Today we have a very special edition of the blog; it's my first homebrew experience. Turns out that a friend of mine got into homebrewing recently, and gave me the privilege of tasting two of his beers. Jason gave me a red ale and an oatmeal stout. The red he admitted was not his favorite, but the stout comes highly touted. Both ring in at about 4% to 4.5% ABV. Let's get to 'em...
First for the red. Off the bat, pouring this one, you could tell it was a homebrew. As you can see in the picture, no head, and barely even any bubbling. It's a given then that this one has no lacing. I love a good looking beer, but I also don't put a lot of stock into a beer's appearance either. As for the smell, this one is pretty fragrant for a low ABV red. Big sweet malt notes on the nose with slight brown sugar presence. The other big flavor in the scent is a traditional bready flavor of a red. This one almost smells like bread dough.
On to the main event; taste. Very similar to the nose, this red ale sports a big bread-like flavor throughout. Some hints of some caramel malt flavors are in there, but secondary to the bready flavor. A metallic flavor also is present, I believe from the low ABV and thin feel of the beer. The feel of this one is light and thin, with a low amount of carbonation. That being said, it would be great for an afternoon of watching college basketball, like now.
Now for the stout. Off the bat, I have higher hopes for this beer. It pours more actively, with about a 1 finger head. In addition, it retains a thin film on the top and laces decently. It's deep, dark brown in color, with some noticeable red hints in the light. The nose on this one is weak, but has some good things going on. Some dark malts, but nothing overpowering, in addition to sweeter notes and caramel malt too.
As for taste, this one is solid in the low ABV stout area. Starts with a lighter malt profile that gives a slight flavor profile of soy sauce. This is somewhat common for stouts, but then it moves into some darker flavors. Dark, roasty malts begin to dominate the flavor after the initial lighter tones. Towards the end, there is a slight metallic flavor, similar to the one in the red ale, and if I had to guess, I'd say it's from a common yeast strain. As for the feel of this one, it's very smooth, thanks to the oatmeal. Appropriate level of carbonation for a lighter stout compliments the flavor profile.
Jason asked for me to leave some feedback on these, so I'll give my impression, and (very limited) advice on how to fix it. Overall, I'd say the red ale is decent, but needs some work. First, I think it needs to carb up some more. With a lighter alcohol beer, a higher level of carbonation is almost necessary to provide a crisp feel. Right now, the flavor of this one is not bad. Standard bread heavy flavor of a red, like Fat Tire, is about average. Personally, I would tinker with the recipe and add some more caramel malt, or maybe even a little darker malt, maybe for a porter. I like big, roasty reds. I think if this one has a bigger malt bill, the low carbonation becomes a non issue. If this was my first batch of homebrew, I'd be damned proud, so by that measure, I judge this a win.
The stout is a bigger win in my book. It's dark, flavorful, and drinkable. If I were to change one thing about this beer, I would just strengthen up the malt bill. I like big stouts best, and that's what I can envision this becoming. That being said, in it's current state, I would reclassify it as an oatmeal porter. It's really just a wording change, but I think it fits the beer better. This is a great beer for a 2nd batch of homebrew. I could drink this in mass quantities.
On the whole, if I had to rate these beers, on the Beer Advocate scale, I'd give the red a 2.6/5 and the stout a 3.5/5. The red isn't bad, it just isn't up to par with others in the style. But the stout, it can handle it's own. For an easy drinking stout, it's damn good. A big thanks to Jason for giving me the chance to try these. I think he's working on a java stout and a vanilla porter now, and frankly, if they exhibit the promise the stout does, I like where they will end up.
Until next time, maybe start homebrewing, or find a friend who does and give their beers a try, cheers!