In the last couple of weeks, we've released pilot batches of untraditional pale ale and chocolate stout to the tasting panels.
Traditional pale ales usually fall into one of two categories: American pale ales and English pale ales. American pale ales feature loads of US-grown hops, which impart strong citrus flavors, and are fermented with yeast strains that don't produce much flavor (they result in "clean" beers). English brewers tend to hop their beers with more restraint, using floral English-grown varieties, and ferment their beers with yeasts that add noticeable levels of fruitiness. Both styles have similar colors, which are primarily derived from the use of candy-like caramel malts.
I brewed my version with a mix of German and English hops and fermented it with an English yeast. I used a small amount of caramel malt but added most of my color through the addition of roasted barley, much like the brewers of Scotland and Ireland. I added some flaked raw barley as well, hoping the extra protein would create a creamy mouthfeel. The beer received mixed reviews, which focused primarily on the hopping. As expected, some people thought it was too bitter while others found it very drinkable. What I didn't expect was that several hopheads and bitterphobes switched teams for the debate. My prognosis: the hop that I used for bittering was too harsh, but the overall hop presence was too low. The flaked barley resulted in a stable head of foam, but didn't add any creaminess.
Before I brewed the beer, I went to the homebrew shop with a list of three English yeast strains to choose from. None of them were available and, since I'm not selling my beer, I decided to try a strain called Super High Gravity Ale yeast. It originated in England and is used to produce beers up to 25% alcohol by volume. I was aiming for about 5.6% abv with the stout, but was intrigued by the yeast manufacturer's claim that the strain produces malty regular-gravity beers. The finished beer was drinkable, but definitely had some eau de rocket fuel from unwanted esters and higher alcohols (aka fusels). That's why I'm experimenting now instead of at the pub!
I'll be brewing a gluten-free beer from sorghum extract on Wednesday and pouring a relatively full-bodied mild for some friends this weekend. The mild showed a lot of promise after primary fermentation, so this guy is excited.