Been a little while since I wrote, but only two brewing type things have happened during the hiatus.
Firstly, I have cracked open a couple of bottles of the Wailing Bike. Christ, this stuff is strong. Really interesting that although I used a big late hop of Motueka there is not a great hop nose here. Comparing this with the rather tasty Bluebird Clone (AG#10) I was really surprised. The hops are definitely aromatic, possibly more so than the Challenger I used in the Bluebird. So why the difference?
I am sure this is all about the yeast. The Belgian Trappist yeast I used (WLP500) is terrific, but it definitely does a certain job. That job is to make the whole beer taste and smell like a good Belgian should - fruity, estery, organic chemistry lab like!! I think that killed off any of the hop aroma I might have got. However, all is not lost, as the big hop hit on the palate is still ere, and it balances a strong ale out really well. Perhaps too well; it makes the whole thing rather drinkable, and counteracts the caramel sweetness from the crystal really well. So, whilst this beer is strong and sweet, the bite makes it dangerously suppable.
Took some of this to a party, and it went down rather well, with someone asking what brewery it came from!!
Secondly, after drinking some great Milk Stout from Mikkeller at the Craft Beer Co at Christmas, I realised that it had been some time since I brewed a dark beer. I have had a couple of issues with dark beers in the past; I've made them too dark. I have used too many dark grains, which makes for a less fermentable pint, so the thing has always come out a little thin and too bitter/roasty - even for me!
This time, I consulted the web for guidance. I eventually found a clone of the infamous Left Hand Milk Stout that friends rave about. The reviews had been good. The unscaled, non BIAB, recipe is here. It is relatively involved, and, at such low volumes, I must have annoyed the folk at Hop and Grape getting them to crush 200g of stuff a few times. There was no need for CRS this time; the dark malts are good foils for a too low pH, and did change my water (more by luck than judgement having visited Waitrose rather than Sainsbury's that weekend! Wairose get their water from Church Stretton, under a very different geology). And, just to finish things off, there is a hefty dose of lactose!
This is now actively fermenting (and I mean bubbling like a mad 'un, not quite writhing like the Trappist yeast did), after adding a sachet of Saf-Ale US 05 yeast. I had used 04 in another beer, and was impressed, so I will be interested to see what happens here - it is an American recipe after all. However, after my lesson from the last brew, this yeast is supposed to be rather neutral in flavour profile, which should give the complex malts and bitering hops a chance to vie for supremacy. The unferemented wort tasted great - almost drinking chocolate with hops - so roll on next Sunday and barrelling!