Time for a beer

February 1, 2011

Due to moving, working, and other stuff, this homebrew blog has died a bit of a death.

To kick things back off, I’ve got some yeast going for a couple of pale ales and IPAs, and kilogrammes of various 2010 hops including Chinook, Cascade, Citra, Simcoe, Nelson Sauvin and Magnum. I want to try and brew some seriously good hoppy beers, which is something I have had trouble with in the past, in no small part due to lack of patience. Every homebrewer has been in this scenario, especially those who keg their beer. You brew something with a tonne of hops in it, ferment it out and stick it in the keg. Impatience gets the better of you so you hook up the CO2 and shake a little gas into it. Unsurprisingly, the beer tastes like grapefruit juice and pine resin. Even so, half pints slip away here and there while you “educate your palate” about how beer develops and changes over time. A couple of weeks later, the beer tastes O.K. so you draw off progressively larger measures until there is only one pint left. Which happens to be the best tasting pint in the world. How on earth did you let that happen again!

I am determined to not fall into this trap again, which I think is the missing link in my hoppy beers. In an earlier post I made an all Columbus IPA which tasted fairly rough around the edges. I held a couple of bottles back and the best beers were the ones I tried a couple of weeks ago. The hop character was still powerful, but had much less sharpness and much more nuance.

The next challenge is to work out how to brew in a much smaller space. I have had the luxury of brewing in a garage which has allowed me to set up a 3 vessel stainless system which isn’t easily storable, and there is no way I could get away with leaving it permanently set up in the kitchen. So I want to try and get a brew in a bag style set up going in the next couple of months. I am used to using a fridge for temperature control which I don’t have in this flat so something similarly low-tech will have to be dreamt up.

Lastly, after watching a demonstration of yeast culturing at the homebrew club I am tempted to plate a few of the strains I use regularly, and at the very least, start making starters in an erlenmeyer style flask rather than boiling them up in a saucepan. I will treat this as a longer term thing, however I should be able to track down a decent sized borosilicate flask.

For now, I have got California ale yeast going on the stir plate for some hoppy, Cascade-y goodness in the next couple of days.


Market Gallery Pub – This Friday

April 29, 2010

Just a quick reminder, the Market Gallery Pub is this Friday at 6pm.  I had a look inside the gallery yesterday and it’s looking awesome.  It is a little on the small side, but I think Eric has made the most of the space and it has a great vibe.

I have three beers in, a Vienna lager, Rauchbier and Hefeweizen. Some of the other beers look great – I’ll be having some of that vanilla oatmeal stout. Due to a shortage of bottles, I kept the hefeweizen in a keg. Keg users know that the dynamics of carbonation, temperature and beer line length is an art in itself, so I had no choice but to build a smallish kegerator.  Time was not on my side so I did a bit of a rough job on it, but it certainly does the job.  The tap is one these from More Beer in the states. I now have two kegerators-come-fermentation chambers, which will make my summer lager brewing a whole lot easier.

The pub school events have been great fun. The brewing demonstration Owen and I led was shambolic to say the least, with elements cutting out left, right and centre. We managed to save the day in the end by splitting the wort between the kettle and the HLT and doing a dual boil. Even up to this point, it was a relatively smooth brewday. But it all went to shit after that, when we pumped the hot wort into the HLT (without a hop strainer) to chill. Of course, the pump got blocked and Owen, Robbie & myself had to lug the thing onto a step and tip it into the kettle, just so we could filter the hops out and pump the wort into the fermenters. Oh, and we forgot the whirlfloc. The enduring lesson of the day? Don’t drink Imperial IPAs on an empty stomach for lunch.

I missed the readings, but the WEST tour was a great success.  I only just realised that those two copper columns next to the bar are a mash cooker and brewing copper respectively. They have a very impressive automated German brewhouse, steam jacketed coppers, mash filters and so on. It reminded me a little of the Paulaner Brauhaus in Munich.  I was impressed to see a full range of Weyermann speciality grains and i’m sure I saw a few handfulls of acidulated malt and cara-wheat being pocketed by enthusiastic homebrewers.

Brewing Demonstration – Today @ 5pm

April 7, 2010

Just a quick reminder that myself and another homebrewer will be giving an all-grain brewing demonstration from 5pm until 9ish at the Market Gallery, Dennistoun, Glasgow.  The Gallery is about a 20 minute walk from George Square; it’s a nice day, walk it! More details here. Bring some food and beer for yourself!

Beers from Portland, OR.

March 28, 2010

Thanks once more to Eric for bringing over a great selection of beers from the West Coast of America for us to try.  We hear so much about these breweries but availability here in Scotland is thin on the ground so it was a rare treat to try some of these.  We also tried a couple not pictured (Deschutes’ The Abyss, Yeti from Great Divide and Ebulum, an Elderberry ale from Williams Bros) and a couple of homebrews from the guys at Jim’s.  And maybe a couple of others?  My memory is fairly shot after those Russian Imperial Stouts.

I won’t try and give you tasting notes, I’ll leave that to Barm who had his ticker notebook and could probably wax more eloquently about them.  That said, my top 5 (out of the American beers) were:

1) Hopworks Brewery – Secession Black IPA. When I heard about this one I thought it would be my least favourite.  How wrong was I, a great beer in every way.  It’s black, but it doesn’t taste black!

2) Laurelwood Brewery – Organic Free Range Red. Fantastic fresh American hop character and in perfect balance. I could happily drink this by the pint.

3) Dogfish Head – Indian Brown Ale. Another one that slipped down the throat with barely a hint of the substantial 7.2% alcohol content. Lethal!

4) Bear Republic – Racer 5. Not what I was expecting from this beer but very pleasant nonetheless. Not a substantial bitterness but a spicy hop flavour and aroma.

5) Ninkasi – Spring Reign. A pretty faultless pale ale.  Their website describes this as a ‘session beer’ which at 6%, from a British perspective, is pretty hard to get my head around. However, I’m not complaining. It was delicious.

The Gose from Upright Brewing was very interesting too and gets an honourable mention.  I love to see breweries tackle rare and unusual beer styles and come out with something good.  This basically tasted like a Saison Dupont with a teaspoon of salt stirred in.  A great ‘palate cleanser’.  Not something I would drink on a regular basis however.

There you go, I’m surprised that my two favourite beers of the lot were both organic and from breweries I had never heard of in Portland.  The black IPA in particular is a style which just seems wrong to me.  I’ve never enjoyed a beer with strong roasted flavours and citrussy US hops; the flavours clash.  This was a great IPA that just happened to be black.  Consider me a convert!

There is still time for home brewers to get their beer brewed and entered for the Glasgow Beer and Pub Project on the 30th of April.  I’m supplying 100 pints, a third each of my Vienna lager, Rauchbier, and a Hefeweizen I’ll brew next week.  I hope to see some of you there.


March 25, 2010

I brewed a Rauchbier to serve in Glasgow on the 30th. The recipe is here. I went with a fairly restrained one third of the grist Rauchmalz. The stuff is the genuine Weyermann Beechwood smoked malt from Bamberg which you simply could not do without when making this beer. The hops are Northern Brewer and Hallertau Hersbrucker.

The mash smelled amazing. A good amount of smoke flavour carried through into the wort but it wasn’t overpowering. I wonder how smoky it will end up. As far as I’m concerned, the smokier the better, but I want other people to enjoy this one too so it should be fairly restrained.

Here’s a collection of random end of brewday clips. I pitched in some Czech Budejovice yeast which is either Budvar or Pivovar yeast. There is no better lager yeast in my opinion. It gets the job done quickly and reliably with a very clean flavour and no diacetyl. It is a bit of a sulphur producer but this dissipates quickly. I finished off the day with a few of my single hop (Columbus) IPAs. Still a little green. Still very orangey/piney.

All-Grain Brewing Demonstration

March 8, 2010

Eric mentioned on his Glasgow Beer and Pub Project project blog that myself and another local homebrewer will be doing an all-grain brewing demonstration on April 7th.

This will be a hands on demonstration from water treatment and mashing the grain through to pitching the yeast.  The plan is to start at 5pm and hopefully be finished, or nearly finished, by 9pm.  There should be plenty of time to throw back a few beers and ask questions.  I want to see you there whatever your experience, if you’ve never drank a beer in your life or if you’re a seasoned all-grain brewer.

The best part about this is you will get to try the finished beer which will be served on draft at the Market Gallery Pub event on April the 30th.  The beer we’ve chosen is a traditional English best bitter, which is best enjoyed fresh, hoppy and young.  It will be hopped with Kent Goldings hops and dry hopped with Styrian Goldings.  Bitter is beer how it’s meant to taste: floral, aromatic, and highly drinkable.  It will also be served through my traditional Angram beer engine.  If you come on the 7th, you will be able to say: “I helped brew this beer from scratch!”

Rob @ Self Store Depot has kindly agreed to help out the homebrewing community by offering to supply the malt and hops for this event free of charge. Show your appreciation by taking a look at his products here.

I have ordered from Rob before and the hops were with me within 24 hours at a great price and superbly vacuum packed.

See you on the 7th!

The Market Gallery is on 334 Duke Street, Glasgow, G31 1QZ, Scotland

Single Hop Series #3 – Nelson Sauvin

March 5, 2010

They’re coming thick and fast, and today it was time for an exciting new(ish) variety from New Zealand: Nelson Sauvin.

I remember trying this hop just over two years ago in a beer I brewed for a new years party, and I didn’t care at all for the ‘Ribena’ flavour it imparted.  The beer that changed my mind was Brewdog’s Chaos Theory.  I loved that beer.  I miss it.

Chaos Theory had that heavy blackcurrant flavour, almost to excess, but it worked very well in a big, boozy red ale. The most surprising thing was the aroma – I’m guessing it must have been dry hopped – a big, fruity, ‘catty’ aroma that is surprising, and almost offensive at first.  But like a good piece of music, it draws you in and the nuances become more apparent with every taste.

This is my attempt at something more or less in the same style.  Moloko Velocet Red Ale, hopped to oblivion with Nelsons.  It could be a disaster.

The hops themselves were highly aromatic out of the bag and the aromas coming from the brew kettle were sublime. Wave after wave of blackcurranty goodness that you could smell several streets away.

Edit: 27th April 2010

The initial aroma shortly after bottling was not at all pleasant. Kind of a damp rot, wet dog,  musky aroma, which made  me thought I had an infection from somewhere. After a month in the bottle, and the unpleasant aromas have subsided, leaving the familiar nelson character. I still get pretty heavy blackcurrant, and grape this time. Same with the flavour, like someones slipped a few glugs of Welches red grape juice in the beer. Not bad, but it’s not sitting entirely at ease with the roasted character from the chocolate malt. I think it would be more at home in a blonde ale. This beer is also needing a good hit of bitterness. I think my hop calculation (Tinseth) underestimates bitterness, or perhaps i’m losing hop bitterness to trub and yeast. I would kick it up by another 20 IBU.


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