Blue Collar Brew Review – Sweet Georgia Brown V2.0 (homebrew)

I had made up my mind earlier in the week. My place of employment, the ol’ warehouse, is deep into its busy season. Ten hour days were scheduled for the entire week and there was work on Saturday. Early in the week, I had made up my mind to not buy beer on my usual Friday beer run. Instead, after work on Saturday, I’d review my own damn beer.

All through the week I gave that idea some thought. I know that at least a few of our SPT faithful readers are homebrewers. I surmised that perhaps a couple of more may be interested in starting homebrewing. The others just like to read about good beer.

For tonight, I have on tap in my beer fridge out in the Manly Garage, a 5-gallon Corny keg of ready-to-drink homebrewed beer. I hope to tell you a good story about this beer.

Understand that brewing beer at home is a wonderful hobby with a great payoff. Also understand that I will try not to bore you with all the details of recipes, quantities, times, etc. For that you will have to venture out on your own, Grasshoppers, as I did. And what wonderful adventures await.

For this Saturday night, I’ll be reviewing my own revised recipe of Sweet Georgia Brown v2.0, 2010 Edition.

In version 1 of SGB back in 2009 or so, I wanted to brew a brown English ale with a bit of sweetness to it. I grabbed a basic recipe from a beer styles table in Charlie Papazian’s book, The Joy of Homebrewing.

At that time, members of the family would come into the kitchen to gawk, help stir, and ask questions. During the monitoring of times and hop additions, I decided to add a half-jar of honey after the one-hour boil was over, but still while the temperature of the wort was very high. I didn’t know what to expect. I hoped that the honey would kick up the sweetness.

Meh. The beer was okay, but sported some malt bitterness and not enough sweetness to be even detected by the tongue. I wanted to make Sweet Georgia a bit more to my liking, a little sweeter and less bitter. In early October, I bought the ingredients for a new batch of Sweet Georgia Brown. This time, I switched the boiling and finishing hops, substituted honey malt for the honey, and increased the weight of the malts by about a quarter-pound in the boil.

There was a new twist to this endeavor that was necessitated through lack of time and proper planning on my part. When the beer finally reached its final fermentation, we had no bottles ready. An initial scramble to get bottles, de-label ‘em, wash ‘em and sanitize ‘em proved fruitless. Too many dirty bottles with hardened deposits on the bottoms.

Another scramble. I had a new CO2 tank freshly purchased from Amazon but it was empty. My son got it filled (with some difficulty) on his lunch hour. The company in Joliet got bought out and moved to a new location that week. And their price increased from $15 to $22 to fill a 5lb. tank. Thankfully, no exchange on the tank. My beer was ready, we had to take the deal.

The original gravity was 1.052. The final was 1.010. That’s great, as I was hoping for 1.020. The final gravity yielded a beer that resulted in 5.3% Abv.

Last weekend, we sanitized the Corny keg, its fittings, o-rings and tubing and racked the beer from the secondary to the keg. Then the mental conflict began. My son informed me that the CO2 filler guy said to pressurize the beer to no more than 6psi. Otherwise your beer will be over-foamed. But my homebrew buddy recommended and initial charge of 9-13psi, then a serving pressure of 3 psi.

I had to empty my beer fridge of all of its contents and all of its shelves. The housebeers migrated over to Mom’s aux fridge in the garage. I know I’ll get some shit for this.

“What’s your beer doing in my fridge?”
“What’s your fridge doing in my garage?”

I charged the keg with 8psi for 3 days, then backed it off to three and took a sample. Crap. Hardly any bubbles. Up to 13psi it went for the remainder of the week. Lesson learned. Next time things will be different. More research.

Here it is, after work on a Saturday night. It’s almost 10 p.m. and I’m out in a 48° garage. A fire is started and the Sotz wood burner is put to work. I’m somewhat excited, but plan to maintain an objective view about the taste of my own damn beer. And man, do I need a beer!

I grabbed the (too short) picnic tap from the keg and squooshed the first beer into the glass.

The beer poured up with a brown color, perhaps a little lighter than Coke or Pepsi. A nice half-inch head of beige foam topped the entire masterpiece. The carbonation was nice, with medium bubbles rising to the top. The aroma was slightly sweet-smelling and had a great malt hint to it.

The first sip surprised me. It seemed to have a medium body while in the mouth, a nice dark, malty flavor and a bit of crisp going down. But let’s wait until my taste buds get used to the new visitor.

I abstained from typing as I drained the first glass dry and with each sip I tried to identify on my tongue the ingredients that I remembered using on brew day. Nope. I had nothing to reference to; the memories of SGB v1.0 were vague at best. I remembered it being a good tasting beer, but a little bitter. A malt bitter not a hop bitter. It was the honey that I added at the end, I’m sure, that’s what  tweaked the beer’s nose at the end.

But, in the second glass, the tastes of those ingredients came out. The malts were relatively bolder without being overbearing. The sweetness was subtle and I was surprised at that fact. The hop characteristics were masked by the above mentioned. I just wished there was a more robustity to the mouthfeel. But then again, by the bottom of the second glass, that matter became secondary. The overall blend of ingredients in this batch was tuned closer to perfection.

The subtle sweetness was there. But there was a bit of malt bitter as well. I’m going to attribute that to the choice of adding black roasted malt. But then again, maybe I should have used something else in its place. After all, the original recipe was that of an English brown ale.

Now that I think about it, this beer would be perfect contender as an English brown ale. But it would fall short of my original plans for sweetness. In the first sense, I’d like to try this homebrew up against Newcastle Brown Ale. I may like it better. But up against Leinenkugel’s Class Amber, I’d probably like mine better.

What have I learned from this experience? Hmm. Many things come to mind.

  • I enjoyed the hell out of doing this. Even though I didn’t fret over this batch of homebrew as I have over the past ones, the outcome has pleased me to no end.
  • I’m no longer afraid of deviating from the recipe. Right now for me it’s a gamble, but I have some great allies in online forums and the MASH homebrew club. I can always propose an idea and see what other, more experienced people think of it.
  • I was only semi-ready for kegging. I thought I had enough room but didn’t. All the house beer had to be relocated to the aux fridge. I was given wrong information about the initial charge of CO2 by the guy who filled the cylinder versus the advice that offered to me by a homebrew buddy.
  • A high ABV takes more recipe thought process than I originally expected. The secret to good tasting beer is in the overall conglomeration of ingredients.
  • Kegging beats bottling in the amount it takes to get the beer to the tongue.

I sit here now, savoring glass number 4 (or is it 11 ?) of my own damn beer, my Sweet Georgia Brown. More questions arise. How long will this keg last? Will I be successful in bottling up a few for my friends? Have I become obsessed with brewing my own beer, or am I just obsessed with drinking good quality beer? Hmm. Maybe both.

The SixPackTech ratings for Sweet Georgia Brown Ale (Homebrew) are:

Taste: B > Slightly sweet and quite British.
Smoothness: B+ > Electric Glide down the throat.
Drinkability: B+ > Wishing for a bottomless keg.
Bang for the buck: A > $38 + labor for 2 cases of amateur beer and the enjoyment of calling my own shots.
ABV: 5.3%
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: Looks pretty clear. (sniff) It smells sweet. (sip) I’m getting something that I can’t put my finger on. (sip)I wanna say a raw honey but it’s got more like a vanilla. It’s not bad. It smells sweeter that it is, I think. (sip) It doesn’t leave a bitter aftertaste. Not bad at all. (The greatest payoff of all.)

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One Response to Blue Collar Brew Review – Sweet Georgia Brown V2.0 (homebrew)

  1. Bob Fernandez says:

    NICE !! You did seem nervious about alot … glad to see you are relaxed and enjoying the hobby more. (_)> cheers brotha

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