It was October before I got around to brewing a batch in 2006. It had been almost a year since I had brewed. So I got back into it in full swing: I brewed a batch every week for 5 weeks in a row! (admittedly, most of them were half-sized batches…)

I also experimented in gluten-free beer: I have a co-worker who has coeliac disease, so sharing my normal homebrew (made with glutenous grains like barley and wheat) was out of the question. The main thing I learned is that making gluten-free beer is very difficult for a homebrewer to do because of the lack of variety in available ingredients. But I did manage to completely avoid gluten, and the final product does at least sort of taste like beer.

Also, every beer I made this year (aside from the Fermented Pancakes and Royal Glutenouslessness) seemed to finish too high. At first I thought the trouble may be a bad hydrometer that reads high, but I’ve now nailed it down to poor wort aeration. I bought a wort-oxygenator, and that seems to have improved the attenuation of all my beers since.

  • Fermented Pancakes
    OG: 1.054
    FG: 1.007
    ABV: 5.9%

    This recipe is half beer and half maple mead. Nearly 50% of the fermentables come from maple syrup. I now know that this is not the best way to get maple flavor into a beer. The maple syrup attenuated so well that the beer was initially very dry with a strange finish and very little maple flavor. I then added blueberries. The blueberries made it an interesting shade of red (hints of violet), but I didn’t use enough. Their aroma and flavor are virtually unnoticeable in the finished product. I also used maple sugar to prime the beer (at the recommendation of the local homebrew shop owner). At first it made a difference, but, after a few months of aging, the maple flavor is almost gone. Despite the fact that this beer didn’t turn out as I had hoped, it is still quite drinkable. I had to add some lactose at bottling time in order to give it a little sweetness and body (since the maple syrup seemed to take that away).

    • Appearance (1-5): 5
    • Aroma (1-10): 6
    • Flavor (1-10): 6
    • Palate (1-5): 3
    • Overall (1-20): 13
    • Final (0.5-5.0): 3.3
  • Holiday Ale
    OG: 1.080
    FG: 1.029
    ABV: 6.7%

    Another spicy holiday ale! One of these days I’m going to learn a lesson about putting too much spice into a beer. When I racked this beer to the secondary fermenter, it tasted and smelled great: a robust, chocolatey porter with some spices (most notably cinnamon). However, a couple other spices have since taken over: allspice and clove. The finished product is still quite drinkable, but unusual. The chocolate and roasted malt flavors of a strong porter are noticable. But they are blended with the aroma and taste of cloves. After 5 months of aging, the beer is quite smooth – the cloves blend well with the rest of the flavors. But still, the 2007 Holiday Ale will have no cloves.

    • Appearance (1-5): 4
    • Aroma (1-10): 6
    • Flavor (1-10): 6
    • Palate (1-5): 4
    • Overall (1-20): 10
    • Final (0.5-5.0): 3.0
  • Dancing Monk Ale
    OG: 1.111
    FG: 1.028
    ABV: 10.4%

    The intention with this one was something like an abbey tripel, but with some spices thrown in to make it interesting (a little cardamom, coriander, orange peel, and anise seed). The result started off a bit unusual: a smooth, strong Belgian ale with a distinct note of anise seeds. The other spices are virtually undetectable. And I didn’t even use very much anise seed! The malt profile had a complex, earthy taste that, when combined with the anise seed, delivered the impression of rye bread with caraway seeds. After some aging it developed into a very malty strong ale with only hints of spice and anise seed. Overall, this turned out very pleasant. But I’ve already planned the Belligerent Monk Ale, which will be more along the lines of my original idea – no anise, and even more malts (I’m seeing if I can make a brew that is over 12%)

    • Appearance (1-5): 4
    • Aroma (1-10): 7
    • Flavor (1-10): 7
    • Palate (1-5): 4
    • Overall (1-20): 15
    • Final (0.5-5.0): 3.7
  • Royal Glutenouslessness

    OG: 1.078
    FG: 1.018
    ABV: 7.7%

    I know it’s a cheesy name – but I thought it was catchy. This was my attempt at a gluten-free beer. The main fermentable was sorghum syrup. Other fermentables included honey, maple syrup, and molasses. I tried to make it decently hoppy to cover up any artifacts in the flavor. It didn’t entirely work. There are two main flaws with the result:

    1. The beer is hideous. It is incredibly cloudy. And the cloudiness isn’t from sediment – it is from something suspended in the beer. If you chill a bottle for too long, it all falls out of suspension and leaves a better looking beer behind – but the crud that was in suspension fills up half of the bottle!
    2. The finish is very peculiar. The fact that 100% of the fermentables were adjunct sugars makes for a strange finish and aftertaste. I have since had other sorghum beers since, and I’ve discovered that much of this strange taste is the taste of fermented sorghum: a strange, dry, almost tart feeling that coats the teeth.

    Aside from these problems, the beer isn’t terrible. In fact, it is better than at least one commercially produced sorghum beer (New Grist). It’s hard to say whether it is better than Red Bridge or not (Red Bridge is a recently available gluten-free beer from Anheiser-Busch’s). My beer is much more flavorful. Their beer is more watered down. That makes it hard to pick a winner – their beer doesn’t have some of the good flavors my beer has, but it also doesn’t have some of the more peculiar off flavors that my beer has either…

    • Appearance (1-5): 1
    • Aroma (1-10): 6
    • Flavor (1-10): 3
    • Palate (1-5): 1
    • Overall (1-20): 6
    • Final (0.5-5.0): 1.7
  • Full Moon Stout
    OG: 1.095
    FG: 1.032
    ABV: 8.1%

    This was the only truly great beer that I made in 2006. I used a method invented by Dogfish Head known as “continuous hop infusion”. Basically, you constantly toss in hops throughout the entire hour of boil. In my case, I added hops every five minutes. I also dry-hopped this beer. The result is lots of hop flavor and aroma. This beer also has a strong malt presence and lots of dark, roasted flavors, too. Yummy!

    • Appearance (1-5): 5
    • Aroma (1-10): 8
    • Flavor (1-10): 8
    • Palate (1-5): 4
    • Overall (1-20): 16
    • Final (0.5-5.0): 4.1