Category Archives: Session

Best Bitter Tasting Notes

img_1268This beer led me to discovering that my nitrogen gas line has a leak; needless to say this did not make it to the nitro tap. I hadn’t used my handpump in a while so I decided, what the hell, let’s use this as an experiment to see how long a beer would last uncooled and uncarbonated on cask. Usually I reserve casks for parties since it needs to be completely drank within a few days after tapping. After a few days the warmer temperature and oxygen in the headspace spoils the beer.

My procedure for this experiment is as follows:

  1. Decide that I’d like to have a pint of cask ale (or two). Rarely a difficult decision.
  2. Vent any excess CO2 from the keg.
  3. Connect handpump to keg, pull beers until finished, usually leaving the keg “tapped” for 2 to 3 hours.
  4. After this “session”, disconnect the handpump and put CO2 on to pressurize the keg to 10 psi. Disconnect gas.
  5. Repeat for each session.

I tapped the keg on 9/6/16 and am pleased to report that it lasted a full 2-1/2 weeks (9/23) before starting to show some noticeable effects of aging. From my experience with previous casks I was expecting it to become “funky”; small amounts of bacteria/wild yeast would eventually become active and create off flavors. However, the effect was more of a general oxidation – the caramel flavors become over-pronounced, slightly harsh and cloying, reminding me of a lot ill homebrew I’ve tasted in the past. Still drinkable, but having tasted it every other day it’s definitely noticeable. By 9/30 there was a noticeable Brett funk that had developed. It actually didn’t taste that bad if you took it as intentionally being funky, but it definitely had deviated too far from the original beer to be passable. Original recipe can be found here.

How it look: Crystal clear, amber, chestnut brown (lighter than the picture shows) with a frothy, airy, sudsy head. Excellent cascading bubbles when pulled from the hand pump. Just like something you’d see in a London pub!

How it smell: Clean English yeast esters with caramel, toffee, and flowers.

How it feel: Flat, but very expressive. Moderate earthy bitterness in the finish.

How it taste: Like a cozy English pub. Toasted malts and hints of caramel initially fading to earthy, floral hops. In the first pour I thought the bittering hops were a little too assertive, but it’s just enough to poke out in the finish and leave you wanting another sip. The aeration provided by the handpump amplifies all of the flavors wonderfully.

How it do:  I have an absurd bias towards English cask ales, so naturally this was one my favorites to drink. I can say as objectively as possible that this is on par with bitters I’ve had in the UK. After all, when you use all English ingredients, you’re going to hit the mark on getting all of those characteristic flavors into your beer.  I actually thought the beer peaked after about a week in the cask – the malt flavors seemed to develop and become more expressive.

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Filed under Amber, English, Reviews, Session, Tasting

Peach Cider dry-hopped w/ Citra

Quick recipe for a cider using apple and white-grape-peach juice from Wegmans.

  • 2 gal white grape peach juice (100% juice from concentrate)
  • 1 gal “Natural Style” apple juice (100% juice)
  • 1/2 oz Citra hops.
  • 1 vial WLP001
  • 0.25 tsp yeast nutrient

// Pour apple juice, yeast, and nutrient into carboy. Brewed 5/5/16. Signs of fermentation about 6 hours after pitching. //

5/12/16: Fermentation still going strong (1″ layer of yeast on top), but took a sample anyway. Gravity at 1020. Slightly sweet, but good peach flavor. I could live with something more tropical, so added 1/2 oz Citra pellets to the carboy and shook.

5/18/15:  Fermentation seemed to still be going strong up until today when it abruptly stopped. Gravity at 1.000 – go figure. Pretty thin, slightly tart, but overall pleasant fruity peach and apple flavors. Moved to the fridge to crash cool.

5/21/15: Kegged and carbing at 15 psi for 1 day. Should carbonate pretty quick because it’s only 3 gallons, and it’s so thin. Tasting notes.

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Filed under Cider, Experimental, Hoppy, Session, Small Batch

Tropical Session IPA

I had some leftover English yeast that I wanted to utilize rather than dumping like I always do, so I threw together this recipe for a small batch of a low-gravity IPA with a cluster of different hops. Most of the time with an IPA I’m trying to learn about a hop, or keep the number of variations limited. For this I was hoping to do the opposite; create a bouquet of hop flavors that will hopefully be presented as a cohesive package.

  • 7 lb US 2-row Pale
  • 0.4 lb Amber malt
  • 0.2 lb Carapils
  • 0.75 oz Galena FWH
  • 0.5 oz each Amarillo, Centennial, Galaxy and Simcoe @ 10 min (pellet)
  • 0.5 oz each Amarillo, Centennial, Galaxy and Simcoe dry hop (pellet)
  • London Ale III saved from previous batch

IMG_0650// Mash-in 1.33 qt/lb. Mash was at 5.4 pH, used 0.1 lb acid malt to bring down to 5.3. Rest at 150 for 40 minutes, raise to 168 for mash out. Sparge to collect around 3 gallons. Boil 60 minutes, add ice and top-up water to hit 3.5 gallons 1.052 wort. Added 0.5 gallons filtered water to bring it 10 around 1045. Let sit for 4 hours, which brought the tempt to around 85F. The wort looked really strange in the kettle at this point – almost looked like the proteins started to coagulate, then stopped and remained suspended the wort like giant puffy clouds in a very clear wort otherwise. It was so weird that I had to document it. I did use a full whirlflock tablet rather than 1/2 like i normally do in a 3 gal batch, so maybe that had something to do with it. The hop silt trub still sunk nicely to the bottom of the kettle, thankfully. Poured wort directly onto yeast cake. No oxygenation. Brewed 12/30/15. //

// Water: 1.25 tsp gypsum in mash. //

1/1/16:  In 2 days gravity is down to 1012 – super quick fermentation since I used such a massive quantity of yeast and the OG was a little lower. Huge krausen throughout. Beautiful tropical fruit hop flavors that have a nice zing without being overly bitter. Added dry hops directly into carboy and gave it a good swirl.

1/2/15:  Moved to fridge to start crash cooling.

THE VERDICT

It’d been a while since I had a hop-forward beer on tap and this definitely hit the spot. The hop levels were appropriate – very clean and smooth hop flavor with minimal harshness, with the carbonation really adding an exclamation point to each sip. It was a nice mix of hops, without any one in particular jumping out. If anything, the Galena served as a strong earthy base with some the fruity, tropical flavors riding on top. The end beer was a bit cloudy – i might have just not given it long enough in the primary before crash cooling. No picture, unfortunately; the keg was kicked quickly during a party :O

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Filed under All-grain, Hoppy, IPA, Pale Ale, Session, Small Batch

Dark English Mild

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This is a recipe for a low-gravity, darker English mild. I used lots of dark English crystal to really emphasize the toffee and nutty flavors. I made this on my indoor 3 gallon set up (shot for around 1057 OG), then just topped up with water to reach around 4.5 gallons of lower-gravity 1038 wort.

  • 5.5 lb Maris Otter Pale
  • 0.5 lb Dark Crystal (160L)
  • 0.2 lb Chocolate malt
  • 1 oz Fuggles (4.1% a.a.) 60 min

// Mash-in at 156 for 50 minutes. Mash-out and sparge w/ 168F water to collect around 3.25 gal 1063 wort. Boil 60 minutes. Add ice to chill to 120F and reach around 3.5 gal. Collect 3 gallons of 1058 wort, add 1.5 gallons filtered water to reach 4.5 gallons at 1038. Brewed 1/26/16 //

1/30/16  Gravity at 1014.  Pleasant malt flavor and aroma – caramel and subtle toffee / toasted flavors with a dry finish. Slightly thin, but expected with the lower OG. Moved over to the nitro keg (no CO2 pre-fill).

2/2/16  Still rather flat and no head coming out of the nitro tap. Might have needed some of the CO2, but the last beer I did that with had way too much head.  Tastes a bit watery when it’s chilled – might want to consider putting this on the hand-pump to liven it up.

THE VERDICT

After about a week in the keg this turned out to be a delightfully sessionable and cozy beer. Great with food, or when you feel like having two mid-day without derailing your Saturday. It’s amazing what head retention the nitro gives in a beer that’s this light and with low hopping, too – the pictures show a fairly small head but it lasted throughout the entire pint. The turbulence of the nitro tap definitely helped to boost the body and give the beer some life. Despite being a lower OG ale there was still a modest amount of malt flavor and some buttery English yeast character to bring it home. It’s not an overly complex beer, but it’s not one-dimensional either and keeps your taste buds entertained, navigating through the rich malt character, even though the overall flavor magnitude is less that usual. It was a mild ale by design, but I did think it just a tiny bit thin in the end. I’ve made beers of this strength before on my standard 10 gallon setup, but never with this 3-gallon-then-top-up-with-water method – that may have something to do with it.  I will make this beer again, maybe just slightly bumping up the specialty malts. Cheers!

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Filed under All-grain, Brown, English, Malty, Session, Small Batch