Tag Archives: Ale

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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Lesson learnt, a bit too late

On Sunday we had another brew day at my place. Was time to do another Porter and a using some grain for the first time since the Brewsmith kits.

There was bottling of the Australian Amber Ale and tasting of the Australian Pale Ale. Both are a lot darker than ‘amber’ or ‘pale’ and should be renamed ‘dark’ and ‘amber’. The tasting of the Amber was, how should I put this, bad. The idea behind the two brews really wasn’t thought out well enough. I had assumed the sugars in the liquid malt cans would mostly ferment leaving only a slight sweetness. I was very wrong. And I should have realised it when we did the gravity readings. Chas has a review that will be going up, but to summarise… it’s bad. The amber came in at lower gravity than the pale, so that might be worse. I’m not going to even attempt tasting the Amber Ale in two weeks. I think both beers need to condition for a number of months, maybe six or more.

So, with that in mind I’m very glad we did a brew of something that should turn out a fair bit better. Or at least in theory. The brew can’t be classified as a ‘Partial’ because the grains used were crystal. That means no enzymes to convert starch into sugar, aka a mash. This was Steeping of the grains, and therefore this brew should be classified as an extract. Plus a can of amber liquid malt extract was used. There was 500 grams of Crystal (ebc 115-145) used.

Baltic Porter #1

Grains for Baltic Porter #1 steeping in the pot

I wanted to get the most out of the grains so steeping occurred for a full 60 mins at around 80C. I say around 80C as the temperature wasn’t fully controlled the whole time. It dropped down to around 77C and was as high as 86C at one point. Not great. But, in defence it was only steeping and not mashing.

And so the Baltic Porter started.

After steeping there was a sixty minute boil. The can of liquid malt and the liquid from steeped grains were all thrown into the wort. Once the hot break occurred in went 7 grams of Warrior hops.

After 30 mins there were 3 grams of Fuggles added. Then finally another 2 grams five mins before flame out. This was then put in the big 30L fermenter and topped up to the 10L mark. Windsor hops were added and fermenter given a good shake to get more oxygen due to the expected high alcohol.

  • Crystal grain (ebc 115-145) – 500g
  • Black Rock Amber liquid malt extract – 1.7k (cans are now bigger)
  • Warrior Hops – 7g
  • Fuggles – 5g (split 3-2)
  • Danstar Windsor yeast – aprox 5g

The original gravity was calculated at 1.081, but only came in at 1.072. That’s probably a good thing considering what happen to the two Australian Ales recently brewed.

The day had some painful lessons. And they were kept to small batches so there’s not too much pain. If this Baltic Porter turns out bad I think it might be time to return to some kits for a little bit.

-Mikey

PS. Forgot to mention we tasted the Black Rock Miners Stout and Gauss’ Law hopped cider. Review for stout is up and review of Gauss’ Law will be coming soon.

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Bottle day now with 20% more bottles, and a brew

Sunday was another brew day, of sorts. Really it was more of a bottling day with a brew at the end.

Australian Pale Ale 1

Australian Pale Ale 1 in the carboy

First order of business was to pick up some new supplies and equipment. My hydrometer broke last brew day and needed another. Needed some more no-rinse sanitizer. Plus picked up some liquid malt, hops (Warrior & Galaxy) and carbonation drops. Decided to go for more carbonation drops as I didn’t want to prime by measuring sugar, and was too lazy to work out how to do bulk priming.

Once back, it was onwards to the bottling. First up was the last 5 odd litres of the Newcastle brown. That was okay. Got 15 bottles in.

Next was the Stout. Gravity reading came in at 1.020 which means after bottling it will only be 4.0% ABV. That’s pretty low for a Stout. Might even need to call it a dark porter. Anyway, we needed to bottle all of it. ALL 23 litres! That’s 68 stubbies! Needless to say, this took most of the day.

Had a couple of breaks along the way. Got to try Chas’s coffee porter. Cracked open a bottle off the Newcastle brown, but it wasn’t ready yet.

Finally after bottling was done we moved onto brewing. For the past couple if weeks I’ve been thinking about how to get a very strong beer and still keep it easy. There’s a couple ways you can go about doing that, and hopefully over the next few months we’ll try as many of those options as we can. To make sure nothing too crazy is done I’m using a home brewing spreadsheet that let’s you put in ingredients and it tells you what characteristics of the beer will be. It’s amazing and I highly recommend getting your hands on it. You will need to sign up to Aussie Home Brewer if you haven’t already.

Anyway, this time around the brew was going to be a 4.5 litres batch for the carboy. Was using liquid malt extract that hadn’t been hopped and doing a 40 min boil with three hop additions.There was a whole 1.5kg can of liquid malt that went in. For a brew this small that’s right on the edge of madness, but I was keen to do this as a real test if a few things.

For lack of a better name, this is getting called Australian Pale Ale #1.

A big pot was filled with 3 litres of water, set to heat and LME was added. After the hot break added 3g of the Warrior hops. Twenty mins later added 2g of Galaxy hops, then last 2g of Galaxy was added 5 mins to the end. When the liquid malt went in the can was washed out with some boiled water. Not sure how much, but originally I was concerned we had to much liquid. In the end a lot boiled off leaving something just over four litres left. Given there was so much heat it took quite some time for the wort to cool down. The pot went through two long cold baths to get down to 22C. As there was a lot more liquid boiled off, I needed to top up the carboy with some extra water. Then I took a sample for a gravity reading.

Yeast was pitched. Used a whole pack of kit yeast as I had some spare lying around. Then give the whole thing a good shake, BrewSmith style.

Then, I checked my gravity reading and it was much lower than expected. Ahhh! I didn’t mix my wort properly. So, get rid of the sample and took another, which took out some of the yeast. But, that’s okay ‘cos there was a huge amount of yeast. Anyway the gravity came in a whopping 1.102!!

  • Black Light Liquid Malt Extract – 1.5kg
  • Warrior hops – 3g
  • Galaxy – 4g (split)
  • Kit ‘Premium Brewing Yeast’ – 5g

So, a few days in and the brew its going well. Huge amount of activity, but no blow out (lucky). From what’s coming out of the airlock, it smells great. Thanks to Chas in about 4-5 days I’m going to throw in some SN9 ‘Premium Wine Yeast’. This will eat up the last of the sugars, and have something to carbonate the bottles.

-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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Summer Citrus Blonde Ale – Review

So the Summer Citrus Blonde Ale that we made a few weeks ago is done!  Once again, this one was from the guys at BrewSmith.

This beer was ready to drink pretty quickly.  Being a blonde, it was OK to drink without letting it condition for too long, although leaving it the bottle for awhile probably wouldn’t hurt it either.  It was a lovely light beer, so conditioning it longer wouldn’t have been of much benefit anyway.

First impressions on the aroma were great, albeit subdued.  The main thing that came out in the smell was citrus with a little bit of alcohol; although it’s possible my nose got a little confused and it was just the citrus.  Hunting for it, there was a bit of a smell of malt, but more of a lager smell than anything (although this beer was an ale).  Going further, there was the slightest hint of caramel, probably still from the malt.20130616_154041

As I mentioned, it was very light in feel, although not thin at all.  There was a good amount of body to it.  The citrus, which was dominant but not overpowering, gave everything a crispness that made the beer refreshing and not heavy at all.  Although lemon zest was used to give these flavours, it was definitively a general citrus feel rather than just lemon.

The citrus really cleared my head with every sip, making it extremely refreshing.  I was surprised at how much the coriander came through as well.  I was also surprised that I enjoyed the coriander!

Although the beer was not overly hopped, there was a slight amount of bitterness that interacted well with the citrus.  The hops gave no fruit or spice.  Some fruit would have been welcome (although not needed), although spice would have been inappropriate.

Being such a light beer, I’m sure this would be highly sessionable.  I didn’t get the alcohol content from Mikey, but maybe he’ll enlighten us in the comments.  I suppose the only problem I had with my tasting was that it was done during one of the coldest weeks we’ve had in Melbourne so far this year!  Having one (or five!) of these on a hot summer’s day would be no problem at all.

If I would change anything at all, I would probably add a little more bitterness to further compliment the citrus.  That, or a little more fruit in the aroma would serve the beer well.

As for food, a light BBQ (chicken perhaps) would be great, or something with a bit of spice.  The main thing I’d recommend though is steamed crab, especially with ample amounts of Old Bay seasoning.  That would be the way!

-Chas

P.S. I also had one of the malted ciders I made awhile ago.  It turned out great!  My house mate went crazy for it and stole the whole glass when I offered her a taste of what would have been my second bottle…  I’ll give one to Mikey to do a proper review of later.

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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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Malted cider or un-hopped apple ale?

Hi everyone,

So as I mentioned in my last few posts, I have a juicer, and I have a bit of extra malt.  So why not try throwing some malt into some apple juice and see what happens?

20130518_145533I went down to my local market and found a pretty good deal on organic juicing apples, i.e. apples that aren’t pretty enough to sell as eating apples.  I bought a hell of a lot – about 7 kilograms!

I had read in various places that you get about 1 litre of juice from 1-2 kilograms of apples, so I thought that this would be enough for about 4 or 5 litres of juice.  Unfortunately I was pretty wrong and only got about 2 litres.  I’ve since found out that this ratio works better for apple pressing, which is a much more efficient method of extracting juice.  Using a juicer like I have tends to lose a lot of juice to the pulp it creates.

I’m not going to go out and buy a juice press, but next time I may try squeezing out the pulp.  We’ll see.

Anyway, after cutting up a whole bunch of apples and juicing them, I wasn’t left with the amount of juice I thought I’d get.  So from there, things began to turn into an un-hopped apple beer rather than a malted cider.

I set my 2 litres of juice to boil and added a cup of golden light liquid malt extract.  The hot break was huge on this one; the pot was only about a third full, and it still nearly boiled over!  Once that was under control, I let it boil for 15 minutes while I did some cleaning.

After the boil, I let the bottle sit in a sink full of ice water for 10 minutes, emptied the sink, and then filled it up again for another 10 minute bath.

Once this wort was in the carboy, I topped it up with about 2 litres of water – so this batch is going to be 4 litres in total.

Two litres juice, one cup malt, two litres water

Two litres juice, one cup malt, two litres water

The yeast i used was an SN9 wine yeast.  It’s what I had on hand, but, considering there’s malt in there, I probably should have gone and used an ale yeast. That’s something to experiment with later.

The wort was tasty.  It wasn’t overwhelmingly apple-y or beer-y, but had good hints of each.  So I’m confident I’ll get something interesting out this.

The OSG was 1.028, which is a little lower than I would have liked.  As a lot of that sugar is fructose, I should be able to get a final gravity pretty close to 1, so that’s promising.  Alcohol content should be around 4% after bottling.

I’d like to see if I can push the alcohol content a bit higher, so I might add some dextrose next time.  Of course the other option is adding more malt or juice, but, assuming the mixture of flavours is good, I don’t want to upset this balance.  Dextrose won’t alter the flavour.

Assuming this turns out tasty, I’ll also look at hopping it, which will make it a proper beer.

So we’ll give this a week and see what happens!

-Chas

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