One of our readers mentioned recently that he’d like to read a brew review of my homebrew. Man, I thought about that for quite a while. I hadn’t reviewed my own damn beer in quite a while. I could be seen as some guy just tooting his own horn on his own behalf. I chewed on that for the better part of a week. Then I decided (especially after initially tasting a small quantity of the finished beer) that I’d review my own beer and try to stay as honest as possible.
The beer was a Zombie Dust clone based on a recipe I got off the Internet. I knew beforehand that ZD used all Citra hops in their beer and it’s taste was just short of sublime. Based on the experience I learned from some of the boneheaded mistakes I made brewing other beers, and the relative success I’ve had with the brew-in-a-bag method, I decided to pull the trigger and brew this beer. If it came anywhere close to tasting like Zombie Dust, I’d be thrilled. If it came anywhere near tasting like an IPA I’d be happy.
I don’t want to encumber some and bore the others with a recipe list of ingredients so I’ll dispense with the details and summarize. The recipe called for 12 lbs of 2-row grain and 3 lbs of other malts (Munich, Carafoam, Caramel, Melanoiden.) And finally, 10 full ounces of Citra hops. The guy at the homebrew shop said, “10 ounces? You don’t want your beer to be too bitter, do you?” To that I just looked him in the eye and said, “10 ounces.”
The total bill was about $48 something or thereabouts and that was a huge empty hole in the finances for something that can’t be put in my belly right away. The hops were large part of the bill. 10 little 1-ounce vacuum packets.
The brew day went well and I tried to keep my mistakes to a minimum. The wind was an issue on the burner and played bad with the mash temp throughout the initial process. The hop schedule was a pain in the ass. 2 ounces at first boil, and then 1.5 ounces each at 15, 10, 5 and 1 minute. Original gravity was 1.055. It fermented (Safale 04) for 4 days. First final gravity reading was at 1.023. I was starting to get discouraged. A transfer to new clean bucket adding the remaining hops. Dry hopped for an addition 10 or 12 days. Ultimate final gravity yielded 1.010. The yeast had finished the job. The beer sat at 5.9%. ZD is 6.4%. Close enough for this old guy.
I finally racked it over to a sanitized keg and stuck in the kegerator where it’s been sitting for just under two weeks. That’s where we are today. I took some time last week to design a rudimentary label loosely based on the Zombie Dust label. I thought it came out pretty well although it’s a little grainy or out of focus.
I’m ready to share this drinking experience with you.
The first pour started off the comedy of errors. There was still too much CO2 in the keg and the beer came roaring out bring with it a gigantic foamy head of thick, closely knit bubbles. had to wait a few minutes for it all to settle down. Meanwhile, I bled off some pressure in the keg.
The liquid was a hazy dark peach-like color and I could barely see through it. I don’t know if that’s a product of my handiwork or that was the way it was using the malts that I used. There were no chunks of stuff floating around and no sediment on the bottom. What a relief. The aroma was very fruity, kind of like apricot and peach and a touch of orange.
The first sip was great. The beer had a light to medium body and there was a faint taste of grapefruit blending in with some other orange fruit towards the back. The swallow was a medium rasp with my tonsils just grimacing instead of recoiling in fear.
As I sipped this DIY concoction, I wished the body was a little thicker and that more sweetness came through. But after each swallow I had a nice feeling inside for having accomplished the feat of making this beer taste like it did. It was pretty much everything I hoped it would be.
I was amazed at how so many of the tropical fruit notes came out of this one single hop variety. It’s a damn shame that I didn’t have a bottle of Zombie Dust next to me to compare it to. This sparked my imagination into making me think about what other single hopped beers could I brew and what would they taste like.
I was told at the homebrew store that New Belgium’s Rampant IPA was single-hopped using all Mosaic hops. Revolution Brewing’s Anti-Hero is another one of those tropical flavored IPAs that I like, but the hop variety or varieties is not known.
With my palate being what it is, I’d estimate that this had about 65 or 70 IBUs for what it’s worth. The swallow was not overly bitter but still along those lines. When the sip was gone, the mouth wanted another one right away. This was where the 5.9% ABV came in. I could probably drink this all afternoon and not get overly stupid. Maybe just a little.
By the third glassful, the pressure in the keg was just enough to push the beer out. I liked that the head was rich, creamy and thick and stood up throughout the sips. I’ll settle for the liquid being slightly hazy, as I’ve had other IPAs that had the similar translucency in the glass. I would have liked to up the malt amounts in this recipe to bring out a little more sweetness and thicken the body a bit. But all in all, I’m really glad the way it turned out.
If I was to give a glassful to a craft beer lover who was a hophead and told him it was Zombie Dust, I don’t know know if he’d pick it out right away as an imitation, or if he’d agree that it was a ZD. This is where a bottle of the real stuff right at hand would be perfect for a comparison. Plus, I’d learn a bit more about the differences and what could be done to improve the beer.
If I was to buy this beer at a local bottle shop under whatever name, I’d most certainly buy it again. I really liked the bold fruit flavors that this beer had. It’s a good feeling knowing that there’s roughly about 4 gallons of this brew still remaining in the keg.
If you don’t know the true feeling about brewing beer from scratch, I’d urge you to get together with a friend or acquaintance and at least watch the steps in the brewing process. Who know, you might be making your own beer based on recipes found on the Internet. Brewing your own beer is like is like remodeling a room in the house or building a structure and then stepping back to admire your handiwork when you’re done.
Taste: Delicious. A bit of the tropics right in yer yap.
Smoothness: Each sip slides right down leaving a calling card behind.
Drinkability: Yep. I think I’ll draw another.
Bang for the buck: Can’t beat building a beer for the price of the parts.
Paid price: Under $50 for 5 gallons of beer.
Brew it again? I just might do that. Son of Spook Powder. Or Night of the Living Spook Powder.
Brewer’s website <– !
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: (Sniff) I smell apricot. (sniff) Yeah. Wow. A lot. (sip) I get the apricot but it’s bitter and kinda dry. (sip) Yeah. (sip) It’s bitter. (So do ya like it or what?)
Beer Geek Nation reviews Zombie Dust [4:43]