The reason I needed another bottle is I’ve finally gotten around to bottling some cider. It’s been under fermentation lock for about as long as I can remember. Now it’s split between three 1 litre bottles, primed and awaiting spring. I’ve only a few more bottles of the Mmmild to give away, and then that’s the homebrewing done for another year (though there are still bags of empties and a keg needs washing!). If Santa gets me some ‘AAA’ batteries for Christmas I’ll be making some more booze in January (thermometer and beard-trimming-machine both take ‘triple A’s, so no mashing or shaving has been done for some time).
I’ll be looking forward to making some more lagers while the weather’s cold, which will be the perfect refreshing drink for our guaranteed hot Irish summer, and while I’m home over the festive season I hope to make a homebrew demo video. This will be a short, introductory video aimed at people who got their first homebrew kit for Christmas, and want to get cracking right away!
So, to end 2011, I’m happy to look back on a progressive year of brewing, from a tin in March, extract in May, and making the leap into almost completely all grain by July! The beers have been getting better and better, I’m making less and less mess, and I’m getting a whole batch of all-grain done in less that 12 hours! And that’s all true except for the less mess bit.
So, I hope you’ll check back for the video in January, but until then, Merry Christmas, and a happy new year. And remember: Homebrew isn’t just for Christmas, it’s a way of life.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Uh, yes… I did open up a bottle after barely two weeks.
So, to conclude the post, here is my mild recipe, called ‘Mmmild’, even though there’s no way of knowing if it’ll taste that good for a number of weeks. I’m really just assuming that it’ll be great because it’s made of beer.
4.5lbs Light DME
12oz crystal 55L
2.3oz. chocolate malt
All the above, plus a pinch of salt, prepared in the usual extract/grain way.
Then, 0.3oz Magnum, 0.85oz Fuggles, and 0.4 Styrian Goldings all at 60 mins.
Followed by Irish moss and some more hops for flavour and aroma. Fermented with Safale US-04 (English Ale)
I’ll rack it into a secondary, so that if I do manage to part with some bottles as some sort of gift, there won’t be a ridiculous amount of yeast at the bottom. I know it’s harmless, you know it’s harmless, but it does look odd. Fortunately, if some yeast does end up in the glass, the chocolate malt will have darkened the beer sufficiently to cover any of that cloudiness up. There could even be a bit of chill haze, if that’s the way it turns out. So long as it tastes nice, eh? Seeing as the Hobgoblin clone I’m currently drinking tastes so fantastic, I imagine a ‘lite’ version will go down equally well.
By the way, it tastes like Rum and Dandelion and Burdock, and I love it! But what if nobody else does? Maybe I shouldn’t give any away after all.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
The latest is a Hobgoblin clone to Orfy’s recipe, and is conditioning in a plastic barrel downstairs, with bluetack plugging a CO2 leak, and a “drink on” date set for December. Although it’s a partial mash, with half malt, half extract, I did mash 6+lbs of malt, which is tricky enough, given my sparging capacity is 2 gallons, which I only found out after putting in two and a half gallons of mash.
It’s very clear to me that I’ve still a lot to learn, but as I’m sitting by the fire, contemplating my next brew, I’m very happy with how far I’ve come in the last two years, especially given that drinking isn’t necessarily conducive to learning much. Bags of crushed malt are now taking preference over tins of ready-mix, and I’m now considering (optimistically) malting my own home grown grains.
The next brew will probably be something from ‘Home Brewed Beers and Stouts’ by C.J.J. Berry, as I’ve some dried malt extract needs using up, and I’ve filled the shed, undersink cupboards and two shelves in the porch with empty bottles, it seems only right to fill them up with something, before Mrs Homebrew loses the rag and… recycles them! I want something quick and easy, so it’ll be something like a mild, I imagine, so I can get drinking it pretty soon. Also, they make great gifts to the over 18s, and the primary gifting season is nearly upon us.
Whilst making/drinking all this homebrew, I’m still working out how much CO2 is produced from one 5 gallon batch of fermenting booze, as well as trifles like how to measure mash temperatures now the expensive thermometer’s broke, how to pour a pint of beer as opposed to a pint of head from the pressure barrel, and why the beer tastes so different from bottle to bottle! I suppose the only way to work these things out is to keep doing it all again, until I’ve perfected everything. After all, it’s not about the destination, but instead about the journey. Though I won’t be undertaking any journeys until the last of the 480 pints wears off.
Friday, October 7, 2011
I’m making a gallon to try a new recipe, and I’ve only enough stuff for one anyway. It is a trial of Dave Line’s Fuller’s London Pride, from his book ‘Brew Beers Like those you buy’. The beer bottle says ‘Target, Challenger and Northdown’ are the hops used, whereas the book opts for Fuggles and EKG. Naturally, I’ve gone for Fuggles and Styrian Goldings, as that’s all that was in the freezer.
My morning was spent mashing 1lb 6.5 oz of pale malt and 1.6 oz crystal, followed by a 90 min boil with the hops. The mash and sparge went well, though I’m still struggling to juggle jugs of hot water and the perforated chopped tomato tin I use to spray the grain bed gently. I’ll show you what I mean in a picture one day... actually, for that I’ll need a fourth hand.
Then an interesting weather phenomenon occurred halfway through the boil; a small Cumulo Nimbus formed at the kitchen ceiling. It was a beautiful sight, and at a certain angle a rainbow shone through from the striplight on the roof. I opened to doors and windows to let some of the steam out. Apparently condensation on the walls annoys Mrs Homebrew even more than burnt caramel on the stove, which ranks pretty high.
So, having set the alarm for 6, and by four in the afternoon the beer is frothing away very merrily, which isn’t bad at all. And neither is the state of the kitchen. The walls need a go over with a hair dryer, and I’ve a bag of wet grain I need to get rid of. I’m very happy to report that what went into the bucket will probably end up a lot like an English bitter, and we’ll see how much closer it gets in about 3 to four weeks!
Monday, September 19, 2011
In the 18th and 19th century many styles of beer were invented or developed by brewers, thanks to updated malting, kilning and brewing techniques, and the discoveries of Louis Pasteur. However, current versions of St. Arthur’s legendary brew have made only little steps towards modernity. Not much has changed from the original recipe carved into a stone nearly 1,800 years ago, and developments in yeast strains allowing brewers to use pure yeast strains in their beers have not been entirely taken on board by brewers at the Guinness factory; there are still vats in the St. James’ Gate brewery where the wild yeast strain Brettanomyces is actively encouraged in order to maintain the taste that would have been familiar to drinkers four thousand years ago.
The article then goes into detail about palaeontological evidence of early Guinness drinkers and some interesting facts about the mysterious death of St. Arthur, and the amazing feat of surviving on his beer alone for 40 days and nights, but it’s the above section that interested me most.
So, I’ve brewed to the basic Guinness principle, 80% pale malt, 10% flaked barley and 10 % roast, unmalted barley. However, to make it a little different, I’m using 5% roast and 5% chocolate malt instead of just 10% roast, mainly because I’ve got some lying around. It’s been boiled for ages in order to try and get the length at 1 gallon, with an O.G. of 1048. Seeing as brewday was the 1st of September, I’m not expecting a very dry stout by the 22nd, but hopefully it will be ready to try and, god willing, will be a suitable tribute to St. Arthur, patron saint of Guinness.
Monday, September 12, 2011
Firstly, you can either use the original Papazian sum, which is: and then correct it for UK gallons by dividing the answer by 19 (the number of litres in 5 US gallons - 5 gallons being a typical batch size) and multiplying that by 22.5 (the number of litres in 5 UK gallons), or by multiplying the answer by 1.1842. Those will give you an answer in ounces, and they shouldn’t be miles out.
Or you could use my own simpler contribution to Imperial homebrewing, by using the “Evans UK factor”, or the EKs Factor!
The Eks Factor
The Eks Factor is a simple number that you can use within the above equation that will give you an answer for your common or garden UK gallon brew. So instead of 1.34, use the number 1.587, and thus the equation becomes:
So, for a 5 UK gallon brew, with an IBU of 50, hop utilisation of 30%, an Alpha Acid content of 6% and the Eks Factor, 1.587, the sum goes as follows:
To get an accurate answer you do need to use the factor to 3 decimal places, but then, if like me your scales don’t go much lower than an ounce, I’d recommend, in Papazian’s own words, “don’t worry, have a homebrew”.
I’ve looked through about half of the books on homebrewing available, and the older UK books tend to only use AAU and HBUs in the calculations, which is too general for me. The American books, for example Papazian’s The Complete Joy... doesn’t account for the larger UK gallon, and the exquisitely detailed Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels has something that’s far too complicated for me to get a straight answer out of – my head just can’t get round it! Brew Classic European Beers At Home has an equation in grams that can be converted into ounces if needed, by dividing the gram answer by 28.35 (the number of grams in an ounce), although that answer will be about 0.002 oz out!
Anyway, to sum up, for a very easy equation for anyone brewing in macho-gallons, use the following: I’m no mathematician, and given that I’m not even sure my hop utilisation IS 30%, it really is just splitting hairs. In order to accurately assess your hop needs or IBUs, colour of your beer etc. read Ray Daniels’ Designing Great Beers. But if you’re merely staggering drunkenly towards your perfect pint, my Eks Factor will suit you nicely! Good luck, and happy nit-picking.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
This year the process was simplified too. Rinse the apples a bit, remove anything you wouldn’t feed to a pig, and then mince the rest in a good fruit juicer, stalks and all. The apples are red looking (see photo) and the juice that came out looked fantastic, like a Tequilla Sunrise, but unfortunately the colour hasn’t hung around to be in the actual cider. The stuff that will ferment (O.G. 1046, by the way, which is two washing-up bowls full making one gallon) is a typical yellow-green apple juice colour.
So, with campden tablet in place, I added the juice directly on top, so that it doesn’t get chance to go brown, and I’ll wait 24 hours before pitching the yeast. I think that is so that the tablets have time to react with the oxygen in the apple juice, and not mess up the sweet-toothed yeast.
Once it’s fermented I’ll put it into a demijohn, rack at regular intervals to keep the cider clear and nice tasting, and I’ll try and get it drunk around New Year. 2010’s cider was very dry after leaving it 7 months before drinking, so I’d like something a little sweeter this time, but we’ll see.
This time the whole cider making process took only about two hours, most of which was spent picking bits of apple off the floor, ceiling and out of my hair. Don’t worry I didn’t juice those bits. I do have standards.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
In an interesting capitulation to the holiday, we ended up singing at the Hilden Beer Festival, and gratefully accepted our beer tokens in return. I chose a pint of Metalman, I think twice, and I didn’t pay enough attention, but I think my first was something called Champion. All pales, anyway. I also had a try of Armagh cider. For anyone interested, and I mean really interested, you’ll have your mind blown by the beautiful ciders on offer there.
Finally, my Lorna Light Bitter from Shale’s Advanced Home Brewing turned out nice. It would have turned out nicely conditioned, too, had I lubricated the seal on my Youngs’ barrel. Subsequently, anything after the first glass was airlocked in, and I had to open up the lid in order to get a pint out. That, of course, puts the beer in danger of infection or oxidisation, drawing in the shelf life from anything up to 3 months, to a mere three days. Fortunately, help was at hand. Two brave, selfless individuals who, with a twinkle in their eye, helped get rid of a few gallons of flat but tasty ale. It’s good to have folk one can rely on in an emergency.
Oh yeah, and while I was brewing a stout today I got attacked by a wasp while I was sparging! I can't believe my luck sometimes!
Sunday, July 31, 2011
The reason I'm only brewing a gallon is because I'm currently making another adjustment to my Feile Pale recipe.
This time, for 1 gallon:
OG: c.1050, IBU c.50, probably a little more
Pale Malt: 1lb 5oz (90%)
Crystal (120EBC/55lov): 0.7oz (3%)
Wheat Malt: 1oz (4%)
CaraMalt: .75oz (3%)
Magnum: 0.2oz @60
Magnum: 0.1oz @30
Fuggles: 0.3oz @ 15 + irish moss
Styrian Goldings post boil.
Also, I added in 4oz of pale dried malt extract because I didn't account for Mash efficieny when I worked out the recipe. But I really think this is 'the one'! Actual O.G. was 35, because for some reason I've 1 gal, 3 pints in the fermenter! At least I know that if I had done it right, I'd have got 1048 o.g., so I'm doing something right, if not everything!
This is my third attempt at a good pale ale. The first was a little boring, containing only pale and crystal malts, the second, with wheat malt and more hops was fantastically bitter, but still lacked something (sparkle mainly, because I think I forgot to prime the bottles). This third effort is an attempt to nail down some good bitterness levels, having finally got some reasonably accurate scales, and a good depth of malt flavour. However, I won't know if this recipe is any good until it's fermented. Nevertheless, it should taste, at the very least, amazing. I've started bottling into used brown beer bottles with crown caps. Despite the obvious stupidity of hitting the tops of glass bottles with a hammer, I think they look fantastic, especially with the label above stuck to the side with selotape.
I'm going away for a few weeks in August, but before I go I hope to get one last 5gallon brew in; Orfy's Hobgoblin clone. I'll be pitching it on top of the yeast created by Ken Shales' Lorna Light Bitter, just as soon as it's fermented down enough to keg. I've been very encouraging towards it for several days now, and I've been rewarded by a 24 point drop in 4 days. I can see my window of opportunity getting closed and the curtains drawn, but hopefully, with similar encouragement, I'll have time to Keg the Ken, brew up Gobhoblin and bottle it before I go away in ONE week. I've all but washed the bottles!
All in all, I think I'm getting the hang of this brewing lark.
Monday, July 25, 2011
So, today, I’m brewing 1 gallon of Tiger Beer to a Dave Line recipe. I’m only brewing a gallon because a) the battery on my drill stopped working, and I can’t finish my Zapap Lauter Tun, and b) because the recipe calls for lots of saccharin tablets, which I don’t want to use, and I don’t think are necessary, so if it turns out they are necessary, I’ve only made 1 gallon of a very dry lager.
So, as promised, here’s this post’s photo: My fantastically top of the range (make that on top of the range) Mash Tun. The WD40 on the right was for essential gas-hob maintenance, and hopefully won’t end up in the beer, but you never know.
The recipe features Pilsner Malt (although it asks for Lager malts), Flaked Rice, Hallertauer hops I’ll be fermenting it with Brewferm Lager Yeast, which this morning seems to be floating on top like an Ale yeast…
I’m not one for doling out advice, but here’s one: It’s quite important to double check your sums before you start brewing. This morning I was only bringing up half of the required strike water (the water in which you mash your malted grains) to temperature. After thinking something along the lines of “that doesn’t look like nearly enough water” but not quite thinking “oh well”, did I quickly add in some more. Oh well, disaster averted, what next?
* One of the three colour-codes used to describe the darkness of the malts, and how it will affect beer.
**A very malty Christmas ale?
Thursday, July 21, 2011
First up will be a 5 gallon barrel full of Lorna Light Bitter, from Ken Shales' Advanced Home Brewing, which is mainly Pale Malt Barley and Wheat Malt, shortly followed by a Tiger Beer copy from Dave Line's Brewing Beers Like Those You [pay through the nose for], which I'll bottle.
I did my first partial mash the other day, and as far as I can tell it worked OK, but it was with whole malt, which I had to crush myself. This time I've opted for bags of crushed malt, so that I don't have to spend an hour with a hammer before I even start the brewing process.
Also, I've finally bought batteries for my camera, so hopefulyl the remaining posts for the rest of my life will be illustrated in some way. For now, have a picture of my very modern lagering facility.
Lately, I've noticed the hammer has been more involved in my brewing; for crushing things and for capping glass bottles. It seems counter intuitive to hit glass bottles with a hammer, but so far, after a few frustrating first, second and third attempts, I've got the hang of it. But I really do hate bottling. And hitting glass bottles with hammers ought to release frustration, but instead, with every overflowing bottle, every bit of sucked up yeast, every square foot of kitchen covered in puddles of booze just drives me further up the wall! It really will drive me to drink.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
So, not really knowing all that much about beer, except that I like it, I’ve started trying a number of different bottled ales that can be found in our supermarkets and bars. We’re not flush up here, but fortunately you can get a bottle of ale for less than £2, which alongside some olives for the missus, and cat food for the cat, I see a bottle of beer in the weekly as a reasonable luxury (yeah, I know, "whatever gets you through the day"). I’ve recently tried Timothy Tailor’s Bitter (Engerland), Whitewater’s Red Ale (Belfast), a Downpatrick Bitter, Goose Island IPA (Chicago), two pints of Bass, and, from Eniskillen, a secret bottle of wheat beer, a gift from a friend with the surprising instruction “add blackcurrant”. After all that, what I don’t know about a malt profile ain’t worth knowing.
So there I am, trying beer, wondering what exactly goes into these that make them so darned tasty, if it isn’t a lock of MSG? Why exactly is it that our everyday, mass-produced beer tastes so bland in comparison?
I’ve begun to realise the importance of yeast in the whole thing. Not only does it affect the overall sweetness, as you’d imagine, but all the fruity stuff comes from it if it’s too warm, and so on. So how much of an effect can yeast have?
Two questions, and no answers, so far. The yeast thing… well, I’ve started some ginger beer with champagne yeast, and so far the yeast is all I can taste. Since, I’ve made Smithish with both toasted and roasted barley, and I’m getting the feel for different hops, as well as quantities and styles of beer. It’s all part of the brewing learning curve, but it’s nice to improve recipes when you know what goes into them in the first place!
But I digress. It’s not my beer on the shelves. It’s the likes of Goose Island IPA, which wasn’t selling in the bar*, and I don’t think it’s for want of knowing about it, as in the bar they stock a wide variety of beers from around the world, which are advertised in a little ‘menu’. And, no, before you ask, it’s NOT a Wetherspoons. Similarly, the beer from Downpatrick doesn’t seem to fly off the shelves in a bar full of ‘locals’. Granted, not local to DP, but local Irishmen nonetheless. I mean, Carlsberg! Seriously? Won't they even try Harp?
I was chatting to a fellow bandmate at that bar recently, during the ‘refreshment’ break of a recent gig. I noticed, quite by chance, a leaflet for a bottled bitter from a local brewery. I ordered one. The guitarist apparently loves ale, and drinks nothing else when he’s over in Engerland (drinks bottled Heineken here), and he ordered one. That was three bottles sold that night, because I happened to go leafing through the leaflets. Elsewhere I’ve noticed Bass on tap, and I’ve allowed myself the usual look around to see if anyone else was drinking it, which they weren’t, and ordered one anyway. I’m very funny about the first pint out of a tap…
I know places like “Rhymes with Al Fresco” and “sounds like Painsburys” probably stock ‘local’ beer nationwide, so I can’t really include them when discussing local, but there are places trying to stock local booze, when it’s available, and it’s a pity it’s not flying off the shelves. I’m keen to try local booze when I see it, but it’s also hard to find. Hilden brewers had a tent at a recent festival I went to, and I was fine with paying £3.50 a pint once, but after that, I was happy enough with warm can of… I forget… something cheaper anyway. You can’t always afford to be discerning!
So there’s definitely an ale profile over here in Ireland, but it’s not mainstream yet.
* When they knocked the price down by half, I felt sorry for them, which is why, between the three of us, we drank the lot. Not in an evening, of course; over two.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
On Sunday night I ‘knocked up’ a quick batch of pale ale (though it’ll be more like an IPA, I went a bit mad with the malt and hops), and I’ve racked it off into a gallon demijohn with a Quality Street wrapper placed over the top while the froth settles down! Mmm… hygienic. Nevertheless, last night it settled down enough to put on one of those plastic bubbler fermentation locks. I couldn’t believe just how much CO2 one gallon of fermenting wort produces! The airlock is pretty much a constant stream of massive bubbles. I had to drive to the garden centre to buy two trees this morning to ease my conscience.
And then, while I was at it, I racked off a gallon of my 5gallon batch of Coopers Pilsner into a demijohn to ‘lager’ in the fridge. I needn’t have bothered. With the hot weather we’re having the fridge isn’t much colder than the front room (about 6oC – that’s the fridge, not the front room). When the main bulk of the Pilsner is ready I’ll bottle it as usual, and set some aside in order to do more side-by-sides, but I’m expecting it to be a big waste of time, and a big waste of the bottom of the fridge, where we retire bits of butternut squash and courgette we didn’t use. I’ll probably try another lager this winter, when the temperatures are more consistently conducive to lagering (0-4oc). At the moment it’s just too warm and I’ve misplaced my cave.
One of the things I need to work on is hopping rates. I’ve useless kitchen scales, so I’m guessing conservatively at the amounts of hops to boil. I think I need to be a bit more liberal as the Pale (bottled yesterday) has next to no bitterness whatsoever. I like bitter beers so instead of putting in little and working up, I’ll start putting in shed-loads and working down.
So, now the front room smells fantastically of fermenting booze; though the cat has started to get a little drowsy when she goes in there… I wonder how much CO2 8 gallons of fermenting wort will produce?
*For me, anyway.
Monday, July 4, 2011
Yesterday, in my shiny new stainless steel 5+ gallon tin - of which I used a third - I boiled up:
For 1 gallon:
1lb 5 and a half oz pale dried malt extract,
2.7 oz Crystal malt (100ECB, but I'd go lighter next time)
1/8th oz Magnum (12.7% AA) (boiling/bittering IBU 54)
and I'll put in some East Kent Goldings tomorrow (dry)
Safale US-04 English Ale Yeast, and some Burton Water Salts.
1 gallon, O.G. should be 1.060, but I forgot to take a measurement! I was very tired after singing in a festival in Co. Down. Very sunny, lots of fun, a pint or two of Belfast Blonde, and I think I've got a name for my ale...
Feile Pale (Fay-luh Pale) or Festival Pale.
It's a basic recipe, but the measurements are quite hit and miss. Our scales are as bad as our tin openers. Nevertheless, if I don't like it, I've only got 8 pints to drink/distribute. If I do like it, it was very easy to make, I've got loads of malt left, and I've developed a raging thirst. And I think it shows a great commitment to beer making that I brewed a batch before unpacking the camping gear... or is that laziness. No, no, definitely commitment.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
- Homebrewed Smithish went down spectacularly well for my first extract brew. Sweet, malty, great looking head (about 4 inches every time... so not quite a pint) and it was appreciated by everyone, including non-Smithwicks drinkers. I'm thrilled at how well it turned out. Recipe and critique will follow soon.
- Also, fantastically, the home made cider recieved some positive feedback. The words 'ripped my insides out' were thrown around a little, in a lighthearted kind of way.
- Birds have pushed a home advantage and are now 2 - 0 up in the barley stakes, but I've sown a third lot, and I've put a big net over it. This isn't to catch the birds, but to keep them off. Though if I catch one in there, I'm not sure I can be held accountable for my actions. Disclaimer: No animals were harmed in the making of this beer, but some jackdaws did recieve a stream of verbal abuse and a shook fist.
- I got a some malty ingredients (wheat malt, whole pale malt and some Magnum hops) and Burton Water salts for my birthday, and I'm on the hunt for a 3-4 gallon tin to cook it in. My aim is to make an American IPA (with English hops... ooh, I am naughty).
- I turned 25, and recieved plenty of bottles of ale to sample (6 with the word OLD secreted in somewhere! Very clever, Richard! Cheers!). Having tried a few, I'm keen to try and make a Golden Ale (Badgers'), and the Hopping Hare was very interesting.
- And finally, I'm reading Ray Daniel's Designing Great Beers which I got from ma & pa. Surely I'll know everything now?
So, with that busy week over, and only about 10 pints left in the fountain, sorry, beer barrel, I'll settle down tonight with a beer, a book and a shotgun across my lap. Is that a jackdaw cackling or some community gardeners laughing at me from behind the cabbages?
Saturday, May 21, 2011
After all that glorious weather, followed by incessant rain, everybody’s barley on the Inishowen Riviera is sprouting like something from a fairy-tale – all except mine, that is. Some gardeners plant marigolds next to carrots, etc, or nasturtiums next to cabbage, to encourage the pests to eat the decoys, and not the actual produce. It works wonders. Plant barley in an allotment, and the birds will go crazy for it, and leave everybody else’s stuff well alone. I’m glad my barley was of some service, at least.
But that does leave me with a problem. I’ve no barley growing for the rest of the project, which is mostly to do with barley. It’s a bit too late in the season to sow more, but I might do anyway, next time I’ve a spare half hour. However, I’m now only going to have room for a half plot of barley, as the idea of the allotment is we’d get some vegetables from it too.
So it would seem that the old wives from the past have been conspiring with the birds:
Ravens in league with history’s brewers, the weather in cahoots with farmers of old. I’m not being paranoid, of course, but I’m sure I occasionally catch a whiff of Humble Pie cooling on the windowsill of “it’s not as easy as it sounds”.
I BURIED the seed… how could they know?
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Yesterday I barrelled a batch of Smithish. It tastes just like Smithwicks'. Trouble is, after a weekend of drinking nothing but Goose Island IPA, I find it hard to favour Smithwicks' as much as I used to. Having said that, an IPA worth its Gypsum can hardly be described as a session beer, but the taste of a proper beer (or rather a beer with proper taste) is much better than that of mass produced Smithwicks' &c. So what posessed me to imitate something mediocre (albeit brilliantly!)?
Never mind, I've forty 3% pints conditioning in a barrel, and I'll enjoy every last home-brewed one. And at 3% I should remember each one, which is more than I can say for the IPA.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Ginger beer (or ale) isn’t something I’ve given much thought to, until recently.
After dressing up as a pink phoenix and pushing a float up and down the sun-baked streets of Carndonagh for an Easter parade, the natural conclusion was a trip to the pub. I had my usual Smithwick’s, but a hue and a cry went up for Crabbies’ Ginger Beer!
It’s not new, but The Arch started stocking it recently, and before long half of the group were drinking it, my missus included. So, thought I, while I wait for the bags of DME to show up (which probably won’t happen till after I’ve ordered them) I’ll get cracking on some ginger beer.
I’ve copied some recipes from the net and I’ll work my way through a couple, to see what works best. Crabbies’ was very refreshing, sweet, with hints of herbs somewhere, flavours which a ginger, sugar, water and lemon recipe can only dream of, but eventually, and with some surplus crystal malt and hops, I’ll perhaps perfect a brew which my girlfriend will like. And in one or two gallon batches and with reasonably cheap ingredients (ginger is so potent you only need a few ounces), I have plenty of room for experiment.
Missus Homebrew didn’t feel like she’d get through a lot (and a 5 gallon batch would be a bit of a gamble for a whim), so I’ll be brewing one, maybe two gallons to begin with. Once the Republic of Inishowen has discovered the desirable properties of my ginger beer, then we’ll go bigger, but for now I’ll need a 2-gallon fermenting vessel. The kind folk at the Cosy Cottage in Moville have given me two empty bulk mayonnaise tubs, both weighing in at 10litres apiece. Of course I could have used my 5gallon, but I’m brewing so regularly that I wasn’t sure I’d find a spare week in which to ferment. Oh, but look, it’s free now, once I move all this stuff that’s piled up on it.
So, the smell of mayonnaise and some sort of cleaning fluid scrubbed from the pot, I boiled 8oz of finely sliced ginger in a little water for about 15 minutes. During this time I got two yeast starters going. The opened packet of cider yeast didn’t do well at all, so I tossed it into the boil (as yeast nutrients, and shouldn’t affect the flavour) and opened a fresh pack of Young’s Champagne yeast. Then, once boiled, I filtered the hot ginger liquid into the clean mayonnaise tub through a pair of old (sanitised) tights. I added to this just shy of 1kg (2ish lbs) of sugar, and topped up the water to about 2 gallons. Finally, in went a washed and quartered lemon, the tights, in which is tied the ginger, and once at 22oC I pitched the champagne yeast.
Within two hours it’s bubbling away healthily. I was nervous at first, because it seemed thick, and jelly-like, but it turns out, after inspection with a torch, that the bubbles are in fact bits of floating yeast. Having never seen champagne yeast work before, I think I’ll rest easy now, knowing the brew is in millions of good hands. Over the weekend I’ll take out the tights of ginger, and let it ferment a couple more days. Then, all being well, I’ll bottle it into pint sized bottles, and let sit for about a week.
The original gravity is 1046, which should give a plump 4.5% ABV, and overall it cost less than £2 to make. It won’t be opened or tasted for a couple of weeks, but it already smells fantastic. Crabbies’ is a tough benchmark, but if the weather is this good through summer, I’ll be getting plenty of brewing practice.
And as the saying goes, “I’m so thirsty I’d drink it through a sock”… Well, I've just the drink for you.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
So one of the allotments in the town plots has been given over to barley. My absence from the allotments had been noted, but I really did need the good weather… though I’ll be known as the fair-weather gardener now. I’ll have to put in some rainy hours to put paid to that. Having said that, while every other gardener is labouring over the lettuce, or caring for the courgettes, I’ve two months till I need to do anything with mine. Maybe I’ll take a chair down there… watch the world struggle by.
My wonderful barley, coated and treated with something nasty, means I should have a trouble free germination, with barley resistant to almost every disease known to a farmer. It’s guaranteed not to catch TB, scabies, the lot. However, this blessing took an interesting turn the morning after I’d sown, when I woke up in a cold sweat, worried I’d poisoned the avian population of Moville. Apocalyptic images of bird carcasses littering the streets, newspaper headlines scaremongering the public, top military scientists get involved, and upon discovering the source of the problem, point their combined, accusative finger at me; well it got me out of bed early enough to get back to the allotment to add some bird deterrents before my nightmare vision came to pass.
As usual, either no picture, or one doctored from the internet. Never mind, soon I'll be posting pictures of the 'Adventure in Barley' up in the Challenge page. But for now, please close your eyes and imagine some dirt with nothing growing in it, and you'll be on the same page as me.
Anyway, after that week, I think I deserve a pint. And I'll get one precicely 5 months from now.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
I’m not really a cider drinker, so I can’t reliably describe what I poured into my glass. The best I’d do is the primary school essay: ‘If an alien landed on earth and asked you what cider is, how would you describe it to them’, an essay for which I’d probably get low marks anyway. I did go through a Kopparberg phase, like everyone else in that balmy summer of 2007, when we all thought we’d discovered a new drink, having in fact only discovered a new advertising campaign, (and Frosty Jacks’ doesn’t count, though it’s a hell of a lot clearer than this stuff in front of me), so I’m not really qualified. Nevertheless, the primary school essay that never was reads as follows:
It tastes a lot like watery apples.
I’m sure there’s alcohol in there somewhere, but as I’ve only had a glass so far, it’s hard to say if it’s in this bottle or the next. I’m going to leave it for now, though. It’s been a warm one, and I’ve been stuck inside all day painting, so I’d earned a drink, but the rest will placate the non-beer drinkers during this elusive homebrew party.
The finished red ale recipe, Smithish, is as follows:
5lb 3oz Pale Dried Malt Extract
1lb 3oz light crystal malt
4oz toasted barley (1oz roasted barley used)
1 ¾ oz Fuggles hops (5%AA, bittering)
½ oz Goldings (aroma)
Irish Ale Yeast (Safale US-04 used)
Possibly some Carragheen / Irish moss to make it look pretty
Anticipated O.G.: 1.048, IBU 30, ABV: 4.5-4.8%
(Actual O.G. 1.036, F.G. 1.014, ABV: 3%)
With any luck it’ll at least be drinkable, and with all the luck of the Irish, it’ll be perfect, and I’ll never need to buy Smithwicks’ again.
1 ¾ ounces of Fuggles… how did you come up with that? I hear you ask*. Well, sums, is the answer. In his book ‘The Complete Joy of Homebrewing’, Charlie Papazian has several formulas for working out things like, how dark will the beer be, or how bitter, or if you want it this bitter, how much of what ought I put in. The rest, as I’ve mentioned before, is all composed from averages. And the sums are the least of my problems. CP’s book is so weighty it takes me 20 mins to find any charts I want. I think I’ll be typing some of the important calculations up and laminating them. What kitchen isn’t improved with laminated International Bitterness Units calculations or a wipe-clean ‘lb per gallon’ gravity table?
So, that’s the end of this weeks’ post, and I’ve just started my second pint of cider. Now, these days I only have to look at beer to have a headache the next day, but I can definitely feel this pint ‘doing its thing’. The alcohol must have all settled to the bottom of the bottle, with the yeast.
Don't ask. I got it wrong in the end! Nevermind, read a later post for the craic.
Friday, April 15, 2011
5lb 3oz light DME,
1lb 7oz of speciality grains (Crystal and roasted unmalted barley)
roughly 2oz hops (Fuggles and Goldings) whatever I need for an IBU (bitteness) of about 22 - 28
Irish Ale Yeast and some leftover DME for conditioning.
It's an exactly average recipe, but hopefully it will ease me into extract brewing and I'll have a good base on which to work. A canvas, if you will. We'll find out soon. I'm not short of 'quality control' volunteers.
Any suggestions, with the recipe or a name for it, are very welcome.
I've also heard that the local barley farmer, my dealer, is planting Quench soon, which is great news. I love it when a plan comes together!
Thursday, April 7, 2011
I’ve also found a massive stock pot in which to boil the beer. It’s at the local GAA club (God knows what they use it for), and I’m sure they won’t mind lending it to me once in a while if it’s for a good cause. I was ‘looking for the bin’, and rummaging through their cupboards after a meeting the other night, and ‘happened’ across it. Nothing quite like thrift to keep the price of a pint down.
But, whilst being both gracious and generous, the homebrew gods have also been encouraging me to ‘get my finger out’, as it were. There’s competition! I hear there’s a fella in the next town over who wants to set up a microbrewery. Now, I’m not saying that I do (yet), but if I did, I don’t need this upstart who’s been brewing for years getting in before me!
And finally, I’ve also been sort-of asked to present a homebrew demonstration at the local gardening club meet. Quite how I’m going to condense a 4-week process into a 90-minute talk is yet to be worked out, but I suspect it’ll involve something Blue Peter has been doing for years… cheating.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
In addition to that new page, I'm looking forward to receiving a review of the Triple from Richard, which you'll find on Richard's Review page soon. And after St. Patrick's Day, I'm pretty sure I know what it'll say!
17th March is St. Patrick's Day in Ireland (he was Welsh too), and as per our new household tradition, we got all our muckers to parade with us a bit, before spending the rest of the afternoon with a drink in our hands. And like last year, it wasn't long before we cracked open some homebrew. Edward brought down 5 bottles of his Brewferm Pilsner, the same as I’d brewed the year before, and I opened a couple of bottles of the Triple. I think I can say without fear of contradiction that the pilsner went down better. However, there’s a redeeming factor in this. The main problem with the Triple was the strength of flavour and alcohol, made all the more prominent by the fact we’d been drinking canned tasteless lager all afternoon. So, really, in spite of the initial reactions, the triple was enjoyed, and none was left to waste. And as for the pilsner, which was excellent (well done Eddie B.), who will brew next years’ batch?
Oh, and finally, I've finally bottled the cider! I'd been putting it off for ages as I had no idea when it was ready to bottle, but 5 months ought to do it. So, here's to a little more waiting.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Having run out of Homebrew tins, I thought the next best thing (after the cider) was to bake my own bread, to evoke that lovely yeasty smell I remember fondly from my last brewing session, way back in September.
I made a loaf of wholemeal bread, from a readymix packet, and that worked fine… then I made pizza bases, with normal flour and yeast etc., and you really get the smell of brewing from that, which is almost what it was all about.
Pizza is a poor topic for discussion on a homebrew blog, granted, but while following the method in the recipe book, it instructed the baker to empty the sachet of baking yeast into a cup of warm, sugary water, and allow it to sit for ten minutes… which sounds to me like the perfect yeast starter!
I’ve been half-experimenting with different ways of pitching yeast (pitching = introducing the yeast into the wort) and didn’t really notice much difference in the quality of the brew, whether I pitched it in a sugar solution, or just sprinkled the powder straight into the wort, but I did notice a significant difference in the bread. The readymix loaf took ages to rise, and it was a half-arsed effort at that (saying nothing of the alcohol content), but the sugar solution yeast was very active within its little starter solution, and the yeast was 2 years past its sell-by as it was. The bread rose really well (even for a pizza base) and I think, from now on, I’ll be pitching all my yeasts in a sugary starter.
Though not too sugary, or we'll be confused by a cidery taste again!
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Homebrewing isn’t really happening for me at the moment. The closest I’ve come is decanting a bottle of Triple into an empty, to take it with me on the bus (to a mates house, for after a gig). It went down well, and kept most of its sparkle, though there wasn’t much to begin with…
However, as usual, when I’m not doing something, I’m reading about it. My latest home brew book, ‘The Complete Joy of Home Brewing’ by Charlie Papazian, has inspired me onto the next step; malt extract brewing. It sounds just like the kind of thing I’d be into. You still open a tin, but it’s pure malt extract, not flavoured by hops or other adjuncts like the no-boil tins. So I’d be a little freer to experiment with flavours and hops and so on. All I need is a big pan, and some way of straining the beer. But rest assured, it’s the future.
I also siphoned the cider off its lees, and really wish I hadn’t now, because in opening and disturbing the cider I may have introduced a little of God only knows what. Those white things floating on the top are good, aren’t they?
Monday, February 7, 2011
So, finally, we see an educated review of a home brewed beer on here. I’ve been reading up, and I think some of the words are:
Spiced and hopped.
Light smokiness (from the sugar, I think).
Not overly, but noticeably sweet.
Above all, the eagerness of double vision so soon after the first glass makes me think I needn’t have bothered getting two bottles out of the shed.
I’d like to reassure you of my determination to being a better beer blogger. Soon, I will buy myriad beers and sample them all, as my homework, in order that my palette be better next time I drink something I don’t think I’ve ever tried before.
Finally, a warm welcome to the person or persons responsible for the 36 hits from Norway this week, and the occasional visitor from Israel. Spying on you wasn’t as easy before Browser Cookies, what? Please, leave comments, so I can look good.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Now then, back to homebrew: I’ve had another, tentative taste of the Brewferm Triple with my family. It’s mellowed since the last time, and the flavour has broadened a little. It certainly does not lack body! The strength of the flavour and alcohol come from the use of less water, and candi sugar, which has its own strong flavour, common with this type of beer. And while it went down well with my dad, it didn’t go down so well with my mum or my missus (though I thank them all for trying it). Similarly, if it were ordered at a bar, neither my dad nor myself would be drinking it all night! We were definitely in connoisseur territory with the Tripple. However, if you like Leffe etc. then I think that brewing this would be right up your... um...
I'll review the Triple properly tonight, in front of some Steven Segal or something, and I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Something I may have mentioned in the first couple of posts is the overly fruity or cidery feel to the beer I’ve been brewing. Thinking that it was the yeast that was to blame, and I’ve been looking online for different strains.
But, it turns out that the current system of one tin and one kilogram of sugar is the problem. A beer that has sugar in a ratio greater than 2 parts malt, 1 part sugar, tends towards my unwanted cidery flavour. In fact, it is recommended not to use any adjuncts to a greater extent than 20% of the fermentable sugars. For example: if I use a 1.6kg tin, I ought not add more than 400g of your ordinary everyday sugar, far less than the kilogram I've been putting in. The amount of water used would then have to be reduced, of course, to keep the intended specific gravity, but the result would be a nicer beer, I’m led to believe… though unfortunately a little less of it!
In fact, according to homebrewblog.co.uk, your everyday household sugar (sucrose) "needs to be broken down initially into fructose and dextrose [...] fructose can leave a somewhat apple-like aftertaste". Brewing sugar, which is just dextrose, doesn't. Another person, elsewhere, goes on to say the appley taste diminishes with conditioning.
I'm sure most homebrewers don't mind the taste, but this is the next step for me. Or maybe I could go further; two tins of malt, and no sugar, for 40 pints. It would push the price up to a whopping 45p per pint, but it'll be worth it.
So, there I go! I can either fork out more for my ingredients, or wait a little longer for my beer...
All this information, and so much more, can be found in Charlie Papazian’s book, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Shortly before christmas I did the following:
1. Tried the Triple. Nice, but definately needs more time in the shed.
2. Sniffed the cider. Looks like it can wait till spring, too. Back under the stairs with ye.
3. Finished the rest of everything else. Another local home brewer brought round some (posh) Pilsner too (in a screw top wine bottle - brave), so we had a little sample evening. It wasn't a 'home brew party' by a long way, but it's the closest I've got yet! The upshot is Pilsner will be on my next shopping list.
Father Christmas was good to me again this year. Three beery books*, and a mystery piece of brewing paraphernalia from a market in town. Of course, the mystery may unravel once I see it, but so far, all we know is it's home brew related. And in the shop. I've got my fingers crossed for a mash tun.
*I spy a link*
I'm reading about extract brewing, at the moment, *there it is!* which is giving me ideas for a summer project. I'm hoping the hop plant I got last year will flower this time, giving me a good opportunity to try something a little more like making Uncle Ben's stir fry, and less like the Bachelor's tinned soup method that I'm used to. Although I can't even do that, at the moment, as I've knackered another tin opener. I'm going to try the ones that cut in from the side next. An unexpected lesson to learn.
In the meantime, a bit more waiting. Waiting for some disposable cash for more tins, or for the two stalwarts, sitting it out under the stairs/in the shed, to mature - whichever comes first!
For now, though, I think a New Year's toast** is in order; make mine a home brew!
*The books will appear on the Reviews page soon.
I also got some Olde Worlde ale spices to put in cider, ale etc which I'm looking forward to. Hope I don't confuse them with the normal teabags. I'll throw in a review of them, too, 'coz I like your face.
**New Year's Toast = anagram = We r Oats n' Yeast!