Look What I Can Brew: Part Four

In last week’s installment, curiosity killed my patience and I ended up taking a quick sip before the beer had a chance to carbonate or refrigerate. So, did our Belgian Wit pass the taste test? Or did I have to mop up the spray from my spit take?

In this final installment, you’ll be glad to know that relief set in when, in fact, the sample did taste like beer. Flat, room temperature beer. Thankfully, no hint of screwdriver was detected from our earlier mishap. It was an encouraging preview of what was to come.

The best part of making your own beer should be drinking your own beer. And while anyone can throw back a bottle of suds, tasting a product critically is what can separate the craft from the crap. While reading up on how to judge beer from sources like the Beer Judge Certification Program, I learned that the most important qualities to take note of are its appearance, aroma, flavor and mouthfeel.

First impressions are important. And upon hearing that familiar hiss of CO2 escaping from the bottle, I knew we were off to a good start. Here’s what I was able to detect after tasting the finished product:Beer-Mason-Jar-Inset-1115C

Appearance: amber in color, slightly cloudy, carbonated

Aroma: sweet, earthy, slightly alcoholic

Flavor: sweet, slightly cloying, citrusy, vaguely herbal

Mouthfeel: cool, carbonated, slightly buttery finish

In John Palmer’s guide How to Brew, he lists 17 common off-flavors in beer. The ones I tasted were alcoholic and buttery. Palmer describes the alcoholic aroma or flavor as a possible result of the yeast sitting too long on the trub in the fermenter. We did let it sit a week longer than the recipe called for. That white layer of nastiness we found on the beer on bottling day probably didn’t help.

Palmer explains that the buttery feel, or diacetyl, is produced in a brew that experiences a
long lag time due to weak yeast or poor aeration of the wort. There’s a good chance we didn’t aerate the wort enough before pitching the yeast. Oops.

As my beer quest comes to a close, I’m proud to report that our finished product was
passable despite those little imperfections. In fact, I named this effort the Passable Wit and drew up a commemorative label for it.  Zach said it wasn’t his best batch to date, but it was drinkable. It’s a good thing, too, because we ended up with nearly two cases of it.

Beer-Label-1115CIf anything, I learned that there’s a lot more to learn about brewing and brew culture, but that’ll come with time. Fortunately, going through the process of brewing a beer at home has given me a fundamental knowledge to build on that I didn’t have before. So, the next time I find myself on a brewery tour, I’ll actually have a better understanding of what’s happening in those big shiny tanks.

Who knew? If I can brew, so can you.


1. C’mon, we went over this last week. Still not up on your homebrewing terms? You’ll have to check out Part Three for all the definitions and more footnotes.


Read Look What I Can Brew Parts One, Two and Three. And check out the full feature Beer Quest


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Posted in Articles, Craft Corner

Julie Vitto is a freelance writer and photographer for Fly Magazine. She has a B.A. in English from Temple University with a concentration in creative writing and SEPTA rail map reading. When she’s not proofreading financial statements at her day job, she can be found watching documentaries, collecting 60s soul and R&B records, and working her way through the take-out menus of neighborhood restaurants.

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