Category Archives: Home brew reviews

The Friedlieb, Coffee Porter IV – Review

The Friedlieb is a beer Chas has been working on for a while. Back in the middle of 2015 he made the fourth version of this beer. No write up on the brew day, but I can say that the changes to the recipe were more of a slight alteration rather than any significant.

The Friedlieb IV for drinking

The Friedlieb IV ready for drinking and review

Before starting the review, I need to admit I had this beer for about eight months. Got it in June 2015. Drank it in February 2016. The flavours had settled down a fair bit and the forward hops softened to almost nothing. Now that’s out of the way, onto the review.

This is a big coffee porter. It comes in at 10.2%, the strongest version of this beer yet. You can see from the photo it’s very dark. You can’t quite see that it’s not very cloudy.

There’s a smooth coffee aroma. Has a push of smoke towards the end and slight very soft rounded yeast aroma.

The beer starts with plenty of smoothness. Dark malt from start to end. Smoke and coffee giving this lots of complex flavours that keep it lively and interesting. The yeast flavours are present the whole way from the middle. This yeast is a bit Belgian in style, rounded and with some slight tropical fruit to it.

There’s heaps of flavour here and character. Body is good with only a tiny bite from the alcohol.

For food matching this would go well with big winter food. Think mixed flavour stew. Or rich tasty sausages. Or super slow cooked red meat, lamb or beef. Anything hearty and deep flavours with pleanty of protein would work a treat.

This beer has heaps of flavour, but not a big thick body. So you need something to eat with this, or you get overwhelmed by the end. Really good beer, with a slight tweak this would be a great beer.

Chas has been working on this recepie for a good few years. I’m hoping he’ll return to this and brew another batch. Would be more than happy to help give a hand in the quality testing of the final product.

-Mikey

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Extra Pale Ale #2 – Review

Been a while between posts. Sorry. Very busy with everything not brew related. That said, here we are at the review for the Extra Pale Ale #2. It’s been over five weeks since this beer was bottled and absolutely ready for a tasting review.

Extra Pale Ale 2 for review

Extra Pale Ale #2 ready for tasting and for review

First thing to note is the look. Was very clear in the bottle before heading into the fridge. You can see from the photos it’s very cloudy. Not that look means much to me, but a lot more than I expected. Feels like it’s more pronounced that the Extra Pale Ale #1 cloudiness.

Aroma on this is big in apples. Yep, that’s acetaldehyde giving that green apple smell, and some banana esters too. What caused that? High temperatures and poor yeast. Sure, this got piched onto reused yeast. And that should have eatten the sugars quickly. But, some bad quality control on keeping temperature down was the main factor here.

These two characteristics of acetaldehyde and esters come out in the beer flavour as well. It’s a bit disappointing as they take over a from what would otherwise be a really good beer. Behind these flavours there’s a nice light malt flavour with plenty of body. Yep, that Malto Dextrin is working a treat! Will be using that a lot more.

At 8.7% alcohol you would expect bite and harshness, not the case. The alcohol is hidden very well. Partyl with the big fruit flavours, but also the body. Have to say it again, the Malto Dextrin is a great addition to a strong pale ale. If you’re an extract home brewer and not using the stuff in your bigger alcohol beers I urge you to give it a go.

The beer finishes with plenty of fruit. Sure the acetaldehyde and esters dominate, but the hops from the amarillo come out to say ‘hi’ and have some fun. Is it better than the Extra Pale Ale #1? Overall, no. But there’s elements that work better like body. Plus if feels a bit smoother.

Food matching is hard. Probably something greasy like fried food or fish and chips. Yeah, that sound good. Could also be match with a burger or chicken parma.

Next time use some US-05 yeast will be used, and ferment at a lower temperature. The good news is that Summer is finally over and brewing can be done without crazy chilling techniques. But that also means needing to get in front of the darker beers so they’re ready for the cooler months. Better get cracking!

– Mikey

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Extra Pale Ale #1 – Review

Back a couple weeks back I tried one of the Extra Pale Ale #1 beers. I was expecting it to be a bit rough, especially being 8%, using a chunk of sugar and using kit yeast. I was surprised with what I got, in a very good way. And now it’s time for a proper review.

Extra Pale Ale 1 for review

Extra Pale Ale #1 ready for tasting and for review

First thing to say is that I was hoping for something drinkable, and that was about it. Very cheap to make with half dry malt extract and half sugar. Plus only a touch of hops and some old kit yeast. What I was really trying to do is get something thin and dry to fill in the gap that my Summer Ale failed to do.

There’s still an apple hint to the aroma that I got from bottling. Slight smell of yeast there as well. First taste is light with hint of apple sweet. That is from the yeast and drops off pretty quickly, which is good. Then the orange floral flavour from the Amarillo comes out. This is really nice here. While quite subtle, as not much is used, it still is clearly there with no much else going on. The orange flavour lingers on, especially once the beer has warmed up after coming out of the fridge.

Through the beer there’s a bit of roundness to the flavour with that extending to the end. It’s almost butter-like, similar to a good Chardonnay wine (yeah, been tasting quite a few of those over the last couple months). Sure there’s not much body, you could go as far as saying nearly no body. But the finish isn’t a dry or harsh end. So you don’t feel like you need to go back for more straight away. And at 8% alcohol it is probably a very good thing. And that’s another point, the alcohol doesn’t come out in this beer which makes it that bit more easier to enjoy.

Hard to say what to eat with this beer. It’s very light body with only a hint of orange and light sweetness. Good to have on a hot day with some snacks. Maybe a cheese board or dips. Keep it cold and have it by itself.

Very happy with how this turned out. Looking forward to how the Extra Pale Ale #2 turns out. Then, next spring or summer make adjustments with hops and yeast for a better brew.

-Mikey

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Pale Trial Zwei – Review

It has been just over five months since Pale Trial Zwei was brewed, back on 31 August last year. The review is long over due. So, here it is.

A bit of a recap. Pale Trial Zwei was a follow on from Pale Trial Ein, one large batch split into five fermenters. Each fermenter had a different combination of yeast nutrient and with/without Campden tablet. For the Zwei batch this was pitched directly onto the yeast of the Ein batch after bottling. You can go back to the review and see that there was a wide range of flavours from the same original wort.

Pale Trial Zwei 1-5 for review

Pale Trial Zwei 1-5 ready for tasting and for review

There was some slight issues with the labelling and I’m not 100% sure if each of the batches, one to five, was recorded properly when bottled. Although there was an the ideas to do a comparison of the Ein beers to the Zwei beers, it isn’t possible.  We just have to compare the Zwei beers against each other.

Pale Trial Zwei #1
Plenty of melon, lime and grass aroma to this. A promissing start to the first beer. Flavour starts off with a smooth/sweet melon taste. Then there’s some stone fruit and a touch of sweetness with the melon flavour coming out more. The beer finishes off with a smooth end.

Pale Trial Zwei #2
If the first one had some good mixture of melon, lime and grass then this one takes it a bit further with more of the grass aroma. The melon and lime flavours come out at the start with a slightly lighter melon and more lime than #1. Soft flavours in the middle then finishing of with some slight amber malt and a touch of lime flavour.

Pale Trial Zwei #3
Clear melon and lime aroma from the start and a hint of rust. The flavour starts with the melon and rust from amber malt. Then the amber rust malt flavour builds a bit. Finally there’s a bite with some melon and dry finish. Clearly this has more going on than the rest and is the better one for it.

Pale Trial Zwei #4
Aroma is a simple mixture of melon and rust. At the start there’s a melon and bitterness to this. Hints of rust amber malt comes in then the flavour drops off at the end. Lighter and simpler in flavour than the rest.

Pale Trial Zwei #5
Not a great start with a banana aroma to start with. Some mellow melon flavours fist up. Then banana flavours come in and build to the end. Also has a bitter and tart finish which is not nice.

Summary
Was very impressed with these beers. Well, all but #5 and I think that might be infected, or something. The melon and lime elements from the Galaxy hops were the main players here. But interesting to see a rust amber flavour from the malt. Wasn’t expecting that and it was a pleasant surprise. For matching with food anything from simple fried fish to Vietnamese or Thai would work great. Anything with a bit of light spice or grease.

If I was to rank these the worst is the easiest, #5. The top two are #2 with the most melon smoothness and #3 with the most complexity. The rest are a bit harder. After a bit of back and forth I came up with the following from first to last: #3, #2, #1, #4, #5.

Was strange to see how these beers differed so much. Just like when I reviewed Pale Trial Ein, there was  a lot of variation. And again, it highlights how little changes in something like yeast nutrient or a campden tablet can impact the final flavour on a beer. There’s plenty more to learn about brewing. And that’s pretty exciting.

-Mikey

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Flotilla Pacific Pilsner – Review

About a month and a half ago Chas made picked up a beer kit for a pilsner. Went around and we brewed up what was hopped to be a refreshing light flavoured beer for summer.

Don’t have much details on the brew day other than it was back on 5 October. Plus Chas has been focusing on his site Brew In Review. There’s a while bunch of beer reviews, mainly Australian. Also has some bits on festivals, pubs & bars, conversion beers and other beer related things. There’ll be a piece from me my conversion beer in the next couple weeks.

Flotilla Pacific Pilsner tasting

Flotilla Pacific Pilsner ready for tasting

Enough cross promotion, onto reviewing this beer. And it’s a big flavour beer.

First thing you notice is that it has plenty of citrus aroma. Huge amounts of lime and good serving of mandarin as well. The the taste, heaps of that citrus comes out in the flavour as well. Big lime and mandarin. Grapefruit as well, along with the bitterness towards the back. Hints of peach in there too.

I had this really cold, around 4° Celsius. As it warmed up the grapefruit and bitterness really started to come out. There’s also some stone fruit flavours that start popping up towards the end.

For food matching I would go for something like Vietnamese, Thai or Chinese. Just about every dish from the fresh to deep fried would work. The fruit keeps things moving and the bitterness cuts through.

This is a good beer. Nothing mind blowing, but quite enjoyable. It’s not really a pilsner as it was made with ale yeast. But it is zesty and fruity. Will be enjoying these over the hot days of summer.

-Mikey

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Summer Ale – Review

Summer has hit us. But after the last week in Melbourne you could be excused for thinking otherwise. Enough about the crazy weather, it’s time to review the Summer Ale.

Wow. That didn’t turn out like I thought. Even after trying the sample from bottling I wasn’t expecting this. The Summer Ale is not what I was aiming for. Wanted light, refreshing and something that could be enjoyed cold. This beer doesn’t do any of those very well. That said, this isn’t a bad beer. It’s simply a (very) different beer.

To start with there was probably too much malt. The colour is much darker than planned for, like an amber ale. The flavour reflects this as well. The wheat isn’t a strong as I thought. Not sure if that’s because there’s a really low percentage of wheat in the liquid extract I used, or the hops took over.

Summer Ale 1

Summer Ale 1 ready for drinking

The aroma is of strong stewed fruit and grapes. Yep, grapes and it comes from the Nelson Sauvin hops. Strange aroma this one the more you smell the beer the more complex it becomes. Some spice and earthy aroma comes out later, from the Belgian Saaz (aka Motueka) hops.

Fist taste is a mixture of a few things. Plenty of stewed fruit and tropical flavour. Some of the spice and grape of the aroma comes out, but not much. The spice builds a little, but the big fruit flavours drive this. The wheat base is there the whole way along and holds out quite well to the very long finish. It’s quite enjoyable.

Food matching? No idea. Something not too strong in flavour. Lightly fried meat like chicken or other bird would match this. Fish would work if not too powerful, maybe even pork. The beer has a fair bit of flavour, but could be overwhelmed by anything to spicy.

Is this beer a proper Summer Ale? No. Is this beer good? Yes. Not sure what style it is, maybe a pale ale or even an amber ale. But the fruit flavours throw it out a bit. There’s not much I can really compare this with.

This was the first time I used these two hops. Might have been better to try on a more familiar and simpler malt base to taste the flavour profile. I had issues trying to work out what was giving some of the flavours. The stewed fruit probably coming from the hops rather than the wheat/malt base. Fermentation wasn’t temperature controlled, ranging from just under 20°C to mid 20’s. With that range using US-05 yeast there shouldn’t be much flavours from yeast. The beer is a tasty one, and I’ll enjoy drinking this one. Now I need to make a proper summer ale.

-Mikey

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Pale Trial Ein – Review

The five beers that make up Pale Trial Ein are more different than I expected. Time hasn’t softened them into a similar flavour. Rather the opposite. The difference is more pronounced after a couple months conditioning. A couple Sundays ago Chas was over for a brewing day and we did a side-by-side review of all five.

Pale Trial Ein 1-5 for review

Pale Trial Ein 1-5 ready for tasting and for review

Before going further into the review a recap is called for. These five beers were all brewed from the same batch. One boil with liquid malt and Victoria Secret hops, and the same yeast (US-05). The only difference was the yeast nutrient and if a Campden tablet was added. That’s it. All fermented at the same temperature, same amount of sugar for bottle priming, same again for bottle conditioning. All of this done to learn. And what was learnt? Let’s find out…

Common characteristics
All five come from the same base. There is a clear dark stone fruit flavour up front. Solid amber malt in the middle. Then finishes with a sharp bitterness with the malt background.

The descriptions below are slightly exaggerated to highlight the differences.

Pale Trial Ein 1
The “control” of the beers. With the modern yeast nutrient only.
Aroma is of dark fruit and still subtle. Body is straight forward. The bitterness comes in quite sharply at the end. It is the most aggressive with hop bitterness. Bitter beer.

Pale Trial Ein 2
This one was with same yeast nutrient and a Campden tablet.
The softest flavours of the lot. Hop fruit flavours at the start. A nice easy amber malt body. Not very bitter at all… until the very end and there’s a kick. And that really kills the softness.
Okay, nothing special.

Pale Trial Ein 3
This is the one with the really old yeast nutrient only.
A much lighter beer than all the others. Light and fresh hop aroma. Lighter amounts of stone fruit up front. Body is a bit easier and laid back. The hops at the back are quite lighter and there is a subtle creaminess.
Easy and light.

Pale Trial Ein 4
This is the one with a Campden tablet only.
Very soft aroma. Starts with a solid stone fruit flavour, but not overpowering. There’s a mellow and big dark-ish fruit flavour. There’s a bit of bitter end to this which works quite well to offset the stone fruit flavours.
Creamy.

Pale Trial Ein 5
This is the one with the really old yeast nutrient and a Campden tablet.
Light and smooth rich aroma which is very nice. Starts off very smooth indeed, then the big fruit comes in and works a treat. Darker than beer #2, #3 and #4. Towards the end there’s smooth finish with a hint of bitterness working well with the body.
Smooth.

Summary
If I was to match these beers to something it would be a salty or spicy roast meat. Maybe barbecued. Or something fried with spice. You need something to work with the big bitter hops in the beer.

It’s a tough choice between #3 and #5 for best beer. Winner is #5 . Runner up is #3, in third place comes #4, forth is #2 and clearly in last place is #1.

It might seam like a wide range in flavours from the reviews above, and it does feel like that when they’re side by side. If you pick up a #1 or #5 first off, you still taste the same thing, stone fruit hops with amber malt. Then the bitterness takes over. I think there was too much hops. Victoria Secret hops have a big kick which I’ve see it in my all grain and here in the Pale Trial Ein series. Does this make these bad beers? No. But there’s room for improvement. And I’ll work on that.

It has been a really interesting journey with these beers. They’re the end of a mini story of finding my Dad’s old wine brewing equipment, cleaning, brewing, bottling and finally tasting. But the journey doesn’t end. The Pale Trial Zwie beers are ready for drinking. Will need to get into them and write up a review.

-Mikey

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Sneaky Milky Cider 1-3 – Review

After only a week in the bottles, on Saturday 18th it was time to open the Sneaky Milky Ciders. There were three versions and from the bottling I was pretty sure that number three would be a winner for the sweet tooth drinker. I wasn’t wrong. There wasn’t a huge amount of the cider brewed, but still plenty left over afterwards.

I’ve put all three cider tastings into one review. They deserve to be rated aginst each other. The idea was to make a sweet tasting and very easy to make cider. So, without any more delay lets get into it.

 

Sneaky Milky Cider 1-3

Sneaky Milky Cider 1 to 3 for review

Sneaky Milky Cider #1

Has a clear ‘Granny Smith’ apple aroma. It’s apple-y but also slightly sour.

Light fruit and sweetness in the start and some sour comes in. Quite refreshing at first.

Fills out with slightly more creaminess. Then moving to be more apple flavour before settling back into a Granny Smith apple flavour of slight sourness. Finishes with a dry and hint of tart taste.

Overall I’d classify this one as a dry cider.

 

Sneaky Milky Cider #2

Has more of a nondescript apple aroma. It’s slightly sweet  but nothing much either way.

First very light flavours. Hints of apple and sweet. Then the apple sweetness picks up. It becomes a bit like a fake sweet apple flavour you find in lollies. Verging on sickly sweet and still not quite tasting like real apple.

There is some slight filling out of the cider. But not much, leaving an empty feeling to it. Ends sweet, but also very dry. My mouth is confused. The front says sweet and the back of my mouth is desperate for water.

Along the way there is plenty of sweetness. Once that’s gone there isn’t much too this. This makes you want to drink some more, just to have something. But that’s where the real problem lies. At 7.2% this is going to mess you up, quickly.

 

Sneaky Milky Cider #3

A much sweeter aroma than the other two.

Starts as a soft light sweet apple taste. Then a full apple flavour builds. More sweetness and the apple flavour stays with you right to the end. Feels like there’s some good body to this.

Really enjoyable, at least compared to the other two. Plenty of flavour and easy to drink the whole way though. Overall I’d classify this as a sweet cider. Sweet tasting and sweet brewing.

 

 Verdict

The winner is clearly number three. Is it the yeast flavours? Or is it that the yeast didn’t eat through all the sugars? Does it matter? Not really. But I think it’s more to do with the former, rather than the latter. Will more be made? Absolutely. Next time I’ll take the lactose up a level and see what happens.

 

-Mikey

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Home Brewers R&D Vic Secret – Review

Quite a few moons ago I finally did my first all grain brew, Home Brewers R&D Vic Secret. It was an interesting process and at the end I had some beer. I’ve tried it and shared it with a few people. This review will try to do capture all that feedback, not just my take.

Firstly let me be clear, something went wrong with this beer. Not sure exactly what and most likely it was a number if things. Process is probably the main culprit, maybe water too.

R&D Vic Secret

R&D Vic Secret ready for tasting

This beer was part of a group of beers. An attempt with some other home brewers to all make the same beer but with different hops. The other two guys have been making all grain beers for a while and their beers turned out good. What is important is that the recipe was fine. My brew was a smaller batch due to equipment. Keeping ratios right wasn’t an issue as calculations weren’t left up to me. All I needed to do was get the grain, hops, yeast and follow the instructions.

I got a bitter and dry beer. When I say bitter, I mean chemical and tart. Not good. The aroma is nice. You can smell the passionfruit and pineapple, a nice sort of fruit hint. That sort of comes out when you taste it. Then the bitterness kicks in and takes over.

This is a quite clear beer as brewbrite was added. It’s a lot clearer than every other beer I’ve made. Will be using this for a lot more brews in the future.

The body here is nice enough. Clearly being an all grain makes this better than quite a few of my extract beers. It has a nice mouth filling element as well. Alcohol is lower than it should have been, coming in at only 3.4%. That’s because there wasn’t enough maltose converted from the grain.

Overall this is a hard beer to enjoy. The bitterness is too much. If it was half as bitter it would be about right. As a result I’ve been mixing this with the Super Stout (which was also a bit stuffed). Next time there will be a lot more care in making an all grain.

-Mikey

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Milk Stout – Review

You might remember I made a Super Stout back in May this year. Well, Chas made one about a month after that. We don’t have a write up on it, but I can tell you that he added lactose and didn’t oxygenate it (like I did). As there was a lot of lactose added he called it Milk Stout. This was a birthday present and by all accounts went down well.

Milk Stout

Milk Stout ready for drinking

Like the review Chas did of my Super Stout, this comes out nice and black. There’s not much head on this which is quite disappointing. What little there is has a nice brown tinge to it. Looks pretty good.

Aroma wise, this is a nice mix. There’s some sweetness, some rich dark malt and some chocolate as well. Not much hop aroma, and that’s a good thing here.

First taste is good. Hit of dark malt and is flat. What I mean by that is there’s no distractions from the malt flavour. It’s straight up dark malt. Good round flavour here that fills the mouth from top to bottom. The body on this beer is alright, not great for a stout but also doesn’t leave you thinking it’s not a stout. Overall you’re first met with a big round dark malt burst of flavour. And that’s exactly what you want.

In the middle it comes up with some sweetness. This helps with the malt and body. Then the darker flavours come back and help drag out the flavours for a while.  As the body drops away there’s the sweet milk flavour from the lactose coming though. And after that a slight bitterness. And the liquorice, which has been there the whole time, comes out and becomes it’s own.

Matching this beer with food is a little hard. I would tend to go with something dark and sweet, this is a dessert beer. Rich cake is a good option. Black forest cake or chocholate mud cake get’s my vote.

So, this is a good and well rounded beer. The body lets it down, that’s possibly because the beer comes in at only 4.8% alcohol. The flavours towards the end get a bit muddled. But that first mouthful works great. And you keep wanting to go back for more. And this is a great example of two brewers making (nearly) the same recipe with quite a different outcome.

-Mikey

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