Monday, April 25, 2011

As Time Goes By

I am sure we all have a similar story to tell. Bottles of homebrew, or even commercial beer, that have been sitting around at the back of the cupboard, or storage room which we flamboyantly call our "cellar", at best forgotten about, at worst, guilt inducing because we are yet to drink them. Naturally I have a stash of vintage ales and the like that I keep in a cupboard and am saving for "a special occasion", but when special occasions arrive, I invariably fancy a few pints of whatever I normally drink.

Yesterday was a distinctly lazy day in the Velkyal household, but come the evening as the smell of homemade fishcakes was wafting from the kitchen, I decided to would attack a touch of the guilt that had been gnawing away at me for a while. I have too much homebrew that I haven't drunk, so in the "cellar" I popped and pulled a bottle each of Gunnersbury Gold and Old Baldy.


Gunnersbury Gold is a best bitter that I brewed back in September. I have this desire to brew a really stonking bitter, so far my two efforts have been on the "ok but not great" end of the scale. Admittedly, I think the first one, Ring of Gold, has potential and I plan to re-brew that recipe at some point. Gunnersbury Gold was brewed from a base of Munton's pale dry malt extract and caramel 10, Special Roast and Chocolate for specialty grains. In terms of the hopping, this used only First Gold, an English hop which is a cross between Goldings and a male dwarf hop. For the yeast, I used Wyeast 1968 London ESB.


Unfortunately the picture doesn't do the beer justice as it was pretty clear, but condensation on the glass makes it look a touch murky. The beer was a deep copper colour, very well carbonated, as you can see from the the light tan head in the glass there, and so I didn't pour a full glass as I didn't want to get the lees in the glass. The nose was remarkbly fruity, lots of apricot and peach with maybe a hint of tropical fruit, in the background was a slight touch of spice, almost cinnamon, and a medicinal note, which when I tried back in October was the dominant aroma. Tastewise, upfront was a sourdough tang which I have read is likely a product of the Special Roast. A light sweetness and a nice boozy glow came through at the end, with a decent enough crisp finish. Not a great beer to be sure, but not bad either.


Old Baldy was an American style IPA that I brewed about a year ago now, to be ready for Independence Day, and Mrs Velkyal and I's wedding anniversary (of which we'll be having the third rendition of this year). In terms of malts atop the extract base, I only used caramel 60. This being an American IPA, I went overboard on the hopping and used Citra, Centennial, Cascade and Amarillo in the kettle, and then just for fun, dry hopped the beer on Challenger. Depending on which method of calculating bitterness you go for, this ended up with either 65 or 125 IBUs (I tend toward the former really). The wort was fermented with good old 1056 American Ale from Wyeast.


Again condensation issues, but the beer poured a rich amber with a light beige head that clung around for a while, and the carbonation was good (nice to know after the early bottles of this were wildly over-carbonated). Wow, what a difference the best part of a year has made on the nose, whereas last year it was heavy with acetone and pine notes, this year the citrus you would have expected has come to the fore, lots of bitter oranges and grapefruit. There is still a piney kind of thing upfront in the mouth, though not unpleasant like drinking washing up liquid, and the caramel background holds firm against the bitter assault. Given the extra time in the cellar, this beer was integrated more and with a boozy afterglow and long finish, is not at all bad.

Coming up to date, I currently have a bitter sitting in the primary fermenter. I will be transferring it to secondary in the coming days, and using isinglass for the first time as Windsor yeast is a non-flocculating strain so it needs finings to clear up. The beer started off at 1.037 and seems to have finished out at about 1.014, so an ordinary bitter with an abv of about 3%, and 30 IBUs of Goldings and Fuggles. Assuming it clears up nicely, I am playing with the idea of putting half of it in my 1 gallon polypin to "cask" condition in time for the next homebrew club meeting, perhaps even dry hopping it.

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