Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bryan's 'Honey Ale' review

My pal Bryan, whom I've known for a bazillion years from back in the day, lives out in Arizona. He recently took up brewing and we've been communicating recently about his adventures in the hobby as well as his gearing up for construction on a new home brewery. I'm excited to see what this fellow comes up with, as he's an accomplished fabricator and has his own shop out there. In fact, some of you in the audience may have heard of this fellow while we've been talking over a beer here as this is the very same guy who welded my brewery frame together at an age that wouldn't even get him into a bar. He's been welding and fabbin' *that* long.

In any case, Bryan sent me this via the mail for some deconstruction and evaluation:

Bryan's 'Honey ale'
As you can see, it was shipped in a Grolsch 16oz bottle. You can also see a healthy head of foam on there. When I opened this bottle, I nearly crapped myself, as the carbonation in this bottle was so high, I'm surprised it didn't grenade in the box during transit. This is is *carbed*. Anyone who has brewed with honey knows, it's the gift that keeps on giving.. giving bubbles, that is. Honey is sort of a complex sugar, and the yeast can eat it, all of it really.. but they tend to do so slowly. Sometimes sneakily. Sometimes like 'Rocket Mead'.. heh. Sorry, inside joke.. mostly.

Anyway, let's take a look, eh? Because it was fairly over-carbed, the explosive opening looks like it released all the co2 and blew up the yeast on the bottom of the bottle.. as a result, it's all cloudy. We can't really tell if she was clear or not as a result, so we'll have to pass on that.. the head of foam has held for a few minutes so, so that seems to be working. It's a light gold color brew, and the lacing on the sides is holding up pretty good. Bryan set the recipe for this extract beer along with the beer itself and he indicates 2.5lbs of honey was involved in it's creation. This honey is clearly apparent on the nose, thanks that that generous use. On first sip, I'm hit with a a pretty apparent honey flavor at first, followed by a mild/moderate fusel alcohol note. Since Bryan fermented this at room temp in AZ where it's 80 degrees right now, I'm surprised that this isn't more of a fusel bomb. Surprised it came out this clean.. huh! There's a relatively firm bitterness to this beer, actually doing a good job of balancing out this much honey. It's not enough to come through in the flavor or aroma, but the bitterness works for this beer. I'm not sure how strong this beer is, because Bryan doesn't have a hydrometer at this time, but a quick run through of QBrew of these ingredients in a 5 gallon batch size gives me something like 7%+ abv. Yikes! It's not small. About halfway through the pint I feel it's effects already.. If this beer had some note of hop at the end, it would be *that* much better.. as it is, it's a tad one dimensional, but it's a certainly drinkable beer. It could also use some more time in the fermenter, to work out some of this honey, but not much else to complain about. It's clean tasting with nothing 'off' about it. Nice job on a first beer, esp. once containing a weird ingredient like honey.

Here's the recipe he sent along, if you were curious:

Bryan's Honey Ale:  

Fermented 14 days @ 80 degrees
2 lbs of 10L Carmel
6 lbs of light liquid
2.5 lbs of honey
2 oz cascade 
1/3 oz 60 min
1 oz 45 min
2/3 oz at finish
American ale 1056 yeast