A great introduction to all-grain brewing: @BrewUK CraftyBrews – Stove Topper Kit

saison_5Are you currently a canned-kit brewer?  Or are you an extract brewer?

If you’re either of these and are looking to get on the all-grain ladder, you certainly can’t do better than having a crack at one of these four litre kits.  I was fortunate enough to be sent a Saison version to try out, by Greg from BrewUK…and if there’s one thing I like more than brewing, it’s free brewing!

When you unpack your Stove Topper kit, you’ll find that it contains nearly everything that you could possibly need:

  • 4.5L Glass Demijohn
  • Bubbler Airlock and Bung
  • Siphon Tube
  • Glass Thermometer
  • Sanitiser Solution
  • Grains
  • Hops

20150429_092205All you need to do is round up a couple of decent-size pans, a jug, a sieve and a funnel

(The instructions say that you’ll need two ten litre pans – which I think is probably a bit over-kill.  I managed with a five litre stockpot and a nine litre preserving pan.  Plus you also need to make sure that you’ve got a fairly big sieve…I ended up using the inside of a salad spinner inside a colander – Don’t tell Eve!)

The instructions are pretty easy to follow, although they might take a bit of reading to get your head around – I’m fortunate in that I (apparently) know what I’m doing; but saying that, I did have to re-read some sections a couple of times to make sure that I’d got it right…I did want to do the kit justice by not deviating at all.

I’m also happy to report that the strike temperature suggested in the instructions was perfect, so I hit my 65C mash temperature dead on.

Instead of taking the temperature frequently and applying heat during the mash to keep a steady 65C, I elected to take the pan off of the heat and wrap it up in the kid’s old coats – which kept it within 1C of the mash temp throughout the entire hour.

It might be worth bearing this in mind in the instructions – as applying heat to a mash is a delicate art and the possibility of overshooting mash temps is always possible (anyone for a pseudo decoction?)

I also figured that a slight drop in temperature during the mash wouldn’t hurt and might make for a more fermentable wort – which wouldn’t be a complete disaster, as a drier finish is well within the Saison style

The really great thing for me was actually mashing in and sparging again after so long away from my three vessel set-up.

Mashing and sparging is so much more involved than my normal “dump the lot in the Braumeister and run off to do something else house or child-related” approach to brewing these days.

This kit reconnected me completely with the brewing process as it will you, too.  You’ll actually see things happening: the rainbow bubbles on the mash surface when sparging, for instance, that (I’ve been told) signal you’ve had a good starch to sugar conversion.

20150429_143515I’m happy to say that I hit all my targets on the dead-on and have a happy ferment going on in the Demijohn (high krausen in under twelve hours, thank you Belle Saison yeast.)

I look forward to drinking my eight bottles of lovely beer.

If you’re at all looking to get into all-grain and just fancy having a bash, then you can’t go far wrong with this kit.  How can Greg do them so cheaply?

Get and order one now for you, your friends and anyone else who fancies making some decent beer…and make sure to say you were sent by Yeastismybitch.com, it probably won’t count for anything, but it’ll make you look achingly cool…

http://www.brewuk.co.uk/beerkits/craftybrews/stove-toppers.html

Thanks again to Greg for letting me try this one out. I really do enjoy reviewing decent products like this…

But of course it didn’t end there, did it?  The instructions said to re-hydrate half a pack of the Saison yeast and add to the fermenter, etc…

HALF THE PACK OF YEAST?! 

I can’t bear the thought of having half-a-pack of yeast hanging about doing nothing…and I did have another demijohn in the shed…and some left-over bits and pieces of malt and hops.

Why not use the second half of the yeast and the BrewUK instructions to make another demijohn of Saison – but this time using some half-baked recipe of my own?

A quick flick through Farmhouse Ales – Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition gave me some inspiration and guidelines for recipe formulation, so I ended up making the following, which I’ve called Jon’s Kitchen Saison:

Kitchen Saison

Both fermenters are now happily bubbling away and haven’t -as yet- come foaming through their airlocks.  I will report back when they’re done.

20150429_150132PS: Yes I know that it looks a bit on the bitter side, but these hops have been about a bit in the freezer – the aromas still alright, but I bet they’ve lost some bittering potential…

The Kinder Face of Lambic: @FaroLindemans – Faro

20150423_200933The first time you have a Lambic, especially something like an Oude Gueze, you wonder what on earth possess people to drink something that acidic; but, you soldier through and after a while you start to appreciate the nuances of mustiness, acerbic lemonyness and huge mysterious complexity…

Fortunately, you can bypass that first alarming Lambic experience by trying out Faro.  Faro is a sweetened Lambic – so you get all the fun of a Lambic without feeling like you’re about to lose the enamel from your teeth.

I must confess being a fan of Faro.  I mean, I like a decent Gueze as much as the next man, but sometimes you want something complex, interesting, satisfying and above all else easy-drinking.

Lindemans Faro eventually arrives in a glass* a lovely deep amber with a vigorous fizzy head that fizzles itself away to virtually nothing – but hey, there’s not normally much in the way of head-forming proteins left in any Lambic by the time the wild yeasts and bacteria have finished working on it – so that’s to be expected.

(*I say “eventually arrives in a glass” as I took the cap off to no pop or fizz, and found a cork underneath to take out too.  Our kitchen is still in pieces, so it took ages to find a corkscrew)

20150423_200723The nose is sweet and overlaid with cut hay and earthy, soiley goodness, stored apples in newspaper, pear skins and a muted citrus note.  I told you Lambic was complex…

Taste-wise it’s mercifully sweet with a lovely mouth-filling, lively carbonation…the taste put me in mind of crisply tart apples – all malic-acid sharpness – that lingers before winking away to leave you sat alone in a dusty, musty, bone-dryness…but then that sweet appley-malic-acid note runs strong again and makes your mouth pour with saliva.

It’s that dryness that makes you to keep going back again and again…a bit like peanuts on the bar making you want to drink more.

Some may say that the Lambic theme is spoilt by it’s sweetening into a Faro, but I disagree.  I mean, alright, the sweetness is definitely separate and weirdly perpendicular to the taste – but I like it’s quirkiness…

Difficult to leave alone.  So many aromas, tastes and experience in one glass.

Yum.

http://www.lindemans.be/beer/faro

Balearic Craft: Popaire and @CervezaIbosim Collaboration – Carob Porter

20150420_185135

I think I’ve mentioned before that my sister-in-law lives in Ibiza, which means that I get the occasional decent Spanish beer to try.

This Carob porter really was one of the decent ones.  Apparently it’s the result of a collaboration between the Popair and Ibosim breweries – and if this is the result, maybe they’d like to do more in future…

Poured out it, was as black as you like with that lovely tan head that you seem to get from the darker malts.

The nose was very faintly metallic, but that didn’t last too long being pretty much obliterated by a solid full roast theme that eventually gave way to a rich chocolate note, which I guess comes from the Carob.

The mouth-feel is a solid malty mouth-full, solid and uncompromising with lots of hefty smooth -and not at all acrid- roast.  Chocolate comes flooding back in at the end and with the 6% volume lends the whole thing an almost Imperial stout feel.

A masterful roasted maltiness.

Well done…and really not what you’d expect from this part of the world.

I’d have this again, without question.  Can’t help thinking that it’d be nice to have this in the Balearic winter when there’s a nip in the air and all the tourists have tickled off home…

http://ibizagastro.com/archive/ibosimbeeribiza.html

Fermented Hot Sauce Mk II

20150420_085424Well looky here, if it’s not another batch of hot sauce.

I’m not going to spend too much time on this one, as I’ve kind of laboured the process in this post: https://yeastismybitch.com/2015/02/05/lactobacillus-and-others-fermented-hot-sauce/ and tasted it here: https://yeastismybitch.com/2015/04/09/lactobacillus-and-others-fermented-hot-sauce-tasting-notes/

So.  This time I used a whole pack of Scotch Bonnets and two or three packs of normal “red chilli peppers” from Sainsburys.  I didn’t put as much water in only added a clove garlic and a whole red bell pepper, and used a little more salt.

The whole thing fermented (and developed an amusing white mould/pellicle/whatever it was – that I scraped off and discarded) and generally did it’s stuff over a period of a month or so.

When the whole lot was starting to look more liquid-ey, I annihilated it in a blender until it was smooth, then strained it (lightly pushing it through the sieve) into a small pan and then briskly boiled it for a couple of minutes.

After that I let it out with a third the volume of spirit vinegar and bottled it up.

Funnily enough, this time around, it doesn’t separate or anything.  It’s a lot hotter, too, and tastes that little bit more Tabasco-authentic.  Nice.

FOOTNOTE: Between this batch and the last one, I learnt why certain things had to happen:

  • The salt prevents any bad stuff (mould, nasty bacteria) from taking hold
  • The lactic fermentation acidifies the sauce to a PH below 3 or 4 or so and this means that it can be kept out of the fridge as nasties can’t survive in such an acidic environment
  • The Vinegar is a bit of crutch to ensure the low PH is achieved.

Maybe before next time I’ll invest in some PH test strips or something – that might help with my all-grain mashing too…

Brewdog: @brewdog shares available now!

LogoDo you like Brewdog?  Do you like their style? Do you want to own a piece of their future action?

Well now you can.  Brewdog are inviting you to invest in their future, and what a future they’ve got planned, just take a look at this ambitious list – which I stole directly from their share prospectus:

  • Build a bigger brewery
  • Develop our canned beer range
  • Open new UK bars
  • Invest in Environmental Technologies
  • Develop our Abstrakt beer range
  • Grow our international bar division
  • Launch our Craft Distillery
  • Build a sour beer facility
  • Establish a UK import & distribution arm
  • Launch Hop Shot; a new ice-distilled beer
  • Open a craft beer focused hotel
  • Establish a USA-based brewing operation

Obviously there’s no guarantee that you’ll make money, but look how well they’ve done so far…and that’s not to mention all the side benefits you’ll also get from investing (discounts and free stuff!)  I’m not going to crap on about it any more, as I’ve invested already (and may put some more in yet…if they break America then we’ll all be coining it in!)

When you invest, It’d be great if you could quote this referral code, as that’ll mean referral points for you and me: R586989 plus they’ll know that you came from Yeastismybitch.com and that’ll make us all look extra hip…

https://www.brewdog.com/equityforpunks

Not a mincing short-arse: Brasserie des Legendes – Hercule Stout

20150403_215249Good lord.  A Belgian Stout?  Whatever next?

Those keraaaazy Belgians, they just can’t help taking a style and Belgianing it up to the max, can they?  I love them for that.

Hercule is, unsurprisingly, named after Agatha Christie’s famous diminutive, mincing Belgian detective (alright, so I’m basing that on David Suchet’s superb representation) but this namesake stout is certainly no mincing short-arse:

A solid slab of black with a head of old lace, this is a marvellously imposing beer.The aroma is warmly roasted, a little spicy and, like some other beers of this ilk, has a bit of old leather-bound book about it.  It’s unmistakeably Belgian-yeast led and all the greater for it.

The taste is immense: huge and mouth-filling, warming spicy and charry…like the inside of a oak whisky barrel (pre-filled).  A definite Belgian theme lays heavily over the top.

This is a very big and very long beer indeed. The fine carbonation frames up the whole thing nicely, and a warming alcoholic note (9%!) offsets the lovely charry-bitter finish.

God, this beer goes on forever…

If I was to be a nit-picking so-and-so, I’d like a shade more sweetness, but in spite of that it’s bloody excellent…

http://www.brasseriedeslegendes.be/bieres/hercule