Monday 15 April 2013

Tasting : Zombie Freestyle (Oxbow Freestyle #5 clone)

Bottle label
I've said it before, but it's really nice getting advice from a brewer on how to clone a beer of theirs that I've tried. The problem, of course, is when I finally get to try my clone, and I can't remember much in the way of specifics about the actual commercial beer. It's made even more difficult when said beer is pretty much a one-off, limited-release product.

And that's the problem I have with this beer, a "Black Wheat Saison" (brewing notes here). Chances of me ever getting to try a real Oxbow Freestyle #5 again are probably extremely low. The notes that Tim Adams (co-owner/brewmaster) gave me were very helpful, and I think I did the best I could in terms of substituting a couple of the ingredients. So, regardless of clone-closeness, how did the beer actually turn out?

Overall, I like it. It's different, that's for sure. In the end, I didn't quite hit the FG I was aiming for, but Wyeast 3724 is notoriously picky, and I chose to brew this beer during the coldest time of the year. Brilliant. I DID have a heating belt on the Better Bottle, raised the ambient temp, and even ran a damn space heater for days, for crying out loud (which I'm sure didn't help my power bill). Doing all this, I was able to keep the temp of the beer probably in the mid-80s, but I was away for a period of that and had to unplug everything, so the temp dropped to the low 70s, and then I turned all the heat back on, and it went up, etc. Not the most ideal conditions, but the yeast slowly did their work and I got to a reasonably low number. In fact, if you look at the apparent attenuation, with 77% I was within the range that Wyeast mentions is realistic for this yeast.

In the end, I'm happy with how this beer came out, regardless of whether I'm close to Freestyle #5 or not. A recipe I'd recommend to anyone looking for an easy-drinking, smooth, ~5% Saison... that's black. Thanks again to Tim Adams of Oxbow for all the help! Anyone visiting Maine, seek out Oxbow beers... you won't be sorry!

Appearance: Poured with a medium-sized, tan, creamy head. Retention isn’t as good as I’d expect for the style... fades to a thin film. Body is black and opaque.

Aroma: A mesh of wheat tartness and spicy... at first, I was unsure if it could be described as phenolic. Upon further sampling, I think it's due to the yeast, and the large hop addition at the end of the boil.

Taste: There definitely is a strong spicy character to this beer, that again strikes me as yeast-related. The finish is moderately bitter, maybe even medium-light, with some - again - spicy hop flavor. Slightly tart and crisp, likely from the high amount of wheat malt.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, with moderate carbonation.

Overall: If I couldn’t see it, I definitely wouldn’t guess it’s as dark as it is. The Aromatic malt, large hop flameout addition, and Dupont yeast are probably adding more to the aroma and flavor than anything else. Fairly enjoyable; smooth and easy-drinking.

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