AG#23 New World ESB

Planned brewday for Sunday, and it’ll be my entry for the Great British Homebrew Challenge 2013.  I want to brew a strong bitter, but as a meddling homebrewer I also want to play around with it and hopefully compliment an English backbone with some New Zealand hop zing!…. well, spice actually, but you know what I mean.  Here’s what I’m aiming for:

Original Gravity (OG): 1.052
Final Gravity (FG): 1.010
Alcohol (ABV): 5.6%
Colour (SRM): 33 (EBC)
Bitterness (IBU): 41.0 (Average)

(87%) Golden Promise Pale Malt
(5%) Caramalt
(4%) Biscuit Malt
(2%) Black Malt
(2%) Pale Wheat Malt

Pilgrim (FWH)
Green Bullet @10 minutes from the end (Boil)
Green Bullet @5 minutes from the end (Boil)

Balancing_actAs you can see, it’s not the strongest of strong bitters, but I’m trying to stay on the right side of ‘sessionability’, given that the winning beer is destined for the pub.  I’d explain myself further, spelling out that I appreciate how strong beers sell too, but I can’t be bothered *smiley face*.  I’m wanting to give the beer malt character and a pleasing colour with the crystal and biscuit malts, but with a punchy bitterness with the Pilgrim hops.  I put a small amount of biscuit malt in my Black IPA and it gives a great flavour, and I’m told that Pilgrim will provide the clean bitterness I’ll need if I’m not to overpower the beer.  Will this create a balanced beer? I hope so.  The bitterness ratio (BU:GU) for a special/best/premium bitter is around 0.75, that is to say my target bitterness units (IBU) of 40 divided by my original gravity (OG) 1.049 = 0.81. (nb, you need to take the fractional proportion of the OG e.g. 0.049 x 1000 = 49).   See more detail on BU:GU rations on Mark Dredge’s blog.  I’m creeping a little out of best bitter territory and towards an IPA, but I’m brewing for my tastes too, so there you go.

The complicating factor, as I understand it, is that attenuation can muck this ratio/balance up.  For this beer I am using some yeast kindly given to me by Saltaire Brewery.  The brewer told me that the yeast is feisty and will go to town on any sugars available.  He also suggested that if I mashed high that this will help tame the b(y)east.  So the mash temp will be 69C.  Reason being for this is that I don’t have the luxury of temperature control, therefore I can’t stop the fermentation that easily.  If the high mash temp doesn’t seem to be working and the FG starts dropping below 1.010 then I’ll transfer off the yeast and give it a stern talking to (while drinking a homebrew and chilling the f*ck out).

Eyes down, HLT at the ready.

Updated 10/12/12:  The brewday went well, although I managed to collect 20L at 1.061, so liquored back (a little too far, due to lack of concentration) to 24L at 1.052.  I pitched the Saltaire yeast early evening and as of this morning there was no visible fermentation.

I tweaked the recipe once I’d had a chance to look at it through the eyes of my BrewMate software.  The colour was on the pale side and the only crystal malt I had was Caramalt, which wasn’t going to add any real colour.  I opted to add 100g Black Malt, somehing I haven’t tried before, but was happy with the resulting colour.

One other observation from the brewday.  My brewkit is annoying me…. again.

Updated 07/01/12 – sadly this brew didn’t make it beyond the FV.  It was tasting of fusel alcohol.  Not terrible, but not worth bottling and certainly not good enough to enter into the competition.  I think the issue could have been fluctating temp or that the yeast got too hot in the FV – autolysis?  Anyway, moving on to my next brew…..

British Hops – Use them or lose them?

October’s Industry Insider article in CAMRA’s ‘What’s Brewing’ newspaper is brought to us by hop farmer Ali Capper, and it’s discussing the state of the British hop growing industry.  You might say that the content is a rallying call to British brewers “…celebrate the beers that British hops produce to help stop the decline of the British hop growing industry“.  This blog post is a layman’s response to what is unquestionably a complex situation that the British hop industry finds itself in.  Having said that, I’m British, I love beer and brew beer at home so I do have an opinion, albeit a rather ‘write as you think’ kind of approach.

Threats to the industry:

  • EU trade rules and the resulting uneven playing ground due to the different levels of government support hop growing nations receive.
  • The domination of lager sales in global and UK markets.
  • High Alpha New World hop varieties.

Strengths of the British industry:

  • A growing number of British breweries.
  • Resurgence in brewing full flavoured beers.
  • The importance of provenance.
  • 20 British hop varieties to choose from (inc. High AA hops like Phoenix, Pilgrim, Target & Admiral).
  • Environmental efficiencies of production e.g. development of disease resistant hop strains.
  • Export.  American brewers brewing American style beers using British hops.
  • Development of new hop varieties, notably Endeavour.
  • Perhaps most importantly of all, the National Hop Association has re-branded itself to make new ground in the export market.  The British Hop Association will be championing British hops through partnership working with hop merchants, as well as a marketing campaign to gain the attentions of brewers who may not currently buy British.

The information above is paraphrased from the What’s Brewing article, but I do have a few thoughts to add:

As a homebrewer I use very small quantities of hops relative to the commercial brewers, but am I naive in thinking my actions as a homebrewer have no impact on the British hop industry?  I brew beer made predominantly with the New World hops that Ali talks about.  American and New Zealand hops have featured heavily in my recent beers and while my spending power is unlikely to directly affect the industry, maybe I/we do so as part of the larger network of British homebrewers?

More importantly, commercial brewers currently brewing beers with hops that boast a large carbon footprint, need the confidence to brew with British hops, this is their livelihood after all.  Established recipes and loyal customer bases will make this a difficult transition, but there is nothing to say that brewers shouldn’t / couldn’t do both to meet demands?  Also, I think from a personal point-of-view I would hate to see some breweries change beyond all recognition, I can think of several that provide excellent American style beer as well as much needed CHOICE, which is what most consumers love.


Looking in from the outside on the commercial industry, it looks to me as if there is serious competition for New World hops.  As this becomes more competitive some brewers are either unable to brew certain beers from their existing range, or they are having to adapt and substitute or blend hops to get as close as possible to what their customers will expect to taste.  I’m told that the NZ Riwaka variety is no longer exported due to its popularity?  I’m guessing this is an example of a government or an industry body taking steps to protect the interests of domestic brewers? It would be a disaster to think that a New Zealander or a visitor to the country couldn’t drink a beer brewed with their home-grown hop varieties.  It would be a defining moment for our domestic industry if a British hop variety was to do the same!

Finally, consumer attitudes need to be trained and awareness raised to enable an informed choice to support British beer brewed with British hops. But lets not forget those breweries abroad who are doing the same.

Ali Capper and Co. are developing their campaign to promote British hops.  Follow their progress on Twitter @BritishHops and for news of their website which is due to launch late autumn 2012.

AG#15 Broadford Tomahawk IPA

Decided late last night to get a brew on and rebrewed the Tomahawk IPA that won me first place at the Northern Craft Brewers event at Saltaire Brewery back in May.  I only got to drink a half of it on the day, so hopefully I’ll be successful in recreating something close to it.

Original Gravity (OG): 1.058 1.055 (see edit note at the end of the post)
Final Gravity (FG): 1.014
Alcohol (ABV): 5.40%
Colour (SRM): 7.0 (EBC): 13.7
Bitterness (IBU): 65.4 (Average)

4.6 kg (86.96%) Maris Otter
0.300 kg (5.67%) Munich I
0.300 kg (5.67%) Pale Wheat Malt
0.090 kg (1.70) Crystal Malt 30L

28g Pilgrim (11.2% Alpha) @60 Minutes (Boil)
40g US Cascade (7.6% Alpha) @30 Minutes (Boil)
10g Columbus (Tomahawk) (16.5% Alpha) @5 Minutes (Boil)
40g US Cascade (7.6% Alpha) @5 Minutes (Boil)
40g Columbus (Tomahawk) (16.5% Alpha) Flame out (steep)
50g Columbus (Tomahawk) (16.5% Alpha) Dry hop

Single step Infusion at 65°C for 60 Minutes. Water treatments: Campden tablet (HLT), Gypsum (mash), Gypsum and Epsom Salts (Boil).  Boil for 60 Minutes. Safale US-05.

Strike temp of 74C and 13.00L liquor for 5.290kg grain.  Mashed in at 65C.

Mashed for 60 minutes and temp remained constant.  Sparged at 84C, 18.7L liquor.  I didn’t record pre and post boil volumes and gravity readings.

First hop addition of Pilgrim at 60 minutes, then US Cascade at 30 minutes. Added a protofloc tablet at 15 minutes along with immersion chiller, and further copper additions of Cascade and Columbus at 5 minutes.  Steeped Columbus at flame-out.

Collected 19L of wort post boil with SG of 1.058.  Cooled to 20C and dry pitched one packet of US-05 yeast.

A shot of the trial jar in the daylight.

Happy with the brewday.  Came up short again, but still using some borrowed kit and think I lost volume through, the boil; cooling and dead space (approx 4L).  Also, still lots of question marks for me re: mash efficiency.  One day I’ll get time to look at this stuff properly, but at the moment I’m just happy brewing and writing my blog.

I’ll be dry hopping this brew with Columbus (Tomahawk).

A few more photos of the brewday here.

Edit: Just realised a mistake. I changed my recipe on BrewMate and didn’t bother reprinting the brewday sheet.  Subsequently I misread my scribbled changes and my OG was actually 1.055, which explains how I came up short with 19L at 1.058.   I would have liquored back had I spotted this.

Original Gravity (OG): 1.058 (see edit note at the end of the post)
Final Gravity (FG): 1.010
Alcohol (ABV): 6.40%

Update: Dry hopped with 20g Columbus in the FV 17/06/12.

Bottled 24/06/12.

Hop Tea

Image by Kevin Worth

I’m sure that others will have tried this before me, but I haven’t seen or read anything about it recently, so here goes.  I decided to have a go at making a few jars of hop tea, not so much for the drinking, but for the experience, although I have read that hops can be used in medicinal teas.  I’m sure there are plenty of people in the brewing industry experienced enough, or maybe beer enthusiasts who have a keen enough sense of smell who can differentiate between hop varieties, by looking, feeling, smelling and tasting the hops in their raw format, dried and or wet.

I’m so new to brewing that I have only used maybe ten different hop varieties to date.  When I had the idea to make some hop tea I had eight varieties in the freezer two of which were opened so left them alone.  From the six I plucked from the deep freeze, three were UK varieties, and three US two from the US and one German.  From the UK: East Kent Goldings (EKG), Fuggles and Pilgrim, from Germany: Magnum and from the US: Chinnook and Columbus.  The %AA values scribbled on the pieces of paper are to denote the alpha acids present in the hop resin.  Alpha acids provide the bitterness we enjoy in beer.  Beta acids complete the resins found in hops and contribute to the beers aroma.  High AA beers, for example the Columbus are primarily used for their bittering qualities with this particular harvest offering 16.5% alpha acids by weight (AABW).  Aroma hops usually have a lower concentration of alpha acids and higher concentration of beta acids.  Just to confuse those of you who are even newer to brewing than I am, some bittering hops (which are typically boiled for longer during the brewing process to impart their bitterness) can also be used successfully as aroma hops, and hops primarily used for adding aroma can be used in larger quantities throughout the boil to impart bitterness and aroma.

Dry hops

Fuggle 4.3% AA

Despite having come straight from the freezer, the hops were dry, pale yellow in colour and had very little aroma. The little aroma present was grassy.  Having recently been to a brewday where a single hop fuggle beer filled the air with fresh orange pith, my stock was a poor reflection.  Possibly past their best.

East Kent Goldings 5.2% AA

Like with the fuggles, these were dry to the touch, more a pale green in colour and had a very weak, yet sweet aroma, even when rubbed between my fingers.  This was not what I had been hoping for. Possibly past their best.

Pilgrim 11.2% AA

I bought these recently and used them in an IPA as the bittering hop along with Cascade and plenty of Columbus late in the copper.  They were noticeably more sticky than the fuggles and EKG and pale green in colour.  When rubbed between my fingers they were indeed sticky and pungent, almost cheesy, which I have read is not a great sign of freshness?  Can I just say at this point that I had divided the hops into jars all in one go, so as you might expect there was a strong smell of hops in the kitchen and was making things difficult.

Chinnook 12.4% AA (2009)

These were from a packet I bought  a couple of months ago and were dry with a slight resinous feel and light green in colour.  The aroma was distinct, white pepper and citrus fruit, very fresh and pleasant.

Magnum 12.7% AA (2010)

As with the Chinnook these had only been in my possession for a couple of months.  The were bright green in colour, very sticky and I have to admit that I found it difficult to identify the aromas, only to say that they had plenty going on.

Columbus 16.5% AA

Also very fresh and green in colour (not as striking as the magnum) and out of all six varieties they had the most aroma, really pleasant, with white pepper and citrus aromas.  I don’t mind saying that I found trying to identify aromas of dry hops very tricky.  Some of them, especially the high alpha acid US varieties were very familiar to me and no doubt due to the beers I’ve been enjoying of late – beers which have been generously dry hopped.

Steeped Hops

The next stage was to add boiling water to each jar and let them steep for ten minutes before tasting each variety.  This is where the wheels fell off my grand hop tasting session!

What can I really say here, without using Google to save me from abject failure.  What I can say with authority is from fuggle through to columbus the hop tea became progressively more unpalatable.  If you brew and have tasted your boiled wort, then you know what I am talking about here.  Especially in highly hopped beers, the wort tastes so bitter that it can be unpleasant and in my opinion not dissimilar to chewing on a Paracetamol tablet.  The aromas were interesting in that, unsurprisingly, the process of steeping intensified the dry aromas, with the columbus been the stand out favourite for me, which bodes well for this brew.

So what did I learn from this exercise? well, I’ve learnt that brewing with the freshest hops you can source is a must.  It may seem obvious to be saying this, but I really didn’t fully appreciate the extent to which the opened packets of hops in my freezer have been degrading.  If you consider that the hops homebrewers buy are probably not the best from the harvest as the choicest hops will have been snapped up by the buyers/distributors and ultimately the major breweries.  Also, theses hops have been handled a lot, they have been packaged and repackaged, experienced changing temperatures and then we (the homebrewer) may use 20g from a 100g packet and then bung them in the freezer with the blind faith that they’ll be fine the next time we happen to use them.  On a lighter note, it may also be fair to say that when smelling a load of hops all in close proximity, then describing their aroma as “hoppy” is acceptable!

I think most importantly, I have confirmed (for my understanding of beer and brewing) that hops may play an important role in the finished beer, but they are nothing without malt, other adjuncts and maybe most importantly the yeast we use to ferment our wort.  Even the sexiest, most sort after American hops taste like death when you drink them in isolation to their partners in crime.  It has been a useful exercise and one I’m not sure I need to repeat, but I’m glad I did it and know the experience will play its part in my development as an amateur brewer.

Some useful resources (but not the only ones available):

Charles Faram & Co Ltd.

Brew365 – Hop Substitution Chart

The Malt Miller – Hops

AG#9 Broadford Tomahawk IPA

Another brewnight Friday 2nd March. It’ll be served on the bar at the Northern Craft Brewers event at Saltaire Brewery 31st March. I’m bricking it! but here goes nothing.

Maris Otter Pale Malt (4.6kg) – 90.4%
Munich (200g) – 3.9%
Wheat Malt (200g) – 3.9%
Crystal Malt 60 (90g) – 1.8%

Hops (all leaf):
Pilgrim 28g – 11.2% @60mins
Cascade 40g – 7.6% @30mins
Cascade 40g – 7.6% @5mins
Columbus 10g – 16.5% @5mins
Columbus 40g – 16.5% (flame out / steep 20 mins)
Columbus 50g – 16.5% Dry Hop 5 Days

Final Volume: 23 Litres
Original Gravity: 1.056
Final Gravity: 1.014
Alcohol Content: 5.5% ABV
Bitterness: 64.9 IBU (average)
Colour: 7.0 SRM / 13.7 EBC
Yeast: Safale US-05
Mash: 60mins @ 66c
Boil: 60mins

Water treatment: 1 campden tablet in the HLT, 4g gypsum in the mash, 3g gypsum and 2g epsom salts in the boil.

A fairly straightforward brewday (night). HLT on for 17.30 and all wrapped up by midnight, which is early by my usual standards. This was the first brew using my new thermometer, and got a little carried away taking pictures of temperatures.

Grist temp (16C)

Mashed in with 12.7L liquor with strike temp of 75C to achieve 67C mash. I know that I lose 1C over 60-90mins so compensate for that. 66C at the end of the mash.

Running the wort off from the mash tun. Sparged with a further 20.6L of liquor heated to 86C to achieve a sparge strike temp of 78C. I collected 26L of wort (targeted 28L). I didn’t try to adjust the volume at this stage.

Transferred to the copper and boiled for 60 minutes with the hop additions as above.

Running to the FV after the boil. Collected 23L, 1.054, 22C. My final volume should have been 24L at 1.056.  You can also see the cold break in the trial jar.

Cooled and pitched US-05 yeast at a slightly low temp of 18C (03/03/12). Fermentation was slow to get going due to a few silly things. I didn’t let the yeast get to room temp from the fridge, pitched at 18C instead of recommended 20C, forgot to aerate before pitching. Anyway, US-05 is a brilliant yeast for numpties like me and it was going well after 14 hours. Smells great too!!!! I will be dry hopping in the FV and in the cask.

Here’s my pump clip design (I’ll be changing the ABV).

You can see the rest of the pics here.

Update: Won Best Cask at the Northern Craft Brewers event 31st March 2012, at Saltaire Brewery.