Well, Brew 2 is ready and has been consumed! Some friends of a friend have been very eager to try the products of my labour and it was not without great trepidation that I let them a have bottle of both Brew 1 and Brew 2. I couldn’t have been more surprised by the reception! They liked it! Before they put glass to mouth, I was full of apologies about the ‘fruity homebrew twang’, preparing them for what was to come. To my complete surprise they were really quite impressed. To be honest with you, I don’t think they have experienced Homebrew before so they lack the reference point of those who have, but still it was interesting to see how my beer held up ‘in it’s own right’, as it were.
Actually, in many ways they are probably bigger beer connoisseurs than me! Later that evening we tried a sour beer, a Lambic, no less, and a very good, aged Chimay too (more about those later). So they know a bit about beer. Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t think that my beer was received as a fantastic ale, but rather as ‘quite nice’. Where I recognised ‘fruity, homebrew twang’ they noted similarities to yeasty Belgian ales. Interesting, how our preconceptions drive our opinions. Of course, my second brew is nowhere near something I would be happy enough to sell to anyone else. Still, it is a marked improvement on Brew 1 in every respect and I’m happy with that. I was very flattered with the kind comments and their interest. They were genuinely shocked that I made it from grain, water and hops in a pasta pot!
Anyway, back to Brew 2. When you get used to ‘the twang’ you can taste the caramel notes from medium crystal malt and the cascade bitterness and citrus hops. The hops aren’t particularly powerful, but that is the English Pale Ale-style. If only it didn’t have ‘the twang’! Never mind, valuable lessons have been learned and applied to Brew 3, which is currently fermenting at a steady 18 degrees. The yeast was pitched at 20 degrees and so I’m hopeful for an absence of ‘the twang’. I have also decided to ‘Dry Hop’ this brew too. I’m going to use 5 grams of Nugget and 10 grams of cascade. This brew is going to be an American Pale Ale, so I’m not going completely overboard with the hops but it needs the ‘dry hop’ boost more though to be accurately described as American. The use of ‘Nugget’ should really give the hop element a kick, since it is pretty potent. I have also used American Ale yeast, which should deliver the dryness associated with the American style. I can’t wait, really can’t wait. Should be bottling it next weekend. So my Final Gravity reading (and my subsequent drinking of the sample) will tell me whether I have successfully finally seen off ‘the twang’.
In the meantime, I have ordered my ingredients for the next brew, an American IPA. I will be going overboard with the hops this time and am going to add some Munich Malt, alongside the medium crystal malt. This with the oats and a touch of honey and a secret ingredient should make the IPA something to behold (assuming I can eliminate ‘the twang’).
However, I need to divulge my experience with the Lambic! Wow! Talk about a completely new taste experience. Thanks to my new interest and reading, I know something about Lambics and how they are made. From what I can make out, as a home brewer you try your best to keep nasty yeast and bacteria from the environment entering your beer. Reserving the fermentation for your favoured yeast. With the Lambic, the fermenting vessels are left open to allow naturally occurring yeasts to enter the beer and ferment it. To most people it is ‘off’ and ‘gone’. With ale you would use the word ‘infected’. I’m not going to pretend that it is a session-able drink, it really isn’t. That doesn’t stop me from appreciating it though. It was mightily sour with a sharp edge, going beyond vinegar into a whole new world of flavour. I cannot describe it, words utterly fail me. It is definitely something to be experienced to be adequately appreciated.
The Chimay, pictured below was an amazing beer. But such was the nature of this that actually it felt more like a wine-ale hybrid. I suppose you could describe it as a dark, refined, porter-esque, barley wine. Of course it was a beer, but much stronger, deeper and more elegant. You can see the colour of the ale, very dark and very dry. Like the Lambic, this isn’t a beer for quaffing, it’s an experience. There may be a chance of me producing something like a Chimay, which is a Trappiste beer. We shall have to see.
During the evening with my beer buddies we discussed the Brew-Pub and brewery concept and I found out that there are ‘rocks on the road’ which I hadn’t been aware of. The journey is possibly more challenging than even I had considered. More of this later.