new blogger on the block as local homebrewer Russ has started chronicling his brewing exploits. Its good to see someone else on the Island blogging about homebrewing, as as far as I know, I've been the only one up until now. Hopefully this will help infuse new energy into Island beer blogging. On to the beer.
I struggled with naming this beer for ages. When I first brewed it in September, I could never settle on anything and it remained "India Brown Ale". But, as I was mulling over my second attempt at this "style", Robert Pirsig's book Lila, the little known sequel to the classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, sprang to mind. In it he describes anything that doesn't quite fit the constraints of human designed definitions as a platypus. A platypus is a semi-aquatic creature endemic to parts of Australia, which confounded researchers when it was discovered as it didn't fit within understood parameters of life, being a venomous, egg-laying mammal. Pirsig's point was that the Platypus helps remind us that definitions were created to serve nature, not the other way around. In similar fashion an India Brown Ale, pioneered by Dogfish Head Brewing to the best of my knowledge, defies definition being a cross between an India Pale Ale and a Brown Ale, but not having a style space of its own. This helps to remind us that style, although vastly useful, was created to serve beer; beer is not created to serve style. That was a bit of a tangent; I hope you're still following me. Better bring this post back to earth a bit.
My previous attempt was in many ways a successful beer. It scored reasonably well in competition, despite some obvious faults, but I knew it could be much better. For one, it had fermented much too warm, resulting in a hot alcohol character that took long aging to mellow. By the time the flavour had rounded the dry-hopped character that was one of its best assets had faded. This time a cooler fermentation and better timing with the dry-hops would hopefully help the flavour and aroma peak together. It also had something of a burnt note from the caramelised brown sugar; to prevent this I changed to unrefined panela sugar to create some rummy character but without the burned taste. As a final touch I decided to add some spices to further mix things up, and it's here I may have made a mistake, adding perhaps one too many layers in this already complicated brew. The aroma from the previous version, created from heavy dry hopping with East Kent Goldings, that had been described as resembling the fragrance of the Southern hemisphere fruit feijoa, has been lost. The spices and the dry hops in this version interact in the aroma creating a character that I have heard described as ginger or chai tea-like. This carries into the flavour as well, resulting in a beer that almost reminds of Christmas. One of this beer's strongest attributes is, surprisingly, its drinkability. The cool fermentation as well as the complexity of flavour easily hides this beers 8% abv, and its crisp, hoppy finish makes it easier to drink. But I think the spiced character moves past complex into the realm of confused. Anyways, enough blah, blah, blah. Next time, no spices. And more dry hops, always more dry hops.
Ingredients: Locally malted British-style pale malt, Crystal 60, Biscuit malt, Chocolate malt, Belgian Special B, Roast Barley, Panela, Columbus hops, East Kent Golding hops, Start Anise, Green Cardamom, Wyeast 1028 London Ale yeast