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

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…..

Happy Birthday to The Sparrow Bier Cafe

I recently posted a short piece on The Sparrow, a bar local to me and one I rather like to drink beer in.  Mark asked if I would spread the good word about their upcoming first birthday celebrations.

It’s almost a year since their debut appearance and in that short time have gained well deserved recognition in The Guardian’s Top 10 UK Craft Beer Bars as well as winning Bradford CAMRA’s Pub Of The Year 2012.  To celebrate this and to say thank you to their customers, they have extended an invitation to join them and enjoy a beer or two.


May 16th (from 11:00am) to May 20th (until they politely ask you to leave).


Erm? if you don’t know this, I’m not going to tell you.  Oh go on then: 32 North Parade, Bradford, BD1 3HZ.

The ambitious owners have been busy brewing two special beers in collaboration with Saltaire Brewery.  They will also be cutting the ribbon on two new keg lines on their bar and have bought in some special beers from their favourite breweries.

Les and Mark with Tony Gartland (Saltaire Brewery)

Our two birthday beers that we brewed with Saltaire Brewery – Dunnock American IPA & Black Throat Black IPA. Plus beers from some of our favourites including Quantum, Red Willow, Buxton, Kirkstall, Magic Rock, Ilkley and Hawkshead!

Boon Kriek, Sierra Nevada Ruthless, Nogne O Two Captains plus more!

Dogfish Head Red and White, Flying Dog Wildeman and Schneider Nelson Sauvin.

Mark tells me that there is more to be announced! So keep an eye on their Twitter account @thesparrowbd1 and their Facebook page.

I’ll be sneaking out of class at the European Beer Bloggers conference to try the Saltaire beers! Cheers!

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!)

Northern Craft Brewers 2012

Saturday was the long awaited Northern Craft Brewers (NCB) English IPA competition.  Adding to the sense of occasion were the Midland Craft Brewers, a ‘Brew Off’ if you will, however I can report that there were no ugly scenes reminiscent of West Side Story.   For a more factual write up of the day see Ade Chapman’s blog @pdtnc.  This was my first time meeting with the NCB crowd and wasn’t sure what to expect, but knowing Ade was involved and with a great venue in the shape of Saltaire Brewery I knew it was going to be a good day.

The 38 entries for the English IPA competition were checked in as folk arrived and the judging commenced at around 1pm, with what looked to be two tables of judges, possibly working in pairs to score and comment on each beer.  The judges came together with their highest scoring beers and then went about deciding on the winners.

While the judges were busy downstairs, there was a buzz of activity around the brewery.  A talk on India Pale Ale by Shane Swindells of the NCB and then much homebrew chat, bottle swapping and enjoyment of the beers available on the bar.  Alongside some well known breweries like Saltaire, Buxton and Triple fff Brewery,  were six cask beers brewed by members of the NCB and MCB.  With no restrictions on the specification, there was a choice of a West Coast APA (by Rob Derbyshire), a Black IPA (Ade Chapman) and three IPA’s brewed by myself, Neil Gardner (Leedsbrew) and Allan Gayton (MCB).  All proceeds from the bar have been donated to the chosen charities and am delighted to report that the discerning drinkers voted in favour of my effort.  Thanks to those who enjoyed my beer and especially to the two homebrewers who cast a more experienced eye over my recipe, and gave me the confidence to brew it!  I think we all knew it was a close run thing and for me I was just made up to have my beer being dispensed on tap.

The meet was a fantastic event and big congratulations go to the winner and runners up in the headlining English IPA competition.

1st – Steve Syson

2nd – Tom Dobson

3rd – Ade Chapman

4th Dr Ray Carson, HC Karl Clarke, HC Ron Allinson

Also a huge well done and pat on the back for those responsible for organising and making  everything run smoothly on the day: Shane Swindells, Ade and Emma, Tony Gartland for the use of the venue and supplying the trophies, to the judges who bravely faced many homebrews in order to find our winner and of course to the 50+ homebrewers who supported the event and raised £400 for charity.


I would encourage other homebrewers to keep an eye on the NCB website and join us at the next meeting!

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

Saltaire Brewery Beer Festival 2011

 PictureWhen I bought my ticket for the Saltaire Brewery Beer Festival 2011 (September  16th-17) back in July, I was feeling rather pleased with myself as I usually leave it until the last minute and miss out.  When the Brewery started sending updates about the beers they were sourcing I couldn’t wait for the date to come around.  Just as Saltaire confirmed its lineup, CAMRA released its Good Beer Guide for 2012 with the news that Yorkshire has welcomed an impressive 16 new breweries in the past 12 months, making it the number one region for beer in terms of its choice of real ale and wealth of new and established brewing talent.  You can see all the details of the CAMRA findings in the Yorkshire Post.  Saltaire took full advantage of having an embarrassment of amazing beer right on its doorstep and chose a mouthwatering line-up including Yorkshire’s; Magic Rock, Kirkstall, Old Spot and not forgetting Saltaire Brewery’s six offerings, including Saltaire Blonde, South Island Pale and a couple of new ones in Madagascan Ale (5% Pale) and Bulldog a 4.6% Brown Ale.  South Island Pale being my pick of the bunch.
Other breweries of note and of particular interest to me were Buxton and Hardknott as I have tried and continue to return to their bottled beers time and time again.  And as if all that lot wasn’t enough,  you could also feast on beers from Marble, Liverpool Organic, Captain Cook and Dark Star to name but a few.  I did also find myself drawn to the cider tent, no not for the cider, although the choice matched that of the beer, but for the Sierra NevadaPale Ale and Kolsch.  At times I had to pinch myself, as there I was in Shipley, struggling to decide what I wanted to drink next, knowing that I had my alcohol tolerance working against me.Saltaire outdid themselves on the beer front (28 in total plus 10 craft ciders), but also on the infrastructure which has been born out of their successful monthly Beer Club.  In addition to the marquee, there was also extra seating under heated parasols, which as the weatherman had predicted were much needed and most definitely appreciated – it rained a little bit (ahem!).  Add to all of that the barbecued food on offer and it doesn’t take a beer geek to tell you that it was a very good night indeed.

I’m not sure if there was an official vote for the beer of the festival, but I do know that it was Magic Rock Brewing Co’s Curious a 3.9% Original Pale Ale and the breweries flagship beer which sold out first.  For me, my favourites of the night (from the 10 that I tried) included Magic Rock’s High Wire, Buxton’s Axe Edge and Captain Cook’s Schooner Grenville, although my pick of the festival was Marble Brewery’s Utility,their 5.7% IPA.  For anyone that tried it, no explanation needed here, for anyone wondering, I suggest you hunt it down and see for yourself! delicious!

Excellent work by Saltaire’s team and I’m looking forward to next years festival already!