It's been a while since I discussed my own brewing efforts. A combination of factors, mainly my own laziness and the distance (in a car) to travel to pick up the ingredients, as well as having difficulties maintaining temperatures (and a heatwave earlier in the year) have meant that I haven't really got into the whole brewing thing properly. A colleague at work has made me insanely jealous with images of her own brewing efforts (they mash their own stuff and have created their own brewery kit from household items!) and yes...
Anyway, we had company and I finally had a chance to use the last two bottles of the reaspberry ale I'd been brewing. Batch Two Berry Bad Bucket-Brewed Birthday Beer was thus on for tasting with an independent adjudicator on hand to make sure that I was neither too harsh nor too forgiving of my own creation.
Why do I feel like Dr Frankenstein when I say that? Anyway, there were two bottles. One of them had been conditioned straight from the bucket and the other had been bottled two weeks later from the barrel with some added sugar to help it condition. The bucket bottle had been stored in the outhouse and then the kitchen and the other bottle was the one that ticked on bottling.
Would ye be wantin' ta know more, Jim-laaad?
The first bottle, the bucket bottle, poured flat and heavy. It had not been deliberately chilled but it was cold and it poured in a manner not unlike the Molotov Cocktail that I had back in Leeds. It also smelled quite acceptably of raspberries without being over-powering and there was a lovely aroma of decent malt beneath it. Neither sweet nor tart. I was mildly surprised by that. The lack of head, some minor attempt at froth was made, and fizz was a disappointment however. My guest tried some with an apprehensive look. Then brightened and smiled. She pronounced the ale very tasty. I tried some, not quite believing her, and was surprised to find a very delicate flavour of raspberry floating over a decent maltiness that faded to a background buzz from the strength (difficult to place exactly, but somewhere around 5% ABV) and the memory of raspberry - like real raspberries picked wild from beneath a railway bridge rather than the flavour one gets in sweets and sugary treats.
Despite the lack of carbonation and the failure to really brew this properly and at the right temperature, this worked. It was inoffensive enough that my guest had another glass out of choice and I felt empowered to try the second bottle, the one from the barrel. It is worth noting that two pints did not make our guest tipsy.
The second bottle, the barrel bottle, had ticked all that time ago when I added the sugar. It had been kept away from the house lest the pressure cause it to explode and had been gingerly brought back into the house. I don't know what I was expecting when I opened it but a light snick and a brief puff of carbon dioxide was not it. Once again, it poured flat with no excitement, a little more of an attempt at a head but then it sort of sat in the glass and glowed faintly with the red of the raspberry - well, no, that's a lie - it was the malt that gave it the reddy tinge as the flavouring had been entirely clear. Nevertheless, this was a deeper colour and looked the part for raspberry ale in a way that the first bottle did not. It smelled less strongly and one was able to really pick out the fruit from the malt. It had a very humid sort of feel, like it filled the nostrils, and was somehow sweeter without being too sweet (well, I would say that). My guest tried some and pronounced it good, but not as good as the first bottle. So it was that I had this bottle and she the other.
Once again, same journey but a stronger alcohol buzz toward the end. Hard to place but close enough to the ales I've had around 7.2% ABV that I think I shall plonk it there. Inoffensive again, though fruitier than the first bottle and clearly a fruit ale rather than a real ale, if that makes sense. It would not be out of place near a Fruli or in a small bar off the main square in Knaresborough. As it was, it made for a good evening tipple whilst dissecting some sit-come or other.
Sad to say, I thought the remainder of the ale in the barrel had had it and threw it away. Only to see, as it poured down the drain, that it was well carbonated and smelt fine. I managed to save enough to fill a shot glass and discovered that the cold weather had halted further fermentation nicely around the 6% ABV mark and that the flavour had matured along with the malt. In short, it would have been good enough to drink without being 'off' after all. Oh well, I'll know for next time.
I did not enjoy this as much as I enjoyed the Summer Stag but it has reminded me that I need to get on and brew a final batch.