Tag Archives: medicinal

Disturbing Brown Thing

This post is part of a series discussing beers brewed by members of the Merri Mashers brewing club as part of their 2015 case swap celebration. In essence, I have twenty-three different beers by twenty-three different brewers all from the inner-northern suburbs of Melbourne. I’ll be drinking and blogging them over the first quarter of the year.

The first beer for the 2015 case swap series is named the “Disturbing Brown Thing”. It was described on the tag as a light brown ale with 50% rye malt, two obscure herbs and egg white. Trời ơi! I have read here and there about old English brewers fining their beers, or attempting to clarify their beers, using egg white – but I never thought I’d be drinking such a concoction in the twenty-first century. Kudos to the brewer Timothy Train for giving it a go!

The “thing” poured well with a proud head that quickly shrunk away to zero. Carbonation was brisk and businesslike, the myriad small bubbles obscuring similarly-sized flakes of sediment, lifting them up and swirling them around inside the glass like a dust devil at a bush doof. Colour is deep copper, not too brown, and the aroma is sourly tannic with hints of rosemary and garlic. The note is similar to the beer I brewed with goji berries earlier this year.

It is a spicy devil of a drink; the rye comes through clear and strong, too much spice for many palates but I didn’t mind it. Bitterness is low, hop character zero. The rye tang, taken in conjunction here with a rough, medicinal sourness, reminded me a little of the delicious harshness given by plain lemon juice. My glass was very cold and I think this may be key to this beer’s potability. The carbonation also helps. On the whole the mouthfeel is thin and spritzy – not at all what one imagines upon reading “brown ale” and “egg whites” on the label.

I struggle to ascertain what the egg whites have given – the beer is opaque, does not smell, nor taste like egg and the body is thin. This is a very strange beverage. But not a horrible one, which bodes well for the rest of the case swap beers – I went with the weirdest first!

Goji & Juniper Beers

I recently experimented with two additions to beer that are unusual in Australia. I brewed a split batch of very low-hopped, neutral pale ale and then infused one batch with dried juniper berries and the other with dried goji berries.

Garden Ale
1040 OG, 1010 FG. 4.1% bottle ABV. US05. Melbourne water.

Fermented at 18°C from:

96% :: American Ale Malt
4% :: Melanoiden Malt

60m single infusion mash at 70°C with calcium chloride added.
30m boil with 3 IBU of Horizon hops added at 0m.

I fermented the entire batch in one pot, reaching my FG quickly. I then bottled several litres so that I had a base to compare the berry ales with before transferring the remaining beer into two separate buckets. One contained 50g of dried juniper berries, the other 50g of dried goji berries. Each received five litres of the base beer. Both appeared to display signs of minimal fermentation as they sat at 18°C for another week. A fortnight later I bottled the beers.

I took growlers of the juniper, goji and base beers along to the August meeting of the local home brew club. This meeting was themed “Garden Ales”, with members being given the remit to bring along beers they had brewed using something from their garden. I cheated obviously. In fact not too many people were confident enough or had the inclination to bring strictly garden-derived beers. One visitor brought a smoked fig beer, there was a beer fermented from the yeast of a dead moth, a wild yeast cider and a chilli baltic porter. But mostly people brought the standard mix of IPAs, ESBs, milds etc.

I was fortunate enough to have eight people taste my berry beers. The base beer was clean and malty with a smidgen of banana aroma. Incredibly you could still taste the hops fairly distinctively beneath the malt blanket. I was expecting the barest of touches given my calculations of three IBUs. Tasters guessed wheat in the grist, due to the head retention and lacing characteristics. Melanoiden for the slam dunk.

The juniper berry beer displayed slight tartness and a subtle fruitiness. Its aroma was distinctively juniper. People compared it favourably to sahti, although my beer was very different to most sahti as I traditionally understand it, being half the ABV and a pale EBC. In fact both of the berry beers derived absolutely zero colour from the berry additions. All three beers looked identical.

The goji beer had a most distinctive aroma, best described as a kind of “vacuum”. All the malt appeared to disappear on the nose, replaced by a vaguely medicinal, slightly phenolic, but quite unique combination of aromas. The goji beer displayed no tartness and kept a full malt mouthfeel and flavour. Some tasters noted that the berry added some liquorice flavour. As you can tell, no notes were taken during these tastings unfortunately – but I remember thinking the goji would go well with darker malts.

It was a pleasure to have so many tasters giving the beers a go. It was also heartening to produce beers with no obvious major defects or problems and conduct a three-way experiment with them. Although I’ve had trouble translating my memories (the meeting was several days ago now) into text on this page, I feel like I’ve got a good taste profile locked in my mind of the two additions, and will definitely brew with them again down the track.

If anyone wants to try either of the berry I recommend using my method of adding the berries in a secondary fermentation as opposed to boiling them. Their impact was delicate yet transformative.

Fuggles & Warlock / Dead Frog Hyper Combo Red Rye IPA

This Red Rye IPA is a collaboration brew between the Fuggles & Warlock Craftworks and the Dead Frog Brewery. After contract brewing for three years, F&W are now based out of lower Vancouver and are a brewery focused on “weird beers and geek culture”. Sounds good to me. Dead Frog Brewery are a bit further out of town to the east, in the burbs, and is an older brewery hailing from 2006. This collaboration brew was released in January of this year.

This is a big IPA, holding an 8% ABV, pushing into double territory. It is a rusty crimson, a nice red EBC. Good solid head. The bottle label is lush, adding value and a little something special to the appearance of the beer itself. Unfortunately the hop aroma of my sample was very disappointing – there’s nothing going. The beer advertises itself heavily on its dry hopping regimen, but ironically this beer faintly smelt of vomit. Damn. I could put the absence of aroma down to an old bottle – it’s possible the bottle I enjoyed was up to three months old – but the stale smell that endured, or manifested after the hops stripped away? That’s just a shame.

The beer is definitely bitter with a nice dry rye finish. There was a deluge of caramel over spicy rye, a very smooth alcohol hint and a puckering aftertaste on first sip. An almost medicinal, cleansing quality was present when keeping the beer in the mouth. Clearly this beer is heavy on the crystal malts – so watch out if you’re more of a drier IPA drinker.

Ultimately an interesting beer, but severely let down by its aroma.

I bought this bottled beer at Liquor Depot, Kitsilano and drank it in a house nearby.