Friday, 24 July 2009

Another attempt at hoppy, hoppy pale ale

I got hold of some Chinook hops – I'd wanted to try them for a good while – and used them in a nice bitter beer. They're 12% alpha acid, so well suited for the task.

Brew length 10 L

2 kg pale malt
10g crystal malt

25g Chinook 12.7% 90
25g Chinook 12.7% 0

Mash 67ºC, 1 hour

Yeast: US-05
Original gravity: 1050

I made a hop tea from the bittering hops before throwing them into the brew, and held it back to add to the fermenting bucket with the cooled wort. A full pint of hop tea is a pretty intense thing.

Update: 1st August this has reached 1.010, but hasn't cleared, so I'm going to dry hop it for another week.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Bread again

It looks like my new, re-grown from scratch sourdough is ready to use. I think it's actually better than the old one. Here's the first loaf.

I have taken to making pretty much the same loaf over and over. This is 40% rye and 60% cheap supermarket bread flour, with a touch of caraway.

Also, I've noticed my bread is best when I bake it late at night after coming home from the pub. Don't ask me why.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

The Mango Chutney Nano-Brewery (part 1 of 657)

It's a blue plastic barrel, you say. With remnants of mango chutney sticking to it.

Well, yes. That's what it is now.

But it's going to be a brewery. Specifically, it's going to be a boiler. I am going to mount a kettle element and a tap in it and brew beer in it.

I cannot claim credit for this idea; that's due to various people on Jim's Homebrew Forum.

There are tons of these containers about. I got mine for free from a local Indian restaurant. It's perfectly suited for a plastic brewery—tough, sturdy food-grade plastic and strong handles.

Not only am I re-using a container that would otherwise be dumped, I brought it home on my bike. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, "green", "organic" breweries! I bet your brewing vessels didn't arrive by bike, did they?

Now there are various bits of plumbing and things that I need to obtain to convert it into a boiler.

The first brew will—inevitably—be India Pale Ale.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

My fridge is largely devoted to the cultivation of microorganisms, something most people try to prevent

Normal people have mineral water, yoghurt, lettuce, pimientos de padrón and cheese in their fridges.

I have jars of sourdough culture, bottles of beer yeast, proving dough and air-drying bacon.

I'm a freak.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

New sourdough

I posted a few days ago that I'd killed my sourdough. It was proving impossible to keep it free of mould, so I reluctantly decided to throw it out (I'd had the same culture for about four years) and start anew.

The culture took off from nothing and was bubbling vigorously after only a day. I don't know whether the warm weather is more conducive to it or whether I just have a lot of yeasts floating about my flat as a result of various fermentation activities. I've noticed sample jars of beer wort spontaneously fermenting too, so I suspect both suppositions are true.

I may attempt to bake from this at the weekend and see if it's potent enough yet.

Mint Beer #2, and small beer

Back in March or thereabouts I made some mint beer. I was inspired to do it by some of the very hoppy new-wave real ale I've drunk in the past, in particular the IPA from the Verulanum Brewery in St Albans which had an almost menthol-like flavour. This brewery made very hoppy beers indeed and many a brewery would have been proud to have its ordinary bitter as their IPA, so you can imagine how bitter the IPA was.

For menthol flavours, why not use actual mint? I did a pilot brew and it was great. Now with summer here I made a larger batch for summer drinking. The method was pretty much the same: make pale ale and throw in a big bunch of fresh mint 5 minutes from the end of the boil.

I also added some mint humbugs in the kettle to see what would happen. I wonder if any flavour will remain from the mint oil in the sweets? It certainly smelt amazing during the boil, but I've learnt that that doesn't tell you much about how the beer will taste.

As a further recycling experiment, I kept the spent grain and made small beer from it. It'll be interesting to see how that turns out.

Friday, 3 July 2009

KK Sulphury Bitter

I'm fairly sure I'm in a minority on this among beer drinkers, but I do like a decent whack of sulphur in my beer. The legendarily hard water of Burton-on-Trent historically gave a sulphury character to the beer brewed by Bass, Allsop's, Ind Coope and Marston's among others. People say that this so-called "Burton snatch" is far less prominent in the likes of Marston's Pedigree than it used to be, but in the bottle it's still pleasantly noticeable (I haven't drunk it on draught recently). Can't say I can get it in Worthington White Shield though.

I've also detected sulphur in certain Franconian beers, though I shall have to look into which areas of Franconia (if any) have hard water.

There's a passage in one of Michael Jackson's books where he is tasting a Japanese microbrewery's beer and remarks that it's rather sulphury. The head brewer replies "Yes, that is intentional. We want the beer to smell as fresh as a bath-house." Which just goes to show that there's also an element of cultural context involved in whether you find it pleasant or not.

I wanted to make a souped-up beer inspired by the famous Burton bitters. For me these are about being about to taste the minerals in the water, about an intensely dry bitterness and a nice deep red colour, but not too dark (it's a pale ale after all). It's not really about hop aroma or full, malty body, although a bit of toffee is not bad.

So that means adding a stupid amount of gypsum to the brewing water, hops mostly for bittering, and crystal malt.

5L water heated with 1 tbsp gypsum

200g crystal malt
1800g pale malt

Mash at 68º for 180 minutes (they did long mashes in the 18th century … oh, all right, I went back to bed and fell asleep)

Sparge with 4L @ 80º and another 1 tbsp gypsum in the sparge water.

Boil for 90 minutes.

30g Challenger (5.1%) 90 minutes
10g Challenger 0 minutes

The wort doesn't taste sweet because of all the minerals and hops, but the OG is right at 1050.

It wouldn't be right without a Burton yeast, so I kidnapped the sediment from a bottle of Worthington White Shield and cultured it up. I was very impressed with how well the yeast recovered.

The temperature according to my thermometer is still under 23ºC, but I don't believe it. We shall see – the last couple of brews seemed to do quite well despite the heat in my flat.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Peanut butter beer

So: I had this poll a few weeks ago, about which adjunct I should use in a forthcoming beer.
I'm not sure this was a good idea.
Marshmallows : 1 (16%)

Cornflakes: 0 (0%)

Coco Krispies: 0 (0%)

Peanut butter: 2 (33%)

Ready Brek (honey and cinnamon flavour): 2 (33%)

McCowan's Highland Toffee: 1 (16%)

Joint winners were as seen above, peanut butter, and honey and cinnamon Ready Brek. Peanut butter wins by default since Ready Brek doesn't actually come in that flavour (I was quite surprised to discover that).

It's definitely the weirdest option in the list. The others sound strange in association with beer but are basically just cereals and sugar when it comes down to it. Aw no, I could have used Turkish Delight as well.

All I did was make a bog standard pale ale and bung a jar of peanut butter in with the boil. It didn't dissolve as I was hoping, but instead disintegrated into lots of tiny greasy smears. Nonetheless, I cooled it and set it to ferment.

I finally bottled this the other day. As usual with experimental beers, fermented in a demijohn, it was an awful mess trying to syphon stuff out again, made more difficult by avoiding the thick layer of peanut oil that had collected on the surface of the beer.

It's not good. Lots of high alcohols in this, not unpleasant but not pleasant either. Not much peanut flavour either. I don't know if the taste is down to the peanut butter or the high temperature. It's been pretty warm here lately. My thermometer is only showing 23ºC air temperature but it feels like more than that. Fortunately, I don't have to drink it; Anders does.