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…)


Well.  I tasted this beer in primary (10 or so days gone)  and it’s gloriously tart; and, amazingly, it doesn’t have any off-flavours at all.  I’ll just let it finish off and get it into some bottles and let you all know what it ends up like.

And because I’m me -and it’s such a quick way to make beer- I mashed in again the day before yesterday: this time it was a single infusion mash of 68C  for sixty minutes, with a mash-out of 76C.

For the grain bill I used 300g of wheat malt, 300g of Pilsner malt and 300g of Maris Otter.  I did the same routine of re-hydrating the contents of the Swanson’s gut tablets and pitching that in after a ten minute boil, cool-down and pH adjustment to 4.6

Then, guess what?

Less than 48 hours later and it was merrily fermenting – just like the other one.

It’s no fluke, and despite my tongue-in-cheek statements, it’s not a Lambic.  Something’s going on, here’s my current top conspiracy theories:

  1. Somehow there’s yeast on some of my equipment that is contaminating the wort.  Starsan just won’t kill yeast.  A fact that I usually love it for!
  2. The Swanson’s pills have some yeast in them…doubtful, the ingredients don’t mention yeast at all.
  3. I really do have a resident microbial flora (yeast in particular).  I do actually live next door to an orchard and it is Autumn, after all…
  4. The Lactobacillus Plantarum in the Swanson’s pills have found themselves in a situation where they can act in a heterofermentative way: i.e. they can produce lactic acid AND alcohol.  More info here:

Either way, as long as the beer ends up finished and clean-tasting, I couldn’t really give a toss.

I’ve saved myself a couple of sachets of S04!

These two beers are evolving – so I will fill in more detail as I have it…

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…