Monthly Archives: December 2012

Tasting some beers brewed at work

I’ve been having a blast working at the brewing laboratory at VTT, and today I thought I’d try a couple of beers brewed at work. The first two are research-related, while the third was brewed in honor of VTT’s 70th anniversary. The first two beers are related to a project that attempts to shorten fermentation time, without affecting the quality of the final beer. I can’t reveal any details, but I’ll give some general information on the beers. Both beers, the ‘control’ and the ‘treated’, were fermented with the same yeast (S. pastorianus) and wort supplied by a Finnish brewery (usually we use our own wort and yeast for experiments). The ‘treated’ beer finished fermenting over 24 hours before the ‘control’ beer, and both reached similar attenuation and had similar concentrations of aroma compounds and vicinal diketones. The real test will be whether they taste the same, so let’s try them out. I asked my girlfriend to pour the beers into three glasses (2+1), so I could attempt a blind triangle test. The beers should be quite standard ‘bulk lagers’, so am not expecting anything mind-blowing.

Glass 1:

Appearance: The beer pours with a crystal clear golden-yellow color. A small foam head sits on top of the beer, but it disappears really quickly. All in all, the beers look identical.

Aroma: The beer has a very light and clean aroma. A sweet, grainy almost bready maltiness is all I can pick out. Maybe some slight apple-like tones in the background?

Flavor: The flavor is also light, and it focuses mostly on a sweet grainy maltiness. The flavor is not as clean as the aroma, as there are some slight solvent-like tones present, which could be caused by higher alcohols or esters. I can’t detect any buttery tones from vicinal diketones. The finish is quite dry and crisp, and the bitterness level is low. A quite typical ‘bulk lager’, that is a little less clean than the primes of the style.

Mouthfeel: The body is light and the beer has a medium carbonation level. Easy to drink.


Glass 2:

Appearance: Similar to Glass 1.

Aroma: The aroma of this glass is also very clean and light. As good as identical to Glass 1, with a sweet grainy maltiness dominating.

Flavor: Similar to Glass 1, but it feels like the flavor is a little more malty, there might be just a minor VDK presence, and there is a little less solvent tones. Could this be different from Glass 1? As I return to the glass later, I start to question my initial thoughts, as these are so similar.

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is similar to Glass 1, but it maybe is slightly creamier.


Glass 3:

Appearance: Similar to Glass 1. Maybe just slightly more head retention.

Aroma: Again, very similar to the other two. I can’t tell apart any of the beers on aroma basis at least.

Flavor: Again, very similar to the other glasses. A grainy maltiness, with slight solvently off-tones.

Mouthfeel: Very similar to the other glasses.



I’m having a very hard time telling these apart, and I feel at least Glass 1 and 2 are different from each other, but I’m having a difficult time deciding on Glass 3. My final guess is that Glasses 1 and 3 are the same, while Glass 2 is different. I slightly preferred Glass 2, but as I said, these were very similar.


The correct answers were:

1. Treated

2. Control

3. Control


Well, that means that I at least wasn’t able to correctly tell them apart. This is a good result for us, as this means that our technique for speeding up the fermentation process doesn’t influence flavor considerably. I repeated the tasting for my girlfriend (who had poured up the beers for me, and also initially tasted them while I was tasting them), and according to her there was a noticeable difference between them. As I try the beers again, knowing what beer is what, I can sense a slight difference between them, as the control beer features a slightly more ‘slick’ mouthfeel, while the treated beer has slightly more solvent-like flavors (as I thought I noticed during my blind-tasting), especially during the aftertaste. All in all, this was a very interesting experiment, and the beers were really similar (enough to fool me).


The next beer of the evening is the 70th anniversary lager. This beer is a standard ‘euro lager’, brewed for as wide of an audience as possible. I helped out with brewing and gave some tips for recipe formulation. The beer has been brewed with pilsner, pale ale and vienna malts, and hopped with Northern Brewer, Perle and Saaz. The bitterness level came out a little lower than expected, and is around 15-20 IBU. The beer was fermented with S. pastorianus strain A-63015, and alcohol level has been adjusted to 5.0% ABV. We also recently brewed a 70th anniversary ale (amber ale), with pale ale, vienna, crystal 150 and chocolate malt, and we hopped it with Northern Brewer, Perle and Cascade (huge amounts of late hops). The ale is currently maturing, and am really looking forward to trying the final beer. The ale was brewed with more demanding beer drinkers in mind. But let’s see how the lager tastes!

Appearance: The beer pours crystal clear (it has been filtered before bottling) and with a golden-yellow color. A slight fluffy white head is formed during the pour, but it collapses very quickly leaving no lacing along the glass. I wish the beer would have had a little better head retention.

Aroma: The aroma is light and clean, with some tones of a grainy and bready maltiness, and a really small amount of almost apple-like esters. Nothing mind-blowing, but it fits the style well, as there is no diacetyl or other off-smells present.

Flavor: The flavor is quite light as well, spinning mostly around the slightly sweet and grainy maltiness, that features a very light touch of biscuits and caramel as well. A very light floral hoppiness is present as well, which is joined by the same esters present in the aroma. The finish is quite dry and not very bitter. Again, the flavor is very clean, with maybe a slight hint of diacetyl and some fruity esters being present.

Mouthfeel: The beer has a light and crisp body, and a medium carbonation level, making it very easy to drink.

Overall: I wasn’t expecting much before trying the beer, and the beer wasn’t anything mind-blowing, but I was positively surprised over how clean tasting this beer was, as making a light lager requires skill from the brewer. I would maybe up the bitterness just a notch, throw in some more late hops to increase the hop presence (as it was non-existing at the moment), and try to increase the head retention (by adjusting the mash schedule or throwing in some wheat or carapils malt).


Really looking forward to returning from my winter holidays and continuing research!



Southern Tier Un*Earthly

  • Brewery: Southern Tier Brewing Company
  • Country: USA
  • Style: Imperial IPA
  • ABV: 9.5 %
  • Size: 650 ml
  • Bought from: Online
  • Beer Advocate
  • RateBeer

To celebrate the start of my short winter holiday I thought I’d try another beer that has been in my refrigerator for way too long. Un*Earthly is an Imperial IPA by the New York-based brewery Southern Tier. I have previously tried a couple of Southern Tier beers, one being Gemini, which is a blend of this beer and their Hoppe. I really liked the blend, so am guessing this beer should be great as well. It has been brewed with pale ale malt, carapils and red wheat, and hopped with chinook, cascade, styrian goldings, and centennial to a calculated IBU of 153. Sounds promising, but hopefully there is some hop punch in it still and I haven’t waited too long to try it.

[easyreview title=”Southern Tier Un*Earthly” cat1title=”Appearance” cat1detail=”The beer pours crystal-clear with an amber-orange color. A really minimal off-white head is formed, that remains as a ring on top of the beer the entire drinking session. The surface is oily and a slight amount of lacing clings on the glass as the beer level decreases in the glass. Could have used some more head for a better appearance.” cat1rating=”3.5″ cat2title=”Smell” cat2detail=”The aroma is mainly a blend of citrusy and resiny hoppiness and a sweet caramelly maltiness. There are some floral and candied fruit tones present as well. The aroma could be stronger, but I guess the beer isn’t super fresh.” cat2rating=”3.5″ cat3title=”Taste” cat3detail=”There are some caramel and sweet biscuit tones in the beginning as the beer enters the mouth, but these are quickly overtaken by a floral, grapefruit-like, piney, resiny and earthy hoppiness, that linger in the mouth for a long time. The finish is quite sweet, almost barleywine-like, and there is a moderate hop bitterness present. Could have used a bit more hop flavors and a little less maltiness, but this might be because the bottle isn’t fresh.” cat3rating=”3.5″ cat4title=”Mouthfeel” cat4detail=”The body is full and the carbonation level is medium-low. Together with the sweetness and the bitterness, it makes the beer a bit difficult to drink, and it definitely is a slow sipper. The beer feels smooth in the mouth though.” cat4rating=”3.5″ summary=”Overall, this was quite a disappointment, even though the beer was quite tasty and enjoyable. I like malty (I)IPAs, but this was a bit too sweet even for my taste. The FG of this beer is around 1.020, so it was most likely quite sweet even when fresher. The hop flavor is quite subdued, so I guess this could up to a year old. There are definitely better (I)IPAs available on the market, but don’t be afraid to try Southern Tier’s IPA currently available at the Arkadia Alko!”]

Homebrew update

I have forgotten to write about the double brewday we had last Sunday, so here is a short recap. It went quite well, and we ended up with 14.5 liters of 1.110 wort for the Barleywine and 17 liters of 1.076 wort for the Black IPA. As always when using new equipment (pump and HopRocket), we had some minor hiccups (some lost wort), but hopefully we will get our process dialed in. Fermentations started explosively the next day, and the Black IPA with WLP002 finished fermenting after just a couple of days at an ambient temperature of 17.5 degrees C. The Barleywine is still slowly fermenting in the same chamber. I will dry hop the Black IPA after Christmas, and then keg both batches sometime in the beginning of January.

I am currently drinking a bottle of my homebrewed 100% Brettanomyces IPA, which is extremely fruity (in a good way). There are fantastic tones of pineapple, mango and citrus in the aroma and flavour, and the bitterness is just perfect. Unfortunately I think I bottled just a couple of days too early, as there is quite a lot of carbonation in the bottles. This is not that big of a problem for drinkability, as it can be swirled away in the glass, but the beer tends to want to come out of the bottle if not served cold enough. I might post a proper review sometime in the future. Here is a picture of the beer, together with some bottles of the Meowing Monk Belgian Blond and Nightly Serenade Imperial Porter:

8 Wired Fresh HopWired

  • Brewery: 8 Wired Brewing (Brewed at Renaissance Brewing)
  • Country: New Zealand
  • Style: American IPA
  • ABV: 7.3 %
  • Size: 500 ml
  • Bought from: Barley Wine, Copenhagen
  • Beer Advocate
  • RateBeer


Tonight it is time to drink yet another beer that I brought home from my trip to Copenhagen in August. I have definitely postponed drinking them for way too long, so am trying to slowly make my way through the hoppy beers before they become way too old and bland. 8 Wired is a project by the Danish brewer Søren Eriksen, currently living in New Zealand. I’ve tried one of their beers before, HopWired, which was a nice IPA hopped with New Zealand hops. Today I will be trying the fresh-hopped version, i.e. a beer that has been hopped with undried hops, and it the case of this beer, the hops have been picked from the bines the same day the beer was brewed. Fresh-hopping or wet-hopping lends a fresher and grassier hop flavor to the beer, and I have liked the two fresh-hopped beers ([1] and [2]) I’ve tried earlier. I think this beer was brewed in April, making it over 7 months old now, so hopefully it still packs some of that fresh hop flavor. It has been brewed with Gladfield Pale, Crystal, Munich, and Caramalt malts, and hopped with Pacific Jade (dry), Motueka (fresh), and Nelson Sauvin (fresh) to an IBU of 70. The beer has been fermented with Wyeast’s 1272 American Ale II. I love it when brewers post detailed information about their brews on their webpage! Cheers!

[easyreview title=”8 Wired Fresh HopWired” cat1title=”Appearance” cat1detail=”The beer pours with a hazy orange-amber color, and almost no head is formed even though the pour is quite vigorous. The slight head as an off-white color, and it clings quite well to the glass. Not the most appetizing appearance, but could be worse.” cat1rating=”3″ cat2title=”Smell” cat2detail=”The aroma is dominated by a fruity hoppiness, with tones of candied citrus, pineapple, papaya, mango and slight resin. Surprisingly little of the typical ‘Nelson Sauvin’ aroma. Caramel tones are evident in the aroma as well. Nice aroma and quite well preserved for a beer this old and for one that has traveled around the world.” cat2rating=”4″ cat3title=”Taste” cat3detail=”The fruity hoppiness from the aroma is very present in the flavor as well, with it taking the lead together with a slight caramelly maltiness as the beer enters the mouth. The hop flavors are more resiny and herbal in the flavor, but there is still a good deal of the citrus and tropical fruits from the aroma. Not much grass tones, as I would have expected, but perhaps it is the age, since from my own experience with my homebrews, grassy tones from massive hopping tend to decrease as the beer ages. The finish is quite dry and bitter initially, but a slight sweetness still remains in the mouth as the bitterness dies down. The balance is good for an IPA, with a good representation of hop flavors, bitterness and maltiness. I can’t remember exactly what the ‘normal’ HopWired tasted like, but I think it had more of the typical ‘Nelson Sauvin’ tones, while this was more leaned towards generic tones of tropical fruits, which I actually liked more! Really tasty!” cat3rating=”4.5″ cat4title=”Mouthfeel” cat4detail=”The beer has a medium body and carbonation level, and it is quite easy to drink. Not perfectly smooth, as the beer initially feels slightly ‘prickly’ in the mouth.” cat4rating=”3.5″ summary=”Overall a very good IPA, and I am a little sad I didn’t drink this immediately after I bought it. There was still plenty of hop tones left in the aroma and flavor, but I can just imagine what it was like in the fresh beer. I think the tropical fruit tones played very well with the (slight) caramelly sweetness from the malt, and the bitterness kept the balance in tact. The appearance and mouthfeel wasn’t perfect, but that didn’t draw much from the enjoyability of the beer. Hopefully I will get to try more beers from this ‘phantom brewer’. Luckily I still have 8 Wired’s iStout in the beer cabinet, and am really looking forward to trying it as well!”]

PS. Realized as I was transferring the photo from the camera that the bottle is out of focus. Oh well.

Preparing for Double Brewday

On Sunday we (the same group of friends from the previous posts) will be brewing two batches of beer on my brewing equipment. I’ve just bought a new March 815 pump (hopefully making mash temperatures more even with faster recirculation and slightly shorter brewdays) and a HopRocket (to pack my beers with even more hop aroma and flavor) to add to the brew system. The beers we will be brewing are a Black Rye IPA and an American Barleywine. During the week I’ve been growing some yeast at work, and today I removed the 3 liter starters of WLP001 and WLP002 from the orbital shaker to allow for yeast sedimentation until Sunday. Hopefully everything goes smoothly (especially with the new additions to the equipment) and the beer ends up tasty! Stayed tuned for a brewday post!


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Evening of brewing and beer tasting

Last Friday me and a group of friends joined together to brew a stove-top BIAB English Pale Ale hopped with East Kent Goldings and drink lots of good beer. We ended up making some minor improvised adjustments to the recipe in the last minute, as the hop pellets contained only 4.1% alpha acids (recipe calculated for 5% AA, so 60, 15 and 5 minute additions changed to 33 grams each) and the pots we had were 21L and 15L (meaning we mashed a little thinner than first calculated). Otherwise the brewday went quite smoothly and we hit exactly the estimated gravity when we topped up with boiled water to a total volume of 15 liters in the fermenter (we got 13.5 liters of 1.063 wort after the boil). Hopefully this turns out good! Only slight fear I have is that it will end up a little estery and have noticeable fusel alcohols, as the beer was fermented at an ambient temperature of around 22 degrees C. I didn’t take all too many pictures during the brewday, but I’ve attached the ones I did below.

Didn’t have time to take any tasting notes either, but the real gems of the day were, in the order we tried them, my Brett IPA (massive tropical fruity nose, with a nice dry and bitter finish), Port Brewing Mongo IPA (fantastic hop tones in a balanced package), Mikkeller Red/White Christmas (skeptical at first, but as the beer warmed up the combination of fruity spiciness and resiny hoppiness worked well), Three Floyds Amon Amarth (a smokey and complex imperial porter/stout), Sad Robot Tyrion (my friend Ingo’s fantastic Imperial Stout, that was packed with roasty tones in a perfect balance), my Imperial Porter (a great package of vanilla, chocolate and coffee tones, but unfortunately a little boozy on the nose) and Alesmith Old Numbskull (great combination of sweet maltiness and resiny and citrusy hoppiness). My homebrewed Belgian Blond was quite well received, while the Belgian Strong Dark Ale was still a bit boozy, hot and overly estery (hopefully this one improves with a couple of months of aging). The Black Lodge Imperial Stout was quite well received as well, but I think it could use a bit more aging. The coffee tones and roasted malts were dominating together with a resiny hoppiness, but there was a slight warming in the finish which I assume is from the chili. The disappointments of the day were Alesmith IPA (although a tasty IPA, it was nothing spectacular), Mikkeller/Cigar City Swinging Harry Tropical Quad (way too sweet), and De Molen Hel & Verdoemenis 666 (a very good beer, but had hoped for more from this as I found the base beer so great). Overall though, a group of very good beers and a fantastic night!