Thursday, May 29, 2008

Final analysis: Cherry Caray Stout

Okay, so I actually did this tasting for our Cherry Caray Stout a good month ago, but didn't post it for some reason. And so, without further ado, here it goes:

Style: Fruit beer/Export Stout. Original gravity: 1080 + unknown fruit contribution. Final gravity: 1022. ABV: 9%?? (7.35% + fruit contribution).

Appearance: Pours a thick black out of the bottle, though one can clearly see ruby red highlights as it splashes against the glass. A red tinge is also visible in the head, though the head is very thin, leaving only a wisp of fizz swirling on top.

Smell: A tart cherry aroma dominates the nose. Combined with a hint of alcohol, it's almost wine-like, though in the background you can pick up a little malt sweetness and the roasty smell of mocha cappuccino.

Taste: The tart flavor of cherries hits your palate at first, though it quickly gives way to a chocolatey, roasty sweet stout flavor. There's very little burnt flavor from the malt; it's more of a dark chocolate taste. You get a little hop bitterness in the finish, but just enough to keep this beer from being cloying. The cherries come back in a big way in the finish. With all the flavors, the alcohol presence gets pushed to the back, but after a couple sips you realize it's there. Overall, I think the tartness of the cherries keeps the beer from being too sweet despite the minimal hop and roasted grain contributions.

Mouthfeel: The beer is undercarbonated, and while this was partly by design, I suspect it may also be due in part to inadequate mixing of the bottling sugar (I guess we'll find out if one bottle ends up being a gusher!). The lack of carbonation gives it a thick quality that makes this a sipper and complements its full flavors.

Drinkability: The flavors, thickness and alcohol content should all render this low on the drinkability scale, but given all these factors I still find you can drink a pint relatively effortlessly. Nonetheless, I would still prefer this in a wine glass, likely with dessert (or for dessert!).

Overall, I'm very happy with this beer. I'll be curious to see how this ages, but it'll be tough for me to keep my hands off the bottles that long. I know I described it as "wine-like" a couple different times, but the tartness really gives it a red wine-like finish in your mouth despite the fact that it's not really dry. My initial thought after racking to the secondary was that it needed more of a roasted barley contribution, but I'm not so sure I want to mess with it at this point. This is definitely something I'd like to brew again... just with a tad more carbonation.

Wow, Heineken. You suck.

No, I'm not referring to the beer itself (which I actually think is decent on tap, even if it's nothing exciting), but rather the following from their U.S.A. website that I discovered when looking up the IBU's for the previous post:

What is lager?
Lager is a generic name for all sorts of light-colored beers. The name comes from Germany and means “stored” beer. Strangely enough it is not brewed in Germany but is found almost exclusively in English-speaking countries.

Wow. I mean, a thousand monkeys at a thousand typewriters couldn't be more wrong. Hell, my 22-month-old daughter knows more about beer, and all she can do is point to my beer and say "Dada's beer!" And this from a brewery who's slogan is "It's all about the beer." If anybody from Heineken is reading this, you suck.

On deck: Smoke Stack Lightning Rauchweizen

So it's been a while since we've posted any beer-related activities aside from Beerfly Alleyfight. Anyway, things have been busy lately but I'm excited to report Saturday's another brew day! We will be brewing a Rauchweizen (or, auf Englisch, a smoked Hefeweizen) inspired by Schlenkerla Weizen. Keeping with our tradition of giving our Weizen beers lightning-related names (see Step Leader Hefeweizen; see also Cloud-to-Ground Weizenbock and Winter Lightning Eisweizen), we're calling this one Smoke Stack Lightning (which is also a nod to blues great Howlin' Wolf). I've been itching to brew a Rauchbier, and I figure a smoked Weizen is perfect because it's both less assertive than stronger Rauchbiers (as the smoke flavor can be an acquired taste) and it's nice and refreshing for grilling on a hot summer day. Stay tuned to find out how the brew day goes.

A couple other notes... First, the Hail Shaft Pilsner is lagered and carbonated. As I noted earlier, it's low on the bitterness, so I bought some alpha acid extract to bitter up my keg. I've yet to doctor up my keg, but in the meantime I brought the other keg up to my parents' cottage. It was a big hit over Memorial Day, as lesser-hopped beers play well with the vacation set. We had to knock out a keg of Heineken before hooking up the Pilsner, so I had a chance to compare the two and I found the Pilsner was about equal to the Heineken in terms of bitterness, though the Pilsner had more hop flavor. According to Heineken, it's 23 IBU's (though technically the Pilsner referred to in that link is different from the Lager available in the U.S.; nonetheless, clone recipes I've found range from 19 to 26 IBU's). My final gravity was a bit high, but so was my original gravity. Anyway, I'll give a full report once I doctor the bitterness to get it closer to the 35-40 IBU range (which is admittedly on the high end, but so is my original gravity).

The final update is that our hops have broken ground! You can check out a pic here. Anyway, that's it for now. Look for a brew day post on Saturday or Sunday.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Beerfly Alleyfight Recap

Last year we did the first Beerfly Alleyfight and loved it. So this year we signed up immediately when the call went out for 10 homebrewers to create a beer/food pairing. The beer and food then gets paired with a local artist (The art is anything artsy - painting, pottery, dance, video, photography, improv, etc.), and the people who come get to drink the beer, eat the food pairings, and check out the art. They then vote on their favorites and everyone enjoys a little friendly competition.

The organizers requested Belgian styles this year, so we made a Belgian dark ale (we started with Chimay Blue and went from there) and paired it with roasted sweet potato slices topped with banana salsa.


We got a ton of compliments on the pairing. People really loved it. And, sadly, we ran out two hours before the end of the event. We were told to make 70 samples, made 80, and needed probably 100. It was crazy. But we were thrilled people liked it, and that we had such success creating the salsa recipe.

We were paired with a videographer who made an absolutely hysterical video that won for Best Art.


Everyone who came seemed to have a great time. It is the perfect balance of mellow camaraderie and friendly competition.

If you're interested, more pictures are here.

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