Sunday, November 8, 2009

Abita Abbey Ale

This deep red cloudy brew is Abita's attempt at an Abbey. Belgium Abbey's are always extremely hard to recreate because so much of the recipe is local and, in the case of the water and yeast, usually unique to the monastery.

In any case, this ale passes the eye test with its beautiful dark red color and thick head( please ignore my bad pour in the pic). When I smell Abbey Ales, the sweetness of the malt and spiciness of the yeast typically dominate. The hops always take a back seat when it comes to aroma. This ale's aroma did not disappoint. Though the smell was not as intense as I expected, I was pleased by its caramel toffee scent.

I could taste a distinct citrus flavor immediately followed by caramel and then a slight bite of bitterness. I expected more of the allspice-like aftertaste you get from abbey yeast but I didnt get much of it. Overall the beer is a medium bodied , economically priced version of an Abbey that tastes exactly like your drinking a $3.50 version of a 22oz authentic Trappist. Considering a Chimay double will run you atleast $12, you should get my point.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Young's Double Chocolate Stout

After falling in love with Brooklyn Chocolate Stout, I decided to scour the internet for similar beers. Low and behold, there was an overwhelming affinity for another Chocolate Stout. So there is this big internet buzz surrounding Young's Double Chocolate Stout (Thanks to Jay's Beer Review, and others) which made me visit 4 suppliers to find it.

I was surprised to discover that this was a nitro brew. The appearance was pitch black with a light tan head. There wasnt a dominate chocolate smell like I began to expect from this type of beer (Brooklyn and Rogue). I could smell a hint of roasted malts, a twinge of floral hops, and even less of chocolate.

The mouth feel was pure silk. There was this milk like consistency that went down smooth. This is one of those brews that would win over non beer drinkers and connoisseurs alike. The taste was equally as creamy with dark and roasted malts being the most dominant. the chocolate kicked in on the swallow along with a little of the hoppie bite for balance. This is an excellent brew.

Rating 4.5 out of 5.

Dogfish 90 min IPA

I will admit that I was a little intimidated by this beer initially. I tried a 120 a few months back and couldn't get past the 2nd sip. Im also a fan of the 60 but I always assumed that it was the peek of my hoppiness.I guess my pallet has changed over the past few months because the 90 min turned out to be perfectly hopped.

Sam Calagione at Dogfish has been known for pushing the envelope and 90 min IPA is no exception. Considered one of his flagship brews, 90 min is continuously hopped for 90 min straight (and here I thought that my 3 hop additions was too much for my home brew).

90 min's smell took me back to a time in my life when I lived outside. I felt like I was 16 again playing football with my friends at the neighborhood park. The aroma smells like fresh cut grass mixed with wildflowers and pine.
The appearance was a hazy caramel color with a bright white soapy head.
My first sip was dominated by the hops. It was strong enough to dominate your pallet yet not overbearing. As the beer sits, that warms a little, you start to get more of the malt flavors, and it becomes more balanced. Overall the beer has this amazing frash taste, as if it was just bottled yesterday (conditioned of course).

This would go great with fish, fresh veggies, or anything that would require being outdoors.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Grimbergen Belgium Dubbel Ale

This is a local brew (local to Belgians that is) that originated in Grimbergen village near Brussels in 1128. The beer has a hazy dark caramel color with a sweet raisiny smell. There was no hint of hops. The head was bright white and airy. It is initially extremely sweet on the palate. The taste was somewhere between caramel and toffee with an all-spice like finish. It was not a heavy as I am use to with Belgian Dubbels and was only 6.5% ABV but had good flavor. I can understand why this Abbey didnt make the Trappist cut but I enjoyed my experience none the less.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Brew day: Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

This is by far my most complex recipe to date. My grains include some roasted barley, crystal, and brown. The LME is a combination of 2 dark brown ales. I also went with Northern hops for bittering and got a little aroma from Perle. Dextrine was mixed with the coco to add body and flavoring.

Ive wanted to brew an oatmeal stout for a long time now however, my goal was to do a Sam Smith clone. Since you cant really walk into Brew Depot and pick up some Sam Smith proprietary yeast, II decided to wait till I cam up with my own recipe. The last chocolate beer I did (Rasperry Chocolate Wheat) was not chocolaty at all. I only used 1 roasted grain and no real coco. This time I was determined to get it right.
So after sanitizing my fermenters, tubing, pots, spoons, etc, I got started with the fun stuff. First thing I did was mixed the Dextrine and coco with a cup of water in a small gravy pot. After bringing it to a boil and whisking thoroughly, i sat it to the side and started on the wort.

After soaking my LME cans in hot water for 30 min, I started my wort with 4 gallons of water. The Northern Hops were added @ 60 min along with the Dextrine concoction. At 30 min I added the grains followed by the Perle @ 1 min. I was shooting for an OG of 1.061 or higher (considering all the sugars I included) but I made a grave mistake with the top off water. I estimated a 1 gallon loss due to evaporation (taking it down to 3 gallons) so I was supposed to add 2 gallons to the fermenter before adding my wort. I mistakenly added 3 gallons (no idea why), which took my OG down to 1.051.
Last time I checked, there was no law about DWB (Drinking While Brewing). Probably related to my OG issue :)

So after deliberating on whether or not to add more sugars to the mix ( I had 1 lb of crystal on hand) I decided to go with the 1.051 OG. If I am lucky, I might be able to get 5.3% ABV out of this batch. I was shooting for atleast 7%.

I then pitched my British Ale Liquid yeast (WL005 i believe) and crossed my fingers. It took a good 8 hours for the yeast to start talking to me, the longest I have every had to wait for any signs of life. But it seems to be doing its thing now.My temp is a little on the high side (76F) but things look good so far.With all of the sugars involved, I will probably leave this one in the primary for 4 weeks before transferring.

In the mean time, I am working on a full bodied Belgian Ale that I should be brewing in the next 10 days.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Brugs Wit

The term Belgian Wit almost seems like an antonym. Belgian beers are always full flavored, heavy, and extremely complex. When I think of Belgian Beers, beet sugars and fruitiness comes to mind. When I think of wits, I think dry, crisp, refreshing brews.

I quess my expectations are already set when I tasted this beer because I really did not enjoy it. It had a slight all spice smell with a hint of apricots. The mouth feel was very thin and uneventful. It was sweeter than many domestic wits, which was a surprise, but that taste was quickly overpowered by the Belgian yeast's fruitiness. It was refreashing, but at only 4.8% abv, it was too light for my Belgian taste buds.

Trappist Rochefort 8

This dark brown, hazy bottle of liquid gold is often considered the cream of the crop in Belgium. The local that introduced me to this brew literally dragged me to 4 different bars in search of this elusive concoction. It's not the rarest Trappist beer (18000 hl compared to Westvleteren's 4700 hl) and is not even the strongest of the brewery. Rochefort 10 is 11.3 % abv where Rochefort 8 is 9.2%. However it is, in my opinion, the best tasting. Rochefort 10 is extremely heavy and is best sipped at room temp. The water for the beers is drawn from a well located inside the monastery walls.

Rochefort 8 is considered a demi-sec (half dry) beer with a strong sweet aroma and a hint of fruitiness.

The taste is extremely complex but not as heavy as the alchol content might dictate. It is extremely sweet however after a second the fruitiness of the yeast and bitterness of the hops starts to dominate the sweetness.

The head is pretty weak yet creamy. Its color appears to be a combination of cream and tan.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chimay Trappist Triple

Well I have survived my trip to Belgium and have brought back with me a lifetime of memories and the aftertaste of Abbey goodness. With few exceptions, I tried to stick with the heavier bodied full flavor beers of the region. The first Trappist beer I'm going to review is probably the most well known in the states, Chimay.

I have to admit I was not very impressed with the more common blue label but i decided to give the triple a try anyway. It exceeded my expectations with it's slightly aged caramel flavor that lasts about a second or two before the hoppy bitterness kicks in. Like most Belgian beers, balance is always emphasized. And since the alcohol content is slightly higher than what you would expect in domestic brews, the malts tend to be very heavy and sweet. To balance it out, the hops are always noticeable but never overpowering like you would get in a Pale Ale.

The head on this beer was extremely thick and milky-like. The yeast used in most Belgian style beers tends to lend itself to the fruity smell that also contains a bit of grass from the hops.
The flavor comes in layers. First its the caramel followed quickly by the bitterness. Once the beer passes the back of the tongue, the fruity aftertaste kicks in.

Though the alcohol content is 8%, it dosent have the dark body you would expect from a triple malted beer. That is due to the sweet Belgian candies that are added to the brew. The 25% sucrose that is contained in the candies add an interesting sweet flavor and also adds to the abv.
The beer is also double fermented. Its first top fermented and then bottle fermented using the candies.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

New Belgium Organic Mothership Wit

I am seriously becoming a huge fan of New Belgium. Their flag ship beer, Fat Tire was rather tasty but didn't quite take me on the mental voyage to Belgium that I had hopped for. The Organic Mothership Wit is a totally different story. It has a strong citrus smell, typical of Belgium brews, with a light, unfiltered color (almost milky). There was almost no hop smell or taste however, it had plenty of bite from the coriander and orange peels.
Domestic beers always tend to focus on balance, which never really excite my taste buds. In my early days of tasting Belgium beers, I didnt like them becasue they always seemed "extreme" when compared to domestic brews. When I started home brewing, I began to appreciate beers that didnt cater to the average Joe. I gegan to crave unique flavors and aromas. The New Belgium Organic Mothership Wit definately achieves that goal.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout

This has long been my measuring stick for all oatmeal stouts. Its Tan milky head, molasses like smell, and creamy chickory flavor is as close to perfect as you can get. Many home brewers try to replicate this brew but fall short. That's mainly because if Samuel Smith's own yeast strain that is not sold or distributed. I have been unable to confirm whether Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout is bottle fermented, but I have my doubts. So harvesting this unique yeast strain would become a chore.

And if by chance, your able to replicate the yeast strain, there is the 200 year old well that they draw their water from that may also become a problem.

But one taste and you will understand why this beer constantly wins awards including the World Beer Championships Best Oatmeal Stout.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Guinness 250 Anniversary

Growing up in New Orleans, Abita Turbo Dog has always been my favorite stout. I enjoyed the flavor of nitrogen mixed Guinness but it was always a novelty item for me. I would occasionally drink a Guinness only when I knew it would soon be followed by something else. I could appreciate the roasted chocolate-toffee like taste and the rich sweet smell but I never got use to its deceptive feel in my mouth. At first glance, it looks like a heavy, high abv, beer that you would drink for a nite cap, but it ends up feeling like a very good, sweet stout that was never conditioned.

Then came Guiness 250. I swear the first time I tasted this brew I pictured a Turbo Dog. It is everything that a Guiness should be. It still have that sweet alluring aroma and deep coffee-toffee taste, but the added co2 makes the finish just as good as rest. The only down side for me was that the 250 brew was not as heavy as the origional, which was not a heavy beer to begin with.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised and look forward to another one.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

New Belgium Fat Tire

I stumbled across this beautiful 20 oz concoction at a local pub (no not the sandwich shop in the background) and decided to give it a try.
New Belgium is actually an American company that likens its brews to Belgium styles. They incorporate non-traditional yeast and complex fruity styles in their beers. The company is currently ran by a former Belgium Brewmaster.

I had the pleasure of trying New Belgium's Fat Tire, which has this extraordinary crystal clear deep golden color, with a virgin-like white head. It smells like kiwi fruit but has the taste of lightly sweetened toast with just enough bitterness to balance it out. It feels extremely light on the pallet and refreshing. Though New Belgium is not big on releasing ingredient lists, they did reveal that speciality, caramel, and Munich malts make up 30%. I am definitely looking forward to trying their signature Abbey Dubble. Fat Tire comes in at 5.5% ABV.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Coopers Pale Ale

This beer signifies several firsts on the Creole Hops Beer Journal. This is the first bottle fermented beer I am discussing. Its the first Australian beer mentioned here. Its also the first beer that features the Pride of Ringwood hops, which is an Aussie specialty. And last but not least, this appears to be the first beer that is primed with beet sugar (don't quote me on that).

Pride of Ringwood hops are most famous for Fosters however it currently holds the title of having the highest AAUs which tends to be between 8.5 and 10%.

This beer tends to focus on light flavors. Absolutely nothing is overpowering. The head was also non existent after 30 seconds. The Pride of Ringwood hops are most evident when you swallow as it does pack quite a bite. There is also a nice, suttle fruit undertone that sticks with you after you swallow. The aroma is very sweet and almost citrus-like. The color is very milky and hazy. dispite being a Pale Ale, and being a light golden color, I was unable to see my hand behing the glass. This was ofcourse due to it being unfiltered and bottle fermented.
ABV 4.5%

Monday, July 6, 2009

Breckenridge Oatmeal Stout

It's thick, never ending, creamy head has an off white to tan color. The taste feels more like a porter than a stout but does have a nice roasted coffee like finish. If your one of the rare individuals that cant get past the creaminess of Oatmeal stouts like Sam Smith, this one if for you. It appeared sweeter than Sam Smith which would make this a great choice for a desert brew. However its versatile enough to work with a nice porter house or Ny Strip. APV is just a shade under 5%. Accodring to their site, bittering comes from Chinook and Perle but the aroma is all roasted malts.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Arrogant Bastard Ale

Ive never considered myself a hop head and want desperately to acquire the stomach for a Dogfish 120 IPA (sorry Sam Calagione). Much like Dogfish, Stone Brewing Co. knows a thing or 2 about hops as their Stone IPA is a right of passage for any hop head. Im not quite sure if Arrogant Bastard Ale is considered an IBA (Indian Brown Ale) but it certainly had the characteristics. Its roasted caramel color reminds me or a slightly watered down Coke. Though the malty taste did not quite match its robust color, it didt strike a great balance with the hops.

I know what your thinking. How can an Indian Ale have anything resembling malt to hop balance? Well the Oak chips added during the brewing process add a smokey taste that nullifies some of the bitterness. However I can definately tell that there was some serious dry hopping involved. The smell was that of freashly cut grass that just got rained on. The head was a thick offwhite that was Too Legit To Quit (yes i went there).

There was nothing sneaky about its 7.2% ABV. Your taste buds reminded you with every swallow. Though this beer is not for eveyone, I believe that aspiring hop heads like myself can appreciate this just as much as Mr Victory Hop Devil.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sierra Nevada Kellerweis

Im beginning to realize more and more that I am a Perle hops fan. Time and time again, I find myself digging the flavor and bite of this German Hop. And Sierra Nevada always seems to find the perfect marriage of hops in all of their brews. Kellerweis is no exception with a combination of Perle and Sterling mixed with two-row, munich, and wheat.

This is the perfect summer brew that is extremely crisp with an all-spice finish. Its extremely light in color as you would expect in a wheat summer brew but does not have contain the typical watered down, flavorless taste as one would expect from its appearance. Next time I go to the beach, this is the brew for me.

Moon River SLO-vannah Pale Ale

So during my wife and I's yearly visit to Savannah Ga. we made a stop in their local brew pub/brewery Moon River. Due to time constraints, I would only be able to enjoy 1 beer so I asked the waiter for his recommendation. Of course he interrogated me about my drinking preferences, which change with the wind, and plugged my answers into his mental Beer-O-Rama. I was in the mood for a Pale Ale that was very hoppy but not quite an IPA so the recommendation was the SLO-vannah Pale Ale.

As the picture indicates, this is an extremely light colored beer that had a surprising caramel taste. There was almost no bitterness, to my chagrin, but there appeared to be a a fair amount of dry hopping that contributed to its earthy smell. The finish was crisp with a generous Allspice-like taste.

Perfect on a hot day. Not so perfect for a hop head.

Welcome to Creole Hops' journal

Welcome to the Creole Hops beer blog.I am an amateur home brewer who has an obsession with good flavorful beer. I plan to use this blog to post my recommendations, reviews, and trials of home brewing. The first ever batch of beer I made was the worst beer I had ever tasted. I made alot of mistakes. My intention was to make a Brown Ale (cant go wrong with that right? wrong!).

-Did not aerate the wort
-Not enough priming sugar was used
-Mash pot was too small (3 boilovers)
-Poor temperature management during fermentation

(Boil over)

As a result I had a slightly acidic water-like substance with a hazy brown complexion.
The good news was I did not let that minor set back keep me from pushing on.
My next batch was perhaps the best one yet. It was a Sierra Nevada Pale clone. My gravity readings were dead on, I was meticulous with my preparation and temp management, and even utilized a Secondary for the first time. I had a dinner party the night i popped the first bottle (well second bottle) and I had to hide some beer to ensure that I would have some the next day.

(My first home brew)

My latest concoction was a Raspberry Wheat kicked up to 7.1% abv. In incoperated a wheat extract, roasted grain, and caramel grain. My goal was to make a sort of desert beer that would have a raspberry chocolate flavor. I didnt quite reach my goal but I am pretty happy with the end result anyway. My biggest issue was with the carbonation. I can only assume that the priming sugar was again not properly distributed because the carbonation was hit or miss. About 20% of the bottles were flat.

In a few weeks I will be taking a trip to Brussels and hope to get my hands (and mouth) on some Trappist beer. I printed out a list of the top rated Belgium beer and 6 out of the top 10 are Trappist. I will post more information on Trappits beers and also my reviews of the beers tasted.