Category Archives: Brew Reviews

Bringing Union Jack IPA to Canada; comparing my version to the original…

Uinion Jack IPA

Kicking back over a recent weekend, I found a good time to sit down and compare my Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA with the original.

I had tasted my version before this and really liked it, but had no idea how it would stack up to the real thing. Turns out, they were both excellent IPA’s, but there were some definite differences…

Appearance

  • colour was slightly darker in my version
  • foam stability was about the same

Malt & Body

  • malt character was more complex and richer in the original
  • body was slightly more full in the original

Hops

  • This is where I noticed the biggest difference. The h0p aroma was more present in mine due to freshness, but it had an entirely different character than the original. Mine had a very dominant ‘rose’ character to it, something I had never experienced in a beer before.  I did read an article in Zymurgy recently that discussed how the finished aroma of dry hopping can be incredibly different depending on how much yeast is present in the beer. There are numerous bio-reactions that happen that convert and change the myriad molecules involved in hop aroma. I was in a bit of a rush to get this one kegged to see whether or not it was worthy of a NHC submission, so I did something I had never done before. Continue reading

The Pilsner Urquell Showdown: Decoction vs. Single Infusion… was it worth it?

Standing over my temperature controlled chest freezer, looking down at my 2 kegs of fully carbonated Bohemian Pilsner, is a very pleasant sight indeed. I used the exact same recipe and maintained the same fermentation schedule for both a single infusion and a decoction version to see what differences could be had. (See original post: Pilsner Urquell: Decoction mash or Single Infusion?) It’s been a long time in the making. Two separate brew days, with the decoction taking me a whopping 11.5 hours (!), 14 days in primary, and another 40 days of lagering. The fact that it is ready to bottle this week, lines up perfectly with us being at the height of summer.

So was it worth it?

Continue reading

Enjoying a Belgian style Witbier in the heat of summer…

It’s been scorching here in Toronto this summer, with temperatures reaching as high as 42°C/108°F in the shade one day! As a result, the Belgian Style Witbier I brewed a few weeks back is finding a very happy home in my pint glass. Don’t get me wrong, the heat is great, my garden is loving it and growing like crazy. Downside is, our central air conditioner is broken, and hot, uncomfortable nights don’t always make for restful sleeping. No A/C also means my Belgian Witbier was fermenting in the 73-75°F range, with it hitting 77°F one day!

The Yeast

Belgian yeast strains can usually handle, if not enjoy, higher fermentation temperatures. Stan Hieronymus describes many fermentation schedules for wheat beers in his book, “Brewing with Wheat” being in the 73°F range, so I was hopeful that things would still work out.

Man, did they really work out.

The White Labs – Belgian Wit (#WLP-400) yeast I used in this beer is rocking the classic fragrance that is such a signature in Belgian witbiers. Unlike some German wheat beers that can be heavy on the banana or clove, it’s very balanced. Primary fermentation was quite slow, taking a full 2 weeks for the krausen to finally drop. I did some research on White Labs’ site after noticing that it was taking its time, and many others noted the same thing. The consensus was to just sit tight and be patient, as it would be worth the wait. Worth the wait it was. Continue reading

Reviewing my revised Guinness Dry Irish Stout clone (version 1.1)…

As with all experiments, they don’t always work out the way you hoped they would.

Have no fear though, when things go wrong, it provides you with another opportunity to get it right.

In my first attempt of cloning a Guinness Dry Irish Stout, I started off by using Jamil Zainisheff’s Dry Irish Stout recipe from Brewing Classic Styles as a base. That beer turned out fantastic. I made no water adjustments to it, and the final result was quite delicious. For the second round I wanted to try and match the highly alkaline water of Dublin, as well as add some acidulated malt to try and emulate the Guinness ‘twang’.

Water chemistry in brewing is a very complex subject, one that I certainly haven’t mastered. Most home brewers would say don’t even bother messing with it, but I want to find out how to make the best beer possible. I don’t want to make ‘good’ beer, I want to make ‘great’ beer, so I will mess with everything I can until I find out how to, even if that means having some casualties along the way.

The mineral concentrations as listed in Bru’n Water for Dublin are: Continue reading

Reviewing my Stone Pale Ale…

Well, the Stone Pale Ale that I brewed is in, and man, this is a seriously good beer. The flavours are very balanced, with a definite caramel flavour to it from the generous amounts of crystal malt (19%). The Ahtanum hops are a unique contribution. Even though I’m expecting the signature citrusy flavours associated with American hops, it’s flavours are slightly illusive, as they seem to really blend in well with the surrounding malt body.  I’ve always remembered the saying that “if you can pick out one particular ingredient, then there’s too much of it”. They’re in there for sure, they just don’t jump out and hit you in the face. This beer is quite complex for having such a straight forward recipe.

One of the reasons, I think, is because of the water profile. I added some Epsom salt (0.55g per gallon) and Calcium Chloride (0.25g per gallon) to my water to match the profile stated in Stone’s book: The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogance. Those levels are:

30ppm Ca / 85ppm SO4 / 12ppm Mg / 40ppm Na / 40ppm Cl

These numbers are not very far off my own water here from Lake Ontario, but the sulphate level is a bit higher at 85ppm as compared to mine of 28.6ppm. I’ve noticed that by using Magnesium Sulphate (Epsom Salt) as opposed to Calcium Sulphate (Gypsum), the resulting enhancement is slightly different. I’m not finding it as ‘harsh’ as I sometimes get with having too much gypsum in my beers. Maybe it’s just all in my head, because sulphate is sulphate, right? Maybe it’s the  sulphate/chloride balance? I’m not sure. My point is, I think the water profile definitely made an impact on this beer in the form of added complexity.

The other interesting choice for this beer was Continue reading