Category Archives: Home brew kits

Bottling day, and not much more

Mildly Dark #1

Mildly Dark #1 in bottles

Saturday was going to be a full brew day. Due to a few different reasons the brew didn’t go ahead. Ended up being just a bottling day.

Ian was going to join, but was heading out of town. Chas got back, but still has a lot of things to sort out. And I was sick last week, so didn’t have much energy to do a brew by myself. That’s also why there wasn’t a new 101 last week. This week we should be back on track.

Ended up taking me three hours. Was a slow sort of arvo, sanitising bottles in two batches. Two slabs of stubbies and an extra 12 mixed. Total of 60. Lucky ‘cos those were my last bottles. Every single one now full of beer. Probably a good thing I didn’t do a 23L brew like planned.

Final gravity reading came in at 1.024. That means after bottling it should sit at 4.7% ABV. Not as high as I was pushing for the last few beers. That said I’m happy with this as the Mild style isn’t meant to be that strong. Flavour wise it was a mix. I was hoping that it could be enjoyed as a young beer, as the style is suppose to be. My gut feeling is that this would take more than two weeks. That’s likely due to the dark malt that was added.

On a side note, tried out a bottle of the Baltic Porter #1 last week. Given it was less than two weeks in the bottle I was impressed. Should be quite a good drop.

-Mikey

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Brewing alone, and making a mess

Chas is still overseas, and will be for a couple more weeks. So this week’s brew, and next one in two weeks time, will be sans Chas. Next brew I hope to be joined by Ian, but this week it was just by my lonesome.

Like any normal brew day first thing is to bottle the last batch. So, most if the 10 litres of Baltic Porter #1 made it’s way into bottles. I say most because, (1) there was a gravity reading sample to be taken, and (2) there was an accident. The little thing that regulates the flow of beer (aka the bottling valve) fell off into one if the bottles as I was filling it. I freaked out a bit, thinking to get as much as possible into bottles before remembering there was a tap! Once things were under control again I reattached the bottling valve and had no more problems. Needless to say I’ve got some bottles that I’m not sure how they’ll condition, and they all marked with a question mark.

Final gravity came in at 1.021. That means after bottle fermentation it will sit at 7.2%. I’m very happy with that.

Mildly Dark #1

The Mildly Dark #1 sitting in the fermenter.

As this was a solo affair, had a sizeable break before brewing.
Back a few weeks ago when I picked up the ingredients for the Baltic Porter #1 there were a couple other things I picked up as they were on special. The main thing was the Mangrove Jack’s Mild kit. It’s a liquid malt extract and known for having some decent quality.
I also picked up some “factory second” dry malt. It was recommended to boil up the stuff for use. I just threw it into boiled water, and had a little problem getting it to dissolve.
Finally, had a can of dark liquid malt extract that I bought by mistake earlier on.

All up this was a kit with a lot of malt additions, both dry and liquid. Given the mistakes of the Australian Pale Ale #1 and Australian Amber Ale #1, I’m feeling a lot better about this brew. Given the extra dark malt I’ve dubbed this beer Mildly Dark #1.

Ingredients:

  • Mangrove Jack’s Mild kit
  • 500g “factory second” DME
  • 1.5kg Black Rock LME

Gravity ended at 1.056. Happy with that. If it ferments down to around 1.020 then the final ABV will come in around 5%, and that’s something to look forward to.

-Mikey

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Dead Guy Dark Ale – Review

As the first darker beer that wasn’t a BrewSmith kit and the first 23 litre batch that wasn’t a lager, there was a lot riding on this being a success. I think we can say the Dead Guy Dark Ale met the challenge.

Dead Guy Dark Ale

Dead Guy Dark Ale in glasses

This is a dark ale. Not a brown and not a porter. It’s important to make the distinction because they are trying to do different things. Dark ales are generally the area between Brown Ales and Porters. Not as sweet/nutty/spicy as brown and lighter than a porter.

Up front there’s a dark sweetness aroma. Sort of like a caramelised sugar smell. It’s saying “hey, I’m pretty tasty so come and try”.
Lots of dark malt flavours. Not a huge body or overwhelming. There’s a slight sweetness across the beer which works well. Bit of smoke and darkness up front. The dark malt builds in the middle and then lasts quite a bit. Really enjoy this.

Would be matched with any meal that would be defined as “hearty”. Meat pie, beef casserole, thick spaghetti Bolognese, lamb roast, jacket potato, …you get the idea.

Because this is lighter than a porter it’s easy to drink. Works well as a food beer or to knock back at a party.

-Mikey

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New Brew for New Financial Year, Happy Brew Financial Year!

Yeah, I know that’s a bit of a crap name for a post. I did want to do something witty, didn’t quite get there. Plus, the other options were pretty bad.

Black Rock Miners Stout

Black Rock Miners Stout can and fermenter

As Chas mentioned yesterday it was a busy weekend. Last if the lager was bottled. Then 5 litres of the Newcastle Brown Ale went into storage while the other 17 litres went into bottles.

There were tastings of a whole range of brews. Cider, dark ale, lager and porter. Reviews will be slowly going up over the next week out so. And then there was a brew.

I wanted to make something simple and easy. And I wanted another dark beer. When I picked up the kit for Newcastle Brown Ale I also grabbed a can of Black Rock Miners Stout. Picked up some “stout booster” as well. On some good advice I also grabbed a pack of Windsor Ale Yeast to replace the kit yeast.

Yep, some would say it’s a step backwards in home brew. But when you are running low on time, or just can’t be stuffed, a can kit does fine.

First there was the can as the base. The “stout booster” was a kilo mix of dry dark malt extract, light malt extract, and maybe dextrose. And lastly threw in the 900 grams of Dextrose, which was left over from the original Heritage Lager kit.

  • Black Rock Miners Stout – 1.7kg
  • Brew Blend Stout Booster #25 – 1kg
  • Dextrose – 900g
  • Danstar Windsor Ale Yeast – 11g

Had a lot of trouble with heat on this one. Didn’t really pay attention to how much boiling water went in at the start. As a result, even after for trays of ice, we had to leave the wort cool for half an hour before pitching the yeast. The lid, with airlock, was put on to prevent infection. Overall it was a real pain in the arse. There is a good lesson in there about temperature control.

Final gravity was 1.045. I was hoping for more. That’s three brews in a row where final gravity was less than what I wanted. If I had thought about it, I would of thrown in all the rest if the sugar in the house into the wort. Probably for the best I didn’t think of that at the time. Next brew will have a lot more dry and/or liquid malt extract. Or, maybe just a lot of grain. Hrmm, there’s a thought…

The wort was more bitter than expected. But I’m pretty sure this one will be a nice, somewhat basic and somewhat light, stout.

-Mikey

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Blondes and Browns, big brew day

Sunday was another brew day at my place and it was big, in many ways.

Newcastle Brown Ale

Newcastle Brown Ale ingredient list and instructions

First up was a trip for supplies from Australian Home Brewing, aka Liquorcraft, aka Brewcraft, aka something-something. We have done a fair few porters lately. They are pretty awesome and good over the colder months, but time for something else for the cold. An English brown ale was what I wanted. Ended up with a Newcastle Brown Ale kit, plus a basic stout kit for another day.

Then back in the Mikey mobile (aka ‘car’) and back to brew headquarters (aka ‘home’) for brew day.

First order of business. Bottle the lager. Final gravity was 1.012 which means the beer will only be 3.8% alcohol, after bottle conditioning. That’s a fair bit lower than what I was going for. Rather than just a cup of dextrose we should if put in half a kilo. That aside, the sample we took was quite promising. Should be a good session beer.

We have been having some over carbonation in a couple of my beers. Nothing horrid, but the IPA and coffee porter (only a couple sample bottles) have overflowed when opened if shaken even slightly. I’ve been using caster sugar for priming and a few people have suggested this might be the reason. That said there’s not a lot of info on the internet about different types of cane sugar. To test this I primed some bottles of the lager with caster sugar and others with carbonation drops. Had a mix of different bottle sizes as well.

After bottling the lager it was time to start brewing. Cracked open one of the Summer Citrus Blonde Ales and got stuck into it. Chas is going to get a review up soon, so I’ll leave it to him.

The brown ale was a mixed kit. There was chocolate malt (200g), a can of light liquid malt, a can of Nut Brown Ale, some Fuggles Hops, and Safale S-04 yeast.
The malt was left to steep for about 45 mins rather than the 20-30 recommended. Mainly because we were trying to do to much at once.

Chas got the liquid light malt in a pot and brought it to the hot break. And I cleaned the fermenter. Hops were added with the steeped grains. The recipe said an optional 400 grams of brown sugar could be added. Only had 300, but it went in. I finally finished cleaning the fermenter just in time for the fresh wort to go in. Last was the can of Nut Brown Ale. Like the lager, we found the liquid a bit to hot. Was a lot more manageable this time round. Finally, yeast went on and airlock.

  • Black Rock Nut Brown Ale – 1.7kg
  • Black Rock Light Liquid Malt – 1.5kg
  • Crushed Chocolate Malt – 200g
  • Soft Brown Sugar – 300g
  • Fuggles Hops pellets – 15g
  • Safale S-04 yest – 11.5g

Have to say that this was a bit of a hectic brew day. Started late and had a huge amount to do. Tried to do too many things at once. Even spilt some of the strained hops back into the fermenter. Luckily it wasn’t much.

The wort smelt great. Gravity reading was only 1.045 which is a bit below what I would expect for the style. Hopefully this yeast brings the final reading right down. Anything less than 4.5% and I’m going to be disappointed. So, a final gravity from about 1.012 or lower will be good.

-Mikey

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Moving, from small to big

Back when I started looking into home brewing I didn’t know where to start. In my first post I talked about the two types of beer kits I got. I started with the smaller, and slightly more complex kit from Brew Smith. The beer was good, really good. So I stuck with it and made a few more.

Finally time came to do the other kit. The bigger kit. The simpler kit. And I’m worried about the quality. Chas picked up exactly the same kit and the lager turned out rougher than I would have liked.

To try and make sure my version turns out a bit better I decided to replace the dextrose with some liquid malt. Got some advice at Aussie Home Brewers and picked up some Light Pilsner Malt Extract.

The brew was done on Sunday the 2nd and went pretty smoothly. A little too much heat, which wasn’t a huge problem as I really wanted a good original gravity and had to play around a bit. The gravity reading wasn’t exactly where I wanted it, so a cup (75 grams) of dextrose was thrown in at the end.

First few days the beer has been fermenting away as expected. Has slowed down the last 4-5 days and plan to bottle this weekend.

-Mikey

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Dark Dead Guy Ale

Well…

It has been an exciting week!  It was Good Beer Week, which meant lots of great stuff to try around Melbourne.  I’m not quite as hard core as Mikey, but I still managed to get more than a few brews under my belt.  Although this site is technically home brew related, if we get lucky Mikey may talk about Good Beer Week.  We’ll see!

However, I still managed to make some home brew: Dark Dead Guy Ale from Australian Home Brewing.

This kit was pretty cruisy, but quite fun.  It called for a 30 minute boil of some hops and then just mixing that in with a kit can and some malt into a 30 litre fermenter.

The Hops

The kit included two hop varieties: Perle hops (alpha 6%-10%) and Saaz Hops (3%-4.5%).

Now, I’ve still got A LOT to learn about hops, but it was great to be able to smell the difference.  I’ve included the alpha acid levels above mostly so that when I do learn more about hops, I’ll have a reference!

The Perle was the taste hops, and about 14 grams of that was thrown in for the 30 minutes.  Much to my housemate’s displeasure, this filled the house with the lovely smell of hops.  Perle has a great spiciness about it, and it was a pleasure to stand over the stove breathing in it.

At the 25 minute mark, I threw in anotheLast five minutes of the boil - all hops added!r 14 grams of the Perle as well as 10 grams of the Saaz.  These late additions were for aroma.

Last five minutes of the boil – all hops added!

It was amazing how the Saaz changed up the smell entirely.  I found that although I found the Perle a bit spicy, it had a lot more bitter to it in smell.  The Saaz, on the other hand, was much spicier, and less bitter than the Perle.

They had their own complexities too, and now, upon writing this, I realise I should have taken some notes… Anyway, it was very interesting how the aroma changed quite abruptly upon adding the Saaz.

Following that was steeping for 20 minutes.

The Rest of It

While all that was going on, the contents of the two cans went into my (sanitised) fermenter and were stirred together with some water.

The rest of this is child’s play.  Pour the hops through a strainer, top up to 21 litres, getting the temperature into the 18-24 degrees C range, take a gravity reading, then pitch your yeast.

For those who are curious, the yeast that was supplied with the kit was a BRY97 American Westcoast Ale Yeast.  No surprises that I used an ale yeast to make an ale…

20130526_155852The original specific gravity was 1.040, so, as with the last big batch, we should get something between 4.5%-5% after bottling.  Maybe something a bit higher.  Although the OSG is a little higher than the lager, I don’t expect to get as low an FSG as I did with the lager since this one is generally just a thicker beer… we’ll see.

The wort was a little interesting in taste.  The hops was quite bold, and, I have to say, a little confronting.  Not confronting in “oh wow, that just opened my eyes to a new world,” no, it was confronting in a “oh wow, that hobo isn’t wearing any pants” kind of way.  Maybe not that bad…  I think it will settle down in the fermenter.  Then I want to give it at least a month in the bottle.

Finally, I was a bit worried at first because things didn’t start bubbling for quite a while.  I gave the fermenter a squeeze and things were definitely sealed up, so I was a bit concerned.  To my pleasure when I got home from work today, it was going nuts!  Probably the most energy I’ve seen in an airlock since I’ve started.

This is an excitable brew…

-Chas

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Thomas Coopers Heritage Lager – Review

TCS Heritage Lager 1

Thomas Coopers Selection Heritage Lager 1

Just over a month ago we did Chas’s first brew. It was a full 23L batch of Thomas Coopers Selection Heritage Lager.

Fermentation was only eight days, a fair bit quicker than the ones in the carboys. That’s more to do with the ability to be able to take samples easy and do gravity readings. While the brew is in the carboys you just need to wait long enough to be sure.

Original gravity was 1.038 and final gravity was 1.006. So that should be 4.2% which is a bit on the lighter side for a lager. That said I don’t think it made much of a difference.

So how was this first lager? Okay is the short answer. Not necessarily a good lager as it was just the hop malt can and a heap of dextrose.

There’s some alright aroma. But overall it’s a bit rough and ordinary. Some good flavours but no real body. Gets dry at the middle that keeps getting stronger, which isn’t great. Bitterness builds but it’s nothing special. A pretty basic but drinkable beer.

BUT, then we allowed the beer to condition for another week. That made a noticeable improvement. The whole lot started working better. Hop flavour wasn’t as harsh, malt felt more a part of the beer than on the side, and some of that roughness dropped away.

By no means did this go from okay to great, but more from okay to nice. And that’s really all we wanted from the first big batch beer.

Updated 29 May 2013: Added in the photo and the gravity readings.

-Mikey

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I like coffee and beer, lets do this!

Choc coffee porter

Choc coffee porter

Since the first brew I did back in January this year I’ve been thinking about changes to the recipes of the kits. The most appealing was to have a coffee porter. That dream has come true.

The base is the Brew Smith Chocolate Paradise Porter. But there is a fair amount of coffee in it. So, I’ve dubbed the beer “Chocolate Paradise OMG The Coffee!! Porter”.

We made this on Sunday 28 April. As a result I can’t remember exact details on where we did the following steps. Hopefully Chas can clear up a few points.

Even without changing the porter base, a change was made. For the grain pot we used a grain bag. This meant no grain all over the place when adding in or pouring into the carboy. Plus it meant we could squeeze the liquid out of the grain a lot better. And get more of the flavour into the beer.

While the wort was bubbling away, after the hot break, coffee was added. I used my 8 cup percolator to brew the coffee. Was a mix of coffee grains, so don’t ask what coffee. Given this is a small batch of beer, that’s a lot of coffee.

While wanting to make a coffee porter I also wanted to up the alcohol. So a full cup of soft brown sugar was also thrown into the mix. That was about 100 or 150 grams of sugar. Will confirm later.

So, added coffee and added sugar. Petty bold. Because we had the grain bag we might have not used the mesh sieve when pouring the wort into the carboy. That means we forgot to remove the hops. Hopeful Chas remembers if we did or not. If not, this might be a very hoppy, and cloudy, beer.

The brew sat fermenting for two weeks at about 22 degrees Celsius. That’s probably too warm for this type of ale. But I’m pretty sure the fermentation process was done.

Gravity reading was a high 1.080 for original and dropped to a final reading of 1.020 when bottled, on Saturday 11 May.

The sample we took at bottling was very rich in coffee flavour. Plus the typical dark sweetness of the brown sugar was there. This beer is going to get a minimum of four weeks conditioning, some maybe twice as long. That should allow the porter to really come back up while the coffee mellows out.

I’m hoping the brown sugar fully fermented in the carboy. I really don’t want any exploding bottles. Time will tell if this is a success or not.

A malt explosion!

So I ordered a home brew kit from Australian Home Brewing.  I love ordering stuff online.  I don’t get much mail apart from bills, so it’s great to come home to a package on the doorstep; this is even better when the package contains home brew supplies!

Anyway, with much excitement, I opened my package, and, to my horror, found that the liquid malt container had broken in transit!  There was malt everywhere throughout the box, a total sticky mess.

Liquid malt everywhere!

Thankfully malt cleans up pretty easily with hot water (there’s a tip), so the other contents cleaned up pretty well. Unfortunately much of the malt extract was lost.

These things happen I suppose, but of course it’s disappointing to open a fresh box of home brew supplies to find your malt all over the place, and the rest of your ingredients all sticky.  When I moved it, some of the extract managed to drip through the box as well, getting malt throughout the house.  The dogs were quite pleased with this and helped with the clean up though.

Well, I sent a quick email off to Australian Home Brewing and they sent me a replacement malt right away.  They also threw in some liquor mix for the trouble, which was extra nice of them.  I would have been happy with just a replacement malt extract!

To make things even better, I managed to recover a little bit of the malt, probably just enough to throw into a small experimental batch in my 5 litre carboy.  It’s not enough for a full 23 litre batch, but enough to play with.

Moral of the story? When God gives you ruptured malt packages, make beer out of it!

Oh, and course the replacement was mailed to me as well, so I had the pleasure of coming home to another package.

– Chas

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