No-Li Brewhouse: Crony

From the Bottle: IMG_4312IMG_4313

“Crony is designed to highlight the unique tropical fruit aromas and piney character of Simcoe hops. Layer these distinct hops on a smooth malt body and you get a NW Brown Ale with hints of garnet red.” 5.1% ABV American Brown Ale

The Pour:

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into my Tioga-Sequoia teardrop glass. Crony pours a deep reddish-brown, which doesn’t really come through in the photo above. Held up to light, the body is crystal clear with little carbonation visible. A thin beige head is poured, which fizzles away and leaves scant lacing on the glass.

The Nose:

The aromas on Crony are mostly subtle, with the hops being more prevalent. Slightly spicy, earthy characteristics come though and combine with a bit of resinous dank. I get some carbonic, metallic-like aromas in there as well. The malts notes are light, mid-crystal/caramel malts and a touch of roasted/chocolate malt.

The Mouth:

Crony has a medium-thin body with a dry, moderately roasty finish. There seems to be more bitterness from than the 30 IBUs would suggest, though that could be accentuated by the carbonic bite noticed in the nose. The flavors are also more on the subtle side, with the aromatic hop qualities carrying over from the nose. More typical brown ale/brown porter qualities present themselves as it gets closer to room temperature, and smooth out as the beer degases. A modestly lingering aftertaste of chocolate/roasted malts, nuttiness, and the earthy hop zest round it out.

Final Thoughts:

No-Li Brewhouse Crony is described as a “NW Brown Ale”, and while it is definitely more hoppy than a standard English Brown, I was almost hoping it would be bordering on Brown IPA territory given the Simcoe hop emphasis described. The earthy nature of the hops came through fine, but the thick, resinous, “catty”quality I’ve come to expect from Simcoe wasn’t quite there. So, to me, this beer is in between a couple of preferred Brown Ale styles – not hoppy enough to be an enticing West Coast entry, nor having the rich malt complexity you can find in a simple English Brown. 6/10

No-Li Brewhouse – Spokane, Washington

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Posted in Beer Reviews, Dark/Brown Ales | 1 Comment

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Homebrewing: Every Hop Has Its Day IPA – Mosaic and Friends (Update 1)

Hey All! This is my first entry about my home brewing, and I’m sure the format will evolve as I chronicle more brew days. Yesterday evening I brewed up a batch of my house IPA, in which I use the same base malt recipe and swap out the hop profile.

The Recipe: 5.33 gallons into fermenter, 90 minute boil

  • 9 lbs US 2-Row
  • 2.5 lbs White Wheat
  • 10.6 oz Carapils
  • 1 lb Dextrose (added w/10 mins left boil)
  • 1 oz Nugget – 45 mins
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet – 15 mins
  • White Labs Yeast Nutrient – 15 mins
  • 2 oz Mosaic – 0 mins (20 minute hop stand)
  • 1 oz Simcoe – 0 mins (20 minute hop stand)
  • .67 oz Cascade – 0 mins (20 minute hop stand)
  • .33 oz Nugget – 0 mins (20 minute hop stand)
  • 2 oz Mosaic – 175° (20 minute hop stand)
  • 1 oz Simcoe – 175° (20 minute hop stand)
  • .67 oz Cascade – 175° (20 minute hop stand)
  • .33 oz Nugget – 175°(20 minute hop stand)

Process: 

I began my brew day like I always do, with a trip to go buy some good brewing water. I’ve used bottled distilled water with great success, but have found that the local reverse osmosis filtered refill stations are much cheaper and equally effective at making good beer. I usually take two empty, clean carboys to get about 10 gallons of water.

I purchase my grain unmillled, usually from my local homebrew shop, or from an online retailer (MoreBeer.com has been my go-to since I discovered it). I have a Barley Crusher grain mill, and begin measuring out my grain to crush after I get my strike water on the burner.

IMG_4293

After milling the grain, I measure out my water treatments calculated using EZ Water Calculator.

IMG_4294 IMG_4295

I’ve been using the Brewbag Mashtun Filter (maybe I’ll put up a review soon) for a few batches, and use a long, thin mash (75 minutes @ 150°, 2.3 qt/lb ratio) to create a highly fermentable, dry wort.

IMG_4296 IMG_4297 IMG_4298

After 75 minutes, I begin to drain the mash tun and take a quick first runnings reading with my brand new, freshly calibrated refractometer. I hit my numbers right on based off this helpful chart. I haven’t vorlaufed since using this mash tun filter, and while the wort doesn’t come out crystal clear immediately, I haven’t noticed any difference in my end results not doing so. After draining the tun completely (including lifting the bag and some gentle squeezing), I add the sparge water, which I heat to a near boil to hopefully reach about 168° in the grain bed, which I let rest for 10 minutes before completing the batch sparge process.

IMG_4300IMG_4301 IMG_4302

Based off of my first runnings and pre-boil gravity, I don’t rinse my grains particularly efficiently. It’s been relatively consistent of the last 5 batches or so, so I’m not really stressed about it, and can live with ~70% efficiency using quick and dirty batch sparging.

Since I have a 90 minute boil, and the first hop addition is at 45 minutes, I wait until I get the boil rolling and under control with the help of some Fermcap S to measure out my hops. I also use my vacuum sealer to prep my double dry hop additions, to make things easier when that time comes around.

IMG_4299 IMG_4304 IMG_4305

After the boil, flame-out hop stand, and 175° hop stand, I chill my wort using my totally bitchin’ Hydra wort chiller.  I get it down to 72° in about 7 minutes, then bring it inside to rack to my 6.5 gallon Plastic Big Mouth Bubbler. I rack it through a funnel with a filter, and as one would expect with 9 ounces of hops clogging things up, it is a bit of an adventure filtering out all of the sludge. I rehydrated 2 packs of Fermentis US-05 yeast during the hop stands, and after oxygenating the wort with pure oxygen for 60 seconds, pitch the slurry and set up my BrewJacket Immersion fermentation temperature control unit (review definitely coming soon). I set it to 68°, and within a few hours the unit has it down from 72°.

IMG_4307 IMG_4308 IMG_4309

I’ll provide some updates after kegging/dry-hopping/tasting, but for now that’s about it. I will say it smells absolutely freaking phenomenal going into the fermenter. Huge, juicy berry notes from the Mosaic, with undertones of piney, catty dankness from the Simcoe/Nugget. I was originally going to use Amarillo, but didn’t have any in stock, and some quick Googling suggested the Cascade/Nugget substitution. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for updates!

Update #1 – 11/20/2015

I racked this beer to a keg after 8 days in primary fermentation. It appeared to have reached final gravity, ~1.007 (my hydrometer came calibrated to 1.003 instead of 1.000). There was a nice layer of yeast/trub hanging out in the bottom of the fermenter. It came out to 7.5% ABV.

I treat myself to the hydrometer sample, as I always do, and find this beer is right on schedule. Smooth bitterness, juicy melon hop flavors, just enough base malts, and plenty dry – just how I like my IPAs.

I purge my sanitized kegs with co2 in order to hopefully prevent oxidation, then prepare my Stainless Keg Hopper for my first dry hop. After siphoning from the fermenter to the keg, I add the hops to the keg hopper, and attach the lid to one of the keg handles via sanitized unflavored dental floss.

I purge the head space with more co2 and to seat the keg lid – about 30 psi. After tagging the keg, it’s off to the pantry to hang out until the second round of dry hopping. I followed the flame out/whirlpool hop schedule for the dry hop.

I’ll provide one more update when it’s done, followed by a detailed beer review!

Posted in Homebrewing, Recipes | 1 Comment

Grand Teton Brewing: Bitch Creek ESB (Extra Special Brown)

From the Brewery: IMG_4291 IMG_4292
“At Grand Teton Brewing, we are very fortunate to live in one of the greatest places on earth. The beauty, wildlife, mountains, clear water and endless activities found right here in our backyard make for an outdoor playground paradise.

One of these local landmarks is Bitch Creek. Similar to the water used in our brewing process, Bitch Creek is spring fed and flows out of the west side of the Grand Tetons. It’s a popular playground for kayakers and fishermen alike. Bitch Creek ESB is named for this local landmark. Since 2004, it’s become one of the most award-winning beers in the industry having claimed 15 gold medals at national events.

Bitch Creek perfectly balances big malt sweetness and robust hop flavor for a full bodied, satisfying mahogany ale. Like the stream for which it is named, our Bitch Creek ESB is full of character… not for the timid.” 6% ABV English Brown Ale

The Pour: 

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into my Oregon City Brewing can glass. Bitch Creek ESB pours a deep reddish-brown, with a huge brown foamy head. The label lists it as bottle conditioned, and it seems the bottling yeast/fermentables ratio may be a bit off due to the intense head and vigorous visible carbonation. The head leaves good lacing on the glass throughout.

The Nose:

The aromas are straightforward and simplistic; dark fruit esters upfront combined with slightly sweet caramel malts. It’s quite possible I’ve got an old bottle (which unfortunately happened quite a lot on my recent trip through the Northwest), as the only hop character that comes through is a bit of stale lemon hops, possibly slightly oxidized centennial hops?

The Mouth: 

Medium-thin bodied, with a mouthfeel that is more harsh than I expect from the style. The harshness comes from the over carbonation that is initially noticed during the pour. It is definitely distracting, but not a beer deal-breaker. The flavors which appear are tame, the dark fruit and caramel malt from the nose, a touch of nuttiness and roasted malt, and finishes with a metallic/mineral character.

Final Thoughts:

This is yet another random bottle I picked up on a recent beer-cation, and this one is definitely on the lower end of the spectrum of those I’ve tasted thus far. Its over carbonation creates a harsh, spastic mouthfeel that doesn’t match an English Ale style. This, mixed with the simplistic flavor character, creates an unfortunately forgettable beer. 5/10

Grand Teton Brewing – Victor, Idaho

Posted in Beer Reviews, Dark/Brown Ales | 1 Comment

Left Hand: Milk Stout Nitro

From the Brewery: IMG_4289

Taking America Back. Dark & delicious, America’s great milk stout will change your perception about what a stout can be. Pouring hard out of the bottle, Milk Stout Nitro cascades beautifully, building a tight, thick head like hard whipped cream. The aroma is of brown sugar and vanilla cream, with hints of roasted coffee. The pillowy head coats your upper lip and its creaminess entices your palate. Initial roasty, mocha flavors rise up, with slight hop & roast bitterness in the finish. The rest is pure bliss of milk chocolate fullness.” 6% ABV Sweet Stout

The Pour: IMG_4290

Poured hard, per bottle instruction, from a 12 oz bottle into my Libbey stout glass. The nitrogen cascade effect is beautiful as always, but seems to settle much faster than widget-nitrogen cans such as Guinness or Murphy’s. A dense, creamy beige head forms perfectly, and retains very well throughout. The body is exactly as you’d expect for a stout, jet black with no light coming through.

The Nose:

Darkly roasted malts and toasted grain notes come first, followed by dark chocolate, espresso, and a hint of smoke. A tiny bit of lactose twang is also detectable.

The Mouth:

Medium-bodied with a nice chewy texture, Milk Stout Nitro is incredibly smooth going down. There little in the way of hop bitterness – just a smooth, mildly roasted sweet mouthfeel. The flavors are delicately balanced between the darkly roasted malts, dark chocolate, espresso, and lactose sweetness.

Final Thoughts:

I had been waiting to try this beer for quite some time, and was fortunate enough to pick up a six-pack of it on a recent trip to the Pacific Northwest (Beer Junction in West Seattle is fucking amazing). Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro is a very good sweet/cream stout that drinks incredibly easy. The flavors are perfect for the creamy mouthfeel, and this would definitely be my standby/everyday type stout if I could get it locally. Though the flavors are more subtle than robust, they are certainly sophisticated and worth a go for any stout fan. 8.5/10

Left Hand Brewing – Longmont, Colorado

Posted in Beer Reviews, Stouts/Porters | 1 Comment

Evil Twin: Yang

From the Brewery: IMG_4285 IMG_4284

“This is one half of a Black and Tan drink. Not just any Black and Tan but the one where a toasted smug and hoppy fella get together and make a sublime beer balance. Mix the Yang & Yin together (or enjoy this flippant good Imperial IPA solo).” 10% ABV Imperial IPA

The Pour:

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a Spiegelau IPA glass. It is a murky orange color, with the most amount of sediment I’ve ever seen in a bottle of beer. Tons of hop or yeast particulate is bandied about by the ample visible carbonation. A large, fluffy off-white head hangs around.

The Nose:

Yang has a sweet, slightly scorched caramel malt base aroma. The hops come through as tropical fruit, orange, and a hint of dank/pine resin. The bottle about 6 months old, so the hop aroma has obviously faded. I think a super fresh bottle would be less balanced (in a good way) and more hop-forward.

The Mouth:

The body is very dry and drinkable, very thin in the mouthfeel. The IBU bitterness is assertive, but not out of whack for a 10% DIPA, and overall it is quite drinkable. The alcohol is noticeable, but light. The malt and hop profile match the aromas; thick caramel malts, tropical fruit and pine hops.

Final Thoughts:

Evil Twin Yang is big, malty, easy drinking DIPA. It’s malt profile is very similar to Union Jack, but with a much thinner/drier body. The heavy caramel aroma is a little against my preference for a big IPA. Again, the hops are not as prevalent as they would be in a fresh bottle, but they were present enough to keep it balanced. The copious sediment being swirled around by the carbonation looks downright ugly, but it didn’t seem to create any off flavors/aromas. 7/10

Yin & Yang Black and Tan: IMG_4288

Oh, I get it now. These beers really need to be blended together. That’s much better, with a solid mix of flavors that pop much more than when had individually. By themselves, they are so-so. Together, they are quite good. Yin & Yang Blend: 8/10

Posted in Beer Reviews, IPA, Stouts/Porters | 1 Comment

Evil Twin: Yin

From the Brewery: IMG_4286 IMG_4287

“This is one half of a Black and Tan drink. Not just any Black and Tan but the one where a toasted smug and hoppy fella get together to make a sublime beer balance. Mix the Yin & Yang together (or enjoy this profoundly evil Imperial Stout solo).” 10% ABV Imperial Stout

The Pour:

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a stemmed teardrop glass. It pours with a viscosity not unlike heavy crude, with a very thin dark brown head that dissipates quickly. The body is jet black.

The Nose:

I really expect a huge, chocolaty, malty aroma based off of the pour, and unfortunately Yin doesn’t particularly deliver. Faint chocolate notes, both milk and dark, are the main aromas. Underneath that lightly smoked malts mix with some alcohol presence. All are very light for such a big beer.

The Mouth:

The mouthfeel is thin for a 10% imperial stout, and well balanced in the sense that neither malt sweetness nor hop bitterness stand out. The flavors match the aromas pretty dead on, faint milk/dark chocolate notes are the most prevalent. Some smokey, toasted grain flavors give way to alcohol notes, which are a bit stronger than in the aroma. That being said, the alcohol heat is certainly not off-putting, and overall it doesn’t drink like a 10% beer.

Final Thoughts:

The flavors and aroma of Evil Twin Yin didn’t live up to the thick, glugging pour that set an expectation of a rich, malty, warming Imperial Stout. I was really expecting more from this beer, and it was somewhat disappointingly tame. There was nothing bad or distracting in this beer, but as the description lists, it really seems like half a beer. 6.5/10

Yin & Yang Black and Tan: IMG_4288

Oh, I get it now. These beers really need to be blending together. That’s much better, with a solid mix of flavors that pop much more than when had individually. By themselves, they are so-so. Together, they are quite good. Yin & Yang Blend: 8/10

Posted in Beer Reviews, IPA, Stouts/Porters | 1 Comment