Forging mighty beers one batch at a time.

Stout Tasting Session: Licorice Stout vs. First Out Stout

Stout tasting session: Licorice Stout vs. First Out Stout


Having now done two stouts, and also conveniently having both on hand simultaneously, I thought it would be fun to taste them side-by-side for the first writeup on the newer Licorice Stout. If you’ve been following along on Alewright, you’ll know that these two stouts represent my first foray into designing original beer recipes for me. Although these recipes are experimental for me, I think that they are two good data points for me to work from in tweaking a unique stout.

These two stouts represent opposite ends of the flavor spectrum. The First Out is a lower alcohol, lower gravity beer, but has quite a bite. The Licorice stout is heavier, sweeter, and features a much higher alcohol content. the First Out is pure grain brewing while the Licorice relies on adjuncts for a good part of its character.

I started with the First Out Stout, pouring it from the clear plastic bottle into a small tasting glass. The beer poured with almost no head, but exhibited some lingering carbonation on top. I suspect that this bottle might not have been sealed tightly enough, or somehow didn’t get primed with enough sugar during bottling. Fortunately there was enough carbonation left for the taste to be relatively unaffected I think. The aroma was one of coffee and toasted oats. The black roasted barley comes out in the nose. The mouthfeel is a bit thin in contrast to its appearance in the glass. The taste is a bit acrid and biting, but is offset slightly by a surprising lactose sweetness. Finish is crisp and does not linger long on the palette, which is good because the bite up front is rather overwhelming.

I then moved on to the Licorice Stout, pouring a small amount into another identical tasting glass. Carbonation was more pronounced than that of the First Out, unsurprisingly. The beer started with a 1cm head which quickly settled to a small ring of bubbles around the edge of the glass. The aroma was one of anise and sweet heavy cream. The mouthfeel was much thicker, owing its much higher gravity and alcohol content. I detected hints of bread and molasses in the taste. There isn’t much bite to this one, as the black roasted barley was tempered by an additional two pounds of base malt and the addition of 60L kilned caramel malt.

I learned a lot from these two beers, so hopefully I can move the ball forward with my next stout recipe. Neither of these were bad beers by any stretch, but I think that there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Beer Tasting: Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour Ale

Beer tasting: Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Ale

I had the chance to try out a few Oud Bruin sour style ales recently, and the Monk’s Flemish Sour was one of them. This beer is brewed by Brouwerij Van Steenberge for Monk’s Café in Philadelphia. I have been to Philly a few times and made it to a few good beer stops but I have never been to Monk’s. I suppose I’ll have to make more of an effort when next the opportunity presents itself.

On to the beer – the Sour Ale poured a reddish-tinted amber color with minimal head. The initial nose was of fermented apple and vinegar and perhaps a fruity hint of raisins or dates. The taste comes on as a slow bloom of sour cherry turning slightly sweet toward the end. A bit like a Sweet Tart but without the odd feeling on your tongue.

The body is a bit light and unfortunately doesn’t balance out the acrid lactic acid notes very well. Fortunately for as biting as the taste is up front, there is little aftertaste. If anything there is a residual sweetness left on the palette.

I’ll have to try a few more in this style to really make a verdict. I can say I wouldn’t want to drink too much of this in a sitting. Although this isn’t a particularly high alcohol beer, given the highly – shall we say – opinionated  flavor, one glass in a given sitting would be plenty for me.

Beer Tasting: De Dolle Oerbier Special Reserva 2009

Beer tasting: De Dolle Oerbier Special Reserva 2009I was in Annapolis today for my weekly stand-up meeting and my boss took me out for lunch since it was my birthday. Since he knows I’m a beer lover he took me to in Severna park on the way. I was in the middle of looking up another beer on Beer Advocate when I was approached by one of the employees asking me if I needed any help. I mentioned that I was interested in trying some sour ales. Little did I know that this guy knew a thing or two about beer.

To make a long story short, I walked out of the store with two different ales, one of which was the De Dolle that I’m going to review here.

The bottle opened with a sharp whoosh. My suspicions of a vigorous carbonation were confirmed with the first pour. Looking through the medium amber brew I could see numerous streams of bubbles forming along the sides and bottom of the glass.

As I took the first sip I could smell an acidic alcohol odor, and the initial sour bite of lactic acid was nearly overpowering. I was worried that I wasn’t going to enjoy this very much, but as I sipped I started to notice more delicate lemon-citrus notes in the acid bite. A but further into the glass and I started getting a sort of balsamic vinegar aftertaste. As odd as that sounds it was actually interesting in a good way.

This beer is aged on oak barrels but it is hard to detect much of the oak in the face of the sourness of it. However I did get a feeling that underlying the pungent overlay of lemon there was a solid brown ale, oak and all.

I’d get this again if I could find it (and afford it – $10 for 330ml is a little on the pricey side). Maybe the small size isn’t a bad thing though, since I’m not sure you’d ever want to drink more than one in a sitting.

Bottling the Licorice Stout

Bottling the licorice stoutI just got around to bottling the licorice stout today. I primed with 2 ounces of corn sugar in approximately 2.5 gallons of beer. The final gravity was 1.014 giving it an alcohol content of 6.26, which was higher than I expected. I tasted a bit of the beer before I bottled it and it really came together in terms of complexity and mouthfeel. The anise flavoring just kind of mellowed out and tucked itself right into the rich roasted malts. I’m really excited to taste this stuff once it has conditioned.

Licorice Stout Moves to the Secondary

Licorice stout moves to the secondaryI moved my latest brew, into the secondary fermenter today. Nothing fancy here, I just siphoned it into my second bucket. I took a quick gravity reading, and it was a little higher than I expected. Actually, this beer started out a bit higher than I expected. The gravity now is 1.023, as you can see from the picture. Hopefully this attenuates a bit more in the secondary.

I’m relieved to note that the anise flavor has mellowed out quite a bit at this point. Initially I was worried that I used too much. I think this is going to be a tasty beer.

New Beer Brewing: Licorice Stout

New beer brewing: licorice stout


I’m finally brewing the next stout that I had the ingredients for. I decided to do a licorice stout since I have some fresh anise around. Details to come.


The beer has been brewed. Starting gravity is a hefty 1.062. I used 1 Tablespoon of anise seed as the aroma hops. A lot of the anise settled out of the wort but it still has a strong licorice flavor. I’m worried that I used a little too much. It might mellow out somewhat though. I used only 1/2 pound more grain this time around, so maybe my last mash had a really bad starch conversion due to the high temperature. I kept this one around 150 degrees or lower for the full hour.

Grain bill:

1/2 lb black roasted barley

1/2 lb chocolate malt

1/2 lb L60 crystal

6 lb brewer’s 2-row malt


1/2 oz Cascade hops


1 tablespoon anise seed


1/2 packet of SafBrew S-33 dry ale yeast


Mash strike water 170 deg, mash temperature 150 degrees. Mash time 60 minutes. Batch sparged, 75 minute sparge time. 60 minute boil, hops added at beginning, adjucts added at the very end.

Beer Tasting: Rippin’s Belgian

Beer tasting: Rippin's Belgian

I broke out some stuff that I’ve been saving for a while today. This one I got from a friend last time I was visiting the ‘Burgh. He was moving out of his place, and I helped him bottle this stuff. The original plan was to let this one go in the secondary fermenter for a full year, but I think it only got half way before he ended up moving. It certainly doesn’t seem the worse for it but I guess we’ll never know what could have been.

I enjoyed this brew in my small tasting glasses on the back balcony with a dinner of tomato and cheese melt sandwiches. This is a Belgian-style dubbel perhaps, I don’t know the alcohol content, but it seems somewhere north of 6% at least. The beer poured a medium amber with a monstrous pure white head. I whiffed a glimpse of honey and clover on the nose. Taste was a silky butterscotch – not too sweet though, balanced out with a nice spice finish. I got some pretty strong lacing on the glass as I progressed through the tasting.

This one is pretty complex – I might have to crack open a second one to really get the full story on this guy. Stay tuned.

Tasting: First Out Stout

Tasting: First Out Stout

I just cracked open the first of the stout that I bottled last week. I was not expecting much since I thought I screwed this one up, however I was surprised when I tasted it. Despite the high final gravity it tastes pretty good. There is a bit of a (lactose?) sweetness to it, but it is offset nicely by the dark malts.

The beer poured with a tan head and plenty of carbonation. The hop choice was perfect I think. The only thing I think might have been off in the recipe was the amount of black malt. There is a bit of an acrid burnt taste that becomes overpowering as you get to the end of the beer.

Bottling the First Out Stout

Bottling the First Out StoutI bottled my stout on Monday, I just haven’t gotten around to posting about it until today. I think that there are problems with this beer. During the mash, the temperature got way too hot, so I think the enzymes may have been destroyed. The gravity was high after the mash, so I assumed that everything went ok. Well, I took a reading before bottling and the gravity is still up at 1.030. The fermentation was less vigorous than usual also, so I think that there are a ton of unfermentable starches and sugars left in the beer. It didn’t taste that sweet to me so maybe it is still going to be drinkable, just with a lot less alcohol than it is supposed to have.

For the record, I primed the 2 gallons of stout with 3 ounces of corn sugar. Probably a little high for a stout but I kind of like things on the bubbly side. Oh and thanks to Rips for the tinted bottles. I used some of them for the first time during this bottling.

Brew Day: First Out Stout

Brew day: First Out Stout


I decided that I’m going to call my first beer recipe “First Out Stout”. I know it is corny, but it’s appropriate, being that it is my first attempt at creating my own beer. The ingredients ended up as follows:

4lb 2-row barley

1/2lb chocolate malt

1/2lb black roasted barley

1/2oz Nugget hops

1/2oz Cascade hops

I ended up leaving out the Crystal malt that I bought. I weighed out the ingredients the night before brew day so that I could work more quickly. The mash temperature started out way too high, around 170 deg F. I dumped some heat by leaving the mash tun open for a few seconds and letting the steam out. This seemed to work well, as the temp dropped to about 155 degrees afterward. However, the water that I added later on was too hot again, and so the second half of the mash process was too hot I’m afraid. The gravity after mash was 1.040 though, so it seems like everything went ok. It took approximately 20 minutes to get the wort up to a boil after the mash for a 4 gallon boil. I wanted to make a note of this because It is a pain to keep checking on the pot trying to keep things from boiling over when the heat break happens. I boil with the lid on at first because my stove isn’t strong enough otherwise. I’m using two burners at once in order to get things rolling initially, and then going back down to one burner once the wort is boiling.

The sparge took 25 minutes, which was way too fast, but I seem to have gotten a decent conversion efficiency though. I calculated it to be 32 according to the formula in John Palmer’s book “How to Brew”. I have no idea what the units are, but anything above 30 is supposed to be pretty good.

I added the Nugget hops at the beginning of the 60 minute boil, and the Cascade hops with five minutes left. The post-boil gravity was 1.045. I pitched with Safbrew S33 yeast. One thing that I learned was that it is much easier to cool the wort down in the bathtub than in the kitchen sink. I used to fill the sink up 3 or 4 times with cold water which got to be quite a chore. Now I fill up the bathtub and let the kettle sit there for a bit while I go do something else. Much better.

Tasting a little bit of the wort before I pitched, it really tastes like an over-the-top stout. Lots of dark coffee notes – a real bite in the finish. I can taste the Cascade hops quite a bit, so hopefully I haven’t gone overboard here. Also, It really looks like the darker roasted malts go a long way with very small amounts.