Thursday, June 10, 2010

Berliner Weisse beginnings...

I've been thinking heavily of Berliner Weisse lately. I've only had this style of beer a few times, the last time being last year on vacation in Jersey.. we hit up a place called the Tun Tavern that's a brew pub, and they had one on tap. Never really seen that done before in a brew pub. Sour beer, on tap in a brewery? Most would run scared. In either case, the beer was fantastic. Tart, dry, crisp, and very flavorful. At only 3% abv, you could drink this like fruit-juice and enjoy it all day long. It was awesome.

Anyway, I've been struggling with what to put on Tap #4, which at my place, has almost always been a sour or wild beer yeast tap line. I need something to replace the Brett Pale Ale that's running out of time there now.. and Berliner just popped into my head the other week and I've been thinking about it ever since. It's a weird beer. It's fermented with lactobacillus for the tart, sour notes it has and then finished up with a clean ale strain. The lacto continues to work it's magic until it nearly dries right up to nothing for final gravity. I've had lots of fun with Brett beers in the past year, and I enjoy them.. but they're no sour beer, which are my favorite. I also don't seem to have the patience for Flanders style hard core sour beers (think Rodenbach Grand Cru) and the ability to keep them in rotation all the while. Berliner Weisse, tho.. this seems to be a fairly quick turn around beer, because the lactobacillus is a faster acting souring mechanism. It throws out a bit of acid pretty quick, and then kicks the bucket because it can't tolerate alcohol very much. This style also has the distinction of being so obscure, and so weird to brew, that people just don't seem to want to brew the damned thing. Finding info on this process is not easy like it is for Stouts and IPA's. Which is to say, it seems like it was made just for *me*. Gotta be different, you know.. ;-)

Anyway, I got an old packet of lactobacillus (WYeast #5335, I believe..) from the brew shop in East Hartford, Brew & Wine Hobby, from the just-about-new owner there (sorry, I forget his name at the moment..) who is buying out the old owner. This packet was out of date by almost 5 months, so nearly a year old.. but the shop owner there gave it to me for nothing and said to give it a try, and that it would probably still work. Some emails exchanged with WYeast about this strain has me fermenting it in a bucket with a heat lamp suspended over it to hold the temperature at 80+ degrees to hopefully grow up a starter for this thing big enough to do a split batch of 10+ gallons. WYeast was very helpful with information for this weird bugger, and I think I' might have given up or just failed without them assisting me. I'm very grateful to their customer assistance program right about now. Before I get too far, I'd like to give a shout out to the new owner of the above-mentioned brew store. He's a younger fellow from the previous owner and seems MUCH more personable and beer friendly. The last fellow seems a little wine biased and a touch grouchy.. but this new fellow is certainly a pleasure to speak with. My future brew shop business will more than likely be in his direction. Give him a look-see, eh?

So, to bring this to a close, I turned to a trusted and valiant home-brewer from past beers, Geoffrey Dobos, to kick around the idea of brewing this funny beer. Geoff seems highly interested and we have plans to go forward with it's creation starting tomorrow afternoon.. wish us luck. This should be a good learning experience. I can tell already that this beer will be one of those that I brew over and over until I get it right.. so, if we don't get it just perfect this time, we'll hone in on it until we do.. keep an eye on this space for details of the brew coming in tomorrow.

Take care..

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Brutal Truth: Franks DIPA

And here we go, for another round of The Brutal Truth, where we tear apart the hopes and dreams of yet another home brewer who foolishly submits a beer for my evaluation! In this round, we're disemboweling Franks (and to a large extent, Robs as well..) Double IPA that he crafted at the Big Brew, 2010. I say party Rob's as well, because they brewed this together and did a split batch of it.. but since Rob's was fermented off site in another location and is also packaged as draft only, it can't be fully counted as just one review. On with the show!

This is what I'm presented with:

So far, I would be checking off the Acetaldehyde and Estery check boxes. *Very* low in the Acetaldehyde though, almost imperceptible.. Estery as far as an also mild fruity character goes.

Again, sticking with BJCP recognized forms and scoring.. Bottle fill was perfect. No rings or weirdness in the neck that I noticed.

Aroma: Mild fruity and caramel-ly aroma. Strangely, no hops detectable. Certainly there should be some hops evident in a DIPA? No off aromas detectable here.. fermented well enough, I guess.  5/12 is the score. For a DIPA, there should be hops here that I'm not finding.

Appearance: Head retention thus far is low, but persistent. I've got an orange colored, well carbonated bottle conditioned beer in a double walled Bodum glass in front of me. Its clarity is unparalleled. 3/3

Flavor: Low maltyness and a very minor caramel flavor present. Actually, vanilla might be a better descriptor, because it's less than caramel, but there's a very minor player in there that tastes almost as if this was oaked, with non-toasted chips. Plenty of hop bitterness, but no real big hop flavor is around here. There's nothing here that's bad, but for a DIPA, I'm expecting some hops that I'm just not finding. Perhaps I'm biased from my West Coast experience, where a veritable hop clubbing was received every time, but there should definitely be more here in this beer, for this style. Bitterness is spot on, however. 10/20 is the score.

Mouthfeel: A bit of an alcoholic taste is evident, but very background. Fine for the style. Fantastic carbonation, medium body and overall near perfect mouthfeel. Very well done in this regard. 5/5

Overall Impression: Overall, if you handed this beer to me and didn't tell me what it was, and I wasn't hell bent on figuring it out, this beer is *solid*. It's well fermented, nothing wrong with it from a brewing or fermenting standpoint. Strong as heck abv%-wise, and balanced right out. It's dry, and drinks like a champ. There's nothing wrong with this at all, except for the one thing you're really needing in an (D)IPA. If this had more hops, this foundation would be simply awesome.  If we're arguing that it's a DIPA though, I'll have to take exception. I would brew this again, exactly the same, but add more hops in the midrange and then dry hop this thing in the fermenter as well. Then, perfection might be achieved. 6/10 for overall impression.

Total: 29/50

Huh? Wait.. 29/50 indicates "Good: Misses the mark on style and/or minor flaws" per the BJCP sheet.. but wait. Does that make sense? Well, the math here is weird. I dinged this beer hard on Flavor and Aroma.. and to a large extent, Overall Impression. Yet, it still makes "Good". Well, the Brutal Truth says it *is* good! It's a DAMN good beer. It scored well in the other areas, which negated the pain a bit. I mean, really well done, balanced, big abv, and no remarkable brewing or fermenting flaws. I dare say, find another category (Old Ale? Biere de Garde (Gads!)) and this thing might score very well indeed. I think the issue here is, it's a newish recipe, brewed with a new crop of hops.. this just needs a couple more refinements and it'll be perfect. As it stands, it doesn't make the best DIPA, but it makes a mighty fine drinking beer. And, with that said, I drank this on an empty stomach and it just *killed* me... this is not a session-able brew! ;) Too big!

This was my breakfast yesterday. An English Muffin I made with my pal Crystal (well, we made more than one..), an egg from the backyard hens, and a slice of cheese made a pretty decent MikeMuffin Sandwich, I'll say.

If you think you (and your beer) is man enough for a Brutal Truth review, don't be scared to pony up and submit one for review. One 12 oz bottle is all it takes to have your heart ripped from your chest and dashed on the pages of Up's and Down's!

That's all for now. Carry on..