Monday, September 27, 2010

Homebrew Journal: Kyle's Belgian Warriors

After homebrewing from kits for a while, Mark and I both decided to design our own recipes and try them out. I was going to write my notes about the recipe and the brewing in my brewing notebook, but since this is a new beer that has never been made before, I thought I would share. I'll write a little bit about mine here and I'll let Mark write his own entry about his if he wants. I have not tasted the beer yet so this isn't a review, but I will write a review in a few months when it is done.

I will go the whole thing here, but you can find more details about my recipe here. That is a great website and I highly reccomend it for designing your own recipes. This is an extract recipe.

Malts (all liquid):
6 lbs of Northern Brewer Light Pilsen Extract (75)
6 lbs of Northern Brewer Golden Extract (75)
1 lb. 3 oz. of Munton's Light Extract (60)

If you are a homebrewer you can probably tell that I decided to really go for it with my first recipe. I put in more than 12 pounds of malt, which ended up giving me an OG of 1.085. That is huge. If it drops nicely I should end up with about 9% ABV. Also you might notice that I decided to boil for 75 minutes. This is the first time I have done that and I will explain why in the Hops section. The malts I chose are common in Belgian style dubbels and tripels (even the Muntons which I just threw in cause Mark had it left over) and I wanted to stick to a Belgian style with malts and yeast, but really add a lot of kick with the hops.

1 oz. Warrior Hops, 17.2% Alpha (75)
1 oz. Warrior Hops, 17.2% Alpha (60)
1 oz. Cascade Hops, 5% Alpha (15)
1 oz. Czech Saaz Hops, 4% Alpha (15)
1 oz. Cascade Hops, 5% Alpha (5)
1 oz. Czech Saaz Hops, 4% Alpha (5)


The Warriors have a very high Alpha percentage which is basically a measure of how bitter they are. However, the amount of bitterness that actually comes out of the Lupulin is a factor of how long you boil it. I want the Warriors to really be the center point so I started an ounce of them at 75 to maximize their bitterness and also added an ounce at 60 where they should be very bitter as well. The massive amounts of maltose in this beer will downplay the bitterness and hopefully strike a nice balance. I don't expect the Terminal Gravity to be much lower than 1.025 so there will still be a good amount of sugar in the final product. It is a lot of both sugars and bittering hops so I don't know if one will dominate, but I hope the warriors only slightly win out over the sweetness. The Cascade-Czech Saaz 15-5 finishing combo is lifted straight from the Northern Brewer Houblonmonstre (Gewurztramonstre) kit that I loved so much. I thought for a long time that I was going to save an ounce of Warriors for either dry hopping or hop bursting (adding to boil at 0 minutes), but Mark and I decided that they might get lost among the Cascades and Saaz so it would be better to just use them for bittering.

Wyeast Belgian Ardennes 3522

I decided on the yeast because it works well against high gravities and it is described as having a complex spicy character and mild fruitiness. I hope that some of that comes through and it is not overpowered to much by the other flavors. Otherwise it won't be very much like a Belgian anything. A yeast starter was made from the smack pack 3 days prior to brewing.
I had originally called this a Belgian Tripel, but according to hopville, it has way too much of everything to be considered for that label. I think Imperial IPA might be a better label, but for now let's just stick with "Kyle's Belgian Warriors!"

The brew is taking off nicely, it is bubbling over like crazy after 24 hours and is making a mess for Mark in his closet.

Questions and comments welcome...

Friday, September 24, 2010

2007 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine; Eulogy

Oak barrel tables. An authentic, working, bright red English telephone booth. A worn out "no tipping" sign. $2.00 pints of Genessee Cream Ale. The faint aroma of freshly sliced roast beef. These are some of the familiar characteristics of Clark's Ale House, an English style pub seemingly frozen in time in an area of downtown Syracuse that features businesses, expensive condos, and weekend dance clubs.

Sadly, Clark's is being forced to close its doors today, due to the expansion of the nearby Landmark Theatre. There are no plans to reopen elsewhere, and apparently not enough funds. I understand the city's need to host productions of Cats, Annie, and other big Broadway shows, but this just seems wrong. The little old man slicing roast beef behind the bar was one of the most reliable and comforting scenes I can think of, and it will now dissapear, possibly forever, to be replaced by glamour and showtunes.

If there is anything positive that can be taken from this, it is that a place like this can survive in Syracuse, a city along with all the others in upstate New York that have struggled for the last 100 years or so to establish any sort of economic identity and stability. Clark's made it work by serving only roast beef sandwiches, along with a rotating selection of about 15 craft beers. You wouldn't find a Bud light behind the bar, or a martini, or even a shot of whiskey. It is a testament to what they stood for. They knew how to do one or two things, and they did them right, for 18 years without bowing to trends or shifts in the marketplace. It goes to show that if you provide a consistent quality service and do it with character, people will come. Maybe they will open elsewhere, maybe not. Maybe someone will take their place and fulfill Syracuse's need for a tasty pint and a hot beef sandwich. Either way, it will never be quite the same, and I am glad that I got to experience this truly authentic beer lover's paradise.

As Clark's gets ready to shut its doors for the final time, they are bringing out out all of the kegs they have been saving for a rainy day. Among them, a 2007 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine. I have had this beer several times, and have even tried aging it myself, but usually ran out of patience after a few months. It is one of my favorite beers, so I was excited to review a 3 year old version on my final trip to Clark's.

The aroma was surprisingly hoppy for a barleywine, especially considering it had been aged. There was also some caramel in the smell, with an obvious deep malty backbone.

Taking the first sip, I was taken aback by the complexity of flavors. Vanilla, caramel, malt, nutiness, with some subtle hops. It all ended with a warm, comforting finish. If you were to go to the store and try a current version of this beer, you will find that the finish is a bit harsher, due to the approximately 10% alcohol content. After aging, that bite mellows out, leaving behind a pronounced sweetness.

This was a fantastic beer, and a fantastic, if bittersweet, environment to drink it in. In a nod to Clark's and all of the enjoyment it has given me over the last several years, I give this beer 10 guys slicing roast beef. Clark's, you will be missed. Thank you.

Dogfish Head - Red & White

welp, i figured id do a quick friday night post. tonight i cracked a large bottle of Dogfish head's Red & White. let me write what the description on the side of the bottle says..."Malt beverage brewed with coriander and orange peel with pinot noir juice concentrate added with 11% aged in Pinot noir barrels and 89% aged on oak barrel staves."....PHEW! Sounds half interesting and half disgusting if you ask me.....but i bought one a couple weeks ago without really looking at what it was. i just wanted to grab something that i havent tried yet. recently ive been picking up beer that ive never had. broadening my beer horizons, so to speak. instead of buying a 6 pack of sierra nevada pale ale every week, why not grab a random whatever and give it a shot.

this isnt exactly a 'random whatever.' i usually like most of the stuff from dogfish that i try. although much like my last post, i havent had a whole lot of their stuff. the IPAs, brown ales, raison d'etra and a couple others. let get to the review!

pours beautifully, a darker brown ale with a a hefty amount of head. looks great

when taking a good wiff, you really get the 'pinot noir' aroma. i didnt smell much of the orange peels, and couldnt tell you want corander smells like but there was almost a rubbing alcohol type smell if you really got close.

the taste reminded me of some of the beers ive had from unibroue brewery out of chambly montreal. a very malty, Belgium style ale with a crisp finish. the only difference.....the pinot. it really comes through in this beer. a few sec after it goes down your throat, you get that stinging alcohol taste in the back of your throat. not something im a huge fan of, but to be honest this isnt my style of beer. one thing i will mention is that, after one glass of this, i was feeling it. it was a large bottle and i filled up a few times. might be an expensive bottle, but id rather drink one of these than 8 bud lights, if thats what your going for.

i got to give it to dogfish for being so experimental with their ales, there really isnt another well know brewery in this country quite as ballsy as them. this one might work really well for somebody else, but probably wont be shelling out the big bucks for the red and white again. if someone were to give me a bottle, id drink and enjoy.

im going to give this beer a "paris france" rating. its a place everyone should probably go to before you die, but your average baseball loving, cheeseburger eating american joe isnt going to go back. (i was going back an forth between Paris France and Fenway Park for this rating)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Southern Tier - HOPPE

This week ill be doing a review of Southern Tier Brewery's imperial extra pale ale called "hoppe." Now, i havent had a whole lot of Southern Tier's stuff, and i apparently have a lot of difficulty spelling the word 'tier' (thanks spell-check), but what i have had from them, i really like. Phin & Matt, IPA, unearthly. So when i saw an imperial extral pale ale by them, i had to pick up a tall boy. This bad boy weighs in at 8%, brewed with columbus and amarillo hops, and dry hopped with the same.

When poured into my pint glass, it looked pretty much exactly how you'd expect. An appetizing gold/dark yellow color. Very little head and little to no carbonation bubbles rising to the top. it was quite foggy. i couldn't see thorough the glass.

The smell was amazing! I dipped my nose into the glass and was punched in the face with amarillo hops and pale malt barley. It was a great mix of those 2 ingredients. The smell actually first reminded me of last Feb when Balczak sent me a couple bottles of Hopslam, one of the best beers ive had the opportunity to try. (for ryan's review, see Hopslam)

However, the taste left something to be desired. dont get me wrong, i enjoyed every last drop of this hop heavy ale, but after smelling it for a min or so, i had very high expectations. It was cold and crisp and the front of my tongue was groovin' on it. it was the taste buds in the back that weren't so sure. there was a very subtle taste, just a little unnatural, that i was picking up after swallowing.

That being said, i would recommend this to any hophead or Southern Tire...teir...tier fan for at least one try.

As for the "beerswetry" scale.....ill give this one an Eli Manning. He's good, he won the big one, but lets face it folks.....he's no Peyton.

Q - "Eli, what do you think of Hoppe?"
A - "ddeeeerrrrrrrrpp"

Monday, September 13, 2010

Trappistes Rochefort 8

This is my first time trying a Rochefort (that i remember) but ive heard and read much about these trappist belgian ales and looked forward to trying this one. ive had it in my kitchen for about 3 weeks and put it in the fridge a couple days ago. before i start, ive never been a huge fan of the belgian ale style but tried not to let any previous experiences effect this tasting. to the review...

the first thing that caught me after i poured it was the color. it was much darker and foggier than i had anticipated. it had a very 'muddy' look to it. a whole lot of sediment came out at the end of the pour which i happily let fall into the glass. a small amount of foamy head, maybe 1 inch.

the smell was surprisingly subdued for a 9.2% ale. smelled very fruity with hints of raisin. very much enjoyed the smell

the beer was very very carbonated, almost like drinking a 7-up, which i think took away from the taste. not sure if this is how its supposed to be or just how the bottle i got was. i let the glass chill a bit. i think i had it a little bit too cold. this helped the carbonation. other than that, it went down pretty smooth.

pleasant taste. tasted alot like it smelled. also surprisingly light for it being a higher % ale. i didnt love the taste, but didnt hate it. i think i was just expecting a little too much because of what i had heard and read about it. what id really like to do is a taste test with the 6 8 and 10 to see how they differ. ill probably pick up another bottle at some point because it was enjoyable, but id like to try some of the other trappist abbey ales to see how they compare.

altogether i will rate this the beer equivalent of CJ Spiller. high expectations, a little disappointing the first time out, but could grow to love him.