The second beer that I ended up with because of HyVee’s evil Fuel Saver program was Deschutes Brewery’s Pinedrops IPA:
This beer pours a lot lighter than Fresh Squeezed IPA. Therefore, I would classify this as a more traditional IPA versus the emerging American Pale Ale style of beer.
However, the light body does not provide a good sounding board for either the alcohol (6.5% ABV) or bitterness (70 IBU). Perhaps it is from the wide variety of hops used— Nugget, Northern Brewer, Chinook, Centennial, and Equinox hops—or the general level of bitterness, but this beer leaves a lingering after taste that is not particularly pleasant.
It reminds me, unfortunately, of a lot of early craft beer IPAs that left you with the feeling of having drank some bong water with your beer. Those brewers were trying to mask deficiencies in skill by piling on flavors and aromas. Having drank well done beers from Deschutes Brewery before I know there is no need for these brewers to be hiding because the talent is present in the brewhouse.
Also, with a name like Pinedrops I was expecting a heavy, resinous profile that almost made you think you were breathing in the air of a temperate coniferous rain forest. Was that too much to ask?
At this stage of the craft brewing industry in America we expect more from our IPAs:
See what others are saying about Deschutes Brewery Pinedrops IPA at Beeradvocate.
Posted in Beer
Tagged ABV, beer, brewery, Carapils, Centennial, Chinook, craft, Crystal, Deschutes Brewery, equinox, ferment, hops, IBU, India Pale Ale, IPA, malt, Munich, Northern Brewer, Nugget, Oregon, pale, pilsner, Portland
HyVee’s Fuel Saver program is the devil. You walk into the liquor store thinking you are going to pick up a fifteen pack of All Day IPA and instead you end up with something completely different because you saved $0.25 off per gallon of gas. This is how I ended up with two six-packs of different beers from Deschutes Brewery. In my defense, a total of $0.50 off per gallon of gas ends up saving me $10 when I fill up with the maximum of twenty gallons. Easy to do when road trip summers are here.
When Deschutes Brewery first came into the Iowa market I tried several of their beers and came away liking them in general. It’s been a while and I have not been tempted since for various reasons. The first beer I cracked open was Fresh Squeezed IPA:
I had passed this beer on numerous occasions, read the label, and thought that with a name like Fresh Squeezed it should have been a fresh hopped beer. Damn marketing.
The beer pours a darker amber color than most IPAs, which makes me consider this more of an American Pale Ale. What does that mean? Whatever marketing wants it to mean, but in general I think it means more malt and body than a traditional IPA.
All of this extra body means that the beer drinks a lot easier than its 6.4% ABV and 60 IBU would suggest. Being near the golden ratio—in my opinion—of ABV to IBU the extra body of the beer hides some of the downsides of having more bitterness and bite. It essentially mellows out the more extreme elements of the alcohol and hops. Fresh Squeezed is brewed with a combination of Citra, Mosaic, and Nugget hops. None of these really stand out as the driving element leaving the profile a little muddled or muted. Again, I was kind of bummed that this was not a fresh hopped beer.
In summary, you can do a lot worse in terms of mainstream pale ales and you ought to give Fresh Squeezed a try if you are looking to broaden your pale ale palate:
See what others are saying about Deschutes Brewery Fresh Squeezed IPA at Beeradvocate.
Posted in Beer
Tagged ABV, beer, brewery, Citra, craft, Crystal, Deschutes Brewery, ferment, hops, IBU, India Pale Ale, IPA, malt, Mosaic, Munich, Nugget, Oregon, pale, Portland
Backpocket Brewing is getting to be known as the brewery of choice for collaboration beers. Recently, they have released a Swabian Hall Smoked Brown and Raygun IPA with the store of the same name in Des Moines. Today’s offering is NewBo Pils:
A while back the NewBo City Market, which rose out of the 2008 flood to become a hub of activity in the revitalized NewBo Arts district in downtown Cedar Rapids, collaborated with Millstream Brewery out of the Amana Colonies to make a pale ale. I wrote about the beer here.
This offering is a different beast. Instead of an ale, NewBo Pils is a pilsner. Pilsners fall under the lager family of beers which forms the other side of the beer world along with ales. Now, this beer is interesting in that pilsners are a traditionally Czech style of beer and the NewBo City Market is across the Cedar River from Czech Village. See the connection?
Pilsners, particularly summer pils, are supposed to be a crisp beer that you can drink as the temperature stays elevated into the evening. Served cold these are the ultimate lawnmower beers.
NewBo Pils pretty much nails that description. For me, pilsners have an aftertaste that I somewhat disagree with and that I cannot place accurately. It’s not the smokey or piney aftertaste of an IPA or the lingering mouthfeel of a high gravity porter. It’s just something off. It could be NewBo Pils or Natty Light. The off aftertaste is present.
Here is the thing, pilsners are the style of beer that was bastardized by the mega-brewers to produce things like Miller Lite and Budweiser and Pabst Blue Ribbon. If you spent any time in a basement in college drinking beer from a keg you know the fundamental taste profile of a pilsner. Please do not say pilsner lager either. It’s just like saying tuna fish. A pilsner by definition is a lager.
Until someone comes up with something really daring or different a well done pilsner is going to taste like a well done Budweiser. This is not damning or faint praise, but it is the reality of the style. Now that lagers are the new frontier of craft brewing according to some and brewers are getting their feet underneath them from a technical perspective given the intricacies of brewing lagers there may be some exciting new beers to try that really push the envelope.
However, until that time comes to pass craft lagers are going to taste like well-done examples of America’s favorite style of beer:
Posted in Beer
Tagged Backpocket Brewing, beer, Cedar Rapids, Coralville, Czech Village, ferment, hops, Iowa, lager, NewBo City Market, pilsner, summer pils
One of the best things about my brother coming down to visit about every two months is that contained within his family’s minivan is a box or two with lots of Minneapolis beers unavailable to us in the great state of Iowa.
Indeed Brewing Company is a Minneapolis based brewery located in a hot spot of the fermentation arts with Dangerous Man Brewing Company being located just to the west and 612Brew a chip shot toward the University of Minnesota’s East Bank campus. Not too far away as well is Surly’s new flagship brewery, taproom, and event center. Founded in 2011, Indeed has a good local following for a series of different beers. Today we are going to talk about their Day Tripper Pale Ale.
Depending upon who you talk to Day Tripper is one of the brewery’s mainstay offerings and accounts for a great portion of the company’s sales. This is understandable since people want beers they can drink with their friends after work or in the fading light of a glorious Minnesota summer evening without getting blotto. Trust me, it’s easy to spend an hour or two on a patio in Minneapolis in July and forget that you have a thrown down three or four beers that would equal a half dozen or more Bud Lights.
At 5.4% ABV and only 45 IBU this is not a beer that is going to bowl over any hop heads or pale ale purists. Day Tripper is representative of two trends: session beers and American pale ales. I am a fan of more drinkable beers that have elements of a pale ale without hewing to the stylistic mannerisms of the IPA crowd.
It pours fairly light and also drinks fairly light. Like some other attempts at session IPAs Day Tripper Pale Ale does not really have a lot of interest in the body of the beer. In this case it reminds me a lot of New Belgium’s Slow Ride IPA. As a matter of fact, the two beers could almost be interchanged with little risk of offending the person being served:
See what others are saying about Indeed Brewing Company Day Tripper Pale Ale at Beeradvocate.
Note: Sorry for the lack of a picture, but I somehow managed to drink all of the Day Tripper Pale Ale without saving a single photo. My bad.
Posted in Beer
Tagged ABV, ale, American pale ale, APA, beer, cans, ferment, hops, IBU, Indeed Brewing Company, IPA, Minneapolis, Minnesota, pale ale, session, yeast
The Iowa beer trail stops in Coralville, about a half hour south of my domicile in Cedar Rapids, where Backpocket Brewing makes it home in the rapidly developing Iowa River Landing. Today’s offering is Jackknife APA:
Clocking in at a modest 5.8% ABV and definitely non-intrusive 40 IBU—using Centennial and Cascade hops as the backbone for that bitterness—Jackknife is the kind of pale ale, American or otherwise, that would be quite welcome at a fall tailgate.
This is the kind of beer that you hope your favorite bar keeps on tap all the time because it hits a number of notes in an unassuming fashion that makes it an everyday beer:
The term “American pale ale” is at the same time foreign and familiar to me. If someone offers an IPA, I have a conception of what that beer should be in my head. Light of body, high in hop character, and enough alcohol to cut through the flavor. Offer me an American pale ale and I will hesitate. What does that mean exactly?
As I see the term get used to describe more and more beers—much in the same way that session is getting applied to beer types of all kinds—my mind coalesces around these salient adjectives or characteristics:
- Heavier in body compared to a mainstream IPA; Uses toasted or roasted malts to impart a deeper reservoir of flavor to offset hoppy bitterness
- Fairly mainstream and one-note hop profile; These are not beers that incorporate a half dozen novel hop varieties because that would create a flavor traffic jam with the increase in body
- Middle of the road alcohol; You may call it session-able because the beer is clocking in below 7% or so in alcohol, but most people would just call it drinkable
- It should not be gimmicky in any way; These beers are the spiritual ancestors to such crowd pleasers as Budweiser in the red can or Coors banquet just better in every conceivable way
Maybe I am making too much a marketing ploy to get me to pay attention to a beer when the shelves are full of IPAs to the point of confusion. Sometimes the paradox of choice comes into play when I wander the craft beer case.
Too bad this beer is not in cans. It’s the kind of beer you would find in a cooler being passed around after a hike or a bike ride or the aforementioned tailgate. Trust me, tailgating in Iowa City needs a serious upgrade from the generally insipid swill that inhabits the hands of the Hawkeye faithful in the fall.
See what others are saying about Backpocket Brewing Jackknife APA at Beeradvocate.
If you get a chance Backpocket Brewing has a nice taproom and restaurant in the Iowa River Landing area that can be quite lively when the weather turns pleasant and Iowans stream to outdoor drinking venues. By May 1st most of us have thrown off the shackles of winter and early spring in order to enjoy the great outdoors, usually on our bicycles, before the cold creep of winter threatens. This is also known as Big Ten football season.
Posted in Beer
Tagged ABV, ale, American pale ale, APA, Backpocket Brewing, beer, Cascade, Centennial, Coralville, ferment, hops, IBU, Iowa, lager, malt, yeast
The attempt to solidify a “house” pale ale recipe for my keezer is a frustrating process. First, there is the lead time inherent in homebrewing. It is four to five weeks between batches because I prefer to allow the batches to keg condition much like you would bottle condition. Second, small variations in the process can produce some pretty divergent results. Your yeast could produce bubblegum esters or your hop profile could come out flat. Argh!
Each of these “house” pale ale recipes is going to seem a little derivative, but that is the point. My recipe was as follows:
- 1 lbs. Briess 2-Row Caramel 20L, steeping grains
- 3 lbs. Munton’s Extra Light DME, 60 minutes
- 1 oz. Cascade pellet hops, 60 minutes
- 1 lb. Munton’s Extra Light DME, 20 minutes
- 1 oz. Willamette pellet hops, 15 minutes
- Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minutes
- Safale S-05 yeast
iBrewMaster figured that the beer came in at ~3.7% ABV and ~32 IBU. Fairly light and easy drinking for the higher temps of early summer. What was the result:
It’s a very light beer in terms of body and alcohol. Unlike my prior house recipe there is a more pronounced hop character, even though the IBU rating is the same, which I am chalking up to the use of Cascade hops. The hops’ resin character can stand up to a full 60 minute boil better than some other varieties…yes, I am looking at you Citra.
The beer came out very similar to my prior House Pale Ale #2, which was to be expected considered that the primary departure between the two recipes was the change in hops. I also changed the steeping grains from a Caramel 40L to a Caramel 20L which did result in a slightly lighter body.
I would like to say that this beer is a 2.5 mug rating, but I am not going to start parsing mugs down into fractional units. Therefore, it gets two mugs because I like to err on the side of pessimism.
Posted in Beer
Tagged 2-Row, ABV, ale, beer, Caramel 20L, Caramel 40L, carboy, Cascade, craft, DME, ferment, homebrew, hops, House Pale Ale #3, iBrewMaster, IBU, IPA, malt, micro, Safale S-05, Willamette, yeast
I have been on the hunt to create a “house ale” recipe in the pale ale style. For some reason, I decided to depart from that a little bit with this recipe and incorporate some wheat ale elements. I have no idea why I decided to do such a thing.
I poured the first glass when I was recovering from surgery:
The recipe was similar to recipes in the recent past and is as follows:
- 1 lbs Caramel Wheat Malt, steeping grains
- 3 lbs Munton’s Wheat DME, 60 minutes
- 1 oz Cascade pellet hops, 60 minutes
- 1 lbs Munton’s Extra Light DME, 20 minutes.
- 1 oz Citra pellet hops, 5 minutes
- Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minutes
- Safale S-04 yeast
iBrewMaster calculated that the beer would come in at ~5.3% ABV and ~28 IBU.
I had hoped to force carbonate this beer using one of the speedier methods, as opposed to set it and forget it, but my system developed a slow leak somewhere and the pressure crashed overnight. Whoops.
The body of this beer was very malt forward, a product of heavy steeping grains and wheat malt extract I suppose. It was to the point of completely overwhelming whatever bitterness, granted it was designed to be a mild beer in terms of IBU, was present.
For the past few batches of beer—two that have been dispensed and a third that is keg conditioning as I write—Citra hops have been a major player. Unfortunately, with this beer I think I am realizing the limits of that hop. Used in dry hopping Citra is amazing. It adds a strong grapefruit aroma that is just unique. Used in a more traditional boil and those unique notes are totally lost. I could have used any hop with a more “durable” flavor profile in the boil and gotten more impact out of it. For my next batch I am using a combination of Cascade and Willamette, traditional craft brew hops, to create a base recipe. My intent is to make an analogous batch that utilizes Citra as a dry hop.
Yeast is a funny thing when it comes to homebrewing. You read descriptions on packages and troll the message boards. Once you finally decide what yeast to use it gets pitched into the carboy and away begins the fermentation. Except the end result can be markedly different depending upon a number of factors.
I utilized Safale S-04 for this batch of pale wheat ale and I think that the yeast or my usage of the yeast contributed to several flavors that I found unappealing. Most notably the beer had a yeasty or doughy aroma and taste that was not objectionable, but it was not what I wanted in my beer. If you have ever walked into a bakery that moves a lot of bread and smelled a batch rising you know the aroma I am talking about. It’s not that horrible Subway bread smell that knocks me on my ass every time I walk past that place.
There was also a fruity or sweet taste—some say bubble gum, but my nose did not detect that note—that lingered a little too long on the tongue. Again, this was not an objectionable flavor but it was not what I wanted at all. In the next two batches I used Safale S-05 hoping to avoid these particular flavors.
Not my favorite homebrew:
Posted in Beer
Tagged ABV, Caramel Wheat Malt, carboy, Cascade, Citra, craft, ferment, homebrew, hops, IBU, malt, Munton’s Extra Light DME, Munton’s Wheat DME, Safale S-04, Safale S-05, Whirlfloc, Willamette, wort, yeast
Somewhere I read a line that really stuck with me. It described brewing a lot of different types of beers as a “series of one night stands.” It was meant to convey that the results might be satisfying, but you were only skimming the surface of your possible skill set because there was no baseline from which to grow.
Okay, it was a metaphor that was meant to shock a little bit and I am sure the writer was not trying for a bit social commentary. The idea, however, is solid. To get the most out of your talents as a brewer and to make the best beer possible you need to focus on creating a single so-called house recipe.
With my keezer finished and pouring pint after pint, as well as the occasional growler, it seemed like a perfect time to start devising a house recipe of my own.
My goal is to create a beer similar to my new favorite—Toppling Goliath’s pseudoSue. I wanted to produce something that had a lot of Citra hop notes and was light enough to drink more than one:
The recipe was a fairly simple extract brew with no steeping grains and a low level of hops. It went as follows:
- 3 lbs. Munton’s Extra Light DME, 60 minutes
- 1 oz. Citra pellet hops, 30 minutes
- 3 lbs. Munton’s Extra Light DME, 20 minutes
- Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minutes
- Safale K-97 yeast
- 1 oz. Citra pellet hops, dry hopped after one week of primary fermentation.
Primary fermentation was for 2 weeks, with the dry hopping one week in, and the beer was keg conditioned for 2 weeks prior to hooking it up to the keezer.
I put this beer into the keezer under pressure and waited a few days to serve. The first few glasses were…um…disappointing. The dry hopped Citra notes were overpowering and there was not enough body in the beer to hold up the flavors. iBrewMaster calculated the batch to have 4.6% ABV and 36 IBU.
A few days later the pints went down better, as if the beer had mellowed somewhat in the keezer. Subsequent pours in the following weeks have confirmed that this was a beer that needed some additional time to have the flavor profile blend and mellow somewhat. Oh well, my desire to drink my homebrew got the best of me.
Overall, a minor failure for my firs go at a house pale ale recipe.
The biggest change I am going to make in recipes going forward is to reincorporate some specialty grains steeped prior to the boil. I believe that this will add some needed complexity and body to the base of the beer so that it can handle bolder hop profiles. We shall see.
Posted in Beer
Tagged ale, beer, carboy, Citra, craft, DME, dry malt extract, ferment, homebrew, hops, iBrewMaster, keezer, lager, micro, pseudoSue, Safale K-97, steeping grains, Toppling Goliath, Whirlfloc, wort, yeast
I think that I finally have my keezer dialed in and there have been no incidents with its operation over the past couple of weeks. My original pale ale is gone and I am on to my second Cornelius keg of homebrew.
This recipe is a rye ale. In the past I have experimented with various rye ales to varying degrees of success—one recipe was a little too aggressive and others were a little more palatable—but no real knock it out of the park recipes. So, it was off to try again:
Unlike prior extract recipes that used steeping grains, this recipe uses a technique called “steep to convert” or partial mash because I am also using some liquid malt extract. It was a pretty heavy load of grain that was steeped in the beginning:
- 16 oz. Flaked Rye
- 12 oz. US 2-Row Pale Malt
- 8 oz. Honey Malt
- 4 oz. Briess Munich 10L
- 2 oz. Briess Vienna Malt
Once this was done steeping for 45 minutes, 3.3 lbs of Munton’s Light LME was added at 60 minutes and 20 minutes into the boil. For bittering 1 ounce of Columbus hops were added at 30 minutes and 1 ounce of Citra hops were added at 10 minutes. A Whirfloc tablet was thrown in with five minutes left in the boil.
The results were…meh. I did not notice an appreciable difference from the truckload of grain that was steeped at the beginning of the boil compared with recipes that used significantly fewer grains, so that feels like a wasted effort.
Even though the beer was dry hopped with Citra hops, quickly becoming one of my favorite hops, I tasted none of the citrus or grapefruit notes that the hop is known for.
iBrewmaster calculated the final ABV at 5.11% and the bitterness at ~52 IBU which seem right when I drink a pint from the keezer. It’s not a bad beer, per se, but a beer that really does not have a defining trait that makes you want to brew another batch which I feel is the death knell of any homebrewed beer.
It took a little fiddling with the gas settings on my keezer to get the proper pour, but even then the beer just sort of slides across the palate and leaves no memory of its presence:
Posted in Beer
Tagged ale, beer, Briess Munich 10L, Briess Vienna Malt, carboy, Cascade, Citra, Columbus, dry hopping, ferment, flaked rye, homebrew, keezer, lager, liquid malt extract, Munton’s Light LME, partial mash, rye, Safale K-97, steep to convert, US 2-Row Pale Malt. Honey malt, Whirlfloc Tablet, wort, yeast
2014 is going to be the year of session beers. You cannot swing an empty growler without hitting another variation of the theme. You know how I know it is going to be the hot trend? The term session has become almost meaningless like IPA before it.
Why meaningless? You see brewers calling beers session ales that have alcohol levels ranging from under 3% ABV to over 8% ABV. Bitterness levels are equally all over the map. This is okay, but it does confuse the beer drinker. It just requires a little leg work and tasting. First world problem, I know.
Keeping myself on trend, I brewed up a batch of Northern Brewer’s SMASH American Session Ale:
iBrewMaster calculated the beer to be 3.8% IBV and ~48 IBU. Ignoring the voluminous head of some of the bottles in this batch, it’s a pretty well balanced beer. The bitterness is about perfect and the dry hopping adds a resinous after taste that lingers just long enough to enjoy without becoming annoying.
The beer could use a little more body to it to balance out the bitterness and “hoppyness.” I would not suggest upping the alcohol content because I found this to be a very drinkable ale, but I would rather find a way to incorporate a malt structure that has a better chance of supporting the excellent flavors present.
I am a recent convert to the powers of dry hopping. Between this beer and my recent dry hopped Chinook IPA I am prepared to forgo my former opposition to the practice as gimmicky and embrace the effort to enhance the flavor or beer.
I did not like this beer as much as the second Chinook IPA, but that is not to say that I did not like this beer a lot. I have been drinking this beer for the past couple of weeks and the great flavor has been appreciated during this recent cold snap and holiday break. Even when I was sick and nothing tasted like much else there was something refreshing about a glass of dry hopped goodness bursting through to my taste buds.
In the past I have been leery of the Simcoe hop variety. Beers I have tried using this hop always tasted like something was burnt or ashtray like. It was not a flavor in the body of the beer, but something that sat in the back of the throat. After drinking this beer I am going to chalk my suspicion up to the execution of the brew rather than the ingredient. It would be interesting to duplicate this recipe using a different hop variety. Citra, perhaps?
My New Year’s “beer resolution” is to develop a so-called house beer to have on tap in my newly constructed keezer setup. The idea is to refine a single recipe rather than trot out singular attempts—dubbed a series of one night stands by a beer writer—in order to really nail down the finer points of that particular recipe. Brew on.
Posted in Beer
Tagged ale, beer, carboy, Chinook IPA, Citra, craft, dry hop, ferment, homebrew, hops, IPA, lager, Northern Brewer, saison, session, Simcoe, SMASH American Session Ale, wort, Wyeast 1272 American Ale II, yeast