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Topics - erockrph

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Commercial Beer Reviews / Medusa Brewing Company
« on: August 17, 2015, 05:33:53 PM »
I met up with some friends up in Hudson, MA a week ago for a night out. It was my first time in that area, but it's a recently gentrified old mill town with a really promising food scene that is developing. After a great dinner and dessert, we ended up at Medusa Brewing Company. We have a lot of brewpubs down my way, but this was the first nano/taproom style brewery I've been to. The taproom was a decent size and clean & well-maintained. Entertainment was a dude on mandolin playing an eclectic mix of tunes (I don't remember his whole set, but there was some 70's Bowie at one point).

Anyways, onto the beer. They had a really nice selection, with many sessionable brews and only a couple of IPA's (one being a session IPA). I started off with Sir Terry, which is a 3.8% dark mild that goes down really easy. There were toasty/nutty malt notes with hints of fruity esters and roasty chocolate. It was a little more watery than I'd like, but there was enough of a mineral character to dry out the finish and counteract that wateriness. I made a note that it would be killer on cask. I think the carbonation level may have made it seem a bit thin.

My buddy had their 80/-. I didn't take any detailed notes, but it was damn good. I remember thinking that this is what Belhaven must taste like fresh at the brewery.

Then I had Fermette, which is a 6% saison, dry-hopped with Sorachi and Centennial. My friends (who are admittedly not beer nerds like me) all made "the face" when they tried it - "not my tastes". Then I tried it. I made "the face", too. My notes read "Lemony, soapy, meaty. Something went wrong." Soap is almost definitely the hops. I'm not quite sure where the meaty thing is coming from. I always hear that this is an autolysis issue, but any time I've experienced that it's been in an overaged beer and it's been closer to soy sauce. This was more like chicken broth.

Overall, I was pretty happy with Medusa. I will definitely stop back in next time I'm in the area. But man, I wish they would have dumped that batch of saison. They're fairly new (open less than a year from what I've been told), so I hope they learn that it's OK to dump a beer. It's less expensive in the long run to lose a batch of beer than to lose customers.

Commercial Beer Reviews / Paulaner Original Munich (Helles)
« on: August 13, 2015, 09:23:26 PM »
There is a fairly new liquor store in my area that I recently discovered. They have a very solid craft beer selection, but it's not huge. There's no mix-a-six section collecting dust, everything is in the fridge. There may not be the hugest selection, but what they have is cold and fresh. I mention this because Paulaner Helles is a beer I'd never touch at the other bottle shops in my area, as it is typically stored warm and not likely to be turned over very quickly. So when I saw it in the fridge at Big Gary's, I snapped it right up.

This beer just hits all the marks for me. It has a wonderful rich, bready malt character to it. It is well attenuated, but not as bone dry as a pils. The carbonation level is also backed off a bit compared to other lagers. It isn't crisp and bone-dry, but that plays to the maltiness well, and it is still dangerously easy to put down in quantity.

What I really enjoy about it is the malt character. With most pilsners I get a malt character that reminds me of uncooked pasta. The Paulaner is different. It reminds me more of a french baguette. I would love to brew a beer with this same malt flavor, but I can't quite think of a grain that would get me there. If I had to guess, I'd wager that Paulaner has this malt made to spec and it's probably in between Pils and Vienna malt somewhere. I also wonder if yeast strain comes into play here. I can't think of a Paulaner beer that I haven't loved when I've had a good/fresh bottle of it.

The Pub / Are these cherries?
« on: July 06, 2015, 06:23:07 AM »
I came across some trees on my property in the past few weeks that are covered with fruit that look like small cherries. I am hesitant to forage for any berry that I haven't positively identified, especially red ones that i have no prior experience with. But man, do these things look just like tiny cherries.

Does anyone have any experience/thoughts on these:

Commercial Beer Reviews / Pilsner Urquell in brown bottles!
« on: June 23, 2015, 08:32:13 PM »
Apparently I missed the memo, but PU is being sold in brown bottles in the US now. I haven't had Urquell in years since I have a longstanding boycott of green-bottled beer. I bought a 12-pack as a backup brew for my son's birthday party in case my Maerzen was too "dark" for any BMC drinkers (it wasn't, the keg kicked just as the bulk of the crowd left). I was happily surprised when I opened the case and the bottles were brown.

What a damn good beer this is. It is crisp and smooth, and loaded with hoppy goodness without being clinging and resinous. And the hop burps are unlike any American Ale. At 4.4% ABV this might just be the perfect lawnmower beer.

Other Fermentables / Island Mist fruit wine kits
« on: May 30, 2015, 11:47:13 AM »
Has anyone ever tried one of these? Label Peelers has them 30% off today, since Winexpert is instituting minimum pricing starting tomorrow. I wasn't thinking of brewing one straight-up, but rather using them as a base for a light, carbonated melomel (in the vein of B Nektar's Zombie Killer/Kill all the Golfers/etc.). I'm just wondering if these are OK, or if they're lousy Boone's Farm ripoffs.

Yeast and Fermentation / Orval dregs
« on: May 27, 2015, 05:59:17 AM »
I was under the impression that Orval filtered out their house yeast and added Brett at bottling, but I have a starter going with some Orval dregs and now I'm not so sure. I stepped it up last week and now the starter is really roaring along. It has a huge frothy krausen, and is pumping out quite a bit of CO2. It smells Bretty and fantastic (apple/pineapple/cherry), but it definitely looks more like a Sacc fermentation. Either this is a mixed culture, or it's the world's most vigorous Brett strain.

Does anyone know if there's Saccharomyces in Orval dregs? Anyone make a starter from Orval before? I was planning on pitching this along with some US-05 in a lambic-style brew, but if there's already some Saccharomyces in this culture, I'll probably pitch the whole starter into primary.

Other Fermentables / Small Batch Wine Kits
« on: May 01, 2015, 12:01:10 PM »
I know I'm not the only one here who has an interest in dabbling in brewing some wine. Northern Brewer has a new lineup of 1-gallon wine kits that looks interesting. Right now they're running a deal where you get an extra kit of chardonnay if you buy their starter kit (which already includes a wine kit of your choice). Not a bad deal for $80 - two 1 gallon wine kits, and just about all the equipment you could need. It looks like all you need to provide is the bottles. I don't drink a lot of wine, so the smaller kits are actually pretty tempting to me:


The Pub / Aged spirits in a week
« on: April 26, 2015, 11:23:10 AM »
This was a very interesting read. I don't see technology like this necessarily replacing traditional aged spirits, but it certainly would provide an avenue to enable new distillers to get into the picture a lot more easily:

Ingredients / "Hop My Beer" hop oil
« on: March 05, 2015, 09:55:46 PM »
I got my package from Hop My Beer in today. Conveniently enough, I just picked up a growler of Rye King from Brutopia (an great local brewpub) last night. It is essentially a Rye Maerzen with a little hop bite (~30 IBU) and only a touch of noble hop aroma. It's a pretty good base beer for sampling hop oils.

I decided to try the Chinook and Citra oils tonight. The recommended dose is 1-2 drops per 12 oz pour. I started with 1 drop in 6oz, so this is the upper end of the range. The bottles of oil were hand-numbered and sealed. The dropper has a childproof top and a fine-point dropper tip. It is pretty clear that they pay attention to their packaging.

First up was the Chinook. When I opened the bottle I picked up a grassy, hop pellet aroma. When I dosed the beer I picked up some grassy, cucumber peel aromas, along with anise and an herbal/spicy/minty note similar to a Ricola cough drop.

On the flavor side, there were some raw hop/resin notes along with some herbal grassiness. The resin tended to linger a bit which left the impression of a bit more bitterness (like maybe 5 IBU more). I didn't get any pine or citrus in either the flavor or the aroma.

The Citra oil had the same grassy, raw hop aroma in the bottle. When I dosed the beer I got more of that raw hop aroma and herbal mint/spice aromas. I did pick up some sweet tropical fruit in the papaya/guava family and maybe a hint of Hawaiian Punch. The fruit was faint, however and had none of the mango/citrus I typically get from Citra.

The Citra-dosed beer had a bit more of the raw hop resin flavor than the Chinook. It made the beer seem a bit more bitter (maybe 8-10 IBU more perceived bitterness to my palate). Other than that, I got no other hop character in the flavor - no fruit at all. Adding 1 more drop made no discernable change. At that point, I added 2 more drops (4 drops total in a 6oz sample) and there was still no fruit character, only more of that "raw hop" flavor.

In the end, the hop oil reminded me more of the hop character in unfermented wort straight from the brew kettle, rather than what I get from dry hops. It's not horrible, but I'm not a big fan. I was hoping for pine and citrus, and just got grassy, raw hops. It seems like the hop oils that lead to grassy hop character like myrcene and farnesene are here in spades, but the floral/citrus oils like linalool, geraniol, and citronellol are either lost or hidden.

Overall, I don't think these are bad products, but they don't necessarily deliver for the trained palate. I am still interested in the iso-alpha acid extract I got. I'll have to find a creative use for the other oils.

All Things Food / For the cool-climate gardeners
« on: February 21, 2015, 07:45:47 PM »
I was at the RI flower show today and met Petra from Fruition seeds ( I like to experiment with heirloom varieties in my garden that I can't get if I don't grow them myself. A lot of times that means you're rolling the dice with varieties that may not be suited for your locale, especially in cooler areas like the Northeast. Well, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the seeds from Fruition are coming almost exclusively from the Northeast (their farm is in the Finger Lakes area, and the majority of seed they aren't growing themselves is coming from NY, VT, Quebec or Maine).

I never thought I'd be able to grow peanuts up my way, but I was able to grab a cold-hardy variety that originally came from from the northern peninsula of Michigan. I'm probably going to hit up their website for some ground cherries, tomatillos and canteloupe as well.

As much as I love sites like Baker City and Seed Savers Exchange, I was really psyched to find a seed grower who is focusing on regionally-adapted varieties. I will definitely be going out of my way to give these guys my business.

The Pub / Did you drink your Alzheimer's medicine today?
« on: February 17, 2015, 08:46:55 AM »

Other Fermentables / Storing opened wine kit
« on: February 03, 2015, 12:24:41 PM »
I recently bought a wine kit to make some pyment and to add to a batch of Saison. I think I will still have a fair amount of must left over after those two batches, and I was wondering how long it could be stored safely before I use the rest. Ideally, I'd like to hold onto it for a few months so if the Saison works out well I could brew a second batch of it once it kicks. If it's only a matter of days or weeks I'll have to find another use for it - either to ferment normally as wine or maybe in a lambic-esque sour.

Anyone have any thoughts? Would it be adviseable to sulfite it prior to storing?

Commercial Beer Reviews / Thomas Hardy Ale
« on: February 01, 2015, 10:03:36 PM »
In celebrating a Super Bowl win by my beloved Patriots, I deemed it fitting to crack into one of my dearest bottles in the beer cellar. This one is from the 2004 vintage, a bottle stamped No. P 49100.

There wasn't the faintest hiss of carbonation upon removing the cap. Color is a deep amber-brown, with the slightest ring of fine bubbles around the edge of the glass. Aroma is raisins, figs, sherry and maple syrup.

On the palate, there is a deep toasted bread crust note, more figs and sherry, and a hint of earthy/herbal hops. Although it is quite sweet, I still get a touch of lingering hop bite that is very welcome. After a few sips a real nice note of dried cherries starts to build. Surprisingly, I still get a slight tickle of carbonation after 11 years in the bottle.

Thomas Hardy is probably my all-time favorite beer. It's nice to have an occasion to celebrate with one. Alas, I do think that the 2004 vintage is starting to turn the corner. Not that there is anything bad going on here, but I do feel that it is starting to become a bit more cloying/maple syrupy than when in its peak form.  I may be finding the fainest hint of soy sauce here as well, but I'm not entirely certain. I have one bottle left from this vintage. As tempting as it is to hold onto it for many more years, I think I may be doing the beer a disservice by waiting much longer. I should probably check in on my 2006 Vintage bottles as well.

Yeast and Fermentation / Dry yeast for pre-soured Berliner Weisse
« on: January 08, 2015, 12:17:14 PM »
I've often heard WY1007 recommended for fermenting a Berliner Weisse that has already undergone lactic acid souring (i.e., sour mash, sour wort, lactic primary, etc.), since it seems to work even at lower pH ranges. Does anyone know of any dry strains that work well at lower pH ranges for something like this?

I'm planning on brewing a few batches of Berliner Weisse this spring, but I don't have easy access to liquid yeast. I was hoping one of the usual suspects that I already have in my fridge (US-05, S-04, 34/70), or something else I can pick up now and stash away for a quick brewday, would work OK as a substitute.

Ingredients / Single-hopped beers - 2014 edition
« on: December 31, 2014, 07:14:37 PM »
I'm just getting in under the wire this year, but I was finally able to get in a short brewday to test out a few new hop varieties. I was only able to get three batches in today, but I have high hopes for them. The hop varieties I'm using this time around are Kohatu and Wai-iti from New Zealand, and an experimental hop from YVH called "J-Lime". The NZ hop pellets both smelled awesome. The J-lime is whole-cone, and I find the aroma off the raw hops for cones is often pretty mild. I love me some lime, so I'm hoping the J-lime pulls through in the finished beer.

For this batch, the recipe was 14oz of Light DME and 3oz of Carahell steeped for about 10 minutes to target an OG in the low 1.050's. As soon as I pulled the grains, I added 40-45 IBU (calculated as a 20-minute addition) of the hop, and brought it to a boil for 15 minutes. Each batch gets 1/4 oz flameout hops and 1/2 oz dry hops. Yeast is 1/3 packet of US-05 fermented at about 60F.

I'll be back in a month or so with tasting notes. Here are links to my results from the last two years, with a bit more detail on my process:

2012 edition
2013 edition

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