Sunday, January 16, 2011

This beer needs a name!

After much success with my Pumpkin Ale and Chili Ale, I've been feeling a bit more bold about going off-recipe when it comes to homebrewing. Still, I was at a loss for ideas as to what I was going to make next. Then, a couple of things happened.

The first was that I got my hands on a bottle of New Belgium's Trippel. For those of you who don't know what a Trippel is, it's a very strong, light-colored, Belgian ale. Usually candy sugar is added to it in order to up the alcohol content. Also, Belgian yeasts tend to have a very unique characteristic, creating fruity and spicy flavors - some might even describe them as being almost perfumey. Anyway, I enjoy a Trippel from time to time, but it's not my favorite style. This one, however, knocked me out. For one, it wasn't too strong. Secondly, New Belgium adds some coriander for flavor to their version. I've had and made beers with coriander before, but I've never had the flavor stand out so much before. It made for a nice addition, and it complimented the other flavors rather nicely.

The other thing that happened was when Kirsti and I went to PF Chang's for dinner. They have a Ginger Beer there. Now, usually when you say Ginger Beer, you're referring to a non-alcoholic drink. This one, however, was an actual beer with ginger in it. The waiter actually warned me, as he said it had a really strong ginger taste to it, as it was basically a Kirin Ichiban with some ginger added to it. Considering that I make the (non-alcoholic) ginger beer, I told him that was no problem. Overall, I really enjoyed it, although I noted that it would be interesting to try a beer that had a bit more character to it and then add some ginger to compliment the flavor.

These two experiences led me to wonder: "Why not a beer with coriander and ginger?" I figured that a Belgian style would compliment these two flavors best, so that's what I set about to create. I started off with MoreBeer's Belgian Pale Ale kit and made a few tweaks to it. First off, I replaced four ounces of corn sugar with four ounces of brown sugar. Why? I don't know - wanted to see what it would do. I also got rid of the Fermentis yeast packet that came with it. (To be more specific, I saved it for an Extra Special Bitter. Supposedly the yeast is a Belgian-style, but it tastes much more like an English style if you ask me - and a lot of other people on the Internet.) In its place, I used White Labs Saison Ale Yeast. (A Saison is a Belgian style ale that was originally made in farmhouses during the warm season.) As for the coriander, I bought a package of it from the spice aisle and broke it down in my pepper-mill. The ginger was some fresh stuff that I got in the produce section. (You can find the entire recipe at the bottom of this post if you're interested.)

I was originally worried about the amounts of ginger and coriander to use. I found conflicting accounts, and I wasn't sure if I was adding far too much or far too little. Usually I err on the side of caution, but this time I knew that I wouldn't mind it if those two flavors came in a little strong. I figured that at worst, I could age it out a bit and the flavors would mellow.

What's the verdict? I created one tasty, refreshing beer that didn't quite come out the way I wanted it. The coriander is definitely present while not being overpowering - pretty much exactly what I was hoping for. The ginger isn't even noticeable, which would be more disappointing if the beer itself didn't taste so good. I'm guessing that I'll just have to try again and add some more. That's not such a bad thing, is it?

All I need now is a name. I simply wrote "Saison" on the bottle caps, but that style doesn't usually employ ginger and coriander (although using those is hardly unheard of either). Ginger-Coriander-Saison-Pale Ale is a bit verbose, don't you think? Corsonger? Gin-co-son? Spicy Pale Saison? Lance Deluxe? Miller Chill? Ahh well, I still need to perfect this into what I really want, so hopefully I'll have a name by then.

Anyway, here's the recipe:

Steeping Grain:
4 oz. Caramunich
4 oz. Special B
4 oz. Carapils

7 lbs. light malt extract
4 oz. corn sugar
4 oz. brown sugar

1 oz. Hallertau - added at the start of the 60-minute boil
1 oz. Hallertau - added a the last minute of the boil

Additional flavorings:
.87 oz. crushed coriander (an odd amount, but that's what the package's label read)
1/2 lb. (approx) fresh ginger, thinly sliched

Both of those were added at the last 10 minutes of the boil.

Yeast: White Labs Belgian Saison

Fermenting time - 3 weeks. This got off to a slow start, and I racked it into a secondary fermenter after 2 weeks. The fermenting started up again and finally settled after a few days. I then bottled it and tried my first one after one week from bottling.

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