Tales of Homebrewing

Since I’ve taken such a long break from blogging, I feel like I need to update a few readers on the status of my homebrewing adventures.  While perhaps not my most popular posts of all time, they also get some of the most thought provoking responses.  Anyway, right now I have three different brews I’ve created since my last homebrew posting, and I’m working on a brand new one right now.

Hoppy Groundhog Dark Shadow – Black IPA

This past birthday I hit a minor lifetime achievement by reaching the age of 30.  I say minor because everybody does it.  While ithoppy groundhog labels feels like a kinda big deal to the person involved, it’s probably not nearly as big as we all make it out to be.  Anyway, I had decided to brew this beer right around Christmas, and it was ready right around my birthday (Groundhogs Day), so I figured name it after the holiday that shares my birthday.  Overall it’s probably my favorite beer I’ve brewed thus far.  I like one of the ones a little further down on the list here, but I think this one is still an all around better beer.  I actually entered it in a homebrew competition, but I’m an idiot and just put it in the IPA category and not specialty beers.  I was basically disqualified. It’s a bit heavier and more roasted than your typical black IPA, but I think that’s what I like about it.  The hops don’t blow you away, but I think they are present enough to still have it hold strong as a black IPA.

Heisenberg Honey Wheat

This beer was an attempt to take a different direction.  I had been hanging out in the realm of dark beers for a while, and I wanted to make something lighter and easier drinking for the summer.  I saw this recipe online, so I tweaked it a little to make my own.  The beer has about a pound of orange blossom honey added rather late (last five minutes) to the boil.  It helps to make the beer a bit sweeter, but I did run into a slight issue on this one while brewing.  My parents had gotten me a wort chiller for Christmas, so I wanted to make use of it.  Unfortunately, since I was still brewing on my stove, I lost the boil when I put the chiller in to sanitize.  Therefore, the honey wasn’t really added during a boil.  I tried to compensate for the mistake, but it may have effected the outcome.  Lately the hops have really kicked up on this one, so it’s kind of like a hoppy honey wheat.  Ultimately I had to pay tribute to one of my favorite Vigilantes. However, I’m not sure you can still think of him as a vigilante.  Is Walter more of a villain now?

Pretentious Hopster – Red IPA

About a year ago I tried to make an imperial IPA that was probably my biggest disappointment as a homebrewer.  The bottles never managed to carbonate, and I ended up with 48 bottles of syrup.  Ultimately, other than the black IPA, it’s been my only Pretentious Heisenbergattempts at making a hoppy beer.  I love IPAs and hops, so I felt like I needed to have another go at it.  I decided to make it a red ale for the fun of it as well.  While this beer wasn’t problem free, I solved my issue with the chiller by purchasing a propane burner for use in the backyard.  This of course helped keep temperature up, but I instead had to handle a boil over or two.  I guess I need to learn how to control temperature a little better with my new toy.  The only other issue I had was with clarity.  There is a fine line of soot at the bottom of each bottle, but with a careful pour, it isn’t too much of a big deal.  This is probably my most aromatic beer to date, and it has some great hop flavor.  It’s only been drinkable for a week, but the malts are beginning to kick up to help balance it out.  Pretentious Hopster was the name of my failed double IPA, and I couldn’t let a great name like that go to waste.

Peppercorn Blonde (yet unnamed)

The next brew I’m aiming to create is for my late summer month consumption.  Within the span of a week or so I enjoyed a number of beers that feature peppercorns as the special ingredient.  Ultimately, that was all the inspiration I needed to look at giving my next beer a little spice.  One of the beers I had was a saison (which I have already brewed) and the other was a rye beer (which I hear doesn’t work well when you are doing extract brewing); therefore, I decided to choose a bit of a different summery type of style for my peppercorn usage.  A nice Belgian Blonde seemed like the right way to go. The recipe is still being finalized, but I would love to hear any suggestions for how to make this beer great.  I’m also a little unsure of when to add the peppercorns.  I thought I would add 2 ounces in the last five minutes of brewing and then add an ounce or two to secondary fermentation.  Has anyone worked with peppercorn before?  Is that overdoing it?  Just have to ask.

I’m slowly working my way away from extract brewing and into all-grain, but I have quite a few expenses coming my way, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep it moving just yet.  I’ll get there eventually.  For now I’m just having a good time.

peppercorns

Deschutes Brewery – Obsidian Stout

This past week I bottled my first stout.  I posted about the recipe and the brewing process on here; however, as some of you may know, I tend to start getting very interested in the style I’m brewing as  I brew and begin to get close to consuming my homebrew.  Of course, the upcoming cold weather has resulted in an influx of big stouts on my shelves.  This past week I went to the store for a weekly pick up and ended up getting all stouts.  I’m sure I’ll be posting about some of those, but what I really want to see is how good my stout turned out.  I took a few little sips of the uncarbonated sweet coffee stout, and I think it has real potential.  If it turns out anything even close to this one from Deschutes, I’ll be quite happy.

I always feel a little funny reviewing stuff that comes from the west coast.  This beer is rare where I’m from.  You don’t see a whole lot of Deschutes anywhere in the area, so when you see a beer like this in your local store, you pick it up.  In my mind I’m thinking I have blogging gold.  This is something people are going to totally want to read about; however, if you live on the west coast, I’m sure there are others who are asking why I’m reviewing such a common beer.  Either way, I was really excited to see this beer in my area, so I couldn’t help myself in buying it.  Hopefully some of you on the west coast won’t mind me reviewing something less than interesting to you.

This isn’t the first beer I’ve had out of the Oregon based brewery, but it may have been one I’ve been looking forward to the most.  When I think of Deschutes, I don’t think of one of the rarest breweries; however, I do think of a very well respected brewery.  Thanks to a beer trade, I actually have one of the more rare or sought after beers from them in my collection right now: The Abyss.  I’m certainly looking forward to opening that one up. Obsidian, on the other hand, gets its name from an obsidian flow that comes from  Newberry Voclano not far from the brewery.  Evidently the black volcanic glass covers more than 700 acres.  While the actual recipe has nothing to do with the actual obsidian flow, they do use the water that comes off the Cascade mountains.  They tout is as having a rich roasted malt flavor and smooth black color.  All components that make me quite happy with a good stout.

This one pours out a super dark black coffee color with only a minimal pleasant tan espresso head on top.  The snifter I used may have kept the head down, since I saw some other photos online where the head is quite ample.  Anyway, the head doesn’t hang around too long; instead, it diminishes quite quickly and it basically seems like you have some espresso foam swirls on top.  The beer doesn’t really result in a whole lot of lacing; however, there is certainly a ton of sticky residue that clings to the side of the glass.  Of course the beer is far to dark to get a sense of clarity, and you can’t see how abundant the carbonation is at all either.

The aroma of the brew is filled with tons of rich roasted scents.  The coffee and espresso aroma is quite strong overall as well.  These two components are big things I look for in a stout, and aspects I’m hoping to have in my brew as well.  There is a light dark chocolate aroma that comes in to compliment the big roasted coffee smell.  The sweet malts are certainly there, and you get a nice amount of hops as well.  Evidently this beer comes up to 55 IBUs which makes it just enough to seem like it might balance out some of the big sweetness.  There is also some very light scents of both citrus and oak that could help play into the composition.

There is typically a clearly dominant component to every beer I drink, and this beer is clearly dominated by a roasted flavor throughout.  The flavor profile starts off with your typical sweet malts; however, the roasted flavoring is there even at the start of the beer.  The light roasted notes and mellow chocolate flavors lead into the middle of the beer.  The cleanest and most refreshing point of the beer is right in the middle.  It evens out into a sweet chocolate malt flavor with minimal roasted flavors.  This doesn’t last long though because the roasted flavors come back with a vengeance.  The coffee flavors also come in huge with a lot of bold espresso flavors.  There is some fairly big hops that help to break up the big roasted notes.  The bold roasted coffee flavors lead into the completion where you get an almost charcoal finish.

The mouthfeel features a well carbonated beer with some light syrupy quality near the end of the brew.  The huge roasted flavors really dominate most of the palate, but the other flavors are quite complementary to the rest of the flavor profile.  Despite having a near charcoal finish, the beer manages to have it’s fairly clean and fresh moments.  I would still certainly say this is a fairly big and slightly heavy beer.

I would almost call this beer a warm up for my tasting of The Abyss that will come sometime over the winter here.  I’m sure my beer won’t have quite the big roasted quality this one does, but I would be more than happy if I can get mine somewhere in the vicinity of this one.  I would recommend picking up anything you see from Deschutes on your selves, but this is an especially good stout for sipping.  With all the big roasted notes, you will want to take your time with it.

Teacher Grade: B+

Vigilante Brewing Co – Yippie-Ki Yay Hazelnut Brown Ale

I have once again burdened my good friend John with the task of reviewing one of my latest beers.  Interestingly, by the time he got the review to me all the of bottles have almost been consumed.  Regardless of that, John is a good writer and produced a rather well-written review of my efforts here.  Plus, I’m a proud Daddy here and want to brag about my children.  Here it is!

Fall is my favorite season.  I like it so much that I sometimes call it autumn.  I know not everyone loves fall but I have yet to meet someone that hates it.  It’s the open windows and the changing trees that make fall generally agreeable.  Even if you live in the city and you are afraid to open your windows and there are no trees, at least that hipster’s scarf is no longer ironic.

Fall also marks the return of students to school and Gary and I going back to work.  This is particularly important because beer tastes better after getting cussed out by a 13 year old.  Last Friday, Gary and I drank the Kasteel and despite tasting like Manischewitz and Capri Sun, it was probably the best beer I’ve ever drank.  What I’m getting at is that beer is as much situational as it is sensory and fall creates a great backdrop for a nut-brown beer.

Hazelnut, to be exact, which is a bold choice, but a bold choice is to be expected by Vigilante Brewing Company’s CEO, Head Brewer, and medical test subject, Gary.  I wasn’t as excited about this brew because I haven’t ever liked a hazelnut beer.  For example, Founder’s Frangelic Mountain tastes like a hazelnut coffee creamer and Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown tastes like…hazelnut coffee creamer – there’s really no other simile.  The problem is that to get a hazelnut flavor, you have to use hazelnut extract.  Extract flavoring in beer takes on the most extreme form of the flavor extracted.  If used incorrectly the beer is going to smell unrealistic, disingenuous, and frankly a lot like hazelnut coffee creamer.

So clearly I was nervous when Gary asked for a review of his beer.  I was nervous when we popped the top on the first one and the hazelnut smell was over powering.  I was nervous when the first sip I took burned with obvious extract flavoring.  But that was 4 weeks ago.  Let’s just say I’m not nervous anymore.

Appearance – I really like reviewing beer, but I think this part is stupid.  The beer is brown.  It’s not sandy, it’s not light coffee macchiato, it’s brown.  A brownish brown with slight hints of ecru?  No, that’s brown.  Oh and the head?  It’s foamy.  Not a pillow top comforter, or cotton pillow kind of foam, but quite seriously just foam.  If that didn’t satisfy what the beer looked like – look at the picture.

Smell – Hazelnut, obviously.  But this beer succeeds where other beers fail.  The hazelnut has that creamy, toasted smell but it’s not so overwhelming that there are not other qualities present.  If you give it a little time the caramel and even some peppery notes start to pop up.  This is an improvement because most of these powerfully flavored beers are so one-note that they become disappointing halfway through the bottle.

Taste – Smell is like 75% of taste.  So if you make a hazelnut-flavored beer with hazelnut extract at bottling you get a beer that is 175% hazelnut.  Trying to pack 175% of hazelnut into 100% of beer makes for a mess of flavor.  What Gary did was focus on creating a great brown ale instead of a great hazelnut-brown ale.  I appreciate this because he included bold caramel malts that create a solid backbone that caries the beer.  Though the beer is pretty sweet, there are enough IBUs to give it the right amount of earthy spices.  The hazelnut is on the front, then malts, and finishes with hops.  I enjoy this, while others may not, because it cleanses the palate and doesn’t leave you feeling like you just drank a dessert.

Mouthfeel – This is where this beer separates itself from other hazelnut brown beers.  This is a very light drinking, nicely carbonated beer.  It’s crisp and bright which is unlike the creamy, heavy feels of other hazelnut beers.  It makes a huge difference because, just like the hops, the carbonation and light body take the hazelnut flavor down a few notches.

I’ve got a few bottles of this beer left and I’m going to hang onto them until the leaves start to change and I can start up a fire pit.  Like I said, the situation is important when you drink a beer, but sometimes, the beer creates the situation.  Gary succeeded in making a beer that has as much situation as it does flavor.  Get your hands on one of these bottles because they are going fast.  But if you can’t, don’t worry, there’s another beer on the way from Vigilante and it is certainly not lacking in personality.

Boomstick “Porter”

A while ago, I blogged looking for advice on a new idea for a beer I wanted to create.  Ultimately, there were two ingredients I was looking to get into a porter that would be the main inspiration of the beer: Honey and Chipotles.  Well that beer has been brewed, fermented, and bottled.  For better or worse, we’ll see in a few weeks if I’ve created something inspirational or something destined for the sink.

The idea for this brew came out pretty organically.  I wanted to delve into a darker beer, and I wanted to use a pound of honey I received from a fellow teacher.  That was then changed into a chipotle porter when my wife suggested the idea for getting some spice in there.  I thought it was a great idea and I hit the blog hopping to get a little more insight into how I might go about creating a beer that utilized both honey and chipotle.  Being a lover of all big beers, I was immediately swayed to take the route of a friend who posted his advice on my Facebook.  He suggested soaking the chipotles and some oak chips in bourbon for a few days.  That would sanitize the peppers, and it would add to the flavor profile of the beer.  Needless to say, I jumped right on it.

The brew for the porter went pretty well; however, I realized at the end of the boil, that I may not have actually gone dark and heavy enough to call this beer a porter.  If you look at the quotation marks above, I’m calling it a “porter” because I have a feeling the actual porter qualities are a little lacking.  I was concerned that with having so many other flavors in there, I would overwhelm the palate if I added in a ton of coffee flavor.  So, I basically eliminated it.  I also didn’t really get enough chocolate in there either.  Although I wanted to wait for the bottle aging and carbonation development, I think I may have focused too much on the additives to the brew and not enough to the base.  You live and you learn.

Anyway, I think I may have made a second error when I decided to soak the oak chips and chipotles in the bourbon for near a week.   I decided to go with one of my favorite bourbons at the moment for the bourbon component: Bulleit.  I poured 14oz of the bourbon

My inspiration for the name

into a clean and sanitized jar.  From there, I added the oak chips and dried chipotles.  As you can see from the picture, it’s a very enticing concoction.  We went on vacation for a few days, and when I returned I took a straw full of the infusion to see how it was going.  The pepper was intense.  Despite this, I strained the solids out and added the liquid to the secondary.  There it sat for two weeks.

This past Friday I decided to bottle.  Once again I took a little sip of the uncarbonated brew hoping the peppers had managed to mellow out a little while blending together with the beer.  Although not quite as hot, the pepper was still quite ferocious.  I bottled it up none-the-less, and we’ll see in a few weeks if I have a winner or a loser.  Ultimately I decided to name this one Boomstick after the famous line from Army of Darkness.  I thought this one seemed like a double barrel shotgun with all the different huge flavors I decided to throw into it.  I have a feeling it may be a cult classic as well.

Although I may not have produced exactly what I set out to do, it was a great learning experience.  I’ve learned a lot in just the 5 different creations I’ve tried to brew since February.  I had a batch of DIPA that never carbonated, a pretty good saison that was overcarbonated, and a beer that may be too spicy.  Ironically, I produced a pretty good beer between each one.  The Yippie-Ki-Yay Hazelnut Brown Ale is a great beer, and I’m really happy with it.  So I guess I need to be a little less adventurous on my next brew.

 

Yippie-Ki-Yay Brown

 

A Little Sweet with a Touch of Heat

 

I know it’s been a little while since I wrote on here, and I was planning on talking about my latest brown I have in bottles; however, instead I’ve decided to seek out a little advice on my next brew.  As with other homebrewers I know, the second you get your beer brewed you start thinking of what you want to produce next.  For weeks now I’ve been thinking about getting an IPA going.  I may have been a little overzealous attempting to produce a double IPA before ever producing a regular IPA.  Therefore, I was thinking I need to make a good regular hoppy beer.  Then my wife through an idea into the mix that really threw me for a mental loop.

 

 

I was looking around for recipes that I could use a pound of honey a fellow teacher gave me.  I was thinking I should use it in the IPA I had in mind.  Of course the big honey IPA that comes to mind is Hopslam.  I love Hopslam, but I wasn’t really looking to create a clone of it.  Then my wife said “Why don’t you make a honey chipotle beer?”  That really set the wheels turning.  It sounded like the perfect blend of sweet and spice.  Why not produce something like that?  I started looking for recipes I could use to produce it.  I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard of a beer that combines both of these ingredients, but I know of ones that have the individual flavors in them.  I started to try to focus mostly on the Chipotle aspect.  Rogue’s chipotle uses and amber base, and Stone just added chipotle to their smoked porter.  Using both of those beers as inspiration, I’ve decided to try to produce a honey chipotle porter.  This of course only brings a whole multitude of questions.  Hence, I have taken to the blog to find out what my readers think I should do to produce this next brew.

 

On to the questions!  The first questions deal with the chipotle peppers.  What would be the best way to get a nice medium to light burn on my beer?  I want it to be a little sweet and a little heat, so I really don’t want to overpower too much with one of those aspects.  From what I’ve read, you can add a pepper per gallon to the brew.  I’ve read about some people who add the peppers in the last 20 minutes of the boil, and I’ve read about others who have added them to the secondary.  So where would you put the peppers?  The final question involving the peppers deals with how I “sanitize them”.  I read about some who allowed them to soak in vodka for days and then added the entire solution to the brew.  I’ve also read about others who roasted them and deseeded them before hand.  Is there a particular method you would take to prepare the peppers?

 

I also have questions on the honey.  I’ve never used honey in my brew, and I want to make sure you can taste a little bit of sweetness to counterbalance the slight burn of the chipotle.  Of course I don’t think I would add the honey at the start of the boil, but I’m not sure if I wait to the last 5 minutes or put it in earlier?  I also believe I can add it straight to the brew without making a solution, but I’m not entirely sure about that.  Could I infect my beer if I don’t create a solution out of the honey?  Do I make a solution in order to add it in?

As always, I’m getting pretty psyched for this beer, but I want to make sure to produce a good beer and not something that goes down the drain like my imperial IPA.  So I come to you, my faithful and helpful readers.  Help me plan and plot how to best produce my first ever porter!

 

 

 

 

 

A Brew to Plan, A Plan to Brew

If you read the review of my beer yesterday, then you know that I am finally beginning to empty out bottles.  This can only mean that I’m ready to start thinking about my next brew.  Of course, if you didn’t read the review yesterday, then you really need to get on it.  John has quite the way with words.  He really makes my beer sound good. (which it is of course).  I think I’m still a week or so from actually getting out there and getting all the ingredients, but I have decided on the style and some of the additional factors I want to include in my next brew.  John made one really good point in his review of my beer yesterday.  I really like to mull over all things dealing with my recipe before I even start putting it together.  One other thing I love to do is make a little blog about my plans and see what everyone thinks about it.

The saison turned out so good I’m approaching this one in a similar fashion to the way I brewed the last one.  If you’ve forgotten, I tried to find a base recipe I could use and then make some alterations to make the beer really my own.  Last time I really focused on the hop and other flavor additions I wanted to add to the base.  I’m not sure I’ve really wanted to change the hop editions too much in this case.  I don’t think it will affect what I’m trying to do too much.  I do have a questions about the hop additions I see on my base recipe, so I’ll be asking that in a minute.  But, like I said, I may change that thought as I continue to develop my idea for this.

So what have I decided to brew?  I think I’ll be doing a brown ale, or at least, that is what the base will be.  I really wanted to do a brown ale because I’m anticipating it to be something nicer to end summer and transition into fall.  I’m sure it will be ready well before the real cold of fall hits, but I’m alright with it.  I’m really tossing around doing a pumpkin ale or something for the fall anyway.

So here are the base recipe ingredients.  Let me know what you think!  The steeping grains are 8.0 oz 90 L Crystal Malt, 8.0 oz 60 L Crystal Malt, 6.5 oz Chocolate Malt, and 1.0 0z Black Patent Malt.  I don’t see anything all that striking about the steeping grains.  They seem good for what I’m attempting to brew.  Since I do extract brewing, I need to add 7.25 lbs of pale malt extract syrup.  Seems like a lot of malt syrup, but it’s just because my saison had about half a pound less.  That, however, was a much lighter brew.  Is there some other malt extract I should be using for this style, or do I more let the steeping grains steal the show here?  Anyway, this beer calls for primarily Willamette hops (80 min, 30 min, 5 min), but it also uses Mt. Hood hops (15 min).  This results in two questions I have.  First this beer calls for it to be an 80 minute boil.  I’ve typically done 60 minute boils, and I’ve heard of doing 90 minutes as well, but I really don’t know about an 80 minute boil.  I’m sure it won’t make a huge deal, but does it seem random that it would ask me to do an 80 minute boil? My second question deals more with the hops.  I’ve only used pellet hops before, but this beer asks for whole hops.  The IBUs are only supposed to be 38, so would it be a big deal if I went with pellet or should I just stick with what the recipe says?  Help me out homebrewers!

Here is where I’m really debating what I want to do with the additional flavors.  I initially wanted to do a nut brown ale.  This resulted in quite a few more questions.  Do I try to make it hazelnut, pecan, or some other nut?  Also, do I just use some sort or extract, or do I try to have it sit on a bed of nuts?  Is that even really an option?  Also, when do I add the nut extract if I use it?  As you can tell I have a lot of questions.  As I was thinking over some of these questions, things got even more complicated when a teacher at my school gave me a pound of local honey.  I would love to do a honey nut brown ale, but I’m already trying to work through my nut questions.  Do I add even more questions on top of the ones I’ve already asked.  I guess I do!  What suggestions do people have for honey if you want to actually taste it in the beer.  I know adding it in different places will result in different effects to the beer.  Someone help me out with how to fit the honey into my recipe!

As you can see I have a ton of questions about my next brew.  If you can help me out with this next one at all I’d really appreciate it.  I want to create another great brew, but I don’t want to over do it either.  Don’t worry though, I’ve already figured out my name for this next one.  That is one thing I never have difficulty with!  Check out the bottom picture for a little hint to the subject matter for this Vigilante!

Vigilante Brewing Co – Seppuku Saison Review!

I love to review beer.  It’s something about opening up a bottle I’ve never had before and trying to figure out the different flavors the creator wanted to achieve when they set out to make the beer.  Of course, I’m not quite ready to try to pat myself on the back by reviewing my own beer.  So, I get someone else to do that for me.  Once again I’m having my guest reviewer, John, take a shot at telling you all what you’re missing by not getting one of these ultra rare homebrew releases.  He’s a little too nice on this being a big sophomore hit.  I’ll have to remind him that there are quite a few bottles of a seemingly failed imperial IPA sitting around.  Regardless, I really do like my latest beer.  

There is a lot of pressure on successful artists follow up on their sophomore releases.  Metallica’s second album was Ride the Lightening, Radiohead’s was The Bends, and Baha Men’s was 2 Zero 0-0.  Even the most talentless people can get a hit once, but it’s the people that show up again and again that make waves.  Vigilante did a great job with its initial release, Anniversary Amber Ale, but the second brew is going to determine if Vigilante is here to stay or if they are the Baha Men.

Seppuku Saison is the second release from Vigilante Brewing Company.  In a bold move, Vigilante decided to take a primarily French and Belgian style and throw in a little Asian spice.  This is not a complete surprise from Vigilante head brewer, Gary, who is a fan of all things Asian.  He is also a fan of beers with unusual personalities. By adding ginger, coriander, and orange peel, he tried to take a style with a lot of bright, fruity flavors and add another level of complexity.  He added Japanese Sorachi Ace hops, known for their lemon quality, to give the beer another level of aroma and Asian.  This beer was thought out and planned, now let’s see if he executed it – Seppuku style.

Appearance – The first thing you’ll notice when you pour the beer is that there is no beer.  We’ll talk about this later, but for now, let’s just say that there is no lack of head.  After the head dissipates, the beer is a golden amber hue that I like when I pour a Saison.  Yellow beers are missing some of the caramelized malts that give beer complexity and depth.  Off the top of my head, I can’t think of too many ‘yellow’ beers I like.   Go ahead and fill up the comments section proving me wrong.

Aroma – There is a great deal of complexity in the nose on this beer.  The late fresh ginger and orange additions add a noticeable character, and the Sorachi Ace hops add the lemon, but the yeast is star here.  The Wyeast Belgian Farmhouse 3724 is a self described complex yeast strain.  It adds clove, cinnamon, orange, powdered sugar, and, when you mix all those things together there is bubble gum.  I thought I was a little crazy when I smelled the bubble gum, but that is a common smell with a lot of German and Belgian style yeast strains.  The beer smells perfect for summer drinking on a back porch.

Mouthfeel – As a home brewer myself, I recognize the importance of honest and sincere criticism of my beers.  I take this seriously and so does Gary.  We’re also both very new to this and we are going to make mistakes, and here is where I need to be honest – the beer is over carbonated.   Out of all the mistakes that can be made, over carbonation is probably the least of a home brewer’s worries.  If you drink the beer right out of the bottle, the beer will foam when it hits the saliva on your tongue.  However, to fix this problem I came up with a solution: Do nothing.  I poured the beer, put it in the fridge, waited 10ish minutes, and drank it.  After it calmed down the beer was extremely light and crisp.  There was still enough carbonation to give it a bite on the tongue and accentuate some of the syrupy qualities in the feel.

Taste – The beer has three distinct dimensions.  First, it leads with tart fruit from the mixture of lemon, orange, ginger, and grapefruit flavors.  It’s big, bright, and sweet right off the bat, but then the beer’s second side shows up: spice.  There is clove and black pepper that creates a really pleasant sting and emphasizes the lemon and orange flavors in the beer.  The third flavor from the beer is in the tart, dry finish.  Describing a beer as “tart” is typically an insult, but for Saisons or Flanders Red Ales, it’s a compliment.  This beer ends with a little sting that leaves you wanting another sip.  The journey from glass to gullet is mostly a bright, citrus, treble clef kind of flavor, perfect for a summer day.

Overall – Vigilante stepped it up with their sophomore release, and it’s a good thing they did.  The thought that Gary put into the beer pays off with a complex beer that still falls within the lines of the style guidelines.  If you drank it, you’d know it was a Saison, but you’d wonder where some of those flavors came from.  You’d also wonder why other breweries haven’t added these flavors.  The beer is a fantastic follow up to their initial release and supports the notion that Vigilante Brewing Company will be a Radiohead, and not a Baha Men.

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