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

20150607_193335Well this has been a long time in coming hasn’t it?

It’s because Saison is such a funny old beast when it comes to fermentation and the particular Belle Saison yeast that came with this kit never really seemed to stop going – In fact it kept on trucking (with a few fits and starts) to a respectable 1007

Mind you, it took nearly four weeks to do that.  Saisons are fickle fermenters, ain’t no doubt about that.

See recipe and method here: https://yeastismybitch.com/2015/04/30/a-great-introduction-to-all-grain-brewing-brewuk-craftybrews-stove-topper-kit/

Pouring a lovely hazy halcyon yellow with a virginal white head that stays for a quite a while – before wisping off to a soapy looking covering, this beer’s as pretty as a picture.

In the nose there’s that gentle phenolic note, with a light underscoring of citrus… I think Eve puts it well: “it’s clean and not like ‘dirty pub beer'”.  I also got some light floral themes with some sweet hay…flowery meadows?  Very summery.

The carbonation was nice (well done, me), and the taste was subtly malty with some fruitiness and a very special spiciness…a lingering and quenching bitterness rides in on it’s tail to make sure you drink more.

The finish is both juicy and dry, if that makes any sense…whether it does or not I don’t care.  It’s damn good.

This was a very nice recipe indeed and an absolute joy to make. Well done Greg and co. at BrewUK, I hope you sell this kit by the boatload, as it delivers in spades.

England, my England how long will it be before you fall in love with Saison?  It’s lighter and more approachable than the hefty Belgian beers, sweeter and more satisfying than some of those malty old bitters and sexier than thumpy-chest hop-bomb IPAs…

Get in to Saison now and get some summer love going on.

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…


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…


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…

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



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.



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


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.


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.


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.


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)


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!



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


Beer Kit: Dark Star Festival Ale All Grain Kit from @BrewUK – Tasting notes

20141006_205449Until I’ve taken a picture of the finished product, you’ll have to make do with a picture of it being kegged

Well.  Hasn’t it been a long time since I made this https://yeastismybitch.com/2014/09/23/beer-kit-dark-star-festival-ale-all-grain-kit-from-brewuk/?  (23rd September, in fact) and hasn’t it been a long time since I promised the tasting notes..?

So here they are:

From the keg, the Festival Ale pours a really good-looking dark-brown colour with an awful lot of head (I’ve just bought a new keg tap from Greg at BrewUK http://www.brewuk.co.uk/cornelius-stainless-taps.html and I’m still experimenting with keg pressure to get it to pour nicely.)

Once the head has settled down to an acceptable level, the aroma is very fruity indeed (and that’s “fruity” in a good way) I suspect that this has a lot to do with the temperature during fermentation – the last gasp of summer forced it up to the low 20’s Centigrade, whereas I would have much preferred 19C or lower.

The body is first-class and the taste is all lovely and malty.  The yeast notes come in after the malt and help to round out out the taste very nicely; and right at the very end, and continuing into the after-taste, a very smooth bitterness splices itself in and helps to encourage further consumption.

All in all this is a very good kit indeed…and if you want to make it the best you possibly can, splurge on the fancy liquid yeast option (WYeast 1098 or White Labs 005) and -unlike me- try to keep the fermentation temperature under control!

PS: I’d also like to confirm that the Braumeister system makes these kits a breeze and produces a very nice beer indeed…