Pints for Prostates

Friday, April 20, 2012


Sour beers have been gaining popularity in the West Coast. I've read about many breweries adding space to age more sour beers. Here in New York State it can be tough getting hold of such beers. Most of the best examples are made in Belgium or in California; the Cantillon and Russian River breweries, respectively, are marked examples. 

There are other breweries that are closer, but finding their beers can be hit or miss depending on the State. Those breweries that I am aware of include Jolly Pumpkin in Michigan, New Belgium in Colorado, and Allagash in Maine. Our Ommegang brewery in Cooperstown, NY is an excellent Belgian-style brewery, but they have not gotten hip to the sour beer thing as far as I know. 

I'm not going into the specifics of sour beers here, but suffice it to say they tend to have some tart and funky flavors, they are fermented with wild yeast and bacteria, and require longer aging periods.
Matilda is a Belgian Style Pale Ale made by Goose Island in Chicago, IL. I'm drinking the 2011 release. The label states that it is a Pale Ale re-fermented with Brettanomyces yeast (or "Brett"). 7% ABV.

Appearance: Golden, almost orange color. Moderate carbonation.  

Aroma: Green apple. Rotten apples. Peach. Baby food carrot puree. 

Taste: Tart apple and subtle funk. Some sweet beer malt, as the beer warms. It's easy to taste a range of subtle fruit flavors.

Mouthfeel: The beer has a nice thick mouth-feel. There is a dry, lip smacking finish.

Overall Impression: I liked it. There is the Brett sourness and funk, but not as low a pH and overbearing funk as the Lindemans Gueuze Cuvee Rene I tasted. This beer has a thicker mouth-feel and some malt sweetness. The level of sour/tart is approachable. The flavor improves as it warms. Seems like a good starter for newbies.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Water Test Results

I recently sent a water sample to Ward Laboratories so that I could know the water chemistry of our home water. Having the right water chemistry is important for beer, especially for good beer.

Ward Laboratories has a beer test, which includes everything that a deluxe home test has. They make it easy. I purchased the test online, they sent me prepaid packaging and sample bottle, I filled the container and mailed it back. By the end of the week the results were emailed to me. Here are the results I received:

pH:   7.8
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS):   Est, ppm 268
Electrical Conductivity: mmho/cm   0.45
Cations / Anions, me/L:   4.8 / 4.7 ppm
Sodium, Na:   109
Potassium, K:   < 1
Calcium, Ca:   < 1
Magnesium, Mg:   < 1
Total Hardness, CaCO3:   < 1
Nitrate, NO3-N:   0.4 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S:   4
Chloride, Cl:   8
Carbonate, CO3:   < 1
Bicarbonate, HCO3:   257
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3:   211
Total Phosphorus, P:   1.26
Total Iron, Fe:   < 0.01

As many homebrewers do when they get their water reports, I immediately posted the results on, in the Brew Science forum. You can read the discussion here.

I won't rehash all the details, but the general consensus is that the water softener is causing the high sodium number. The bicarbonate level is high. Also, it would help to increase the Calcium, Magnesium, Sulfate, Chloride numbers.

The well water, before it gets to the water softener system, is likely a better source for brewing water. I have ordered another test to get the numbers on that water. Once I receive those results I can determine how to treat the water to get the numbers I need.

Here are a couple excellent sites/worksheets to geek-out on water chemistry, if you are so inclined: