My Jubelale clone is complete.
Just look at that color! Pretty darn spot-on, I'd say. Obviously, I'm thrilled with that. But the real test comes later, of course, when I smell and taste it.
There's an old Christmas song called “Last Month of the Year” (The Blind Boys of Alabama do a rousing version) that runs through the twelve months in call-and-response seeking the month in which Jesus born. They eventually reach December and sing for joy in celebration of the holiday.
And so it is for me. I tick off each month's seasonal releases, paying no mind to maibocks in May. I skip over the kolsches of spring and the saisons of summer and I push pass pumpkin ales in October. All in favor of the Christmasy delights of December.
From George Gale's very English version to the appropriately named Peculiar Yule from Nøgne Ø, to Anchor Christmas and the one I'm trying to clone now – Jubelale from Deschutes, I love the blend of alcohol warmth, fireplace smokiness, hop bite, not to mention the often-present chocolate, dark fruitiness and range of spice that some of the best Christmas ales exhibit. Jubelale hits them all and is a deeply satisfying ale with, I think, broad appeal.
And so I'm trying to make my own version....
I am writing these words over the Thanksgiving weekend. The holidays tend to be a time for reflection and for some they are a particularly bittersweet time of year. And this year I am no exception. The impending year-end got me thinking. And as I consider where I am in my personal, professional and home brewing life I've come to the decision to discontinue this blog. I will be ending my “New to Homebrew” entries this December.
Like this brew, it's time for me to mash out.
I'm sorry to say good bye since I have loved the opportunity to track my brewing trials and tribulations over the last three years. But with an ever busier daily schedule of a full-time job, two kids and a wife who works two jobs, not to mention aging parents, I'm finding it harder and harder to find time to brew, much less write about that brewing....
In all my brewing days I have only ever tried a clone recipe once. A clone, if you don't know, is an attempt via home brewing to recreate as nearly as possible a commercial brand of beer. I've made countless beers in my home brewing career but I've rarely deliberately set out to mirror an existing beer.
The notable exception is my flirtation with trying to make Schneider Weisse at home. In short, it didn't go well.
And now comes my Christmas ale attempt.
I love Jubelale from Deschutes. It's malty, it's hoppy, it's rich without overdoing it. It's thick and boozy but warming not threatening. It's lovely....
My Grodsizkie (or Grätzer) is beige. That's not a color typically associated with beer making. However, it's not off-putting or all that unpleasant to behold, this smoked beer of mine.It's interesting, too, to produce a beer that doesn't look like all the rest.
The head that formed was only okay but I'm not too concerned about that and I'm certainly happy that it's not over-carbonated. In fact, I'd say I got the carbonation just right. It's fizzy, prickly, sprightly. I like that.
It's the flavor that I am concerned about....
If you've ever considered being in a home brew club but thought, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, that you didn't want to belong to any club that would accept people like yourself, may I humbly suggest that you reconsider.
Years ago, when I was deciding whether or not to join my local home brew club, I hesitated. Did I really want to be in a club? I'm a bit of a contrarian so I thought, do I really want to be hanging around with a bunch of fellow beer geeks? I mean, what's the point? Also, I worried that I hadn't the time. I wondered, too, whether I'd share interests with these people, other than beer and brewing, that is. Would they only talk about – geek-out – beer or might we have other things we can discuss?
I shouldn't have been concerned. The home brew community is rich and rewarding. This fact was reconfirmed to me following three recent encounters with the club. Thus, I feel obligated to write about the wonderful community that a home brew club can provide.
First, and most painfully, a couple who are club members recently suffered an unimaginably awful personal tragedy. In response, the club flew into motion and immediately set up a website to collect funds to help the grieving couple with any costs they were going to incur and, perhaps more importantly, to demonstrate that they were not alone in dealing with the agony of their loss....
Brewed my Grodziskie* last night and on and on into the wee hours. I never should have started such a complicated brew at 8:40pm. Needless to say, I wasn't the best dad this morning when my kids let me “sleep in” until 8:15.
The Grodziskie was an ... interesting brew, to say the least.
In retrospect, it may not have been the best choice for my second ever all grain brew. There were four mash steps, a 90 minute boil (I considered an even longer boil) and a bed time of around 2:30 am. The mash alone took about two hours....
The Polish nation isn't exactly known for its quality beers. Poland has some big breweries, like Zwyiec, Okocim, and Tyskie that produce a range of styles, including a decent porter from Okocim. But Poland is mostly known for its middling pale lagers that recall Stella Artois or less skunky Heineken. In short, they're not worth going out of your way for, much less brewing a batch of at home. (I can hear my Polish friend screaming right now).
This is what makes the Polish smoked wheat beer known as Grodziskie, or Grätzer, even more of a pleasant surprise. It's a beer that is light in color, delicate in the mouth, but complex refreshing and … smokey.
The smoke presence is a throwback to a time when grain was kilned over an open wood fire. This process would inevitably have lent a smokey aspect to the grain and thence to the beer. (Yes, I just used the word “thence.”) As more modern kilning techniques took over, the smoke flavor disappeared from malt and was therefore erased from beers brewed with that malt.
In a few styles, however, smokiness was seen as not only desirable but as an important aspect of the beer's aroma and flavor. That desired smokiness lingered in a few beery enclaves such as Grodzisk, Poland and in Bamberg, Germany, where Grodziskie's German equivalent, rauchbier, is still proudly brewed. (The well-known beers of Bamberg are the most notable examples out of Germany – the Märzen and Urbock from Schlenkerla, for instance)....
It's definitely carbonated. An affirmative, “pssst” escaped from under the crown upon opening the bottle. Phew, I passed that hurdle.
I would have preferred the color to be a bit brighter orange. I wouldn't mind a bit more clarity but it's got a solid head of foam and overall it looks respectable in the glass.
The Mosaic hop aroma is … there. It's not exactly leaping out of the glass as I would have hoped (not to mention, as I designed) but it makes its presence known with a distinctive berry smell, almost like fresh blueberry jam....
I racked my gallon of Mosaic IPA (it's really substantially less than a gallon) to my secondary and dry hopped with more of the eponymous hops.
I had to wait longer than I would have preferred to move out of primary because, silly me, I didn't have a suitable vessel to act as my secondary. My beer was in fermenting before I realized, “Hey, I need another one-gallon jug.” Somehow this didn't occur to me when I was fitting out my new miniscule brew house.
Therefore, I had to obtain another gallon jug. Quickly. My local home brew store was not open when I visited it – that was a fun trip with two kids on a blazing hot day. And my eventual internet purchase took a lot longer than I wish it had. In short, another argument for planning ahead and ensuring that you have everything you need prior to your brew day. I should really listen to my own advice.
This is not only my first one gallon batch, it is also my first single hop beer. I am really very curious to see how the Mosaic performs through all phases of this brew. Simply put, Mosaic is an incredibly appealing hop. I like its brightness of aroma and flavor and it has a decent amount of alpha acid (around 12%), which should make it a reasonably effective bittering hop. So it should bring a lot to this beer....