Slightly hazy. Beautiful color. Little to no head. Not much carbonation action.

Aroma
Yeast, lemon, chamomile. Not very strong.

Flavor
A bit of yeast, a bit of lemon. Hint of spice and chamomile. Not much else. Very clean tasting, except maybe a hint of sulfur.

Mouthfeel
Medium body. Carbonation tingles the tip of the tongue. Undercarbonated, but noticeable. Acidic tartness, but pleasant. Crisp.

Overall Impression
A clean easy to drink beer that seems like a crisp, tart version of an American light lager. Pleasant, but not Witbier.

The beer is still very drinkable with no off flavors. It just isn’t what you have in mind when you drink a witbier. I’m amazed at how quickly it went flaccid. Next time I brew one, I’ll enter it in a competition when it’s fresh, not when it’s five months old.

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Brew Day: American Rye Ale (Beer #23)

October 16, 2011

It was a cold, drizzly morning in Pittsburgh. The temperature and the wind gusts were both in the 40s. Not the kind of day one would want to spend outside. In other words, it was the perfect day to brew indoors!

We wanted to have an easy-drinking beer on tap for Thanksgiving, and the American Rye recipe from Brewing Classic Styles sounded like it would fit the bill perfectly. I wanted something that the M-B-C drinkers in our family would like, while at the same time maybe exposing them to something a little more interesting than they’re used to. At 5 SRM, 22 IBUs, and 5.2% ABV, this beer should be a crowd pleaser for it’s Drinkability ™.

The brew day went smoothly. No hiccoughs initially. Target OG was 1.053. I got 1.051. Close enough. Color is nice and light:

I can’t say I get much rye flavor from the wort, though. They raw rye malt, itself, tasted more malty than rye-like to me. I’m hoping the rye comes out stronger after fermentation. If it doesn’t, the next time I brew a rye beer I’ll probably switch to Briess rye malt. I used Weyermann this time.

A good whirlpool in the kettle allowed me to leave nearly all of the hop debris and malt protein behind:

Up to this point everything had gone well. I chilled the wort down to about 66F with my immersion chiller. I wanted to ferment at 65°F, so I wanted the wort to be about 63° when I pitched. To get there, I put the carboy into the ferm chest set to 63°F but didn’t pitch the yeast. I left it to chill for a few hours while I went to the T.R.A.S.H. meeting. At around 8:30PM I pitched the yeast and adjusted the ferm chamber to 65°F. I checked on it at 7:00AM today and found it to be well under way, with about 3″ of krausen. I went grocery shopping. When I got home and checked on it around 8:30:

Dadgummit, blowout!

(It didn’t actually blow the airlock. I took the above picture after pulling the airlock off as I was switching over to a blow-off tube setup.) Here it is, once again happy:

Apparently Wyeast 1010 is a foam-beast. The other issue I had with this brew is that I didn’t aerate the wort properly. I was putting stuff away this morning and I saw the air stone sitting on the counter, never having been used on this beer. I was supposed to aerate before pitching last night, but I forgot. I did use a splashy thing on the siphon tube when moving the wort from the kettle to the carboy. That introduces O2 to the wort, though not enough and I’m not sure how long it would stay in suspension. I didn’t pitch the yeast until 8 hours later. If I have yeast-derived off flavors, I’ll have an idea of what caused it.

I plan to keg this beer in about two weeks, give or take, and start drinking it a week after that.

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First Tasting: Schwarzbier (Beer #22)

October 9, 2011

The Schwarzbier was brewed one month ago today. Maybe I didn’t let it lager long enough, but I got impatient. It tastes pretty clean to me, so I was able to talk myself into tapping it. It spent about two weeks in the fridge at 34°F and a week in the keezer at 40°F. Maybe I’ll have more patience when all of the keezer’s taps are taken up, but having two disconnected faucets was too much to bear.

Appearance
Black with brown highlights around the edges. Clear (if you tip it so you can see through it). Three finger foamy, tan head that falls to a rocky one finger head after a couple minutes.

Aroma
Noble hop character up front (spicy, earthy). Clean roasty malt. Dark caramel and toffee. Hints of medium-roast coffee. Clean and fairly bright smelling, while at the same time malty-sweet. No diacetyl. I’m searching for off aromas, trying to be critical, but I’m not getting any.

Flavor
Smooth, clean roasty malt, but not bitter. Hints of coffee & toffee. Noticeably hop bitterness. Spice and grassiness from the hops. Lingering smooth dark malt finish. Not too dry, not too sweet. I’m having trouble finding any off flavors.

Mouthfeel
Medium, creamy body. Smooth carbonation. Could maybe use a little more CO2. That might come with more time on tap. Warm alcohol finish, but not hot.

Overall Impression
A very easy-drinking, smooth dark lager. The roasty notes are not as pronounced as they are in porter or stout or other beers brewed with lots of dark specialty malts. The beer has a dark taste to it, but it’s still pretty light. This is because the recipe relies on de-husked Carafa II for a significant portion of its color. At 5.2% ABV it’s on the edge of not being a session beer. It goes down easily, though. Morbo is pleased!

I haven’t had many Schwarzbiers, but I think this is a good example. I know the recipe was a good one (Brewing Classic Styles), and I think I brewed – and fermented – it well. I am looking forward to seeing what some BJCP judges think of it.

This is my first lager, and I am very pleased with the smooth, malty, clean flavor I get from it. I used WLP830 and fermented at 50°F until the gravity had fallen by about 70% of the way to the expected FG, then I moved the carboy out of the fermentation chamber and into the 69°F pantry to let it finish up. It finished at 1.010. I pitched the 48°F yeast slurry into 50°F wort, so I don’t know if a diacetyl rest was necessary but I figured it couldn’t hurt. In the end I have a beer that I am happy with.

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