Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Hardest Liver To Liver

3/21: Hard Liver Barley Wine Festival at Brouwer's Cafe. Got to sit at the Best of Show table this year. Great time! Finally got to sit at the table with the adults; a couple of high profile beer writers, the owner of a well known Philadelphia Belgian-style cafe, a couple of the organizer's cronies, a BJCP Master Judge, and me. A couple of photos here, scroll down a bit for the group shot. I'm in the upper left looking red faced and sassy under the flat cap. Interesting process; the wood aged beers were dismissed out of hand, the good hop forward beer didn't seem to get much respect, and I wasn't finding much depth of complexity in many of the beers where some other judges were. Did the usual "Brouwer's Cafe/Hard Liver Find a Place to Sit Boogaloo" afterwards. My sweetie showed up and I pulled some strings to get her in ahead of a bunch of people who had been waiting in line awhile. Very Rock Star, ha, HA! We went through a good 18 or so. Overall quality this year was really good (even the Redhook BW was impressive). Standouts were the '07 Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws and the '06/'08 Lagunitas Gnarleywine. Doggie Claws; real firm sweetroll malt flavors with moderate bitterness and big resinous hop flavors (still!). Really good stuff. 'Claws always makes me think of shopping for Christmas trees with it's piney/minty resin-like qualities. Gnarleywines were both big and alcoholic; all the best qualities of Barley Wine right up front. The '06 seemed just a bit more refined. These things age really well. Comparing the beers on the Best of Show panel against what we were having at table was a bit of a head scratcher. I liked some of the beers we had better than what we had to judge. Even on strict style considerations. Oh well.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Citra TuTu

Spent the afternoon with some of my favorite people, putting down some good beer and snacking a bit. The Citra Pale being part of it, ended up very nice. Something to consider is that the 5 OUNCES of steam hop extract in 5 GALLONS of beer really doesn't show very strongly. Altogether the beer is really good; firm malt with strong bitterness and lots of herbal/fruit character over a really firm bitterness. Going forward I think that using the steam extract method for adding some edge to the overall hop profile will require ALOT more hops. Oh well...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Belgian-style Strong Scotch Ale

Racked the McChief down to one carboy. Gravity is a firm 10P. The beer is strongly sweet with nice banana/plum esters and a ton of sweet alcohol. According to my measurements the alcohol content is around 11% which at this point is a nice counter point to the sweetness. The beer isn't worty sweet but more like eating a caramel hard candy when you start getting it to melt across the palate. Actually pretty nice. I'll see if I can get another percent or so alcohol out of it before I call terminal. I have half a mind to simply bottle it as is without primings just to see what happens. So far it's fuller bodied and sweeter than McChouffe but not quite as intense as Scotch Silly. Shaping up to be a really nice beer. Definitely one to put down.

That 1.200 OG starting gravity wasn't that hard to pull off. Got me thinking about planning a whole 1200 series. October Ale, Barley Wine, Imperial Stout, Baltic Porter, a more straight forward Belgian-style Quad, Dopplebock, hmm, what else...

Citra Too

Just finished kegging the Citra Pale. Was a bit concerned with the gravity sample right off the bat; picked up a bit of papery tang. Thought it might be a bit of spoilage, the initial primary ferment climbed up and out the airlock and maybe we picked something up in my effort to clean up(?). But coming back to it later with the hydrometer a lot of the nasty stuff had volatilized away. What's left is simply some stale hop notes. Not fatal. Other than that the beer is nice; firm bitterness with peppery herbal, light candied orange, and catty flavors over a nice light malt flavor.

I dosed the keg with 5 ozs. of Citra Steam Extract. Which leads to two things: 1) A correction and 2) A statement. The correction; the counter top espresso machine I have is a Braun, not a Krups. The statement; Holy Fuck! Steam extract through pellets appears to be way more intense than the same volume of whole leaf hops. The result is just simply intense. Intensely bitter, intensely aromatic, and intensely flavorful. The Citra extract is orange blossom herbal perfume, lightly sweaty, and leaves a sticky film across the palate. Imagine a dog working peanut butter off the roof of their mouth and you'll have the right idea. Steam extract won't replace dry hopping here in the home brewery but it's definitely part of the playbook. I'm anticipating some over the top hop character out of this beer. Stay tuned.