November 28, 2014

Ratchet Biere de Mars Tasting Notes

This is a review I thought I would never write. This strange biere de mars recipe, converting a dunkelweizen into a biere de mars, came out in early pours as a just awful cloying mess. All the munich, crystal and wheat malt just came together to make a sweet beer and then when I used the Hacker-Pschorr lager yeast with it's terrible attenuation it pushed out a beer that was like drinking carbonated caramel syrup. I pushed aside the bottles for almost a year in hopes that something salvageable would emerge. Thankfully, it has.

Appearance: Very dunkelweizen-like with a dark caramel color and heavy haze. Thick cream-colored head hangs around before slowly retracting back into the beer. A wisp of foam follows the beer down to the bottom of the glass.

Aroma: Peach, pear, cherry, caramel, toffee, wheat bread, banana, white grape, slight hay and funk notes.

Flavor: Caramel and apricot notes dominate followed by white grape and wheat bread. Hints of melon, banana, cherry, berry jam and port. Curious leather note. Grain character is mild and the hops are nonexistent in the flavor (or aroma). Sweet alcohol notes are present in the background. Very sweet taste, almost cloying but tolerably sweet, especially on a cold night.

Mouthfeel: Predictably heavy. The wheat and residual sugar leaves behind a beer with a very chewy mouthfeel. The beer comes on almost undrinkably heavy at first but the beer lightens up on the tongue. There is a dryness after the beer is swallowed that seems out of place but helps balance the beer.

Overall: I wouldn't say this beer is among my favorite but it is a nice beer to have in rotation as a cold winter night sipper. It has aged well into something I can safely move off the dump list to the hold-and-age list. There has definitely been some oxidative effects in the bottle that have transformed the cloying sweetness into a port-like beer. It reminds me a little of Bruery's Sucre but like a poor clone attempt. Still, not a bad comparison to be able to make.

November 15, 2014

Czech It Uut Tmavé Pivo (Czech Dark Lager)

My first interaction with the Czech dark lager style was two years ago when I was judging a local homebrewing competition and my partner and I had a flight of specialty beers, one of which was described as a "modeled on U Fleku" to which both my partner and I asked, "What the heck is a U Fleku?" I did some quick googling and we tried to judge the beer the best we could. After that I spent some time trying to figure out what this dark Czech lager style was.

Czech dark lager is not one style; there are multiple dark Czech lager styles. The beers range from under 3% ABV to 7% ABV and may run from sweet to dry maltiness and gently hopped to bitter to aromatically hopped. The styles may have historic connections to German Munich dunkel and schwarzbier styles and may be stylistically similar to those styles but they can also fit somewhere in between those styles in a way that would be very out of place for either German style. However, the range of Czech dark lagers have been compressed into a single style in the 2014 BJCP guidelines but I suppose that is better than their total absence from the 2008 guidelines.

Stan Hieronymous's book For the Love of Hops includes a recipe from a Czech brewery for a tmavé pivo and this recipe served as the inspiration for my own recipe. The included recipe is on the higher end of the gravity range with a moderate sweetness and bitterness in the Tmavé Speciální Pivo style. The recipe provider points out that the recipe is not like most Tmavé Speciální Pivo beers that are sweet and this one should be considered bittersweet. I tracked the available recipe closely with an altered hop profile based on what I have available for European hops. I expect the styrian celeia will add some fruity and floral notes that diverge from the base recipe but with the hop schedule I do not expect to taste much of the hops.

Czech It Uut Tmavé Pivo (Czech Dark Lager) Recipe

Batch size: 2 gallons
Est. OG: 1.057
Est. FG: 1.018
Est. ABV: 5.1%
Est. SRM: 22
Est. IBU 35

Grain Bill

75.4% 3lb. 4oz. German pilsner malt (2 SRM)
11.6% 8oz. Caramunich III (56 SRM)
10% 7oz. Munich malt (9 SRM)
3% 2oz. Carafa III dehusked (525 SRM)

Mash Schedule

Add 6.46qt water at 156F for 144F rest for 40 minutes
Decoct 1.67qt of mash and boil
Return to raise mash to 158F for 30 minutes.
Sparge with 1.15 gallons of water.

Water Profile

RO water adjusted with Bru'n Water to Pilsen profile with mash ph at 5.2.

Calcium 7ppm
Magnesium 2ppm
Sodium 2ppm
Sulfate 10ppm
Chloride 6ppm
Bicarbonate -60ppm

Mash Water Additions

Epsom salt 0.1g
Chalk 0.1g
Lactic acid 0.4ml

Sparge Water Additions

Epsom salt 0.1g
Lactic acid 0.9ml

Boil Additions

90 minute boil

0.20oz. Belma [12.10%] at 90 minutes
0.15oz. Celeia [4.5%] at 60 minutes
0.15oz. Celeia [4.5%] at 30 minutes
0.25tsp. Irish Moss at 10 minutes

Fermentation Schedule

Pitch slurry of WY Budvar 2000 at 50F, let rise to 52F.
Ferment at 52F until 75% expected attenuation then raise incrementally to 64F for diacetyl rest.
Bottle to 2.3vol of carbonation with 21 day conditioning.
Lager bottles for 21 days.

Brewday & Fermentation Notes

Brewed 11/15/14

First runnings gravity: 1.063
Pre-boil gravity: 1.046
Pre-boil volume: 2.5g
Mash efficiency: 74%
Post-boil gravity: 1.058
Post-boil volume: 2.2g
Brewhouse efficiency: 81%

Pitched slurry from Biere de Mars Attacks! and set fermentation chamber to 52F.

Bottled 12/6/14. FG: 1.015.
Racked 1 gallon on 1 oz. Makers Mark soaking in oak.
Lager in bottles.