If you haven't been interested by the last three weeks worth of posts on kvass, you'll probably be pleased to hear that this is the last you'll hear of them on this blog (at least for a few weeks).
Last night I decided to cracked open two bottles of the Pumpernickel Porter to try side-by-side, one that was primed with table sugar, and one that was primed with caraway infused molasses. Drinking two similar beers next to each other is the best way to tease out the flavor contributions of a single ingredient, it allows your pallet to focus on the differences rather than the similarities.
What was most interesting about this batch is that despite dumping a pureed loaf of pumpernickel bread into the boil (with all its salt and starch) the base beer is remarkably unremarkable. It is a solid session beer that I wouldn't think twice about if I had it on tap at a local brewpub. It is hard to say just how much of the "bready" character comes from the bread (rather than the Maris Otter and specialty grains), but it is a testament to the fact the the standard brewing practice isn't the only way to make a standard beer.
Appearance – Hazy dark brown body with a thin off-white head sitting atop. Decent retention for a small beer, but it starts to sink after a few minutes. The two versions look very similar (no surprise) but the caraway/molasses portion has a head that is slightly darker.
Smell – Nice light cocoa powder nose with bready/malty backup on the standard version. The caraway takes the lead in the spiced half, with the bready character staying in a supporting roll.
Taste – The balance is towards the malt, with minimal hop bitterness. The same sorts of complexities from the nose come through in the flavor. With the standard version staying bready and clean, and the spiced version leaning towards the caraway (probably a bit too much in the finish).
Mouthfeel – Nice creamy body on both with light “cask” carbonation.
Drinkability & Notes – The standard version is a great session ale, the sort of beer you can drink and not think about too much. I like the caraway flavor in this beer, but I was probably a bit too heavy handed with the addition. If I tried the same technique again I would probably cut the amount of spice in half (a 50/50 blend of the two is close to what I was aiming for).