Monday, January 25, 2010

Final analysis: North Pole Export

A while back I said I need to catch up on tasting notes, and tonight I'm finally getting around to making good on my promise.

Style: Christmas/Winter Specialty Spiced Beer. Orig. gravity: 1070. Final gravity: 1019.
ABV: 6.7%. IBU's: 25.

Appearance: As you can see above, the beer pours a deep ruby, almost mahogany, color. It's fairly opaque with just a wisp of head. I'm not sure if it's due to subdued carbonation or the addition of vanilla beans (which introduce oil into the beer), but it's not something I'm too hung up about given that Scottish beers aren't exactly known for their head.

Smell: Mmm... vanilla. It definitely predominates. There's a hint of sweetness from the malt, and I swear there's a touch of brandy (which is what I soaked the vanilla beans in), but I'm guessing I'm only picking up the latter because I know it's there. I suppose some people might complain there's too much vanilla, but as somebody who rarely spices his beer, when I do I like to go all-out.

Taste: The vanilla hits you up front and then gives way to a honey-like malt sweetness. You pick up a little of the kettle caramelization before you get more vanilla in the finish. The sweetness at the end is tempered by a slight, neutral hop bitterness and a kiss of roasted barley. There's also a weird flavor that lingers that I can't put my finger on. When I brought the non-vanillaed Scottish to a recent HOPS! meeting, it was suggested the flavor might be the result of fermenting at too high of a temperature. I also noticed the same flavor when I brewed my Irish Red a while back--which I then attributed to the use of melanoidin malt--and also when I tried Short's The Magician London Red Ale.

Mouthfeel: It's a little thin, but I suppose similar to what you would find on cask. Still, I would probably make it a little more carbonated next time.

Overall: For a Christmas ale, I wouldn't mind getting the gravity down just a hair and upping the dark malts (maybe complement the roast barley with some Carafa?). I could also see complementing the vanilla with a little clove or allspice to add a little complexity. As it is, it's still a satisfying winter warmer.


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