Monthly Archives: March 2016

Tasting Notes: BeerSmith’s Dry Irish Stout on cask

When I packaged BeerSmith’s Dry Irish Stout I filled a three gallon keg that is currently in my basement, I filled a one gallon polypin to simulate cask conditioning, and bottled the rest. The bottled version was the basis of my original tasting notes. I brought the polypin to the March North Shore Brewers meeting to share and get feedback.

The meeting was at Mystic Brewery in Chelsea. It was a chilly, early spring night. I put the polypin in the trunk which chilled it to a degree. One thing I didn’t have was a spigot for the polypin. Once I took off the cap I had to carefully pour the beer into the glass.

After packaging I bled the pressure once to make sure the polypin or spigot didn’t rupture. The beer out of the vessel had almost no carbonation. I thought it was a fault and I shouldn’t have bled the pressure, but nobody else seemed to mind.

When poured hard the head would rouse slightly; there’s a reason real ale when it was pumped pumped was sprayed into the glass. The beer had a medium body. The lack of carbonation smoothed out the roasted character from the bottled version. Other club members got lots of chocolate and coffee notes. The finish was dry and beggared another sip. I got more fruit notes from the yeast out of the polypin also. Overall the beer was a hit.

We got a tour of the brew house and learned about how Mystic cultures wild yeast for some of its more adventurous brews. I left with a growler of Reko, a saison made with Ethiopian coffee. Ethiopian coffee tends to be fruitier than the Central/South American coffees you find at Dunks. It blended perfectly with the base saison.

I still had some of the stout left that I brought over to some friends’ home. They enjoyed the beer too. While there I decided why not blend the stout with some Bud Light from their kegerator?

The stout and Bud Light were almost identical in gravity. The resulting blend would never have the pretty appearance of a Black and Tan made at a bar. The high carbonation of the Bud Light blended with nicely with the almost still, cask-style stout. The blend almost tasted like a brown ale. Some might be offended I blended an awesome homebrew with a macro beer, but hey we were having fun.

I haven’t made time to package the Trans Atlantic Ale. Now that the polypin is empty, I will fill it back up with English Bitter. I love me some cask ale!

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Classing up my brews

When we first started brewing I bought blank labels online, Jennie designed awesome labels, I wrote some text to add to her design, we printed the labels at home, and labeled all 50 some-odd bottles by hand. We did this for our first few batches, but the labeling, and more so peeling of all the labels to reuse the bottles became tedious.

After awhile we would only label bottles given as gifts. I had the label template saved on my old Windows XP desktop, and edited the template in Photoshop Elements for each brew. The beers we didn’t label, I would mark the bottle cap with a Sharpie, or buy different colored caps to color code my beers.

The hard drive on my 2004 vintage desktop was 99% full. When Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP I took it offline. My old printer didn’t support AirPrint, so I stopped buying ink. Needless to say, we haven’t labeled in a long time. There is nothing classier than giving a bottle of beer as a gift and explaining that the “CH” on the bottle cap means it is the Chocolate Milk Stout.

I use my iPhone and iPad for almost everything, but there are some things that are just easier to do on a real computer with a mouse and keyboard. A few months back I finally broke down and bought a Windows 10 PC. Last week I bought a new printer. I am officially back in the labeling business!

Through my work I was able to download Microsoft Office for only $9.99. Microsoft Publisher had the template for my blank labels pre-loaded. The editing capability doesn’t seem as robust as Photoshop Elements, but I think it will be good enough for my purposes.

This past weekend I bottled the Pyrite Pistol. The beer had sat on the Bowmore-soaked oak cubes in the secondary for 35 days. The samples I tasted were awesome! The oak and scotch add a smoky complexity to what was otherwise a clean Scotch Ale.

I set aside six bottles to possibly enter into competitions, but I labeled the rest. I started designing the labels shortly after I designed the recipe. On bottling day I added the brew date, bottling date, some information on the beer, and social media accounts to the labels before printing them up. I ended up with a case plus three bottles of 22 ounce bombers, and about two cases of 12 ounce bottles.

I still have a ton of blank labels left. I plan to label most of my big beers I plan to cellar. The labels are an inexpensive paper stock. They look great coming out of the printer, but any contact with water the ink runs. If you load up a cooler with these labels on the bottles the labels will slowly fall off. If I really want to step up my game I would buy higher end labels and have them printed by a laser printer.

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Tasting Notes: BeerSmith’s Dry Irish Stout

About a week and a half ago we made a day trip up to Portland. It was supposed to be Bissell Brothers last release of their double IPA Swish until the fall. As we were driving up, Jennie saw that the brewery published their release schedule for the upcoming quarter, and there was indeed more Swish in the pipeline.


We soldiered on since we were already in Maine. Foundation was having their second anniversary party that day as well. In addition to a case of Swish, two four-packs of The Substance, we bought one four-pack each of Epiphany and Blaze, and bottles of two special releases.

My house has a ton of world class hoppy beer. Since hoppy beers don’t keep well I am doing my best to drink them fresh and store them at as cool of a temperature as possible. Even with all of this beer, I still had a hankering for an Irish or Irish-style beer for St. Patrick’s Day. The one store I stopped in was sold out of all of their Guinness, I didn’t see any O’Hara’s, nor any of my local favorites like Samuel Adams Irish Red or Harpoon Celtic Ale. Luckily, my homebrew was ready to go!


BeerSmith’s Dry Irish Stout pours jet black with a creamy off-white head. The head wasn’t chalk-white like found on a Guinness Draught. I suspect this is due to the nitrogen used in Guinness draught, and the way Guinness roasts their barley in-house. The head persists nicely and laces the glass beautifully.

The aroma consists of soft espresso notes and light levels of stone fruit. The flavor and mouthfeel of this bottle-conditioned beer is a cross between the more modern Guinness Draught, and the more traditional Guinness Extra Stout. The conventional carbonation makes this beer not quite as smooth as Guinness Draught, but the roasted flavors from the malt are more prominent. I would love to brew a double batch of this beer where half of the beer is conventionally carbonated, and the other half is served with a nitro tap to compare and contrast.

The beer also has a similar twang that Guinness Draught has. Legend is that Guinness blends a small amount of sour beer to provide that twang. Homebrewers have frequently used acidulated malt, or like I did last year, sour a portion of the beer, to add that element. After brewing and drinking this beer, I don’t think it’s necessary if you use enough roasted barley.

The beer is outstanding. It is sessionable, but still feels substantial. The malt flavor is perfect for the style of beer. That a beer this excellent can come from such a simple recipe shows that less is often more. I can see why Dr. Brad Smith keeps this beer on tap at all times.

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Brew Day: Barrel House Z Launch Pad Contest

There are more breweries in the US than there have been at any point in history. Locally, breweries are opening on an almost monthly basis. One new brewery scheduled to open is Barrel House Z in Weymouth. The brewery is being opened by original Harpoon brewer Russ Heissner, and like Innis and Gunn all of their beers will be barrel-aged.

A couple of months ago I received an email from the North Shore Brewers about Barrel House Z’s Launch Pad Contest:

Launch Pad is a real opportunity for you, the home brewer, to scale up your operation and get a taste of what it’s like to brew your beer on a commercial level! The winner of the Launch Pad Contest will get to enjoy the following:

·Commercially produce, brand, and distribute a limited batch of beer in collaboration with BHZ (minimum of 20 BBL, maximum of 140 BBL)
·Attend and enter your beer at the Great American Beer Fest (travel & accommodations included)
·Be the “rock star”, host tastings and signings for the beer on the South Shore and in Boston
·Learn the ins and outs of the craft beer business and how to scale up from home brewing to commercial brewing
·Receive consultation on starting a brewery and/or setting up a contract brewing operation of their own

Well, that certainly sounds interesting! Now, look at the kind of beer they are looking for:


My Camp Randall Red IPA is exactly what they are looking for! I was thrilled with how the beer came out; it had a fruity hop flavor and was complimented by a complex blend of malts. I had it in my mind to brew this one again. The contest just moved it to the front of the line.

The original recipe was a partial mash where a good chunk of my fermentables came from liquid malt extract. This time around I wanted to brew an all-grain batch with all of the base malt being pale ale malt, as opposed to the malt extract which uses lighter 2-row malt. I brewed a three gallon, all-grain batch on my stove-top.


The character a beer gains from oak aging varies greatly depending on the type of oak and type of spirit aged in the cask. I get a lot of vanilla from most wood-aged beers that I drink. With that in mind, I adjusted the grist to make the malt flavor a little less sweet up front so the beer wouldn’t be too cloying coming out of the barrel. I also increased the hop bitterness and dry hops figuring that the beer would lose some bitterness and a fair amount of hop character after being aged in the barrel.

I purchased my ingredients locally on brew day. After not making a yeast starter, I ended up using a dry yeast. I chose a yeast that I have always had success with, but haven’t used in awhile. It ferments fast and clears beautifully. When the people at Barrel House Z try my beer I want it to look great to really make a strong first impression.

In my mind I think this beer would work really well aged in a rum barrel. To maintain a fresh hop character the beer could be racked from the barrels back into a stainless steel tank for dry hopping. Another alternative could be to blend the barrel-aged beer with a fresh batch that wasn’t barrel aged.

I might split the batch and age one gallon on rum-soaked oak cubes to get an idea what the beer would taste like after barrel aging.

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Beer Inspiration in our Backyard: Gentile Brewing Company

In the past couple of months I have brewed a couple of big beers: Banshee Breakfast Stout and Pyrite Pistol. I also brewed my first sour beer, Dawson’s Kriek. I am very excited about these beers. I look forward to cellaring them for months and years to come. What I am missing, are the more sessionable type of beers I typically brew.

My latest batch of Curly’s Milk Stout is just about ready. It is my flagship, but I don’t drink it every day like Jim Koch drinks Boston Lager. I am starting to think the beer is a little too heavy, and I might tweak the recipe further before my next brew day. After tasting BeerSmith’s Dry Irish Stout on bottling day I think that beer is going to be outstanding, and it is as simple as anything I have ever done. Lately I have found myself craving simpler beers.

The Celebration Clone and Pa’s Lager were gone in a couple of sessions. I have already drank all of the Misplaced Bitterness; it was only a one gallon batch and that was always going to be a one-off brew. Trans-Atlantic Ale will also more than likely be a one-off. I want to get back to perfecting a house pale ale recipe. Something I can go to if I just want to have a beer and not fuss over it.

Gentile Brewing is having their Grand Opening on May 4. If you stop in around 6:00 p.m., you will likely see me there. Jennie and I tried their Blonde and Porter last night at A&B Burger, and both were very, very good. Both beers had a very nice restrained nutty malt, yes malt, flavor. Paul Gentile told me that he used a light English base malt, lighter than Maris Otter, and a touch of dark caramel malt. Both were medium-bodied and eminently drinkable. We didn’t stick around long enough for them to tap the IPA and Stout. Those will be the first beers I try at their tasting room.

Having a brewery in town where I can stop in, grab a growler of fresh beer right off the tap is awesome. Having met Paul and his wife Christen, they can’t be better people. Supporting a local business and people like Paul and Christen is a win-win.

My beer inspiration is to get back to perfecting my house pale ale recipe. I was very happy with Fort Dummer, that will be my starting point. I will tweak and adjust the beer until I get it exactly where I want it. As I adjust the recipe, I want to be careful not to overthink it either.

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