Recently, the esteemed Brulosopher put together one of his excellent exBEERiments, this one on the subject of how trub affected beer in terms of clarity, flavor, aroma, mouthfeel, etc. The idea was that he brewed one ten gallon batch of cream ale but split it into two fermentors. In fermentor number one, he made an effort to whirlpool and filter out as much break material as possible from the kettle, whereas in fermentor number two, he intentionally transferred extra trub with the beer.
The two beers had identical original gravities, and post fermentation, identical final gravities. Brulosopher had some local homebrew buddies sample the two beers in a triangle test - i.e. giving them three unlabeled glasses, with two of one beer and one of the other - and asked them to identify which was which, and to compare and contrast the two.
I was fortunate enough to have been selected to receive a bottle of each sent to me in the mail. I refrigerated them for thirty-six hours, and tonight, cracked them both open. I decided to review the two beers at the same time, using the BeerAdvocate review style (appearance, aroma, taste, mouthfeel, overall). Understand that I do not possess a particularly refined palate, am not a BJCP judge, and have no special qualifications for reviewing these beers; I'm just a guy who loves to brew and drink beer. In this post, I will refer to the beers in the same way that Brulosopher has - Truby and Non-Truby.
Both beers were served in identical, freshly cleaned pint glasses that bear my "Confederate Dragon Brewing Company" inscription.
Appearance: both beers pour a straw yellow with a very thin cap of near pure-white foam. While both beers are well carbonated with tiny bubbles that continue to rise as I enjoy them, neither keep any measurable head - although Non-Truby retains slightly more. Both beers leave behind light lacing in the glass, though again, Non-Truby seems to have slightly more of it.
The biggest difference is in clarity. Non-Truby is a nice enough beer, but it is moderately hazy. Truby, on the other hand, is brilliantly clear... you could easily read even fine print through this glass.
Aroma: not surprisingly, the aroma is similar for both beers. I pick up on malty sweetness, with just a little fruitiness to both. Truby, however, is noticeably hoppier in aroma, and contains more noticeable fruity (apricot?) notes.
Flavor: this is where the surprising differences really become apparent. Non-Truby is lightly sweet up front, with a bit of a fruitiness that I can't quite identify (melon-like?). I can pick up on the corn for sure; this beer has an "American" flavor to it, though unlike the macro lagers that dominate the market, the taste is nuanced and smooth with enough going on to be enjoyable. Overall, the flavor fades through the sip, inviting another. This is a solid cream ale.
Truby, on the other hand, has a noticeably more crisp character to it. All of the elements of Non-Truby are here, but I pick up on a sharp hoppiness that really drives the flavor. Bitterness is more apparent in this beer, and if I didn't know better, I would think this was more of a toned down (bitterness-wise) pale ale as opposed to a cream ale. Whereas Non-Truby is smooth, with blended flavors, Truby presents each flavor in turn for consideration - but again, hop flavors steal the spotlight.
Mouthfeel: once again, the differences are surprising. While both are similar in terms of how they feel upon the tongue (light and refreshing), Non-Truby seems to stake its claim by being pleasant. Nothing jumps out; this is the kind of beer that you could purchase a pitcher of, only to find it gone in minutes. Truby, on the other hand, has some noticeable astringency, as well as the sensation of some coating slickness that surely comes from the hops. It's a bit strange, really, to get those hoppy sensations from the decidedly clearer of the two beers - one usually associates hoppy mouthfeel elements with a cloudier beer, but that is certainly not the case here.
Overall: these are both very nice beers. I would never have believed that they were brewed at the same time, from the same batch; at the very least, I would have suspected different brewers with different methods - the beers are THAT distinct. It probably sounds silly, but while I prefer the flavor of Truby (I enjoy the more intense sensations), I find that Non-Truby is the easier drinking of the two, and ever so slightly more inviting on an overall level.
When Brolosopher did his own writeup on the subject, he characterized the differences between the two methods as being noticeable, but subtle. On the other hand, I would consider the differences between the beers to be fairly significant. I think that they are both very nice beers, beers that any brewer should be proud of, but I truly do not think that in a blind test that anyone would ever believe that they were the same beer.
I'm not advocating either method of brewing - either filtering out or including the trub, to say nothing of any step in between the two - but I do think that any brewer should be aware of the differences that variances in the approach can (will?) make in a finished beer.
Tags for this post: trub, beer, clarity, flavor, aroma, homwbrewing, truby