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Beer Review #38 Full Moon

I can honestly say that I don’t do “macro” brews on here very often. That is do to a number of factors, but the main two are that I like to support smaller breweries and that I think the smaller breweries turn out a better product. Full Moon is brewed by the Blue Moon Brewing Company, which is a spin-off of Coors. Blue Moon actually got its start at the test brewery for Coors located at Coors Field. As Dane Cook would say, “there’s a fun fact for you (an FF).” Is that still relevant, I mean really when is the last time you heard a Dane Cook joke?

And back to topic we go. My wife used to love this beer, and being that seasonal beers are tough to find in Lubbock, I’m willing to buy almost any seasonal, from wherever, and made by whomever. So we grabbed it. Full Moon pours a ruby color with an off-white head that quickly diminishes. It is crystal clear, if that matters to you. The bottle says the following, “this full-bodied ale is brewed with roasted malts and a hint of Dark Belgian sugar for a perfectly balanced taste.” OK then.

The nose on the beer is a malty sweetness, with a small bit of Belgian sugar. There is an ever so slight hint of the Belgian yeast, but you could easily miss it. The taste starts with a slightly malty tone, followed by some slight Belgian yeast. The candy sugar in the beer is the most apparent taste with some bready notes also buried in there. I’m surprised a Belgian beer could be toned down so much on the yeast ends of things. The taste is not super strong, but it does give a nice ending to the beer. There isn’t any hop flavor in there either, not that it should always be expected with a Belgian beer.

The body of the beer comes in light-medium and it is rather watery. Blue Moon puts this under an Abbey Ale while I have also seen it classified as a Belgian Dubbel. Which ever the case, it is a watered down version of a true representative of this style. It is drinkable, but for most craft beer drinkers I think this one misses the mark. It is a great introduction to craft beer though for a newcomer. While it is made by a macro, it is balanced enough to not turn someone off. This isn’t going to be for a Belgian beer lover, but as an introduction to the style, it isn’t bad. (more…)

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…)

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 #32 Punkin Ale

11-05-02As I said before, seasonal beers in Lubbock are extremely hard to come by, but Dogfish Head did not disappoint as there is plenty of Punkin Ale to go around. Punkin Ale has become one of my favorite seasonal beers that I really never tire of. As normal for Dogfish the label explains exactly what you should expect from the beer. Punkin Ale’s label reads, “[a] full-bodied brown ale brewed with real pumpkin, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg.”

Those spices are pretty common in pumpkin beers but the use of real pumpkin is somewhat unusual as is the use of brown sugar. The beer pours a golden amber, almost orange with a nice off-white head. The head is composed of a mix of tiny bubbles and medium bubbles. Punkin Ale is also crystal clear.

The nose of the beer is mostly spice with some pumpkin undertones. The nutmeg and cinnamon really stand out. There is some malt toastyness and no hint of hops at all. This is one of the only pumpkin beers I’ve ever had that actually has some actual pumpkin smell on the nose. After taking my first sip I was amazed at how well balanced the beer was.

11-05-05

11-05-04There is real pumpkin flavor, some spices, and malt. The spices probably stand out the most, but all of the flavors mesh so well together. Refreshing is a word that comes to mind because nothing pushes out another. Most seasonal beers seem to have one ingredient or flavor that overtakes the beer. Not so with Punkin Ale.

There is a medium body to the beer and it has good carbonation to it. Overall it is very drinkable and enjoyable. This is by far the best pumpkin based beer that I have had to date. Punkin Ale comes in at 7% ABV which is pretty much on par with most of Dogfish Head’s other offerings. If you like pumpkin beers this is the granddaddy of them all (in my book anyway). Just a wonderfully balanced, drinkable beer that captures pumpkin flavor. (more…)

Beer Review #31 Pumpkin Ale

10-27-03I have had extremely limited access to seasonal beers here in Lubbock Texas. I can’t even get Sam Adams Octoberfest, yeah it is pretty bad. So every time I go to the store I look for any seasonals, if I find one, I pick it up. I recently found Buffalo Bill’s Brewery (actually it is brewed by Pyramid Brewing Company) Pumpkin Ale. I was all over it, and it was on sale!

Pumpkin Ale claims to be “America’s original pumpkin ale.” I have no idea if it is true, but it sounds good. It comes in a 5.2% ABV and has a plain orange cap. It was surely distinctive. Pumpkin Ale pours orange and is slightly hazy. There is a slightly off-white head that quickly diminishes. Almost reminded me of a soda’s  (or pop for those of you in the Midwest) “head.” It was there for a second, furiously bubbling, and then gone.

10-27-05The smell is mostly nutmeg with cinnamon, ginger, and all spice in there as well. Pretty much the spices you would expect from a pumpkin beer. There is some malt sweetness in there as well, but not much compared to the spice. The first taste I noticed some malt upfront with the spices in the end. Not really any hop notes in there. The spice takes over the ending notes. I kept drinking trying to find a few more flavors, but I couldn’t. The pumpkin part of this beer comes in as pumpkin pie spice, not pumpkin flavor.

The mouthfeel is very watery. There is good carbonation, it just is very light in your mouth. Pumpkin Ale by Buffalo Bill’s Brewery is a decent pumpkin beer, but there are much better examples out there. As I said before, this beer delivers on the pumpkin spice aspect of a pumpkin beer, but not much in the way of  pumpkin flavor. If you like trying seasonal fall beer, namely pumpkin beers, try it out to see how it compares. Your tastes might differ from mine, but I would not be picking this up again as there are a few other seasonals that I enjoy more than this. (more…)