Tasting: Popcorn Malt Hefe-Maisbier

Popcorn Malt Hefe-MaizenI have been on hiatus now for few months, not just from blogging but also brewing in general. I had some health problems flare up earlier in the year and couldn’t drink much beer, and had little energy for brewing. But in any case, I had the few bottles I ended up getting out of this batch to taste.

The brewing process was a bit of a disaster, and fermentation got stuck around 1.020. It also looks like I did some things wrong while malting. I attempted to soak the corn in a dilute lye solution, as had been recommended in an African sorghum malting guide. This is supposed to help disinfect the grains a bit so that the high-temperature (relatively speaking) malting process isn’t thwarted by microbial growth. Dilute as it was, it ended up  contributing a ton of flavor. I think it soaked in there for less than an hour, since it was already changing the color and apparently changed the flavor. In short, here’s the problem: soaking (and boiling) corn in alkaline solution makes nixtamal, which is dried and ground into masa flour for making tortillas and such. Even though it was short and never boiled, the beer ended up tasting weirdly like tortilla chips. That this was at all drinkable was a miracle.

I realize it’s a bit odd to complain about a corn beer tasting too much like corn, but this is really the wrong kind of corn flavor. My previous corn beer had no discernible corniness. I think if I could go back and referment that wort as a weissbier it would have worked great.

Appearance: The color is nice, with a slight chill haze. The yeast, surprisingly, mostly dropped out. Attempting to pour the yeast from the bottle resulted in unsightly clumps instead of the pleasant haze you’d expect.

The head was pretty thin. I suppose it’s consistent with a highly carbonated, low gravity beer. It doesn’t seem like the corn (popcorn, specifically) lacks the necessary protein, since there is a ton of it in the boil. The bad malting this time may have hurt this more by not breaking them down into the right kinds of foam-positive proteins. Definitely a disappointment, since my last corn beer produced a very smooth head.

There was some slight lacing, but even with thorough manual cleaning of my beer glasses with the appropriate agents (baking soda, mostly) I don’t seem to get enough out of any beer, not just my homebrew.

Aroma: There is very little clove in the aroma. Actually, there wasn’t much aroma to speak of. Occasionally the tortilla chip aroma floated off but it wasn’t strong.

I sort of suspected it was DMS for a bit, since there was a lot produced during the mash and sparge (intense cooked vegetable flavor), but it wasn’t super consistent with the description of low levels of DMS. Plus, the boil was a full two hours.

Also of note: while last time my kitchen reeked of corn after the process, this time I didn’t notice it as much. I have no idea if that’s important or not.

Taste: The vague tortilla chip flavor is quite strong, and takes over the muted clove character. Moving it around on the tongue, the tortilla flavor dissipates and the clove comes out more. Ultimately, it is very, very bland, with a very slight sweetness from the unfermented sugars. The resultant low alcohol level and complete lack of body make this very boring indeed. High carbonation helped, but it was no magic fix.

Since the unfermented sugars contributed only a slight sweetness, I’m going to guess it was not a true stuck fermentation, per se, but rather incomplete conversion in the mash.

Mouthfeel: Thin. The high carbonation also helped here. I think it could have been even more effervescent. My carbonation calculation was for 3 volumes, I believe, but I think it was a little low.

Overall: A total disappointment. I suppose it’s not a complete failure since it was actually drinkable, a low bar as that may be. Once I get my brewing stuff back on track I’ll have to retry with the popcorn I have left over. Next time there will be no soaking treatment beyond water.


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