Sunday, December 10, 2006

First Brew, Part Two

Kinda like Rambo, this time I'm back and ain't nothin' goin' git in ma way.
The Old Thumper as a first brew taught a lot of lessons, organisation being the biggest of them. Also that even the smallest parts of the process (aeration) can have a massive impact on the outcome of your beer, and you need a tight control of them all.

For my second batch I plumped for my own tweaked version of Pendle Witches Brew, which I'm calling 'Swingin' Sisters':

Original Gravity: 1.050
Terminal Gravity: 1.011
Color: 13.2
Alcohol: 5.11%
Bitterness: 55.15

4226.68 g Halcyon Pale Ale Malt
264.79 g Crystal Malt 120°L
264.79 g Torrified Wheat
530 g Cane Sugar
87 g Fuggle (4.8%) - added during boil, boiled 90 min
20 g Fuggle (4.8%) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
10 g Irish Moss - added during boil, boiled 15 min


7 days primary fermentation Gravity = 1011, 5 days secondary fermentation, racked to Cornelius Keg & added BeerClear finings 22/12/2006


After 1 week maturing - little balance between malt & bitterness. The 'sweet' taste comes first, followed by strong bitter finish.

2 weeks - better balance, although sweet start still evident.

3 weeks - much better drinking, better balance, buttery sweetness much less evident and slightly smokier malt taste comes through with good bitter finish, if a little harsh. Little in terms of aroma.

A big improvement over the first brew, with better taste and clarity. Maybe I'll give it another go sometime but first I got dates with plenty of other beers...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

First Brew

For the trial-run of all the kindly donated equipment I thought I'd try a clone by Graham Wheeler of Ringwood Brewery's classic 'Old Thumper'. This is an excellent beer from the old-school, which is malty, hoppy and pretty heavy, weighing in at a respectable middleweight 6% abv.

The recipe was as follows:
Original Gravity: 1.059 (1.048 - 1.060)
Terminal Gravity: 1.014 (1.010 - 1.016)
Color: 11.6 (6.0 - 18.0)
Alcohol: 5.94% (4.6% - 6.2%)
Bitterness: 49.38 (30.0 - 50.0)

5800 g Maris Otter Pale
260 g Crystal Malt
22 g Black Malt
390 g Torrified Wheat
54 g Challenger (8.0%) - added during boil, boiled 90 min
20 g Fuggle (4.8%) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
10 g Irish Moss - added during boil, boiled 15 min

Considering the mistakes I made, what with it being my first attempt and all, the result wasn't all that bad. Ok, so I forgot to add about a kilo of pale malt until the rest of the mash had been going for about 20 minutes... and didn't really aerate the cooled wort so the yeast could attenuate properly... but the final result was pretty drinkable, if a little too sweet.

I learnt a lot of lessons from this batch, including how to use the equipment, temperatures to expect and use next time, as well as a general feel and confidence in what I need to do next time to get it right.

In the end I decided to bottle up about 8 litres of the final brew, an arduous process in itself - I must get the cornelius system readt for the next batch.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


I totally missed the London Oktoberfest, having meant to go for, well, quite a few years now. I did my own in Farringdon with compadre Dave at The Jerusalem Tavern and The Dovetail, but that's more Suffolk and Belgium than Munich.

The latest on The Nunhead Brewery: I am now the proud owner of 2 Cornelius kegs, which are currently sitting under my desk at work and prompting a lot of enquiries from colleagues. No they aren't for bomb-making, although what they will eventually contain may do you just as much damage.

The next step is to get up to Yorkshire and acquire the full mash kit from Trauti, then we'll be full mash ahead, with a full complement of equipment. Not quite sure what I'll use as a mash tun, I'll just have to see what's there.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Full Mash Jacket

An excellent course. Made the daunting and incomprehensible task of real brewing seem achievable by even a non-scientific cack-handed clutz like myself.

Below we discuss the merits of various storage devices. Turns out they're all pretty useless apart from the rather robust and nifty Cornelius Keg (top centre, with attached hand)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Bak 2 skool

Brewing course tomorrow - full story and pics next week

Thursday, September 07, 2006

August Update

Summer is gone and a combination of work and family duties mean I haven't even brewed my first batch yet. It looks like meeting the Christmas deadline is more and more unlikely as each day goes by. The good news is that it's only a week until the brewcourse after which I'll be up & running.

A recent visit to my hometown in Yorkshire allowed a tasting of the following fine ales, courtesy of the excellent Three Pigeons and Pump Rooms:

Jennings - Fish King (3)

Osset - Excelsior (3)
Osset - 3 pigs (1)
Osset - Pale Gold (2)

Cheshire Brewery - Cherry Beer (Delicious! 3)
Cheshire Brewery - something Gold (3)
Naylor's - Rocking Victoria (3)
Goose Eye - Gagging Goose (4)
Deuchar's - IPA (3)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Training Day(s)

Got myself booked on a full mash brewing course in my home area of Yorkshire in mid-September. Looking forward to building some skills and picking up a whole load of very kindly donated brewing equipment. More on this later.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Amber haze...

...all in my brain. Not feeling as bad as I thought this morning - I probably managed about 4-ish pints last night. Poor attempt I know but I was left feeling a little underwhelmed by the whole GBBF this year. Why that is I'm not sure, maybe the £7 entrance fee, £3 glass and mandatory £1 programme means you'd forked out 11 notes before you'd even touched a drop! Now I'm not a stingy person by any means but I thought it felt a little too much, that plus the fact that the central (and most prominent) area in the festival was entirely given over to corporate sponsors aka the mainstream big boys of british brewing leaving all the small producers (what its all about in my opinion) relegated to the nether regions of the festival. There was also quite a marked difference in quality between beers. Maybe the recent hot weather has caused brewers some headaches but some beers seemed decidedly below-par. One notably thin and watery number even tasted like it had had a load of honey just dumped into the barrel to mask the off-flavour. Not good. Nevertheless I managed to seek out some nice ales, some old, some new (to me). Here's how I faired:

Arundel - Sussex Gold
Beartown - Kodiak Gold
Falstaff - Fistful of Hops
Hog's Back - Hop Garden Gold
Stonehenge - Heel Stone
Salopian - Golden Thread
Butcombe - Blonde
Eccleshall - Top Totty
Leatherbritches - Raspberry Belter
B&T - Dragonslayer
Potton - Village Bike
Bullmastiff - Welsh Gold

No scores on the CAMRA scale - to be honest they kind of started to blur into one by the end of the night. Notable beers were Village Bike, Fistfull of Hops, err... in fact they were all quite nice. Apart from a mild that I haven't bothered to list. Maybe I'll do my current top ten based on this year's festies but that's for a different post.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Countdown to beer

Here's a shortlist of my "must-try's" (or "must try again's") this evening at the GBBF:

Archer's - Crystal Clear
Arundel - Sussex Gold
Beartown - Kodiak Gold
Crouch Vale - Brwer's Gold (Beer of the festival last year)
Exe Valley - Devon Summer
Goose Eye - Golden Goose
Holden's - Golden Glow
Kelham Island - Easy Rider
Osset - Yorkshire Glory
Otter - Bright (always a favourite on visits to Devon)
Salopian - Golden Thread (I'm a big fan of Salopian's beers)
Spectrum - Light Fantastic (ditto)
Surrey Hills - Shere Drop (my fave from the Battersea Fest)
Wolf - Straw Dog (fave from Catford this year)

Quite a tasting list - I'll post some taste scores in a blind haze tomorrow

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Research part 2. I like this bit

I've just read that it is highly recommended to get out there and try as many beers as possible in order to discover what is and isn't to your taste. I wholeheartedly agree with this research technique and will be putting it into practice tomorrow night at the Great British Beer Festival in Earls Court, London.

In their leaflet 'The National Beer Scoring Scheme - A User's Guide', CAMRA propose a 5-point scale for rating beer and/or pubs. It's nicely subjective to allow for differences in personal taste, and goes along the following lines:

0 - Undrinkable
No cask ale available or so poor you have to take it back or can't finish it.

1 - Poor
Beer that is anything from barely drinkable to drinkable with considerable resentment(!)
I say never drink with considerable resentment, drink with joy. ;-)

2 - Average
Competently kept, drinkable pint but doesn't inspire in any way.
It's not worth moving to another pub but you drink the beer without really noticing.

3 - Good
Good beer in good form. You may want to stay for another pint and may seek out the beer again.

4 - Very Good
Excellent beer in excellent condition.

5 - Perfect
Probably the best you are ever likely to find. A seasoned drinker will award this score very rarely.

So after tomorrow I'll post with a rating of some of the UK's finest brews I had the pleasure of sampling. All in the name of research, of course.

The first steps are always the hardest

Research time. A quick spin around the web provided some great bits of information. There are a number of good home-brewing sites out there, although mainly based in the US and Australia. Weird considering the brewing heritage in the UK, but there you go.

One book that gets a lot of mentions is The CAMRA guide to Home Brewing (Graham Wheeler), sadly out of print and going on rare books e-taliers for upwards of £60 if you're lucky to find it. A quick browse and one bid on eBay later and I now am the proud owner of a mint copy for the princely sum of £4.99. I'm considering this stroke of luck as fate and that I'm meant to carry on diligently with this venture. Someone up there is obviously smiling on me.

By page 30-something I realise this little task I've set myself ain't gonna be a walk in the park, in fact quite the opposite, a real bio-technical challenge.

With a deep breath and a scratch of the head, I read on.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Welcome to my little experiment

I like drinking beer.
More to the point I like drinking good beer.
Not characterless, bland lager but good flavoursome real ale.

Now, being a creative type with more than just a little motivation (I need it - I work for one of the country's top advertising agencies), I figured why not give it a go for myself. This at least would guarantee a regular supply of something to my taste, close to home. Well, the kitchen counter-top to be precise. Then I thought why not set a goal, rather than just creating a half-decent drop? Something to keep me motivated and push me one step further along the road of "at least see if there's any other vocation out there in the world that you could do to keep you alive". It's a little pipe-dream I have, grass is always greener and all that.

So here I am, at a standing start, with no equipment, no real knowledge of the subject and no experience to help me. I intend to use this site as a little diary of successes and failures, and to chart my progress towards my goal.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you The Nunhead Brewery, founded on the 31st of July, 2006