Thursday, 17 February 2011

Green Bullet casked and a "Nice" bitter in the FV

What with looking after two children under 3 I don't have a lot of time to brew these days so, in order to finalise my recipes for my new venture, I'm now brewing at night.  Last night I racked the last Green Bullet beer (which tastes pretty good) and brewed a fairly standard bitter. 

This recipe was along the lines of what I've been drinking at home for the last few years; pale malt and caragold to an OG of 1.040 with Challenger to bitter and EKG for flavour and aroma.  As I was brewing immediately after racking the previous beer I saved about 400ml of yeast from the FV and pitched this onto the new batch.

The yeast was pitched at 10pm last night and this morning it's well into fermentation.

Monday, 7 February 2011

The last batch bottled and the recipe is being tweaked for the next brew

The first batch of Green Bullet Gold using the new recipe has come out OK.  I had a few issues with the yeast not settling out as quickly as I'd hoped but it's now pretty clear and has been bottled.  Obviously I had to do a certain amount of "Quality control" but I still managed to bottle 60 pints.

I wasn't sure about using crystal malt in the recipe as I tend not to use it in my beers unless I use it to give character to a big barley wine.  I find it a little cloying.  Instead I've been using Caragold which is a very low colour crystal.  To my mind, it gives a more rounded sweetness without the distinct flavour.

So, today, I'll be brewing the same recipe but with Caragold substituted for crystal malt.  No other changes will be made to the recipe at the moment as the bitterness and flavour from the hops is pretty much what I'm looking for.  Of course this may change once I get the grist right as the balance of the beer may well change.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The new face of an old recipe

It's been a long time (several months) since my last post so I apologise for that.  A lot has happened in that time; I've been made redundant, become a house-husband and am currently investigating the feasibility of starting a small-scale commercial brewery.

Part of my feasibility study is coming up with recipes that I think would sell.  That means casting aside some of the stronger beers that I enjoy making and focusing on lower gravity, "Normal" beers.  There are a number of parameters that I have considered in coming up with the first recipe; duty payable, drinking trends, cost of ingredients and, perhaps surprisingly, CAMRA's preferences.

One beer that's drawn much praise over the last couple of years has been my Green Bullet Gold.  This beer is about 4% alcohol by volume, light in colour with citrus aroma and flavour.  So far, so good.  Where this particular recipe falls down is that I designed it with a relatively small proportion of flaked maize.  This helps to dilute the protein in the beer which in turn helps to produce an exceptionally clear product.  So, why am I removing it from the recipe?  Put simply, CAMRA.

Now, I believe CAMRA have done much for the real ale industry, however, while they don't condemn the use of adjuncts in beer the following statement, taken from their web page does seem to cause people to shun beers made with ANY adjunct.  The CAMRA site statres, "Excessive use of fermentables that are not malt is one cause of dull beer".  So I'm taking maize out of the recipe.  

Additionally, I'm swapping caragold out for standard crystal malt, I'm using Nottingham yeast rather than my trusty stock of the Fullers strain and I've further reduced the bitterness down to about 30 IBU.

I brewed this beer on Wednesday last week and it's currently sitting at 5C while the yeast count drops sufficiently for casking (below 2 Mcells per ml).  I'm expecting to rack the beer to cask on Thursday  from where it will be bottled at the weekend.

As for the other recipes being commercialised, watch this space.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Update on Wednesday's Brews

Just a brief update on the beers I brewed earlier this week.

The Green Bullet Gold was initially fermenting a little on the low side at about 18°C due to the fact that I didn't have a spare heater to hand when I pitched the yeast.  I managed to find one on Friday morning, though, so that raised the temperature a couple of degrees to my preferred 20°C.  That said, the gravity was down to 1.016 by then anyway (now 1.013).

The Imperial Stout chucked yeast all over the place in a typically lively fermentation.  Gravity is now down to 1.039 and the airlock I fitted today is bubbling every second or so.  I tend to fit an airlock once the krausen has started to wain just to protect the beer from flies.  However, I always leave the fermenting beer open to the air initially when I use WLP002 or WLP005 as they need the air to "do their thang!"

The plan currently (keeping in mind that all plans are subject to change as my patience or curiosity gets the better of me) is to leave the stout in the FV for a full 10-14 days before casking for a week then bottling.  The Green Bullet Gold will be casked in the next day or two with a couple of bottles for beer club being put to one side.

Taste-wise, the Green Bullet Gold has a wonderfully malty flavour with the citrussy hops balancing it out nicely.  It should be better still once it's attenuated just a little more.  The stout, on the other hand, is a massive hit of coffee and choclate with an intensely bitter aftertaste.  There's still some sweetness but the gravity still has a few points to go and, let's face it, it's going to have to be matured for some time too (insert witicism here reagarding my track record for maturing beer!).

Apologies for the distinct lack of pictures but I have been too busy doing beer to take pictures.   I'll try to remember next time....

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Double brew day

I'm sitting down with a pint or two having spent the best part of the day brewing two batches of beer today.  Not only did I brew two beers today but I also used a whole sack of malt while I did it.

First was my old favourite, Green Bullet Gold.  The recipe is in an old post so I won't bother repeating it.  The mash went well.  I preheated the heat exchanger which helped to hit the initial mash temperature.

While this beer was mashing and sparging I crushed the malt for the Imperial Russian Stout.  Oh my God, am I glad I didn't have to do this by hand.  In total there was a few grammes short of 24kg of malt including pale, brown, roast barley and amber plus 800g of #2 sugar. 

All turned out OK in the end and I pitched 3.5 litres of actively fermenting WLP002 (Fullers) yeast in each of them.

So, now I wait........and drink.......

Friday, 16 July 2010

People's Stout

Finding time to do all the things I need to do around the brewery is difficult with two boys under 2 (actually William is now 2 but that doesn't make it any easier) but tonight I managed to get a beer racked and another into the FV.

Last year CAMRA started a campaign to get reduced tax on low gravity beers; the figure of 2.8% ABV was suggested.  I don't know the ins and outs of the campaign and, to be frank, I don't really care.  What I do know though is that the North Hants Brewers saw this as challenge to brew the best beer possible under 2.8%.

We agreed back in December that this would be a good theme for a meeting and July is the chosen month.  No table full of beer strong enough to floor an elephant this month.  Just 2.8% beers of any style you can dream up.

So, with the meeting only 12 days away, I figured it was time to get brewing.  The easy way out would have been to brew a simple bitter but mashed at a higher than normal temperature.  Not me.  I wanted more of a challenge, so I'm brewing a stout with an OG of 1.028!

I know, the style police will be there telling me that a stout should be a certain gravity...blah....blah....blah....  but I don't care.  It's a bit of fun!

So, what's the recipe tonight?

For 55 (actually ended up with 60) litres

5.75kg Pale malt
0.5kg Crystal Malt
0.5kg Roasted Barley
0.25kg Carafa Special III (for colour mainly)

Mashed at 68°C

100g Fuggles (First wort hops)

WLP002 from a slant, grown to 3.5 litres.

The big question is, "Why make up the colour with carafa special malt when I'm using such a small proportion of roasted barley? Why not just use more roasted barley?".  Well this is simple.  I have 12 days to brew, ferment, mature and condition a beer.  There's no time for the beer to mellow and I don't want it too roasty.

So, what did it taste like going into the FV?  A bit bland to be honest but if I can get it fermented cleanly and conditioned in the bottle or cask it should make an "Interesting" beer.

I'll post some kind of review, if anyone's interested, in a couple of weeks.  Hopefully I'll be preaching the virtues of low gravity beers.  We'll see!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Green Bullet Gold Yeast Count

As promised, I did a yeast count on the Green Bullet Gold.  For this I used a plastic container to hold my sample, a pipette, a hemacytometer and a microscope.  I just take a small sample of the beer, a few ml, from the sample tap on the FV.  I then draw a load of it into the pipette and squeeze it back into the sample a few times.  This helps to break up any clumps of yeast and also degasses it.

The hemacytometer is a thick glass slide that has two chambers each holding 1/10000 of a ml.  These chambers have an accurately grid etched into them which effectively allows you to count the cells in a known volume of beer. I take the coverslip and plonk it onto the hemacytometer so that it covers both of the chambers.  Then I draw a small quantity of the sample into the pipette before squeezing until a droplet is hanging off the end of the tube.  This droplet is then offered up to the edge of the cover slip where it is drawn ito the chamber.  I repeat this on the other chamber.  Take a look here to read more about how to do it.

Actively fermenting beer has about 60,000,000 cells per ml but as the fermentation subsides this reduces and the yeast drops to the bottom of the FV.  At racking you're looking for there to be about 1,000,000 cells per ml.  At this point there's enough yeast to ferment any priming sugar to carry out the secondary fermentation without causing excessive bottoms.  This means the cask will settle quicker and bottles will just have a film of yeast in the bottom rather than a thick sludge.

So, in my Green Bullet Gold I have 890,000 cells per ml which is typical of WLP002 or Fullers yeast.  It drops like a stone.  Based on this I'll set the FV temperature controller to start cooling in the morning and will rack to cask on Wednesday evening.