Category Archives: Tasting

American Pils Tasting Notes

This was a really enjoyable beer that got a lot of compliments. It was very much a simple, crowd-pleasing lager but I’ll be the first to admit that brewing clean beers like this is not my forte and frankly isn’t all that easy, for me at least. The malt flavor was a little big and sticky in the end and it may have under-attenuated just a bit (I still need to get a refractometer to get a fair reading of final gravity). Using 2-row likely gave a little more flavor and body than using pilsner malt, so adding the melanoidin malt was probably unnecessary, too. The hops were appropriate – they jump out and prep the palatte before letting the malts shine with a crisp finish. My taste for beer pH is still a work in progress, but I think a touch more acidity would have brightened the beer a little. Some acidulated malt would do the trick.

I’ll definitely be using the Saflager 189 dry yeast again. I’m not a frequent lager-brewer but the results with this yeast make me want to make more lagers. Super easy to use (no starter!) and it performed fairly clean in the 55-60F range. There was a slight green apple note in the aroma but it was not off-putting. I didn’t do a diacetyl rest, so the beer did have a slight buttery flavor/aroma, but I prefer a little of that in lagers and think it compliments the malty-ness.

In my quest to brew a Steam Whistle clone beer, this came pretty close and I have a good idea of what the change for next time. Basically just skip the melanoid malt (or decrease just slightly) and maybe try adding a diacetyl rest. This is a good prototype for a German pilsner, too; just increase the bitterness and sub in pilsner malt for 2-row. Maybe even a 2-row/pils mix would be appropriate.


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Filed under Almost SMASH, Lager, Malty, Pilsner, Tasting

Schwarzbier Tasting Notes

Last post of 2016! Happy New Year! It’s been a great year of brewing. Doubt I’ll have time to do a review of everything that went down this past year, but I placed in a few competitions and learned a heck of a lot. There were sours. Lots of sours. So much that I got a little sour’d out. There were ciders and nitro coffee, and lots of other delicious beer.

This one was brewed from a recipe on Brulosophy’s website. It was enjoyable to have on tap, though I think my choice of malts may change next time to reflect a more traditional Schwarzbier.


Appearance:  Dark chocolate brown, almost black. Not much light gets through this one. Tan head, 1/2″ head that dissipates somewhat quickly leaving just some puddles of head here and there.

Aroma: Very stout-y: roasted cocoa, hints of molasses, toffee, and some soft Irish-y yeast esters.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body, crisp, overall very balanced. Slightly tannic and dry finish.

Flavor: Chocolate malts dominate the flavor up front, but expands to an array of subtle caramel tones. As the beer warms, it opens up to a more nutty and robust flavor. Hop character is negligible, but the drier finish is appropriate and thirst quenching.

Overall: This beer took few weeks to open up, but in the end it was a really tasty and sessionable beer. Initially it felt very a little one-dimensional with the chocolate malt leading the show, but over time more malt complexity started to shine through. I’m not a Schwarzbier connoisseur, but I have had several German commercial examples and would say this one leaned a little hard into the Dry Irish Stout category rather than Schwarzbier. Most traditional Schwarzbiers have a more subtle chocolate/roast flavor with the breaded Munich and Pils malt flavors still remaining intact. The dry finish was perfect and it definitely retained somewhat of a lager-like feel, but next time would maybe swap some chocolate malt for roasted barley (and go less), ditch the Crystal malt, and maybe add 1% melanoidin malt to beef up the base malt flavor. Cheers!

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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

Cranberry/Peach Cider Tasting

DSC_0018Appearance: Light pink with reddish highlights, medium haze and a thin white head that fades quickly.

Aroma: Ripe red apples, fresh clean fruits, lavender.

Mouthfeel: Champagne-like, slightly thin with prickly carbonation.

Flavor: Most noticeably peach and apple with some very subtle berries in the finish. Initial sweetness fades to slight tartness. Faint alcohol in the finish too.

Overall: Very refreshing beverage, but just a little too sweet for my liking. It figures – my goal was to leave this one a little sweeter than the last but I think I just prefer ciders dry. This reminds me of a sweeter “blush” type wine like a white zinfandel. The mild acidity works really well with the fruity sweetness. The cranberry could afford to be much bigger, but it did provide a nice accent to the peach.


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Filed under Cider, Tasting

El Dorado SMASH Tasting

This recipe used 8oz of El Dorado hops; it was my first time using them – they’re super interesting and juicy!


Aroma: All hops – lemon, berries, peach, hint of pine.

Appearance: Pale yellow, cloudy. Medium density white head that leaves excellent lacing.

Mouthfeel: Light, ever so slightly acidic, and refreshing on the palette. Minimal lingering bitterness in the finish despite the level of hopping.

Flavor: All hops again, peach-y citrus all the way. When the beer was young, I thought it had undertones of grape, maybe even plum. These faded after while to only the brighter peach and lemon.

Overall: El Dorado is awesome. A very unique hop that I would compare to a blend of Chinook and Citra – it has the tropical flavors but with some piney sub-flavors. The bright peach and lemon is unlike anything I’ve used. I will for sure be using it in APAs and IPAs to come, maybe even an interesting Saison. Going with all 2-row is the base was a safe bet to really get a feel for the hop in question, but adding a bit of color and body to the beer via dark Munich or a pinch of specialty malts would help to provide a bit more balance; I tried blended 2/3 this and 1/3 of an English Bitter and that worked really well together.

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Filed under Blonde, Hoppy, IPA, SMASH, Summer, Tasting

Galaxy/Cascade APA – Tasting Notes

This won first prize in the American Pale Ale category of the Battle of the Bubbles Homebrew Competition. I’ll add some of the judges notes once they come in. Here’s the recipe.

Appearance: Orange with some burnt highlights. Moderately cloudy. Fluffy white head that leaves good lacing.

Aroma: Grapefruit, mango, grass, and some cookie malts.

Mouthfeel: Medium body up front to a somewhat dry finish.

Flavor: Excellent balance of malt and hops. The hops stick out first with the malts quickly behind, with mostly a breaded malt-forward finish. Clean, bright flavors.

Overall: The flavors of this beer changed several times on tap. At first, with some of the yeast still suspended, it had an amazing peach and hop “juice” flavor – incredibly fruity and bursting with aroma. This faded as the beer clarified, and gave way to the more traditional characteristics of the Galaxy and Cascade hops – tons of citrus and pine. Despite the magnitude of hop flavor, the malts were still wonderfully displayed and provided balance with some prominent graham cracker-like biscuit flavors. Thoroughly enjoyed this, and will be making it again!



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Filed under Hoppy, Pale Ale, Summer, Tasting

Peach Cider w/ Citra – Tasting Notes

The inspiration for this recipe came after tasting the Brewers Best Peach Cider kit at my LHBS. They had it on tap for customers to taste, and, even me not being a big cider guy, I was blown away by how good it was. Bright, juicy, crisp, not overly sweet, and most of all super drinkable. I checked out the packaging in the store, and the ingredients had loads of artificial flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives (womp womp), so I didn’t buy it. I decided to try and make something similar based on ciders and other non-alcoholic things I’ve tasted before.

Wegman’s “natural style” apple juice has made consistently good cider for me. All of their apple juice is 100% juice without preservatives and I think the “natural” label means it’s slightly less filtered compared to its counterpart which is crystal clear. It’s a little cloudy and I think it has a much more rounded and smooth apple flavor.  This, plus WLP001 was the starting point for the recipe.

Then for the peach. The white-grape-peach juice from Wegmans is delicious on its own, too. It’s more peachy than grape in flavor, so I went with this. The citra hops were an afterthought – I thought it needed a little “edge” after tasting the batch halfway through.

Appearance: Extremely pale, like a wit. Slightly hazy. White head that fizzles quickly to nothing.

Aroma: Peach, pear, all-around tropical. Sort of fruity white wine cooler-ish.

Mouthfeel: Fairly thin, but spritzy.

Flavor: Good balance of fruit and acidity.  No single fruit jumps out at first, but the peach comes a little later followed by apple.

Overall: Very nice spring/summer sipper. Almost reminds be of a less sweet, more tart Moscato white wine. Next time I might to catch it before it hits 1.000 gravity to retain some sweetness, but it’s fine dried out like this, too. The ratio of apple to peach juice was pretty spot on – if anything I would go up a little more with the peach (adding some fresh peaches would be nice too), but I think 100% of the peach juice would be too tart given how balanced it is now.


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Filed under Cider, Experimental, Hoppy, Small Batch, Summer, Tasting