Oatmeal Stout Part 1 Tasting Notes

November 20, 2013 at 8:59 pm


Oatmeal Stout Tasting Notes:

Appearance: Pours a midnight black with a billowing tan head, quickly dissipates leaving behind minimal lacing.

Smell: Notes of chocolate and roasted barley dominate, sweet vanilla and coffee are also present.

Taste: Silky smooth from the get go, big chocolate and mild roast flavors are met with a moderate hop bitterness. Finishes semi sweet with hints of cocoa and vanilla.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, silky and moderately carbonated.  Slightly hoppier then expected but still plays well with the darker specialty grains.

Drinkability & Notes: I was planning on adding two unique flavor combinations to the secondary, hence the Oatmeal Stout 2 Ways however due to some logistical challenges as well as the beer tasting pretty awesome as is I decided to veer of course from my original plan.

For me this beer encapsulates my favorite aspects of an oatmeal stout, specifically that silky smooth texture and chocolate flavors.  It has a great balance of  flavors and hops that work in concert to round out a classic oatmeal stout.

Next I’ll be adding a dry hop of cocoa nibs, bourbon soaked vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks and some dried kung po peppers I grew this summer.  Im going to start with 8 oz of cocoa nibs and the vanilla bean.  As these flavors begin to reach their prime ill than add the cinnamon sticks and the Kung Po peppers.

Im pretty confident that this dry hop schedule should allow me to handle all of these moving flavor pieces in a civilized manner.  Based upon how the base beer tastes and some preliminary testing I have done I think these additions are really going to complement as well as tranform this beer and potentially put it on the next level status.

photo (3)

Bier de Garde Tasting Notes

September 10, 2013 at 10:02 pm

Bier de Garde1

Bier de Garde Tasting Notes:

Appearance: Pours from  the bottle with a deep orange borderline brown color. A long lasting, thin crystalline white head percolates on top.

Smell: Tantalizingly sweet, aromas of Belgian candi sugar, carmel, and toffee are present.

Taste: Begins with a thin carbonated sip and as it progresses through the palette becomes thicker, chewier and maltier.  Leaves with a feeling of warming alcohol and rich belgian sugar and carmel notes.  Finishes dry with a bite.

Mouthfeel: Good carbonation, sweet and malty.

Drinkability & Notes: This beer is big and strong with plenty of complex flavors to hold its own.  The belgian grains and kettle caramelization really put this beer into the next level with the breadth of flavors they add contribute.  Deep flavors of carmel and sweetness really jump out of the glass in this one, and to be honest drinking it really gets me excited for the fall.

On a side note, I also added a heaping portion of bourbon soaked oak cubes to the other half  for an extended age, that to be honest is going to really test my patience in order to give it the time it needs.


BDG tasting

Far East Wheat Tasting Notes

July 30, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Far East WheatFar East Wheat Tasting Notes:

Appearance: Pours a hazy deep yellow almost gold.  Minimal to no head when poured from the bottle.  Off the keg a nice fluffly white head was present.

Smell: Tangerine, Watermelon, Yuzu.  Citrus aromas meld seamlessly with sweet sugar notes, like smelling into a candy jar.

Taste: Starts with a subtle tartness that is quickly overcome by a blend of sweet malt and citrus.  Notes of tangerine, orange, and yuzu dance along on the tongue.  Finishes with notes of lemon and flowers.  The schezuan pepper, while subdued, leaves a very delicate aftertaste on the palette that adds another layer to a surprisingly complex beer.

Mouthfeel: Moderately carbonated, a bright beer, highly refreshing.  The Yuzu contributed a noticeable tartness to the beer which is balanced nicely by the sweetness of the crystal malt.

Drinkability & Notes: I am extremely happy with how this beer came out.  There is always the risk when brewing a beer with unusual ingredients of brewing a clunker, however this is far from that.  The wheat base with the touch of crystal provided a great base for the Yuzu to showcase its unique citrus flavors, while the Schezuan pepper foils the flavors on the back end.

I can taste the Yuzu, however if you didn’t know it was in the beer it could easily be mistaken for orange, tangerine or some other citrus aroma from a peel or hop addition.  If the Yuzu wasn’t so expensive I would consider upping the amount, (with one Oz of Yuzu 8 gallons would be my initial thoughts for an increased Yuzu punch)however part of me really enjoys the subtleness of this beer.

All the moving parts work well together in subtle and complementary, yet complex ways leaving me yearning for another sip.  When I brew this again one change I would make to the initial recipe, would be to increase the amount of Schezuan pepper by another gram or two as I feel it could be just a bit more pronounced.

If you are looking for a truly unique beer to impress your friends I would highly recommend this beer to you. I can see it becoming one of my new favorites and a summer seasonal at Lionheart for years to come.


Rich’s Coffee Pale Ale 2.0 Tasting Notes

May 24, 2013 at 9:33 pm

I will admit it, I am a coffee addict.  I absolutely love coffee and enjoy each and every cup I drink throughout the day.  I have also been known to enjoy a coffee porter or two from time to time, however with that being said I have never experimented coffee in any of my homebrews.  Traditionally coffee finds its way into darker beers usually porters and stouts as the darker malts used in them tend to compliment the roasty, coffee notes.  Recently, I have been reading about brewers experimenting with coffee in other non traditional beers such as IPAs.  I decided that I would experiment with a small batch of my Pale Ale and attempt to infuse it with some coffee flavors.

After doing some research online it appears that the two most common ways to extract the good coffee flavors without the bad (astringent) is by one of the following methods.  Cold brew.  This process calls for grinding up the appropriate amount of coffee and placing it in cold water for 24 hours, after which the coffee is seperated and the coffee is added to the beer usually before bottling or kegging.  The second option, is to do a coffee bean dry hop where whole coffee beans are crushed slightly and added to the secondary or keg directly.  When brewing a porter or a stout option one is available, however when attempting to add coffee to a pale ale, realistically the coffee bean dry hop is the only option in order to preserve the classic Pale Ale color profile.

Below are my tasting notes after adding 22 grams of slightly crushed Columbian finca villa loyola coffee beans and 1 oz of whole leaf Chinook Hops to a 2.5 gallon keg.  The coffee beans were left in the dry hop for two days prior to being removed, the hops were left for the full 7 days.

Rich’s Coffee Pale Ale 2.0(WLP023) Tasting Notes:

Appearance: Pours a deep orange with shades of brown.  A one finger slightly off white head dissipates slowly leaving the glass rimmed with lacing. (No discernible visual difference between this and the regular Rich’s Pale Ale.)

Smell: Mild cocoa, fresh flowers, orange and lemon notes are complimented by a sweet malt and fruit.

Taste: Smooth clean sweetness  serves as a basis for the coffee notes which cut right through immediately as the beer hits the palate.  Mild and restrained, but definitely noticeable the flavors work wonderfully with the fruitiness of the Burton Ale Yeast.  Much less bitter than the SafeAle-05 batch which allows the interplay between the citrus and floral hop aromatics and the coffee to take center stage.

Mouthfeel: Moderately carbonated, nice interplay of hop aromatics and malt sweetness with a slight edge towards the hops.

Drinkability & Notes: This beer is absolutely fantastic, and has to be one of my favorite beers brewed ever!  Im having a hard time believing that something as simple as adding a few grams of coffee to a dry hop could have such an amazing impact on the final beer.  The coffee flavors meld beautifully with the malt sweetness and the subtle citrus and floral hop aromatics.  The fruitiness of the Burton Ale yeast puts this beer over the top for me as pulls all the flavors together into one absolutely delicious sip.  I will definitely be experimenting with additional coffee bean dry hops in the future, and am considering brewing 10 gallons of the Coffee Pale Ale for my wedding as I believe that the flavors of this beer will be enjoyed by a wide audience, not just the beer connoisseurs.

Coffee Pale Ale

Rich’s Pale Ale 2.0 Tasting Notes

May 20, 2013 at 8:36 pm


Rich’s Pale Ale 2.0(US-05) Tasting Notes:

Appearance: Pours a deep orange with shades of brown.  A one finger slightly off white head dissipates slowly leaving the glass rimmed with lacing.

Smell: Strong orange and grapefruit, piney and resinous, subtle floral notes accompany a slight malt sweetness.

Taste: Smooth clean sweetness with a mild hop bite on the initial sip, complemented nicely by a moderate hop medley of citrus and pine.  Finishes with a hint of herbs and orange, a lingering bitterness and hints of carmel round out the flavor profile.

Mouthfeel: Moderately carbonated, feels somewhat thin, nice interplay of hop aromatics and malt sweetness with a slight edge towards the hops.

Drinkability & Notes: This being the second version of my pale ale I was able to tweak the recipe, specifically in the addition of a touch more crystal malt in hopes of achieving a better balance.  This version is definitely more balanced than the first and the hop aromas align closer to those found in some of the popular commercial examples of the style.  In the first recipe I used CTZ and Summit which were a bit too aggressive in both bitterness and aroma and pushed the beer towards the upper limits of the Pale Ale range. These tasting notes are from the SafeAle-05 fermented batch, which is evident by the extremely clean fermentation. There are no noticeable yeast flavors, however upon tasting the gravity samples there was a noticeable difference in the bitterness between the US-05 and the Burton Ale WLP23 versions, with the US-05 being much more bitter.  I will provide tasting notes for the WLP23 fermented batch in the near future, which I suspect will be a bit more complex.

Unfortunately, I had brew day problems that forced me to completely drain my mash tun mid mash (never switch dip tubes in a rush) and subsequently caused my mash temperature to drop into the 130 degree range.  As a result this beer finished slightly higher in alcohol than anticipated as well as slightly thinner.  The additional 2-4 gravity points that would have resulted from a proper mash temperature would have really set this beer off, as I prefer my Pale Ale’s to have a slightly maltier mouthfeel.  With that being said I believe this recipe is much more balanced than the first, with a great blend of malt and citrus/pine hops aromatics, and based on the reactions from my friends and family will be a contender for first kegs to kick at my wedding later this year. 


German Hefeweizen Tasting Notes

May 7, 2013 at 9:45 pm

German Hefeweizen (PP) #5

German Hefeweizen (Proper Pitch) Tasting Notes:

Appearance:  Pours a slightly hazy straw yellow.  One finger, pillowy, snow white head lingers long after the initial pour.

Smell:  Mild notes of wheat, clove, banana and citrus are present.

Taste: Grainy, wheat flavors dominate the initial sip, juxtaposed nicely by the sweetness of the Pilsner malt. Slight hints of herb and citrus on the finish.  Finishes with a strong residual banana burst and a ever so slight hint of clove.

Mouthfeel: Carbonation crisp and strong.  Finished slightly drier than I would have liked and is evident. The graininess from the large percentage of wheat malt helps offset this somewhat.

Drinkability & Notes:   The proper pitched batch of my German Hefeweizen yeast yielded a somewhat strong banana flavor, however it left me wanting more of a banana punch that defines the classic versions of the style.  Overall the beer is highly drinkable and true to the style.  I’m not sure why it attenuated down to 1.006 but it does come across in the final beer.  I will be looking to fix this when I brew it again for my wedding as I would like a slightly thicker mouthfeel.  I am also considering swapping Munich Malt for the Vienna to bulk up the color a bit as this finished somewhat paler than I would have liked.  With that being said for a total cost of roughly $40 dollars for 12 gallons this recipe has yielded a highly drinkable, refreshing beer.



Winter Dubbel Tasting Notes

February 4, 2013 at 8:48 pm

As I discussed in my All Grain Primer, I tend to brew beers that are fairly true to style, or within the box as some might say.  I do this because after all my years brewing I have gotten to the point were I can usually take an idea or a flavor profile from a commercial beer, formulate a recipe, and most of the time come pretty close to nailing it on the first batch.  This is not to say that all my beers are perfect, but at the same time I rarely have a problem drinking through my 10 gallon batches.

One of my goals last year was to push myself to try and brew more experimental batches that incorporate unique ingredients or non-traditional combinations.  In my experience, adding such ingredients tends to make it much more difficult to nail down a recipe on the first try, often times this is due to using unfamiliar ingredients and/or spices.  The key to brewing palatable experimental beers is to use moderation with the non-traditional ingredients and/or spices, as too much can easily ruin a batch.  Last year I brewed 18 batches, two of which were experimental, the Belgian Table Ale with Tamarind and the Winter Dubbel, and while its not the greatest percentage its a start.

For the Winter Dubbel, I wanted to build on a recipe I brewed two years ago that used raisins, and add to it with the addition of port wine and some pre-brew cooking.  Instead of simply adding the raisins to the boil, for this batch I first caramelized them, then completed a port reduction, and finally added that puree to the boil.  In addition to the raisin port puree, I added some Weyermann Abbey Malt and corn sugar, to a traditional Belgian Dubbel grist consisting of Pilsner, CaraMunich III, and Special B.

After finally getting around to tapping a keg of this beer a few weeks ago, I must say that the combination has the potential to create a really unique take on a Belgian Dubbel.  With that being said the addition of the raisin port puree is definitely the dominant flavor of the beer, and I would reduce the amount slightly if I brew this beer again.  While this recipe is off to a good start, for it to become a truly greet beer a few more iterations will be necessary to really nail down the exact amount of raisins and port to get the proper balance.  With that being said lets take a look at the tasting notes.

Winter Dubbel Tasting Notes:


Appearance: Pours a muddy brown, shows as a dark copper when held to the light.  One finger thick off white head lingers for a while, leaving some lacing on the glass.  My beers are usually clear after sitting in the keg for a couple months prior to serving.  I’m not exactly sure what’s going on with this batch, but I’m thinking an increase in proteins or other substance from the raisin puree might be the culprit for the cloudiness.

Smell: Sweetness, port, fruit, and raisins are the dominant aromas. Subtle notes of honey, carmel, and vanilla are also present.

Taste: The initial sip is somewhat chewy with a moderate carb bite.  Sweet malt and raisins notes transition to a strong port finish.  Hops flavors are hard to decipher but bitterness is adequate to balance all the sweetness of the port.  Long lasting flavor of port on the finish, while noticeable no overwhelming alcohol flavors are present.

Mouthfeel: Moderately carbonated, semi sweet-

Drinkability & Notes: I really like the addition of the raisin port puree to the traditional Belgian Dubbel, however the port aftertaste is intense and tends to overpower the beer as a whole.  When brewing this recipe again I would reduce the amount of port used in the reduction, or drop the reduction entirely and add a small amount of port to the fermentor.  The amount of port I started with in my reduction might have been just too much leading to such amplified flavors in the final beer.  These are the challenges homebrewers face when brewing these out of the box beers, as the increase in ingredients enters more variables in the brewday.

One alternative I’m going to try on the second keg is  a moderate dry hop, in an effort to take off some of the port edge.  As currently brewed the beer drinks somewhat sweet, after two to three beers I’m completely satisfied and looking to move on to something else.  All in all I think the flavor components are in place, and with some effort this has the potential to be a truly unique spin on the classic Belgian Dubbel recipe.


Oak Aged EKG Single Hop Saison Tasting Notes

January 8, 2013 at 7:55 pm

For Christmas this year I received a beer tasting kit from my sister, inside was a tasting note card with a flavor profile wheel.  As I post the majority of my tasting notes on the blog, I thought it would be a nice addition to add my own take on the flavor wheel to all future tasting notes on the site.  My wheel consists of 16 unique flavors subdivided into three levels of intensity; slight, moderate, and intense.  I hope that you will find this addition to the blog helpful as it will add a visual component to the traditional tasting notes categories found on many other blogs.

During my peak brewing season (April-November) I brew roughly 30 gallons a month, which as you can imagine is far to much beer for me to drink no matter how much I love beer.  I do 10 gallon batches and will often put a fresh corny on tap as soon as possible and leave one for later.  I decided that I would like to do an oaked beer and thought a saision would be a good candidate as they can become more defined with age.  I decided to add .75 oz of medium toast Hungarian Oak, hoping for a moderate to strong oak presence in the final beer.  The tasting notes below were taken after the beer (recipe) had been aged on the oak cubes for 6 months.

Oak Aged EKG Single Hop Saison Tasting Notes:


Appearance: Pours a crystal clear deep yellow, with a frothy white head.  Head dissipates slowly with moderate lacing around the glass.

Smell: Strong Belgian yeast aromatics and fruit dominate.  Finishes with slight notes of vanilla, flowers, and pepper.

Taste: Starts with a crisp carb bite and moderate bitterness.  The taste transitions to notes of bubble gum, fresh flowers, and sweet malt flavors. Finishes with a warming alcohol presence,subtle vanilla and oak flavors to round out the beer.

Mouthfeel:  Highly carbonated, extremely dry.

Drinkability & Notes:  The contrast between the fruity belgian yeast notes and the oak in combination with the delicate floral notes of the Eastern Kent Golding Hops make this one of the more complex beers I have ever brewed.  The yeast is the real star of this beer in my mind, as the Belgian Saision II (WLP566) gave off flavors that I would deem comparable to many commercial saisions (I have not found this to be the case with some of the other saision yeast strains).  This beer has gotten rave reviews from all my family and friends who have tried it so far and is on my short of potential beers for my wedding later this year.

The non-oaked version of this beer was exceptional as well with the only notable difference being a much more pronounced hop aroma and floral flavors.  It lacked the added dimension of the Hungarian Oak which in my mind put this beer over the top making it on of my favorites to date



Great Lakes Christmas Ale Clone Tasting Notes

December 2, 2012 at 8:10 pm

After some delay I was finally able to track down a bottle of the 2012 Great Lakes Christmas Ale at a local bottle shop in Philly.  Unfortunetly Great Lakes, along with many other fine Midwestern craft brewers do not distribute to New Jersey, but thats a topic for another post.

For this set of tasting notes I will be comparing the Great Lakes Christmas Ale Clone (clone) to the original Great Lakes Christmas Ale (GLCA) and highlighting the biggest perceived differences between the two.  After tasting the first sips of the original in close to a year I quickly remembered why this has become one of my favorite Christmas beers and I decided to brew a 10 gallon clone batch in the first place.

Tasting Notes Comparison:

Appearance: GLCA pours a dark orange, copper with a swiftly dissipating white head.  Clone pours a deeper shade of orange, bordering on brown with a much thicker head that dissipates just as quickly.

Biggest difference:  GLCA pours much lighter and has a subtle head that lasts well after the initial pour while the clone appears at least two shades darker and the head is non existant after a few minutes.

Smell: GLCA: swift pungent aroma of sweet malt and honey dominate.  Clone: subdued honey notes mixed with mild caramel and malt undertones.

Biggest difference: Depth of flavors, the GLCA is much more pungent most likely because it is fresher than my clone.

Taste: GLCA: Starts thin with a bready malt notes.  Finishes sweet with lasting notes of honey.  No hop flavors or bitterness present, mild carb bite.  Extremely sweet.  Clone:  Starts much thicker, strong malt backbone dominates initial sip, English malt notes are evident.  Carb bite about the same as the original with restrained  honey flavor lingering on the palate after the finish.

Biggest difference:  GLCA is much, much, sweeter with a malt profile that is much more defined and bready.  When the clone was younger the sweetness was much more defined but I do not think it ever reached the level of the original.  I prefer the clone in this regards as the GLCA is so sweet it boarders on being cloying.

Mouthfeel: GLCA:  Moderate carbonation, thin mouthfeel extremely sweet finish.  Clone:  Moderate carbonation, much maltier, much less residual sweetness.

Biggest Difference:  Mouthfeel and sweetness

Drinkability & Notes:  Both beers are extremely enjoyable and drinkable and they do a great job of masking the 7.5%-8.2% alcohol content.  I think the clone recipe is pretty close to the original, the substitutions I made to the original clone recipe are part of the reason some of the differences in my opinion, specifically the addition of the Golden Promise malt.  Furthermore the honey and spice flavors of the clone have faded over time and are much less than they were originally at the time of this tasting and comparison.  Overall I think the clone is very close to the original, especially if consumed fresh, as I remember the honey and spice being much more pronounced when fresh as they are in the original.

Biggest Difference:  GLCA is brewed by a top notch professional brewery, however because of that it also is quite pricey.  While the clone recipe has its short comings it still produced a hell of a beer that I have thoroughly enjoyed drinking over the past few weeks.  When you take into consideration the fact that you can brew a 10 gallon batch for the price of a case of the original, if you can find it that is, the clone becomes that much more attractive in my mind.


Belgian Table Ale with Tamarind Tasting Notes

October 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm

This beer was my entry into the second annual Farmers Cabinet Iron Brewer competition scheduled for October 14th. Unfortunately due to reasons that were never really explained the competition was canceled this year. I am not the biggest fan of homebrewing competitions in general but based upon my amazing experience at last years event, and the unique contest format that promotes creativity and experimentation I was deeply disappointed with the events cancellation.

With that being said the main thing that I took away from the first Iron Brewer competition was the beers that made it the farthest were the beers that highlighted the secret ingredient with the most prominence yet balance of background flavors. This knowledge influenced my approach to my entry as I had no prior experience brewing with tamarind nor had I ever tasted it. After sampling a few of the fruits and doing some preliminary research I decided on a Belgian style beer as the tamarind reminded me of raisins and dates, both of which are commonly used in darker Belgian style beers.

I knew that the beer would have to be somewhat darker in color to support the addition of the dark brown tamarind fruit. I eventually settled on a grain bill made up of Pilsner and Abbey base malts at a ratio of roughly 3:1, and a blend of specialty malts. The Belgian specialty malts provided the color, malt backbone and residual sweetness to support the tamarind addition. Knowing that I wanted the Tamarind to really shine I decided to use both boxes and brew a 5.5 gallon batch. After cleaning the seeds out of the tamarind I was left with roughly 8 oz or half of the total weight of the two boxes.

After a 25 day primary fermentation I bottled the Belgian Table Ale with Tamarind at 2.2 vol CO2. The tasting notes below are from October 16th, after just over a month conditioning in the bottle.

Appearance: Pours a clear brown, when held to the light appears dark copper to red. An initial burst of thin, bubbly, white head rapidly radiates from the center, leaving a thin white ring clinging to the edge of the glass.

Smell: Tamarind dominates the smell.

Taste: As the beer hits the tongue it begins sweet, but a mild level of bitterness quickly overtakes as the dominant flavor profile. The beer finishes with a a strong residual tamarind flavor that lasts for several seconds after the last sip. The hop aromatics are virtually non-existent as the tamarind really dominates the flavor profile.

Mouthfeel: Lightly carbonated, thin yet moderately sweet.

Drinkability & Notes: I think this beer was a success as it met my goal of highlighting the tamarind in the beer. If I were to brew this beer again I would mash higher in hopes of getting a chewier, sweeter beer, that would better balance the strong flavors of the tamarind . I think this beer could also benefit from a light dry hop to offset the strong tamarind taste that lingers on the palate long after the last sip. A spicier hop such as Styrian Goldings or Tettnanger would be a good candidate, as it would complement the flavor profiles of the Tamarind well. Overall I really enjoyed brewing this beer and drinking it as well. In addition to using an ingredient I have never worked with before I was also able to brew a highly flavorful low abv. beer another goal of mine.