Last Saturday I attended a small homebrew tasting with a couple of friends, and we tasted through 12 different beers in total, ranging from light blonde ales to hoppy pale ales to imperial stouts to fruit-infused sour ales. It was a really interesting evening, and here are some quick tasting notes with accompanying pictures (beer are described below the pictures from left to right). I had a slightly runny nose during the evening, so my olfactory senses were not at their prime. Hence, the aroma descriptions will be quite limited.
Tresk Brewery – Hemera Blonde Ale
The first beer of the night was a Blonde Ale brewed by Marcus, apparently inspired by this recipe. The beer poured golden-yellow and slightly hazy. Almost no head was formed, but that was probably because of the pouring technique. The aroma was really light and bland, with just the slightest hints of malt and citrus. Despite what it sounds like, this was actually a very good thing, since it fits the style well and there were also no off-aromas present, which are typically very easy to spot in these light beers. The flavor followed a similar suit, with light notes of caramel and grain, and minimal hints of hops in the form of floral and citrus tones. The finish was quite dry and a relatively bitter finish. Again, very little fermentation byproducts that disturbed the flavor. Body was light and the carbonation level was moderate. This was very reminiscent to the light bulk lagers. Overall, not a beer that I found particularly enjoyable, but it was well made and would suit perfectly as a thirst-quencher for the summer.
Tresk Brewery – Summer Wit
The second beer of the night was a Witbier, that was also brewed by Marcus. He used flaked wheat, coriander, black pepper and orange peel in it, and fermented it with WB-06 dry yeast. This one poured with a very hazy straw-yellow color that is very typical for the style. Again no head was formed, but that will again be attributed to Marcus’ pouring technique. Citrus (particularly orange) and a peppery spiciness dominated the aroma, but in the background there was a (for me) disturbing tone of ‘breakfast sausage’ (the kind you put on bread). I think the coriander and black pepper are the reasons for that. I tried a bottle of this about a week earlier, and then it had quite obvious tones of diacetyl as well, but they had now faded away. The flavor offered some slightly tart and bready wheat tones together with the spices and citrus. The finish was quite sweet (but this was bottled around 10 days before tasting I think, so could probably be priming sugar) and had only a mild bitterness. The body was again light and the beer had a moderately light carbonation level. Overall a refreshing beer, that had some slightly disturbing ‘off-flavors’. Maybe slightly too much spices?
Ilkka’s Pihka II American Brown Ale
The third beer of the night was a hop-bursted American Brown Ale, that I received from my colleague Ilkka. The beer was brewed with Maris Otter, Brown, Crystal 60, Chocolate, and Black malt, and hopped with Simcoe and Chinook. It was fermented with Conan yeast that I had cultured up from a can of Heady Topper. The beer poured clear with a light brown, almost copper-like color. A slight off-white head was formed. Surprisingly light-colored for a Brown Ale, and this could almost go for an Amber Ale. The aroma was a nice blend of some toasty and lightly roasted malt tones, and some resin-like tones from the hops. The beer had been in the bottle for almost a year when we tried it, so it was probably very different in aroma and flavor last year. The flavor began with some nice malty tones, featuring notes of caramel, biscuits, toasted bread, and coffee. These then combined with a surprising fruitiness (almost mango-like), which could be derived from the hops, the yeast or from a combination of both. The finish was semi-dry and featured a moderate bitterness. This was really nice and well made, containing no off-flavors or other disturbing notes. Could just as well pass as an Amber Ale, and was probably quite different when it was fresher.
Ville’s Mystery Beer I
The first beer of the second trio was a mystery beer (unlabeled bottle) that Marcus had received from his friend Ville over a year ago and recently found in his cupboard. We had no idea what to expect, and I have no clue even now what actually was in the bottle. The beer was very well-carbonated, and as we opened the bottle, the beer started to slowly gush out. We quickly poured it to our glasses, where it had a slightly hazy amber-orange color. A massive off-white head was also formed as a result of all the carbonation. The aroma was very rich and malty, with tones of dried fruits (raisins and dates) and caramel. Could this be a Barleywine or a Belgian Strong Ale? The flavor followed a similar suit, with an initial hit of caramel, biscuits, raisins and other dried fruits. A minerally astringency was also present, which I wasn’t very fond of. The beer was really sweet, and the flavor ended with a slight alcohol burn as well. A little too heavy on the carbonation, especially for a beer with such a full body. Overall, this was quite nice, but the astringency really pulled down the points for me. You could definitely tell this had been in the bottle for quite a long time from the oxidized notes.
UJ IPA (see recipe and notes here)
The second beer of this line-up was the IPA I brewed about a month ago. This had been in the keg for around a week at the time of tasting, so the beer was definitely still green at the time. I haven’t tried it since the tasting, so I have no clue how it has changed. The beer poured with a slightly hazy, deep yellow color. Again, little head was formed. The beer really exploded with hop aroma, and the double dry-hop seems to have done its job. There were tones of grapefruit, resin, and tropical fruits present, and they all seemed to jump out of the glass as you closed in. A really, really nice aroma. The flavor was similar, but here the hop tones were joined by a slightly sweet maltiness. Unfortunately, the beer finished slightly too sweet (1.015), and would probably have been better a little drier. The bitterness (75 calculated IBUs) didn’t feel that strong, and the flavors were quite balanced between each other. The beer had a medium body and carbonation level. Overall, I am quite happy with the beer, but it would probably have been better with less sweetness. I hope it dries out slightly in the keg.
Hobbe’s Tupla-Kustaa Double IPA
The final beer of the second line-up was an Imperial IPA brewed by Hobbe. I don’t remember any recipe-specific details about this beer, but it was apparently bottled quite long ago and was thus past its prime. The beer poured with a slightly hazy orange color, and again almost no head. Judging only from aroma, you would probably not guess that this was an Imperial IPA, as it was mostly malty with just the slightest hints of resin from the hops. The flavor began slightly tart and with a caramelly maltiness. There was not much hop character present here either, but the beer finished very dry and with a huge bitterness. Quite unbalanced unfortunately, and this was probably better much fresher. The beer had a medium body and a high carbonation level (this could have continued fermenting slightly in the bottle with time). This was definitely not my type of IPA, and I think it could have used much more hops late in the boil, for a larger presence in the aroma.
Tresk Brewery – Evil Twin Amber Ale
We continued with enjoying one of Marcus’ recent beers from tap (5L party keg). This was a hop-bursted Amber Ale, based on Jamil’s Evil Twin. I had tried this beer earlier, but from bottle, and then I really enjoyed it. The beer pours clear and with a copper color. A slight off-white head is formed. The aroma features mainly tones of caramel and fruits, and thoughts are drawn to candied citrus zest and pineapple. There were also some ‘raw’ hops tones present, lending hints of pine and resin. The flavor is also hop-dominated (Citrus, pineapple, resin, flowers), but featured some toasted, bready and caramelly malt tones as well. The finish is semi-dry and has a moderate bitterness. The beer had a medium body and carbonation level. Maybe slightly unclean, and could use a little more bitterness, but otherwise this was a really well-made and enjoyable beer.
Tresk Brewery – Koff Porter Clone
The second beer of this line-up was also brewed by Marcus, and he wasn’t really happy about this attempt of cloning Sinebrychoff’s Porter. He had fermented it with Wyeast’s Irish Ale, but through a combination of under-pitching it drastically and using a quite old smack pack, he warned us that is contained quite a lot of off-flavors. He hadn’t tried it for several months though, so perhaps it had improved in the bottle? The beer poured clear and with a dark brown color. The color was more of a Brown Ale than a Porter, but I haven’t had Koff’s Porter for a while, so I don’t know how close it was to the original. The aroma was mostly roasted malts and coffee, but in the background you could detect banana (isoamyl acetate) and disturbing sulfur-like aroma. It wasn’t at all as bad as I had expected based on Marcus’ warnings, but you could definitely tell everything hadn’t gone smoothly with the fermentation. The flavor mainly featured tones of coffee, roasted malts, and ash, together with a slight earthy hoppiness. The finish was quite dry and it had a moderate bitterness. There was something off in the aftertaste as well (slightly solvent-like). Not bad, but this could definitely be improved with more fermentation control and proper pitching.
Ville’s Mystery Beer II
It was time for another unlabeled mystery beer from Ville, this time contained in a majestic 75 cl bottle. The beer poured with a slightly hazy, amber-orange, almost copper color. This time, there was not a problem with over-carbonation, and thus with careful pouring, a minimal off-white head was only formed. The aroma was very similar to Ville’s other beer, featuring a rich and sweet maltiness, with hints of caramel, raisins and dates. There is quite a lot of alcohol in the aroma as well, suggesting this will be quite a strong beer. The flavor is similar, with loads of caramel and toffee, together with really pronounced tones of raisins, dates and other dried fruits. Almost no hops tones, and a moderately low bitterness. The flavor is really sweet and the beer finishes in a slight alcohol burn as well. The body is full and the beer has a moderate carbonation level. This beer was very similar to Ville’s other beer, but where the first felt slightly astringent, this one was a bit more boozy. Not sure about the alcohol content, but it could easily have been over 10% ABV. A nice strong ale, that was a little heavy on the alcohol notes unfortunately.
Tresk Brewery – 1AM US-05 Amber Ale
The final line-up began with a two year old vintage of Marcus’ first attempt at homebrewing. It was an Amber Ale, that was split into two and fermented with S-04 and US-05. I have tried both beers earlier at one of our beer tastings, and then we already thought they were past their prime. How would two extra years of aging affect the US-05 version of the beer? The beer poured crystal clear and with a deep orange color. A slight off-white head was formed. The aroma is quite mild, featuring some slight bready malt tones and a little caramel. Surprisingly clean, especially compared to my memory of the beer and the tasting notes from a couple of years ago. The flavor was also bready and malty, featuring very little hop tones. The finish was dry with a huge bitterness. Quite one-dimensional, but what else is to expect from this old of a homebrewed Amber Ale. The body was light and the beer had a moderate carbonation level. This was not at all as unclean as I had remembered it, but still, the beer really didn’t excite much.
Ilkka’s Vadelma-Mustaherukka-Mustikka Sour Ale
The most interesting beer of the evening was a homebrewed Sour Ale that I had received from my colleague Ilkka. He had fermented it with a range of bottle dregs, and aged it on some raspberries, black currants and bilberries. I’m not that big of a Sour Ale fan, and don’t have much experience drinking them, so I’m not sure how worthwhile these comments will be. The beer poured clear and with a deep red color. It reminded me of the appearance of cranberry juice. The aroma was dominated by a sourness, which I found was quite mild (so I suspect it was mostly lactic acid and not that much acetic acid?), together with some berry tones in the background. I thought the berry tones were mostly from the black currants, and couldn’t detect much bilberries. The flavor was really sour, but I have no clue how it compares to other Sour Ales and Lambics. The berries were slightly more present in the flavor, with the black currant and raspberry dominating. Despite the strong sourness, I thought the flavors were quite balanced and even seemed to find a minor sweetness in the finish. The body was light and the beer had a moderate carbonation level. I actually thought this was quite nice, despite the big acidity. I have my own pseudo-lambic fermenting, and think I’ll go with something similar when adding some berries for flavoring. I have another bottle of this base beer, that has been aged on cloudberries instead, and it should be interesting to compare the two.
Yetish Imperial Stout (see recipe and notes here)
The final beer of the evening was a bottle of our approximately 10 month old Imperial Stout. We oak-aged half the batch, but this bottle is from the plain version. This is actually the first bottle I try from this batch, but I remember the beer having a really pronounced chocolate flavor when bottling. The beer poured pitch-black and with a high viscosity. You could definitely tell this beer was going to have a full body based on the thick appearance. The aroma was dominated by the typical Stout tones, with coffee, dark chocolate, roasted malts, and even some raisins and dried fruits. The flavor was similar, with mostly roasted malts, coffee and chocolate tones. The chocolate wasn’t as in-your-face as I had remembered. Unfortunately, we all thought the beer was slightly tart, and I’m wondering if either the bottle was infected, or if the brewing water could have used more alkalinity. The beer was quite dry and had a quite high carbonation level as well (perhaps some extra fermentation in the bottle), which could have enhanced the perception of tartness. The finish was quite bitter as well, and I’m not overly happy with the beer. Hopefully the oak-aged version is better.