Friday, May 18, 2012

Redeeming my homebrew...

I'm a bit disappointed in my recent homebrewing efforts.  I picked up a Woodforde's Wherry kit from Beers of the World (it's actually a very good English Bitter, in its commercial form).  Think the kit must have been sitting on the shelf for a while, because the brew has this awful twang to the flavour - I just can't bring myself to drink the stuff.  

So, I am throwing it all out and starting afresh!  Northern Brewer has Wyeast's 1469 (West Yorkshire Ale) yeast in stock right now, which is reportedly the yeast that Timothy Taylor uses to make its Landlord bitter - one of my absolute favourite beers from old Blighty.  So, I've ordered their Innkeeper extract kit which is their Landlord clone.  It's odd because their version is very different from Graham Wheeler's recipe in 'Brew Your Own British Real Ale'; however, I'd rather buy this kit right now than have to search for obscure hop and malt varieties, then have to convert from Metric to US units, then learn Wheeler's brewing process, etc etc.  I'll get to that one eventually, I promise.  But for now, this kit will do very nicely.  

Exciting stuff!  I'm expecting to take delivery of the kit on Monday.  Will post on my exploits after it's brewed.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

CB's Brewing Co (aka Custom Brewcrafters) wins Beer of the Year!

New York Cork Report just announced on their Facebook page that their Beer of the Year is CB's Krysztoff Baltic Porter.  Congratulations to CB's - it's a great achievement and an awesome accolade for Rochester-area brewers.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cooperstown Brewing Co - Benchwarmer Porter

Baseball isn't really a huge thing for us Brits, even those of us who moved across the Pond.  If you're a Brit who's really not into spectator sports, you'll probably find that when the topic comes up in conversation, people will start jabbering on in a weird, alien language with lots of references to strike zones and curveballs and Lord knows what else.  You'll eventually have no idea whether they're talking about a sport, a particularly aggressive war manoeuvre or some sensitive medical condition.

Beer, on the other hand, amounts to something of a national obsession for the British, so I was excited to discover that a mere 10-minute drive from the National Baseball Hall of Fame is the Cooperstown Brewing Company, a microbrewery with an attached tap room producing six different beers, including a pale ale, porter, stout and IPA.

Six varieties isn't a huge range, but sometimes it's better to do a few things well than to try producing too many varieties and over-extend a small brewery.  Today's review is their Benchwarmer Porter, very much in season at this time of year.  Here are my thoughts:

Image copyright
Cooperstown Brewing
Aroma - You can definitely pick up some roasted, dark malt aroma, and there's a slight chocolatey quality.  Some caramelly malt is evident too.  

Appearance - The Benchwarmer is a very dark brown, with a slight ruby hue when you hold it up to the light.  It's not opaque like a stout, and from what I could tell there was good clarity to it.  The beer has a decent light tan head with fair retention.  

Taste - Again, one can easily pick out the dark malts, but the taste adds a dominating hoppy bitterness to the experience.  I picked out some slight fruity esters.  There's also a definite roasted quality in the aftertaste, like burnt toast.  The pleasant chocolatey aroma doesn't really make it into the taste - the flavour balanance is definitely towards hops rather than malt.  

Mouthfeel - The beer has a medium body, with fairly high carbonation for the style.  One funny thing about porter is that you always expect the mouthfeel to be fuller than it actually is - I think it's because porter is closely related to stout, and even looks like stout sometimes.  But the malt bill tends to be lower, resulting in a lighter ale.

Aroma: 4/5
Appearance: 4.5/5
Flavor: 2.5/5 (I think the hop bitterness was a little too high and the burnt flavour a little too prominent)
Mouthfeel: 4/5

Overall score: 3.75/5.

Overall, it's a perfectly fine porter - my preference is for maltier ales rather than hoppier ones, so it's not among my favourites, but it's a good example of the style, and it left me wanting to try their other varieties.  If a buddy drags me to Cooperstown for the Baseball museum, I know exactly where I'm going to drag them to afterwards!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rochester Homegrown

I love how much great beer is being brewed in Rochester!  As a testament to just how many fantastic breweries we have in this area, Lovin' Cup in Henrietta is hosting the Rochester Homegrown festival this Saturday!  I'm hoping to be there - 3 Heads are launching their new Loopy anniversary beer and all the major breweries in Rochester are going to be represented.  Sounds like an event not to be missed!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Interview with Genesee Brewing's CEO in the Democrat and Chronicle

I missed this last week, but have now caught up...

Last week's Sunday edition of the D&C featured an in-depth interview with Genesee Brewing's Rich Lozyniak.  It's great to know that they're continuing to grow, they're such a part of downtown Rochester's history.  I also love that here in Rochester we have the privilege of having not just locally-brewed craft beer, but also a firm competition for Bud, Miller and Coors.  

North American Breweries (which owns Genesee Brewing and is based in Rochester) is totally independent of the Big Three, and is still the #8 brewery in the USA.  Their Dundee craft label produces some pretty decent beers in a very reasonable price range, too (~$6-7 for a six-pack).

I particularly like Lozyniak's comment that Genny is the cool beer in Brooklyn - it brings a chuckle to my face to think of hipsters discovering Genny for the first time.  

Had my first taste of my Christmas Ale (made from Northern Brewer's Spiced Winter Ale kit) and even a week after bottling it's pretty good!  More homebrew reviews and others, coming up soon!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A few updates...

Since my last review (which was back in...JULY?!?  I really need to update this thing more), I've got a couple of updates for you.

The first thing I want to mention is that my good friends at Upstate Brewing Co. have finally found a home for their microbrewery and we can expect to see their fine beers commercially available early next year.  I've been following these guys since I first discovered their website earlier this year and it's fantastic to see their plans coming together.  These guys are particularly notable for their Common Sense Ale, which is a revival of the old Kentucky Common style popular in pre-Prohibition days.  Looking forward to trying it!

I've also gone through a whole batch of homebrewed British bitter (with a little help from my #1 fan and some friends), which was good but a little on the hoppy side for my liking.  The instructions said to dry-hop - this may have been the cause.  I have a second batch of Belgian ale (The Muscles from Brussels, Mk II) - this time I halved the bittering hops and used Wyeast 1214 (Belgian Abbey) to ferment, it worked out pretty well!  I'll have a full post on that soon.  I'm also bottle-conditioning my Winter Spiced Ale, in 22oz bottles.  that should be ready just in time for Christmas.

All in all, it's been a busy, beerful few months!  Watch this space, Upstate Brews is coming back...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sacketts Harbor Brewing Co - War of 1812 Amber Ale

When I think of the War of 1812, as a miseducated Brit, the first image that comes to my mind is not the Revolutionary War, but the Napoleonic invasion of Russia which inspired Tchaikovsky's overture.  I actually had no idea that anything particularly noteworthy happened this side of the pond in that year until I took a graduate course in history a short while ago.  That raised a few eyebrows among my more patriotically-minded classmates, I can tell you...

So, please believe me when I say that I hold no prejudices regarding tonight's featured beverage on account of its name - to me, 1812 is all about a bunch of garlic-wearing frog-leg eaters being royally kicked in the arse by a hardy people who inexplicably choose to live in a climate where you can buy milk in frozen blocks and store it on your front porch.  The Anglo-American War of 1812 is such a humiliating chapter in British history that it's conveniently skipped over by our embarrassed educators.  A lot of Brits still talk as if America's some kind of socially-backward colony - a behaviour which, in my estimation and experience, masks a deep-seated jealousy of the pride of place America still holds in world affairs and which was once held by the British Empire.  Limeys are generally sore losers.

But speaking for myself?  Like I said, in my mind 1812 is all about cossack-dancers.

Sacketts Harbor Brewing Co are based, unpredictably enough, in Sacketts Harbor, NY.  I've been in their general vicinity - it's right in the middle of the Thousand Island region, about halfway between Rochester and Montreal.  As far as I can tell, they make 3 varieties - 1812 Amber, 1812 Light and Thousand Islands.  I first tried 1812 Amber a couple of years back at the Scotch 'n' Sirloin in Brighton, and remember quite enjoying it.  So I was looking forward to reviewing it for the blog - oh boy, how poorly my memory sometimes serves me...

1812 Amber Ale pours a light amber, with a good white head - not too massive but it's there.  There's moderate carbonation, and the brew has a good clarity.  So far, so good.  Right?

It's when you get to the aroma that things get a bit nasty.  There are some strong phenols, banana-like but verging on the plasticky.  There's a sweet, toffee-like quality, and it's also slightly malty, hops are very restrained.  There's an off-flavour though, and the aroma is a bit artificial.

The flavour starts off pleasantly enough - there's a sweet malt to it which isn't bad.  But then you taste the same banana-ey phenols and there's also a buttery quality, which I think is excessive diacetyl.  It's like an attempt at an English bitter, but something's missing - the diacetyl is too strong and there's not actually enough of a genuine malty backbone to give it the rich quality of an English style.

The body is extremely light, considering the style, and there's low-moderate carbonation.  Not much to be said for the mouthfeel, to be honest.

Overall, it's a disappointing effort - I'm not sure what style they were going for.  It's certainly not an American Amber, the diacetyl is over the top, the plasticky, artificial quality in the aroma is unpleasant and my final impression is that it's a poorly-made attempt at an English bitter.  There are far, far better brews on offer in the Upstate region - none of which make me think of Napoleon, borscht or cultural humiliation.

Here are my scores, such as they are:-

Appearance - 3/5
Aroma - 1/5
Taste - 2/5
Mouthfeel - 1.5/5

Overall - 1.875.  Frankly, a bit of an embarrassment to the incredible craft beer scene we have in our area.