Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Christmas Beer Update #2

Almost two months after my last update, where I had split the spiced up beer into three demijohns, it was about time I bottled this beer, or it'd be a New Year beer. I spent a good part of Sunday night washing bottles (see right, although I consoled myself with a Paulaner Salvator while doing so), and then a disgustingly long three hours actually bottling the stuff on Monday night, finishing well after midnight on a night when I wanted to go to bed early as I had to be up at 6:30 for another torture session with my physiotherapist/osteologist (actually, she's very good, but I always feel like I've been beaten up for a day after a session).
The fact that this beer was split into three portions just made life awkward, however, I was looking forward to seeing what difference, if any, the oak chips would make. Oh, and seeing if the recipe I created ended up tasting like shit or not!
On opening the first demijohn (with the light oak), the most prominent aroma was bananas. Intense, ripe bananas with touches of vanilla, almonds and a hint of all-spice or cloves. The next one, the dark-oaked one, also had alot of banana going on, but not near as intense, Cloves were more to the fore and there's was a gunpowdery, roasty whiff. I left the big one till last, the unoaked one, and strangely it seemed to have cloves much more to the fore. I left off tasting them until I had finished bottling so I could taste them side-by-side.
I should point out (for the brewing geeks) that after splitting the beer up I left it in a warmish room (19C) for a couple of weeks and then dropped them down to the cellar where the temp slowly dropped from about 17C to 13C over the past two months. I know it was still fermenting, very slowly, but the final gravity was 1.026. A little higher than I expected, but not to worry, 6.6% alcohol is respectable enough. As a result I expected a fuller mouthfeel, and yes, it does have a reasonable body, and of course a residual sweetness.
Flavour-wise, well the unoaked did have banana notes, but cloves and ginger came out very well. It was a little solventy with a touch of licorice. I'm hoping that some carbonation will lift it a bit. The light-oaked one didn't seem as solventy, and there was a nice touch of vanilla and almonds, as hinted by the aroma, so I was glad they came through the flavour too. The dark oak was subtly different, with the biggest difference being a roasty, more havy vanilla flavour. The cloves don't come out as much, and in fact, this was my wife's favourite. I'm torn between this and the light-oaked one. I'm not sure about the unoaked one yet.
Overall the flavours feel a little Belgian, and it quite warming. I didn't get the heavy spiciness I thought I might, but you can certainly discover the cloves, ginger and orange peel. I can't help wondering of the yeast gave it an additional kick into clove territory, as it certainly seems to have added banana in a Weissbier kind of way. Lets see how it conditions in the bottle (for two weeks!).
While this beer was finishing maturing my wife was very busy over the past couple of weeks baking up a storm. She never really liked cooking or baking, but the Christmas spirit is strong in this one (I typed that with a Darth Vader voice in my head. Odd.) so we have about a dozen tins each filled with different Christmas biscuits. Impressive. Most impressive (damn, it happened again!). I thought I should share her hard work with you too as they are delicious!


e.s. delia said...

Can't wait to hear how this experiment turns out after the bottle conditioning, Adeptus. Good luck!

I'm getting all these ideas together for my own future beer lab setting. Before you know it, I'll be churning out oak-chipped, juniper-infused gluhbier with the best of 'em.

Adeptus said...

Ya know, I'd love to try juniper berries in a beer. They seem to be like hen's teeth though.

I think I might need luck! I'm going to try some over the weekend to see if it's carbonated enough to bring a few to the office party on Monday (I doubt it somehow, it's a slow burner). Although I'm not sure if I can take criticism from the masses :D

Bionic Laura said...

Wow love the look of those christmas biscuits. Pity you can't yet reach into the screen to eat them like on Willy Wonka.
The beer sounds really nice. It's a good experiment to try different oak chips in each.

Thom said...

I haven't been very adventurous with my beers to date. I haven't even added a spice yet, but oak seems very interesting indeed.

I tried some amazing oak aged stouts and porter in Copenhagen. Granted one or two were like French kissing an oak tree, but perhaps they could have done with a little more ageing.

Adeptus said...

Ah, Thom, what I just did with the oak was very DIY compared to the real thing. But it certainly did make a difference.

The next oak experiment will be on a barleywine, hopefully maturing a portion of it on oak for several months before bottling. That's the theory at least!

Laura, the one on the left with the green layer is one of my favourites. That green layer is made of pistacios. Another one is on the right just above the one with the hundreds and thousand, looking like a little ball. It's made completely of nuts, sugar and egg white, and there's a little core of apricot jam.

My wife says she'll send the recipes if you like :)