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Beer Review #36 La Fin Du Monde

12-04-02We have yet another brew from Unibroue up for review today. The last beer I had from their brewery was excellent, and I’m not going to hold my opinion of La Fin Du Monde till the end; this one is also excellent. La Fin Du Monde stands for “The end of the World” and was launched in 1994. This beer took 18 months to develop before it was ever released. It falls under the Belgian Triple classification and with good reason.

La Fin Du Monde pours a dirty straw color with a slightly off-white head. The head is large and fluffy as this is a highly carbonated beer (as most Belgians are). The aroma coming from this beer was apparent from just pouring it into the glass. With most beers I generally stick my face into the glass to get a full helping of what is all in there. This beer however gave lots of hints right off of the bat. The first thing is the spicy yeast, with odors of cloves and coriander. Some bready smells can also be found mixed in with a touch of malt sweetness. The final thing that stands out is the alcohol present on the nose.

12-04-04The taste is wonderful. There is a good bit of sweet malt upfront, which is quickly followed by the  Belgian spice. The ever present alcohol is also in the flavor profile. The Belgian spice, that comes from the yeast, is more peppery then most. There are a few fruity notes in there as well, but those also come from the Belgian yeast.  La Fin Du Monde is a medium bodied beer that has tons of carbonation.

As I said at the beginning, I love this beer. You will have to enjoy Belgian beers and Belgian beer flavors to enjoy this beer though. It comes in at 9% ABV and comes in 4 packs or 750 ml corked bottles. I opted to go for the 4 pack since you get more beer for the same price. It cost be about $12.99 for the four pack. There is a thin head that lasts all the way through the beer and I noticed that the beer is lighter in color until the end of the bottle when the yeast sediment gets dumped in. Some people don’t put it into their beer, I enjoy the flavor that it adds. The bottle also says that the beer is triple fermented, what that tells me is that it is a bottle conditioned beer. Unibroue hits a home run with this beer! (more…)

Winter Warmer Recipe

11-20-01In my last homebrew post I talked about doing a Colonial American style beer. Well I am still working on that, but I have a lot more reading to do so that I can make it accurately. In the meantime, I thought that I would embrace the coming season change and got with a winter warmer. I’ve always been a fan of winter seasonal beers, but I have never made one of my own. My wife has also been asking me to make something dark and malty. A winter warmer fits perfectly into that style.

Let me begin with the fact that I have only had a handful of beers classified as “winter warmer” before in my life. I think my favorite belongs to Lancaster Brewing Company, which I enjoyed plenty of last year back in PA. The things I like about it are the facts that it has a huge body, a lot of different flavor notes (some fruit, chocolate, brown sugar, molasses, and caramel), and it all comes in being very well balanced. Furthermore, for an 8.9% abv beer there isn’t much, if any, alcohol noticeable and there is not a lot of hop bite on the back. The malt and complexity in it are what shine in this beer.

So I began doing some research trying to find a starting point with this beer. And after all was said and done, I came up with a recipe that I think is unique and should deliver a great amount of complexity.

  • 8.0 lbs American 2-Row
  • 2.0 lbs Maris Otter Pale Malt
  • 1.0 lbs Caramel Malt 90L
  • 1.0 lbs Chocolate Malt
  • 0.5 lbs Chocolate Wheat Malt
  • 0.5 lbs Chocolate Rye Malt
  • 0.5 lbs American Black Patent
  • 1.0 lbs Molasses
  • 1 oz Fuggle hops (3.6% AA for 60 mins)
  • 1 oz Fuggle hops (3.6% AA for 15 mins)
  • Nottingham Dry Ale yeast, with starter

I’m planning on mashing this at about 150 degrees for an hour. Doing so should give a nice balance between malt character and easy fermenting sugar. The 1 lb of molasses will be added into the kettle during the first runnings. I put a lot of dark malts into this beer becasue I want something with some coffee, molasses, and chocolate notes.

The chocolate wheat and rye were a last minute decision and the original recipe had one pound of wheat malt. I’ve never used chocolate wheat/rye malt and this is my first experience with rye malt overall, so I’m not entirely sure what impacts they will have. From my  understanding, rye malt tends to dry a beer out and give a crisper feel to it. Even at that, it makes up about 4% of then total grain bill, so it should not have a large effect weather it be positive or negative.

I also went with a dry ale yeast here for a few reasons. First, I used it on the pumpkin ale with good results. Second, the dry ale yeast is easy to make a starter with and with the fluctuation in temperatures here in Texas during this time of year (40 degrees between day and night) I didn’t want any active yeast to suffer. Third is that the optimal temperature range for this yeast is 57-70 degrees which falls perfectly into my apartment’s temperatures. Fourth, it is highly flocculant (precipitating) and highly attenuating. And lastly, it has a lost ester profile, so the malt should be able to shine through even more when it is not competing with the hops or yeast esters.

The final stats on the beer look like this:

  • OG 1.075
  • 39 SRM
  • 7.5% ABV
  • 20.0 IBUs

I plan of fermenting for a week (or until fermention is complete) and than putting it into a secondary for 2-3 weeks. After that I will bottle it and leave it condition for another 2-3 weeks (hopefully there will be no carbonation problems this time around). Then I can finally enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Beer Review #35 Hoptober

Last month I reviewed New Belgium Brewing Company’s Skinny Dip. I was a tad late on the review of their summer offering, but I am right on time for their fall beer, Hoptober. Hoptober is classified as a Golden Ale and was quite the steal at $7.49 a six pack. Don’t you just love sales. I happen to love New Belgium’s beer labels becasue they are always a bit new age, and odd. This one is no exception with outlines of people dancing around a fire. How does that relate to fall or hops, who knows? But it looks neat.

11-15-02

11-15-03Anyway the beer pours a brilliant golden color as you expect from a beer labeled Golden Ale. It is perfectly clean and has a think white head, with tiny bubbles. The head sticks to the top of the beer throughout the entire drink. On the nose, floral hops dominate. There is also a nice helping of sweet malt, and some almost, honey notes. There is a bit of pine smell in there as well. Generally I don’t like the piney hops, but this is in smell only.

The taste of the beer is mainly hops, hops, hops. Not that it is an overwhelming hop flavor like some IPAs, but rather a nice punch of them that compliments the malt very nicely. The malt has a strong enough backbone to support the hops and you can still get that sweetness from it. There is also a slight biscuit taste at the end of the beer. It finishes very nicely and crisply. There is a bit of an earthy flavor that can be found in the beer as well. I have found that to be pretty common with New Belgium’s beers as well.

11-15-04On the drinkability scale this one comes in pretty darn good. It is not nearly as hoppy as the name suggests that it would be, but there is a good punch of it. The hops are very bright and fresh tasting. This beer might not be for the new craft beer drinker or someone who does not like anything other than the American light lager, but most craft beer people will find this pleasing.

For a fall beer I was hoping for something a bit darker, with some richer notes. Hoptober comes in at 6% ABV in case you were wondering. It has a great aftertaste and just reeks of freshness (as should all seasonal beers). I really enjoyed it, but I have had beer fall beers before. If you like fresh hops and a good malt character, you will totally love this beer. Again it is not as hoppy as the name suggests, but it is super drinkable and enjoyable. My wife, who hates hoppy beers, even enjoyed this seasonal from New Belgium. (more…)

Beer Review #33 Ommegang Abbey Ale

11-08-02I thought I was out of my Belgian kick that I was on over the summer, but I found another reason to continue. Ommegang Abbey Ale is a Belgian Dubbel from Brewery Ommegang out of Cooperstown, NY. I saw two options of bottling for this beer, a four-pack or a 750 ml corked bottle. I opted to go for the four-pack as it was a better buy and I didn’t have to drink it all at once.

I allowed the beer to warm up at cellar temperatures as it takes on a different feel when it is colder. The cold attempt I made I didn’t get much aroma, but a lot of sourness. Once I allowed it to warm on my next beer, I had a much better tasting beer. It pours a deep ruby color with a thick light brown head. The head on the beer is made entirely of tiny bubble (high carbonation) and a thin layer of head lasted through the entire drink. The Abbey Ale is pretty clear with some haze from the yeast and a few groups of things in suspension, as common with most Belgian beers.

11-08-03The nose was very fruity. I think the smell that stood out the most was a grape to sour grape smell. The yeast was also heavy on the nose with some hints of malt. No hops were detectable. On my first sip I was hit with the malt on the front, followed by a sourness, and then the Belgian yeast bite. There was a grapy aftertaste. As I kept drinking some bitter chocolate notes came though as well. The Belgian yeast had a slightly different twang than a normal Belgian yeast strain, it was much more sour. Most of the time you get a spiciness from Belgian yeast, there was some, but not as pronounced as other Belgian beers I have had.

The mouthfeel was medium and the high carbonation was wonderful. I really enjoyed drinking this beer. It is a perfect beer to drink slowly during a long period of time. As the beer warms to room temperature a host of new notes come out and make it more and more interesting. Ommegang Abbey Ale comes in a 8.5% which is on the higher end of ABV for Belgain Dubbels.

There were a few interesting notes on the back of the bottle as well. It says, “Part of the Duvel family of fine ales.” Brewery Ommegang was named after Belgium’s oldest medieval festival. This beer is also cellared at the brewery. If you like Belgian beers give this one a try, you will not be disappointed. It is wonderfully flavorful and complex. It really was a treat of a beer to drink. (more…)

Homebrew carbonation problems

11-06-01I’ve brewed three batches of beer since I have been in Lubbock, Tx. Every single one of them has not had proper carbonation and it is starting to drive me nuts. The first two beers, Belgian Dubbel and Belgian Tripel, were both carbonated with carbonation drops. I put the proper amount, according to the packaging, into each bottle, but both are under-carbonated. The sad thing is that these styles of beer are supposed to be highly carbonated. They have nice flavor, just not enough of the bubbles.

For my Pumpkin Ale I went back to my old carbonation method, dry malt extract. It costs more than corn sugar and carbonation drops, and takes a bit longer, but I have always been happy with the results. As of right now it is more carbonated than the Belgian beers, but still not up to snuff.

I have been trying to think of reasons why my beers are not carbonating. I’ll say that I got a bad batch of carbonation drops or the packaging is wrong. The Dubbel is at 6% ABV and the Tripel at 9% ABV. I don’t think there is a problem with the yeast being tried and not fully carbonating. The Pumpkin Ale has its own problems which might be affecting it. Because of the stuck sparge and a few other things it is coming in at an amazing 14.5% ABV. The yeast I used is not known to be highly tolerant, so it could be stressed out or dead, thus the lack of carbonation.

Eventually I will be kegging things, but that is another year or so off. So until then I need to work on my carbonation. I never had a problem back in PA, perhaps the 3000+ feet of altitude change is part of it, I don’t know. My next homebrew is going to be lower ABV so I can get a better idea of what is going on.