Tuesday, March 28, 2023

A Little Self Evaluation

So far this year I have brewed almost as many times as I managed in the entirety of 2022. It turns out that having children that understand instructions and get quickly bored of watching daddy watch a boil kettle and disappear to play in the yard makes getting back to all-grain brewing far more feasible, and even enjoyable once again. It might also help that I have replaced the crappy little push button faucet on my mash tun for a ball valve and draining the first runnings now takes 5 minutes where it used to take 20.

In getting back to brewing more regularly this year, I also made a commitment to use malt from our local maltster, Murphy & Rude Malting Company, as much as possible. I have been developing new recipes based purely on their malts, and updating some of my existing recipes as well.

The very first brewday of 2023 was to brew a long standing favourite style of mine, dry stout. The grist was made up of pale, biscuit, roast barley, and milk chocolate malts - milk chocolate is Murphy & Rude's name for pale chocolate malt. For hops I used the locally grown Challenger hops, and of course the water came from my well. The only non-local ingredient was the yeast, which is Safale S-04, basically my go-to yeast. Coming in at 4% abv, and with 40 IBUs, it looked like this:

Basically what you expect a pint of stout to look like, and those looks are not deceiving, it smells and tastes as you would expect a low gravity dry stout to taste, especially if your reference point is Murphy's rather than Guinness. While it is true I do like a pint of Guinness, if Murphy's is also on tap in the same establishment, I'd be on the Murphy's instead. One thing that struck me though with this being my first all Murphy and Rude malt homebrew was the freshness and clarity of the malt flavours, especially the biscuit and milk chocolate which lacked the fusty character that can sometimes be present in malts that have enduring long journeys from Europe to the US.

As Virginia's rather lame, mild, and snowless winter dragged on, thoughts began to turn to spring, and in particular my wife's fiddle teacher's kind of annual St Patrick's Day concert/gathering, for which I brew a couple of kegs of beer. Mrs V's teacher is Alex Caton, who in 2015 released an album of songs and poems from the mining communities of England and Appalachia called "Never Take A Daisy Down the Mine". For the album release party I brewed a dark mild called Pit Pony, and Alex asked for a re-brew for the gathering.

Pit Pony was a beer that I re-factored to use Murphy & Ride malts, though as they don't do a honey malt the grist wasn't 100% Virginian. However, I did use a blend of their Crystal 40, 60, 80, and 150, as well as the biscuit malt, all on top of their pale malt. Sure at 4.3% it is a wee bit stronger than some of the guidelines would say a dark mild should be, so let's just call it a best mild shall we? The hops were a remnant of East Kent Goldings I had knocking about, and so that the malt could shine through, I took advantage of Safale's US-05 for it's clean character. The crystal malts really are the star here, with lots of toffee, caramel, and a touch of singed sugar in the mix. My only regret was that I didn't put it in a cubitainer to serve as an ersatz real ale.

The third of my recent brews, there is technically a fourth but that is a re-brew of the stout, was a blonde ale so there would be something paler for those who equate dark colour with heavy beers.

This one is a completely new recipe for me. Continuing my 100% Virginian malt when possible commitment, the grist is Murphy & Rude's Virginia Pils, Vienna, Crystal 15, and Soft Red Wheat malt which gave me an ABV of 4.5% and that absolutely banging colour. On the hops front, I decided to use up some Cascade I had in the freezer, with a calcuated 23 IBUs, though with a healthy addition at flameout just for aroma. I stuck with US-05 for the yeast, though this time more to let the hops do their thing. I realise I am biased, but damn this is one lovely beer, well, was as my neighbour and I kicked the keg last weekend. I will be brewing this several times this year I am sure, though likely swapping out the hops to get different characters, I definitely plan a version with Saaz, and likely one with Hallertauer Mittelfrüh,  perhaps even a 100% Fuggles one as well.

With regular brewing very much back on the table, and a kegerator in the kitchen to justify the expense of by having beer regularly on tap, I can see homebrew making up a greater portion of my drinking this year. 


  1. Velky Al: Saw your tweet concerning the craft beer channel's youtube video on Adnams Brewery. I watched it and it brought memories of a trip to London 20 years ago. My wife and I came out of the British Museum, there was a pub called the Plough nearby, Adnams Southwold Bitter was on cask, to this day I've never had a finer beer. I've been wanting to go back to the UK ever since just for the cask ale.

  2. Alistair, I leave this remark here because I believe it is on-topic for you.
    I am currently on holiday in Tokyo, Japan. I attended a FlyerTalk forum's 'Japan Do' last weekend. My flight back to Chicago, IL. U.S.A. is on Tuesday. (The "Grateful Dead parking lot Miracle" airfare was for these specific dates.) I will actually clear U.S. Customs at IAD, and then changing to an ORD flight.
    I have scrounged a few bi-lingual Japan craft beer print zines. There is an advert in The Japan Beer Times #53 for a concern titled Cardinal Trading (.jp) which is importing beers from Virginia Beer Co. into Japan. It appears to be its full line [15 brews].
    I deduce you might not know this otherwise. Have you had any of Virginia Beer's brews? Are they respected enough there to be credible in Japan, or is this the brewery shooting arrows into the sky?

    1. Steve, I do know Virginia Beer Co, and have tried several of their beers. They are an excellent brewery, especially of British style beers, their oatmeal stout in particular is lovely.


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