Tag Archives: story

Off topic, on beer

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

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

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

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


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Pale Trial Ein – Review

The five beers that make up Pale Trial Ein are more different than I expected. Time hasn’t softened them into a similar flavour. Rather the opposite. The difference is more pronounced after a couple months conditioning. A couple Sundays ago Chas was over for a brewing day and we did a side-by-side review of all five.

Pale Trial Ein 1-5 for review

Pale Trial Ein 1-5 ready for tasting and for review

Before going further into the review a recap is called for. These five beers were all brewed from the same batch. One boil with liquid malt and Victoria Secret hops, and the same yeast (US-05). The only difference was the yeast nutrient and if a Campden tablet was added. That’s it. All fermented at the same temperature, same amount of sugar for bottle priming, same again for bottle conditioning. All of this done to learn. And what was learnt? Let’s find out…

Common characteristics
All five come from the same base. There is a clear dark stone fruit flavour up front. Solid amber malt in the middle. Then finishes with a sharp bitterness with the malt background.

The descriptions below are slightly exaggerated to highlight the differences.

Pale Trial Ein 1
The “control” of the beers. With the modern yeast nutrient only.
Aroma is of dark fruit and still subtle. Body is straight forward. The bitterness comes in quite sharply at the end. It is the most aggressive with hop bitterness. Bitter beer.

Pale Trial Ein 2
This one was with same yeast nutrient and a Campden tablet.
The softest flavours of the lot. Hop fruit flavours at the start. A nice easy amber malt body. Not very bitter at all… until the very end and there’s a kick. And that really kills the softness.
Okay, nothing special.

Pale Trial Ein 3
This is the one with the really old yeast nutrient only.
A much lighter beer than all the others. Light and fresh hop aroma. Lighter amounts of stone fruit up front. Body is a bit easier and laid back. The hops at the back are quite lighter and there is a subtle creaminess.
Easy and light.

Pale Trial Ein 4
This is the one with a Campden tablet only.
Very soft aroma. Starts with a solid stone fruit flavour, but not overpowering. There’s a mellow and big dark-ish fruit flavour. There’s a bit of bitter end to this which works quite well to offset the stone fruit flavours.

Pale Trial Ein 5
This is the one with the really old yeast nutrient and a Campden tablet.
Light and smooth rich aroma which is very nice. Starts off very smooth indeed, then the big fruit comes in and works a treat. Darker than beer #2, #3 and #4. Towards the end there’s smooth finish with a hint of bitterness working well with the body.

If I was to match these beers to something it would be a salty or spicy roast meat. Maybe barbecued. Or something fried with spice. You need something to work with the big bitter hops in the beer.

It’s a tough choice between #3 and #5 for best beer. Winner is #5 . Runner up is #3, in third place comes #4, forth is #2 and clearly in last place is #1.

It might seam like a wide range in flavours from the reviews above, and it does feel like that when they’re side by side. If you pick up a #1 or #5 first off, you still taste the same thing, stone fruit hops with amber malt. Then the bitterness takes over. I think there was too much hops. Victoria Secret hops have a big kick which I’ve see it in my all grain and here in the Pale Trial Ein series. Does this make these bad beers? No. But there’s room for improvement. And I’ll work on that.

It has been a really interesting journey with these beers. They’re the end of a mini story of finding my Dad’s old wine brewing equipment, cleaning, brewing, bottling and finally tasting. But the journey doesn’t end. The Pale Trial Zwie beers are ready for drinking. Will need to get into them and write up a review.


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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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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.


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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.


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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.


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Cross promotion, check it out!

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

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

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

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


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Journey to home brew – Part 3, The Brewing

In this post I wrap up my story on how I came to making home brew. This follows on from post 1 and post 2.

In my last two posts I mentioned the slow journey to beer appreciation. In this post I’ll talk about the tentative steps, then plunge, into home brewing.

After the 366 Days of Beer challenge I knew that tasty beer is the only type of beer I want to drink. And I knew that only by trying new beers could I find some if the really good beers. There.were a lot of good and some bad craft beers. Surely that was the same with beers made out side of breweries, right?

During 2011 my good mate Ian had done some “on premises brewing” out at U Brew It on the north-west side of Melbourne. He decided to do his own brew and invited me along to help. It was fun. The set up was open and the people friendly. Plus the range of beers you could make was huge.
When we did the bottling there were a whole lot of others doing the same. You get chatting, sharing a couple glasses, and even swapping a six pack of beer or two.

In December 2011 I did a brew with my wife with a view to keep three slabs for our engagement party. The brew turned out quite well. We enjoyed three slabs over the next coupe months. But the three we kept in a cellar weren’t cold enough, and went off.
I made a quick return to U Brew It at the start of May 2012 to brew a golden ale. Then returned again just a day before the engagement party to bottle. The beer went down very well. Nearly all six slabs went in one night!

The intention was to return and do anyone one. But as 366 Days of Beer started taking off there wasn’t a need, or space, for that much beer.

Ian found out about a beer show called The Beer Frontier that use to be on Channel 31 here in Melbourne. The episodes were, and still are, on YouTube. Had some interesting segments including home brew. That opened my eyes up to what home brewing was all about. They were showing the full grain and full boil process, which was a bit daunting.

Then, on 2 November 2012 Crafty Pint sent out a the weekly newsletter with info about BrewSmith. For those who live in Australia and like great beer I can not recommend enough getting on board with Crafty Pint. The weekly newsletter alone is packed with fantastic information about what’s going on with craft beer.
The newsletter on that day included information on, and a competition, for BrewSmith. Now if you’ve been reading the blog you’ll know that we did a lot of BrewSmith beers. And we’ll probably keep doing a few more. Back in 2012 this was a real eye opener for me. I wanted to make good beer but didn’t want to spend massive cash on a set up. The BrewSmith set up allows minimal upfront cash and great beer.

It was around September-October that I decided that moving into home brew was a good idea. My birthday is in the middle of October and I thought it might be a good present. I considered the typical home brew kits such as the one from Australian Home Brewing (link might die in a month or two). I knew the importance of a bench capper so this is the one I was looking at. The alternative was a BrewSmith kit (again, link might die). After a lot of time, I spent over a month thinking about the two, I chose the BrewSmith kit.
Lucky for me my wonderful wife bought me both.

In January 2013 I started my first home brew. And ever since then it’s been fantastic.

I hope you have enjoyed my little story. For some people home brew was originally about saving money. For others it started with a “that’s a cool idea/gift/thing-to-do-one-day”. For a few it has been about trying to replicate or make something better than a beer they know. And for those like me, it was all about the appreciation for great beer.
So far we haven’t made anything bad. The first lager was average, and the second one is better. We’ll keep brewing, sharing our knowledge and letting others know about the awesomeness of home brew.


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Journey to home brew – Part 2, The Challenges

This is the second in a group of posts on how I got involved in home brew. It follows up from part 1. This second part outlines where my beer appreciation took a big step up.

After drinking a lot of lager for many years the discovery of beer with flavour was like a breath of fresh air. What was to follow was like a hurricane.

Ian introduced me to a pub in Melbourne called Mrs.Parma’s. They are famous for two reasons: a big range of parmas, and having only Victorian beers. The only mainstream beer they had on tap was Carlton Draft (earlier this year they finally removed that as well!). All the other 15 taps had craft beer.

It was back in early 2011 that the first challenge was born. After another, somewhat regular, visit to Mrs Parma’s there was a story shared about one of Ian’s friends who ate 99 parmas in one year. What? 99? Surely he could of had just one more and hit 100. Hey, that’s less than two a week. We could do that! That’s a good idea, let’s do that.
And so, with that, the parma challenge started. Target was to eat 100 parmas in 365 days. Photo evidence required. Review strongly recommended. Any other information, like “out of five” score or cost, great to have.
At the end there were three of us who made it: Ian, his wife at the time, and me. I topped the list with 143.

The parma challenge started in Feb 2011 and finished in Feb 2012. As we got to the end of 2011 we started thinking about what we could do for the next challenge. As big fans of Mrs Parma’s we thought about their other offering, beer. Hey, next year is a leap year as well. Maybe we could do something about 366 days. One a day? Is there that many beers?

So we started looking. Where there that many beers made in the world? Okay, looks like that’s not a problem. Could we get at least 366 of those beers in Melbourne? Looks like it.

The rules were debated back and forth. Would it be one beer every day? Or seven in a week, allowing to cram in seven beers over a couple days and rest for the rest? How would we provide evidence of having the beer? How about some sort of “good” side to the whole thing?
Rules were agreed as follows:

  • One beer every single day. No excuses.
  • Photo evidence required with the date. Bottled beer has to be open/beer poured into the glass. Tap beers need to have the tap or description/name included.
  • Review is required. To include beer name, brewer, percentage of ABV (alcohol by volume).
  • No home brew. Beer has to be commercially available.
  • No ginger beer.
  • No cider.
  • For every beer $1 to go to the charity of your choice.

A test run was done in December. It went quite well.

Each month was going to have its own theme: Australian beers for January (Australia Day), American beers for July (Independence Day), German beers for October (October Fest), and so on.
Halfway through January it dawned on Ian and I that there was a crazy amount of Australian beers out there. We were discovering about one new brewery every day! Quickly we both agreed to stuff the themes and try to have Australian bees for the whole year.

Wow. What a year. 366 Days of Beer was a big success.
Technically I was the only one to completed the challenge successfully. Both Ian and I had holidays overseas. I packed my Australian beers in my luggage (which required a reshuffle of items to keep us under the weight limit). Ian was away for nearly two weeks and posted them over. They didn’t turn up. On returning to Melbourne he did two a day to catch up.
Leah was the other person to do the challenge properly. Major dental work took her out for a week and by end of year there were a few other days missing.
Ian put his reviews up on his blog. Mine are going up slowly on mine.

Throughout the year collectively we tried over 600 Australian beers from most of the Australian breweries. Despite that there were many beers, and even some breweries, missed. What was definitely gained was a much greater appreciation of beer, and a deeper understanding of what we do and don’t want in a beer.


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Journey to home brew – Part 1, The Beer

I mentioned in one of my first posts that there is story behind how I ended up wanting to home brew. Over the next few weeks I’ll share that story with you.

Unlike the stereotypical Aussie male, I didn’t get into drinking beer for a long time. I grew up in a household where wine was by far the first, second, third, forth and fifth choice of drink. Oh, and there was tea. The focus on wine was so important that family holidays tended to be based around visiting wine regions. At home there was a good small range of spirits, but no beer.

It wasn’t until the end of my first year of Uni that I really started drinking beer. I only had a few beers here and there in my first year Then I went on an Archaeology dig in Cyprus for two months from start of November to end of December. The wine was horrible. The spirits weren’t akin to paint stripper. And beer was amazingly cheap, especially when you return the empty bottles. There was a lot of beer consumed.
After that, there were many Archaeology digs where beer was the drink of choice. I remember one dig at Port Arthur in Tasmania. We worked out that between a small group of us we drank about a pallet of beer in three weeks!

Apart from that, beer still wasn’t my first choice when going out, or staying in, for a drink. I wasn’t excited about the stuff. Every beer tried seamed to be pretty much the same, mass produced tasteless lager.

Over a period of 8-9 years I would slowly learn about things other than lagers. Guinness, Kilkenny, Coopers and Mountain Goat were some of the first adventures into non-lager beers. Little Creatures and some of the more obscure ones would pop up from time to time.

A turning point for me was the very first Harvest Picnic at Werribee Park, maybe 2005 or later. There were a few micro breweries with stands, including Grand Ridge and Red Duck. It was here that I tasted for the first time, and feel in love with, Red Duck’s Golden Dragon, a Celtic ale.

Then in 2008 on holiday in Europe I met up with a friend in Bristol and discovered the amazing world of real (English) ales.

The following year I met a guy through work who was originally from England. Ian would become a great friend. Over the next couple years we would discover the wonderful range of quality beers in Australia.


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