Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Homebrewed Young At Heart Stout Review

Brewery: My Kitchen | Beer: Young At Heart Stout
Style: American Stout | ABV: ~3% | IBUs: ~15
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Homebrewed Young At Heart StoutYou can read Young At Heart's Phase One (Brewing) here and Phase Two (Bottling) here

It's been about five months since my wife and I bottled our first batch of homebrewed beer, a Stout named Young At Heart. We chose that name in honor of my father-in-law's heart transplant a few days before we brewed. I'm happy to report that he's out of the hospital, back to work, playing golf once a week, and doing great overall. Hopefully the beer has followed his lead.

While homebrewed beer is generally drinkable after a week or so, the longer you wait, the better it gets (within reason). With all of the concerns I had at bottling time, I decided to give the yeasties plenty of time to do their thing. I've opened a couple bottles along the way just to make sure everything was coming along, but this review is based solely on the beer at five months after bottling.

I'm listing it as an American Stout, just for simplicity's sake. By my calculations, the ABV ended up at just about 3%, obviously not what I was shooting for (you can read more about this issue in Phase Two). Really, as long as it doesn't make me wretch, I'm calling this one a success.

Appearance: Deep black body with no light able to penetrate. There's lots of hiss from the bottlecap upon opening and the massive tan-colored head grows rapidly. It looks like this was just shy of becoming a gusher. Whew.

Aroma: Bitter roasted malt with notes of chocolate and a weird yeasty/fruity smell. Generally thin.

Taste: Pretty thin and bizarre. Malty, with dark fruit and burnt sugar notes and the same yeasty/fruity flavor lurking around the edges. Not a very Stout-like flavor profile. In fact, if given this in a blind taste test, I'd probably end up marking this as a Belgian-style Dubbel (though I'd be far from confident in that guess). No hops or alcohol to speak of.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body with tons of soda-like fizz. Again, very much wrong for the style.

Drinkability: With a sub-Bud Light ABV and a pretty watery body, this is one of the most drinkable "Stouts" I've tried yet. Of course, there's probably no one that's going to want to keep going after the first one...

Verdict: Well, my real goal for my first batch of beer was to end up with something that resembled beer and didn't make me throw up or turn blind. I've met all three of those strict requirements, so I'm a happy camper. I don't see this recipe ending up in a bidding war from the nation's top brewers, but I think it's a solid enough start for my homebrew career. Next up, an IPA!

Grade: F (But still a success in my eyes!)

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Session 27: Beyond The Black & Tan

The Session is a monthly project where a bunch of beer bloggers all blog about the same topic. You can read more about the project here. This is PintLog's second time contributing to the project (I wasn't able to source a beer for the 26th session in time). This month's hosts are Joe Ruvel & Jasmine Smith (the good people behind Beer At Joe's), and the topic they have chosen is Beyond the Black & Tan, a meditation on beer cocktails.

Ah, the beer cocktail. Loved by many, hated by just as many; they're always a conversation starter. Some people think they're a great way to experience beers in a new way, others think it's a sacrilegious waste of good beer. I guess I'm kind of in the middle on this one.

While I haven't tried that many different mixes, the ones I have range from outright nasty to pretty decent. It's very rare that I finish a beer cocktail and think, "Wow, that really offered something enjoyable over just enjoying those beers back-to-back." Most of the time, I'm just left a little confused.

You can find plenty of lists of beer cocktails online, just google "beer cocktails." When deciding what to make for this article I read through list after list, looking for something that sounded interesting. I ended up picking a cocktail that I have a lot of experience with for a baseline and one composed of two beers that sounded truly awesome together.

On a logistical sidenote, to help make an attractive and properly separated beer cocktail, I like to use the Brutool Turtle. Much easier than a bent spoon, this thing works so well that even my bulldog could pour a decent Black & Tan.

Let's check out the two recipes I decided to make for this exercise, and how they turned out, shall we?

Classic Black & Tan beer cocktailFirst up, the control for this experiment. No matter how cliché, I just had to include the beer that started it all, the Classic Black & Tan. While any mixture of Stout and Pale Ale is considered a Black & Tan, Guinness Draught and Bass Pale Ale are the beers used in the "classic" version. Both beers are solid enough traditional British session beers with distinct, yet complimentary flavor profiles, so the match is a bit of a no-brainer.

It starts off as a more caramel-and-hops tinged version of Stout, and by the bottom of the pint becomes a more roasty and dry English Pale Ale. Each phase is interesting and the flavors always mesh well. While not the most exciting pint in the world, it's easy to see why Black & Tans are by far the most popular beer cocktail out there. You can read my full Classic Black & Tan Review here.

Chocolate Truffle beer cocktailNext up, the Chocolate Truffle, a mixture of Young's Double Chocolate Stout over Lindemans Framboise. I was quite excited to try this mix as I'm a fan of both beers and think the combination sounds like a match made in heaven.

Unfortunately, the reality isn't quite so heavenly. For the first half of the pint, the flavors are very muddled and just don't mesh like I was hoping they would. Once the Stout is almost gone, it livens up a bit and the tart raspberry flavors start to cut through the mess, but it still offers nothing better than the Framboise by itself. You can read my full Chocolate Truffle review here.

So, after reviewing two very different beer cocktails, did I learn anything? Well, the thing that really stuck out to me was that there's a lot more to matching two different beers than two different Jelly Belly jelly beans.

While some matches sound good on paper, beer is such a complex thing that the reality doesn't always follow your expectations. Chocolate Stout and Framboise just sounded like a wonderful match, but ended up muddy. Guinness and Bass sounds like an old boring couple, but each beer was able to compliment the other, making something actually worth the time to mix.

I have to say, after this exercise, I'm still rather indifferent on beer cocktails. To me, most just seem like an excuse to "cleverly" mash up their names, rather than real attempts to pair two complimentary beers. Besides the occasional Black & Tan, I don't see myself becoming much of a beer mixologist. Unless anyone has some good suggestions...

Classic Black & Tan Beer Cocktail Review

Breweries: Guinness Ltd. & Bass Brewers Ltd.
Guinness Draught & Bass Pale Ale
Cocktail Name: Classic Black & Tan
Style: Beer Cocktail | ABV: ~4.6%
Serving Method: ~9 oz. of each bottle poured into pint glass with Brutool Turtle to separate

Classic Black & Tan Beer CocktailThis review is a part of an article on beer cocktails as part of the monthly beer blogging project The Session.

Black & Tans date back to the late 1800s, when it became popular in British pubs. While any mix of Stout over Pale Ale is considered a Black & Tan, these beers represent the classic combination. However, if you're looking for something a bit more daring, you can easily find list after list of different Guinness + X lists online. They feature names as colorful as "Black Honkey," "Dirty Hippie," & "Old Dirty Englishman."

Appearance: On the bottom, the classic crystal clear, rich golden body of an English Pale Ale. Up top, the standard deep, black body of a Stout with the classic creamy nitro-head of Guinness Draught. There's a very clear line of demarcation between the two that holds for quite a while, with just a few thin strands of Guinness intermingling with the Bass. Gorgeous.

Aroma: Very much the standard Guinness. Perhaps some whiffs of somethng lighter, but that's probably just the power of suggestion. Checking in later when most of the Guinness is gone, a lot of the roasty character fades, and you're left with a darker version of an English Pale Ale.

Taste: At first it's a lot of roasty Guinness, with just a hint of caramel and hops. As you move down the pint, things start to mix a lot more and you end up with a pretty great combination. It's just what you'd think: a roasted and caramel malt body with some dark fruit and a splash of mild English hops. Towards the end, the tides change again and it becomes much more like a somewhat roastier, drier Bass.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied and smooth at first. It seems like more Guinness influence than Bass, until most of the Stout is gone and the carbonation crispens up.

Drinkability: Both Guinness and Bass are brilliant session beers, so it's no surprise that this goes down easily.

Verdict: You can see easily this is such a classic mix, the beers just compliment each other perfectly. Just the presentation is worth the trouble itself, I could stare at it all day. Makes me wonder what a Russian Imperial Stout over a Double India Pale Ale would taste like...

Grade: A-

Chocolate Truffle Beer Cocktail Review

Breweries: Young & Co's Brewery & Brouwerij Lindemans
Young's Double Chocolate Stout & Lindemans Framboise
Cocktail Name: Chocolate Truffle
Style: Beer Cocktail | ABV: ~4.6%
Serving Method: ~9 oz. of each bottle poured into pint glass with Brutool Turtle to separate

Chocolate Truffle Beer CocktailThis review is a part of an article on beer cocktails as part of the monthly beer blogging project The Session.

Here's a beer cocktail that I just had to try out when I saw the recipe. Equal parts Young's Double Chocolate Stout and Lindemans Framboise. I have a soft-spot for both beers, so this should be right up my street. Plus, a mix of Chocolate Stout and Framboise just sounds like something meant to be...

Appearance: On the bottom, a hazy red body with blazing ruby highlights. Up top, the traditional deep black Stout body. As time passes there's less of a clear boundary than you get with a Black & Tan, but you can certainly tell the top from the bottom. The head has the classic nitro creaminess with alternating caramel-brown and pink blotches, making it look much like melted rainbow sherbet. The overall presentation is awesome.

Aroma: Fresh, tart raspberries and chocolate. Simple, but just what I was hoping for. It's much the same from top to bottom.

Taste: At first, much muddier than I was hoping for. The elements just don't interlock and align in that magic way that makes one beer compliment another. As the Stout starts to run low, the tart raspberry starts to cut through the muddiness decently and you end up with the typical Framboise character with a bit richer body. Perhaps it would be better to totally mix the two different beers to keep a constant all the way through.

Mouthfeel: Nitro-smooth at the front, conflicted in the middle, and crisp in the end.

Drinkability: While light in alcohol content, you're probably not going to be ordering these all night long.

Verdict: While a mix of raspberry and chocolate beer sounds like an awesome combination on paper, the reality doesn't quite live up. My litmus test for a beer cocktail is whether it offers anything better than drinking the beers individually back-to-back. Unfortunately, by that rule, this one is a miss.

Grade: C+