Tuesday, March 20, 2012
I've been meaning to get around to typing up this tasting for a while now. My brother and I brewed this back in January and I've been drinking it pretty regularly ever since. In fact my half of it is nearly gone. This beer is by no means perfect, nor does it really fit to the style of your traditional American Amber. For one it's pretty modest in the alcohol content (around 5%) and it doesn't have the same caramel like sweetness (at least not as much as your typical American Amber does). But the biggest differentiation is the hop profile. I find most American Amber Ales to often times cross the line with American IPAs, but typically with more malty sweetness. Instead of going with your typical American citrusy hops I went with some nice soft Kent Goldings. I love the soft floral/fruity character that they add to the beer along with extremely smooth bitterness.
Overall I like this beer quite a bit, it's easy to drink and uncomplicated. The body is not watery at all, but I wish it was a touch more full. It's kind of brinking on being somewhat lager like in how crisp it is... not that it's a bad thing... but not what I was going for.
I'm not going to go into a full fledged tasting notes review on this, because this beer doesn't really call for one. But I will give you the gist of it.
It pours a nice amber with a dense head. Smells of bready malt and classic English hops (floral, a touch woodsy and fruity). The taste is smooth and uncomplicated. Easy to drink and refreshing, and a low enough ABV to not get into too much trouble with. The malt character is a bit bready with a touch of toffee and caramel. The hop bitterness is there, but not assertive, and the hop character takes the back seat. Finishes dry. The mouthfeel is crisp and full, carbed it to 2.5 volumes. Overall a nice beer... not exactly what I was shooting for, but may be something I brew again in the future to tweak a bit.
Monday, March 19, 2012
Commercial beer reviews aren't the norm for this blog. And why should they be? Any Tom, Dick or Harry can post something on Beer Advocate. But I find that the information on there is only useful when you're specifically looking for it. If I'm stuck between purchasing two different beers and can't make up my mind... sure I'll look them up on my phone to see the score, but I rarely read something that points me in the direction to try something specifically.
One of the very cool things about my job (department manager for a large Texas based retailer) is that I sometimes get my hands on products before they come to market in Texas. This beer that I'm about to review is one of those.
The main reason I'm going to review this is because I was floored at how great this beer was. To be honest, Biere de Garde is a style that I have very limited experience with. I've had the Flying Dog Garde Dog (not that great) and the Jenlain Ambree (not a bad beer) and that's it for the style. Speaking of the style everything I've read says the style is very loose and not all that specific, so I had no idea what to expect going into it.
This is the Brasserie St. Sylvestre's Gavroche. The bottle calls it a "French Red Ale", but really an amber biere de garde.
Appearance - Into an oversized red wine glass it pours a deep rudy amber with a two finger head that sticks around for a few minutes then dissipates into a thin lacy head that sticks around to the end of the glass.
Aroma - The first thing I get is sherry vinegar. Not in an assaulting or offensive way, it's actually quite restrained, but unmistakable. The sherry blends into notes of dried cherries and a flash of black pepper. It ends with a faint crackery maltiness and vanilla aroma.
Taste - Delicate malt sweetness with bits of caramel and vanilla that quickly fades into dryness. A flash of tartness with sherry vinegar, cherries and pepper mid palate. It ends with a small, but firm hop bitterness. The most amazing thing is that this beer is 8.5% ABV and tastes nothing like it. The beer is so wonderfully smooth that you could easily (like I did) end up a bit tipsy by the end of the 750ml bottle.
Mouthfeel - Smooth and delicate with a spritsy carbonation. The mouthfeel is not heavy at all, but still full and lively.
Overall - Everything about this beer speaks of restraint. The flavors are complex and all over the place, but so tight and controlled that everything has it's place and doesn't fatigue the palate at all. Deceptively smooth and refreshing but interesting enough to keep you thinking about all of the flavors until the end of the bottle.
Biere de Garde is not a style I've tried to brew before, but after drinking this I just may have to.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
To continue with both my session beer kick and my funky brewing project this week I decided to brew with some local wild yeast that I harvested back in January. I wanted to brew something that would display the yeast quality well without too many other competing flavors. That's why I went with a very low ABV saison. I'm posting about this because for one I think it's really cool to gather your own yeast, but also because there's not really a lot of info available. The pic above is from when I propped it up. You can see the yeast cake on the bottom. The plastic ontop. Is because all of my airlocks were already in use.
I've tried harvesting wild yeast before but all I would get was mold and/or something that just smelled rank. Here in Texas the mold is pretty high so its not the best environment for catching wild yeast. What made this attempt different was that for one it was on one of the few cold nights we see in San Antonio, I've read that during colder weather the bugs are more at bay. I also made sure to wait for a night when the weather report listed the mold count as low/none.
I whipped up a weak dme sollution of 1.030(ish) and split it into two seperate mason jars. I covered them with a bit of cheesecloth to keep flies out and left them out overnight. One went out on my front porch and another on my back porch. Once brought in I covered them with plastic. I ignored it for a while, then before I knew it it had been a week. Checked it and... nada. Nothing had happened. After another 5 days one finally fermented with some nice little yeast rafts floating on top. Two days later the second followed suit. I decided to prop them up together with some late runnings from my lambic. I shook well, gave it nutrient etc... and nada. I decided to leave it alone and ended up forgetting about it. Two weeks had passed and I went to throw it out and sure enough there were yeast rafts on top and a cake on the bottom. I crash chilled it and left it. Then two nights ago I decanted it and threw in another round of starter wort, this time it took off in 12 hours.
When I decanted I took a sample. The smell was wonderful, very fruity with notes of lemongrass and peach plus a light spice. There was also a light sourness to the aroma and a bit of funk. The mouthfeel was quite silky and full. So perfect for a saison.
The brewday was very easy with a very small and simple grainbill. I went with a no sparge method to help accentuate the malt profile. The grainbill was simple, half Vienna half malted wheat. I chose both of those malts to help with the body/malt impression of the beer. The high percentage of wheat should make the mouthfeel reasonably full and the vienna malt should add a bit of breadiness to it. For hops I went with classic Czech Saaz, their spiciness should play well with the characters that I was picking up from the yeast. I only did a single 15 minute addition of the hops, depending on where this beer goes I may end up adding a dry hop addition.
Mash profile: Medium dry 151
3lbs. Vienna malt
3lbs. White wheat
1oz. Czech Saaz 4.1% AA 15 minutes.
Yeast: Wild caught yeast from 78247 area code.
Quick update: Despite the long lag time from when I propped this up it took off like a rocket today with onlya six hour lag time.
I have a goal to brew 8 sour beers this year. Ambitious huh? I even made a list of all the things I plan to sour. My plan is to brew two sours every 3 months and then next year I'll have a metric crapton of sour beer to play with/blend. I brewed the first one about two months ago.
The recipe was loosely based on my Belgian Single. I really liked how tight and controlled all the flavors were in that beer. Everything about marked subtlety. I didn't want to brew a sour with a hugely complicated grain bill and end up with too many competing flavors. My goal was just to brew something good, relatively low alcohol and of course sour.
I subbed out the pilsner for two row and upped the wheat a little bit. I kept the chocolate malt and the 60L the same, but also threw in a bit of Victory and Munich for some more malt backbone. After the wort was chilled to about 72 degrees I pitched a pack of the Wyeast Roeselare. No starter and I didn't smack the pack. The roeselare is a very specific blend. Wyeast does not recommend propping it up at all as it will throw off the blend, for that reason I also didn't bother smacking it.
Active fermentation inside of 12 hours that continued for about two weeks. At the one month mark I opened up the carboy to get a smell and a couple hours later fermentation had kicked back up. I'm assuming that it was just the bugs responding to oxygen being introduced.
After two months still no pellicle formation.
Mash Schedule: Single infusion. 152.
7lbs. 2-Row - US
2 lbs. 3oz. White Wheat
1 lb. Munich - 10L
1/2 lb. American Crystal - 60L
1/2 lb. American Victory - 10L
1/4 lb. American Chocolate 325L
.5oz. Willamette Hops 5.4%AA Pellet - 45 minutes
Critters - Wyeast Roeselare Blend
Here's list of sour beers I plan/hope to brew sometime this year
1. Berliner Weiss
2. Low abv. sour/hoppy saison.
3. Saison with my wild caught yeast.
4. Sour peach and plum saison (actually something I've made before)
5. Soured dark mild.
6. Soured robust porter.
7. Soured Belgian golden ale.
8. The one I have fermenting now.