Category Archives: Tasting

Visiting Belgium Pt 2: Het Anker, Westvleteren, De Halve Maan, Westmalle

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sweet

After three days in Brussels, My parents and I drove around the northwest countryside of Belgium making some brewery stops along the way.  First up was a brewery that was about 20 minutes north of Brussels called Het Anker.  This brewery was written into the trip because of its location and a good review from a travel book my mother bought (grrreat).  Het Anker is the brewery responsible for Gouden Carolus and Dentergems white beer.

Het Anker Lineup: from left to right
Gouden Carolus Classic, Tripel, Ambrio, Hopsinjoor, Anker Boscoli

I ended trying their whole lineup and I was pleasantly surprised by the sweet berry beer as well as the clean palate that all the beers shared.  Though this brewery wasn’t my favorite it was still a great way to start the day.

looking down from the mountain top

Next brewery on our tour was the elusive St. Sixtus Abbey of Westvleteren. Renown for having “The best beer in the world”, Westy is a brewery that in the middle of beautiful farmland.  We even turned into a farm trying to find this place.  Once you pass a school, the abbey is tucked away behind the tall walls that surround the monastery and the school.  Its weird, but the vibe reminded of a sort of California olive garden. For a Monday afternoon the place was packed with people, some of them being children since many of the beer gardens in Belgium seemed to be “family” friendly.

Westy Blond, Westy Cheese, Westy 12

Only 3 beers are made here, and all of them were delicious. The blond and the 8 were both well balanced beers, but the 12 really takes the cake.  I even got my mother drinking it by the time we left. Another very laid back Belgian afternoon surrounded with amazing beer and very friendly people, the name of the garden really rings true, “In de Verde” which translates to “in the peace”.

After Westy we headed to Brugge to enjoy some canals and De Halve Maan brewery. It is located very close to the center of this walkable city.  The beer was good, but compared to the other breweries on this trip, it really didn’t hold up.  All the beer was slightly unbalanced and just a bit to assertive for my liking.

Westmalle

Last up was the Trappist brewery Westmalle.  Once again, the brewery is closed to visitors, but across the street is a big beer garden (another olive garden vibe).  Westmalle fresh was much better than what we get here and the cheese was lovely.  I was also surprised to see how large Westmalle is.  The religious connection did not stop them making a pretty damn big brewery.

Triple and Dubel

All in all, I would live in Belgium in a heart beat.  Friendly people, welcoming cities, and some of the best beer in the world.  I would go back tomorrow if I could.  Now its time to start planning on visiting the rest of the country. GO TO BELGIUM!!

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Brewing with Potassium Metabisulphate and Potassium Sorbate

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Perhaps it was during a Basic Brewing Radio episode,  maybe it was a wine making class I took at Brooklyn Homebrew, or simply having a roommate that is a sommelier, but treating beer like wine is an approach that i have been interested in using for the better part of a year.  In wine production, sometimes after fermentation is complete, chemicals like Potassium Metabisulphate (KMS)(K2S2O5) and Potassium Sorbate (C6H7KO2) are used to not only stabilize wine, but also to slow oxidation.  If anyone that you know is allergic to Sulfites, their trouble with wine is caused from this practice.
The purpose of adding KMS is to add self life to wine, since this treatment kills off lots of microorganisms, but it also slows the process of oxidation, which is tremendously important when aging wine for decades.  Potassium Sorbate stops yeast replication, so even after treatment, fermentation can continue, but the yeast do not reproduce and they eventually die.
For my first step into this technique, I brewed a basic wheat beer.  Once fermentation was done, I then treated 2.5 gallons of the batch with both KMS and Potassium Sorbate.  I made a chunky puree of fresh cherry’s from the corner store with about 2 lbs of Cherries and 2 cups of white sugar.  The puree went into both batches of beer.  The treated beer ended up with a Final Gravity of 1.014, while the untreated beer finished off at 1.011.  To treat the 2.5 gallon batch, I used 3/4 teaspoon of KMS and 2.5 teaspoons of Potassium Sorbate

Untreated (left) vs Treated (right)

Tasting of Treated vs Untreated:

Untreated:

appearance: a hazy pink that has a very white head.  There is almost an orange hue to the pink

nose: A very light scent of wheat with undertones of cherry

flavor: very light in flavor, a slight hop bitterness slips into a dry finish of wheat and cherry.

mouth feel: nice and balanced with a light body, the head does leave quickly but the carbonation is medium

overall: very pleasant summer beer.  The balance of the wheat and cherry works really well and the dry finish.  7.5/ 10

treated:

appearance: the head stays around longer than the untreated beer.  Color is identical

nose: Very similar to the untreated beer, but a very very slight chemical scent is at the end of the nose

Flavor:  that’s definitely sweeter than the untreated. The white sugar sweetness removes the dryness from this beer completely.  The wheat character is also faded.  The Cherry perception is increased.

mouthfeel: a rounder body with that chemical taste that is nearly undetectable. Medium bodied and the carbonation seems higher.

overall:  This worked better than I thought it would, the white sugar and the slight chemical flavor really brought out the carbonation and the cherry flavor.  Next time I will use a different sweetener and less chemicals, but this was a worthwhile endeavor.  This opens up very many possibilities!!!!

This process definitely worked, but it needs a lot of tinkering to make beer that is truly outstanding.  Luckily, I learned a whole lot about this process on my recent visit to Sam Adams. The end product I am hoping to make is a fruit beer that actually tastes sweet enough to be considered a dessert beer, but one that tastes very similar to the fruit used.  This could also really help in my cider, which I have yet to be fully satisfied.  Much more to come.

Thai Tea Pale Ale (extract)

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A good friend of mine wanted to get one more batch of brewing in before he moves far far far away to Mississippi and becomes a father.  In a recent adventure, he stumbled upon a thai iced tea that was simply splendid.  He decided to brew an extract pale ale with the thai tea.  A pretty straight forward brew day, with only 1 hop addition of Galaxy at 60 min made this one of the easiest brew days I have had in a very long time.  The tea went directly into the secondary fermentation after we brewed a strong cup of the tea.  We brought it up to a camping trip and the keg went quickly.

Thai tea pale ale

appearance: a light orange brown color that is hazy. poor head

nose: a bunch of esters, but also a lot of tea and mint scents, kind of twangy

flavor: an earthy flavor that is a combination of the full flavored tea and the Galaxy hop bitterness, while dry, it is pleasant.

mouth feel: the tannin pushes the bitterness to a bit of astringency, but is still a very drinkable beer.  medium bodied and needs more carbonation.

overall: not bad for an extract brew. next time, I would like to dry out the beer, ease up on the tea, and hop with an english hop like Willamette. 6.0 / 10

How gose it. Weird beer tasting

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This beer is my first attempt at brewing a Gose beer, one of the few german beers that has ingredients outside of the Reinheitsgebot, the german beer purity law. It is a pleasant sour beer with salt and coriander, but I used Acid Malt for the first time. Kind of a weird flavor, but delicious for a sour that I brewed only a few months ago.

How Gose it

appearance: A golden straw yellow with a slight haze, but not cloudy. A big thick white head sits on top and hangs around for awhile

nose: Lemony and wheaty. a mild funkiness underneath

taste: A sweet wheat flavor is the foundation of a salty lemon character with a slight tartness. A definite funkiness underneath leaving the flavor a bit big for this style

mouthfeel: big bodied and very highly carbonated.  I would prefer this a little dryer.

Overall: not terrible for my first attempt of a weird beer. 4.5/ 10

The Arrival of Summer, Pineapple IPA Tasting

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This last month has been a hectic one.  The end of the school year is always a fun time and with the month of June comes a real urge to drink some awesome fruit beers.  Being a beach bum summer guy, I really enjoy a whole bunch of tropically influence beers, and this is my latest attempt at one.  This beer is a citrus hopped IPA with around 95 IBU’s of Warrior/Citra/Pacific Gem being added predominately in the last 15 min of the boil.  After fermentation, I chopped up a whole pineapple that I had let “ripen” for about 1 -2 weeks and put that into a keg with the IPA.  A month later, I transferred off the beer and tapped it, here is what it tasted like:

Pineapple IPA

Appearance: A honey/ straw color that is semi clear with just a slight cloudiness, poor head retention, but highly carbonated

Nose: A big citrus nose with the Pineapple shinning brightly.  Mango and apricot undertones.

Taste:  A light beginning with a slight hop bitterness coming forward, followed by a big tropical finish.  A bitter pith of grapefruit and tart pineapple end into a dry finish.

Mouthfeel: Balanced, but big.  The dryness causes the taste to linger.

Overall:  a bit too dry for what I was going for, but for a highly hopped IPA, it was pretty delicious.  This will go great at the beach or a BBQ.  7/10.  Add a lot more specialty grains next time.

Congratulation Kolsch! a retirement gift for my Dad

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The one on the right is done with work!

My father recently retired from his job of 39 years and a congratulations are in order! As a gift, I brewed up a batch of Kolsch, which was my second, and much improved, stab at this style.  Here are the tasting that my father and I wrote with my muse of a girlfriend.

Kolsch 1.0 on the left, Congratulation Kolsch on the right

kolsch 1.0 (old write up)

Apperance: cloudy and straw yellow

Nose: corn with lemon citrus

Taste: an easy drinker with a lemon taste

Mouthfeel: smooth and low carbed. very light bodied

Overall: much nicer now, the lemon flavor is well muted and very easy to drink

Congratulation Kolsch 2.0

Appearance: Completely clear (I love using Whirfloc) light yellow color

Nose: Very light, with a slight sweetness in the background

Taste: nearly perfectly balanced, an easy round flavor

Mouthfeel: easy drinking summer time light beer

Overall: Really well done, but kinda boring beer.  This beer got it right! 8.9/10

Cheers to my Dad and anyone else who parents worked for too long!

Peat Smoked Vienna Lager aged in a Scotch Cask

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This was my first attempt at making a smokey scotch influence lager.  It was bottled October 16, 2011 and has aged wonderfully.

Scotch Cask Aged Peat Smoked Vienna Lager

Appearance: A honey brown color with a light tan head.  It is cloudy, but It seems that the cask aging does this to every beer.

Nose: A slight smoke and malt nose.  Very light and pleasant

Taste:  A bread/malty beginning fading into smoke and malt.  A very crisp finish with a smooth and distinct flavor.  At about 6% ABV, this is a beer that can be easily drunk and well as sipped

Mouthfeel: High carbonation but very smooth

Overall: A great balanced beer with a very nice light body and just the right amount of smoke

8.9/10