Tasting: #67 Koschei Imperial Stout

Eureka, its time for a beer tasting. Happy Holidays to everyone. Today’s beer was brewed in October 2012, filled in a Whisky barrel in late October and bottled/kegged 5 month later (in March 2013). Now, the beer spent roughly nine month in kegs/bottles and its time now for an official tasting. It’s the one and only Koschei Imperial Stout clocking in at a 12.3 ABV.

koschei_in_glasAroma: Mellow vanilla nose with hints of oak and Bergamot. Some alcohol in the nose. Hint of roasted coffee, coconut, honey and chocolate. Nice!

Appearance: Very viscous, dark black, clear with slight head (tapped from a carbonated keg). Nice lacing as well…

Flavor: Licorice, marzipan, dark chocolate, very subtle roast character. However not too much going on

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body, low carbonation level, finishes with lots or roasted malts, coffee, slight astringency and a nice, balanced bitterness

Overall Impression: This is a nice beer but too light on the palate in my opinion. The alcohol kind of shines through too much (really hate the nose burning alcohol sensation). However, I already fixed this in subsequent high ABV beers which turned out great. Was it worth maturing this beer in a barrel? I actually don’t know. Comparing this beer with beers matured on wood chips only, there isn’t a specific barrel character to pick up in this beer that is not present in wood chips matured beers. I for my part will only mature beers in barrels to strip the aroma character from the barrels to later on mature sour beers.

And to proof that I am not simply writing up nice words and praise our beers to the highest, the corresponding ratebeer ratings: http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/blackwell-koshei-imperial-stout/234334/. The second of this batch turned into a black Berliner Sour and is rated as well: http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/blackwell-saurerstoff/227882/

Since this is probably the last post for this year, I wish you all Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year. Prost to good beer and Prost to the new year to come!


#83 Grätzer/Grodziskie

Eureka, its time for another recipe publication. Not only am I fascinated about the new arising beer styles in the world but really like to look back as well. One of the rediscovered beer styles is a Polish wheat beer called Grätzer or Grodziskie named after the place where it was originally brewed. This beer style is made with oak smoked wheat malt and with a healthy dose of hops. The result is a clear, smoky and very refreshing beer. Because this beer style heavily depends on the malt and no such malt was easily available up to know, only the ones willing to smoke their own malt had the ingredients to make a real Grätzer. This all changed as soon as the German maltster Weyermann revived the oak smoked wheat malt which is now available again. With this, the most important ingredient for this kind of beer is yet again commercially available.

I came across this beer style a while ago and got really excited as I encountered Eichenrauchmalz (= oak smoked wheat malt) at my local homebrew store. I instantly ordered a small quantity of this particular malt to give this beer style a go. And below is my recipe.

Recipe: Grätzer
Numbers: Volume [L] 20 (5.3 gal)
Original gravity 7.8°P (1.030)
Terminal gravity 2.6°P (1.010)
Color Around 5 EBC
ABV 2.7% (v/v)
Grains: Smoked wheat malt (4 EBC) 3 kg (5.5 lbs)
Hops: Hallertauer (4.2% AA) 25 g and boiled for 60 min
Hallertauer (4.2% AA) 10 g and boiled for 30 min
Yeast: Wyeast 1 part WY1338 European Ale and 2 parts WY1007 German Ale
Water: Mash: 8 L (2.1 gal), sparge: 12 L (3.2 gal) @78°C (172°F)
Rest: Mash in @38°C (100°F), 30 min @38°C (100°F), 30 min @52°C (126°F), 10 min @66°C (151°F), 30 min @70°C (158°F), sparge at 78°C (172°F)
Boil: Boil for 60 min
Fermentation: Primary 8 days at 20°C (68°F)
Secondary 10 days at 20°C (68°F)
Maturation: Carbonation (CO2 vol) 3.6
Maturation time 2 weeks, cold

06/29/13: Brew day as normal. Mashed in as stated in the recipe, rested at the given temperatures and sparged as usual. I did not add any kind of rice hulls or barley to facilitate the lautering. The lautering went as smooth as ever. I am aware that a lot of people say that it is not possible to sparge a 100% wheat malt mash. Well, I kind of experienced different things in the past and don’t care about any other experiences. I use a perforated metal plate as a filter (see picture below) and this is maybe on of the best investments in my homebrewing career. Since then, the lautering is not a pain any more. However, I encounter difficulties with this plate when I sparge the soured Berliner Weisse mash. Then the mash gets very easily stuck because the entire mash is very mushy.


Fig 1:Mash kettle with perforated metal plate at bottom

After sparging and collecting the wort in my boiling kettle, I boiled the wort with the additions of the Hallertauer hops, cooled down the wort and pitched a yeast blend of two commercial yeasts (WY1008 German Ale and WY1338 European Ale). Before I cooled down the wort, I filled a 2 L growler with hot, boiled wort for the carbonation step later on. The reason for using two yeast strains is to get the WY1008 out of suspension (low flocculent) with a highly flocculent yeast strain (WY1338 in this example). This is very important because the beer has to be very clear in the end. Primary fermentation at 20°C (68°F).

07/07/13: Racked beer after 8 days to a secondary fermenter.

07/17/13: Bottled beer with addition of wort to a carbonation level of 3.6 vol of carbon dioxide. Added 2 L of unfermented wort to 18 L of green beer.

Now the most interesting part, what about the taste?

83_gratzerAroma: Smoke is dominant aroma with character of smoked bacon, bonfire. Thanks to Anna who describes this aroma in “one” word: “dried green beans”. Spot on in my opinion

Appearance: Yellow, clear, fluffy, white head with lots of bubbles rising to the top (see picture)

Flavor: Pretty much the same as in the aroma: bonfire, ash, some wood flavors as well. Nice level of bitterness and well integrated

Mouthfeel: Light body, average carbonation level, rather dry, light smoky finish. Very easy drinkable

Overall Impression: Very refreshing and surprisingly not too thin for the 2.7 vol alcohol. I am quite intrigued how this batch turned out. Even after three months in the bottles, the beer still has a very prominent smoky, ashy character. This experiment is yet another successful one.

#68 Dark Berliner Sour

Eureka, its time for another recipe. Actually this one is not as straight forward as you might expect from my previous recipes and might be hard to reproduce. The idea for this beer came up during the lautering process of my #67 Koschei Imperial Stout batch. Brewed 51 L (13.5 gal) of Imperial Stout and could not throw away the second runnings which still had a gravity of 12°P (1.048). I therefore used the runnings as a base for this recipe and went from there.

I collected the runnings up to a total volume of 10 L (2.6 gal) and added a package of Wyeast’s Lactobacillus delbrueckii to the unboiled mash as the mash reached a temperature of 40°C (104°F) and let the mash sit at 40°C for a three days until the sourness was at a good level. I then let the wort cool down to around 20°C (68°F) and added the unboiled, per-soured wort on top of a Wyeast’s 3191 Berliner Weisse cake. I left the beer on the Berliner Blend for nearly two months and kegged the soured Stout into a small keg. Kegged the beer on the 9th of December 2012 and left the keg at a relatively warm place to mature. I then forgot about this beer for a while…

This changed in late Spring of 2013. I re-discovered this particular keg in my cellar during an inventory and was quite excited to try a first sip of this beer. The ABV for this one is around 5 %. For a style, it should be something like a dark Berliner Weisse. Since Weisse originates from white in German, it would not much sense to call it a Dark Berliner Weisse. I therefore simply call it a Dark Berliner Sour. Or maybe there is already a suitable beer style for this kind of beer. Let me know if there is a matching beer style for my beer.

DarkBerlinerWeisseAroma: Smells like a cold brewed coffee gone sour with a touch of lemon, dark chocolate and bonfire smoke. Can even detect a hint of gingerbread. Impressive aroma profile and really interesting aroma combination.

Appearance: Deep black color, clear with lots of bubbles rising to the top. Not very long-lasting off-white head

Flavor: Hint of dark chocolate, very subtle roast character and a nice level of sourness. Even some red grape and wood character like in certain wines. Tobacco is there as well. The sourness and the flavors from the roasted barley really go along really nice.

Mouthfeel: Light body, average carbonation level, very dry but not too thin, silky and lightly sour finish. Detectable astringency. Very refreshing. Leaves a smoky impression on the tongue like you get after smoking a cigar.

Overall Impression: Quite impressed how this one turned out. Despite the roast character, this beer has a lot of flavors common in red wines. Not only that, it reminds me of Jolly Pumpkin’s Madrugada Obscura. With the exception that this one is not really funky. I am further surprised how the sourness plays with the roasty, astringency characters. The play along really nicely.

I expected to get a huge mess of a beer. Simply because the grist of the Imperial Stout was not really destined to turn into a sour beer. Nevertheless, the beer turned out to be way more complex than expected and is a very interesting one. Maybe not the kind I would drink for a whole evening but I have others that drink this one in pints. I might brew another batch of this one in the future and mature it in my Whisky barrel to see how this one turns out after some time in a wooden barrel. Cheers and thanks for reading

#72 Belgian-Brett Ale

Eureka, sharing another recipe with the world. All started with the need to get rid of some ingredients such as leftover hops, malts and yeast. My goal was to brew a hop-forward not too bitter Amber Ale. Something for a general public. On the other hand to use Wyeast’s 3789 Trappist Blend. According to Wyeast, this blend consists of Saccharomyces and some Brettanomyces strain(s). Some say this blend consists of the yeasts used by Abbaye Notre-Dame d’Orval. I chose this blend to be suitable for such a beer because of three reasons. First, serving the fresh beer will not have too much of Brettanomyces character and be more accessible for a general public. Second, the Brettanomyces might help to decreases the body of this rather malty beer and improve the hop aroma. Third, further maturation should give the Bretts enough time to put their fingerprint on the beer aroma/flavor and maybe be more for the Brett lovers.

Recipe: Belgian-Brett Ale
Numbers: Volume [L] 20 (5.3 gal)
Original gravity 14°P (1.056)
Terminal gravity 2.7°P (1.010)
Color Around 20 EBC
ABV > 6% (v/v)
Grains: Abbey malt (45 EBC) 1 kg
Munich malt (15 EBC) 1.2 kg
Pilsner malt (4 EBC) 2.7 kg
Carabelge (35 EBC) 0.2 kg
Cara Munich 3 (150 EBC) 0.2 kg
Hops: Amarillo (10% AA) 5 g and boiled for 60 min
Columbus (15% AA) 5 g and boiled for 60 min
Simcoe (14% AA) 5 g and boiled for 60 min
Cascade (5.9% AA) 30 g at flame out
Amarillo (7.8% AA) 15 g at flame out
Simcoe (12.9% AA) 30 g at flame out
Dry hops 50 g Simcoe (12.9%), 50 g Amarillo (8.5%) and
50 g Cascade (5.9%)
Yeast: Wyeast #3789 Trappist Blend
Water: Burgdorf Mash: 13 L (3.4 gal), sparge: 21 L (5.5 gal) @78°C (172°F)
Rest: Mash in @66°C (151°F), 60 min @66°C (151°F), 10 min @ 78°C (172°F)
Boil: Boiled for 90 min
Fermentation: Primary 13 days @20°C (68°F) in plastic fermenter
Secondary 14 days @20°C (68°F) in plastic fermenter with the addition of dry hops
Maturation: Carbonation (CO2 vol) 2 with sugar addition
Maturation time Weeks to months

02/10/2013: Brew day! Nothing special to add here. Basically followed the recipe above.

03/05/2013: Tasting:

batch72Aroma: Very, very fruity (mango and lots of oranges). Reminds me of a certain local fruit juice. No Brett funk yet. Very nice aroma! (Tasting in July: Aroma very similar to Orval with a certain Brett character)

Appearance: Amber-brown, clear, 1 finger white head with nice bubbles rising to the top

Flavor: Very fruity (tropical fruits) with mango, oranges and some citrus character. Subtle maltyness and very well-balanced (malt and hop). (Tasting July: Fruit character not as prominent anymore. But a bit of Brett twang is definitely there now, balance is now more on the hop/bitter side, malt character vanished).

Mouthfeel: Medium body, average carbonation level, no bitter finish. (Tasting July: Rather dry and slightly bitter finish).

Overall Impression: This is a very nice brew. It is not overly bitter but has a huge tropical fruit aroma. And I am not the only one that likes this beer. I shared some bottles with friends and they loved it. On feedback I got was like “get this brew on tap”. The character of this beer changed over the last weeks and you definitely get a certain Brett character now. I will further mature the beer and see how much of Brett it will get.

I already re-used the base recipe for another batch. Left the Carabelge aside and used a different kind of yeast (Wyeast’s American Ale strain) to see, how much the beer depends on Wyeast’s Trappist Blend. Sure the Brett character will not be there but I currently have way enough beer to mature anyway (and a lot of stuff that will require maturation is still fermenting). By the end of 2012, I had 508 bottles of beer stocked in my maturation cellar (equal to 269 L of beer). This number might be even higher now because I mature some beers in kegs. Anyway, this batch was a complete success: Got rid of some ingredients, was fun to brew, got a nice beer in the end and my friends liked it as well. Cheers and thanks for reading

Tasting: #47 Smashed Pumpkin Ale

Eureka, its time to share some tasting notes. I would like to apologize first for not posting in a long time. My uni life and the preparations for an upcoming yeast class already consume most of my spare time lately. Anyway, things now look a bit better and I even found some time to brew again. I would like to talk about a batch brewed in Spring 2012, my first Pumpkin Ale. The beer matured for quite a while now and I tried it before but it tasted very similar as described below. Unfortunately, most of the bottles were over carbonated and as soon as you opened the bottle, the whole sediment in the bottle got whirled up. Lets pour some Smashed Pumpkin Ale in a glass and lets see how it tastes like.

smashedpumpkinAroma: Lots of spices (mostly nutmeg), light sweetness in there as well. Reminds me of a Christmas cookie. The spices are not overpowering as well. Nicely integrated and actually a very nice aroma profile.

Appearance: Orange-brown and hazy appearance, some chunks float in the liquid (parts of pumpkin and other stuff), nice white frothy head.

Flavor: Spicy and phenolic with some citrus and herbal background. Unfortunately I cannot taste the Christmas cookie on the palate. Flawless.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, average carbonation level and finishes with a fair bitterness level.

Overall Impression: Not the best beer I ever brewed nor the worst one. Judging from the tasting, its hard to tell whether there is real pumpkin in this beer or not (beside the pumpkin pieces in the glass). The spices (nutmeg, cinnamon and coriander) play the game here. Even some of the hops are detectable (used Cascade, Willamette and Columbus).

This was for sure an educational batch to see how hard it is to brew with real pumpkin and what impact the pumpkin has on the finished beer. In my opinion, brewing with pumpkin is not as easy as I thought. The small pumpkin pieces made it nearly impossible to get the pumpkin out of the beer again. Best seen in the pieces of pumpkin floating in the glass. On the other hand, the pumpkin did not add much to the aroma and taste. I am not too surprised about that because there are some “pumpkin” beers out there without any real pumpkin. The spices make the beer rather than the pumpkin. Thanks for reading and cheers.

A glimpse into Swiss Lager beers

Eureka, take this blog post serious if you ever encounter Swiss Lager beers. Like most of the countries on Earth, Switzerland is no exception (for once…): the most sold beers are yellow, fizzy and clear. Not much to say about the taste. Generic lager.  IMG_1415Because we are interested in beer, we simply wanted to find out if there is a Swiss Lager beer with a unique taste and how different they are compared to each others. We therefore selected some beers, sneaked in some foreign Lager beers as well and did a blind tasting. I would like to mention, the ranking below does not represent a true ranking rather than a personal ranking. In addition, we selected only some Lager beers. We simply can’t evaluate all of them side-by-side.

Canwall_resizedWe selected the following beers: Feldschlösschen Original (Feldschlösschen being the biggest brewery in Switzerland and part of Carsberg) and maybe one of the most sold beers in Switzerland, Feldschlösschen Premium, Rugenbräu Lager Hell (independent brewery), Cardinal Draft (brewery owned and closed by Feldschlösschen), Eichhof Lager (brewery owned by Heineken), Kronenbourg (French brewery owned by Carlsberg), Heineken, Falken Lagerbier hell (independent brewery), Quöllfrisch Hell (independent brewery) and finally a beer brewed for a liquor store chain in Switzerland called “Drinks of the world”. The beer landscape in Switzerland is very typical: Some big ones and a lot of small, independent ones. The big ones in Switzerland are Carlsberg and Heineken.
All the beers were evaluated without the knowledge of the beer brand.

The tasting was even harder than expected. Most of the beers taste very similar. Although some really have distinctive characters (either good or bad ones). Funny enough, we had the impression that Heineken should be the best of all (possibly due to their commercials…) and Falken Lagerbier Hell the worst. Maybe because we had a can of this beer before and it tasted really metallic. Below is the list how the beer really ended up in our ranking.





Falken Lagerbier Hell Rather nice smell (compared to others)


Eichhof Lager Even some very, very faint hop aroma


Feldschlösschen Original Boring but solid


Cardinal Draft Peanuts and apple aroma, no real head


Rugenbräu Lager Hell Harsh bitterness in aftertaste


Quöllfrisch Hell (Locher) Weird metallic taste


Kronenbourg Darker color (deep yellow), huge peanuts smell


Drinks of the World house beer Alcoholic smell, metallic


Feldschlösschen Premium Peanut and urine smell


Heineken Very pale yellow color, no head, alcoholic burning smell, weird bitterness and alcoholic and green apple, metallic finish (just awful to drink)

First of all, I don’t want to bash any breweries here. Just give my opinion about the products they sell. Lets begin with the least enjoyable one: Heineken. This beer was close to undrinkable. Simply because of its smell. The aroma on the palate was not really nice as well. The next beers, place 8 to 4 taste, smell and look really similar. With the exception of Kronenbourg which is a bit darker in color. On the third place are two beers. Simply because we could not decide which of the two is better. On second place is Eichhof’s Lager beer. Solid beer. And the first place goes to Falken’s Lagerbier Hell. This beer smelled different from all the other ones (could not even detect any off-flavors). Funny enough, the best and worse beer are exactly the opposite what we expected. That’s the power of a blind tasting.

Just don’t get me wrong. Falken’s Lager Hell is not the best nor the worst beer I ever had. It is just the best in this blind tasting event. There is something else that I would like to point out here. I can’t stand breweries who label their beers with the “Premium” tag. Traditionally, breweries put a lot of money into commercials to sell their beers with the “Premium” label. Making these beers more expensive. And what I take from the ranking above, the only two cans with the “Premium” label finished last. The “Premium” therefore can’t stand for the taste experience. Rather for the premium price you pay for less taste.

Verdict from this tasting, there are indeed some Lager beers with (minor) flavor/aroma differences. Unfortunately, most of the differences are due to off-flavors either present or absent. Putting the test in an international view, the Swiss beers are at least as good as some foreign beer brands. Cheers!