Sunday, December 23, 2007

Double Back Simplicity Ale

This ale has been aging in secondary fermentation for a few weeks now, and I decided to keg it today. It's loosely based on Chimay Rouge, but I added dark Belgian Candi sugar instead of light, so it's a bit darker than Chimay. Also, due to the hop shortage, I was unable to get the appropriate hops. As a result, it tastes more like an American hopped lager crossed with the yeasty characteristics of a Belgian ale. I'm thinking about seeking out some better hops and dry hopping it in the keg. It's definitely a complex beer, but I'm just not happy with the hop character. All things aside, it is very lovely looking in the glass with a decent amount of head retention.

On Deck: Belgian Wit and Winter Warmer Specialty Ale

Over the last few weeks, I have been busy studying water chemistry, obtaining brewing equipment, refining my brewing methods, and basically trying to improve my mash efficiency. In order to effectively adjust my water, I need to know its composition. The water quality report from Illinois American Water assured me that the water is safe to drink, but gave me very little information about the cosmetic side of my water profile. I will need to send a sample to a lab to break it down. Does anybody know of a local lab that will perform this service for me? Otherwise, I will need to send my water to a lab in Minnesota a couple of times per year at $15 a pop. If there are any other all grain brewers in 61615, please let me know if you are interested in water chemistry. Perhaps we could share the lab fees. Here is a link to a chapter in "How to Brew" by John Palmer that discusses the importance of ph in mashing.

Even though this ale didn't turn out as nice as I would have liked, I can't help but to smile knowing that the government was unable to rape me with their outrageous alcohol tax. And all is well...


Edit: After dry hopping this beer with a half ounce of Cascade hops, it is much more palatable. Cascade is one of my favorite hops and I can't wait to see how the flavors develop.

Double Back Simplicity Ale
Belgian Dubbel - 7.02% ABV

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sandy the Dog

This picture of Sandy came out so nicely, I just had to share it. Hope you enjoy!


Celebrating the First Real Snowstorm!

Raspberries, Turbinado, and Snow...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mini Tamalada

After a trip to La Esquinita, Becka and I decided to make tamales. In Mexico, a tamalada is a tamale making party that's similar to an assembly line. Everyone pitches in. Although we were far short of an assembly line, we worked well together and produced some very nice tamales. The filling consisted of black beans, onions, achiote, habanero, and, of course, masa. We steamed them for about an hour and fifteen minutes before digging into this wholesome feast.

Achiote Black Bean Tamales

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Over The Line Stout

Well, this beer has been through some twists and turns, experienced a relatively sluggish fermentation, has aged for several weeks now, and finally matured into a quite respectable Russian Imperial Stout. I am proud to say that this beer has exceeded all expectations that I could have had for it. It has taught me a ton about fermenting big beers and properly pitching yeast. In any event, it has finally made it's way (at least half of it, anyway) into a cozy keg. The other half was bottled for Christmas gifts. I am excited to see what this beer tastes like in six months to a year after being bottle conditioned.

Ahhhh...Served on tap at a perfect 52ºF. This is the good life.

Over The Line Stout
Imperial Stout
9.2% ABV

Appearance: Deep brown to black in color with a dark tan creamy head. Good head retention.

Aroma: Caramely and malty with chocolate and hints of bananas.

Taste: Deep malt flavors. Not as toasty as I would have liked. Very little hop flavor.

Mouthfeel: Very smooth. Alcohol bite is more prominent as the beer opens up. Medium carbonation.

Drinkability: Very drinkable. Rich and wholesome. Very clean flavor with subtle yeast complexities.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Schlafly's Oatmeal Stout

In the past, I have enjoyed many brews by Schlafly, all at a very reasonable price. And I have noticed a trend with this St. Louis brewery - when they do a flavored beer, it's often overkill (most notably, their pumpkin beer that I tried last year). But within their 80 some brews, many are truly delicious, e.g., their Coffee Stout. However, this was not the case with the Oatmeal Stout. I must say that this is the most disappointing beer I have tasted since Granite City tainted their delicious Dopple Bock with their deplorable Lite Lager.

So, here goes:

Schlafly Oatmeal Stout
5.7% ABV

Appearance: Dark brown to black in color, yet watery when poured into a glass. A good deal of carbonation yielded a nice, khaki colored, foam head that dissipated rather quickly.

Aroma: Light hop aromas, a bit floral. A very "closed" beer. Slightly caramely.

Taste: Moderately dry. A bit of chocolate, hint of caramel. Nothing outstanding. Very hoppy. Reminiscent of a dark lager.

Mouthfeel: Thin and watery. Very low final gravity. Very snappy. Loads of carbonation.

Drinkability: Not worth buying again. I would rather shell out the extra buck and grab a Goose Island Oatie Stout or a Breckenridge Oatie Stout - both much better small stouts in this price range. The main problem I have with the Schlafly beer is that the malt body doesn't stand up to the amount of hops in it. The original gravity of this beer is 14 plato, dead average for the style, but the International Bitterness Units (IBUs) are 40, which puts it at the top end for the style. Kind of a mismatch if you ask me. This beer just a bit of malt kick to balance out the intense hops.

Now, back to my Flying Dog - Gonzo Imperial Porter. mmmmmmmm.


After the Ice Storm...

Here are a couple of photos after the ice storm today. Buddy chewed ice until his mouth was bloody and I took him inside. Ahhhh, good times! As always, more pictures are available on my Flickr account.


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Dark Lord Imperial Stout

Tonight while brewing, a friend of mine presented a bottle of Three Floyd's Dark Lord Imperial Stout. It's a seasonal brew that generally sells out hours after being released. My beer appreciating friend drove to the brewery and waited in line to purchase six bottles (maximum allowed) of this syrupy brew. Each twenty two ounce bottle will set you back $15.00, and it's worth every penny. I know it sounds like a lot, but people shell out money for fine wine without batting an eye. Dark Lord does indeed venture out of the realm of beer, borrowing characteristics from fine wine and spirits. But I'm not going to go on and on about it as there are many resources out there that can better put this beer into words. I certainly can't. This Russian Imperial is currently rated number two on Beer Advocate, so there are plenty of reviews there - most of which hit the nail on the head. I will tell you, however, that this beer poured from the bottle like used motor oil. It's been a while since I've seen a beer of this magnitude. I would recommend seeking this one out!