Reaver Ale

Partial Mash/Extract Amber Ale

Approximately 8% ABV (I'm meh at hydrometers, but Beersmith calculations back me up on this, if anything it's conservative for what I put into it)

It's been awhile since I've home-brewed, but I was ready to do this one right and build on a lot of past batches and lessons. Part refinement of a recipe I'd been working on for awhile and part tribute to the amazing RVA yeast labs down in Richmond, VA and the lovely Dragon Age Inquisition, where I spent my first 100 hour character playthrough as a Reaver. This beer achieves both a hoppiness and maltiness in equal measure that hasn't exactly been easy to capture but that I feel like I've finally arrived at. 

The beer relies on three main pillars:

  • Marris Otter Barley - A biscuity, bready marvel of a grain. 10 pounds of it in a five gallon batch giving the beer an excellently golden-amber coloration that works out nicely
  • Warrior Hops - A clean and bitter hops, 3 ounces spread over the bittering, flavoring, and aroma stages that shines through the mix well. After everything else, a pleasant 40-50 IBUs (based on the tabulations in Beersmith, of course)
  • RVA 807 Dunnottar Castle Ale Yeast - I'm a sucker for local businesses, so going with a malty yeast that does well in medium alcohol situations like the one I was going to create was too hard not to pass up (And, come on, warrior hops plus "Castle" ale? Who could resist?)

After using single infusion techniques on the Marris Otter barley in my makeshift igloo mash tun, I got it to a vigorous boil on the unforgiving electric cooktop in my apartment where I added 3 more pounds of Golden Briess dry malt in order to fortify the grain extract I'd created in the mash tun. I added an ounce each of the warrior hops at the beginning of the boil, then in the last twenty minutes, then at the very end of the boil. To further tweak the maltiness of the beer and to add a bit of sweetness, I added a pound of mesquite honey from Trader Joe's at the end. I find from previously less successful attempts at mead that it works well as an extra flavor element. 

From there I did primary fermentation for one week, then secondary fermentation for three weeks. I meant secondary to be a mere two weeks, but sometimes life won't cooperate with such timelines. Further things that didn't cooperate? Fermentation. I've used priming sugar in every batch I've ever made, and every batch I've ever made has been OVER carbonated. Once I had exploding bottles, but most of the rest of the time I've had heads on my beers that look like Guinness run amok. I decided to dial it back with only four ounces of table sugar. After two weeks of bottle priming, I had almost no carbonation. At three weeks, I had a light head, which is what I wanted. Maybe it was the high alcohol, maybe it was the less sugar, but I clearly need to do better on my carbonation techniques and end sugar levels.

All in all, this beer turned out better than I could've hoped, though. The hoppiness is pronounced but clean from the warrior hops, and the maltiness of the Marris Otter really forms a thick, bready sweetness overtop. While I conceptualized of this beer as a pale ale, it ended up a true amber as you can tell by the picture above. Definitely a recipe I'll have to continue tweaking, and one I could even knock out of the park with my humble apartment rig. 

Target Acquired: English October Beer

As with most of my hobbies, once I get back to them I get BACK to them. Having already tackled one beer a week ago, I'm thirsty for more! Well, not thirsty since it'll be over a month since I taste any of it but you get the picture. My next attempt will be a classic english ale using prime October ingredients:  

It’s the stuff of legend, the muse of poets, the nectar of the gentry. Strong beer, brilliant as topaz, sweet as dew, and dripping with the perfume of hops, was for centuries a revered icon of English culture. In typical language-loving English style, these beers had nicknames such as angel’s food, clamber-skull, huffcap, dragon’s milk, and many others.

Radical Brewing (below) calls the basic recipe Dragon's Milk, but also has a more complicated one. I'm sticking with the basics this time around. It's been a minute since I've done an all-grain, but I'm feeling up to the challenge, particularly now that my "Gourder" Porter (pumpkin and acorn squash porter) is in fermentation. I'm debating whether to tweak the recipe with anything different or leave it old and country style. The more beer I consume, the more I'm drawn to simplicity. Maybe deep down, I just like the taste of grains. Or, I could be a flock of parakeets in a man-suit. I'll never know for sure.