Thursday, April 18

Homebrew VII: Irish Draught Ale

Spring has been slow in coming this year; as I write, the trees outside are being plastered white by an April snowstorm, and the cold of the basement concrete is seeping through my wool socks to the soles of my feet. Inside, however, I am warmed by my latest homebrew: Northern Brewer's Irish Draught Ale extract kit.

I had intended to brew this in time for the Feast of St. Patrick, but A) I got a late start, and B) I had given up beer for Lent. I had the right idea, though -- this is a beer for a blustery spring day, with just enough malt heft to hold its own against that last winter ale in the back of the fridge, and enough oat-n-honey smoothness to make it an easy drinker and thirst-quencher. The color is a ruddy, beer-bottle brown (depending on the light); the head pours thick and dissipates quickly. The flavor isn't like any other beer I recall -- I expected something like a Smithwick's or a creamier English pale ale, I guess, and that's not wrong, but not quite right either. The aroma is fruity, leaning almost to cider; the taste is roasted malt sweetness, but with enough hop bite to let you know that this is real, good ale.

I like it -- but more than that, I'm intrigued. Here's a beer recipe with a single ounce of Cluster hops to balance five-plus pounds of malt extract and a pound of honey. Here's a brew with a malty flavor unlike any I recall, that makes use of Maris-Otter malt, a long-time favorite of traditional English ale brewers that (I believe) only recently has become widely available to budding brewers like me. And as I drink it, I can't help but think this is a beer meant for kegging -- or maybe even nitrogen.

I'll brew this again. I joked with a friend that, in honor of the Virgin Mary, I was going to serve this at our Big Brew Day on Saturday, May 4, as Crown of Creation Irish Draught Ale. It may not be quite that immaculate, but this is a solid homebrew and a Real. Good. Ale.

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