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.

Back to brewing after a small break

Well, I haven't posted on here for some time as I have another addition to the brewing staff (see the photo to the right).  So, as I'm sure you can imagine, finding time/permission to brew can be a little tough right now.

Anyway, while I haven't yet brewed a commemorative beer I have been back in the brewery.  So, what's happened since my last post?  Well, I've fixed the heat exchanger (cleaned up all the old glue and remade it with "Marine JB Weld") and I've brewed another Green Bullet Gold, as it got such praise from the North Hants Brewers back in February.  This time, though,  I didn't have any flaked maize so I used flaked rice instead.  This will probably make very little difference; maybe a slightly less sweet beer but we'll see.

The brewday planning went a little wrong as I had planned to get the yeast starter ready for Sunday a couple of weeks back week but instead made the decision to brew a day early with only 2 litres of starter rather than stepping it up to 4 litres as I usually do.  As a result the beer took about 36 hours to get going properley.  It also slowed down quite a lot by the end of the week and has now been static at 1.011 for the last 2 or 3 days.  So, it's done (and it tastes great).

As usual, the WLP002 has dropped like a stone.  I'll do a yeast count later this evening if I get the chance.  So long as it's down to below 5 million cells per ml of beer I'll chill the lot down to 5°C for a couple of days before casking it.  I'm on call this week and I can't drink so there's no real rush to get this into a drinkable state.  Next week things will be different and I'll be taking every shortcut I can no doubt!

edit: I've just noticed that this blog is being followed by the Triple fff brewery who supplied the hops (they were surplus to requirements) free of charge.  Thanks, they're still making great beer despite their age!

Sunday, 28 March 2010

An eventful brew day

I brewed with a couple of friends yesterday.  Just a fairly standard bitter; pale malt and caragold with a good dollop of EKG's.

Why was it "Eventful"?  Well, no sooner had I started the recirculation and the bloody heat exchanger sprang a leak.  When I say it "sprang a leak" I mean it failed catastrophically!

Previously when I've had a leaky heat exchanger it's just dripped slowly allowing me to finish brewing and fix it later.  This time the whole of the based dropped away depositing 2.5+ litres of hot water on the floor.

I was broadcasting the events via a webcam at the time and this photo shows the point when the heat exchanger gave way.  It's difficult to see the exchanger itself, but you can see the steam that poured out.  I may look like I'm dancing around like a drama queen but I am, in fact, reaching up to cut the power from the control panel.

Luckily I have recently tidied up the wiring, placing all the connections in a waterproof box except for the connections to the pump. These are out side the box but I've used waterproof connectors for them.  It was also fortunate that the mash temperature was spot on 66°C at the time although it did drop a little over the next hour.

It was interesting to note that the run off was considerably murkier than I normally get when I recirculate throughout the mash.  I don't yet know if this will affect the clarity of the finished beer but I suspect it won't.

Also, I finally gave up on the Schwarzbier.  Unfortunately it just wasn't right.  While the S23 did it's thing and attenuated the beer down to 1.010 it was just too late.  The time it sat in the fermenter doing nothing, the yeast having given up the ghost after munching its way through about 5 points worth of sugar, was just too long and an infection got in.  So, down the drain it went!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Update on the Schwarzbier and another brew underway...

Been a while and in that time I've sunk a few beers and have been to the Sussex Beer Festival.  I thought it was about time I gave a bit of an update on the black lager but also give you a heads-up on my latest beer.

So the black lager has been interesting.  I grew a starter of WLP830 and then chilled it, drained off the spent wort and pitched the slurry.  Big mistake.  I probably tipped away the best part of the yeast.

After 3 days the gravity was down from 1.054 to 1.045 or so.  It then stuck here for the next 3 weeks.  In fairness, I wouldn't have left it that long if I hadn't been busy with other things.  Anyway, once I got a spare moment I hydrated 4 packs of out of date S-23 (I don't like this yeast as a rule) because it was in the fridge, pitched it and within 12 hours it was going mental.

So, as it stands, the beer is still chugging away and is currently at about 1.020.  It actually tastes surprisingly good considering the wort sat in the fermenter for 3 weeks with not activity.  I'm going to leave it alone for a few more weeks and see what happens.

Leasson learned.  Pitch the yeast when it's at high krausen.  Don't bugger about racking off the spent wort!

Anyway, I've got a couple of non-brewers coming over on the 27th to see a brew day and I obviously want to make a good impression so I've brewed another beer for cask dispense.

The beer's called Joel's Jaw Jammer (I know but naming beers is not my forte!) and the recipe's as follows....

Brew length 55l
Pale Malt 7.75kg
Flaked Maize 0.5kg
Crystal Malt 0.5kg
Black Malt 0.25kg

Green Bullet 13.5% AA - 25g @ 90 minutes
EKG 4.2% AA -10g @90 minutes
EKG 4.2% AA - 32g @30 minutes
EKG 4.2% AA - 32g @15 minutes

Whirlfloc 1 tablet @ 10 minutes

WLP 002 4l starter from slant stepped up to 100ml then 4000ml pitched at high krausen

This is now 48 hours in and is fermenting away like a good 'un.

I'm going to leave it for another 3 or 4 days then cask it, prime it, fine it, shake it, leave it for a couple of days, stillage it, broach it and, finally, I'm going to drink it!


Tuesday, 23 February 2010

It's Official.... Hell's Frozen Over

Those of you who know me will know that I have an intense dislike of American Hops.  I don't know what it is about them but they just don't do it for me.  Therefore, it will come as a complete surprise shock that I'm brewing a single hop Schwarzbier with drumroll....... Cascade!!!

I know, it's going to end in tears but I figured I'll just have to give it a go in a kind of  "Kill or cure" fashion.

So what's the recipe?

9kg Pale Malt
1.9 kg Munich Malt
1kg Carafa Special III

60g Cascade FWH
25g Cascade @ 30 minutes
15g Cascade @ 5 minutes

WLP 830 German Lager Yeast (slurry from a 4 litre starter)

Before you all point out that a Schwarzbier should use Pils malt not Pale Ale Malt, I know but I don't have any Pils malt.

I've been wanting to make a Schwarzbier since I discovered Zeitgeist and just never got around to it until now.  I just hope I haven't ruined it with those bloody Cacades.  We'll just have to wait and see.

Also, I rewired the brewery today.  I've added a nice new control panel, that's waterproof this time, and I have to say that the brewery as perfrormed better than ever so far.

I expect I'll be posting in a few weeks about how I've failed to be converted to Cascade but for the time being I'm keeping an open mind.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Sore Head Sunday

Last night was drinkies night at the Robins house.  I put the Green Bullet Gold on a beer engine and served the Chineham Pale ale via a cask tap while 3 guys from the brewing club and 4 old friends from school/college came over to help me get through it.

Both beers had an OG of 1.040 but the Green Bullet Gold was drier and more quaffable compared with the Chineham Pale Ale that had a rich maltiness backed up by a wonderful hoppy aroma and aftertaste.  Both beers went down well with the guys although I was surprised that the Green Bullet Gold was the more popular of the two.  Especially so as it was only 7 days old!

Personally I thought the Chineham Pale Ale was excellent.  The Styrian Goldings that I dry hopped it with really shone through and left me chewing on the hops for minutes after drinking.

The night got progressively more geeky as we discussed the finer points of brewing and eventually we had a side by side tasting of 2 Timothy Taylor Landlord clones that Scott had brewed with identical recipes but two different water profiles.  One was biased towards the chloride and the other to sulphates promoting the malt and hops respectively.  I think the non-brewers in the party were perhaps in awe of our geekdom but enjoyed the beer all the same.

Scott also brought a gallon of his excellent schwarzbier.  Yummy!

As the night wound down and people started to go home Michael and myself sat down to enjoy some fantastic imperial stouts that he had kindly brought with him.  In fact it's probably these that caused my current state and hence, "Sore Head Sunday".

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Green Bullet Brewday

About a year ago the brewing club had some hops donated to us by Triple fff brewery.  They've been sitting in my garage since waiting for me to pack them up and distribute.  Now I've done this I've found myself with a load of Green Bullet high alpha hops so I thought I'd brew a beer to try them out.

So, today I'm brewing Green Bullet Gold....

Brewlength 55 litres
OG 1.039
IBU 30.1

Pale Malt 8kg
Caragold 0.5kg
Flaked Maize 0.5kg

Green Bullet 25g @ 90 minutes
Green Bullet 20g @ 30 minutes
Green Bullet 20g @ 5 minutes

Yeast WLP002 (Fullers)

Mash temp 65C for 90 minutes
Boil 90 minutes

This means that I'll have 3 beers brewed with Fullers yeast for our "Different beers same yeast" night at the club.

The mash is on at the moment so I'll leave it there...

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Making Slants for Yeast Growing

I bought some glass tubes with metal, autoclavable, screw caps from ebay this week for making slants.  I already have a load of pyrex tubes with plastic stoppers but the yeast dries up very quickly in those so I thought I'd try these.

A slant is a tube containing a solidified wort (growth medium) that you innoculate with yeast in order to keep a small number of yeast cells from a starter or a batch of beer for use in a later batch. 
The growth medium is sloped up the side of the tube to make it easier to lay the yeast cells onto it quickly to limit the risk of infection.  It's a great way of making a tube of liquid yeast go a long way but it's also good fun in a sort of geeky way.

So making slants is very easy.  I use a wort of about SG 1.015 and then I add about 3-4% agar to that.  For me this means adding 260g of water to 12g of light, dried, malt extract.  I then boil this up and add about 9g of dried agar (agar agar if you want to be pedantic).

I then take a syringe and put 10 ml of this sticky worty mixture into each tube.  The tubes hold about 30 ml so by the power of mathematics I make that about a third full.  I then put the lids on loosely and cooked them in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes.

Now, I keep the lids on loosely so that the tubes don't explode when the pressure builds up in the pressure cooker.  It also helps to keep the moisture out of the tubes.  Then I put the lid on the pressure cooker.

Once they've been cooked under pressure for 15 minutes I turn off the gas and allow them to cool enough for the pressure to equalise in the cooker.  If you don't do this and you release the pressure too quickly the wort will bubble up in the tubes and you'll end up with a sticky mess in the pressure cooker.  I don't know about you but I'd be very unpopular if I did this!

While the tubes are still too hot to handle I remove them one by one and rest them on a piece of wood with the, still loose, caps higher than the closed end.  This allows the wort/agar mixture to solidify in the tube at a jaunty angle ideal for growing yeast on.  Once they're cool they can be stood upright and the lids tightened.

Before they're used for yeast it's a good idea to prove them for a few days in a warm place.  The airing cupboard is good for this but anywhere about 20-24ÂșC is fine.  What you're doing here is making sure that nothing grows in the tube.  If anything does grow then you've got an infection and the slant's no good.  Clean the tube and start again!

Hopefully in a few days time I can show you how I innoculate the slants.

Beer Analysis

Having bought a microscope before Christmas I've been trying to put it to good use.  The reason I bought it, other than the fact that it's a brilliant boys' toy, is to give me the ability to check yeast count and viability.

Now that I've moved away from dry yeast I'm making large (4.5l) starters from White Labs vials.  This means that, as I step the starter up to the pitching volume, there's much more opportunity for an infection to sneak in.  The microscope allows me to see any nasties prior to pitching so I can have confidence that what I'm pitching is yeast and not some kind of bacterial soup.

The other task that the microscope can be useful for is to see if I can determine why a particular beer isn't very nice.  An example of this is a stout brewed by a member of our local homebrew club.  He brewed it for our March meeting last year and it immediately took on a rather sickly sweet taste and aroma.  Not being able to identify it, a bottle's been sitting in my garage ever since.  So I opened the bottle and had a look.

Firstly I checked the pH which was 5.  I'd have expected it to be between 4.2-4.5.  Then I checked the SG and it was 1.025.  So basically it didn't ferment out.

Then I took a look under the microscope and saw this.  What you can see is a few yeast cells looking healthy enough but then there are loads of rods.  These are lactobacilli.  These are the reason why it tastes so bad.  It's basically an infection due to poor sanitisation.  That's not to say that the equipment wasn't sanitised but it wasn't done so satisfactorilly.  A common reason for this would be topping up with tap water after the boil or using old, plastic fermenters with scratches that can harbour bacteria. 

Fortunately both of these are really easy to rectify. Make sure all your liquor is boiled for at least 15 minutes and if you have any suspicion that you may have a scratch in your plastic fermenter, no matter how small, replace it.  Fermenters are cheap in comparison to the number of batches of beer that can be ruined while you figure out where the infection is coming from.

So if you think about it, a 23 litre batch of beer costs somewhere around £12 to brew.  A new plastic fermenter costs £8.99 from Hop and Grape.  If I was using plastic for my fermentations I'd be considering replacing the fermenter every 4 or 5 batches as a matter of course.  Why take the risk?

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Simonds IPA (1878)

I brewed an IPA back in October 2009 that was based on Simonds' 1878 recipe.  For 55 litres I mashed 17kg of pale malt and nearly 800g of EKG's.

True to form I drank half and stuck the other half in a cask.  And there it's been for the last 3 and a half months.  Until today, at least!

Today was bottling day and I ended up with 32 pints in 1 pint bottles.  I didn't prime it so it's going to take quite a while to condition.

The one's I bottled and drank before Christmas were quite sweet so the bitterness wasn't so apparent.  The rest has dried out much more in the cask and is mouth puckeringly bitter.  I had one pint and my mouth is now prickling with the hops.

So now it's the same old game of trying to put it somewhere where I won't drink it too soon.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Chineham Pale Ale's Drinking Well

After 8 days in the fermenter, on Saturday night I switched off the heating/cooling to the FV to allow the yeasticles to drop out.  Not that this is necessary with Fullers yeast as this stuff drops like a stone once it's done its job. 

Overnight the Pale Ale dropped in temperature to about 12C and was casked.  I filled two pins and also added 50g of sugar and 10g of Styrian Goldings to each.  These I've got conditioning in the kitchen for a few days and they'll be moved somewhere cooler towards the end of the week.

As luck would have it, I managed to get another 2 gallons or so out of the FV and into a third pin for drinking.  This one is in the utility room set up on the beer engine and is drinking very nicely thank you very much!

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Salisbury CAMRA Winterfest XIII

Been to the Salisbury Winterfest this afternoon.  There were an interesting selection of beers including more golden beers than expected at a Winter Ale Festival. 

Nothing really stood out as a Winter beer but there were some good beers none the less.  My favourite was Box Steam Funnel Blower.  A very nice porter which tasted like there was a good dollop of brown malt in it.

A very enjoyable afternoon's drinking followed by a pretty good curry. 

Off to bed now.....

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

North Hampshire Brewers Meeting 26/01/2010

Had the January meeting of our local homebrew club last night.  Drank too much, obviously.

The meeting started off with an extremely well prepared and presented talk on yeast culturing.  The process of making slants and using them to store yeast was covered as was the practice of making starters and stepping up yeast from a few hundred cells to a starter big enough to ferment 10 gallons of beer.  Thanks Michael!

The theme of the meeting was Winter Ale but we really only had two in style.  We also had a Schwarzbier, a Russian Imperial Stout, a London Porter, a Chocolate IPA (?), a couple of Belgians and I took along a couple of bottles of AK.  Other than a slight TCP issue on one of them the beers were all excellent. 

As a club we're really starting to turn out some fantastic beers month after month.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Time to Re-Wire the Brewery

I brewed last night and things didn't go according to plan!

The temperature controller that I use to maintain the temperature of the wort as it is recirculated through the heat exchanger just wasn't showing a stable temperature.  It fluctuated by as much as 20°C so any kind of control was out of the question.  I have had this problem before and I know it's down to moisture in the wiring which I've been putting off replacing for months.  I think I now have to bite the bullet.

I managed to get through by monitoring the temperature of the mash tun and the heat exchanger with a thermometer and controlling the heat exchanger manually.  A few pints of AK helped me along too!

In case you want to see the recipe here it is:

Chineham Pale Ale
Brew Length (L):          55.00
Total Grain (kg):         9.40
OG:          1.040
Anticipated EBC:          29.6
Anticipated IBU:          31.0
Brewhouse Efficiency:       75 %
Wort Boil Time:             80    Minutes


   %     Amount     Name                           EBC
 87.8    8.25 kg.  Pale Malt(2-row)            7
  5.3     0.50 kg.  Crystal 55L                     145
  5.3     0.50 kg.  Flaked Corn (Maize)      0
  1.6     0.15 kg.  Black Patent Malt            1390


   Amount     Name                              Form    Alpha  IBU  Boil Time
 55.00 g.     Fuggle                              Whole    4.40  12.6  First WH
 55.00 g.     Goldings - E.K.               Whole    4.20  12.1  First WH
 40.00 g.     Fuggle                              Whole    4.40   3.2   20 min.
 40.00 g.     Goldings - E.K.               Whole    4.20   3.1   20 min.


White Labs WLP002 English Ale

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Bottling chaos

Well, my plan of cask conditioning for a few weeks has gone down the pan.  I changed my mind and decided to bottle both casks today after just 3 days in the cask.  The picture shows the chaos that ensued!

Actually it didn't take very long.  9 gallons minus the ullage ended up as 67 pints bottled plus a pint sunk by myself.  All done in about 80 minutes.

This bottling form cask is very straight forward.  I use a "little bottler" connected to the cask tap.  To make things as easy as possible I brought my floor capper into the utility room.

I didn't use any priming sugar as there'll be a couple of gravity points worth left to ferment over time.  The only problem is I don't have a very good track record of giving my beers time to mature. The lure of the malty, hoppy lovliness is just too much for me.  Now where can I hide it so I don't drink it all???

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

A Spot of Cask Conditioning

The AK's been in the fermenter for 7 days at 19°C (ok, so it started a little cold) and then another 3 days at 6°C.  So, I've just put it into two 4.5 gallon casks.  I managed to get a small 3 gallon keg out of it too which I've taken the liberty of purging with CO2 and shaking a little condition into.  I like to do this rather than throw beer away.

The plan is that I'll drink a few pints from the keg and then at the weekend I'll bottle what's left.  The casks will be left for a few weeks to do their magic.  Then I'll spend a few hours bottling it all up before hiding it from myself.

Monday, 11 January 2010

AK Fermentation Complete

Well, the fermentation's pretty much done now.  I've just measured it at 1.012 and I wouldn't expect it to much below that if at all.  Fullers yeast is supposed to go to something like 71% attenuation and this has reached 73%.

I've turned the temperature controller down to 6°C to cold condition but I've disconnected the chiller so the beer will cool down naturally (the garage is currently sitting at about 1°C).

In the interests of science I felt it necessary to taste the hydrometer sample.  So, the beer's almost clear but it's already down to 9.2°C so any slight haze could well be chill haze anyway.  The nose is malty with a little hop aroma.  This follows through into the taste which has a good level of sweetness and a lovely backgound of hop.  Bitterness is not overwelming but it's there in good balance.

What is surprising is the amount of body this beer has considering the fact that 19% of the sugars in the beer are from brewing sugar.  I've used sugars in beer before but never in this kind of percentage.

I'm so impressed, in fact, that I might well have to brew this again as I don't think this is going to last very long.....

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Update on AK Fermentation

The fermenting AK is now up to 19.6°C and fermenting nicely.....phew!

This cold weather makes me think I should have brewed the black lager I've been threatening to do for so long.  Maybe next weekend.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Desperate times call for desperate measures

Came home from work this evening to find the beer fermenting away but at 15.4°C.  I couldn't leave it to get even cooler.  In fact I'm a bit surprised the yeast was still going.  So, I slipped another 25w vivarium heater underneath the insulation.  Within an hour it's risen to 15.7°C so I'm happy again!

Also, while I was in the garage I grabbed another Simonds IPA.  Cheers!

Low fermentation temperature...brrrr

I checked on the AK this morning and found it bubbling away slowly but the temperature is a little low.  The little 25w vivarium heater stuck to the side of the FV is barely able to keep the fermenting beer above 17°C.  Originally I fitted two heaters but one melted.  I must get around to replacing it with a new one.  Anyway, currently it's at 17.2°C despite being set to 19°C.  This is OK and I would expect the fermentation to start creating its own heat soon but it's just a bit slower than I wanted.  Still, it should make a nice, clean beer and stop the 1.75kg of sugar causing nasty flavours.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

All done but I could do with a beer

55 litres of Fullers AK (1910) in the FV at 20C. 4.5 litres of actively fermenting wort added during the runoff.

All packed away and the brewery cleaned by 15:00. Walked the dog, the boy and the wife by 17:00. Getting stuck into my first pint of the day at 17:01!

What am I drinking? It's from a recipe for Simonds IPA from 1878. OG of 1.068 (should have been 1.070 but I was a little tipsy when I brewed it) and a calculated 175 IBU. I know, I know, you can't taste IBU's beyond 95 but the amount of hop flavour you get by going beyond that is fantastic.

It's a light copper colour; not crystal clear but its only about 5 degrees where the bottles are stored so it's got a slight chill haze that disappears as it warms. It has a good tight, white head which disperses once you start drinking it. Probably this beer would be better suited to drinking it from a smaller glass and topping up from a jug to preserve the head. On the nose there's malt and hops with alcohol. The taste is of hops (obviously) with a background of sweetness and a lingering bitterness on the farewell.

I have about 10 pints in bottles and 4.5 gallons in a pin, cask conditioning. I'll probably get around to bottling this when it gets a bit warmer..... if I can resist the urge to tap it and take a few pints one night. At 6.9% abv it's not the sort of beer to have on draft!

Boil's now over - so what did we get?

Boil's now finished and the wort's standing for 20 minutes while it settles. Gravity in the copper is 1.045 as per the recipe but with 60 litres in the copper rather than the 55l I'd planned for. Luckilly I foresaw this and stuck a few more hops in the boil so it should be OK.

So, what does it taste like? Nice!! Obviously sweet as the yeast still has to munch through the sugars but the bitterness and hop flavour are there.

I'll start running it to the FV in a few minutes.

Brewday underway - Fullers AK (1910)

So, I went with the AK recipe afterall. The newly clad mash tun held its temperature perfectly and a steady 66°C will see those enzymes happy as a pig in sh1t, converting the starches to lovely sugars.

It's bloomin cold in my garage today so the uninsulated copper may take longer to boil than normal. Maybe that wants cladding too!

The mash was more efficient than I wanted (as it always is) so I overshot my extract and will end up with either slightly more beer (never a bad thing) or a beer with an OG of 1.050 rather than 1.045 (also no disaster).

Fullers yeast starter

Suppliers of liquid yeast tend to package it up in quantities that will only just ferment 5 gallons of yeast; so long as you aerate loads after pitching. You could obviously buy more of it but that can get expensive and, depending on how old the yeast is, you may end up just pitching a load of yeast with a high percentage of dead cells anyway as this stuff doesn't keep indefinitely.

The best way to be sure that you are pitching enough healthy yeast is to make a starter. I use a stir plate to encourage aerobic fementation as that's the time where the yeast reproduce making lots of fresh, healthy, new cells.

Here's a picture of my yeast starter for tomorrow's (actually today's) brew. It's about 4.5l of wort made with DME to an OG of 1.040 with a load of slurry from an earlier, unused starter added about 4 hours ago.

You can see my refractometer standing upright at the back of my stirplate. It's a great piece of kit that every brewer should have.

The cold weather came in handy tonight as I was able to bring the temperature of the wort from boiling to pitching temperature within minutes just by dunking it in a bucket of water that was sitting by the back door. After I broke the ice on it it was a perfect wort chiller!

As the source of the slurry had been sitting in the kitchen for a couple of weeks I did a quick check on the health of the cells prior to pitching. The photo to the right shows that the yeast cells are healthy. There's a little debris around but no nasties that I can see.

I'll do a viability check on the starter (using methylene blue as an indicator) prior to pitching into my wort. It it's infected (which I doubt, looking at the activity in the flask right now) I'll pitch a fresh tube of WLP002 and aerate like mad.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Finished cladding the mash tun

Last night I finished insulating my mash tun and cladding it with wooden staves. I'm now looking forward to brewing with it with its new clothes on!

The cladding itself was very straight forward. I used 44x18mm PSE softwood from B&Q. I cut a chamfer on the two front corners of each stave with a table router to make them look nice when in position.

To assemble, I first wrapped the mash tun with a camping mat for insulation then placed the staves around this and held them in place with ratchet straps.

I cut a circle of 9mm MDF which I tacked to the bottom of the tun into the staves. Then I cut a similarly sized ring to tidy up the top of the staves. I just need to finish the lid and varnish the whole thing. For the time being I've used the offcut MDF from the top ring as a lid.

Different beers, same yeast!

Tomorrow I shall be brewing a beer with Fullers yeast for the March meeting of The North Hampshire Brewers. The theme for the meeting is "Different beers, Same yeast" and the chosen yeast is Fullers.

The objectives are firstly to give people a gentle nudge to try liquid yeast if they've not done so before and secondly to demonstrate the character that the particular strain of yeast imparts to the beer. Hopefully all the beers should share that character irrespective of the style and ingredients of the brew. Knowing Fullers they'll probably all taste of diacetyl (euch!).

The recipe I'm toying with is for Fullers AK from 1910. The only thing that concerns me is the liberal use of brewing sugar. I don't have an issue with brewing sugar as such but this recipe calls for 19% of the sugars to come from the stuff. I'll be expecting a thin beer possibly with an overtone of green apples.

Maybe I ought to just brew London Pride or ESB and be done with it.....