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Homebrew Review: Earl Grey Bitter

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So how did my little experiment of brewing a beer with Earl Grey tea turn out? Very well, I think, though the tea itself didn't wind up being one of the prominent flavors. On the other hand, the citrus came through quite successfully, and I'm sure at least part of that came from the bergamot in the tea. It makes the beer distinct from most traditional English bitters, but it doesn't overwhelm the more common English flavors and thus retains the feel of the style. It was almost exactly what I was hoping for...

One of the interesting things about homebrewing is that you get to see the full process of how a beer matures and ages. You can try it super-fresh, pre-carbonation even, and then you get to see how bottle conditioning matures it into something different over time. In this case, immediately after fermentation, the beer had some nice citrus aromas and flavors, but it was also quite thin. I like to try one homebrew a week after bottling. It usually takes at least two weeks for the bottle conditioning to produce enough carbonation, but I'm impatient and like I said, I like to witness the process in action. That first week didn't seem to do a whole lot. There was some carbonation, but the beer ultimately felt really thin and watery, in a very bad way. But something magical happened in that second week, I think, and the beer really came into its own. Despite remaining a light, quaffable beer, it really filled itself out and became a well rounded beer in those second and third weeks. And here at six weeks, it's still going strong:

Kaedrin Earl Grey Bitter

Kaedrin Earl Grey Bitter - Pours a golden orangish color with half a finger of head. Smells of earthy, pungent hops, with some citrus lightening the mood. If I really look for tea, I can kinda find it, but I'm not sure if it's actually there or if it's just the power of suggestion. The taste is surprisingly deep and full flavored. There's a solid malt backbone, with a surprising amount of citrus (I'm pegging that as the orange peel) leading into a light, earthy hop finish. It's certainly not as earthy as your typical bitter, which was part of the point of this exercise, so I'm quite happy with the taste. The mouthfeel is smooth, well carbonated (I probably could have gotten away with using even less priming sugar), but very light and quite quaffable. The first week I had this, it was awfully thin, but it has filled itself out as it's matured. Overall, I'm really loving this beer. I don't get a ton of "tea" character out of it, but there's plenty of balanced citrus. I count this among the best three batches I've made... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip on 5/12/12.

I've actually slowed down my brewing activities for summer. In part this is because I don't really want to deal with the hot temperatures, but it's also because I still have a few cases of homebrew in the cellar that I should really drink down before taking on some new batches. I'm still looking to do a Belgian Dubbel style beer for my next batch, which will probably be a really nice Fall/Winter beer.

April Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. We had a good turnout this month, with quite a few interesting beers to try. As usual, we hit up a local BYOB, this time a sushi place that seems to be a regular beer club venue. Good food (and the waitress put these amazingly intricate designs on our plates - see photo below) and good times were had by all.

April Beer Club
(Click for bigger image)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer are below. As usual, these were not ideal conditions, so take it all with a grain of salt or whatever superstition floats your boat. In order of drinking (not in order of the picture above):

  • My Homebrewed Earl Grey Bitter - The first thing we opened was my most recent homebrew, an English bitter style beer brewed with Earl Grey tea. I've actually been sampling this on a weekly basis since bottling, and it keeps getting better. At week 1, it was still very thin, but by week 3, it had really matured into a really nice beer. It is a low gravity beer, so it's not a powerful beer, but it's actually got a lot of flavor packed in for an approximately 4% ABV beer. I don't know that you get a really big Earl Grey component, but there is more citrus here than in your typical bitter, which is exactly what I was going for. It's got a really nice nose, with a light earthy hoppiness and plenty of citrus (from the hops, but probably more from the bergamot and orange peel). The taste matches, and while it is a light and quaffable beer, it's not thin or watery. It's got a certain delicacy to it that wouldn't stand up to stronger flavors, but it's still exactly what I was going for. I'll probably do a separate post on this at some point as well... For now, I'll give it a B+
  • War Horse Peace Bomber German Lager - I'm pretty sure this is a tiny brewery, but one of our beer cub peeps visited New York recently and picked up a bottle for us to enjoy. It turns out to be a pretty straightforward lager, sweet but muted malt character, not a lot of hop character but enough to match the flavors. A solid beer. I'm not too familiar with the Vienna Lager style, but this seems like a worthy example, even if it's not really my thing. B-
  • Philadelphia Brewing Fleur De Lehigh - For those of you not in the know, Lehigh is an Eastern PA town with the third largest city in PA (Allentown). Also notable for Lehigh University, who I seem to recall had some recent sports success, but I don't really know or care about the details (probably because it had something to do with the contemptible sport of basketball)... The beer looked like a wheat beer and the nose is very much in line with a Belgian wit beer, light with very interesting and heavy spicing. But I didn't get much in the way of wheat out of the taste (Update: probably because there was no wheat in the beer! It's actually classified as a standard Belgian pale ale.) Still, it's got a similar sort of light-bodied summer-drinking character. It's not something that knocked my socks off or anything, but it would make a nice warm-weather quencher. My friend Mike gave this a nice writeup in Epikur magazine (though he only gave it 2 out of 5 stars) I'll say: B-
  • 5even Dillon Imperial Pilsner - This was the other beer club homebrewer's beer, and it turned out great. Sweet, assertively hopped but not overpoweringly so, and a nice, quaffable mouthfeel. B+
  • Lester's Fixins Bacon Soda - Bonus non-alcoholic review! Bacon flavored soda? Sounds disgusting? Well guess what? It is disgusting! Ok, so maybe it's not that bad, but I didn't really care for it. Overly sweet and not really much in the way of bacon flavor. (unratable!)

    Bacon Soda
  • Lagunitas Hop Stoopid - I've had this before (I even reviewed it), and it's just as good as last time, though I will say that it wasn't quite as bitter as I remembered (not that it was a bitter bomb last time, but still). Great citrus and pine character, highly drinkable beer. It shall remain at the most excellent A- level I rated it before!
  • The Bruery and Cigar City Collaboration: Marrón Acidifié - This was my other contribution for the night, and it's another beer I've already reviewed in detail. I'm really hoping that we'll get to see more of this stuff, but I have a feeling this will be the last I ever see of this collaboration. As sours go, I think it may be my favorite, and as I've noticed before, it goes exceptionally well (luckily, a fellow beer club member had stopped at famous West Chester chocolatier Eclat recently and had a nice dark chocolate bar available, which really goes well with the Flanders Oud Bruin style). Excellent stuff. A
And we called it a night after that. I had also brought a Founders Porter (reviewed recently) and a Centennial IPA (review forthcoming!), but we never cracked them open. We also didn't get to the DuClaw Soul Jacker (a blend of Blackjack Stout and Devil's Milk barleywine), but maybe I can pick a bottle of that stuff up for later! I will leave you with a picture of a plate of sushi:

Sushi plate and design
(Click for bigger image)

Beautiful stuff, and each of our plates had custom, hand-drawn artwork that was just as intricate and pretty.

Victory Uncle Teddy's Bitter

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One of the things I love about Victory Brewing Company is that they do everything. Huge Belgian style specialties, hop bombs, imperial stouts, bourbon barrel-aged imperial stouts, wild ales, and all the other trendy stuff are well represented in their portfolio, but the thing that really sets them apart is that they embrace things that aren't that trendy. Smoked beers (there seems to always be one of these available in the brewpub, even if bottled distribution is rare), pilseners, heck, lagers in general. Do I love every one of these beers? Well, no, Victory has earned their fair share of B- ratings here, but I do really appreciate the depth and breadth of their lineup (and it's worth noting that I can't think of a beer they make that I hate).

Another thing I've been appreciating lately is that Victory also makes some low gravity beers, like this English style Bitter that's only available on cask (and probably only locally, sorry west coasters!) I've had a few of these recently and finally remembered to take some notes whilst drinking. Apparently Uncle Teddy was not a bitter man at all, but he was Victory co-founder Ron Barchet's Godfather and he passed on when Ron was in the UK, so he brewed this beer in memory of his uncle...

Victory Uncle Teddy Bitter

Victory Uncle Teddy's Bitter - Pours a deep golden color with a couple fingers of white head and tons of lacing. Smells of earthy, floral, spicy hops. Taste is soft malts and that light, earthy hop character. Mouthfeel is smooth & creamy, minimum carbonation, very light bodied, all as you'd expect from a cask ale. Highly quaffable stuff. Overall, very nice, soft but flavorful... a fitting tribute. B

Beer Nerd Details: 3.9% ABV on cask. Drank out of a nonic pint glass on 3/24/12. Hops: Styrian and Kent Golding.

I enjoy this beer, but I think it would be interesting to contrast it with my homebrewed bitter, which will have additional citrus notes from the Earl Grey tea and orange peel (and possibly my use of US Fuggle bittering hops). Anyways, look for another review of a low-gravity Victory beer soon...

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the English Bitter category.

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