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Monday, February 28, 2011

Early Ale Early Review

An Historic Taste!
The first reviews of the "early ale" experiment are in.  Recall that this was an attempt to brew one of the Durden Park Beer Circle recipes for a pale ale from the early 19th century.  I had been wanting to try one of their recipes for some time and so I did.

I conducted the first tasting after about a week in the bottle.  Harsh is the only word that can describe what it then tasted like.  Very bitter, almost astringent, with a whopper alcohol bite and after taste.  Some might enjoy such a beverage, but it is not for me.  But remember, Dear Reader, that this is a bottle conditioned ale and taste evolution will occur.

At the week two mark, I took a bottle of said ale to the house of some friends. Without mentioning my initial distaste for the product I poured the glasses.  Both of them liked it.  Kristen especially liked the fact that it was sweeter and less bitter than most pale ales.  She felt it was, overall, smoother than a typical pale ale.

That was interesting!  Was this the same beer that had violently assaulted my taste buds barely a week before? I took a drink myself. What a surprise: The flavor had smoothed out marvelously and the alcohol bite was nearly gone.  The harsh astringency had been replaced by a strong maltiness with a background of fruity hoppiness.  It was the type of taste evolution that would make Darwin proud.

The question that remains is this:  Does my latest effort really taste like a beer from the early 19th century?  That is a tough question to answer.  So many things have changed in terms of materials and supplies that any attempt to reconstruct an early recipe is an exercise in speculation.  The fellows and ladies of the Durden Park Beer Circle are are well aware of that and take great pains to research the processes and materials contemporary with the beer they are trying to recreate and account for those differences when they create their recipes.  So while we cannot know if we have matched the taste exactly, we are at least pretty close to what the original beer tasted like.

Nothing quite like a history lesson in a glass.  Cheers!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Early Ale

I have chosen to call my latest effort and "early ale."  I did this because the term "old ale" has, for better or worse become a "style" and I did not want to confuse my readers and have them thinking that I brewed something I had not.

So, what is this "early ale?"  It is something have wanted to try for some time. I adapted this recipe from the published recipes of the Durden Park Beer Circle, whose mission it is to recreate as closely as possible the recipes of the early British ales.  Readers may remember that I reviewed their book of history and recipes in a previous post. Each recipe, formulated using archived notes and descriptions, is and attempt to recreate an actual beer that was brewed long ago. Long I have wanted to brew one of their recipes, but for various reasons had not.

Two things I like about the Durden Park recipes is they are all historical and simple. Brewing their recipes is like using a beer time machine, and one need not muck-about with protease rests and octuple decoctions.  This is brewing at its raw best, when brewers brewed based on their experience, not on what they were told; each recipe being the distillation of centuries of experience.

The basis for this latest brew was a pale ale recipe from the 1820's.  A very basic recipe, it called only for the use of pale malt and hops; one malt and one hop.  I modified it slightly by adding some sugar to the boil in an effort to ensure a nice dry finish.

So how did things work out?  I cannot say for sure, but I bottled today and the early result is encouraging. The raw beer has a good hop flavor and aroma with a strong malt base and a dry finish.  I can't wait to pop open a bottle in a few weeks. Ah yes, the wait.