Friday, January 29, 2010

Recipe Time

The recipe for the American Pale Ale to be brewed by those taking part in the International Homebrew Project is really quite simple. The recipe is formulated for a 5 US gallon batch and is:
  • 9.8lbs 2 Row Pale Malt
  • 1.7lbs Caramel 10
  • 0.6oz Centennial boiled 60 minutes
  • 0.5oz Amarillo boiled 15 minutes
  • 0.5oz Cascade boiled 1 minute
  • Whatever yeast you want
I will be perfectly honest you, I used the "Beer Generator" option at Beertools.com to generate this recipe, and according to the report that was output, the beer should be as follows in terms of IBUs, colour and gravity:
  • OG - 1.058
  • IBU - 37.5
  • SRM - 6.98
  • ABV - 5.5 - 6%
For those doing an extract based recipe, I found a formula for converting from base malt to dry malt extract which multiplies the weight of base malt by 0.6 - which gave a result of 5.9lbs. Those using liquid malt extract, multiply by 0.8, making it necessary to use 7.8lbs of extract.

If, like me, you brew less than 5 gallons at a time, re-scale the recipe as necessary, and I would recommend using the lightest possible extract, hence I will be buying Munton's Extra Light instead of the usual light I use.

The timeline, as I previously suggested, is as follows:
  • Feb 12/13 - brew the beer
  • Feb 26/27 - bottle the beer
  • Mar 19/20 - try the beer
  • Mar 21 - write about the beer
If you are planning to take part, leave a comment here or email me to let me know.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Oh CAC!!

The public have spoken, or at least those interested enough to take part in the polls I have been running as part of my International Homebrew Project. The hops for the American Pale Ale to be brewed will be the classics of the style:
  • Centennial for bittering
  • Amarillo for flavour
  • Cascade for aroma
I understand that some people may have restricted access to hops from the Pacific North West, however I know that The Hop Shop in England will ship throughout Europe, although postage may be a bit pricey.

Given the details that I have at hand now, I will now generate a recipe which is faithful to the parameters for the style, as given in Designing Great Beers. The recipe will be posted as both All-Grain and Extract with specialty grains, to allow as many brewers as possible to participate, without getting into the whole "all grain is superior to extract" argument here.

The provisional plan is for all those interested to brew on the weekend of February 12/13, then let the beer sit in primary for 14 days, so bottling would be scheduled for the weekend of February 26/27, followed by 3 weeks conditioning. Participants would then blog about their beers on Monday March 21st.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the project, the choice of yeast is entirely up to the brewer, personally I will be using something from Wyeast, though not entirely sure yet what that will be. One thing is certain though, I am looking forward to making the beer!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hoppity Hoppity Hop

That was fairly emphatic wasn't it? Of the 14 votes cast, American Pale Ale got 50% of the vote, with 4 for IPA and 3 for English Pale Ale.

According to Ray Daniels' "Designing Great Beers" (a very useful resource which I recommend to every home brewer, whether all grain or otherwise), American Pale Ales have the following characteristics:

  • OG: 1.044 - 1.056
  • IBU: 20 - 40
  • Hop Flavour and Aroma: medium to high
  • Colour (SRM): 4 - 12
  • Apparent Extract: 70 - 80%
  • ABV: 4.5 - 5.5%
  • Esters: low
  • Diacetyl: low OK
Admittedly Daniels' takes this data from the American Homebrewers Association.

Before deciding what specialty grains will be used to augment the base malt, or malt extract, depending on your choice of all grain or extract with grains, we will decide on which hops will be going into the brew. In some ways I was glad that APA won the poll because we get to play with some high alpha acid hops like Chinook, not to mention hops like Amarillo and Cascade with their signature grapefruit aromas.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Here are the results....

If you are used to listening to the full time football results as announced by the BBC's James Alexander Gordon (get past the Swedish beginning and listen to his voice), you can imagine his tone of voice saying "pale ale rovers 7 porter/stout city 7".

Yes, the two top picks in the base beer poll for the International Homebrew Project were tied on 7 votes a piece, with Scottish/Scotch ale trailing on 5 and weizen/witbier a distant fourth with just a single vote. As I said in my previous post, in the event of a tie, I would draw the winner out of a hat, so this morning I put a cap from a bottle of Bell's Two Hearted Ale and one from a bottle of something from Samuel Adams into a hat and got Mrs Velkyal to draw one.

Out came the Bell's cap, which I had decided would make pale ale the winner, hence the new poll in the corner - having decided that we will be brewing a beer from the pale ale family, we now choose which one.

The poll is open for until Sunday night, on Monday I will publish the decision and we can start choosing hops and grains to use in the beer, I am looking to have the actual brew day sometime in early February.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bottled Gold

Yesterday was bottling day for my latest home brew, a Best Bitter which I named Ring of Gold - I used only East Kent Golding hops in the boil and fermented it with the Ringwood Ale yeast and thought "Ring of Gold" sounded better than "Golden Ring".

Since my disaster with the Copper Head Pale Ale, which I plan to make properly some time in the summer, I have gone back to using the Wyeast smack packs instead of vials from White Labs and have had consistently good fermentation as a result. I also brew quite small batches, only about 2.5 gallons a time, because I don't have much storage space in my cellar and I would rather have a broad selection of beers to choose from instead of filling the cellar with 2 batches, it also means I get to brew more regularly. I find the brewing process quite relaxing, so the more I do, the happier I am.

From a technical standpoint Ring of Gold performed exactly as I expected, going from an original gravity of 1.040 to a terminal gravity of 1.008, giving the beer an ABV of 4.3%. According to Beer Tools, the beer has an IBU rating of 28, which is on the lower end of the scale for a Best Bitter.

Next up in the brewing queue is another batch of LimeLight, a wheat beer I made last summer using lime peel instead of the more common curacao orange. The recipe for LimeLight was made available to Czech home brewers through Homebrewing.cz - unless you speak Czech don't bother - and seems to have gone down well with people who have made it. Of my own version, Ireland's venerable Beer Nut described it thus:

"The carbonation is spot-on and I've got a nice, lasting layer of froth on the top. I'm tasting a sweet biscuity base, and then there's the sharp and tangy citric fruitiness. Topped with the froth, the whole thing is remarkably like drinking lemon meringue pie. A genuinely excellent beer, well done"

Taking on board some comments from The Beer Nut, I have decided to add some ginger into the mix for this version and see where that takes the beer.

As ever with my home brewing, every prospect pleases.

PS - there is only one day left to vote on the base beer style for the International Homebrew Project, and as things stand we have equal votes for three of the four beer styles. If they are still tied when the poll closes, I will pull the winner out of a hat.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Homebrewers of the World Unite!

I had a thought yesterday evening, and yes it hurt. I guess most of the people who read Fuggled are more than just beer lovers, they are also home brewers - I know for a fact of at least 10 regular readers who also make their own brew, not to mention the two or three professional brewers who are also part of the Fuggled community.

Several of these home brew/pro-brew bods have given me invaluable tips and advice for improving my beer making, whether discussing ingredients, brewing techniques or methods for dispensing the amber nectar. It was this sense of community that got me thinking about organising an international home brewing project.

The project would be something along the lines of the multi-blog beer reviews I have done in the past with blogs like Pivní Filosof and The Bitten Bullet. However, instead of writing about the same beer and posting our review on the same day, this project would be to brew the same beer, on the same day, each brewer using their own preferred methods (whether all grain or extract with grains) and each brewer using their preferred yeast. The beer in question would sit in primary fermentation for 14 days before being bottled, then after 3 weeks of conditioning, each participating blogger would review their brew - whether they do it just themselves or get a group of people to try the beer and give their views would be entirely up to their whimsy.

Assuming the people I am thinking of would be interested in such a project we could have the same beer brewed in the US, Ireland, the UK, Germany and maybe the Czech Republic - it would also give us more insight into water differences, the influence of yeast on the same base ingredients and various other interesting questions. For those of us in geographical proximity to participants, we could trade beers and then write about those as well.

If you are interested in taking part in the project, then either leave a comment to this post, or drop me an email. The sharp of sight among you will have noticed a poll in the top left of the page, to decide which style of ale we will make (that is my only executive decision, we will be making an ale as opposed to a lager - largely because I don't have the technical necessities to do so!). You we see on the poll that to begin with I have rather broad beer styles to select from, the next decision will be which beer type from within the chosen group will be made.

So, let me know if you are interested, and cast your vote for the beer style to be made, and let's get this started.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Being Selective?

One of the joys of being on warfarin as a result of the deep vein thrombosis I had sucked out of my leg last week is having to find out what foods and drugs interact with the pills. For example, I should really avoid leafy greens because they are high in vitamin K and this actually makes the blood more likely to coagulate, which is not what I want at the moment.

As a lover of beer, obviously I have been very keen to learn about how alcohol reacts with warfarin, which is also used as rat poison! Hopefully I won't be on this stuff for life, but in the event that I am, then I need to find a consistent sensible approach to getting my beer fix. If I am on it for the duration, then one thing is perfectly clear, the days of getting shedded are well and truly over, which I don't really mind that much because I find that boozing until I fall over is no longer "a great night", not to mention that I hate having a hangover and I worry a bit about the effects of popping ibuprofen regularly on my liver.

According to several websites I have read, once I finish injecting myself with Lovenox and am just on the pills I should be able to have a couple of drinks a day, just a quick aside whoever came up with the idea that paying through the nose to give myself injections is a prat.

If then the days of unlimited boozing are over, and I am restrained to only 2-3 beers a day, and don't forget that consistency is important with Warfarin, I guess I will have to become more selective in the beers I drink after all why waste one of my drinks on something crappy? I actually think this will make my homebrewing more important, because I know what I am getting, and I know that I like it!

The question then becomes, how do I know what it good and what is not from the brands I don't know yet?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Simple, Unfussy and Good

One of the things that I most enjoyed about the Christmas holiday was expanding our cable package to include BBC America, initially because we didn't want to miss the second part David Tennant's Doctor Who finale (not wildly impressed to be honest, but there we go). Naturally I had ulterior motives, I wanted the World News and of course I love watching anything involving Gordon Ramsey.

Lately they have been showing an episode of Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares (because even the BBC over here seem intent on repeat the same show ad naseum) where he attempts to help save a traditional English rural pub which is going doing the toilet. To be blunt, it really isn't any wonder that country pubs go down the toilet if the publican is representative of rural pub management. But this post isn't about Gordon Ramsay, but rather about a thought I had while watching it - are British rural pubs failing because they are trying to be something that the Great British Pub simply isn't, a formal, restaurant that happens to serve beer?

Despite the fact that I haven't lived in the UK for well over a decade, I am very proud of being British, and whenever I go home I indulge in every Great British tradition I can - fish n' chips (haddock of course), a proper fry up, with strong tea, and of course going to a proper pub, a place that cares for its beer, pulls it well (and when I say leave the head on, I mean it) and a place where I feel comfortable and at ease. Places like the King's Arms in Oxford spring immediately to mind. A quick disclaimer first, yes I love Czech pubs as well, but I think good Czech pubs are very similar in many ways to good British pubs, so perhaps good pubs around the world share similar traits - the main one being unpretentiousness, and that is something us beer lovers and bloggers should celebrate.

Does an unpretentious pub mean that we have to accept second rate beer? Not at all, when I think of my favourite pubs around the world, the beer is always excellent, and usually not expensive at all. Does an unpretentious pub mean crap food? Not at all, again all the best pubs I know have excellent food. Even the food isn't pretentious, none of your juliennes of this, or reduces of that, a Great British pub should serve Great British pub food, Lancashire Hot Pot, Cumberland sausages and mash, apple crumble, that kind of thing. All of it washed down with Great British real ale, think bangers and mash with pints of Landlord.

Simple, unfussy and good - that is the key to the Great British pub, and to a great pub anywhere on the planet. I am convinced that those three words are what the majority of pub goers around the world are looking for when they go out, whether just for a couple of drinks, or for food and beer, things that are simple, unfussy and good.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hopping Mead!

If you have been following this blog from the beginning, then firstly I salute you, and secondly you will know that I have attempted to make mead, which turned out to be rank beyond description - think rough as guts it was that bad.

Since then however, I have learnt to brew reasonably well and so my thoughts at the weekend turned to trying my hand once more at mead, when of course fermentation space allows.

Being the tinkerer I am however, I don't want to make just a plain mead, purely with honey, water and yeast - I want to mess about! When thinking about other things to throw into the mead, my first thought was to use hops - especially given their purpose in beer as a bittering agent to balance out the sweetness of the malt. Using hops in mead is nothing new, having once been an ingredient in braggot, although today it is brewed with honey and malt rather than honey and hops (if I am wrong about that, forgive me - but from cursory searches on Google that seems to be the case).

The questions in my mind then lead me to thinking about boil times, would I have to do a 60 minute boil so as to utilise the various compounds in hops that do their thing at different times in the boil, not to mention the most important question of all, which hops to use?

I can imagine the American C-hops working very well in a braggot, and of as a devotee of the Fuggle hop I would be keen to try that out as well. However, I think to begin with I will use one of my favourite hops on the planet for my concoction, Amarillo! Imagine the grapefruity flavours cutting through the smoothness of the honey!

Have any other homebrewers reading this tried making a hopped mead? If so, what was good, what was bad, what hops did you use? So many questions!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Some Friday Fun

After the week I have had, I think some fun is in order to take us into the weekend!



Madness really are the best for feel good tunes.



Can't beat Monty Python really can you?



Though Eddie Izzard comes close!

Not beer related, but there we go. Have a good weekend people!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Golden Lights

Bit of a late post today, but I think I have a reasonable excuse m'lord - it was discovered yesterday that I had a blood clot in my leg, and so spent this morning having an outpatient procedure to have it removed.

Anyway, to the post. When it comes to my home brewing, I like to mess around with yeast strains rather than sticking to something like Safale-04, as well as coming up with recipes on a whim. So it was, on Saturday that I decided to pop down to Fifth Season Gardening to get some hops, some specialty grain and a packet of yeast in order to use up a couple of pounds of light malt extract I had knocking about.

The recipe ended up being:
  • 2lb light dry malt extract
  • 0.5lb American Caramel 120
  • 0.5oz EKG boiled for 60 minutes
  • 0.25oz EKG boiled for 15 minutes
  • 0.25oz EKG boiled for 5 minutes
  • Wyeast 1187 Ringwood Ale
The OG came out at 1.040 and on getting up this morning the fermenter was sporting a healthy looking krausen.

This is my first attempt at a best bitter, and given the combination of Goldings hops and the Ringwood ale yeast, I am calling it Ring of Gold.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Challenge to Bloggers/Readers

My somewhat over active brain has been at it again, damned thing really should know when to quieten down and just let me get some sleep. Today's post really comes out of a conversation I had with a colleague from the Starr Hill Brewery yesterday in the tasting room. Sundays are usually seriously quiet and so we have more time to talk, one topic that came up was the kind of range of beers a brewery has, in particular the core brands, using Starr Hill as an example, the core range is as follows:
  • Jomo Lager - a Southern German style lager
  • Amber Ale - an Irish Red Ale
  • Pale Ale - erm, guess what, it's an American Pale Ale
  • Northern Lights - an American India Pale
  • The Love - a hefeweizen
  • Dark Starr - a dry Irish stout
Obviously some breweries have far larger ranges, but I think in general Starr Hill covers the bases of what most people drink in the US. Part of the conversation was what range of beers would we have if we had our own brewery? A challenging thought, especially given all the styles of beer that are out there, but it got me thinking, what kind of beers would I make if I owned a brewery or brewpub - which is in some ways like asking which of the beers I already brew at home would I carry over into a business?

The first thing that I would say is that I would want to push cask ale as much as possible. Having tried the same beer on keg and on cask at a brewpub near Washington DC recently, all I can is that Tandleman knows a thing or two because the cask was infinitely superior. Running concurrent to a commitment to cask ale would be insisting on bottle conditioning. I know of only one brewery that bottle conditions over here (admittedly there are huge gaps in my knowledge of the American scene at the moment), but I think it is no coincidence that Bell's Brewery make my favourite beers at the moment.

As for the range of beers, I would have a core consisting of:
  • Experimental Dark Matter - dark mild, very dark, complex and yet perfectly sessionable
  • Blondynka - a proper pilsner, yes, triple decoction, Saaz hops, only Pilsner malt, at least 45 days lagering
  • Copper Head - a best bitter, like many things British, a much maligned style because it isn't done properly
  • Old Baldy - an American IPA, big malty brew with hops galore, none of your thin hopbominations here
  • Skippy Porter - a smoked chocolate porter, hopped only with Fuggles and it tells
  • 94 - a Dortmund Alt, not a common style over here, but one that I love so it would have to be there
My challenge then to my readers and other bloggers is what kind of beers would you make if you ran or owned a brewery/brewpub? I know a few of my readers already do brew on a commercial scale, what do you think of my line-up?

Happy thinking!!

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Session - 2010 Beer Resolutions


This month's Session is being hosted by Beer for Chicks and has the theme of New Beer's Resolutions.

Given that I already did my annual review of the year, it may seem strange to go over some of the same ground again, but then the questions being asked not only look back but also look forward to the rest of this year, not to mention the fact that there is a "worst of" angle as well, which I didn't touch on during the Fuggled Review of the Year posts.

Without further ado, let's get started:

Best and Worst Beer of 2009

In my review of the year, I gave a "best of" for various beer categories without choosing one particular highlight of the year. Making that decision is practically impossible, but I am of the opinion that the beer which most deserves the title 2009's best of is that beer which I wanted to drink time and again, rather than the one off which was interesting to taste and a worthwhile experience, but not one I would drink plenty of. Using that criteria the best beer I had in 2009 was the magnificent Kout na Šumavě 10° golden lager, a beer more flavourful and delicious than many other stronger, more complex beers and the driving force of many a session before I left Prague for the US.

As for the worst beer of 2009 there are several contenders - Bud Light (Butt Wipe), Miller Lite and Pabst Blue Ribbon (Pap Smear) all spring to mind, for some reason my friends think it is hilarious to see my reaction to the big industrial brews in the US. However, the worst beer in 2009 came from a craft brewer, and the only redeeming feature was the fact that I could re-use the bottle for my home brew, the beer in question was Ybor Gold Light - if a worse beer in the US exists then thank goodness I am yet to try it.


Beer Resolution for 2010

I try not to be a beer snob, the kind of person who sneers at anything made by the big brewers - you know the kind of thing, people who refuse to drink Blue Moon because it is a Coors product. The important thing for me is not what is on the label, but what is in the bottle - and that is something I want to remember more in the coming year.

Beer Regrets and Embarrassments

I generally don't do regret, but I wish I had made more of the month I had free in the Czech Republic to get out and about visiting more of breweries. I really can't think of anything embarrassing to do with beer this year, other than my initial wittering about Gambrinus Excelent, and 11° lager which I wrote off without tasting it purely based on its makers, only to discover that while it is in no way an earth shattering beer, it isn't awful either.

Beer Changes Hoped for in 2010

That really is a simple one, I want to make my homebrew better than it is. I like to think, and given the positive feedback I have already had, that I brew reasonably well, I want to be better and eventually this year start all grain brewing.

I am very much looking forward to this year, and as I said in an earlier post today, here's to 2010, God bless her and all who sail in her!

Happy New Year

Here's to 2010!

Wishing all my readers great beer, good pubs and a generally fab zythophilic year!

Slainte.