Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Tasting Notes: Old World's Mantra

This beer was based on the recipe Yvan de Baets contributed to For the Love of Hops.  It was the first of a couple of beers that ended up attenuating significantly more than expected, most likely as a result of pitching too much super-healthy top-croppped yeast.  Yvan's predicted final gravity was 1.012, whereas this went down an extra 5 or 6 points to something like 1.006-7!

I remember when I first started home-brewing my main concern was to make my beers as dry as possible.  I find many commercial beers too sweet (especially American interpretations of English and Belgian pale ales), and in those early days before I made starters or top-cropped yeast, my beers would also often finish on the high side.  As a result I'm often a little blasé about where my beers finish, basically just trying to make them as dry as I can.

After tasting this and a couple of other bitter beers I've brewed recently straight after tasting some fresh Taras Boulba at Zwanze Day, I've decided I need to finesse things a little more here.  Obviously Brasserie De La Senne beers lean firmly towards the bitter side of things, and so might seem unbalanced to some.  But to my mind they do have a balance of their own, and its something I think is missing from my beers.  One or two extra gravity points, or perhaps a water adjustment, would round out my bitter beers just enough to give them that added complexity and maybe a slight softness that they're missing right now. The challenge is to come up with my own sense of what a balanced beer tastes like, and what's involved in brewing one on my system.

That's not to knock this beer, which I've been enjoying a lot.  But I take this silly brewing thing pretty seriously, and want to brew the best beer possible.  I've made the transition from obvious off-flavours to clean beer to beer that has something like the flavour profile I'd like.  This next transition, where you really come to understand and perfect the balance of the flavours you're looking for, seems to me like a more difficult and interesting one.

Appearance: Hazy when poured from the fridge.  Nice colour though, and would look lovely if it were bright.  Tight, stable head, and decent lacing.

Smell: Earthy hops, slight fruitiness that seems like a mix of the hops and malt.  Pretty generic description I know.  It smells like a Bitter, let's put it that way.

Taste: Brief sweetness up front, but quickly becomes slightly spicy, and then a tingling minerally bitterness.  Struggling to come up with non-beery descriptions

Mouthfeel: Lowish carbonation works well.  Dry and very drinkable, with a firm persistent bitterness that isn't at all harsh.

Drinkability & Notes: Despite what I said above, I've been really enjoying this beer.  It goes nicely with food (pictured with homemade bread/chutney), and the bitterness makes it very moreish.  But it is a bit one-dimensional, and would be improved if I could round out the flavours without adding too much sweetness.  Definitely a recipe I'll come back to.


  1. So with a yeast that is over-attenuating, perhaps by way of adjusting to your brewhouse, natural drift or by overpitching, how do you think you'll combat this the next time around? I don't think anything pre-fermentation will be helpful. Pitching less yeast seems reasonable but there's some risk in that. Cold crashing at/before your desired FG may help but I've not tried that and filtering is an option I won't get into. I've been burned before with bottle-conditioning beers that were actually slightly stalled fermentations and there's been no rule, rhyme or reason for any of them.

    1. My first thought was to try mashing higher, and then perhaps paying more attention to how much yeast I'm pitching. I bottle condition everything so cold-crashing isn't really an option for me.

      Your right about the risks though---it reminds me of the other reason I started making very dry beers, because I experienced the same things you described with bottle-conditioned beers brewed with English strains (particularly 1318)---apparently completed fermentations, followed by over-carbonation a month or two after bottling with no other indications of infection.