Sierra Nevada Pale Ale “clone” Mk II

I had another shot at cloning this beer on Saturday.  This time, I just did a 5 gallon batch.  I’m finding 10 gallons is a little much to have on hand seeing as I’m – more or less – the sole drinker.  The recipe is here.

The problem with the last effort was primarily fermentation, the clone I made had a slight, musty alcohol aroma and was not as clean overall.  It was also slightly darker.  I substituted the medium (120 EBC) crystal for a lighter variety (60 EBC).  I also used some top-cropped California ale yeast from a previous batch which I got active in a 1L starter before pitching.  I’m keeping the ferment at a subdued 17C.

Although this is primarily a Cascade hopped beer, I can’t really include it in my single hop series of beers because I used Northern Brewer for bittering.  I did, however, do a beer single hopped with Columbus last week which i’ll update about soon.


Glasgow Beer and Pub Project

Portland based artist Eric Steen is holding what he calls “a six-week socially engaged art and field-research project into Glasgow’s beer industry and pub culture.” Not being artistically inclined – in the slightest – I’m not quite sure what this means.  I do, however, intend to find out.  I have more or less committed to producing 100 or so bottles of beer for his Market Gallery Pub event on April 30th, basically a one night showcase for homebrewed beer, which does sound like a lot of fun.  If you’re in the area and feel like dropping by, I will look forward to meeting you and sharing a pint.

I was mulling over what to brew at the weekend, which is generally just by whim and what I feel like drinking at that moment.  Here’s what i’m (probably) going for.  Some of these will fit in with my single hop experiment.

– Single hop IPA (Columbus)

– Some kind of strong hoppy red ale/ipa, possibly with a single hop like Nelson Sauvin or Amarillo

– Vienna lager (maybe with a single hop, either traditional noble or a NZ Saaz type like Motueka)

– Traditional Rauchbier (never brewed one of these… looking forward to it!)

– Hefeweizen (easy to brew…most people like drinking them)

I am starting tomorrow with the IPA.  Lots of work over the next few weeks but it’s all about the art!

Single Hop Series (SHS) #1 – Aurora (Super Styrians)

I’m going to start a series of single hop beers this year, to be brewed alongside my regular beers. Brewing with a single hop is just about the best education a brewer can give himself. The craft of mashing, sparging, boiling and fermenting is fairly easy. Recipe design is all art.

The basic idea will be to brew a hoppy summer ale, or pale ale. I’ll keep the recipe more or less the same, 90% extra pale Maris Otter, 5% Caramalt and 5% wheat. 100g of the hop in question with 15 minutes of the boil to go and another 100g in the whirlpool, left to steep for half an hour before chilling. The quantity of bittering will depend on the hop (and my mood). Nottingham yeast.  Where it seems appropriate, I may swap out the wheat for some darker crystal malt or use a lager yeast. When doing a 10 gallon batch, I’ll probably keg one half, fine with gelatin, and serve immediately. The other half i’ll stick in a secondary fermenter and go in with some dry hops. The gravity will be variable between 1.043 – 1.065

The idea will be to evaluate the aroma, flavour and bitterness that each hop brings to the beer. I’ll also be on the lookout for any subtler effects, such as tannin contribution, haze and mouthfeel. Where i’m doing a 10 gallon batch, i’ll be able to compare the aroma between the dry hopped beer and the regular, late hopped beer.

No hops are off limits! I hope to try some new ones and revisit some old friends. I still don’t know what an all Fuggles ale tastes like. Or how about an all Motueka ale? What will happen when I late hop and dry hop with hops that are not traditionally considered aroma hops, like Northern Brewer or Target? There’s lots of experimenting to be done with the New Zealand hops and newer US varieties like Citra. I won’t just be using new hops either, i’ll be making sure to cover the bases with classics like East Kent Goldings, Cascade, Styrians, and so on.

First of the year was Aurora. These hops are grown in Slovenia and are part of the ‘Super Styrian’ family. I can’t find much information about this hop, apart from that it’s related to the Northern Brewer hop. These had an AA% of 8% and a surprisingly deep, green colour when I brewed with them. The beer straight from the FV had a fantastic pineapple flavour and aroma.

I sampled the first pint (above) 10 days after mashing. The hop gives a great, mellow tropical fruit flavour and aroma, along with a slight herbal, marijuana flavour. Pineapple and mango, but without any of the sharper citrus notes I get from similar US hops. It has a mellowness and approachability I associate with Slovenian hops.

Overall a very pleasant and impressive hop that I will be adding to my arsenal and using regularly. Great for a summer ale and with enough character of its own to stand up in a single hop beer.

NEXT HOP: Northern Brewer … Coming February ’10

Flanders Red Tasting

The snowfall over the past couple of days has been majestic for those of us lucky enough to have time off over the Christmas period. The snow is too fluffy for trains, cars are haphazardly parked across the tundra where my street used to be, the country has practically ground to a halt, and I don’t have to be anywhere. Bliss.

It was naturally time to catch up on my beer drinking, so i’m going to evaluate the Flanders red ale I made against the three most common commercial examples, and certainly the only ones that spring to mind when thinking about the style. The original blended Rodenbach, it’s big brother Rodenbach Grand Cru, and Duchesse de Bourgogne. I have never tried the latter so i’m eager to get cracked into it.

I’m not one for tasting notes, so i’m just giving a rough summary of each one. I’m looking for the level and type of sourness along with any other flavour nuances.

First up is the original Rodenbach. I’m not sure if I got a dodgy bottle, or it’s simply not as good as I remember it. Everything was there, the nice balance of sweet and sour, a nice aroma thick with red apples and cherries, but there was a bit of a flavour I can’t put my finger on which made me screw up my face a little. It reminded me of when I bottled some Dubbel last year and it went off. A bad sort of overripe fruit sourness. It didn’t stick out like a sore thumb, but I didn’t enjoy this bottle particularly.

Alright, onwards and upwards. Next was the Duchesse bottled in an identical 25cl bottle to the Rodenbach, and a nice picture of the titular Duchess on the label, holding a bird. Apparently, she died in a horse riding accident while hunting with her falcon. The carbonation and head formation were impressive. A mild aroma, slightly woody with some plums and cherries again. This one was right up my street. A fabulous balance of sweet and sour, and a refined, grapey wine-like character. A very restrained woodiness in the background. Similar level of sourness to the previous beer. Very good. I would recommend this as an approachable introduction to sour ale.

Next I poured my version straight from the keg. The colour is very similar to the last beer but i’ve kept the carbonation low. The aroma is fruity, and slightly acetic. Musty. This smells like an old beer, in a good way. The first thing to note is that this is a much drier beer. There is only a little residual sweetness, and the previous beer seems syrupy in comparison. Any more carbonation and it might seem thin, but at the current level it’s good. This is also a more sour beer, at a similar level to an unblended lambic, or a dry white wine. There is a lot of other stuff going on in the flavour too. Some leatheriness, wine, oak, all in subtle levels. It all pulls together to make for an interesting, complex beer. One for sipping at like a wine. Enjoyable. Nothing unpleasant in it like the Rodenbach.

Lastly the Grand Cru. I remember this as a puckering, vinaigrette of a beer and I was not disappointed. The most sour of the lot but a little more sweetness to balance it. Oakey tannins in the mouthfeel. Again, one to sip on for short bursts of flavour. It is, dare I say, a little too much by the time you get to the end of the glass. Highly enjoyable however.

In order of preference, I’ll have to go for the Duchesse first, second is my own, close third is the Grand Cru, last is the original Rodenbach.

Happy Christmas folks.

Barleywine Mincemeat

I must admit i’m not a massive fan of the barleywine style, but around Christmas I can’t resist a snifter of Thomas Hardy and one of my favourite barley wine mince pies after dinner. Like a good barleywine, the mincemeat will improve somewhat with age.


400g Cooking apples, cored, peeled & chopped finely

180g Atora beef suet

225g Sultanas

225g Currants

360g Raisins

225g Chopped mixed peel

300g Dark brown soft sugar

50g Dry malt extract (optional)

Juice of two oranges and zest of one

Juice of two lemons and zest of one

50g Chopped almonds

5 – 6 Level teaspoons of mixed spice

1 Level teaspoon of cinnamon

Half a grated nutmeg

Half a cup of barleywine or old ale


This recipe will make 3 x 3lb jars. Thoroughly combine all of the ingredients in a bowl apart from the barleywine. Allow to sit for a day or two in a cool place. Transfer to a large pot, cover with foil and put into a 100C oven for three hours to kill any wild yeast. Once cool, stir in the barleywine and spoon the mincemeat into sanitised jars and store in a cool dark place.


Bohemian Pilsener

I brewed a Bohemian Pilsener on Thursday, the recipe is here. I left out the Amarillo in the end, and used Bravo for bittering and the classic Czech Saaz for late additions.

I’m using a combination of Pilsner malt, Munich malt and a dash of Melanoidin malt, to an OG of 1.049. The lager yeast is the Weihenstephan 34/70.

Here’s a video of the boil for your perusal:

Racking the Flanders Red

Well, after a year and three months, it was time to rack the Flanders

Looks disgusting, doesn’t it? The pellicle was still intact and there was a thick layer of yeast on the bottom. I was expecting the worst. Here was a sample in the glass.

Aroma is spot on I reckon. It has that faint acetic smell which I like about Rodenbach. Flavour, sourness-wise I think this is about halfway between the original Rodenbach and the Grand Cru. Maybe slightly closer to the original – I can’t remember, I’ll have to buy a bottle. It’s a good kind of sourness. There’s a noticeable ‘leatheriness’ if that’s a word, maybe slightly ‘horsey’ or ‘barnyard-y’. It’s not offensive and I think it adds an interesting dimension or maybe i’m just being charitable towards my own beer. I can’t remember if that flavour is in Rodenbach. I can tell it’s a flavour which has been decreasing over time so I think it’s the Brett. Good stuff – i’m pleased at how it’s progressing. It’s now in a keg, and i’ll put it in champagne bottles soon.