Jan 222019
 

It’s been a while since I posted, but that does not mean I’ve not been brewing! In the last year I’ve made a few batches of PunkyMonkey American IPA, a Mild, a new batch of Rhubery Saison, a new even hoppier American IPA (Pegasus); a Saison (Raven); a Foreign Extra Stout, and most recently an Ordinary Bitter.

I was delighted that my Ordinary Bitter won first place in its category in the Jan 2019 Scottish Craft Brewers annual competition. It’s quite a hard one to make well, so I was particularly pleased. I have half in bottles and half in keg, and is just under 4%.

 Posted by at 8:37 pm
Sep 082017
 

I was on a roll the weekend of 28/29 July. I got home from work on Friday and brewed this, then brewed Punky Monkey #2 the following morning. Making up for lost time!

This year’s rhubarb and raspberry saison has a bit more of each fruit in it, and is slightly stronger at 6.7%, and I love it. Dry and slightly tart with distinct flavours of each fruit along with a banana-fruity Saison character.

 Posted by at 10:24 pm
Sep 082017
 

A late post  again, as the stocks are already going down fast! Punky Monkey was a big success so I made another batch soon after, bottled on 12/8/17. Crisp, hoppy, grapefruity, it is drinking perfectly right now.

 Posted by at 10:18 pm
Jul 132017
 

Well, it’s been a while since I posted, so here is my belated post of my 2017 version of my annual Eldercat elderflower IPA. This year’s has Chinook instead of Amarillo hops, so is Columbus for bittering, and Cascade, Chinook and East Kent Goldings as late hops, and in the dry hopping. I’m very happy with the way it’s turned out. This time I remembered to put the dry hops and elderflowers in a hop bag in the fermenter, so I avoided the problem I had last year of lots of debris getting bottled and causing loads of foam to form in the bottles when opened- which had some spectacular results, especially when the beer was not chilled…

 

 Posted by at 10:32 pm
Feb 262017
 

It seems like ages since I made beer last year, but finally it’s made and bottled. Looking for something different from Hoppity Hip (which is almost finished), this is an American Pale Ale /IPA (take your pick, it’s could be either), with an abundance of Columbus, Citra, Cascade, Ahtanum, Chinook, and Simcoe hops. At 6% and fairly light in colour, it tasted great on bottling, not unlike Brewdog Born to Die. Which is good, as I love that beer!

 Posted by at 10:14 pm
Dec 312016
 

Yesterday was a double bottling day, and today I finished the labelling. It took me a while to put together the Pilsner label, but I’m quite pleased with it.

    

English IPA and Pilsner bottled and labelled. The IPA is already tasting really nice- good and malty with lots of floral Goldings hops, and dry hopped with Chinook. It will be ready mid January.

The Pilsner will take a while to condition before I can make a judgement, but it certainly tastes like a decent lager, albeit with discernible sweetcorny notes indicating some DMS present. This is often present in Czech and other lagers as part of their character, as the pale lager malt has a lot more of the precursors to DMS in it than ale malt, and some people are more sensitive to it than others. I’m personally not too keen on it, so I’m hoping it will be less noticeable when it is well conditioned, carbonated , and chilled.

 

Beer shelves

The new beer shelf is filling up nicely!

 Posted by at 12:22 am
Dec 162016
 

Last weekend I made a batch of English IPA (yet to be named), the first I’ve made for a long time. The style I am aiming for is for a reasonably full bodied beer, about 6%, with lots of floral, spicy English hops, some citrus, good bitterness, and a really nice malty finish. When looking for ideas for a good recipe, I came across a forum post which described one that has won numerous prestigious awards in the US, so that seemed a good place to start. It uses pure East Kent Goldings hops throughout the boil, but it diverges from a traditional English IPA in the use of Chinook hops at the dry hopping stage, which is a more citrussy hop. When I made it, I changed the amber malt to Vienna, and the yeast to dry Safale S-04, as that’s what I could get locally at short notice. My final recipe can be found here.

Fermentation went like a rocket, going from 18C to 21C purely from the exothermic reaction of the fermentation process, and it was finished within 4 days. I took a sample and it tasted great- really flowery hops and plenty bitterness, a bit of sweetness (it finished at 1.013, 6%) and a lovely malty-bitter finish. This was before adding the Chinook, so I actually bottled 4 x 500ml bottles directly before adding the dry hops in a bag, so I can compare the two variants later. I’ll leave it about 4-5 days for the dry hops to soak,  and then bottle it all. It will be ready to drink early to mid January, ready for the Scottish Craft Brewing competition at the end of the month. I’m really looking forward to tasting this when it is ready!

 Posted by at 10:35 pm
Dec 152016
 

This is a rather belated post as I actually brewed this back on the 26th Nov, but it is still sitting in the fermenter, keeping relatively cool in the communal stairwell amongst the jungle of plants, and under a bin bag to keep the light (and nosy neighbours) out.

I’m not a big lager drinker by any means, but that is largely down to the predominance of tasteless (or worse) mega lager in the pubs here. Drinking a really good German or Czech lager (one of the many variations, be it Pilsner, Helles, Marzen, Bock etc) is a totally different experience, and thankfully the ‘craft’ microbreweries in the UK are now also producing some nice ones.

Making a Pilsner is something I’ve not tried since I was a PhD student in the early 90’s, and looking back through my notes, I recollect that I had mixed fortunes- at least 2 batches were chucked down the toilet due to infection which left a scum, a strong smell of acetone, and a revolting harsh bitterness that I still remember all too vividly. This will have been due to a combination of too-high fermentation temperature, imperfect sanitation, relatively low hop rates (hops is good preservative and the main reason it was originally used in beer), perhaps a poorly sealed fermentation vessel, and the thought that being a lager, it had to sit for ages before bottling- so it went off. The batches which worked, I remember being pretty good.

That was then, and things are very different now; I have far better equipment, technique, ingredients, and overall brewing knowledge, so I thought it was time to give it another go. Making a good lager, especially a Pilsner, is a challenge, much more so than a hoppy ale. Pilsner is a very pure and clean style, quite dry but with good body, crisply hoppy, but only very light lager malt and a bit of lightly kilned malt such as Vienna, or some light crystal malt for some extra maltiness. It uses the relatively delicate, floral and spicy noble hops- typically Saaz. No hiding behind a load of dark crystal or darker malts and a shovelful of pungent American hops here. Traditionally, fermentation is carried out with bottom-fermenting lager yeast at very low temperatures- around 5-10C, for several weeks, to give a very clean flavour with no esters. It is then lagered (matured) for several weeks just above freezing. Tennents etc barely qualify as lagers at all in the true sense- they get about 24h max cold ‘lagering’ and are not even fermented particularly cold- that would take too long and would cost too much. However, you have to give them credit for being able to churn out millions of litres of consistently bland beer year after year- that is actually quite a technical achievement, whether you like the product or not!

My main limitation is that I have no fermentation cooling ability, so I have to go back to the original continental tradition of making it in winter. Ideally I would just put it out in the garden shed, but that is 3 floors down and I’m not lugging a 25L fermenter down with my bad back! So, the compromise is to put it just outside my front door in the communal stair, where it is about 11-15C at this time of year. Not ideal, but better than ~18C in the flat. It seems also to be the case that some lager yeasts are much better at fermenting cleanly at higher temperatures than others. I had some dry Mangrove Jack’s Bavarian Lager yeast in the fridge, so I used that, and a simple recipe for Pilsner Urquell: Lager malt and some light crystal. For hops I used a mixture of Saaz and another Czech hops: Kazbek, which has a slightly more assertive citrussy profile, and has been used with success in this style.

So, it’s still sitting in the fermenter in the stair. I have no idea whether it has finished or not, or what it tastes like yet, but this weekend I think I’ll risk fishing out a sample to assess whether it is ready for racking into a maturing vessel. Oh- I don’t have one. I might have to buy another carboy. Or, I could just bottle it and let it mature in the bottles- much easier to carry! I could even hide some in the garden shed and hope the neighbours don’t find it- but they are mostly hibernating at this time of year, so it should be safe enough.

Watch this space, hopefully I won’t have to report that is has gone down the drain…

 

 

 Posted by at 11:58 pm
Nov 292016
 

I got the new batch of Hoppity Hip bottled and labelled up yesterday, so it will be conditioned and ready to drink in a couple of weeks.

hoppity-hip-nov-2016

New beer shelf

HH stacked on the new shelf above the kitchen cabinet- more beer storage! (it’s straight really, it’s just the phone panorama makes it look bent!)

 Posted by at 11:27 pm
Oct 152016
 

broonhilda2

That’s the new version of Broonhilda (Beavertown Black Betty clone) Black IPA bottled. It ended up at 8.3%, so almost 1% stronger than the original. Initial tasting is very promising: very fruity hops, good amount of roastiness, and fairly high bitterness that will mellow somewhat over the next few weeks. I bottled it in 330ml bottles due to its strength.

Update 23/10: This has now carbonated and on first tasting I am very happy indeed with this. It has already mellowed into a well balanced beer, with great hops and a nice roastiness, with enough body  and  a lasting head. I just had to follow the first bottle with a second…

 Posted by at 5:42 pm