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…

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…