Saturday, 10 October 2015

AG #18 - Gone Kegging

Been meaning to write this post for some time, but now that the temperatures are dropping, brewing is coming back onto the schedule.

The eighteenth attempt at all grain brewing focused on two new techniques. Firstly, I ditched BIAB. I was getting hacked off with poor fermentation, driven by the lack of fermentable sugars rather than poor fermentation conditions. I wondered whether a proper sparge would give me better results.

So I commandeered an old cool box, heated my mash water, and started to dough in at the rate of around 2.5 litres of water per kilo of malt. My recipe was derived from Greg Hughes' American Pale, with a little more malt (since batch sparging has a lower efficiency) and some Carapils for body. Batch sparging was really simple, especially if I just let the grains still sit in the bag I used for BIAB. My only issue was that the cool box had so much headspace, the mash dropped well below 65C. In the end, this only ended up a higher gravity beer (remember, MALT: more alcohol, less temperature), perhaps with a little less body than I would have liked. I may have solved this for the future by purchasing a small cool box!

The boil was done with Ahtanum hops....for no reason than they were on offer, and I had never used them before. Have to say that I like these; nice gentle citrus but no aggressive bitterness. Even so, to get the balance right, I used  ALL a packet of hops in the boil, including a lot at flameout. The recipe looked something like:

Original Gravity: 1.051
Final Gravity: 1.011
ABV (standard): 5.26%
IBU (tinseth): 46.17
SRM (morey): 5.65

2.19 kg - United Kingdom - Maris Otter Pale (95.2%)
0.11 kg - German - Carapils (4.8%)

35 g - Ahtanum, Type: Leaf/Whole, AA: 3.8, Use: Boil for 70 min, IBU: 35.83
15 g - Ahtanum, Type: Leaf/Whole, AA: 3.8, Use: Boil for 15 min, IBU: 7.38
15 g - Ahtanum, Type: Leaf/Whole, AA: 3.8, Use: Boil for 5 min, IBU: 2.96
35 g - Ahtanum, Type: Leaf/Whole, AA: 3.8, Use: Boil for 0 min

1) Infusion, Temp: 65 C, Time: 60 min, Amount: 5.3 L
2) Sparge, Temp: 65 C, Time: 20 min, Amount: 7.7 L, Batch sparge
Starting Mash Thickness: 3 L/kg

I fermented with WLP001, hoping these hops would come through.

My second change was how I stored the beer. I hate bottling, and my pressure barrels were leaking all the time. So I invested in a mini Cornelius Keg from Brew UK.

To begin with it was a bit of a faff, but, once you sorted your carbon dioxide tank and regulator out, I can see why so many homebrewers never go back to them. There is an issue of storing the beer at the right carbonation levels if you only drink a couple of pints at a time, but I'll live with that. What is cooler than tapping off a beer from a keg?


And the final product?  Well there is very little aroma from these hops, which I am a bit disappointed with given the large dumping it got at flameout. The balance is good, however. Yes, you can tell it has that North American  character, but it is much less in your face. so I approve. It is cloudy, which might be the result of so much cold break, or the high hopping. I may have also forgot to fine!!! No matter, it isn't yeast (he hopes), so I should be fine!! The best thing , however, is that I hit or exceeded gravities and the beer doesn't have that odd something I was getting with all my BIABs. So, a ethod to try again....maybe with something darker next time!

Oh, one warning point....just remember your pressures and how the gas in/beer out lines and tap work...I, absent mindedly, forgot, fixing the beer out connector sans tap. I am now covered in beer!!!

Sunday, 5 April 2015

AG#17 - Mild times again.....

Yes, yes, I know. It's been over a year since my last post. A lot has happened in that time; not least the ripping off of the old kitchen and much of the back of the house, and the grafting on of a new extension. Therefore, brewing was a tad difficult  all the way through summer, and, for one reason or another, I never got back to it until a month ago.

At least in the new configuration of the downstairs there is something of a separate utility space, where I can store brewing stuff and brew without much hassle! And I haven't been beerless...oh no. From our annual Christmas Crawl around the city (not as successful in beer terms as previous visits, I thought), to a number of festivals, via acquiring a new book or two (Greg Hughes' recipe book and John Palmer's epic 'How to Brew'), and attending an AG brewing course at Brew UK. The latter showed me that I wasn't getting it all wrong and that BIAB was almost as good a technique as real AG brewing, particularly at my low volumes.

So, I sit here, writing away, supping on my first two pints of Greg Hughes' 'Mild' recipe. And it's pretty good. I didn't quite hit my gravities, so the beer comes in at 3% only, but it's toffee and chocolate just as you might expect from the crystal and chocolate malts. The hops might be a bit much for a true mild, but they come in at the end, so that keeps your palate going for the next sip.

The one major difference with this was that after talking to a few old hands on the course, and brewers at the newly formed Butcher's Hook Brew Club (attached to our fantastic micropub in Southampton), I used plain old tap water. I did adjust for alkalinity, which I can measure at home, but that was about it. And can I spot the difference? No, not really, unless the fact that it's not bad is an improvement!!

Might try and beef this up to a richer, stronger mild next,


Brew Method: BIAB
Style Name: Mild
Boil Time: 70 min
Batch Size: 9.5 liters (fermentor volume)
Boil Size: 18.5 liters
Boil Gravity: 1.024
Efficiency: 67% (brew house)

Original Gravity: 1.036
Final Gravity: 1.012
ABV (standard): 3.3%
IBU (tinseth): 29.35
SRM (morey): 17.69

1.498 kg - United Kingdom - Maris Otter Pale (83.3%)
0.25 kg - United Kingdom - Crystal 60L (13.9%)
0.05 kg - United Kingdom - Chocolate (2.8%)

11.2 g - Northdown, Type: Leaf/Whole, AA: 8, Use: Boil for 70 min, IBU: 29.35
10 g - Bramling Cross, Type: Leaf/Whole, AA: 6, Use: Aroma for 0 min

1) Infusion, Temp: 65 C, Time: 60 min, Amount: 18.5 L

White Labs - English Ale Yeast WLP002
Starter: No
Form: Liquid
Attenuation (avg): 66.5%
Flocculation: Very High
Optimum Temp: 18.33 - 20 C

Profile Name:
Ca2: 0
Mg2: 0
Na: 0
Cl: 75
SO4: 0
HCO3: 0
Water Notes:
23.7 ml of CRS

Generated by Brewer's Friend -
Date: 2015-04-05 21:07 UTC
Recipe Last Updated: 2015-04-05 21:06 UTC

Thursday, 27 February 2014

AG #16 - Hoping Two Wrights make a Right

Having inflicted a dreadful Hefe on people, I felt the need of a little redemption on the brewing front this weekend. Therefore, I looked out for a spot of inspiration, which came in the form of John Wright's infectiously enthusiastic book 'Booze'. John Wright (@johnmushroom) is the chap who goes around foraging the hedgerows and coasts of Dorset with Hugh Fearnley-Whathisface on the 'River Cottage' series. However, it wasn't until recently that I saw him making his own home brewed beer on telly.

Having given some of his infusions a go - and them working out pretty well, (beware odd coloured bottles of liquid for Christmas prezzies , folks...). I decided to give his 'Ordinary Bitter' a go, but tweak it for the BIAB method I use. I also wanted to use some hops that were on they're way out, so swapped out the Pacific Gem for a more UK-centric dose of Challenger. Just to see if I couldn't get a dose of 'freshness' in there 3g of Cascade pellets went into the cube whilst the wort cooled overnight.

However, the malt bill was identical, and that is what drew me to the recipe. Maris Otter spine, but the additions of wheat, crystal, and chocolate add, in turn, mouth feel, residual sweetness and a roasty hint and colour. This strikes me as a good balance - the hop schedule is suggesting quite high bitterness, which I didn't get out of the unfermented wort, but we will see. If so, I'll need these malts to counteract them. All fermented using WLP002, the ESB strain, so I am expecting malt/sweet, from that yeast so I am hoping that this doesn't kill the hops altogether. In the FV it looks brown, substantially 'traditionally' and British, and there is a lot to be said for that - as boring as it might sound!

I also paid a LOT more attention to temperature this time, adding cold and hot water to get the inital infusion just right at 66C, and then monitoring every 15mins to check on the temperature.I am a bit more confident that I did not overshoot the temperatures this time, so I am hoping for a decent attenuation (and ABV)  this time around!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Christmas Crawl 2013 - Reports from the front....

It has been almost a month since your three explorers disappeared into the depths of Kentish Town and Camden to drink, eat and chat. However, today, the weather outside is frightful (erm....that's more than enough Christmas references now...Ed.), so I thought I would get this report all written up.

After a relatively trouble free journey to Tufnell Park, we emerged from the Tube station in rain. Fortunately, it is but a 5-10 minute walk to The Southampton Arms. What a great pub this is. Admittedly, we were the first in, and it was a quiet day, but the luxury of sitting in a good pub, with the real fire being set, fresh pints in hand....difficult to beat. The pub is a single room bar, with somewhere in the region of a dozen beers and ciders on - so one could have a beer festival in one pub. Friendly welcome, and an apology for not having much food on (this isn't a place for burger and chips anyway!. All the beer we tried was well kept, but, and here's a bit of a personal moan, during winter a few more dark beers wouldn't have gone amiss. This place was so good we felt embarrassed to leave after one (the bar team looked like they wanted the company), so we ordered a second and waited for the next lot of punters to add to the growing lunchtime hubbub. I suspect this place may get rammed in the evenings, and it should be.

The rain had now abated, and the weather looked set fair for the rest of the day. Heading south we took a few short cuts through residential areas to appear at The Grafton. I had seen, from their site, that this looked like the place for some decent food and a good beer. Unfortunately, they had forgotten to advertise that their kitchen was closed, and we walked into the staff clearing out all their lines. Oh dear. Still, a very helpful member of staff pointed us at 'Another real ale pub, not far away...' ...Did we look THAT obvious?!?!? The aforementioned pub was the strangely named 'Tapping the Admiral', and it was next on our list anyway. This a corner terrace boozer, and I was expecting some harridan to be shouting 'Get aaat my paaaab' at any moment. But no, we were well looked after. A smaller selection of beer, with Adnams seeming to feature strongly. And lunch. And here's the thing. I have experienced this in London before; the concept of Thai food in pubs. I was a bit dubious, but the walk, a few pints before hand, a beer in hand....all seemed to add up to a great match for what was really tasty, and pretty cheap, Thai food. Lunch for a fiver, you cannot go wrong!! I still don't understand where the name comes from, but I urge you to not miss this pub out if you're in the area.

And so on toward Camden and Brewdog. I'm sure you already know about the Brewdog ethos. The bar was a little 'industrial', the decor all matching the 'punk' attitude of the brewery. There were a good range of beers on, from the relatively common to the less obvious. I settled for a half of 12 Hop, oured through their 'hopinator' of fresh Galena hops and ground coffee beans. Very hoppy, but not astringent, did get that coffee. We finished on thirds of Brooklyn Chocolate 10% one to be sipped...huge, but lovely. Interesting, I was worryingly waiting for the Craft Beer Co moment of last year, but the prices were somewhat moderated by focusing on their own product.

Continuing southwards, we skirted the back of Euston and hit the Bree Louise. We always seem to get a seat in this pub, yet it always seems busy!The CAMRA card in hand to claim discount we settled for a couple of Christmas brews from the Brains 'Craft' set up. The second Brains 'craft' beer I have had (Boilermaker being the other), and this was similarly disappointing. The beer is never undrinkable, but it just lacks that Ooomph.

 To cap the evening it was but a hop and step to the Euston Tap. This pub is TINY, and you find it in the little mock gatehouse outside Euston station. There is a cider alternative in the gatehouse opposite. The place was busy downstairs, but there are a few tables upstairs up the winding staircase. The place was a bit full to appreciate the range of beers on, but I noticed that there was a Moor beer (so'Hop) that I wanted to taste. This is not a beer for the malt lovers to be was really assertively hoppy!

 Saying our goodbyes, we left Dr B. to the delights of the Victoria line, whilst we took the trip south of river to Waterloo, a welcome pasty and home. A few more places ticked off the list, and added to the growing map of decent beer venues, this tradition is going to get more and more difficult to make different each year at this rate. However, what you got in all the places we visited is the vibrancy of new breweries, new beers, more established breweries upping their game, and pubs opening or changing to accommodate this movement. If this continues, there will be places to discover for years to come.

It is now the day after Burns Night, and I am feeling remarkably fresh. My contribution, for which everyone has my apologies, was the rather average Blackberry Hefe last brewed. Interesting beer this, never really delivered due to mashing too high and fermenting too high I suspect. Thus the body was too light and the clove thing not very pronounced. The blackberries added a nice pink hue to the beer, but what they predominantly lent in taste was a slight sourness. Not unpleasant, but nothing really that good. I think I still have a few litres left....coming near to a drain near you....

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Christmas Crawl 2013 - Camden and Kentish Town

Christmas. Time for tradition. You know the sort of thing; the same inane rituals, the same shit decorations you won't throw away, the same ranting at another year without a late night Marx Brothers' film to munch cheese and pickles to.

And so to an event now firmly lodged in the Christmas schedule. We've done the family stuff, we've even had a few days to relax. So it's time to hit London with Dr. B. and drink some beer. And, as usual, the planning is interesting/stressful. Will the pub be open? Will the beer be ok? Can I get away with drinking in London without having to overstretch the mortgage? Can I get some decent nosebag for less than twenty quid for a plate of chips? (Gastropubs! Christ!). So here's this year's plan, with a thankful nod to Stig and his Foursquare list:

View Christmas Crawl 2013 in a larger map

Unfortunately, the Camden Town Brewery is shut when we plan to go...ah well, another day. The Grafton seems best bet for food without being fleeced (is it me, but to get a decent bit of scoff in this bit of London it seems like gastros all the way?.....I can eat Scotch Eggs 'til the cows come home, but I regard the Scotch Egg as a snack!). I am sure Brewdog will both amuse and infuriate me, and I look forward to the more homely atmosphere of the Bree Louise at the end of the day.

As ever, a round up will follow!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

AG #15: Blackberry Hefeweizen

Elsewhere on this blog, I have posted the recipe for this.

The yeast, after being a bit slow, really kicked into action, and then stopped in a cold snap. THE FG was still rather high, so I roused and put it in somewhere warm. Nice bit of krausen, and then stopped again. My final gravity is still really too high (by about a full tenth of a point!!).

Well, it went in the keg anyway. A hefeweizen tends to primed scarily high (about 100g of sugar in my 10 litres). I replaced 10 g of this with the crushed juice of 200 g of foraged blackberries (assumed a 5g/100g sugar content, as per the Internet). So this could all go wrong in a scary pink explosion!

This efficiency/gravity thing is getting annoying now. So much so, I am thinking of mashing in a large esky to make sure I maintain heat. Yes, the yeast may have been a bit old - it was on the last month where I could use it. But it had been in the fridge all that time, and smelt OK. The beer also smelt and tasted just won't ferment out fully.

Given that I have experienced this phenomenon more than once, with different yeasts, suggests that it must be me and my technique, not my ingredients. I am sure my worry about hitting temperatures leads me to warming the water too much, adding the grain, mashing high. As the saying goes M.A.L.T. (more alcohol, less temperature).

To be honest, the temperature loss in my kettle/mash tun is pretty small over 90 mins, so I wonder if it is better to dough in a few degrees under, and the add hot water?

As it is, I've ended up with a lighter beer than I thought (3.7% not the 5% I aimed for), perhaps sweeter (thank goodness I added more hops than I did in my original attempt), and potentially explosive to boot :-{

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Session #82: Beery Yarns

Well. Some of these yarns could be ribald, some long and convoluted in the telling, and others could be as fishy as they are beery. However, for this Session (and apologies for not contributing since my last rant many months ago!), I wanted to focus upon beer as being the excuse for the story; the stimulant for the tales that unfold, not the story itself.

In fact my first yarn hardly features beer at all. Back in the day, as a postgrad student in Cardiff, in the early 90s, beer was Brains (or, if you were unlucky, Hancock's....or if you had committed one of the most heinous sins known to Man, Ansells). So a chance to sample something else was always welcome, and one pub where this was possible was out of town, up a hill, at a pub where we had to direct the taxi driver - the Ty Mawr in Lisvane.

On a summer's evening, the garden looked down to the coast, with a great view. But this evening was a wintery one. It was blowing a gale outside, raining sideways. I don't recall what I drank, probably something dark and deeply flavoured. I almost cannot recall who was in the intrepid party, except a few brave souls from the Department. But what I recall is the pub, with its fire roaring, shuttered against the elements, the gentle hubbub of conversation, gradually loosened by beers we had never tasted before was the antidote we all needed. I just remember laughter, warmth and friendship. I also recall visiting a few years later, as a friend left to I study in the US. It had now become a family friendly pub. For all this, the warmth it had on that winter's evening had disappeared in a haze of menus and child friendly policies...

My other tale is also wintery. Christmas morning to be exact. My sister and I had taken a walk up to the pub whilst mom finished cooking. Our destination was The Beacon Hotel, not 20 minutes walk up a relatively steep hill. The day was crisp; snow on the ground from a previous fall, but the sun was out. Glorious. We sat, with many, in the back of the pub. The landlord had tapped a new barrel of Ruby Mild. After the walk up, it tasted utterly superb. The boss came in and individually wished all of his customers a "Happy Christmas" and there was much chatting between strangers. If you don't know the pub, and I know many do, it is an old Victorian building, with furnishings to match, and the decorations consisted of holly obtained from the Beacon Hill behind the pub. No music, no fruit machine, just the cracking of coals in the grate, and the sound of people happy and contented. It was almost as if this scene was a replay of the same moment, recreated over 100 times on the same spot. After a second pint, lunch beckoned, and I left this fantastic bit of the Black Country behind me, knowing full well that however things change outside, what happens inside would represent what is good, and will persist, for many Christmases to come.