Monday, August 27, 2012

Amarillo Mild with Wine Yeast Tasting

Last month, I posted about an experiment of using beer and wine yeast together to produce a unique and interesting beer.  The idea was to pick a beer recipe that would go well with the characteristics of Lalvin 71B-1122, the only commonly-available wine yeast that will co-exist in the same fermenter with beer yeast.  I picked an interesting mild recipe that uses first-wort hopping with Amarillo hops, as their fruity character might pair well with the wine yeast.  I also hoped that the wine yeast might provide some increased mouthfeel for the low gravity ale.

The mild has had a chance to age and condition for over a month now and I wanted to write down and share some tasting notes.

The beer pours an extremely dark brown color that is more reminiscent of a stout than a mild.  It features a pillowly off-white head that lasts for several minutes into the tasting.  The carbonation appears very light on the beer, with no visible bubbles, though with the dark color, it would be hard to tell.  The beer aroma is reminiscent of bread crust and toast, with notes of chocolate milk and whipped cream.  The nose is very pleasant and I find myself smelling it extensively, if I take the time to enjoy the pint properly.

The beer has a very smooth overall flavor, with subtle notes of milk chocolate, caramel, and bread crust.  Its finish is almost silky and the milk chocolate aftertaste lasts for several seconds.  The beer has little to no bitterness and no discernible hop character.  The mild has a full and creamy mouthfeel, which is very prevalent in the overall flavor of the beer.  This has improved dramatically since I lowered the carbonation level on the beer.  I initially had it carbonated up to standard pale ale levels (2.5 volumes), as I only have one gas regulator for all three kegs.  But then I remembered a trick a fellow CAMRA member taught me, where you leave the beer off the gas and only add enough to keep it flowing.  This results in a much lower carbonation level that really fits the style, which is worth the work of occasionally hooking up the gas disconnect.

Overall, I must say that I like the beer very much.  I find its aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel inciting and, at 3 percent ABV, I can enjoy several pints in a row.  Regarding the two parts of the experiment, the hopping and the wine yeast, I am not sure what conclusions to draw.  I picked the recipe to because of its use of a citrus-based American hop and hoped that it would subtly blend with a wine yeast known to produce fruity flavors.  The end product does not have much fruity character at all, but is still pleasing.  I do think the wine yeast provided much of the mouthfeel that I love in the beer.  I mashed quite low (148 F) on this lower alcohol beer, but the mild still has a substantial mouthfeel - one that I think could only have come from the wine yeast.  In hindsight, I should have split the batch and fermented a control beer with only beer yeast and then done a side-by-side comparison.  Perhaps sometime in the future.

I encourage you to try experimenting with Lalvin 71B-1122, given that it is the only wine yeast that plays nicely with beer yeast.  I have found it works well with mouthfeel, but it might augment a hoppy ale's fruit flavors.  Let us know if you do what what you find out.



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