Monday, 29 November 2010

Bottled Belgian ale

Bit of a disaster with the new bottling bucket leaking at the tap. It didn't when I tested it the other day, but in turning the tap round to angle it so that I could actually get some beer out it loosened somewhat.

So it was a bit of a panic job rather than the relaxing filling of bottles I was expecting. Because of this I lost some beer, but still managed to get over 19L bottled, so not too bad. I also found a 2L bottle of beer #3 in the bathroom cupboard. That was in PET bottles and has been there since May 2009, so it is anybodies guess what it is like!

It was 1020 when bottled and was primed with 80g sugar dissolved in water and 75% of it added to the bottling bucket.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Belgian ale stuck

The Belgian blonde ale had slowed down to dropping a couple of points every couple of days. When I checked this evening it was stuck at 1.020, as it had been previously. I had given it a gentle rouse in an attempt to get the fermentation going again. It obviously didn't work, so this evening I got my newly arrived starsan out and sterilised the other bucket. I racked it into this and moved it right next to the radiator. Hopefully that will kick it off again. If it doesn't I will knock the radiator off and let it settle for a bit before using my new bottling bucket to bottle it.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Beer #8 - Belgian Blonde Ale

Just took a hydrometer reading, now 9 days after it went in the FV and it's at 1.024, which is good work from our yeasty little friends.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Beer #8 - Fermenting

No problems with this one bubbling over so far. It's managed to get a 2-inch krausen on top and seems to be fizzing away nicely. Still in a room varying in temperature with the heating going on in the morning and on an evening.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Beer #8 - Belgian Blonde Ale

It's brewday again, this time a rough attempt at a Belgian Blonde ale. And once again the method is getting a bit of a rough change. This time I tried a little steep at mash temperature of the speciality grains, and also twiddled a few other bits.

Belgian Blonde
  • Biscuit Malt 0.11kg
  • Munich Malt 0.11kg
  • Vienna Malt 0.11kg
  • Extra Light DME 0.65kg (start of boil)
  • Extra Light DME 3.2kg (late addition)
  • Hallertauer 40g (90 mins)
  • Saaz 20g (15 mins) 20g
  • Irish Moss (15 mins) tsp
  • Light brown soft sugar (late addition) 0.23kg
  • WLP550
  • Water to 23L
So, I got the temperature of 7L of water up to about 68/69C took the stock-pot off the heat added the bag with the malts and wrapped the stockpot in a fleece. After 40 minutes and a cup of coffee I fished out the bag, 'sparged' by pouring some previously boiled water through the bag and giving it a squeeze, put the stock-pot back on the stove-top and added the first malt extract addition. Once it hit the boil I added the first hop bag and hit the button on the timer.

At this point I had a bit of an interlude drilling holes in logs and hammering in mushroom-spawn impregnated dowels.

The timer beeped and in went the Saaz. After the 15 minutes were up I took the hop bags out and again 'sparged' each with half a kettle of water. At this point I added the rest of the extract and the sugar, which was replacing Belgian candi sugar as I couldn't source any. I turned the gas on again and let the wort come back up to the boil to help dissolve all the clumped bits of extract. The addition of more volume of water, of course, meant that I couldn't cool to pitching temperature simply by chucking in the rest of the water. Not having any other way of cooling I had to just leave it for a couple of hours and start tidying up a bit. And had lunch which I'd totally forgotten about. I'd taken a hydrometer reading which was bang on Beersmith's estimate of 1.068. I had, however, forgotten that the wort was hot and when I looked later after it had cooled in the sample jar it was at 1.072. Beersmith reckons this is 7.45%. Oops. I hope the yeast is sufficient without being cooked up into a starter. It went straight in as soon as the temperature looked OK.

Have I created a monster?

Beer #7 - Old Peculier taster

Coming back late-ish last weekend after pubs and a curry, I realised that a) the pale ale is a disaster, a complete right-off. I think I may not have rinsed the keg properly and b) the only other booze in the house was the 4 days in bottle OP clone. So we did the inevitable and had a few bottles. I have to say I was impressed. It was really quite nice and actually not a million miles away from the original. Not an exact copy by any means, but still rather lovely.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

OP Clone - bottled/kegged

I can't count. For some reason I didn't do enough bottles for the OP clone last night. So I had to drink some from a jug. It was quite nice. Sweet, chocolate notes at the back.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Beer #7 - Secondary

As I was at the Nottingham beer festival over the weekend I didn't get a chance to do anything with the OP clone. Although we were back on Sunday I was a bit too lazy to start sanitising things, so I left it until tonight when Gemma had gone out.

Had a bit of a disaster whilst siphoning and managed to lose a bit of beer at the end by trying to be clever and get a hydrometer reading whilst siphoning. I managed that, but also managed to tip a sample jar all over the floor. The reading though was (adjusted for temperature) 1.015.

I snuck a taste, as ever - certainly better than the taste I had last week, but still not too much like the original.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Handflache all gone

We had Daz and Jen round last night for our own version of Oktoberfest - basically I cooked some sausage based meals and we drained the remaining mini-keg of the wheat beer. The beer had mellowed somewhat, lost some of the intense banana flavour, but also gained a little bit of body, seeming somehow less 'thin'. That being said it was still pretty drinkable and left me feeling a little grotty today. It certainly went well with my take on currywurst with rye bread, wurst with suaerkraut and apple served with fried potatoes.

So all in all I am going to declare my first foray into the world of extract brewing a success!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Beer #7 - Old Peculier-ish

It's brewday, this time trying to get a rough clone of Old Peculier done (based on Graham Wheeler's Brew Your Own British Real Ale). This is another extract brew and the first one in which I've steeped any grains. My aim here is to get this made and put away as a winter/Christmas-time treat -although I am probably not going to be at home for Christmas so how I manage to transport the brew is another interesting question.

Beer #7 - Old Peculier clone
  • 300g Crystal Malt
  • 220g Chocolate Malt
  • 3.6kg Light Dry Malt Extract
  • 14g Fuggles (90)
  • 29g Challenger (90)
  • 14g Goldings (10)
  • 1/2 tsp Irish Moss (10)
  • Danstar Nottingham yeast
So adjustment for my method:
  • Flame on 6L water
  • When @ 40c add 1kg extract and grains
  • Just before boiling > 75c, remove grain bag and rinse through with just boiled water
  • Add 90 minute hops
  • After 80 minutes add additional hops & irish moss
  • Pour into FV, add small amount of water to cool a bit
  • Add remaining extract
  • Make up to 23L
  • When temperature is under 30c, pitch yeast
So once again the house smells of hops, which will hopefully mean I get a good nights sleep tonight. The beer went in the fermenter a little lighter than I'd aimed at at 1.053 ish (adjusted for temperature).

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Beer #6 Kegged

After about 3 weeks in 'secondary', a couple of days of which had a fishtank heater in I gave up and kegged the beer. Maybe the fishtank heater/gentle rouse helped as it looks like it's down to 1.016 now, which would make it 3.5%. It won't matter if it drops a couple of points in the barrel. Primed with 80g granulated sugar.

It will be a miracle if it doesn't end up swimming in fungus or something the amount of times I've been in and out of the fermenting bin. But we shall leave it and see I think. My sneaky taste thoughts were standard pale bitter, perhaps not as hoppy as I'd have liked -possibly I need to revisit my technique of bagging the hops or maybe increase the boil length?

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Beer #6 Racked into 2nd barrel

Because the foam had subsided on the beer I stuck it in the second barrel, taking a sample at the same time. It hasn't shifted very far -I think possibly because it's a little cold. I made sure that the yeast got a good rousing and that I got plenty of slurry in there, so hopefully that will be enough to get it going again. With it having cooled down a bit I must remember to start shutting the bathroom window!

Finer temperature control has definitely got to be on the agenda next.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Spill over

It must have been a little warmer today because after I got back from a walk in the Peak District I noticed the brew making a break for freedom down the side of the barrel. Easily mopped up however.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Beer #6 Healthy ferment

The starter culture of yeast obviously did the trick as I came downstairs this morning to a nice krausen on the ale. Surprisingly only a very small amount had forced itself out when I returned from work, and hadn't even run down the fermenting barrel, so hopefully it's going at just the right rate.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Brewing beer #6

Leaving the starter culture for a while paid off, I started to see a bit of a foam and some accumulation of yeast on the side of the measuring jug. And thus it was time to brew.

I started the base wort off to come up to the boil and then realised I had no bag for the hops. Netto to the rescue - I bought 10 crappy dishcloths for a quid -they're essentially a cotton bag, so I snipped the corner and packed them with the hops. Same with the late addition, they went in another dishcloth bag.

So the other balls up was I forgot to account for the 2L volume of the starter, so I have a lot of volume in the fermenting vessel. If the ferment is in anyway vigorous then we'll probably see that foaming over. Oops. I have stuck a towel round the base of the bin in advance this time. Wasn't far off the OG I'd predicted at ~ 1.042 (it was difficult to read the hydrometer - I need a sample jar), so predicted abv is 4-4.3%.

An observation is that this DME was less prone to clump than the wheat -provided it didn't hit the spoon, my hand or the side of the pan/fermenting bin.

Sunday, 5 September 2010


I haven't yet had any visible movement on the yeast starter I created yesterday, although it has basically only sat overnight and the temperature here has dropped a bit. I chucked a spoon in boiling water and then gave the culture a bit of a stir to rouse the yeast/aerate it. I'm unsure what's best to do - wait until I get activity or just forge ahead and pitch it anyway - I do have a failsafe packet of S04 in the fridge in case this doesn't get going. Although if it doesn't I won't be happy because this yeast cost over a fiver.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Pale ale (beer #6)

My next very simple attempt is for a hoppy pale session bitter. I'm aiming for about 4% ABV (1.040 OG) but quite bitter at 32 EBU. I will reserve judgement on a name until I taste it.

Beer #6 - unnamed as yet (23L)
  • 2628g Pale Spraymalt
  • 29g Challenger (90 minutes)
  • 9g Fuggles (90 minutes)
  • 5g Fuggles (10 minutes)
  • Wyeast #1335 British Ale II
So adjusted for a 6L partial boil and late extract addition:
  • Put the flame on 6L of water
  • Add 685g DME
  • When boiling add 90 minute hops
  • After 80 minutes add additional hops
  • Boil for another 10 minutes
  • Pour into FV and make up to 23L
  • Add the remaining 1943g of DME
  • When temperature under 30C pitch yeast
I think this will be getting done tomorrow so I can make a yeast starter from the smack pack and let it cook up a bit.


I forgot to mention that I bought the bits for the last lot of beer from Thrifty Shopper. Very good prices and excellent customer service. They really bent over backwards to suggest alternative yeasts and then get some out to me when the royal mail lost the first package. A++

Handflache attempt #1 (beer #5)

I've managed to drink almost all of the 'disaster' keg of the hefeweizen (I'm sure my spelling of this changes each time). So taste wise I'm really quite liking it -the first beer I've made without the homebrew tang which, I understand, is the result of using old liquid malt extract. Just getting rid of that has really improved the beer. It's sweet, probably because it didn't ferment all the way down. It lacks a bit of body which I wonder was due to the very vigorous ferment at the start, possibly because of temperatures being too high. Certainly temperature control for fermentation is on the list to look at sorting at some point (I'm guessing the best thing would be to source an old fridge or something to house the FV). I guess because I used all wheat malt extract in the recipe (rather than say substituting 25% for pale malt extract) that also may have had an effect. Although, forum posts seem to suggest most wheat malt extract has something like 45% barley malt extract in there anyway.

I didn't get much clove flavour from the beer but definitely lots of banana both taste and aroma. Because of this and because it's quite 'thin' it goes down the neck rather easily.

Overall, I'm quite impressed with it but I do understand there is a lot of work yet to be done.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Beer #5 - Kegs/Bottles

I think I messed up getting the beer into the secondary vessel and didn't get enough yeast slurry in there, so there hasn't been much, if any movement on the hydrometer -possibly a single point. So I decided to keg. I sealed the FV completely last night and there was a bit of a bulge in the lid so I think there was still very slight activity. With this in mind I decided not to prime and went for it.

On reflection I should have bought new bungs for the mini-kegs that I'd drained of lager a few weeks earlier. One was sound and looks to have sealed properly, although I'm not 100% sure, however one of the plastic parts from one fell in the keg and immediately span off under the top so was pretty much irretrievable. So that's 5L of beer that's going to have to be drunk over the next 2 days. It could be worse I suppose. :)

So I have several bottles full and a 5L keg that will be left for a couple of weeks/a month to mature, and a young drinking mini-keg that I will report back on after I sample it this afternoon.

FG: 1.017
ABV: ~4.8%

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Turbo Cider 005

We drank all of the honey/AJ bottled TC this weekend. Most of it anyway as I'd clearly overprimed and had half of one bottle on the ceiling almost. It was pretty good, certainly sweeter than the last batch and incredibly fizzy.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Brewing TV

I'm loving the weekly episodes of Brewing TV. I quite enjoyed this week's, in which we had a wander round the basement areas that Jake may turn into a brewhouse.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Beer #5 - Racked to secondary

Because of all the crap around the FV I decided to rack the beer off into another tub and try to get a bit of yeast swirled around. The hydrometer reading had stayed at 1.018 (rather than the 10.016 I had thought it was), so I thought I'd give it until the weekend to see whether there was any movement before bottling.

I stole a glass off whilst siphoning - very nice at the minute with a lot of banana to the nose.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Beer #5 -Crazy fermentation

Beer #5 didn't want to stay in the barrel on the first evening of it's fermenting. I came downstairs to find a puddle of foam having made it's way across the table that my fermenting tub sits on towards the edge and then the floor. Fortunately, I managed to mop it up and put some more towels in it's way to catch whatever came out over the next couple of days. Note to self -put towels down with every brew!

We went away for 4 nights over the weekend sampling lots of ales and music at the Summer Sundae festival in Leicester. I've just measured the gravity, after 8 days it's down to 1.016.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Beer #5 - 'Handflache' Hefeweissen attempt #1

I'm not sure why but my original calculations weren't correct, so I ended up having to make a panic adjustment to the recipe I was using to make it all fit with the ingredients I'd ordered. Basically this meant plumping for a lower gravity and hence alcohol content - this is not necessarily a bad thing, given that I'm hoping for an easy drinking summer beer here. In order to keep it within tolerable levels I also cut down the brew length to 20 litres. So my super simple recipe is:

Handflache (#1) - 20 litre
  • 3kg Dried wheat malt extract (6-10 EBC)
  • 18g Saaz hops (3.5% alpha)
  • White Labs WLP380 Hefeweizen IV Ale Yeast

So adjusted for a 6L partial boil and late extract addition:
  • Put the flame on 6L of water
  • Add 900g dried wheat malt extract
  • When boiling add 18g hops (in muslin bag)
  • Boil for 90 minutes
  • Pour into fermenting vessel and make up to 20L with cold water, aerating
  • Add the rest of the extract
  • When temperature is under 30c pitch yeast
There were issues with the extract powder clumping, but with a bit of a stir it all managed to dissolve. Somehow my hydrometer reading was way more than I had expected given the figures out of Beer Engine. I could be driving it wrong, or maybe the numbers for the extract are out compared to the batch I have (maybe the numbers are for liquid extract). In any case it's looking like I'm at an OG of 1.054 which will be about 5.5% if I get down to an FG of 1.012.

I wonder whether the next wheat experiment should include some pale malt extract?

First extract brew

After some mulling I've decided to try extract brewing. Whilst I'd love to go all grain, I don't have the equipment, or perhaps more importantly the space for the equipment. What I do have is an 11.5 litre capacity stockpot. This obviously poses a slight problem in making a 5 gallon (23 litre) brew. But perhaps the cloud has a silver lining because by adding the bulk of the water (cold) to the wort after boiling I should be able to cool the wort to yeast pitching much more quickly -and possibly aerate it at the same time.

I intend to reduce the boil volume to 6 litres to comfortably fit in the pot and allow plenty of foaming space. Because of hop-utilisation rates changing with extract concentration I am using the excellent Beer Engine to recalculate the amount of extract to use such that I am maintaining the original gravity of the recipe - the remainder will be added to the fermenting vessel. As I am using spray dried extract rather than liquid I'm assuming I can get away without boiling it to get rid of bugs like I would have to with liquid extract.

My first brew is going to be a simple Hefeweissen wheat beer. Recipe to follow.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Beer 004

First taste of beer 004. Yuk. It's lifeless, tastes mainly of water and the homebrew tang -it really has nothing whatsoever going for it. If it can't be drunk successfully as a shandy it is going down the drain!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Turbo Cider 005 bottled

I bottled the Turbo Cider yesterday - priming with some honey dissolved in apple juice in the bottles. No gravity taken to start or afterwards. Bottled into Ikea flip top 1L bottles with a bit of headspace.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Beer 004 Kegged

After sitting quietly at 1012 for couple of days I siphoned the beer off into my new keg. I must say I prefer the kegging process over messing around with bottles. It's so much easier and cleaner and I'm able to do it by myself without very much trouble. I think this would be the first brew with virtually no wastage getting it out of the fermenter.

2010-06-10: Gravity: 1012, Kegged. Estimate: 3.8%

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Good long while since I brewed

It's been an age since I brewed, just didn't seem to get the time and couldn't really get into the spare room. But having gotten a keg for my birthday I am determined that I am not going to let it slide for quite so long again. I bought an extra fermenting bin, which I think will be reasonably useful just to have handy for carting water about, etc. Unfortunately my house isn't laid out in such a way that I can dedicate any real room to brewing.

I have chucked a brew on, again Coopers bitter with Geordie beer kit enhancer. Not sure what it will come out like because the tin is quite old. I also chucked a turbo cider on using some out of date apple juice that I have. I'm quickly getting that brewed for Peace in the Park, a local free festival. I plan to dissolve some honey in apple juice to sweeten it for bottling.