Monday, January 23, 2012

The War Series: Review

I've been wrestling with how to give a synopsis on the first three beers made in my War Series. I have two things working against me. One, my hobbies are of less interest to you than to me; and two, I'm a little bias about the beer I make. That makes it a little tough to judge your own product, plus I'm not a "enough about you, let's talk about me" kinda' guy, but this project is near and dear to my heart. So, I called in a favor from Chad. Mr Polenz was more than happy to drink free beer and video his thoughts in a three-in-one, Chad'z Home Brew Review, for myself and the rest of the free world to see. I think he'd admit, however, that it was a fairly difficult review for him, having nothing to compare these beers to–but I think he was fair. 

Before we get into the actual review, here's a little background on each beer:

First off, a couple of things to know about he beers in general. All of the beers were all designed "in the style..." of the most popular British beers from the WWII era—Mild, Bitter and Burton. They're not based on actual recipes from any specific brewery, but rather, I drew inspiration from brewing records, used by of a number of breweries of the time (Thanks to Ron Pattinson and Shut Up About Barclay Perkins for doing the bulk of that work!) When I was designing the beers I was trying to think like a brewer of the time, using what would have been available, in Britain during the Second World War. I even went as far as to correct Albany's tap water, to water similar to that of London in the early 1940s. I've also mentioned before that I named the brews after Royal Air Force fighter planes and bombers. These first three beers pay homage to the hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire and de Havilland Mosquito. So, let's get to the beer and then Chad's review.

Hurricane 39 Mild Ale 

During the 1920s and 30s British brewers began adding American malt to their grist, because it's increased nitrogen content. During most of 1939, British cargo ships passed unimpeded across the Atlantic Ocean. However, with the onset of hostilities in the fall of 1939, British shipping lines were cut-off from their American and European allies. While the availability of fresh American malt began to slow, British brewers did still have stores of American malt that would have been used into late 1939 and early 1940. Hurricane 39's pronounced cereal flavor is due to its use of American 6-row.
MALT: British mild malt, American 6-row malt, British dark crystal malt, Invert sugar No. 2 
HOPS: Fuggle
YEAST: Wyeast London Ale III (1318)
OG: 1.035 / IBUs: 19 / BUGU: .44 / ABV: 3.6%

Spitfire 40 Best Bitter

By 1940, food rationing and restrictions were in full effect, throughout Britain—and breweries were no exception. British beer makers began to augment their beers with alternative grains like un-malted flaked barley and oats. Spitfire 40s hazy appearance is a result of its use of flaked barley. Sugar was also at a premium, with huge quantities of it going toward the war effort. Brewers began using malt extract to supplement the limited use of common brewing sugars, and so did I. While nearly all modern Bitters rely heavily on the caramel tones of crystal malt, many British brewers didn't begin using it in their Bitter grists until late in the war, or in some case after the war had ended.

MALT: British two-row malt, Amber malt, Light malt extract, Flaked barley
HOPS: Bramling Cross, East Kent Goldings (dry hop)
YEAST: Wyeast London Ale (1028)
OG: 1.044 / IBUs: 26 / BUGU: .61 / ABV: 4.3%

Mosquito 41 Burton Ale
Strong, dark and bittersweet—Burton Ale had been one of Britain's premium beers, for over a hundred years. Because of it's success in the marketplace, British brewers had to figure out a way to create Burtons with the same characteristics as pre-war versions—using limited resources. Grain adjuncts, and coloring agents, began making their way into the day-to-day operations of many breweries. Mosquito 41 gets a good bit of its dark color from caramel coloring. While, American malt was nearly unattainable in 1941, American hops were. It was not uncommon for brewers to use yearling or two-year old dried hops, so stores of older American hops were still available.

MALT: British two-row malt, Mild malt, Flaked barley, Invert sugar No. 3, British dark crystal malt, Caramel coloring
HOPS: Cluster, Bramling Cross, East Kent Goldings (dry hop)
YEAST: Wyeast British Ale (1335)
OG: 1.051 / IBUs: 34 / BUGU: .75 / ABV: 5.1%

All right, now that you've got the info, here's the review:

I think Chad was pretty spot on with this, although I actually prefer the Mild and the Burton to the Bitter. I hadn't noticed the red apple flavor, until I drank all three, back-to-back. He's right—especially in the Mild. He did say it reminded him of other British beers, so I guess that's a plus! His reference to a coffee note in the Bitter is spot on. I initially got a pronounced caramel tone, but after having tasted it, after his review—I also notice the roasted coffee flavor. He's probably correct naming the flaked barley and I think the amber malt also contributes to that. Personally, I don't think the Burton is the least bitter, though—but he did drink and review three beers in a row.

In the end I'm generally happy with the results. I learn something new every time I brew, and an average of 7 out of 10 is pretty good (I'd have ranked the Burton and Mild higher, but then again, I am a tad biased.) This round takes care of 1939 through 1941 so, three down, three to go. Up next in the War Series Lancaster 42. It's a Sweet Stout made with everything but the kitchen sink.

 Chances are, you'll be hearing about it.  

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