Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Down to Pumpkin

I've been brewing a lot more than this blog reflects. After the Dubbel and the IPA came a Bock-style beer. It wasn't as dark as I thought was characteristic of the style--nor, for that matter, could the IPA fairly be described as a pale ale--but definitely malty, and an instructive contrast on tap next to the more bitter, hoppy IPA.

To my real surprise, I am starting to be able to make meaningful taste distinctions. Somewhere along the way at another Bierkraft tasting, I took a whiff of the proffered Saison (a Belgian farmhouse style that was brewed each winter for field hands, who were given a daily allotment of 5 liters when the sun got hot) and smelled lavender. Everyone agreed the beer was spicy, and some said cinnamon; but lavender won out when the night's presenter cast his vote with me. I felt very clever. And my education has been a lot more fun so far than sitting home with one of those little sets of essences that sommeliers use to train their noses.

Since that first silty batch of Belgian ale, I've also discovered that careful siphoning from the fermenting bucket into the keg is key to keeping the beer drinkable right down to the dregs. We were actually caught off guard last week--one moment there was a slightly heady IPA, the next there was only a tap sputtering foam--and then again a few days later when the Bock keg hit bottom too. The bummer was that my only backup, until the Red Hook ESB clone I've got kegged is ready in another 10 days or so, is a pretty disappointing pumpkin ale. I know, I know, it's May...but the husband and I love us some pumpkin ale--just unfortunately not this one.

Aside from the pumpkin puree, I was directed to put in an ounce of pie spices; somewhere either in the measuring or the relative proportions of cloves to cinnamon to ginger to nutmeg, things got out of hand. You just can't taste around the spices to the beer, which suggests that it's a bit flimsy anyhow. I'm really starting to crave something with serious body, like perhaps a porter.

We'll probably have to get a fourth keg before long, both to avoid a drought when two kegs run out more or less simultaneously, and to allow unbalanced beers to mellow awhile. Really, though, once we got over the shock of being down to pumpkin, we just started drinking the stuff--and it turns out to be not so bad. It's nothing I want to give to guests, but we're hardly suffering.

I'm also going to have to make some decisions very soon about what styles of beer I want to try next so that I can dig up some recipes and place an order for the ingredients. With the batch of imitation Sierra Celebration Ale I cooked up yesterday, I'm officially out of kits, and ready to start playing a more active role in the selection and crafting of my beer. Drink locally! Brew yer own!

No comments: