February 24, 2008
First things first… We brewed a mere 15 gallons of Rye Pale Ale today. I say “mere”, because my brother-in-law just bought a 20-gallon stainless-steel brew pot, which means that the 15 gallons we brewed was a single batch. I had considered brewing a second 10-gallon batch of a simple extract hefeweizen, but ended up not being able to source the ingredients in time, so I chose not to.
It’s a very nice thing to brew 15 gallons of beer in 6 hours, while still having time to drink a few, smoke a cigar, and hang out. For this day, a former coworker joined us, so it was very nice to catch up on old times as well.
The rye is a beer that I brewed a 5 gallon batch a few months ago, and have been loving ever since. It’s loosely based on the Terrapin Rye Pale Ale, but while they have a fairly complex grain and hop bill, I’ve gone simpler. It’s about 70% pale malt, 20% rye, 10% crystal 60L, with Nugget (a replacement for the original Chinook) as the bittering hop, and a blend of Nugget/Ahtanum for flavor/aroma, and nugget/ahtanum used in a dry-hop.
The original 5-gallon batch had a bit of a flaw. Do to some process issues, I think I oxidized it before bottling. I don’t think it destroyed what I was going for, but I think it might have kept the beer from being quite as good as it could be. That shouldn’t be an issue this time around, so I’m looking forward to it. In about 2.5-3.5 weeks, I should be drinking it. In addition, I’ve convinced my brother-in-law to take a more active role in controlling fermentation temperatures, which should clean things up a bit.
As I earlier pointed out, though, we had time today to sit down and drink some beer. Unfortunately my bro-in-law and his friends drank all but one bottle of the incredibly-tasty milk stout at a poker game yesterday. I was a bit upset when I found that out this morning. But luckily, he had kept that one bottle available, and also luckily, I was able to go to Denver last week for business, so I picked up some Left Hand Milk Stout to drink side-by-side in a blind tasting.
Of the two people who weren’t familiar with the beers themselves (i.e. I immediately knew which was mine and which was the commercial version), one preferred my beer and one preferred the beer from Left Hand. When that happens, it’s already an indication that it’s a good beer. Especially when the commercial version won a gold medal in the sweet stout category of the World Beer Cup. What surprised me, though, was how similar the beers were, not how different they were.
I stated here that I thought that my version was perhaps a bit more roasty and aggressive than the commercial version. After tasting the commercial version again, I’m thinking that’s not the case. If anything, I think Left Hand’s version is a tad bit more roasty than ours, which makes me think it might be necessary to increase the roasted barley slightly, not decrease it.
Either way, it’s definitely one of the best beers we’ve ever brewed. I can’t wait to do another 15 gallons of it!
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