Friday, December 21, 2007

Brewing on the Shortest Day

With all the Christmas shopping done and a nice spell of undisturbed cool weather I put together a fruity, easy-drinking golden ale to nurse the liver back to health throughout January:

Winter Solstice

Original Gravity: 1.042
Terminal Gravity: 1.008
Alcohol: 4.44%
Bitterness: 30.83

4300 g Maris Otter
250 g Crystal Malt 30°L
250 g Torrified Wheat
20 g Amarillo (8.0%) - added during boil, boiled 90 min
10 g Amarillo (8.0%) - added during boil, boiled 30 min
10 g Amarillo (8.0%) - added during boil, boiled 20 min
1 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
10 g Amarillo (8.0%) - added during boil, boiled 10 min
20 g Amarillo (8.0%) - steeped after boil
Nottingham yeast

After maturing for a month this is delicious, with a great balance between sweet malt and fruity Amarillo hop bitterness. The initial grapefruit citrus burst has mellowed into a fantastically-balanced ale, which goes down very very well. Its a good job I didn't make it any stronger. This is definitely one to brew again, and might even knock Styrian Stunner off the 'favourite brews' top spot.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Award-winning ales from the Nunhead Brewery!

'Gail Porter' won the People's Choice award today at the National Craft Brewing festival in Sutton!

To say it came as a shock was an understatement as I only entered it to get some feedback from the highly-qualified beer judges there. There were a couple of other 'first-timers' there, Simon and Matt, who won and came second in the Best Bitter OG1035-45 category. Nice work fellas.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

OP - first taste

After 6 weeks in the bottle I thought I'd allow myself a quality control sample of the second batch of the 'Super Saturday' Brewathon. The Old Peculier clone fermented down to 1012 so ended up at final strength of 6.85%. That's going to be putting some hairs on some chests!

This first sample already tastes really well balanced between malt, hop, roast and a little vinous taste in the mouth, with just the right amount of goldings flavour and aroma left with a bitterness that seems, well, just right too. It stands up against a side-by-side comparison with the original too, apart from the strength. Colour-wise, the same dark ruby with a very similar fruity, rich deep malty taste. A great brew and one to do again.

Gail gets drunk

After a month under secondary fermentation my resolve has crumbled and I've had a cheeky pint. It was gooooood, very nice indeed. All the flavours have smoothed out even more and the end result is something that has an earthy dark roast flavour with a nice residual sweetness. The Mrs says "quite like bitter dark chocolate - I could drink a pint of that". From a non-beer drinker that's praise indeed...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Biscuit Beer?

An early-starting brewday today, and a bit of a weird selection of ingredients in the store cupboard (and no crystal malt) meant either a light mild ale was on the cards or this recipe that I haven't really paid much attention to before: a clone of the Bitter from Smiles Brewery, Bristol. It is described as "A golden quaffer with ripe malt in the mouth and a long finish with hops, fruit and nuts". Sounds 'the nuts' to me. This is the first time I've used Amber Malt, which is supposed to give a lovely roasty, biscuity and nutty taste to the beer.

Smiles Brewery Bitter

Original Gravity: 1.045
Terminal Gravity: 1.008
Alcohol: 4.85%
Bitterness: 30.24

4kg Maris Otter Pale
500g Amber Malt
250g Torrified Wheat
40g Goldings (5.8%) - 60 min
20g Goldings (5.8%) - 15 min
1 Whirlfloc Tablet (Irish moss) - 15 min
20 g Goldings (5.8%) - steeped after boil
Danstar Nottingham

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Gail Porter

Having a go at another dark n' complex one today after the Old Peculier from last week looks so promising already. Today's brew is my take on a modern Porter with a simplified and lighter grain-bill from the Porter's of old, along with the greatly accelerated maturing time: 1 month as opposed to 6!

Gail Porter

Size: 23.0 L
Efficiency: 75.0%
Attenuation: 72.3%

Original Gravity: 1.055
Terminal Gravity: 1.015
Color: 29.6
Alcohol: 5.24%
Bitterness: 36 IBU

5000.0 g Maris Otter Pale
500.0 g Chocolate Malt
265.0 g Black Malt

34g Northdown (8.6%) - added during boil, boiled 90 min
10g Goldings (5.8%) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
1.0 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
10g Goldings (5.8%) - steeped after boil
Danstar Windsor Yeast

The yeast was showing a use-by date that expired about 3 months ago, although a 'flying starter' had it foaming up nicely prior to pitching so it shouldn't give too many problems. I ended up with 25l in the fermenter at OG1.055 so all in all a good days work.

Brewer's Gold - drinking notes

The Brewer's Gold turned out to be a worthwhile experiment - the bitterness you get from big, late hop additions is totally different to a standard bittering addition. The amount of hop flavour is huge, and seems to require more aging to balance with the rest of the flavours. The final beer wasn't really anything like the original although its one to try again sometime, probably with some cascade/citrus hop aroma additions as from this test its hard to believe Crouch Vale use only Brewer's Gold hops in this brew as the taste is very different.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

"Super Saturday" pt 2: Older and Peculiererer

'Super Saturday' turned out to be a long and tiring one - I finally finished cleaning up some time after midnight making it 17.5 hours in all. The thought of a bumper-crop of beer in store makes it all worth it though. For the second brew of the day I wanted to go for something to lay down for a while until Christmas, a nice winter warmer to take on my travels. It would have to be strong, in order to follow both tradition and also to allow for a nice long maturation period and lots of interesting flavours to develop.

The recipe is based on Theakston's magnificent Old Peculier - full off complex vinous flavours and a delightful winter brew. I also had a few bits of malt left over to use up so I tweaked the recipe and bumped up the strength to make it a true christmas ale.

Older Peculiererer

Size: 23 L

Original Gravity: 1.065
Terminal Gravity: 1.016
Alcohol: 6.43%
Bitterness: 30.16

4700g Maris Otter Pale
650g Crystal 60
130g Black Malt
330g Torrified Wheat
570g White Table Sugar (Sucrose)
15.0 g Challenger (8.6%) - added during boil, boiled 90 min
25.0 g Fuggle (5%) - added during boil, boiled 90 min
10 g Goldings (5.8%) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
1 Whirlfloc Tablet - added during boil, boiled 15 min
11 g Danstar Nottingham

"Super Saturday" pt 1: Brewer's Gold

Yes folks, something special to mark the start of the brewing season and also a 'milestone' brew in the brief history of the Nunhead Brewery: all-grain brew #10. Not just that, but in order to avoid total psychological meltdown and get stocks replenished I'm going to do 2 brews in one day. And a long day it will be at that.

After a summer of stockpiling ingredients and preparing equipment for the onset of cooler, brewing weather I realised that all these hops would be slowly diminishing in flavour and bittering potential so I ought to make a dent in them, quick. The temptation to brew yet ANOTHER Styrian Stunner was proving hard to resist (yes it really is that good) but you can get too much of a good thing, so maybe best to save it for another day. Also, what would be nicer than a strong, dark complex beer on a cold and stormy November night? With this thought in mind I went straight ahead and brewed another light, aromatic and fruity pale ale (rolls eyes). But only on the condition that brew number 2 of this marathon day would be something to lay down to mature in time for christmas.

I had an as yet unopened package of Brewer's Gold hops, bought with the idea of trying to replicate the awesome, twice 'Champion Beer of Britain'-winning Crouch Vale 'Brewer's Gold', a lovely pale yellow ale which is sweet, fruity and delicious, in my top 10 favourite beers ever ever ever list, no doubt.

Some insider knowledge gleaned from JHBF stated that Crouch Vale's recipe uses exclusively Brewer's Gold hops, which go into the boil as one huge late addition that gives all the bitterness and a big hit of flavour at the last 15 minutes. For this first attempt I bottled-it a bit and went for 10 IBUs from the full-boil, then a big flavour addition at 15mins to go, then an aroma addition once the boiled wort had cooled to 80°c.

As if a double-brewday with a completely untested hop schedule wasn't enough I thought I'd give batch-sparging a go, in order to try and shave a bit of time off the process and see if there were any gains in quality to be had from employing different methods. More on this later...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Stunned for the second time

If you know anything about the near-legendary Styrian Stunner recipe then there's no need to rewind a few weeks and see me gushing about just how good this beer is. Now the weather has cooled ever so slightly it means brewing is feasible again without any complicated temperature control to keep fermentation in line. I'm also faced with another catastrophe - I've run out of beer. The last batch went down so well at the Big Chill it was quickly seen off leaving stocks depleted save for a couple of bottles which have been earmarked to send across the North Sea to my buddy Jøn in Norway.

Faced with the need to get some more beer, and quick, it made sense to work on perfecting the 'Stunner recipe seeing as it gets to a drinkable stage so quickly. So it is again that I fall into the sweet citrussy, floral aromas of the Styrian Stunner, this time with a bigger, 50g aroma hop addition at flameout to make it even more delicious.

This was also the first outing for the nifty stainless steel boiler I put together over the Bank Holiday weekend, accompanied by molten metal, sparks and metal shards flying everywhere. What fun holesaws, grinders and emery cloths are. It works an absolute treat and performed way better than the previous boiler I was using. Check the ball valve and how shiny it is - just how pro am I now? (Ha). "Just how frikking geeky are you now, more like" (Kim) ;-)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

An unscheduled visit to Bowman Ales

On the back of the Big Chill festival, we dragged our weary but happy carcasses back from a few days of post-festival chilling in the Gower peninsula to drop the camper back off near Winchester. Slap-bang next door to the hire unit was local microbrewery Bowman Ales, so I took the opportunity to make a nuisance of myself and speak to the owner, Ray.

Over a couple of pints of 'Swift One' he was very forthcoming on the set-up they have there, their output and how they ferment their beers - at up to 23°c which surprised me as they tasted quite clean and not particularly, hot, fruity or estery as you might expect.

If you get a chance then 'Swift One' is most definitely worth a try - very flavourful and satisfying for a low-gravity beer with good hop presence and refreshing aroma. It is brewed from Maris Otter Pale Malt, with NZ Green Bullet hops for bittering and Styrian Goldings for flavour and aroma, making for a very refreshing pale bitter. Nice.

Stunner update

I think its something of a record. The whole keg of Styrian Stunner was polished off in just 10 days. Wow.
That's testament to just how good it was. With a small recipe tweak I'm going to make this TNB's regular session beer 'Escape Route'. Check the next brewsession write up for details. For posterity, here is a pic of the final pint. It hadn't lost any of the delicious hop flavour it had from the beginning, and if anything had all smoothed out into a fruity, mellow, easy summer drinker. Dangerously nice.

Friday, August 10, 2007

GBBF 2007

In contrast to last year (see the review in the archived posts) I paid but a fleeting visit to this year's GBBF. I don't know what to put it down to but this year seemed to have a more relaxed atmosphere than previous years (this is my erm, third or fourth... I can't actually remember). The beards and bellies ratio was very low and there were a lot of young (under 30) people looking to be enjoying the best the nation has to offer. GBBF is a much-needed event in this respect, and hopefully more people will be enlightened to the ways of the decent pint, leaving their lazy lager ways behind them.

I was accompanied on this visit by the good Dr Watson, my colleague and general partner in crime who had a pass as the family were away. Whether he'd have come without such incentive I don't know but he seemed to have a good time. We bundled off to an ex-colleagues leaving do in Soho fairly early on, limiting our festival time to about 2.5 hours, although we managed to get through a decent selection. Of course, I'd have prefered to have a 'season ticket' and go for each session for the whole week but let's be honest, work, the liver, the wallet and the mrs. would not be impressed.

I found the beer to be in overall better condition than previous years, when I've had some distinctly green or plain just not right beers. The selection of UK beers overall I felt was a little less ambitious than previously, with a lot falling into the 'mid-strength/mid-hops/session/gold' bracket. Not a bad thing, but the secret ticker in me would have liked to have seen some more esoteric brews.

One thing that I would definitely like to see again is the American beer bar. This was my chance to finally get my lips around some of the beers I've heard our friends across the pond rave about on podcasts for so long. Evidently a lot of others shared my enthusiasm as by the time I got there, precious little was left. I only recognised Sierra Nevada and Redhook from the breweries represented, and the SN IPA I opted for left me distinctly unimpressed. I can only guess that I had a duff barrel as it had nothing of the immense cascade bitterness the beer is renowned for. By the time I'd seen that off even the Redhook had run out so my adventures into US cask beer came to a premature end. Next year I'd like to see beers by some of the more well-known US micros: Avery, Boulevard, New Belgium, Russian River, maybe even get to try a 1/3 pint of Pliny The Elder, just to see what all this big-hop fuss is about. A good effort nontheless, I hope it was enough of a success to happen again next year.

It was also pleasing to see such a good representation from Calderdale Breweries (my home area), E&S Elland and the relatively new one from Cragg Vale whose name escapes me just now. Represent!

So, in no particular order, here's what we drank and what we thought...

Lancaster - Blonde: 6
Nice enough blond / gold ale, nothing really to distinguish it from a.n.other but I'd happily drink it all night

Moorhouse's - Black Cat: 6
I'm not quite sure of the style of this but I'd guess at a light porter. A nice roasty and coffee bitterness, but nothing outstanding

Crouch Vale - Amarillo: 8
A deeeeelicious beer, very much like the excellent and dangerously good Brewer's Gold, this has similar characterisics but is so rounded, smooth and almost sweet from the distinctive blackcurrant flavour of the Amarillo hops. Probably beer of the festy for me, although might be a bit rich to drink a lot of.

Mighty Oak - Maldon Gold: 7
Mr Watson polished this one of pretty quickly.

Iceni - Men Of Norfolk: 6
Strong, dark, smoky and bitter. I think this one would be best appreciated bya fireside in the depths of winter. I'm going to brew something like this in a month or so and leave it to mature in time to be a nice winter ale.

Oldershaw - Byard's Leap: (no score)
Not bad from what I remember...

Organic - Halzephron Gold: 5
A bit wet and watery this one. Probably not on best form.

Oakham - JHB: 7
Very tasty for a session beer, with good hop flavour and a nice balanced bitterness. Very moreish

Sierra Nevada - IPA: 5
Very little of merit here, no hop flavour or aroma, little distinctive bitterness, I can only think that it suffered a lot in transit. Oh well, next year!

Only 9 beers between the 2 of us, not bad for the time we spent there but I reckon a little longer would have unearthed the gems amongst what was on offer. I was keen to reacquiant myself with the Wolf Brewery's offerings, as well as Rebellion, Westerham, Brunswick, Cwmbran, Salopian, Storm, Holden's, Bowman (after the unexpected mini-visit we had earlier in the week), Hidden, Ringwood and Triple fff. So many beers, so little time...

Monday, July 30, 2007

Big Chill FestivALE

First taste of Styrian Stunner

After 8 days in secondary/corni I took a sneaky "sample" to see if this is going to make it to the Malvern hills with us this weekend and the result is a resounding YES! Good hop nose, light lemon flavour and medium bitterness means this one is as close to what I call 'beer festival beer' (ie a golden ale) as I've made so far.

There is a tiny note of the bitterness arising from a high fermentation temperature but nothing like previous brews with Nottingham yeast (Crouch Vale Best in particular), which just haven't survived. It may be S-04 for me for a while from now on. Corni BR2 seems to lose pressure slowly, so I'll have to look into why. I'll start with replacing the lid for BC festy. This brew would be excellent with a well-managed fermentation and I think it might just be my favourite so far. Good news.

I'll have Summer That...

After hearing so much about the virtues of making a single malt / single hop brew I thought it was about time to give it a try. What better occaision than a rescue-brew to put in place of the overly-astringent Nun's Best Bitter that unfortrunately fell foul of some high fermentation temperatures and developed an unpalatable astringent taste.

The folks over at Beer Kit forum rave about this recipe from Marc Ollosson, and for good reason...

Styrian Stunner
8-B Special/Best/Premium Bitter

Size: 23.78 L
Efficiency: 76.01%
Attenuation: 79.1%
Calories: 188.76 per 1 pt

Original Gravity: 1.043
Terminal Gravity: 1.009
Color: 4.7
Alcohol: 4.44%
Bitterness: 23.31

4500 g Maris Otter Pale
55.0 g Styrian Goldings (3.1%) - added during boil, boiled 90 min
20.0 g Styrian Goldings (3.1%) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
1 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 10 min
25 g Styrian Goldings (3.1%) - steeped after boil
1 ea Fermentis S-04 Safale S-04

I missed the slightly higher gravity - this one ended at 1.009 and smelt great in the fermenter. The taste was good, with great hop flavour from the styrians, which are more grapefruity than I thought.

Just under 2 weeks in the keg then this one looks like it will go to the Big Chill festival with us.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Tasting Nun's Best - 3 weeks on

So the Nun's Best Bitter has had 3 weeks in the keg now, under a low-pressure blanket (5psi-ish) of CO2. I still wouldn't expect it to be fully ready just yet as the rule of thumb dictates an OG of 104x takes 4-5 weeks to mature to drinking stage, and a bit longer to fully condition. Around 3 weeks has usually given me a good indication to the taste of the final beer in previous brews, although time is the brewer's friend and all sorts of changes to flavours can occur during the maturation period.

Last night I tapped the keg and took off about half a pint to draw off any yeast and material that had settled to the bottom of the keg, chucked that then poured another half to taste. This is what I thought:

A nice mid to dark gold caramel.

Not bright yet - a bit hazy although clear.

Balanced malt and goldings hop aroma, not yeasty like the first tasting.

Lively in the mouth but quite dry.
Fresh hop flavour in the mouth becoming a building 'earthy' flavour.
Leads to a long bitter finish.

Other observations:
Needs some carbonation (12psi added) and more conditioning / maturing time.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Nun's Best Bitter - first taste

Yesterday (1st July 2007) I cracked open one of the bottles of the latest brew, Nun's Best Bitter. After only 2 weeks to condition I was expecting it to be a little green, but it should have given an indication to main flavour profile, and whether it had been affected by skunking from the outside boil or solvent flavours from the high fermentation temperature and fusel alcohols.

The results were quit pleasing. The beer did taste only slightly 'green', but had a very fresh, sprightly, yeasty character. It had a malty, slightly yeasty nose, with a good level of carbonation and a good mouthfeel, despite a drinkable dryness. First mouthfuls had a touch of the lingering bitterness I associate with all my beers, but this disappeared after a few sips. I'm still thinking about how to establish what affects this and as a result how to control it. The beer also had a good hop flavour and a bitterness not unlike TTL (but not as good, obviously!) and most importantly no discernable acetone tastes, so it looks like I escaped the fusel alcohols. Nice one.

Definitely looking forward to the next tasting in about a week, then I'll have to keep the grubby paws off it until we can tap it good and proper at the Big Chill at the beginning of August. Until then I'll keep ploughing through the now ageing THUNDERSTRUCK.

Best intentions

All in all the brew went without much of a hitch, oh, apart from me forgetting to fit the hop strainer AGAIN. A quick decant, removal then re-fill of the boiler only too 5 mins but the bloody thing was right there, staring at me. Must. Pay. More. Attention. There might be an increased risk of HSA from the extra transfer of hot wort but I guess we won't know about that until its time for a taste.

A quick break-down of the brew process:

Mash Temp at 0min: 66.2°c, 30min: 66.0°c, 90min: 65.7°c
Sparge Time: 1hr 15mins, Sparge Liquor Vol: 25l
Boil vol 30l at 1042

This was the first time I've tried the boil outside, rather than filling the room with steam and 'that bloody smell'. To avoid the hops reacting to sunlight and 'skunking' the beer I rigged a kind of makeshift shade which pretty much did the trick.
The final volume came out at 22 litres, so a loss of 8 litres to evaporation and absorbtion by hops.
WIth a 1 litre hop-sparge and some topping up the final volume was 24.4l at OG 1043... spot on.

I thought I'd give Danstar Nottingham yeast another go, which I rehydrated and pitched into the wort at 23.5°c, with a yeast head beginning to form after 4hrs and high krausen by 18 hrs.

This was another fast fermentation with Nottingham, man that yeast is a real workhorse! The temp strip on the fermenter may now be totally out of whack as it consistently reads 26°c when the ambient air temperature is nothing near that. For the next brew I'm going to drop a thermoometer in the fermenter and keep a regular check as the temp strip appears to be unreliable. The airlock was bubbling satisfactorily every 10-12 seconds, which seems about right and so I shouldn't have a racing fermentation that will lead to off-flavours in the beer. Despite the temperature on the strip, which would indicate more fusel alcohols being present (hello headaches) only time and tasting will tell.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Back to Best

Its been a while since the last brew, too much time taken up with the 'other' job (the one that pays the bills) plus all manner of domestic and social engagements means I had to pack away the fermenter for a while. Finally the opportunity presented itself so I made good use of it by brewing a more traditional ale / best bitter recipe. I spent the spring focusing on golden ale pilot-brews and this taught some useful lessons and gave insights into malt and hop character and the effect of fermentation temperature on the final beer. Now the weather is too hot for brewing so unless I construct some facility for cooling my fermenters I'll be forced to revisit my explorations of all ales pale once the brewing season kicks off again at the end of summer. So to mark an end to my brewing season I thought a simple, tried and tested thrist-quenching bitter would be ideal to see us through the next 2 months. Or more to the point through the Big Chill festival where it will be meeting the thirsty demands of the Nunhead Brewery crew who will be in full festival dancing shoes mode.

This beer has a delicious Goldings taste, with a good maltiness and smooth, progressive bitterness, refreshing and very drinkable, a tradtitional summer quaffer.

007 Nun's Head Bitter
8-B Special/Best/Premium Bitter

Size: 24.45 L
Efficiency: 81.42%
Attenuation: 75.0%
Calories: 187.89 per 1 pt

Original Gravity: 1.043
Terminal Gravity: 1.007
Color: 10.7
Alcohol: 4.7%
Bitterness: 33.29

4 kg Maris Otter Pale
305 g Crystal Malt 60°L
33.0 g Challenger (8.6%) - added during boil, boiled 90 min
15.0 g Goldings (5.8%) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
1 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
15 g Goldings (5.8%) - steeped after boil
11g Danstar Nottingham Yeast

Catford Beer Festival 2007

I like Catford Beer Festival. Yes, its fairly local (I can do door-to-door from home and it takes about 10 minutes) which adds to the appeal, but what I like most is the space and the atmosphere. Its busy enough to have a buzz about the place but not so busy you are forever being jostled about and the longest you have to queue at the bar is about 30 seconds. In contrast to the scrum that is GBBF, Catford is a very pleasant festival to drink at. Of course it has its higher than usual quota of people with low standards of personal hygiene, but its a beer festival, so what do you expect? The good thing about them is their non-judgemental, non-discriminative door policy. You couldn't hold one in a poncey wine bar that's for sure.

I was joined by Ms Nunhead Brewery (her second beer festival in a year... unheard of) as well as another local couple. The selection of beers on offer was as varied as usual, with representation skewed towards the south and east of the country, but still with representatives from the north, scotland and wales dotted around. Whilst I have traditionally been a fan of the golden ale style that you find many of at beer festivals, within the group tastes tended to prefer the heavier, maltier, more complex tastes of milds and porters. Members of our group aren't die-hard ale drinkers, having been more fans of lager in the past - as breweries are looking to the golden/summer ale style to tempt lager drinkers over its interesting to see that what I'm guessing are their target market this night show preference to the more 'hardcore' tastes to be found within the real-ale genre.

Between us we tasted and scored the follwing:

Conwy Brewery - Sundance
[1, imbalanced, harsh hop overtones, probably immature]

Dark Star - Summer Solstice
[6.5 light sweet and hoppy, I like Dark Star's beers and could drink a few of these]

Grand Union - Honey Porter
[7, rich sweet and dark. Might try a clone brew of this for winter]

Mayfields - Excalibur
[7, don't remember much about this one except that I liked it a lot!]

Nethergate - Umbel Magna
[6, interesting spice and coriander flavours. Paul liked this one]

Oulton Ales - Windswept
[9, delicious fruit and balanced hop. Very moreish in a Brewer's Gold type way. Beer of the festival]

Prestonpans - Gothenburg Porter
[5.5, traditional swedish porter with coffee and barley flavours. Interesting]

Rebellion - Interrogator
[8, citrussy hops dominate, a very drinkable beer]

Thornbridge Hall - Jaipur IPA
[6, complex, strong, hints of toffee]

Triple FFF - Stairway to Heaven
[4, quite thin, unusual fruit taste, immature]

White Star - Dark Destroyer

York Brewery - Centurion's Ghost
[5, a strong bitter with roasted character]

York Brewery - Guzzler
[7, pale, crisp, very easy drinking]

Newton Court Perry
[6, strong, with pronounced alcohol taste, cloudy]

Finally, the highlight of the festival (for the ladies, anyway) was an Elderflower wine from Lurgershall Wineries in Sussex, which was sweet and delicious and very drinkable. Would be fantastic chilled on a hot summer's day.

All in all, a great festy and the beer was up to the usual high standard.

The proof is in the drinking

After leaving for dead, which is a bit naughty (but let's just say I preferred the Golden Nun v1.0b and Mad March Blonde that I also had on) I thought I'd revisit this one when the other beers sadly ran out.

Age has definitely helped. It has some of the unusual aftertaste of Golden Nun (Oxidation? Attenuative Yeast? High-ish temp ferment? Styrian Goldings?) but is now much more drinkable. Previously I felt it needed chilling before drinking but now it is more rounded and less lager-malt is evident in the taste and it is quite a drinkable light ale. Shame about that mystery taste though, I'll try and identify it.

It just goes to show that if you've got the willpower to leave it, your beer gets better and better the more time it has for the taste-magic to occur in the keg.

Thunderstruck (continued)

Notes from 11th April 2007:

The yeast had worked it's way (all the way!) down to OG 1006 after 8 days in the Primary Fermenter. This is probably the lowest finishing gravity I've had so far, and will probably make for quite a dry beer. Nothing wrong with that but it seems like I get a full attenutation from yeast so might have to adjust grain mashing temperatures to ensure a slightly higher finish in future, for some variety if nothing else.

I racked the beer to a Cornelius Keg (Wez Orange) and left to condition / secondary under 10psi of CO2, and filled 5 bottles with the remainder and added 1/2 teaspoon cane sugar for secondary fermentation and light conditioning.

I wasn't expecting such a low finish - whenever I try to make a weaker brew it never works out! ;-)
Looks like the fates have it for me to never make a 4%.

First taste after primary fermentation (straight from the fermenter) tasted unbalanced with real lager-malt overtones with a frankly unexciting bitterness. All isn't lost as there's still the final ingredient of time to add to the mix so hopefully it will all mellow out to produce a nice easy summer drinker. Let's see!

Lord, strike me down...

To continue the phase of pilot-brews and experimentation I thought I'd try a drier, lighter style of blonde ale, somewhere along the lines of Wychwood Fiddler's Elbow or Harviestoun Schiehallion. These are almost hybrid ales falling somewhere in-between a bitter and a lager... Real-lager, anyone?
They are much lighter in colour and body than your average ale, which is down to different malt ingredients including low-colour pale malt and the mixture of pale and lager malts. I think you could get away with chilling these for a hot summer's day and not offend even the most ardent real-ale enthusiasts palette.

This is the first time I'll be trying the Safale US-5, which is an american ale yeast strain. These are used to give a clean, drier fermentation, without the fruity ester flavours of english ale yeast strains. This should add to the beer's lighter, more drinkable quality.

What's with the name? Well, for the previous 2 brews (Man with the Golden Nun and Mad March Blonde) just as I was doughing the first of the mash in there was a solitary flash of lightning. Both times. At the same point in the process. What's the likelihood of that?! Its sign from above all right...

Here are the weights:

Brewday: 8th April 2007

6-B Blonde Ale

Size: 23.16 L
Efficiency: 84.34%
Attenuation: 86.0%
Calories: 185.98 per 1 pt

Original Gravity: 1.043
Terminal Gravity: 1.006
Color: 3.0 EBC
Alcohol: 4.81%
Bitterness: 28.96

3 kg Lager Malt
1 kg Maris Otter Pale
20.0 g Challenger (BruPaks) (8.6%) - added during boil, boiled 90 min
14.0 g Goldings (BruPaks) (5.8%) - added during boil, boiled 90 min
13.0 g Goldings (BruPaks) (5.8%) - added during boil, boiled 5 min
1 tsp Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
7 g Goldings (BruPaks) (5.8%) - steeped after boil
15 g Fermentis US-05 Safale US-05

Monday, June 18, 2007

Mad March tastes

Although it took about 6 weeks to clear properly, this beer was an absolute stonker! Highly (dangerously) drinkable, delicious fruity taste with a more subtle bitterness that kicked in slowly. Great residual sweetness and the citrussy hop notes were well rounded. Its a shame that it was only a pilot brew and there was a mere 20 litres of it.

One to brew again.

Mad March Blonde revisited

After the boil I was left with 20 litres of OG 1.052. This was the first time I tried a hop sparge, where I rinsed the spent hops with 1.4 litres of boiling water and topped-up with 2 litres of water to bring the gravity down to a more summery 1.044.

At this point I realised I'd forgotten to add copper finings at the end of the boil so I'm expecting this one to take longer to clear.

After 10 days primary fermentation the gravity was down to OG 1.012, so I decided to cap it there and have a slightly sweeter finish to the beer. Straight out of the fermenter it had a lovely taste and a good lingering cascade hop bitter flavour. Not particularly clear though...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I'm late, I'm late...

Keen to continue with new malt and hop combinations I formulated the recipe below for a lighter, easy-drinking fruity blonde ale. WIth a light orangey colour, and orange and peppery notes from the Styrian Goldings hops plus a bit of zesty aroma from the Cascade hops should make this one fantastic.

As it was March, and late I christened it:

Mad March Blonde
8-B Special/Best/Premium Bitter

Size: 22.5 L
Efficiency: 72.74%
Attenuation: 72.7%
Calories: 195.25 per 1 pt

Original Gravity: 1.044
Terminal Gravity: 1.012
Color: 6.9
Alcohol: 4.18%
Bitterness: 34.69

3000 g Optic Pale Ale Malt
1.2 kg Maris Otter Pale
0.3 kg Torrified Wheat
58 g Styrian Goldings (4.1%) - added during boil, boiled 90 min
50 g Styrian Goldings (3.1%) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
30 g Cascade (5.5%) - steeped after boil
11 g Fermentis S-04 Safale S-04

Bond is back

Been dying to try this one for ages and the opportunity finally presented itself... my first recipe from scratch and my first experiments with some different, less traditional hops to give a fresher, lighter, more citrussy flavour.

Well at least that was the idea, until I saw I'd got the target length (23l) but at a punch-packing 5.8%. I thought for all of 2 seconds then decided to go for it and leave it as my first plus-five-percenter and see how it went. Late hopping at flameout really added to the nose and aroma and so will be something I'll do in every brew from now on - the effect was delicious.

Here are the numbers:

The Man With The Golden Nun (v1.0b)
8-C Extra Special/Strong Bitter (English Pale Ale)

Size: 22.95 L
Efficiency: 76.6%
Attenuation: 84.7%
Calories: 227.92 per 1 pt

Original Gravity: 1.052
Terminal Gravity: 1.008
Color: 13.0
Alcohol: 5.79%
Bitterness: 39.24

5 kg Maris Otter Pale
0.2 kg Torrified Wheat
32.0 g Challenger (BruPaks) (8.6%) - added during boil, boiled 90 min
30 g Cascade (Brupaks) (5.9%) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
1.0 tsp Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
40 g Cascade (Brupaks) (5.9%) - steeped after boil
11 g Danstar Nottingham

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The London Drinker

Last night saw us in attendance at the London Drinker Beer & Cider festival, held in it's usual venue of the Camden Centre in King's Cross. I managed to persuade Mrs Nunhead Brewery to come along to her first festy, and she err, tolerated it with diplomatic finesse...

The beer selection was a little different to previous years, featuring quite a few I'd never seen before and a number of breweries I'd never even heard of before. That probably says more about my knowledge than anything else but it was a little unexpected. I took it upon myself to make sure I gave them a fair trial. Conspicuous by their absence were quite a few of the 'big boys', I think its good that smaller events like this give 'the little guy' a chance without being swamped by the corporate-hell that is the main entrance to the GBBF in Olympia. Quite why they appear to be the most popular stands there when there is so much other (better) stuff on offer all around beats me.

Back to TLD... I was surprised that for the first night it was only 'very busy' as opposed to 'completely rammed', but it made for a more pleasant drinking experience. Only between a third to half of the beers had been tapped - either not ready or maybe even being held back for other sessions? A visit on the third day a few years ago and most of the beer was already gone, maybe they learnt from this and try to spread the selection out over the three days.

So on to the beers. Between the four of us we covered a decent spectrum, as follows:

Abbey - Chorister
(3/5, pretty dry finish on this one but very drinkable)

Alcazar - Windjammer IPA
(3/5, wow at 6% this one packs a punch! Very complex hop flavour - 5 american hops in there. Almost a little too fussy for my taste, although it did help get around the alcohol taste. Maybe its the wrong time of year for this one - I could see myself having one (and only one!) on a winter's night to finish off the evening).

Boggart - Angel Hill
(3/5, delightful mid-pale, slightly citrussy hops with a strong bitter finish)

Caingorm - Trade Winds
(3/5, nice and fruity, could drink a lot of this one)

Dark Star - Espresso Stout
(1/5, not to my taste as a non-coffee drinker. Mrs N-B soldiered her way through a half though. Very distinctive coffee taste overiding everything. Almost more a coffee than a beer)

Farmers - Puck's Folly
(4/5, best of the night for me. Medium bitterness overladen with gorgeous pinapple aroma and slight toffee flavour. Very smooth and drinkable)

Grainstore - Steaming Billy Billy's Last Bark
(3/5, bonkers name, nice beer)

Purple Moose - Glaslyn Ale
(3-4/5, a contender for beer of the night, this one was nicely fruity with balanced bitterness. Another one I could drink all night, no problems)

Quite a restrained evening really, and all the better for it this morning I can tell you.
Roll on Catford in June...

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The proof is in the drinking (1)

Bitter Landlady tastes good after 3 weeks in corni keg. Less harsh bitter aftertaste than the Pendle Witch (brew #2) and looks a lot clearer. Not exactly bright but pretty clear. Slightly floral, with a good peppery taste. Going to enjoy seeing this one off over the next few weeks! Will probably try this one again soon too, with a modification or two. Maybe some lager malt or american aroma hops? Could be a good, light base for a blonde ale?


Just before finishing the keg it dropped totally bright, around 5 weeks after kegging, The taste started to deteriorate ever so slightly by the 6 week mark.

Orange-top corni keg needs cleaning / servicing as beer is quite flat after force-carbonation. Could be leaky poppets or lid not properly seated? Will clean & inspect once drained.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Time to keg

Today I racked the Bitter Landlady into a cornelius keg.

Final Gravity = 1008
BeerClear finings added in 50ml of wort

Quite light in colour, slightly orangey, good taste although nothing like landlord. Floral element has subsided into a good bitterness. Taste much dryer than previous brews, which is good! ;-)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year, New Beer

Today I took a well-advised day off work with the specific intention of brewing, a great way to start the year.
The recipe was based on Wheeler's Landlord - it being my favourite beer and the one I cut my ale teeth on in my late teens.
I don't have the ability to caramelise the wort like Timothy Taylor do so I had to add a little crystal malt to up the colour a little, although this turned out very pale and orangey-coloured compared to the real thing.

I had quite a lot of trouble getting the mash temperature to stabilise and was messing around with kettles and jugs of hot and cold water. I eventually got it right, then the boiler broke and sent litres of warm (thankfully not boiling) water all over the work surface. Then the element packed up pre-boil, I eventually got it working after replacing fuses, bending contact pins and re-replacing fuses. All in all a bit of an episode... the finished result better be worth it!

Recipe courtesy of my nifty new recipe-formulation software, BeerToolsPro:

Bitter LandLady (TTL clone)
8-B Special/Best/Premium Bitter

Size: 23.28 L
Efficiency: 67.61%
Attenuation: 81.0%
Calories: 183.72 per 1 pt

Original Gravity: 1.042 (1.040 - 1.048)
Terminal Gravity: 1.008 (1.008 - 1.012)
Color: 5.0 (5.0 - 16.0)
Alcohol: 4.44% (3.8% - 4.6%)
Bitterness: 41.77 (25.0 - 40.0)

4850 g Golden Promise Malt
15 g Crystal Malt 120°L
42 g Styrian Goldings (Brupaks) (4.1%) - added during boil, boiled 90 min
35.0 g Fuggles (Hop & Grape) (5%) - added during boil, boiled 90 min
15 g Goldings (Brupaks) (5.8%) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
10 g Irish Moss - added during boil, boiled 15 min