May 262009

Speckled vs Reckless

Speckled vs. Reckless

The Memorial Day testing is complete, and I am happy to report that my Old Reckless Hen (ORH) has edged out Old Speckled Hen (OSH) in a completely biased and partial competition! Here’s the tale of the tape.

Appearance: The beers look nearly identical – a rich copper color with a thick head that sticks around awhile but vanishes with no lacing. If anything, ORH was a touch darker, which makes sense since it was a partial boil extract brew. Winner: Tie

Aroma: Upon pouring, OSH greeted me with a skunky odor – perhaps due to the long distance the beer traveled and the clear bottle (why?!?) it came in. The skunkiness dissipated a bit and gave way to an aroma that reminded me of iced tea. ORH had a much more appealing aroma – no skunkiness, and a slightly sweet, fruity note hanging very discreetly in the background. For some reason, it reminded me of those orange candy circus peanuts that taste like bananas. That’s a horrible description, since you will conjure up all kinds of negative connotations, but I assure you, it was a pleasant and very subtle scent that enticed you to take a sip. Winner: Reckless

Mouthfeel: Both beers drink very nicely. Moderate carbonation with a soft feel on the tongue. They both finish clean on the palate, with no syrupy residue and a pleasant bitterness on the tail end. However, the bitterness in the OSH was a bit more refined and less harsh than ORH. Points go to Speckled here, but I’d like to point out that Reckless is only three weeks old and that harsh bite will mellow nicely. Do I hear rematch? Winner: Speckled

Flavor: OK, so here’s what really matters. Both beers are tasty, with nice malty backgrounds. However, with OSH I pick up an almost lemony flavor – a brightness that’s not quite unpleasant, but seems a touch out of place. Combined with the iced tea aroma, I feel like I’m drinking a spiked Lipton’s at times. This effect was accentuated as the carbonation faded and the beer flattened out. The ORH has a chewier, more complex taste – next to the malt, there are some delicate notes of…what, exactly? Almost fruity, but it disappears too quickly to pin it down. I like both of these beers, but I’m going to give the points to Reckless, simply due to the slightly fuller & more complex taste. Winner: Reckless

Overall: Well, there you have it – Reckless wins by a nose. However, we have to consider the fact that one beer is fresh and on draft while the other has been shipped halfway around the world in a clear bottle. Maltose’s kit came very close to the original, and some of those evasive fruity notes might be due to the two yeast packs that got pitched on brewday. I’ll take the victory, although I think Old Speckled Hen would taste much better in an English pub and Old Reckless Hen needs to mature and mellow out a bit more. If anything, the reckless brew experiment should prove to new homebrewers everywhere – relax! You WILL make beer, and chances are it will be pretty good!

May 172009

Let me just say, corny kegs are awesome. Not only do they make racking days a piece of cake, they apparently have mystical powers which protect and nurture your beer.

I needed to get ready to keg the Old Speckled Hen clone I brewed up a couple of weeks ago. I had some kegs from last summer sitting in the chest freezer – an almost-kicked boysenberry wheat and a few gallons of my RyePA (Pale Ryeder). It had been almost a full year since I had tasted either of these beers, and I was expecting them to be long past spoiled.

I tasted the Pale Ryder first, figuring it would have held up better against the ravages of time. Indeed, the beer tasted fine – great, even. Perfect carbonation level, good balance, just a touch of that heavy, almost syrupy mouthfeel found in Imperial IPAs. I enjoyed a quick sample and turned to the other keg…the wheat beer. There was no way this beer was still good. I braced myself for the unpleasant task of cleaning out the keg and dragged it outside.

I dispensed a little beer and sniffed it. It smelled OK. Ah, you only live once, right? I gave it a taste…and it was delicious!! I immediately dispensed the remainder of the keg into a pitcher, shocked that the beer had held up so well. I see it as a sign my sanitation and racking procedures are OK. What’s the longest you guys have kept a beer in a keg?

In other corny news, I kegged the Old Reckless Hen tonight, and it tasted pretty good out of the primary – can’t wait to try it with some carbonation. I’m going to enter the Old Reckless Hen, the new wheat beer that’s almost ready, and, why not, some Pale Ryder to the NY State Fair. This will be my first competition, so I’m excited to see what kind of feedback I get. I’ll let you know!