Wednesday, April 20, 2011

International Homebrew Project recap

A bit behind schedule, but finished nonetheless. The beer brewed for the International Homebrew Project was voted on, brewed, bottled and now it has also been drunk. I can say it was one of the most interesting recipes I have ever brewed. My version of the brew was a 2.5 gallon batch that turned out having a higher original gravity and a higher final gravity than any of the other brewers. I only got about 60% attenuation which I can only explain by assuming that the invert sugar ended up being mostly unfermentable. My version ended up looking like this:

OG: 1.060
FG: 1.036
IBU 40
abv: 3.2%

2.5 lbs Warminster Maris Otter  51%
0.375 lbs Simpson's Dark Crystal 8%
0.5 lbs Amber malt 10%
0.375 lbs Brown malt  8%
0.375 lbs Roasted barley  8%
0.5 lbs lactose  10%
0.25 invert sugar  5%
0.5 ounces fuggle @ 120 min
0.4 ounces kent golding (super kent at 7.2% AA) @ 90 min
Wyeast 1318 London III
~0.5 lbs lactose in priming solution

Upon tasting, it has an extremely powerful flavor for a beer of 3.2%. There is so much lactose, and the final gravity is so high, that it's just very thick and is something of a sipping beer. As you can see from the picture, the carbonation has not fully developed in the bottles, and I think once it does it may provide a counter point to some of that thickness. In either case, it drinks and tastes like a much bigger beer. I genuinely think I could enter this in a competition as an imperial stout and do well with it. I just may. It's absolutely jet black and opaque in the glass. The flavor is dominated by dark malts and roastiness. There is a pronounced dark/unsweetened-chocolate flavor that hits you right up front and dominates the palate. There are some toasty malt notes as well as some berry-like fruitiness followed by some sweetness, but not as much as you might expect. Bitterness from the hops is mild-to-moderate but persistent as is a slight grassiness. The roasty coffee-like flavors and the slight fruitiness gives an experiance very much like drinking cold press coffee, and in a good way.

I think this ended up being a great beer. I don't mean to give myself much credit for that fact: the original recipe from the Barclay Perkins brewing logs is due all the real credit. Had it not been for the vote going the way it did, I probably wouldn't have ever given one of these historic recipes a chance, but I'm glad I did, and I hope to brew others in the future.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Beating a dead Goose

Just another quick note on the sale of Goose Island. After the internet exploded with reactions for and against the sale last week, they've been in hyper PR mode. This interview attempts to quell some of the backlash. In it, founder and CEO John Hall somewhat inadvertently confirms exactly what I had questioned about the potential transformation of Goose Island.
"But Anheuser-Busch didn't buy us to change us. It bought us because we can do things its people can't. They're megabig, so it's harder to get people who sell huge brands to really push new products. As in a lot of industries, it's the small guys who are really creative, because they have to be creative. That's what's made us what we are."
Yet they're no longer who they were. They are big. They are owned by the largest beerish-drinks company on the face of the Earth. Assuming John knows what he's talking about, how does Goose Island plan on acting like a small company when they no longer are? He doesn't mention anything about it in the interview, but I sure agree with his assessment of the problem with big brewers.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Session: How do they make me buy the beer?

This month's session is hosted by A Good Beer Blog which poses the very zen-like question "how do they make me buy the beer?"

My first thought is that I'm not really sure. How do they make me breathe the air? I suspect there is a similar mechanism at work. For all the talk about branding and commercialism etc. beer really does an excellent job of selling itself. By many accounts, beer and the birth of civilization are linked, and in beer drinking cultures, I think it's very much considered a staple, so I don't really think anyone needs to make me buy beer.

That's really more of an answer to the [unasked] question "why do we drink beer?" but this topic is about selecting a specific beer, and the reasons for doing so. If I were going to make this simple I would just say "putting beer in a cask". Any beer that's on cask at a bar, I will order, almost without exception. Bottled beer I don't buy all that often because frankly, I don't really have the budget for it. I don't buy beer on price alone, but in the world of craft beer and $10 bombers, I'm frequently out of my depth. The majority of the beer I drink at home is beer I've made. When I do spring for some treats, I tend much more toward beers that I know by reputation from traditional breweries that I may not be able to get easily. A bottle of Hook Norton and one of Uerige Alt I found at the local bottle shop were much more exciting to me than the latest double IPA or sour beer. Frequently, my drinking persuasion is much more an exercise in beer flavor anthropology and curiosity for my own brewing than the palate version of an eating contest that extreme beers tend to provide. There is, of course, a time and place for those beers, but it's rarely something that moves me to buy their beer.

So there it is, clear as mud.