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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Last of the New England Cream Lager

New England Cream Lager at Six Months

All good things must end. So it is with fine beer. Regular readers may remember last year when I put my hand to creating a new beer style. The result was my New England Cream Lager. This libation was the result of adding lactose, molasses, and my own homegrown hops to a deceptively simple grain bill. The result was anything but simple: A full bodied lager with exceptional smoothness and multi-layered flavor.

After this propitious start, only one question remained. To wit: How would the beer hold up over time? Would it age like fine wine, gaining smoothness and complexity? Perhaps, I should only be left with something akin to Murphy's oil soap?

Today was the final tasting to answer the foregoing questions. I had one of the 1 liter cobalt blue bottles New England Cream Lager remaining. Remember, this beer was bottled on November 1, 2009; it had now had the benefit of nearly six months in my cellar.

Upon the initial pour, things looked good: Carbonation was still at an appropriate level and the beer was crystal clear (it had been a bit cloudy in the past). The aroma was still the fruity-with-a-hint-of-sulfur and hops that I remembered from my last tasting. So far, so good. Now it was time for a taste!

The moment the beer crossed my lips I was taken by a sense of delectation. The body remained robust and the previously incredible smoothness was even more in evidence. The flavor remained a complex interplay of spice, bitter and sweet with a little fruitiness. The major difference from previous tastings was the hop presence.

Previously, this beer was notable for its whole hop flavor. The taste was like smelling hops freshly picked at the perfect moment. This time the hop flavor was more subdued. The overall bitterness was still there, but the actual hop flavor, as such, had melted into a soft interplay with the other flavors. However, it must be noted that this beer still retained more hop flavor than any commercial beer, or homebrew made with commercial hops, that I have ever experienced. Must be the horse poop I use to fertilize the hopyard.

The final verdict? After six months in the cellar, the New England Cream Lager remains a beer of the first order. Like any proper bottle conditioned beer its flavor had evolved without degrading. A true pleasure from the first to the last.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Hops Are Up

I realize this photograph is quite poor. The autofocus focused on the dead stem from last year instead of the new shoot. The new shoots are the blurred reddish things. However, right now this is the only photo I have. All apologies.

I was quite surprised when I saw the hop shoots this afternoon. I had checked the yard a few days previous and found no shoots. Even scratching back the soil a bit showed no sign of growth. I was worried, so imagine my relief, and surprise, when I found shoots about four inches long this afternoon!

This is a joyous event. After last year's losses and this winter's wet-and-freeze, I was a bit worried about the prospects for the hopyard this growing season. It looks like we have a good start on this year's crop. In fact, I believe this is the earliest start we have ever had. It is a good thing that hops are frost resistent, as I have a feeling we will have at least one more frost before the real growing season.

This year I am doing things a bit differently. I have applied some organic fertilizer and some lime. I had noticed last year that the soil was getting a bit acidic as evidenced by the spread of wild strawberries. With all the wet last year I believe nutrient leeching was also a problem, but I did not want to blast things with fertilizer so I went the organic route. With the application of a bit of horse compost we should be fine.

So it looks like we have a good start on this year's hop crop. Let us hope for good growing weather!