The Brew Site

Tasting early homebrew efforts

Last night I opened up three very old bottles of my homebrew that I had squirreled away. Truth be told, I didn’t really expect them to be drinkable but I was very curious as to their condition, and it was an educational opportunity as well.

All of these beers date back to the mid-to-late 90s, and while I tried to keep them stored somewhat decently, I’m sure there were times which they were kept under less than ideal conditions… but what is beer if no one ever drinks it?

Here are my notes on the beers, along with some pictures. (The glass is a Ballast Point Brewing tasting glass my brother gave me.)

Original Beer: The first beer I ever brewed, it was from a kit and is more-or-less to an Amber Ale style. For a detailed and cringe-worthy story of brewing this beer, you can read this post; it still turned out to be a successful beer and launched me on this (ongoing) homebrew journey.

It’s really clear and is a really nice chestnut brown color. There’s still a little bit of carbonation in it, but any head is pretty much non-existent. Heavily oxidized, with a woody, pungent, almost oily, almost medicinal flavor that is “wet cardboard” taken to an extreme. Even so, I can still pick out a touch of caramel, maybe some diacetyl (butterscotch), and some vinous sherry character.

Honey Wheat: I think this was the third beer I brewed, but it might have been the second; I also brewed a Porter around this time but the order of the two escapes me. I used a wheat malt kit and added real honey to the brew—quite a step up for such a novice brewer.

Oxidation is the primary component here, but not in an overpowering way. The beer pours remarkably clear with a decent head—no kidding! The carbonation is still there, 13 or 14 years later. It’s rather nice-looking. The nose is kind of a combination of a mead-y aroma and sherry-like oxidation, kind of a light fruity-tart honey aroma. It’s thin on the tongue, more of that tart honey character with wet paper, though I’m happy to give it the benefit of the doubt and call it “sour berry sherry”.

Oktoberfest: I have less detail on this beer than the first two; in fact I have to take my own word (a note on the cap) that it’s an Oktoberfest at all because it’s darkened up considerably—it’s more the color of a Porter.

On the nose it’s pretty neutral, but there is the oxydized character along with something that could be “sharp” (metallic?). The taste itself is the sherry-like cardboard, but somewhat mild, and there’s both a bit of a tang and—at first blush—something I’d call licorice. It’s higher alcohol than the first two—you can feel it rather than taste it, almost a dry quality—and there’s a touch of roasted or maybe chocolate malts in there too. If it is was an Oktoberfest (probably was), I wouldn’t have guessed it tasting it blind.