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.