In the messy hall of a room I call the brew house and others call the brewery, things are shaping up. The fermentation/yeast fridge is kicking up its first lager, the burners still tumble through their paces, and I’m left feeling a large debt to the man who hosts me, my beer, and most importantly watches my son for 6 hours twice a month. So I brew him a batch. His very own choice of ESB meets amber meets his tastes.
The first iteration came in 2013 when I was firing up the kettle at Gary’s and he brings up a good point on having ‘all of this beer’ in his basement and he “can’t drink any of it.” A quick brainstorm, detailing, and the very next brew day an ESB is poured through the stained aluminium pots and out into the standard pails. My memory is its simplicity, under hopped, mildly caramel and malty. He loved it.
2014 rang in and he wanted something more “amber” so in went MO, Victory, and a dash of corn – this round was split between 1335 (Brit Ale II) & 1275 (Thames). It was ‘fine’ not better or worse to my palette – that is until an infection took hold and make it maple syrup. We tried to allow it to sit, but the malty backbone took hold and the thickness never let go – the first bottles to ever get a dump. Away with ye.
The kind and bull-headed man of a father-in-law I have kept attempting to drink the mess I crafted and I felt it necessary to rectify. Malt was shifted to 80 & 40L, a dash of roasted barley, and a few oz of homegrown hops – yeast split to Steam Beer and s-04; I was testing his tastes, putting his keenness for British strains to the test. He didn’t blink, s-04 was favored right away, even pre-carbonation. It’s under hopped (again), much too malty for my tastes, but is really getting along nicely. Then he says he’s ready for v4 – and to “brew the same beer last year.” I smile and sigh.
This beer is a tag-along. The thing I left out here is that Gary gives a lot of this amber away. He drinks most of it, sure, but he’s apt to give buddies of his 6 packs as parting gifts and house warming presents. I won’t mince words, I think these are the fellas that think anything with a beer-like flavor fits their preferences. But, and this is a huge but, it’s a larger audience than my ‘this-is-good’ host. So again, this is a tag-along beer to take with him on an extended trip to the far-flung deserts and mountains of the south-west US. Two cases, all four cases? Who is to say. Only him. Drinks for him at the hotel, sixers gifted to hosts, yurt-neighbors, and the like.
I caught a rare Gary the day before brewing v4 saying an amber he drank was ‘flat on flavor’ and an ESB having a bit more “something.” Rye. It popped in the old noodle right as he said it. So here we go – I couldn’t just leave enough alone. 5% rye, a bit of c120, and lots of 2-row – that’s it; biscuit malt had every intention of making the mash, but it was left in my bag – ever onward. I also doubled, even tripled the amount of hops – still using his whole leaf homegrown hops. They still held a good amount of aroma after a freezer stay in vacuüm bags for 6+ months but I wanted something with BALANCE finally, the quality of the leaf home-style cascades just weren’t there. This version is split between s-04 (from a cider pitch) and OLY-006; my thoughts drifted to Gary romanticizing his brewery, his hops, and a locally grown yeast to those cracking a bottle or two of ‘his beer.’ Report on taste, experience and more soon.
Take Aways: nail down efficiency and boil-off; I’m always way over on mash efficiency by ~10 points (70 vs 80 percent), as well as boiling down more than I want (ending a smidge lower than ~8.5 gallons) which means just about everything I brew is higher gravity than intended. Really need to get a handle on proper liquid measurements.