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

 

50 Shades of Pale (Malted Barley)

I know, I know, terrible title.

I homebrew once a month, if the going is good to fair. I buy my pale malted barley in sacks of 25kg (55lbs) (milled). I brew 19-23L brew lengths, depending on the recipe. I end up with a malted barley hanging around, gradually degrading, and brewing with ‘old’ malted barley is ultimately lowering the quality of the beer that I brew.

Buying in bulk represents good value, as a general rule. So I am loathed to stop buying the 25kg sacks of malt. Brewing more than once a month is likely to reduce my enjoyment of brewing at home, as I have experienced what it is like to rush through a brewday, just to “get it done”. My solution? roast my own malted barley. I have an abundance of pale malted barley (base malt), and I may require additional, smaller quantities of crystal malts (specialty malt). For the sake of any argument – as I don’t claim to be an expert maltster – lets call these light and dark malts.

The last beer I brewed was a Brown Ale, and it was based on an American recipe, which called for Victory malt (which I substituted for Biscuit Malt), and Toasted Wheat Malt. I asked around about Toasted Wheat Malt, with no joy, and decided to toast some Pale Wheat Malt? Obvious, right? Anyway, I put the few hundred grams of Pale Wheat Malt into a small roasting tray, and grilled for about 5 minutes, giving the tray a shake every minute to ensure as much of the grain was exposed to the heat as possible.  Not an exact science.  Will that have made the difference? I guess I won’t know for sure, but it smelled toasted, so I’m assuming that it will have altered the flavour too.

Taking this a step further, and with guidance from the legendary Ray Daniels (Designing Great Beers), a book that is so good, that I’ve systematically turned the corner down on every page – Damn it Ray! – I plan to do the following. I want to brew an Amber Ale. That’s right reader, I will attempt to roast some Pale Ale Malt (Golden Promise) and transform it into Amber Malt. Ray cites the roasting procedure to Dr.John Harrison and the Durden Park Beer Circle.

Roasting Your Own Amber Malt

Place pale ale malt to a depth of 1/2 inch in a foil-lined cooking pan. Cook in the oven as follows:
1. 45 minutes at 230 degrees F (110C)
2. 20-60 minutes at 300 degrees F (149C)

After the first 20 minutes, cut several kernels [Note to self: the grain not the brewers] in half to inspect the colour of the starchy endosperm [stop giggling at the back]. For amber malt, this area should be light buff in colour when finished [seriously guys cut that out, you’re spoiling this for the rest of us].

Continue heating at 300 degrees F (149C) until this colo[u]r is achieved, usually after 45 to 50 minutes.

I will report back with my findings.

Thanks for reading!

Homebrewing in the UK (2013/14)

Warning:  this is a long post, and was intended to be posted in time for Boak & Bailey’s Beery Long Reads.

Roughly this time last year, I wrote about “homebrewing in the UK”.  It’s my opinion that the boom-and-boom of homebrewing is symbiotic with the general surge of interest in beer.  Look around and you will see more independent bars and off licences; more breweries, more homebrewing competitions, some beer on the TV; a bigger selection of beer in restaurants. It’s a veritable beer bonanza out there.

2013 was another good year for homebrewing, and 2014 is already full of promise.  Not to discount the hundreds – if not thousands – of folk who quietly go about brewing alcoholic beverages in their kitchens, bathrooms, sheds, basements and garages – but there is a growing number of brewers who are interested in having their brews critiqued, or taking their beer to the next level.  From experience, I have found that this can be an anxiety provoking step, a step into unknown and sometimes unfriendly territory.  However, when you ask for someone’s opinion of a beer that you have lovingly created, you should be prepared for the ugly truth.  The good news is that it’s possible to learn from even the clumsiest of comments.  Several more homebrewing groups have formed over the last 12 months, and I can recommend them as a safe place to pour and share your beer, and be guaranteed at least one useful piece of feedback.  A step further on from this, there are local/regional brewers who support homebrewing, and who periodically offer an incentive for homebrewers to compete.

Unless you were out of the country during February, you will not have escaped the giddy anticipation of the announcement of the Craft Beer Company’s National Homebrewing Awards.  You can read more about it here, and from the winner (Andy Parker).  Andy will be brewing 20BBLs of his American Red beer, with competition partners – Dark Star Brewing Co during 2014.  If that wasn’t big enough news, then you only need to look at Siren Craft Brew ‘s competition  run in partnership with transient Swedish outfit, Omnipollo.  They announced their winner, Mike Bates, who convinced the judges with his English hopped 4.5% abv Saison.  Unsurprisingly, Mike knows a thing or too about beer, educating himself on a daily basis through his work with the fabulous House of Trembling Madness, York.   I hope some of the resulting beer will make its way back to Yorkshire!

There have been other competitions, notably the UK National Homebrewing Competition (not to be confused with the Craft Beer Co) over the last couple of years, and all of which have shown initiative and helped to demonstrate the shift in homebrewing honours; from ghastly ‘beer’ born from the airing cupboard; to commercial accolades.

So, that was my take on the UK’s homebrewing  scene, rather a long introduction, but one that hopefully leads nicely to what other people think.  I contacted a number of folk who are interested in homebrewing.  I approached all of the respondents with the same question –  that I am interested in the apparent growth of interest in homebrewing…and seeking any observations they might have; and where they see homebrewing ‘going’”.

Here’s what they had to say:  

Phil Lowry writes CAMRA’s  homebrew column in BEER magazine.  He also brews at home, sells beer for a living at beermerchants.com, and founded the London Brewers’ Alliance.

“[the growth in homebrewing] is really parallel to the growth in interest in the provenance of what we consume.  Food, clothes, electricity, you name it, I think we’re being more conscientious about what, and who we deal with.  I think beer, being that we can make it “easily” at home, falls in the easy to do, early steps bracket.  Then add grow your own, and, all the other things we can do to be better at living.   It’s just the weird, obsessives like ourselves, and our friends who take it further to the extremes.

But, I think there’s interest, whether it’s growing, as fast as we perhaps perceive.   I do think it’s [a case of] more people coming out of the woodwork, that “coming out of the closet”, is acceptable, for want of a better analogy.  

There are of course a few have-a-goes who fall beside the way side,  but, ultimately yes, there is a growth, parallel to the growth in interest in beer.  The great part, is the authenticity and quality are entirely in you the brewers’ hands.  We’re in good times, I just hope that convenience doesn’t trump “home made” in time”.

 James Kemp, formerly of Fullers, Thornbridge and Buxton, and now working for SPL International, and describes himself as – among other things – a “homebrew geezer”.

I see homebrewing in the UK at a decisive point, there is massive potential for homebrewers to be at the forefront of the beer revolution that’s occurring in the UK, there are breweries popping up all over the place and let’s be honest – where are the new wave of head brewers going to come from if not from homebrewing ranks? Already I see a short supply of quality commercial brewers in the UK, who’s going to fill that need? I think it’s time for the homebrewer to step up, the same way that the homebrewer in the US stepped up.

There is some absolutely fantastic homebrew being brewed out there, I recently had a conversation with a beer retailer who said “you’ll get better brewed and packaged beers at the national homebrew comp than you will from the majority of commercial UK breweries”. 

Obviously there is also some extremely dire examples, but often that’s a reflection on the amount of misinformation the brewer has to disseminate.  Homebrewing literature is shockingly dated and contradictory, this is where I think the homebrewer is being held back and ultimately where the brewing industry as a whole will be held back.

This is where I come in I guess, I’m using my experience in the industry to cut through the rubbish and give a little back by advising and helping anyone that wants to make good beer”.

Robert Neale is a keen homebrewer, and owner of online homebrew & micro brewery suppliers – The Malt Miller. 

Since The Malt Miller site went live in May 2010 we have seen a wholesale change in the appetite of the all grain home brewer. Home brewers were brewing mainly because it was cheaper, and although that is still part of the market we are now finding that most of our customers are brewing at home because, outside of the major cities, they find it hard to purchase the beer they want to drink.  Being able to supply exciting new varieties of hops, malt and yeast from the US, Europe and the Southern Hemisphere, the exact same ingredients that the famous “craft” breweries are using has been key.

As it stands we have 6800 customers registered from all over Europe and that is growing daily.  To keep up with demand we now employ three members of staff along with myself, and send out an average of 50 orders a day. Business has come a long way from selling a few packets of hops through an internet forum!

Graeme Coates is an award winning homebrewer; 2012 National Homebrew Champion, which netted him a brewing ‘holiday’ with none other than Norwegian outfit –  Nøgne ø

I’ve been homebrewing and competing a while now – in my view there’s been an enormous change in the hobby which has been visible from not only the competition side of things but also through aspects of social media, forums, blogs etc. The hobby is growing, there’s a continued increase in the availability of new ingredients (the recent experimental hop varieties a good example), and there seem to be more competitions taking place being run in conjunction with brewers and bars alike.

In earlier years the majority of the entries in competitions I entered (eg Sutton) seemed to come from the English Pale ale styles – APAs were few and far between, and rarely did you see a beer over 1065. The change started in Skipton (2010?) where the categories didn’t help out the judging when an enormous number landed up in “Speciality” (with this being split into “Belgian” and “non-Belgian”!) and I think we’ve seen continued expansion from homebrewers since, many have gone on to do it commercially too.

And you know, I’m almost feeling a little left behind in some respects with some of the ideas that people are coming out with – and much of this is being reflected in the way some of the commercials are heading (and probably for good reason as many are/were homebrewers themselves and inspiration runs two ways here).

Where are we going in the next year? I think there’s increasing numbers of homebrewers trying their hand at (intentionally!) sour beers – Ali [Kocho-Williams – now owner of Seren Brewing Co.] won the UKNHC (UK National Homebrew Competition) with a Straight Lambic in Sept 2013 – the variety of “additions” to beer (as debateable as some might sound seems to be a current trend, and I doubt the need to experiment with ever hoppier beers (with emerging hop varieties) is going to stop soon.

The only thing I’d add is that I’d not be too quick to wish away the homebrewing of low ABV bitters and good traditional lagers within the homebrewing fraternity – they are wonderful categories to really test and hone your brewing ability, as there is often nowhere to hide… (but that suffer enormously from stereotypical “twigs” and “lager is piss” descriptors).  Simple recipes can offer great flavour just as much as a complex one after all… Can I really stick my neck out to hope for the year we see the UK Homebrewer embracing the malty dunkel, the crisp German Pils and the flavoursome well brewed and perfectly balanced English bitter…?” [you just did, Graeme!]

 

Homebrewers Kevin Head, and partner in crime Jono, kindly added some thoughts from the perspective of homebrewers relatively new to the hobby, and therefore relatively untarnished by their peers!

“[First Jono’s thoughts] Making beer was something that I’d wanted to do for a while but I hadn’t got round to it. I guess fatherhood and drinks in the pub were things that brought us together but it was probably our respective wives that suggested that we were both keen to make some beer and that we should get together to do some brewing.  It’s somehow much more acceptable to spend 4 hours making beer at home than going out to the pub for the same amount of time – at least if kids wake up there’s still the possibility of being useful at home! The internet has been a huge help in finding out the basics and having an Edinburgh resource like Brewstore has made sourcing and sense-checking ingredients a much easier process.  I think the homebrewing “movement” isn’t just one thing, but the two main factors to me as an outsider looking in are probably the general tightening of purse-strings around the country over the past few years (along with the realisation that you can make decent alcohol without spending anywhere near as much per beer). 

My personal motivations are that I feel that this is a lost art within my family – I can’t imagine that with a farming background on my mum’s side of the family that there wouldn’t have been beer being brewed in the farmhouse, and I feel sad that those skills and recipes are something I’m having to relearn.  I’m a fairly experimental cook and having tried my hand at making cheese, chutney, jams, pickles it was only a matter of time before I needed to try something else new.  

In terms of resources I’ve found BrewToad useful for looking at other people’s recipes as well as the BrewMaster software for trying to make our own. I’ve listened to a few episodes of the Dr. Homebrew podcast and although it’s very US based (and I wish there was a UK version) I’ve learned a bit from there. The main resource has been my brewing partner Kev and just doing some kit beers, then experimenting with changing kits slightly, working hard to get the process right then moving up to doing Brew In A Bag. It’s an exciting hobby to have started and I personally feel like this is something I’ll be perfecting for the rest of my life!

[and a few words from Kevin]  In terms of anything additional/extra [to Jono’s words], I guess I have a bit more of a ‘beer geek’ background than Jono and there’s definitely something aligned to that which is really appealing.  Children, wife on maternity leave, etc. has severely curtailed my previous beer spend and the potential for making cheap(ish), quality house beers is a big, big incentive.  I also have pretty arbitrary, self-imposed price limits just now (no more than £3 on a 330ml bottle and £5 on a 500ml… devastating huh?!) which mean that some of my favourite beers (strong ales, imperial stouts, barley wines) are borderline inaccessible.  Not wanting to walk before we can run, but I hope to build up towards being able to make my own versions of these big beers one day.

Building up, or the urge to escalate, is something that I’m already finding is a massive and almost irresistible urge.  I’m already seeing that there’s something really compulsive about this homebrewing lark.  Whether it’s around quality, ingredients, batch size, brew day frequency or equipment, the desire to scale up appears to be a strong one.  (In other words, popping a Cooper’s kit brew on just doesn’t quite cut it anymore!).  I’m still committed to trying to brew quality, inexpensive beers for my own drinking, but can see that keeping things simple won’t be easy and certainly won’t be every time.

Oh and sharing!  Sharing and giving away beers you’ve made yourself is a great feeling.  I reckon it’ll be an even greater feeling as the beer continues to improve over time.

The final comment I thought it was worth making is how welcoming, supportive, generous and helpful I’ve found the hom brewing scene to be.  Whether through Twitter, or the monthly club run at Brewstore (our ‘LHBS’), people have been nothing but inclusive and giving of their time, knowledge and expertise.  My early impressions are of it being a genuine community which is a really positive and open place.  It seems, with a bit of investment of time and energy, anyone can begin to feel part of that community very quickly”.

London Amateur Brewers – Peter Hughes is the LAB Chairman

You’d be right about the growth of home brewing in the UK. We’ve experienced huge growth in the last few years. When I joined LAB in 2009 we were a small group of about 15 people who would meet in a small upstairs room at the Wenlock Arms.  Since then we have seen a lot of new members come into the hobby and we now have 40 – 50 members regularly attending meetings at our current and larger home, The Draft House (Tower Bridge).  We’ve also seen some of our members move into pro brewing, some starting their own breweries and some getting jobs as brewers.  LAB has also been lucky enough to participate in and contribute to important brewing trials, most recently trialling experimental hops given to us by Dr Peter Darby at Wye Hops. I think what’s significant is home brewing’s contribution to the new wave of modern brewers starting up in this country.  The Kernel & Weird Beard were born out of LAB and some of the other exciting London brewers made their start as home brewers too”. [Peter also referenced an article written by Mark Dredge, for Zymurgy Magazine about the link between London’s Pro and Amateur brewers – most definitely worth a read, and is an article that I have referenced before].

Manchester Homebrew Group’s – Ed Grimley

“Much like craft brewing, the home brewing scene has exploded in recent times. The number of people taking up brewing at home is astounding and incredibly exciting to see. New people turn up every month to our meetings who have taken the jump into all-grain home brewing and are very keen to learn more. Home brew clubs are popping up all over the country: the number of people willing to share hints and tips is endless, everyone is so happy to help one another out.

We’ve held tasting competitions and there have been some real crackers, I’m always surprised by the originality and creativeness of home brewers. You have anything and everything your imagination can think of to play with, and no commercial issues that naturally hang over professional breweries.  I’ve seen all kinds of beers: from strange flavour combinations to downright crazy ideas! It’s impressive and exciting to see what people can come up with.

I have rarely sampled a ‘bad’ home brewed beer.  Gone are the days of home brewing meaning cheap and disgusting brown beers, it’s now about a real craft and passion to create a beer just as good as one you’d drink in a pub or bar. Here’s to the future!” 

Last, but not least, Andy Parker – Award winning homebrewer, most recently crowned Craft Beer Co. UK Homebrew Champion; and aspiring Pro-Brewer with Elusive Brew Co.

If attendance at the London Amateur Brewer meetings are anything to go by, then home brewing definitely increased in popularity in 2013, perhaps reflecting the resurgence in commercial brewing. Some people brew at home to save money but others have designs on brewing commercially. I think the bulk of home brewers fall somewhere in between however, wanting to brew quality beer purely as a hobby with less of a focus on cost and more on producing the best quality they can. That’s what drove me to start brewing at home – a desire to recreate the commercial beers I enjoyed but couldn’t always get hold of.  It was once I started blogging and tweeting my experiences that I really started to learn.  

The feedback and engagement I got from fellow home brewers and professional brewers really helped me improve my process and the results got better and better, which drew me further in and encouraged me even more.  The online engagement soon spilled over into real life and I’ve met and am now friends with many other brewers”.

(Update: 19/03/14) Darren Shaw, homebrewer and blogger of homebrew at Urban Chicken Homebrew.

” ‘It’s the most expensive way to save money on beer’ – a statement I read last year and it’s certainly true.  Homebrewing is no longer about buckets of brown beer in airing cupboards and creating cheap pints of ‘the strong stuff’, people are brewing to specific styles and taking pride in what’s being created.  The art and craft of homebrewing is emerging, rather than it’s sole purpose being to create a budget beer.  However, on basic, homemade kit, great beer can be brewed.

My enthusiasm for brewing stems from an interest in the technical side, and the creative aspect including producing the artwork for my labels.  All aspects of homebrewing can be aided by really good online brewing communities (Twitter, YouTube, forums etc.), with people always willing to share information and ideas.  Beer swaps – not many people live next door to a fellow homebrewer – provide a good way to get feedback and sample the creations of others around the UK.

In 2013 I had the opportunity to get involved with two local breweries; The White Dog Brewery as part of a CAMRA ‘brew off’ and Muirhouse Brewery to create a collaboration brew (Dumb Cluck, a 5% Stout brewed with Cascade) which went to the Robin Hood beer festival in Nottingham, The Brewery Tap micro pub in my home town of Ilkeston and a few other pubs around the area.

This year I intend to increase brew lengths after the process of upgrading my kit but in the mean time a converted cool box and a plastic boiler are doing the job just fine!

I can see the scene continuing to grow in 2014 with even more people getting involved with the addictive hobby that is homebrewing”.

 

As this is already a long article, I won’t say much more, but I would like to thank all of the contributors.  I felt I could have asked so many more people, and would still have gained additional insights into the current homebrewing scene.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment.

AG#32 Texas Brown Ale – Continuity Error

I recently blogged about my intention to brew a Texas Brown Ale.  More about it here.

Here’s the writeup from the brewday last week (28/02/14).  This beer is destined for the Northern Craft Brewers & Saltaire Brewery bar.  Brown hoppy craft cask ale.  No filtration, no pasteurisation, no pressurisation, no vitriol. 

wpid-storageemulated0DCIMCamera2014-02-26-19.14.18.jpg.jpgOriginal Gravity (OG): 1.048
Final Gravity (FG): 1.010
Alcohol (ABV): 5.1%
Colour (EBC): 50.4
Bitterness (IBU): 48.9 (Average)

3.30kg Golden Promise Pale Malt (Simpsons)
0.50kg Biscuit Malt (Dingemans)
0.25kg Dark Crystal Malt
0.25kg Chocolate Malt
0.25kg Pale Wheat Malt (toasted)

10g Columbus (Tomahawk) (16.5% Alpha) @60 minutes from the end (boil)
12g Brewer’s Gold (7.5% Alpha) @30 minutes from the end (boil)
88g Brewer’s Gold (7.5% Alpha) @10 minutes from the end (boil)
50g Columbus (Tomahawk) (16.5% Alpha) @0 minutes from the end (boil)
100g US Cascade (pellets) (5.8% Alpha) dry hop

Safale US05  yeast.

Strike temp of 75C, 12.0L liquor for 4.55kg grain. Mashed in at 65C (single step infusion).   Mashed for 75 minutes.   First runnings 1.090.  Sparged at 76C 19.0L liquor.  Collected 24L at 1.046. 60 minute boil.  

I collected 17L of wort, post boil, with an OG of 1.056.  Liquored back with 2.0L cooled boiled water to 19L with an OG of 1.048

Pitched US05 yeast starter at 19C.

Update: 03/03/14  1.040 

I’ll be transferring to secondary and adding 100g US Cascade pellets for 3-5 days.

Update: 12/03/14  FG 1.012 (4.8%) Dry hopped with 100g US Cascade pellets (in primary).

N.B. My last brewday led me to look at my efficiencies.  I got in a right muddle and was rescued by a professor of brewing, loosely associated with Stringers Brewery.  I applied the prof’s maths to my numbers from this brew. And I calculated my Mash Efficincy as 80% and my Brewhouse Efficiency as 69%.  Workings out, below. 

Pale malt: 3.5 kg @ 293 L.deg per kilo = 1025.5
Biscuit malt: 0.5 @ 273 = 136.5

Dark crystal malt: 0.25 kg @ 275 = 68.75
Chocolate malt: 0.25 @ 273 = 68.25

wheat malt: 0.25 @ 296 = 74.0

Total potential extract 1025.5 + 136.5 + 68.75 + 68.25 +74.0 = 1373 litre.degrees

My runnings from the mash were 24 litres at 1.046 Specific Gravity, so: 24 litres x 46 degrees = 1104 litre.degrees

My mash efficiency is something like…
 1104/1373 = 0.804 = 80%

Post-boil, I ended up with…
17L @ 1.056 i.e 17 x 56 = 952 and 952/1373 = 0.693
That is 69.0% which I’m calling my brewhouse efficiency.

 A couple of photos:

The grist

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The toasted wheat malt

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First runnings from the mash

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The final colour

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Homebrew Wednesday – Hopsinjoor

I’ve blogged about other people’s homebrew before, but hope to start contributing to the Homebrew Wednesday ‘thing’.  I say ‘thing’ because I’m not sure of its origin, but know that people interested in homebrewing have allocated Wednesday as the Holy Day.  Be it; brewing, blogging, vlogging, tasting, or sharing their latest brewkit project, Wednesday is the day to do it.

I have made some friends while brewing and blogging, and one such friend recently sent me a couple of his beers.  I haven’t asked him if he’d like to be Wednesday’d, but I don’t think he’ll mind.

Blog: Hopsinjoor’s Brewing Spot

Twitter: @hopsinjoor

Among other things, Al likes to brew beer at home.  I’m writing this as I look at two of his beers, both labelled and packed with vital stats and ingredients.  Off to a good start then!  I’m guilty of sending homebrew out to friends, and when they ask me what’s in it, I tell them what I can remember, which is usually good enough to be honest.  I drank the beers before reading the contents.

Smashton’s Bruxellensis IPA (Mk 1)

Pours murky amber colour, decent white head, good carbonation, smells fantastic (think Axe Edge meets Orval), sweetness, hops are jumping out of the glass, peach, sweet orange, lemon, bready.

Flavour/taste: resiny, grassy, peppery, fruit salad sweets, alcohol

Medium body, good carbonation

Really balanced bitterness and the punchy Mosaic hops play nicely with the Belgian yeast.  Pretty boozy.

Slightly dry on the finish, and then a long, subtle bitterness (considering the 70 IBUs).

Really complex beer, full of flavour and backed up with generous aromas.  It’s difficult to get across how good this beer is.  This is Al’s 31st All Grain brew and is not yet on his blog.

wpid-storageemulated0DCIMCamera2014-02-12-21.04.09.jpg.jpgSmashton’s Bruxellensis IPA Mk 1
Original Gravity (OG): 1.065
Final Gravity (FG): 1.008
Alcohol (ABV): 7.5%
Bitterness (IBU): 71.3 
Brewed: 21/11/2013
Bottled: 16/12/2013
Grain:  Marris Otter, Munich, Crystal, Wheat
Hops: Magnum (bittering), Magnum, Mosaic
Yeast: WLP650 Brettanomyces Bruxellensis

I’ll enjoy this beer, then update the post with beer #2 later this evening.  Cheers Al.

Smashton’s Winner Staison Bretted Stout (Mk 2)

Next up, stout.  It’s stormy outside, the stove is blazing, and I now have a glass of stout.  Same as before, drank the beer before reading the details on the label.

Opened with a fizz and gushed a bit, but lost very little beer.  Skills.

Pours black, the initial fizz settling into a thin head – fed by a stream of carbonation (just visible at the side of the glass).

The aroma is all about the yeast, and a faint whiff of roasted malts.  It has a Belgian yeast esters going on, and really mixes you up….reading stout on the label, pitch black in the glass, and then “Hallo!”

Initial taste is intense tartness – and I get the two mixed up, but – sour, like sherbet crystals.  The sourness dissipates leaving a smooth coffee flavour.

It’s a really interesting beer, I’ve had nothing quite like it.  I think this beer is too refined for me….it’s tough when you have no reference points.  It’s a sour stout, right? Al?  I’m thinking, acidic dark malts, and then the blend of yeasts playing tricks on me?  I need to know more about this one.

Definitely one to sip and enjoy, which I intend to do.  Cheers once again for the beers Al.

wpid-20140212_223910.jpgSmashton’s Winner Staison Bretted Stout Mk 2
Original Gravity (OG): 1.078
Final Gravity (FG): 1.009
Alcohol (ABV): 9.0%
Bitterness (IBU): 62 
Brewed: 27/10/2013
Bottled: 08/12/2013
Grain:  Marris Otter, Roasted Barley, Wheat, Flaked Oats, Chocolate Malt, Rye
Hops: Bramling X, Galena
Yeast: Saison / Brett

AG#31 Raspberry Blonde

It’s been a while (AG#31 British Hopped IPA, still to write up).  This one is my entry for the Northern Craft Brewers & Saltaire Brewery competition.  

“The Homebrew Competition is to brew a speciality beer:
It could contain Herbs, Spices, Vegetables, Fruit but the idea is you get a 5th ingredient to compliment and add to the Water – Malt – Hops – Yeast”.

I decided to play it safe and go with a simple recipe.

Original Gravity (OG): 1.044
Final Gravity (FG): 1.010
Alcohol (ABV): 4.46%
Colour (EBC): 7.3
Bitterness (IBU): 24 (Average)

2.800 kg Golden Promise Pale Malt
0.800 kg  Pale Wheat Malt

10g Amarillo (8.7% Alpha) @60 minutes from the end (Boil)
30g Amarillo (8.7% Alpha) @10 minutes from the end (Boil)
50g Amarillo (8.7% Alpha) @0 minutes from the end (Boil)
1.400 kg Raspberries (from frozen) in secondary for 5 days

WLP001 California Ale Yeast.

Strike temp of 74C, 9.0L liquor for 3.600kg grain. Mashed in at 66C (single step infusion).   Mashed for 60 minutes.   First runnings 1.082.  Sparged at 76C 19.8L liquor.  Collected 24L at 1.040. 60 minute boil.  Amarillo in at 60 minutes (from the end of the boil), followed by additions at 10 minutes and 0 minutes.

I collected 18L of wort, post boil, with an OG of 1.044.

Pitched WLP001 California Ale Yeast starter at 19C.

Update: 10/02/14  1.024 

I’ll be transferring to secondary and adding 1.400 kg of raspberries (bought forzen and defrosted).

Update: 16/02/14 – Added 1.4kg raspberries to 18L. The FG was higher than expected at 1.014, making the beer nearer 4.0% abv

Update: 22/02/14 – transferred off raspberries. 15L.

Update: 28/02/14 – bottled 15L primed with 75g sugar syrup (5g/L to achieve 2.5 vols).

Not the most intersting of brewdays, or recipes, but the beer will hopefully be well balanced, with the raspberries the star of the brew.  This was a straightforward recipe, and I managed to make a note of most of my volumes and gravity readings, so thought I would try and understand ‘efficiency’ a little better.  My current understanding is poor, and it’s one of those things that I think “I’ll worry about it next time”.  To make things more confusing, an online calculator gave me one answer, and my calculation based on ‘the maths’ (edit: 12/02 – removed Brew Your Own, & Brewer’s Friend links – see update below), gave me a different answers (see below).  What I have learnt is that efficiency can be measured at each stage of the brew, and that my system, the water profile and the grist will affect efficiency.  I definitely want to get to the point where I can use efficiency calculations and brewing records to influence my brewday planning; but until I’m in a position where I have a brewkit that’s not botched together with whatever I can borrow, I’m not going to get hungup on grist and water treatment variables, too much.  Having a degree of certainty around temp and liquor losses should come first, right?

Back to this brew (I might brave a post on efficency another time).  I asked Twitter to help me out with my efficiency confusion, and the ever-reliable folk helped me out.  Thanks to; @hopsinjoor @RoostersOl @Jimthebrewer @BigAdeBrewing @Dunloptired and @tw05ers for their suggestions.   Al (@hopsinjoor) kindly shared his brew spreadsheet, which I’ll use when I have my kit ‘dialled in’

As ever, thanks for reading, and your comments are – almost – always welcome.  I’m sure there will be comments, as my understanding of efficiency; and the calculations above will be riddled with mistakes.  Hopefully, with practice, reading and comments, I’ll be able to put a more useful post together at some point.

Edit: 12/02 – see comments on efficiency:

The product of volume and gravity in brewers degrees.
For instance…
10 litres at SG 1.040 = 10 x 40 = 400 Litre.degrees.

The maltsters give laboratory extracts for the malts which you might  think of as the extract 1 kg would give in 1 litre. If that were actually possible. For decent pale malts this is probably around 300 (assuming a coarse crush / moisture as is).

That’s to say, one kg of malt mashed under ideal conditions would give you 1 litre of wort with a gravity of something like 1.300.

So, for an example homebrew mash:

Pale malt: 2.8 kg @ 293 L.deg per kilo = 820.4
wheat malt: 0.8 @ 296 = 236.8

You can get these values for extract from a recent malt analysis, but you can look up typical values on the InterWeb , or you could call it 300 and wouldn’t be far wrong.

Total potential extract 820.4 + 236.8 = 1057.2 litre.degrees

What you actually get out of the mash might be 24 litres at 1.040 Specific Gravity, i.e…
24 litres x 40 degrees = 960 litre.degrees

So your mash efficiency is something like…
 960/1057.2 = 0.908 = 90.8%

Post-boil, you might end up with…
 18L @ 1.044 i.e 18 x 44 = 792 and 792/1057.2 = 0.749
That is..74.9% which you might call brewhouse efficiency.

“Thanks Prof!” – full post and source here.

 
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