Second Homebrew: Great Success!

My first homebrew was an experience that taught me a lot but had poor taste results. My second attempt, an American IPA, turned out much, much better. As one would expect my IPA was full of hoppy goodness. Since I’m still new I decided to use a kit from the fine folks at American Brewmaster. The recipe I used called for Summit, Centennial, Cascade and Amarillo. I decided to add Columbus for a short dry hop as a way to make the recipe my own.

Hop Bill

After brewing I kept in primary for 10 days and then racked into a secondary for dry hoping. While I probably didn’t need to move to secondary to dry hop I decided it was worth doing due to my worry about keeping the beer on the trub too long (I know now it takes a lot longer than a few weeks to cause a problem ..). Next I dry hopped in secondary for 4 days. Why four days? Mainly because I really wanted to find out if my brew worked out this time and couldn’t wait. So after four days I racked to my bottle bucket with my carb sugar, filled the bottles and capped.

After 1 week of bottle conditioning I decided to see how well carbonation was coming along. This is what I saw after an aggressive pour.

Test Batch #2

I was happily shocked. I was not expecting so much carbonation so quickly! My first brew never got half that carb’d! Like my first try the aroma was amazing but I knew the kicker would come with a first taste. So I took a few bottles and threw them in the fridge for tasting later.

I pulled the bottle and shared it for a testing. Both of us agreed it was quite good. It cleared up a bit compared to the above picture but it still needed some time to settle. Here is my review (of my own beer so take it with a grain of salt…).

Sciential Ale Labs: Test Batch #2

Appearance

Hazy. Color similar to Lagunitas IPA. A finger and a half of slightly off white head which slowly dissipates into small layer of persistant head.

Smell

Slight pine with earthy/herbal notes. Nothing overpowering. Reminds me more of a pale ale.

Taste

Nice and bitter but balanced well with a malty backbone. There is also a very slight ester profile as well which surprisingly works in the brews favor adding a bit of fruit complexity. The hop profile is hard for me to really explain but the closest comercial beer I can equate the bitterness portion of flavor with would be Sierra Nevada‘s Torpedo. As the ale warmed up the bitterness came through even more. Even nearing room temperature the beer still was tasty!

Mouthfeel

Medium mouthfeel with consistant carbonation. Possibly a little creamier than should be due to things still not being settled.

Overall

Happily surprised. For me this is a pretty unique beer (though is probably pretty common in homebrew circles). My rating is 4/5 stars.

Others

I’ve gotten two pieces of feed back so far on my first successful homebrew. The first was simply “Oh, that’s good!” during the shared tasting. The other was an unsolicited text from a friend when he popped the cap and gave it a whirl: “Your beer is excellent.” That feedback made me feel pretty good.

On Deck

I’ve since brewed an Abbey Dubbel and a single hop American Pale Ale of my own design. Both are in primary. If both of these come through successfully I’ll feel pretty confident in my process.

That Darn First Homebrew

While some people remember their first homebrew as something that brought great fun and great taste it’s not my story. My story is one that is far greater than the simple beer that started it all for a hobbyist. See, it was a comedy of errors that taught me much more than a simple yet tasty first batch could have.

My very first attempt at homebrewing was a hefeweizen. I chose a hefeweizen for a few reasons. First it’s one of my favorite styles of beer. There is something about the esters and light ody that draws me in. Then there was the temperature control factor. I believed, correctly I might add, it to be easier to keep my place warm than keep it cool even in winter. Since esters are wanted in the hefeweizen style and esters are more common in higher brewing tempature it seemed like the perfect fit.

What I didn’t think about was that my first try was going to be with such a delicate style. In fact Big Beard Brewconsin even noted this after I wrote my first Homebrew post. It’s not like attempting a hop bombed IPA or a malty stout where mistakes can be overpowered by the primary flavors. With a lighter beer hiding defects isn’t so easy and my beer was full of mistakes.

The first big mistake was in my boil. As I noted previously I let it boil over. Luckily it was only for a second and I was able to recover before losing too much. This was probably the most minor of all your mistakes.

Up next was a common rookie mistake. I didn’t know that the tempature in the primary could be 5 or more degrees warmer than the outside. I had my ambient temperature at 72F thinking that I was keeping the fermentation somewhere around there. In reality in was keeping things somewhere in the upper 70s! I’m sure this caused the yeast to be stressed and put out byproducts.

But the mistakes kept rolling and I let the beer stay in primary too long. The beer really was done after a week and half, maybe two but I kept it in primary for almost three weeks. Why? Because it seemed like that’s what many homebrewers were recommending on forums, blogs, etc.. Keeping that beer for a week and a half after fermentation was done is one of the causes for an infusion of extreme bitterness to not the back end. When it was time to dispose of the trub it had a very distinct smell which was present in the bitter aftertaste of the beer.

When it came time to bottle I misused the autosiphon. I should have had the primary higher and the bottle bucket lower but I put them on the same level. This caused me to more or less pump the beer from bucket to bucket causing a lot of aeration. The taste of cardboard that seeped in is likely from this error.

I believe the first process showed me what can happen when specific things go wrong. So far I’ve avoided all of the mistakes I made with my first try with my second homebrew: A partial grain American IPA. It’s currently in primary and resting inside a slightly larger water container (to help keep temperature). More to come soon, I’m sure!

Two Beers I Don’t Get

I like very trying new beers. It’s no secret. But recently I had two beers, in a row, that I could not wrap my head around. Don’t misunderstand, these were not bad beers but beers that either fly over my head or I expected too much from.

312 is golden
Photo credit: swanksalot)

The first beer is Goose Island’s 312 Urban Wheat. What is an urban wheat? I don’t know either. According to Beer Advocate it’s an American Pale Wheat Ale. Now APWA’s are a style I enjoy – In fact Bell’s Oberon is way up there on my list – but I just could not figure out the beers concept. First off, it’s a very light APWA and clearer than I’d expect. The aroma was very faint grassy and maybe slight lemon. The taste was wheat and an extremely faint hint of lemon. Both fade away to a water like taste after a few sips reminiscent of a cheap light lager. Mouth feel was light carbonation and supper thin. It was after roughly an eighth if the pint I said enough and drained it. It was almost like a cream ale but with wheat malt. Not close to what I want out of an APWA. As a side note I learned that Goose Island is owned by a very large company with a poor reputation with craft beer lovers …

Petrus dubbel bruin
(Photo credit: Lec)

The second beer was from another of my beloved styles: the dubbel. I’ve enjoyed St. Bernardus Pater 6, Chimay Rouge and the Westmalle Trappist Dubbel and I I walk by Petrus bottles every time I’m in the Belgian isle. It was time to try Brouwerij Bavik’s take on the dubbel. After pouring into a goblet I noticed quickly the low carbonation. There was some very minor white off lacing but it didn’t look anything like what I expected. The aroma was carmel, brown sugar and spices. The taste initially was dominated by sweetness followed by an RC Cola like flavor. After that I couldn’t shake that, not only did it taste like half flat RC Cola, it even looked a bit like it as well. And it wasn’t the pleasant hint cola like taste of Foothills Peoples Porter. Maybe I got a dud bottle?

Raleigh Brewing Company: First Taste

Today was the opening of the Raleigh Brewing Company which kicked off with a 7 hour opening celebration. I was able to enjoy roughly three and a half hours drinking, talking and just having a good time.

The place is much bigger than I expected. The main entrance serves as the door to both the homebrewing shop as well as the main bar area.

Be hind the bar is a warehouse/brewery area which also has a back in slot for food trucks. On opening night there was plenty of cornhole games going.

Unfortunately the doors opened before 5pm but they wouldn’t sell tickets for beer or food until the 5pm mark. This was a little awkward as a line formed waiting to get ID’d and ticketed with some people being turned away from the line. This caused a little crowed watching other people drinking. This was the only oddity of the night.

Once the general public was allowed in things started to move quickly. I was in the first five people to enter from the general public and went straight to the taps. Unsurprisingly people were friendly and civil at the bar. When a bartender asked the fellow next to me what he’d like the man kindly stated that he was third in line after me and another fellow. People were easy to talk to and just having a fun time. True craft crowd!

Beers

City of Blokes

I’m not really a fan of English bitters. I’ve not had a ton but, of those I have tired, I did enjoy Fuller’s ESB. City to find Blokes was my first pour and it wasn’t bad! I chose it so I wouldn’t be putting my first taste up against some of my all time favorites in the Belgian or IPA categories. It also helped that it had such a low ABV.

House of Clay

I was going to down a HellYesMa’am but decided to try the Rye IPA. I was seriously impressed. This may be my go to beer when visiting the establishment. It has an amazing citrus aroma and a nice job bite. I’m a fan of Sierra Nevada‘s Ruthless Rye but this has something it doesn’t. Maybe it’s simply the freshness, I’m not sure, but I really like it.

End Result

Fun night, good people, good beer. It was a success. I’m looking forward to trying some of the other core beers … especially that HellYesMa’am!

Cream Stout? Yes! Cream Ale? No.

Recently I ranted about cream ales. More specifically trying to figure out who actually enjoys them. Earlier in the week I decided to give it another go but accidentally picked up a cream stout instead. Silly me.

Bell's Special Double Cream Stout
(Photo credit: tabounds)

I originally thought I would only be deciding what I thought of cream stouts via this single example of the style. The bottle was a Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout. As it turns out a cream stout is another term for one of my favorite styles of beer: the milk stout. It was pretty obvious after the first few sips that this was, if nothing else, something very similar to a milk stout. Chocolate and toffee like sweetness up front followed by a bit of espresso.

What makes me think though is how vastly different the styles are yet they both use the term cream. One style uses cream to mean light and bland while the other uses it to mean sweet and thick. I think of it sort of like:

Cream ale: Slightly grainy, bland, carbonated, light colored and watery drink with some alcohol.
Cream stout: Sweeter, chocolate with some espresso notes, smooth, carbonated, dark colored and mildly dry beer with normal levels of alcohol for beer.

Seems like opposites to me! I’ll likely continue using the term milk stout simply because so many in the style seem to favor it.

I’m still trying to find a good example of a cream ale to try that is enjoyed by the style’s fans. Unfortunately I’m still stuck trying to find the fans to get a good recommendation. Until then I’ll stick to the stouts when enjoying beers of the cream variety.

Who Drinks Cream Ales?

This is a serious question. Here is how Beer Advocate describes the style:

Cream Ales, spawned from the American light lager style, are brewed as an ale though are sometimes finished with a lager yeast or lager beer mixed in. Adjuncts such as corn or rice are used to lighten the body. It is no uncommon for smaller craft brewers to brew all malt Cream Ales. Pale straw to pale gold color. Low hop bittering and some hop aroma though some micros have given the style more of a hop character. Well carbonated and well attenuated.

The description doesn’t do a whole lot for my tastes being that I don’t enjoy light lager. Still I’d expect to like craft takes on the brew. I’ve had two or three since I started sampling beers and have enjoyed zero of them. Zero.

I’ve found them to have little or no body, almost no flavor and lots moderate carbonation. The last one I sampled was Carolina Strawberry from Foothills which had a taste reminiscent of strawberry Clearly Canadian.

So, who actually goes for these cream ales? Is it really just there to help the bud light drinker feel like they enjoy beer? Have I not had a good example of the style? This is a serious question!