Tasting Notes: Pa’s Video Board Lager

Pa’s Video Board Lager is a beer Andy and I have brewed the last two years in his memory around his birthday on November 1 to serve at our family Christmas party. This year I also brewed a beginner version for Learn to Homebrew Day which fell on Pa Chalifour’s birthday. I have been waiting to do a side-by-side tasting to compare the two beers.

The version I brewed with Andy used an all-grain brewing method with no malt extract. We milled and mashed the Belgian barley, converting the starches in the grain to the fermentable sugars that became the alcohol in the beer. We used WY2112 California Lager liquid yeast, and I made a large yeast starter to make sure there were more than enough yeast cells to give the beer a clean and crisp lager taste. I also adjusted the water chemistry of the water we used to mash and sparge. After fermentation was complete the beer was kegged and force carbonated with CO2 from a tank.

The beginner version was not just replacing the base-malt in the original recipe with malt extract. The entire recipe was reformulated to be as easy to brew as possible. The grist was all extract, not even a small amount of specialty grains to steep. Instead of pitching a large starter of liquid yeast, the recipe took one small packet of Nottingham dry yeast. After fermentation the beer was bottled and bottle conditioned.

The finished beers were vaguely similar, but quite different. The beers illustrate the pros and cons of extract and all-grain brewing. 

The beginner version is on the left, the for lack of a better term advanced version is on the right. Both beers finished with brilliant clarity. The beginner version with extract is noticeably darker which exposes one of the limitations of malt extract. It is a byproduct of the production of extract at the factory. The beer will taste the same, you just can’t necessarily make “golden suds” if you are using extract exclusively.

The advanced version had a crisp hop aroma, complimented by a cracker-like aroma from the malt. The beginner version had more of an estery aroma from the ale yeast with a slight perception of alcohol. The relatively high strength of the beer probably caused the wort’s temperature to increase during fermentation causing more ale-like aromas and flavors.

The advanced version had a clean and crisp flavor. It tasted like a fresh, Euro lager. It was decidedly light bodied. When brewing all-grain a brewer has much more control over the body of the beer than with extract brewing. The beer also finished much lighter than I had intended due to our poor brew-house efficiency. That is we did not extract as many fermentable sugars from the grain as we had expected.

Efficiency was not an issue with the beginner version since the extract already has all the sugars extracted. This made the beer decidedly maltier than the advanced version. There is a green apple flavor, not necessarily acetaldehyde, but it did give the beer a different flavor. The medium body and noticeable alcohol reminded me a little of Bud Ice. In hindsight the extract could have been dialed back a bit. A swamp cooler like I used when brewing The Sustenance would have helped make sure the fermentation temperature was at the lower end of the yeast’s range and given the beer a cleaner flavor. This isn’t to say the beer is bad, it just could have been better with a couple of adjustments.

After we brewed the Pa Lager my dad told me that Pa Chalifour actually dabbled in brewing himself with one of his neighbors. Homebrewing was probably still illegal in those days. I can only imagine what kind of beers they brewed and what kind of ingredients they used. It just makes brewing a beer in his memory that much more appropriate!

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