Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Tasting each others brew

That title sounds dirtier than it is. While staying with VelkyAl we tried each others home brew. I brought over 3 of mine which Al took notes of being well prepared as always. I did not take any notes but there was no need as Al had already done his cyclops report so I will just mention them quickly.
Al makes two batches of about 4 to 5 Litres and due to space etc he has to brew each individually so he can get two different worts with different gravity readings and so different results.

His first brew was the EDM which is Experimental Drak Matter (Praise to the Genius who named it :D). I had the second version which had the higher Original Gravity. This was a lovely beer, smoky but not enough to put me off. Al said on his blog that he would not be disappointed if he was served it in a pub and I have to agree with that. Unfortunately I believe they are all gone now.
We did not compare EDM to my other beers as they are different styles, although my BitterBock is a Dark ale, EDM is more complex in my opinion and if I am honest, I would rather have an EDM than a Dark Bitterbock I think. That said, I like my BitterBock (bad name) and have plenty of it to drink.

Next up was LimeLight which is a witbear with lime and coriander.
The first one was the original batch which I believe sat in the carboy for about 10 days. Unfortunately it was a little watery and after so many beers that day I could not even finish it. Not to worry, Al was not impressed himself and could not finish it either.

It was when we were doing our Eurovision of Wheat bears tasting that we tasted his second batch. Al did his back in so this one sat in the carboy for a few weeks which is how I always leave mine. He also used more priming sugar to increase the carbonation and this was a different beast completely. I was pretty impressed with this, especially after being so unimpressed with the first batch. It is amazing what a little extra time in the carboy and some extra primer did to this beer. Plenty of citrus and the coriander seed brings a whole lot of spice out and it tingles your tongue.
Al will be doing up his report on all our tastings as he took all the notes but we agreed on most points.
What was most interesting was that we placed the Carlow brewing company's Curim at the bottom of the list (we poured it down the drain) so both of our home brews were ahead of it, in fact they were in the middle and were on a par with each other. Mine was the more traditional HeffeWeissen but it was essentially a modified kit so it had a more malty base to it. To me, my beer was more drinkable in bulk in a hot day. Although Al's Limelight was more complex and a better beer in my opinion, I can just see myself drinking more of the traditional style than the spicy witbeer. It seems both of our wives preferred my one but that is because they do not appreciate the complexity of the limelight and the spiciness of it.

So overall, Al's wheat beer was better than my one but there are times I would rather drink mine, that said the choice between mine and the two highest rated Wheat beers and I would pour mine down the drain to get either of them. The reason Al had a better bodied beer is that from the outset he has used speciality grains and hops where as I have just modified kits, Sure the EDM was a kit but adding in speciality grains and hops makes a difference where as I was using small quantities of mystery grains/hops in T-bags style pouches so I did not know what I was putting in my beer and hoping for the best. I now have a large supply of ingredients so I am looking forward to my next brew day.

Brno - Czech republics second city

On Thursday we all got on the train to Brno. In the image is the cathedral on the top of the hill that you can see on a Czech 10kč coin. For a second city, with a country with the population of over 10 million I would have thought the city would be bigger. It put me in mind of Ireland. We have Dublin which is a sprawling metropolis of a city but all the other cities are quite small in comparison. Brno reminded of Galway, It has a Large town feel rather than the second largest city though I am sure Brno is bigger. Brno was nice enough, though I do prefer Prague as it is a more impressive city however Prague is a dirty city, not so much with rubbish on the streets though there is plenty of that too but with graffiti and by graffiti I do not mean art. Tagging is a scourge in Prague and pretty much every single inch of every building, wall, door is tagged with squiggly lines and it always makes me sad to see such a beautiful city ruined like this. Paris is the same though not so bad and there is some actual art every now and again too. Dublin has plenty of graffiti but not to anything near the extent of this, I would almost say there is more graffiti in a single block of Prague than there is in the whole of Dublin's city centre.
In the centre of Brno there is a nice plaza with the only traffic being the trams and people. It is very clean and pleasant to be in.

The Pegas Inn - This is the reason we came to Brno. Originally we were going to try and stay here but it was booked out along with most hotels because of some conference. Some people are so inconsiderate to book a conference right when we want to go drinking. The place is interesting as there is a beauty salon taking up the whole front of the building and it is not until you go in the back that you find the bar/restaurant.
It is a nice enough place, there are old metal plaques on the wall from various Czech breweries, some not even around any more.

Behind the bar are two large copper kettles used for brewing and that is a touch I love to see.

Here is an image from the menu showing all four beers. I had all of them.
I am not going to mention them all as I did not bring a notebook. All I will say is that the first three were lovely beers, especially the Dark Lager which was more porter or stout like. I liked this better than the Budvar dark as it was richer and more complex to me.

It was like a stout because of the coffee and cocoa that came off it. It was fabulous stuff and worth the visit to Brno alone in my opinion but that is not to detract from the other two beers.

The only disappointment (there is always one) was the Pegas Gold which interestingly was the only one that had its name in English on the menu. This is a 16 degree amber lager that was too sweet and syrupy for my taste.
The wheat beer was lovely but as Al commented, it came with lemon in it and that should be optional but to me it did not detract from the beer anyway so I did not mind. For more info on the beer go to Fuggled.net

The food at the Pegas inn was also pretty good. Again I opted for traditional Czech food which I developed a taste for. I just wish I did not get so many dumplings and Czech food seems to never come with proper veg, only pickled veg like sourkraut.

After this it was on the train again to Blansko a town we passed on the way in where we were to make our way to Skalní mlýn and our hotel.

Monday, 27 April 2009

I have a new respect for Czech beer

What a great time I had in the Czech republic last week. We left Ireland just as it started to rain again and arrived a few hours later to some lovely warm weather. We met VelkyAl at the designated tram stop and walked to a nearby little bar called Zlý Časy down in a basement. At first it looks like a dive but when you get in and see all the beers on tap and in bottles you know you have found somewhere special.
I was introduced to my first Rauchbier. Also I had my first Czech food and I have to say I enjoyed it. I have been to Prague many times but never had real Czech food except for some fried cheese (will not even attempt to spell it in Czech. I also had another beer before this and it was lovely. If I remember correctly it was about 7% or so and had a nice but not overpowering sweetness. I do not remember the name as I had no notebook and since the name is Czech I can not remember it. We had three beers there over lunch and the VelkyAl had to go back to work. An blogger from Argentina (lives in Prague now) was there and we were talking to him for a bit, I may have had another beer then.

Later on after we got in to VelkyAls flat and were waiting for him and his wife to get back from work, I went for a walk to see what was in the area. The first thing I discovered was I recognised it and found myself walking in the direction of oldtown square. I passed a number of bars all advertising Pilsner Urquell and Staropramen until I cam across one with a name I can not remember of course but it had Koala the name (Tlustá Koala according to google). I had to stop as on their menu they listed a couple of beers I had not heard of. One was Kocour, Nice and simple as it looks to be an englsh word. It was anything but, I think I probounced it Ko Chur or something like that, It said cat brewery on the menu outside so I tried to explain this to the Czech barman wearing a Jameson T-shirt but in the end he gave me a menu and I pointed to it. It turned out to be an IPA one of my favourite styles of beer.
Going only from memory, this was a very pleasing IPA. Perhaps not as hoppy as many an IPA I have had in the US but a very refreshing beer from a country that is renowned for its Pilsner. I later found out that they also do the Rauchbier I had earlier. Two excelent beers from a new brewery with a funky cat logo. Could be the Czech version of brewdog.
The bar I was in had 4 Staropramens on tap, news to me as I had always thought there was only one but on thinking about it, that is rubblish as even Guinness has different versions and different beers they brew. I did not try any but pointed out the other beer I did not recognise which was a stout of all things. It was called simply Kelt. I love my stouts and this was respectable in its own way but not a patch on any Irish stout. I would find out later that the Czechs can make a good stout though. Actually I would recommend this bar to anyone visting Prague, it has a nice Irish or English pub feel to it and has a few interesting beers too. There is a restaurant too and while I did not try the food, something tells me it is pretty good.
I then kept walking around the corner (I was going for a circular route back to the flat) and found myself at the concert hall with a gothic tower and arch beside it so I was only 5 minutes walk from Oldtown square and I continued on past the old charming train station I had used to go to Dresden years ago and back to the flat.

Later that evening we went out to meet one of Als friends at Budvarka and I sampled a number of styles of Budvar including the wonderful dark. At this point I got a little tipsy so was not in full control of what I was saying. We had some homebrew when we got back to the flat (pretty sure it was that night) and then I went to sleep. I do remember I enjoyed Als EDM but the Limelight was a little watery (the second batch was much better).

So after my first night in Prague I have a respect for Czech beer that did not exist before (except Budvar). I look forward to more Kocour at some point in the future. I made sure not to drink so much without water and pacing myself as I could not get out of bed the next day till noon. I did not have a bad head so much as I was exhausted and had a delicate stomach.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Recession? What recession??

Nothing to review as such but I had a great Sunday yesterday. Myself and the wife got the bus in to town and headed to the Bull and Castle. I had a few Galway Hookers and a Clotworthy Dobbin, an O'Haras and finished off with a half a hooker. The reason we were there was we were waiting for one of my Wife's friends from work, it was his birthday so we treated him to some beer. He was initially ordering a Guinness but I told him to try an O'Haras instead. He got in on draught so when I ordered my bottle of O'Haras I gave him a taste and he could immediatly tell the difference.
Goeff (manager) was not around although the bar man said to me later that he had just popped in and he forgot to mention I was there.
While there I noticed the Americans here so that is a good sign that we still get some tourism from the US. One happy chappy from New Jersy was my counterpart I guess. He asked for tasters of the local stuff so got 3 of the Irish brews. I then pointed out to him two more taps and advised an O'Haras and said "you have not even seen the fridge" his wife looked ready to kill me in a friendly way although she said she was going to kill him and not me. He had his camera out taking pictures of the taps. I wonder did he take notes? They went ooutside to the beer garden area.

After that we headed to Hogans to wait for more people as we were dining in Yamamori across the road. I had a Guinness, I had already ordered it by the time I noticed the Erdinger, ah well.

Then to Yamamori for some yummy sushi and Japanese food. I had a Sopporo beer, not bad but nothing worth writing about. It is what I always get in the US when I have Sushi, well that and sake but I wisely stayed away from the sake.

9 O'Clock comes faster than expected and I realise that we just missed the last bus home but once we finish up a little later we go to the bus station to make sure no bus is going nearby that we could get a taxi home, none are so my choice is either go to the parents house or stay in a Hotel, I pick hotel as it will be easier to get to work in the morning. I picked the cheap Days hotel on Talbot street. Room was small, streets were loud but at €59 I could not complain.
Today I got the 40D to Cappagh and walked to work. It was a lovely morning and I am refreshed and ready to go to Prague and visit Al of Fuggled.net in the morning. I just need to get home first.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Fullers Vintage Ale Vs Fullers Brewers reserve

*Note I wrote this at work the other day but could not upload at home as I am redecorating my office so my computer was unplugged
I decided not to have any more of my own brews and let them sit until the weekend, With that in mind I took a bottle of Vintage ale 2008 (I have a 2007 I will keep for a while) and one of my two bottles of Brewers reserve and put them in the freezer for a short while.

When I took them out of the freezer they were the perfect temperature, cellar temperature instead of living room 20+ degree heat temperature.

I poured both into pint glasses and took a sniff. Both of them had a lovely aroma. They were similar but the Vintage ale had an obvious lead in the aroma, there was much more of it. Sweet malt and fruits.

In the mouth, the Vintage ale was creamy. The carbonation was light, tiny bubbles and almost like nitrogen but its not since it is bottle conditioned. It was divine.
The Brewers Reserve on the other hand had a more traditional ale feel to it with larger bubbles and more of them. For me I loved the way the Vintage ale felt.

The taste was the best bit of course. The vintage ale was lovely stuff, like sipping a little bit of heaven. The balance between malt, hops, fruit was perfect and I can only imagine the 2007 bottle will be better especially after letting it age a little more. You can certainly taste the oak.
The brewers reserve on the other hand was less fruity and more bitter, and that is usually the way I prefer my beer. On its own, the brewers reserve is a great beer but beside the Vintage Ale it pales in comparison. I could certainly taste the oak and scotch notes in the brewers reserve but they were lighter and less obvious than the vintage ale.

My conclusion is that both are excellent beers and both should be enjoyed. If we look at it this way, the brewers reserve costs about €7 a bottle and the vintage ale is about €10. The question is this. Is the Vintage ale worth the extra €3? Everyone will have to answer that themselves but to me it certainly is worth it.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Dark BitterBock taste test (brew #4)

Well I bottled this Experimental beer last Tuesday, so 6 days ago. Yesterday I tried the quick Dark Cerveza and to my surprise it turned out to be an absolutely excellent beer. Today was the turn of the Dark BitterBock. Both of these beers should be even better in another couple of weeks.

Firstly lets start with the colour, take a look at that image. It looks like any Porter or Stout. In fact it is a very dark Ruby colour, you can just begin to see that at the bottom around the edges and some light helps. The head was small and lasted only moments but I am little concerned with a head on beer.
The aroma is malty and caramel, floral hops and something I can not put my finger on.
In the mouth, we have a mouthfeel very similar to yesterdays and that is probably because I used about the same method and measurements for priming.
Taste-wise, this is almost like a Hoppy Porter and in fact even though I have only had one bottle of Fullers London Porter, that is what comes to mind when drinking this. Wishful thinking perhaps on my part as that is a wonderful beer. If I remember correctly, that had a lot of roast coffee and chocolate and mine has less of that and more hops.

I have to say, even though I brewed this myself and am obviously biased in my opinion by that fact, I would stand over this next comment. I would quite happily have this at a pub or buy it in an off license. I will stand over that statement to my grave.

This pint did not last very long, I am finished it already though in fairness I opened it 5 minutes before I started the blog while I sat down at my home-bar with a pork chop for lunch. I am quite impressed with myself at the moment and these were just modified kits. Just think what is possible when I go full extract brewing if my delivery ever decides to show up.

One last thing, I certainly contaminated my FG reading by taking it after I added the priming solution as there is no way this beer is 2.3%. I can already feel the beginning of a buzz. That is enough beer for today as I need to drive at about 6 to 7 (depending on when she gets train) to pick my wife up from the train station.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Dark Mexican Cerveza taste test (brew#5)

After almost a week (bottled last Monday) conditioning, I decided to have a taste of one of the bottles of Dark Cerveza. As you can see the picture is of a beer that has had a few mouthfuls taken from it.
Firstly let me remind you that this was a kit ceveza that I made some modifications to but was just brewed to kill time before the Rugby started and to get rid of my last kit so I could move to full extract brewing. All I can say is Holy crap this is a nice beer! The first thing I noticed was the strong fruity aroma. It is a sort of strawberry aroma. This follows through to the taste. Carbonation is excellent, it has a solid mouthfeel and in no way tastes like the watery light lager it is supposed to be.
The aftertaste is lovely. A great hoppy and slightly bitter after-taste. I have not had a lot of experience with Belgian beers but this seems closer to a Belgian beer than a Mexican Cerveza. I am very impressed and have high hopes for it when I try it in another week, assuming I can keep myself from dipping in between now and then.
My wife reminded me that she had told me as I started brewing it "I bet you taste this and think, hmmm this is gorgous." She was right, it is!!

This is a beer I would be proud to put to the ICB members at a monthly meet up. I just finished the pint, it is dangerously drinkable.

I bottled the dark BitterBock last Tuesday so I will try that tomorrow or Wednesday, Fingers crossed that turns out as well considering I put more thought and effort into it.