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Beer Review #41 Winter Welcome Ale

I have a few more winter seasonal beers to get though but today’s review comes all the way from Yorkshire, England. It is Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale. I’ve had a few other Samuel Smith beers before and I have liked every single one. I think their Oatmeal Stout should be the standard of the style because it is just so perfect. Samuel Smith’s is also Yorkshire’s oldest brewery and dates back to 1758.

The beer pours a nice amber, copper color with a large fluffy head that quickly fades to a thin lace. It is perfectly clear and looks more the part of a winter beer than my last review did. The nose on the beer is full of a lot of fruity esters. In particular grape and dried fruit comes to mind. There is a bit of malt sweetness in there, but the fruit is the most prevalent smell. I didn’t get much in the way of hops on the nose though.

On the first sip, it tasted like an English pub ale with more than normal fruity esters. The fruit really comes through on the back-end of the beer. There was very limited malt flavor throughout the drink. There was also a bit of the hop bite on the end but it also finishes very crisp. The beer is extremely dry, perhaps one of the most dry beers that I have ever had. And the aftertaste is mostly biscuit and toasty flavors. It is an amazingly complex beer that really allows you to sample each layer.

This beer would be excellent for anyone who loves English ales. It isn’t hoppy at all and is packed with flavor. The flavors are not overwhelming, they are layered and a bit hidden. The more you drink it, the more things you find to taste. This ale comes in at 6% ABV. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got this beer, but I was pleasantly surprised. If you like complex beers or English ales, this one is for you. (more…)

My homebrew, a year in review

I didn’t do as much homebrewing as I would of liked to do this year. In total I did40 gallons worth of homebrew. That’s eight five gallon batches. Below is a list of the beers that I brewed up this year.

  • Imperial Porter
  • SB Birthday Beer (Amber wheat)
  • Irish Red
  • Belgian Dubbel
  • Belgian Tripel
  • Pumpkin Ale
  • Winter Warmer
  • Amber IPA

Some of those beers turned out better than others. I have to say that my darker beers are my better ones. That is probably I enjoy roasty flavors and it is easier to hide other flavors with them. My Irish Red and SB Birthday beer did not come out very well at all. The Irish Red was a victim of improper hopping. I switched the hops and the bittering component came out way to strong and dry. The SB Birthday beer was the victim of sitting in a fermenter for too long and also was in the sun for a bit of it. They were both drinkable, but not up to a decent standard.

My Belgian beer experiments went pretty good. The Dubbel needed a few more darker malts and I would change the yeast in it to something that would give off a bit more plum and dry fruit esters. Overall it tasted  fine, it just needed to be a bit richer tasting. The Tripel was darn good. The malts and the yeast worked perfectly. It was well balanced and a good representation of a Tripel. There were a few too many hot alcohols in it which was caused by a higher than wanted fermentation temperature.

The Pumpkin Ale was a complete disaster. The stuck sparge  left a ton of extra sugars and I didn’t think it out with extra water. With a lower than normal wort level and a high sugar level the beer ended up being 15% and too highly spiced. I can see it being a really good beer, it just needed to be brewed correctly. It is still drinkable, but edges on not being so.

My Winter Warmer is still bottle conditioning but it tastes wonderful. It is a bit more bitter than I wanted and next time I would take out some more Black Patent malt, as it gives off a ton of flavor. I called the beer a Winter Warmer, but in reality it is a stout. I left the option open to put spices in it, but I did not want to since the beer before it, the pumpkin ale, had more spice than I knew what to do it. All you need to do to make it a true Winter Warmer is add in a few spices and bam, you have it.

The Amber IPA is getting bottled this week, so we will see how that turns out. My real all star for this brew year was the Imperial Porter. It came in a 8% and had everything you could want in a porter. It was well balanced and you could not even detect an alcohol on the beer. I really like it, I wish I had more.

This next brew year I’m not sure what I want to make. I think next on my list is a simple American Amber. After that I have not idea. I am still looking into the colonial beer, but that is a ways off. We will see what this year brings, but I am excited as I am really honing in on my efficiency and turning out beer very close to what I want them to taste like.

Beer Review #37 Mad Elf

While I may not be in PA anymore, that didn’t stop me from enjoying on of my favorite seasonal beers, Mad Elf. Made Elf is made by Tröegs Brewing Company in Harrisburg, PA. They only make it for two months of the year and it can even be tough to find when it is in production. Mad Elf is classified as a Belgian Dark Strong Ale and it is brewed with honey and cherries. It also rocks in at 11%, so that wonderful warming feeling is sure to help on a cold winter night. And if you noticed, or care, winter officially beings today, so our winter seasonals will be coming in on the site.

The beer pours a nice clear ruby color, with a thin head that fades pretty quickly. The head is fully white, with no off colors and is made of mostly tiny bubbles, with a few medium ones mixed in. The nose of the beer is decidedly Belgian. It smells a lot like a Tripel, with everything you would expect out of a Belgian Ale yeast. I did not pick up much of the honey notes from the nose, but the cherry component comes through very nicely. There is some malt in there is well, but minimal hops.

The taste is complex and rich. The Belgian yeast flavors are in there, and so are the cherries. The cherries are not as strong as the nose might suggest. The honey comes through a bit more in the taste. I can really only describe the flavor as rich and creamy. It finishes dry with a wonderful aftertaste. The esters from the yeast and a bit of the hop leave the pallet pleased. As the beer warms it gives way to some heat (alcohol), though you would never suspect that this beer is coming in at 11%.

Mad Elf is carbonated nicely and has a nice and full mouthfeel. I really enjoy this beer and it reminds me of home. I know last year at this time I enjoy more than my fair share of it to the point that the guy at the beer store would have me ready to check out before I even picked out my beer. Rarely do I do a repeat case of beer, but with seasonal beers I take a “get as much as I can” approach. I know some people will by two cases a year; one to drink and one to let sit for a year.

I have never had this beer when it was aged, but in general I am not a fan of aging beers. I feel like you get a fresher flavor and more accurate taste the newer a beer is. The one exception is when there are a lot of hot notes, as they tend to fade with age. Getting back on track, Mad Elf is a nice winter seasonal that will warm you. The 11% sneaks up on you and can throw you for a loop if you are not careful. But if you enjoy a Belgian beer with a more complex grouping of flavors, enjoy. It is going to be more sweet than a normal Belgian and also not as spicy, but a great balance overall. (more…)

07-31-01

Belgian Tripel Recipe

07-31-01Now that I am finally established in Texas I can get back to homebrewing again. It has been a long time since I brewed the SB Birthday Beer. Does the date of that post really go all the way back to Feburary. That sucks. I’ve been really digging Belgian beers for the past few months and have been coming up with ideas in my head about what all I need to do to make it as good as it can be. So I came up with the following recipe:

  • 12 lbs Belgian Pils
  • .5 lbs Belgian Pale
  • .5 lbs Wheat malt
  • .25 0z Tettnanger (4.5% at 120 mins)
  • .25 0z Tettnanger (4.5% at 90 mins)
  • .25 0z Tettnanger (4.5% at 60 mins)
  • .25 0z Tettnanger (4.5% at 30 mins)
  • .5 oz Saaz (5.0% at 10 mins)
  • Yeast: WLP530 (Abbey Ale) or another Belgian Strong if unavialable

I plan on mashing the grains at 152 degrees for 90 minutes to try and get as much sugar out of them as I can. I hope to collect a total of 5 gallons of wort for boil when all is said and done. I then want to boil for two hours and bring down the level of wort to around 3.5 gallons. I haven’t brewed here before and I am almost 3,000 ft. higher in elevation so I don’t know if the boil time will need adjusting.

I will ferment in the primary for a week, switch to a secondary for another week, and then bottle and contition for 2-3 weeks. I hope to have a nice estery beer that comes in between 9.5-9.7% abv. My SG goal is going to be 1.090, maybe a bit higher or lower depending on my effiency.

My hop choices came down to English (Fuggles and Goldings) or the German hops I picked. Saaz hops has a history of being a bit more fruity and I want those esters to shine. With such a long boil I wanted to strech out the primary hops and split them up into four small additions. It might add a bit of complexity but will make it not overpowering. I am still considering just a single addition at the hour mark, but I still can’t make up my mind. The final IBUs should come in at about 28 IBUs. I’m going to ferment on the upper edge of the recommended temperature at 75 degrees or so.

Is there anything I missed or any other considerations I should look at before brewing this bad boy up. I’m hoping to make a go at it this weekend or next depending on how fast the ingredients ship and how fast I can build my mash tun.

09-06-04-05

River Horse Brewing Company Tripel Horse Beer Review

09-06-04-06I have recently been getting into Belgians and River Horse Brewing Company’s Tripel Horse called to me at the six pack store. First off, I love the packaging. River Horse has funky packaging that mixes some old images with new graphic design, and I just love it. All of there beer labels have something in common but are also very distinct. That aside, lets get onto the beer.

09-06-04-05This is what the brewery has to say about their beer:

Notice a unique aromatic nose with a hint of vanilla esters, which comes from the Belgian ale yeast. Tripel Horse has a big body and rich mouth feel and finishes mostly dry with only a touch of sweetness. If you shy from some of the sweeter Belgian ales, we think you will enjoy this one. The palate improves with age, so keep some on hand and you can ride Tripel Horse down a new path with each opened bottle.

This beer rocking in at 10% which is not surprising for a Tripel. Right on the nose of the beer you get the yeast spicyness and alcohol. It pours an orangy color with a little brown. My camera does not acurarlty replicate the color. The beer is hazy when help up to the light, as expected, and you can see little particles floating throughout the beer, also as expected. It pours with a minimal amount of head that lingers around the side of the glass for the whole drink.

09-06-04-04On first taste there is an explosion of flavor. The yeast spice is obvious, but there is a ton of malt and a hint of sweetness. The back end of the drink is alcohol, but it isn’t super noticeable if you aren’t looking for it. It finishes dry in your mouth and leaves you wanting more. This beer is exactly what I wanted from a Tripel, it was high in alcohol, big in flavor, and had that Belgian wonderfulness that I have been craving. A few years ago I would of hated this beer, but my pallet has grown and gotten much better.

They say to age this beer as it will change a lot over time. I bought a six pack and drank the six pack within a week or so. It was just that good.

(more…)