Brewing beers NOT like those you buy…


I know the title of this article is a bit of a cheeky play on the title of this famous tome from Dave Line: but it’s entirely appropriate. 

I tend to brew beers that are completely unlike anything that I can buy – at least in the UK: when was the last time you found a Grapefruit Belgian Saison, or a Citra and Nelson Sauvin India Pale Ale in Sainsburys?

Trying to get beers completely to your taste is fun, at times irritating, and at other times completely bewildering to others when they taste it.  After my attempt at a massively over-the-top hopped interpretation of Thornbridge Kipling (, I was asked “Is that really metallic taste the hops in it?” and dear old Jim was right, it was. 

Double the quantity of aroma hops and half-as-much again of flavour hops did tend to produce a metallic note in the taste, a taste that took at least three weeks to a month to iron out – after that it was a thing of beauty and is now one of the most hit recipes on YIMB.  It’s one of the few recipes that I intend to make completely unmodified again.  When I do brew it up, I’ll save a couple of month-old bottles so that Jim can enjoy the mellow taste when the beer eventually comes right.

But it just goes to show how difficult it is when trying to get things just so

I’m currently agonising over whether to “dry-hop” another grapefruit’s worth of zest into the Saison.  It’s been fermenting for just over ten days now and a considerable bubble is still coming through the airlock every 15 seconds.  Will it ever stop?  US-05 would have killed that wort to 1009 in four days, no worries.  But I’m patient, and the taste of the small amount I stole from the fermenter was good (and 1014, so a bit to go) – but will it benefit from more grapefruit zest?

Likewise, my Citra and Nelson Sauvin Universal Sanction IPA (which I’ve yet to properly evaluate and rate) tastes kinda like it should; but would it have been cleaner and more hop-shiney with US-05 instead of S04?

The S04 ripped through the wort in extraordinary time but has left me with quite a different IPA experience, which is good but maybe not what I was looking for.  Dave says it’s quite nice, and he’s a seasoned ale drinker, so maybe it is.  Next time I’ll try another liquid yeast. 

Maybe I’ve had it with dried yeasts and am looking for something more complex, that only Wyeast and White Labs can provide?

If you’re wondering what prompted all this noodling, it’s the latest blog entry by Derek Dillinger on his Bear-Flavored site:

On other blogs and in other news, this piece: by Michael Tonsmeire on his The Mad Fermentationist blog has reminded me that I need to get brewing something dark for the Winter. 

And Michael’s method of dumping coffee beans directly in the fermenter sounds like a good, hassle-free, way of getting a Breakfast Stout (Coffee and Oatmeal) on the go.  I quite fancy some vanilla pod-action in it too. 

That’s the great thing about home-brewing, you’re always on the look-out for the next recipe idea that could produce yet another beer that you couldn’t ever hope to buy…

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