Windsor Ale

windsor-aleI first learned about grains of paradise when viewing advertisements for Samuel Adams’ Summer Ale, and thought it was some sort of citrus spicing. Little did I know that this pepper rival was used:

“to give false strength to wines, beer, spirits, and vinegar” – Joseph Meyer, 1918

I had bought a bunch for my medieval cooking phase and had some left over to attempt a recipe for Windsor Ale from circa 1829. This recipe not only included GOP, but also honey, hops, coriander seed, orange peel, licorice root, ginger, and caraway seed. Not to be deterred by a cacophony of medieval herbs/spices, I acquired the ingredients from the local co-op, ordered 3 ounces of whole leaf Fuggles hops, London Ale yeast, and a shit-ton of pale malt extract to give this beer a wild shot in the dark.

Trouble started when the yeast pack failed to vigorously swell. Pitching the yeast and hoping for the best, foam failed to manifest itself atop the potent-smelling wort. Desperately, I quickly mixed two packets of year-and-a-half old wine yeast in some hot water and threw it in the mix, because any fermentation is better than no fermentation.

As a result, I (finally) learned a valuable lesson in over-carbonation. I bottled this ale far too soon, resulting in an enormous maelstrom of foamy discharge upon cracking the cap of each 22oz bottle. My apologies, Ellen. I should have let it sit for a longer period of time, expecting the wine yeast to work much slower, consistently measure the gravity, not have added priming sugar, et. cetera.

However, I thought the taste was promising, if not typical for modern commercial craft beer palates. Complex sweet and spicy flavors explode from the thick, viscous liquid, mostly, I believe, from the residual honey sugars. I’ll for sure try something like this again, albeit with more patience.

Oatmeal IPA

Oatmeal IPAI was listening to Craft Beer Radio’s recordings of the Savor conference in Washington DC last month and heard the concept of an oatmeal IPA during a salon led by “Dr.” Bill Sysak. I wanted to try a completely random recipe using ~10% of flaked oats to see what would happen, and the following paragraphs contain the results.

Even though the name was already taken, I decided to call this recipe Stay on Target due to the use of Target hops and the somewhat meandering collection of recipe components. Maris Otter malt and Golden Light LME contribute some extra caramel-y richness, and CTZ, Target, and Glacier hops bring the IBU’s to ~67. Unfortunately, the supply store didn’t have a suitable American Ale yeast (everyone seemed to be brewing that weekend) so I hoped for good results from Wyeast #1275 Thames Valley Ale.

The resulting beer is brilliantly clear with an appealing orange-bronze color. A juicy aroma is clearly present, though I need more practice to identify the specific fruit. Taste is spicy from the oats with a distinct bitter bite that isn’t too overwhelming. Though, the synergy of ingredients seems lacking in some way. I thought the oats and hops would make the resulting beer pour quite foamy with good head retention, which wasn’t the case. An interesting experiment to say the least, and something I’ll need to tweak a bit in the future to get everything working.

Extra Special Bitter

Bitter (beer). Extra special = premium or strong

Bitter (beer). Extra special = premium or strong

The English Bitter style of beer has a long, important history in humanities’ infatuation with fermented beverages. It’s essentially the same idea as a pale ale, but crafted with British malts, just enough UK hops to balance the sweetness without dominating the experience, and, ideally, a British ale yeast. These beers are malt forward, emphasizing a bread-y and/or caramel flavor, and can vary from ~3.0% ABV to 5% or above for stronger examples.

I chose 2 lbs of Maris Otter malt as the feature, a staple base malt of British beer brewers. Crystal 60L and Cara-malt 10L malts were added for additional character, and a bucket full of Light Golden LME comprised the rest of the fermentables.

A simple hop schedule of 1 oz additions were utilized; Challenger at the start of a 60 minute boil, East Kent Goldings at 30 minutes remaining, and Fuggle with 10 minutes left. A smack pack of Wyeast #1968 London ESB ale yeast was added as is, with no starter. 29 IBUS with a 10 SRM rating, and though the calculated ABV was 5.92%, I ended up with a more favorable and warming 6.4% final ABV percentage.

The beer is not translucent by any means, but suggests clarity is possible. It pours with a very slight foamy head, and I get a faint sweet white-bread aroma when sniffing. When first sampling just two weeks after bottling, the ESB was overwhelmingly bitter, and I thought it a poor effort. However, a month’s worth of time has been kind, as an intense caramel sweetness has overtaken as the primary flavor, with the hop bitterness softly pushing the malt character to the forefront.

I’ve received pretty positive feedback so far for a beer that commercially (at least in Vermont) is not the most common style sold in stores. I predict that as more people get their IPA fill and find less danky/tropical hop explosions available, a reversion to styles such as this will be a welcome change.


maibock lager beer

See? Lagering works!

What the hell is a Maibock? In short, it’s a 13th century dark-ish strong German lager. Lightly hopped with a sweet malt forward flavor, it’s brewed to celebrate the coming of spring and often associated with a goat, which translates to ein Bock, which relates to Einbeck, the first town this type of beer was brewed.

Not to be deterred by shortcomings on the Baltic Porter, I bought another lager kit from, determined to treat this yeast better. My wife was even kind enough to allow me to remove the bottom shelf and a drawer of the refrigerator to conduct long term lagering. Since I got a late start and wanted the bock to settle out long term, I named it June-bock.

The grain bill is too complex to describe in paragraph form:

  • Pilsen Light LME
  • Munich LME
  • Extra Light DME
  • Light Munich malt
  • Cara Pils
  • Caramel/Crystal 60L
  • Aromatic

Small amounts of Magnum and Hallertau hops were added, along with Irish moss for extra clarity and Wyeast #2206 Bavarian Lager yeast. I fermented at a consistent 50 degrees in my basement next to a growing collection of high powered cellared ales to keep ‘er company. The final ABV was 7%.

The pour is very, very clear from the long 6 week refrigerator-powered lager session, with a not-so-underwhelming foamy head. A thin foam topping persists throughout the experience. I get notes of toffee and slightly burnt caramel for aroma. A sweet character shines through in the flavor, becoming more well-rounded as the beer heats up. There is a slightly bitter aftertaste, perhaps a longer cold period would smooth that out.

I’m reluctant to part with this beer as I think it came out fantastic for my second lager beer attempt, but I can surely spare a few bottles for my brother and German beer loving father this Sunday. Prost!

Monday Eve II

It was a sweaty game of Trivial Pursuit.

It was a sweaty game of Trivial Pursuit.

Ahhh, Belgian beers. After reading Stan Hieronymus’s fantastic tome Brew Like a Monk, I was super-pumped to retry my Belgian Golden Strong Ale, created to be consumed at the Season 5 finale of Game of Thrones. Armed with superior knowledge of how to handle Belgian yeasts and additional alcohol boosting sugars, I dove headfirst into the ester sea of fruity-sweet delight.

My recipe remained mostly the same: Pilsner malts and LME, light DME, but I replaced corn sugar with dark candi sugar (rocks). The Trappists use pure candi syrup and perhaps the third attempt will as well, if I can get something worthy. However, since I ordered a pound of sugar rocks before I knew that fact, for now the rocks will do. Hops and yeast are the same as before, Saaz and Styrian Golding, and a 2 liter starter of Wyeast #1386 Belgian Strong Ale yeast.

Since this was brewed in the cold March months of Vermont, I placed the fermenter directly in front of the primary heat source of our rental abode, which kept the fermentation temperature at a minimum of 70 degrees, a vast improvement in stability from the last brew. The results of this action were stunning: An orange peel aroma and orange-y ester flavor dominate the tasting experience, supported by a thick and hefty mouthfeel. The beer is quite effervescent with a persistent, frothy head, which are welcome side effects. Final statistics: OG 1.072, FG 1.012, 34 IBU’s, 23.63 SRM, and 8% ABV.

In summary, Monday Eve II has been a wonderful companion to the magnificent run of Game of Thrones Season 6 episodes, transporting the brain into the most tempestuous, violent, and compelling visual experience HBO can provide. I only hope it’s not all gone before the grand finale.