with the occasional rant about tin openers...

Monday, September 19, 2011

St. Arthur, Patron Saint of Guinness

I’ll be celebrating St. Arthur’s day (22nd Sep, if the campaign has passed you by) by drinking some stout I’ve brewed myself. I’m only making a gallon because I’m not really a stout kinda guy, and every last one of my mates will be mooching promotional pints of the ‘real thing’ in town. Nevertheless, it’s important to observe Irish tradition by brewing this, a uniquely Irish beer, a beer that’s been around for nearly as long as marketing, which is the third oldest profession. Whilst doing a little research, I found this article in the library, and I faithfully reproduce part of it here:

First brewed by pagan settlers to Ireland c. 3000BC, the forerunner to Guinness was a beer made with burnt bread, mashed by the enzymes found in saliva, and made bitter with Dandelion and Yarrow. Years of brewing and celebrating followed, with little sign of change in the recipe. Then, at around the same time as the Romans were befriending Western Europe, St. Arthur (then known simply as Arthur the Sot, causing leading academics to wonder if this is the origin of the abbreviation St. for saint, as a mistranslation) began brewing stout more like the stuff we know it to be today. To begin with he pioneered a primitive malting process, bringing out the natural sugars found in the barley, instead of the much cruder way of grinding the bread into flour, baking with it, forgetting about it overnight until it burns, then mashing with saliva. This new brew was considered far superior to the older beers, however in order to get the dark colour drinkers were used to, St. Arthur still included portions of burnt bread. An early recipe, found carved into the an Cuin nEas stone, locally known as ‘Beer Stone’, located in county Meath, describes how St. Arthur used 8 parts malted barley to one part burnt bread, in order to make the beer he is famed for. Also found on the same stone is an early numerical system, believed to be a tally used to advertise and sell the beer. The contemporary currency was small rocks with holes in, and academics calculate that the price of a pint of St. Arthur’s beer was half a round stone with a hole in, and the modern equivalent is 4-euro 85c, a price now only charged in Dublin and hotels. Truly, St. Arthur’s contemporaries valued this beer highly!

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

Calculating IBU & Copper Hop needs!

It’s not something I lose sleep over, seeing as my scales aren’t pinpoint accurate anyway, but I’ve noticed in my homebrew reading that there isn’t a suitable calculation for getting IBUs or ounce weights for British gallons. Papazian has a nice one for American homebrewers using grams, and even goes as far as to suggest an equivalent for British measures, but in spite of the use of ounces, which weigh the same in the US and the UK, the equation still figures in US gallons, which, as I’ve already said somewhere, is a bit of a wussy gallon. So, here is an adapted equation I’ve been working on for a couple of hours.

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

Cider #2011

This year I’ve harassed two people for cider apples, and apart from the absence of wassailing and being chased down the street by an angry man, it’s as typical an old fashioned cider as one can hope to get, and still have a good chance of success. This year the cider contains ONLY apple juice, with one Sodium Metabisulphate tablet (Campden Tablet), and Young’s Cider yeast.

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

An update, is all.

I’ve recently spent a couple of weeks travelling around Ireland, mooching down the west coast, visiting a few festivals; it’s been fun. Fun, but trying to sample all the micro-brewed beers I found on my way round was, frankly, thirsty work. I’ll not go into detail, there’s a fantastic blog for that sort of thing, The Beer Nut, but I will go as far as to recommend Galway Hooker Pale Ale. It’s nearly as good as my own! Anyway, it’s nice to see a healthy industry.

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!