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Revisiting my early batches

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So... my first three batches (made with basic CAL kit refills plus local ingredients to approximate Horses Ass Ale, All American Gold and a mash up of the two were) less than awesome to say the least, even after 4 weeks of conditioning. I moved on to other batches and let a bunch of the originals sit and age out further. 

 

After over two months in the bottle, I sampled them all again last night and, predictably, there was definitely improvement...

 

Where the honey in the Horse's Ass had made for a harsh, cidery mess originally, there was a slightly more mellow flavor and the apple twang was almost entirely gone. It's still a little edgy and too dry for the Cascade hop flavor to have a malty bed to lie in, but there's actually a slight honey note if you're looking for it. Drinkable and even enjoyable, but not necessarily a beer worth waiting 2 months for.

 

The combination of the two recipes with CAL, DME, honey, Willamette and Cascade is better, too. Its higher alcohol leaves it with a little too much bite, but the malt base and the dryness from the honey sort of balance a little to give the bigger hop flavor someplace to land. All in all, pretty darn good, though still could mellow a little.

 

The All American Gold was always the most drinkable, though it was a little inconsistent from bottle to bottle. That recipe is a winner as far as I'm concerned and the extra malt and smooth Willamette hops make it a pretty classic American-style beer. The natural fruitiness from the ale yeast pushes it away from the mild lager flavor profile but otherwise it's a big smooth, good tasting brew. The most interesting thing about that one is that where before I'd tasted a raw, edgy, slightly sweet, unfinished (extract) quality, now there's more malt and hops coming through and - I swear - just a hint of banana/wheat beer flavor in the finish. Just the yeast (finally) aging, I suppose, from slight acetaldehyde content to fully formed esters that affect the flavor in a better way. Anyway... quite good stuff.

 

Bottom line is that I've moved on to much better beers that are fully formed and ready to drink in as little as 2 weeks in the bottle. I won't pour these out and they're much more share-able than they were originally, but I won't miss them much when they're gone. ;)

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I take back what I said about not missing them...I like the All American Gold well enough to make it again. I finished off one last night and it holds up very well in comparison to other beers. I really think it's the relatively high percentage of non-malt fermentable in the others that give them a quality I don't really care for. And even at that, I'd probably like the extra crispness of those on a triple-digit day in the summer. :)

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Okay...update...After 3 months in the bottle - 12 weeks to the day, I'm drinking a Horse's Ass Ale that I think is really quite good. Finally all the apple taste is gone and the alcohol edge has mellowed into the minimal malt profile and the slight hop imbalance has given way to just a hint of bitterness and pretty superb light citrus presence. And the honey, though thoroughly used up in the fermentation process, has left the loveliest hint in the aroma and flavor. It's not strong and you might not place until someone says the word, but there's no question it's got honey.

All in all, a really great little beer and I wish I had another one in the fridge. If I knew I could replicate the results in less time than it takes to pull off a sophisticated German lager, I'd definitely brew it again. :D

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