Sunday, 2 October 2011

Hopping Lord Moley

I got bored and decided to make more beer.

Yesterday I acquired a brew-fridge, and the temperature control unit I ordered from ebay has also turned up. At the post office :( It's apparently a mains-switching thermostat used by two types of people - homebrewers and lizard owners. In homebrew mode the power comes on if the temperature gets too high. In lizard mode the power goes on if the temperature goes too low. Presumably lizard-people have heaters attached.

Golden Mole, my last effort, (which is making absolutely delicious smells at the moment) seems a little darker than I meant to make it, so I decided to go even lighter this time, and looked at some recipes for clones of Timothy Taylor's Landlord type beers. The main idea seemed to be that you only use one malt variety, Golden Promise. Then you hop with Fuggles, EKG and masses and masses of Styrian Goldings. Hence "Hopping Lord Moley", although "One-Legged" also works as a name. See what I did there?

There's also a long, 90-minute boil, which is in progress as I write this. There's also a small preboil - take 2l of sweet wort and boil it hard until down to 1l, giving colour and flavour in the result. This is instead of using Crystal or other malt types to darken and flavour the thing. Unfortunately, when I went to the brew shop, five minutes after closing time (and thanks to TWOC for staying open for me), they didn't have an open sack of GP that they could mill for me, so I went with Maris Otter again. If I get my own mill sometime then I can work around that, but a mill isn't all that high in my list of priorities at the moment. The recipe followed this time was -

  • 5kg Maris Otter

Simple huh?

This was mashed with 12.5 litres at 69 degrees. But by the time everything had been mixed in, and to a cold mash tun at that, we were down to 59. 1.6l of freshly boiled water from the kettle put the mash back up to 64-68 depending on where I stuck the temperature probe. 90 minutes later and I followed the usual technique of passing the sweet wort back through three times. At this point I did the special extra step, measuring out two litres of sweet wort and boiling them down in two pans. While they were boiling I started the sparge with 20l of Sparge Water at 70C, and cleanup of some of the other bits. Now, I usually let the tun output drain into a fermentation vessel, and the vessel tap is used to fill my 3 litre jugs so I can recirculate everything once or twice. Unfortunately I got a bit involved in cleaning and sterilising this time around and let the jug overflow, for quite a while, until the kitchen floor and my feet(!) were covered in sticky spargewater. I must have lost at least 2 litres there. Pay attention!

Sparging done I put the 1l of reduced wort back in the big pot with the rest of the sweet wort and spargings. Then I began to measure out the hops. This week's hop schedule is as follows -

  • 15g Fuggles at 90 minutes
  • 35g Styrian Goldings at 90 minutes
  • 24g East Kent Goldings at 15 minutes, with Irish moss and yeast nutrient.
  • and because it has bucket loads of hop flavour - 250g Styrian Goldings at flame-out

This last enormous amount is because TT apparently use an enormous hop-back and this is the closest I can get at the moment. A Hop-back is a way of getting all the hop flavour and aroma into the beer just before cooling, so you get zero bittering effect from them, but capture all the aroma. I'll be doing things slightly differently, but I guess I'll be adding them as close as possible to my own rapid cooling, and if I'm lucky that will do the trick. Probably by putting them in the gauze bag I pour all the wort through to filter out the hop matter, and letting it sit as I pour everything through the heat exchanger.

With such an enormously long boil I've also had time to grind up what was left of the Saaz from last time and feed them to Golden Mole, as a dry-hopping experiment. Golden Mole took two days to show any activity, to the extent that it actually sucked some air backwards in the first day as it cooled, and I went to buy more yeast on day two in case it was needed. But it had started by the time I got home, and by the time I went to bed on Tuesday night was really going for it. Today I'll be using that extra yeast I bought (two sachets of Safale 04, English Ale yeast). Apparently it is possible to get the TT variety, or something very close, from Wyeast, but I haven't the patience to order it and wait. Safale 04 will have to do. Hopefully we'll avoid the two day lag time with that.

With the brew now complete I measured this stuff at 11 Brix, 1.041 ish SG. I have 22.5 litres. I have no idea of the efficiency, I lost a load of spargewater and the evaporation in a 90 minute boil was massive - I only ended up with 17 litres before topping up. Also (And I don't know if this is just because of the cooling or what) there is an ENORMOUS amount of trub at the bottom of the fermentation vessel, almost 5 litres worth!

No pictures today, they were getting a bit repetitive anyway. Maybe next time.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Golden Mole

There has been no news for a while. This is for the same lame-ass reason as before - the mead and the braggot were STILL not done. The braggot finally stopped bubbling the other day, and finally reached a gravity of 1.011. It was stable for about 3 days, so I decided it was done, and bottled it.

When I tried it a couple of weeks ago, "Loathsome" Braggot tasted like someone had mixed half a jar of honey into a can of special brew. Not pleasant. After re-racking away from the yeast, the addition of gelatine and then a week to rest it seems a lot better, a lot smoother. Just to recap, this was a beer/mead hybrid using 3.5 kilos of amber malt extract, 3.5 kilos of honey, some hallertau hops, bitter orange peel and a couple of other things. I've now added about 300g more of honey to 20l for carbonation. I could have used the usual sugar, but that seemed wrong, even though the beer part came from extract which is already sort-of cheating... anyway, there we are. I reckon it's about 12% alcohol, from some back-of-the-envelope calculations. Honey is consumed more slowly than sugar, so carbonation will take a while if the yeast is even still alive at that concentration, and, well it's probably going to best if I try to leave it until sometime around christmas before giving it a go. You and I, dear reader, both know that that's not what's going to happen, but it'll do as a plan.

Mellow-Mole mead is stubbornly still bubbling away. It's in a 25l glass vessel at the moment so there's no easy way to take a sample and figure out the gravity. The orange and lemon pieces in the top are stubbornly refusing to sink, and the liquid is stubbornly refusing to clear. There doesn't seem to be a fast-forward button I can see, though I have now moved it out of the back cupboard and into the front room, where it's a couple of degrees warmer, in the hope that it'll take off a bit. It's been a week since then, too, and has it stopped? Has it buggery...

Errr, what else... Last week Gordon and I went back to U-Brewit in Osborne park and made another 50 litre batch of brew-on-premises beer. This time it's going to be a German style, apparently a Munich style dunkel. I know not every brew needs a name and a label , but, well, I have mental images of mascot-mole in lederhosen with an umlaut over the 'o' in München Möley's Dunkel. Of course given that "Old Moley" was from there and came out a sort of Australian golden ale style when it was supposed to be a British bitter... who knows. Also Fat Moley has received some pretty good reviews. Particularly the "Redux" version which seems to have mellowed nicely. Conversely to "Sussex Beast", Fat Moley seems to be even better with all the yeast and sediment mixed in. This I know because I took some on the plane to the UK with me and shared a couple of bottles with a friend within a couple of hours of disembarking. The folks I've given it to in general seemed to think it was good stuff, even those that don't often drink stout or don't often drink beer at all! So I'll take that as encouragement and carry on. Which brings me to today's activities - Golden Mole.

Golden Mole is hopefully going to be a hoppy, thirst-quenching, light coloured, mid-strength golden ale. It's also going to be the first one that gets a proper "Cold Break". Previous brews were, after the boil, cubed up (put in an airtight container with as little air space as possible) and either left in the fridge overnight (which broke the fridge) or just left out in the kitchen. This is mostly fine from a brew hygiene perspective but could result in slightly off flavours. It is an annoyance that you can't wrap the whole process up in one day. On top of this a "cold break", which just means rapid cooling as far as I can tell, precipitates out some of the protein matter not caught by either the whirlfloc/Irish moss or the gelatin. This means you should end up with a crystal clear beer at the end and further reduce the chance for any off flavours.

I also wanted to get myself an old fridge off gumtree and rig it up in the garage with a thermostat so I could precisely control the fermentation temperature. However my thermostat hasn't arrived yet, so I can't. At this time of year it's not too hot though, so I'll likely just use the back room cupboard again. Golden mole is supposed to be golden and hoppy, but still English in character so the ingredients are as follows -

  • 4 Kg of Maris Otter malt
  • 200g Crystal Malt
  • 200g Torrified wheat
  • 200g Aromatic Belgian Malt

The aromatic Belgian malt is actually a mistake. The original recipe I cam up with just called for flaked barley, but I forgot to take my recipe list with me to the grain shop and the guy suggested it might be that, so I went with it. After sterilising an endless parade of things, again, and preparing 40l of water, this lot was mixed with about 150g of rice hulls to keep the grain bed flowing, a couple of campden tablets and 20g of Calcium Sulphate. It was mashed with 12 litres of water at about 69 degrees, but by the time it was all mixed up the mash was only at around 62, so a little water from the kettle (always have that freshly boiled at this point) kicked it up to 66C. Just about perfect.

While it's mashing 18 litres of sparge water have gone into the pan and are being heated up to around 62, as per Sensible Mole's advice. This is one more area I'm slightly unsure of, as some brewers advise taking the mash up to around 76C to stop all further enzyme activity. However I don't really have the equipment for that, so I'm ignoring it, and so do others. I also measured out the hops. As I want it really hoppy, not too bitter, and I had a few different types of hops hanging around in the freezer, I've gone for this little lot -

  • 20g of East Kent Goldings at 60 minutes
  • 20g of Challenger at 30 minutes
  • 20g of Saaz at 15 minutes
  • 20g of East Kent Goldings at 5 minutes
  • 40g of Saaz at 5 minutes
  • 36g of Hallertau at 5 minutes

That last one there is only 36g because that's what was left. Saaz and Hallertau are usually used in pilseners and lagers, so this is balanced with goldings used for both bittering and aroma, and some challenger at the mid point should help it retain an ale-ish character, as should the Wyeast's "Thames Valley" yeast strain I've picked out to try this time. And of course there's the usual yeast nutrient and Irish moss at 10 minutes. Quite a busy boil schedule!

Between those last words and these I have passed the sweet wort through the grain bed three times, performed the sparging and passed the spargewater back through the bed once, then boiled. When the boil was done I jugged the boiling hot wort out of the pan and into a spare fermentation barrel which had a muslin/filtering bag around the lip, then I removed all the hop matter in the bag. That was when my new heat exchanger came in useful. I attached the garden hose at one side, the other to another length of hose draining waste water into another tub and the boil pan, which needed cleaning anyway, and then ran the fresh-off-the-boil wort through the other system. The water came out warm, the wort came out at 27C - pretty much perfect for pitching the yeast, by the time the 23l I was left with were topped up with a couple of litres of the prepared water to hit the 25 I was after.

So far so good. Yeast was a "slap pack" which I'd slapped at the beginning of the process, so should be ready by now and I pitched it in with the rest. Now there's just the cleaning up to do. Ugh. Still, Golden Mole was probably the quickest brew so far. I started about 5pm and finished before midnight! My only concerns are that I may not have aerated the wort well enough before pitching, and that there's an awful lot of hop matter already settled out at the bottom. This one may turn into a hop-bomb. For the record the SG was 1.039 and I used my new Refractometer (Thanks OMNIbus team!) to measure the sugar content at 9% Brix. I think Brix come in percent... I need to do some more reading.

In my next update I really hope to be able to tell you that I've bottled the mead. And I hope that if I do I'm not lying!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Patience and puns.

This here is moley, my new mascot. He's only slightly monstery and evil looking.

It's been a while since I've posted here. Mostly because nothing much has happened. I haven't made a new brew, nor have I bottled anything for some time. The braggot is still bubbling away, albeit very slowly now, and the mead is still going as well.

I think I've decided on their names. The mead is both spiced (ginger, vanilla, cinammon, coriander, clove) and fruited (orange and lemon), meaning it qualifies for two mead sub-categories; Metheglin (spiced mead) and Melomel (fruited mead). Melomel. Mellow-mell. Mole-o-Mell? Mellow Mole? Definitely Mellow Mole, it's a winner. Now it's going to need a graphic, probably with a Hamlet cigar.

As for the Braggot, well, Loathsome is appealing more and more as a name as time goes by. We'll see. Bottling still seems to be a way off for the both of them if they haven't calmed down by now. Mellow Mole is supposed to miraculously drop clear after a month or so. We're still waiting.

On to what has actually happened; I've designed a new label scheme for my beers, as can be seen above. I'm a terrible artist and that is, yes, about the best I could come up with. I rather like him though. Figuring out how to attach labels to bottle was more tricky. Cornflour and water does not work. You just end up with cornflour all over everything. Normal flour and water does work but you also get flour all over everything. Eventually I happened across a tip on the web - milk. Just print out your labels on a laser printer, on ordinary paper, then paint the backs with milk and slap them on the bottle.

I also made Gord try Fat Moley (original), with not too terrible results. It's not a subtle beer in any way at all, you know you're drinking stout, it hits your taste buds like a hammer. I wouldn't want to drink more than one or two of an evening. It's not bad exactly, just a little overbearing. Make that a lot. Very pleased with the labels though. After drinking Fat Moley Gord brought out a few cans of Young's Double Chocolate Stout. I felt awe when shown what the true master could do. That stuff is awesome.

Fat Moley Redux did not bode well after this. Fat Moley redux was when I threw caution to the wind and shoved in loads of oats, loads of Roasted Barley and really went all out on the flavour front. When I bottled Fat Moley Redux it tasted really, really bitter. To the extent that I didn't even bother bottling all of it because it tasted that strong. I filled all the pint(ish) sized bottles I could find, 9 (for some reason) small bottles, and threw out the rest. The rest came to about 8 litres, so I did bottle quite a bit of it. And now I'm glad I did. It's gone from bitter and horrible to really quite a tasty stout. I'd put it in the "Extra Stout" bracket because it's 5.8% alcohol and it's still not smooth and subtle, but it's pretty tasty. More so (in my not-at-all-biased opinion) than Coopers Extra Stout, an Aussie beer I've tried recently.

When I first tried Redux (post bottling) it was barely two weeks in the bottle. It tasted what I have come to refer to as "a bit moley". Something not quite right, too earthy perhaps. I thought this was a problem with my brewing (or perhaps homebrew in general) until trying the Coopers extra. That really is quite moley as well. Then I tried a special stout from the brewers of James Squire beers and that tasted moley as well. Maybe all stout tastes a bit moley? Maybe my tastebuds have gone weird... Thankfully this character seems to have gone away from the Redux over time.

Finally in molebrew news, I have discovered that my first all-grain, Moley's Sussex Beast, now tastes pretty good as well. The trick seems to be to have left it for several months. That and pouring carefully so as not to get too much yeasty sediment in the glass. Patience is a virtue, and one that must forever be refined.

Future plans are uncertain at the moment. Next I need to get a cooling coil so that I can cool my wort rapidly after the boil, which that helps the clarity and flavour compared to the overnight cubing. Or so I am told. Then afterwards comes temperature control. As far as I can tell that's a major factor in the flavour outcome, for that I will need an old fridge or freezer and some custom electronics. Combining beer making, soldering and possibly some small amount of embedded programming in one project is quite appealing!

Monday, 27 June 2011

Thou Loathsome Braggart!

So it's about time I wrote some more of this stuff up before I forget it!

Anyway, having acquired rather a lot of honey on a recent trip to the South coast, it was time to have a go at making some honeyed drinks. Not wanting to do anything too simple first off, I made a Braggot. Not sure of the name yet, though Lion Mole is somewhat appealing in terms of a sort of double pun. Loathsome Braggot also appeals, though that implies it's going to be pretty disgusting.

As this was not going to be a beer I decided to skip the mash and go straight for an extract. Two cans of Amber Malt Extract from the brew shop come in at around 3.4 kg, and I measured out 2.25 kg of the Honey from Bartholomews Meadery (site seems to be offline at time of writing). I was very roughly following this recipe, having calculated from other sources that the grain bill could be replaced with roughly that amount of malt extract. This allowed me to skip straight to the boil instead of going through the usual mash/sparge process.

The boil schedule was as follows -

  • 28 grams Hallertau-Hallertau hops at 60 minutes
  • 1 Irish Moss tablet at 10 minutes
  • 1 Spoon of yeast nutrient at 10 minutes
  • 35 grams Sweet Orange Peel at 5 minutes
  • 32 grams Hallertau-Hallertau hops at 5 minutes
  • All the honey at flameout.

And a bit of the usual calcium sulphate and a couple of campden tablets at the beginning. This was dutifully cubed, through a muslin bag to remove hop and orange matter, and left to cool overnight. This process is something I've become suspicious of and I'm wondering if it's one of the sources of weird flavours in my beer. But there shall be no more brewing equipment until I move house. Then there's going to be lots...

The next day I sterilised and washed and sterilised and washed until everything was ready. Lion Mole was poured into the fermentation bin and that's when I realised the yeast "slap pack" wanted a 3 hour warm up. Still, we can cut that short, stick it in front of the heater for a while that'll get it going, which it did. An hour and a half later I pitched the yeast and sealed everything up, though it was the next day before it really took off. The SG of this batch was 1.080 which could leave it with an alcohol content as high as 10%, apparently the target. The yeast used here was a Wyeast Belgian Strong, which ought to be able to cope with it.

Lion Mole has now been bubbling away to itself happily for a couple of weeks. In the mean time I wanted to use the rest of the honey, so enter "Buzzin Moley Mead". There are recipes all over the web for mead. Especially one recipe for "Orange Clove Mead" that's repeated everywhere, plug it into google and you'll see. It's supposed to be absolutely foolproof. The basics are -

  • Cut up an orange
  • Chuck it in a demijohn with a couple of cloves and a cinnamon stick
  • Shove in 3 1/2 pounds of honey
  • Add a gallon of water
  • Add some bread yeast

Of course I tinkered with the recipe because, well, there's the old saying that if you make something foolproof, nature will evolve a better fool. Hi!

The demijohn from the brewshop is a bit bigger than a gallon though, so there's going to be five times that much. Unfortunately that means five times that much honey. Roughly 7.9 kilos. And I have 4.75 left... right. More honey. I picked up a kilo of the same honey from a supermarket at great expense, then decided to branch out. So there was a 1.5 kilo mini-bucket of something fairly generic but nice sounding and a half kilo of organic leatherwood honey from Tasmania. This latter had quite a strong taste, almost medicinal, so it may affect the flavour of the finished product. Hopefully not though.

The actual ingredients were -

  • 7.75 Kg of assorted honeys, mostly wildflower from Denmark.
  • About 18 litres of water
  • Six oranges cut into quarters
  • Half a lemon, also in two quarters
  • A cinnamon stick
  • A vanilla pod (split)
  • A couple of chunks of ginger root
  • Some coriander seeds, whole
  • Champagne yeast, started in a bowl with some weaker honey-water
  • Some yeast nutrient
  • A few spoons of CaSO4 and a couple of campden tablets just to make sure

This stuff took a few hours to take off, as usual, but not too long. It's cloudy but apparently will spontaneously clear itself in five or six weeks time, when it may need racking or could be left a little longer and bottled straight off. It's supposed to be ready when the fruit drops to the bottom. I have no idea how I'm going to get the fruit out of there when I'm done.

The smell coming out of the airlock on this one is utterly divine, a beautiful mix of honey and orange and warm spices. Not entirely surprising, just divine. I didn't take a gravity reading on this so I don't know how strong it's going to be, but some rough calculations put it about 15% if the yeast survive that long. I hope they don't because I'd prefer it a little sweet, but using champagne yeast may make it come out very dry. We'll see.

In the mean time I've been reading about Braggots some more and apparently an authentic Braggot has at least 50% of its fermentables from Honey. Lion Mole was more like 60-40. This must not stand! So I obtained another kg of the good honey and dissolved it in some boiled water before feeding it in the airlock hole in Lion Mole's lid. Bubbling has recommenced...

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Fat Moley: Redux

Fat Moley had been such a sod, what with fermenting way past where it was meant to and now being absolutely overpowered with bourbon and vanilla, that I decided to give it another go. This time it seemed a good idea to get started at a reasonable hour so I wasn't up until 2am boiling huge vats of liquid, and so the post-mash wort refining and sparging didn't have to be rushed. I was also going to skip the farting about with additives and just make stout.

Back to the brew shop for another grain bill, slightly altered this time to get things even darker and much more oaty -

  • 6kg Pale Malt
  • 300g Crystal Malt, Dark
  • 300g Black Malt
  • 500g Roasted Barley
  • 1.3kg Oats

It's possible I should have toasted the oats but... whatever. Whilst explaining to the beardy fella in the shop why I had come back for the same ingredients again only a little later, he and another home brewer in the place informed me of the wonders of rice hulls. Rice hulls are the bits of the rice plant that surround the grain, and we don't eat. They are effectively inert in a mash, adding no flavour or fermentable matter to the brew. What they do for the homebrewer is stop the mash from sticking together and getting stuck like Fat Moley take 1 did. I also took the precaution of putting some mesh around the tun's outlet manifold to stop anything getting in there.

The procedure for Fat Moley take 2 was much more by the numbers. I weighed out about 20g of CaSO4 to make up for the lack of calcium in the local water, then put that in with all the grains in the mash tun. This time I heated the water up past where it needed to be (and remembered to put the kettle on for a boost if needed) and got the mash going at 68.5 C, right where it needs to be to get the malt enzymes to produce a good portion of the more complex, unfermentable sugars that give a beer body as well as the more usual sugars that give a beer strength. When the mash was done everything drained out perfectly, thank-you rice hulls (and mesh). For the first time I followed Sensible Mole's advice to the full and poured the sweet wort back through the grain bed three times before putting it aside and starting to sparge. Again, making sure the sparge water was hot enough and sparged through about 18 litres (IIRC), recirculating it all at least once to pick up the maximum sugar from the grain.

Now we boil, with a slightly different set of hops this time too, having read that Northdown was a good choice for stouts. The boil schedule was as follows -

  • 40g Northdown at 60 minutes
  • 40g East Kent Golding at 60 minutes
  • 20g Northdown at 20 minutes
  • 20g East Kent Golding at 20 minutes
  • Usual teaspoon of yeast nutrient and irish moss tablet at 10 minutes

All done for the night, I cubed the boiled wort for the night and froze almost five litres of spargewater in case they were needed. The next day I came home from work, sterilised the usual equipment, started the yeast, boiled up the frozen spargewater, put the wort in the fermenter, shoved in the spargewater and measured the gravity. There were 28 litres of the stuff somehow, at SG 1.063. Far better than take 1, 73% efficiency this time. Woohoo! Then I pitched the yeast and left Fat Moley:Redux to get going. It wasn't long before the first bubbles. It wasn't long after that that I heard a *lot* of bubbles. That's when I saw this -

(Yes, that is a Radio 4 documentary on Morris dancing in the USA in the background)

It was going absolutely nuts. I had to rig up an impromptu blowout tube to safely deliver the krausen (learned a new word!) to a water jug in the sink instead of letting it go everywhere. It bubbled and foamed and gurgled and grumbled all night. After work the next day it had calmed down, so I put it next to take 1 and left them to brew. Redux had managed to blow a full two litres out of its blowout tube overnight.

It's now a few weeks later and Fat Moley take 1 has been bottled. The two weeks I left it between putting in the vanilla/bourbon mixture and bottling have calmed the flavour right down. And it does taste like stout. In fact it tastes really, really good, if slightly on the sweet side. This must be the vanilla as it fermented to a pretty low SG. I'm really having trouble waiting the requisite 2-3 weeks before cracking open a bottle or two. Redux has finished fermenting now too. When I bottled take 1 I tried out my new trick on redux at the same time. Not that stout needs to be clear, but I had heard the gelatine worked extremely well as a fining, when put into the fermenter at the end of fermentation and at least a week before bottling, improving the taste a well as the clarity. So we'll see.

I also made "Lion Moley" Braggot yesterday, but I'll leave the full explanation of that until next time....

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Beer 4 - Fat Moley! Or maybe Desman...

Fat Moley is stout. Or it was supposed to be. What "Fat Moley" has turned out to be is an awkward sod of a beer.

The idea behind Fat Moley (now I know I can make something you can drink without going "GAH!" at the end) is that stout has a strong enough flavour that it's probably hard to get wrong. Also stout is nice. And what might be even better is oatmeal stout, which would have more body. And maybe even better than *that* is vanilla-oatmeal stout, with the vanilla giving it even more smoothness. And how do you add Vanilla to beer? Well apparently you soak the pods in Bourbon first. So at the end of this we have Bourbon-Vanilla-Oatmeal-Stout. Overkill?

For the record here's the grain bill -

  • 6.9 kg Pale Malt
  • 400g Dark Crystal Malt
  • 150g Black Patent Malt
  • 300g Roasted Barley
  • 600g Oatmeal

Now, at the 75% efficiency I hit last time, that was going to come out damn strong. 7% in fact. 7.5 by the time you added on bottling sugar. It was more than I was originally aiming for when I picked up the grain but then I found a kilo of the Sussex Beast grain mix and decided to chuck it in as well, to get to the totals above.

I started the same way as before, Sterilising everything and doing a 90 minute mash at 67C. Not that it was 67, it was 62 this time by the time I got everything mixed in, though some boiling water helped that. The tun didn't seem to hold its temperature quite as well this time, it's possible that after its use as a drinks cooler on a recent road trip that some of the seals are going. It got bashed around a bit. Anyway, mash done I started to drain the wort into a fermentation bin.

This is when the first problem started, the draining was really, really slow. I followed Sensible Mole's advice as before and passed the sweet wort back in to the grain bed to clarify it and compact the bed further. Which is when the liquid stopped pouring through. Hooray! Dammit... A stuck mash. I tried waiting, I tried tipping the tun, I tried shaking the tun. Eventually I had to open it, stir everything up, clear the wort-collection manifold with a knife, all sorts of stuff. Eventually I ended up making a huge mess, scooping the whole content of the tun into a mesh bag in a spare fermentation bin, and squeezing it out. Horrible mess, sticky wort everywhere, hot grains slowly burning my hands. Great fun. Eventually I got the grain back in the tun to sparge it. The sparging was still really slow, but eventually we got there. I put a few litres of spargewater into the wort for the boil and froze a couple of litres in case they were needed the next day.

The boil went pretty well, though as before it takes a long time to get that much liquid to boiling point on a hob. The hop schedule was as follows:

  • 27g Fuggles at 60 minutes
  • 60g East Kent Golding at 60 minutes
  • 40g East Kent Golding at 30 minutes
  • 40g East Kent Golding at 5 minutes
  • 30g Challenger at 5 minutes

Also there was an Irish Moss tablet and a teaspoon of yeast nutrient at 10 minutes. After the boil I stuck the wort into the cube and left it until after work the next day to continue the process. I didn't stick it in the fridge this time due to having broken a shelf AND defrosted everything in the freezer last time. Turns out 20L of boiling liquid is enough to do that. This time I also strained the hop material out before cubing it for the night.

Next step was to put the now mostly cool post-boil wort into a freshly sterilised fermentation bin. The yeast I whipped up with a small amount of the wort to start it, then chucked it in. The cube is smaller than the 25 litres I wanted to brew, so I defrosted and quickly boiled the couple of litres of spargewater I had saved, then topped the rest of the way up with water. Measuring the gravity I got 1.062, significantly less than what was supposed to come out. Efficiency was only about 62%. That was the second thing not right, the first being the stuck mash. Still, just means it's not going to be as strong as it was originally going to be. That's probably a good thing.

Third thing to go not-according-to-plan was that a week later it still hadn't finished fermenting. Unlike "Molebrau" though, it wasn't stopping and starting. Oh No. Fat Moley was going for it hell for leather! The beer calculators I used had said it was supposed to stop fermenting at SG 1.020. For the uninitiated Specific Gravity (SG) is a measure of the dissolved sugar in a liquid. The difference between the Original gravity when you pitch the yeast into the brew, and the Final gravity, tells you how much sugar has been converted to alcohol. Some sugars are not fermentable by the yeast and these leftover sugars are why the Final gravity is usually higher than 1.000. 1.000 is water. This give a beer body. Fat Moley was supposed to have lots of body. Even after the bad efficiency it was supposed to stop at 1.017. But no, Fat Moley carried on until 1.012. So now we're back up in the 7% alcohol range and the yeast has eaten the body.

Still, when it did stop I tried it and it tasted pretty great. That was when I mixed in the vanilla and bourbon. Then I tasted it again. And instead of the lovely stout taste we had before there was... vanilla and bourbon! Balls. To stop the vanilla flavour going any further I passed the whole brew through a mesh bag to catch the pieces of vanilla pod. Now Fat Moley is sat there, on the bench. Stewing. I hope it's drinkable after a couple of weeks to rest and then a couple of weeks in a bottle. If not, well, as I'm writing this I'm waiting for the sweet wort to drain on Fat Moley attempt 2. I think I might rename attempt 1 "Desman". A Desman is a type of Talpidae, related to moles but not a real mole.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Moley's Sussex Beast - results and tasting

I've been remiss in getting this one posted, as I have now drunk a fair amount of it but not shared the results with anyone but Gordon. Also the next beer (Fat Moley) is mashing in the next room, so I thought I'd take the time to write up my results. Here's the label:

Next time I'll have to make something up myself, the auto-label-maker only does three colours, and we've done those now. So, where were we. Ah yes, Moley's Sussex Beast. After clearing in Secondary for a week or so, Owen turned up in Australia and brought with him some Polypin bags. This would allow me to package the beer in an airtight way without needing it pressurised, something I thought may be more 'authentic'. Authentic it may be, tasty it was not really. At least I bottled half of it...

We took a box of beer, made up to look like wine in a box, on our road trip Up North to Karrijini, and sat in the dusty Karrijini sunset enjoying a few bottles of "Old Moley" from the chiller, before deciding to give the beast a try. Gordon summed it up nicely.

"I used to work in a pub, it tastes like what you get in the drip tray at the end of the night. Don't ask how I know that".

Truth be told, this one does not work without carbonation, it turns out that box beer is not the world's best idea. But from a bottle it's a different story.

And there's a bottle of it. When poured it holds a head (unlike Molebrau), it smells like you're opening a decent beer and the colour is a lovely light brown. So far so ale-like. Then there's the taste. Unfortunately this is not quite on target. I put this down to the use of American Ale style yeast and not British Ale style. Possibly also the slightly low mash temperature used in the making of the beer. Either way it tastes exactly like someone took all the ingredients of a British bitter, and then made them into an American beer. Strange that. Think about what would happen if you had the fresh taste of something like Sierra Nevada, but the actual taste components of a good English pint. It's also slightly over-bitter, which is not surprising as I did shoot for the top end of the bitterness scale for the type of beer I was making.

It is, despite its faults, actually pretty drinkable. Indeed last Friday a friend I inflicted it upon actually had a second bottle after the first, so it can't be all bad.

So there we are. Not a total waste of time and effort. Actually pretty drinkable. I have, of course, bottled the 10 litres that was originally in bags now. Those are in the back room, I suppose I'll try them later. I don't hold out much hope they'll be that good after being moved between bag and bottle so much, but they'll be worth a try. With a sugar tablet in each to kick off the secondary fermentation and provide the fizz, they might be redeemed. Either way, it's time for me to go now as I only have half an hour until Fat Moley is due to come out of the mash.

Fat Moley is stout :)

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Beer 3: Moley's Sussex Beast, part 2

So where were we?

It was about 8pm, I'd just sterilised everything and prepared the water, calculated the amount of grain I needed and decided that, to hell with it, this was going to be done NOW. Right.

Step 1: The mash

Doesn't it just look like... a bucket of sick?
Heat up 2.8 litres of water for every KG of grain. I was using around 4.6KG total, so about 12 or 13 litres then. (Just to recap, this recipe was for 4000g Golden Promise, 400g Dark Crystal and 225(ish)g of Flaked Maize)

This needs to be at the mashing temperature you've selected. Apparently it makes quite a difference as to the exact starch reactions that happen in the grains. Too high and you get a lot of unfermentable sugars that mean
you'll get a beer with a good body but no alcohol content. Too low and you'll get a strong, watery beer with no body to it. There's a table here that contains some details, most of which I have no idea what they're useful for!

Following sensible mole's advice I aimed for 67 degrees. The water was in my new 40L boiling vessel and seemed to take forever to heat up. The pan is so big I had all four rings on the hob switched on. While that was heating I weighed out the grain and mixed in a couple of campden tablets. At 68 degrees I turned the heat off. At 70 degrees I realised the pork thermometer had a built in delay and I was going to have to wait a while. Eventually it dropped down to 67 and I threw it all into the tun, mixed it up and sealed the thing for 90 minutes. By which time it was 64.5 degrees... Still, the tun did its job and the temp didn't drop a single degree.

Next, heat up 18 litres of spargewater to 62 degrees. And then get ready for mess when the mash is done.

Step 2: Draining the wort

It goes on, and on and on and on and on
The next job is to run the wort into one of the fermentation bins, and there was an empty one, having just been emptied for spargewater. This take AAAAAAGES. Somehow it was 11.30pm already, and this took a good 20 minutes. And then, says sensible mole, you get your milk-carton thing from earlier, with all the holes in, and run the wort back through again. Which takes two minutes to pour in and another 15 minutes to drain. I got this far, it was now quarter past midnight, and the prospect of doing this at least another two times didn't appeal. So I stopped and went on to sparging.

Step 3: Sparging

I'm amazed this all worked without hot, sticky spargewater going everywhere

Earlier I'd made a sparging vessel by taking one of the measuring jugs, making a hole in it and wedging in some 20mm tubing. On the other end it attaches to the top of the sparge manifold on the tun. This bit took a while too. 18 litres of 62(ish) degree water were jugged from the massive pan to the sparge vessel, which then fed them down the tube to the sparge manifold, where they were sprinkled onto the mashed stuff and drained through it to the fermentation bin or cube underneath. This is to wash all the sugars out, apparently. Spargewater coming out the other side tastes a bit like thin, milkless horlicks. Anyway, you end up with about 20 odd litres of brown liquid, the wort. At 1am. And you have to boil it for an hour at least. So it's ok. I'll be in bed by 2ish.

Step 4: The Boil

This does... something useful. Breaks down the proteins from the grain, or some such thing. It's also when you add the hops. Sussex beast used -

  • 44g Fuggles and 18g Challenger at 60 minutes
  • 44g East Kent Goldings at 30 minutes
  • 28g East Kent Goldings and 18g Fuggles at 0 minutes

Which, according to the beer calculator and the specific alpha acids, comes out at around 50 International Bitterness Units (IBUs). It took me a while to work out you count backwards, so the Fuggles and Challenger go in at the beginning, then half an hour later some goldings, then at the end more goldings and fuggles. And a campden tablet, apparently that's a good thing. I'm not convinced yet but sensible mole swears by them and I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt for now. I have learned that hops are applied in at least two stages. The earlier they go into the boil the more they affect the bitterness, which is where the AA (alpha acid) percentage comes in. My rough understanding is that the acids convert to bitter compounds, but only after lots of boiling, but lots of boiling drives off the aromatic hoppy oils and flavour compounds. So if you want a really bitter beer with little to no hop character, put bucketloads of hops in early. If you want a delicate, not-too-bitter but very floral brew, chuck loads in at the end. We're going for balanced here though. And there are some hops that are better than others for the two different phases.

Murky depths, and taking over the whole hob
Of course one has to get the stuff to boil before any of that became relevant, which took bleeding forever again. It did eventually get to a rolling boil, after a good half an hour. At least I managed to get a lot of the other equipment cleaned up and put away in that time.

Step 5: Cooling

Unlike sensible mole, I have neither a great copper cooling coil to run cold water through, nor do I have a heat exchanger as these are pricey. Instead the guy at the homebrew shop told me of another way. The idea of rapid cooling is to stop organisms that might like to multiply in warm, sugary, malty bath (and who wouldn't?) from infecting the wort. The other way to achieve this is to cube the wort. For this you get a 20L plastic 'cube' and fill it to the brim so there's as little air contact as possible.

1 cube of hot pre-beer

I ran 31 litres of water through the grain in all. But given absorbtion by the grain and evaporation in the boil, I was somehow down to about 18. I siphoned the whole lot (including all the hop sludge) into the cube and topped up with more of my pre-prepared water, until there was no air gap. then I put the cube in the fridge, where it cracked the plastic shelf and heated the fridge up to the point that it still wasn't cold the next day. So there we are. It's 3.30am and I can finally sit down and have a beer. I got to bed at 4.

Oh, and at some point in the process I'd added a teaspoon of yeast nutrient. But I can't remember when that went in.

Step 6: Pitching the yeast

In the morning there wasn't much to do. The yeast (safale, american ale yeast, which the bloke in the shop picked for me) was mixed into half a mug of boiled-and-cooled water with just a little sugar to kick start it. I think I used brewers sugar here but I can't remember. I siphoned the wort out of the cube into the a fermentation bin. I did this through a nylon mesh bag that caught most of the hop mulch. At this point it seemed a good idea to check the gravity, which was about 1.054. A quick calculation -  water is 1.000, so the sugars here make up 0.054. (0.054 * 19.5l) / 25l = 1.042, almost spot on where I want to be for a 25 litre brew. If my gravity calculations are related to reality at all and this stuff is linear and... it turns out it is. I diluted with more of my prepared water, remeasured and got 1.042. It seemed impossible to me that with the makeshift and hacked together equipment I could come out so close to perfectly on target. But there it was. AWESOME. So off it goes to the back room cupboard to do its thing. I checked on it the next day and it was going hell for leather :)

And there we are, all that effort and you get a big tub full of brown liquid

Two weeks later and I've racked it into another bin. The gravity reading is down at 1.010, precisely where it should be for a finished fermentation. Now it's just conditioning and clearing, away from most of the yeasts. It doesn't actually taste 100% horrible at this point, either. I resisted the urge to dry hop in the secondary because I'm working to a recipe here. Maybe in a future brew I'll make an ultra hoppy pale-ale, dry hopped to hell and back.

But there are potential problems I can see with what I did here -
  • Too much calcium sulphate. Maybe. Not sure on this point. The Mosman Park water is supposed to be pretty soft, but I ended up putting at least twice as much CaSO4 in as the tub says is appropriate. I don't know what happens if you put too much in. Or not enough. Or the right amount...
  • Adding water in at various stages. I did this to top up to quantities I needed. Sensible mole uses extra spargewater at this point, but I didn't have any. Could anything infectious have been in there?
  • American Ale type safale yeast. This is an English Ale, dammit. I should have noticed the yeast type at the shop and changed it. it may end up with a slightly lighter, american pale-ale taste to it. Not that this is necessarily bad, it just wasn't the aim of the thing.
  • Potential oxidisation when I transferred to secondary. I did siphon it carefully, but the air-space at the top of the bin is still there. The airlock bubbles occasionally so I think the beer is still putting out CO2, but I do worry...
  • If I'd been really clever I would have saved some of the post-boil wort in the freezer, to use instead of priming sugar in the bottling process, apparently.
So that's it, the making of Moley's Sussex Beast. One more week and it'll be ready to bottle. I do have a friend turning up with some semi-pressure-safe polypin bags before then, so if I'm really lucky (and figure out how to fill the bags) I'll have some in a draught type format. And then I can drink it immediately instead of having to wait for the bottled version to mature :)

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Beer 3: Moley's Sussex Beast, part 1

This is the story of my first All-grain brewing attempt. Now I'd been blooded by a kit brew and an off-site extract brew, it was time for the real thing.

Half the grain for Sussex Beast
No, it doesn't come from Sussex. I don't either, though half of my extended family live there. But what does come from Sussex and from Lewes in particular is Harvey's Sussex Best, a marvellous ale. Almost a perfect ale. Not too hoppy, not too dark, not too malty, not too strong, just about spot on. And oh how I've missed it. What follows is my attempt to recreate something a bit like it here at home.
I got the idea of trying an all-grain brew after searching for a brewery name, which I still haven't fully decided on. I was searching for mole brewery, and there is Mole's brewery back in the UK, that make some pretty tasty brews, then I stumbled across Sensible Mole. Sensible Mole Brewery is a guy, his kitchen and some hacked together equipment, doing all grain brews. It looked, if not all that quick, possible and relatively straightforward. And hopefully the beer would be something like a nice flat, warm English beer :)

First I would need a Mash Tun.

Bits to make a tun with
For this I had read a cooler would be good, so I found a cheap one with a draining plug, and got some pipe, pipe-joints and glue. I debated copper fittings, but that was going to get damned expensive and require a proper hacksaw and lots of effort. Plastic, especially plastic and glue that apparently is no good for hot water systems due to melting issues, that sounded good to me. The glue in the picture really stinks and gives me a horrible headache.

Anyway, for a mash tun you need some way of extracting wort and spargings at the bottom and some way of pouring in spargewater through a sprinkler at the top. Here's the inside, finished

There's a tap on the top of the cooler now that's attached to the sparge manifold, and another tap on the side attached to the pipework at the bottom. This thing took hours to make, including drilling about 100 holes in the sparge manifold thingy, which was tedious and I'm not sure works all that well. Anyway, there it is, pipes, glue, silicone, a cooler, one Mash Tun.

So what else do I need? It turns out quite a lot. I had to get:
  • A 40L Stock Pot for boiling stuff in.
  • Two 3L measuring jugs
  • A couple of metres of 20mm food-grade siphon tube
  • A couple of metres of 6mm food-grade siphon tube
  • Digital scale
  • A cooling cube (cube shaped plastic bottle thing)
  • A second fermentation bin
  • Funnels
  • A big mesh bag for filtering stuff
  • 3L of milk, for the carton it came in. Some of which went all over the passenger seat in the car :(
  • A long handled spoon
  • Err... there were other things, I'm sure of it.
And that's just the equipment. On top of that I needed Campden Tablets, Calcium Sulphate (or some calcium salt anyway) and sterilising powder.

And a recipe.

First port of call was Google, and I found a recipe in a forum, for a 40 litre batch, which was a bit much, but at least the proportions were there. There was also found a link to a beer calculator. Excellent. Except the beer calculator and the recipe didn't agree. I ended up needing something like:
  • 4 Kg Golden Promise Malt
  • 400g Dark Crystal Malt
  • 215g Flaked Maize
  • 62g Fuggles Hops
  • 18g Challenger Hops
  • 54g East Kent Goldings
  • 18g Bramling Cross
  • Ale yeast
  • Yeast nutrient
Unlike the recipe said, this came out at 50IBU's according to the beer calculator. I don't mind things a little more bitter, eh? As long as it's good and hoppy. Also Bramling Cross do not exist in Australia, so more EKGs are used as a substitute. With that lot, a 25 litre brew and 75% tun efficiency, it should hit an original gravity of around 1.041. I had my doubts it would get anywhere near that efficiency in a hastily bodged together tun used for the first time by an inexperienced brewer, but it's got to be worth a try :)

To prepare I boiled up some water in the stock pot to get it oxidised and take off any metallic flavour. Then I put a load of hot water in the tun to check everything would hold, that the temperature loss was minimal over a couple of hours, and that it wasn't going to leak everywhere. Then I made the wort sprinkler I needed (see sensible mole for this stuff) out of the milk carton. Then the sparging jug from a length of hose and one of the measuring jugs. Then I sterilised EVERYTHING. Which took bloody ages.

Cleaning things. That there is the cube.
Next on the list, get some water prepared. I filled two fermentation bins with 50L of water. A campden tablet was added to each, apparently this gets rid of chlorine and chloramines. Then I had to find out the water composition here in Mosman Park. Turns out that it's pretty good, quite soft, with only 50ppm CaCO3. This means no CO3 reducing salts are needed here. Woo! But some calcium is needed. I added about 20g of CaSO4 per bin based on rough calculations for getting into bitter/pale-ale range. This may have been far too much. It was certainly at the wrong time as I figured out later you're supposed to add it to the mash. Bah. It's only water!

Right, so here we are, it's already 8pm, all the stuff is laid out, there's 50 litres of water prepared and everything is sterilised. 90 minutes to mash and another 90 to boil. So... finished by midnight then I reckon.

As we shall find out next time, fat chance of that matey!
Up next episode - the mash, the boil, cooling it, breaking the fridge and the pork thermometer, and all the other fun stuff.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Tasting Notes on Molebrau and Old Moley

Up first, Molebrau. Molebrau was a kit brew from a Pilsener type kit with a steepack, a kilo of dextrose and a bit of brown sugar added for good measure. It was brewed in the cupboard, bottled and then sent back to the cupboard for a further two weeks to mature.

Mmmmm. Brown Pilsener.
The first thing I noticed when I unscrewed the cap was the characteristic banana-ish yeasty aroma that always accompanies bottle conditioned homebrew. So far so ... as expected. As you can see from the picture it's got that classic Pilsener colour, a good brown :)

The head didn't hold for all that long, which is fair enough. It was sparkly enough but the beer doesn't have much body. You can taste that it's got alcohol in there, but it didn't have a lot of depth or thickness (for want of a better word). This may just be something I'm not used to because I don't often drink lager, but it did have a bit of a watery taste. I'll have to confirm with another bottle soon, but first I'm going to need to make space in the fridge because it's packed full of Old Moley.

Yes, that is more beer behind the food. And the door's full of it too.
On Saturday last I dragged Gordon to u-brewit in Osborne park again to bottle my brew-on-premises beer. I'd been collecting bottles for some time, and had almost enough, though ended up buying another 20 or so from the place. I know it makes me terribly sad but the night before I had printed out and applied around 120 labels too, just for completeness :)

It took an hour and a half for the two of us to bottle the stuff, trying not to drink too much because we had both driven. There was some banter. I described the Molebrau to Gordon who replied:

"Like crown lager? I quite like crown lager, on a hot day, quite passable really"
"No brown lager"
"Ergh. Nobody likes brown lager."

I sent Gordon home with a couple of cases of Old Moley and still my fridge is as full as it can be. As it's a filtered and force-carbonated beer rather than a conditioned one, it has to be kept cool.
On to the tasting, anyway. It was supposed to be a British Ale style thing, modelled on Directors bitter, albeit one that was filtered and force-carbonated. It turned out to be nothing of the sort. Quite hoppy, amber coloured:

Lighter than an ale but with a decent body to it, definite toasted/burned malt taste at the end. Fairly Australian in style really. And really dangerously drinkable. This one is definitely going to be marked down as a success. Or possibly a dreadful mistake if I empty that fridge in record time. I managed at least five last night (not as big as the one in the pic!!), though in my defence one of them went mostly into the chilli. It reminds me most of James Squire's Amber Ale. Brew-on-premises is, it turns out, pretty damn good.

Right, now I have no excuse to further put off writing about Sussex Beast, my 'real' beer brewing experiment. But I'll leave that treat for at least one more day...

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Beer 2: Old Moley

Old Moley is a brew-on-premise project. This is a novel idea that was mentioned by one of the guys a squash. Instead of making a mess of your own kitchen and needing loads of equipment, sterilising everything, dealing with hot liquids and trying to cool them, keeping fermenting beer in your cupboard and hoping the temperature is constant... Instead of all that you go to a small industrial unit and do it all there.

They do all the sterilising beforehand and cleaning afterwards. They keep the brewing beer in a giant cool-room to ferment and condition, and they have all the bottling apparatus for afterwards.

All you have to do is turn up, pick a recipe and chuck the right things in at the right time, then come back three weeks later to bottle the finished product! Awesome!

So, to prepare, Gordon and I went to the pub the night before, just to make sure I was feeling like hell for the Saturday brewing session. Thankfully it wasn't long after I arrived at "U-Brew It" that one of the guys bottling their batch gave me a beer to help my aching head.

I chose a recipe called "Directors Courage", claiming to be an imitation of ... well you can guess from the recipe name eh? I measured out a few litres of various malt extracts and glucose syrup, then various amounts of maltodextrin, dextrose, about four kilos of actual grain(!) and three lots of hops. The extract and sugars went into the vat with 50 litres of boiling water. The grain turned out to have the same sort of function as the "steepack" in the previous brew, and went into a muslin bag before being boiled for half an hour with the rest. The hops (which I'll have to admit I over-measured) went in at 60, 30 and 15 minutes from the end. Or thereabouts. I think...

Then the whole lot was piped through a heat exchanger and into a 50 litre fermentation bin with some yeast (that had been whisked up with a bit of wort about ten minutes previous, just to get it going). Then my beer disappeared into the back and a man took about $150 off me... Which for 50 litres of beer I'm not going to complain about.

The challenge since then has been to collect enough empty bottles to take 50 litres of beer. It's about 150 standard bottles. Even given three weeks that's a tall order. I've done well but really only managed 48. And some of those were already hanging around in the recycling. I've boosted that up to 100 odd with some help, and there are quite a number of real-ale bottles too, but I'm still about 6 litres short with only two days to go. I hope they'll sell me some more bottles at the place.

The challenge then will be storage. They have to be kept refrigerated. All of them.

Anyway, tasting notes for that will appear in due course. My next entry will be those, or possibly part one of a description of the next beer project "Sussex Beast", the first 'real' beer I'm making from only four things - water, malt, yeast and hops. Turns out it's quite hard work...

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Beer 1: Molebrau

My first brew...

My fermentation bin came with a starter kit, a can of "Deliverance" brand malt extract/wort concentrate and a big bag of dextrose, apparently the favoured food of yeast, our magical allies in brewing. There was also a Pilsener type "Steepack". It turns out that a steepack is a mixture of hops and grain, which you put into hot water for a while and then add the water to the brew. This is supposed to replace some of the hop and grain flavours that are lost when the concentrate is made.

I was interested in doing something a bit more involved than a kit brew but it came with the bin and it as been a long time since I'd done any of this, so I decided to give it a go.

So, instructions for making Molebrau -

  • Sterilise everything. In this case everything was the fermenting bin, tap, airlock and a spoon.
  • Heat up the can in water to loosen the concentrate.
  • Heat a pan of water up to the boil and let it cool down a little before adding the steepack contents Let it sit for 15 minutes or so.
  • Pour concentrate into the fermentation bin with a few litres of hot water out of the kettle.
  • Pour the steepack water into the fermentation bin through a sieve.
  • Add in 1kg dextrose
  • Make water level up to 22 litres from tap, pouring all water through sieve containing left over steepack bits.
  • Chuck in about 250g of dark brown sugar from the cupboard because you have the vague idea it might darken the beer and make it heavier.
  • Wait for the mixture to cool to 25 degrees to pitch the yeast.
  • Realise this is futile as it's 35 degrees in the house, chuck yeast in with the rest, put the lid on the bin, stick the airlock in and shove it in the cupboard.

Molebrau in its kitchen ferment phase
Molebrau took almost three weeks to ferment. This was quite possibly due to it being too hot. It bubbled away like crazy for the first few days then slowed to almost nothing at the end of the first week but the gravity was still too high (about 1.018). The second week it was mainly inactive. Then I moved it to the kitchen and it came to life again. Probably to do with it getting shifted around a bit. I siphoned it into a second bin (it suddenly came to life again!) and left it for another week, adding the finings. Finally at the end of this it was clear and fully fermented. Finally. A month rather than the 5-10 days the kit expected.

On to bottling. Of course first there was the question of labels, so I acquired a printer and some blanks. Et-voila, Molebrau!

So.. Bottling... Sterilise the bottling spout, sterilise 30 bottles (tedious!) and then add in priming sugar for each one. Thankfully this was in the form of dextrose lumps rather than having to deal with powders and funnels.

The bottling spout thingy is an ingenious device that pours beer slowly to the bottom of the bottle without aerating it too much. Everything came out clear and looking good. Except the last three bottles. These had to be tipped out of the bin in a sedimenty, yeasty cloud. I'll save them for last I think.

A Bottle of not-quite-ready-to-drink Molebrau

As of the time of writing, 29 740ml bottles of Molebrau are sitting in the closet in the spare room maturing. Three more days until I can try it... Though of course the idea is to leave it as long as you can stand to as it will mature.

And only four more days until the next brew is ready - Old Moley! An English style ale brewed somewhere else.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Welcome to Molebrew

Hello and welcome to Molebrew.

This blog is intended as a record of my attempts at brewing beer. I haven't made homebrew since I was a teenager, but have decided to give it another go.

It may be a short-lived obsession, or it may be a longer term thing. Who can tell at this stage?

Currently I have three brews going, which is quite a lot to start with I suppose, but there is a rationale here. The first brew (Molebrau) is a kit brew. The concentrate and a steepack (I'll explain later) came with my first brewing vessel and other useful bits and pieces. The second (Old Moley) is currently fermenting at u-brewit, a brew on premises place in Osbourne park. The third (as yet unnamed, possibly "Moley's Sussex Beast") is mashing in my improvised mash-tun. On which subject, I need to heat the sparge-water and get the hops weighed out!