Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Time to Take Your Pils

A recurring theme somewhat of late has been pilsner style lager, and my ongoing efforts to find an American brewed pilsner which is both worthy of the name "pilsner" and bears more than a passing resemblance to those I drank day in and day out in the Czech Republic. Regular readers will no doubt be aware of my misgivings, but I am always happy to try a new beer, and so when a couple of commentators made some recommendations, off I went to the shop to buy more beer for the cellar.

As I have done before, I decided to do a blind tasting, with my beautiful assistant, Mrs Velkyal, in charge of pouring duties. This time though I was drinking beers new to me, although Victory Prima Pils was a beer I had had a couple of times before, though both times in a buzzed fug, so I wanted to get to grips with it when my head was fairly clear.

Pils A (a la Cyclops)

  • Sight - pale golden with a large frothy white head
  • Smell - grass, flowers, lemons
  • Taste - bready maltiness, slight butteriness, could use more hops
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
Pils A was a nice enough beer, the kind of beer which I wouldn't turn my nose up at, but also not one I would rush across town and country to buy. A barbecue beer if you will.

Pils B

  • Sight - straw coloured, decent head which vanishes relatively quickly
  • Smell - grass and flowers
  • Taste - good hoppy bite up front, backed up by a grainy malt body, crisp
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 3/5
Another nice, refreshing lager, the hoppy bite was particularly welcome, definitely something I would drink many times again.

Pils C

  • Sight - darker gold, large, tight, white head
  • Smell - very yeasty, baked bread
  • Taste - very fruity, almost like jam, heavy butter
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 1.5
Pils C reminded me in many ways of the lagers from Chyně, which while being well made and popular with many back in Prague, simply aren't my thing because of the hefty dose of diacetyl.

As I hadn't had a couple of the beers before, there was no way I was going to try and guess which was what, so I simply ranked them as I preferred them, which turned out to be as follows:
  1. Victory Prima Pils - pils B
  2. Oskar Blues Mama's Little Yella Pils - pils A
  3. Lagunitas Pils - pils C
Next up then must be the inevitable taste comparison between the Prima Pils and Little Yella Pils and a few Czech lagers, to be picked up when I am next in South Carolina, next week in fact - in particular Budvar. The journey continues on.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Questions for Historic Research

One of the joys of having my parents visiting at the moment is the extra excuse to get out of town at weekends and see some of Virginia's famed historic sites. The weekend just gone, we did exactly that, driving east to visit Williamsburg and Jamestown.

Jamestown is the site of the first permanent English colony in North America, while Williamsburg was once the capital of Virginia, and is most famous today for the open air museum which revives the colonial era just before the American Revolution. Both are very interesting, in their way, but both left me with a fundamental question - what did these English colonists and their descendants drink?

Imagine if you will, walking from the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg, down Duke of Gloucester Street and passing some 6 or 7 taverns as you go and not seeing a single reference to the brewing of beer in the colonies. In fact, if we bring our trip to Monticello into the equation, I have only seen one reference to brewing at any of these sites - a small info board in the beer cellar at Monticello, which has spurred some research on my part because I am not sure that it is entirely correct, but we will return to that at some other point.

But the question remain, what went into colonial era beer? Obviously to answer that question, which I intend to do eventually, our jumping off point has to be brewing in Elizabethan and Stewart England, as the beer brought over with the colonists would have been whatever was available where their ships were fitted out. So now I need to set out and discover what Elizabethan beer was all about, and how the colonists adapted their culture in light of the different ingredients available to them, especially when thinking about grain.

So many questions, I just hope I can find many of the answers, after all, brewing in America goes back beyond Yuengling, even if they are "America's Oldest brewery".

Friday, March 26, 2010

Brewer of the Week

This week's Brewer of the Week brews one of my favourite tipples whenever I head home to Scotland, the magnificent Fraoch.

Name: Scott Williams
Brewery: Williams Bros Brewing Co.

How did you get into brewing as a career?

Homebrew. I have a homebrew shop in Glasgow which I took over from my dad via my brother years ago. I work in the shop one day a week and chat to brewers – sharing ideas and talking about malt n hops etc.

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

To love beer. To be open to variety and seemingly opposing styles.

Before being a professional brewer, did you homebrew? If so, how many of your homebrew recipes have you converted to full scale production?

Yes. Loads.

If you did homebrew, do you still?

Yes – but truth be told mainly I brew at work.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

Ask me which of my children I love most why don't you.

If you have worked in other breweries, which other beer did you enjoy brewing, and why?

Didn't. But would like to brew in Japan.

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

See #5.

How important is authenticity when making a new beer, in terms of flavour, ingredients and method?

I feel very strongly that using authentic ingredients is important – i.e. using heather picked in Scotland and in the right way – picking pine and spruce at the right time etc. However. I brew a lager using a single stage mash and lager yeast (ferments at 8 degrees), Saaz hops blended with bobek and Amarillo – Belgian lager malt and then lager the beer for 90 days. So using the word "lager" is correct and unusual, however non-traditional in that the ingredients are a blend of influences.

If you were to do a collaborative beer, which brewery would you most like to work with and why?

Lets say 'Little Creatures' – sounds like a fantastic place to hang out and watch the Ocean after I have been kicked out of the brewhouse for interfering.

Which beer, other than your own, do you wish you had invented?

For the sake of my family I would have to say Carlsberg – nothing to do with the beer but could do with the distribution (and dosh). Just think how many fantastic microbrewies/brewpubs I could build with those resources.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Little Cask to Go Live!

This time last week I was facing something of a problem, I needed to bottle my 80/- Scottish ale that had been sitting in the primary fermenter for a couple of weeks, as is my usual fermentation schedule, the problem was I didn't have enough bottles to take all the beer. What I did have though was my 1 US gallon polypin, known in this neck of the woods as a "cubitainer", so I decided that it would do the trick and I would again try to re-create a form of cask conditioned ale.

I had tried before with my dismal failure first batch in the US, and while the beer hadn't fermented properly, the concept of using a cubitainer as a cask was something of a success in terms of proving it could be done, that and several back and forth emails with Boak and Bailey on the process.

So here it is, my little cask of Gael 80/-.

If I have understood the process correctly, the little cask, let's call him "kaskicek" (pronounce it "ka-sk-ee-chek"), should be ready to drink already, so I am planning the first draught of real(ish) cask ale from the Green Dragon Brewery to be poured into one of my funky glasses tonight.

Here's hoping everything has worked out ok!

UPDATE: it worked nicely, and although a little on the thin side, the beer was good.

Monday, March 22, 2010

International Homebrew Project - The Beer is Here

After 5 weeks of waiting, yesterday I popped open the first bottle of the American Pale Ale I brewed as part of the International Homebrew Project. For those unaware, you can see the recipe that we chose to make here, but here is a quick rundown, we brewed an American Pale Ale, hopped with Centennial, Amarillo and Cascade, the choice of yeast was left to each participant, in my case I used the American Ale II from Wyeast and followed my usual fermentation and conditioning schedule, 2 weeks of the former and 3 of the latter.

Once the two weeks in the primary were up, my variant had gone from an original gravity of 1.046 to a final gravity of 1.014, giving me an abv of 4.3%. The OG was low for the report I got from for the same set of ingredients, which had predicted an OG of 1.058, but it was within range for the style apparently, so I wasn't unduly concerned. Anyway, enough of the geekery (another cynical thought, home brewers would be better served obsessing about flavours and aromas rather than numbers), and on to the beer itself, which you can see below.

For the sake of ease, I will, as ever, use my version of Cyclops to describe the beer.
  • Sight - amber, dark gold edges, tight white head
  • Smell - generally citrus, distinct grapefruit
  • Taste - sharp bitter up front, mellow sweet background
  • Bitter - 3/5
  • Sweet - 3/5
This is a nice beer, and one I will be brewing again, though perhaps modified a touch (read more hops and upping the malt), but overall I am very satisfied with my first stab at an American Pale Ale, and enjoyed deciding the style and ingredients of the beer by cyber committee. I know of at least one other person who took part in the project, James over at A Homebrew Log, whose beer is reviewed here. If anyone else took part, let us know and leave a comment with a link to your post about the beer.

There will be an International Homebrew Project 2 later on in the year, with brewing to take place the first weekend of September, so put a date in your brewing diaries!

Friday, March 19, 2010

New Feature - Brewer of the Week

A new feature here on Fuggled for the coming Fridays is a questionnaire for brewers around the world, first up is Jeff from Lovibonds.

Name: Jeff Rosenmeier, Founder / Head Brewer
Brewery: Lovibonds Brewery, Henley-on-Thames, England

How did you get into brewing as a career?

I started home brewing about 15 years ago after a friend of mine showed me that you could brew really excellent beer at home. I got pretty burned out from an IT career and decided to try a second career in brewing by starting Lovibonds Brewery in 2005.

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

I think if a brewer wants to make clean and consistent beer, he needs to be a clean freak. One of my heroes is Charlie Papazian, as he taught me to brew through his writing and I think his Relax, Don’t Worry attitude is also a key characteristic. I find that if I am the clean freak, it helps me relax!

Before being a professional brewer, did you homebrew? If so, how many of your homebrew recipes have you converted to full scale production?

I’d say all my commercial recipes started as home brew recipes. We still test all new beers on a pilot level (100l) and probably always will.

If you did homebrew, do you still?

I don’t homebrew per say anymore. I still play on the pilot kit and a majority of production happens on a 700l plant, which to me still feels like homebrew.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

I really love to brew our Henley Dark, which is a Smoked Porter. I traveled to Alaska about 10 years ago and was really inspired by the things that Alaskan Brewing Co. were doing in Juneau, including their famous Smoked Porter. I still hand smoke about 5% of the grist for this beer with lovely smelling beech wood on my Weber BBQ. When you combine that with the other malts in the mash tun on a cold winter morning, it’s pretty easy to understand why brewers do what they do.

If you have worked in other breweries, which other beer did you enjoy brewing, and why?


Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

This changes all the time depending on my mood really. I’m currently working on a keg of Henley Amber (Pale Ale) in the kegerator and it is tasting pretty good. I like the fact that this beer is only 3.4% abv, yet the flavours haven’t been watered down. Drinkability is the key to me for every beer we brew. If you don’t want to have that 3rd pint, then I haven’t done my job properly. I find this beer very drinkable at the moment.

How important is authenticity when making a new beer, in terms of flavour, ingredients and method?

To me it is very important that each of our beers has a story, to me that is authenticity. I’m maybe not the most creative person in the world, so most of my beers are inspired by something else that I have experienced, but with my own little spin on it.

If you were to do a collaborative beer, which brewery would you most like to work with and why?

Tough one really…there are some great breweries here in the UK and I’ve made a lot of friends and hope to be doing some collaborations with them in the near future. A bit further a field, I would love to do something with Lagunitas. I love their attitude and love all of the beers that I’ve had the pleasure of tasting thus far.

Which beer, other than your own, do you wish you had invented?

Brew Dog’s Punk IPA . Punk IPA, because I think it gives the big finger (or fingers) to the establishment that has made IPA in the UK into an insipid drink without any hops or alcohol. Brew Dog have their naysayers, but I cannot say enough about how I admire what those guys are doing for the UK craft brewing movement. Obviously, their beers rock as well.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Why Drink Beer Instead of Wine?

An interesting question, and the basis of the poll on the side bar, but I want your opinions as comments here as well.

The question was put to me by one of the brewers at Everards, who will be appearing on BBC Radio Leicester next week to answer this exact question, so beer lovers of the world go crazy and answer the question!

Why drink beer instead of wine?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saintly Days

Scotland and Ireland have a long shared history, going back to the days of Dál Riata and the Gaelic kingdom covering much of modern County Antrim and a large chunk of the West of Scotland. Indeed the Scots, as opposed to the Picts, came from the North of Ireland, when Scotia meant Ireland rather than Scotland, so I guess it is no surprise that the Scots and Irish have a strong affinity for each other and share many cultural traits. I imagine then that everyone and his uncle will be expecting me to celebrate St Patrick's Day with all the vim and vigour that many have come to expect of this particular day, especially given the possibility that St Patrick came from Scotland, specifically near the town of Dumbarton.

Then again, and I say this as a self professed Hibernophile, I won't be going out of my way to wear green, eat corned beef and cabbage, drink a trough full of Guinness or start wishing all and sundry "top of the morning", or engage in any other "traditional" activities. Why ever not I hear my slightly less curmudgeonly friends ask? Simply put, despite my affection for our Gaelic cousins to the south, I am not Irish and would feel like a cultural interloper. Not to mention that, having studied theology and read the writings of St Patrick, a fairly quick read really, it is difficult to put St Patrick and drunken revelry in the same bracket for me, just as St Valentine's Day, Easter and Christmas have been debased in the name of commercialism.

Before I sound like a total miserable sod, I would like to wish my Irish readers a very happy St Patrick's Day, with plenty of good craft beer, great music and healthy craic (a word quite possibly originating from Scots) in the pub.

Monday, March 15, 2010

In Praise of Hop Picking Peasants!

My parents arrive in the US later today, having yesterday taken the train to London from their home in the Limousin region of France. Obviously I am excited to see them again, last time we were together was in January 2009, after the first Christmas is about 20 years where we finally managed to get myself, my three brothers and my parents in the same room for turkey and chrimble pud. As you would hope for in life I guess, Mrs Velkyal and I get on very well with my parents, we all have similar senses of humour, like similar things and are happy to sit round the moron box with a bottle of something to while away the hours, often with the moron box set firmly in the off position.

I think subconsciously my father has been very influential on my beer life, largely because the production of beer has been present in various periods of his life, as opposed to the simple drinking of beer (a radical opinion perhaps, but I am finding myself cynical of those beer geeks who don't homebrew, it is like saying you love food but don't cook!). When dad was growing up in Southall, back when Middlesex was more than a cricket club, his annual holiday, like many in the area, was to Kent. The purpose of said holiday was hop picking, and it was known as the holiday "with work and pay", but many a London family, several generations worth, would take the train down to Kent as their annual getaway. Once, in a wine fueled evening when my parents still lived in Uist, referred to my father as the "hop picking peasant", a label which has kind of stuck.

Another way my dad influenced my beery world is that he also homebrewed for a time, and I am very much looking forward to him trying some of my beer while he is here. Dad's homebrew days were back in the mid 1980s when you bought a can of syrup from Boots, added water and sugar, fermented and then "conditioned" said brew in a polypin. Around this time we were living in a Welsh town called Cwmbran (none of your domesticated livestock living for us!), having moved there just before Dad retired from the army. One night sticks in my mind, when we officially unveiled our new patio in the first house our family had ever bought. It was a huge, multi-layer thing, with an in-built barbecue, and my little brother and I's job for the evening was to keep the adults' glasses well stocked with the bitter and "lager" in the polypins. One thing I am sure they didn't countenance upon was my brother and I having the occasional mouthful or two ourselves.

There are various other episodes I could go in to here, not just with beer, but wine and cider got a look in as well when we were kids, as did whisky when we were ill, in the shape of a hot toddy, but those are for another time. Suffice to say, I am looking forward to having my Mum and Dad around, anyone for an aperitif?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Get It In!

Apart from getting married, the highlight of my 2008 was finally going to Ireland, which Mrs Velkyal and I did for a long weekend just before my birthday. One of Mrs Velkyal's good friends is Mrs Saruman, wife of Saruman, author of The Tale of the Ale. Why was 4 days in Ireland such a highlight? Simply because I had, up to that point, always wanted to go to Dublin and Galway but never had the opportunity. I have, over the years, had plenty of Irish mates, and especially when I was a student in Birmingham we would go out to the pub for a few pints and just talk shite, and often my mates would tell me I should move to Ireland because I would love it there, something I am sure is true.

Anyway, let me digress no further. One of my plans for that weekend was to visit one of the Porterhouse pubs in Dublin, as I had heard many a fabled tale of their Oyster Stout. Porterhouse Central was the one we went to, and sure enough I enjoyed the beer, in particular the Wrasslers XXXX stout. So imagine my glee when I heard from The Beer Nut a couple of days later that the Porterhouse were buying a bottling line, also imagine my glee when I got word from Porterhouse that they would be exporting to the USA, and they gave me the details of their importer, so I duly made contact to find out if the range of Wrasslers, Oyster Stout and Irish Red were to be available here in Virginia, to be gladly told that yes they are looking for outlets in the Commonwealth.

So my beer loving readers, contact your local bottle shops and demand Porterhouse beers to be added to their range, if you are Charlottesville based get on to Beer Run; if Fredericksburg call Kybecca; based in Blacksburg bother Vintage Cellar; wherever you are ask your retailers to stock the only bottle conditioned genuine Irish stout you are likely to have in a while, as great as O'Hara's is, I believe it is not bottle conditioned (and if I am wrong, I am sure The Beer Nut will swiftly set me right). If your retailer claims not to know how to contact, tell him to talk to Ron Fisher at B United International, his contact details are here, and he handles various other parts of the country as well.

Here endeth the lesson. Sláinte!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Glassware Stories

I don't really have an extensive branded glassware collection, and even less of an unbranded collection, though I am sure Mrs Velkyal would beg to differ and then regale you with stories of my obsessive care for said glasses. In some ways she is right, I am somewhat overly attached to my glasses, but each one has a back story, a link to a beery event or to the generosity of brewers or some such moment of nostalgia which makes me fond of them. I don't have any chalice style glasses for Belgian style ales as that would be largely pointless because I rarely drink Belgian beer, beyond the Trappists that is. Here then is the full, branded collection.

A motley bunch to be sure, a few Czechs, a couple of Brits, a German and an American.

The glass that features very regularly on Fuggled is of course my Lovibond's half pint, actually it is one of two glasses, and I think I most fussy about what gets done with this pair. When I lived in Prague, I wrote a couple of reviews of Lovibond's excellent beers that I had bought in the UK a while back, and the owner of the brewery, Jeff, very graciously sent me a couple of glasses, which I think are the most beautiful in my mini collection. When we moved over to the States, I was worried that these glasses wouldn't survive the journey, so I was very relieved when it came to unpacking boxes and there they were, good as new.

Chodovar is a family brewery in Western Bohemia that I have liked ever since I tried their Skální Ležák at PK, first in the bottle and then on tap. This glass though I picked up in a pub on the other side of Prague, simply by asking how much I could pay them for it, and they said "take it", so I took it. The glass itself is pretty much like the vast majority of half litre beer glasses you get in the Czech Republic, and fits perfectly in the hand for swilling glass after glass of amber nectar.

I bought this hefty mug at the Slunce v Skle event hosted by Purkmistr back in 2008, on the day I had the pleasure of meeting, and getting royally rat arsed with Pivní Filosof for the first time. I also bought a delicate little goblet glass which I did all my beer tasting with that day, and which again survived the trip from Prague to Charlottesville, only for me to break it by missing the cupboard shelf by half an inch. Purkmistr also make a lovely weizen glass that I would love to get my hands on - so my Czech readers, get me a new goblet and a weizen glass, post them to the US (address will be provided by email) and I will send you the money to cover said purchases.

Beck's reminding you of a renowned craft brew pub in Dublin just sounds wrong, but it does. When Mrs Velkyal and I went to Ireland for my birthday back in 2008 we arranged to meet up with The Beer Nut and Barry, of Bitten Bullet fame, in the Bull and Castle. We drank plenty, had a good feed, and the manager was trying to get rid of these Beck's Vier glasses, so Mrs Velkyal said she wanted one, and I claimed it would never survive the flight back to Prague, I was wrong, as you can see. One thing I didn't realise with this glass is the laser etched bottom which extends the life of the head, something I still think is intrinsically wrong, hence I refuse to purchase a Sam Adams glass, despite it looking so fabulous.

The Devil's Backbone glass was a give away to celebrate their first anniversary back in November, and a nice glass it is too, though I think I will have to buy one of their goblets at some point in the future, just because they look so nice. My Everard's glass is another which is very close to my zythophilic heart, and again shows the generosity of the brewing world. You can't buy Everard's lovely ales in the US, which is damned shame in my world because I would love a pint or six of Tiger almost every Friday, but I enjoyed it in Oxford when I was last there, and had the pleasure of showing one of their brewers around several of Prague's best brewpubs a while back. The glass is another celebratory souvenir, but this time for the company's 160th anniversary, and Everard's were good enough to send one over to the US for me - such lovely people, who make such lovely beer!

I am hoping that I am not the only person who attaches memories to my glassware, in fact I am sure we all do it, hence the sepia tinged picture above, with the unbranded glasses chucked in for good measure. Of course, one should never look back too much, so I have a growing list of brewery glasses I want, but that would be telling!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Gratuitous Liveliness

I think I mentioned this before at some point, but yesterday was the perform of Carmina Burana by the Virginia Consort Festival Chorus, featuring in the alto section one Mrs Velkyal, though obviously under her legal name. The concert was really very good, and after the singy bit, the participants had reservations at a local Italian restaurant called Vivace, which we duly attended. The evening was very pleasant, intelligent conversation, traveled table companions and decent wine and beer - I had Clipper City's Loose Cannon IPA, which was a typical American expression of the style, and perfectly acceptable. No I didn't take a photo or notes as I am perfectly capable of functioning as a regular human being. Mrs Velkyal's wine was also apparently rather nice.

However, last night also brought into sharp relief again one of the failings we have come across in many a restaurant in the US, or at least in those parts we go to regularly, namely that the cost is so distinctly unrepresentative of what you actually get. Basically we had a meal consisting of a pair of appetisers per table, one of which was fried calamari and the other was a "bruschetta" with melted mozzarella and a tomata salsa, and then ordering from a set menu. I had tomato and basil soup, followed by chicken parmigiani, which came with spaghetti marinara, and a New York style cheesecake for dessert; Mrs Velkyal had the same, other than a Caesar salad in the place of soup. The cost for this, plus 3 beers and 2 glasses of wine? $100 plus gratuity, more of which later.

I don't want to appear cheap, but the cost to value ratio in this case was piss poor. It's not that the food was bad, it was just uninspiring and something Mrs Velkyal could rustle up in our tiny kitchen for a fraction of the cost and to a far higher standard - for a start she would make the pasta herself and that alone would make a huge difference. To be fair, the cheesecake was nice, though I suspect it had been bought in before being liberally doused in a raspberry syrup, oh sorry, coulis. The soup was nothing special, my first reaction was that it came from a can and was just dressed with a touch of basil for effect. There was one truly excellent thing though and that was the service, polite, discreet (I hate having a waitress come by every thirty seconds or so and asking if everything was ok) and efficient. I would have happily given her a generous tip, had it not been for the gratuitous 20% unilaterally attached to my bill, or there even being a warning that in certain circumstances such a penalty would be plonked on top of my bill.

While on the subject of tipping and the gratuitous abuse of the customer, I have no objection to being generous in that department, when the service has warranted such generosity, but expecting me to pay an extra 20% for service is just down right wrong. 10% I don't mind paying, but expecting 20% is taking the piss. I guess the thing that really got my goat last night was being presented with the bill, having the 20% gratuity added to it, and there being a line on the credit card slip for an "additional tip" - I recently learned the meaning of being "nickel and dimed", and that's just how it felt, "to drain or destroy bit by bit, especially financially" according to the American Heritage Dictionary.

We still had a thoroughly good evening, but the cost did dampen things a bit, especially given the mediocrity that is apparently Charlottesville's "premier authentic Italian" restaurant. Things though this morning are much better as I sit in my favourite diner in town having a good breakfast, as much coffee as I can drink, free wifi and knowing that my bill for a far more satisfying feed will be a good 90% less than last night, and that is with the generous tip I always leave here, just because it is that good.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Lazy Posting

My prose style is not working today. The sun in shining and all of a sudden the ladies of Charlottesville have renounced the evils of velour and tracksuit trousers in favour of something vaguely more interesting. Admittedly that "vaguely more interesting" just means a pair of jeans, or in some cases a nice classy pair of proper trousers, but hey it is a step up (but still many, many steps down from the ladies of Prague and their favoured spring attire!).

So any, as my brain is wandering on to things non beer, here are some pictures of beer in the hope that normal service will be resumed soon.

Oh and what the heck, here is a provisional label for my dunkelweizen which is fermenting away happily.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Stout Blind Tasting

Last night I got round to brewing my Black Rose Dunkelweizen, to a very simple recipe:
  • 3lbs Muntons Wheat Extract
  • 0.8lb Caramel 60
  • 0.8lb Chocolate Malt
  • 0.7oz Hallertau @ 60 minutes
  • 0.2oz Hallertau @ 15 minutes
  • 0.1oz Hallertau @ 5 minutes
  • Weihenstephan Weizen Yeast
The OG for this dark brew was a nice 1.054 and when I woke up this morning, the airlock is popping along with gusto and there is a delightful krausen on the beer.

During the "hanging around" bits of the brewing process, I decided to do a three way stout blind tasting test, using Guinness Extra Stout brewed in Canada, O'Hara's Stout brewed in Carlow, Ireland, and Dark Starr, brewed in Crozet by Starr Hill.

So that I didn't know which beer I was drinking, I had Mrs Velkyal do the pouring honours, and thus she first presented me with these

  • Sight - very dark, slightest ruby at edges, big tan head
  • Smell - light coffee, general roastiness
  • Taste - dark chocolate, a slightly sour, lactic touch
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 3.5/5
  • Sight - pitch black, rocky tan head
  • Smell - big coffee and chocolate notes
  • Taste - smooth chocolate cake, a beautiful classic stout
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2.5/5
  • Sight - Very dark, ivory head
  • Smell  - roasted grains, touch of dark chocolate
  • Taste - light chocolate and coffee, not as pronounced as the others
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
With this tasting, I decided that I didn't want to try to identify each beer, but rather give my order of preference and then find out what Mrs Velkyal had given me, so here goes:
  1. Stout 2
  2. Stout 1
  3. Stout 3
Stout 2 turned out to be Dark Starr from Starr Hill, number 1 was the Guinness Extra Stout and third up was O'Hara's. So there we have it, Starr Hill's Dark Starr really does standard up to the behemoth of the Dry Irish Stout world as well as the craft brewing newcomer, and is deserving of the raft of medals it has won.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Passing the Test

I think I have mentioned before that I brewed a trial run of LimeLight for a friend's wedding, well, this weekend marked the third week it had been in the bottle, so it was time to see how it came out, first some pictures.

The Pour - cloudy orange, big rocky white head - bang on!

The nose - lots of coriander spice, grass and lemons, got to love Saaz, major salivation in the works.

The Taste - biscuits, lemons, spice, long finish, bloody hell this is good.

Drinkability - too damned easy, that's how.

The Finish - yes, and rather quickly.

If anything, this version of LimeLight is better than the one I made last year, so I will be happily giving my friend some of this for his wedding, let's hope he enjoys it as much!

Homebrew - Cheaper than the Pub?

The price of beer has been on my mind a fair bit lately. At the weekend I kicked my first keg of homebrew for the 2024, a 5.1% amber kellerb...