Friday, April 27, 2012

Crazy Yeast Head on my Black IPA

I still have to write up the brewday for the first batch of a Black IPA recipe I am working on but thought I'd post this piccy of the yeast head the morning after pitching. Update: here's the brew day for my all grain Black IPA.

Rehydrated Safale SO4 that I added 250ml of wort from the brewday to...

IT'S ALIVE!!!!!!!!!111!!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Photos Of My Brews - Wuppit's Bramling Amber

Still clearing from pouring from the jug in the pic above. I'm really liking this beer, it hasn't turned out quite how I imagined but it's not far off. Home cooked biscuits with a nice hit of burnt edges from the amber malt I used and a full, floral and fruity hop aroma from the copious amounts of Bramling Cross hops added at various stages. Great, creamy head that develops easily and sticks to the glass right the way down.

The brewday post is here: all grain homebrew bramling amber beer.

Beer Review - Hornbeam Mary Rose (Bottle)

A Chestnut red bitter. It is a developmental product, no two batches have been exactly the same. We are seeking to replace Hornbeam Bitter 3.8% with a new core bitter at the same strength. The Name of the new core bitter is to be confirmed.

Hornbeam Mary Rose
Another beer sent over by a mate of mine back in the UK.

4.2% abv

This beer grew on me quickly. To begin with I thought it was rather too sharp and bitter and although the general carbonation was very gentle there was a little too much fizziness on the tongue for my liking at first. It did settle down.

BUT lovely, lovely hops on the nose. I am quickly becoming a big fan of American hops, in this case Amarillo and Cascade.

I've used Cascade in a couple of brews of All Grain Brewer's Pride taken from this book Home Brew Self Sufficiency.

The thing is I moved to France in 2005 from the UK and having only been back a handful of times, I've missed out on the re-emerging micro brewery scene and the explosion of American hopped beers creeping into the market. France is a little way behind the rest of the world when it comes to beer. I have yet to be impressed by any local brews and the shops and supermarkets are filled with an array of over carbonated, too sweet blonde piss. Amber and darker beers are a sad rarity. Not so long ago a friend told me about the wonderful new beer called Guinness and asked if I'd heard of it!!!! FFS I don't know what is taught in schools here but I'm sure the general population are somehow convinced that the rest of the world has only just come into being. "Do you have radio and FAX machines in England yet?"

The good news is, it is beginning to change and there is an awakening happening here, more and more French people are realizing beers can be more than just a fizzy, lagery glass of bubbles and sugar and so it is quite an exciting time to be brewing here. Shops and bars are springing up that trade exclusively in good beers either from craft breweries around France - there's a growing home brew community - and Belgian, German and even, Dieu forbid, English beers - although not enough of the latter yet. Like their wine, American beers do not appear to exist here other than the occasional Budweiser.

Also, and this is criminal, hand pulled real ale doesn't seem to exist here either. From what I've seen, even in the micro breweries that have a bar built on, it's all force carbonated, keg beer. GAS, GAS, GAS, SUGAR, hint of malt or hops, GAS!!! Oh yes, and always served way too cold!

Back on topic. The fruitiness on the nose increases as the beer rests in the glass to the point that I couldn't really pick out any malt aromas, plenty in the flavour don't get me wrong but the hop aroma took centre stage and it was a bloody good hop aroma. Grapefruit, citrus. The label mentions tangerines which I couldn't pick out, but then again I'm no pro.

Nice reddy amber colour and clarity - even when I did manage to allow a little of the yeast into the glass.

Note, the yeast is easily disturbed and rests as a few lumpy pieces on the bottle bottom.  This may be due to it having been posted here though I did give it a couple of days resting.

I'm not sure what yeast they use and their website is a little new and lacking in much info at all really, not to mention a few dead or broken links - as a freelance web designer I notice these things - so I am trying to culture some up from the recovered dregs.

So, do I like Mary Rose? Yes I do. I'd buy it, I'd be keen to try a cask version and at 4.2% I could see myself having a good session on it too. All in all, a good all-rounder but I have to say again, I'm loving the hop aromas in this one.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Beer Review - Hornbeam, Dark & Devine

tldr: Nice roasted flavours, malt and New Zealand hops on the nose, dry on the tongue but with quite a strong, long lasting bitterness. Genuinely very enjoyable but maybe not a full session beer.

For those of you with some time to read:

I received a surprise package in the post yesterday morning from my good friend, Alex back in the UK. Two bottles of beer from a relatively new, family run craft micro-brewery in the Manchester area going by the name of Hornbeam.

Tonights bottle...

Dark & Devine
(from the bottle, "Ale To Die For") 
4.2% abv

The first thing that struck me was this was not as dark as I had been expecting from the label. As you can see in the photo above, it's still quite an amber coloured beer.

The second thing that hit me (like a train - but in a good way) was the gorgeous waft of roasted malts and hops as I began to pour. Wonderful smelling beer.

The head formed easily while pouring and there was a pleasing amount of carbonation, not a gaseous micro fizz like some churn out. Very nice indeed.

The colour betrays the actual roasted maltiness and I couldn't put my finger on the hop aromas.

A quick read of the bottle informed me that New Zealand hops are used in the recipe although not a hop type I have used in any of my brews yet so I still can't say which type/s are used. If I was going to guess, I'd hazard a guess on Nelson Sauvin but I am probably wrong. I'd look at high Alpha Acid variety as there is a distinct, strong bitterness here.

I'm not going to give marks out of 10 as tastes and smells are different to everyone so I'd sum this beer up by saying, yes I would buy it , yes I would like to try more of Hornbeam's range and Yes I am going to try and culture the yeast dregs from the bottom of the bottle.

I don't think I would spend a whole evening in the pub drinking this (actually, who can afford to do that these days?) but I'd certainly make sure I had 2 or 3 at some point in the night.

So, cheers Alex matey, thanks for introducing me to Hornbeam Brewery. Tomorrow night I'll crack open the bottle of their Mary Rose Bitter.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

AG#13 Friday 13th All Grain Wheat Beer

With the run of luck we've had recently I figured Friday the 13th couldn't really do much more to me so I brewed. It turned out to be my 13th All Grain brew... It didn't actually dawn on me until I began filling in my brew sheet and I'm not really superstitious so don't expect things to differ one day from the next whether walking under ladders or leaving shoes on the table (touch wood). Not that I'd leave my shoes on the table anyway...

This brew was good for me, I really enjoyed it. Different yeast (Danstar Munich) and some very different grains amongst the usual. Munich Malt, Bavarian Pilsner malt, Wheat Malt and my first ever encounter with Hallertaur Mittlefruh hops. It was also my first brew using 1/4 Protofloc tablet for my copper finings, more on which later... It was also my first, unforgettable fermentation, BOOM!!!!

Wuppit's Wit 1313

Brew Length: 25l - Grain bill based on Easy Wit from

90 minute mash, 60 minute boil.

Fermentables and adjuncts (weights are my exact ones).
Wheat Malt: 2544g
Bohemian Pilsner malt: 1989g
Flaked Wheat: 504g
Munich Malt: 354g
Pale Crystal: 201g
Torrified Wheat: 202g

Hallertaur Mittlefruh: 30g (60 mins)
Styrian Goldings (Bobek): 16g (45 mins)
Hallertaur Mittlefruh: 16g (15 mins)

Aromatics (In with last hops at 15 mins).
Coriander seed, ground coarsely with a pestle and mortar: 41g
Orange peel (unwaxed, organic oranges and with the white pith scraped away): 41g
Camomile (from opened Camomile tea bags): 3g - 4g (the scales were hovering between the two).

Total liquor: 38l

Mash liquor: 14.5l - Sparged with all of the remaining liquor.

From what I'm used to with previous brews there looked to be a lot of flaked wheat, mostly buried in the shot above, so I was expecting my first stuck mash. As I was doughing in the whole mash felt a lot more solid, porridgey than previously.

It ran off from the mash tun really well as it turned out.

Hallertaur Mittlefruh smell great, I'm not the best at describing aromas and flavours very well but they smelled... great, distinctive.

After sparging I ended up with a fair old quantity of wort so I put some to one side to boil up and use for yeast culturing after the yeast in this brew has done its job. My excuse is I usually do a 90 minute boil so evaporation losses are typically around 8-10 litres. I'd sort of forgotten this was only going to be 60 minutes.

Aromatics ready to go in 15 mins from the end of the boil. LOL'd whilst just looking at my brew sheet and saw they actually went in at 13 mins from the end of the boil... 13,13,13 FFS!!!

30g Hallertaur Mittlefruh in at start of rolling boil - I skimmed the initial surface crud as I have been doing the last few brews.

16g Bobek in after 15 minutes, 45 mins from end of the boil.

13 minutes from end of boil and in with the orange peel, a couple of minutes after the last 16g H. Mittlefruh hops had gone in. Chiller in at 15 minutes to sterilize in the boiling wort and hooked up, ready to go.

In goes the coarsely crushed coriander seed followed by the camomile and 1/4 protofloc tablet. Right, with regard to the protofloc... First time using it but I wasn't really all that impressed compared to my previous brews using rehydrated Irish Moss. I got a cold break of course but the clumping was nothing to write home about, maybe I'll up it to 1/2 a tablet next time but I've read all over that 1/4 tabs is enough for 23 to 25 litres.

I wasn't sure whether a typically cloudy beer like a wheat beer should use any floc at all but was advised to chuck some in via Twitter. I'd read that the desired cloudiness is from the yeast not suspended shite but I wanted confirmation.

Ran off to the FV nicely. After my previous brew run off clarity issues (the bloody immersion chiller trapping hops and keeping them away from settling on the hop filter) I removed the chiller and gave it a few minutes to allow stuff to settle back down.

I'd started off the Danstar Munich Wheat Beer yeast a couple of days previously and it had been happily glugging away in an air locked 2l water bottle. Pitched it as the FV was filling from the copper at 26C

Put the FV into a water bath I've made from a large bin and heated with an aquarium heater set at 18-20C which gives a typical water temperature of 20-21C. This was the krausen just a few hours later. I was a bit concerned that it had already touched the underside of the lid already but... it looked like it was settling back down a bit so I left it.

The following morning I went in to check and found this.

Bloody F*ck!

I took the FV out and gave the outside a clean over, emptied the water bath and cleaned everything back down. Re-filled with water at 21C and popped it all back in.

It behave after that. I've just been in to it and I think I'll give it a gravity test tomorrow, it's all settled down but there appears to still be a fair bit of activity going on below the surface.

UPDATE 10th May 2012. Here's a link to a photo of the finished beer taken a few evenings ago. All grain weissen.

AG#12 All Grain Felinfoel Double Dragon

Brewday 3rd April and again a recipe from Graham Wheeler's book.

I hit my target volume for once but was over gravity, the downside to this was I topped up with some freshwater and ended up with 26 litres. Which was nice.

Pale malt
T. wheat
Pale crystal
Black malt
white sugar

Bittering Hops:
Target (I had to make up a shortfall of challenger to get the right bitterness)
Bramling Cross - becoming a favourite
East Kent Golding

Aroma Hops:
East Kent Golding

Irish Moss

Safale SO4 starter made from reclaimed yeast from previous brews. It kicked off like a mo-fo in the FV.

Few words for this one, a pleasant brew again. My only gripe really is the immersion chiller. It works very well but the hosepipe I bought for it gets a bit soft and easily kinks causing back pressure that hasn't yet popped a fitting but probably could do. My other gripe with the immersion chiller is it don't half bugger up the hops settling onto the hop filter in the bottom of my copper.

Anyway, some piccies.

Grain shot obligatoire.

Nice clear run off from the Mash Tun. I only had to run off about a litre before it came clear, often it's 3 or 4 litres.

Sparging, allowing the sparge liquor to circulate around over a slotted foil try. I haven't bothered with my spray bar for a while.

Approaching the boil, getting ready to skim the surface crud away.

Surface crud skimmings, not as much as previous brews.

Rolling boil and bittering hops and debris rolling around.

Chiller and 10 minute hop addition

1,046 or thereabouts. Over OG so I added water to bring it down to 1,042 giving me 26 litres :)

The remains of the day. Notice the hop filter isn't entirely covered with hops! Bloody immersion chiller collects them in the centre. I need to address this, maybe some legs to lift the chiller off the base of the copper a bit.

Krausen about 4 hours after pitching the yeast. Took off like a rocket!
Bottled on 9th April and I had my first sneaker sampler bottle on 14th... WOW!!!!!

I've had a few glasses of this so far, it's absolutely bloody gorgeous! I haven't gotten round to any pics of pintas yet as the weather has turned a bit shitty and they just look better, taken out doors.

To date, this is my favourite beer that I've brewed.

Update: May 20th 2012 - Weather still shit, not sure if we're going to get a summer this year so here's a link to an indoor photo of this batch, pint of all grain Double Dragon. I do have a second batch in the Fv right now along with a Timothy Taylor Landlord I just really need to get my arse back in gear and blogging again.

AG#11 All Grain Batemans Victory

No photos alas. This was brewed on 31st March and was really a test brew to see if I still felt like and enjoyed brewing having been very down in the dumps over the loss of the Wuppit.

It went well. The recipe is from Graham Wheeler's superb Brew Your Own British Real Ale (3rd edition) and as I've written frequently before, if you haven't got a copy... GET ONE!!! get it here right now, this minute!

Have you got it yet?

Pale Malt
Crystal malt
T. Wheat

East Kent Goldings
Styrian Goldings

I ended up slightly under target volume of 23 litres but not enough to worry about and it gave me an OG of 1,056 rather than 1,054.

Final gravity of 1,011 which I calculated to give me a beer of 6.1%ABV

12 days in the FV which is a bit longer than usual and finally bottled on 11th April with 80g sugar dissolved in 250ml water.

I've only had a sneaky taster so far, it's primed well but needs to drop a bit clearer looking at the single, clear glass bottle I always have each brew (kept in the dark). Tastes very nice and it's probably the palest beer I've brewed yet. I used pale Crytsal malt due to mis-ordering the standard stuff.

I'll update this post wit a photo of the first proper pinta when I have it.

AG#10 All Grain Own Recipe Amber Beer

First brewday posted for a while for various reasons.

This beer was brewed on 31st March 2012.

I became a fan of Amber Malt from my first ever all grain brew and have been looking for a recipe that featured more of this biscuity, flavoursome malt.

Having finally found, via teh Google, that it can be used as up to 20% of the grain bill I decided to construct my own recipe. In it I also wanted to feature Bramling Cross hops, another flavour and aroma I have found I've grown to really appreciate.

My aim was to brew a medium dark, biscuity beer with fruity hop notes. I came close.

Luckily I posted a few Tweets during the brew day and caught the attention of a brewer I have a lot of respect for and who's blog I follow as well as his numerous, informative and superbly photographed posts on Jim's Beer Kit forum, PDTNC.

He advised me of some Amber malt things to be aware of when used in higher quantities than typical and also offered some good advice on upping my original Hopping rates to balance the amber malt flavours. So, if you read this, cheers for the help Ade!

Here's the recipe:

Grain Bill:
Pale Malt: 3400g
Amber Malt: 900g
Torrified Wheat: 250g

Bittering Hops:
Challenger: 14g 90 mins
Northern Brewer: 14g 90 mins

Aroma Hops:
Bramling Cross: 60g (50% @ 10 mins - 50% @ flameout - 30 minute steep)

Irish Moss (10 mins), rehydrated and Safale SO4 made into a small DME starter a couple of days before.

Dry Hops: 15g Bramling Cross - added to secondary for a week before bottling.

Total liquor: 32 litres
Mash liquor: 12 litres

Mash time: 90 mins - Mash temp: 66C
Boil time: 90 mins

Target volume: 23l
Actual volume: 20.5 :(

Target OG: 1,043
Actual OG: 1,052 Oops! I didn't bother to top up with freshwater to adjust the gravity down.

Final Gravity: 1,011

All in all, an uneventful brewday, I like these as I read many that are fraught with equipment let downs. I'm still being very lucky in this aspect, no stuck mashes or blocked hop filters as yet. Using a gas burner for my copper I also avoid the seemingly common place electric boiler cut outs.

This time I batch sparged rather than fly sparging for no particular reason with 20l of liquor at 68C in the Mash Tun.

Here's the piccies...

The obligatory grain shot. Lots of Amber malt and fascinated audience.

I'd taken this pic and added the text before PDTNC advised upping the Bramling Cross (see recipe above)

HLT coming up to temp ready to add 12 litres to the mash tun.

Crud scum forming approaching the boil.

Vigourous boil and bittering hops in.

Spent grains, some went off to my Mum to make some splendid bread with and the rest went to the Chickens.

Post boil hops going in. Just remembered this was an overnight cool down hence the lack of immersion chiller.
I ran off the hopped wort and pitched the yeast the following morning then placed the FV in a heated water bath set to 21C.

Moved to secondary on 14th March but then everything went wrong, we lost our German Shepherd nicknamed The Little Wuppit (Holly) suddenly on the 18th.

Bottled on 22nd and not thinking very clearly primed it with 150g sugar in 350ml water. I usually prime with less than 100g.

As it turned out the extra priming must have fermented out as there's no detectable sweetness in the finished beer of which I have had a few now and it is nicely primed.

A piccy of my first pinta, which I raised to the memory of my very, very sadly missed Little Wuppit.

I love the colour and it has a fantastic head (my reason for adding the torrified wheat) that stays to the bitter (no pun intended) end.

Tastes... not my strong point in describing flavours but slightly burnt homemade biscuits springs to mind but with a floral, black current aroma that in my opinion sets it off very nicely indeed. For me, an enjoyable pint.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The last few weeks :(

Little Wuppit (Holly) So, very, very missed.
I've had a crappy few weeks of things. The day after my last post we lost our beloved German Shepherd, Holly aka The Wuppit after whom my brewery is named. She was only 7 and a half, bless her and although ill for many years with horrible allergies requiring our constant supervision and care, her end was mercifully (for her) swift) Although I say she was ill she was always a happy, playful little girl and a toughy. So, I've been a little bit too glum to really post anything in this time.

So, the last brew now named Bramling Amber got bottled and put away. It tastes great, I'm very pleased with it. Malty, fruity and with a nice body and excellent head.

Since then I have been brewing, it was close to not bothering again as I was feeling that I didn't want to do anything here, I'd done before. Holly as been with us every day since we moved to France in 2005. She came with us as a pup and every single thing here has a memory of her attached.

But, brew I did and so I now have even more brewdays to try and get written up and shared on here.

AG#11 - Batemans Victory (From Graham Wheeler's BYOBRA)
AG#12 - Double Dragon (Also from GWs book - If you don't own it, get it please, it's superb.)
AG#13 - Friday 13th Wheat Beer - based on Easy Wit, link to follow...

All brewdays have been photographed, I just need to get myself re-motivated again.

By the way, the double dragon is now bottled and I had a sneaky taster on day 4... awesome! I had a couple of bottles on day 5 and although it still needs to clear down, it's probably the best beer I've brewed so far.