Saturday, April 12, 2008

Primoris Pale Ale Tasting Notes

Total Score: 59/100 D-

I divided the categories for rating the taste of the beer into 10 categories each weighted 10 points. I can, of course, then give the beer a letter grade of sorts. The criteria are overall flavor, mouthfeel, sweetness, bitterness, complexity, conformity to style, alcohol, flaws, carbonation, and how generally well-rounded the beer is. Thus, the rating for Primoris Pale Ale (aka. my first batch):

Overall flavor: (7/10) Good first effort, but lots of room for improvement. Most drinkers would probably prefer most commercial beers.

Mouthfeel: (8/10) Big, full mouthfeel. Could be a bit crisper and drier with a bit more bite. Should be more similar to a beer like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Sweetness: (5/10) Overall too sweet for a pale ale. Next time stay true to the original recipe (this time I dropped the malt so it really couldn't be helped) or at least to the correct ratios of hops to malt, ferment longer in the primary to round off the sweetness.

Bitterness: (7/10) Not quite enough to balance the sweetness; however, the bitterness is more or less correct for a pale ale when not hidden by the maltiness. Once the malt is toned down, it may even be necessary to tone down the hops. Pay attention to AAU differences between the recipe and the hops received/used.

Complexity: (7/10) Plenty of flavors and niches to discover in the beer. I would say that it is even very complex for a beer made from extract only; however, there are actually so many prominent and dominant flavors that it distracts from the style of beer.

Conformity to Style: (4/10) Bitter bite but too sweet and floral for a pale ale. The dry hopping and 3oz. of hops in the recipe have left a LOT of nice hop flavor but the sweetness rules it out as an IPA as well. It tastes like a full strawberry blonde that finishes as a pale ale.

Alcohol: (5/10) There is almost no flavor of alcohol which is a bit of a disappointment in a certain way as there should be that tone of alcohol present. It is warm going down and hitting the stomach though, so I would put this beer somewhere south of 4.2 percent alcohol rather than the 5.3% ABV predicted by Beersmith. Thus it gets a 5 because it is a non-factor in the taste of beer or possibly even a missing factor.

Flaws: (3/10) This category really could be divided into sub-categories based on flaws in style and general beer flaws... The glaring flaw for style is the strawberry tone that is currently in the beer. Otherwise, there is a minor soapy character that can be detected in the beer (probably from oxidation from shaking and almost dropping when I tried to move the primary fermenter by myself for racking into the secondary). These two flaws are fairly distracting.

Carbonation: (9/10) I would say that the beer carbonated very well. There is a nice healthy head on the beer that sticks around almost the whole time it takes to drink the beer. Next time for the pale ale consider dropping the sugar amount just a bit.

Well-roundedness: (4/10) On the sweet honeysicle side. The flavors just don't mesh in the way they should. Where they should be 1 flavor of beer with tones of this or that, they are two seperate experiences of strawberry sweetness and bitterness.

Totals: 59/100 or about a D-

Conclusion: Overall, there was a lot of strawberry sweetness on the front end which is part due to the strain of yeast used (SAFALE S04 is known for it's fruity characteristics) and in part due to the high temperature at which the yeast was pitched (well above the 90 degrees as the stainless steel was still quite hot on my hands when pouring into the carboy) and possibly part due to fluctuating and warmer fermentation temperatures (temperatures probably fluctuated between 65 and 75 degrees during fermentation, however, this is probably the smaller cause next to the pitching temperature combined with the strain of yeast).

This is not to say that the beer is in anyway undrinkable. There are so many nooks and crannies in the beer that it is interesting to drink, even if one drinks it solely for its flaws. I tasted the beer at racking, bottling, 5 days after bottling, and 10 days after bottling and it has gone through a very interesting progression of wort sweetness and raw bitterness to the bitterness rounding out but taking over and then back to the sweetness being dominant at bottling. The distinctly strawberry-like fruity tones that have seemingly come out of nowhere in the beer are interesting and seem to round into the beer a little more each day as it ages. I have no doubt that the beer will benefit greatly from aging (and for this reason I will set some back for that purpose), and if the strawberry tones fade into the distant background of the beer and a round of cold conditioning dries it out a bit it could very well be a damn good beer, but it is very likely that the oxidation could get it first. In any case the mistake of not boiling enough water at boil time did not leave a huge batch to work with (realistically somewhere around or under 4 gallons) so it will probably be gone before the oxidation can put an end to its shelf-life.

I am confident that the ESB currently in my secondary will fare much better as I used a different strain of yeast with more a British character (less fruityness) and at no point oxidized the beer. Additionally the yeast I used was a liquid yeast started 2 days before fermenting, and the beer is pretty much exactly in line with the recipe, so I am expecting good things!


Saturday, April 5, 2008

Barley Bee Brewing: Extra Special Bitter

Batch number two (or 03-001-0002 by style-batch#-overall batch#) seems to be doing pretty well. This one is a "brown" British ESB. It looks pretty dark in the secondary, but when I was racking it over it was a nice, clear orange-brown color. The specs are:

8lb. Amber LME
1lb. Crystal 60L (60min. @ 160 deg.F)

1 oz. Northern Brewer @ 60min.
1 oz. Yakima Goldings @ 30min.
1 oz. Yakima Goldings @ 5min.

WLP-026 Bitter Ale Yeast (or similar)

Fermentation: 2wk. Primary, 2wk. Bottle conditioning

I changed the recipe a bit for my purposes... Rather than Yakima Goldings, I used Kent Golding. Rather than letting it sit in the primary for 2 weeks, I decided to go ahead and rack it over to the secondary for the two weeks conditioning. The real reason for this was that my bottles are still all tied up with the pale ale I made. I believe I will put this one in a soda keg and let it naturally carbonate rather than messing with all of the bottles again since I was given three used soda kegs. Plus, there is nothing wrong with draft beer as it gives me an excuse to not take bottles of beer to my friends at work for free!

I have to admit that I was too anxious to wait on the full 2 weeks (or even 1 week) during the bottle carbonation period for my pale ale (it did sit 2 weeks in the secondary afterall). In my opinion it turned out really well! My goal for that batch was drinkability. Granted, it wasn't a lofty goal, but for the first batch I felt it was appropriate. The flavors still haven't come together perfectly. There is a distinct floral sweetness at first and then a lingering bitterness after the swallow. I love the aroma the Cascade dry-hopping gave the beer though. It is almost a honeycicle flavor/aroma... Quite pleasant. There is a bite to it though... I am trying to ration it a little bit since I only made a 4 gallon batch.

I am not sure what I want to brew behind the ESB. I was thinking either a K├Âlsch, Hefeweizen, or maybe I could try my hand at a Pilsner if I bought that thermostat. I will probably go with the Hef just because I am not ready to invest in all-grain yet, but who knows.