Category Archives: Uncategorized

Off topic, on beer

There has been a slow down in content the last two months. Hasn’t been a brew day for all of February or March! I’m going to address that over the next two months. To start with I have a beer related, but not homebrew, piece for you all.

Followers of We Make Homebrew will know that it has been Chas and I taking turns in writing up brew days, bottling days, reviews and other homebrew related pieces. Chas has been very busy with another site Brew In Review over the past six months. If you haven’t checked it out, then I recommend doing so. Especially now, as I’ve finally finished my piece on my conversion beer.

This piece is the story of how I came to becoming a bit of a beer lover, not just drinker. These pieces are about moving from someone who drinks beer, into someone who enjoys tasty (craft) beer.

I hope you like my piece. And check out the other Conversion Beer stories as well as a bunch of the other content.

-Mikey

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Happy Present Day 2014!

Wanted to wish a Merry Christmas for 2014 to all our followers. And for those who don’t celebrate Christmas, happy holiday season!

Wherever you are in the world we ask that you stay safe, have a great time and raise a glass of home brew. Cheers!

-Mikey & Chas

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Gift of the Dad, the clean

I mentioned last week about some home brew equipment I got from my dad. A pretty good hall of equipment, some ingredients and some print stuff. The equipment was filthy.

The whole lot had been stored in the cellar. It’s really dusty down there. Over the years dust had built up, and caked on. Plus, it looked like there was sediment from the last wine made. And that was many years ago. This was going to be a tough cleaning job.

Lucky a few weeks ago I picked up some Oxyper. It’s a strong cleaning agent. My mate Michael had recommended it to me as an alternative to PBW, a more well known powerful cleaning agent. Both are good for removing gunk and stuff from your brew equipment even when you let stuff dry on, everyone does it at some point.

Clean equipment

Clean carboys, tubes and airlocks with rubber bungs.

Given the size of the carboys and amount of build up I wanted to soak as much as possible. That meant filling the laundry trough with 20 litres of water and 14 teaspoons of Oxyper. This wasn’t done one, or twice, but three times! The new bottling brushes came in quite handy. I was surprised with how much crud came out of the equipment. And, I was just as impressed on how clean I could get this stuff. There’s no proper ‘before’ shot to compare to the clean carboys.

The airlocks only had build-up on the rubber bung. Didn’t try to get the airlocks out of the bungs as I’m not sure how old it all really is. Plus I don’t want to break anything.

The tubing was tricky. Tried a mixture of soaking and running water through. The two wider tubes were by far the dirtier ones. It all appears to have come up well. One exception is a dark mark in one tube which I can’t seam to be able to remove. I’m going to assume it’s fine. If it hasn’t come out yet it shouldn’t when I brew.

And that’s a nice lead into the brewing I’ll be doing. But, that’s for another day.

-Mikey

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Gift of the Dad, the find

A couple Sundays ago went to visited my dad and step Mum. They’re going to moving out of their place and are slowly cleaning out things. Was looking through some old stuff and found was some old wine making equipment.

I knew my dad had made wine in the past. I didn’t realise how much equipment he had. And until then I hadn’t joined the dots to realise that I could use this stuff for making beer. As I lifted each piece out of the cellar it dawned on me that this was going to be really helpful.

Jars of ingredients stuff

Jars of some Some really old ingredients stuff

All up the equipment totalled:

  • Eight x 1 gallon (UK) glass carboy/bottles
  • Four x 2 litre glass bottles
  • Ten ‘Senior’ airlocks with rubber bungs
  • Two spare rubber bungs
  • Three different lengths and size of tubing
  • Test jar/flask
  • Hydrometer
  • Hand Corker
  • Bunch of corks
  • Wine filters
  • Three different sized bottle brushes
Ingredients stuff

Some really old ingredients stuff, some known and some not

On top of the equipment there was some ingredients and stuff:

  • Jar of nutrient salts
  • Jar of sodium metabisulphite
  • Jar of Pectinase (No.5)
  • Jar of white stuff, no idea
  • 30+ Campden tablets
  • Tannic acid
  • Small bag of something without a label. Looks like sand.
  • Bag of more nutrient salts
  • Bad of more Pectinase.

Not sure how much use I’ll get out if the ingredient stuff. The sodium metabisulphite [edit: this is a non-rinse sterilising and only part of Campden tablets]. Campden tablets are help control fermentation and a few other things. Might give it a go. The nutrient salts might be ok. Will have to test them. Pectinase is for getting more flavour and cleaning wine, unlikely that I’ll need that. Tannic acid is for clearing and flavour enhancement. Might need to try that. Rest, got no idea what they are and will probably go in the bin.

Range of print stuff

Range of print stuff, plenty of wine and brewing things

The last part of the stash is a whole bunch of print. Some of it is home brewing catalogs. Some of it is single sheets of instructions on something about brewing. Some of it is recipes for home brew wine. And the one big piece is a book on home brewing wine, photocopied and bound.

What will come of all this? Firstly a whole lot of cleaning! The carboys and bottles have a whole bunch of caked on dirt. The tubes have stuff through them. The airlocks have sediment and dust. Plenty to clean.

Once all cleaned I’ll give an update.

If you’ve got any advice on this stuff it would be great if you want to comment below.

-Mikey

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Alive and brewing, just

Hi. You’re probably wondering why there hasn’t been a post for over two weeks. No, we’re not dead. No, we haven’t stopped brewing. But things have totally slowed down. It’s the heat.

Summer in Melbourne has been a real stinker the last 8 weeks or so. Plenty of days above 32°C. Chas had a little trouble controlling temperature with the second Red Dog Pale Ale. Beer turned out good, review up soon. Chas keeps everything inside and that means when he cools his place the beer stays cool. At my pace I’ve got the brew shed, AKA the garage. No air-con, no fan, not even an ice pack. No cooling means no brewing. I’m not going to leave another brew ferment at high temperatures, or worse kill the yeast.

I’ve been thinking about some work around solutions. Might try something if it’s going to look like we’ll have a whole week under 25°C. Good news is we’re going to have four days in a row under 25°C. Bad news is it might be another month before we’re consistently under that. I’m also looking at a long term solution. I need to get my act into gear and get rid of some stuff first.

Michael's mash tun

Michael’s mash tun with recirculation draining out the wort

As I’m not brewing I’ve gone to visit some others who are. Three weeks ago, on Australia Day, I went and visited my friend Michael. He’s a super keen brewer and looking to make it pro. He has gone all grain brewing and has plenty of equipment. You can read about his brewing journey on his blog twistnstout. The day I visited he was brewing his Triple. Was great introduction to what all grain brewing is like. I wasn’t able to stay the whole day but did get to check out a lot of the gear. Man, he has heaps of cool stuff. Things like counter-flow chillier, pump for his mash tun and a brew fridge for fermenting & conditioning beer! We haven’t talked about all grain brewing much, so a few of those things probably look like made up words. Might update some of the sections here so we can talk about that stuff more. Anyway, good day.

Michael's pump for recirculation

Michael’s electric pump to do the recirculation. Next to the mash tun.

Just over a week ago I went and visited Justin, Carnie Brew, and his mates for a brew day. They had four sets of equipment and were doing four brew-in-a-bag all grain brews when I got there! Then they did a fifth! Four big, and I mean really big, pot/kettles/urns all heating the grain made for a very hot room. It was a long day as they started at 9am and the last brew wasn’t done until about 5pm. Very interesting that they all did no-chill. It’s where you put the hot wort in a vessel, squeeze out the air and leave to chill over a few days before starting fermentation. Was a lot of fun hanging out. Was a bit of a contrast to the all grain brewing at Michael’s place only two weeks before. And, good comparison to the brew-in-a-bag all grain brews with Chas.

Michael's boil pot

Big pot for boiling the wort. Note that there’s a tap for easy draining.

When will I brew again? Hopefully soon. Have a few things I’m keen to try. Some more pale ale trials, a super stout and my first all grain brew are on the cards. Until then there’s a few write ups to be done, including one that’s well overdue.

-Mikey

 

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Matt’s Pumpkin Ale – review

So it’s a new year and it’s time to get brewing again, and reviewing some new brews.  My mate Matt made a pumpkin ale awhile ago and gave me one to try.

Matt gave me the beer well before Christmas and told me I wasn’t to drink it until after the New Year, this was tough at first but then I forgot that it was in the cupboard conditioning.  I remembered it a couple days ago and put it in the fridge and forgot about it again!  Then I remembered it today while at work and dreamed about tasting this beer for the rest of the day.  I was not let down.

I was a bit worried at first because there was very little carbonation and no head when I poured it.  I had trouble at first getting any real aroma…

After giving the beer a minute to breath, the scent really came through though.  The beer was sweet and fruity with quite a bit of apple; it almost smelled like a cider.  I had to look hard but I found a little bit of pumpkin in there too.  The smell of the beer was very crisp.

This crispness continued in the first sip.  For an ale this was a very crisp beer, it was almost like a lager in its crispness.  That being said there was still a lot of body in the beer and it was surprisingly thick and full.

In the flavour, I still had trouble finding finding pumpkin but the fruit flavours continued, especially the apple.  The beer was quite sweet and this interacted well with the hops.  The bitterness had a long feel to it and sat nicely at the back of the mouth while I was sipping the beer.  The sweetness would come through while the bitterness just sat there to counteract it.  Because of this the beer was really pushing towards feeling like a pilsner rather than an ale, but the body gave it away.

The overall hoppyness was great and quite big, which is only to be expected from someone like Matt: he loves his hops.  It was very well balanced between outright bitter and fruitier flavours.  Hints of floral were in there as well.  Matt really selected his hops well and I think he’s got a talent for it.  The hops seemed very intentional and well thought out.

I think this beer would be very sessionable, even though it is fairly heavy and surprisingly bitter after knocking back a bottle.  I was also amazed at how refreshing it was; I think this was due to the beer being just bitter enough to have a bit of a zing but not being overpowering.  Given the style, I was quite surprised.

The only criticism I have is that the sweetness could be dialed back a little bit.  Perhaps the pumpkin contributed to the sweetness, but unfortunately I couldn’t find much pumpkin.  Maybe if the pumpkin was prepared a different way it would make all the difference.

I’d like to try this beer with pork belly and apple sauce.  It would go well with any heavier white meat really, or a gamey white meat as well.  But pork would be optimal!

-Chas

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Happy Brew Year!

Hi all, welcome to 2014!

We Make Home Brew isn’t quite a year old yet, but we still managed to do quite a bit in 2013, and we’re very happy to have shared it all here.

If I’ve been counting correctly, we did about 30 brews this year, which is a pretty good effort.  We ranged in styles from lagers, to ales, to ciders; making a few mistakes and making some very good beer as well.  We also saw the invention of the Home Brew Couch and the Brew Cave (AKA Mikey’s garage).  Of course, we also drank quite a lot of home brew along the way.  Drinking home brew while making home brew is part of the rules after all…

Thanks for stopping by, we look forward to making even more beer in 2014!

-Chas and Mikey

Happy present day!

Wanted to say Merry Christmas to all our followers. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then happy holidays!

Hope you area all safe and having a great time wherever you are. And we invite you to raise a glass of home brew, Cheers!

-Mikey & Chas

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When is it cheating?

Hi all!

Yes, I haven’t written anything in awhile.  Since the fifth of November to be precise.  Don’t worry, Mikey has had stern words to me.  I haven’t done a brew in a few weeks either!  Once again, Mikey has had stern words to me.

Since I haven’t brewed in awhile, I figured I’d share some thoughts.  This comes from a conversation Mikey and I had a few weeks ago.

With a variety of brewing methods available: extract, steeped grains, mini-mash, all grain, and combinations there of; when is it cheating?  At what point can you no longer say “I made this beer”?

Purists will probably say all grain is the only way to go.  If you’re not mashing the grains yourself, and therefore not making your own malt, you’re not actually making your own beer.  I’m sure there are even those who say one must even mill their own grain!  But then you should also be growing your own grain and therefore your own hops… you should have your own lab to culture your own yeast.  Where does it end?

However, the steeped grain process offers a great opportunity to experiment with the flavours from various (unmalted) specialty grains.  All this process is doing is freeing the brewer from the “burden” of mashing their own grains.  And mashing isn’t terribly difficult; while it’s possible to “get it wrong” or do it well/badly, it’s actually a simple process.  So, at the risk of being extremely controversial, it’s not the be all and end all of home brewing.

Even with extract brewing, the brewer has the opportunity to add their own hops for extra flavours.  Either the brewer is inexperienced and still experimenting, wants something simple for whatever (completely valid) reason, or that’s simply the brew they want to do.

So I guess the real question is: is extract brewing cheating?  Is the idea of a kit and kilo a little too easy?  The process is extremely simple: dump some pre-made stuff in a bucket, add water, and you’re done.  Ignoring the fact that this is a great way for people to learn the basics and realise the importance of sanitising, it is a bit like ready to eat cake mix.  If you just add water and stick it in the over, can you still say you baked a cake?

Well… ultimately who cares?  For a hobbyist, it really just matters that you’re enjoying yourself.  Home brewing is a great hobby not only because it’s excessively fun, but you also get a great product at the end that you can share with your friends.  And friends always enjoy sharing beer with each other.

I was at a mate’s party a few weeks back and he asked me to bring some home brew.  He didn’t give me enough time to make a batch just for the party so I just brought what I had on hand: and extract brew.  Everyone loved it!  Of course I said it was an extract brew – I wasn’t going to take credit for a brilliant all grain – but people were still interested in it and interested in the process.  I enjoyed making that beer and I enjoyed drinking it with friends.

So really, it’s never cheating.  Do what you enjoy!

-Chas

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Cross promotion, check it out!

A while ago I had a  series of posts about my Journey to Home Brew. In the second post I mentioned about how I did 366 Days Of Home Brew. I also mentioned about how my mate Ian has his website.

Well now I can finally reveal that I’ve got all 366 beers up. Check out my site Beer With Mikey. The site will have a lot of my beer reviews on there. I recommend reading the introduction. And for those who don’t have the time to go though all the beers, or the monthly summaries, you can jump straight to the final summary which includes the top beers.

The 366 Days Of Beer is just the start. There’s another 61 beers that were had, as there were more beers than days.  Next up I’ll be putting up the beers from the Singapore Craft Beer Week 2012. Then there will be beers from the Ballarat Beer Festival 2013. There’s a lot from that one day. Also from this year is Good Beer Week 2013 and, if I have all the info, I’ll put up the reviews for the Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular 2013.

It will keep me busy. I hope you enjoy it. And, don’t worry, I’ll still be brewing beer and posting stuff here with Chas.

-Mikey

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