Category Archives: Beer Review

Tasting: Old Ale

old-ale1

Last December I brewed the first beer I’ve ever intended for really long-term aging, an Old Ale. This recipe is based on the recipe that was built on HomeBrewTalk for their 11-11-11 swap beer. The idea is to have lots of people brew the same recipe, and to swap it in a year with other people to see how similar or different they are. As I modified the recipe, I didn’t enter in the bottle swap.

Appearance – Crystal clear, burnt gold color, with a bright white head that subsides fairly quickly.

Smell – Wow, this is when you know it’s not your average beer in hand. Loads of oak and vanilla in the nose, along with sweet caramel notes, and a bit of aged aroma (mustiness?).

Taste – More oak and vanilla, some fruitiness – raisins and dates, as well as sweet caramel. The brett comes through a little more, though the oak is really dominating at it’s current age. It’ll be interesting to see how this changes with time. Alcohol hits at the finish, but it’s very, very smooth for 12% ABV, but you can tell this one’s got a kick.

Mouthfeel – Low carbonation, which works well for the booze. The low finishing gravity keep the caramel notes from getting too sweet, which makes this one a really nice sipper.

Drinkability & Notes – Really pleased with the results of this batch. The oak is a little much right now, it’s hard to get past

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Tasting: No Sparge Oatmeal Stout

oatmeal-stout

I’m going to make an effort to review more of my beers online, as I’ve posted a lot of recipes, but never any follow up after that. Well, rarely.

I brewed an Oatmeal Stout in November, trying for the first time the no-sparge method described in Brewing Better Beers by Gordon Strong. This recipe is one of the recipes he put together for this method. As always, I simplified the recipe to meet my own inventory, but it’s pretty close.

Wort Volume Before Boil: 6.08 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil: 5.28 US gals
Volume At Pitching: 5.28 US gals
Final Batch Volume: 5.02 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.048 SG
Expected OG: 1.055 SG
Expected FG: 1.013 SG
Expected ABV: 5.5 %
Expected IBU (using Daniels): 28.6
Expected Color: 45.4 SRM
Mash Efficiency: 50.0 %
Fermentation Temperature: 64 degF

Fermentables
UK Pale Ale Malt 12lb 0oz (75.0 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Flaked Oats 1lb 8oz (9.4 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Medium Crystal 1lb 0oz (6.2 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Chocolate Malt 12.00 oz (4.7 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Roasted Barley 8.00 oz (3.1 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Light Crystal 4.00 oz (1.6 %) In Mash/Steeped

Hops
UK Golding (5.5 % alpha) 0.80 oz Loose Pellet Hops used First Wort Hopped
UK Golding (5.5 % alpha) 0.60 oz Loose Pellet Hops used 30 Min From End

Yeast: London Ale III

Appearance – Dark, dark black, slightly red at the edges, but hard to find in a standard glass. A nice, rich head shows up. I like most of my beers carbonated to a British standard, meaning low, so the head that does come out isn’t really huge, but it would be if you carbed it to American standards.

Smell – The aroma is rich chocolate and coffee, with a little bit of fruitiness from the yeast. Very enticing.

Taste – The flavor really delivers on what the aroma hints at, but with none of the sharp roastiness that you normally get in a stout. This is because of another one of Gordon Strong’s recommendations, which is not to mash the dark roasted grains, just to add them in at vorlauf. The malt really comes through, and while I don’t know for sure, I’d say the intensity of the flavor is a factor of the no-sparge. I’ll have to make it again with a standard batch sparge to know for certain.

Mouthfeel – Solid carbonation, but not too much, which makes for a real easy drinker. The substantial amount of oats in the recipe make for a very full body, despite it’s relatively standard gravity. A nice session beer.

Drinkability & Notes – Really pleased with the results of this batch. There is not much I would change if I brewed it again, other than to try making it with a standard process, to see how much difference the no-sparge method really makes.

Allagash Coolship Red, Fall 2011 Release

fall2011-coolship-redI was lucky enough to receive a bottle of this fall’s Coolship Red release from Allagash Brewing Co. today, it’s now in the cellar awaiting an appropriate occasion for sampling. Just thinking of the time and effort that went into this tiny bottle gives me pause. After tasting Mattina Rosa at the AHA rally last week, I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to trying this blend.

Cheers, Allagash!

Maine Beer Highlight: Allagash Coolship Red

allagash-coolship-redToday my friend Nate and I decided to crack open a bottle of Allagash’s Coolship Red. It seemed appropriate, we were brewing on the first snow day of the year.

I have had one other of Allagash’s Coolship lambics, the Cerise, and this one was very different. The fruit in it was huge, and very, very tart. Quickly on the heels of the tart fruit was the barnyard funk, which complimented the dry tartness quite nicely. The photo doesn’t do the appearance of this beer justice, the red was vibrant to the point of appearing luminescent — amazing.

Hope to see these Coolship lambics commercially available soon from Allagash, they’ve got something special going on there.

Maine Beer Highlight: Allagash Coolship Cerise

allagash-cerise

In December of 2007, Allagash Brewery began experimenting with Coolship brewing techniques. From Allagash:

Last month we brewed the first two of our spontaneously fermented beers at Allagash. In brewing these beers we are using an authentic, traditional process honoring the classic Belgian Lambic tradition, including the use of a cool ship, which we built specifically for these spontaneous beers.

The process begins with a specialized decoction mash, which utilizes the addition of both two row barley and raw, unmalted wheat. After the mash and sparge, we add aged hops during the boil, which are traditionally used because they impart many of the beer stabilizing benefits of hops without contributing bitterness. The use of aged hops (aged a minimum of three years) necessitates an unusually long boil of over four hours.

After boiling, rather than cooling the beer in a sterile environment and adding a brewer’s yeast culture, the hot wort is pumped to a cool ship in a special room designed specifically to make these beers. The cool ship is a commonly used tool in Belgium, but is rarely seen beyond Belgium’s borders, if at all. It is a large, open tray that is 12 feet long, 8 feet wide and 1 foot deep. Once in the cool ship the hot wort spends the night cooling from near boiling temperatures to about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. To facilitate the cooling process, windows in the cool ship room are left open overnight. The cool Maine air, containing natural bacteria and wild yeast, drifts in and cools the wort. As soon as the wort is cool enough, the natural airborne yeasts and bacteria are able to survive in what will eventually be the spontaneously fermented beer (it is these natural yeasts and bacteria which will ferment the beer, rather than a yeast added by the brewer). Next, the wort is pumped back into a brewery tank, where it will spend one further day before it is pumped into special French oak barrels. Within one to three weeks, spontaneous fermentation begins in the oak and will continue for over one year. After the yearlong fermentation this traditional beer will age in French oak for at least one more year, sometimes with the addition of fruits, before it is finally bottled.

This process creates beers with very complex flavor profiles after an extensive aging process. I received two bottles from Allagash, Cerise and Red. I haven’t tried Red yet, but I have tried Cerise, and I consider myself privileged to have had the opportunity.

Cerise poured a bright orange-yellow with a bright white head of very tight bubbles. The aroma was very complex, I found apples, pear, and cherry combined with some of the more difficult (funky?) aromas to identify which gave the impression of very tart flavors to come.

Tasting was equally challenging, similar flavors matching the aroma followed, fruits and malt, funk, and with a very dry and tart finish, somewhat cirtic and tannic, but not displeasing. After spending several minutes waffling over what flavors I was able to identify, I resolved to stop trying, and just to enjoy it. I savored the lone glass for a long time though dinner, making sure to share with my wife.

I am definitely looking forward to trying the Coolship Red, and the time when Allagash begins to release these beers for retail sale. Cheers, Allagash!