Showing posts with label homebrew. Show all posts
Showing posts with label homebrew. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Hitting the Sweet Spot

Well, so much for micro blogging July eh? Turns out the Blogger mobile app is a pile of dogshit and every post I attempted got hung up in the publishing process. Anyway, Mrs V, myself, and the twins are back from our month long sojourn to Scotland, so I have access to regular Blogger again - 2 step authentication is great, if your mobile phone actually gets text messages abroad.

One of aims while home in the Highlands was to stick as much as possible to local beer, and if that failed then to at least drink Scottish brews. The very, very, very minor midge in that ointment, was that my thinking ahead parents got me in some Timothy Taylor Landlord a couple of days before we arrived. One of my rules in life is to never say no to Landlord, and after 20ish hours of travelling, they went down superbly well.

Don't worry, I am not going to give you a blow by blow list of tasting notes of the various beers I enjoyed, and didn't, in my month back. One thing though that I did notice, and this may say more about me than it does Scottish brewing, but there seemed to be a sweet spot in terms of ABV and insanely wonderful drinking, somewhere in the range of 3.5-3.8% to be honest.

That range of alcohol seems tiddly when compared to the average craft beer being made in many a brewery in Virginia, 6.5% is pretty much the norm. Thankfully though I tend not to think of strength as a flavour or pre-cursor to my enjoyment, many of the worst beers I have ever drunk have been in that average craft beer range. Perhaps then it is a case that British brewers are just phenomenal at producing flavourful beer without boatloads of malt and the requisite hopping to avoid drinking syrup.

The highlights of drinking in this sweet spot were:

The beers listed are sold as an Edinburgh pale ale, session IPA, session blonde, and session pale ale respectively, so sessionability is a key part of the appeal, and there is not one of them I wouldn't happily spend the night on the sesh devoted to. Of the 4 only Inveralmond's frankly divine EPA doesn't focus on New World hops, if anyone ever slags off Goldings or Styrian Goldings then force this down their neck and watch them come to the light of truth.


When I finally get back round to having a pint now that the travelling is all but done, I am actually mildly concerned that nothing at the various brewpubs and bars I frequent will have the same appeal. I know that I will spend some time brewing variations on this theme, so I am not utterly bereft, but the absence of proper session beer in the US craft scene genuinely saddens me.


When I think of Lew Bryson's definition of a session beer topping out at 4.5% and that so many brewers sell "session" beers that go well north of that, I am forced to come to the conclusion that despite various well known outliers, session beer is unlikely to be a regular part of the craft beer scene. Whether that is a result of brewers being unwilling to make beers that are genuinely session strength or that a very vocal minority of drinkers advocate for the big, or unusual, stuff to the detriment of all else, I am not sure.


Thank goodness then for the homebrew store...

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.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Blackwall London Porter

On April 26th 1607, three ships came sailing into the Chesapeake Bay, they were the Susan Constant, the Discovery, and the Godspeed, and in their bowels lay the genesis of both the United States and the British Empire. These intrepid souls had set out on their journey on the 20th December 1606, setting sail from Blackwall in London, and sailing via the Azores and the Caribbean. Eventually the 105 men and 39 sailors would establish Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the then new world.

Blackwall is an intrinsic part of London's history as one of the great ports of the world. Not only did the colonists that established Virginia set sail from Blackwall, so to did Martin Frobisher in his search for the North West Passage, and it was here that the East India Company would build its ships to travel to the fabled Orient. By the 19th Century, Blackwall Yard was lending its name to a new type of ship that replaced the East Indiaman, the Blackwall Frigate, and eventually got into building steam ships as London held on to its position as the pre-eminent entrepot of the age.

What does this have to do with beer? Well, it was around this time last year that I got an email from the guys at Three Notch'd Brewing letting me know that we needed to find a new name for Session 42 because a brewery that is not even in the Virginia market has decided to trade mark the term 'session' and was doing what American craft breweries seem to do best and threatening legal action. One of the names that popped into my head at the time was Blackwall Best Bitter, but eventually we decided to go with Bitter 42. However, I really liked the name Blackwall, and given the history tying that part of London with Virginia, I decided to brew a porter using the name.

Now, as anyone who knows their beer history will tell you, porter didn't exist in 1606 when Christopher Newport and his crew set out from London, so doing a 17th century 'porter' was out of the question. Thus I came to the 19th century, when arguably London was at its peak, and the beer being drunk by the mass of people working in the docks and moving all the goods from place to place was porter.


I didn't want to just take a recipe from Ron's excellent book of homebrew versions of historic beers, but I did use it as my primary source for learning about the ingredients and their proportions for my recipe. Thus I settled on this as my interpretation of a 19th century London porter:
  • 53% pale malt
  • 30% brown malt
  • 15% amber malt
  • 2% black malt
  • 32 IBU of Fuggles for 60 minutes
  • 15 IBU of Fuggles for 30 minutes
  • Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale Yeast
According to Brewtoad, this would give me:
  • OG: 1.069
  • FG: 1.020
  • ABV: 6.4%
  • SRM: 32
  • IBU: 47
Happily the trial batch turned out pretty much as I wanted it to, and next Thursday will see a much bigger batch being released by my friends at Three Notch'd. If you're around the Charlottesville area, head out to the tasting room around 6ish and give it a bash. Apparently it will be available in bottles as well, so take some home and wait for winter to actually turn up to drink it by the fire!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Mysteries of the East

I have been pondering what to do with this year's International Homebrew Project, especially with 70% of respondents to my little poll over in the right rail saying they would take part depending on the recipe.

As I was looking back at previous years' projects I realised that we have done several styles without ever tackling the most popular craft beer style, India Pale Ale.


That then will be the theme for this year, but don't worry I don't expect you to do a Pete Brown and traipse your homebrew on a ship from Burton to India via Brazil. I am going to avail myself of some historic IPA recipes and then run another poll to decide which one gets the nod.

If you are one of the 7 folks that said your participation was dependent on the recipe, please leave a comment on this post about whether India Pale Ale works for you.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

#IHP2017?

The eagle eyed among you will have noticed the little poll in the right rail over there.

The question is very simple, are you interested in taking part in the International Homebrew Project this year?

What is involved?
  • Brew a batch of homebrew from an agreed recipe
  • Blog/tweet/post about the results on an agreed date.
You in?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Self Bitterment

An acquaintance recently asked me why I seem to be constantly brewing beers that belong in the broad family of bitter. It's true that at least every other brewday is some form of ordinary, best, or extra special, and there is a very good reason for this fact. Bitter, regardless of sub-type, is one of my favourite styles of beer to drink and for all the hoopla around craft beer and its endless IPAing of every form of beer possible, most American breweries simply don't bother with bitter as a style.

What then is a chap supposed to do, especially a chap with little interest in IPA? Sorry hopheads, your addiction is one dimensional most of the time regardless of the latest hop to come out of the Pacific north west. The answer is obvious, a chap must either take the risk of ancient, and and badly oxidised, bottles from Britain, lurking around the local bottle shop that neither knows nor seems to care what they are doing, or a chap can make his own. So unless Three Notch'd Bitter 42 is available, I make my own.

A couple of weekends ago I kegged up my most recent batch of best bitter, and having stolen the requisite amount of beer to do gravity measurements and all that jazz, I gave it a taste and thought to myself, this could be good. After a couple of weeks in the keg, I took some growlers of said brew to a friend's place on Saturday in order to lubricate the grinding and pressing of apples for cider that took up a hefty chunk of the afternoon and evening. Boy had my hunch been right, it is as good a best bitter as I have brewed, and certainly one that I would have no objections to paying proper hard currency for.


As you can see from the picture, the bitters I go in for tend to be on the paler side of the spectrum. I rarely, if ever, use crystal malts, preferring one of either Victory, Biscuit, or amber malt as my single specialty grain, and my base malt is usually Golden Promise. For this particular batch I single hopped with Calypso as I had some floating around in the freezer, and at least half of my calculated IBUs tend to come from the first hop addition. In terms of yeast, I have found that Safale S-04 does everything I need, if I remember rightly S-04 is one of the Whitbread yeast strains. I don't bother with water modifications, working on the theory that my well water tastes good, so it's fine for my beer. I brew to make something to intoxicate myself with from time to time, not to do science experiments - and given my ability to blow shit up at school in chemistry class, that's probably just as well.


While it is true that I sometimes lament the indifference of many an American craft brewery to the bitter family of beer, I love the fact that it has given me an excuse to work on my own brewing skills by repeatedly making my own versions. Sure I rarely make the exact same recipe twice, but there are common themes that run through each iteration, such as sticking to as simple a recipe as possible. Also the key to a solid bitter is in the name of the beer itself, don't be afraid of using hops predominantly for bittering rather than flavour and aroma. Hop bitterness is the very soul of a good bitter recipe, it must be firm, bracing even, but never acerbic. This is a beer designed to be drunk in imperial pints over an extended period of time, so balance is vital, once I am finished with a pint, another one should be welcome. Oh and 'balance' is not synonymous with 'bland'.

Bitter is a misunderstood and underappreciated style of beer in the craft world it would seem, thankfully they are pretty easy to make, and done well endlessly satisfying to drink, and that's the whole damned point surely?.

Friday, May 13, 2016

#IHP2016 meets #MildMonthUS - The Tasting

Finally it's ready.

Fermentation is done with, the beer is kegged, and now happily being tapped from my kegerator.

I refer of course to my iteration of this year's theme for the International Homebrew Project, 'American Mild Ale'. If you want to read up on my proposed description of an American Mild, see here, and here if you are interested in the recipe for what Mrs V has christened 'Amber Waves Mild'. For the more visual amongst us, here's a picture.


Evidently it's not completely sparklingly bright, with a bit of chill haze in there that does clear as the beer warms, perhaps I'll tinker with the kegerator temperature. However, given that murk is the new IPA (not sure 'murk' is quite the right phrase, pea souper might be better) I am not unduly worried about it right now. The colour is spot on where I wanted it to be though, somewhere between amber and brown.


Aroma wise we're talking about a really nice sourdough breadiness that I put down to being the product of using Victory and Special Roast malt, also in there is a trace of unsweeetened cocoa powder, and a weak coffee thing that reminded me for some reason of the Douw Egberts instant coffee I used to drink at college. When it comes to the flavours again that toasty breadiness comes to the fore, layering over the grainy cereal nature of American 2-row base malt. The bitterness is clean, evident, and balances the beer really well, and even though I used aroma and flavour hops they are both very faint. Also in the mix was a light nuttiness, like a schmear of Nutella on toast, and just a faint fruitiness that I assume is coming from the Wyeast American II yeast.


Overall, Amber Waves is a nicely balance mild ale, all the flavours I expected are evident but nothing dominates. The body is on the light side of medium, so it avoids being watery. I am very happy with my latest stab at Americanising mild ale, and look forward to bashing many a pint of it of an evening.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

#MildMonthUS meet #IHP2016

Last night I finally got round to kegging up my American Mild ale for this year's International Homebrew Project - which seems to have lingered far longer than usual.

The picture below shows the sample I pulled out of the fermenter before transferring the beer to the keg:


The colour is pretty much where I wanted it to be, not a dark, dark mild and not a pale mild, somewhere in between, a nice rich amber which is perfect for the name given the beer by the awesome Mrs V - Amber Waves American Mild.

I used the Wyeast American II yeast (not sure which brewery that came from) and it fermented down from 1.044 to 1.012, giving me 4.2% abv, and enough mouthfeel to prevent the beer from being overly dry. In terms of initial flavours, the Victory and Special Roast malts come through nicely, and work very well together to give the beer a sourdough breadiness which I at least really like, and think it compliments the husky graininess of standard American 2-row malt.

Put it simply, I am excited about this beer being carbonated and ready for drinking, should be at least tryable from the keg by Sunday, as the beginning of American Mild Month, and give it a few days and I think it will be ready for a fuller, proper review.

Monday, March 21, 2016

For Marketers

I am not sure if fellow bloggers have been suffering from the same rash I have of late, but I wanted to check nonetheless. Said rash usually starts with the words 'I found your blog.....', following by some indiscriminate praise about the awesomeness of one's blog, and then an offer to provide content for said blog. I may have taken a short term view to the rash, and simply applied the topical cream of the delete button in my gmail account, but the damned thing just keeps on coming back, so I figured I'd try to address the problem in a more heads on manner.

If you're not one of my regular readers, but rather some content marketing wonk, or someone offering affiliate marketing opportunities, do me a favour and look thoroughly over the right rail. There are are three elements that could be described as 'ads', one for American Mild Month, one for the Pocket Pub Guide to Prague, which are my own damned projects anyway, and one for Prague Beer Garden, which has been there for ages and was a reciprocal thing for a new site just getting off the ground a few years back, no money or benefits ever changed hands. Otherwise, Fuggled is an advertising free zone, always has been, always will be. I don't do this to try and make money, I am not interested in living off the proceeds of advertising. Also, there are only two types of people whose words will ever get on the pages of this blog, me and people I ask to write a guest post.

So.... please, please, please don't bother emailing me asking if you can provide content for Fuggled, or if I am interested in having your advertising on the site. You can not, and I am not. End of story, Full stop. Simple. Also, if I don't respond to your first email, I am highly unlikely to reply to your second, or third, so stop wasting your time on sending them.

In other news, I enjoyed plenty of good beer this weekend, highlight being my homebrew stout - it's a cracker, so here's a picture!

Friday, February 12, 2016

#IHP2016 - Recipe Thoughts and Schedule

Usually around this time of the year I am posting the recipe for the forthcoming International Homebrew Project and a schedule for the brewing and reporting there on. This year though is different because there is no single recipe for the project.

As I noted the last time I wrote about the International Homebrew Project, this year participants are being asked to create their iteration on a style, in this case the 'American Mild'. Using the guidelines laid out in a previous post, I want homebrewers to get creative, and if they are also bloggers to write about their recipes ahead of brewing them.

Before laying out my probable recipe, a quick word about schedule. American Mild Month starts on International Workers Day, also known as May 1st, so the aim is for brewers to have their beers ready for consumption on that day. Given a fairly standard schedule of 4 weeks from boil to glass, that would mean brewing no later than the first weekend in April, and I guess it also means folks have time to do a trial batch and make adjustments ahead of then.

For my own recipe, I am planning to take the 'American' bit to mainly refer to the ingredients I use, so I will be eschewing my usual Golden Promise base malt for 2-row from this side of the Pond. English crystal malts will not make an appearance, neither will English roasted malts, even though both are easily available at my local homebrew store. In will come specialty malts such as Victory and Special Roast. The most instantly definable 'American' element of the American Mild is likely to be the hopping, though trying to stay within the given definitions of a mild may prove tricky, but as I pointed out on the American Mild Month post there is a world of difference between 'low' and 'none'. Low to me means perceptible but not dominant, and that's what I will be aiming for.

Here then is my first sketch of my recipe, and I would appreciate any thoughts folks have about the recipe...
  • 74% 2-Row
  • 12% Victory
  • 12% Special Roast
  • 2% Black Malt
  • 17 IBU Calypso for 60 minutes
  • 6 IBU Calypso for 15 minutes
  • 1 IBU Calypso for 1 minute
  • Wyeast 1272 American Ale II yeast
My target numbers for this are:
  • OG - 1.043
  • FG - 1.011
  • ABV - 4.3%
  • SRM - 15 (deep amber)
  • IBU - 24
Numbers are really only a guideline, flavour and aroma are clearly way more important than whether I hit my targets perfectly. Given the malt bill here, I am expecting a lot of bready flavours, a combination of the toastiness of Victory and the sourdough tang of Special Roast is something I am very intrigued by, add in the strawberry characteristic of Calypso hops and the more fruity notes that American II yeast can bring to the party and I have a good feeling that this will be a tasty, sessionable, drop of beer.

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.

Monday, January 11, 2016

#IHP2016 - In With The New

The masses have spoken, well, 23 of them.

Last week I put a quick poll up on here looking for guidance on what to do for the 2016 iteration of the International Homebrew Project. The choices were to stick with the tried and tested formula of recreating historic beers based on the research and work of Ron Pattinson or to attempt to create a new beer style.

As I say, the masses have spoken, and by a margin of just over 2 to 1 it is decided that the International Homebrew Project 2016 will embrace the challenge of creating a new beer style, thus the theme for this year is centred around the, perhaps oxymoronic, concept of the American Mild.

I will be putting my thinking hat on in the coming days to extrapolate further on what would constitute an American Mild, but it's rather fun to have a completely clean slate on which to draw.

Thanks to those that voted in the poll, and if you are planning to take part in the project, please leave a comment here, or send me an email.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

International Homebrew Project 2016 - Crowdsourcing Style

Around this time of year I start the planning for the International Homebrew Project, which will see its 6th iteration in 2016. In previous years those of us who take part have mainly focused on recreating historic beer recipes, usually from the research of Ron Pattinson. Previous recipes were:
This year however I am thinking about doing something a little different.

Last year I started a project called American Mild Month, drawing inspiration from the Campaign for Real Ale's 'May is Mild Month' in the UK. The project had more than 50 breweries participating across the US, and the 2016 iteration is already looking to better that number.


What better way then to encourage more interest in the brewing of mild ale than to get fellow homebrewers engaged and brewing their own mild ales? However, I'd rather not stick to the accepted understanding of mild back in Blighty, and therefore to attempt to crowd source a new beer style, the American Mild Ale. As part of American Mild Month, I encouraged breweries to try and Americanise mild with the following parameters:
Let's start with color. The SRM numbers for English milds range from 6 to 34, which is basically the entire spectrum of beer. The majority of milds though fall in the dark category, starting at 17 SRM, which is a deep orange to amber color. An American mild then would be deep amber, with red in the mix as well, veering up to brown at the upper limit.

Alcoholic restraint is a hallmark of the modern mild ale, and we believe that an American mild should follow that tradition, topping out at 4.5% abv. We imagine most American milds would fall between 3.5% and 4.5% abv.

Everyone knows that many modern American beers are very hop centric while mild ales tend to be very restrained when it comes to both IBUs and hop perception, remember the official description from GABF...

Hop aroma is very low...Hop flavor is very low. Hop bitterness is very low to low

Clearly then the American Mild is not a hop bomb, but neither need it be a hop free zone. 'Low' is not the same as 'none', it is all about restraint, and with the wide variety of American hops available the range of hop flavors is actually quite broad, whether its the spiciness of Cluster, the grapefruit of Amarillo, or the tropical fruit of El Dorado, there is room here for differentiation, and dry hopping is ok too. Remember though, before going crazy with the hops, an American Mild is not a Session IPA, or a Session Cascadian Dark Ale, it's still a mild. Traditional English milds top out at 25 IBUs, but for an American Mild we would suggest an upper limit of 30 IBUs.

One major departure from the English mild style in a theoretical American mild is the yeast. The classic American yeast strain used by many an American craft brewery is known for being very clean, allowing the other ingredients to shine through without contributing the fruity flavors of the British yeasts.

So there we go, a restrained, darkish ale, with gentle hopping and a clean finish so that the malt and what hops are present, shine through.
Or for those more into lists:
  • OG - 1.032 - 1.048
  • FG - 1.006 - 1.014
  • ABV - 3.5% - 4.5%
  • SRM - 17 - 25
  • IBU - 15 - 30
If there isn't any interest in trying to create a new style, I'll revert to brewing historical recipes using Ron's research as a guide. There is a poll up in the upper right rail, let me know your thoughts by Friday January 8th.

Oh, and happy New Year!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Real Ale Homebrew

I love a good pint of cask conditioned beer, something which is painfully difficult to get in this part of Virginia at times. None of the breweries here has a regular cask lineup, and worse yet when they do decide to have some kind of 'firkin' special they invariably bastardise the beer by adding stupid shit to the beer, and slap it on a bar for gravity pouring without proper stillage. The resulting beer is so murky that it would do London beer proud, and no that is not a good thing.

The only places I have enjoyed pints of well cared for real ale in the last 6 years have been Beer Run here in Charlottesville and ChurchKey in DC, though sadly Beer Run stopped having a regular cask offering a few years ago. What then is a chap to do? Make you own obviously.

I have written before about using a 1 gallon polypin, called a cubitainer in these here parts, for replicating cask conditioning. It really is a pretty simple process:
  1. Put priming solution/conditioning tablets into the cubitainer to achieve about 1.2 volumes of CO2
  2. Rack fermented beer from primary into cubitainer, filling it about 90% full
  3. Close cubitainer with tap attachment (edit: store the cubitainer with the tap on the top of the cube)
  4. When the cubitainer swells bleed off some of the resulting CO2 so it doesn't burst - usually have to do this twice
  5. After about a week drink it
The picture below is of one of my cask experiments, an 80/- ale from a few years ago.


Now, gravity pour is all well and good, but I about a year ago I decided that I wanted to be able to pump my cubitainer real ale. Beer engines are pretty bloody expensive in and of themselves, and I don't have a home bar to add the necessary kit to, and did I mention they are bloody expensive? An answer I found on the old interwebs was to use a 'Rocket' pump, which is more usually used in mobile homes to pump water. One of the guys at the homebrew club I go to had a similar idea, but attached it to a cooler so that he would have portable real ale, so I must admit I nicked his idea to build my own 'caskerator'.


It's a really simple set up, and so easy to build that it took me about 10 minutes to do, and most of that was drilling the holes in the top of the cooler to attach the pump to. The entire outlay for this was:
Real ale for less than $45 can't be bad. To make it work:
  1. put a freezer gel pack in the bottom of the cooler to keep the previously cellar temperature stored beer at about the right temperature
  2. put cubitainer in cooler, tap to one side and pointing upwards
  3. connect the pump tubing to the tap (this can be fiddly)
  4. turn tap on
  5. close cooler lid - taking care not to kink the tubing, though this kind of replicates the behaviour of a sparkler
  6. pump - it takes about 10 pumps to get an imperial pint
  7. drink

There you have it, how to produce a reasonable approximation of British style real ale at home and on the cheap.

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!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Session: Colonial Uprising


This month's Session is being hosted by my mate Reuben over at The Tale of the Ale, who I am looking forward to showing the delights of the Central VA booze scene in a few weeks. His theme is as follows:
If you have a local beer style that died out and is starting to appear again then please let the world know. Not everyone will so just write about any that you have experienced. Some of the recent style resurrections I have come across in Ireland are Kentucky Common, Grodziskie, Gose and some others. Perhaps it's a beer you have only come across in homebrew circles and is not even made commercially.

There are no restrictions other than the beer being an obscure style you don't find in very many places. The format, I leave up to individuals. It could be a historical analysis or just a simple beer review.
If you've been reading Fuggled for a while you will know that history is something I am generally very interested in. The history of beer is of course very interesting, and far better served by the likes of Martyn Cornell and Ron Pattinson than I. Each year since I moved to the US I have organised the International Homebrew Project, which seeks to rebrew historic recipes based on Ron's research. You could say then that I enjoy reviving lost, forgotten, or misunderstood beer styles.

Living in an area of Virginia steeped with Colonial and Revolutionary era history, I am finding myself more and more interested in the lives of the people that left everything they knew back in Europe to come to the New World, including what they drank. It would seem from my reading that malted barley was something of a luxury item, and so beers from those eras were laden with ingredients that would make a Reinheitsgebot purist freak out.

Thomas Jefferson for example sought out 'The New American Brewer and Tanner' by Joseph Coppinger because it contained a method for 'malting Indian Corn'. Coppinger though mentions that it is 'peculiarly adapted to the brewing of porter' which makes me wonder if the pale beers on the market claiming to be based on Jefferson's 'recipe' (which he himself claimed was impossible to write down) are missing the mark by not using corn in a porter.

However, I digress. This year I am doing a homebrew project to recreate a drink that dates from the early 18th century, and is attested to as being brewed in southern Virginia in the run up to the American Revolution. Said drink is called 'pumperkin', and is described thus:
Let the Pompion be beaten in a Trough and pressed as Apples. The expressed juice is to be boiled in a copper a considerable time and carefully skimmed that there may be no remains of the fibrous part of the pulp. After that intention is answered let the liquid be hopped culled fermented & casked as malt beer.

Thus it is that I have 16 pumpkin plants in grow bags in a part of my garden where hopefully the deer will not discover them. I want this project to be as faithful as possible to what would have been produced at that time, so I am growing a heritage cultivar of pumpkins dating back to the 17th century. When the time comes to brew the beer sometime in the autumn, I will likely use Cluster hops, or alternatively East Kent Goldings, rather than a modern American hop strain.

I have no idea what to expect from the beer in terms of flavour, strength, drinkability, or even how much I will have of the stuff - that all depends on the pumpkins themselves. All I know at this point is that it is exciting to think about being engaged in experimental beer archaeology.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Session 99 - Homebrew American Mild


This month's Session is hosted by, well, me! My theme for this month is around 'localising mild', tying in with the American Mild Month project that I started and that kicks off today, with 46 breweries around the US committed to having mild available for May.

I work in the software industry and localisation is something of a common theme for companies selling their software to different countries and cultures, and it was sat in a meeting one day that I realised that beer has a long history of localisation. For example, in the wake of Josef Groll creating Pilsner Urquell brewers across the world saw there was a market for pale lagers in the Pilsner vein, and so they took to trying to reproduce the original in their own context. Out of the original Pilsner came the German Pils, American Pilsners, and arguably even beer styles like Helles, Dortmunder Export, and modern light lagers, all of them variations on a theme that made the best of local ingredients to create something akin to the original. Thus pilsner was localised, the same could be said of IPA in the modern era as well.


In my own homebrewing I like to make localised versions of the British beer styles I grew up on and still enjoy to this day, such as best bitter, Session 42 for example is a best bitter made with entirely US ingredients, and most especially of late with dark milds. Last year I dipped my toe into a localised dark mild with a beer whose malt bill was American 2 row, Victory, Chocolate, and Black malt, the hops were Chinook, Northern Brewer, and Cascade, and which weighed in at only 4% abv. I probably overdid the hops a fair bit because it lacked the balance I was looking for.

This weekend I am planning to brew an American Mild, as I am now calling them, to conform to the guidelines laid out in the American Mild Month post 'An American Mild?'. The beer is tentatively called 'Mild Mannered Merican' and is as follows:
  • 66% US 2 Row Pale malt
  • 13% Victory malt
  • 13% Caramel 120
  • 6% Flaked barley
  • 10 IBU Calypso hops for 60 minutes
  • 5 IBU Calypso hops for 15 minutes
  • Safale US-05 yeast
According to my brewing software that should give me a 4.5% abv beer that is a rich copper bordering on red colour, and veers to the sweeter end of the spectrum, though I find using US malts also makes the beer a bit drier and crisper, so it shouldn't be cloying. I like Calypso hops for the tropical fruit flavour rather than the grapefruit thing of Cascade and Amarillo, as well as a trace of strawberry in the background. The clean nature of American ale yeast will hopefully let the balance of malt and hop really take centre stage to make it eminently drinkable.

Mild is in many ways in a similar situation today as porter was back in the 70s, neglected, almost forgotten, and ripe with brewing opportunities. With more and more beer drinkers wanting session beers, perhaps its time has come once more and in localising mild to the ingredients and tastes of a new audience, there will be a renaissance of this wonderful beer style.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Finally - #IHP2015 Truman's Double Stout

This past Saturday, Mrs V and I hosted a little soiree at our place, ostensibly to christen the patio we had built last autumn, but it pissed down from about 11am so we were restricted to the kitchen, which is where the best parties happen anyway.

At the beginning of the day I wasn't sure whether my version of the 1860 Truman's Double Stout would be ready. Having tired of bottling batches of beer, I have started using my 1 gallon cubitainers, which I refer to as 'caskitainers', more and more, and I had 2 caskitainers of stout sitting in my cellar. As I say though, I wasn't sure if I wanted to inflict the beer on friends without having tried it myself, beyond the sample from packaging the beer, which was pretty damned delicious.


A few jars to the good later, I decided to throw caution to the wind and pulled out my little homemade beer engine and the first of the caskitainers. With everything hooked up, I poured myself a sample...


My goodness, this was nice. Huge great dollops of bittersweet chocolate, kind of like the 1lb bars of Belgian dark chocolate you can buy at Trader Joe's. In the background lingered a roasty bite that stopped the beer from being cloying, and the came through in the finish an assertive hop bite. The body was full and luscious, bordering on lascivious, and the densely creamy head could almost convince the unknowing drinker that it had been served through an abomination nitro tap, actually there was a little kink in the line which caused an effect not unlike a sparkler, the natural way to drink cask ale anyway.


Suitably emboldened, I offered our friends glasses of the beer, which went down very well, much to my relief, and so we finished off a caskitainer and a half. Thankfully I still have half a cask in the beer engine, and with no extraneous oxygen getting in, should still be in fine fettle when I finish it off tonight...

Every prospect pleases, and I might have to brew more of this.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

#IHP2015 - How Not To Get Project Done

There is a carboy in my basement filled with a wonderful looking black liquid that promises much, if the raw wort was anything to go by. The carboy is still holding my version of the International Homebrew Project 2015 beer, a double stout from the 19th Century originally brewed by Truman's in London.

I have no defense other than being mildly frustrated that the Prime Dose bottle conditioning product from Northern Brewer is out of stock (an excellent product that has cured all my packaging woes, and works great for cask conditioning as well!) and I haven't seemed to find the time for packaging beer of late, including the Extra Alt-Pils that is still in the lagering tank!

Anyway, while I may suck at shit done and organised, others do not, including Szabolcs from Hungary who wrote about his version of the beer here, as well as taking some seriously nice pictures.

If any of the other brewers that made the beer have written up posts about their versions, drop me a line or put a link in the comments.

As for me, I will package it one evening this week into my little casks and write about it in a couple of weeks once it is properly conditioned.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

#IHP2015 Brewday Reminder

This weekend is the brewday for those of us taking part in this year's International Homebrew Project, where we brew an 1860 Double Stout from the Truman Brewery in London.

The full details of the recipe can be found here.

As things stand, I know of people from the following countries participating:
  • USA
  • Ireland
  • Hungary
  • Poland
  • South Africa
  • Israel
  • Czech Republic
Anywhere I have missed from that list?

It's is a long weekend for me as a result of Presidents' Day, so I might even squeeze in two brewdays as it is time to do my annual lager.

UPDATE: As you can see form the comment, Austria is coming to the party too!

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

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