The huge homebrew tasting we had last Friday was very nice, and we managed to go through a total of 30 beers (27 homebrews and 3 commercials) during the evening. We were a total of 6 people, and I’ve collected all the comments (in random order) on the homebrews below (unfortunately, due to the amount of beers, the beers we drank first have more comments). Note: We are mostly novices, the majority prefer hoppy pale ales, and we were all almost unfamiliar with sour ales before this, so take comments with a grain of salt.
“Light, yeasty aroma, high carbonation, minerally aftertaste (vichy)”
“Nice for this low of an alcohol content, but quite watery and high carbonation”
“Too much carbonation, aroma is yeasty, otherwise drinkable “
“Light, harsh carbonation, yeasty aroma, phenolics, very bland taste, no off-flavours, minerally”
“Banana and yeasty aroma. Light body. High carbonation.”
Overall, I think we all agreed that this was a well-made beer, but unfortunately, as with all low-alcohol beers, it was very light in flavor.
“Light sweet aroma, low bitterness, spicy flavour, not much honey, unbalanced, thin body, no off-flavours”
“Smells like a shower room, flat, light body, drinkable”
“The aroma promises more than the flavour delivers. A little anonymous, but the flavour is otherwise good.”
“Flavor begins sweet and tart, but finish is quite bland”
“Sweet, light, spicy aroma, flat, moderate bitterness, unbalanced”
Again, the beer felt well made, but none of us really felt like we would ever buy this beer. I would be interested to know if hops were used in this, as the bitterness was very light.
Ratto’s California Common
“Chemical aroma (burnt plastic), quite sweet flavour”
“A bit strange, nice colour.”
“Interesting, quite low bitterness, maybe a bit too light body and unbalanced. “
“Slight burnt plastic in aroma, not present in the flavour, malty, sweet, mild bitterness, slight fruitiness”
“Banana in aroma. Finish is bitter and almost astringent.”
We were wondering if this one was contaminated, as many of us found tones of burnt plastic in the aroma. The flavor was though better, so maybe the contamination has recently developed. Otherwise not much to say.
Sly Cat Thesis Ale
“Brings forward another side of hops”
“Grassy aroma and flavour, light maltiness”
“Very strong citrusy and resiny aroma. Some grassy flavours, but loads of citrusy and fruity hoppiness. Could be more bitter.”
“Very hoppy aroma, lighter flavour, grassy”
“Flavour and aroma go good together”
Compared to the beer we had drank earlier, we all agreed that this beer had a crazily strong hop aroma, and it might even have been the hoppiest of the evening. Overall, the beer was well received, but flavor felt quite light compared to the aroma, and bitterness was quite low. People also felt that is was a bit too grassy, which I hope goes away with some time in the bottle.
Sly Cat Citra Pale Ale
“Crisp and fruity aroma, fruity flavour, low bitterness”
“Easy to drink, but it still has character, perfect for the summer”
“Almost perfect aroma, sweet and juicy, some black currants in aroma.”
“Black currants in aroma, light tartness, low bitterness”
“Tropical fruits, citrus and berries in aroma. Fruity, honey-like flavour, easy to drink, light bitterness”
This was one of our favorite homebrews of the evening, and it felt like a very well made hoppy session beer. I was surprised that the aroma was lacking the typical lychee, gooseberry, and tropical fruitiness of Citra, and was maybe more berry-like (many mentioned black currants).
Sly Cat Hoppy Amber – WLP007 Dry English Ale
“Heavy, sharp hop flavours, somewhat sweet”
“A bit unbalanced in the flavours, difficult to understand”
“Smoked salmon, roasted flavours”
“Really caramelly, red berries and dark fruits in aroma, medium bitterness, slight roastiness, some fruits, but caramel dominating”
The first of the Hoppy Amber threesome, and we felt like this was the sweetest of the bunch (it also had the highest specific gravity). Overall, the three beers were very similar, and I think that a slightly higher fermentation temperature would have given more difference and typical yeast aromas. The Dry English version was the most boring of the bunch we felt.
Sly Cat Hoppy Amber – WLP090 San Diego Super Yeast
“Balanced, slightly lighter hop flavours, something strange, juice”
“Butterscotch and caramel in aroma, very similar to the other three, but slighty more hop flavours in this”
“Much more flavours compared to WLP007, roasty”
“In your face flavours, similar to Conan”
This one had the sharpest hop flavours of the three, and was also drier than the WLP007 version. The overall opinion was that this version was the best of the three. The malt tones in this version were maybe more butterscotch-like, but they were very similar.
Sly Cat Hoppy Amber – Conan
“Has the lightest aroma of the three, but the aroma is similar to the others. Almost identical in flavour to WLP090.”
“The most elegant of the three”
“A bit lighter flavours, similar to WLP090”
“Slight alcohol notes in aroma. Some chocolate in the flavour”
This was the beer I was looking forward to the most, and I must say I’m slightly disappointed. The aroma was definitely the weakest of the three, and the flavour and aroma profile was very similar, if not identical, to the one in the WLP090 beer, but it was much lighter. I guess the fermentation temperature was too low (17.5 C) for the typical Conan tones, which were very evident in the yeast starters. Blending a 50:50 blend between the Conan and WLP090 gave the most balanced beer.
Myrkkyluostari 1600 Combi
“Somewhat bitter smokiness, concentrated flavour”
“Quite good, but untypical. Aroma is too smokey.”
“Appearance and flavour like tervasnapsi”
“Smoke, tar, peat in aroma, light and dry flavour, featuring malt and tar, really nice”
“Tar, peat, smoke”
This was described as a rauchkölsch, but it was a lot darker than a typical kölsch. I don’t think any of us were really big fans of smoked beers, but this was nice! The smokiness was much more evident in the aroma than the flavour, which I at least liked. The finish was also quite dry and light, which was nice, as otherwise this beer would have been too heavy to drink.
“Tart, citrus, some funkiness in aroma, dry, crisp, and citrusy flavour, not my cup of tea, easy to drink, low bitterness “
“Not that much to say”
“Sour, non-hoppy flavour, not too sour, neutral”
“light, tart aroma”
This was when we started trying out the ‘interesting’ brews, and I apologize in advance for the poor tasting comments. We were all unfamiliar with most of these beer styles, so it was difficult to give comments, especially since we didn’t know what it was supposed to taste like. Anyways, the overall opinion of this beer was that it was easy to drink, dry and tart, but not something any of us would buy. The beer was still well made and didn’t have any off-flavours, so fans of funky and tart beers would probably love this.
Juhani’s Jonge Witte
“Pihlaja candy aroma. Light flavour, low bitterness, astringent after-taste”
“Pihlaja candies in aroma”
“Orange, marmelade, and spicy aroma. Dry flavour, spicy, not as fruity. Not bad, slight candy-like flavour”
“Marmelade in aroma, flavour reminds of English Licorice”
“Aroma is a bit untypical”
Directly as we poured this up in the glass, we all felt a familiar aroma, as it was dominated by orange marmelade and candy-like tones. After some thinking, we finally hit the nail: Pihlaja candies. The flavour was more spicy than fruity, and overall the beer worked very well. A refreshing beer that would probably work better as it gets warmer outside.
Juhani’s Chili Blond
“Apparent chili in aroma, nice appearance”
“Strong chili notes in aroma and flavour”
“Burns a little in the throat, a bit too spicy, does the chili cover up a otherwise good blond?”
“Quite nice chili bite, but unbalanced”
“Chili dominating aroma, flavour slightly spicy, fruity, phenolic, some chili burn, dry, interesting”
There was definitely a presence of chili in this brew, and overall we felt that there was even too much of it. We noticed that we were differently sensitive to the chili burn, as some of us only slightly felt it, while others thought the beer was undrinkably spicy. We thought it was an interesting beer, but something that we wouldn’t buy. Would be interesting to try out the base beer, as it would probably have worked better without the chili.
“Phenolic, spicy and fruity aroma, light body with some fruitiness and spicy, slightly tart”
“Sour, a bit bland, firm bitterness”
“Seems well made, but not really my type of beer”
We felt like this was a well-made and refreshing beer, but the majority of the panel don’t like Belgian-style beers, so it was a bit difficult to get any feedback. Ilkka had warned me that this beer would feature a very apparent sulfur-smell, but none of us noticed it.
Ilkka’s Sour Saison
“Aggressively sour aroma, vinegar, almost feces-like, flavour dry and cider-like”
“Smells like feces, flavour is cidery”
“Smells like feces”
Ilkka inoculated a fraction of the previous saison with bottle dregs from various sour ales, but unfortunately we all found this beer undrinkable. The aroma was aggressively sour and featured distinct tones of feces. Yes, it smelled like after a visit to the toilet having had a really upset stomach. Not having had many sour ales earlier (only a couple of Cantillon’s), I’m not sure if this aroma is common, but this at least was off-putting.
Juhani’s Saison de Bergans
“Easy to drink”
“Aroma is like a bulk lager (Lapin Kulta)”
“Spicy, citrusy, and light body. Aroma is quite lager-like”
I apologize again for the comments becoming shorter and shorter, and less and less. What was surprising with this beer was the aroma, as it was very untypical for a saison. In fact, the beer smelled exactly like a bulk lager. I’m not sure if it is DMS, ethyl acetate, diacetyl or something completely different, but there were no spicy phenolics to be found in this. I had tried this from tap before, and I remember that it was a completely different beer. The beer was refreshing and drinkable, and the flavours were a bit more typical for the style.
Ilkka’s Citra-dryhopped Tripel
“Tropical fruits, mango, and lychee in aroma. Spicy and fruity flavour, really high carbonation, light body, a bit too much alcohol, otherwise nice!”
“Good, tasty, chili flavour?”
“Balanced, nice aroma and flavour, very nice”
“Very strong flavour, but quite well balanced, nice hoppy flavour”
The Citra hop was very apparent in this beer, and we thought the aroma was fantastic (much stronger and more ‘tropical’ than the aroma in the Citra Pale Ale we had tried earlier). The beer would probably have benefited from a slightly lower alcohol content, but otherwise this was very nice, and among the favorites of the evening.
“Raisins in aroma, quite sweet and fruity, good strength”
“Nice color and head retention. Plums and raisins in aroma and flavour, some solvent tones, tastes quite sweet despite feeling dry, very nice.”
We moved on with stronger ales, and this Quadrupel was one of my personal favorites of the evening. The others weren’t so fond of the beer, but it was not because of any fault, rather the style. The flavor of the beer was very rich, and the alcohol was very well hidden. The appearance was beautiful as well (one of the best head retentions of the evening). This was a very well made beer, and the only thing to complain about was some slight solvent tones in the aroma, which would probably improve with further aging (which the brewer even suggested to me).
“Surprisingly little ‘belgian’ tones, harsh alcohol and solvent tones, quite estery. Needs more age, now undrinkable.”
“Nice aroma, the flavour is quite bland and the beer is way too alcoholic”
Clocking in at 12.2% ABV, this beer was unfortunately way too alcoholic to be enjoyed. If I remember correctly this beer was brewed sometime last spring/summer, so it should be close to one year old. Hopefully some more aging will lessen some of the booziness and solvent-tones, as it was difficult to taste or smell anything else.
Ilkka’s Wild Cider
“Cidery aroma, no carbonation, quite tasty”
“Funky, tart, apple, and vinegar in aroma. Crisp, dry, light, tart and apple-like flavour. Surprisingly clean.”
We were all amazed at how clean this cider was, since this cider was made by letting unpasteurized apple juice spontaneously ferment. It was quite low in carbonation level, but otherwise very drinkable, and it would probably be appreciated by cider lovers.
Myrkkyluostari Cuvée des Grands
“Funky and tart aroma, with cherry tones. Surprising flavour and mouthfeel, begins light, but grows in the mouth, difficult to describe, cider-like”
“Very strange, cidery”
“Lots of dimensions”
We continued with Myrkkyluostari’s all-brettanomyces beer and unexplored territory for all of us. Again a bit difficult for us to comment on, but the overall opinion was that the beer was a bit too funky and tart for our tastes, and that the mouthfeel was interesting. There were no technical faults with the beer though.
Myrkkyluostari Plan 9 from outer Brussels
“Sour, tastes old, strange”
“Funky and strange aroma. Quite tart, alcoholic and solventy, not my cup of tea”
Again, this beer was a bit too funky and tart for our taste, and I must honestly say I don’t remember much from this beer, other than that we thought it was a bit too strange for our tastes. It was also slightly alcoholic and solvent-like, which took away from the drinkability.
Myrkkyluostari Dead Barbie
“Phenolic, hefeweizen-like, fruity aroma, no cherries. Taste like a good hefeweizen, some undescribable herb in the aroma”
“Hefeweizen aroma, can’t taste any cherry”
This was described to us as a ‘Wheat Kriek’, but none of us could recognize any tones of cherry at all. In fact it tasted and smelled more like a typical hefe weizen. This was apparently also fermented only with Brettanomyces, and it was definitely less funky than the other beers. Not exactly sure what the brewer was aiming for, but as a hefeweizen, this was nice.
“Aroma is very nice, flavour is a bit subdued”
“Nice aroma, okay, quite bitter”
“Very nice pungent hop aroma, but the flavour is slightly lacking, could use more hop flavour, but a nice firm bitterness, overall very nice.”
We moved back to the hoppy ales, and this beer was appreciated. The beer featured a massive, pungent and fruity hop aroma, but surprisingly the beer was much lighter in hop flavour. The bitterness was however very present, and you could really feel the beer exit the mouth into the throat. A nice beer, but perhaps slightly unbalanced.
Sly Cat American Barleywine
“Sweet, fruity, and bready aroma, caramel and dried fruit flavours, moderate bitterness, not bad”
The alcohol tones of our Barleywine we brewed in December had definitely dropped, but there was still some present that prevented the beer from being completely enjoyable. The beer had quite a rich flavor and a firm bitterness, so I think this one will age quite well.
“Spicy, fruity, not typical barleywine, almost belgian-like. Sweet flavour, malty, dried fruits, mild bitterness, good.”
“Very strange flavour, quite fruity”
We agreed that this was one of Juhani’s best beers of the night, and it had a slightly ‘Belgian-style’ feel to it. The beer was quite similar to our own Barleywine, but perhaps slightly drier and with a milder bitterness. The malt bill apparently consisted of just Pilsner malt and a long boil, and it definitely made for some interesting flavors. Good beer, no technical faults!
Ilkka’s Belgian Stout
“Black, huge head, roasted with some chocolate. Dry, roasted flavour, with moderate bitterness. No tartness at all, but flavour was too dry for my liking.”
“Dark, dry, roasty”
Ilkka had apparently tried to attempt something similar to Jolly Pumpkin’s Madrugada Obscura. None of us could recognize any tartness however, and the general opinion was that the beer was a bit too roasty and dry for our likings. This would probably benefit from some aging. The appearance was nice however, and no the beer didn’t have any technical faults.
Ratto’s Oatmeal Stout
“Roasty and coffee-like aroma. Flavour is dry, astringent, roasty, coffee-like. Could use some more sweetness and will probably become better with age”
“Dirty aroma, a bit too light and dry.”
The last homebrew of the night was Ratto’s Oatmeal Stout, which similar to the previous beer, also was a little too dry and roasty for our likings. The brewer had warned me beforehand that the beer was quite young, so this will most likely improve with aging.
Overall, this was a very interesting evening, and luckily it continued with a couple of fantastic beers (Omnipollo Nebuchadnezzar, Firestone Walker’s Parabola and Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout 2012, which I will write some short tasting comments on in a future post). It was a really nice experience to try out some unconventional beers, and will definitely experiment some more with Brettanomyces and strange ingredients. Thanks to Juhani, Ilkka, O-P and Tatu for the homebrews (and Ingo for the Neb & BCS)!