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