Inadvertent LAMBIC Berliner Weisse (Mini Mash)


After my first taste of Berliner Kindl Weisse, I’ve been lusting after a gorgeously tart Berliner Weisse for a while now and have been promising myself a crack at brewing one.

Well I’ve just managed to get one going:

Here’s the recipe:


Trouble is, it’s a little more involved than the standard mash, boil and bung in the yeast routine – to start with I did a mini mash on the stove top (I’ve no idea what I’d do with 23 L of Berliner Weisse?) with the mash rests as follows:

15mins 54c
60mins 68c

5mins 76c

When I sparged, I needed to ensure that there’d be enough wort to fill a demijohn almost completely – air is our enemy here…oh did I mention that I’d be souring this bad boy with Lactobacillus?

…and, because I’m as tight as a gnat’s chuff, I’m going to be doing the souring with Probiotic “healthy gut” Lactobacillus Plantarum tablets.


Yeah, you heard that right: Mmmm-hmm, deal with it girlfriend.

Rather than forking out six or seven quid a pop for a single-use WL/WY lactobacillus culture in a test tube, I’m just going to crack open a couple of these Swanson Pro-biotics “healthy gut” tablets into some cooled and boiled water to re-hydrate and then pitch the whole lot into the wort.

Each tablet supposedly contains 10 beellion viable cells, and I apparently need 20 beellion for a gallon of wort, so two will do nicely.

(BTW the tablets are seven quid for 30 – so I can do lots more of soured beer with the other 28 or so.  OR I can make a starter and make even more!)

Brewing on the cheap AND supporting my bowels, you’ve gotta like that.

The common consensus is that you can expect about 24 – 36 hours for the souring to happen…but it’s standard practice to use a smidge (3ml or so in my case) of lactic acid in the wort after you’ve sparged to get it down to 4.5 pH – which should stop any unpleasant bacteria taking hold in the meantime…

You can use a pH meter or pH strips to check for acidity – both of these seem largely hopeless when I tested.  I think, on reflection, I probably trusted the strips more…

Once it’s soured to an acceptable level (and that’ll be pleasantly acidic, rather than strip the enamel from your teeth acidity) I’ll get the lot into a pan and re-boil for half-an hour, adding the hops to 8 IBUs, etc. and then bunging in a clean ale yeast to ferment it to a finish – as I would for a normal beer.

God this brewing lark is giddily exciting sometimes…


So it’s a couple of days later, now.

The Lacto has been taking it’s time souring the wort – despite my best efforts: swirling up the all-too-flocculant sediment and keeping the whole lot over 25c if I can.

Last night, it tasted as if we were finally getting there: the wort was still sweet, but getting a pleasant, if subtle, acidity to it…

Then this morning I noticed a Krausen!  I mean a high krausen with a right old load of brown yeast on the top and bubbles in the airlock and everything.  That wasn’t supposed to happen…I haven’t put any hops in it yet, let alone any yeast!


I mean, I did briefly boil it for ten minutes prior to pitching the Probiotics and that was only to “sanitize” it…

After freaking out about it when I first found it this morning, I thought about boiling it all quickly and adding the hops and all that; but I’d no idea how much alcohol would boil off and what it would do the taste…so in the end I’ve decided to just leave it to do it’s thing.

It smells and tastes fine* and I suppose it’s accepted practice to brew Berliner Weisse under a no-boil procedure: because of the eventual acidity it shouldn’t need the preservative power of hops, and the style isn’t hop-forward in any sense, I might just get away with it.  I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

(*I shouldn’t have tasted it at all really: tasting is a big no-no when fermenting with unknown wild cultures – at least in the first few days – heaven knows what could be growing growing in there…a fact I remembered slightly after taking the first sip…)

In any case, I’ve now moved the whole thing to a cooler area of the house to try and keep the yeast from chucking out hot fusel alcohols in the first few days.  What happens next is anyone’s guess.  I suppose there’s two possible outcomes to this whole business:

1) I end up with a gacky, smelly thing that I’ll have to pour down the sink and afterwards, scrub the demijohn ’til my fingers bleed


2) I get a tart and interesting Berliner Weiss, in fact a LAMBIC BERLINER WEISSE.  Yeah, take that and smoke it in your Briars, Hipsters!

I may also get an interesting Lacto/Brett/Brewers house culture that I can clutter up the fridge with…  Happy days.  (They’re available in the UK…)

Home-Grown Cascade Hoppy Pale Ale


Well.  Let’s hope it’s hoppy, anyway…

The taste I took when transferring to the fermenter was quite assertively bitter, in fact probably a bit more bitter than I really intended…

Here’s the recipe for starters:


You’ll notice that I used two 50g bags of home grown cascade…and right about the twenty-minutes-left-to-go point was where things began to unravel a bit…

In hindsight, I probably should have done another centennial addition here instead of using the home-grown cascades (I bought the centennial from Rob at the Malt Miller, and I know that they were 11.2% AA, whereas I had no idea at all what the cascades were…)

Twenty minutes of boiling is plenty of time to extract additional unexpected bitterness, especially when you’re using hops with a completely unknown alpha acid content…and maybe 25g was quite a lot when you’re not sure what they will contribute.

I’ve felt for a while now that some of my beers were good in the aroma department but tended to lack a little in the taste…so that twenty-minute addition was meant to address that.

Mind you, the hops smelt good and resinous from the freezer, so who knows: a ferment, a couple of weeks conditioning and a potential 6.5% ABV may get it to come right…assuming the yeast can wrestle it down to 1010 or so…

All in all it was one of my best brew days; no mess and a quick clean-up meant that I had a solid 1060 OG wort into the carboy, all oxygenated and yeast pitched; everything cleaned and dried, and me drinking a cup of tea by 10.30pm.

I used S04, because I heard somewhere (probably via Mike Tonsmiere on his Mad Fermentationist blog) that some English-style yeasts help to accentuate hop character.

If all else fails and it’s not quite where I want after a week or so, I can dry hop with more centennials or add some grapefruit zest, or maybe even add both…mmm, a grapefruit IPA…

Homemade Naan Bread in a homemade Tandoor Oven!


It was with great joy that I stumbled across Nick Collins’ youtube video the other day, all about building a back garden tandoor (

I say stumbled, as there was probably something else that I was supposed to be doing…but you know how these things go: one minute it’s all “I must go and research this for a blog piece” and the next it’s “oooh, this is an interesting diversion…”

Unless you’re one of those odd people who doesn’t like or has never tried Indian food, then you’ll know that a Tandoor is a clay oven that is used to cook a variety of exciting barbecued meats and breads.

In the video, Nick shows us how to build a Tandoor and how much fun one can have cooking with it.

Now, if there’s one thing I like it’s Indian food; so after a watch of the video, a Tandoor build seemed pretty much inevitable…

I won’t go over all the ins and outs that Nick covers in his video as he covers the process so well, I’ll just show you my attempt at a build and describe my experiences (for good, or bad)

The Build

Step 1: Procure your planter/massive great pot

Eve went shopping for the pots – so, needless to say, we ended up with a substantial planter – but it was half-price, so I guess I shouldn’t moan too much…

Step 2: Cut the bottom off of one of the two pots*


(*) Right. Let’s get one thing out there: the single biggest arse-pain of this whole build is the cutting off of the flowerpot’s bottom: I only had a dremmel with a tiny cutting wheel, and it took ages.

Maybe you’ll have more joy with an angle grinder, either way it’s a right old seat-of-the-pants experience, knowing that terracotta tragedy is never more than the slightest slip away.

Step 3: Start the assembly


Note the pot stood on a ring of terracotta “pot feet” to improve the air supply and stop the vermiculite from pouring out of the holes in the bottom of the planter.


Stick the other “bottomless” pot on top of the other…


Now start to fill the gap with vermiculite (a mica-based mineral used for insulation and horticulture) you should only need a bit…unless of course you’ve got a flippin’ great planter then you’re going to find yourself shelling out for quite a lot of Vermiculite – 110 litres of it in my case.

Try your local garden centre and if you can, get the large grade stuff – otherwise it’s calls to insulating contractors or your local chimney installers.


Install a low-quality griddle to keep the air flowing to the coals

Step 4: Get bloody cooking on it!


Spark up and test with a sheek kebab.  Oh god, just look at it.  It was sooo good.

It takes surprisingly little charcoal – probably about a couple of handfuls) and very little time to get the temperature up to 400 or so degrees centigrade.

Now it’s built what else should we cook on it?

I have a very old and very well-thumbed book entitled “The Curry Secret”.  We (that’s Eve and I) adapted their recipe for the Naan bread.

I say “we”, it was more Eve. I was too busy fooling around with terracotta and charcoal…)

Naan Bread

150ml warmish milk

2 tablespoons caster sugar

2 teaspoons dried yeast

450g plain flour

Half a teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

285ml of plain yoghurt

1 large egg (which should be beaten together with the yoghurt)

Pour the milk into a bowl and stir in the sugar and the yeast. Leave for 15 minutes until the yeast starts to “work” – i.e. it gets a bit foamy on top.

Sift the dry ingredients into a separate bowl.

Add the sifted dry ingredients into the now-frothy yeast mixture together with all of the remaining ingredients and mix into a dough.

Knead the dough for about ten minutes until it is silky and smooth. Be aware that this is quite a wet dough, so don’t fret too much if it’s a bit damper than you’re used to.

The wetter the better, as they say in bread-making (and other less-salubrious) circles…

Put the dough in an oiled bowl and put in a warm place – preferably covered with oiled cling film.

Leave the dough for an hour or so – at least until it’s doubled in size.

Knock the dough back lightly and divide up into 12 or so small balls. Roll the balls out into small disks – about five inches in size and about a quarter of an inch thick. Be sure that one side of the naan is floured and the other isn’t so much…this is to ensure stickiness to the side of the tandoor.

Cooking the Naans in the Tandoor

Admittedly this is a bit of an art – and it’s an art that I haven’t completely mastered yet. But, perseverance will soon pay off:

On a heat-proof oven glove or similar – and floured side down – stretch out the naan a little, and then reach down into the Tandoor and stick the naan onto the inside wall of the uppermost pot.


It’s a bit of a fiddle and may require you wetting the naan ever-so-slightly to make it stick.

At this point it’s probably worth mentioning that it’s also incredibly easy to burn yourself while doing this, you have been warned. A good tandoor will run at about 400c.

To get things trundling along a bit you might like to pop the bit of flowerpot bottom you cut off, back on top as a lid…

After a couple of minutes the bread will start to look ready and should smell really good.

Getting the naan out is also a bit of performance, but involves grabbing it with a pair of tongs and easing it off of the tandoor wall with a small metal scraper.

But when it’s out in one piece you’ll find it all worth while:


We found that they were excellent with Daal, Chicken Tikka and Sheek Kebabs.


This oven is going to get some serious use this year, I’m sure…

Hop Harvest 2016


What a good year for the roses hops…

And didn’t I get a lovely haul this year?  Here they are all merry and bright, up the side of the house…and, yes, I know the house needs painting…a fact that certainly hasn’t escaped my wife.

The biggest problem this year was bloody snails.  Why do they like hop leaves so much?  I had to keep picking the pesky molluscs off and “relocating” them elsewhere…

I knew the hops were ready as they outer leafy bits had gone quite “papery” and some were starting to turn a little brown around the edges.  They also smelt “right” when the cones were rubbed and crushed, I think I might have harvested a little early in previous years.

Hold your nerve people – pick at the right time!


And here they are all viciously hacked down and languishing on the kitchen table.  There was a significant insect exodus from this pile over the course of the evening too:


It took two hours to pick that lot clean, and probably would have been even quicker had it not been for the odd one or two that had contracted powdery mildew – damn those damp late-September days.

The afflicted ones got binned and I made the resolution to only use these rest of the hops as late and flame-out additions – hopefully the heat in the brew kettle will kill off any trace of nastiness on the odd mildewy straggler.

After two hours I got a good boxful.  I didn’t weight them as – to be quite honest – I don’t much care about the wet weight.  We’re drying all of these babies, this year:


Not in possession of an oast house or even anything similar, I spread the lot out on a bed sheet (yes folks, you’ve now seen my bedding…) and set the dehumidifier on them:


There they sat for the next two days.  Eve helpfully sorted through them from time-to-time and picked out the odd manky/mouldy/worm-eaten hop.

Two days later and we were looking good: the cones were mostly dry and any small stems were pliable to a point before they snapped cleanly.  That’s supposed to signify the proper dryness…

All I had to do then was stuff some ziplock bags with 50 grams of hops each and bung the lot in the freezer.

Next year I might invest in a vacuum sealer – but that’s only if it looks like there’s going to be a bumper harvest…

Total haul: 380 grams of pretty fragrant and resinous Cascade cones….


Just popping down the @pintshop for a pint of…beer


Sing Hosanna!  Another beer bar has opened up in Oxford!

And what a flippin’ treat it is too…

Me and my old china – The Greggster – went there Wednesday night.  We were long overdue a night out for a few ales and tales…and, after loads of people at work had bombarded me with links to an article in the Oxford Times – trumpeting The Pint Shop’s opening, a trip there seemed more than appropriate…

And weirdly, it wasn’t that busy when we arrived on a nondescript Wednesday evening in mid-September, but The Pint Shop has only been open a couple of days, so it’s no surprise (their original Cambridge bar being open a great deal longer).

But before long, I fully expect The Pint Shop to be rammed to gunwhales with discerning Oxford drinkers and attracting some of the frothy-‘tached hipster crowd from Beerd, a couple of doors down.

Having two decent* beer bars in the same street plays well for us drinkers – meaning that both outfits need to stay at the top of their game to retain their custom by stocking the freshest and widest range of quality beer.

(*note the eschewance of the word craft? It’s getting old hat…and even Greene King call some of their beers “craft” now, so it’s now rendered the term pretty redundant)

It’s a nice set-up when you get inside The Pint Shop, their style blows away the seemingly-now-passe craft-beer/rock-bar schtick and instead mines a rich seam of late 70’s/early 80’s “comprehensive school” chic:  enamel light shades and flip-top-desk-beech furniture with bare floor-boards lend it that sort of feel.  I liked it a lot…mind you I was at school in those years, so I would wouldn’t I?

And guess what else I liked a lot?  The beer selection.  Holy crikey – check out the picture above.  That’s a range and a half, isn’t it?

Gregg wasn’t sure what to order when we arrived and visibly reeled and buckled at the knees under the weight of choice; eventually, after expressing a need for “something with lots of hops in it”, he settled on the Everyday IPA from the Nene Valley brewery.  It was perky and sessionable and delivered hops by the shovelful.

As I’m currently on a sours kick I went for the Mangoes Crazy for Peaches Berliner Weiss from Beerbliotek – which was just what I was after: pleasantly seltzery with just enough acidity to pucker, it sat nicely on my (very empty) stomach and sharpened my appetite for dinner later.

Then the lights at our table started dimming and brightening…

It was imperceptible first, but then became weirdly rhythmical: one minute we were starkly lit by bare element bulbs, the next we were in plunged into an other-worldly gloaming…it was all very odd, until a chap appeared next to us and apologized – explaining that they were trying to get the lighting right and they’d be done fiddling about soon.

We said we didn’t mind, as the beer was good and were wondering what to have next…so the lighting man introduced himself as Rich and explained that he was one of the co-owners and, what sort of thing were we looking for next?

I mentioned that I did a bit of reviewing and I’d be doing a small piece on the site and that I was driving but I did so like the look of the Hoog and Droog (a Pint Shop/De Molen collaboration), The Evil Twin Barley Wine Blend, Burning Sky’s Saison a la Provision and the Edge Brewing’s Sangria Sour – but couldn’t have them all, you know, what with the driving and everything…

It was at this point that Rich excused himself only to re-appear moments later bearing all those beers on a tray.  We sat and talked further with Rich and tasted all four…

The Hoog and Droog was a solid and beautiful west coast IPA, with a great trailing edge of zesty grapefruit pith.  Gregg declared it an excellent beer and one of the best he’d ever had – and believe me he’s had a few in his time, so his opinion is to be respected.

The Sangria Sour was satisfyingly acidic and nicely balanced – I’m guessing it was kettle-soured, as it wasn’t wildly complex in the way that a gueze or flanders red is complex, but it was damn good all the same.

Burning Sky’s Saison a la Provision was an excellent representation of the style and refreshing and tasty in equal measure.  I wish I could make my Saison taste that good.

The star of the show was the Evil Twin Barley Wine Blend.  My god, it was big (11%) malty, rounded and spicily woodsy; quite bringing to mind bulbous Christmas snifters brimming with Armagnac…  I’d never considered brewing a barley wine before, but I might now.

I’m so happy we’ve another decent beer destination in Oxford.  The Pint Shop is spacious and well laid-out with a blinding selection of beers.  Everyone there is knowledgeable and happy to help.

I haven’t even mentioned the food yet…God, yes, the food.  Next time, Jon.  Next time.

Get to The Pint Shop as soon as you can, their kegs need emptying as quickly as possible – only so that we can see what other wild and marvelous beers they can get on tap for us…

Pour away your isotonic shit and drink this instead – Augustiner: Dunkel


Do you spend hundreds of pounds on ridiculous sports drinks and the such-like?  You do?  Well in my opinion you’re wasting money, money that could be far better spent on beer.

Especially beer like Augustiner Dunkel.

Augustiner Dunkel is a very solid and very dark beer indeed – with so much malt you could probably stand a spoon up in it.

With an aroma not far off a bag of demerera sugar and tasting like glazed and roasted chestnuts, it’s one hell of a pick-me-up.

There’s an ample carbonation and some spicy notes that add to the fun, too.

There’s also pretty much zero in the way of bitterness – so even damp-eyed, soft people, can enjoy it…

Dunkel is a style that’s so (to my mind) refreshing, sustaining and fluid replacing, and I think it’s just the sort of thing we should all be drinking after vigorous physical activity*:

Runners – stock up on it for post-race refreshment, MAMILs (look it up!) – keep some at cellar temperature to enjoy when you stagger back in the door all bow-legged and scrotally-damaged.

I’m going to get a stock in for the – all-too-inevitable – leaf-sweeping and garden-buggering-about that comes my way at this time of year.

In short: pour all the isotonic shit down the sink and drink Dunkel instead!

(*PS: It’s worth noting that I have precisely zero in the way of medical training, but have strong suspicions that a lot of people are wasting their money on pointless sugary bullshit)

On yer bike – @OakhamAles: Green Devil IPA


You know, I reckon, there’s two very different sorts of hoppy beer in this funny little world of ours…

First off, there’s American hoppy beer: which I associate with resinous and dank and sticky buds and citrus and grapefruit peel and bitter and marmalade – all in a tumult, just like that.

Then there’s English hoppy beer – which is still assertive and has those same American themes but somehow less full-bore and with more subtleties – such as delicate floral notes and honey and summer.

If it’s pines in an English-hoppy beer then it’s sun-soaked Lebanese cyprus by a greek taverna – rather than pine needles bunging up the Hoover at Christmas.

I like both styles equally…

There’s days when only a solid American IPA style will do: everything at maximum, with the amps cranked up to 11 – a headlong break-neck trip through hop city on a Harley.

Then there’s other days when you need a bracing yomp through the hills and fields, taking in the forests and the rioutous summer meadows; earthy, sensual and provocative to the senses – which is what you seem to get from an English hoppy beer.

Needless to say, there’s US brewers making great English-style hoppy beer, and some great US-inspired hoppy beer from brewers on this side of the water…

Speaking of brewers from this side of the water, lets take a look at Oakham’s Green Devil IPA…

Green Devil IPA is a curious mix of both hoppy beer styles.  I guess I can best describe it as a bit like mountain-biking:  it’s all full-on downhill craziness: mad hops and assertive bitterness; but if you take the time to stop for a bit and take your helmet off, you’ll find yourself in a delicate and sensual surroundings.

The hops in the nose are big and bold, lightly vegetative and with a lively playfulness.   The colour is fresh-cast-bullion and the head stays soapy-foamy right to the end.  I got pines, lemons and hints of grapefruit in the taste with a lightly but dangerously drinkable body.  The bitterness kept me going back for more until I found myself empty-glassed and slightly sad at not having more on hand.

If I were you I’d get on your bike and get some today.

See detail of it here: