Sneaky Milky Cider 1-3 – Review

After only a week in the bottles, on Saturday 18th it was time to open the Sneaky Milky Ciders. There were three versions and from the bottling I was pretty sure that number three would be a winner for the sweet tooth drinker. I wasn’t wrong. There wasn’t a huge amount of the cider brewed, but still plenty left over afterwards.

I’ve put all three cider tastings into one review. They deserve to be rated aginst each other. The idea was to make a sweet tasting and very easy to make cider. So, without any more delay lets get into it.

 

Sneaky Milky Cider 1-3

Sneaky Milky Cider 1 to 3 for review

Sneaky Milky Cider #1

Has a clear ‘Granny Smith’ apple aroma. It’s apple-y but also slightly sour.

Light fruit and sweetness in the start and some sour comes in. Quite refreshing at first.

Fills out with slightly more creaminess. Then moving to be more apple flavour before settling back into a Granny Smith apple flavour of slight sourness. Finishes with a dry and hint of tart taste.

Overall I’d classify this one as a dry cider.

 

Sneaky Milky Cider #2

Has more of a nondescript apple aroma. It’s slightly sweet  but nothing much either way.

First very light flavours. Hints of apple and sweet. Then the apple sweetness picks up. It becomes a bit like a fake sweet apple flavour you find in lollies. Verging on sickly sweet and still not quite tasting like real apple.

There is some slight filling out of the cider. But not much, leaving an empty feeling to it. Ends sweet, but also very dry. My mouth is confused. The front says sweet and the back of my mouth is desperate for water.

Along the way there is plenty of sweetness. Once that’s gone there isn’t much too this. This makes you want to drink some more, just to have something. But that’s where the real problem lies. At 7.2% this is going to mess you up, quickly.

 

Sneaky Milky Cider #3

A much sweeter aroma than the other two.

Starts as a soft light sweet apple taste. Then a full apple flavour builds. More sweetness and the apple flavour stays with you right to the end. Feels like there’s some good body to this.

Really enjoyable, at least compared to the other two. Plenty of flavour and easy to drink the whole way though. Overall I’d classify this as a sweet cider. Sweet tasting and sweet brewing.

 

 Verdict

The winner is clearly number three. Is it the yeast flavours? Or is it that the yeast didn’t eat through all the sugars? Does it matter? Not really. But I think it’s more to do with the former, rather than the latter. Will more be made? Absolutely. Next time I’ll take the lactose up a level and see what happens.

 

-Mikey

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Home Brewers R&D Vic Secret – Review

Quite a few moons ago I finally did my first all grain brew, Home Brewers R&D Vic Secret. It was an interesting process and at the end I had some beer. I’ve tried it and shared it with a few people. This review will try to do capture all that feedback, not just my take.

Firstly let me be clear, something went wrong with this beer. Not sure exactly what and most likely it was a number if things. Process is probably the main culprit, maybe water too.

R&D Vic Secret

R&D Vic Secret ready for tasting

This beer was part of a group of beers. An attempt with some other home brewers to all make the same beer but with different hops. The other two guys have been making all grain beers for a while and their beers turned out good. What is important is that the recipe was fine. My brew was a smaller batch due to equipment. Keeping ratios right wasn’t an issue as calculations weren’t left up to me. All I needed to do was get the grain, hops, yeast and follow the instructions.

I got a bitter and dry beer. When I say bitter, I mean chemical and tart. Not good. The aroma is nice. You can smell the passionfruit and pineapple, a nice sort of fruit hint. That sort of comes out when you taste it. Then the bitterness kicks in and takes over.

This is a quite clear beer as brewbrite was added. It’s a lot clearer than every other beer I’ve made. Will be using this for a lot more brews in the future.

The body here is nice enough. Clearly being an all grain makes this better than quite a few of my extract beers. It has a nice mouth filling element as well. Alcohol is lower than it should have been, coming in at only 3.4%. That’s because there wasn’t enough maltose converted from the grain.

Overall this is a hard beer to enjoy. The bitterness is too much. If it was half as bitter it would be about right. As a result I’ve been mixing this with the Super Stout (which was also a bit stuffed). Next time there will be a lot more care in making an all grain.

-Mikey

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Milk Stout – Review

You might remember I made a Super Stout back in May this year. Well, Chas made one about a month after that. We don’t have a write up on it, but I can tell you that he added lactose and didn’t oxygenate it (like I did). As there was a lot of lactose added he called it Milk Stout. This was a birthday present and by all accounts went down well.

Milk Stout

Milk Stout ready for drinking

Like the review Chas did of my Super Stout, this comes out nice and black. There’s not much head on this which is quite disappointing. What little there is has a nice brown tinge to it. Looks pretty good.

Aroma wise, this is a nice mix. There’s some sweetness, some rich dark malt and some chocolate as well. Not much hop aroma, and that’s a good thing here.

First taste is good. Hit of dark malt and is flat. What I mean by that is there’s no distractions from the malt flavour. It’s straight up dark malt. Good round flavour here that fills the mouth from top to bottom. The body on this beer is alright, not great for a stout but also doesn’t leave you thinking it’s not a stout. Overall you’re first met with a big round dark malt burst of flavour. And that’s exactly what you want.

In the middle it comes up with some sweetness. This helps with the malt and body. Then the darker flavours come back and help drag out the flavours for a while.  As the body drops away there’s the sweet milk flavour from the lactose coming though. And after that a slight bitterness. And the liquorice, which has been there the whole time, comes out and becomes it’s own.

Matching this beer with food is a little hard. I would tend to go with something dark and sweet, this is a dessert beer. Rich cake is a good option. Black forest cake or chocholate mud cake get’s my vote.

So, this is a good and well rounded beer. The body lets it down, that’s possibly because the beer comes in at only 4.8% alcohol. The flavours towards the end get a bit muddled. But that first mouthful works great. And you keep wanting to go back for more. And this is a great example of two brewers making (nearly) the same recipe with quite a different outcome.

-Mikey

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Apples and milk, in bottles

It’s not really milk that went into the apple cider. I simply like the idea that lactose sugar is milk sugar, and therefore milk. The important thing is that the Sneaky Milky Cider has been bottled. Plus the samples tasted pretty good.

Sneaky Milky Cider 1 FG

Sneaky Milky Cider 1 the Final Gravity reading

On Saturday evening I got busy and bottling. There are three batches across three carboys. Each had a splash over two litres in them. These were some very small batches, the smallest I’ve ever done. Used the auto syphon again which works pretty well. Manually priming each bottle wasn’t a huge pain as the batch sizes were small, plus I used a few 500 ml bottles which sped things up.

Sneaky Milky Cider 2 FG

Sneaky Milky Cider 2 the Final Gravity reading

Gravity readings were a bit all over the place. I’m not surprised given the range of ingredients across the batches. The first one dropped from 1.060 to 1.012 which means after bottling will be 6.8% alcohol. The second one was more pronounced falling from 1.055 to 1.004 turning it into 7.2%. Then the third was more reasonable going from 1.055 to 1.011 and hitting 6.3%.

After gravity readings were done it was tasting time. The first batch had a nice sweet and apple flavour. There was also a hint of sour to this, but wasn’t overpowering or distracting. The second batch had similar characteristics but cleaner. That said, the sourness was more pronounced and it wasn’t as sweet as batch one. The last batch was noticeably different. It had a bigger mouth feel and overall rounder flavour. As a result this batch didn’t have the same noticeably sweetness or apple flavour.

Sneaky Milky Cider 1-3

Sneaky Milky Cider 1 to 3 for tasting

These ciders are only going to be bottle conditioned for a week before most of them are consumed. They will be the sweet cider option for those not drinking beer at a party this Saturday. The beer on offer will be the Pale Trial beers, 1 to 5 of both Eine and Zwie. I’m looking forward to hearing feedback on all of them. And I how that there’s enough to go around.

-Mikey

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American Brown Ale 1 – Review

This review has been a long time coming. The American Brown Ale 1 was brewed back on 22 June and it’s now October.

American Brown Ale 1

American Brown Ale 1 ready for drinking

First up is the aroma. This has a really nice toast and dark malt smell. There’s even hints of chocolate in there. Not a lot of hops, which is a bit of a surprise given the crystal hops in there. At the end there’s a yeast aroma, which is to be expected from beer brewed with kit yeast.

Taste up front is of light burnt malt. Light because the body is light as well. Not a lot of substance behind this. That is expected given it only has dry malt extract. While the body is light, the flavour is not. The dark malt characteristics comes out more bit by bit. Starting as a nice brown malt, moving into a burnt taste, then darker and more range. There’s a bit of a bite in there too. And that’s one of the few hop characteristics in this. Very slight fruit spice flavours on the edge.

After a while you start to notice the yeast flavours. A bit tart. Strange sort of yeast. Not the best. I’m not too concerned about that as it’s towards the back of the beer and not prominent. The malt seams to drive most of this beer. There is a strange dryness at the end which is slightly off putting. That might be due to the yeast as well.

Matching this beer isn’t too hard. Anything robust would work well. Anything with red meat would work. Even some chips and dip would go fine. Plus at 4.6% you can have a couple without worrying too much.

Happy with this brew. But it’s not really an American Brown. More of an English Brown. Next time I would add more hops, and use a better yeast.

-Mikey

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The Friedlieb, Coffee Porter III – Review

Way back on 29 July Chas made the third version of The Friedlieb, his coffee porter. This latest version is an all grain. And it’s pretty bloody good. All the relatively fresh coffee that went into this helps drive this beer.

The Friedlieb coffee porter III

The Friedlieb coffee porter III ready for drinking

The aroma is simply great. Big coffee and molasses hit in the nose. Good smoke end to the aroma, long and lasting but not harsh. This really draws you into the beer.

Up front this beer is a little deceptive. The dark malt feels somewhat light but the smoke is there. Plenty of peated malt. Chocolate is there at the start and coffee too. The rye malt is a little harder to pick up. Slightly overpowered, but giving some backing to the rest of the malt. The hops are not really there, but more to help balance.

There’s a big mouth feeling to this beer. Small bubbles give it a sort of creamy hint to it. After the first impressing the smoke and coffee take over. They’re mixing around and washing together. The alcohol in this is 6.8%, though you don’t really notice any of that anyway. The smoke and coffee cover it very well.

All the peated malt takes over and this does get slightly too much. That’s when it’s cold. Once this beer warms up there’s more of a slight sweetness to this. The chocolate malt comes out a bit and the brown malt flavour comes out a lot more. There’s a biscuit/toast flavour to it. But it’s the coffee that really becomes the king flavour and reminding you that there really was a LOT of coffee put into this beer.

The downside for me is the smoke from the peated malt. When I reviewed the second version of The Friedlieb I mentioned that Chas was really looking for this. It’s too much for me. Chas really wanted to push this, and I think it’s something he really likes. Don’t get me wrong, this is a well made beer with good complexity, nice body and long lasting flavour. For me one bottle is enough.

This is a beer for the end of the night. At home, settling in for the night and have next to a fire. Don’t need anything to eat because this beer is full of character and flavour. Maybe not the last beer, ‘cos the coffee will keep you going. But a good solid flavour hit to slow things down.

-Mikey

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Sweet like apple, sweet like milk

Sneaky Milky Cider 3

Sneaky Milky Cider 3 Original Gravity reading

A few months back in February I made the Sneaky Cider. Once I tasted it I knew this was something to revisit. It was easy, quick and nice enough. Nothing amazing but great vale on effort put in.

The biggest issue with the cider was the dryness. All the sugar in the apple juice was used up by the yeast, all converted to alcohol. That’s good if you want a strong cider, and you don’t want sweetness. Problem is, most people want cider to be sweet. Hence this being an issue.

I have been thinking how to overcome this issue for a while. The big companies, and even smaller commercial brewers, trend to put sugar or fresh apple juice back in. That’s fine if you can (1) remove all the yeast and (2) keep the carbonation or force carbonate. On a small home brew scale that’s not so easy.

Looking for alternative options to sweeten the cider, there are a few. Some range from easy to complex with quite a number tried and failed. But before looking up all these options I had thought of using what I use for beer. Lactose sugar. Yep, milk sugar.

Lactose is used in stouts as it gives both sweetness and helps with the creaminess. The creamy flavour mouth feel is not something you really associate with cider. But I’m hoping it’s either subtle or non offensive. Preferably both.

So, on Monday night I made Sneaky Milky Cider 1, 2 and 3. All use the basic 2 litres of apple juice and have sugar added to them. Details below.

Sneaky Milky Cider 1-3

Sneaky Milky Cider 1 to 3 in the carboys

Sneaky Milky Cider 1

  • 2 litres of apple juice
  • Around 80 grams white sugar (measuring was off)
  • 80 grams of lactose
  • OG = 1.060
  • Half a teaspoon of Champaign yeast
  • Half a teaspoon of yeast nutrient

Sneaky Milky Cider 2

  • 2 litres of apple juice
  • 80 grams white sugar
  • 40 grams of lactose
  • OG = 1.055
  • Half a teaspoon of Champaign yeast
  • Half a teaspoon of yeast nutrient

Sneaky Milky Cider 3

  • 2 litres of apple juice
  • 80 grams white sugar
  • 40 grams of lactose
  • OG = 1.055
  • Half a teaspoon of US-04 yeast
  • Half a teaspoon of yeast nutrient

Amounts of sugar are based on what the original Sneaky Cider was. I’m not sure if there’s too much, or not enough lactose. Also, there was a bit more than two litres of juice in each bottle. About 200ml more. That shouldn’t make any difference to the final product.

You’ll see that I’ve used US-04 yeast in one. This is an ale yeast, but it should ferment clean enough. The reason for using this is to see if it won’t convert all the apple sugars. As the alcohol gets higher the yeast should slow down or even die. This would then leave some unfermented sugar, and the cider would be sweeter. We’ll wait and see.

-Mikey

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Yeast adventures, capping it for now

The second round of experiments with yeast are done. Over a couple evenings in the last week I bottled the Pale Trial Zwei.

Pale Trial Zwei - carboy 1-5

Pale Trial Zwei in carboy 1 to 5 (left to right)

From the first impressions it looks like the yeast characteristics from Pale Trial Ein have carried over. There’s a strange tart and dry-sourness, especially from the first carboy. Carboy 2-5 were bottled on a septate day, so I can’t do a five-way comparison.

The good news is that the Galaxy hop flavours have come out well. There hasn’t been the big bitterness that I was getting with the Victoria Secret hops. Nice tropical aroma and flavour at the front. One these condition for a few weeks they should be good for the spring sun.

Pale Trial Zwei - sample 1

Pale Trial Zwei the sample from carboy 1

The one thing I really wasn’t sure about was how healthy the yeast might be. I didn’t know if there would be too much yeast, grown from the last batch. Maybe it wouldn’t be healthy enough, stressed from the last brew. Or maybe it would need more nutrients, which I deliberately didn’t put in. Plus I didn’t keep an eye on the fermentation. That said, it looks like things went smoothly.

Final gravity readings ranged from 1.010 to 1.008 and I’m happy with that. The OG was 1.047 and after bottle conditioning alcohol should be between 5.6% and 5.4%. That’s very respectable for a pale ale. The cause for the range in final gravity may have been due to a few things. Possibly sediments in the sample, possible yeast health, or a number of other things with the yeast.

Pale Trial Zwei - samples 2-5

Pale Trial Zwei samples from carboy 2 to 5

The bottling by myself was a bit of trial and error. The first carboy I used the old hand siphon. That is, two tubes with a pump thing. Have been using it for a while but works as long as you’ve got the flow going and don’t stop-start too much. For the rest (done on another night) I was able to use the Auto Syphon as the other carboys have a bigger opening. Had a bit more trouble with this due to the seal between the top and the tube. After a lot of trial and error I worked out better to pull the end out of each bottle and fill the next without trying to stop the flow. Lost a little, but not as much as stop-start. Something to work on. In an attempt to try and reduce beer loss, I left beer in the Auto Syphon between carboys, so mixing left over from one with the start form the next. Bottles marked, but not expecting anything noticeably different.

Pale Trial Zwei bottled 2-5

Pale Trial Zwei all bottled with bottles from carboy 2 to 5

Looking forward to trying these brews. I’ve had a bottle of each of the Pale Trial Ein bottles. They’ve settled down a fair bit. I didn’t do a side by side comparison, but the differences seam to be there. Will do a proper review in a week or two.

Been a bit slow getting new content up. Few reasons for that. I’m letting my fermentation times run a bit longer, like this one for three and a half weeks. I’m brewing less, next one in a few days. Chas isn’t brewing, he’s got a bit of a stockpile. But might be fixing that this coming weekend. And a few reviews haven’t gone up yet. I’m going to try and get a few of them up over the next couple weeks.

-Mikey

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Tiny magic things, yeast adventures

I’ve talked to a fair few home brewers over the last two years. Pretty much all aspects of brewing have been discussed. One thing that comes up every now and then is the use, growth and reuse of yeast. Something I’ve mostly avoided, until now.

Since day one of homebrewing I’ve used dry yeast. And, up to only earlier this year I’ve pitched it into the wort dry. Since then I’ve done some rehydration of yeast. And even a couple basic yeast starters. Nothing serious.

Off the back of the Pseudo Lager I wanted to capture that yeast. It was a basic US-05 yeast that did what it shouldn’t have been able to do. It took a strong pale ale extract brew and brought it down to a low 1.006. That’s around the lowest I’ve ever got a final gravity. But what was exceptional was that it did it over a period of a month. All the while temperatures ranged from as high as 14°C down to 0°C, maybe lower. I remember one professional brewer saying that the beer was probably stuffed. Yeast being “turned on and off” is not a good thing, by all accounts.

So, these magical tiny organisms had not only survived, but produced some pretty good beer. Could I get them to make more?

I looked up how to reuse yeast. And there are a few ways. The simplest is to pour new wort directly onto the yeast cake, once bottling of the last beer is done. This is a crude method as you’ve got all the dead yeast and left over hops as well. That not-good stuff is called trube. I say not-good because I haven’t come across anything yet that says it’s specifically bad for the beer.

The next method is referred to as washing. Again, you need to get the yeast after bottling. But this time you don’t have to, and can’t, use it straight away. You’re suppose to pour in some pre-boiled then chilled to room temperature water into your fermentation vessel. Boiling is important because you want water without oxygen, or as little as possible, and the heat should kill anything bad. Then you want to chill because heat kills yeast. Once at temperature dissolve the whole lot in the water and pour into sanitised vessels. These should have some kind of air seal as you don’t want any more oxygen. Put in fridge and wait for the cloudy stuff to settle. At the end there should be clear-ish water/beer at the top, a thin white layer if yeast, then a thick bottom layer of tan/brown coloured trube.

There’s a bit more to it, as I came to realise when I did that with the yeast from the Pseudo Lager. Long story short, I had to throw it all out.

Pale Trial Zwei - empty carboys

Pale Trial Zwei to fill these empty carboys

And that brings me to the last brew a couple Sundays ago (31 August). The Pale Trial Zwei was almost the exact same as Pale Ale Ein, but with Galaxy hops replacing the Victoria Secret hops.

  • 14 litre boil
  • 1.5kg Golden LME @ 40 mins
  • 15 grams Galaxy hops @ 30 mins
  • 11 grams Galaxy hops @ 15 mins
  • 1.5kg Golden LME @ 5 mins
  • 12 grams Galaxy hops @ 0 mins

Gravity came in at 1.047, less than Pale Trial Ein. That’s somewhat expected a there was more water in this by the end to dilute the malt.

And then pitched the wort onto the yeast cakes of Pale Trail Ein.

So, this experiment is to see if this can work as a successful way to reuse yeast. Plus want to see if yeast characteristics from one brew can carry over to the next. This second part is going to be the most interesting as the five Pale Trial Ein beers are different in colour and flavour.

Bottling will be next weekend. Look forward to letting you know how it turned out.

-Mikey

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Gift of the Dad, the bottling

Sunday week ago (31st) was a bottling and brewing day at my place. The five carboys of the Pale Trial Ein were ready for bottling and Pale Trial Zwei needed to be brewed. And Chas was there for it all.

Was great to have Chas back after a bit of a break. Bit of craziness and some well oiled processes made the day run smooth. Or as smooth as possible.

Pale Trial Ein ready to bottle

Pale Trial Ein in the carboys and ready to bottle

Will talk about the brew in another post because there’s a lot to talk about with the Pale Trial Ein. This is the pale ale that I brewed three weeks back. Used some of the equipment and ingredients I got from my Dad.

As there were five carboys of pale ale, and I wanted to keep them separate, we didn’t bother with bulk priming. But we did get to finally use the Easy Siphon I bought a few months back. Once we got it working it worked a treat. The bottling process was slowed down by needing to prime each bottle. That was made harder when I ran out of carbonation drops and had to measure out sugar. Uhg. Needing to take five gravity samples didn’t help.

Comparing the Pale Trial Ein beers was interesting. The first thing is the different colours. Wow. How is that possible? But there you go, same batch in five different carboys with only a couple minor differences in ingredients can make a big change.

Pale Trial Ein samples

The five different samples of Pale Trial Ein (1-5, left to right)

To recap, and make this easier to explain, here are the five types:

  1. Normal yeast nutrient (the one I’ve been using all year)
  2. Normal yeast nutrient plus a Campden tablet
  3. Just newly acquired yeast nutrient (the really old stuff I got from my Dad)
  4. Just a Campden tablet
  5. Newly acquired yeast nutrient and Campden tablet

It was clear that those with the Campden tablets (2, 3 & 5) were darker. But the normal yeast nutrient (1 & 2) was also slightly darker than the newly acquired stuff (4 & 5). And the one with just the tablet (4) is the darkest.

And the flavours, too. Side by side comparison of yeast nutrient was clear. The stuff I normally use (1 & 2) had more smooth full hop flavour up front, but a really bad bitter and metallic taste at the back. The newly acquired (4 & 5) was softer and less hop fruit flavour but rounder and mellow overall with no harsh kick.

When comparing the Campden tablet ones (2, 3 & 5) to non-Campden tablets (1 & 4) it’s clear. The ones with the tablets have a richer hop fruit flavour. And the one with only the Campden tablet (4) is a fair bit dryer from up front to end.

Have to say that the newly acquired nutrient and Campden tablet (5) was the best one. After that, normal yeast nutrient and Campden tablet (2). Then newly acquired yeast nutrient (3). Then just Campden tablet (4). And lastly just the old yeast nutrient (1).

Pale Trial Ein bottled

Pale Trial Ein in bottles, see the numbers on the top

And finally, the gravity readings. They pretty much all came in at 1.014 which isn’t really a surprise. The one with just newly acquired yeast nutrient (3 & 5) came it at 1.015. The beers will end up at 5.8%-5.9% alcohol after conditioning in the bottles. I do hope the bitterness settles down a bit.

To summarise, Campden tablets are awsome. And the really old yeast nutrient is better than the stuff I’ve been using. Go figure. Next post from me will be the write up on the brew.

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