Saturday, February 7, 2015

Dark English Mild tasting

Here are my tasting notes for a dark mild I brewed back in mid October (and took notes on in mid December, I know I'm behind). I didn't taste these side by side so the comparisons are based on having them repeatedly over a month or so and my memory of the beers while I was reviewing the others. As I outlined in the recipe post, I've found an unpleasant acrid/roast/tang in my previous milds and many of the commercial milds I've had. My guess going in was that this is due to a combination of the dark malts and low gravity, possibly with oversparging involved. To try to avoid that this time I decided to cold steep my darkest malts. The other new thing for this batch was using East Coast Yeast's British Mild strain (ECY-18). One carboy got ECY-18 and the other two got White Labs Dry English (WLP-007), as I had it on hand from an old ale. One of the two WLP-007 carboys also got a chunk of medium toast oak rod in the primary.

To give away the two big things that came out of this beer right from the beginning: I am very happy with the dark malt character I got out of the cold steeping and I am really happy with ECY-18. The yeast gave a great mild earthy/woodyness and let the malt shine nicely. The ECY-18 version definitely stood out from the others.


Aroma: Nutty, mildly woody, sweet dark caramel (almost burnt caramel), brown malt, wheat toast, chocolate

Appearance: This looks quite pretty. clear reddish amber, low off white/light tan fine head

Taste: For its strength, this has a pleasant rich maltyness. There is a reasonably amount of malt sweetness (not too much to be an issue but maybe a bit more than I'd like). There is a nice mildly toasty brown malt and some chocolate that almost approaches roast as well to help balance the sweetness. I like the yeast character. There is some earthy/woodyness and it does a good job of promoting the maltyness and making this beer seem like more than 3% ABV without being too heavy/sweet. A bit more dark malt might be good.

Mouthfeel: Appropriately low carbonation, medium/light body with a hint of wateryness. It is sweet overall in the balance with low/no hop bitterness (which is okay for what I was going for).

Overall: My favorite of the three. A touch sweeter than I'd like and i think pushing the malt slightly in a dryer/toastier/roastier direction would help to balance that.


Aroma: This batch seems much roastier than ECY-18 (possibly due to being dryer, possibly not). Brown malt and toast crust are on the front end of this beer, along with maple syrup and a nice woody/earthyness (but restrained compared to ECY-18).

Appearance: Medium/thick light tan head, creamy, good retention. Clear mahoganny.

Taste: Again, drier than ecy-18 with bread crust and brown malt. Dark caramel and maple with some woodyness but less than ECY-18. The roast is a bit rougher here, almost having a bit of char. Mild dried fruit and chocolate. Good malt depth but thin in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation (a bit higher than what I was going for), thinner than ECY-18.

Overall: This doesn't seem like the right yeast for the job. OK but the other two treatments are better. Thin in the finish and a bit rough due to thinness and carbonation. there is a bit of the tang that I've gotten in other my previous milds and commercial milds (I don't think it is contamination-related as it tastes otherwise clean and I think this is the yeast choice and the malts working together).

WLP-007 + Oak

Aroma: Strong chocolate and hazelnut, sweet maple syrup. The strong nutty/maple character is surprising

Appearance: Low tan head, fine bubbles, good retention. Clear pretty brown.

Taste: The oak is not easily identifiable but it definitely changes the beer. Richly malty and nutty. Hints at roast but not quite there. Sweet malt forward. Seems more similar to ECY-18 than WLP-007. Similar woody character to the other two.

Mouthfeel: Appropriately low carbonation, slightly watery (it is a pretty low strength beer with low carb, so that's understandable), softer and fuller than the normal 007 version. Low/no hop bitterness but appropriate.

Overall: Nice! The wood adds quite a bit to this without adding any actual 'wood' flavor. Good malt complexity and drinkability. This isn't far behind the ECY-18. I think if noticeable oak flavor came through I wouldn't be happy with it, but getting some of the other benefits of the wood without oak flavor worked out very well.

Overall I'll drop the WLP-007 and switch to a maltier English yeast. I'd like to keep using the ECY-18 when I can get it. And for when I can't, I'll keep working on the sanitized and somewhat neutralized oak for softening and adding complexity. Usually when I have non-sour beers with oak (and no spirits) the tannins tend to sharpen the beer but this did a nice job of smoothing and filling the WLP-007 beer out. I'll continue with the cold steeping and maybe push the malt bill a bit more toward the roast side (keeping in mind the poor extraction efficiency I got from this first try at cold steeping) to counteract some of the sweetness.

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