I have finally popped the strange cru! After weeks of waiting and trepidation, I can finally taste my first non-prepackaged brew. And how is it, you ask? Well, I think it’s pretty good! I think it is my best batch of the four I’ve done so far. However, I am quite perplexed, because it is still very similar in taste and body to the previous three, even though I used completely different ingredients and brands that I have before. More on that later.
This beer has a slight hints of citrus in the aroma. It smells kind of sweet. It’s not a hoppy beer, so there is little flower in the aroma. The color is quite a deep amber, which seems a little strange. I used extra light malt extract and honey, so I expected it to be more of a golden color. Maybe it’s because it was Muntons malt extract, and they are Brittish…
The flavor is quite light and has twists of orange citrus. Adding a wedge of orange really enhances the citrus flavor, much like it does in a Blue Moon. The aftertaste is actually a little sour. I did use sour dried orange peel in the wort, so perhaps that’s where that flavor came from. It does have different twists from my previous batches, but its malty character and finish still closely resembles the other batches I’ve made previously.
One other interesting tidbit about this batch is that it has a lot less head than my previous batches. It is still quite carbonated, so I think the conditioning is pretty good. I just miss the head :)
Overall, I think this is quite a solid effort. I got very good reviews from my friends at Bratfest 2007 in North Charleston over the weekend. That is very encouraging, but I am still quite perplexed about why it still has such a similar taste and body to the previous three batches. Is it the equipment I’m using? Does the plastic fermentation bucket have flavors ingrained into it after a few batches? Am I not sanitising the equipment well enough and the beer is getting contaminated? Is this how all malt extracts taste? Many questions, few answers. I need to seek expert opinions. Time to call on Uncle Wendell.
However, stay tuned, I have picked my next summer brew: Blueberry Ale.
I agree that this is our best batch yet. I’m concerned about the plastic Ale Pail, though. “Cleanliness IS next to Godliness” in homebrewing. We may need to step it up and do the initial fermentation in glass from now on. I don’t trust that Stale Pail no more.
Back to the brew. I prefer the Strange Cru with an orange slice. No orange slice tonight, though. (I’m taking one for the home(brew)team…) After the pour, the head dissipated by half within a minute, but I’ve not lost heart. The aroma: Hell, it smells like fresh homebrew. The first taste: Without swallowing, I can already taste the citrus (dried orange peel), and going down, is sweet, citrus-y with a twist of spice (a whole spice bottle of crushed coriander.)in the after taste. It’s the most complex of our homebrews yet. I love it. It’s an easy-drinking beer, and gives you a competitive edge while playing Guitar Hero II.
Although I find the world of beers as ripe with possibilities as the world of food, the contents of my Pilsner glass this summer has been dominated by crisp summer ales. Steamy South Carolina summers make it tough to enjoy the rich, chocolate flavors of a stout, especially when cuisine takes an upturn to lighter flavors and textures. Gone are the casseroles and stews that pair so well with a porter’s bread-doughy finish. Replaced by stuffed, roasted zucchini, grilled marinated shrimp, and panzanella salads rich with garden-ripe tomatoes and chunks of yesterday’s baguette, such heavy beers would be out of place.
Yet, it’s almost tragic how the bumper crops of garden produce, while dripping with the flavors of concentrated summer, become nearly unpalatable after serving them for weeks on end. I recently heard the following from ungrateful mouths at my dinner table: “If I so much as have to look at another summer squash…” For me, the same fatigue has proven true with Belgian ales (“If I so much as have to look at another beer with an orange slice hanging off the glass…”). But then I tasted Brian’s newest batch of homebrew.
Maybe it was the briny aroma of the inlet marshes- or perhaps it was the dense, nearly tangible humidity of the mid-summer Charleston afternoon- that made this beer a perfect beginning to an evening filled with good friends and good cooking. Within five minutes of arriving at the Cendrowski home, there was a beer in my hand and a smile on my face. The beer itself was appealing even while still in the glass; the color of marmalade, with a light but subtly creamy head. This Belgian-style ale boasts flavors of smooth citrus (thanks in part to bitter orange peel), as well the fermented richness of a honey-mead wine. The beer is rounded out by a finish of coriander- spicy and stimulating on the palate.
While much more complex than any other summer ale I’ve tried this summer (including the hoppy and ubiquitous IPA’s), it was still light enough to stand alone as a drinking beer, especially when served with the obligatory orange slice. But its complexity would also lend well to a summertime menu: hoisin-marinated pork tenderloin with grilled eggplant and zucchini comes to mind, finished off with grilled stone fruits and vanilla ice cream. I could also see this beer alongside a plateful of South Carolina barbeque, dirty rice, and fresh corn on the cob.
Although eating seasonally can become monotonous, it certainly has its benefits- lower cost, better quality, and “truer” flavors, just to name a few. Kudos to you, Brian, for creating a Belgian white with true flavors worthy of the spirit of summertime.
Ok, Alex, now you’re making my reviews look bad… :)
Thanks for the awesome words and encouragement! You certainly have a great handle on flavor and a flare for storytelling. I had no idea that beer and food could be so captivating. If you need a job in 5 to 10 years, you’ll definitely have one waiting on you in my brewery’s marketing department!