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Beer Review #124 Summer Session Ale

I have been on quite the Peak Organic Brewing Company kick lately. I’ve never heard of them until this year (even though I spent a number of days in Portland, Maine a few years ago), but since that time I have purchased a number of their beers. In each case, I have found their beers to be very crisp and fresh tasting. When I saw their Summer Session Ale on the shelves last weekend I just had to try it.

Like the yellow label suggest, Summer Session Ale pours a nice golden color with a fluffy white head. It is also perfectly clear which allows you to watch the bubbles dance up the middle of the glass. The nose isn’t super complex and is marked with their signature crisp hop aroma. These hops were strongly citrus and the malt or other flavoring kicked in some lemon odors as well. Overall it smelled very nice and straightforward.

Summer Session Ale is classified Pale Ale with some wheat malt mixed into the grain bill. On the first taste I was expecting something that tasted along the lines of a hoppy pale ale, but with a more complex malt character. What I got was a beer that didn’t have a major malt component. The crisp, fresh hoppy finish really dominates this beer. The hops are strongly citrus but I didn’t get any of the lemon flavor that was promised in the nose. There was some slight bread flavor in there but nothing to write home about.

Overall I liked this beer but didn’t find it very “summery.” Adding citrus flavors to a beer doesn’t make it a summer beer. However, Peak succeeded in making a very crisp and refreshing pale ale that I would be happy to drink during any period of the year. This beer is only 5% ABV so it does fit nicely into the session area. Try it out if you are looking for a different type of summer beer that is away from your typical wheat beer. (more…)

Beer Review #64 Summer Bright Ale

We have another summer beer to review today. This one comes from the Breckenridge Brewery in Denver, Colorado. This is another wheat style summer ale as well. Wheat lends itself to summer beers because wheat adds some unique flavors that work really well in a lighter beer. Summer Bright Ale comes in at a nice 4.5% which makes it very sessionable as well.

The beer pours with a thin white head and is slightly cloudy. The cloudiness is expected because of the wheat malt, but I would of expected a larger and more long lasting head. Wheat adds natural proteins to the beer that promote head retention. Generally wheat beers have big heads and many beers will have a slight bit of wheat malt in them to just promote a good head. Golden or straw is where I would place the color on the beer.

The nose has some slight biscuit with some malt. There was some bitterness, but no a normal hop bitterness that you usually get on a beer. Overall there isn’t a lot happening on the nose of the beer. The taste is a bit nondescript. There is not much malt or hops. There is some slight lemon or citrus in there, but not a ton. The finish of the beer is probably my favorite part of it. It is nice and bready which is a flavor that I like to have in a beer.

The mouthfeel is light and watery. This is a drinkable summer beer. It is light and not packed with flavor, but it is super sessionable and a foot into the craft beer world. I would recommend that you drink this beer cold as well. Unlike a lot of craft beers, this one doesn’t really open up to anything new when warm. It is much more refreshing cold as well. If you like lighter beers that don’t have a ton of flavor but are still considered craft beer this one is for you. Also, if you are looking to get into the craft beer world, this is an easy beer to tackle and would be enjoyable for you. (more…)

Beer Review #63 Anchor Summer Beer

Now that I am finally settled into my new living quarters I can start getting back to my long neglected beer blog. Today I have Anchor Brewing Company’s Anchor Summer Beer. This beer was actually first brewed back in 1984 and over 50% of the malt is composed of wheat. Clearly this beer has to have something behind it or they would not of continued to brew it for the past 26 years.

It pours a golden straw color and is perfectly clear. For some reason I was expected to see some haze if not a lot of haze because of the amount of wheat malt used in the making of the beer. But it is perfectly clear and has a fluffy white head to boot (the head is a direct result of the wheat malt). The nose is slightly malty, with a lot of biscuit and bread components. There are not really any hops to be found. This beer smelled like something my wife would love. When the biscuit is in the aftertaste she loves that beer. This already has it in the nose.

The first flavors in the beer mimic the smell very nicely. The bready/biscuit flavors are all there. Again there are no real hops present in the taste. The backend has a slight spice to it, which I would normally attribute to hops, but it was a different kind of spice. It is very light and watery in the mouth. The carbonation was where it should of been as well.

Overall this isn’t something that I would normally drink a lot of. It is light and not packed with flavor. It does deliver perfectly in the summer beer department. While light, it is super refreshing. I can see sitting out on a hot summers night and sipping down a few of these. If you are a summer beer fan this one is for you. It is not going to knock your socks off, but it will provide a quality craft brew to help cool you down. (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.

Pumpkin Ale Recipe

09-18-01So I’ve been fooling around with my beer programs and reading a lot about Pumpkin beer recipes and I think I have come up with what I want for this beer. There is a large variety of grain all in there to accomplish something a bit different and there are going to be a bunch of adjuncts, mainly the pumpkin and the spices. Anyway here it goes:

  • 7.0 lbs Maris Otter
  • 2.0 lbs Munich Malt
  • 0.5 lbs Wheat Malt
  • 0.5 Biscuit Malt
  • 1.0 lb Rice Hulls
  • 2 lbs Light Brown Sugar
  • 4-5 lbs pureed pumpkin
  • 1.0 oz Hallertau (60 mins)
  • 1.0 oz Hallertau (10 mins)
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp all spice

Now how is that for an ingredient list. I plan on mashing the grains at 152 ºF for 60 minutes. I’ve never used rice hulls before, but the 4-5 pounds of pumpkin puree will make them necessary. I’ll mash out and add the brown sugar to the first runnings while the second runnings are going on. A 60 minute boil will follow with the hop additions mentioned above. The last 2 minutes I will add the spices and hop for the best. The yeast I’m still deciding on but I want it to be as clean as possible but also eat all of those sugars. I’m shooting for a gravity of 1.072 but who knows where it will end up with the variations in brown sugar and the pumpkin.

Pumpkin Puree

I’ve never added a puree to a mash before as my last pumpkin beer (Pilgrim Porter) was an extract and the pumpkin was put right into the boil. To make the pumpkin puree I will be cutting down the pumpkins and cooking them until they are soft to jump start their conversion. From there I will remove the meat and place it into a blender. Then I will blend the meat until it reaches a puree consistency, think baby food. After that it will be going into the fridge over night because I don’t want to have a crazy long brew day.

Last year when I cooked the pumpkin I put pumpkin pie spice on the meat before cooking to try and get some of those flavors in there. Where I think I failed was that those spices had their flavors boiled right out of them. There was some of the flavor left, but nothing close to the amount of spice I used. This year the spices will be added with 2 minutes left in the boil to try and maximize their flavor. I’ll get a more detailed version of this with pictures as soon as I do it.