British Brewer

Recreating the perfect British Pint

06 April
2Comments

Tips and Tricks: Check your hops alpha acid

This tip may seem obvious but I have only just started doing it. If you have a brew you like to make over and over this tip is essential in order to produce consistent quality and taste every time.

I recently re-brewed my Flowers Original Clone (updated the recipe to a Partial Mash).  In the original recipe we used 0.5oz (.25oz for  a half batch) of Target hops. The alpha acid for Target is typically in the 9-12% range. In the original recipe the hops I used had an alpha acid value of ~10%.

So when I came to re-brew 6 weeks ago I noticed my new batch of Target hops were 11%. So I decided to go back to BeerCalculus at Hopville (and my spreadsheet) and recalculate the IBU’s.  At 11% alpha acid for the bittering hops I calculated I needed to reduce the amount of the Target hops from 0.5 to 0.4oz. Good job I did because the ale is in the keg and it tastes absolutely fantastic :-)

 

 

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19 March
4Comments

Tips and Tricks: Straining Wort

Once wort is cooled and you are ready to transfer into the primary it is a REALLY good idea to strain to the wort to separate the hops out.  Historically I have done this by carefully pouring the contents of the kettle through the funnel trying to leave as many hops in the bottom of the kettle as I can.

If you strain the wort the resulting ale will have greater clarity and reduction in bitterness caused from the wort sitting on the now spent hops.  I use a regular kitchen strainer locked into a funnel.  There are also purpose built strainers and screens for those who enjoy convenience. Alternatively you can place hops inside a purpose built container during the boil.

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18 March
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Christmas 2010 Kits Review

I know we are approaching the cusp of Spring but I have not been posting for a while and thought it was time to write-up my Christmas Kit reviews.  I actually still have some left in the cellar but most is gone and we have more than enough experience with them to provide the feedback.

As regular readers know I am a fan of Northern Brewer and the kits they regularly produce. They are continually innovating, I fully intend to order something from their new “Pro-Series” in the near future.

With my parents coming for Christmas and staying over 2 weeks I knew I would have to stock up on the ale and started planning back in October 2010, brewing every weekend for over a month.  Here was the final list of Christmas brews.

  1. #8: Belgian Strong Dark ale brewed with Wyeast Belgian Abbey Ale II. A fine example of a dark ale brewed in the Trappist fashion.  I still have half a case left as I wanted to experience first hand the effects of aging.  The brew came out of the fermenter very clear, a lush rich burnt brown colour.  After 1 month of aging the palate was a little sweet but after nearly 5 months aging tastes of dark chocolate and caramel are coming out offset with the spice of the Abbey Ale yeast.  Defintely not a session brew but a good drop nonetheless but drink sparingly the ABV is high, mine came in at over 9.5%.
  2. British Imperial Mild: Part of the Northern Brewer Limited Edition Series for Q4 2010 the Imperial Mild is a play on old British Mild recipes where a mild designation meant “not sour, stale or aged”.  The choice of Wyeast Ringwood Ale yeast delivered the fruity esters to an otherwise smooth classic pint.  It was probably my favorite of the list though did not age that well. The first month delivered a level of estery fruit tartness that recalled Apple Jolly Ranchers, which worked really well. 2 months was the peak for this beer, a well rounded malt/hop ale with the earthy fuggle hop balancing nicely with the Dark Crystal Malt.
  3. Dundalk Irish Heavy: A clone of a classic Irish Ale and another NB Q4 Limited Edition brew, no longer linked to on the NB site.  This kit was probably my least favorite. The Wyeast British Cask ale (a past limited edition yeast from Wyeast) provides a nice dry crisp flavour with the speciality grains giving the deep red brown colour and copper penny brown flavour. The ale was not overly hopped and appeared a little off balance.  The kit peaked at 2 months in the bottle.  Not a bad drop and we finished the whole batch but not something I will look to repeat.
  4. Brakspears Best Bitter: This was the Christmas keg session brew and a recipe we have made before. Originally a limited edition from NB based on the Wyeast limited edition Thames Valley II yeast sourced from the defunct Brakspears Brewery in Henley on Thames and now brewed under license by Marstons.  I took the recipe and made some changes to create the final recipe. I replaced the yeast with Wyeast Thames Valley and the result was a crystal clear accurate replica of the original Henley brew, my dads favorite beer.  It is hard to believe this ale is under 4.0% ABV. The recipe produces a clean, crisp with surprisingly complex malt and hop flavour for such a low ABV. Serves well from the keg and was finished during Christmas week :-)

The Brakspears and Imperial Mild were the clear winners this Christmas. We are still enjoying the #8 especially as the flavour profile continues to develop.  We were all a little tired of the heavy ales by the end of the season which probably accounts for the IPAs and session keg brews I have done since.  I also worked on a lighter seasonal brew, the Samuel Smiths Winter Welcome which came out a winner and we will review in the next post.

 

 

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16 March
1Comment

Homebrew is good for you

Was linking around this morning and saw a post linked to by Northern Brewer citing the health benefits of beer.  Thought I would share the love.  The picture in the article of a carboy with a blowout tube was funny too.

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14 March
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Back from break

Its been almost 10 months but I am on a break from work with the kids vacation and decided to get stuck in with the blog.

First a big thank you to all the readers of this tome. I am amazed at the feedback I still get from friends and strangers alike that have either tried a recipe or followed the getting started program.

The last 10 months have definitely been busy for me.  Most of the time has been taken at work and then family. But I did manage to find time to continue brewing and teaching people how to brew.  It is always fun to see a friend get the same enjoyment from brewing as I do and I love teaching.  Seeing the faces after they sample the first batch of their own brew is always the best.

So what about the brewing.  Here are the highlights:

  • Continued creating clones of famous beers
  • Started back with the Best Bitter recipes working on improvements
  • Have evolved from extract to a Partial Mash technique and have begun to create PM versions of my original extract recipes
  • Had a lot of fun brewing for Christmas 2010 including the creation of my version of Samuel Smiths Winter Welcome which was a hit and brewing up some old favorites
  • Researching the viability of creating my own online/retail homebrew store serving the South Shore of MA

Over the coming days I will dive into some of the topics listed including an inventory of the brews since may with some observations including a review of some Northern Brewer kits. I will go over so thoughts on Partial Mash technique, some more quick tips and a review of some of the updates I have made to some old recipes.

Nice to be back, hope its for a while.

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08 May
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Hyde Brewery Pictures

Back in March I wrote a quick all-grain recipe for a reader (and now regular email correspondent) for Hydes Original Ale.

It turned out not only was this reader (Drew) an avid brewer and Hydes fan he had actually toured the Brewery in Manchester England.

With kind permission Drew has allowed me to republish pictures from the brewery and shots taken of his last batch of all grain Hydes ESB.  If any other readers want to post Brewery pictures please send me the links and I would be happy to post.

Enjoy :-)

Brewery Tour

hydes1

Picture 1 of 10

All-Grain Hydes ESB

hydesesb

Picture 1 of 4

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03 May
3Comments

On Tap (May 3rd 2010)

Another week on the road and a weekend full of sunshine, chores and playing with the kids :-) . My eldest boy competed in a local Karate Tournament and managed to secure two second place trophies for weapons and forms :-)

So another weekend of no brewing, but I have a very full cellar right now so no risk of running dry.  The Guinness Export clone from NB arrived so very excited to get going.  Also have the Nut Brown ready to go.  So what else is On Tap?

Primary

  • Nothing in the primary, first time I have had nothing in Primary or Secondary (except for the long-term secondaries that is)

Secondary

  • Lord Fatbottom Ale (1 mth (p), 5 mths (s)) – About to begin the final month of its 6 months rest. Must remember to buy my bottling yeast and dry hop with a week to go.

Bottle/Keg Conditioning

  • Brakespears Bitter clone (1 wk (p) 1 wk (s), 1 day (k) ) – Using the Brakespears yeast currently available from Wyeast.  FG came in on the money as did the colour. Went straight into the keg and the sample was crystal clear and very drinkable. It is a very very good clone of the Henley classic.
  • Left Overs Old Ale (1 wk (p), 3 wks (s), 1 wk (b) ) – So my left over recipe (sort of modeled after a Fullers Vintage) appears to be going fine. I don’t know if I can wait a year to try one of these. Came out of the secondary still with the rich full mouthfeel, strong caramel with a hint of marmalade.  Week 2 of 4 week rest before we sample
  • 115th Dream Imperial IPA ( 2 wks (p) 1 mth 2 wks (s), 1 wk (b) ) – A rather extreme IPA, high in ABV and a whopping 120 IBUs with over a 1 lb of hops using a technique called Hop Bursting I covered a few weeks back. It came out of the primary a whopping 1015 FG, almost 83% attenuation from the mighty American Ale yeast and checking in at over 10% ABV. Week 2 of a 2 month rest. These cases are heading for the cellar when it arrives.

Drinking

  • Petite Saison d’Ete (1 wk (p) 2 wk (s), 2 wks (b) ) – A Belgium classic Saison from Northern Brewer. The ale came out really clear and tasted great, nice and spicy almost clove flavour from the Saison yeast. Great chilled and a nice early summer brew.
  • Old Speckled Hen clone ( 1 wk (p) 1 wk  (s), 1 mth 1 wk (b) ) – Came out great, see the review here.  I saved 3 bottles of this brew a few weeks back to test what a couple of extra weeks aging would do. I recommend laying this brew down for at least 5-6 weeks before drinking because the bottle I had last night tasted fantastic.
  • Olde Luddite English Strong Ale (1 wk(p) 3 wks (s), 1 mth, 2 wks (b) ) – A new Old Ale kit from Northern Brewer, thought I would add some Old Ale kits to my current Old’s and Browns series. This new ale from NB is a 5 star brew. Easily confused with a smooth session brew but don’t let it, it packs a massive ABV punch. Continues to age well.
  • Theakston Old Peculier Clone (1 wk(p) 3 wks(s) 1 mth 3 wks (b)) – My first pass at this classic old ale, FG finished in range along with the colour, that is all we can ask. Came out a 10/10 (see review) and promoted to the permanent recipes page.
  • Dogfish Head 90 min IPA clone (1 wk (p), 3 wks (s), 5 mths 3 wks (b) ) - Looking forward to cracking the 6 month bottle open
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02 May
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Malt: Part II – Measuring Diastatic Power

English Marris Otter

In the first post of the series on Malt we reviewed the different categories of malt and the enzymes that convert the starches into fermentable sugars.  In this post we will review how to measure the effectiveness of the conversion.  To do this we need to understand the “diastatic power” (DP) of malt. The DP measures the amount of diastase (another name for Alpha Amylase), enzyme present in the grain.  In general, the hotter a grain is kilned, the less its diastatic activity.

The DP of malt is measured in degrees Lintner (°Lintner or °L, which is the same symbol used for Lovibond, which measures colour).  JECFA, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, defines degrees Lintner as follows:

A malt has a diastatic power of 100 °L if 0.1 cc of a clear 5% infusion of the malt, acting on 100cc of a 2% starch solution at 20°C for one hour, produces sufficient reducing sugars to reduce completely 5cc of Fehling’s solution.

The calculation of °L for a type of grain is typically done by the manufacturer and not by the homebrewer. As a rule of thumb though the total grain bill of a mash should have a DP of at least 40 °L in order to guarantee efficient conversion of all the starches in the mash to sugars.

British Pale malts tend to be in the 35-40 °L range and therefor only have enough DP to convert its own starches and none of the Specialty Malts. This would explain the heavy use of Crystal Specialty Malt which has no enzymes and introduces only unfermentable sugars to the wort.  European Malts have a DP of 100 °L and American Malts range from 125 to 160 °L and are capable of converting both its own starches and that of other grains in the malt bill.  This explains why many American brews use specialty malts which contain starches but no enzymes, such as Brown and Chocolate Malt due to higher kilning temperatures. American 6-row malts have DP’s over 160 °L.

So when building an all grain recipe consider carefully the malt bill and the DP of the malt used. If you use Specialty Malts which contain starches and wish to convert them remember to us a base malt with a higher DP such as American 2 or 6-row,

Now we understand how malt converts starches to fermentable sugars we can move on to calculate how much malt we need to make a recipes target Specific Gravity.

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30 April
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Tips and Tricks: Kegging Tip

Pic of 78555I am due to keg my Brakespears clone this weekend and I am reminded of a tip I figured out a few months back. Now, the Brakespears has cleared really bright thanks to the Wyeast Special Thames Valley II Ales yeast but there always seems to be some trub left over that settles to the bottom of the keg. This trub can lead to cloudy kegged beer and annoying trub in the tap.

I have tried finings, longer periods in the secondary but the only tip I have found to really work is cutting an inch off the bottom of the out tube in the keg.  Works a charm.

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26 April
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On Tap (April 26th)

This weekend has been one of the busiest in a long time. We hosted what started off as a quiet dinner party with a friend but turned into a big affair with lots of adults and kids over enjoying a warm spring evening around the fire pit drinking homebrew, wine and some Fullers Pride brought over by a good friend.  Saturday was another warm spring New England day taken up catching up on garden chores so no brewing time. Saturday evening was spent at the local boat club for a surprise 40th.  Lots of fun again (and Happy Birthday P).

Sunday I finally got to the brewing. I moved the IPA and my own Left Over Ale into bottles (with the help of my younger son who has taken a fascination to the capper) and then moved the Brakespears into the secondary (it is so good, took me back to the river and Henley).  This was followed by a massive amount of sanitizing and cleaning the used carboys, airlocks, brewing bucket and tubes. It took the whole afternoon so no time left to actually brew a new batch.  Well I can save the new stuff for next week. I have the Nut Brown ready to go and a Guinness Export clone from NB.

Its going to be another busy week so I will try and get the Malt part II post out and some tips I have queued up.  But first whats On Tap?

Primary

  • Nothing in the primary, some stout and a Nut Brown on deck though

Secondary

  • Brakespears Bitter clone (1 wk (p) 1 day (s) ) – Using the Brakespears yeast currently available from Wyeast.  FG came in on the money as did the colour. Brew already crystal clear and very drinkable. It is a very very good clone of the Henley classic.  Refreshing session brew.
  • Lord Fatbottom Ale (1 mth (p), 4 mths 3 wks (s)) – Now 3 weeks into the final 1/3rd of its 6 months rest.

Bottle/Keg Conditioning

  • Left Overs Old Ale (1 wk (p), 3 wks (s), 1 day (b) ) – So my left over recipe (sort of modeled after a Fullers Vintage) appears to be going fine. I don’t know if I can wait a year to try one of these. Came out of the secondary still with the rich full mouthfeel, strong caramel with a hint of marmalade.  It has a long rest ahead of it but I will sample a bottle in 4 weeks.
  • 115th Dream Imperial IPA ( 2 wks (p) 1 mth 2 wks (s), 1 day (b) ) – A rather extreme IPA, high in ABV and a whopping 120 IBUs with over a 1 lb of hops using a technique called Hop Bursting I covered a few weeks back. It came out of the primary a whopping 1015 FG, almost 83% attenuation from the mighty American Ale yeast and checking in at over 10% ABV. This is going to need some time to settle down, really hoppy with a small bitter aftertaste.
  • Petite Saison d’Ete (1 wk (p) 2 wk (s), 1 wk (b) ) – This is a first for me. Thought I would try a Belgium classic with this Saison from Northern Brewer. As reported last week I had to delay bottling due to very active yeast.  It was worth the wait as the SG came down quite a bit. The ale is also really clear and tasted great, nice and spicy from the Saison yeast. Week 2 of its 2 week rest.

Drinking

  • Old Speckled Hen clone ( 1 wk (p) 1 wk  (s), 1 mth (b) ) – Came out great, see the review here.  This is a REALLY popular drink in the house right now and I predict it will be gone within the week.
  • Olde Luddite English Strong Ale (1 wk(p) 3 wks (s), 1 mth, 1 wk (b) ) – A new Old Ale kit from Northern Brewer, thought I would add some Old Ale kits to my current Old’s and Browns series. This new ale from NB is a 5 star brew. Easily confused with a smooth session brew but don’t let it, it packs a massive ABV punch. Continues to age well. Will definitely lay some down for a while.
  • Theakston Old Peculier Clone (1 wk(p) 3 wks(s) 1 mth 2 wks (b)) – My first pass at this classic old ale, FG came out in range along with the colour, that is all we can ask. Came out a 10/10 (see review) and promoted to the permanent recipes page.
  • Dogfish Head 90 min IPA clone (1 wk (p), 3 wks (s), 5 mths 2 wks (b) ) - Looking forward to cracking the 6 month bottle open
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