He’ll soon be back at this rate: @OakhamAles – Bishop’s Farewell

20150127_201246…that’s if that Bishop’s got any sense; this is too good a beer to miss…

Well it’s happy times again as I get to report back on Oakham’s Bishop’s Farewell, and what a lovely beer it is too:

A lovely light and golden colour with a tempting hazy quality to it.  I say tempting, because haze – in my book – normally means DRY HOPPING and we all like a bit of that, don’t we?  The head was a little on the collapsible side, but that’s neither here ‘nor there.

The aroma was honey and citrus pith with that lovely singed bitter orange theme that I seem to get with all good hoppy beers; also in amongst were more than enough pines and dank to keep me interested.

The taste reminded me a bit of Oakham’s JHB (Jeffrey Hudson Bitter) as it led out with that same beautifully assertive acerbic note, but after that came a light caramel from the malt that supported a hefty dose of pines, lemons and grapefruit prickliness.

Beautifully carbonated and magnificently refreshing this is a top beer to have with pretty much anything.  It’ll cut right through heavy British cuisine, but will also make Asian/Indian cuisines pop like mad.

The other great thing is that it’s a 500ml bottle – so there’s loads of it, and because of the excellent malt body it feels much bigger than the 5% ABV.

Bloody marvellous.

You could, if you fancied, chill it down a little further and serve it in the summer as you would a sparkling white wine in some fancy flutes (as per my review of Thornbridge Kipling: https://yeastismybitch.com/2013/11/11/thornbridge-kipling/) or you could just pour lovely great pints of it down your neck.

Get some today:

http://www.oakhamales.com/bottles.html

@adnams – Jack Brand Innovation IPA

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You may have noticed that the beer reviews have slowed down a bit…  I used to review pretty much every beer that I came across; but now there’s so much beer about the place that I’m having a hard job keeping up – and to be quite honest I hate reviewing mediocre beer and having to say “well, it’s sort of OK” and then trying to spin that out for about 300 words or so.

So: new year, new rules.

I will review beers that I think are great, novel or just damn tasty.  I will also pour extra effort into articles about brewing and even a bit about bread-making – plus a few exciting fermentation-based side projects.  Looking at the site statistics, it seems that brewing articles are the most well-received…so there’ll definitely be more of those…

Anyway, here’s a beer that I do think is great: Adnams Jack Brand Innovation IPA

Pouring a very lovely amber colour, with a fine head that rapidly drops to a wispy covering – this looks like a proper “craft” IPA.

At 6.7% you know that it’s going to be big and worth having, so lets get on with it.

The aroma is very special: dank – but not oppressively so – with a great big breakfast grapefruit, pines and peppery top layer that, with further sniffing, reveals a firm underscore of freshly-cut blood oranges and a final lovely and lasting burnt bitter-orange note.  It’s big, it’s bold but it isn’t brash; alluringly hopped, that’s my term for it.

Upon tasting there’s big mouth-filling malts, a very welcome alcoholic warmth and a silky-smooth body that showcases a whirl of taste sensations – all vying for your attention: sharp citrus and grapefruit pithiness, dark demerera sugar, lemons ‘n’ limes, pines and deep meaningful dankness; spiciness abounds and runs up against more deep dankness to leave you – quite frankly – all post-coital glowy and lolling about.

Then of course the beer whispers “shall we do it again?” and before you know it you’re rolling about the floor, in IPA heaven again…

God, I need to take a shower now.

Buy some today.  Not just because it’s good, but because it’s good and attractively priced, being available from the Adnams online shop for £18.99 for 12.  That’s about £1.50 a bottle – contrast that with offerings from other brewers that are on a par, taste-wise, with Innovation IPA…

I know Adnams have scale on their side, but they are producing excellent beer…at scale.

http://cellarandkitchen.adnams.co.uk/catalog/product/bottles/adnams-jack-brand-innovation-12-x-330ml-bottles-67-abv?page=2&sort=price_asc

Yeast stir-plate build

You can tell when this home-brewing has stopped being just a hobby and become a weird obsession; it starts with a bit of canned kit brewing, then you go to extract and before you know it you’re doing all-grain.  Then you start building temperature controllers, brew-fridges and all manner of other shite that clutters up your house.  For my money, the ultimate “you’ve getting into this too deep” accessory is the yeast stir-plate.

Eh?  Whassat?

A stir-plate is just a way of keeping a yeast starter in constant motion and adding in a steady supply of oxygen – so that when you come to pitch the yeast starter into the wort, your yeasty mates are in perfect condition.

People who ferment their beer from yeast starters report better attentuation in their fermentation, improved taste in the finished beer and increased virility in the bedroom.

I’m also hoping that it’ll mean that I can culture up yeasts from bottles of commercial beer that I’ve particularly enjoyed (Hook Norton, Adnams and crazy Belgian beers especially)

There are already tons of posts and articles on other blogs detailing how they made their stir plates and why they make starters, etc.  So I’m going to just include the information here that I found useful and had to hunt around for, plus some pictures of my incredibly shoddy workmanship (it’s no surprise that I work in IT and am not a craftsman or tradesman)

20150122_201031It’s basically a lunchbox, with a computer fan, some neodymium (rare earth) magnets, a rheostat and an old phone transformer.

Here’s the parts list and where they came from:

  • Lunchbox from the cheapskates shop (£1.39)
  • 5v Phone Charger (Free from the parts bin at work)
  • 12v PC case fan (1x bottle of homebrew to the guys in desktop support at work)
  • 50x 10mm x 1mm rare earth magnets ( £3 or so from fleabay, I used six of them)
  • 1x 25ohm 3Watt Rheostat (£4 fleabay)
  • Electrical tape and Blu-tack
  • Some m4 long shank bolts and nuts to secure the fan to the lid of the lunchbox

As you can see I’ve very professionally attached the magnets to the fan hub using Blu-Tack.  It’s the only thing that worked.  “No more nails” was a dead loss.  Araldite would probably have worked:

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I wired the positive in to the central pole of the rheostat and the positive from the fan to the left pole.  This seemed to work OK.  I also had to use a 5v power supply as a 12v caused the fan to skitter around the room whenever powered on (with or without the rhesostat):

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Once we were all assembled I only had to put the Borosilicate 1L flask on top (£9 fleabay again) and drop in the smallish magnetic PTFE-covered stir-bar from the set I bought (7 pc set £9 fleabay)

With the rheostat set to about halfway you get a nice little whirlpool – which should be enough to get a starter going:

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..and if you really crank it up, you get a right old vortex!:

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Landlord’s Daughter’s Breakfast Porter – Tasting Notes

20150117_212747You know the old home brewing adage: “your beer is at it’s best as you’re just finishing the last pint“?  Well, that’s kind of where I am at the moment.  The keg of LLDBP is getting dangerously close to kicking and I’m still enjoying this beer no end.

It pours a really lovely dark garnet – when held up to the light you can just about see through it.  The retention of the tan head is also bang on and would be fantastic through a nitrogen stout tap (if I had one).

The aroma is complex and enjoyable – there’s a lot of fruity, vinous notes from the S33 yeast and a lovely malty sweetness to back it up – overlaying all of that is decadent, delicate, coffee edge that lilts and soars and then folds back in with the yeasty fruity notes.  Aroma-wise I’m very happy – any more coffee in it than this and we’d be in the realm of the “novelty” beer.

The mouth-feel is luxuriant and silky-smooth – thanks to the oats – and is unctuously enjoyable.

Taste-wise, I get gentle fruity, Belgian, notes that segue straight into dark malty sweetness that is overtaken briefly by the subtle coffee theme, before a very nice bitter note rounds the whole thing out.  The finish is pleasantly dry, dry enough to remind you that there’s just that bit more in that glass that you really need to get down your neck.

Overall this is probably one of the most complex, intriguing and enjoyable beers that I’ve ever made and it’s reinforced the importance to me of trying to make bold and (hopefully) intelligent decisions when formulating my recipes.

If I were to make this beer again the only thing that I’d change would be to include a little bit of roast barley – that would just provide a smidgeon of roasty bitterness that I think would make this an even better beer; everything else I’d leave exactly as-is.

I’m so glad I had the forethought to bottle half of this, I’ll look forward to enjoying the bottles as this beer ages further.

You’ll find the recipe here:  https://yeastismybitch.com/2014/12/15/the-landlords-daughters-breakfast-porter/

M’colleague Mr Paul Bishop took the time to write me a short review of his experience tasting the bottled version, which I’ll include:
There are three things that I know: I love ale, I love Science, I don’t understand brewing terminology – so when reading the original posting about the making of this beer I was drawn into a bit of a kerfuffle: trying to plunge one’s nose into an oatmeal and coffee blend of a brew with a sinus infection was near pointless, but certain smells got through and could be nailed with words of grandeur – words such as “Robust”, “Toasty” and “Luxuriously Smooth”. 
The colour of chestnuts and with a small tight head, it only improved the drowning process that I was immersed in.  An aroma of coffee-richness and oats in the blend repeated at the belch was present throughout and gratefully received.  A very fine porter that, thanks to a child’s prodding, was not a stout like a train wreck!  More, please!

On Test: @WoodfordesAle Wherry – Beer Kit (with a twist or two)

Psst.  Want to know a secret?  Over the weekend I made a beer kit from canned malt extract.  Fancy that.

There’s a couple of reasons that I did this, folks; firstly because I haven’t made beer from a kit in *years* and quite fancied getting my hands on a quantity of beer for very little effort; and secondly, because I keep recommending the Woodforde’s Wherry kit to all and sundry without actually having ever made it myself.

In addition to all of that I also wanted to bottle it up and let my usual bunch of scroungers reviewers have a taste – without telling them that it’s a kit – and see what they think.

Be warned, I did take liberties and have jazzed it up a little, as I simply can’t help myself.  To start with I used Safale S04 yeast – and this is no reflection on Woodfordes yeast – but I just prefer to know where I am with my yeast and so far S04 has been kind to me.  I also made up the kit a couple of pints short so that it’s a touch stronger and hopefully a little more fully-bodied.

Also, when it’s done with the vigorous initial fermentation, I’m going to dry-hop it a bit…or a lot…when it comes to hops I tend to have a heavy hand.  But, bear in mind, the dry-hop will only help the aroma…if the kit doesn’t taste good there’s no way around that…

Usefully, this article will also serve as a guide to making beer kits for the uninitiated.

Get your stuff together.  I used a glass carboy and airlock for fermenting, a 2L jug for measuring, a big old funnel, some campden tablets (more on them later) some boiling water and a 10L preserving pan

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Next I got out the old Star San.  If you don’t have any, buy some.  Don’t tiddle about with the stuff you have to rinse off.  When you order your Wherry kit from Greg at BrewUK (or whoever) get some Star San.  It’ll pay you back in spades – you use virtually none, it works every time and lasts for years.  Look, the caps on my bottle have cracked and virtually fallen off, so I’ve had to seal it with cling film.

Sterilise EVERYTHING that will come into contact with the beer.  Get it nicely foamy.  DO NOT FEAR THE FOAM. Don’t wash it off, it’s perfectly safe to come into contact with the beer and yeast.  It’s no-rinse sterilisation, it’s WITCHCRAFT.

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Stick the cans into boiling water, that’ll help the malt extract to loosen up a bit.

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To be quite honest I lost count, but think I put in something like 16L of water straight from the tap into the carboy…but I did put a well crushed quarter of a campden tablet in too.  The campden tablet should help to drive off any Chloramine in the water.  Chloramine gives that awful medicinal/chlorine smell in tap water and you don’t want that in your finished beer.  I think lots of people give up on brewing because their water has that awful taste and it comes through in their first beers.  I usually filter my water when I’m all-grain brewing, but on this occasion I wanted to use as little kit as possible.

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From now on you can follow the instructions enclosed in the kit, which I only diverted from by mixing the contents of the tins with boiling water in the preserving pan – rather than in a breakable and shockable glass carboy.

Now, open the tins and stand in more boiling water to soften the malt extract.

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Add the contents of the tins to the 6 pints of boiling water and stir well.  Take the pan off of the heat before you pour – liquid malt extract burns very easily on the bottom of a hot pan.

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Pour the hot malt extract and water combination into the cold water that’s already in the fermenter/carboy.  You’ll find that the temperature of the whole lot is now probably just about right to put the yeast into (i.e. less than 20C)

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I ended up with something like 21L of wort in the carboy.  I’ve no idea of what the gravity is, but I reckon it must be 1040-something.

I “pitched” the yeast at around 10pm at night; by 9am next morning there was already a good Krausen (foamy head of yeast) and the airlock was plopping every ten seconds.  I will dry-hop with something suitable (probably a Goldings variety or something like that) when the Krausen starts to fall back a bit and that’ll probably be by day 5…

I’ll let you know how it goes and more importantly how it tastes!

 

http://www.woodfordes.co.uk/shop-online/real-ale-kits/real-ale-kit-wherry.html

Or from Greg at BrewUk (which is a touch cheaper…)

http://www.brewuk.co.uk/woodfordes-wherry-bitter-3kg-40pt.html?gclid=CjwKEAiA8_KlBRD9z_jl_fKBhQkSJABDKqiXznDvj-EnYaq50zKUrGCITwXUCC-dbMhfV1_4wvuZ8BoCLz_w_wcB

Brewing with the seasons…

After brewing up my Dark Star Festival ale in the last hot, golden, days of late summer and ending up with the fruitiest most estery-tasting ale ever; I’ve decided to change my approach and try to brew more in line with the seasons and the prevailing temperatures.

I’m quite lucky – living slap-bang in the middle of England, as the temperature variance for the whole year is never much outside of -5C and +25C so it’s not like I ever have to contend with real extremes of temperature like our US cousins.

Now, we all know that yeast (ale yeast in particular) can be a funny old beast – once you take it out of it’s temperature comfort zone it’s liable to do all manner of crazy things: too high and it’ll rip through a wort and produce all manner of off-tastes, fusel alcohols and other weirdness in the finished beer; too cold and it’ll produce unrelenting blandness and maybe even give up the ghost completely – leaving you with a half-fermented and way-too-sweet finished product.

Fortunately, there’s a wide variety of beer styles that I can try to pair up with the prevailing weather and make the most of it…

So, let’s take a look at the various maximum temperatures for my neck of the woods, the temperature it’s likely to be inside my house as a result and which yeast types are likely to be happiest:

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A tiny table!  You can click on it to view the detail…

Well that’s interesting, isn’t it?  It looks like I’m pretty much good to brew ales and stouts all year round – apart from the very hottest three months of the year.  But that’s no problem as I can easily get on with some Saison and Belgian ale brewing when the temperature is above 20C.

From what I’ve read the Belgians ferment their ales up to 30C – Belgian yeasts seeming to be selected to be pushed hard at high temperatures – that’s where they love to produce their characteristic phenols and flavour profiles.

Some Saison yeasts seem happiest at temperature in excess of 30C!  I’ve also read that fermenting Saisons at under 18C is not worth it as it just doesn’t deliver a good enough flavour profile.

Notice that any form of bottom-fermenting Lager yeasts are right out – they’re only happy at temperatures below 10C for the most part.  That’s where I may need to invest in a brew fridge.

At last, I now feel that I have some sort of order in my brewing calendar…that is until I’ve sorted out the aforementioned brew fridge – then the world will be my oyster!  Lagers in July, anyone?

I’m waiting on a wheat: Hefeweizen Mk1 – the first outing…

20150107_215040God, I love wheat beers.  I didn’t ever think I would, but I do – so much so, that I decided to have a bash at brewing one up yesterday evening.

In a break with tradition I won’t be putting up a Brew Engine produced recipe but rather a set of guidelines, guidelines that I’ve painstakingly trawled for and researched.  I must confess that I’ve never seen so much controversy caused by a simple beer type – there must be hundreds of recipes and hundreds of bits and pieces of advice…

So here’s my interpretation that I brewed.  Advice will follow later:

Grain Bill:
50/50 Wheat Malt and Pils Malt (2.5Kg of each) (OG: 1052 @ 83% efficiency)
Hops:
11 IBUs of whatever I had hanging around (Chinook from the freezer) in a 60 minute addition
Yeast:
WLP300 Hefeweizen
Mash Schedule [Braumeister (hooray!)]
38C Dough In
43C Ferulic Acid Rest (20 Mins)  – apparently helps the yeast with developing a clovey spiciness in the finished beer
67C Saccarification Rest (60 Mins)
76C Mash Out (10 Mins)

.

That all looks quite simple doesn’t it?  Well it was, sort of…until about two minutes into the mashing I heard the sounds of trickling water from inside the BM.  Lifting the lid revealed wort fountains and serious channeling through the mash!

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Cue Handel’s Water Music

In a panic I phoned Greg at BrewUK for advice, he said that It’s due to the wheat malt being huskless and the pils malt – being crushed quite a bit finer than Maris Otter or Belgian pale – means that the pressure builds up and eventually forces it’s way through the mash into these oh-so beautiful little fountains.

Greg asked if I had any rice hulls to hand to loosen up the mash a bit – which of course I hadn’t.  I said that I figured that the awesome power of the BM would negate the need for mash fillers…apparently not.

To his eternal credit, Greg offered to replace my ingredients should I have to dump everything, but I decided to go for a serious bit of stirring and mash agitation every 10 or so minutes – 30 minutes later and this seemed to have done the trick.

The rest of the mash went off fairly uneventfully apart from a little fountain during the last ten minutes in the mash-out schedule.

After a 4 litre sparge and a little over a 60 minute boil I ended up with 22 litres in the carboy at 1051 – which was pretty much where I wanted to be and not bad considering it’s my first outing with wheat.

UPDATE: Pitched WLP300 at 10.30pm last night and just got called at 10am by Eve claiming “That beer is now stinking the house out“.  At least it’s working!

UPDATE No.1: Eve called at 4pm to say that the beer was now foaming out of the airlock and pouring down the side of the carboy (fortunately I sat it in a big bucket, beforehand)

UPDATE No. 2: Got home at 6pm to find about half a litre of beer and foam in the bucket that the carboy is sat in and a very strong bready/malty aroma pervading the house. Airlock still foaming like mad.

UPDATE No. 3: It’s 10pm and things starting to settle a bit.  Cleaned out the bucket and washed down the outside of the carboy.  Airlock still going every two seconds but no more foam.  Will replace airlock, etc. tonight.  This yeast is crazy!  Ambient air temperature still holding steady at 19c/20c

For all your homebrew needs (including advice in a panic!) http://www.brewuk.co.uk