[caption id="attachment_9282" align="alignleft" width="300"] Mashing in[/caption]

Saturday was a day of brewing and tasting beer, along with a large roast dinner with friends. I brewed a Porter and the process went so smoothly, that I keep thinking that I must have done something wrong along the way. The temperature of the strike water was spot on and I didn't have to wait to mash. The grain mashed nicely. I got an adequate amount of runnings for boiling and there was no overboil. The brew is fermenting in the beer fridge at 18 degrees. I'll have to do something with it next weekend I guess.

Homebrewers usually drink beer whilst they brew. I usually leave it until the end when the success of the brew is clear. The last thing one needs is a sluggish head when boiling large volumes of liquids. So on to the beers, with a quick one to start during the mash process.

  1. Neck Oil Session IPA, Beavertown, 4.3%

This is not my first Neck Oil but its the first time I've written notes. The beer is fruity on the nose, nicely carbonated with a bead head and lacing. It tingles on the tongue and finishes with a citrus flavour. It's what it says on the tin and the good thing is it is designed for a session. Light and drinkable. Bring more please Jeeves.

Once I'd finished this beer, I sparged the mash and collected all the runnings to boil. My sparge water heater has broken. This is the second time. This time I suspect the element has gone. Fortunately, it broke after I needed it. Previously it has broken during the brewing process and it was not possible to continue. This is why my main boiler has two elements with separate power feeds.

2. Gamma Ray American Pale Ale, Beavertown, 5.4%

Slightly hazy but with a nicely foaming head with the potential to lace down the glass (if it lasts that long). I got a slight maltiness on the nose. Has a foamy mouthfeel and the hops are in the farewell on my first taste. It is misleadingly strong. It's smooth and highly drinkable. I like this one, but I prefer Neck Oil in terms of flavour. Beavertown makes good beers.

I learnt a tasting tip today. Often after the first sniff, you can no longer smell the bouquet on the beer on subsequent sniffs. To get around this, smell you elbow for a few seconds. Then when you go back to the beer, you will smell the bouquet properly again.

At this point, I'd started to chill the beer after the boil and my mates were beginning to turn up. The following beers were tasted together:

3. Goose IPA, Goose Island Beer Company, 5.9%

The tasting session went downhill for me starting with this one. The first two beers were just much better than the rest. This IPA comes from Chicago's Goose Island Beer Company. To begin with I could not get anything on the nose. My tasting partner (who happens to be a Guild judge and a BJCP judge) sensed more. Grainy and not much to it for me. It's crystal clear with light carbonation, but to me, it tastes bland. It didn't rock my boat today - sorry. Perhaps the first two beers are overpowering it.

4. Off-menu IPA, Camden Town Brewing Company, 5.8%

This IPA from Camden Town was better than the previous IPA for me. There is a slight fruitiness on the nose with a peachy hoppiness on the tongue. Not as clean as it could be though, but better for me than the Goose. I haven't got anything more to say.

5. Lipuloid American IPA, Beavertown, 6.7%

Another Beavertown beer - I was hopeful that this would be good. The name suggests that it is loaded full of hops and it is. In fact, it has a whole lot of hop on the palette. The beer has a strange bouquet and my judge colleague felt it had a resinous end. He wasn't as happy as I was. Actually, we found that the beer got better if you left it a bit in the glass. Similar to the Gamma Ray, this beer feels light but it isn't at 6.7%. It should be treated with respect.

The next beer is substantially different, so let's summarise my thoughts on the previous five. By far my favourite was the Neck Oil. This is a good all-round session IPA. The second place goes to the Gamma Ray which for me is a drinkable APA, but not quite there with the Neck Oil. The Lipuloid IPA comes third, so Beavertown win. The Off-menu IPA is a fourth - this didn't really do it for me but I'm afraid the last place is the Goose. In different circumstances or orders, maybe these would do better.

6. Quench Quake, BrewDog, 4.6%

We ended the tasting session with this BrewDog beer. The reason we left it to last is that it is a sour beer and different to the rest. There's an initial smell of something dodgy. I thought I could smell something like marijuana. Onto the taste and it's definitely sour. It's zesty and lemony.  But it's a commercial sour and it is not in the league of a Belgian sour, unfortunately. Still is it drinkable and a good addition to the BrewDog range. I'm not sure I would choose it again though.

That ended the tasting. By the end, the boil had chilled enough to transfer the Porter into the fermenter and pitch the yeast. All in all successful brewing day.