Saturday, April 28, 2012

Irish Red tasting and conclusions

So, as you may recall from this post, I tried an experiment where I took the same batch of beer and fermented most of it with an ale yeast (Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale) and a gallon of it with a lager yeast (Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager).

It's now about a month after I kegged the ale version and two weeks after I bottled the lager version,  I'm definitely surprised by how totally different the beers became.  I wanted to write this up earlier, but the lager version was still not quite ready (green apple-y) until about two weeks ago.

I fermented the two of them together at 56 degrees in my 'fermentation chamber' (mini-fridge).  In the foreground is the ale version, the lager in the background.

It was a pretty standard ferment, after 10 days I slowly ramped the temp up into the 60s for a diacetyl rest for the lager, and then cold-crashed them both.  I kept the lager version on the yeast for about 6 weeks, and then force carbonated.  The ale version spent about 3 weeks on the yeast before being force carbonated.

I met up with a couple buddies for a side by side tasting.

The lager version is in the left front, and the ale version in the back right.  A slightly better shot of the disparity:
(Yes, we are playing D&D.  Homebrew and D&D, can't beat it.)

So, clearly, the lager version is a darker, clearer beer.  The ale version is very cloudy- after being cold-crashed for a month, I don't THINK that's still yeast in suspension, but I honestly don't know.  I can't think of what else it would be.
Head retention on both beers is pretty poor, I'm not sure why.  They are both malt BOMBS.  Not much of any hop presence.  Aroma is pure malt on both beers.

The difference between the two beers is mostly on appearance (obviously), and mouthfeel.  The lager version is just... lighter.  It's easier drinking, smoother.  The ale version is just like being punched in the mouth by malt.  Honestly, I really prefer the lager version, and I think it could do with even more aging.

Final stats on both beers:
  • OG: 1.057
  • FG: 1.012
  • ABV: 6%
  • OG: 1.057
  • FG: 1.014
  • ABV: 5.7%
Overall thoughts: This wasn't a perfect beer to begin with.  I think I overdid it with the melanoidin malt as a whole - it's just such a malt bomb, I feel like it's out of balance.  But the lager version seemed to deal with that better, as it just seemed smoother.  The ale version seemed heavy to me.  The lager was also a much prettier beer - it pours clear, with a definite reddish hue.  The ale version, even after a month on keg, continues to be a cloudy beer.  It appears brown, not red.  

So, I've learned a few things from this experiment, at least with these two yeasts.
1. Ale yeast helps emphasize flavors - including maltiness.  Lager yeast seems to help mellow it out.
2. This particular beer really fits better as a lager.  Which honestly seems counter-intuitive.  Most Irish Red recipes are for ales.  But this beer, at least my take on it, seems more like an Oktoberfest, and really benefits from the smoothness of the lager yeast and some aging.

With that said, I have no idea why the ale version is so cloudy.  I did some research on the flocculation levels of Wyeast 1728 yeasts, and I couldn't find anyone else complaining about cloudy beer.  I also don't remember it being quite this cloudy in other beers I've made with this yeast.  One of life's great mysteries, I suppose.

All in all - not a beer I'd made again without significant changes.  I'd scale back the melanoidin malt and probably even pull back the base malt to cut the ABV as well.  I'd definitely go with a lager yeast, or a different ale yeast, as I just didn't get what I wanted out of the 1728 yeast on this beer.  I don't think that's the fault of the yeast, and it may be simply a process issue on my end.

Overall - a worthy experiment, and my friends who like malty beers enjoyed it, so it's not like it's a total loss.  It's a solid beer, both versions, just not one of my personal favorites.