Home Brew

My 1 Gallon Adventure

So brew number 2 is in the fermenter. It’s a simple English Bitter with the same grain bill as the American Pale Ale but using East Kent Goldings hops. I had a taste last night when I measured the final gravity (1.007, meaning its about 4.2%) and it had a smooth, subtle malt base with a little earthiness from the hops. But it was a little sweet, which might mellow out in the bottle. We’ll see. But it was fermented colder than the last batch, which will hopefully have reduced the fruitiness from the yeast. Time will tell!

I have to say, doing one gallon (4.5l) batches is ideal for me, living in a small London flat. It means I can fine tune my brewing method quite quickly as I’ll be brewing a couple of times a month, and I’ve learned a lot in the first 2 brews: maintaining the mash temperature, boil off rate, benefits of sparging the grain bag, cooling methods, fermentation temperatures. And it means that the first brews, which won’t taste great, I don’t have 40 bottles to get through.

The small batches also mean I can brew lots of different styles and have a variety of home brewed beer in stock. I tried the first brew last week (maybe a little early) and it still had the same kind of flavour as my original extract brews, which I’m thinking might be fruity esters from the yeast fermenting too warm. I’ll try and keep the temperature down, but I don’t have any control over that. I think I’ll just have to work around it as best I can.

I’m brewing a spiced, malty Christmas Ale this weekend, then I have a porter and a witbier planned in the next couple of months, and my “To Brew” list is growing: black IPA, fruit wheat beer, ginger beer, stout, saison, apfelwein, smoked beer, rye pale ale, IPA, dunkel, belgian ale… I’m thinking of doing the cherry barley wine from Randy Mosher’s book Radical Brewing early next year so it will be ready for next winter.

I’ll hopefully do a post early next week on the Christmas brewday. Onward, into my 1 gallon adventure!

Categories: Beer, Home Brew, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

All Grain Home Brew, At Last!

I’m back, and I’m brewing. I wonder if anyone missed me.

I am finally brewing at home (my home, rather than my dad’s) and finally doing all grain (technically brew in a bag, but it counts). I decided to go for small batches – 5l or so – which meant that setup was a lot cheaper and easier, especially for a small London flat. Also, this means I can try lots of recipes and refine the ones I like without having to go through 40 bottles at a time.

So I planned to do a few hoppy pale ales to start with and ordered some pale malt, a bit of crystal malt and then some Amarillo and East Kent Goldings hops. The first beer was a sessionable 4% Amarillo APA, which would hopefully be packed with citrus and resin flavours, and then I want to do the same grain bill but with EKG hops. The first would be fermented with US-05 yeast, for a clean, American pale finish, and the second will use S-04 English ale yeast for a more fruity flavour.

My dad very helpfully delivered all the equipment over the weekend, and on Sunday I made my first foray into proper brewing. This is the recipe:

Amarillo APA

Recipe specifics:

Style: American Pale Ale
Batch size: 5.5 l
Boil volume: 8.0 l
OG: 1.044
FG: 1.011
Bitterness (IBU): 58.6
Color (SRM): 12.7
ABV: 4.3%

Grain/Sugars:

1.10 kg Maris Otter Malt, 83.3%
0.075 kg Crystal 50-60L (British), 16.7%

Hops:

5.00 g Amarillo (AA 8.7%, Whole) 60 min, 19.3 IBU
15.00 g Amarillo (AA 8.7%, Whole) 10 min, 21 IBU
15.00 g Amarillo (AA 8.7%, Whole) 0 min, 0.0 IBU
15.00 g Amarillo (AA 8.7%, Whole) dry hop

Yeast/Misc:

American Ale yeast, 0.5 unit(s), Yeast Safale US-05

 

I weighed out my grains while the water heated up, and fitted my mesh bag into the pot for the mash. I used the brew in a bag (BIAB) technique that is so much simpler, quicker and easier than conventional brewing. Basically, you put the grain in the bag, put the bag in the pot and after 1 hour at mash temperature, remove the bag and start your boil. Easy! The bag I ordered, however, was a small, coarse straining bag which was both too small and too coarse. But, the mash went well, holding temp at 66°C for the hour, at which point the grains were removed and the pot brought up to boiling.

My first hop addition went in when it reached a boil, and this is where the beer gets most of its bitterness. The later hop additions are for flavour and aroma, and this is fairly heavily hopped for such a small batch.

After the boil, I put the pot in a sink full of ice and water to bring it down to room temperature ready for the yeast, who at this point were being rehydrated in a little warm water. This, I think, was the only error in the day: that I didn’t leave the wort to cool long enough in the water bath. I transferred it into my sterilized fermenter bucket but it was still just over 30°C, too hot for the yeast. I sealed the bucket, shook it to aerate and cool the wort but the temp only came down by a degree or two. the kitchen was pretty warm at this point after the hour boil, so I put the wort in a cool corner to sit while I cleaned up.

Eventually pitched the yeast at about 27°C (not ideal) and left it. This morning, the airlock was blooping away and a thick finger of foam lay across the top of the near-beer. Oh, and the smell coming out of the airlock was wonderful, lots of hop aroma, with the still sweet malt underpinning it. I plan to see how it’s going after a week and then dry hop it with more Amarillo for maybe 5 days.

It was all actually worryingly simple. But let’s see how the beer turns out before I get too complacent.

Categories: Beer, Home Brew | 3 Comments

A Boozy Saturday and Homebrew Cooking

Someone asked me recently what my favourite brewery is. I thought about it for a moment and then realised, all things weighed up, it’s The Kernel. Consistently good beers that are right in my ideal flavour profile (usually tropical hops, long but smooth bitter finish), and I can’t remember trying one of theirs that I haven’t liked. Which I definitely can’t say for most breweries. But, surprisingly, as a Londoner I had yet to visit the brewery, which is open every Saturday from 9am-3pm for takeaway or to drink on the premises. So, with a couple of friends, we ventured into a trading estate in deepest Bermondsey to get some of London’s finest beers fresh from the source.

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Outside The Kernel

It was cold on Saturday. Bloody cold. Snow flurries and freezing winds. Maybe not the best of situations to go to a brewery which, in my experience, are usually cold places to start with. But, the plan had been made so we stuck with it. Passing big flat blocks left and right, a railway bridge ahead, we turned the corner into Dockley Road, and I had to trust my friend Pat (who’d visited before) that we were headed in the right direction. The Dockley Road Trading Estate didn’t look particularly promising or inviting, but a few steps past the gates I spied a honey shop, a greengrocers, a fishmongers, a bakery, a charcuterie and, right at the back, The Kernel. Seems like a great place to spend a Saturday morning, but possibly not when it’s snowing. On a spring morning, it would have been very pleasant indeed. Still, there was beer to warm our cockles.

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Inside The Kernel

It was around midday and the wooden tables set aside in the brewery for drinkers were already filling up. We went to the bar and I was surprised and pleased to see that as well as the wall of various bottles on the counter, there were 6 or so taps behind offering some fresh draughts. I went for a table beer to ease myself in. An ideal first drink, light and crisp with a bitter grapefruit hit. And my friend Pat went for a single hop pale ale, I forget which one, but the two together were £5. That’s not at all bad for two 330ml glasses of beer. The place was buzzing, despite the cold – all the drinkers were wrapped up warm, gloves, hats and scarves abounded. The mood was friendly and relaxed. We stayed for another couple and our friend Steve joined us. I tried the Bière de Table (a light, slightly banana-ey saison) and the Citra IPA (just as you’d expect a Kernel IPA).

As we were in the area, we decided to swing by Partizan as well. I’ve been hearing a lot about Partizan, and after trying a pale ale last week in the Earl of Essex, I was keen to try some more. On the way, we popped into the Monmouth Coffee tucked away behing The Kernel and Steve bought a pack of the most aromatic coffee I have ever smelled.

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Partizan Brewery

A short trip down the road brought us to Partizan. Much quieter and more unassuming than The Kernel, we walked into the brewery, made our way through the piles of boxes and crates, past the mash tun, to the counter. All bottles here. We each got a bottle of pale to drink while we decided on some takeaways. A 15% discount on a box of 24 meant we each got to choose 8. The had 3 saisons, a pale, 2 IPAs, a porter and a stout, from memory. I got a selection and we trudged back to The Kernel to pick up some more for that evening. This was turning into a very boozy day. But I guess when you get to a brewery at midday, there’s only really one way the day can go.

After the pales, I decided to go for the LBA stout which was very good. Much more suited to the weather than the pales and IPAs. Deep, warm and toasty, full bodied with a lingering citrus hop flavour. We noticed the crowd at the bar was growing as it was nearing last orders, so we joined the back of the queue and once again, beers in hand, decided on what beers we wanted to leave with. I got myself some Tables and a couple of other pales. Always good, always dependable. Then we headed to a friends house to drink some of our spoils.

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Our spoils from the day

Tasting notes are a bit thin from here on in, although I didn’t try many new beers so no real drama. I had the Partizan Galaxy Saison, which I remember being lighter than its 5.4%, with the trademark Belgian yeast aromas and flavours.

That evening, we popped into the Effra Social, an Antic pub that’s been open less than a month, for a quick drink on the way home. It really does feel like a social club and has a very 60s grandad kind of vibe. In a sort of cool way. They had a couple of interesting beers on, and I tried the East London Brewery Foundation Bitter, which I found a bit too thin, bitter and astringent for my tastes. And then it was off home to eat leftover rice & peas while watching Stewart Lee.

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Homemade steak and homebrewed ale pie!

The next day, spurred on by this relentless winter, my wife and I decided to make a hearty steak and ale pie, and whilst looking through my beer cupboard for a suitable bottle, I thought, “Why not use a homebrew!?”. My 6-odd % porter seemed like a perfect candidate: strong, slightly sweet finish and very dark. So in it went. And the stew turned out great, rich and tasty (although, to be fair, it doesn’t look particularly appetising in the picture). The only issue is that when it came to baking, I left the pie in the oven a touch too long which resulted in the crust being a bit flakey and not as buttery as I like it. Still, with some simple veggies and mustard mash it warmed us up, and it felt nice using my homebrew as an ingredient. I think we’ll be making this again. How soon depends on how long this bleedin’ winter lasts.

Categories: Beer, Brewery, Brewery Open Day, Home Brew | 2 Comments

The Homebrews News

What with being away over Christmas and then having to look for a flat, I havent had a chance to taste my homebrews in a while. And, to be honest, I wasn’t completely looking forward to cracking any open – I just didn’t know if I could handle the disappointment of a bad beer. Thankfully, and rather surprisingly, I was pretty pleased with the brews. I think it helped a lot that I had significantly lowered my expectations this time…and the extra time in the bottles. I should have taken pics but I was too distracted by the fact that the beers were drinkable, to be honest.

The cascade hopped pale ale (from a Coopers APA kit) still had a slight sickly malty aftertase but it had mellowed a lot and made it much more drinkable. It poured a clear, light amber, the citrus/floral nose hitting you as you lift the glass to drink. And that’s the first taste too,  gently sliding to a biscuity middle with a bitter finish. I had a few of these and enjoyed them all.

Next I tried the “witbier” (made from a Coopers Wheat kit with some orange and coriander additions) which I had the lowest hopes for. The OG was too low before we pitched the yeast and, novices that we are, we didn’t try to fix it. I tried this before Christmas and the overwhelming taste to me was “watery”. Still, ice cold from the garage it poured a slightly hazy golden colour, with a decent head. Yes it’s low in alcohol (a smidge over 3%) but as a session beer on a hot day (when those rarities do happen over here) it would actually be pretty decent. Very light in flavour, it was more like a light wit lager. There was a hint of banana from the yeast and a tangeriney tang from the oranges. Very pleasant and refreshing, so said all who tried it.

Finally, the porter. Although at 6.5%, it’s probably more of a stout. Who knows. My first taste of this at bottling was overwhelmingly boozy, and very sherry-like. This made me worry that it might have been ruined by poor cooling techniques. However, the alcohol was well hidden in this dark, roasted, slightly chocolatey and brownie tinged brew. I was very pleased. Very pleased indeed. Not much in the way of tasting notes as I had already had quite a few beers by the time I plucked up the courage to open one of these, but good and drinkable. A little thin on mouthfeel, I remember, and a very slight sour aftertaste. That’s just coming back to me now so not sure how accurate that actually is. Alan (that’s my father-in-law), that gives you the all clear to have your bottle. Put it in the fridge for a couple of hours to chill a bit and it should be lovely. Perfect for that “winter” weather over in Thailand.

Quite a novelty for me to get drunk on home made alcohol. I look forward to doing it again soon. What I have learned from this is firstly, read a book on brewing before you start brewing. Every page I turn in How To Brew, I curse myslef for not having read it before I started. That said, these are all better than I thought they’d be, so just leave it in the bottle for another few weeks and it’ll probably taste better.

So that’s the latest formn Evans & Sons Brewing Co. Before we do another batch, I think we need a boiler to do full wort boils, and a wort chiller. So, no more homebrews for a month or so…by which time we’ll probably be nearly out of these three. As long as we have a few to drink while we brew then next batch, it’ll be fine.

Categories: Beer, Home Brew | 3 Comments

The Homebrews, So Far…

So, the time finally came this weekend to try the the first homebrews. I had been looking forward to that moment for quite a while, since I first decided to buy the equipment, decided on the first brews and placed the order, then while brewing and waiting for it to ferment, then bottling…after all that, I was very excited to taste the fruit of my labours, the first beer I had ever made…

I put the plastic Coopers bottle on the counter, grabbed the cap and gave it a twist. The small “pfffss” was not very encouraging. The smell give a nice hit of cascade, from the dry hopping, but the overwhelming aroma is a maltiness that is very reminiscent of the malt extract. It poured a hazy golden colour, with a bit of effort required to build a head – but a head that stayed pretty well til the end when you got it going. The taste was again, primarily dominated by the citrusy cascade, with that malty character bringing up the middle, dissapating to a pleasantly bitter aftertaste. Both my dad and brother thought it was pretty good, but I wasn’t so impressed. Not bad, drinkable but nothing really to be proud of.

The secodn brew was a what beer that had a low OG and the resuly it a watery, thin beer. Maybe this will be nicer come summer when you want a refreshing, cold beer but it’s not suited to a dark winter’s evening. I can safely say that I won’t brew either of these again.

And finally I tasted the porter when I took the FG (1015, meaning an ABV of 6.5%) and the taste was overwhelmingly boozy, almost like a roasted sherry. I’m off to Thailand over christmas so I will leave this now til mid Jan when I’m back and try it then. Hopefully it will have mellowed and balanced a bit. I am a bit more precious about this one as it was more than a kit beer – extract and specialty grains. It’s no all-grain, I know, but small steps.

So, to pick myself up after the dissappoinment of the homebrews, I had myself a Samuel Smith’s Winter Ale, which was malty, rounded and warming, like a comforting hug on a cold night. Just what I was after. Then, I stepped up to a Delirium Christmas, and that got me well and truly into the festive spirit. I supped on that as we listened to Christmas songs and watched the lights twinkling on the tree, and only wished that I had bought a couple.

So, some not-so-great beers to start with, but a solid winter favourite to finish. And the shortcomings with the first brews have only spurred me on to do better with the next ones – get a bigger kettle and wort chiller, do full wort boils, and discuss with the other brewers about going all-grain. 2013 will be a good homebrew year, I can feel it.

Categories: Beer, Home Brew | 1 Comment

My First Extract Brew – The Frisco Porter

I have been wanting to make a porter since we started homebrewing…all of 2 brews ago. As I have said, I’m really getting into my stouts and porters, and I know that one I’d crafted myself would taste that much better. But probably only to me.

So, after having recently tried the Anchor porter, I decided to make a clone of that. But, due to me being.the only one of the three brewers who likes dark beers, and a bottle shortage, I made a half batch – about 12 litres.

The recipe I used needed converting twice – from imperial to metric, and then in half. This lead to lots of checking, re-checking and re-calculating, and no doubt I’ve messed up somewhere, but I’m sure it’ll turn out drinkable.

Whilst steeping the specially grains (chocolate malt, black malt, roasted barley and crystal malt) it smelled like coffee and walnut brownies. Lets hope some of that makes it into the final beer!

I bittered with northern brewer and cascade, with no aroma hops. Depending on how it turns out, I may add some aroma hops to the next batch.

The boil went without a hitch, cooked the wort, topped it up to 11 litres and took a gravity reading. 1075. So I topped it up with a but more water and brought the gravity to 1065. A touch more sensible. So depending on where this finished, this could be a 6-7%er. Nice and healthy.

Bottling planned for 3 weeks time, then drinking in the new year. A perfect little January warmer, I hope.

We had planned to try our first brew this weekend as it had been bottled 3 weeks ago, but it was my brother’a birthday yesterday so he wasn’t around, and my dad was a little tender. So we’ll crack the first one when we next meet in another 3 weeks. By then, after 6 weeks in total in the bottle, they should *hopefully* be clear, smooth and wonderfully carbonated. Or, at the very least, drinkable.

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A Landmark Sunday

Today was a momentous day. First off, we bottled our first home brew. We had a cheeky taste before it went into the bottles and it tasted surprisingly good! The cascade hops gave it a wonderful citrus, fruity nose, and came through in the aftertaste too. There was something a little amiss in first taste on the tongue but hopefully that will settle down in secondary in the bottles. We’ll give it a few weeks and then try again, but I’m very hopeful.

Secondly, we put our second batch of home brew into the fermenter. We did the Cooper’s wheat kit that came with the starter pack, but boiled up some orange peel and ground coriander, then stepped some spicy Saaz hops and added that to the fermenter. Hopefully that will give it a little Hoegaarden/Blue Moon vibe. The wort had a slight orangy bitterness in the background that was nice, but let’s see how it develops in the bucket.

And thirdly, today was my mum’s birthday. And to celebrate, my brother and I cooked a 5.5kg fore-rib of beef, roast potatoes, glazed carrots, Yorkshire pud, bacon braised cabbage and sherry-glazed parsnips with chestnuts. It was awesome. The meat was perfectly pink, the Yorkshire reached the top of the oven and the roasties were deliciously crisp. It flattened us all. And the Kernel porter I was supping during the cooking and the meal was a splendid accompaniment. A lovely, warming winter Sunday. Now, how long can we wait until we crack the first bottle of home brew…

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Adventures In Home Brewing – The Inaugural Brew

For a while now I’ve been wanting to start home brewing; watching interesting and informative videos from CraigTube and Northern Brewer has given me the knowledge, confidence and the thirst to get a kit and start brewing.

I bought a Cooper’s starter kit from The Home Brew Shop (why are there no home brew shops in London?? Probably high rents and increased internet activity, but it would be great to talk to someone about brewing!) which had the fermenter, thermometer, hydrometer etc etc and came with a wheat beer kit. Everything you need to do your first brew. But, as I had seen lots of videos and read lots of forum posts about adding to kits, and had a completely unwarranted confidence in my brewing abilities, I decided to get a Cooper’s Australian Pale Ale kit and dry hop it with some cascade for a few days in the fermenter. Not particularly adventurous, I know, but it felt a bit more “craft” than just doing the kit.

So, on a cold Friday night, my dad, brother and I “founded” Evans & Sons Brewing Co. in my dad’s kitchen. The wort came together fine, although the OG was a little low (1.035) so we added a little dextrose. This made no apparent difference so we went ahead and pitched the yeast anyway. It’ll still be beer in the end, right?

The next morning, expecting a thick, foamy head, I was greeted by the same thin brown liqour we left last night…with a tiny  scattering of bubbles at the top. Great, I thought, failure first time. The wort was a little cold so we wrapped it in some blankets and moved it nearer the radiator.

Still, 3 days later it looked the same.

I got my dad to do a hydrometer test and, much to my relief, pleasure and pride, he exclaimed that it was 1.010. The yeast were doing their thing! Hurrah! Beer! My dad had a taste and said “It tastes like beer.” Not exactly tasting notes, but beer is what we were after so it looks lke beer is what we have. Wonderful. At this point, we decided to drop the hops – 50g of gloriously fragrant, whole leaf cascade.

That was 3 days ago, and we’re bottling it tomorrow. So, if we can wait, it’ll be about a month until we taste the proper, bottle-conditioned stuff. I’ll let you know how it goes, as I’m sure you’re all on tenterhooks.

Also tomorrow, I think we might as well do the wheat kit…but add some coriander and orange flavour, and some spicy saaz hops to beef it up a bit.

It’s this craft beer thing, man. I just can’t help myself!

Categories: Beer, Home Brew | 2 Comments

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