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6) Manky, out-of-date yeast?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!


The Best Saison this Spring: @BreweryOmmegang Hennepin

20150223_191038As you may or may not know, I’m a big fan of the Saison style…well, let’s be honest about it, I’m starting to be a big fan of all yeast-forward beers: Wheats, Belgians, Saisons – anything like that.  I mean I do like me hops, but getting hoppiness into your own beers at home is a never-ending and sometimes frustrating task.

So when I was in Ohio the week before last* I found Ommegang Hennepin available, I was very happy indeed…

Hennepin is a great representation of the style, and is accessible too:

Pouring a clearish, straw-yellow with a very virginal-looking white head and bearing a fragrance of bready malt, lemon high-lights and a soft grassy/hay notes with some hoppiness; Hennepin really is a seductive, sensual delight.

The taste is heavenly, being brightly refreshing with a gentle earthy bitterness and a subtle undercurrent of funk.  The finish is champagne like, delicate, clean and has just enough bitterness to balance the whole experience out.

It’s a truly lovely drop and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.  It says spring-time and may-day and everything like that to me and make me think that I should have bottles of Saison just like this ready for those first clean and clear spring afternoons.

I’d better get brewing…


(*oh, yes.  Apologies for the lack of articles: a week’s training course, plus a week in the US visiting my boss and then another week’s frantic cramming for my TOGAF exam left me with little time for the blog.)

Taking a flight with the @WarpedWing brewery

warpedwingOn Wedenesday evening last, my boss (Bill) took a group of us out for a trip to Warped Wing brewery in Dayton…

The brewery takes it’s name from the kink that the Wright Brothers -Dayton’s most famous sons- engineered into the wings of their first “plane” that allowed the first human flight.

Situated in down-town Dayton, Warped Wing has been in operation for just over a year now and seems to be garnering the interest of a good chunk of the region’s craft beer crowd with it’s range of eclectic and lovingly-made ales and beers.

20150225_215835We rolled in to the old converted steel foundry on Wyandot street that is the brewery’s home, just after 8pm, where a youngish crowd were enjoying some of the 5 or 6 beers available that night on tap; there was a good background hum of conversation and relaxed revelry all against the backdrop of the brewery plant itself – a magnificent vision of stainless steel vats, fermenters and pipework – where a magnificently-bearded brewery employee was busily washing off the plant after that days brew session.

The atmosphere inside was warm, convivial and welcoming – laden with the aromas of an earlier mash and heavily-hopped boil.

As I wanted to try everything in sight, I opted for a full flight of Warped Wing beers: Ermal’s Belgian-style cream ale, Flyin’ Rye IPA, Hop Smuggler IPA and Pirogue – a Belgian Quad style ale.

20150225_203603First-up, Ermal’s Belgian Cream Style Ale: this was a lovely hazy yellow and had ample spicy notes in the nose – with a satisfying peppery-spicy dryness that really quenched my thirst, even though it was just a small taste.

The Flyin’ Rye IPA was assertively hoppy, yet restrained enough to allow the cracker-bread, spicy, graininess of the rye to shine through – I liked this one a lot, as I have a peculiar fondness for beers brewed with rye.

Hop Smuggler was an odd choice of name for the next beer, as it makes very little attempt to smuggle the hops past you, preferring to allow their full power of their resinous dankness to smack you fully in the face; slightly hazy and beautifully balanced this was a great IPA.

Next the Pirogue.  Belgian Quad style ale is not something that we get a lot of in the UK, but I wish we did –  complex and powerful (9%!) it satisfied with every sip, and if I was only allowed to have one more glass of any of the Warped Wing beers, it’d be this one…just excellent.

And then as if it wasn’t enough to be sat in the brewery itself; drinking excellent, achingly fresh beer that had been brewed not more than a couple of feet away from me; Bill looked around and said “Hey, there’s Joe!”.

Bill explained that Joe was one of the founders of Warped Wing and we should go say hello, as Bill works closely with Joe’s brother Andrew.

20150225_215228As we talked, I handed Joe a YIMB card and he insisted – despite only coming in to the brewery for a post-basketball beer with friends – on giving me and our small party a whistle-stop tour of the plant.  I can’t tell you how good it is to be given a tour by someone so obviously knowledgeable and proud of their brewery and business.

Warped Wing is doing all the right things: they’re brewing twice a day, six days a week, they have a modern canning line (they’re the only folks in Dayton who are canning their own), they have a barrel-ageing program on the go, and are supplying their excellent range of beers to 50 or so outlets – including at least one local stadium.

Warped Wing’s head brewer is a guy that came from the New Holland brewery and – unbelievably – doesn’t run a pilot system.  He just runs full 66BBL test batches by dialling them in on the kit, and as Joe testifies: 99.9% of the time he gets it smack on and a great beer ensues.

I really enjoyed my evening at Warped Wing and now wished I’d asked more questions and taken many more notes and pictures…

I’d like to extend my thanks to Joe for taking the time out to show us around and telling us exactly how they do their thing.


I guarantee you’ll be seeing a lot more of Joe and his folks’ beers – the quality, branding and style, plus their obvious passion for doing what they love will see the Warped Wing empire expanding rapidly.

I insist that you go there and take in some of their beer and hospitality if you’re in the area.