GSA: Fireside Beer Heaven?

After three months of brewing, waiting, observing, careful handling, and more waiting, it was finally time to go camping and try our 2011 Scotch Ale: General Grant.  In my mind’s eye (tongue?), this beer was perfect – malty, sweet, smooth, and slightly roasty, all bundled up in a brilliant ruby.  The only thing that stole my attention from this beer during the drive up to Sequoia were the tempting billboard advertisements for 50 chicken McNuggets.  And driving.

We hauled up a three-gallon keg, picnic tap, carbon dioxide tank, dedicated keg cooler, and a jockey box to the campsite for serving.  The beer was naturally carbonated in the keg and also received supplemental carbon dioxide based on a  beer forum post from BrewDood69.  The weather in Sequoia was mild, and all that was need to keep the beercold was the dedicated cooler – no jockey box required.

General Grant’s Sequoia tasting was disappointing.  Overly sweet, malty, and meaty, this cloudy brown beer was not at all what my mind had been tasting.  What gives?  Where did we go wrong?  Surely the beer is travel-worn, but how could it be so off?  We drowned our sorrows in Scotch Ale and resolved to keep the Jury out until a follow up tasting at home in Los Angeles.
The LA tasting was encouraging.  The beer is better balanced – although slightly sweet per style – and has a strong maltiness with a delicate kiss of roastiness on the back end.  When not filled with suspended yeast, the beer is a clear ruby brown and the carbonation level is low as intended.  There may be a slight meatiness as noticed in the Sequoia tasting, but that’s one off-flavor I am not sensitive to.  Further judging by BJCP Master Level Taster John Rockwell will surely uncover all faults and virtues.

Common to both tastings was the alcohol sneak-attack.  Smooth and unnoticeably potent, the effects of cellaring this beer on the scotch-soaked oak cubes are obvious.  It makes it hard to taste, analyze, and discuss a beer when all three panelists are three pints in and half in the bag.  If we put together a single coherent thought in three hours, it was a miracle.  Similar effects were noted during the LA tasting when I polished off three microwave burritos.  Angelino Haggis?

Because of the positive, heavily biased results of the LA tasting, we will be submitting this beer to the LA County Homebrew Competition this week and The Pacific Brewers’ Cup in September.  We’ll see how my tasting notes compare to a judge’s.  If I know anything about this beer, he’ll at least be drunk.  Good luck and Godspeed General Grant!

– Matt T.
Main Brewer

P.S.  I’m still looking for a partner to help me take down 50 chicken nuggets.  I’ve considered eating as many as 40 in one sitting if you can eat 10.  Any takers?

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