Texas Brown Ale

This will be my brew for the upcoming Northern Craft Brewers event in April 2014.  Alongside the bottle competition, there will be a full bar of homebrewed beer to explore, this being one them.  I’ve brewed an American Brown Ale before, but this time I’m taking inspiration from one of the craft brewing pioneers – Pete Slosberg and his Wicked Ale (circa. 1986).  Sadly this beer was discontinued in 2011*.  More recently a Bear Republic / Fat Head’s and Stone Brewing Co. collaboration paid tribute to Pete’s Wicked Ale, when they brewed TBA, a 7.1% / 80 IBU “extra hoppy brown ale“.  Sounds good to me!, however, as this will be on a packed bar, with fairly limited drinking time, and dispensed from cask, I have toned it down, and in doing so hopefully making it more akin to Pete’s beer.  I can always brew it again at full volume, for bottle consumption.

Original Gravity (OG): 1.051
Final Gravity (FG): 1.011
Alcohol (ABV): 5.3%
Colour (EBC): 50
Bitterness (IBU): 45 (Average)

The Stone collab recipe calls for; Victory malt – substituted for biscuit malt; Toasted Wheat Malt – which I will sub in some home-tasted pale wheat malt; and molasses – which I will omit for this lower abv version.  I think this wants to be a medium-bodied beer, so no point in overloading it, for the sake of “cloning” a recipe.  I think it will be complex enough with the roasted malts.

Golden Promise Pale Malt
Biscuit Malt
Crystal Malt (120L)
Chocolate Malt
Pale Wheat Malt (toasted)

The hops in a Texas Brown Ale should be Cascade heavy, but taking direction from the Stone TBA, I’m going to layer it up with Columbus and Brewer’s Gold (leaf hops) and dose it with a Cascade dry hop (pellet).  In comparison to the Stone beer, my target IBUs don’t look wayward enough, but I’m shooting for a BU:GU of 0.9, so should be plenty for the strength.

Columbus (bittering/late copper)
Brewer’s Gold (late copper)
Cascade (dry)

If I’m given enough encouragement, I may be persuaded to brew a 7.1% abv / 80 IBU version.  Comments welcome, as ever.

Thanks for reading.

*Brookston Beer Bulletin – “Gambrinus Discontinues Pete’s Wicked Ale

BIAB#2 Apollo Pale Ale

Following up from my first BIAB (Brew in a bag), I thought it would be interesting to brew a series of SMASH (single malt single hop) beers.  My first post talks you through the process – if you’re interested.

Original Gravity (OG): 1.040
Final Gravity (FG): 1.010
Alcohol (ABV): 4.0%
Colour: Pale
Bitterness (IBU): 45ish

2.500 kg  Golden Promise Pale Malt

9g Apollo (19.5% Alpha) @60 minutes from the end (Boil)
50g Apollo (19.5% Alpha) @0 minutes from the end (Boil)

Same volumes and temperatures as the first brew (or as near as possible). 6.25L of mash liquor with roughly a quarter of a Campden tablet.  80C strike temperature (to achieve a mash temp of somewhere around 70C).  Sparged with 7.00L liquor at 78C strike temp.

60 minute addition (20g) Apollo hops.  At 15 minutes from the end of the boil I added quarter of protofloc tablet and the Immersion Chiller.  At 0 minutes (flame out / hob off) I added my second addition of Apollo hops (50g) and turned IC on.

I collected 9L of 1.045 wort and pitched half packet of US05 yeast at 19C.  BIAB#1 stopped at 1.025 with half a packet.

Next brew will be same again, different hop.

BIAB#1 Amarillo Pale Ale

It’s been a little while since I’ve brewed at home, but recently bought a 10L BIAB (Brew in a bag) kit, or what has been dubbed – the stove top pilot kit.   I bought it online from Massive Brewery for a mere £100 and you can check the site out to see what you get for your money, or tweet Steve @MassiveBrewery

Original Gravity (OG): 1.040
Final Gravity (FG): 1.010
Alcohol (ABV): 4.0%
Colour: Pale
Bitterness (IBU): 40ish

2.500 kg  Golden Promise Pale Malt

20g Amarillo (8.7% Alpha) @60 minutes from the end (Boil)
50g Amarillo (8.7% Alpha) @0 minutes from the end (Boil)

If you’re not familiar with BIAB brewing, then in summary, you have one vessel (in this case an 11L stock pot), a bag or two for your grain, and a bag or two for your hops.  The bags keep your brewing liquor and your barley and hops apart, and is essential when you come to transferring to your FV, as there is no hop stopper or tap on this kit.

For anyone who is thinking of trying this, I’ll describe what the brewday entails.  There’s nothing complicated to do, and I tried to be laid back about temperatures etc.  I used the Massive Brewery Excel spreadsheet to calculate the volumes and temperatures for the mash and sparge liquor and treat the 6.25L of mash liquor with roughly a quarter of a Campden tablet.  I used a combination of kettle and warm tap water to get an 80C strike temperature (to achieve a mash temp of somewhere around 70C), then put the two grain bags and the 6.25L into the pot, gave the grain a good stir in each bag to make sure there were no dry spots, then hung the grain bags over the side of the pot, put the lid on and left it for 60 minutes.  Towards the end of the 60 minute mash, I boiled a couple of kettles of water and added them to a large pan (not part of the kit) and added tap water to hit 80C, and in preparation for the sparging. 

To sparge – I lifted each grain bag out in turn and squeezing as much of the wort from the bags and into the stock pot (turning the hob on at this point to start bringing it towards the boil – just as a bit of a time saver).  Then using the plastic fermentation bucket (part of the kit) and a large colander (not part of the kit) I poured the sparge liquor from the additional pan, through the grain bags, each in turn.  I let them sit a while, give the grain a stir and then transferred the wort from the fermentation bucket into the stock pot, squeezing the bags again to get as much wort (sugars) as possible. 

Once the wort in the stock pot reached boiling point I added a 60 minute addition (20g) Amarillo hops.  At 15 minutes from the end of the boil I added quarter of protofloc tablet and the Immersion Chiller (part of the kit).  At 0 minutes (flame out / hob off) I added my second addition of Amarillo hops (50g) and turned the chiller on.  It was


I collected 9L of 1.045 wort and pitched half a packet of US05 yeast at 19C.  After 3 days it was down to 1.025 and tasting/smelling great.

I’m impressed with the kit.  It’s basic, but it gives you exactly what you need to brew a beer in about 4 hours, which is a big plus for me at the moment. 

Also included in the kit price, but not shown in the photo: Digital thermometer, hydrometer, bottle capper, crown caps and ingredients for your first beer.  You may need to borrow the odd item from your kitchen, but other than that, the only things you’ll need to buy are some sanitiser and some protofloc (copper finings).

AG#29 West Coast IPA Style Ale

This is my brew for the Yorkshire vs Lancashire homebrew challenge arranged as part of the Leeds International Beer festival 2013.  I opted to brew a West Coast Pale style Ale….this plan evolved mid-brewday:  

Original Gravity (OG): 1.058
Final Gravity (FG): 1.010
Alcohol (ABV): 6.4%
Colour (SRM): 14 (EBC):
Bitterness (IBU): 50 (Average)

4.400 kg  Golden Promise Pale Malt
0.230 kg  Dark Crystal Malt

14g Green Bullet (12.0% Alpha) @40 minutes from the end (Boil)
20g Northdown (9.8% Alpha) @30 minutes from the end (Boil)
35g Cascade (7.9% Alpha) @15 minutes from the end (Boil)
20g Simcoe (15.0% Alpha) @o minutes from the end (Boil)
40g Centennial (11.0% Alpha) @0 minutes from the end (Boil)
90g Amarillo (8.7% Alpha) @0 minutes from the end (Boil)
10g Simcoe (15.0% Alpha) leaf in secondary for 3 days (dry hop)
20g Amarillo (8.7% Alpha) leaf in secondary for 3 days (dry hop)
20g Centennial (11.0% Alpha) T90 pellets in secondary for 3 days (dry hop)
20g Citra (12.0% Alpha) T90 pellets in secondary for 3 days (dry hop)
10g Columbus (12.6% Alpha) leaf in secondary for 3 days (dry hop)

I’ll add the usual info on temperatures etc at some point, but the main thing I learnt from this brew is that it isn’t safe to brew a Pale Ale while drinking super hoppy hoppy IPA and watching a beer review of Magic Rock’s Unhuman Cannonball.  I had already mashed in so the malts stayed the same, however my hop bill went out of the window and I delved into my freezer.  I stuck with the shorter volume collected and the higher OG.  I’ll add more dry hops than I originally intended on, et voilà!  A West Coast/West Yorkshire/Northern Hemisphere inspired India Pale Ale, of sorts.  The IBUs are lower than I would have aimed for had I intended to brew a 6.4% IPA, but the BU:GU ratio is still a respectable 0.86.

This beer will now be tasted alongside other Leeds Homebrew/Team Yorkshire beers, before we put forward our gladiator beers to be scrutinised by a panel of judges selected by the Leeds International Beer Festival.  Our Lancashire foe will be doing the same, and the best of Yorkshire will be pitted against theirs during the @LeedsBeer Fest in September.

AG#18 Transatlanticism – Porter

I brewed this beer for the Roosters Brewing Co. / Leeds Homebrew competition.  I didn’t write it up on the blog at the time as we were asked by the organisers/judges to keep our entries anonymous.  It won.  On Friday I went along to Roosters to brew it on their pilot kit.

Ol Fozzard (Head Brewer/Roosters) made it clear throughout the process that this was my beer.  He had no interest in changing it from the beer the judges chose.  At times I found this a challenge, brewing a beer I had only brewed once before, on an unfamiliar kit and knowing that a limited number of bottles would eventually be sold to the discerning public.  Ol did lead the brewday, no doubt, but each time there was a decision to be made I was left to mumble my way through it.  The beer is a hop-forward Porter, meaning that in the first instance I aimed to brew a Black IPA, made it too roasty (possibly) and voila! a hop-forward Porter.  We stuck with this, but substituted some of the crystal malt for brown malt and added some flaked barley for head retention/body.

The reason for entering these competitions is for fun and for the opportunity to get some impartial feedback on my beer.  Another reason for me is to gain experience from the brewday that usually forms part of the prize.  As well as a day off work and the chance to get inside a brewery, I try to learn something new.  This can be tricky when there is so much information to take in.  Brewing with Ol, a guy with over ten years commercial experience, gave me time to watch what he was doing and ask a fair few questions.  Whereas a typical brewday for me at home, bearing in mind that I’ve only brewed 20 beers, is a repetition of the process I know.  I become more familiar with my kit, and might make fewer errors, like closing all the taps or adding the finings at the right moment, but I wouldn’t say I’m learning more about the brewing process.  Ol didn’t come from a homebrewing background and as such he has learnt from the brewers at Daleside, Copper Dragon and most recently his time working alongside Sean Franklin as the brewery was handed over.  He doesn’t use brewing software, bar the odd spreadsheet and has learnt the maths.  One such equation can be seen below.  This was used as we stood and scaled up the malt bill from my 23L brew.  Total malt extract value multiplied by kg’s, divided by brewlength, multiplied by brew kit efficiency, equals OG.  In this case we looked at the pale malt and the munich.  A useful calculation.

The second learning point (or more a starting point for more reading) was regarding pH.  I haven’t concerned myself with pH while brewing at home.  I have brewed a few times and have not had feedback to suggest off-flavours of that nature.  I use minimal water treatments and haven’t read/applied much in the way of water profiles to suit beer style.  It appears I have got away with it this far, but should take note that the styles of beer traditonally coming out of London, Burton upon Trent and Dublin were no coincidence.  Being aware of the pH of your local water supply, routinely checking it before you start brewing and adjusting it accordingly, depending on your malts, will help the conversion of sugars during the mash, and among other things, it will affect the flavour of the finished beer.  In the case of my Porter and the inclusion of roasted malt (Carafa III) the acidity needed to be taken into account.  Ol knows the water for his brewery and knows exactly how he will treat it for the beers they brew.   During the brew the pH was measured no fewer than five times: HLT (and adjusted), mash, sparge, run off from sparge and post boil.

…all malts (and dark malts in particular) have phosphates in them that react with the calcium and magnesium ions in alkaline water freeing up H+ ions that make the mixture acidic.  Adding malt, especially dark malt, lowers the pH of the malt water mixture in the mash – BeerSmith ‘understanding pH’.

I won’t try to talk any more about pH as I need to learn about it first, and I know there will be more than a few homebrewers who will read this and wonder why I’m heralding this is as a gem of information.  It’s just new to me, that’s all.

Finally, the finer details.

Original Gravity (OG): 1.062
Final Gravity (FG): 1.010
Alcohol (ABV): 7.3% (if the yeast stops!)
Colour (SRM): 16.7 (EBC): 32.9
Bitterness (IBU): 61.0 (Average)

Golden Promise Pale Malt
Munich I
Brown Malt
Flaked Barley
Carafa III (in the mash)
Carafa III (before sparge)

Simcoe (boil)
Cascade (boil)
Chinook (boil)
Cascade (Dry for 5 days in FV)
Centennial (Dry for 5 days in FV)

I’m told (this morning) that the fermentation has been steady and the smells from the FV are promising.  With a bit of luck the beer will make its way safely into bottles and you’ll be able to buy it from Beer Ritz (Headingley) and online.  A few people have asked when it will be available and I don’t have the answer to that, but I’ll be tweeting about it along with @RoostersBrewCo, @RoostersTom and @RoostersOl.  Can’t wait to see and taste the finished beer.  Tom had drafted the label and it was looking great!

AG#18/19 Roosters Homebrew Competition Brew

I brewed a beer for the Roosters Homebrew competition/battle.  The chaps at the brewery have made every effort to make the judging process anonymous, so there were no brewday Tweets *sad face* and I’ll post the recipe details after the judging has taken place.

I split my wort and boiled it up with two different hop combinations and then fermented with two different yeast strains.  I haven’t tried doing this before, but hope it will be a good way to learn something….not sure what, but something! My favourite of the two will be my competition entry.

If you want to get involved in the competition, you have just enough time to get a brew on!  The deadline is Friday 14th September and you need to get your bottles to either Beer Ritz in Headingley or Friends of Ham in Leeds City Centre.  Judging will take place on Saturday 15th September and the winner will need to be available to brew their beer at Roosters brewery on Friday October 12th.

Full entry details on the Leeds Homebrew blog (linked above).

Brewing People are Good People

There is a saying in the beer world that ‘beer people are good people‘, (sometimes known as “good people drink good beer“) it’s more a notion than a fact, but you don’t have to look too far to find examples of it in practice.  My understanding of the saying will be different from the next persons, but I see it as a reference to a small part of the global beer community.  I’m not talking about beer geeks, tickers or reluctant-scoopers, I’m talking about anyone who engages with beer as a drink that can enrich your life, in one way or another.  The sceptical among you will argue that  “beer is just a drink”, or that “industry people have a ulteria motive to their actions”.  This may well be the case, but if you see beer as just another drink then fine, move along and find something that makes you happy, and if you think the industry is just out for your wallet then you may have missed the point.

Breweries are engaging with each other more than ever before, nicely put by The Pub Diaries writing for Melbourne based The Crafty Pint when discussing the “Beer Revolution, Beer Renaissance, Beer Revival” in London (roughly this time last year).  With the London Brewers’ Alliance epitomising the efforts being made locally, regionally, nationally and internationally to collaborate and benefit from shared knowledge, experiences and in some case resources.  I can understand the forming of these alliances, there is a natural tendency to draw your camp closer together when the wolves are circling, but I suspect the alliances would live on despite the lack of a tangible need.  What is more difficult to comprehend is an increasing trend of breweries extending their circle to include and support homebrewers.  It’s more apparant why a brewery would collaborate with another brewery, blogger or publican, but homebrewers?  Once again, the cynics will have their say; “nothing is free”, “you’re being used” etc.  Yes, there are benefits to a brewery getting creative with their marketing and engaging with niche customer bases, like homebrewers, but the benefits are largely in favour of the homebrewer.  Being suspicious of strangers bearing gifts is only natural and it’s a sad part of being human, but many pro brewers started as homebrewers and maybe the reasons for this relationship is to give support where they didn’t have it, or to increase the profile of brewing in general.

This post is probably going to make most sense to those homebrewers who have already benefited from help via social networks, invitations to brewdays, opportunites to compete and win the chance to experience their recipe being produced commercially.  I only have local examples of these kinds of activities, but Saltaire Brewery’s support of the Northern Craft Brewers and Leeds Homebrew group welcoming representatives from Thornbridge, Revolutions and Ilkley breweries to it’s meetings.  Encouragement, recognition, a free beer or two, call it what you want, but they are interesting times and long may this continue to develop.

(Edit: It turns out there may be some villains too, boo!…hiss!)

AG#7 Broadford Progress IPA

I’ve brewed my entry for the Northern Craft Brewers IPA Day event at Saltaire Brewery, March 31st 2012.  If you are a homebrewer and want to join in, then this is a joint event with the Midlands Craft Brewers and I’m sure both groups would welcome some new faces.  I want this beer to have plenty of time in the bottle so decided to get a brew on.

With it being an English IPA competition, there are a few requirements;






1.050 – 1.070 1.010 – 1.018 40 – 80 8 – 14 5 – 7.4%

Oh and most importantly,  English hops only.

So here was my plan, brew something pale, clear and with a decent head on it.  Having said that, I think the judges will probably have a taste too, so I decided to throw a few hops in, 100g of Progress hops to be precise.  It may sound a lot (or not enough?), but I’ve tried to match the IBU’s (International Bitterness Units scale) with the abv (alc/vol).  I’ve been told this is a reasonable idea when trying to balance the bitterness.  Also, over the sixty minute boil, I went for 50% (weight) for bittering and 50% for aroma.   I’ve not used Progress hops before and couldn’t find any examples of it being used as a single hop, but I do believe it will be a good all-rounder and think it’s worth a punt.  As for the malts, the guidelines do not limit the choice, but should be “consistent”with the style.

A hoppy, moderately strong pale ale that features characteristics consistent with the use of English malt, hops and yeast

This will be a good test for me as an inexperienced homebrewer.  Brewing to style and nowhere to hide when judges and peers are going to be involved. Using Progress hops is really quite apt I thought, see how far I have made it thus far.  I should also mention that I invited fellow homebrewer and brother-in-law Ben (@boodrums) along.   He recently brewed his first beer, a partial mash Pale Ale and is already building his mash tun in preparation for his first full mash brewday.

Golden Promise Pale Malt – 86.7%
Munich Malt – 5.2%
Amber Malt – 3.1%
Crystal Malt 30L – 2.7%
Wheat Malt – 2.3%

Progress 50g – 7.9% @60mins
Progress 10g – 7.9% @30mins
Progress 10g – 7.9% @20mins
Progress 10g – 7.9% @10mins
Progress 15g – 7.9% @0mins (steep 20 mins)

Final Volume: 19 Litres
Original Gravity: 1.061
Final Gravity: 1.015
Alcohol Content: 6.1% ABV
Bitterness: 58.3 IBU
Colour: 9.6 SRM
Yeast: Nottingham Danstar
Mash: 60mins @ 67c
Boil: 60mins

It was a fairly late start on Friday evening, with the HLT switched on at 7pm, but with Ben firing questions at me and the bottles of beer flowing, (breaking my usual rule of no beer until the boil!), I really didn’t care that my rendezvous with the finishing line was located somewhere in the small hours of Saturday morning.

I had an issue with losing too much heat during the mash for my last brew so, compensated three-fold: raised the strike temp a degree to 79C, wrapped the mashtun with a blanket and used more malt.  The idea being that less head-space = improved insulation.  Mashing in at 68C, a bit hot I know but I lost 5 degrees last time and ruined the extraction.

I also decided to experiment with both a 60 minute mash and a 60 minute boil (I usually use the standard 90 mins for each).  After 60 minutes the mash temp was 67C (lost 1C).

The 1st runnings from the mash tun were clear after recirculating 6L.  I was pleased with the colour and my copper manifold performed well again…Woo!

First addition of 50g Progress hops to the copper at 60mins.

Still not built my chiller, so lots of waiting around to get a good cold break (FV in the sink/cold water).

I achieved a final volume of 18L at 1.071.  Used a calculator and liquored back 2L to achieve a gravity reading closer to my target of 1.062.  A 7% IPA was tempting.  I then opted to leave the FV cooling and covered with cling film – awaiting yeast in the morning.  I don’t like doing this for fear of a wild yeast invasion, but couldn’t stay up any longer (it was 2:00 am).

I took another reading in the morning but didn’t take a photo. It was spot on 1.061 at 22C.  Made a quick starter for the Nottingham Danstar yeast using 100ml cooled boiled water and 100ml of the wort.  Pitched the yeast 28th 08:30am.

An enjoyable brewday, but I’ve also got some figuring out to do.  Something is not right at Broadford.  Somewhere between, calculating losses, efficiency and being clueless is resulting in targets being missed.  More practice required.  Suggestions welcome.

Updated: Bottled this beer FG 1.015 08/02/2012

Homebrewing in 2012

I’m already homebrewing and have been for three years now,  it’s been said before but I’ll say it again, it’s great fun!  I also know people keen to have a go this year and have read others declare their interest.  While reading the Beermerchants Beer Blog post ‘2012’ I found myself nodding along at each of the thirteen points, but three of them stood out for me (four if you include Number 2;  ‘getting rid of the High Strength Beer Duty‘).

So here are the three, no doubt intended to be applied in general, but they do work well when just considering homebrewing.

Number 9: ‘Homebrew’

Do it.  It’s the best thing ever.   If you love beer, great food and find cooking easy.  And, have good cleaning routines… DO IT!     You’ll take a greater appreciation for the beers that you drink in the pub, or buy from beermerchants.com, than from any book, blog or tweet.     Remember, support your local homebrew shop.

He speaketh the truth! You can make it what you want it to be, a few brews a year just to have a go or a few brews a month to really take steps forward.  Either way, and from personal experience, you get so much back.  It can provide purpose to your reading about the drink you love and maybe offering you a much needed side-step from your well-thumbed copy of ‘1001 beers to drink before you die’ [other books are available].   I have three brewing books on the go, as well as some general readers from the great and good of the beersphere.   As the Beermerchants blog points out, it can enhance your appreciation of the beers you drink.  Some of you may know it all already, but I for one have benefited from having some insight into the science, ingredients and process of brewing, albeit on a 5 gallon scale.  Regardless of the scale, the principles remain the same.

Number 11: ‘Play well with others’.

Number 13: ‘Have fun‘.

I think the last and maybe most important by-products of homebrewing (sorry for calling you all by-products) is the network of people available to you.  I’ve found that there is plenty of cross-over between the drinking, blogging, homebrewing and commercial brewing specialists, but I’ve seen how these networks link together and provide a playground for learning through debating and sharing.. it can at times be an unweildy mess of short, medium and long term spats which inevitably form as rock meets hardplace and chalk meets cheese, but it’s all good clean fun.

So what do you need to know? very little, and before you buy any books, find a homebrewing forum that suits your needs, there are loads out there and can save you a lot of time and money if you ask the right questions.  This will most likely inform the books you buy (maybe one good reference book for beginners) and the kit you buy or maybe even build of you’re that way inclined.  From there in on in, it’s up to you, either go for it solo or try and get a brew day with another homebrewer.  If you don’t happen to know any, there is the option of locating someone on the brewing forums (I did this and lived to tell the tale!).   There are also a number of informative brewing blogs out there, with helpful how-to-guides as well as tried and tested recipes.

The best piece of advice I’ve received during 2011 was from a commercial brewer local to West Yorkshire, who cut to the chase and said “Just F*cking Brew It“.

Finally, and staying in line with the beermerchants mantra, “support your local homebrew shop“.  This is something I have failed to do so far.  Busy lives mean that we will look for the most convenient route and there are also times when your local shop don’t stock what you are looking for.  I did visit my local homebrew shop yesterday Barley Bottom and to my surprise, Paul has started a one barrel brewery, going by the same name as his shop.  The brewery is on-site and I’m going back to join him for a brew day soon.   He is a homebrewer of over 10 years and look where it has got him. Poor sod.

A few dates for the Yorkshire and UK based readers:

Leeds Homebrew – 12th January 2012 @MrFoleys

Northern Craft Brewers English IPA competition – 31st March 2012 @SaltaireBrewery

UK National Homebrew Competition – last entries 7th September 2012