On Test: @WoodfordesAle Wherry – Beer Kit tasting

I hate doing write-ups like this.  Really I do…

This beer has been sat in a corny keg for most of February and a good deal of March and it still ain’t right (even with a test sample every week).  It’s as clear as a bell, beautifully carbonated, has a great head and really looks the part.  But it still ain’t right.

In the aroma there’s that “homebrew” smell, and in the taste there’s a faintly cardboardy…well…”homebrew” taste about it.  Lord knows I’ve given it to enough people to try and asked for their honest feedback (not telling them that this was a kit, just one of my regular beers that I brew) and comments were all along similar lines:

I don’t like it as much as the other beers you’ve made” – when pushed for brutal honesty they said it tasted like homebrew that they’d had in the late 80’s and early 90’s

I for one, can’t believe that this is down to quality of the Woodfordes kit.  There’s no way on earth it would sell as well as it does if it regularly turned out like this.  So let’s try and get to the bottom of it – addressing the usual potential homebrewing cock-ups:

1) Scrupulous attention to cleanliness?  Yes, everything was star-san’ed to within an inch of it’s life

2) Skunked through light exposure? Nope, the kit was made up in about 40 minutes and went into a glass carboy and into a cupboard that was pretty much light-tight

3) Wild fluctuation in fermentation temperatures?  Nope.  It sat a steady 18-20c for the whole two weeks

4) Fluctuation in conditioning temperatures?  Nope conditioned in keg at 12-15c for a week or so and then stored at a steady 17c since

5) Too long on the lees (yeast)? Nope, two weeks in the fermenter and then into the keg with all the yeast left behind.

6) Manky, out-of-date yeast? Nope, fresh pack of S-04

7) Chlorine in the brewing water?  Nope.  1/4 of a Campden table saw off the Chlorine or any Chloramine in the tap water – and besides, I’d expect Chlor(ine/amine) to react with the hops to give a horrible medicinal or phenolic note.

According to the BJCP tasting/off-flavour guidelines (http://www.bjcp.org/docs/OffFlavorFlash.pdf) cardboard can be attributed to oxidation due to excessive aeration of either hot wort (i.e. hot-side aeration, but I poured the warmed wort carefully into the rest of the water volume), aeration during bottling (I transferred to kegs with my auto-syphon exactly the same as I do every other beer) or it’s due to oxygen in the head-space (which it can’t be, as I purged the corny keg with CO2 before force-carbonating)

So that’s it, I’m at a loss and fresh out of ideas.  The only thing I can think of is that the kit was a bit long in the tooth and the malt extract had gone too far and somehow oxidised.  But that seems unlikely.  I’d love to re-run this experiment and see if it happens again – but I’m loathe to fork out twenty or so quid for another bash at it…  Twenty quid buys quite a lot of malt and hops…

Have you brewed the Wherry kit?  How did it turn out for you?  Did you get off-flavours?  Maybe you can see a really obvious step that I missed or didn’t do correctly?  I’d be interested in your thoughts…


UPDATE: On the 24th March (literally an hour after I published the above) The good folks at Woodfordes picked up on it and were dismayed, so have very nicely sent me a replacement Wherry kit…  I just need to find an hour or so to actually get it made up and into a fermenter – oh, that and a working Kitchen.  That’s still not finished…no, I’ve no idea where the time goes, either.

As soon as it’s done I’ll report back on my findings…

A Vintage Beer Selection at @CarillonBrewery

20150224_175026Let’s get this straight: England has museums and England has old Breweries, but England does not have museums with Breweries in them; which is a shame because in the US of A they do.

Carillon Brewery is situated smack in the middle of Carillon Historical Park in Dayton, Ohio.

Carillon Historical Park is one of those living museum sort of affairs -a bit like the one at Iron Bridge Gorge, Telford in the UK.  Carillon brewing specialise in producing beers in the same way that all breweries would have many years ago.

When we arrived it was nearly dark and we headed straight to Brewery restaurant (yes.  Beer and food.  How nice is that?)  As it was so late in the day there wasn’t a lot going on apart from some poor old morose-looking lad in a smock slowly cranking an old wooden grain mill.

I opted to load up on the sausage platter with a flight of Carillon beers, just so that I could try them all:

The Carillon Porter – much as it would have been in the dim and distant, this was a dark malt-heavy interpretation of the style with quite a thin body and a vinous, almost sour note to it (caused, I’m guessing, by a smidge of oxidation from the barrel fermenting or ageing?) It was nice enough and provided a glimpse into how beer must have been back then.

The Carillon Coriander Ale – lightish and again with a minimalist body, I found the coriander just a bit too much.  This beer was all about the coriander and not much else.  But again, it’s harsh to judge these beers by modern standards.  Maybe that’s how they dug them, back then?

The Carillon Spiced Dunkelweizen – was a good solid dunkelweizen, nice body, good alcohol, very nice; however, the spicing was just too christmassy for me…I like me spices in a beer to be gentle and subtle…but other than that, very enjoyable indeed.

The Carillon Spruce Ale – The greatest surprise of the four: a nice body, good dark colour and a plentifully solid ale in itself – but the spruce stole the show.  I expected this beer to be resinous, a walk in a damp forest sort of thing, but it wasn’t.  It was flavourful, nicely bitter and altogether rather refreshing.  Not what I expected at all.  I loved this and an oily, faintly greenish, tinge made it even more novel and enjoyable.  It’s not something that I’d drink every day, but would definitely drink again.  Maybe I’ll have to try some Finnish Sahti – as that’s a similar sort of idea…

All-in-all a very enjoyable brewery trip, informative, interesting and with great food and service I’d recommend a visit if you’re in the area…


Cascade Hoppy Pale Ale with Pure Hop Aroma Extract – Tasting Notes


Well, this is another one of those “long-time in waiting” reviews…

God; after the last post about my ho-hum, rather pedestrian, wheat beer; I must sound like a right miserable so-and-so, especially as this particular beer isn’t quite as I wanted it to be, either.

But that’s not to say it’s bad…in fact it’s rather good.  As Pale Ales go, this Pale Ale goes very well indeed.

Trouble is, it’s not the hop-bomb that I wanted it to be and I’m rather afraid that it’s down to two things:

Number one: not using enough pure aroma hop oil (2ml per 10L) I reckon I should have just put the whole bottle in.  Next time I dry hop AND add loads of aroma oil in as well.

Number two: spending a week in the US and drinking loopy-juice like The Maharaja Double IPA  (see earlier entry in this blog) make me feel that can’t ever make anything that hoppy at home…but it’s not going to stop me trying, oh good God, no: I’ve planted a First Gold and two Styrian Golding hop bines this year – as well as hoping for a big crop from my existing Cascade bine, so keep an eye out for something hop-tastically over-the-top this autumn, if not before…

Other than the lack of hop-looniness; this pale ale is nicely bitter, very nicely balanced, is a gorgeous deep mahogany colour, has a superb rich maltiness and – lets be honest about it – anyone else in the world who had brewed it would be over-the-moon –  it really is a very fine Pale Ale indeed.

It’s just not as hoppy as I was hoping for…  Bah.

I’m waiting on a wheat: Hefeweizen Mk1 – Tasting Notes…

hefeweizenI know the tasting notes for this one have been a long time coming; but the kitchen is in uproar, the heating’s all up the spout and time just isn’t making itself very available these days.

So let’s not faff about and get straight down to business:

Because the temperature where this beer is being stored is so cold, we have the option to drink it with or without the yeast (it’s that flocculent in these coolish temperatures) – so we can have hefeweizen or kristallweizen.  I prefer my wheats “mit hefe” so a pour and a quick twirl of bottle brings the cloudiness up nice.

First off:  This beer is pitifully under-carbonated.  That’s not to say it’s flat…it’s more like the sort of carbonation that I’d expect in a lively real ale – not a refreshing wheat.  But I now know for next time.  Obviously a lack of carbonation does tend to knock the life out of the head a bit, so again I was a bit disappointed…

Colour-wise, I’m happy: it’s got that lovely wheat beer luminosity that I really enjoy seeing.

The aroma is smack half-way between clovey-spiciness and fruity-banana-ishness.  I would have preferred a tad more fruit, so next time I’ll be fermenting a whole load warmer to really encourage the banana notes.

Taste-wise it’s good.  Not amazing, but good enough.  I’m happy enough with it as my first wheat, it’s complex and tastes about right and has a nice enough alcohol hit, but it hasn’t got that wow factor that I was really after.

Next time I’ll make sure that the mash goes better and ferment it just that little bit warmer!