Chinook Single Hop IPA Tasting

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If you have visited before you may have seen the recipe published here for Single Hop IPA’s. The gist of the article was as a way to understand the qualities of different varieties of hops. The flavour and aroma they impart and to build an understanding of how they in a beer.

Around the same time as publishing the recipe, I brewed a Chinook single hop beer and it has been conditioning for a few weeks. It is around this time that I like to evaluate these hoppy beers and start tasting.

Chinook IPA

I find with hoppy beers like these, there is a trade off between capturing the freshness of those volatile hop aromas and letting the beer condition and round out, after a week in the keg there is still definite green off flavours in the beer and the carbonation is still not quite there. A week is a bit too soon but after two weeks in the keg things are much better and the freshness of the hops are still right at their peak.

Tasting after two weeks in the keg or bottle, you really get to see how much hop aromas change over time. The aroma really jumps out of the glass the fresher the beer is and slowly morph or fade the longer the beer sits in the keg or bottles.

I find this to be a real issue when buying commercial IPA’s in bottles, you never really know if what you are drinking is at it’s peak. The only real indicator you have is if there is a packaging date on the bottle. Even if the beer is relatively fresh you still have issues with whether it been stored cold or if it’s sat at ambient temperature or worse yet been on a shelf near the window of a shop.

This is part of the reason why brewing IPA’s at home is so productive. As a homebrewer you are in a much better position to brew something extraordinary, in tip top condition and fresh as a daisy that is fairly difficult for the commercial brewery to deliver in the same time scale.

With all that said let’s take a look at what Chinook delivers in this IPA. I have to say that I was fairly surprised at just how this beer turned out. Tasting the Chinook in this beer gives me some plans for future beers in terms of how to pair hops for maximum effect.

Chinook IPA Tasting

Look: In my eyes this beer is beautiful. One noticeable aspect of the way this beer looks is the considerable haze, mainly due to the considerable late hops and dry hops this is fully expected. Of course you should be serving an IPA cold too so a chill haze is almost inevitable in heavily hopped beers.

I love the colour you get using a small dose of light crystal malt, it almost glows if you hold it up to the sun. The head on the beer is pure white and the carbonation is quite high so this stabilises the foam which lasts the whole way throughout drinking the beer. Plenty of lacing and this really helps the aroma too.

Smell: Overwhelming tropical fruits and pine are on the nose, I was expecting more of the spicey pine notes to dominate here but there is also bags of ripe mango on the nose. There was around 80 grams of chinook aroma hops in the last 10 minutes of the boil and then another 30 grams dry hop so I think this is why. It’s these quite large additions that give you the full spectrum of flavours and aroma from different hop varieties and this particular Chinook beer is full of pine and mango aromas.

Taste: The taste matches the aroma, bags of tropical fruits like mango along with pine and grapefruit. The taste is really fresh and juicy with just enough bitterness. The bitterness is actually fairly subdued for an IPA so the taste is slightly sweeter than I was expecting.

Feel: The body of this beer is ok, the head and foam stability is great.

Chinook IPA head

Overall: I’m really pleased how this beer turned out. When using one hop only in a hoppy beer you do run the risk of having only one dimension, usually you want to pair hops by the aroma profiles, mixing fruity hops with spicy or piney hops adds complexity.

The Chinook in this IPA however is just fine being centre stage and there is enough complexity just on it’s own. Pairing Chinook with Citra to boost those mango and tropical fruit notes would work really well.

At the end of the day I now have a better understanding of exactly what Chinook as a hop can do and that is what brewing is all about, experimenting, testing and refining. That’s how you get better.

Honey Blonde Ale Tasting

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Honey Blonde Ale Tasting

The intention of brewing this Blonde Ale was to make a beer that has all those subtle and delicate flavours of honey and retain as much if them as possible. The volatile flavour compounds tend to get lost in honey beers especially when adding the honey in the boil.

For this beer the honey was added after the primary fermentation had subsided slightly. The thinking behind this was that the large amounts of carbon dioxide would again drive off those delicate flavours.

I wasn’t really worried about the possibility of introducing bacteria when adding honey during fermentation because having made mead I know people tend to just dilute down the honey with water to ferment. I also believe a lot of honey available in the shops may be pasteurised as well. This makes adding honey during fermentation the same as adding any simple sugar, of course the intention though is to get the flavour not necessarily to boost the alcoholic content.

My one concern about adding honey however is with making the beer to dry or thin. Honey has the benefit of adding flavour but adding too sugar in any form means you decrease the body of the beer as the sugars ferment out and leave hardly any unfermentables like malt would.

The beer has been bottled for a few weeks now so it’s time to see what it tastes like and most importantly how much of that honey flavour has remained and whether the body and mouthfeel has suffered.

Recipe is here

Honey Blonde Ale Tasting Notes

Look: The colour of the beer is a kind of straw/gold, I would say almost the colour of honey but that never even occurred to me until after I poured it. Poured very carefully and it has come out extremely clear even from fridge temperatures.

The beer has a soft pillowy. Fluffy white head that dissipates fairly quickly but lacing lingers on the glass for a fair amount of the way down the beer.

Smell: The aroma is biscuity and malty to begin with, there is a sweet note to the aroma but I cannot say it obviously smells of honey. It may be that because I know there is honey in the beer I can detect a slight trace of it. If you didn’t know there was honey in there then I don’t think it would be picked up. I guess the malt base and the grassy hops may overpower the honey on the nose.

Taste: After the first sip you I can absolutely, 100% say that the honey is present. It isn’t strong enough to be called a braggot and that was never the intention. It is a beer with a strong emphasis on the honey but I think there is a good balance.

After the honey comes a soft fruitiness and a strong earthy and grassy note from the hops. The honey taste does make you think the beer is kind of sweet though. That may be the flavour of the honey giving an impression of sweetness. More bittering hops could help balance it a bit more.

Feel: The body is fairly good, as I mentioned before the head is solid and laces all down the glass. I was worried the beer may be too thin and dry but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all.

Overall: I think in terms of getting that honey flavour into the beer then we’ve achieved that fairly well. In terms of how good the beer is overall I would say it’s pretty good. I’m not in love with the beer but I definitely like it. The honey tricks you into thinking the beer is sweeter than the final gravity actually tells us it is.

It is well worth some further tweaks, maybe a stronger bittering hop addition and some aroma hops that could pair well with the honey character in the beer. Something along the lines of hops with a orange/tangerine aroma such as the Australian hop Summer or US Summit which also carries. That’s just my opinion though.

Kolsch Tasting & Taking Notes

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Kolsch Tasting

 

Around a month ago I shared the recipe for a Kolsch I brewed. As promised I will now share the tasting notes for the beer.

As a home brewer I find sitting and writing these tasting notes really helpful. It is such a great exercise I would recommend every brewer do it. I mean actually sit and write your thoughts, rather than just tasting and thinking about the beer. Writing about how something tastes seems to help really dial in on different aspects of the beer.

Brown Ale and Spiced Brown Ale Tasting

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Brown Ale Tasting

This Brown Ale Recipe finished up at such a high final gravity I was sure it was going to be too sweet and cloying. The thing about brewing though is you have to wait to see how things pan out.

One of the things that can get to a brewer is trying to second guess all the trivial occurrences about making beer. There is always something to worry about, just take a look at any brewing forum. It tends to be 95% of the posts are brewers asking if something that happened or they did is going to affect the beer.

The truth of the matter is though, brewing can be quite forgiving and you can end up with great results even if things don’t go according to plan.

I did intend to have this beer finish at a high gravity after fermentation. It finished at 1.018 though giving me an ABV of 3.8%. In all honestly though I think this Brown Ale is one of the best I’ve ever brewed.

This Brown Ale was split at packaging so there are two lots of tasting notes. The base beer is exactly the same. At bottling I added a spice infusion to half the batch so we can compare exactly what this adds.

The ability to taste the beers side by side is a great way to see how additional flavourings interact with the beer.

Brown Ale Tasting Notes

Look: It’s definitely brown leading into ruby red at the edges. I wanted a dark brown ale originally and it seems the late addition of roasted barley has really deepened the hue of this beer without adding way too much in the way of roasted character. The head build nicely as the bear is poured and settles back down after a few minutes. Lacing is good and lasts the whole way down the glass.

Smell: Complex malt on the nose with touches of biscuit and a touch of burnt toast. You can also detect a fair amount of sweetness in the smell.

Taste: As a 3.8% beer it;s pretty complex. I am able to detect the brown malt and chocolate malts almost individually. There is a fair hit of dark brown sugar on the palate which I would think is a combination of the residual sweetness and the roasted grains.

There is a earthy spiciness in the aftertaste that is contributed by the large dose of Willamette as the aroma hop

Feel: This beer is one of the richest beers I’ve made under 4% ABV. Of course it will never be as full bodied as a higher ABV beer but it feels a lot fuller in the mouth.

Overall: I am really pleased with how this Brown Ale has turned out. It’s a great winter beer that will be a great drinker over these colder months.

Spiced Brown Ale Tasting Notes

Look: It’s exactly the same as the base Brown Ale. The head retention is the same which suggests the spiced vodka addition doesn’t affect the foam in any way.

Smell: The spices are the dominant scent here with the malt aroma falling into the background. Cloves and cinnamon on a base of toasted malts. It is still a balanced aroma. Spices can sometime overwhelm everything else in a spiced beer.

Taste: The spices are subtle, a lot more subtle than the smell. I feel there could be more spices if I were to do it again, the malt and the spices have merged together. You can definitely detect them and they do add a layer of flavour. There could be more though. There is a definite spiced fruitcake like taste which is superb.

Feel: The same as the base beer to my senses.

Overall: It’s a real eye opener to taste the beers side by side. You can see exactly what the spice additions add.

The spiced beer is my favourite of the two beers. Maybe because it’s cold and the spiced brown ale feels more comforting. The spices and the sweetness work so well together giving the beer a definite spiced cake flavour that I really enjoy. I would consider spicing another batch without the infusion, just adding the spices at the end of the boil.

Oatmeal Pale Ale Tasting

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Oatmeal Pale Ale head

(Here is the recipe for the Oatmeal Pale Ale)

Putting a twist on styles and getting to grips with different ingredients is what home brewing is all about. You can experiment as much as you desire and the payoff can be great, other times you may miss the mark. At the end of the day it doesn’t make too much difference as long as you enjoy the process and learn with each batch. After all there is no pressure to recoup expenses like a commercial brewery has to do.

This Oatmeal Pale Ale recipe has only a small twist on an otherwise pretty standard hoppy Pale Ale. You know there is a good chance it will be good even with a slightly different ingredient in the grain bill.

The whole idea behind the recipe was to turn the classic hoppy pale ale into something with a bit more texture and mouthfeel. Create a bit more viscosity and body in what can sometimes be a thin beer at lower ABV’s.

For the most part the recipe was a success. The beer is reminiscent of an American Wheat beer. There is only a small quantity of wheat in the recipe but the added body from the oats gives the sense of a refreshing summery wheat beer.

Let’s take a closer look.

Oatmeal Pale Ale

Oatmeal Pale Ale Tasting

Look: The colour is straw blonde to golden with a definite haze. I mentioned in the recipe that I was pretty sure there would be a moderate haze. The head is thick and white and lasts the whole way through the beer. The added proteins obviously is enough to stop the fats from the oats destroying the head of the beer.

Smell: The first thing you smell is the citrus and fruit notes from the hops giving way to a graininess. I thought it was just going to be hops dominating but there is a definite balance between the two.

Taste: The taste is fresh and bright. The hops are present but do not dominate like they would in a lot of pale ales. The malt is honeyed and has a cereal or bready note. Hops are citrus and zingy with lemon and floral qualities.

The taste is refreshing and crisp the hops and malt balance each other nicely and don’t overpower each other.

Feel: The body of the beer is good, thicker than a usual pale ale without the high portions of oats or wheat. It’s not entirely what I was aiming for the beer is crisper and doesn’t really coat the mouth like an oatmeal stout would. That is not to say the beer is bad yet, it is just a little different to what I was expecting.

Overall: I like this beer. If I didn’t know there was Oats in it, would I be able to tell? Probably not. It has the body and refreshing qualities of a wheat beer. The hops are subdues slightly by the added body but shine enough to balance the beer towards the hoppy side.

Maybe this is just my perception but using oats in a pale beer doesn’t have quite the same effect as using them in a stout.

A stout is already richer in body and flavour to begin with. Using Oats to add body seems to strengthen the malt character, whilst dimming the hoppy character slightly.

This would be a great summer beer, it’s got the refreshing, crisp qualities of a wheat beer and the citrus, lychee notes from the Cascade and Centennial hops.

Session Stout Tasting

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It was only a few weeks ago that I brewed the Session Stout but it’s ready to taste so let’s take a look at how it’s turned out.

The brew day itself went by without any hitches and fermentation was unremarkable. The temperature here in Cornwall is starting to cool now the seasons are changing. It’s Autumn now so the ambient temperature in my house is a steady 18C for most of the day and night.

I’m sympathetic to a lot of home brewers that live in warmer climates. Requiring far more resources to control their fermentation temperatures.

Living in the UK the temperatures year round are always somewhere in the region of ideal for brewing. If it means changing the beer style to suit the current temperatures it’s just a matter of planning. Keeping those temperature steady, without to much fluctuation between day and night is important.

It is the falling temperature that first inspired me to brew this darker Session Stout. Wanting something both comforting and rich but restraining the alcohol content. Trying to balance both of these objectives seemed to work on paper, so how did it translate into a beer?

Pretty well!

The beer drinks like there is a higher alcohol content. It’s rich enough and fills the mouth like a stronger thicker Stout would. There is room for improvement, just as there is in most beers and a few tweaks could lift it to a higher level.

The roasted character competes with the sweetness a little to much. Perhaps a touch more lactose would even this out. It may be personal preference of course, you don’t want the beer to get too sweet.

session stout

Session Stout

Look: In my opinion dark beers always look good. Clarity is never a concern in a dark enough beer. Take a look at the picture the head of this beer reaches a few centimeters out of the glass. This is in part due to glass, the etched bottom generates a steady stream of bubbles. The colour is midnight black and the head a light, pale tan.

Smell: Roasted malt is predominant. The lactose sweetness mingles with the roasted notes to give the impression of chocolate. If you want to delve deeper you might say a note of charred biscuits.

Taste: Roasted malts first then the sweetness gives the impression of chocolate and coffee. Just like the aroma the two compete against each other. It would be nice to say this adds complexity but I would prefer them to blend together. The taste lingers for a good while on the palate and the hops are only just present in the background.

The taste is that of a beer with a higher ABV. The flavour is big enough when bolstered by the sweetness to be warming.

Feel: I’m happy with the mouthfeel. The carbonation is quite low so the pillowy head is a great outcome. The slight sweetness fills the mouth and it is rich enough to please.

Overall: This is a good solid beer and one that packs a lot of flavour for the small ABV. The body is spot on in my opinion and the flavour good but could be elevated a touch more. Switching around some of the darker malts and tweaking the lactose to balance the two. That would take the beer to another level.

Citra / Cascade IPA Tasting

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The Cascade and Citra combo, how did it turn out? This beer has been in the bottle for about 3-4 weeks now so it’s time to evaluate and critique it.

As with most of my beers I check out the first few bottles after two weeks and then when I’m happy it’s conditioned hand a few out to friends and family and a bid to get a wider range of feedback. As you will probably know it’s difficult to gauge how people really feel about a beer you just handed them because unless you have particularly blunt, straight -talking friends they are likely to say “it’s good” no matter what it tastes like.

The reaction to this beer though has been easier to pick up, myself and quite a few of my testers have been visibly impressed (a much better sign than, “it’s good”) by this Cascade / Citra IPA combination.

What’s more the brewday went extremely smoothly and fermentation went by without any issues, once primary fermentation settled down, I chucked in the hop pellets loose and 5 days later they whole lot had settled to the bottom of the fermenter. When the whole process is so easy and unremarkable it makes brewing the beer itself, a joy.

 

citra cascade ipa

 

Citra / Cascade IPA

Look: Initially whilst this beer was conditioning in the bottle the haze was pretty prevalent, after a couple of weeks however it has settled down and now only has a slight haze. The colour is golden to dark honey and the pour leaves a firm white head that dissipates as you move down the glass but lingers at the edges.

Smell: Big citrus notes and effervescent tropical notes and a slight floral hint. The alcohol and malt is undetectable under a big blanket of the Citra and Cascade dry hop.

Taste: Fairly big bitterness but not overwhelming, enough to grab your attention and linger for a while but not enough to impact on the citrus and floral notes that are carried through. The malt is holding it’s own without fighting for attention, a honeyed quality from the Caragold is noticeable and perfectly compliments the hop flavours. There is a slight sweetness in the taste that is attributed to the crystal malt.

Feel: Fairly light and particularly refreshing when served this cool (at around 12°C). Carbonation is good but fairly moderate and the bitterness doesn’t dry the mouth like in some more heavily bittered beers.

Overall: The combination of Citra / Cascade works really well in this beer. I can see why it’s a popular combination. The beer is well balanced although the sweet note at the end of the taste could be dialled back a tiny amount. Overall however, this is one of my favourite IPA’s that I have brewed and definitely worth re-brewing in the future.