Back in early December 2016 I posted a rambling “brewversary” video, looking back at my 20 years as a home brewer. As part of the video I attempted to rebrew my first ever home brew – a Coopers Lager canned malt kit. The goal was simple – to see if 20 years of experience was sufficient to enable me to make the kit beer taste good, as my notes from 20 years ago (and my vague memories) indicated that my first batch of beer was horrible. I’ve actually had a few people ask how that beer turned out, and as it turns out, back in January I pulled a half liter that I force carbed and tasted. So its well neigh time for the big reveal…
…it was nearly “flawless”, and therefore horrible. I had managed to make an on-style and off-flavour free light American lager. The sort of beer yellow fizzy stuff you buy for a buck a can. Minimal malt flavour, minimal hop character, no yeast presence. Boring, dull, uninspiring…you get the gist. Which left me with a problem – what the hell do I do with 23L of piss-water?
Inspiration struck me as I drank a glass of wild cider a few nights later. I had made the cider in 2015, brewed exclusively with the wild yeast present on the apples pressed for the cider. It was fantastic – good apple taste, with a mild funk in the background to provide some complexity. So I swirled up the dregs from the bottle and dumped them into the beer. I figured that, at worst, I’d get a bit of a show and end up with a dumper…at best I may convert the beer into something less boring.
And a show I got – within weeks I had one of the gnarliest pellicles I’ve had on a beer in a while.
|She’s a think of beauty!|
The pellicle persisted until early June. Three weeks of a stable 1.001 gravity (down from 1.011) indicated the beer was ready to package, and in early July I transferred it to a keg. Interestingly, the beer had acquired a slight pink tinge during ageing; probably from oxidation, but perhaps contributed by the bugs from the cider.
The yeast and bugs from the cider did exactly what I hoped they would – they converted this boring light lager into something more like a farmhouse ale or even a saison (despite the absence of wheat). Importantly, the milder character of the yeast/bugs didn’t overwhelm the wild taste of the beer, providing just enough character to make the beer interesting, without overwhelming the character.
I now love this beer…so without further ado, the tasting notes.
Appearance: The beer is a light copper, bordering on straw in colour, and has a very faint haze. It pours with a thick white head which dissipates over a few minutes into small ropes of foam. The beer is highly carbonated (3 volumes), and as a result is lively in the glass.
Aroma: Very little of the base beers aroma is present, and indeed, the aroma itself is quite mild. Dominating the aroma is an earthiness, much like freshly turned loam. A subtle pear-like fruitiness emerges as the beer warms.
Flavour: The flavour of this beer is superb. It is very dry and thirst quenching. Up front is a modest malt character – not the bready character of pilsner malt, but rather the more grain-like character of 2-row. There is a subtle hint of hop flavour, but just barely noticeable. The real star of the show is the yeast character. The cider yeast/bugs imparted a modest earthy/woody funk; not dissimilar from the flavour of a chanterelle mushroom. The yeast also provided a subtle pear-like ester whose “sweetness” helps balance out the funk. The beer is very slightly acidic; not to the point of being tart our sour, but acidic enough to stand out from conventionally brewed beers. The aftertaste is a lingering earthyness and subtle ester character.
Mouthfeel: The beer is light and effervescent in the mouth. It is very dry and light bodied, leaving your refreshed and wanting more.
Overall: This isn’t the best beer I’ve ever made, but it is much better than how it began, and it is a perfect summer beer. I don’t think I’d rebrew the beer as-is, but I could see using the cider culture to brew other light summer ales in the future; the balance the yeast achieved is fantastic, allowing for the production of tasty, but light, farmhouse style beers.