Dark American Ale – Review

Way back earlier this year I helped out someone make some home brew. I got a bottle of it a few weeks later. It’s been in the fridge for months. And now I’ve tried it.

Dark American Ale

Dark American Ale ready for drinking

This was a beer I made with my wife’s boss. We were away for a weekend at their holiday home. Plus we made a kit beer. I was able to provide some really good advice to speed things up and get better results. It was a fun couple hours.

The beer is a kit called Dark American Ale and comes from Brewcraft/Liquorcraft. Ingredients included cans of liquid malt and some steeping grains. Nothing too complex. And looks like it turned out well.

The aroma is a nice hint of sweetness and slight dark nutty malt. A slight hint if burnt caramel. Exactly what you would expect. It’s a good set up for a beer of this style.

First taste has the dark malt come out. Next follows a bit of dark caramel sweetness. Finally the hop bitterness at the back.

For something that’s ‘just’ a kit, there’s plenty of mouth feel. Lots of flavour at the start and middle. The flavour isn’t thick, but you’re not expecting or wanting that here. While the beer does get thin the flavour doesn’t completely drop off.  That said the hops at the end take over, with the malt only just holding it all together.

The only real downside us a slight metallic taste. It comes at the back, and lasts long after the beer. It’s a drawback on a nice beer which is a real downer.

Food wise, this could work with a stew meat thing. Maybe a casserole or think sauce meat pie, something gutsy and rich.

I like the flavours at the start. Good and balanced. The finish really let’s it down. Overall nice but not great.

-Mikey

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Gift of the Dad, the brew

A few weeks ago I got some old home brew equipment from my dad. Then I cleaned it. Now it’s time to brew with it.

I realised the first brew had to use some of the ingredients from the find. This means trying to sanitising with Sodium metabisulfite. That’s going to be interesting as I’ve never used the stuff before. Nutrient salts I already use and will be straight forward. Using a Campden tablet looks like that should be easy. I can see that tannic acid will be helpful in stabilising the beer and clearing it up at the end. But, there’s a fair bit of info saying I need to filter afterward which I’m not set up for. Will have to skip that. One thing I can’t see any use for is Pectinase . That’s more for cider and wine where you need to breaking down plant material.

Plenty of options. Plus, I’ve got eight carboys. Maybe I could test some with and without stuff. One could be a control with a beer I’ve made before (or as close as can be). Then make a second with Sodium metabisulfiteas the sanitiser. Then a third with Sodium metabisulfite, plus a campden tablet… you can see where I’m going with this. To summarise I’m thinking the following.

  1. Control – using the existing yeast nutrient normally use
  2. Same with a Campden tablet and sterilised with Sodium metabisulfite (and all the others after this)
  3. Just the found nutrient salts
  4. Just a Campden tablet
  5. With the found nutrient salts and a Campden tablet
Pale Trial Ein cooling down

Pale Trial Ein cooling down in the sink

Now, what to brew? Should it be the second attempt in the not-beers? Maybe another attempt at an IPA? Or should it be something completely new? What I needed to brew was something simple that worked out. The Pale Ale with just Vic Secret hops was ideal.

As there was going to be a large volume of beer I decided to swap out the dry malt extract with liquid malt extract. It’s cheaper that way. Have decided to call this Pale Trial Ein, ‘cos it’s a pale ale and a trial. Ein is German for one as this will be the first of probably a few goes, and German is the language my Dad grew up with.

  • 14 litre boil
  • 1.5kg Golden LME @ 40 mins
  • 15 grams Vic Secret hops @ 30 mins
  • 10 grams Vic Secret hops @ 15 mins
  • 1.5kg Golden LME @ 5 mins
  • 15 grams Vic Secret hops @ 0 mins
  • 1 flat teaspoon of US-05 yeast in each carboy
Pale Trial Ein done

Pale Trial Ein done and in the carboys

Simple but long day. It took 30 mins to heat up water. And chilling took over an hour even after dumping in four trays of ice and a whole two litre ice block. Might be time to invest in a wort chiller if I continue these big batches.

Worked out that there was about 17 litres of wort at the end. Didn’t top up the carboys. The original gravity reading came in at 1.055 which is pretty good. If the yeast brings that down to 1.014 then I’ll have 5.6% beers. But that’s all dependent on what happens in each carboy.

-Mikey

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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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Not Beer – Review

So, after a fair amount of time, we managed to try Mikey’s Not Beers. These were un-hopped “beers” that Mikey was experimenting with fermenting in some plastic bottles.

As Mikey mentions in his original post, technically these are not beers, which, I guess, is where they get the name. Mikey’s wife tends to like maltier beers, so we wanted to see how she would like something that was quite literally all malt and not hops!

Well, we got some back luck with both the bottles and they both turned out very very sour. It’s surprising that both bottles got the same contamination, but it’s possible the bottle caps, being stored in the same place, shared some bugs. With that, hops act as a natural preservative and the lack of them would not have helped in killing off the nasties.

Anyway…

Not Beer with Dark Malt

Not beer dark

As a sour, it almost worked.

Some malt remained in the aroma, and also had a sour element. This actually worked together OK.

In the taste, the sour punch came through in the middle and drops away quickly. There wasn’t a lot of body in the beer so there wasn’t much else to grab onto. It’s not too sour/extreme, and, if it was served extremely cold, it would almost be bearable.

Still, I didn’t get all the way through it.

Not Beer with Amber Malt

Not beer amberAs the malt here was lighter, there’s even less body and malt to cancel out any of the sour and unfortunately this beer wasn’t remotely drinkable.

According to Mikey though “if you don’t let your smell senses work at all, it’s not that bad…”

I’ll have to take his word for it.

 

-Chas

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Bottling day, plus surprise bottling

Saturday was a bottling day at my place. No brewing, just bottling. Was meant to be a quick one so we could get onto other things for the day.

Home Brewers R+D Vic Secret bottled

Home Brewers R+D Victoria Secret bottled and ready for conditioning

Chas came over and, unlike the last few days at my place, there wasn’t anything major getting in the way of starting. So we quickly got stuck into bottling the 13 odd litres of the Home Brewers R&D Vic Secret. Sannitising bottles is pretty easy with the tub and bottling tree. Went  with a mix of a few bigger 500 ml bottles and a fair few 330 ml bottles.

Bulk primed the beer was a simple affair. Did it in the big stock pot just like the Super Stout. But unlike the Super Stout we didn’t pour the thing into something else to bottle. We simply siphoned the beer into bottles. Done.

Pseudo Lager 1 bottled

Pseudo Lager 1 bottled and ready for conditioning

Before priming and bottling we did a gravity sample. Final gravity came in at 1.010 which means after conditioning it will be 3.4% alcohol. Not surprised as there was such a low original gravity. From tasting the gravity sample it was very hoppy and very bitter. Not sure how it will finish. I’m hoping this becomes a session beer and, if I can keep myself from drinking it all, something for the warmer months later in the year.

Before calling it a day I decided to take a gravity sample of the Pseudo Lager. Was very surprised to see it down to 1.006! I’ve been hoping it would get down to 1.005 but expected it to finish around 1.020-1.010. That’s a good result and means the beer will be 6.0% after bottling. It tasted pretty alright as well, quite dry and not a lot of hops. Should be good once it is carbonated.

Home Brewers R+D Vic Secret and Pseudo Lager 1

Home Brewers R+D Vic Secret and Pseudo Lager 1 samples ready for tasting

Chas wasn’t that excited about bottling another 16 litres of beer. But after a bit of negotiation, and a break for a bit, we got into it. Rather than bulk prime into the pot, we used the recently emptied fermentation vessel with the tap and a brew wand. Saved a lot of time and finished quickly.

A day of bottling. Normally nothing special, but a pleasant surprise with the Pseudo Lager. Looking forward to tasting and letting you know how it all worked out.

-Mikey

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Making the Friedlieb all grain

DSC_0410Back in October 2013, we made a second version of a coffee porter called the Friedlieb. It used malt extract and some specialty grain. Now we figured we’d try to make it an all grain.

We basically had to start again to try to adapt what was about 1.5 kilograms of liquid malt and 250 grams of dry malt (for 12 litres). The liquid malt was a golden light and the dry was a dark malt, so we decided to replace this with 2 kilograms of traditional pale malt and up some of the other darker grains as well (for 8 litres).

The beer might not turn out “portery” enough, but this is just the start of things, so if we need to up the dark malts a little more, we will. All that being said, this has always been a fairly light porter, so we’ll see.

We also upped the peated malt to try and bring out even more smoke in the brew. Some would say we’re pushing it too much, but it’s hard to get the peat to come out above the large amount of coffee we’re putting in there, so…

The ingredients were (for an 8 litre batch):

  • 2 kilograms of traditional pale malt
  • 180 grams dark crystal
  • 100 grams chocolate malt
  • 150 grams peated malt
  • 100 grams melanoidin
  • 120 grams rye malt
  • 6 grams Willamette (bittering) – 30 minutes
  • 6 grams Fuggles (taste) – 15 minutes
  • 6 grams Fuggles (aroma) – 0 minutes
  • 16 shots espresso
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • Windsor style ale yeast

All the grains were mashed for an hour in eight litres of water at 65 degrees. We were able to keep the temperature pretty constant, and this seemed like a good amount of water for the grains.

DSC_0413We played around with the pots a bit to do everything right. Basically, we just let the grains mash in the biggest pot we could get (about 12 litres) without a bag or anything like that. After the mashing process, we strained all this (through a few bags) in a couple smaller pots. With the grain now in a couple grain bags, we transferred all the wort back to the big pot and sparged. It worked pretty well! But we still need a bigger pot…

From there, it was pretty standard.

The brown sugar and coffee went in with 5 minutes left to the boil.

Cooling was pretty easy and we were left with about 7 litres of liquid, so there wasn’t a whole lot of topping up to do to get it up to 8 litres.

The original gravity was 1.063 which isn’t bad considering we were approximating the grain from a previous extract brew with an OG of 1.073. Depending on how things turn out, we may up the malt a bit and/or mash the grains for a bit longer to bring that original gravity up a little bit.

Anyway, the beer is currently bubbling away and should be ready to bottle pretty quick. I’m eager to see how it turns out and modify further!

-Chas

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Journey continues, onto all grain

Yesterday I finally did my first all grain brew. It’s been a long time coming and Chas has already done a couple all grain brews. I’ve been putting it off for a while. That’s partly because I was trying to knock out a few batches I’ve been thinking about. The other part was because I didn’t have a pot big enough to do a proper batch. Now that’s all sorted it was time to go all grain.

American Brown Ale done

American Brown Ale done in the carboy

Before I get into that, we also bottled the American Brown Ale. Didn’t bother with bulk priming due to the small batch size. Carbonation drops into bottles liquid in an capped. The final gravity came in at 1.022 which was a bit higher than the 1.014 expected. Final alcohol will be 4.6% and I’m happy with that.

So, my first all grain brew was a brew-in-a-bag (BIAB) style. The recipe is part of a Research and Development brew, an American Pale Ale, with a few home brewers from work. The idea is that we all brew with the same grain ratios and IBU target but with different hops. Due to my ‘small’ 19 litre pot I did an eight litre batch, rather than the 16 litre version the others did. Given my fascination in Vic Secret hops, that was the hop selection for me. The recipe is below.

  • 1.8 kg Joe White Traditional Ale grina
  • 0.15 kg Joe White Cara grain
  • 4 g Victoria’s Secret hops (for 60 min)
  • 11 g Victoria’s Secret hops (for 20 min)
  • 13 g Victoria’s Secret hops (for 5 mins)
  • 1/2 pack of Safale US-05 yeast
  • 14 g Victoria’s Secret hops (for dry hopping at day 7)
R+D Vic Secret mash

Home Brewers R+D Vic Secret mash in the pot

The brew was a very long one. Longer than I expected. Main reason is it took an hour to get the 14.4 litres of water for the mash. Reason for that was I want to filter all my water before I use it and I didn’t get any prepared before hand. Once water was ready we brought it up to about 69-70 degrees Celsius. Grain bag went over the pot and grain in. This sat in the pot for about 60-65 mins at 67 degrees Celsius. It was meant to be at that for 75 mins but there was too much head added and the last 10-15 mins it got up to about 72+ Celsius. Mash out was meant to be 75 Celsius, so we called it done at that point.

There was a lot of liquid that was at the start of the boil. The recipe said it should be about 13 litres. After the boil it was meant to be 10 litres, then batch size of 8 litres. Not sure where the last two litres were meant to go. If anyone has some info on this please post below.

Due to the excess water we let the boil go for about 30 or so minuets before first hops. This was to try and reduce liquid, which was a good idea. The hop additions went pretty smoothly. My alarm wasn’t loud and missed a couple additions by a couple minuets here and there. Shouldn’t make much difference. Also used some Brewbrite to clear it out. Added a teaspoon to a cup of water and dissolved it. Then into the boil with about 5 mins to go.

Chilled the wort down by putting the pot in an ice bath. This was pretty good. Also added some big blocks of ice to the wort directly which worked a treat. It was only later that I realised this was a problem. Once down in temperature the wort was poured into the fermenter and I realised that I had way too much liquid. It came in at 13 litres! No surprise that the gravity reading came in a lot lower than expected. It was 1.033 and should have been 1.049. That’s a big difference.

The re-hydrated yeast went in along with the yeast nutrient. I’m expecting, or rather hoping for, a good conversion from the yeast. If things go well it should reduce down to 1.008 and that means after bottle conditioning It should be about 3.5% alcohol. Will wait and see.

-Mikey

 

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Super Stout Review

DSC_0414So we finally got around to trying the Super Stout made way back in May!

Unfortunately there was a bit of an accident during the bottling process when Mikey poured some of the beer, not only spilling some but also aerating it. We were fearful that this would affect the taste somewhat, and it did a little bit, but oh well! This beer also spent more than a month in the fermenter as Mikey tried to get as much fermentation out of the brew as possible after experimenting fermenting at a lower temperature.

Anyway, the beer poured nice and black like it should, but unfortunately there was really much head to it. I was hoping for a nice stouty head, but it just wasn’t there. Let’s put that down to the aeration problem.

The aroma was pretty good, but once again not all in all stouty. Quite fruity with peaches and flowers in the nose, and, of course, a bit of licorice once things warmed up a bit. Along with the licorice was chocolate, which went with well! I would have liked to see a bit of spice in there, as it’s what I like in a stout, but instead there was a bit of a sticky and sweet smell, which may be coming from the fermentation problems Mikey had.

Once drinking the beer, there wasn’t quite as much body as would be expected in a stout, especially something called a “super stout.” It was thicker and fuller than paler beers, but not enough for a stout.

The lack of body meant that there was little in the front, but the licorice came through in the middle which was great. This licorice thickened things up a bit, and a really nice flavour to have. The beer ended with a nice sweet and sour. Some of the sweetness seemed like a mistake and slightly out of place. Once again, probably a problem with the fermentation and the aeration.

To get more stouty goodness, this beer simply needed to be maltier and to be thickened up. This beer has potential, especially because of the licorice flavour.

All that being said, the lightness makes this an easy drinking beer that can be sessioned on with no problems.

 

-Chas

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Long time coming, long time to wait

Since very early on home brewing I’ve wanted to make a good lager. After a bit of looking about, reading up on it and asking a few other brewers I decided to dive in.

The first attempt was as part of basic home brew kit. It was more of a very pale ale rather than a lager. The yeast was from a kit can and then it was fermented with out any temperature control. It turned out a bit rough and didn’t get much better with age.

Since that brew I wasn’t  in a rush to do another lager. Reading up on the process others use, strict temperature control and long term storage, really tuned me off. Then a fellow home brewer, Carnie Brewing, posted on his blog about his attempt and quick turn around. That got me interested again.

Pseudo Lager boil

Pseudo Lager boiling away on the stove

Yeast was the main sticking point. I didn’t want to do a big batch in case I stuffed it. So, I decided to do a trial run with US-05 at a low temperature. Due to using ale yeast, instead of lager yeast, I’ve decided to call this Pseudo Lager. If it turns out well I’ll look at doing a bigger batch with proper lager yeast.

  • Amber Dry Malt – 600 grams (60 mins)
  • Light Dry Malt – 300 grams (10 mins)
  • White Sugar – 1.1 kilograms (10 mins)
  • Victoria’s Secret hops – 5 grams (60 mins)
  • Crystal hops – 10 grams (flame out)
  • US-05 yeast – about 3-4 grams

This was a pretty basic brew. For a quite some time I played around with the idea of splitting out the hop additions into three, but stuck with two as I wanted to highlight the Crystal hops at the end. The 5 litre boil was for 60 minutes so was able to get enough bitterness (IBUs) from the little Victoria Secret hops at the start. All the amber malt went in at the start. The malt selection was based on what was in the house. Originally I thought there was more light malt, but that wasn’t to be. Light malt was added at the end with the sugar, which was there to keep the finish dry and alcohol up.

Pseudo Lager fermenter

Pseudo Lager done and in the fermenter

Before the boil started I re-hydrated the yeast. I added in a little bit of light malt to try and get some yeast starter going. As this was only for about one and a half hours I’m not expecting much.

Cooling went very well. The process I’ve got to dump a lot of ice directly into the wort seams to work well. Got a bit excited and poured the whole wort in without sieving out the hops. Whoops. Then I realised as I was filling up the fermenter that I forgot the Crystal hops! Uh Oh! So, I just dumped the hops into the fermenter and continued filling it up to 16 litres. I suppose it will be something like flame out/dry hopping. Hopefully.

The gravity reading came in at 1.049 which is exactly what the recipe said it would be. Due to all the sugar in there it should ferment out to finish with a gravity of 1.005. That would be about 6% alcohol after bottling. That’s exciting for a lager.

I deliberately left this in the shed with no heating. The temperature out there drops down a fair bit. Down to maybe 10 degrees Celsius, or less, overnight. Then during the day up to a maximum of 18 degrees Celsius. I’ve left this on purpose to help keep the yeast working at a larger-like temperatures. Not sure if this will do anything other than drag out the fermentation.

After two days the beer is bubbling away. It’s very slowly doing that, but it is happening.

-Mikey

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