Showing posts with label beer recipes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label beer recipes. Show all posts

Friday, March 29, 2019

Ordinary Homebrew

It's fair to say I now have a house beer. Well, let me qualify that a little by saying it is fair to say that I have a house grist and yeast combination, the hops I tend to mess around with. My house beer is my best bitter recipe that in the hands of Three Notch'd is known as Bitter 42, but in these here parts is still called Session 42 when I use Goldings, and {hop name} 42 when I don't.

Such has been my focus in the last couple of years on brewing best bitter, I have neglected entirely my good friend, Ordinary Bitter, that even lower gravity beer that is ideal for pouring into a pottle sized jug and forgetting all about the week just gone by. I may have mentioned elsewhere that I have become the de facto brewer for house parties and concerts at my wife's fiddle teacher's place, and we have one coming up in May with a rather well known fiddle player, and so naturally I have my thinking hat on.

The easy thing to do would be another keg of the Limelight Witbier I brewed for the St Patrick's Day festivities and which kicked in under 2 hours. Given that May is American Mild Month, brewing a pale mild crossed my mind, but mild is always a tricky thing to explain, even more so when it isn't dark, and being honest I am yet to hit on an Americanised version that I really love. The even easier thing I guess would be to take the Session 42 recipe and scale it down to ordinary bitter strength, but as my dad always says, if it's easy, is it worth it?

So a brand new ordinary bitter recipe is the decision, and given the challenge of brewing something low alcohol and not woefully insipid, it something I am looking forward to. The recipe I have settled on does share some characteristics with Session 42, mainly in that it is on the paler side of the bitter spectrum. The recipe looks like this:
  • 43% Maris Otter
  • 43% Golden Promise
  • 7% Victory Malt
  • 7% Crystal 15L
  • 19 IBU First Gold for 60 minutes
  • 6 IBU First Gold for 15 minutes
  • Safale S-04 yeast
Apparently this will give me a starting gravity of 1.039, which once the yeast has done it's thing will give me a 3.8% ABV beer to back up the 25 IBUs of First Gold hops. In terms of colour I am looking at about 6-7 SRM, or nicely dark gold.

If I have the time and can find the equipment I might be tempted to put it into my cask and serve it from a gravity tap, but I never carb my beers too much anyway in the keg so it would mostly be for novelty value.

The name for this particular brew, Boatman - I was listening to The Levellers as I designed the recipe.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Black Dreams

I don't make New Year's Resolutions.

I don't join a gym, I don't decide to quit smoking (mainly because I have never smoked anyway), and I don't decide to go on a health kick. I do stop drinking for the month, but that's because 'the holidays' are brutal and I like a rest.

I did though decide that I would make every other brewday this year the same recipe, so that I can get at least one beer that I can brew almost with my eyes closed. I had several options, I could brew a best bitter, but given that Three Notch'd 42 is my recipe and is being brewed again soon there was no immediate need on that front. As I toyed with ideas I realised that I have only ever once brewed a straight up (ish) dry stout. I have brewed plenty of milk, oatmeal, foreign extra, and imperial stouts, but only one dry stout. As a devoted drinker of the black stuff, what better style then to have regularly on tap in the kitchen?


Thus I decided to create a new recipe for the beer rather than just re-brewing the one I had done before, as I wanted to take elements of my favourite stouts to make a unified whole. Strangely for me, I started with the hops. My favourite regularly available stout, and potential cause for outright rebellion and angst should it ever be axed, is Starr Hill's Dark Starr, which is hopped with Perle. Thus my stout will have 33 IBUs worth of Perle added at the beginning of the boil, with no flavour or aroma additions.


I knew the base of my grist would be Golden Promise simply because it is my favourite base malt. Sure, Maris Otter is a nice malt, but I love the mellow sweetness of Golden Promise. Departing a tad from many a stout I'm sure, but I knew that Victory malt would be making an appearance. The first time I used Victory in any great amount was in the trial batch of 42 and the crusty warm toast characteristic beguiled me at first smell, and utterly ensnared at first taste. Stout wouldn't be stout without the dark malts, such as chocolate malt and roast barley, so in they went as well.


The yeast was possibly the easiest bit of the plan, I like using dry yeast, and I like Safale S-04. Done.

The final recipe ended up as follows:
  • 75% Golden Promise malt
  • 11% Victory malt
  • 8.5% Chocolate malt
  • 5.5% Roasted barley
  • 33 IBUs Perle hops for 60 minutes
  • Safale S-04 Yeast
All of that goodness will, if all goes to plan give me a beer like this:
  • OG - 1.047 (12°P)
  • FG - 1.014 (3°P)
  • ABV - 4.3%
  • IBU - 33
  • SRM - 40
With all being well, come the end of February the first keg of Dark Island Stout will replace the keg of ESB currently carbonating in the kegerator, just in time for St. Patrick's Day.

Friday, September 18, 2015

High Oktane Ale

Usually when I am working on a collaboration beer with one of the local breweries the process is something like this:
  1. Come up with idea
  2. Flurry of emails
  3. Brew trial batch
  4. Review trial batch, make tweaks
  5. Brew production batch
  6. A few weeks later, drink it
My most recent beer creation project though is somewhat different.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Trader Joe's Oktoberfest lager which I have been enjoying greatly of late. A couple of days later, Ted from Brewers Union Local 180 in Oakridge, OR, emailed me to see if I had any ideas for an Oktoberfest beer as he had been asked to provide a cask for a festival at a beer bar near him. It was funny he should ask....

I have been playing with the idea of vaguely 'Central European' pale ale for a while now but had never really found a formula which appealed to me all that much, though I had considered a paler version of altbier as a contender. Ted's question pushed my thinking into overdrive and that coupled with a comment from Tom Cizauskas on that post made me think about doing a 'to style' Oktoberfest lager, but using a nice clean top fermenting ale yeast for fermentation.

The recipe ended up like this:
  • 60% Dark Munich
  • 40% Vienna
  • 16 IBU Tettnang for 60 minutes
  • 8 IBU Tettnang for 15 minutes
  • Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale
The predicted numbers are:
  • OG: 1.056
  • FG: 1.014
  • IBU: 24
  • SRM: 12
  • ABV: 5.5%
I am brewing my version tomorrow, though Ted brewed his last week and it is already casked up and will be ready to rock at the brewpub in Oakridge in about a week. A cask will be making its way to The Beer Garden, in Eugene, and to Machine House Brewery in Seattle.

From what Ted has told me, his version had an original gravity a tad bit lower than planned, at 1.051, but the final gravity was fine, so the beer is 4.6% abv, and to use Ted's phrase had 'a high drinkability factor right out of the fermenter'. The name for Ted's brew is 180 Oktane, so if your in the area over the next few weeks, keep an eye out for it!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Let's Make Some Beer

I have homebrewed now since 2008, when my started with a very homely, cobbled together, 'brew  kit', back in Prague. As is in my nature, I have read, and read, and read books on homebrewing, from introductory texts to tomes of technical data about the various stages of the mashing process. I never tire of reading about brewing and gleaning new ideas, thus I got a copy of 'Make Some Beer' by Erica Shea and Stephen Valand, the founders of the Brooklyn Brew Shop.


Subtitled 'Small-batch Recipes from Brooklyn to Bamberg' the book has about 35 recipes, inspired by breweries around the world, as well as ideas for food to pair with the beers. The recipes themselves are designed to make a single gallon of homebrew, and there are scaled up versions for those doing 5 gallon batches. The recipes are clearly written out, with clear instructions for performing the various stages of the brewing process. However, there are no technical details such as original gravity, calculated IBUs, and other useful numbers.

Rather than being a dry collection of homebrew recipes, anecdotes are littered throughout the book, providing back stories to each of the recipes, and giving the reader a sense of the writers' personality.

Overall, 'Make Some Beer' is a well written, diverse collection of interesting recipes and stories. While it may lack some of the technical details of other homebrew books, it is an easy resource to dip into when looking for an idea for a recipe, and I look forward to scaling some of the recipes up to my own small batch size of 2.5 gallons.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Old Mann Brown

At the end of next month, my parents will be flying across the Pond to come and stay with us for a month. The last time they came was in 2010, just after I had a DVT removed from my right leg, and again they stayed for a month. The big difference this time will be that we now have a 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom house rather than a somewhat pokey 1 bedroom apartment. There will be no sleeping on an airbed for 4 weeks for my wife and I, and my parents won't have to feel bad about having evicted us from our room. Oh an we have a garden for them to provide free labour for - some couples have grandchildren to foist on their parents, we will have tomato plants and bean poles. I am fairly sure they are looking forward to it!

My dad, in common with a lot of men of his generation, is a Londoner. The Griffin Brewery, home of Fuller's, would still be his local brewery if he hadn't joined up at 15 and spent the next 30 odd years in the pay of HM Queenie and Sons, PLC. Dad spent a lot of time in Germany, and has something of a love for good lagers, especially Schwarzbier. However, the one beer that Dad talks about more than any other is Mann's Brown Ale, the first (if I remember rightly) modern bottled brown ale. Again if I remember rightly, modern brown ale was essentially the bottled version of draught mild.

As you can imagine, I don't get home to the UK very often and so having my parents coming to stay is something special, more so because a couple of days after they arrive it is Dad's birthday. What better then than to attempt a recreation of Mann's Brown Ale? I am planning to brew this in the next week or so, and the recipe at the moment looks like this:
  • 80% Maris Otter
  • 10% Caramel 120
  • 4% Chocolate Malt
  • 4% Wheat Malt
  • 2% Roasted Barley
  • 14 IBU Kent Golding for 60 minutes
  • 6 IBU Kent Golding for 15 minutes
  • Windsor yeast
I am aiming for an Original Gravity of just 8.3° Plato, or 1.033, and expecting to get an abv of 3.2%, which is slightly higher than the original 2.8%. I put the recipe together based on what I have read in various sources about brown ale in general, and a couple mentioning Mann's in particular. Hopefully, Dad will like it and it will be fairly similar to what he used to drink.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Bitter Two

I am sure I have mentioned this many times before, but getting a good bitter in the US is pretty bloody difficult. Few of British bitters make it to these shores, I am glad that I have found a supplier of Timothy Taylor Landlord, and even fewer American brewers seem interested in brewing the style. I can only think of one brewery in the Mid-Atlantic region that has a classic, English, Bitter as part of its core range - Oliver's Ales in Baltimore. Sadly, Oliver's don't bottle their beer and their casks are not distributed in this part of Virginia.

What is a chap to do then? The answer is pretty obvious, brew my own. Crafting a good bitter recipe has become something of an obsession for me, and today I will continue my efforts. When I changed the name of my brewing operation from Green Dragon Brewing to Dark Island Brewing, I also identified several beer styles that I planned to brew repeatedly until I had a recipe that I was really happy with, thus my first Bitter was composed of the following:
  • 77% Maris Otter Pale Malt
  • 13% Crisp Amber Malt
  • 10% Briess Caramel 20 Malt
  • 15 IBU Kent Goldings for 60 minutes
  • 7.5 IBU Kent Goldings for 15 minutes
  • 1 IBU First Gold for 1 minute
  • Wyeast West Yorkshire Ale Yeast
What I ended up with was reasonably tasty, 4.1% bitter that looked like this.


While I was happy with the end product, I didn't want to just settle for that recipe being my bitter. I wanted to play around with yeast strains and maybe the hopping a little bit, and see if I can improve on a very encouraging start. As such, batch 2 of Dark Island Bitter, which is being brewed today, has a couple of changes. Firstly, and mainly because my local homebrew shop didn't have any First Gold hops, I will be using Styrian Goldings for the last hop addition, as well as bumping the flavour hops to get 15IBU of Goldings goodness. Secondly, and this change was planned, I am using Danstar's Windsor Ale Yeast, which I have used a couple of times before to good effect, including my gold medal winning bitter from last year's Dominion Cup.

If everything goes to plan, batch 2 will be ready in time for New Year's Eve, when I will be hanging out in the mountains of West Virginia and comparing it with my best mate, with whom I polished off most of batch 1 a few weeks back, not to mention vast quantities of Oliver's Bitter in Baltimore. A prospect which pleases me muchly.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

From the Source

Think of the great brewing cities of the world, London, Burton, Vienna, Plzeň. Each of them home to a famed type of beer, London its porter, Burton its IPA, Vienna its red lager and Plzen its Pilsner. When we look at brewing history, we look at the malt, hops and yeast that made these styles, we look at the methods employed to create the wort, we look at how long the beer spent conditioning, and then at how it was handled once it left the brewery. One thing though that I sometimes feel is overlooked is the most important ingredient in beer, water.


Whether it is hard water of London, the soft water of Plzeň or the famous sulphurous liquor of Burton, water has played a greater role in the development of beer that probably any other ingredient. As recently as the early 1890s the brewers of Munich were convinced their water would not allow them to brew a pale beer in the Pilsner style.


When I went to the new Blue Mountain Barrel House a couple of weeks ago I was talking with Taylor about the water source they have there - not a common beer lover line of conversation I am fairly sure. Taylor told me that the Barrel House water is insanely soft, on a par with the well at Devils Backbone apparently, while the well at the Blue Mountain brewpub, just a half hour drive, is quite hard.

To taste the difference between water sources, we sampled Blue Mountain's Full Nelson at the Barrel House, and again, half an hour later, at the brewpub, and the difference was very noticeable. The soft water version has a softer, gentler bitterness and hop flavour which I find very appealing, in fact I think I prefer it over the original, the Full Nelson Urquell you could say. That's not to say that the brewpub Full Nelson isn't a moreish, drinkable pale ale, just that the Barrel House version is more so.

It sometimes feels as though the only truly local thing about many beers is the water, given that malt, hops and even yeast are shipped in from around the world. While I understand the reasoning behind tampering with a water supply to recreate the waters of great brewing cities, when a brewery has access to tasty, clean water, I think it is something of a pity not to let it speak for itself.

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...

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