English IPA – Homebrew Recipe & Review

English IPA

English IPA – A Balancing Act of Traditional Hops and Toasted Malt Flavors

“Balance” is one of the most overused (and misunderstood) terms used to describe beer. It is a characteristic thrown around by brewers and beer geeks alike as a silver bullet for communicating a positive impression of a beer. It is often cited as the end game which all beers should strive to achieve.

Discussing balance is problematic as the concept is not often understood as a way to describe the interplay between a broad spectrum of flavor, aromatic, and mouthfeel sensations within a given beer. For many beer drinkers, implicit to the concept of balance is the thinking that for each polarizing character a beer may possess there must be a counteracting character of equal stature to achieve “balance”. This neutralizing character is almost always malt character and sweetness. Malt seems to be the agent of neutralization for hop bitterness, roasted bite, sharp acidity, alcoholic heat, overly dry attenuation…the list goes on and on.

I believe that this concept of balance is somewhat limiting. I prefer to use balance as a metric for describing where a beer lands on the continuum of various traits. Parity between divergent traits may mean a beer has equal balance, but a beer can be also be balanced towards any number of traits and still be viewed as equally delicious. A beer can be malt-forward, hop-forward, barrel-forward, acidity-forward, or described in any number of other ways. This allows us to look at the commercial spectrum of highly acidic sour beers, fruit bomb IPAs, and sugary sweet barrel-aged beers, and realize that equal balance is not always the most sought after type of balance in a beer.

That said, this recipe for an English IPA strikes a balance between malt and hops which makes it incredibly enjoyable and sessionable. I’m a huge fan of the floral, and slightly earthy, character a large does of East Kent Goldings gives this beer.

English IPA Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 72%
Attenuation: 75%

Original Gravity: 1.057
Terminal Gravity: 1.012
Color: 11.23 SRM
Alcohol: 5.9% ABV (calculated)
Bitterness: 23 IBU (does not account for significant whirlpool isomerization)

Malt Bill:
5 lbs. (69.0%) Crisp Maris Otter
0.75 lb. (10.3%) Weyermann Vienna Malt
6 oz. (5.2%) Thomas Fawcett Crystal Malt I
6 oz. (4.2%) Torrified Wheat
4 oz. (4.1%) Briess Midnight Wheat

Sugar Additions:
0.75 lb. (10.3%) Corn Sugar (Dextrose)

Mash Profile:
151°F – 60m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
4 g. Gypsum (to mash)
1 g. Calcium Chloride (to mash)

Hopping:
0.5 oz.Target (10% AA) – 60m
1.0 oz. East Kent Goldings (5.7% AA) – Whirlpool 15m
1.5 oz.Target (10% AA) – Whirlpool 15m
1.0 oz. Cascade (5.5% AA) – Whirlpool 15m

Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea. Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – 15m
0.5 tsp. Wyeast Nutrient – 10m

Yeast:
Wyeast 1968 London ESB Ale

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 12C English IPA

Aroma (12/12):
The beer introduces itself with a very appealing soft, yet sophisticated malt nose featuring a gentle toastiness and very light touch of toffee sweetness. There are some very low fruity esters that are fairly subdued for a British style ale. A very pretty, medium hop aroma complements the malt with elements of marmalade jam paired with a floral, dried rose element. Very nice.

Appearance (3/3):
The beer pours a striking copper with crystal clarity. A tight, frothy head of tan foam caps the glass and persists through the end.

Flavor (18/20):
The malt flavor of this beer is really great. Moderate in intensity, the malt manages to be interesting but not overbearing. Like freshly baked bread, the beer is very inviting and barely wafts just a whisper of caramel sweetness. There is quite a lot of hop flavor showcasing floral elements with a touch of sweet orange flesh. The bitterness is firm, but smooth and does not linger. There is just a touch of mineral sharpness on the finish.

Mouthfeel (3/5):
Medium body with slightly prickly carbonation that is perhaps a touch high. Beer is very crisp and clean.

Overall Impression (9/10):
This is a fantastic beer that showcases the soft nuances of British malt and hops. I love the way that this beer manages to be simple yet sophisticated at the same time. In a world where we frequently chase maximum flavor intensity in beer, we’re reminded that simple beers that showcase quality ingredients and careful craft can be every bit as enjoyable as the most complicated craft-brewed concoctions.

Excellent (45/50)

Belgian Golden Strong Ale – Recipe & Review

Belgian Golden Strong Ale

Belgian Golden Strong – Not My Finest Moment as a Brewer

A natural temptation for any homebrewing blogger is to write only about their greatest achievements. After all, for most of you reading this, your only way of judging my brewing abilities is through the write-ups I share.

Though this approach to sharing would undoubtedly boost my ego, I find it misleading and limiting as we all seek to better ourselves as homebrewers. Sometimes, I brew a beer that simply sucks. Whether through flawed recipe creation, poor technique, fickle yeast, or acts of God, bad beer happens. This is a fact for most homebrewers and one of the truths we can own without facing any real consequences. Sometimes the cost of a batch isn’t worth choking down a sub-par beer. Luckily this isn’t a big deal for us since our costs are low and we’re not driven to sell our creations—something, perhaps, that some commercial brewers could learn from.

Rant aside, this beer was unfortunately a dumper. While the recipe itself is solid, I made two critical mistakes.

First, I rushed the process, crashing the fermenter and bottling the beer way too early. When I crashed the beer, I was left with an overly sweet, under-attenuated malt bomb. This particular strain of yeast likes to take its sweet time to completely attenuate and I simply didn’t allow it to. After I bottled and stored the beer at room temp, fermentation began again, creating dramatically over carbonated beer. Luckily I bottled the beer in very thick Belgian bottles, which prevented any bottle bombs.

My second mistake came when I cold crashed the beer. Hoping to prevent air suck back through the airlock as the beer chilled and lost volume, I decided to bung up the Better Bottle. Unfortunately, some CO2 was still being generated by the ferment, which popped off the bung, and left the carboy open to the atmosphere for about 16 hours. This oxidized the beer and gave the malt a honeyed sweetness that didn’t help what was already a sweet beer.

Needless to say, I learned from these mistakes and hopefully won’t repeat them. If this can prevent even a single beer being dumped by others then my work was worth the effort!

Belgian Golden Strong Ale Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 70%
Attenuation: 75% (target was 93%)

Original Gravity: 1.072
Terminal Gravity: 1.018 (target was 1.005)
Color: 4.66 SRM
Alcohol: 7.12% ABV (calculated) (target was 8.69% ABV)
Bitterness: 15.9 IBU

Malt Bill:
7.25 lbs. (81.7%) Dingemans Pilsner Malt
2 oz. (1.4%) Weyermann Acidulated Malt

Sugar Additions:
1.5 lbs. (16.9%) Dextrose (Corn Sugar)

Mash Profile:
122°F – 5m
146°F – 40m
154°F – 20m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
2 g. Gypsum (to mash)
2 g. Calcium Chloride (to mash)

Hopping:
28 g. Styrian Goldings (2.8% AA) – 60m
28 g. Styrian Goldings (2.8% AA) – Whirlpool 15m

Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea. Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – 15m
0.5 tsp. Wyeast Nutrient – 10m

Yeast:
Wyeast 1388 Belgian Strong Ale

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 25C Belgian Golden Strong Ale

Aroma (7/12):
Lots of intense fruit aromas jump from the glass. There is plenty of pear and apple esters as well as just a minute amount of cherry. There is a medium-plus banana or bubblegum ester which I’m particularly sensitive to (and not a huge fan of). There is a hint of peppery phenolic spice that adds a bit of complexity to the fermentation character. While the nose is dominated by fermentation byproducts, the malt comes across as quite bready and sweet with some honey-like undertones. The malt is just a touch oxidized with some prune-like aroma.

Appearance (1/3):
The beer is a very light blond color with some haze. The beer pours with a big white head with cascading bubbles from the ample carbonation. Good retention and lacing.

Flavor (11/20):
The beer has a lot of malt flavor, frankly more than I’d hope to find in this style. There is a honeyed pilsner character that is particular to Belgian pilsner malts that I’ve used in the past. Unfortunately, there is also an undercurrent of light oxidation with some subtle dark fruit notes. There is a bit of low sugary sweetness that is the antithesis of the hallmark of the style. The fruit flavor is high with lots of characterful fermentation elements including fruity pear and apple esters. The high fruitiness blends with the residual sweetness to give an overly sweet impression. Bitterness is very low—a bit more would be welcome.

Mouthfeel (4/5):
High carbonation bursts from the beer giving a very prickly, almost sharp mouthfeel and scrubbing what would otherwise likely have been a somewhat syrupy beer.

Overall Impression (5/10):
This beer is a bit too boisterous in its fruit character compared to the quiet elegance of a beer like Duvel, the quintessential Belgian Golden Strong Ale. Additionally, the overly sweet impression and slight oxidized notes detract from the drinkability that is key to achieving a good Belgian Golden Strong Ale.

Good (28/50)

Bonus: See how judges scored this beer at the 2017 Homebrew Alley competition in NYC.

English Brown Ale – Homebrew Recipe & Review

English Brown Ale

I keep coming back to this humble English Brown Ale recipe.

If you frequently visit this blog, you’ll notice that there are certain beer styles I tend to rebrew on (at least) an annual basis. This is certainly the case with Northern English Brown. My affinity for brewing this beer mainly revolves around the fact that it is a low alcohol, sessionable, malt-forward ale that packs a lot of flavor into a fairly small package. The Maris Otter base gives an awesome bready, slightly toasty base, that is further enhanced with the addition of other melanoidin-rich specialty malts.

Another reason that I frequently rebrew this style stems from the fact that back in 2012, I managed to score a gold medal in the final round of the National Homebrew Competition with a Northern English Brown ale. Every year since, I’ve attempted to recreate that beer’s magic by rebrewing very similar recipes and entering them back into the competition. I haven’t yet been able to get this beer back into the final round, although luckily, it is still a delicious beer to have on hand. This recipe is much more toast and melanoidin-forward than what is typical for the style, but I’m still holding out hope that I’ll eventually get it back onto the medal stand.

English Brown Ale Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 62% (No Sparge)
Attenuation: 75%

Original Gravity: 1.051
Terminal Gravity: 1.013
Color: 17.49 SRM
Alcohol: 4.98% ABV (calculated)
Bitterness: 29.0 IBU

Malt Bill:
5 lbs. (66.7%) Crisp Maris Otter
1.5 lb. (20.0%) Weyermann Vienna Malt
8 oz. (6.7%) Crisp Crystal 77
6 oz. (5.0%) Briess Special Roast Malt
2 oz. (1.7%) Crisp Pale Chocolate Malt

Mash Profile:
149°F – 60m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
2 g. Gypsum (to mash)
4 g. Calcium Chloride (to mash)

Hopping:
28 g. East Kent Goldings (5.1% AA) – 60m

Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea. Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – 15m
0.5 tsp. Wyeast Nutrient – 10m

Yeast:
Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire Ale

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 13B British Brown Ale

Aroma (8/12):
Up front are medium to medium-plus esters that are quite British in their character, reminiscent of berry, cherry, and perhaps just a whisper of banana. There is a very high toasted bread crust aroma, rich in melanoidin, which has a Grape Nuts cereal character. Beyond the toast, is a bit of burnt sugar and deep toffee that almost approaches the dark fruit / raisin end of the spectrum. The nose is all about heavy malt that is not particularly delicate.

Appearance (2/3):
The beer strikes a deep brown hue with reddish and copper highlights. The beer is generally clear, but does have some light haze. The beer has a big frothy head with plenty of persistence and lacing.

Flavor (10/20):
This beer is all about big toasty malt. There isn’t much sweetness other than just a touch of dark fruit, caramel, and toffee. This is perhaps a bit out of style from the BJCP guidelines. On the finish, a very slight touch of drying roast is apparent, complemented by a bit of dark grain acidic twang. The bitterness is firm but smooth, keeping in balance with any residual sweetness. The heavy toastiness lingers through the finish becoming borderline astringent.

Mouthfeel (1/5):
The beer has a medium body with medium-plus carbonation that may be a bit out of style. The acidic tang in the flavor slightly curls the back edges of my tongue.

Overall Impression (5/10):
This beer is intensely toasty and perhaps not as caramel-rich as the style guideline would dictate.The brash toast character detracts a bit from the smoothness I’d like to see in a style intended for sessionability. This is however a very characterful beer, especially considering the ABV of less than 5%. My tasting for the beer was completed only two weeks from brewday so perhaps it will mellow out with a bit more time.

Good (27/50)

Bonus: See how judges scored this English Brown Ale at the 2017 National Homebrew Competition First Round (NYC judging center).

Apricot Gueuze-style Review

Apricot Gueuze

The leftovers from a broader Gueuze-like blending session, transformed with apricot.

Over the course of three years, I brewed three different three-gallon batches of sour lambic-like beer that were ultimately further split into single-gallon vessels and fermented individually with a total of nine different mixed cultures. The end goal of this process was to select the best five gallons of beer and blend out a classic version of Belgian Gueuze-style beer.

While I was pretty happy with how the base blend turned out, I was left with an additional four gallons of beer that was less than stellar. The primary fault in these beers was that I dramatically over-hopped the early batches with roughly 1 oz. / gallon of aged Cascade hops. Even though these hops were declared to have 0% alpha acid by the vendor whom I purchased them from, they still managed to impart a fair amount of bitterness and astringency. I have since read accounts from other brewers, including Jester King, who relayed similar stories about the dosing rates of aged hops in their early spontaneous beer experiments. According to Jester King’s blog, they currently use approximately 1lb. / barrel (0.5 oz. / gallon) of aged hops in their spontaneous beers.

Rather than toss the beer outright, I opted to rack the best three gallons into a new vessel and have it go through a secondary fermentation on three pounds of apricot puree. This was allowed to ferment for another four months before being packaged and bottle conditioned.

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 23F Fruit Lambic

Aroma (7/12):
Overripe, juicy apricot is the primary aroma component, although there are some low, funky Brett aromatics that are somewhat grassy and hay-like. For being such a complex aged beer, the nose is rather simple, but still inviting. Malt character is almost nonexistent though there is a touch of light crackery malt.

Appearance (2/3):
The beer pours a hazy gold with a bright white, tightly bubbled and persistent foam.

Flavor (8/20):
Juicy apricot flesh is supported and enhanced by a medium-plus lactic acidity and sourness. There is an unfortunate bitterness and slight astringency that comes off somewhat harsh against the acid. The finish has a touch of an odd, somewhat metallic flavor that is hard to put a descriptor on. Brett funk is pretty demure on the palate and only comes off as a bit of earthy grass with the slightest whisper of plastic. The malt manages to be a touch bready and soft.

Mouthfeel (1/5):
The beer has a medium body with fairly low levels of carbonation. More fizz would help lift the beer off the palate and, perhaps, allow a little more complexity to pop on the aroma. There is a tannic astringency that is not particularly pleasant.

Overall Impression (5/10):
Given that the origins of this beer was the rejected blending components from my gueuze blending session, I am happy that the beer retains a level of drinkability that wasn’t present in the individual blending components. The apricot has helped to soften the harsh bitterness and tannin from the original beers; although, not to the point where it isn’t a distraction on the palate. My hope is that as this beer continues to age, some of the harshness will mellow. Time will tell.

Good (23/50)

Bonus: See how judges scored this beer at the 2017 Homebrew Alley competition in NYC.

Low Dissolved Oxygen Lager Brewing

Low Dissolved Oxygen Brewing

We brewed a Vienna lager and dry hoppy pilsner to test the merits of low dissolved oxygen brewing.

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of brewing and consuming lager beers. I’ve brewed an iteration of my Vienna recipe at least a dozen times and feel like I’ve gotten to the point that I know I can brew a reliably delicious lager. That said, I’m not one to rest on my laurels so when I heard about a technique that promised to further improve my lager beers, I had to give it a try.

Earlier this year, I read a post from The Mad Fermentationist regarding low dissolved oxygen brewing and its use in German lager breweries. Learning about this idea from a respected voice within the homebrewing community gave the concept enough validity for me to give it a try.

The Mad Fermentationist post was spurred by a paper, published on germanbrewing.net in which the authors argue that large scale German brewers are able to achieve a fresh German malt flavor in their beers by dogmatically prescribing to a process which eliminates oxidation on the hot side of their brew house. While most homebrewers have written off hot side aeration as the boogeyman, the paper’s authors argue that the true malt character of a beer is quickly destroyed by the introduction of even minimal quantities of oxygen to the hot side of the brewing process.

It is at this point that the paper gets really interesting, proposing methods in which you can employ low dissolved oxygen brewing on a homebrew level. I won’t rehash the entire paper, but I used the recommended steps below to limit oxygen exposure during my brew process:

  1. Pre Boiling Brewing Liquor: All of the hot water used in my mash was first boiled for 5 minutes, prior to being quickly cooled via a plate chiller to mash temperature and then gently stirred into the mash.
  2. No Sparge: I eliminated the sparging step from my normal brewing process as it offers another opportunity for oxygen ingress into the mash.
  3. Chemical Oxygen Scavengers: Prior to mashing in, my strike water was dosed with sodium metabisulfite which acts as an oxygen scavenger during the mash. I aimed to dose the water with 55 mg/L, the recommended dosing rate for beers employing a no-sparge method.
  4. No Vourlauf: I skipped my normal vourlauf stage as, again, it could be another potential source of aeration in the mash.

The Brew Day

To give low dissolved oxygen brewing a shot, I opted to brew two different beers, a hoppy dry pilsner and a Vienna lager. The paper from germanbrewing.net cites improvements in both hop and malt character, so I figured brewing a hoppy and malty beer would be a good test. Both beers were brewed back-to-back on a single day and fermented with two individually grown cultures of White Labs WLP833.

Pretty early in the brew day, it became apparent that there was going to be a definite impact on the final beer. The first hint was that the mash didn’t smell the way a mash normally does. The aromas seemed muted, with a hint of sulfur in the air. I’ve never used sodium metabisulfite before and figured this was normal and would eventually blow off during the boil and fermentation. Unfortunately, it did not. Again, during the boil, the wort simply did not smell right. More sulfur.

Fermentation & Packaging

Post boil, I rapidly chilled the beer to 50°F and oxygenated the beer as I normally do, inline en route to my fermenter. I immediately pitched my healthy lager yeast starters and set my temperature controller to 50°F. Within 12 hours I had an active fermentation going. Again, smelling the blow-off from the fermentation it seemed to contain a ton of sulfur (much more than I normally get, even with lager yeast).

After about 2.5 weeks of fermentation, inclusive of a diacetyl rest, I carefully racked the beers to kegs using a closed system pressurized with CO2. Once in keg, I pulled a sample to taste. The beers absolutely stank of sulfur and were an undrinkable mess. Ever the optimist, I went ahead a decided to lager the beers under pressure, faithfully purging the keg daily hoping to expunge the vile aromas from the beers. After another 6 weeks of lagering at near freezing, the sulfur compounds remained. Unfortunately, both beers were a lost cause.

Conclusions

These are the first beers that I’ve made in at least the past 5 years that I’ve considered completely unsalvageable.This seemed really odd to me, as the Mad Fermentationist did not have nearly as horrendous results. Something stunk, and it wasn’t just my beer. So I went back to my notes.

My first thought was perhaps I had overdosed the beer with sodium metabisulfite. For the pilsner beer, I dosed the strike water with 11.24 grams of sodium metabisulfite into 20.4 liters of water. Redoing the math, this works our to 550 mg/L of sodium metabilsulfite, not the 55 mg/L that I was shooting for. Evidently I failed in my studies of the metric system and buggered up a decimal point, not just once, but twice. I felt like a complete idiot having only definitively proven that dosing a mash with 550 mg/L of sodium metabisulfite will make your beer stink really badly. That said, this project serves as a good reminder that attention to detail is key to successful brewing and even the most minor of an error can really screw up your beer.

Now that I have a clear grasp of junior high school level math, I think it’s mandatory I repeat the experiment using the appropriate levels of sodium metabisulfite. Stay tuned!

Hoppy Dry Pilsner Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 70% (No Sparge)
Attenuation: 84%

Original Gravity: 1.052
Terminal Gravity: 1.008
Color: 4.25 SRM
Alcohol: 5.78% ABV (calculated)
Bitterness: 18.8 IBU (does not account for significant whirlpool isomerization)

Malt Bill:
5.0 lbs. (74.1%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt
1.0 lbs. (14.8%) Weyermann Vienna Malt

Sugar Additions:
0.75 lb. (11.1%) Dextrose (Corn Sugar)

Mash Profile:
149°F – 60m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
3 g. Calcium Chloride (to mash)
55 mg/L Sodium Metabisulfite (to strike water).

Hopping:
6 g. Warrior (15.4% AA) – 90m
25 g. Hallertauer Hersbrucker (2.5% AA) – Whirlpool 10m
25 g. Cascade (6.9% AA) – Whirlpool – 10m
25 g. Czech Saaz (2.2% AA) – Whirlpool – 10m

20 g. Czech Saaz (2.2% AA) – Dry Hop 3 Days
20 g. Hallertauer Hersbrucker (2.5% AA) – Dry Hop 3 Days

Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea. Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – 15m
0.5 tsp. Wyeast Nutrient – 10m

Yeast:
White Labs WLP833 German Bock Lager

Hoppy Dry Pilsner Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 5D German Pilsner

Aroma (2/12):
This beer has a very high sulfur aroma that reminds one of burnt matches, egg, and perhaps even a little bit of cooked cabbage. It is very hard to get past the overwhelming sulfur in this beer. That said, there is some light bready malt. The ample hopping is just barely perceptible, largely due to the abundance of sulfur. This is pretty offensive.

Appearance (3/3):
This is a beautiful beer. The beer strikes a crystal clear, light golden hue. There is a low white persistent head with big foamy bubbles and excellent lacing.

Flavor (4/20):
I recently heard during a brewer interview on The Brewing Network that sulfur compounds are largely not perceivable by our taste buds and that most of the perception we get of sulfur in beer is either on the nose or via retronasal breathing after we swallow. This certainly is apparent in this beer as the actual flavor is much better than the aroma with the most offensive sulfur coming through post swallow. The malt character of this beer is pretty pleasant, clean, slightly sweet, and bready. The beer is quite crisp and dry. There is a medium-plus hop flavor that is a bit floral with just a hint of citrus. The bitterness is firm, but pleasant. This would be an excellent beer if there wasn’t such a blast of sulfur.

Mouthfeel (5/5):
The beer has a medium-low body and features a great crisp effervescence. Very lean and drinkable.

Overall Impression (2/10):
Without the sulfur, I’d be willing to bet that this is a 40+ point beer. Unfortunately, the sulfur is so utterly offensive that it is tough to evaluate the beer that lies beneath.

Fair (16/50)

Bonus: See how judges scored this German Pilsner at the 2017 Homebrew Alley competition in NYC.

Vienna Lager Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 64% (No Sparge)
Attenuation: 84%

Original Gravity: 1.052
Terminal Gravity: 1.008
Color: 10.75 SRM
Alcohol: 5.73% ABV (calculated)
Bitterness: 21.6 IBU

Malt Bill:
5.0 lbs. (64.5%) Weyermann Vienna Malt
1.50 lbs. (19.4%) Weyermann Dark Munich Malt
1.25 lbs. (16.1%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt

Mash Profile:
147°F – 60m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
3 g. Calcium Chloride (to mash)
55 mg/L Sodium Metabisulfite (to strike water).

Hopping:
1.5 oz. Hallertauer Hersbrucker (2.5% AA) – 90m
0.5 oz. Hallertauer Hersbrucker (2.5% AA) – Whirlpool 10m

Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea. Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – 15m
0.5 tsp. Wyeast Nutrient – 10m

Yeast:
White Labs WLP833 German Bock Lager

Vienna Lager Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 7A. Vienna Lager

Aroma (4/12):
The beer has a medium-plus sulfur nose reminiscent of cooked eggs and burnt matches. Compared to the pilsner, the sulfur is less intense, although the character is extremely similar. There are some nice toasty malt aromas that just peek out beyond the sulfur.

Appearance (3/3):
The beer is a beautiful sparkling clear light copper color that sits just at the bottom end of the SRM range for the style. The beer features golden orange highlights when held up to the light and is capped with a mousey white head that persists. Some judges may argue that the beer is too light, but I think it’s spot on.

Flavor (8/20):
As with the pilsner, the sulfur is present, but much less dominate on the palate than the nose. Getting past the sulfur, there is a really nice toasty malt component that has a drying character to it. This beer is not nearly as intense in malt sweetness and complexity as many craft examples, but is perfect for being the session beer that I think Vienna Lager should be. On the finish is a firm bitterness that further accentuates the beer’s dryness. This beer reminds me of Sierra Nevada’s 2016 version of Oktoberfest which this past year was lean on the malt, and spicy in its hop character.

Mouthfeel (3/5):
The beer has a medium-low body with plenty of crisp carbonation that is perhaps a touch high, but quite pleasant and refreshing.

Overall Impression (4/10):
Again, this could have been a really excellent beer if it wasn’t for the offensive sulfur character that is dominating, particularly on the nose. The recipe is somewhat on the lower end of the intensity spectrum for the style, leaving it much more quenching than many of the craft examples that I’ve tasted.

Good (22/50)

Bonus: See how judges scored this Vienna at the 2017 Homebrew Alley competition in NYC.