Wednesday, June 12, 2013

This Time, I'll Explain the Name For Sure

It occurs to me that this is the third time I've written about the beer I call "Azog the Defiler", and although I've promised each time I'd explain the name, I still haven't yet.  I intend to remedy that with this post.  The last two posts were all about my travails in brewing the beer--this one will be about the beer itself.

I mentioned before my fears about how this beer would turn out.  When I sampled it during gravity tests and during bottling, it was downright unpleasant: the first thing noticeable was a hot, solventy flavor.  It smelled like rubbing alcohol and tasted like I'd rinsed the bottling bucket with turpentine.  I thought I could detect some nice malty cereal notes beneath the alcohol, but they were masked very well.  The mouthfeel was slick and strangely chewy.

The mantra on is "RDWHAHB", which stands for "Relax, Don't Worry, Have a Homebrew".  It's not elegant, but it's an all-purpose statement that sums up their reaction to anything that goes wrong during the brewing process.  They'll tell you that time will cure almost any problems with a beer.  That's why I chose to bottle it rather than pouring it down the drain, but it was a close thing.  I didn't even bother soaking the labels off the bottles I put the beer in--it didn't deserve it.  It was a rough, ugly thing, and deserved bottles to match.

From my tastings, it was obvious that this beer wasn't anything like Grandma's oatmeal raisin cookies--at least not my grandma's.  Maybe it was like your grandma's, if she hates you and tries to kill you by putting Drano in your cookies.  Your mileage may vary.  However, it was clear that a name based on the cookie idea wasn't really going to work.  I needed something new.

In discussing the beer with friends over IM and texts, I started abbreviating it ORC (for Oatmeal Raisin Cookie).  Being a Tolkien fan, I immediately thought of the horrific monstrosities that Tolkien called "orcs".  Hmm, maybe there's something there?  Like the orcs, the ORC was harsh, it was ugly, and any good person would consider it an abomination and a crime against nature.  Even the beer's home, the bottles, was rude and unfinished, like an orc's dwelling.  Maybe we're on to something.

Azog the Goblin was the orc who killed Thorin Oakenshield's grandfather in the Mines of Moria.  He was powerful, scornful, and disrespectful.  In the recent film adaptation of The Hobbit, he is named The Defiler.  I couldn't think of a better name for this beer.

I've tried the beer again, maybe five months after bottling it.  I won't say it's a great beer, but it's drinkable.  Most of the particulate matter has settled, though it will never be anything like clear; and the alcohol isn't nearly as harsh.  This in turn lets the malt shine through.  It's still a bit challenging, but it reminds me more of an Old Ale or a Barleywine than a brown ale.  Not surprising, since the recipe comes out at 8.2% ABV, twice the maximum of the BJCP style guidelines for a Southern English Brown Ale (which should be 2.8-4.1% ABV).

So I'm really not sure what to call this in terms of style.  It isn't nearly bitter enough to be called an English Barleywine, and the yeast rules out any Belgian style.  Maybe it almost fits as a Wee Heavy, though there's no roasted barley in it, and certainly no peat notes.  Maybe I'll just call it an Imperial Southern English Brown Ale, and hide it from the light of the sun.

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