Sunday, July 21, 2013

Cerveceria Agua Mala Beer Review

Sometimes I taste a beer and just can't seem to find the words or phrases that best describe my experience. I get bogged down because I just can't quite put my finger on what it is I'm tasting or smelling or feeling. This often happens with beers that have more bad qualities than good and I don't want to come across like a bad guy for not liking the beer. I ran into this dilemma with a recent tasting of a Mexican beer brewed by Agua Mala.

Agua Mala's IPA

Astillero IPA is brewed in Baja at Cerveceria Agua Mala (bad water) by Nathaniel Schmidt and his business partner Thomas Fernandez. Only in business for a couple years they are already producing 10 different styles of beers.



But to my point, this is one of those cases where I'm having a hard time pinpointing a specific quality to this late hopped beer that just doesn't land well with me. As an attempt at a solution I decided to take a different approach. To name what this beer isn't may be a better way to convey my thoughts.
  • it doesn't have a clean specific malt or hop profile
  • the mouthfeel isn't crisp or sharp
  • it lacks the roundness of a mature beer
  • it isn't clear but hazy and opaque
  • there's no balance between the malt and hop flavor
  • the hop bitterness is high and doesn't support but hides the caramel qualities of the crystal malts
  • it isn't a smooth bitterness
  • it isn't easy to drink
Despite what is evidently a sincere attempt by Agua Mala to produce a hoppy pale ale, I believe that they came up short. Additionally, I will say that I'm not sure if it's the results of dry hopping or high levels of bicarbonate in the water or both but unfortunately this beer has what I can only describe as a minerally ladened mouthfeel that feels heavy or weighty, muddled and harsh.


I think Agua Mala is on the right track and I look forward to trying some of the other beers they have to offer but I think that they need to put some years of experience behind there humble beginnings to reach the level of quality IPA's that are available these days.


Drinking an Agua Mala at The Beer Co. San Miguel.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Two Beers For The Price Of One

In January I had this great idea to brew a strong beer to release as an anniversary special for Cerveceria Dos Aves during the Xmas season at the end of the year. I created a recipe for a barley wine. Using 60% R.O. water, a ton of grain, sugar and molasses I brewed for optimum fermentation and pitched my new favorite English ale yeast Whitelabs WLP013. Two weeks later I racked to two kegs and let settle for a couple more weeks before bottling. After several months of conditioning in the bottles I tried a sample, it was delicious and would be a great beer to celebrate with when the breweries anniversary came around.
However, last week I tried another sample from a different case to confirm that the beer was aging nicely only to discover that this particular beer had the flavor of what can only be described as Flemish'ish. The flavor represents the addition of acetobactor, a bacteria that provides the distinctive taste of vinegar that you typically find in Flemish reds/browns. There may be a little brettanomyces in there too. Actually quite delicious but not what I planned.

Acetobacter cells are pretty
 

I went through the four cases of beer inspecting the bottles one at a time looking for signs of spoilage. What I soon discovered was that two cases were spoiled while two cases were still the excellent beer that I initially tasted. This led me to conclude the the contamination occurred in the keg. Evidently, one of the kegs was sanitary and one keg not so sanitary, hence the spoilage leading to two cases of what I'm now labeling 'Ned Flanders oud bruin' and two cases of English barley wine.












This is what 41 lbs. of grain look like in a 15 gallon keggle.






What is this all leading to you ask? Well, to make up for the loss of two cases of beer I decided to brew that same beer over again. I figured I still had six months left in the year which should be plenty of time for this second batch to mature before the celebration. But that's not all. I also decided to try a little technique that I've never done before which is to run a second sparge and collect a smaller beer from the grain.




Second runnings
collected for a
brown
ale.












Because of the large quantity of malt used in making my 1.100sg barley wine my efficiency is pretty low. The first time around it ran at 75% and this time it was only 72%. A normal gravity beer for me comes in at about 90%. Well, I wanted to try and salvage some of that sugar and so ran some more hot water through the grain and pulled another 6 gallons of 1.035sg. for what I think will be a very nice English brown. I checked the gravity of the runnings as I went confirming that the sugar reading never dropped below 1.010 which assured me that I wasn't extracting any husk tannins. The grain bill is right for a brown ale and I had some English S-04 yeast laying around.
After boiling for 60 minutes my English brown went into the fermentor at 1.042 and I bittered to 22 ibu's. I'll keep you posted on the outcome of this beer.

I also brew a pretty big Russian imperial stout that I believe I can use this same technique on but wonder what style beer these second runnings would be best for? Any suggestions? Cheers!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Leaving The Land Of Great Beer

After two fantastic beer filled months in Santa Cruz I'm back in Mexico carrying on where I left off with the Cerveceria Dos Aves project. I hated to leave Santa Cruz, my good friends and homebrewing compadres, the beautiful weather and beach scene, the vibe and of course the awesome craft beers that make the Mexican craft beer scene pale in comparison. I spent more than I should have of my personal budget on beer but I was so starved for the quality craft beer that the States has to offer that I couldn't help myself. From the hoppy malty deliciousness of Drakes Denogginizer and Knee Deep's Hoptologist to the local sour scene at Sante Adairius Rustic Ales I immersed myself deeply knowing that soon I would return to a country that has a lot of ground to cover to reach the level of quality and creativity that seems to be a standard in the brewing industry in California. Of course my mission here in San Miguel is to do my part to help propel the craft beer movement in Mexico in the right direction.

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales


The morning I flew into Leon and shuttled to my new apartment I slept for a few hours before anxiously running down to the brewery to confirm that it was still intact, there weren't any floods and that it still had power. I felt good as I lifted the lid to my kegerator to see full kegs chilled and ready to be bottled or put on tap at The Beer Company. I looked inside my refers checking on more kegs, frozen pounds of hops and chilled mason jars of salvaged yeast that seemed to call out to be released into a fresh batch or receptive wort. I looked over the stacked cases of bottled beer in inventory and pulled a bottled from each batch to refrigerate for sampling later in order to see how they held up over the last two months of warm storage.
The space was a in a little bit of disarray and I could see my first task was to clean and organize including running some hot caustic cleaner through the brewing system. This I planned to follow with a soaking of acid sanitizer making sure my next batch of beer would be free of any spoiling contaminates that may have grown in the murky depths of my plate chiller while I was gone. My second task was to re-establish my contacts with the restaurants and bars that purchased Dos Aves for resale. These business owners are key to moving our product and exposing our brand to the locals and having a good relationship with them is a priority for me. I want to make sure they know that Dos Aves is not a flash in the pan like so many start-up businesses in San Miguel end up being. They need to be re-assured that they will continue to get a well made and fresh product that they will be proud to serve to their loyal customers. My strategy here is to visit each one of them taking a sample of what is currently available and hopefully solicit some sales in the near future.

Cerveceria Dos Aves

Finally, I want to brew! I badly need to satisfy my brewing fix and get my creative juices flowing. Right now the town of San Miguel is slow but in another month things will be picking up and I want to be ahead of the curve this year. Last year I found myself playing catch-up as the demand for my pale ale and Belgian tripel was unexpectedly huge. I reluctantly had to provide beers that could have benefited from another week of cold storage. I don't want to replay that regret and so getting some inventory in stock, especially the tripel would take some of the pressure off of me and the brewery capacity as the season picks up in September/October. I also want to have some specialty beers on hand as a way of getting people excited about what's new coming out of the brewery and also have on hand unique beers that could be used in beer/food pairings which are becoming very popular here.
These beer/food pairings and other events are great for exposing Dos Aves to the town of San Miguel.

So, I'm off and running and the future seems bright with possibilities for great beer and brewing experiences in Mexico.

P.S. Remember to help with my Indiogogo campaign to raise money for the brewery. Go here to see how you can support and possibly get free beer!

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