First Tasting: American Rye Beer (Beer #38)

September 25, 2012

I brewed a batch of American Rye Beer on Labor Day (9/3/12). Kegged it about ten days later. Time for some tasting notes.

Vital Stats:
Target OG: 1.056 Actual OG: 1.057
Target FG: 1.012 Actual FG: 1.012
ABV: 5.9%
Color: 5.8 SRMĀ (Calculated)
Bitterness: 24.2 IBU (Calculated)
Yeast: Wyeast 1056 American Ale

Pale yellow. Hazy, but not cloudy. Bright white head with long retention. Good lacing.

Rye grainy, bready, somewhat yeasty aromas punctuated with a bright lemon character and a touch of lavender. Low esters. Spicy note either from hops or from rye itself. No diacetyl.

Reasonably grainy with pronounced rye flavor. Significant spiciness. Finishes dry to off-dry with lingering bitterness. Notably spicy hop character. No fruity esters. No diacetyl.

Creamy, medium body from medium-high carbonation. Carbonation acidity nips at the tip of the tongue. Fairly bitter finish. No astringency, but slighly solventy.

Overall Impression
Much more enjoyable than my last attempt. Brighter, fuller, with far more rye flavor. Dry finish makes you want more. Very pleasant, easy-drinking beer. Slight touch of fusel/solvent finish detracts a bit.


First Tasting: American Amber Ale (Beer #35)

September 10, 2012

The American Amber Ale that I brewed three weeks ago has been in the keg for about a week now, so it’s time for a taste…

Vital Stats:
Target OG: 1.056 Actual OG: 1.054
Target FG: 1.014 Actual FG: 1.012
ABV: 5.5%
Color: 13.6 SRMĀ (Calculated)
Bitterness: 40.6 IBU (Calculated)
Yeast: Wyeast 1056 American Ale

Deep orange to amber in color. Large beige head that lasts for about 5 minutes before finaly falling to a 1/8″ layer of foam atop the beer. Much lacing. Quite hazy

American hop character first and foremost, backed up by light caramel sweetness with a touch of toffee. Hop aromas are grapefruit, candied orange, and a hint of pine. No diacetyl. No fruity esters.

Grapefruit and pine resin up front, yielding slightly to showcase significant malt character in the midpalate. Malt is not overly crystal, but rather a combination of biscuity, slightly sweet, and a touch of toffee or chocolate. Very light roastiness. Finishes firmly bitter. Has what seems to me as a rather salty aftertaste – I’m not sure if that’s from hops or water adjustment.* Very slight grassy aftertaste. Good balance between hop bitterness and malt.

Moderate carbonation provides a fluffy, medium-full creamy body. No astringency. No alcohol heat.

Overall Impression
A good example of an American Amber Ale. Firmly bitter, but not approaching IPA levels. Bitterness is in balance with sweetness and body from the malt. Hop flavor and aroma are prominent. A distinctly American ale. Clean.

This beer came out much better than I expected, given that I brewed it from leftover specialty malts and had to use some things I wouldn’t have chosen, such as Aromatic and Pale Chocolate malt. The hop finish lingers and it might be this that I’m mistaken for saltiness. American Amber is a style that I really like when they’re significantly hoppy with plenty of malt body & sweetness to balance it out. This beer has that.

* Regarding water – I brewed this with distilled water and added 1 tsp. of gypsum and 1/2 tsp. calcium chloride to the mash. I added no kettle salts. I was attempting to keep the salt additions very simple as suggested by Gordon Strong in Brewing Better Beer. I used more gypsum than CaCL to accentuate hoppiness.


Brew Day: Blonde Ale and American Rye (Beers #37 & 38)

September 3, 2012

Today I knocked out my first double brew day. I started by kegging the American Amber I brewed two weeks ago and harvesting the yeast to use in today’s batches.

This was my first attempt at reusing yeast, as well. I added a quart and a half of boiled & cooled distilled water to the carboy after racking off all the beer and swirled it up to get all the yeast & trub into suspension. I divided the slurry into two sanitized quart-sized mason jars and let it stratify while I got on with the brewing. Later in the day I decanted the yeast layer from each jar into three pint-sized mason jars, leaving the trub layer behind. I ended up pitching one and a half pints of yeast slurry into each batch I brewed. Perhaps I over-pitched, but I doubt it.

As for the beers I brewed today…

I started out with the Blonde Ale recipe from Brewing Classic Styles. I didn’t have enough US 2-row, so I made it with Maris Otter. I imagine this will have a significant impact on such a simple recipe (It’s just base malt & half a pound of Crystal 20), but I think it should be delicious nonetheless.

While I was sparging the Blonde Ale I began heating strike water for the Rye Beer. I timed it so that I could clean out the mash tun and dough in the next batch as soon as all the first batch’s wort was collected.

The rye recipe is based on the one from Brewing Classic Syles, but altered significantly from the last time I brewed it. Previous recipe:

– 6 lb US 2-row
– 3 lb, 12 oz Weyermann Rye Malt
– 3 lb White Wheat Malt
– 23 IBUs Willamette at 60 min
– 9g Willamette at 0 min
– 9g Centennial at 0 min
– Wyeast 1010 American Wheat Yeast

This time around:

– 6 lb US 2-row
– 6 lb Briess Rye Malt
– 1 lb Red Wheat Malt
– 24 IBUs Willamette at 60 min
– 15g Centennial at 0 min
– 10g Willamette at 0 min
– Wyeast 1056 American Ale Yeast

The last time I made the Rye Beer I felt that it did not have enough rye flavor. I said next time I’d either switch from Weyermann to Briess rye malt or use more of it and less wheat. I decided to do both. I also upped the late hopping a bit to give the beer a bit more interest. As for the yeast change, I just didn’t feel like buying special yeast for such a simple beer. Maybe a Kolsch yeast would bring out the rye character more, but that experiment can be done some other time. I did notice a massive improvement in rye aroma over the last batch. The wort smelled like rye bread (without caraway seeds).

These are simple beers and should be ready to drink in three weeks or less. I’m looking forward to both of them.


Brew Day: Rauchbier (Beer #36)

September 2, 2012

Last Sunday a friend brought his equipment over and we brewed the same recipe side-by-side with a single difference in ingredients. We both brewed the Classic Rauchbier recipe from Brewing Classic Styles. I used Weyermann Smoked Pilsner Malt and he used US 2-row home-smoked with a mostly-alderwood blend.

Smoked malt accounted for 38% of the grist for both of us. Unfortunately we did not use continental pilsner malt for the rest of the base malt. Through a clerical error the pilsner malt did not make it to my house for brew day, so we used Briess US 2-row instead. This beer has enough other flavor from the smoked malt, specialty malts, and hops that I think the subtle difference between US 2-row and German Pilsner malts might be lost. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

The main thing I noticed during brew day was that the Weyermann smoked malt was not very smokey at all. I expected the 5lb. sack to be bursting with smoke aroma. It wasn’t. I buried my face in the bag and breathed in deeply. I was able to detect a trace of smoke. Next I chewed up a few kernels of the malt and found it to be faintly smokey tasting. The home-smoked malt, on the other hand, smelled like a campfire. And it was smoked nearly a year ago. This discrepancy followed suit in our mashes and boil kettles. His smelled like BBQ, mine smelled like Oktoberfest with a hint of smoke. I was hoping for Aecht Schlenkerla, but I ain’t gonna get it.

My batch was fermenting strongly at 50°F after 18 hours. By Thursday night the SG had dropped from 1.053 to 1.028, so on Friday morning I moved the beer to a 69&dg;F ambient space for a diacetyl rest and to finish fermenting. It’s done now. I am going to leave it there for another week, then I’ll crash-cool it, keg it, then start it lagering at 36°F for a month before tapping it in early October.

Even if it’s not as smokey as I wanted, I think it will still be a good beer. I’m looking forward to trying both batches side-by-side.


Brew Day: American Amber Ale (Beer #35)

September 2, 2012

As I mentioned in my last post, I was getting back to brewing after six months off with a simple American Amber Ale. This was my first time brewing on my new system – first time brewing outdoors on a propane burner.

Getting to and maintaining a boil is so much easier than on the stove top:

The only ingredient I purchased for this batch was some yeast. I had plenty of hops in the freezer and enough base malt left in my Vittles Vaults from earlier in the year. I didn’t have the right specialty grains to make the same Amber Ale recipe from BCS that won me a Gold in 2011 and a Bronze in 2012, so I adapted the grain bill to create something amber in color:

9 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US
1 lbs Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L
9.2 oz Munich Malt
4.8 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt – 80L
4.0 oz Pale Chocolate Malt (200.0 SRM
2.5 oz Victory Malt (28.0 SRM)
2.0 oz Aromatic Malt (19.0 SRM)

In my estimation, this beer will have less crystal malt character and be a bit more chocolatey than the past recipes. The samples I took for reading SG confirmed this. I added 10g each of Cascade & Centennial hops as fermentation was finishing up. They were in there for about a week before I began crash-cooling on Friday night. Tomorrow morning I am going to keg the beer and rinse the yeast for use in two beers I’ll be brewing tomorrow.