Monday, April 20, 2020

Coronavirus Red Ale

Two and a half years!

That's how long since I last posted. Hey, i've been busy. I worked virtually non-stop over that time, but coronavirus took care of that.

What to do? 

Make beer.

So after my last red ale effort which resulted in flat beer, I've finally decided to give it another go. My first red ale effort was arguably my best beer, so if it's anywhere close, it will be a delicious drop.

However, unhappy with the recipes I found on the net, i turned up at the brewshop with NFI what ingredients i wanted. All I knew was that I wanted to do a red ale. Flavoursome, but not too strong or burnt. So I looked at all the grains in the shop, and all the yeasts, relying on whatever old hops I had at home. Not equipped to do a full mash, partial mashes have served me well in the past, so that's what i'm going to make. Recently I've just done kits, sticking mainly to Coopers IPA, which is pretty much idiot-proof.

So as my base I selected 1kg of light malt extract and 1kg of dextrose which I tried to fool myself that I wouldn't use it all. As if! For my grains, i selected 250g of each of 2-row malt and 250g of Maris Otter, which was supposed to be Golden Promise, but I placed it on the list against the former. For my specialty malts, I selected 250g of Red Back Malt, and 250g of 60L Crystal Malt. I was going to select another red grain, but thought it might be unbalanced.

As for the yeast, I went with Mangrove Jack's Empire Ale Yeast from their Craft Series, which have served me well in the past (note to self - don't throw the used pack away before recording it and dumping used grain over it).

And for the first time, I used some Irish Moss at the end of the boil to clear up the beer. I don't give a rat's arse whether my beer is cloudy or not, but beer ignoramuses think it's weird, if ever I want to share some.

So after buying my stuff, i went home to see what hops i had. So i decided to use the last of my Spalt hops from 2017, and the last of my East Kent Goldings from 2018; 25g and 30g respectively. I only had aromatic hops left, which is not ideal, but I did my calculations and settled with an a bitterness profile of an estimated 33 IBU, however the age of the hops is likely to reduce the bitterness. I estimate my beer to be more like 30 IBUs, which is quite fine for this beer. I boiled the first two for 60 minutes, with a 5 minute boil of 30g of Cascade hops for aroma. I'm a big fan of Cascade hops, so it should add a moderate hoppiness to my beer, which is the most I'm prepared to add, as this is fundamentally a malty beer. I prefer to not overcomplicate my beers, making it either malty, hoppy or yeasty as the primary characteristic. Most recipes on the net have a ridiculous complexity that contains ingredients too small to make a difference. 5 different hops is just absurd, yet some people think complexity equates to better beer.

Anyway, it was a lot of work, but it's now in the fermenter and doing its thing. The original gravity was 1042, which is a bit lower than expected, but it should be right around the 5% mark, which is my ideal strength. After checking the original gravity, I had a little taste and the first thing that struck me was that the bitterness level seems just right. The ferment temperature is just right, now important since my beer fridge carked it a few months ago. An April temp hovering around 20C is just fine. I'll be drinking my most recent IPA until this beer is ready. I'll try and remember to post an update!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Leffe Blond Clone

I knew I'd been lazy, but over one year since my last post? Oh, that's right, i posted a meme on my Facebook mirror site a few months ago, but that took about a minute and a half of my time. To be fair, though, beer blogging is a lower priority that actually making beer. Or actually drinking beer, for that matter.

Anyhow, here i am in between hop additions in my Leffe Blond clone mini-mash, and I figured I should post my vain attempt rather than write it on the white board for the kids to wipe off so they can write "Daddy's a poopy head" or something equally witty.

But this time is different, in more ways than one.

This time, I've done additional research, and made a few changes to try and get even a little bit closer to my target beer. And not a moment too soon, either, considering I'm attempting one of the greats.

For my last birthday, i received a very generous gift voucher, so I thought that I better buy something worthy of the occasion. It just so happened that a local bottle shop had a special on Leffe Blond, and I've been partaking on special occasions ever since (i.e. Fridays). It is truly a great beer. Its website describes Leffe Blond as having "hints of vanilla and clove infuse the beer with an even smoother flavour, which best expresses itself in a Leffe chalice, simultaneously allowing the soft, fresh essence of this beer to unveil its true elegance".

I'm sorry, but that just tempts me to chuck in some actual vanilla so I can say that it has overtones of vanilla. Hey, i don't care how it tastes like Leffe Blond, but if I get there, I'd be stoked. Anyway, a good scorer beats a good player, so they say. However, having my wort already cooling, I'm going to resist cheating. In that particular instance, at least.

Anyway, down to business. *Burp*. No, not that business, although the mystery beer I'm drinking due to the fact that I couldn't find a Sharpie is rather nice, whatever it is.

I originally planned to make my clone a little less alcoholic, due to the smaller margin of error when making stronger beers, but then i found some leftover Briess Bavarian Wheat dry malt extract, which is indeed excellent for this beer, so alas, my clone is expected to have a true 6.5% alcohol by volume. Plus bottle sugar, so make that 6.8%. Sadly, i'll just have to drink even more alcohol in my beer. It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it.

So, my ingredients used were:
  • 1.5kg wheat liquid malt
  • 1kg light dry malt
  • 300g Briess Bavarian Wheat dry malt extract 
  • 500g cracked Vienna malt 
  • 1kg dextrose
  • 8g Mangrove Jack's M21 Belgian Wit dry yeast
  • 15g crushed coriander seed
  • 30g Saaz hops
  • 30g Styrian Goldings hops
  • Finings
The recipe I found had 30g Tettnanger hops for 60 minutes and 20g Saaz hops for 15 minutes, however with lots of packets of Saaz hops and no Tettnanger handy, I went 30g Saaz hops for 60 minutes and 30g Styrian Goldings hops for 15 minutes in lieu, due to the higher alpha acids of Saaz, hence more bittering. yes, I went for more aromatic hops for a higher hops profile due to my research and the fact that previous attempts were sub-optimal.

But first I steeped the Vienna malt grain in 70C water for 30 minutes before adding to the brew for a 60 minute boil.

Additionally, I added 15g of crushed coriander seed courtesy of my local Asian grocery store, which is a whole lot easier than doing it in a mortar and pestle, and finding the odd stray coriander seed shell floating in my guest's beer. Oops.

Other changes this beer include adding finings for the first time EVER, despite brewing for over ten years. This was due to the 500g of cracked Vienna malt, of which tends to add to cloudiness. The finings is supposed to make all of the solids in suspension drop to the bottom, so I will be adding a day or two before bottling. The other change is additional priming (at considerable risk, I might add, with summer approaching) to better represent the higher carbonation of Belgian wheat beers. This is not obvious due to the typically fine head of Belgian wheat beers, but, as I learned today, it is indeed a feature of them.

I did also make one other change, which I did recently upon advice, which was to use LESS yeast, in order to make the yeast work harder, which apparently brings out the full flavour profile of the yeast. 

But wait! There's more! I nearly forgot. I also avoided rinsing the steeped Vienna malt grain in order to avoid adding any unwanted bitter or other off flavours. Many suggest that you pour boiling water through the remaining grain to extract more flavour, however, like coffee, the law of diminishing returns apply, and the price of quantity is quality, and Leffe Blond is not a quantity beer. If I wanted a Budweiser, I'd spit in my water, add alcohol, and call it "beer".

Now I just have to remember the finings and extra priming sugar for the bottles, and hopefully my beer will vaguely resemble Leffe Blond.

If it tastes anything life Leffe Blond, i'll be very, very happy. 

I'll ferment at 21C for probably 3 weeks to ensure full fermentation so that I can add slightly more sugar in priming the bottles, with confidence. However, with summer approaching, I might have to age in the fridge at maybe 19C to avoid bottle explosions,  angry neighbours, and the sight of a grown man crying over lost beer.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Powerful Porter

As a bribe for my father-in-law to help re-surface the back patio, I've created a beer according to his preferred tastes. Unfortunately, it tastes so promising that I'm keeping half for myself!

Again, I've gone for the mini-mash which, despite the extra work, gives results far better than kit brews. In one of the great paradoxes, beer should be made fresh, then aged. The long-life nature of kit beer gives it a tepid taste, and the standard hops they use is a recipe for blandness.

I avoided using additional cracked grain as i went for a second batch of Breiss Porter liquid malt for that extra flavour and kick! Firstly, I boiled 15 grams each of Saaz and Hallertau hops for 60 minutes, adding 15 grams of Cascade hops with 5 minutes remaining, before adding 3kg of Briess Porter liquid malt and bringing back to the boil.

After cooling, it was made to 22 litres with Mangrove Jack's New World Strong Ale (I think, but lots of beers have passed through my memory since then, so maybe not). However, to get the desired strength, I added 500 grams of dextrose after four days, then another 500 grams (or was it a kilogram? Who knows?) four days later. After fermenting for 4 weeks, i bottled it last weekend, but not before the obligatory taste test.

Holy Moly! It was like being smacked in the face with a cold salmon, only more enjoyable! I don't really know how strong it is, but it certainly tastes strong enough for the father-in-law. I'm sure he'll enjoy. Hopefully it will be ready by Christmas!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Top 100 Beer Blog!!

Yes, there is an award for top 100 Beer blogs, but no, I wasn't one of them. Apologies for the deceitful title, but clickbait has no morality.

In any case, in 2016, who needs to be awarded top 100 when you can simply identify as such?

And in the time-honoured tradition of the internet, why work hard when you can simply steal it?

So here it is - me identifying as an awardee of the prestigious Top 100 Beer Blogs!!! Hooray for me!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

My First Mini-mash - Leffe Brune!

I've had enough of average beer, so it's time to  step it up!

For those unfamiliar with the finer points of home brewing, mashing is the process of releasing the grain starches into fermentable sugars. Mini-mashing involves using a combination of grain and already malted extracts, and boiling hops for different lengths according to desired bitterness and aroma. 

So I found this little recipe for a Leffe Blonde which looked simple enough, and is a fantastic beer to drink, so why not copy it? The only problem was, the Hop & Grain did not have the clear Belgian candi sugar used it the blonde, only the dark Belgian candi sugar. So Blonde it ain't, and never will be! But that's okay, Leffe Brune is a fine beer in its own right.

The recipe included;
  • 3kg Liquid Light Malt Extract
  • 500g Light Dried Malt
  • 250g Caramunich Grain
  • 500g Belgian Clear Candi Sugar
  • 30g Hallertau Hops Pellets (60 min boil)
  • 20g Saaz Hops Pellets (10 min boil)
  • T58 Yeast (White Labs Trappist Ale Yeast-optional)
 As these things go, sometimes you can't get precisely the ingredients, so as well as the candi sugar, they didn't have the liquid yeast, so i went for the Lallemand Abbaye powdered yeast, and damned well forgot the 500g light dried malt! Fortunately i had about 350g of liquid malt at home, which i used instead.

So everything went according to plan, until the very end when, when trying to fill the fermenter with the freshly brewed wort, the wife started spraying some anti-arthritis spray that smelt like Dencorub, so if the beer has any hint of that, at least i'll know who to blame. 

To make things worse, 36 hours after brewing, the wort had still not commenced fermenting. Fortunately, however, this evening fermenting had commenced, so now just a 3 month wait to find out if it's any good! I am confident though, as a preliminary taste revealed a rich, flavoured brew, so just two months to confirm! (as time goes by, I will reduce that time until it's carbonated in the bottle. 3 months is just a guide, to be honest. How convenient!)

Finally, i surveyed my growing crates of beer, and have nearly 20 cases of beer, so I can afford to slow down the production, or I could just drink it faster. Decisions, decisions!!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Honey Madness!

Years ago, in my very first attempt to make a honey beer, i was told that under no circumstances was i to use more than 300 grams of honey - the end result was a beer that had absolutely no trace of honey.

Ten years later, it is time to revisit the elusive honey beer, so, just to make sure I can taste the honey, I'm going all out for that great honey taste with no less than 1,000 grams of honey - an entire kilogram!

So I didn't bother with the 400 gram bottle below, going straight for two 500 gram jars, to go with the Mangrove Jacks Bavarian Wheat kit as a base.

Bottled a little over two weeks ago, i cracked the first open to taste that delicious honey! With trepidation, i smelt the beer for hints of pure Australian honey. The smell was there. But does that mean that I will be able to taste it? Test number two awaits. Slowly, I raise the glass to my lips, and i sip...

Voila! Honey! Light and refreshing, with a clear honey aroma and taste, underlying the wheat beer, contrasting, yet complimenting the beer at the same time.

The beer, however, quickly lost its head, so here's hoping that with a number couple of weeks of maturing, that the head will thicker, and linger longer! Overall, I was very happy with this beer, with strong hopes that it will continue to improve and become a staple of the Beer Whisperer's home brewery!