Tasting: #44 Traditional Berliner Weisse

Eureka, its time for another tasting post. Today is all about my first Berliner Weisse. I brewed my batch (#44 Traditional Berliner Weisse) back in February 2012. I went with a traditional grist (Pilsner and wheat malt) and did a spontaneous mash-souring. So no addition of any Lactobacillus or any other bacteria. Did a primary fermentation with a classical European yeast (Wyeast’s #1338 European Ale) kegged one share and bottled a small part of the batch with some Brettanomyces I isolated from a beer made by BFM. Nearly four months now passed since the bottling. Lets see how the beer in the bottle (with Brettanomyces) turned out. By the way, the share without Brettanomyces in the keg is very similar to this one although not as sour and complex. Therefore no tasting notes about the share without Brettanomyces.

Aroma: Very lemony and lots of apples. Some sourness detectable (lactic acid). Some funkiness as well. Very similar to a cider. Smells clean.

Appearance: Yellow, cloudy, white head, lots of carbonation visible.

Flavor: Not a lot of flavors. There is some sourness detectable. Some hints of grains (malty-, breadyness). And again some apple notes as well. All in all very similar to a cider. Maybe the sourness in the Weisse is just a bit more powerful than in a cider.

Mouthfeel: Light body, lively carbonation, medium lasting malty/bready aftertaste. No sour or astringent aftertaste.

Overall Impression: What shall I say. Looking back, I would not have guessed it would turn out like this. This is a very drinkable beer indeed. Some notes of a wheat beer (grainyness, head) but with some sourness attached. For my taste, the sourness level is a bit too low. However, this recipe was not about the right level of sourness. It was about the spontanteous sour-mashing technique. In my opinion, this worked completely. All the Berliner Weisses I had from this batch were ok. Nothing to complain about.

My next Berliner Weisse is already in the pipeline. Just got my #3191 Berliner Weisse blend today and a Berliner Weisse brew day is in the near future. I just have to wait to get some empty bottles… (And I am already working on it…). And I already planned to isolate the Brettanomyces from the blend (my longtime followers will already have guessed…).

This was a very interesting and very informative experiment in my opinion. Not only is it possible to make a beer without ever boiling it, but it is also possible to use the microorganisms on the grains to sour a beer. A very neat way in my opinion to get yourself a sour beer if you do not want to purchase any souring bugs. However, comparing the Berliner Weisses with and without Brettanomyces, the one without it is clearly less sour. Brettanomyces seems to enhance the sourness level as well. From now on, all my Berliner Weisse brews will have some Brettanomyces in it, like a traditional Berliner Weisse.

This post closes another experiment of mine. Stay tuned for further experiments!

Tasting: #46 Festive Pale Ale

Eureka, its time for another tasting. The one we are looking at today is the Festive Pale Ale I did at the beginning of March 2012. This was a straight forward Pale Ale recipe with Pilsner malt and Carapils as a base, some Saaz, Amarillo and Cascade hops and the legendary #1056 American Ale yeast. Started with a gravity of 1.048 (12.2°P) and finished at 1.007 (2°P). ABV around 5.5%. I dry hopped this brew with some Amarillo and Cascade hops and racked it in a keg. Unfortunately, some hops remained in the keg and plugged the outlet of the keg for several times. I learned: Either rack more carefully or use a bag for the hops to prevent a stuck keg.

Fig 1: Festive Pale Ale meets snifter glass

Aroma: Very fruity aroma. Could detect some citrusy and lichi notes. The fruity aroma covers anything else. Really nice!

Appearance: Pours with a yellow color, white head, no carbonation visible and some particles float around (mostly hop debris).

Flavor: Huge fruity notes much like in the aroma. Some honey, maize and bready-sweetness as well. These notes could be from the Pilsner malt.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium body, some carbonation, short and slightly bitter aftertaste. Quite refreshing. A lot of the carbonation gets lost during the pouring from the tap. Due to the plugged keg, it foams a lot and the carbonation gets lost.

Overall Impression: Not bad for a Pale Ale. It is quite refreshing although a bit watery and very limited in the flavors. This is a beer you can easily enjoy during a hot Summer day.

The beer turned out as expected.: Refreshing, thirst quenching and easy to enjoy. Although not my favorite brew. To be honest, I am not a huge fan of Pale Ales in general. Lately I am focusing on beer styles which are more accessible to the general beer drinkers. I do so to have recipes on hand for upcoming events, tastings and a secret I share with you later on… Stay tuned!

Tasting: #49 Belgian Oatmeal Stout

Eureka, its time for yet another tasting post. Today, we are looking at the #49 Belgian Oatmeal Stout. The recipe was a straight forward stout recipe with some oatmeal flakes in the grist and fermented with Wyeast’s private collection strain #1581 Belgian Stout yeast. Original gravity was 1.053 (13.2°P) and finished at 1.016 (4.3°P) with an ABV of approximately 4.9%. Lets have a look how the beer turned out after 7 weeks of maturation in a keg.

Fig 1: Belgian Oatmeal Stout meets snifter glass

Aroma: Metallic roasty aroma with huge coffee and smokey notes. Could detect some bready sweetness (maybe from the oatmeal?). No phenolic or banana aroma notes. Although, there were some aroma which reminded me of raisins. Very nice!

Appearance: Pours with a black ruby-red appearance and a tan creamy head. The head was not very long-lasting since I had a lot of trouble pouring it in a glass…

Flavor: Lots of coffee and roasty notes. Could detect some metallic notes as well. Rather subtle flavor profile. No typical Belgian yeast characteristics such as phenolic or banana notes.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, average carbonation level. Finishes with a slightly bitter and roasty aftertaste. The bitterness could be due to the roasted barley.

Overall Impression: A pretty neat brew. Not an aroma and flavor bomb but rather easy to drink and enjoy. I already decided to do another batch and use Wyeast’s #1084 Irish Ale yeast for a comparison. Wyeast describes the #1581 Belgian Stout yeast as following: Very versatile ale strain from Belgium, ferments to dryness and produces moderate levels of esters without significant phenolic or spicy characteristics. This description is spot on in my opinion. I will use this strain for a Russian Imperial Stout soon. Stay tuned for further post to come!

Tasting: #48 Dunkler Nachthimmel

Eureka, its time for another post. Todays beer we are looking at is the #48 Dunkler Nachthimmel brewed back in March 2012. Designed as a Dunkelweizen (dark wheat beer) and fermented in an open fermenter.

Fig 1: Dunkler Nachthimmel meets a wheat glass

Aroma: A lot of banana notes and some grain notes as well. Not bad. However, not a very fresh aroma. There were some other aromas in there I could not put in words.

Appearance: Brown color, poured the yeast into the glass as well, creamy head. a lot of carbonation visible. Looks like a very typical wheat beer.

Flavor: Could detect some banana notes, very overpowering solvent character… and the typical cardboard taste you get in an oxidized beer.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, average carbonation level, short malty aftertaste. No bitterness in the aftertaste.

Overall Impression: There is something wrong with this particular brew. I brewed this recipe before and went with a typical closed fermenter. The beer turned out very well back then.

The aroma in this particular beer is not as clear as expected and there was this oxidized sensation. Concerning the aroma, one possible explanation could be the age of the yeast. I used my #3068 Weihenstephan yeast which I banked back in June 2010. Wheat yeasts are not very genetically stable and maybe this strain was not the best anymore. Second reason could be due to the open fermentation. Maybe some other organisms got in the fermenter and altered the aroma and flavor of this beer…

Another batch of this particular batch will be brewed tomorrow with freshly harvested 3068 Weihenstephan yeast and a closed fermenter. No experiments this time with open fermentations. I will repeat this open fermentation experiment for sure. However, further plating experiments are in progress. I finally ordered the supplies to try other media and indicators. Stay tuned!

Tasting: #41 Jubilee Porter

Eureka, its time for a tasting. Todays beer is the #41 Jubilee Porter I brewed back in December 2011. The beer matured for nearly three-month in a keg now, and its time for a tasting. The temperature of the beer was somewhere near 12°C (54°F).

Aroma: A lot of different aromas come into my mind: malty and caramel notes, honey, no roastyness or chocolate notes. No fruity notes. Has a kind of vintage smell like the Guinness Draught. But a very clean aroma. No off-flavors detectable.

Appearance: Ruby red, black, clear but can’t look through the beer, nice frothy 1 finger tan-colored head. The beer looks pretty nice.

Flavor: Again some malt and caramel notes. And a hint of bitterness is detectable as well. Nice balance between the bitterness and the malt backbone. No roasty or chocolate character. Really easy to drink.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium body, average carbonation level (much like a real Ale poured in the UK) and it is pretty easy to enjoy. The beer is pretty dry and finishes with a lightly bitter aftertaste. A real thirst quencher for sure.

Overall Impression: Well, this is a very easy drinkable beer for sure. And still has some very unique characteristic aromas and flavors. It is a very solid brew and I could not detect any off-flavors. I expected to taste some chocolate notes from the chocolate malt. But I could not detect any.

Lets summarize, this brew is really enjoyable. And I am not the only one who enjoys it. A lot of my friends appreciate it as well. I will give this recipe a go again for sure. The next step would be to do some experimenting and tweaking the recipe. I could try to increase the addition of the chocolate malt, maybe add some smoked malt as well to give it a more unique character, dry hopping, another yeast strain, add some wood chips… Luckily, I have a lot of ideas what to do with this particular brew. Cheers and thanks for reading. Please let me know if my tasting notes are of any use for you.

Tasting: Westvleteren 12

Eureka, Ab aedificandam abbatiam adiuvi (I helped to build up an abbey). Today some tasting notes about the Westvleteren 12. I guess I do not have to explain what kind of deal the Westvleteren 12 is, right? If you have no idea what I am talking about, some people say that this beer is the best on the planet. Is the Westvleteren really the best beer in the world? Lets find out.

 

How do I got myself some of these beers? Well, I got the chance to buy an awful looking brick from the brewery a few weeks ago. It comes with six bottles of the Westvleteren 12 and two glasses.

First of all, I am quite disappointed about the visual appearance of the package itself… And there aren’t even the real Westvleteren glasses included! There are two glasses, sort of small goblets, with some imprints: Westvleteren XII and “Ab aedificandam abbatiam adiuvi“. The same is written on the bottles. And on the packages it says: “This unique Trappistbeer, brewed and bottled in the Sint-Sixtusabbey at Westvleteren, is offered to you in this exclusive and limited giftbox. This exceptional set enables you to contribute directly to the extensive renovation of the monastery. Cheers!”. The Westvleteren 12 comes in 330 mL bottles and 10.2 ABV.

All in all, the appearance is very poor and kind of cheap in my opinion. But enough with the evaluation of the package.

Aroma: Sweet, raisin notes, caramel, clove and reminds me a bit of almond paste (marzipan). The aroma is quite nice. But not overwhelming as well.

Appearance: Clear with some particles (yeast in the bottle), brown with a hint of red, light <1 finger tan head, some bubbles visible. Looks like a typical quadrupel.

Flavor: Caramel notes, marzipan again, some dark fruits, molasses, notes of dark sugar. The candy syrup they use is very easy detectable. Some bitterness is detectable as well.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, low- average carbonation, bitter aftertaste, alcohol detectable (warming sensation)

Overall Impression: I have to say, this was one of the most difficult tastings ever. Not because of the complexity of the beer but because of all the expectations I had for this particular brew. And I have to mention something else before getting into the evaluation. According to the cap, the beer is best before the 5th of October in 2014. And I conjecture that the beer I tasted was bottled on the 5th of October in 2011. So the beer was nearly four-month old and therefore pretty fresh. Lets go into the evaluation. Well, the beer has some interesting notes indeed. I can’t remember a beer where I tasted marzipan before. But I am not convinced about this beer. There are even some notes I really do not like in such a beer like the detectable bitterness and the alcohol notes. And I would not even drink a second one of it! Really, it was not that interesting after all. Some of the flavors were not yet fully developed. I would give this beer a rating of about 80/100. I even gave the Abt 12 from the St. Bernardus brewery (some say it is a Westvleteren 12 clone) a rating of 90, and this was a really interesting brew indeed. But I can’t remember how old the Abt 12 was.

Lets summarize, a fresh example of the Westvleteren 12 is not that special in my opinion. And I am actually not that surprised about that. I would have been surprised if the beer would have been more complex after four months. Now, I will store the other bottles and taste it again maybe in a year? Why did I rated the beer with a 80 and not lower you might ask yourself? Well, the beer has a kind of premature complexity. I mean that the flavors are already there for a very special beer but it needs some further time to balance and mature. Is it the best beer on the planet? Maybe not yet…