Tasting Notes: Brown Ale, Version 1

We brewed our Brown Ale November 20, hoping to add another well done beer to our taps. During fermentation we were concerned due to the thin mouth feel and non-existent hop character. Brown ales are not traditionally big, hoppy beers, but we were not happy with what we were tasting.

We decided to dry hop with 1 oz Northern Brewer hop pellets (7.6% alpha acids) upon transfer to the conical fermentation vessel, 72 hours prior to cold crash.

Our Brown Ale, Version 1.
Our Brown Ale, Version 1.

We were very pleasantly surprised with this beer. This is not a big beer; it has hints of malt and hops on the aroma. The flavor was malty. The color has a hint of red and the clarity is good. Head an foam lacing are fantastic. It is also nice to have beer on tap at approximately 5% ABV (rather than 8 – 9%).

We are will look to make some changes to the recipe. Initial thoughts include increasing the flaked oats to 1 lb and the Caramunich III 60L to 1.5 – 2.0 lbs. The Crystal 75L will be decreased and perhaps changed to a different malt. Although, it will be a pleasure to drink this brown ale in its current incarnation.


Tasting Notes: Amber Ale v 3.0

We kegged the amber ale version 3.0 2 weeks ago before we left on our Northern Rockies adventure. We have rechristened it an Imperial Amber Ale; a higher extraction efficiency resulted in a higher ABV.

A pint of our imperial amber ale.

We are thrilled with the results of our first Colorado home brew. The color is a robust amber and the beer is clear. It is like looking through amber colored glasses. The head is white and generates lovely lacing as the glass is drained.

The aromas are of malt, dried cherries, with hints of floral and citrus. On the palate, this beer is malt forward followed by a mild bitterness. Despite the high calculated ABV, there is no alcohol burn when drinking this beer.

Only challenge we face now is reproducing this beer consistently. We hope we are wildly successful in that goal.

Northern Rockies: Breweries

We visited three breweries on this trip. Best part of our tasting notes? Done in crayon on the back of the children’s menu/activity sheet.

IMG_20160825_130425913The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company, Canmore, Alberta, Canada: Parking in Canmore is a bit challenging, especially if you have an RV. Made even harder by the the city placing signs directing one to RV parking well after the turn for downtown. Ah well.

We tried Rutting Red Elk, Grumpy Bear Honey Wheat, Powder Hound Pilsner, Big Head Nut Brown, Beaver Tail Raspberry Ale, Rundlestone Session Ale, Big Head Nut Brown, Sleeping Buffalo Stout, and the Evolution IPA. Both the Raspberry and Honey Wheat were well done without the raspberry or honey flavor being overwhelming or the beers being overly sweet. Overall, the beers were well done and were true to the menu descriptions. The Beaver Tail Raspberry Ale was our favorite.

Food was fabulous. Kid’s menu served chicken tenders with a plum sauce. Rather delicious. Shaved prime rib sandwich and elk burger were executed well. The classic poutine was rather tasty.

Take the time to find parking and stop in for food and beer.

Banff Avenue Brewing Company, Banff, Alberta, Canada: This brewery is a little odd to get to – it is on the second floor of a strip mall on Banff Avenue.

We tried Banff Avenue BlondeLower Bankhead Black PilsnerHead Smashed IPAPond Hockey Pale Ale, and Walk a Mile ISA. Unfortunately the Blood Orange Hefenweizen and the Red Ale (supporting the local SPCA) were tapped out. Beers were average, nothing really excited us. We did like the Black Pilsner the best of all the ones we tried.

Food was good. We started with the classic poutine (gravy not too salty) and had the bison burger and venison smokie for lunch.

Check these folks out on a Friday after 4 pm. This is when they tap the cask of the week.

Ten Sleep Brewing Company, Ten Sleep, WY: We found this brewery when we discovered Clear Creek Brewing Company was closed on Wednesday, the day we were passing through. Ten Sleep’s story is intriguing so we decided to give their beers a try. After some questioning of Google Maps’ logic in route selection, we arrived safe and sound.

We tried four beers of the five beers on tap – No Name IPAPack Saddle PorterHuck and Tuck Wheat, and the Outlaw Amber. We enjoyed all the beers but were the most impressed with the IPA and Porter. The IPA was well balance with a lingering, but not unpleasant bitterness. Aroma was citrus with herbal undertones. The Porter was rich and smooth with a roasted and chocolate aromas. We left with a growler of each and discovered later that the Porter pairs very well with s’mores. Porter had a fantastic head, even after two days in a growler bumping around an RV refrigerator.

Definitely worth a visit if are in the approximate area. Owners are friendly and fun to chat with. Small family owned and run place. They also have chickens that served as great entertainment for a toddler. Check out their website, they also host concerts. Favorite brewery of the trip.

Ten Sleep Brewing Company No Name IPA with a charcuterie dinner overlooking Meadowlark Lake.
Ten Sleep Brewing Company No Name IPA with a charcuterie dinner overlooking Meadowlark Lake.

Here is a list of the breweries we wanted to visit, but were out of sync with their days/hours of operation. We will just have to check them out the next time we tour the Northern Rockies.

  1. Clear Creek Brewing Company, Buffalo, WY
  2. Flathead Lake Brewing Company, Bigfork, MT
  3. Missoula Brewing Company, Missoula, MT

Brewery Tour – June 2016

The Brewing Lair

Located in Blairsden, CA, the The Brewing Lair has a superior setting (What? We should have taken pictures? We didn’t, check out the website). Tucked away in the Sierra’s along the Pacific Crest Trail, the brewery has a 9 hole disc golf course (15 acres), a slack line, and 3 BBQ grills for cooking (first come, first serve). They have several levels of outdoor seating with Adirondack chairs and picnic tables. They even have a nice selection of toys for kids (Blaze, hula hoops, Lightning McQueen, dinosaurs). The brewery is approximately a 10 minute drive from Plumas-Eureka State Park.

The Brewing Lair Sampler.

BrewingLair_02We tried the sampler that consisted of the Blair Belgian Blonde Ale, Ambush IPA, Take a Hike India Red Ale, Black IPA, and Solo Session with Mosaic hops. These, with the exception of the Blair, were hop forward. All the beers were well done and we enjoyed them, despite them being outside of what we usually order. We went back for pints of the Blair and the Black IPA. This is brewery is well worth the trip.


Woody’s Brewing Company

Fully pour of the Apricot Wheat at Woody’s and their beer selection.

Located in Redding, CA, Woody’s Brewing Company was a great spot for lunch and beer. We again opened with the sampler and there wasn’t a beer we didn’t like. Full pours were ordered of the Apricot Wheat (hint of apricot, not overly sweet) and the Pray for Powder Porter (just very nicely done). The food was also top notch – the jalapeno burger has flattened, deep-fried jalapenos on it. Very tasty. If you are in the area, it is worth the stop.

Lost Coast Brewery

Located in Eureka, CA, we first stopped at the Lost Coast Brewery in 2010 and again in 2012. Since our last visit, Eureka seems to be a bit more down on its luck. The brewery remains rather unchanged from our memory. We settled in and grabbed a sampler. We really do like the sampler as an easy way to taste all the beers. We found the 8 Ball Stout to be one of the better beers, but, were underwhelmed in general. The Famous Hot Brown was meh, and fell short regarding the description. The 8 Ball Stout Beef stew was delicious, although light on the meat. We might stop here again, but it won’t go out of our way to do so.

Six Rivers Brewery

The sampler at Six Rivers.
The sampler at Six Rivers.

Located in Mckinleyville, Six Rivers Brewery was the highlight to our day. Forced into a commercial campground for the night due to the need for cell reception for Jess’ phone interview the next day, we needed some good beer to off set the less than picturesque accommodations. Six Rivers came highly recommended by a friend and former classmate of Jess’. The sampler was ordered again, and much drinking ensued. The Chili Pepper Spicy Ale was overwhelming, the tip to mix it 50/50 with Strawberry Wheat came too late to help us. The summer sour was well done, with a hint of acid, but not excessive. The IPAs were all nicely done.

The Buffalo Chicken sandwich had nice heat to it and the burger wasn’t one to drive for, but was edible. Had a really nice Kid’s Platter with a wide selection for those little grazers.

North Coast Brewing Company

The sampler at North Coast Brewing Company.
The sampler at North Coast Brewing Company.

North Coast Brewing Company, in Fort Bragg was the last stop of our trip. Our final sampler of delicious beers. No truly bad beer in the bunch. The Red Seal beer engine sampler had the aroma of diacetyl (buttery), but the non-beer engine Red Seal was as expected. Possible the beer engine needed new lines or the beer was not moving quickly. Old 38 Stout, Brother Thelonius, Old Stock Ale, Pranqster, and Blue Star were some of our favorites.

The food was also very good. The Carolina BBQ kurubota pork was juicy, tender, and had that expected vinegar tang. The rosemary chicken was nicely cooked and was served with a delicious sauce. We sat at the bar a number of years ago, and to the best of our recollection, the tap room has changed since then (time does march on!). The tap room seemed to have a more upscale feel to it, but 6 or so years will cloud the memory.

It is a good thing we don’t live near Fort Bragg – our wallets would be quite thin from all our North Coast visits.


We enjoyed revisiting breweries and trying out new places. It is definitely a different experience with Alex in tow, but with a little help from the electronic baby sitter (DVD player), we were able to enjoy some beer.

Hands down, the Brewing Lair had the best setting. A must visit if you are in the area; also great for Alex (an other kids) because he got to play outside and there were toys.

For beer, North Coast did not disappoint. Woody’s was a nice surprise, we stopped because we needed lunch and they served food. We are very glad we did, it was quite enjoyable. The Brewing Lair beer styles were outside of what we normally seek out, but well done.


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: Tasting Notes – Amber Ale Update

Two temperature mash on left, single temperature on right.
Two temperature mash on left, single temperature on right.

So an update on our poor, under-attenuated amber ales. We have been discussing dumping them because we are going to need the kegerator space. However, they earned a reprieve when 1. our bitter chocolate oatmeal stout keg kicked and freed up space and 2. we decided to make a vanilla bourbon stout that will need to be racked for 10 – 14 days. So, the amber ales survive!

We decided to see if anything has changed in the past week since our first tasting and we were pleasantly surprised! The picture doesn’t do the clarity justice (a light box will be added to the to be purchased list), but the beer is clear! Especially the single temperature mash. We are also pleased the quantity and stability of the single mash foam. These two beers were poured within a minute of each other and the picture taken within a couple minutes of pour. The flavor of both beers is still sweet and under-hopped. The two temperature mash has a drier finish hidden under the residual sweetness.

So what to do next? Since their dates with drain destiny have been placed on hold, we might as well dry hop the amber ales and see if they improve.

March 13, 2016: Tasting Notes (Amber Ale Two Ways)

This is a continuation of the home brew we started February 28, 2016.

Fermentation was finished by March 3, 2016 and we sampled the beer to obtain the gravity reading. We then dropped the temperature to -1 degree Celsius to facilitate chill haze formation and precipitation on March 4, 2016. We transferred to kegs on March 7, 2016 after Alex went to bed.

We tasted the beer on March 13, 2016 with Jesse, a friend and classmate.

Amber Ale Two Temperature Mash Stats:

Original Gravity: 1.0611

Final Gravity: 1.027

%ABV: 4.46

IBU: 41

Amber Ale Single Temperature Mash Stats:

Original Gravity: 1.0663

Final Gravity: 1.0298

%ABV: 5.12

IBU: 41


  • The final gravity it is clear we did not achieve full attenuation (~1.015).
  • It is not surprising the aroma is very malty with very little hop aroma.
  • Color is amber with a hint of red. Two temperature mash may be a bit darker.
  • Beer is cloudy.
  • Both beers live up to their malty aroma in flavor and are sweet. Very little hop bitterness is evident.
  • The two temperature mash is dryer than the one temperature mash, but with the poor attenuation, difficult to distinguish.
  • They are not bad . . . but they aren’t exactly good. Both beers are an excellent example of how bitterness from hops make beers drinkable by balancing the sweetness.
  • Beers are drinkable if done in small amounts. Should not be paired with sweet foods.
  • Single temperature mash is preferred.

Plan of Action:

Jesse talked us out of our panicked throw the kitchen sink at the next brew and got us back to a place of logical thinking.

What we know: poor attenuation, acetaldehyde aromas during fermentation, hint of diacetyl in finished beer. Yeast were pitched directly from the pure pack (no starter) and aeration was done by shaking the fermenter. We used WLP002 (British Ale yeast)

What this points to: Unhappy yeast because of lazy home brewers. Which is frustrating because we were careful in other aspects of our experiment.

What we will do for the next brew:

  • Use a starter culture. ~1.5L for a 19L fermentation.
  • Consider aeration of the wort with an aeration stone and oxygen (we just got a new oxygen tank).
  • We will hold off on any bittering hop additions on the theory that the sweetness is overwhelming the bitterness.
  • We will add more aroma hops at the end of the boil.
  • We will take more frequent gravity measurements to better track fermentation.

February 18, 2016: Tasting Notes (Sunset Pale Ale, Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout)

First tasting of the beers was 2/13/2016. A second tasting was conducted on 2/18/2016. Of course we drank the beers between tastings! Check out this post for details for brew day and this post for details from kegging day.

Overall, we are pleased with the beers and continue to learn through the process.

Sunset Pale Ale:

2/13/2016 – Golden in appearance with a hint of red. Beer is cloudy. Excellent foam. Aroma was piney hop notes with underlying citrus. Drier finish that is bitter and slight astringent. Lingering bitterness, but not unpleasant. Paired well with food, especially foods with higher fat content (think cheese). Beer was tasted in the early afternoon.

2/18/2016 – Piney hop notes are diminished and there is now an oxidized character to the aroma. The chemical responsible for this character is trans-2-nonenal. Bitterness reduced and astringency increased. Tasting was done early evening.

Off aromas likely from oxidation due to a poor keg purge. There was also a significant amount of head space in the keg after beer was transferred in. Keg was also rinsed with chlorinated water instead of water passed through a charcoal filter. We will see if any aromas that could be attributed to 2,6-dichlorphenol. We also do not know what our water chemistry is at our rental; the chemistry could impact the flavor and stability of the beer, and may impact the pale ale style more significantly than others. It is fun operating in the blind.

Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout:

2/13/2016 – Dark brown, almost black in appearance. Excellent foam that was very stable. To borrow from wine tasting, the beer has ‘legs’ and coats the glass after swirling. Aroma contained roasted, chocolate and coffee characteristics. No noticeable hop character. Sweet and bitter characters with a silky mouth feel. Lingering bitterness, but not unpleasant. Beer is drinkable, and is filling. Gravity reading and %ABV need to be redone – it feels like it has and ABV higher than 5.5%. Beer was tasted in the early afternoon.

2/18/2016 – Aroma similar, perhaps with a hint of hop starting to come through. No major differences between tastings.