I’ve been doing a fair share of beer swapping lately, but falling behind on the written reviews.  This review is for the four beers I received from Tyler, who I sent a bottle of Gueuze and Lambic to a little over a month ago.  Tyler was quite generous in the return and sent me four unique and fun brews to try.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I love trading beer with other homebrewers.  Other than local homebrew meetings and the NHC convention in Philly, I really hadn’t tried too many until recently.  Its been fun trying what is out there and being able to write about them – it’s becoming quite addicting!  For these reviews, I’m going more in story mode, rather than breaking it apart into categories of aroma, taste, etc.

If you missed it previously, my grading scale tries to describe the brew, and then give you a rating based on something we can all understand.  I rate based upon How far I’d drive for this beer What I’d pay for this beer.  Rather than a bunch of stupid numbers that try to quantify feelings, tastes, and urges to get more, I try to put a personal value on the beer.  How much of my time/energy it’s worth and what I’d shell out for it.  There isn’t a specific scale, but you’ll get the idea.  To shed some perspective on the matter, I easily shell out $20 for Rodenbach single barrel, $20-30 for Cantillon, and I buy Heady Topper by the case.  I don’t typically buy 6 or 4 packs of “regular old beer” but the scale is based on what I would pay if I was going to pay for the beer.  

Pale Ale

This beer was Tyler’s first all grain BIAB using cascade hops from a farm a small trek from Ann Arbor, MI.  It was brewed in May 2014 and comes in at 5%ABV.

My first impression was initially a nose of apricots and a hint of dates.  It had nice hop flavor, although I found the malt to be somewhat dominant.  For being a pale ale, it was a rather full beer – not as dry as most of the ones I brew & drink.  Not knowing exactly what Tyler was going for, I had no reason to “take points off” for these flavors as the term pale ale is somewhat loosely interpreted amongst new brewers.  No off flavors, however the balance was off in favor of the malt in my opinion.  My main comment to Tyler was to shoot for another 10-15IBUs – however when dealing with an unknown hop source it can be harder to determine.  I’m guessing this brew was around 20IBU, which for a beer this full bodied was a little low.   Considering this was a first BIAB, I congratulate Tyler on a first successful all grain batch.  The next thing I would focus on are making sure ingredient proportions are appropriate for the style.

How far I’d drive for this beer:  A local trip, while running errands

What I’d pay for this beer:  $7/6pk.

Brett Bochet

A bochet was a new style for me to try – I’d never brewed one nor tried one out commercially, & long as I’m being completely honest, I had to look up what a Bochet was!  For those of you as unlearned as I was, a Bochet is kind of a “burnt mead,” wherein honey is ‘scorched to perfection’ and sugars are caramelized, yielding toffee flavors.

From Tyler, this was “A bochet racked onto a BrettC yeast cake in secondary, brewed Nov 2013 11.4%. I don’t get much brett character from it at all, but it does taste more fruity than the clean batch.”  I didn’t get much Brett from it either, but I did notice the fruit.  Upon pouring the Bochet (which had a lovely carmelly color to it) I noticed aromas of toffee with a tropical twist, probably coming from the brettanomyces-claussenii.   With a sip, toffee was very present, as well as the pineapple and some light prune.  It seems like an odd combination writing about it – but I can assure you it was really quite nice.  Best of all, it was exceptionally smooth for a 11.4% brew.  Even though it was great, I’d love to see it age for a few years.

Interestingly enough, Tyler commented that he used Wyeast 3787 (which touts itself being able to handle 11-12%) but it stalled out for two batches, so he finished it off with Saf-04.   Then he racked off 1 gallon and put in the brett C.

As lovely as this was, I’d really like to compare it to the original.  This is also going to be a style that I try in the near future!  Cool stuff.

How far I’d drive for this beer:  A surrounding town, if I had to!

What I’d pay for this beer:  $10/750ml bottle (since that’s what I imagine it coming in)

Wee Heavy

This beer was Tyler’s “first non kit brew, using extract + steeping, brewed Jan 2013, and coming it at 10.4%.”  Being in the honesty circle, I’ll admit that I don’t drink many Scotch Ales – but again, what I love about trading is trying out new styles!

My first impression of this beer was the strong alcohol aromas and flavors that came across.  A nice deep copper color, this beer simply looked potent.  As much as I love high alcohol beers, this one came across too hot.  There was some nice caramel flavors, but I was expecting a little more roasted malt coming across – instead it was several waves of alcohol.  Coming in at 10.4%, this is pretty high for a Wee Heavy, but not unacceptable.

Conversing with Tyler, he said that he brewed it for it’s high alcohol content, but did not have adequate temperature control.  My speculation would be the temperature got too high during fermentation (remember, it’s exothermic!) or that perhaps some fusels were produced from the beer sitting for a while on too much trub.

A good attempt at the style – but for big beers (or any beer) I’d look into controlling fermentation temperatures!

How far I’d drive for this beer:   I’d drink it at a party or if it was available.  Probably not one I’d seek out due to the alcohol hotness.

What I’d pay for this beer:  $4/22oz bomber

Caramelized Cyser

The final brew was a Cyser with “honey caramelized, similar to making a bochet, then added to cider, April 2014 11.5%.”

The final brew I did not make tasting notes on, as my wife and I drank it on our anniversary out beyond the reaches of cell service and wifi (does such a place really exist??) and I simply didn’t take notes.  What we did recall was that it was exceptionally fruity with a solid apple flavor and hints of caramels and toffee.  Smooth for its high alchohol content.  Something I would definitely drink again.


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