Tag Archives: Beer

Back with more everything, and the Secret

Enough feeling sorry for myself, time to brew. Back on Saturday 9th we had a brew day at my place. It was a huge fun day, even if the brew we made was only four litres.

I finally managed to get my good mate Ian around for a brew day. Chas made it and my friend Michael was able to join us as well, which made four on the day. More than needed to bottle the cider and the new brew. So, plenty of mucking around was had.

First order of business was bottling the Sneaky Cider. Was another bulk priming job, I don’t think I’ll go back to individual bottle priming. Cider from carboy into the small fermenter with the sugar. Then bottled straight from there. I decided to continue my experiments with soft drink bottles. We filled two 1.25L bottles and the rest filled six stubbies.

Gravity came in at 1.004 which I’m really happy about. Was trying to keep the sweetness low on this. Bulk priming was done with possibly a bit too much sugar, will see. End result should be a cider of 7.8-7.9%. That’s a big kick for such little effort. Nice.

Onto the beer. Due to the mess that is Melbourne weather, I wanted to make sure this brew could be kept cool like the cider. That meant another small batch in the carboy. So, picking up from where I left off it was time for another Australian Pale Ale experiment.

A bit of a side note, I’ve been a little obsessed the last six months or longer with a new Australian hop variety. It’s called Vic Secret (or Victoria Secret, depending on who you ask) and first time I had it in a beer I was blown away. This popped up back in 2012 in a collaboration beer simple called Victoria’s Secret by Beer Here and Northdown (now Edge). A single hop beer. I only had one bottle and really liked it. The beer has just been re-released under the Edge name, with a slight tweak to the recipe. Since then there have been a few other breweries bring out beers with this new hop type. Anyway, I have been trying to get my hands on this stuff so I can make a single hop beer. It’s been very hard to find with a lot of home brew shops not even aware it exists. Then finally a friend found a place that has some. And now I have some.

Australian Pale Ale 4

Australian Pale Ale 4 in the carboy (with ice packs) after 3 days

Australian Pale Ale #4 is a single hop beer. That hop is Vic Secret. The hop is quite high on alpha acid, the bitterness. I was using the same base, light dry malt extract, as I did for the last two Australian Pale Ales. Hop additions were done at 30 mins, 15 mins and 1 min. Nice and simple.

  • 3 litre boil, topped up to 4 litre batch
  • 500 grams Light Dry Malt Extract
  • 3 grams Victoria’s Secret hops @ 30 mins
  • 2 grams Victoria’s Secret hops @ 15 mins
  • 2 grams Victoria’s Secret hops @ 1 mins
  • 1 Teaspoon of re-hydrated US-05 yeast

Michael suggested that the middle hop addition isn’t needed. He’s been doing a fair bit of research into brewing, does a bit of home brewing and has been helping out at some breweries. The idea behind not doing the mid point hop addition is that you’re not really adding any flavour. You can get this from the last hop addition. And you get more bitterness from the first addition. Or that’s the theory. Might give it a go. Expect a post dedicated to this, at some point in the next few months.

Chilling was a quick one. Having these small batches makes it a lot easier. This time there was a lot going on. Two trays of ice and an ice cream container of half frozen water went straight in. The pot sat in it’s bath to chill with ice packs.

Gravity came out at 1.038. Was originally disappointed. There’s a good chance that the sample taken for the reading wasn’t the best. After pouring the wort liquid into the carboy I top it off with water. You’re suppose to shake it before taking a sample so you get something mixed. This wasn’t done. Comparing it to both Australian Pale Ale #2 (1.044) and #3 (1.046), this was low. To put that in a bit if context, the difference of 0.008 in gravity is approximately equal to 1% alcohol. That alcohol helps give the beer a better body. Hope #4 turns out fine.

Like the last few brews the yeast was rehydrated. Somewhere around 1-2 cups of boiled water was put in a glass jug, covered and left to cool. Not sure what it got down to, maybe as low as 25°C. Then a teaspoon of yeast was put in. And to speed things up a teaspoon of the dry malt was also put in. That’s a very small yeast starter. By the time it went into the carboy there was already a bit of a krausen, yeast head.

Yeast in, airlock on, carboy into the big pot of water. Done.

This was a really fun day. Great company, lots of drinks (review of the Iron Curtain Imperial Red Ale within the week), BBQ chicken for lunch, some really dodgy music, and not a tricky brew. Hoping there’s a lot more days like this in the future.

And I’ll be bottling tomorrow. Exciting.

-Mikey

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Return of the Red Dog Pale Ale

Back in October we made a small batch of the Red Dog Pale Ale and enjoyed it so much thought we might up it to 12 litres.  It was a good brew day and a great way to get back into it for the new year, but I think we bit off a bit more than we could chew.  The main lesson: we need bigger pots if we’re going to try an all grain above about six litres…

The recipe we did is the same as what was posted the first time, so I’m not going to both to re-post the recipe.  The first time we did it we only did four litres, this time it was twelve litres, so we just did three times as much of everything…

This resulted in a total grain bill of about 2.4 kilos, so we wanted plenty of water to mash in.  Unfortunately the biggest pot I have is about nine litres so we were only able to mash with 7.8 litres of water without filling the pot too much.  As with the previous recipe we mashed for 90 minutes at 65 degrees, which seemed to work well last time.

After an hour long boil with hop additions, we were left with an OSG of only 1.034, which was much lower than last time’s 1.042 (which had been watered down by mistake!).  I think that due to the pot size we were unable to get adequate water to all the grain; we were still attempting the brew in a bag technique which was probably inappropriate for this sized grain bill.

Red Dog IIShould we try this again I think we’ll need two things: at least one bigger pot to do the boil in and probably a proper mash tun.  This would really make things a whole lot easier and we’ll be able to use much more water for mashing.

The other problem we ran into was during the cold break.  By the end of everything we had about eight litres of boiling water, and we wanted to get it cold fast.  Our usual method of giving it a bath in the sink – even with some ice added – failed to get the temperature down in a reasonable amount of time.  We’ve had trouble with this before, even with smaller batches.  I think I have an excuse to buy a wort chiller now though!

All in all it was a great brew day, and as mentioned a great one to get back into it for the year – with no bottling, a long mash, and a bit of time between hop additions, there was plenty of down time!

We’ll report back in a couple weeks to see how the beer turned out, but I’m not too optimistic!

– Chas

 

Tagged , , , , ,

New equipment is fun, and some bottling

Christmas was good for me. Got a couple vouchers for home brew shops. Yay. Oh, and the Australian Pale Ale #3 needed to be bottled. Was a bit distracted, and a bit lazy, so only got around to bottling on Thursday.

Bottling Tree

Bottling Tree with just the first two levels and full of bottles.

As I had some hot vouchers in my hand I went down to Australian Home Brewing to pick up some new equipment. First thing was a bottling tree. I’ve been wanting one of these for a while. Will be using it for both bottling days, and cleaning bottles. So, this is something I’ll be using a lot. As you can see from the photo I’ve only put the first to parts on, it’s all I need.

Also picked up some hops, bigger capper with caps for big bottles and a small 15 litre fermenter. I’ll keep the hops under wraps until start brewing with them. Tried the capper on a wine bottle I had saved, didn’t quite work. Will be looking for the right bottles in the future. The small fermenter is really useful as I can use it for bulk priming, like for this brew, or other brews between the carboy and 30 litre fermenter.

Bottling took a fair bit longer. Partly because I was trying new equipment and partly because I kept getting distracted. The carboy was poured directly into the small fermenter which had the dissolved sugar. Hopefully I didn’t get too much air into it, I think I might. Hopefully I didn’t get too much trub transferred, I’m pretty sure I did. Again, I split the bottling up into some stubbies, a bigger 500 ml bottle and some plastic bottles.

There were also two 1.25 litre bottles with the brewing caps. Just to see what happens I’ve decided to leave one bottle as it for condition. The other bottle I transferred into a new bottle and left the yeast/trub behind. That second bottle is sealed and without any extra sugar for carbonation. Strange, the beer from the bottle that was transferred wasn’t that carbonated. So, this could go either way.

Australian Pale Ale 3

Australian Pale Ale 3 in original bottle, gravity reading and re-bottled.

Gravity reading was really good, 1.012 for both the carboy and 1.25 L bottle. That means the beer from the carboy will end up about 5.0% with the bulk priming, while the 1.25 L bottles will remain at 4.5%. That’s pretty good. Plus the flavour was good. Quite a bit of orange flavour with some other citrus and other fruit. Hints of some floral and grassy notes. Will be interesting to see how it all settles down.

Given the heat in Melbourne is finally starting to kick in there’s not going to be another brew at my place for a bit. That might change if I get my act into gear and sort out a brew fridge. Will keep you all posted.

-Mikey

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Red Dog Pale Ale – review

Moving from kit & kilo brewing to extract brewing was pretty easy. Moving from extract brewing to partial mash was a little bit of a jump. Moving from partial mash to full mash (all grain) was another jump. The Red Dog pale ale was the first full mash beer, and done by Chas.

Red Dog Pale Ale

Red Dog Pale Ale in glasses and ready for drinking.

I’ve had a few bottles of this lying around the house. But it wasn’t until Chas came over to help with the last brew at my place that we finally sat down for a proper taste test.

Was really impressed with the aroma. There was plenty of stone fruit aroma from the Chinook hops. Very good smelling beer.

Then onto the flavour, smooth creamy body and flavour. This is a really easy drinking pale ale. The fruit and malt flavours blend quite well without being wishy-washy. There’s a slight bitterness at the back. And, a hint of spice. Both of those don’t take anything away form the smooth creamy feel of the beer. Rather, they add some sharpness in places. Alcohol content came in at 6.9%. That’s a lot more than the beer gives away. It works to help keep the body big without punching you with that harsh alcohol taste.

Overall this is a very well built beer. There’s a mixture of clean and complex going on without being all over the shop.

Really nice beer to have with most foods. It would work great with seafood or fried food. Fish and chips would go great. Also good with fruit or salad, really anything that’s clean.

This beer was the first all grain brew we’ve done. And it turned out great. Expect a lot more all grain brews, especially from Chas.

-Mikey

Tagged , , , ,

The Friedlieb, Coffee Porter II – Review

What an amazing beer. Best beer we’ve ever made? Pay attention and you’ll find out.

The Friedlieb II is the second coffee porter from Chas. The first one was done back in June and turned out pretty good. I had some issues with the sweetness and Chas wanted more smoky-ness. This version didn’t address the smoke but sorted out a few things.

The Friedlieb coffee porter II

The Friedlieb coffee porter II ready for drinking

Now, I’m giving away a bit here, normally I will have a glass of this beer with me when I type up the review. But for this one no such luck. I wasn’t around when Chas bottled the beer and he only brought around one beer when we tasted it back on Sunday 15th. So, I’ll go by my notes and memory.

First up there’s a huge coffee aroma. There’s some hints of chocolate and sweetness as well. This beer smells like exactly what you would expect from a coffee porter. That’s a big plus. Flavour. A dark creamy hit on the palate is the first thing you notice. Plenty of coffee the whole way through this beer from start to end. Lots of full body and big dark malt flavours. So smooth across all the flavour. There’s a chocolate builds up from about the mid point which works well with the coffee and dark malt. And there’s just enough bitterness to hold it together without any noticeable hop flavours.

The beer came in at 7.3% alcohol. Quite a respectable amount. With the coffee in there and so much grain flavours it could of gone any way. Lucky for Chas it worked out a treat.

Matching this beer to food is really hard. Not because it’s a dark beer with lots of coffee and hints of sweetness. It’s because it’s so amazingly good. You really want to drink it by itself. It could work with any rich or roasted food. Dark meats or big robust vegetables. Something with a dark sauce like red wine or gravy. Other option is to have this as a dessert beer. Possibly the perfect dessert beer.

So, is this the best beer we’ve ever made? I think the answer is a resounding YES! (Chas, bring me some more!)

-Mikey

Tagged , , , , ,

Wait, what hops was that?

Last Sunday was a brew day. Yay! Fun times with Chas. Let’s plan this, and then make lots of mistakes. Um, that’s not so great.

This brew day was a continuation from Australian Pale Ale 2 and my search for an easy to brew tasty Pale Ale. After bottling on Friday, and having a sample taste, I knew that the next attempt needed to be a multi hop brew. And that meant different hops at the same times.

As well as trying a new recipe, I wanted to use the brewing caps again. That meant upping the volume of the brew. That caused some issues I didn’t realise until Chas pointed out. I’ll get to that later.

Australian Pale Ale 3

Australian Pale Ale 3 in Carboy and bottles with brewing caps

The brew was based on the Australian Pale Ale 2 and was a 30 min boil with light dry malt extract. Given the bigger volume of water there was more ingredients. Measured out 800 grams of the dry malt for the base. As most of my Galaxy hops went in the last brew I picked up some new hops. Warrior hops for bittering. Crystal hops for flavour and aroma, to be topped up with the last of the Galaxy. All three hop additions were measured out and ready to go.

First up get water to a boil and add the malt. Then after the hot break in went the first hops. Then… Um, what hops was that? A quick review of the bowls with the hops… Yep, that was the aroma hops. Crap. Okay, now what?

After a bit of running around like a crazy person I did some recalculations. New schedule with a new set of aroma hops, being just Crystal. Back to the brew. Added the original bittering hops. Flavour hops went in. Then at flameout in went the aroma hops.

Moved the pot to the ice bath for chilling. Have got a lot better with the chilling of theses small batches. Four trays of ice cubes and about one litre of near-frozen water. Works pretty well.

Then realised the volume issue(s). Given this was a three hop brew I wanted to make just a little more. So, four litres fot the carboy, then 2.5 split into two 1.25 litres plastic soft drink bottles. And that’s where the problem started, there was too much for the carboy. Solution was to use the 30 litres fermenter. Poured all in and topped up with cold water to required 6.5 litres. Oops, forgot to strain the hops out. Poured back into pot. Added yeast. Oh no, forgot to take gravity reading. Do that.

Finally ready to transfer into the bottles. Filled both, not quite to the top. Then filled carboy, and there was too much! Because the bottles weren’t filled to the full 1.25 litres there was well over 4 litres for the carboy. In the end we filled up the carboy to a few centimetres from the top and only threw out a tiny amount of the wort. Thank goodness for blow off tubes.

  • 4 litre boil
  • 800 grams Light Dry Malt Extract
  • 1 gram Galalxy & 2 grams Crystal hops @ 30 mins
  • 4 grams Warrior hops @ 25 mins
  • 2 grams Galaxy hops & 6 grams Crystal @ 5 mins
  • 2 grams Crystal @ flame out
  • Teaspoon of re-hydrated US-05 yeast

The Australian Pale Ale #3 ended up tasting quite grassy with some really well rounded spice. A fair amount of hops left after even after filtering. I’m happy with this. The gravity came in at 1.046 which is exactly what was calculated. Mind you, that did include the yeast, so we’ll wait and see.

-Mikey

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Brewsmith Aussie Wattle Pale Ale – review

Mikey and I were quite excited to try Brewsmith’s new recipe, the Aussie Wattle Pale Ale that we made a few weeks ago.  This was a new recipe of theirs, and we usually like what we get out of a Brewsmith kit, so we were expecting something good.  All in all, we weren’t disappointed.

The smell was pretty malty with a hint of citrus, and the wattle really came out.

Aussie WattleBecause of the smell, I was expecting a much maltier beer, but it was actually quite bitter, more bitter than I anticipated from the style and the initial sniff.  Of course it wasn’t an IPA bitterness, but there was definitely a hoppy kick.  The wattle remained obvious throughout the taste.  Wattle is a hard taste to describe to those who haven’t had it… I tried to find some tasting notes for wattle seed in general but I didn’t agree with any of the descriptions!  All I can say is that it interacted well with the hops and the two flavours work together well.

The bitterness tended to build up a little bit, which is more typical of an IPA.  This wasn’t unwelcome or over the top and went well: really it was just a regular pale ale that happened to be on the more bitter side of things.  Other than the bitterness, the body and flavour was very typical of the style.

The only real criticism I have is that there wasn’t much finish to the beer.  I prefer a beer with a long flavour and this one was a little short; it lacked complexity.  This added to the sessionability of the beer as it made for very easy drinking, so that’s a plus.

Most basically, this was a good, easy drinking beer.  I’d do this with something just as basic and standard like a sausage sizzle or a burger.  Enjoy.

-Chas

Tagged , , , , , ,

Bulk and Pale, finally there

Whoops, this was meant to go up a couple days ago! Anyway, here it is…

Last Sunday was another brew day at my place. It was a bit of a milestone date as I finally got around to doing bulk priming. Was also able to kick off what I hope is a series of pale ales. Chas made it over and we did a number if tastings through the arvo.

First up was bottling the Baltic Porter #2. As I promised, this was to be my first bulk priming attempt. There was about 15 litres of useable beer. Problem was that I didn’t have another vessel that could hold that much. Ended up using the 9 litre pot that’s normally reserved for the boil. Did two lots of 6 litres and one lot of 3 litres.

Bulk priming set up

First attempt at bulk priming with fermenter, scales, pot and sample in the back.

Used an online calculator to work out how much sugar to add. Sugar was put direct into the pot and beer was released over the top. Then stirred slowly to dissolve the sugar completely. In hindsight it would of been good to dissolve the sugar in some water first. Having just one vessel with one transfer would of been a lot easier. Bottling 15 litres with a syphon wasn’t fun. Most was done into 500 ml bottles which saved a fair bit of time.

The final gravity came in at 1.032 which is a lot higher than expected. After bottle conditioning it should be 5.6% alcohol. That’s a lower than was hoping for. Really wanted this to be above 6%. That said it tasted pretty good when we sampled it. Time will tell.

After bottling was finally done it was on to the brew. Plus there was a few brews up for tasting. The Aussie Wattle Pale Ale, Hoppy Heart IPA 2 and the two apple ciders I made. Chas will be posting about those over the next few days.

I’ve been wanting to build out a range of lighter beers that can be enjoyed on the warmer days coming up. Not everyone in the house likes IPA’s and I’m not ready for doing a proper lager. Pale ale was the only good option. Given the failure of the last attempt I decided to avoid using liquid malt. So, dry malt was used and hops kept tame. As I used up a few things last brew this ended up as a single hop beer. That’s pretty exciting and will be a great benchmark, if it ferments out well.

Before the brew started the yeast and a teaspoon of dry malt extract were thrown into a cup of water for rehydration. Realised after that should have waited before putting in the DME. Hopefully that doesn’t make much if a difference.

Basic brew this one. Only a thirty minute boil.

Australian Pale Ale #2
Boil size 3 litres
500 grams of Light Dry Malt Extract
3 grams Galaxy hops at 30 mins
2 grams Galaxy hops at 15 mins
2 grams Galaxy hops at 1 min /flameout.
1 & 1/2 teaspoons if US 05 yeast.

Australian Pale Ale #2

Australian Pale Ale 2 in the carboy after one week.

As this was a small boil it was a lot easier to lower the temperature. Three trays of ice and some half frozen water went into the wort while sitting in the water bath. In less than 20 mins we were already down to 24°C and ready to pitch yeast. Last bit of water put in to get it up to four litres then given a good shake before gravity reading done. Original Gravity came in at 1.044. Airlock on, and done.

Day was a good one. Had a late start and didn’t think it would be a long one. Turns out the bulk priming and bottling took a fair bit longer than I thought. Looks like I’ll need a proper vessel for the priming when I do it again.

Really happy to finally get around to these two things. Next few brews will also be pale ales. But might need to slow down as we come into Christmas.

-Mikey

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Brewsmith Hoppy Heart II – Review

A few weeks ago we revisited Brewsmith’s Hoppy Heart IPA.  We originally did this one way back in May, but we wanted to try it again, so we did!

All in all, it was a pretty similar beer to before, but it wasn’t exactly the same.  This can happen sometimes if we did things at different temperatures, especially the fermentation.  Every brew is different!  While commercial breweries take a lot of care to make sure each batch is exactly the same, we didn’t…  Seasonality can often affect raw material flavours as well, so an autumn brew can be different from a spring brew.

Hoppy HeartCompared to my review of the previous batch, this beer was a bit more laid back in terms of the hops.  The smell was great: sticky and malty with a bit of a metallic feel, not a lot of hops though.  From the beginning, the beer felt very malty.

This continued on through the initial taste.  There was a great long bitterness, characteristic of an IPA, but there wasn’t much interaction of different hop flavours.  It was a nice single bitterness.  This was behind the sweetness and malt, which was primary, at least at first.  I would have preferred a little more spectrum in there, but it was still a great beer.

I’m not sure why this batch was generally sweeter than before.  It possible it’s just how we steeped the grains as well as fermentation temperatures.

Towards the end, the bitterness did start to take over a bit more and the sweetness got pushed out of the way.  I usually find this happens in an IPA; the bitterness builds up in your mouth.  I quite enjoyed this, and it was in no way overpowering.

All in all this was a fairly sessionable IPA, but maybe a little heavy for too many.

I always enjoy an IPA with curry, and I’m going to maintain this opinion.  So get some curry and pop open an IPA.-Chas

Tagged , , , , , ,

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

Tagged , , , , , , , ,