Sunday, 4 February 2018

Testing Times

Kolsch and Porter

I've not been able to drink much of my most recent brews until recently as I have been going out drinking (and paying for) other beers. However, things are more or less back to normal now so I can revert to being an antisocial solitary drinker once again. My two most recent brews were a Porter and a Kolsch and both have benefited from a longer conditioning period than I usually allow.  

The Kolsch (strictly speaking I can't call it "Kolsch" as it's not brewed in Cologne, maybe Kolsch-style or Kolsch-ish) was brewed on the 17th of November, fermented for 10 days at 17°C, bottled conditioned for two weeks at room temperature and then stored for 6 weeks at 10-12°C. The end result is an extremely crisp, clean tasting beer which is also very pale and clear.

The taste is very slightly sweet, slightly spicy or herbal with a hint of malty breadiness. Overall I found it really clean and refreshing and probably more suited to summer drinking, which I'll try to do if I manage to save some until then.

The Porter was brewed on the 8th of December and fermented for 10 days (the yeast was pitched at 18°C and the fermenter temperature never rose above 19°C). One bottled I left it at room temperature for another 6 weeks. The beer is smooth and full bodied, not too bitter and has none of the astringent burnt flavours which I have found in past dark beers, which I guess is due to the very small amount of black malt in the recipe.

Despite the relatively small quantity of dark malts the beer is still very dark, and very drinkable. It has a smooth consistency which I believe is derived from the oats. It's not overly hoppy but neither do the malts overwhelm flavour-wise, the sweetness of the crystal counters the bitterness of the black and chocolate malts so overall I think this is a easy drinking well balanced porter. 

Monday, 18 December 2017

Brewday 08/12/2017 Another Porter

Brown Stuff

I had one last opportunity to brew in 2017 so chose to make a porter. I had some dark malts in stock and I could use some more homegrown hops and free up some space in the freezer. 

Recipe (BIAB):

  • Mash for 90 mins at 66°C
  • Boil for 60 mins
  • Mash water volume 28lt
  • Pale Malt 3.5kg
  • Munich Light 0.5kg
  • Crystal 60L 200g
  • Chocolate Malt 240g
  • Black malt 60g 
  • Rolled Oats 250g
  • Northdown 7% 15g (60 mins)
  • Northdown 7% 25g (15 mins)
  • First Gold (homegrown) 25g whirlpool 75°C for 30 mins
  • Cascade 4.2% 25g whirlpool 75°C for 30 mins
  • First Gold (homegrown) 63g dry hop for 3 days 
  • Gervin GV12 English Ale Yeast 11g pack
  • Recipe in Brewers Friend
The whirlpool addition is a bit of a misnomer, I just chilled the wort to 75°C, added the hops, gave it a stir and left it for 30 minutes before finishing chilling. This should get more aroma from the hops as opposed to adding at flameout when the wort is still at boiling point.

Results 18/12/2017

I bottled this after 10 days in the fermenter.
OG 1.049 (efficiency 70%)
FG 1.009
ABV 5.17%

I'll give it a couple of weeks conditioning and try some in 2018, hopefully it will be good, the sample I tried from the gravity reading was very tasty!

Update 31/01/2018

Yep, still tasty!

Friday, 17 November 2017

Brewday 17/11/17 Kolsch

Impromptu Brewday

Due to a work cancellation I found I had the opportunity (and more importantly, the ingredients) to brew some beer. I had plenty of German malts so I decided to make another Kolsch.

Recipe BIAB:

  • Mash water vol 28lt
  • 3kg Pilsner Malt
  • 1kg Vienna Malt
  • 250g Wheat Malt
  • 150g Carapils Malt
  • 25g Perle 4.4% (60 min)
  • 25g Perle 4.4% (15 min)
  • 5g Irish moss (15 min)
  • 1 pk Safale K97 German Ale Yeast
  • Mash for 90 mins at 68ºC
  • Boil for 1 hour
  • 21.5lt into the fermenter


After recent poor efficiency scores I did a bit of research to see how I could improve things. One suggestion I came across was to mill the grains much finer than normal but since I buy all my grain pre-crushed that wasn't an option. Another common idea was mashing with a smaller quantity of water and then sparging. There are various options; cold water sparge, warm water sparge, dunk sparging, trickle sparging, all of which seem to have worked for other homebrewers. However the most straightforward suggestion was simply to extend the mash time to 90 minutes, which I did and it worked! I got a higher OG than anticipated due to the higher efficiency score, I was only expecting 1.045 at 70% efficiency.

Efficiency 75%
OG 1.048
FG 1.011
IBU 23
ABV 4.82% (expected)

So it's now fermenting away, I'll leave it for about 10 days before bottling. 

Update 28/11/2017

The K97 yeast has an ideal fermentation range of 15-20ºC, I pitched at 18ºC which was as low as I could reasonably get with my immersion chiller and 12ºC ambient water temperature. After 24 hours I noticed the temperature of the fermenter had risen to 20ºC, meaning I needed to chill it somehow. Short of emptying the fridge which wouldn't have been too popular I had to resort to a  more basic method. By wrapping the fermenter in a wet towel and standing it in a pan of cold water the temperature came down to 18ºC within 24 hours and stayed at 17ºC for the duration of the fermentation period. Luckily for me my fermenting buckets fit neatly inside my pan.

Hi-tech cooling system

Update 31/01/2018

After several weeks conditioning in a temperature controlled area (under the stairs - temperature 10-12ºC in January) I tried this beer and have to say am well pleased with the result. It's crisp and clean but with that distinctive Kolsch-y flavour. I think the attention I paid to temperature for fermentation and conditioning has paid off.

Unfiltered and unfined!

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Brewday 01/11/17 Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Clone

Using up free hops

A local microbrewery kindly offered my homebrew club some surplus hops, obviously we took advantage of this and found ourselves in possession of a substantial amount (by homebrewing standards) of Northdown and Cascade. After splitting them between us we had to decide what to do with them so it was proposed that we all attempt to brew a clone version of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and bring it along to taste at the December meeting. 

There are plenty of recipes online and most of them share a few common traits; A simple malt bill of pale and crystal, and lots of cascade hops.


  • 4.5kg Maris Otter
  • 0.3kg Crystal Malt 45L
  • 24g Northdown 7% (60 min)
  • 23g Northdown 7% (25 min)
  • 21g Cascade 4.2% (10 min)
  • 50g Cascade 4.2%(0 min)
  • 130g Cascade (dry hop 6 days)
  • 1 pk Safale US05 Ale Yeast
  • Mash for 1 hour at 68ºC
  • Boil for 1 hour
  • 18lt into the fermenter
I've gone a bit over the top with the dry hopping but these hops were pretty old and had a very low alpha acid content.


Once again the efficiency was disappointing, down at 64%. 
OG 1.054
FG 1.013
IBU 44
ABV 5.4%
I bottled this on the 13th November so it will have over 4 weeks to condition. I hope it turns out well, it certainly tasted good during bottling.

Update 22/12/17

I've been drinking this over the last couple of weeks and it's quite a pleasant drink. Compared to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale I find it more bitter and not quite as hoppy but at least it's the right colour!  

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Brewday 25/09/17 - Red Rye Ale

It's rye time I did this...

I always enjoy any beer that features rye but I've never brewed with it myself until now. This beer also includes some of my homegrown First Gold hops so it's a double first - I hope it turns out well.


  • 3.15kg Irish Ale Malt
  • 0.5kg Red X Malt
  • 0.5kg Rye Malt
  • 0.5kg Munich Malt
  • 100g Chocolate Malt
  • 25g Northdown (60 min)
  • 25g First Gold (15 min)
  • 44g First Gold (0 min)
  • 50g Cascade (dry hop 4 days)
  • 36g Mosiac (dry hop 4 days)
  • 1 pk Safale S04 Ale Yeast
OG =1.045 (efficiency 68% - still not very good)
Anyway it's in the fermenter, I plan to bottle it later this week.

Update 06/10/17

I bottled the beer today, FG was 1.010 (exactly as predicted) giving an ABV of 4.57%. A quick taste suggests this beer will be a very pleasant drink once it has finished conditioning.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Brewday 18/09/2017 - Black Coffee Stout

Black Coffee in Beer

With the nights drawing in it was time to brew a dark beer, and in a radical move I decided to add an extra ingredient to the usual line-up of water, malt, hops and yeast. This beer also contained coffee, and just to make it extra crafty I used cold brewed coffee. As this was a bit of an experiment for me I only brewed a small batch of nine litres split into two demijohns.

Recipe (BIAB):

  • Mash for 1 hr at 67°C
  • Boil for 60 mins
  • Mash water volume 13.6lt
  • Pale Malt 1.35kg
  • Crystal 15L 160g
  • Chocolate Malt 110g
  • Black malt 50g 
  • Rolled Oats 180g
  • Northdown 25g (60 mins)
  • Northdown 25g (0 mins)
  • Gervin GV12 English Ale Yeast 11g pack
  • 100ml cold brewed coffee (added to one demijohn)
  • Recipe in Brewers Friend
Naturally things didn't go totally as planned, firstly my efficiency was way down at 61% (usually I get around 75%) which meant I was going to end up with an ABV of 3.95%, a lot lower than what I wanted. I also managed to miscalculate the hop additions, this was a scaled down recipe but I didn't reduce the hops at the same rate as the malts resulting in a higher IBU rating than originally expected. Obviously I couldn't do much about the hops but I decided to increase the ABV by adding some brewing sugar (dextrose) to the fermenters. I made a solution with 80g of dextrose and 200ml of boiling water, allowed it to cool and then split it between the two demijohns. I have never done this before but it seemed to work. I made the addition after two days fermentation and there was certainly some increased airlock activity and a final gravity reading of 1.010 would indicate a theoretical ABV of 4.42% which is a bit of an improvement. The downside of adding sugar is it tends to make the beer taste thinner and less full-bodied but hopefully I've got the balance right by just adding a small amount. 

I made the cold brewed coffee by mixing 50g of coarse ground coffee with 350ml of water in a sterilised mason jar and leaving it in the fridge for 24 hours. I then filtered it several times to remove all the grounds and added 100ml to one of the demijohns after four days of fermentation. I left this for another week and then bottled both beers. Each demijohn contained 4.25 litres so I primed each with 20g of brewing sugar. Now I have 12 x 330ml of each stout conditioning, one with coffee and one without. It will be interesting to see how they compare and whether the coffee actually improves the beer. 

Monday, 18 September 2017

Homegrown Hops

Grow It Yourself

Hops are expensive, for homebrewers 100g of dried hops can cost anything up to £6+ a pack. This makes brewing super hoppy American style pale ales quite an expensive process. So in my never-ending quest to spend less money I bought and planted two hop plants (Prima Donna or First Gold variety) early last year. After 3-4 weeks of nothing happening there was a sudden burst of activity, several shoots appeared from the ground and rapidly scaled the fence. The blurb which came with the plants warned me to expect very little in the first year, which was fortunate as very little was precisely what I got. It is not until the third year that the plant will reach its full potential so I was not expecting much extra this year. Once again in early March several shoots appeared and grew rapidly up and along my fence, however this year I picked over 1.6kg of fresh hops which I dried in a food dehyrator down to a dry weight of 350g.

The hop fence
There's something quite satisfying about growing your own hops for brewing although given that the hop plants cost £18 I'm still out of pocket as 350g of First Gold only costs about £14. Next year I should get a bigger harvest and I can also split the hop rhizomes to get more plants, so over time I should save a bit of money. I also found hops growing wild near me last year so in early March I dug up some rhizomes and planted cuttings in my garden. I don't know the variety but they do smell great, were free and for a first year's crop I've done pretty well, far better than last year's bought plants. These hops aren't quite ready to pick yet but when they are I'll brew a green hop beer.

Wild Hops
Last year I dried my meagre harvest on the window sill, but this took too long and the end result was poor. This year I have used a food dehydrator which has given great results. I dried 500g of fresh hops down to 110g in 10-12 hours, with the dehydrator at the lowest heat setting of 35°C. Higher temperatures than this risk burning off the much sought-after but volatile hop oils.

Food Dehydrator
My total harvest was just over 2kg (1.65kg First Gold and 400g of the wild variety) which I dried down to 450g and froze for future brewdays.
In conclusion I have to say that growing hops is very straightforward, they require very little special care and hopefully I'll get to brew some great beer.