Brewing Beer for Christmas

Deciding what to brew isn’t a stress, but I do like to give it some thought, especially when Christmas is a couple of months away (apologies for mentioning the C-word, but beer does sometimes require some forward planning).  I looked in a few books and was almost decided on a heavily spiced winter warmer, when it dawned on me that I might not actually want to drink much of it.  When you’re full of rich Christmas food and lovely booze, most likely grape and grain, and when the pressure from your stomach eases off just enough for the blood supply to reignite your synapses, then the big question is “what do I fancy?”.

I put this question to the good people of Twitter and unsurprisingly I received a broad response, from Berliner Weisse to Imperial Stout and from quaffable Pale to sippable Quadruple.  Each to their own, but it was a useful exercise as it did help me to decide what to brew (bearing in mind that I will buy at least one each of the other styles anyway!).  P.s. Thanks for all the suggestions.

In a couple of weeks time I’ll probably brew another pale ale, something around 5% with plenty of late hops.  For my other choice, and this one needs to be brewed just as soon as the yeast is ready, will be my take on a rosette winning beer brewed for the UK National Homebrew Competition 2012.   Ali Kocko-Williams brewed a Belgian Stout/Porter which won him 3rd place in its category.  I’ll need to sub some of the ingredients as I want to use up what I have in stock, but the beer is inspired mainly by his choice of yeast.  It’ll be a 8-9%, 40 IBU, dark beer, most likely hopped with something of the noble variety (depends what I have in the freezer), and fermented using WLP510 Belgian Bastogne and WLP585 Belgian Saison III pitched together.  Ali’s version was then aged with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, but I’m going to have to concede on that one.  Who knows how this will turn out…only one way to find out!


AG#20 NZ Saison

As outlined in my last post, I have brewed my first Saison.  Here’s how it went.

Original Gravity (OG): 1.059 (°P): 21.3
Final Gravity (FG): 1.013 (°P): 5.1
Alcohol (ABV): 6.07%
Colour (SRM): 5.2 (EBC): 10.3
Bitterness (IBU): 30.1 (Average)

3.1kg Golden Promise Pale Malt
0.800kg Vienna
0.450kg Cane Sugar
0.300kg Munich
0.250 Pale Wheat Malt

25g Motueka (7.8% Alpha) @60 Minutes (Boil)
15g Motueka (7.8% Alpha) @30 Minutes (Boil)
10g Motueka (7.8% Alpha) @0 Minutes (Boil) (steep at 80C)

Water treatments: Campden tablet (HLT), 1 tsp gypsum (mash).

Strike temp of 72C, 12.0L liquor for 4.450kg grain.  Mashed in at 64C (single step infusion).

Mashed for 60 minutes and temp remained constant.  Sparged at 78C (strike temp 85C), 22.17L liquor. First runnings from the mash were 1.084 at 24C.  Pre boil gravity of 1.050 at 26C, this was before the cane sugar was added.

I decided on a 90 minute boil, I usually go with a 60 minute boil these days but wanted to ensure a good hot break and hopefully achieve a really clear beer.  I’d be interested to hear what others think about this? So my thinking was that 30 mins rolling boil to get a good hot break.  I’ve always been a bit weird and skimmed the ‘scum’ from the copper… just one of my Obsessive Compulsive Brewing quirks, in the belief that you get better wort clarity?   First hop addition of Motueka  added at 60 minutes for bittering, then further small additions at 30 minutes and at flame out to give some hop aroma, but hopefully without fighting for attention with the yeast.

Added a protofloc tablet at 15 minutes and forgot to add my newly built immersion chiller!  So, the boil was extended by 15 minutes, which will make the brew slightly more bitter than I had planned, but I had targeted a conservative 30 IBUs, so this should still be well within the limits of a palatable Saison.   Cooled the wort down to 20C and then ran to the FV losing the final 1C before pitching my 1.4L starter of WLP585 Belgian Saison II.

Collected my target of 19L of wort post boil with SG of 1.066 (the 1.4L of 1.040 starter will obviously increase this to 20.4L and adjust the OG, but I’m not sure how to calculate this).

24/08/12   OG1.066   19C

27/08/12  SG 1.048   19C

30/08/12 SG  1.038  18C

No dry hopping for this brew, as I said above I want the yeast to sing.  I’ll need to try my best to increase the temperature of the FV to around 22C (minimum), otherwise it’s unlikely I’ll get anywhere near the FG 1.008 (around 7.7%) I’m hoping for.  Ideally I’d want to get it to mid-twenties to try and get some interesting esters from the yeast.

As mentioned in my previous post, this brew was inspired by the Twitter generated #SupSaison event taking place on the 15th September.  A few other homebrewers are brewing the style at the moment, including Neil Gardner @leedsbrew, Andy Parker @tabamatu and Ian Darvill @lugsy51.  Hoping to swap some bottles with these guys soon!

Saison Brewday

I’ve been mulling over a few ideas for my twentieth brew, hardly a major milestone but still an opportunity to try and brew something I hope will be a bit different to what I’ve done so far.   As there is a Twittery Saison tasting day (#SupSaison) coming up (15th Sept) I thought I’d get involved with a beer or two, but also to brew a Saison in support of the guys who have organised the ‘event’, which I understand is being marked by a few watering-holes as well as thirsty army of social media beer geeks.
I’ve wanted to brew something with New Zealand Motueka for a while now, it looks to be a good all-rounder so will make this a single hopped NZ Saison, a variation on the style which hasn’t been brewed too many times commercially, and I’m not aware of any homebrewers having done something quite like this?  I’m sure there has, but yet to read about it.

I’ll no doubt tweak this recipe before the brewday, so any suggestions are welcome.  You will notice that  I am using Golden Promise pale malt rather than the traditional Pilsner malt, but I opted to spend the money on hops and what I hope will be a lovely yeast.  Besides, the Vienna and Munich malts should add enough colour and complexity to get away with this omission:


63% Golden Promise Pale Malt

15% Vienna Malt

9% White Sugar

7% Munich Malt

6% Pale Wheat Malt


100% Motueka


WLP585 Belgian Saison II

I’m hoping this will brew a 7%ish beer with enough strength to accommodate a Belgian spice and sweetness as well as a solid bitterness and of course some farmhouse funk, perhaps even some tartness if the yeast profile is anything to go by….what the hell, aim high, right?  I’ll be priming this to have an effervescence true to style, without overstepping the mark and blowing any bottles up.  The recipe should give me something around 40IBU, 7 SRM OG1.070 FG 1.019, but I’ll need to look at this again, read around to see how the yeast attenuates and adjust accordingly, although an 8%+ beer wouldn’t be the end of the world.

I’ll update my blog after the brewday.