Mt. Rainer Smash — Tasting

Mt Ranier Smash

The recipe for this beer is here.

I fermented the beer at 67F with a temperature control device.  After 8 days, I added 1 oz of the pellets as a dryhop.  The beer then sat for 2 weeks before I could get it kegged.  The final gravity is 1.012, with a IBU/FG ratio of 3.5.  It is 5.2% ABV.  The beer was force carbonated.

Appearance:  Straw colored beer, hazy, almost looks like a hefe weizen.

Aroma:  Slight fruitiness to the beer, green apple and banana both at lower levels, followed by a floral and a bit spicy hop note.

Taste:  Slight, malt sweetness, a bit grassy and green, followed by an earthy bitterness.  There is more of the green apple taste on the back with a hint of the banana, with a spicy bitterness in the aftertaste, pretty smooth.  It leaves the mouth dry, and a touch tart.

Mouthfeel:  coats the mouth well, feels full in the mouth, but leaves a slight drying sensation at the end.

Critique:  First off, the hops.   The hops aroma reminded me of Saaz but the taste has a bit of Golding to go with it.  It is a pretty clean bittering.  I did not get any of the licorice or citrus notes they talked about, it tasted…like a pretty clean noble hop.    I can see this going well anywhere you want more of a clean, spicy/fruity hop profile.  The bitterness was rather pleasant.  Next, the yeast.  Much more fruity then I was expecting.  It is not to the level of many English strains, but there was definitely some apple.  There was also banana going on, but at fairly low levels.  This gives the beer a more sweet perception, but then it actually finishes with a tartness at the end.  Interesting yeast, I doubt it will give the classic hop bite side by side with 1056, but if you want a bit of fruitness in your beers, without going as far as many of the English strains, this would work well.  It actually kinda reminds me a bit of WLP 007, but that had more apple, and less banana then this strain.  I should qualify, those flavors are there, but in the back, they are not overbearing or dominating.  Finally, the grain.  Well, it is pilsnery, without as much of the grassy sweetness.  It is just kinda there in my opinion.  I would make a decent base to play off specialty malts as I think it is a pretty clean palate, but overall, if I wanted to make a pale beer, I would use Pilsner for its sweetness and green flavors, just more interesting.  So, at the end of the day, I have a light colored, well bittered blond ale with some nice fruity esters to keep it interesting that ends fairly dry with a touch of tartness.  A step up from your typical lawnmower beer, I can see this guy going down easily after a day of yardwork.

American IPA, 3 hops, 2 yeasts, 1 wort — tasting

The recipe for this beer is here.

I had a chance to try the IPA’s side by side.  A note before we begin.  I am still working on my mashing process with the HERMs system I built, and yeah, well, I must have screwed it up.  I ended up with a very dextrinous wort.  The finishing gravity on both was 1.025.  Yeah, bummer.  Unfortunately, this has left me with a heavier beer then I intended.  I chalk this up to learning a new process, but I was still miffed it ended this way.  I guess this just means I will have to try again in the future!  The biggest problem is, I don’t really like sweet and heavy with my IPA’s.  I prefer drier beers generally, but particularly in the IPA, which is supposed to highlight the hop.  I have a hard time doing that with too much malt.  Also, I wanted to see how much hop character I could get without dryhopping this beer.  Dryhopping, what used to be a rarity less then 10 years ago, seems to be the norm now.  I now drink a pale ale or an IPA, and if I don’t get smacked in the face with hops, it seems off.  So, this was a bit of a challenge to see how much hops I could get just from kettle additions.

Tasting Notes

WLP 028

Appearance: hazy golden color, well carbonated, hangs on

Aroma: Spicy, herbal hop, some pine and apple

Taste: sweet full maltiness at first, immediately followed by a strong bitterness.  Some apple and some darker fruit esters.   Beer is more hop forward, but there is a malty note in the aftertaste to balance the hops

Mouthfeel:  Full body to the beer, but the hops give a drying sensation on the cheeks.

Wyeast 1056

Appearance:  Hazy golden color, about 2 fingers on the head, dropped a bit faster.  Not as carbonated as WLP 028

Aroma:  citrus, floral, spicy hops.  some malt

Taste:  touch of malt, but quickly moves to a very bitter taste from the hops.  No esters noted.  Hops pop out, and it lends to a fairly dry finish.  The hops outlast the malt on the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel:  Medium body, prickly on the tongue.

Critique:  Wow, what a difference the yeast makes.  What impressed me most was the difference in how the hop and malt were balanced.  I felt the WLP028 gave a more balanced beer.  The malt profile was there, but so were the hops.  You also get more esters from it, it is not as clean as the 1056.  However, even though the final gravity was the same in both, it tasted sweeter and fuller, more in keeping with what I would expect from a 1.025 FG beer.  The 1056 has a way of hiding that sweetness.  It accentuates the hops much more, and the citrus note really popped on this beer, where I got more of the pine and herbal notes on the 028.  I would be curious to see which I liked more if I had not mashed too hot.  The hops pop much more on the tongue with the 1056.  It is definitely very clean, I did not get really any esters at all.  However, I am worried the 1056 may actually have made the beer seem too thin, without enough malt to hold up to the hops.  Only way to know would be to retry.  In the end, I concede 1056 is the yeast for the hophead.  They just jump out at you with this yeast, and it gets out of the way to let the other ingredients do their thing.  However, the WLP028 had a nice hop aroma and taste, not as bright, but it definitely was more balanced with the malt.  I can see this being a great yeast where you want more malt expression, but it still plays well with the hops.

As far as the hops go, I liked this blend.  Very “American” but it gives a wide range of hop flavors and aroma that work well with each other.  I will likely play with it a bit, I would like more of a citrus presence, but I think this is a solid starting point for a very classic American hop signature.  There is lots of hops on the nose and on the tongue, but you miss that brightness you get from dryhopping.

Bitter #5

Bitter #5

I have a friend who just turned 50.  His wife is throwing a big bash at his house.  He grew up just west of London, and “proper bitter” is one of the things he misses from home.  He will have several family members visiting from the UK as well, and my gift to him for the party is a “proper pint of bitter.”  He is part of my regular tasting victims, er, I mean panel, so I have a fairly good idea of what he likes.  Nice malt body, decent bitterness in the back and on the palate, nice subtle hop aroma, and “none of those catty, piney American hops.”

For the recipe, I went with a pretty straight forward 90/10 build on the malt bill of 2 row pale malt and crystal.  I also had run out of Kent Golding, so I used some Willamette whole leaf hops I had in the freezer.  There is a new home brew store in my town, and I popped in to grab some malt and check the place out.  Unfortunately, he is just getting started, and while the shop owner is a homebrewer, he extract brews and did not really grasp the importance of good base malts.  He did have some Crisp 2 row pale in a 10# sack, but it was pre ground.   I bought it anyway because I needed it, but I have no idea how long it has been in the bag.  He told me just a few weeks in the store, but at the distributor, no idea. I always grind my own grain, and have gotten used to how my mill works, but I had no idea how good the grind would be on this.  However, I was in a bit of a pinch, so I bought it and gave it a try.

8.00 lb       Pale Malt, Crisp                Grain        91.43 %
0.50 lb       Caramel/Crystal Malt Muntons (60.0 SRM)           Grain        5.71 %
0.25 lb       Caramel/Crystal Malt Dark Simpsons (150.0 SRM)     Grain        2.86 %
1.50 oz       Williamette [4.50 %]  (60 min)           24.8 IBU
0.50 oz       Williamette [4.50 %]  (30 min)           5.8 IBU
0.50 oz       Williamette [4.50 %]  (15 min)            3.7 IBU
1 Pkgs        London Ale III (Wyeast Labs #1318)        Yeast-Ale

Simple infusion mash at 155F for 1 hour, finished at 152F.  Batch sparged with 6 gallons of 168F water in 2 stages.  The OG was 1.042, giving me a 73% efficiency.  I was not thrilled by this, but it was in the ballpark, I was shooting for 1.045.  This beer will have 33.9 IBU’s with a IBU/GU ration of 0.759.  I had made a 2 L start with London Ale III, and pitched that after aerating the wort with oxygen.  I let it ferment for 2 weeks, ambient was about 66F, and the FG was 1.012.  The beer ended at 3.8% ABV.  I then racked off the beer to a keg, and I added about 1/4 oz of Williamette leaf hop to the keg.

Tasting:

Color:   hazy orange color, has a nice head that just hangs on.

Aroma:  Nice, spicy and a bit earthy hop nose, with some of the dark fruit esters (cherry) in the back, along with some of the crystal malt.  On the back, you get more of the toasty aroma from the grain

Taste:  toasty malt up front, then you get a touch of sweetness that is quickly washed away by a firm bittering at the backend.  There is a spicy quality I think is from the Williamette.  Finishes with a mouth cleaning bitterness, and a slight prickly from the carbonation.  Medium mouthfeel, coats the mouth, but is not thick.

Critique:  I am pretty happy with this beer.  It is actually more bitter and hoppy then I had anticipated, but I really like the Williamette.  There is a nice spiciness and roundness to the hop, and a clean bitterness that makes it very easy to drink.  I did not get as much of the fruit from the yeast as I usually have, and I think it is because the beer was fermented at cooler temperatures then I usually do.  Overall, the net effect is the same, a very easy to drink, refreshing beer that is low gravity.  I will be curious to see how the Englishman take it, my guess it is going to be a touch hoppier then they prefer, but the Yanks will dig it!

Post-Mortum — The beer was universally well received at the party.  Probably 15 people tried it, and most went back for more.  This just cements for me that a nice Bitter is one of the best crowd pleasers out there.  I got the keg back with dregs.  The nice thing about that is, now I have to fill it again!

Blacksmiths — Fatty Bumpkin Cider

A Fatty Bumpkin is a cider offering from one of Maine’s Wineries, .  Listed at 5.0% ABV, this is a bit lower in alcohol then many ciders, which tend to come in around 6-7% naturally.  I am not sure why this is lower, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.  I had a chance to sample their product on draft a few weeks ago.  However, they also bottle their product, and my wife wanted to try it (she very much enjoys a good cider, having been introduced to it in the UK) so we picked up a bottle for dinner a few days ago.

Appearance:  Crystal clear, moderate carbonation

Aroma:  Apple at the front, with a slight mustiness at the back

Taste:  Full apple flavor, with a nice acidic bite.  Again, there is a hint of earthy mustiness in the back, not unappealing, but there.  The cider finishes with a bit of sweetness.  It has a light body, as expected.

Critique:  Pretty good cider overall.  However, I don’t think it is as good as Kennebec Cider’s.  That said, it is better then most of the commercial ciders I have had.  There is a nice apple taste, and has some nice fullness and acidity.  Maine tends to grow acidic tasting apples, which I enjoy, and that is reflected in the local ciders.   The sweetness at the back will also make this more approachable, as it is a nice counter to the acidity.  Overall, I would certainly drink this again, and I know my wife will look for it on draft when we go out.

Kennebec Cider — Traditional Hard Cider

Kennebec Cider Traditional Hard Cider

So, I had a chance to met the owner and cider maker at , and of course, I had to try some of his product.  I am very happy that I did.  A little background.  They are a small cider producer, going into their 3rd year, based in Winthrop, ME.  They get apples from the central Maine region, which has a tradition as a great apple growing region going back over 2 centuries.  His process is very interesting.  He gets fresh fruit in the fall, crushes and presses it as it comes in, and then blends it later.  He ferments the cider with wine yeast, but very cold, in the 30′s F, over several months, using the natural cold of winter to essentially lager his cider.  In the spring, he bottles it up, and ships it out.  It is never filtered, and it is bottle conditioned.  He has a small production, about 800 cases a year currently.

Tasting Notes:

Appearance:  Light carbonation that falls quickly.  Rich, golden color, crystal clear.

Aroma:  Intense apple aroma.  It is more like apple juice then sweet cider.  Very clean, no oak.

Taste:  Again, an intense apple taste with a slight sweetness, followed by a nice acidity that gives it some grip.  A light body, but it is a bit more viscous then many ciders I have had, but very pleasant. Nice, tart, tangy aftertaste.

Critique:  This is a very good cider.  Actually, this is one of the best I have had.  It is not super fizzy, it is not overly tart, but you get the acidity, and there is a nice body to it.  The apple flavor and aroma is quite pronounced, but very clean.  I am going to get a few bottles of this years vintage (mine was from 2010, his 2011 was just released) for the cellar.  I e-mailed him after I tried it, and asked him about how he gets the intense apple aroma and flavor, and he said he attributes that to the blend of apples he uses (looks for some very aromatic apples in his blend) as well as using a very estery wine yeast.  Give it a try, you will not be disappointed.

Allagash with Maine Beer Company and Rising Tide — Prince Tuesday

Prince Tuesday — A Collaboration beer between Allagash, Rising Tide, and Maine Beer Company

Prince Tuesday is a collaboration beer by Allagash, Rising Tide, and Maine Beer Company that was released only in Maine.  The beer is in Allagash’s corked Belgian bottles, so it would stand to reason it was brewed there.  However, the grist includes Maine grown rye, which is something Rising Tide uses in their beer .  However, the hops are big and bold, a Maine Beer Company signature.  Part of the proceeds go to , which takes some of the sting out of the $21.69  price tag.  This beer also clocks in at 8.1% ABV.

Appearance:  Hazy light gold color, slight orange highlights, highly carbonated with a thick head that just sits on the beer all the way down

Aroma:  Grapefruit up front, with some tropical fruit (mango and some pineapple), followed by pine,  and finishes with a peppery note.  Definitely dry hopped.  Not much alcohol I could detect.  I have a hard time picking out specific fruit esters with all the hops, but you get the spiciness on the back

Taste:  Hops up front, lots of citrus and pine, but with a graham crackery note in the middle and a slight fruity sweetness from the hops.  It ends with a very peppery bite.  It finishes very pleasingly dry and bitter.

Critique:  I really like this beer.  Not as heavy in body as most American IPA’s, but has the hops.  There is the pepper and the crispness to it, some from the rye and some from the yeast, that just blends wonderfully with the fruity notes of the hops.  Basically, this is a cross between an IPA and a Saison, and it was really good, and very easy to drink.  The only downsides are price point ($21 for a 750mL) and the ABV.  It is only available in Maine, but I highly recommend it if you get a chance to try it.

Brew Day — Mt. Ranier SMASH

I was at a local store, and they had a hop I was not familiar with, .  I like the descriptions I saw, more Noble, with hints of citrus and licorice.  I am always looking for new hops to try, particularly outside of the usual “C” hops, just to see what else is out there.  As this is a new hop for me, I decided to make as simple beer, that will really highlight the hops.  I also took this opportunity to try two other ingredients for the first time.  The first up is by Muntons.  Basically, it is the English version of Pilsner, and thought it would be fun to try.  It is pretty light in color, and has more of a grassy note then I usually taste in British malts, but not as pronounced as say a German Pilsner.  To up the complexity a bit, I toasted 1# of the malt at 350F for 10 minutes, just enough to have it start to become aromatic.  This malt lost that grassy taste, and had a touch more of the toasty sweetness.  It did not darken much at all, so I don’t think this will impact the beer much.

First pint out of the kettle, allowed to settle

I usually take the first pint off the kettle when racking to the fermentor to do my gravity testing, and to let it sit to see it clear.  Looking at how it separated, the beer will be a nice golden color.

Finally,  I wanted to try a new yeast.  I have never tried , but the description of soft, clean, nutty, and slightly tart sounded like a winner.  I also wanted to bring out the hops more, so I adjusted my water with gypsum and salt to to 154ppm Sulfate and 71 ppm chloride.

9.00 lb       Lager Malt (2.0 SRM)                      Grain        90.00 %
1.00 lb       Toasted Malt (27.0 SRM)                   Grain        10.00 %
1.25 oz       Mt. Ranier [6.10 %]  (60 min)             Hops         25.5 IBU
0.75 oz       Mt. Ranier [6.10 %]  (30 min)             Hops         11.8 IBU
0.50 oz       Mt. Ranier [6.10 %]  (15 min)             Hops         5.1 IBU
1.50 oz       Mt. Ranier [6.10 %]  (0 min) (Aroma Hop-StHops          -
1 Pkgs        American Ale II (Wyeast Labs #1272)       Yeast-Ale

The beer was infusion mashed.  I did not use the HERM’s this time, and I let it mash at 153F and drift down to 145 over 75 minutes.  I then sparged, and collected 8.1 gallons of wort. This was boiled for 60 minutes, with the hops added as above.  The last hop addition was at flameout, with a 5 minute recirc without the chiller, then I turned on the chiller to bring the temp down to under 100F in about 20 minutes.  I then shut off the pump, let it sit 30 minutes, then racked into my carboy.  OG was 1.052, with a IBU/SG ratio of .083.   Yeast was pitched from a 1L starter, the fermentation temp is set at 67F Visit this link.

Tasting notes posted here.

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