Sunday, 21 December 2008

New brews

Last night a friend came round to drink beer and help me brew some more. I now have a load of empty bottles and a batch of K in the fermenter. I was about to post a picture, but to be honest it looks just like any other plastic carboy with beer in it.

Just now I'm bringing the wort up to boil for a batch of Pale Beer. Because I'm a manky bastard, and just to see the effect, I am re-using the hops from last night. There were a lot of late hops in last night's brew, so I'm hoping to get enough unused alpha acid out of them to bitter today's beer. It doesn't need too much bittering because it's a low-gravity brew and the addition of some Bramling Cross for aroma near the end should be all it needs. In fact, I've just tasted the wort, it's only just come to the boil and is already nicely bitter. The reason for a low-gravity one is that I'm hoping to be able to bottle this after Christmas and be drinking it at New Year, but this may be over-optimistic; it depends if it carbonates in time. I rather suspect it won't.

After Christmas, once these two are bottled, I'm now planning to brew an X, which will be a low-gravity ale with a bit of crystal malt and sugar, and a Brown Beer, which will basically be X with more hops.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

quick update

Update: the strong ale I brewed on Sunday (OG 1082) is now down to 1044 ...

I feel like making a light bitter now, very low gravity that might be done in just a few days. I have a new fermenting bottle to put it in, having heard people on the internet raving about how great it is that you can watch the fermentation.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Bread failure

One of the reasons I like brewing and baking is that there's so much synergy involved. You always have a spare half pint of beer to throw into a bread or pizza dough, and you can use the yeast and the spent grain from the beer to make bread.

I overdid it today though; yesterday I made a strong beer (OG 1082) with steeped chocolate malt grains which is now fermenting away and should be drinkable this time next year. I then made a bread dough with a small amount of the spent chocolate malt, wholemeal wheat flour and the yeast left over from the batch of KK that I bottled last Tuesday.

Sadly, although it looks and smells amazing, the chocolate malt makes it just too burnt and bitter to eat.

Monday, 1 December 2008


I took a couple of bottles of K round to a friend's house, and two discerning beer drinkers loved it! I didn't think it was quite that good, but who am I to argue? They weren't too keen on the KK though, which I thought was the better of the two, but it was straight out of the fermenting bucket and still a bit flat after all. And not everybody likes calcium sulphate, I have to keep reminding myself.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Plenty of snatch

As I said, on Thursday I bottled the Stale, and if it never carbonates I will just end up with a few musty bottles of old sour beer that I can mix with fresh beer, put in bread or marinade the Sunday joint in.

Tonight I tried a pint of the turbo cider I put on last week. It's pretty nice. The last turbo cider I tried was with bread yeast -- not a success. It was thin and sour. This one was started with beer yeast from the same starter that I used to make the batch of KK which is currently fermenting.

Ah, the KK. I drew off a sample (I don't think I'll ever go back now to fermenting in a bucket without a tap), ostensibly to check the gravity (down to 1020 since Monday), and wow. Who would have thought that 10g of gypsum could make such a difference? It actually tastes like a proper bitter. All the hop bitterness is accentuated, just like it says in the books. The only thing is that I absolutely have to bottle this on Monday night because I'm off to Germany on Tuesday -- so it would be good if the gravity had dropped a bit more by then.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Stale Ale

I've been busy today. I still have holidays to use up, so I took a day off today and, while I was intending to clean my flat, I seem to have made enough fresh mess to compensate. But never mind.

The X Ale that's been bottled for several weeks now? I opened a bottle today and, while it poured with an attractive head, it's still flat and is not going to develop any carbonation. It's also got quite sour in a winey sort of way. I could throw it away, but I'm too much of a tightwad for that. Instead I boiled up some malt extract to give any remaining yeast something to munch on, opened all the bottles, poured the contents into a bottling bucket and re-bottled the beer. A tedious job, but the contents may yet develop into something interesting.

I'm also going to re-classify it and label it Stale. Then at some point in the future I can have an eighteenth-century-style glass of mixed Mild and Stale.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

It seems I have to go to the home brew shop again

I seem to be the only person in the world who actually likes a bit of sulphur in their beer. Everything I read has people cringing at the very thought of it, but it's frequently found in two of my favourite kinds of beer – English bitter and Franconian Lagerbier.

I was delighted on one visit to find a good whack of sulphur in the Clockwork Brewery's lager, but on subsequent tastings I was disappointed. Clearly the brewer regarded it as a defect and had successfully eliminated it from later batches.

Since I have soft water, it appears I need to go and buy some calcium sulphate.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Stinky cheese and old ale

It's only relatively recently that I've discovered the joy of beer and cheese together. More embarrassingly, I only found out recently what a great combination cheese and onions are; I feel such a fool for having just regarded it as a crisp flavour for so long. Moreover, the combination of a bit of bread, onion, cheese and beer or cider seems like a splendid snack, certainly healthier and arguably more appetising that the crisps and tortilla chips that sometimes seem like such a good idea when you're having a few pots.

It has to be the right beer and cheese, though. Years ago, I was always confused when I read about beer with cheese, because whenever I tried it it was minging. Both the beer and the cheese were perfectly decent on their own, but together they didn't work at all. I was drinking Pilsener with Cheddar, and the moment the two met they created a foul taste.

I don't know why this particular match didn't work, nor why it's taken me so long to discover combinations that do work. One I had tonight was Arran Blue (from some bearded guys at the farmers' market) with a bottle of Marston's Owd Rodger. The beer is sweet and subtly bitter; the cheese is salty and acidic; together they go very well indeed.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

I opened a test bottle of K tonight. It's my first batch of practice homebrew that I enjoyed drinking. It was only bottled last Monday but it's developed a decent carbonation already.

Sadly the same can't be said for the batch of X which still looks to be flat as a pancake. I may re-bottle that batch, or just pour it away. There's a jug of it in the fridge which is doing good service as meat marinades, liquid component of bread, etc. One of those happy symbioses that start occurring when you process things at home.

bread with sprouted wheat grains

Hmm, well I was out at the pub longer than I expected, so the dough had overflowed the tin by the time I got home to bake it. Boo. Pics in a bit, maybe.

Saturday, 15 November 2008


This is a blog that I've been meaning to start for some time. I've just got back from the pub and there are some lovely sausages frying as I type this. My aim is to write about two related subjects that are dear to my heart: bread and beer (with occasional excursions into things that go well with beer, such as sausages, cheese and steam trains). I've had some nice beer tonight and while the sausages are cooking the oven is heating up to bake the bread dough that's been rising while I was in the pub. Isn't that just a perfect system?