Wednesday 6 June 2012

Tasting/Recipe : Donovan Red 2.0

American Amber Ale is simply a great beer style - it gives lots of flavor if brewed properly, and can normally be enjoyed even by the non-beer geek. Normally more balanced towards a malt profile, with an edge of caramel sweetness, the hop presence can be quite low or fairly moderate.

Until, of course, you get to the unofficial West-Coast U.S. version of the style. These beers are usually "bigger" - higher ABV, richer in flavor and aroma, and most importantly, have a very large hop presence in aroma, flavor, and bitterness. There are a lot of excellent hoppy Ambers out there... some that stand out for me are Maine Beer Company's Zoe, Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale, Stone Levitation, and Oskar Blues G'Knight. Perhaps the most-coveted of this style is Troegs Nugget Nectar, but I've never been able to get my hands on it. Either way, I really enjoy this "style", as it has the best of both worlds between your standard Amber Ale and American IPA.

Over two years ago, my third beer that I brewed was the hoppy Amber recipe from Jamil's Brewing Classic Styles. I was still doing extract beers then, and partial-boil at that. The resulting beer was what really opened my eyes to what homebrewing could accomplish... it was really quite good. Caramel-sweet, with a hint of chocolate, and lots of citrus hop flavor. A darker Amber, the head was rocky and long-lasting, and the hop aroma was fantastic. It was so enjoyable that I wanted to try brewing it again last October, but with a few changes to the recipe. I basically kept the grist the same, except this time it was all-grain.

The changes came in the hopping. While the original recipe called for 1 oz each of Cascade and Centennial at 10 minutes and at flameout, I changed the flavor/aroma hops to Crystal and Amarillo at 10 minutes and flameout. I also added 1 oz of each as a dry hop addition for 7 days, to see if I could bump up the aroma of the beer compared to the original. Otherwise, the recipe was about the same, with the Wyeast 1056 American Ale yeast. The resulting beer has been quite tasty - obviously the hop aroma and flavor has faded some, now that the beer has been bottled for over 7 months - but I wouldn't say there is a noticeable improvement over the original recipe.

Appearance: Poured with a moderate-sized, off-white head with good retention. Eventually fades to 1/4-finger. Body is dark copper/red, with very good clarity.

Aroma: Strong aroma of musty, citrusy hops. The caramel sweetness is there in the background, but the hops strongly dominate.

Taste: The biscuit and caramel sweetness are up front and center, but are quickly taken over by a strong citrus flavor from the hops. Quite nice, actually. The bitterness is moderate and firm in the finish. No noticeable diacetyl or other flaws.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, moderate carbonation.

Overall: I like it. Nice strong hop flavor and aroma, but backed by an inviting malt character. The dry-hopping was a nice touch. I'd actually be tempted to increase the dry-hopping next time, maybe to 2 oz of each, and go back to the Cascade and Centennial hops of the original recipe.

Recipe: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.064, FG 1.015, IBU 65, SRM 17, ABV 6.4%

4.54 kg Maris Otter
454 g Caramunich II (45 L)
454 g Munich malt
227 g Crystal 120 L
227 g Victory malt
85 g Pale Chocolate malt

Nugget - 14 g (11.2% AA) @ 60 min
Magnum - 39 g (9.2% AA) @ 60 min
Amarillo - 35 g (6% AA) @ 10 min
Crystal - 35 g (1.7% AA) @ 10 min
Amarillo - 28 g @ 0 min
Crystal - 28 g @ 0 min
Amarillo - 28 g dry hop for 7 days
Crystal - 28 g dry hop for 7 days

1/2 tsp yeast nutrient @ 15 min
1/2 tab Irish Moss @ 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1056 American Ale (~250 mL of 2nd-generation slurry, cultured Sept 28th) 

Water: Fredericton city water, mash and sparge water treated with 1/2 tablet of campden.

- Brewed October 4th, 2011, by myself. 60-minute mash with 17.8 L of strike water, mashed in at 151.5 F. Sparged with ~4.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of 6.75 gallons in the kettle. SG 1.052 (target 1.054). 60-minute boil. Chilled to 68 F with immersion chiller. Poured/filtered into Better Bottle. Pitched yeast slurry at ~65 F, aerated by shaking for several minutes before and after pitching.

- Fast and furious fermentation over the next few days, slowed down quite quickly. Temperature got as high as 70 F (kept fermenter in ice-water bath to keep temperature lower, as it was a warm week).

- 25/10/11 - Bottled with 122 g table sugar, aiming for 2.5 vol CO2 for 5 gallons with a max temp of 70 F reached.

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