April 26, 2016: Tasting Notes – Amber Ales, Belgian Blond, and Vanilla Bourbon Imperial Porter

Wanted to provide updated tasting notes on the dry-hopped Amber Ales, Amber Ale version 2, Belgian Blond, and the Vanilla Bourbon Imperial Porter (VBIP). The Belgian Blond and VBIP were initially tasted during the height of allergy season and the only thing that could be determined with any certainty was beer was being consumed. The dry-hopped Amber Ale was first tasted in mid-March prior to dry hopping. Under attenuated, under hopped, these beers were almost undrinkable. We combined the kegs and dry-hopped with 2 oz of Amarillo pellets. Finally, the Amber Ale version 2, brew day was discussed here. In a perfect world the tasting notes would have been posted two weeks ago, but clarity issues existed.

VBIP: %ABV – 9.8, IBU – data not captured

Aromas of roasted coffee, dark chocolate, and vanilla. Mouth feel is creamy. Roasted flavors with hint of vanilla and bourbon. No alcohol burn despite ABV.

Belgian Blond: %ABV – 4.9, IBU – 10

Aroma is phenolic, reminiscent of cloves. Flavor is dry, slightly astringent, with phenol character. Color is darker than expected, and is very similar to the amber ale in color.

From left to right: dry-hopped amber ale; amber ale version 2.0

Dry hopped Amber Ale Combination: %ABV – ~4.79, IBU – 41

Aroma is citrus, with orange being prevalent, and malty. Sweet, but not as cloying as it was prior to dry hopping.

Amber Ale, version 2: % ABV – 6.3, IBU – 100

Aroma is citrus and malt. Flavor is sweet, with lingering bitterness that is not unpleasant. Some chill haze. Tasting notes were delayed due to microbiological haze (yeast). During transfer to the keg, some yeast was siphoned off from the secondary fermenter. Took a couple weeks for yeast to settle and to be purged from the fermenter (poured and dumped pints until clarity improved). Remaining haze is chill haze as concluded from the observation that the beer becomes clear as its temperature increases. We are pleased with this beer.

Yeast responsible for microbiological haze of amber ale, version 2.0
Yeast responsible for microbiological haze of amber ale, version 2.0

March 31, 2016: Tasting Notes – Belgian Blond and Vanilla Bourbon Imperial Porter

Belgian Blond (left) and Vanilla Bourbon Imperial Porter (right).

These are the tasting notes from our Belgian Blond (BB) and Vanilla Bourbon Imperial Porter (VBIP) extract/grain combination brew days. It should be noted that with this tasting Jess is suffering from allergy related stuffiness and could only be confident she drank beer; we are relying on Dave’s impressions since he is the less allergy-struck party. We will re-taste when our sinuses clear and most things no longer taste like well-chewed paper.

Belgian Blond

  • Original gravity: 1.043
  • Final gravity: 1.006
  • % ABV: 4.9
  • IBU: ~10

Visual Impressions: BB was darker than we were expecting (straw). Chill haze. Initial pour had good head, but foam stability is poor.

Aroma Impressions: Smelled strongly of cloves. No hop character. This was consistent with the aromas noted during fermentation.

Flavor Impressions: Dry. No hope bitterness. Phenolic after taste.

Vanilla Bourbon Imperial Porter

  • Original gravity: 1.083
  • Final gravity: 1.010
  • % ABV: 9.8
  • IBU: Data for calculations not captured

Visual Impressions: VBIP is dark. Initial pour had some head, but foam stability poor.

Aroma Impressions: Vanilla. Bourbon. Hint of leather (phenolic). No prominent hop aroma.

Flavor Impressions: Vanilla and bourbon present, but not overwhelming. Bitter after taste, but not harsh. Dry. Creamy mouth feel.


  • We forgot again and did all our fermenter and keg cleaning with water straight from the tap. The chlorination could be why the phenolic aroma is present in the VBIP and enhancing the natural phenolic character (due to yeast strain) of the BB.
  • The starter culture improved our attenuation. Forced fermentation wort studies will be conducted on wort batches in the future to determine final attenuation.
  • DATA! Still need pipetters for performing accurate dilutions, but once these are obtained, Jess is looking forward to constructing yeast growth curves to go along with the specific gravity curves. This is a late developing thought, but the pH of the fermentation can also be tracked, logged, and graphed.

March 20, 2016: Belgian Blond

This is another extract/grain kit. Not because we were short on time, but because we didn’t think far enough in advance to order our grains from More Beer for delivery by Saturday. The local home brew stores we are familiar with did not have the grains we wanted for another attempt at an amber ale. So we settled for the Belgian Blond kit from The Brewmeister.

Graph of Belgian Blond wort specific gravity during fermentation.

The milled grains were steeped at 72 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes, with the steep temperature decreasing to 70 degrees Celsius over the time course. The liquid malt extract (LME) was added to the water and mixed to ensure the mix was homogeneous. Initial volume was approximately 8 gallons. The sweet wort was brought to a vigorous boil for 60 minutes. Hop additions were made at 45 and 5 minutes (1 oz each addition). Hopped wort was cooled to 20 degrees Celsius and transferred to a Speidel 30L HDPE fermenter and aerated for 90 seconds with oxygen. The wort was inoculated with 1 L of 36 hour starter culture of WLP500. Original gravity was 1.043. Gravity readings were taken at 8 to 24 hour intervals over the course of fermentation.

What went well?

  • The stand proves its worth every time we brew on it.

    800X bright field microscope image of WLP500 starter culture.
    800X bright field microscope image of WLP500 starter culture.
  • Captured more relevant data.
  • The microscope purchase was well worth it. This yeast strain had an extended lag phase and sampling the starter culture 8 hours after inoculation showed actively budding cells.

Areas for improvement

  • Data capture. Still need to get a form together.
  • Rather sporadic time intervals of gravity readings and the long gap between pitching and the next reading.
  • Water usage. Estimate of 4 gallons of water used for every gallon of finished beer. We will keep looking for ways to decrease our water consumption.


  • 6.6 lbs Briess Pilsner LME
  • 1 lb Pilsner malt
  • 1 lb Munich malt
  • 2 oz Styrian Goldings (1.4% alpha acids), split (45 minutes, 5 minutes)
  • 1/2 tablet whirlfoc (5 minutes)
  • Yeast: WLP500 (Monastery Ale, Lot #: 1023586)