Monday 2 December 2013

Golden Pints 2013

It's that time of year again and my third stab at summing up what has been yet another great year for beer, especially in the UK where a new wave of excellent breweries has added to what was already a very solid scene.  Let's get straight down to business!

Best UK Cask BeerSiren Craft Brew launched with aplomb earlier this year and their Liquid Mistress is simply wonderful on cask.

Best UK Keg Beer: This was a beer that completely caught me on the hop while visiting Edinburgh's wonderful The Vintage pub in Leith back in July. This pub has a great selection of beer (and food!) and yet there was one beer that had me going back for more and more. That beer was Cromarty's AKA IPA. A West Coast style hop bomb of the highest order! I must also give a hoppy nod to Summer Wine's Diablo and Thornbridge's Chiron - beers I'll always buy when I see them on keg.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer: Back in August I wrote about Magic Rock's foray into the world of bombers. Pick any one of those - they were all fantastic! Here's to more cans in 2014!

Best Overseas Draught Beer: I was lucky enough to visit California in October and enjoy many of the beery delights that entails. However, there was a standout beer. Stone's Enjoy By IPA (11/12/13 release) had me uttering expletives. On keg at the brewery it was absolute f*cking perfection.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer: Plenty of choice here too but I'm going to plump for Alpine Brewing's stupendous Nelson. Honourable mention to Firestone Walker for Double Jack.

Best Collaboration Brew: There are so many to choose from here but one I really enjoyed was the Bitches Brewing and Black Jack Belgian IPA, Isoceles. Buxton had a couple of belters with To Øl and I really loved the 3Friends and Howling Hops Farmhouse Saison.

Best Overall Beer: I'm going to be annoying and name a beer that you probably haven't heard of from a brewery you probably haven't heard of. Blood Orange Sour from Morro Bay's Libertine Pub (a microbrewery). See, told you. By god it was good! (sorry)

Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label: There's a standout here for me - Weird Beard got this absolutely spot on. Their beers just leap out at you and the personalisation of each different beer keeps things nice and fresh. I honestly believe their branding has played a big part in the huge year they've had. In the above linked article I also mention how well Magic Rock's branding translates so well across all dispense formats. The impact branding has on appeal and therefore sales cannot be underestimated in my view although of course repeat sales will decline if the product is poor. Thankfully these two have nothing to worry about there!

Best UK Brewery: This is so hard. I'm going to give it to a brewery I've drunk plenty from this year and not once been disappointed. Well done on another cracking year, Brodie's

Best Overseas Brewery: Going left of field here but during the aforementioned trip to San Diego I came across an outstanding new (to me) brewery called Rip Current. Check them out here. It takes something special to stand out against all that San Diego has to offer and that's exactly what they're doing. Honourable mention to Firestone Walker.

Best New Brewery Opening 2013: Got to give a hat-tip to Alpha State (Kent, UK) here as they took a bit of stick for launching with a bonkers Sorachi Ace Dunkelweiss that wasn't to everyone's taste (described as 'alcoholic neapolitan ice-cream'!) but didn't compromise and resort to crowd pleasing run-of-the-mill brews as a result. Balls to the wall stuff and long may it continue. Also, Siren Craft Brew (Finchampstead, UK) have had a cracking first year and continue to produce some excellent beer. However, London's own Weird Beard just edges them both for me. 

Pub/Bar of the Year: Edinburgh's The Hanging Bat. I *so* wish this was my local. 

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013: BrewDog Shepherds Bush. This is a bar that promised much and has totally delivered. 40 taps. Count 'em.

Beer Festival of the Year: The Independent Manchester Beer Convention returned in 2013, taking what was already an outstanding festival to new heights when they really had very little room for improvement. Well done to all involved.

Supermarket of the Year: Waitrose - still doing a great job of supporting local breweries while listing some top brews on a national level. 

Independent Retailer of the Year: The Bottle Shop, Canterbury

Online Retailer of the Year: According to my bank statements it was BrewDog. Some top guest beers graced their virtual shelves this year.

Best Beer Book or Magazine: Mark Dredge's Craft Beer World. Looking forward to his second book covering food and beer pairing.

Best Beer Blog or Website: I've really enjoyed reading Justin Mason's Get Beer, Drink Beer blog this year, especially the Beers of London series and his ever creative photography.

Best Beer App: Craft Beer London.

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer: We'll miss you, Scoop. 

Best Brewery Website/Social media: Adnams. Comprehensive, engaging and well written.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year: I laughed when I read it but indulged Tyler Kiley's late night recommendation of a PB&J sandwich with Duvel anyway. Oh. My. God!

Sunday 10 November 2013

A good week

It's been a good week on the home brewing front. It started out with a marathon bottling session of the brews discussed in my last post:
  • American Red
  • (Not very) Black IPA
  • Imperial Stout 2 (Bourbon, Oak and Vanilla)
Monday was the London Amateur Brewers' Stout competition, where the club selects a brew to put forward to the Craft Brewing Association's club only competition, in which home brew clubs from around the country pit their selected beers against each other throughout the year. A total of fifteen entries were judged and I was delighted to win with my Imperial Stout. This is actually a very simple recipe (OG 1.088):

The beer finished off at just about 9% ABV and turned out to be pretty well balanced with a good roasty bitterness. It was bottle conditioned to a nice 'soft' feeling 1.9 vols, avoiding the mistake I'd made with over-carbonating my first attempt at this style.
Watching yourself on TV is a very strange feeling!

Wednesday was the airing of the Alan Titchmarsh show episode I'd pre-recorded back in September. The show's producers wanted a segment on the rise of craft brewing and home brewing up and down the country and I was invited on to give a quick demonstration of all-grain beer brewing. A very surreal experience that I won't forget in a long time. Alan was charming and seemed to like the NZ IPA he sampled on-screen! It'll be available on ITV Player here for a few more weeks if you'd like to watch!

Yesterday was the London and South East Craft Brewing Competition, also run by my club, London Amateur Brewers. I had entered two beers and dropped them off at the venue in the morning. Sadly I couldn't stay to sample the wares as I'd already arranged to go to a local beer festival. Of the two beers I'd entered, I was most hopeful about the aforementioned Imperial Stout. However, it was the other beer that ended up doing well - the Simcoe Citra Big Double IPA I'd brewed back in August.  This used Simcoe and Citra hops in a 1:1 ratio at various points of the boil followed by a big dry hop with T90 pellets. Here's the recipe (OG 1.082):

I recall the kitchen smelling pretty bloody amazing during the brew day. I had previously entered this beer into the national competition which was a huge gamble given it had only been in the bottle two weeks at that point. The beer was well short of condition and didn't do too well. Fast forward another month or so and it came good, scooping a silver medal in the IPA category. This was the same category my West Coast IPA clone had picked up a bronze medal in last year so to come back and go one better this time around was very rewarding.

Monday 7 October 2013

Brewing Update

It's been a while since I've written about home brewing so here's a quick post to cover what I've been up to lately. Taking into account re-brews, I've now brewed 20 all grain beers since that first one back in May 2012. Looking back, it's been an absolute blast and I'd recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in beer and brewing. It really is the best way to learn about beer. The best bit of course has been the people I've met, from fellow home brewers to fantastic pro brewers and even some celebrities during a show pre-recorded national television (more on that nearer the time, but below is a photo as a teaser). I'm still not sure if any of them got to taste my beer so look forward to finding out when it airs.

Best. Day. Ever.
Since the Pomegranate pLambic Project, which is still covered by a lovely pellicle, the following brews have graced my mash tun:

  • New Zealand IPA
  • Simcoe Citra Big DIPA
  • Imperial Stout 2
  • Aussie Black IPA
  • American Red Ale

There was also the small matter of the commercial launch of Nelson Saison in Macclesfield, captured in pictures over at Phil Hardy's blog here. I'll forever be indebted to the good folks over at Weird Beard for that fantastic day and was pleased to hear the kegs and bottles sold out and even more pleased with the reception it got generally.

So last Saturday was a double brew day, which is the first time I've attempted such craziness. I've got a list as long as my arm of beers and styles I'd like to have a stab at and the two at the top of the list this time were a Black IPA and American Red Ale. If you were a BJCP purist, you'd point out that neither is really a recognised style, but I've never really paid much attention to that. Black IPA (Thornbridge Raven being my favourite) and American Red Ale (Brewdog 5am Saint) are 'styles' I love to drink and that's sufficient incentive for me.  The Black IPA is a tricky beast. You want the colour from the dark malts without the roastiness. There are several different ways to skin this particular cat and I went for an addition of Carafa III during sparge, opting for a batch sparge with a 10 minute steep before run off. The resultant wort was more deep mahogany than black and I think the mistake I made was adding too much liqour during the first mash step, which meant over half my wort was run off as pale before the dark stuff was run into that. Maybe I'll get away with calling it an India Brown Ale (thanks Emma!) or maybe it'll be dark enough to just get away with it.

The second brew of the day was an American Red Ale. This used a grain bill that Andrew Drinkwater took away from a talk Thornbridge's own Dominic Driscoll gave at Birmingham Beer Bash. I believe it's taken from their Colorado Red, a collaboration with Odell nonetheless. I translated Andrew's notes into a 5 gallon recipe, which you can see below, then decided to hop it with Simcoe followed by a Citra dry hop:

The wort ran off a lovely red colour. This really is a top grain bill, constructed by people who know what the hell they're doing!

Both beers are fermenting away nicely as I write. I pitched a fresh smack pack of Wyeast 1056 into the Black IPA and went with a sachet of The Malt Miller's West Coast Ale Yeast in the American Red Ale, which I think might be Danstar BRY-97 given the higher flocculation. It'll be interesting to compare the results of the two.

Friday 9 August 2013

On Magic Rock and Bombers

It's incredible that Magic Rock already feels to me like one of the lynch pins of the resurgent UK brewing scene, considering that if they were a human child, there's a good chance that at barely two years old they'd be pretty unsteady on their feet if they were walking at all. How they came to be and their growth is well documented (if you're not familiar with it have a read) but what has been the secret of their success?

I've written before about their obvious grasp of social media and if you've been fortunate enough to meet any of the team in person, their passion for what they do would've probably smacked you in the face harder than a swig of their flagship beer, Cannonball. That alone is not enough to ensure success however. In my mind their success can be distilled down to four things:

  • Developing and perfecting an exceptionally good and uncompromising core range of brews, which Head Brewer Stuart Ross should be pretty damned proud of
  • Keeping the beer geek audience on the hook with a good flow of seasonal and well executed one-off releases, covering a broad range of styles
  • Aggressive re-investment in expansion to meet growing demand
  • A kick-ass brand that retains its freshness and scales very well across all products in their various formats

This year they started to release some annual brews. Not a new idea by any stretch but so far the execution has been impressive. It started with Un-human Cannonball. An amped up version of their double IPA, Human Cannonball which in itself is an amped up version of Cannonball - arguably the country's best interpretation of the West Coast IPA style. From there it moved to Bourbon Barrel Aged Bearded Lady (Imperial Brown Stout), the second release of this particular beer but the first in the new format and using a different Bourbon barrel for variation. Finally, and I'm not sure if this is an annual release or not, it culminated in the recent release of Strongman, a Barley Wine that's been aged in Amontillado sherry casks. 

One interesting aspect of these releases for me is their adoption of the US 'bomber' format (660ml bottles, complete with screen printed labels and wax seals) which is quite a serving given the ABV of all of these three beers exceeds 10%. Perfect for sharing, or perfect for sipping through an evening of decadent self-indulgence. An occasion in a bottle. As I write, the latter has provided me with the perfect end to a busy week. 

Keep doing what you're doing please Rich, Stu, Scott, Giada and Joe. It's hitting the spot nicely!

Saturday 13 July 2013

Live Beer Blogging at EBBC13

One of the most fun sessions at last year's Beer Bloggers' Conference in Leeds was the live beer blogging session. The idea was that breweries (or their representatives) got five minutes with each table to talk about a particular beer they'd brought along as participants blogged about. You can read my write up of it here.

The session made a return at the 2013 conference which this year is being held in Edinburgh, so here we go again!

West Brewery: St Mungo Lager (4.9%)

Described as being between a pilsner and a helles, brewed in accordance with German purity laws. This is the only beer they bottle but they are expanding and plan to bottle more soon, such as their wheat beer. All German hops. Traditional recipe. Beer is light, clean, refreshing and everything I'd expect from the style. Good fizz on the tongue. Could neck a pint of this right now.

Ilkely Brewery: The Mayan Chocolate Chipotle Stout (6.5%)

Part of their origins range. The idea is they look at beer styles around the world and take influences on the. This one was to mark the supposed end of the world.

Nose is massive chocolate. Whoaaaah! Reminds me Cadbury's cocoa with maybe a hint of ginger. Body is not as full as I expected but mouthfeel is excellent and the chilli warms towards the finish. An excellent beer. 

Badger Brewery: The Roaming Roydog (7.5%)

Release each year on the 8th June. Brewed for team members as a thankyou to staff. Also sold at their shop online. A porter style with four types of malt and two hops.  Lovely hoppy nose - unexpected for a Porter. Drinks way less than 7.5%. Hopped with Bramling Cross and Galaxy. The recipe changes every year (different hops). A really interesting and unusual beer. Got kind of a parma violet thing going on. Three for three so far!

Traquair: Jacobite Ale (8%)

Brewery is in Scotland's oldest inhabited house. Fermented in unlined oak vessels. Spiced with coriander. Another one with a chocolate nose. Beers is a 'wee heavy' traditional Scottish ale. A sweet but balanced beer. Chocolate all over it for me with a sweet finish. Decent! Drinks nowhere near 8%.

Innis & Gunn: Oloroso Cask (7.4%)

A new beer due to be released in September. Their beers were originally designed to 'prime' casks before whiskey was added but the story goes that staff used to steal the beers in Irn Bru bottles as they loved what the barrels imparted. A Scottish ale that was designed to complement the characteristics of the Oloroso sherry casks. Has a vanilla nose. Sherry has imparted a nice sweetness but quite subtle overall. Has a nutty finish. Not especially bitter. 

Toccalmato Surfing Hop (8.5%)

A double IPA brewed with Belgian (Special B) malt and lots of American hops. Amarillo and Warrior. Fuck me (sorry Mum) this is good. Not massively bitter for the style. It's a DIPA, pure and simple. Perfectly executed but like none I've tried. Nice kind of funky fruitiness. Dangerously drinkable. 

Inveralmond: Blackfriar (7%)

A Scotch ale brewed with pale, chocolate and dark crystal malts. Double mashed to get enough wort for the brew. Small amount of fuggles and cascade for aroma. Pilgrim for bittering. OG1066, down to 1012. Quite sweet with no discernable bitterness (could be my palate was wrecked by the DIPA). Sophie suggested it would be a good beer to pair with food and I agree. Something with chocolate perhaps.

Harviestoun: Ola Dubh 30th Anniversary (11.3%)

Won't be able to buy this anywhere apparently, which is a shame. A black ale aged in a 40 year old Highland Park whisky cask (not blended like the main range. Was served paired with 70% (very dark) madagascan chocolate which was a master stroke. The chocolate cut through the sweetness and let the good stuff from Highland Park sing. An absolute belter. I'm feeling spoiled. Am I drunk? 

Shepherd Neame: Brilliant Ale (5.6%)

The recipe is from the archives in the 1800's. Pale malt with EKG and Cascade. Primarily brewed for their bars and pubs. The idea is to promote their sense of history as Britain's oldest brewery. It's a big beer for Sheps at over 5%. A lovely pale ale which would be accessible for lager drinkers. The cascade brings a nice fruitiness. The beer itself is balanced and light. Would love to try it on cask. Very enjoyable.

Tuesday 21 May 2013

The Pomegranate pLambic Project

Everybody remembers their first sour beer. The special sour face, the disparaging look, the weird funky smell, the puckering as it hits your lips. Some people never get past the first taste - it's just not for them, and I get that. If I was forced to categorise myself as a beer lover I'd go with hophead rather than sourface, but there's no need to ever categorise anything when it comes to beer. I like it all, and I want to brew it all, preferably right now.

Traditional lambic beers are of course spontaneously fermented. Left to the elements in wide shallow fermentors until the wild yeast magically drifts in through the window or peeks hungrily out from its hiding place, dives head first into the cooled wort and gets to work. The process is an evolutionary one that takes months and goes through several phases of fermentation and infection.

Replicating this in a dining room in Hampshire would be a challenge. Fortunately those clever people at Wyeast have harvested and cultivated those weird wild strains and packaged them in convenient pouches, fuelling the dreams of home brewers everywhere that they can initiate the perfect lambic fermentation right there in their dining room (a pseudo lambic, or pLambic). What could be easier right?

Well, I'm not that naive. I don't have to rely on open air fermentation but I do certainly need to provide the right environment to fuel the process. A solid, authentic base beer with some room for the wild stuff to work post primary fermentation, good sanitation, a sensible recipe and of course lots of patience are all important, especially the last one. After some thought and research, I settled on this:

Despite the simple hopping schedule, this will be the most expensive brew I've made to date, so I'm determined to make it work.  Brew day was straightforward and primary fermentation is already underway. This coming weekend I'll be transferring to a carboy, adding the wild yeast and a huge dose of sugary pomegranate juice to fuel the fire. I say fire. It'll be more of a long, slow smoulder for at least the next six months. More and more pomegranate juice will be sacrificed along the way. Watch this space!

Saturday 11 May 2013

Breaking out from Home Brewing

In my 2012 Golden Pints post, I wrote that in 2013 I'd most like to brew on proper big kit, having caught the home brewing bug in a big way last year. A month before writing that, my first ever brew, West Coast IPA, clinched a bronze medal at the London & South East Craft Brewing Competition. The other beer I entered, Nelson Saison, my second brew, scored a respectable 42/60 but was marked down (rightly) for being out of style for a Saison due to the aroma being out of kilter with yeast esters that usually define it. The feedback was great though and this really spurred me on to brew more.

Fast forward six months and the bug shows no signs of going away. I'm enjoying experimenting with different grains, hops and yeast and having the flexibility to brew whatever I fancy drinking. Each brew brings new knowledge and experience, and what I love about this hobby is that I suspect I could still be learning and gaining experience twenty years from now. Every discussion with a fellow home brewer or commercial brewer simply fans the flames and drives me to want to improve.

This got me thinking, can I do this professionally? More on that in future posts. However, today, I got to experience professional brewing first hand. Not just breaking up hops and digging out mash, but thanks to the wonderfully generous and inspiring folks at Weird Beard Brew Co, actually brewing my own recipe on their kit. 

You see, Bryan and Gregg started out as home brewers. They've both been very supportive of my own efforts and I think Gregg has sampled (and in some cases suffered through!) everything I've brewed so far, giving very honest and helpful feedback at every turn. Regular readers will know I've followed and documented their transition from hobbyists to professional brewers very closely. Seeing the plaudits and praise their first commercial brews are getting has really pleased me, because, well, they bloody well deserve it for having the balls, and obviously the talent, to break out from home brewing and risk turning their hobby into a living. 

Now don't get me wrong, I'd have loved nothing more than breaking up hops and digging out mash today. This was different though. We were going to brew 1600 litres of Nelson Saison. The recipe planning we'd done before the brew day made it plainly clear that this was a big commitment financially. The malt, hops (Nelson Sauvin is like gold dust, and priced accordingly) and Saison yeast cost a pretty penny.

Today was a huge learning curve for me right from the outset. We'd discussed the recipe and made some adjustments (not just for quantity, but the hop schedule needed tweaking) in advance of the brew day. The malt sacks were counted out and the water was nearing strike temperature when Gregg asked me what water profile I'd like. "Hmm. No idea!" was my response. In home brewing, if you mess something up, you learn from it and move on. Commercially, the stakes are much higher. The cost of a failed brew can be significant. Gregg enlightened me on suggested water treatments, and we were soon mashing in. 

I learned the hard way that mashing in a 10BBL length brew is quite far removed from using a plastic spoon to swill a few kilos of grain around some hot water in a converted cool box. It was hard work.

Actually, everything today was hard work!

The basic brewing process is the same, no matter what the brew length. In a commercial brewery however, there are all kinds of valves, gadgets and switches to worry about. Brewers have to be mechanics, electrical engineers, DIY gurus, sanitation experts and not to mention natural multi-taskers. I've a lot to learn and this was painfully obvious as we got the brew underway. 

We were soon recirculating the first runnings and the hops were weighed out and separated in to bags for each of the six additions. Around an hour later, the kettle was filled with 1750 litres of wort and the huge kettle elements put to work. Digging out the mash tun was interrupted periodically as a timer told me when to leg it up the ladder with the next hop addition. The wort was smelling better and better with each increasingly bigger bag of Nelson Sauvin thrown into the boil, the last of which, a hefty 1.75Kg, went in at flame out.

The heat exchanger was employed to chill the wort as it transferred across to the fermenter. Gregg expertly tweaked and fiddled with flow rates to ensure the wort was reaching the other end at the optimal temperature. We soon had all 1600 litres of wort transferred across. But the day didn't end there. Brewing at home is a messy task and cleaning out the mash tun and kettle takes a good 20 minutes or so. Cleaning out the mash tun and kettle in a 10BBL brewery takes a lot longer than 20 minutes and makes your back hurt. You have to climb inside things, scrub them, host them down, scrub them again, flush them, rinse them, scrub them again, take them apart, clean the parts, re-assemble the parts, hose them down again and, well you get the picture.

It's bloody hard work.

Did it put me off wanting to brew for a living?


Nelson Saison should be ready in around four weeks. There's lots of it and I really hope it turns out as well as Weird Beard's first few brews have and, most importantly, that they're able to sell it all!

A huge thanks to Bryan and Gregg for giving me the opportunity to collaborate with them on this brew. Look out for the Elusive Brewing name appearing somewhere on the pump clips and labels. What's Elusive Brewing all about you might ask? I hope to answer that soon.

Sunday 3 March 2013

Weird Beard Brewing - flying out of the blocks

Last October, I posted that Weird Beard Brewing hoped to be brewing by the end of last year. Alas, further delays (all well documented on their blog) meant this wasn't to be. However, after putting in lots of hard work overcoming hurdles and much cajoling of suppliers, Bryan Spooner and Gregg Irwin are finally able to call themselves professional brewers, and I'm sure they're absolutely delighted about that.

Mash tun, complete with home made hopper
On visiting the brewery today, I was taken aback by the transformation the space has undertaken since I was last there just a few weeks prior. Back then, the brewing vessels were in place but nothing had been installed. The cold room was half built and the place felt huge with lots of open space. 

Fast forward a few weeks and it has been transformed into a fully operational brewery. Pallets of casks, kegs, bottles and malt have been squeezed into every corner. The cold room is full of packaged beer and the fermenters are full. Anyone passing by this industrial unit on a quiet trading estate in Hanwell would never guess the hive of activity lurking within. As I walked through the door, Mike of Ellenberg's Brewery was busy cleaning down the bottling tank to prepare it for another bottling session and Gregg was hosing down the floor, washing away the traces of last week's brewing and packaging marathon.

Gregg pulling a sample of Mariana Trench
Bryan and Gregg have brewed four different beers since the first sack of malt was poured into their improvised hopper and have many more planned. I was able to sample all four, which are at various stages of the fermentation and conditioning process.

Single Hop Series No. 1: Chinook (a.k.a. Boring Brown Beer) is a fascinating English style ale that's been dialed up to imperial territory at 7.4% and massively hopped to a theoretical 100 IBU's. The classic banana and toffee nose offers no clue as to the bitter beast that lurks within. Faces may be melted when this hits the bar.

Miss The Lights is a 6% IPA with a delicious fruity aroma. It's perfectly balanced and offers a lovely rasping bitter finish. These first two beers have been packaged and are conditioning in the cold store.

Black Perle is a milk stout aged on coffee beans. The nose on this is wonderful, immersing you the roasty notes of the Costa Rican beans, locally sourced from London's Alchemy Coffee. I have a feeling this is going to be pretty special on cask.

Mariana Trench is a 5% Pale Ale that smells and tastes like freshly squeezed oranges. I really liked the prototype of this beer and can imagine that sinking a few nicely chilled keg-dispensed pints on a warm summer's day would be a pretty cool way to spend an afternoon. Ah, I wish this cold weather would bugger off!

Upcoming brews include Fade to Black (a Black IPA) and Saison 14, both of which will feature Gregg's favourite hop, Sorachi Ace. Fade to Black was a beer I first sampled almost a year ago at their first meet the brewer event at The Rake, and I thought it was brilliant. I'll definitely be seeking that one out when it's released.

If these first four brews are anything to go by, Weird Beard aren't going to ease themselves in and ramp things up slowly by playing it safe. It's going to be full on nose to the grindstone stuff with bold beers and fantastic branding to match. 

It may have taken them some time to reach the start line but ladies and gentlemen, Weird Beard have arrived, and they've absolutely flown out of the blocks!

Sunday 6 January 2013

The Austrappist

Today was my 7th all grain brew and this post is a quick précis of the day. The most exciting bit was getting to use my new kettle. Father Christmas (well, my Mum and Dad) kindly got me one of these, a Thorn Electrim Boiler. This is going to be a massive time saver, compared to heating and boiling using a large pot on an electric hob. 

The unit comes with a single regulated heater element and a plastic tap. I decided to replace the plastic tap with proper ball valve and barb, and add a hop filter to the rear of this via a coupler to allow me to easily remove wort from the kettle post-boil and leave the hops and trub behind. You can see these modifications below.

These optional extras ran to about £30 but will be re-usable should I upgrade to a keggle in future. As mentioned in a recent post, I wanted to brew an Australian hopped beer and split it, fermenting half with trappist yeast and half with chico yeast. On the day, I decided to keep things simple and brew just one, opting for the trappist. The recipe was finalised (below) and the brew day kicked off after a quick leak test of my handwork on the kettle!

Given I intend to brew this again and ferment with chico yeast, I removed the final Topaz addition as I only have 100g to hand and needed to save half. The Belgian version won't be dry hopped as I want the aroma from the yeast to be prevalent.

The brew day itself went fairly smoothly. I ran into the same issue I have in previous brews with the run off getting stuck due to malt getting under the false bottom in my mash tun. This was particularly frustrating as having identified the root cause, I forgot to fix it! I need to extend the length of the hose attaching the false bottom to the barb on the back of the ball valve, so that the false bottom sits clear of the tap recess. I'll sort this and post a photo to illustrate the problem and fix ahead of my next brew.

I was really pleased with the new kettle. I used it as a HLT and it heated up 17L to 72 degrees in about 30 minutes. Once I'd collected the wort, it reached boil in a little under 40 minutes - roughly twice as fast as before. Once the boil was done, I let it rest for 10 minutes before transferring to my trusty old pot for cooling. I ended up with 16 or so litres of wort at a starting gravity of 1.087 (above target - oh well!) and pitched the Wyeast 3787 smack pack at 20 degrees. Fingers crossed for a good fermentation and a slightly bonkers beer.