with the occasional rant about tin openers...

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Second Brew: Tom Caxton Real Ale (36 pints, 4.3%) + Muntons Beer Enhancer Kit

After bottling the Pilsner it seemed a pity to leave the bucket empty. A trip to London at the start of Feb left me pretty skint, but with some money from a gig and pocket money from my nan, I managed to cobble together enough for a couple of tins. I’m not sure there are any home brew shops in Donegal, so it was all done mail order.

I’d ordered three kits; two tins and a dry kit, as well as a ‘Muntons Beer Kit Enhancer’. I loved looking through it all, reading and re-reading instructions, eventually working out in which order to brew them so as to get beer asap! (Beer greed again).

I started the real ale at the end of Feb, with a few pointers from the Pils. Firstly, I didn’t boil all the water, just what the instructions told me. Not because I don’t think it improved the beer, it was just time consuming and hassle in our small kitchen. I added beer enhancer instead of sugar, which according to the pack improves everything. Also, I only brewed 36 pints, not 40, hoping to get fuller bodied ale.

Once made it was up to the spare room to ferment, next to the radiator with a blanket over both it and the radiator, to keep the heat in. Although all instructions and books suggest that the fermenting brew should be kept between 18 and 25oc, and constant rather than variable, I’m hoping that the scheme will be good enough for the brew. The heating goes on twice a day (if there’s oil) so not ideal conditions at the best of times!

As it’s only my second brew, I still have loads to learn. For example, with the beer enhancer kit added the original gravity of the ale was 1.046. I’m not sure if that’s what it would be if I’d used sugar, but it seemed reasonably soupy. I also assumed that it would need to be bottled at 1.011 or below (the quarter gravity – I’d read a book between the first and second brew). After 8 days it only reached 1.014, but I bottled it anyway. It’d been in long enough. If that’s the fermentation finished then I’m looking at a much weaker alcohol percentage than I’d first thought, and than perhaps would have been if I’d used sugar. If it hadn’t, in fact, finished its primary fermentation, then the bottles might burst (build up of CO2 gas). However, seeing as I’d spent a sunny Friday morning in March emptying out Sainsbury’s own brand bottles of carbonated spring water just for the flimsy bottles, I’m expecting one or two ruptures anyway. At least I was more prepared this time, since for the Pilsner I had to dash to the shop to buy the charmingly named Smak cola in order that I’d have sufficient bottles!

Anyway, the beer is now in the cupboard, 2 days into its two week maturation period. It’s clearing nicely, but throwing a lot of sediment. Hopefully I’ll not need to leave too much beer at the bottom of the bottles!

In drinking some of the Pilsner (there’s about 20 pints left for the home brew party planned for the end of March) I’ve realised the problem of only half filling a bottle. There was only enough beer to half fill the last bottle. Despite priming the bottle with plenty of sugar, the beer inside was just a little flat. The same has happened with the real ale, in that a two litre bottle is only half filled. The remedy: when the beer has cleared, amalgamate a full litre bottle and the half filled two litre bottle into one, full, two litre bottle, re-prime, and wait. Hopefully, not only will it be sparkling and lively, but also it won’t have any sediment left once it’s ready for opening. It’s a plan, so we’ll see if it works.

If it does work, I think I’ll decant every bottle like this, because I’ve given two bottles of the Pils away and it doesn’t travel very well. The movement kicks up the yeast sediment that occurs in bottle conditioned beer, and the beer clouds, making the gift poor looking and in no fit state to drink for a few days. Hopefully in racking off the clear beer into another bottle, it will make beer that presents itself nicely. It will be awkward, but until I can afford a pressure barrel, that’s just the way it might have to be, if it works at all!

Thing of note: House is beginning to smell pleasantly like a brewery, or a pub carpet.

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