Tuesday, June 19, 2012


For a blog called Comics, Beer, and Shakespeare the focus seems to be comics and religion lately.  I don't want to change the name, because then people will start to think that I'm posting Chick Tracts or something like that.  Well, I'm going to be seeing a couple of live Shakespeare productions in the next few months - The Tempest next week, and Hamlet in the fall, so I'll definitely blog about those.  What about beer though?

I actually had to take a hiatus from homebrewing.  Why?  I had to move, and I just might blog about that bit of drama sometime soon.  For now though, let's just say that I didn't want to have several cases of beer to move in addition to all of the other stuff.  So, I basically stopped and drank up what I had stored.  There was  a time there when I was unsure as to whether I was going to get to brew in the new place, and for a time it looked like the best case scenario is that I'd have to do something drastic and scale back to 2 gallon batches (instead of 5).  You probably remember that, as it was on all of the news channels, the stars all disappeared (SHAKESPEARE/MACBETH REFERENCE!) and President Obama made a speech, declaring that if he had a son who was a homebrewer, his son would probably brew beers like the ones that I brewed.  (To which all of the right-wing pundits accused him of hating wine makers, and the left-wing pundits praised him for supporting a public school teacher.)

But I'm BACK, baby!  We've been here a few months now, and I've already brewed three batches, and I'm probably going to brew another before the end of the month.  For starters, I brewed a tasty Porter (pictured) and next up I made a flavorful Belgian Pale Ale.  For the third one though, I wanted to try something a little different.

'Cause that's the thing when you've been brewing a few years like I have.  You just might find yourself wanting to experiment a little.  After all, you might just create something really tasty, and you can take some pride in it being your own concoction.  That certainly has happened to me, and even though for the most part I use ready-made ingredient kits, I've done a bit of experimenting.  So far, all of them have been a success, with not just me liking them, but friends and family enjoying them as well.  Along those lines, I've made a chili ale, a pumpkin ale, a ginger-coriander Saison, and a maple brown ale.

Of course, none of those styles are completely unheard of, but I I had to use my own instincts and know-how to determine just how I would go about making them, and in all of those cases, I wound up with something that tasted just like I wanted it to taste (with the exception of half the batch of chili ale, which was a tad spicier than I would have liked).

I'm starting to get that itch again.  I want to try something new.  However, the problem is that perhaps I will get too ambitious and create something awful like tuna ale.  Well, you're never going to know the line until you at least put your foot on it.

I did do something a bit unconventional though with my last batch.  I made a clone of Russian River's Blind Pig IPA, which is a smooth, but very flavorful (notes of pine and oak in the smell) beer.  I've made it several times before, and it's always tends to go pretty fast when I have some handy.  The thing that I did differently though is that I didn't use the standard California Ale Yeast from White Labs (which I believe is basically the yeast that Sierra Nevada uses for its Pale Ale).  I went ahead and re-used the yeast that I used from the Belgian Pale Ale that I had made.  That was White Labs's Golden Ale, which I understand is a clone of what's used to make Duvel, one of my all-time favorite beers, and probably my favorite Belgian ale.

Ever have a Duvel before?  If you're over 21 and like beer, then stop what you're doing RIGHT NOW and go out and get one.  I see them all the time at my local grocery stores, so you just might have them at yours.  One of my pet peeves is when people say that they like "dark" or "lighter" beers as though those words describe flavor.  Duvel is a light-colored beer that has packs a wallop when it comes to flavor, so it just might change your mind as to what beer can be.

So basically I took a beer that has a strong hoppy flavor and used a yeast that imparts a strong, yeasty flavor.  It's hard to describe what Belgian yeasts are like, but I like to use the word "funky".  And I mean that in a good way, but it's just so different from what every other type of yeast does.

I wondered which of the two flavors would win out in the end, but they both blended together really well.  My mother-in-law said that she thought she tasted ginger in it, and I can see how she would get that impression.  The initial taste is vaguely like a gingerbread cookie.

Now, this idea was not entirely my own.  New Belgium makes something called a Belgo, which is described as a Belgian IPA, and while mine doesn't taste exactly like that, if you try one of those, you'll kind of get the idea behind what I made.

So, what's next?  A chili Belgian?  A ginger-chili ale?  A maple-pumpkin?  A variation on my previous pumpkin only creating a maltier beer and using an English style yeast?  Only time will tell.

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