with the occasional rant about tin openers...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

First blood to the birds...

... Round one to the Goodwives of antiquity.

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

Never make your hero

I'll keep it short.

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

Tight rules on sanitation

Not one to pass up a good bandwagon as it trundles by; I’ve just put to bed a beautiful smelling ginger beer (or ale…). Frankly, it was nice just to see some brewing activity – the first since the cider, back in November. Ridiculously long for someone who blogs about brewing.

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.