Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Taking Stock

It was just a few days more than a year ago that I brewed the 2012 International Homebrew Project beer, a recreation of Wm Younger's 120/- ale from 1853 (if anyone is interested, the recipe is here). Just after New Year, with my annual booze fast in full swing, I was organising my cellar and discovered that I had a solitary bottle of said beer, tucked away in the back of a case of other homebrew.

Despite the massive shilling rating, the beer was intended, back in the 19th Century, to be drunk young or to use the parlance of the day, 'mild'. Yes indeedy, a 10.7% abv, 90 IBU, Scottish mild was the beer we brewed last year, stick that in your 'traditional' Scottish ale pipe and smoke it. When the appropriate time to drink it arrived, I described it thus:
I was kind of surprised at the colour of the beer, a deep, entrancing amber which failed to form a head, though swirling the glass after the initial mouthful produced a decent layer of firm, whipped cream type foam. The aroma was a heady mix of grass, spice, perhaps a touch of tobacco and a little background alcohol. Drinking it though was quite a shock, thoroughly, thoroughly bitter, but at the same time a juicy malt biscuity thing make sure the hops didn't rip my tongue out and stomp all over it. The finish was long, as in progressive rock guitar solo long, and bitter, puckering while not being like sucking a lemon. Goodness me, what a lovely beer! The body was positively voluptuous, the mouthfeel a sensual satiny smoothness, like melted chocolate, goodness me this is a beer that could get me into trouble, so dangerously, and temptingly, delicious it is.
With the 2013 IHP beer finally, successfully, bubbling away in the carboy, I decided the time was right to open my final bottle of the 1853 120/- and see how it had aged. In the lingo of the mid 19th Century, the beer was no longer a mild, but rather an 'old' or 'stock' ale.

The beer still poured the same deep amber, topped off with an inch or so of fluffy white head, most of which lingered for the drinking - and I took my time with this one, as I watched something on the Food Network that once again made me wonder why I don't live in Minnesota. The aroma was predominately Seville orange marmelade, with some sweet spice notes, almost like Allspice, and a slight edge of hay, gone was the baccy and booze. Tastewise, big, hefty, dollops of juicy sweetness abounded, backed up with biscuits and caramel, think Twix minus the chocolate, there was just enough of a hop bite to balance the beer, but otherwise the hops were barely noticeable, lingering in the background were a few sherry like notes. The mouthfeel was smooth, almost satiny and the booze was now so well integrated as to be hardly noticeable.

I was sad to see this beer leave the cellar, then I remembered one of the reasons beer kicks the crap out of wine, I can make some more! Which is exactly what I plan to do at some point in the coming months, brew more of it, except this time I will drink half mild and leave myself with half a batch to become stock ale, which can then be added to one of my bitters to make that classic beer blend The Mother-in-Law.

Note: my Mother-in-Law is neither old nor bitter, nor does she live up to the anagram of Mother-in-Law - 'woman Hitler'.

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