Homebrew Review: Spirit’s Foe


The time has come for me to turn my critical eye inward, or more accurately downward… at my glass… filled with homebrew. Yes, I am going to review my SMaSH Marzen/Oktoberfest called Spirit’s Foe. My mouth has stopped bleeding long enough from my wisdom teeth removal that I can actually taste things that aren’t iron, so let’s do this.

“The spirit’s foe in man has not been simplicity, but sophistication.”
– George Santayana

Spirit's Foe - Finished 2 (10.20.13)

Spirit’s Foe was meant to be an exercise in simplicity. I took the simplest recipe possible: one malt, one hop (and one yeast) and tried to make something drinkable out of those ingredients. This brewing style is referred to as SMaSH, an acronym (kinda) for Single Malt and Single Hop. This brew came of the heels of two batches that failed to properly ferment and carbonate, and was my way to try and get my brewing back on track.

The recipe is simple enough:

Fermentables

NAME AMOUNT USE PPG
 Munich Malt 10L 10.0 lb  100 % Mash 35

Hops

NAME AMOUNT TIME USE FORM AA
Hallertau Germany 1.0 oz 60 min Boil Pellet 4.5%
Hallertau Germany 0.5 oz 20 min Boil Pellet 4.5%
Hallertau Germany 0.5 oz 5 min Boil Pellet 4.5%

Yeasts

NAME LAB ATTENUATION TEMP
German Ale 1007 Wyeast 75.0% 55°F – 68°F

So how did it come out? This review is based on the finished beer after only two weeks of bottle conditioning. I expect this beer to get a little better over the next week or two as it mellows out.

Appearance: Copper to burnt orange in color, it has a nice deep hue with a slightly off white head. The head lingers a decent amount. I’m also pleasantly surprised by how clear the beer came out.

Smell: The Hallertau hops come through in the nose more than they should for an Oktoberfest style beer. That said, I used ale yeast instead of lager yeast so there’s a lot of this beer that isn’t to style. There’s some light esters from the ale yeast, but it is relatively clean. There’s a bit of floral spiciness from the Hallertau and a background of breadiness from the Munich malt. Overall I’d call the smell “faint but pleasant.”

Taste: Sadly I think there’s two major flaws with this beer, and they’re both in the taste. First is that the beer tastes “green;” i.e. it could use a few more weeks to mellow out and let the malts come through. I also think there might be a hair too many hops in this. The bitterness and malt are nicely balanced, but there’s a sharp taste in there that could be acetaldehyde. I’m hoping that is from lack of conditioning time.

Mouthfeel: This is right where I’d expect this beer to be. It is light and crisp, but creamy enough in the middle.  the carbonation is right around where I’d want it to be.

Final Verdict: 3 out of 5. 

Spirit's Foe - Finished (10.20.13)

Okay, so I’m not my own toughest critic. Honestly, I enjoy this beer. It is very quaffable. I think it gets a little better as it warms up closer to room temperature. The biscuit/bread flavor is pleasant. It’s not quite in any style category, and there are enough adjustments to make that I wouldn’t brew this the same way again, but this was definitely the solid outing I was hoping for from this brew.

 

What I’d Fix: Some of the adjustments I’d make would to remove the 5 minute hop addition. It takes too much away from the malts in the aroma. I might even cut a little out of the 20 minute addition, or bump it up to 30 minutes to minimize the hop character in this beer. I’d also think about adding some aromatic malts or maybe cut the Munich 10L down and add some Maris Otter for a more bready flavor. I’d probably also try lagering this beer, or using a different yeast strain. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in the German Ale yeast, mostly do to my lack of familiarity with it.

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