Marshall and I were talking the other day about how if we ever open a brewery we’d probably end up drinking 3/5th of it before it’s finished. We say this because we find that we're constantly tasting our beers throughout the brewing process. I can't fully speak for Marshall but generally I do this to check how the beer is progressing. While I rarely make mid fermentation changes but it does give me the ability to do so, for instances I can always add coco nibs or oak (both plain and spirit soaked).
Here’s a rundown of every phase of fermentation that I taste the beer.
The first place I do any tasting is actually while shopping for ingredients. If I’ve never used a current type of grain before I general eat a couple of the kernels to get a general sense of the flavor profile it can add. This method is actually how I started to employ both victory and carared.
Next up is while sparging, I’ll taste a little dab of the wort while I'm getting ready for my iodine test (no I don’t taste the iodined sample). Here I’m looking to see if it has a sweet taste to indicate starch conversion has occurred.
Next comes after the boil is completed and the wort is cooled, I drink the hydrometer sample. This is more tradition than anything else. At this point I have drank the hydrometer sample of every beer I’ve ever brewed (including the Karl Strauss batch). This is not a good gauge of the finished product as some of my smoothest and sweetest beers, such as my citra wheat series, have tasted 180 degrees different then they did at the hydrometer sample.
|Checking the color, clarity and taste on|
After that I sample whenever I take gravity and during transfer to secondary (or tertiary). This is a great opportunity for me to check color and clarity as well as getting a since how it’s coming taste wise.
For some of my bigger beers (such as Imperial Rhino Stout2011) or a funky beer (such as SNB can be CynicAle) I pull or thief samples purely to check the progress of the beer. These types of beers generally have a pretty long conditioning cycle for the taste to end up where I want it. The last thing I want to do is start serving a beer too soon.
Generally I'll have another sample while I’m kegging it up and then several while I’m carbonating it to check the level of carbonation.
Here's some notes I made over the weekend when I sampled three of my beers in progress.
StarRaptor: Brilliant clarity and I’m loving the color, it’s a little darker than I was targeting but man it’s a nice garnet shade of red. Still pretty fusel/hot (large alcohol presence) but it is mellowed out since the last time I had it.
SNB can be CynicAle: Tasted during transfer to secondary. Great straw color and the flavor is right around where I want it. It’s shaping up to be a pretty interesting combo, very much an amalgamation of Cynic and BeanyTink.
Scott’s BIG IPL w/Citra: 1 week in hydrometer check sample. The corrected hydrometer sample shows that it is currently sitting at 1.020 SG, not bad for a one week old double lager. The taste is very bready but it has a nice nose and some good hop flavors. Diacetyl rest started Wednesday morning and will last till I transfer to secondary and dry hop this weekend.
I hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse into my tasting insanity