The Beginner Brewer: October 2016

Monday, 17 October 2016

Scum, Beer & Villainy: Episode I

Good news: Our first episode of the podcast has just dropped!

Check it out here:

(For slower connections check out: This Link)

In this episode Matt and I chat about Saisons, review Citizen's Winter Porter, and talk about our favorite science-fiction movies. We also feature some primo SA indie Ska music by Fridge Poetry.

If you have any suggestions or beers you'd like us to review in future episodes, please let us know in the comments section!


Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Citizen Pacifist Winter Porter

(440ml, Bottled, 6 % ABV)

Before the Pour

Marcel's view: Nice label. Really stands out from the crowd. And the best part? It's got a really nice texture. Mmm. Feel that textured paper. Definitely a favorite look and feel. But the name seems a bit, well, passive? Also: I'd like to see some more info on the beer and the brewery.

Matt's view: Solid, consistent branding. Quite like the dagger and shield motif. Bottle itself is a bit samey though. Agreed on the name. Curious choice given how full-bodied this beer turns out to be. Lack of copy about the beer is a bit of a bummer.

In the Glass

Marcel's view: Oh wow. Immediate coffee and vanilla on the nose. Quite a bit of vanilla, actually. Taste is subtle cocoa, followed by some roasted notes, then more vanilla in the aftertaste. Very smooth, very warming. Not acrid or overly bitter like some porters. Even if you don't like porters as a rule, this one might persuade you otherwise.

Matt's view: Sweet, caramel aromas. Chocolate on the nose. Smooth bitterness in the mouth. Solid coffee and chocolate in the taste. Full, warming mouth-feel. Not a lot of vanilla, but tasty nonetheless. 

Will it go to Mars?

If we could only take one beer with us to Mars, would this one be in the cargo hold?

Marcel: Yip. Bring it with. Mars has only one season: cold.

Matt: Mmm. Maybe. A bit too heavy for me.

The Scores



Final Verdict

A really tasty, solid winter warmer that would also do very nicely on a summer's day for that matter. No flaws, nothing forced or overdone. 

Imagine the love child of a really good beer and a really good chocolate brownie. Yum!

A Guide to the Scores


More about Citizen's Beers: Visit their website

Monday, 10 October 2016

New Beer Reviews: Coming soon

Here on Beginnerbrewer we're going to be mixing things up a bit with our beer reviews. A couple of things are set to change:

  • For one, I'm no longer running my own craft brewery, so I feel that I'm allowed to review beer again without conflict of interest. Yay!
  • The beer reviews will be based on our podcast's review section. So if you want the full version, listen to the podcast. The condensed version will be on the blog under the review section. But really, you should read the one and listen to the other!
  • You'll notice that reviews will now feature two (and sometimes more) people's opinions on a beer. Good one!
  • The review point system has changed. It's now even more unscientific! See below for more detail. We wanted to keep things simple and fun. So if you're looking for a full, exhaustive (i.e. yawn-inducing) BJCP rating, look elsewhere. To be honest though, we'll be reviewing things that go beyond just the BJCP essentials, like branding.

Bad / Flawed beer

When we find a flawed beer, we'll institute the following procedure:
  1. First, we'll get some more samples from different sources to confirm the problem's origin (brewery or outlet)
  2. Then, we'll contact the brewer and see how they respond--maybe they want to give us another sample, and we think everyone deserves a second chance. Right?
  3. Finally, good or bad, we'll post the review.

Why are we doing this? 

Simple. We don't want to damage breweries or brewers who are trying their best. But we also feel obliged to warn you, dear readers, of bad beer out there. After all, this stuff ain't cheap. And, as I've argued elsewhere, reviewing bad beer is ultimately good for the industry as a whole.

The New Rating System

Friday, 7 October 2016

Your Guide to Off-flavors: Volume 2

Last time, we looked at some of the most common off-flavors that might creep into your homebrew (or beer you've just bought at the local for that matter).

In today's post, we continue our journey of foul flavors. Sounds lovely, doesn't it?

Off-Flavor #4: Acetaldehyde

This off-flavor will remind you of green apple, apple puree, or freshly cut Granny Smith apples. This is another substance that is present in all beer: yeast produces it during fermentation. 

But in high concentrations, it is always considered a flaw. 

Remember, we're making beer here, so apple flavors are generally not ideal!

How to stop it

Acetaldehyde can be formed by bacteria, so check your sanitizing processes. Especially in the cold-side of you brewery, i.e. the chiller, fermenters, transfer hoses and tubes, etc.

Occasionally, this green-apple monster can be created by aeration during bottling. So make sure you fill your bottles (or kegs) from the bottom up, and fill slowly! To be super-sure, purge your bottles and kegs with some CO2 before filling them.

Off-Flavor #5: Oxidized

Good for packaging, sucks as a flavor
Oxygen is important in the brewing process. Yeast needs the stuff, just like us, to remain healthy. But good old O2 comes with it's own shadowy side. When introduced during mashing or bottling, it can ruin beer. 

Damn you oxygen and all your noble gas buddies!

You'll know your beer's been oxidized if it tastes one-dimensional and smells like wet paper, cardboard, or that old library scent. Sometimes, it can even taste like white pepper, but not in a good way.

How to stop it

Oxygen can creep into beer when you don't bottle correctly, so ensure that you bottle nice and slowly. Purge your bottles or kegs with CO2. Make sure that your racking equipment doesn't have tears or holes that can let air in during transfer. Don't whisk sugar into your bottling bucket, stir it very, very gently or not at all.

Also, you may not be getting a good seal on your keg or crown caps, so check those as well along with your capper.

Exposure to light can also lead to problems, so make sure you're using brown bottles and not storing your beer in UV light. Generally, poor storage of beer can often lead to oxidization problems. 

Off-Flavor #6: Ethyl Hexanoate

Ethyl Hexanoate is another natural product of fermentation, and can, in certain concentrations, be acceptable in a host of different styles of beer.

It's flavors and aromas are fruity, dried apple, slight aniseed, slight perfume, or somewhat floral. 

In high concentrations, it can make you beer taste more like a cheap apple cider than beer. The horror!

How to stop it

Esters like Ethyl Hexanoate are tied up in the fermentation of beer. Yeast health, pitching rates, fermentation temperatures, and available oxygen are all important when you want to eliminate this off-flavor.

Make sure you yeast has a healthy environment to grow in. Aerate your wort before pitching yeast and if you're brewing high gravity beers, add some yeast nutrients in the boil to help those little buggers out.

A common cause is overly high fermentation temperatures. Because homebrewers often struggle with temperature control, especially in the warmer months of the year, this can be a real pain. Try to maintain a steady fermentation temperature of between 16 and 18 degrees C for ale yeasts and see if that does the trick.

That's it for off-flavors for now! We'll no doubt be looking into them again some time soon, but for now, leave comments if you detect any other nasty surprises in your homebrew and I'll happily assist!