Beer Review: Stoudt’s Gold Lager

Stoudt's Gold Lager

We played trivial pursuit while we drank. It is best to test one’s knowledge throughout all stages of inebriation.

The more I brew and drink beer, the harder it is to impress me. I’m not talking about beer snobbery (although I’ve been known to suffer from it occasionally), I’m talking about technical skillEvery home brewer knows that some styles are more “forgiving” than others in terms of off-flavors. Don’t get me wrong, I love a palate-wrecking quadruple IPA as much as the next guy, but what’s much more rare and exciting for me is finding a super clean, fresh, well-handled Kolsch or Bohemian Pilsner. Those styles don’t hide flaws, and you have to be pretty damn good to pull them off well.

I encountered one really good example of this kind of skill at a recent trip to Breukelen Bier Merchants in Williamsburg: a German Helles called Stoudt’s Gold Lager.

Color: Like the name suggests, this beer is  supremely clear, bright gold in color.

Aroma: The aroma is minimal,  a bit spicy from the hops.

Taste: A really nice rush of noble hop bitterness up front, but nothing too overwhelming. The finish is very smooth, with subtle graininess. This beer has none of the overwhelming hop character that many domestic craft lagers have, and it works because it’s such a squeaky clean beer. As a lowly home brewer, it makes me jealous.

Completely Scientific Rating: 93

When you look up “drinkability” in the dictionary, there should just be a picture of this beer. You should also throw the dictionary away, because no self-respecting dictionary should contain that word.

Brew Day: ESB ’55

Growing up in NYC, your first craft beer experience tends to be through Brooklyn Brewery.

My mash tun, the crushed grain, and a freshly washed carboy.

Whatever opinion you might have of them these days, the fact remains that for many years they were one of the only voices for good and (arguably) local beer in the city. I’m not a huge fan of  their flagship Brooklyn Lager – it tastes a little under-fermented to me most of the time. And I’m also not a fan of anything they put out in cans or 12oz bottles – that stuff is contract brewed outside of the borough somewhere and tastes totally different and totally inferior to the real stuff. That said, I’m still proud to say that Pennant Ale ’55, their english-style bitter, is one of my favorite all-time beers. It’s nothing over-the-top, nothing dank or ultra hoppy or roasty or caramelly(?), it’s just a supremely well-balanced easy-drinking ale. It’s copper in color, with the slight citrusy bite of American aroma hops followed by the grainy biscuit character of english malts. It’s a complex beer masquerading as a simple one. It’s really good. Try it.

The crush — Maris Otter, a little Crystal and some Biscuit Malt.

My girlfriend’s brother (also a homebrewer) is getting married in August, and as we’ve had many in-depth discussions (read: drunken ramblings) about the finer points of our shared hobby, he invited me to brew up a few batches to be served at the reception. As I was considering which styles would suit a New England summer wedding, my beloved Pennant Ale came to mind. Total crowd-pleaser.

Mmm … you can almost smell it.

This was about as clear as I’ve ever gotten the first runnings.

In formulating the recipe, I started with this clone published in BYO magazine. I decided to dial-back the gravity a slight bit (more on that later) and tinker around with the bitterness. I wanted something a little more on the session-side than the original in order to not scare anybody away on a hot Vermont afternoon.

Lots of Kent Goldings, as well as some Summit at the end of the boil.

My LHBS also didn’t carry any fresh English Ale Yeast (WLP002), so I opted for the higher-attenuating WLP005 British Ale. I ended up with the recipe posted here. On the brew day, I underestimated my efficiency and ended up with an original gravity of about 1.056, which is identical to the OG of the clone brew! With an estimated FG of 1.015, this puts me at about 5.5% ABV. Oops, I guess granny’s gonna get drunk after all.

Recipe: ESB ’55

A slightly scaled-down version of Brooklyn Brewery’s Pennant Ale ’55, a beer commemorating the 1955 World Champion Brooklyn Dodgers.

Recipe Specifications

Boil Size: 6.21 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.46 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.00 gal
Bottling Volume: 4.80 gal
Estimated OG: 1.056 SG
Estimated Color: 9.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 34.7 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 88.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 92.4 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

1.0 oz Rice Hulls
7 lbs 10.0 oz Pale Malt, Maris Otter
8.8 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt – 80L
3.2 oz Biscuit Malt
1.30 oz Willamette [4.90 %] – Boil 60.0 mins
1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.80 %] – Boil 15.0 mins
1.00 tsp Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 mins)
6.00 oz Malto-Dextrine (Boil 10.0 mins)
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Boil 10.0 mins)
0.50 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.80 %] – Boil 1.0 mins

1.0 pkg British Ale (White Labs #WLP005)

Mash @ 152F for 60 minutes. 

Book Recommendation: Brew Like a Monk

Brew Like a Monk

I’ll admit it: when I first started drinking beer (at the completely legal age of 21, of course) I didn’t like belgian beer. Having grown up on your typical american light lagers, I had no palate for the intense banana, clove, fig, and dark-sugar flavors typically found in belgian beers. As I began to get into craft beer, and especially now that I’ve gotten into homebrewing, I’ve started really appreciating the deep complexity and uniqueness of these styles. I’d now rank a Golden Strong or a Tripel among my favorite styles.

In this book, Stan Hieronymus lays out the current landscape of Trappist (monk-brewed belgian) beers. He discusses the history of the monasteries that still brew beer to support their charitable activities, as well as the movement in America to reincarnate some of these belgian styles. At the end of the book are lists of “recipes” (mostly just guidelines on how to clone some famous commercial Trappist and Abbey beers) as well as looks at fermentation profiles and water chemistry of traditional belgian brewing.

This is a truly refreshing read if you’re used to more traditional textbook-like homebrewing how-to books, and it’ll leave you with a sense for how to approach these styles in the future.

Hello world!

Hi everybody! I’m Ben, a homebrewer and “beer enthusiast” from Brooklyn, NY. I’ve been brewing for about 2 years. I’ve started this blog as a place to put all of my beer and homebrewing related thoughts, ideas, questions, and experiences.

In the coming months, I’m going to try to upload as much beer-related internetty goodness as possible. Some ideas include: How-to videos and write-ups, Commercial beer reviews,  Homebrew recipe profiles and reviews, and homebrewing equipment reviews. Thanks for reading!