Friday, 21 August 2015

Lest We Forget........

It's great that a lot of breweries are making super-hoptastic beers with loads of flavour, there are some great beers out there, but do we run the risk of forgetting what beer actually tastes like?

I'm not talking about bland lager or tasteless bitter, with corn syrup added to cheaply bump up the alcohol content and leaving the drinker wondering if there is actually any hops or malt on the ingredient list.  No, I'm talking about a proper, well-balanced pint of something with great aroma, a solid malt backbone and nice bitterness and hop flavours, that's easy to drink and hits the spot.  I've tried a lot of beers lately and some are great, but some are less than great.  It seems to me that a lot of breweries are just chucking loads of hops in the boil, adding even more to dry hop with for aroma, but forgetting that it should be backed up with a decent malt backbone.

I recently got into a conversation about Brewdog with a brewer friend (a proper, full shiny stainless steel commercial brewery owner, not just a dabbler like myself) and he reckons he was extremely disappointed with Punk IPA when he tried it as, though it has an amazing smell and powerful hop flavour to start with, it dies off very quickly and leaves nothing behind.  In other words, it has no balance with the malt.  Is this because the recipe calls for loads of hops rather just the right amount of bitternes to balance flavours?  Or does the amount of bitterness that initially hits your taste buds mask any other flavours that could be present?  I'm no expert on beer tasting (though my brewer friend is) and I hadn't tasted Punk IPA properly in the past.  I'd drank it on a couple of occasions but hadn't actually thought about what I was tasting.  Add to that the fact it's too bloody expensive to buy regularly, and don't get me started on those 330ml bottles that all the 'cool' breweries seem to be using, I like a pint, not almost a pint, BAH!  Anyway, I purchased a couple of bottles and sat down to taste them.  He was right; the beer tastes and smells lovely but, once it's swallowed - nothing.

I recently went to a small beer festival held in a pub, and sampled a couple of local Yorkshire beers.  One was absolutely lovely; amazing flavour and aroma and, despite being 5.4% it went down very well.  Another beer I tried was an over-hopped IPA and I had a couple of pints as it was quite nice to start with despite being very bitter, but it started to be unenjoyable halfway through the second pint. I didn't buy a third.

Other breweries have managed to get the balance right.  Try a pint of APA (American Pale Ale) from Windswept brewery (Lossiemouth, NE Scotland) and it has a big grapefruit hop flavour and aroma, but it's backed up with an equally large (and complex) malt flavour.  Very nice it is, too!

Rothes Brewery (Rothes, Speyside) has just started up recently and makes some very good beers.  They are not overly hoppy, but are very nice, balanced drinks.  Just as beer should be, in my opinion.

A recent trip to the National Brewery Centre in Burton had me sampling a pint of Reservoir Pale Ale from the Burton Gate brewery and, again, a very decent beer and full of flavour.

There are probably thousands of examples of great, balanced, flavoursome beers from small breweries all around the world, so you don't need to fall for the brashly marketed, brashly hopped beers from any one brewery. Try a few, or as many as you can, then maybe you'll see what my problem is!

I shall stick to making my own balanced beers, and drinking good beers from other small breweries.  I'm sure some would call them 'bland', 'tasteless' and 'uninspiring' but that's their opinion.  Equally, all that you read above is mine.  What's yours'?

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Summer Lightning Update

My first all grain beer has now completely cleared (although the pic doesn't make it look clear) and is tasting lovely!  Unfortunately, it's nearly gone.

Not a problem as AG#2 (another Summer Lightning clone but only 5.2% this time) is priming in bottles as we speak and #3 (my own Blonde ale recipe) is ready to be bottled in a couple of days.

#4 will be brewed mid-week, a Hobgoblin clone.  Pics to follow.....

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Earlier in the week, I strained off the banana wine into a demijohn and it now looks like this;

Not very appetising at the moment, is it?  Banana wine needs more racking than other wines due to dropping a lot of sediment.  Once it does clear, it will be a lovely golden colour.

My Summer Lightning is also in the keg and priming as we speak.  In a couple of days, it will go into my cool garage to condition for a few weeks.  That's the plan!  It is tasting lovely, even at this early stage, so it might be a problem keeping my hands off it!!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Raspberry Beer

Just tasting the raspberry beer I mentioned here

It's very nice and is quite dry (much like real raspberries).  The only problem is lack of fizz.  I batch primed the 2 gallons, bottled, and left at 20 degrees for a week but still no fizz.  It is not quite flat as there is a bubbly feeling on the tongue.  At first, I thought that pressure may have been leaking from under the caps on the bottles, but the plastic bottles (which did feel firm as though they had some pressure behind them) were the same.   Oh well, back to the drawing board!

Quick Update....

This is what I woke up to this morning.......!

The yeast is obviously doing its job well.  Also, the bitter aroma it had yesterday has been replaced by a lovely fruity/spicy aroma.  If it tastes half as good as it smells, I'll be chuffed :-)
Between all the beer-making shenanigans yesterday, I managed to mince the wheat to add to my banana wine.  

It has formed a crust on top of the wine and will need stirring once or twice a day to keep everything moist and get the flavours working.  I'll ferment it 'on the pulp' for about a week before straining into a demijohn. 

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

All Grain Brew Day #1 - Summer Lightning Clone

I chose this recipe after reading about 'Demon Valley' brewery's first all grain brew day and, seeing as the ingredients are fairly straight forward, decided it would also be my first brew.

•5kg Pale Ale Malt
•46g Challenger Hops @ 90 minutes
•15g Goldings Hops @ 15 minutes
•9g Goldings Hops @ Flameout/Poweroff
•Safale S-o4 yeast

I set my alarm for 0700 this morning but was awoken by a bad dream, in which my boiler wouldn't boil and kept cutting out (see how this brewing lark affects you?).

I got out of bed and measured out 16 litres of water.

0700 - The water goes into the boiler to be heated to 71.6 degrees for mashing.

The most important step in brewing and wine making is, of course, sterilising everything to avoid infection.  But is it?  Surely this is the most important first step?

My instructions/steps for the day, in case I forget anything;
Everything ready and prepared

And ingredients

 07:25  -  The water (liquor in brewing terms) reaches 71.6 degrees and is now added to the mash tun

The mash temperature I am aiming for is 66 degrees so, once the grist (malt) is added, this cools the temperature down to where I want it

I now mash at this temperature for 90 minutes which, I'm pleased to say, my new mash tun has managed without dropping a degree. 
Meanwhile, I heat up 20.86 litres of liquor to 75.9 degrees for sparging.
0900 - Time to sparge (rinse the sugars from the grist)
The first runnings.  This is returned to the mash tun until it comes through clear.......

.......Like this
Pre-boil gravity is 1.032

10:00 - The wort is now transferred into the boiler to give it a rolling boil for 90 minutes.  This drives off any unpleasant enzymes and sterilises the wort.  Hops are added at various times for bittering and aroma. 
10:50 - The wort is finally boiling so 46g of Challenger hops are added for bittering.

12:05  -  More hops are added, 15g of East Kent Goldings for aroma.  Also, the wort cooler is now added to the boiler to sterilise it for the last 15 minutes of the boil

12:20 - Time to cool the wort down to around 20 degrees.  Ideally, this is done as quickly as possible so the yeast can be pitched, and there will be less chance of infection

12:40 - Just 20 minutes to cool down 26 litres down to pitching temperature.  I'm happy with that!
The wort is now transferred to a fermenting vessel and, after being thoroughly aerated (to encourage yeast growth), the yeast is pitched

 Original Gravity is 1.052.

13:30 - Everything cleaned and tidied away! 

Problems:  The only problems I noted were the fact that my OG should have been approx. 1.043 whereas the actual OG is 1.052.  I'm not sure if this is down to a dodgy hydrometer!  The other problem was that hops got stuck in the tap, blocking it, when transferring from the boiler to the FV.  I had thought this might happen so prepared by sterilising a sieve and jug to transfer manually

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Banana Wine

After the success of the banana wine I made a couple of years back, I have decided it's time I make some more.

The initial recipe called for 4lb of bananas which I purchased, but then ate a pound of them.  So, I have decided to make up my own recipe.

3lb bananas (plus half a pound of skins)
1lb wheat (it needs using up as it's been in the cupboard for a few years)
1/2lb sultanas
2 1/2lb sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
yeast nutrient

Boil up the sliced bananas and skins for about 20 minutes.  Strain onto the sugar and minced sultanas and add the wheat (which should ideally be soaked overnight and minced).  Bung all the other ingredients in and ad the yeast and nutrient.

Boiling the bananas

Soaking the wheat

I didn't plan this ahead so I will have to add the wheat tomorrow as it is still soaking.