Craft – Is it just a beery buzzword?

Are we all a little craft-ed out?

Why it’s so much more than just a buzzword.

It seems like wherever we go these days, we’re bombarded with the term ‘craft’. Craft beer, craft pies, craft pickles, craft sandals, craft beards – everything now comes in a ‘craft specific’ version.  How sick are you of hearing about it?

Sure, the hype may be annoying, but for many beer lovers, its meteoric rise is a good thing.  The perfect middle ground between real and boutique, it’s a way to get all the thrills while getting a decent beer too.

Of course, that’s what many of us were doing anyway, long before it was named in this way.  It was just a case of assembling the pieces and putting together a concept that could be sold to everyone and not just the enthusiasts who’ve been modding their beers to their own specification for years.

While the ‘C’ word has become a bit of an in-joke for those not easily swayed by the latest fashions, this ‘new’ brewing style has already helped deliver some pretty amazing things, from superb beers and bars, to new pub trails and opportunities to drink and to socialise.  The huge success of the recent UK round of Craft Festivals, with their big crowds and positive vibe, goes some way to show the growing appetite for taking part in it as well.

Craft has created a credible middle ground that’s helping to reinvigorate the industry without taking anything away from the established principles of tradition and history.  It may be an over-marketed term, but I reckon it’s simply a good thing for one and all.

 

Now, I know what you’re thinking….we’ve heard it all before….this is old news.  Perhaps it is.  But there’s a twist. The blog post above is word for word – bar a smidge of artistic licence – an article lifted from Mountain Biking UK (pg.25, Summer 2014 edition).  The article is talking about the recent craze, and growing sub-culture of the mountain biking fraternity – Enduro.  I’ve subbed ‘Enduro’ for ‘Craft’, and I rather like the similarities.

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AG#36 Feed Zone IPA

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This was my second brewday in a 24 hour period, just so I can join in the with the Leeds International Beer Festival, homebrew competition!   Very basic recipe, very brief write up. 

I thought I should stick with the pack and use a Tour de France inspired name.  I quite liked Sticky Bidon “the term used to describe what happens when a rider gets a new water bottle from the team car.  They tend to hang onto it for longer than necessary to get a free tow for a hundred metres or so“.  But, went with Feed Zone “a designated section of the race where riders pick up musettes from the soigneurs”.  A talking point…OK!

You can find the source of that interesting information and other Tour-lingo, here.

Original Gravity (OG): 1.050
Final Gravity (FG): 1.011
Alcohol (ABV): 5.0%
Colour (EBC): 10
Bitterness (IBU): 46 (Average)

4.26kg Pale Ale Malt
0.11kg Crystal Malt 60L

12g Warrior (leaf) (18.2% Alpha) FWH
30g Citra (pellet) (14.4% Alpha) @10 minutes from the end (boil)
80g Citra (pellet) (14.4% Alpha) @0 minutes from the end (aroma)
100g Citra (pellet) (14.4% Alpha) dry hop

Safale US-05 Ale Yeast (dry) 1pkt of 11.5g

Strike temp of 74C, 11.4L liquor for 4.37kg grain. Mashed in at 66C (single step infusion).   Mashed for 75 minutes.  Sparged at 76C 18.6L liquor.    60 minute boil.

I collected 19L of wort, post boil, with an OG of 1.051.  Pitched the yeast at 20C.

I’ll be transferring to secondary and adding the dry hops.

AG#35 Malted Milk Stout

This will be my entry for the Thornbridge/Waitrose Great British Homebrew challenge.  I’m a bit last minute with this brew, but it should be ok in time for the 31st July deadline.  I’m hoping that someone will put me straight if I’m wrong here, but I’m thinking the lactose puts this beer into the Specialty Beers category; as it contains a “non-core brewing ingredient at a level intended to impart a distinctive and discernible flavour or character“.  It’s my first attempt at a sweet stout, and after having tasted the wort, I decided that the amber malt has added a subtle biscuit flavour, and hope this carries through into the finished beer.  For this reason, I’m calling this a Malted Milk Stout

BrCSYpPIMAA1z1oOriginal Gravity (OG): 1.057
Final Gravity (FG): 1.024
Alcohol (ABV): 4.4%
Colour (EBC): 85
Bitterness (IBU): 27 (Average)

3.23kg Pale Ale Malt (Golden Promise)
0.52kg Roasted Barley (de-husked)
0.44kg Pale Crystal Malt
0.37kg Flaked Oats
0.27kg Amber Malt
0.23kg Lactose – Milk Sugar

30g Amarillo (leaf) (8.7% Alpha) @45 minutes from the end (boil)
Safale US-05 Ale Yeast (dry) 1pkt of 11.5g

Strike temp of 80C, 12.4L liquor for 4.83kg grain. Mashed in at 69C (single step infusion).   Mashed for 75 minutes.   First runnings 1.090.  Sparged at 76C 18.0L liquor.  Didn’t take a reading for pre-boil wort. 60 minute boil.

At 15 minutes from the end of the boil, I added the milk sugar to the copper (which I had dissolved into 1/2 litre of boiled water), along with the immersion chiller and protofloc.  

I’m not sure what the final gravity will be, and the FG should (hopefully) finish a lot higher that the 1.012, but BeerSmith didn’t seem to account for the lactose, neither did it seem to adjust the FG when I raised the mash temp.  Hopefully it’ll finish nearer 1.018 and the 5.2% abv stout that I’m shooting for.  Edit: It finished much higher – yet still within the BJCP style guidelines – at 1.024, making this a 4.4% beer.  Tasting good!

I collected 19L of wort, post boil, with an OG of 1.057.  Pitched the dry yeast at 20C.

29/06 1.038
02/07 1.033

05/07/1.024

09/07 1.024 – bottled 18L / batch primed with 78g sugar.

Dried American Ale Yeast

wpid-2014-05-02-10.14.20.jpg.jpegI don’t know enough about yeast, yet.  I have White & Zainisheff’s book – Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation, and I should make an effort to read it through.  Instead, I rely on yeast to do its thing – and do as many homebrewers do – focussing on the possibilities available through hops; malted barley and other adjuncts.  This is not to say there aren’t homebrewers who aren’t students of yeast, nor is it to say that all commercial brewers would pass Pasteur’s inspection, were he around today.  Yeast is often something brewers pitch nonchalantly into their precious hopped- wort, hoping that it doesn’t muck everything up after 8 hours of toil.

I’ve used liquid yeasts, and have experimented with pitching directly from the vial, and with making yeast starters.  My enthusiasm for liquid yeast has only waned because there is a need to plan ahead i.e. identifying a brew day, and working back 48-72 hours (or whatever the time required) to grow your yeast big enough for the intended wort.  My brewdays happen on a whim.  I see a break in the clouds, and go for it.  Like many other homebrewers, this means that I rely on dried yeast.  Yeast that will happily sit in it’s foil packet, high up in the fridge, alongside the parmesan cheese; eggs and a chocolate supply the kids can’t reach.  Yeast that will be ready for action at a moments notice.  Yeast that is reliable, and that will point it’s finger at you should the beer go wrong.  I am of course talking about Fermentis Safale US-05, an American ale yeast which – in the right quantities – will make short work of even high-gravity worts, and won’t interfere with the flavours and aromas you hope to achieve in your blonde, pale, IPA, porter, stout etc.  There are many other dry yeast strains available, but in my opinion, few can offer the reliability and ability to be sympathetic to fairly uncontrolled fermentation temperatures.  It’ a gem.

I shop for most of my homebrewing ingredients and sundries from The Malt Miller, and noticed they now sell their own West Coast Style ale yeast.  I bought a sachet, and used it in a recent brew.  I also brewed another beer a couple of days later, and pitched my usual US-05.  While this is not a scientific comparison (different recipes, no temp control etc), I thought it would be interesting to blog something anecdotal about their performance, not least because of a comment I received on the West Coast Ale Yeast – from Bob Arnott (@RecentlyDrunk).

I followed this up with Bob, and he added a little more context:

“It started slow, took a few days to krausen and then took it’s time to chomp to FG.  I had the brew fridge set at 19C +/- 1C”

And then another comment from Anthony Davies (@ploddingonwards):

“Isn’t Malt Miller West Coast basically [DANSTAR] BRY-97 [American West Coast Beer Yeast]?  Eats hops but attenuates like nobodies business”

Here’s how they compared:

Brew date    Yeast                                              OG                 SG 23/04       SG 27/04      SG 29/04

19/04           Malt Miller West Coast Style        1.072              1.040                1.021              1.020

21/04           Fermentis Safale US-05                1.042              1.039                 1.020             1.009

I took another gravity reading this morning and the Malt Miller yeast is stuck at 1.020.  As suggested by a few folk on Twitter, I’ll get hold of some US-05 and pitch that.  In the meantime, I’ve gently roused the beer in the FV.

There is no reason why another brew, different temps, OG, etc. might suit the Malt Miller West Coast Ale Yeast, but I’ll be sticking with US-05 for the foreseeable.  Although, I might give the Wyeast American Ale 1056 a chance too.

Comments welcome below, or on Twitter (that’s usually the easiest way).  I’m aware this isn’t the most thorough of posts, given the complexity of the subject, but hopefully a decent topic for discussion.

 

AG#34 Lawnmower Mash

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Original Gravity (OG): 1.048
Final Gravity (FG): 1.010
Alcohol (ABV): 5.0%
Colour (EBC): 6
Bitterness (IBU): 35 (Average)

4.100kg Pilsen Malt (Dingemans)
0.205kg Pale Wheat Malt

10g Mystery hop from the freezer (leaf) (15.0% Alpha) FWH
50g Summer (leaf) (6.1% Alpha) @15 minutes from the end (boil)
50g Summer (leaf) (6.1% Alpha) @0 minutes from the end (boil)
20g Mystery hop (leaf) (15.0% Alpha) @0 minutes from the end (boil)
20g Nelson Sauvin (leaf) (13.0% Alpha) @0 minutes from the end (boil)
 
Safale US-05 (dry) 1pkt of 11g

I wanted to rid the demons from my last brew, when I seemed to lose the plot a little, and threw loads of random malts together, wpid-1398107043389.jpgwhich will probably end up masking all the hoppy goodness, that I had intended for the so-called IPA.  Anyway, this recipe was also plucked from thin air, but figured that it was a much safer bet.  It’s a pale beer, but not a pale ale.  Brewed with lager malt, but not a lager.  I guess it could be called a hoppy blonde ale, but whatever I call it, I’m aiming for a lawnmower beer – with any luck it’ll be a light, crisp, and refreshing beer, perfect for a hot summer day.

 This was also to be my first brew in my garage (where the lawnmower lives), something which I have convinced myself couldn’t possibly work due to the ancient electrics.  Having damaged my kitchen enough already, I thought I’d give the garage it’s chance.  I have plans to make the space much more brewing-friendly, but it was a revelation to be brewing without the constraints that a family kitchen presents.

Pretty straightforward brewday, except for the element in my old plastic boiler finally gave up.  A quick transfer to one that I had borrowed, and I was back on track.

Strike temp of 75C, 11.0L liquor for 4.305kg grain. Mashed in at 66C (single step infusion).   Mashed for 60 minutes. Sparged at 80C 19.0L liquor.  Collected 25L at 1.042.  60 minute boil.  

I collected 19L of wort, post boil, with an OG of 1.048. 

Pitched the dry yeast (sprinkled into the FV as I ran from the boiler) at 20C.

03/05/14 finished 1.009.
08/05/14 bottled. Batch primed 18L with 90g sugar.

AG#33 Double IPA – Fainting Goat

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*A myotonic goat, otherwise known as the fainting goat, is a domestic goat whose muscles freeze for roughly 10 seconds when the goat feels panic. (Image from Irked Magazine).

I fancied brewing a biggish IPA of around 7.4%, akin to the strength of Magic Rock’s Cannonball, but the similarities end there. The malt bill is a little busy, and not my usual approach to brewing.  I like to read up on beer style and then work my own recipe around that.  This happens to be a brew that uses up a few odds and ends, and the resulting beer could be either inspired, or a messy waste of time, and hops.  The numbers below represent what actually happened, rather than the calculated recipe. 

Original Gravity (OG): 1.072
Final Gravity (FG): 1.012
Alcohol (ABV): 8.0%
Colour (EBC): 30
Bitterness (IBU): 72 (Average)

4.00kg Pilsner Malt (Dingemans)
1.00kg Amber Malt
0.22kg Melanoidin Malt
0.20kg Golden Promise Pale Ale Malt (Simpsons)
0.20kg Aromatic Malt
0.20kg Munich Malt
0.20kg Pale Wheat Malt
0.18kg Aromatic Malt
12g Summit (leaf) (17.5% Alpha) FWH
30g Ahtanum (pellets) (5.2% Alpha) @10 minutes from the end (boil)
30g Bravo (leaf) (17.3% Alpha) @10 minutes from the end (boil)
30g Centennial (pellets) (11.2% Alpha) @10 minutes from the end (boil)
30g Falconer’s Flight (pellets) (10.8% Alpha) @10 minutes from the end (boil) 
70g Ahtanum (pellets) (5.2% Alpha) dry hop
70g Bravo (leaf) (17.3% Alpha) dry hop
70g Centennial (pellets) (11.2% Alpha)
70g Falconer’s Flight (pellets) (10.8% Alpha) dry hop

Malt Miller West Coast Style Ale Yeast (dry) 1pkt of 15g

Strike temp of 75C, 15.0L liquor for 6.00kg grain. Mashed in at 66C (single step infusion).   Mashed for 75 minutes.   First runnings 1.100.  Sparged at 76C 18.0L liquor.  Collected 246L at 1.063. 90 minute boil.  

I collected 20L of wort, post boil, with an OG of 1.072.  Although on further inspection of the FV once it had settled, there was a couple of litres of hop matter.  This is consistent with the truly terrible run off from the boiler.  The hop stopper kept blocking up and I resorted to using a sanitised spoon to help things along.  Far from ideal.  Decided to stick with a stronger beer (albeit less of it). 

Pitched the West Coast Style Ale Yeast at 20C.

I’ll be transferring to secondary and adding the dry hops for 4 days.
30/04/14 Dry hop. All pellets as above, less Bravo.
04/05/14 Finished at 1.018, so 7% abv

 

The Pursuit of Purism

If you’ve ever made a conscious decision to take a break from something; create some healthy distance; curb your enthusiasm, then you’ll know that this usually has the opposite effect.  The thing you wish to wane seems to grow in power. Your vice becomes universal.

Me [me, the voice inside my head]:
“You should probably try and have interests, other than your interest in beer”.
Me [my actual voice, out loud]:
“Oh, just piss off”.

I decided on the following:
1. Mountain biking. I end up wearing brewery branded cyclewear, and finding pubs that I didn’t know existed. Fail.
2. Drawing. Which quickly became doodling. Doodling which manifested itself as #twattybeerdoodles. Fail.
3. Reading non beer related texts. I read the excellent – 8000m by Alan Hinkes. He mentions beer infrequently, and I chalked this up as a win.  I then start reading Walter Bonatti’s – The Mountains of My Life. Bonatti’s accounts of his climbing career are captivating.  This is a man who risked his life in pursuit of fulfilling his passion to climb the impossible, and if that wasn’t enough, he chose to do this under a self imposed purism.  Preparation, planning, peak physical fitness and bloody minded determination were the key to his successes. He climbed using only basic kit, traditional ways and means that have become redundant through the advances in technical methods. It was the ethos of the classical alpinism of the 1930s that inspired him. Reading his account of a treacherous and seemingly impossible solo attempt on the Southwest Pillar of the Dru (1955) – near to Chamonix, France. Equipped with an ice axe, hammer, hemp ropes, crude pitons and wooden wedges, he carried only what he needed to undertake the gruelling five day expedition. I was gripped by his blow by blow descriptions, which at times appeared to find him in circumstances which were beyond desperate. Then, I read this paragraph, where Bonatti is about to sleep on the exposed rock face, after being forced to lighten his load earlier that day – leaving behind his ice axe and other non essentials. What he wrote next made me smile, and then chuckle:

“I was soaked through, my hand injured, I had no ropes, and I was smack in the middle of the funnel of the Dru, a sitting duck for anything falling from above.  But that wasn’t all. I was also short of food. The previous evening I had been forced to throw away more than half of what little food I had to begin with, thanks to a piton* that had punctured the plastic flask of fuel-stove alcohol, which had leaked inside the sack and spoiled the food.  I had nothing left but two packets of biscuits, a tube of condensed milk, four little cheese triangles, a small tin of tuna, a tin of liver pate, a few lumps of sugar, some dried fruit, a small flask of cognac and two cans of beer”.

Fail? I think not. Even during one man’s pursuit of purism in mountaineering; literally risking life and limb to stay true to classical alpinism, there was beer.  I conclude that my resistance to fermented hopped wort, is futile.

*piton = In climbing, a piton, also called a pin or peg) is a metal spike (usually steel) that is driven into a crack or seam in the rock with a hammer, and which acts as an anchor to protect the climber against the consequences of a fall.