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Beer Review #289 Sprung

04-28-03Evolution Craft Brewing Company puts out a lot of really nice beer, and their selection is only growing. I recently had one of their barrel aged beers, which was a little sweet for my tastes. I have several other of their limited/season beers waiting to be reviewed and Srung happen to be up today.

Srung is an “ale brewed with hibiscus, chamomile, and honey.” It comes in at a nice, sessionable 4.9% as well. Sprung pours a light amber color and has an off-white head. There are some floaties in there which I wasn’t expecting but it is thanks to the yeast used to carbonate the beer. The nose is very pleasant, with some really nice bready/toasty notes. There is some slight honey along with some slight malt sweetness to be found as well.

On the first taste I was really surprised at the about of bread flavor to be found. I was expecting some of the additions to take a larger roll upfront, but bread wins out. A bit of honey can be found as well. Midway through the drink, a nice sweetness builds in on the backend of the beer. A slight hop flavor (just a bit of bitterness) cleans out the sweetness and end the beer.

I really liked this one. It is well balanced but still malt forward. It’s hard to find a beer that is malt forward without being overly sweet, but this one does it. The bread/toast flavor is very nice as well and really fills out the beer. Sprung is still on shelves so buy it while you can. (more…)

Beer Review #252 Backyard Ale

Not too long ago I reviewed a beer from Flying Dog Brewery and I have yet another one today. I can generally count on seeing a new beer from them every time I visit the beer store. They put out a lot of solid beers along with an amazing variety. They have to rival Dogfish Head in terms of number of different beers produced.

Backyard Ale didn’t have any descriptors on the bottle, but a 7.5% alcohol rating. The beer pours an amber color that matches the label. There is an off-white head that sits firmly on the top through the whole drink. The nose is packed with malt and has a slight smoke to it. I didn’t get any hops, just malt and some smoke.

There is a nice sweetness on the front end. It wasn’t malty or caramely, just sweet. It is then followed by a smoky-sweet back end. The smoke is help in a really nice balance with the sweetness. Unlike some smoked beers that I have had, the smoke isn’t center stage. It fits into the beer nicely and provide a nice flavor additive.

This one wasn’t bad. It took me back to the summer months when I was BBQing in the backyard. The smoke actually goes nicely with the late fall as well. One of my neighbors has a wood burning stove and on cold night the air is full of wood burning goodness. This beer makes we want to sit on the deck and look at the stars while taking in the smokiness.

Coffee Amber Ale Recipe

I’ve been in the mood to test my homebrewing skills a creativity a bit and I decided that a coffee flavored beer that is amber in color was an excellent challenge. Most coffee beers are stouts or porters, which makes the color addition from coffee unnoticeable. What I wanted to do is make something similar to Peak Organic’s Espresso Amber Ale. It’s an excellent beer and captures the espresso flavor and keeps the color not black.

My homebrew store recently started carrying coffee malt so I decided to give it a try. It comes in at 175 °L, which is pretty dark. After purchasing a one pound bag of it I did find that it has some coffee aroma, but not enough. My wife is a big coffee drinker and grinds her own beans. This lead me to take 4oz. of cold water and 10 whole coffee beans. I put the beans in the water and left them in the water for a week. I dumped the results before I realized that I should grab a picture, but the color addition from the whole bean was not very high. However, the aroma and taste were very noticeable. Better yet, the aroma and flavor additions happened after a day or so, and the color didn’t change until day three.

I then structured a recipe around what I wanted to the malt to taste like. I knew that I wanted a toasty, roasty flavor. I also needed some sweetness to balance out the harsh roasted flavors. I had some crystal malts on hand to give some sweetness and light color additions as well as half a pound of Carabrown to give a toasted flavor. Below is what I came up with.

  • 10 lbs. 2-row
  • 1/2 lb. Carabrown (60 °L)
  • 1/2 lb. Coffee malt
  • 1/4 lb. Crystal 80
  • 1/2 lb. Light brown sugar
  • 1/2 oz. Magnum @ 60 mins
  • 1/2 oz. Magnum @ 15 mins

The final beer is expected to have the following specs:

  • OG: 1.059
  • FG: 1.015
  • ABV: 5.83%
  • IBUs: 36.5
  • SRM: 17.37

According to Wikipedia and a number of other sources that I checked amber ales can fall in anywhere between 15-33 SRM. I went on the lighter side so that any color addition from the whole beans would still keep the beer in the proper range.

I plan on fermenting the beer in the primary for two weeks and then move it over to a secondary. Two days before kegging I will add a handful of whole coffee beans to the secondary that were sanitized by sitting in whiskey or vodka for a day. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this one turns out. It’s a very non-typical beer for me as I generally don’t like adding extras to a beer. I’ve made one coffee beer before, a stout, and it turned out wonderfully. I hoping that I will like this one just as much and that I learn some things from it. It’s always fun to test yourself and take a bit of a chance.

Beer Review #232 Hex Ourtoberfest

Disclaimer: This beer was sent to me by the brewery as a promotional sample

The other beer that Magic Hat Brewing Company sent to me in the sampler was an Oktoberfest, or as they call it an Ourtoberfest. I really dig Oktoberfest beers as they fit so perfectly in the fall chill that begins to take over the Northeast. I’ve reviewed a almost two dozen Oktoberfest beers since this site started and except for a few exceptions, I really dig these beers.

Hex Ourtoberfest pours a nice clear amber color with a slight off-white head protecting the liquid below. All in all, it looks like an American Oktoberfest. I have generally found traditional German Oktoberfest beers to be lighter in color and lighter in caramel flavor compared to their American counterparts. Hex is decidedly in the American range of Oktoberfest beers. The nose is exactly what I hoped it would be, bready, malty, and solid caramels. In addition to the malt there is a slight hop spiciness that trickles through the whole nose.

I was really excited to try Hex Ourtoberfest on my first sip and I wasn’t disappointed. Everything in the nose comes out right away in the beer. The caramels with hints of toffee flow through the beer as do the bread flavors. I often find a lot of Oktoberfest beers to be too far on the sweet side but this one is very balanced. The spicy hops that were in the nose are present in the flavor of the beer as well. The are solid in there with a slight pine component. They provide a nice counterpart to the vast array of malt flavors.

This beer comes in at 5.4% which I consider sessionable. I thought that this one was pretty good. The slight pine flavor on the hops wasn’t something that I was expecting, but it didn’t take away from the beer at all. If you are a fan of American Oktoberfests this one will float your boat. (more…)

Beer Review #208 Ruthless Rye IPA

I’m not sure how long this beer has been out, but it recently showed up on  the shelves of my local beer store and it hasn’t left since it showed up (like a lot beers tend to do). Ruthless Rye IPA is brewed by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company of  Chico, CA and it is obviously a rye IPA. I’ve had a number of different takes on rye beers (pale ales and doulbe IPAs among others) and I have really liked the extra flavor component that it gives a beer. It imparts a very distinct note to the malt character of a beer that fits perfectly with hops.

Ruthless Rye IPA pours a nice amber color and has an off-white head. The nose is packed with bright hops that leap out of the glass. The hops are full of citrus aromas with some piney smells lingering in the background. There is also a spiciness to the nose. Some people might attribute this to the rye as rye is often said to be spicy in beers, but I think it is more from a mix of hops than anything else. Maybe the rye does impart a smell, but I didn’t notice it enough to make note of.

On my first tasting I was impressed with the amount of malt that comes through on such a hoppy smelling beer. The malt is very nice and slightly sweet with a good amount of rye flavor. The spiciness pops up again but it is slightly different than a hop spice as a spicy hop flavor comes in quickly after the rye flavor departs.

I found this beer to be super drinkable and something that I could have on a regular basis. I plan on getting more so that I can try to construct a homebrew recipe around this beer. I liked it that much. The flavors are very balanced and while the hops are prevalent, they are not the stars of the show. The balance is what is key to this beer and the rye flavor just adds a cherry to the top of this one. (more…)