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....
These days there is a huge push to buy local with the thought being that we can support our local businesses and communities, and ultimately have a better product. Buying local also means buying a product that is fresher than something shipped half way across the country and since local companies tend to be smaller, they have more ability to experiment with ingredient combinations. This is also one of the main advantages to homebrewing; fresher beer utilizing unique flavor combinations.
As a homebrewer, there are lots of possibilities for you to make your beer more local. Using locally sourced homebrewing ingredients such as hops, malted barely and even yeast (like my friends at South Yeast Labs) can produce a fresh and unique twist to any beer recipe. Some commercial breweries such as Jester King Brewery in Austin, Texas and Jolly Pumpkin in Dexter, Michigan take local yeast to a whole new level by using open fermentation vessels called coolships to utilize local yeast and bacteria from the environment to ferment their finely crafted beverages. In fact, long before brewers knew that yeast was responsible for fermentation, all beers were produced in this way (but that is a topic for another blog post). As a yeast cell biologist and a self-proclaimed yeast geek I have found experimenting with different yeast strains in my homebrewery to be one of the most rewarding aspects of making beer at home.
Rather than buy locally sourced hops or malted barley in order to make my beer more local I decided to use my knowledge of yeast (and research laboratory equipment) to source a local yeast strain from my area. There are many ways to capture wild yeast but I chose to harvest yeast from a honeysuckle bush in my front yard. Flowering bushes and fruits are a great source of wild yeast since they attract birds and bees, which can act as natural transportation for microscopic organisms such as yeast. To begin the process, I simply dropped 10 honeysuckle flowers into a small volume of cooled wort, aerated it and let the yeast do their work. After 10 days I isolated six single strains of yeast and looked at each under a microscope to examine their health.
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....