Juleøl 2016 – Norwegian Spiced Christmas Ale

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Brewed 09/30/16.  Its that time of year again!  I had attended my friend Scotty’s wedding earlier in the month when I ran into my friend Alex.  Alex was the driving force behind me brewing this beer last year, and he asked that we brew another batch this year after last year’s success.  Always up for a brew day, I agreed!

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Heating some mash water

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This year’s version of Juleøl is the same recipe as last year, only adjusted very slightly for an extra quarter gallon in the batch size.  I’m not going to go in depth on what a Juleøl is, you can read last year’s post for a more thorough explanation on the history of the beverage and what Alex and I were trying to achieve.  In short, a Juleøl is a Norwegian Christmas Ale made in a farmhouse tradition.  Norwegians would use ingredients they had at hand to make their winter beers to get them through the cold, dreary months.  These beers would often include a number of specialty ingredients including spices and sometimes even smoked malt.  Alex had visited Norway and had a Juleøl while he was there that he fell in love with.  After he described the beer to me, it sounded a lot like it was basically a spiced strong ale.  I put together a list of ingredients that met the flavor profile that Alex described and we brewed it.  The beer turned out to be a success, so much so that Alex told me that he wouldn’t change a thing.

For this year’s Juleøl, I followed Alex’s advice and barely made any modifications.  One thing I wanted to try was to use better spices this year.  I used actual cinnamon sticks and ginger root in this years version rather than ground spices.  I did still use ground all spice and clove, but those are supporting flavors next to the cinnamon and ginger.  I used one ounce of sweet orange peel as well.  The malt and hop bill stayed the same since Alex thought that the raisin and dark fruit flavors from the specialty malts were right on the money in my last attempt.  Wyeast London Ale III remains my go to yeast for most things, and it worked well in this beer last year so it returns here.

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Alex squeezing the ol sack….I’ll never stop making that joke

Brew day, or night I should say, didn’t get going until after work and I had a chance to buy my ingredients.  It was a cool September night into a cool October very early morning, so the weather set a nice tone for brewing a spiced ale.  I hit just a degree shy of my mash temp which works just fine for me.  I sparged via my usual batch sparge method, and got this beer boiling.  Once I added my 60 minute Warrior hop addition, I didn’t have much going on until the last 20 minutes or so of the boil for this beer.  I added my late hops and spices at their set times, and then turned the burner off.  It was nice not having to worry about a hop stand, and was able to chill this beer down to 70 degrees relatively fast.

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Scotty, post local Oktoberfest visit, and Jason

I did have two hiccups on this brew day, but neither were a big deal.  First, one of these days I need to learn to just trust that I have my water volumes figured out correctly.  When we mashed in, the mash looked thicker to me than usual.  I added an extra quart of water to thin it a bit.  I think I accidentally added an extra quart to the sparge as well.  I was able to correct this with a bit of malt extract that I keep on hand for just such an occasion.  Second, I forgot to add a Whirlfloc tab to the boil.  I noticed its taking a lot longer for things to drop in the carboy as this beer ferments, but I’m hoping it shouldn’t have any impact on the beer since it will condition in the bottle for a good amount of time.

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Alex prior to playing some lever hockey

Recipe Specifications
————————–
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.072 SG
Estimated Color: 21.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 28.9 IBUs
Est Mash Efficiency: 73.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients:
————
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
11 lbs Pale Malt, Golden Promise (Thomas Fawcet Grain 1 75.9 %
1 lbs Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM) Grain 2 6.9 %
1 lbs White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM) Grain 3 6.9 %
12.0 oz Special B (Dingemans) (147.5 SRM) Grain 4 5.2 %
8.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM) Grain 5 3.4 %
4.0 oz Chocolate Wheat Malt (400.0 SRM) Grain 6 1.7 %

0.50 oz Warrior [15.00 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 8 24.0 IBUs
0.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] – Boil 10.0 min Hop 11 3.2 IBUs
0.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] – Boil 5.0 min Hop 12 1.8 IBUs

2 Cinnamon Sticks at 15 minutes
0.50 oz Ginger Root at 15 minutes
1.00 oz Orange Peel, Sweet at 15 minutes
0.25 tsp ground Cloves at 5 minutes
1.25 tsp ground Allspice at 5 minutes (The 1 tsp was added at bottling, the .25 was brew day)

2.0 pkg London Ale III (Wyeast Labs #1318) [124. Yeast 14 –

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 14 lbs 8.0 oz
—————————-
Name Description Step Temperat Step Time
Mash In Add 18.13 qt of water at 165.9 F 154.0 F 60 min

Bottling Update 10/20/16:  The FG of this beer came in at 1.017 giving me a final ABV of 7.2%!  Thats a nice number for a winter warmer.  I had mentioned that beer looking cloudy in the fermenter, but that wasn’t an issue by the time I bottled as everything had settled out nicely.  What was an issue was the level of ginger I was getting from the hydrometer sample.  This thing was a ginger bomb for sure, the intensity of the fresher spice over the ground stuff was huge.  To help balance it out, I made a tincture with a tsp of allspice.  I blended that into the bottling bucket and the sample I tried afterwards was better.  The beer is spice heavy right now, but it should mellow in a month to be a really pleasing Christmas beer!

Tasting Notes 12/23/16:  

Appearance:  Juleol pours a deep brown with ruby highlights at the edges of the glass.  The beer has the appearance of a glass of cola.  When the beer his held to the light it has a pretty nice level of clarity.  The beer poured with a consistent off-white head.

Smell:  Cinnamon and allspice lead the charge when you hold your nose to the glass.  There’s a slight hint of clove and ginger as well.  Its like sticking your nose into a bag of Christmas cookies!  Nothing in the way of hops or malt aroma makes it past the spices in this year’s version.

Taste:  Holy allspice!  I definitely went way heavy with the allspice addition at bottling to try and correct the dominating ginger flavor.  This beer is certainly not undrinkable by any means, its just way to spice heavy for my taste.  I get hints of cinnamon and ginger as well, but the allspice dominated all else.  The spice leaves just a lingering bit of harshness.  I’m not getting much from the malt, but there is an almost vanilla like sweetness under the spice and I’m not sure where it came from.  Maybe its just a bit of malt sweetness  coming through.  I wish there was more balance here.  I really miss the dark fruit and bready flavors from the malt bill that were in last year’s version.  Hopefully they’ll become a bit more evident as the beer ages and the spice fades.

Mouthfeel:  The feel of this beer is on the heavier side of medium bodied with medium carbonation.  There’s a bit of bite at the end that reminds me a bit of drinking a less carbonated Coke, its certainly not unpleasant.

Overall:  I can’t help but be disappointed with this beer, mostly because I brewed it for someone else with their money.  Its not a bad beer, but the spice balance its off from where I wanted it to be.  I think if I would have left the beer alone at bottling, the ginger would have subsided to an acceptable level by now.  I way over corrected with the allspice to the point where its the dominant flavor of the beer.  Like I said, I’m just bummed because I did this beer for Alex, and I hate giving someone a product I’m not as proud of.  I need to reduce the initial ginger addition and probably drop the allspice all together.  I kept about 12 bottles, so I’ll age some to see how it goes as the spice fades.  In the words of almost all beer fans in regards to an annual release:  Last year’s was better!

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2 thoughts on “Juleøl 2016 – Norwegian Spiced Christmas Ale

  1. Pingback: Juleøl 2016 Tasting Notes | White Pointer Brewery

  2. Pingback: My 2016 Homebrewing Year in Review | White Pointer Brewery

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