30 November 2007

Neil Gow's Scottish Ale

I do believe that this third round of homebrew is by far my favorite. I am quite, quite pleased at the way this one has turned out -- which is a nice surprise, since I was most worried about this one whilst in-production:

* At bottling time, I forgot to add the priming sugar to the bucket until after I had already filled about 12 bottles, so I did the unthinkable: I emptied the 12 bottles back into the bucket, and then added the priming sugar syrup.

* Upon resuming the bottling, I capped 3 bottles without topping them off, so I had to uncap them and do the top-offs, wasting 3 caps.

The moral of this story is, don't ever be in a rush whilst brewing OR bottling. I was worried that all the pouring back into the bucket would introduce too much oxygen to the mix, but it has turned out just fine.

It is a dark, dark brew, almost porter in color. It's a very dark coffee-ish brown, with a thin off-white head.

The aroma (granted, I've done the notes-tasting just after getting over a cold, so my sinuses are not quite as open and active as they probably should be...) presents toasted nuts, dark caramel, a wee bit of hay, and faint alcohol notes.

On the tongue, you're greeted with allspice, smoke, roasted grain, the slightest bit of cinnamon, caramel, a very slight ester note, and the faintest hint of those Kent Golding hops.

The palate is very pleasant: it's both spritzy and silky, and goes down warmly.

Sara and I poured half a bottle into a batch of venison-sweet potato-black bean chili we made, and it was stellar -- both in the bowl and the glass.

Venison is a most Scottish of dishes (even if chili is not) and the pairing is wonderful.
This ale is complex enough to pair well with any number of dishes, though. I'm excited to explore other avenues. The smokiness in particular should serve it well in conjunction with any number of hearty wintertime dishes. And, importantly, it's terrific all by itself.

24 November 2007

Thanksgiving 2008, Part II. Brooklyn Winter Ale

Brooklyn Brewery has long been one of my personal top-shelf favorite breweries. Everything Brooklyn puts forth is well worth having; I found their Winter Ale not their best offering, but still definitely worthy of a go. It's clearly in the Scottish Ale tradition -- dark, slightly sweet, not a whole lot in the way of hop flavors, with some added flavorful twists. It's wonderful on a blustery fall or winter night in front of a fireplace. Scottish floor-malted maris otter malts, English crystal malts, Belgian aromatic malts, American roasted malts, AND American oats, with Willamette hops. There's a punch to be packed, but it's not quite a heavyweight.

Appearance: reddish bronze, hazy, with a thin head.

Nose: Raisins, brown sugar, faint alcohol notes, a warm comforting aroma.

Taste: brown sugar, honey, roasted nuts, salt, malt, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves.

Palate: Warming, fizzy, and smooth

Overall: *Very* good, but I thought it could be better on the finish -- it just seems to drop off without saying goodbye, although it does pleasantly warm the throat. At 6%, it is slightly reminiscent of a weak barleywine with a Scots twist. It really was great with food -- what Sara and I had was caramel popcorn with nuts, and also pecan pie. I imagine it would be stellar with hearty winter foods -- savory stews, rich roast with gravy, a baked ham, or anything that has caramelized onions featured.

Next post....the unveiling of my own Neil Gow's Scottish Ale...here's to keeping my fingers crossed...

22 November 2007

Thanksgiving 2008, Part I: Jenlain Ambree

I was originally planning to bring the Castelian St. Amand Ale for this year's Thanksgiving feast, but ended up grabbing a bottle of the Jenlain Ambree (yet another notable French Biere de Garde) instead. It was definitely worth doing.

Jenlain, according to their own website (Brasserie Duyck), was the first brewery to package beers in 75 cL champagne-style bottles with wire-fastened corks. The Ambree is an unpasteurized biere de garde made from 3 different French barley malts and 3 different Alsatian hops. The 7.5% ABV is very very smooth.

Appearance: Lovely burnt caramel color with plenty of carbonation bubbles and a nice off-white head that thins out after a few seconds.
Aroma: Mild, caramelly, ever-so-slightly hoppy, faint hint of fruit -- peaches? and a whiff of hay to finish.
Flavor: Much more complex on the tongue than on the nose. A certain lagery quality reminiscent of Warsteiner (I seem to remember Castelian also exhibiting this lagery-ness), caramel/burnt sugar tones, a sharpness that says, "drink with farmhouse cheese!", and some rustic farm qualities: fresh grass, hay, nuts, herbs.
Palate: fantastically spritzy without being too champagne-like. Wonderful feel.
Overall: it’s no St Amand (still my favorite Biere de Garde, thus far) but more complex than Castelain.

The Ambree was truly excellent with Thanksgiving Dinner -- and what I especially appreciate, it was equally good with the main course and the dessert: it paired faultlessly with the turkey & dressing, gravy, veggie casseroles, and sweet potatoes, and then turned around and sang in harmony with the pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and apple crisp! Vive la biere francaise!

11 November 2007

More Web Fun with Beer

Well, I've ventured into www.ratebeer.com and set up an account for myself there. We'll see how far it goes and how much I get on board with it. My profile name, of course, is Perm.

07 November 2007

Great article from the NYT

I do have something of a love-hate relationship with the New York Times.
But as long as they keep publishing articles like this one, I'm all for them.

05 November 2007

not strictly a beer post, but I think there's some crossover...

One of my other newfound husband-passions is the baking of bread.

(NB. I'm using the word "husband" in its accurate Anglo-Saxon etymological sense -- the hus-band as one bound to the household; a homemaker if you will, every bit as much as the huswyf.)

One of my new years' resolutions for 2007 was to try my hand at sourdough; now that it's November I've finally gotten around to starting a starter-culture. In the attempt to find an out-of-the-way and warm place for the starter to live for the few days before it goes into the fridge, I opted for the downstairs 1/2-bath where the brewing magic currently takes place.

The sourdough starter is going wild.

I can only surmise that it is quite happy to be in the company of the currently-fermenting Scots Ale and that there must be whole legions of wild yeasts floating around that little room. The sponge is way ahead of schedule. This is exciting. Stay tuned; I'll return to this topic in future posts as I continue to explore and experiment with sourdough baking.

02 November 2007

November's here, and so is the Belgian homebrew

Even though it was probably a tad on the early side, I decided to break out the Belgian homebrew and see how it did.
Again, Sara was all ga-ga over the results. I think it's still a little young, and as it sits in the bottle will continue to mature nicely. That being said, I'm quite proud.
It's got a beautiful rust-copper reddish-brown color, reminiscent of cherry furniture (how's that for a creative comparison?). The nose (such as it is; I'm currently battling a cold, so my olfactories aren't all they should be..) brings to mind caramel, wildflower honey, roasted nuts, and the slightest hint of cinnamon. On the palate I get a spritzy warmth, delicate hopping, toffee, and brown sugar. It's a bit like a very mild Chimay (if I do say so myself) -- I expect it would go nicely with duck dishes or other game, and certain desserts (creme brulee, anyone?) as well as roasted nuts -- ooh, or pumpkin or pecan pie!
And at the end of the day, I'm ecstatic that all of my homebrews are not going to end up tasting the same. This couldn't be more different than the Green Zinger.
I attempted to use my new hydrometer to test the alcohol content of this one; I'm not sure I've mastered the device for total accuracy yet, but it appears (at the time of bottling) to be in the neighborhood of 5% ABV. I'll keep working on this device.

Being the nerd that I am, I've devised a naming scheme for my home brewing operation and all my various creations (the third round is already on the starting line). Given my love for music, especially classical music (hey, it's what I do), I've opted to call my moonlight operation the "St. Cecilia Brewery" in honor of the Patron Saint of music and composers, and name all the various brews after the great (and sometimes quite obscure) composers whom I love. I'll try to pair up styles with names based on nationality, alliteration, or just good old fashioned puns. Thus, my first batch has been christened "Maurice Greene Zinger" (I couldn't resist), and this recently opened creation is now "Cesar Franck's Belgian Ale."
I know I'm a dork; but hey, it's fun.

In other news, the world hop shortage is making its rounds and is being felt in all corners. When I picked up my Scots Ale kit from Asheville Brewers Supply last week, I had to get my Kent Goldings in leaf instead of pellet as I originally was going to; they were simply all out of the pellets. Whenever we get to the point where we're living in a house with land to do things with, I think it would be fun to try growing some hops. If I can get any rootstock at that point, that is.