Showing posts with label limelight. Show all posts
Showing posts with label limelight. Show all posts

Monday, April 2, 2012

Moving Up

If everything goes according to plan in the next few weeks, Mrs Velkyal and I will soon be on the move again, though not quite as drastically as upping sticks from Prague to come to Charlottesville. We are in the process of buying our first house, a brand new 3 bedroom place about 15 miles outside town. Quite what we will do with 3 bedrooms and a house that is 3 times bigger than our current flat is beyond me, though I am already scheming as to what to do with the acre and a half of land the house sits on. Look away now if you are delicate of stomach, I won't be growing hops - mainly because Saaz and Fuggles rhizomes are a pain in the arse to get hold of.

One thing that buying a house will most certainly necessitate is some form of house warming party, and naturally I want to have a selection of homebrew available for said august occasion. At the moment my cellar is positively groaning with homebrew, and I have more in the lagering tank to boot. Between now and moving in I am sure I will drink plenty of my beer, so I am planning on brewing a couple more beers with the bash specifically in mind.

As it is that time of year, I will be brewing up my annual spring/summer witbier, LimeLight, in the coming weeks, though for the first time it will be an all grain brew, and with a couple of tweaks. Mainly I plan to chuck in some malted oats into the mix, and perhaps a touch of acidulated malt as well. As is traditional for this beer, it will be single hopped with that most noble of noble hops, Saaz, with lime peel and coriander bunged in the boil as well.

One thing I want to do with the other brew is have a nice session beer available, being fifteen miles from town I don't want people drinking hefty brews and then driving home. At the moment I am torn between a best bitter and a 70/- or 80/- Scottish ale. For some reason I am never happy with my bitters, even the ordinary bitter than swiped gold at the Dominion Cup last year was, in my opinion, not all that great. In contrast the 2 Scottish ales I have brewed have been almost dangerously drinkable, especially the cask version I did way back when. Clearly I am leaning toward the 70/- or 80/- option for fear of inflicting an experiment on friends.

Speaking of experiments, whenever IPA gets discussed in the Starr Hill tasting room I start talking about hot maturation and the process of madeirisation as described in Martyn Cornell's magnificent post on the subject. I would love it if a brewery made an experimental batch of their regular IPA and then hot matured it, though I doubt there is a brewery, "craft" or otherwise, with the balls to actually do so. However, with the way the new house is situated, with lots of south facing walls and fences, I am thinking to brew up a classic English IPA and repeat Martyn's experiment. Heck, I might even try it with an American IPA and see what happens.

Life then is certainly full and busy, and with my new job going well, I like it this way.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My First All Grain

Goodness me, that title sounds like I spent the weekend playing with Fisher Price toys! Alas such happy abandon was not on my schedule over the last couple of days, rather as I noted on Friday, I did my first all grain homebrew this weekend, the recipe for which you can read here.

I am going to assume that you don't need a blow by blow account of my brewing activities, but I thought I'd share (what a lovely post-modern touchy feely concept that is, I think I might puke) some pictures and a few notes about the stuff I learnt.

First up, allow me to introduce my little mash tun (oh good god, more kiddy toy references).

Because I only brew small batches, and have limited space, the cooler has a capacity of 2 gallons - I figure that when I want to make bigger beers, I will do partial mash and make up the gravity with extract. I also plan to replace the tap with something that doesn't need constant pressing to get the wort out. As you can see from the picture, I did a variation on the Brew In A Bag method, where I also sparged the grains. While talking about sparging, I only sparged once and my OG was a touch short of my minimum target, so I checked the gravity of the second runnings and it was 1.030. I was concerned that I would have too much wort in my pot (I do high gravity brewing, with ice cold water waiting in the carboy to make up the volume) and so I skipped the second sparge. You live you learn, and as Jamey from my homebrew club told me, going all grain is akin to learning to brew all over again.

A quick before and after, the grains, 80% American 2 row and 20% Caramel 10.

I did a 90 minute boil, adding Amarillo hops at 60, 15 and 5 minutes.

Everything was going swimmingly, until I put the boiled wort in the carboy of waiting water. I came up about half a gallon short on my volume. What to do, stick with 2 gallons or nip to the shop for an extra gallon of water? I nipped. and on measuring my now 2.5 gallon batch, it had an OG of 1.040 or 10o Plato, which gave me an efficiency, I believe of 57% and a conviction to sparge more next time. Regardless of the numbers, I like the look of the wort that will soon be and American Pale Ale (though the gravity is a touch short, so perhaps an American Best Bitter is better?).

If you follow my Twitter feed, you will also know that I bottled the three batches of witbier that I brewed a couple of weeks back. All three beers have an abv of 5.1%, which means that the only differences between the three beers is the yeast used to ferment them, and any flavours coming from the yeast strains. The picture below are the American strain (Wyeast 1010), a German strain (Wyeast 3068) and a Belgian (Wyeast 3944) respectively.

A homebrew packed weekend for sure.....

Monday, May 30, 2011

Transatlantic Threesome

I awoke early on Saturday, as is my routine, but once the dog was walked, I immediately hopped in the car to buy water for brewing. I use purified drinking water for my beer and so I was at our local Food Lion right on opening time to buy 9 one gallon bottles for the brewing session that I had planned.

The seed for the brewing session was planted last May when I did a comparative tasting of two versions of my LimeLight witbier, one fermented with my usual 3944 Belgian Wit yeast, and the other with 3942 Belgian Wheat. Using the 3942 was a case of having to use what was readily available in order to meet a deadline, and the local homebrew shops not having any 3944. When I tasted the two versions, I was struck by the difference in colour, but from the comments that followed the post, it became clear that the age of the extract was the most likely cause of the differences. I thus hatched a plan.

My plan was really very simple, brew three batches of the beer in a single day and ferment with three different yeast strains. Thankfully LimeLight is an incredibly simple recipe, because it is the only beer I brew that gets all its fermentables from dry malt extract. The recipe for each 2.5 gallon batch was as follows:
  • 3lbs Muntons Wheat DME
  • 0.5oz 3.9% Saaz hops @ 60 minutes
  • 0.25oz 3.9% Saaz hops @ 15 minutes
  • 0.5oz fresh lime peel @ 15 minutes
  • 0.5oz cracked coriander seed @ 15 minutes
  • 0.15oz dried sweet orange peel @ 15 minutes
  • 0.25oz 3.9% Saaz hops @ 1 minute
The orange was a late addition to the recipe as I had forgotten that it was in the fridge and I won't be brewing with peel again until the autumn when I make my Christmas beer.

To ensure, as much as possible, consistency across the three batches, I made sure that I followed the extract same procedure for each. The DME was added to 1.5 gallons of water, while 1 gallon was chilled in advance and put into the fermenter when required. I had played with the idea of brewing a single batch and then splitting it into the three fermenters, but my brew pot would not have been big enough. Thankfully all three brews were remarkably similar, all with an OG of 1.050 and looking like the sample below.

On the yeast front, I used:
  • 3944 Belgian Wit
  • 1010 American Wheat
  • 3068 Weihenstephan Weizen
I decided to put the fermenters in my storage room rather than in the utility room as it maintains a fairly constant 66oF as opposed to the mid 70s. 24 hours after the yeast had been pitched, this was the sight that greeted me.

The beers are the Belgian at the back, American in the middle and German at the front. As ever I named the beers and created labels. LimeLight itself remains LimeLight, but the version with weizen yeast is called Rampenlicht, the German word for "limelight", while the American is Broadway American Witbier. The beers will stay in primary for 14 days before being bottled and left for a few weeks, being ready around the middle of July.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Plotting Season

It's that time of year. The sun shines more often than not, the trees are in bud and pollen fills the air like a yellowy green fug. Yes it's spring, the time of year when I give thanks for being short sighted and needing glasses, thus staving off some of the delights of hay fever.

It is also around this time of the year that I start thinking about the homebrew competitions I intend to enter in the coming months, and try to create a brewing schedule to fit around them. This year, for the first time, I entered the National Homebrew Competition. I only entered the one beer, Red Coat Export India Porter, which took gold in the Porter category at last year's Virginia Beer Blitz.

This version is slightly different from the winning batch, being 5.4% abv rather than 5.9%, and about 50 IBUs, which is a little less than the last batch, but maintains the same BU:GU ratio. With the beer entered in the NHC I am hoping just not to get slaughtered in the feedback forms, anything beyond that is a bonus.

In the regional competitions, I am pretty sure that I will just enter the same as last year, which would mean brewing beers for the Dominion Cup and Beer Blitz here in Virginia, and the Palmetto State Brewers Open in South Carolina.

Over the coming months I have a load of projects I want to complete, including a triumvirate of wheat beers based on my LimeLight recipe. LimeLight has become my most commonly brewed beer, and has proven to be well received by those that have tried it. My three way project is to make 3 batches over a weekend, with exactly the same ingredients except for the yeast. The yeast strains will be the classic 3944 Belgian Wit, 3068 Weihenstephan and 1010 American Wheat.

As a result of brewing a historical recreation of milk stout for the International Homebrew Project, I have found myself wanting to brew more historical beers, one that took my particular interest was a 1921 Pale Ale from Barclay Perkins. My interest was piqued by the use of Saaz hops alongside Goldings. Also coming up will be a a single hopped Old Ale, a blackberry lambic, a mild, and perhaps a peated pale ale.

There is a big homebrew project on the very near horizon, something that has been in the works since November, but I will tell you all about it when the brewday has been done.....

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Almost every homebrewer I know gives the beer he, or she, makes a name, and I was thinking the other day about the things that inspire the names we give our beer and brewing operations. For example, I refer to my brewing as "Green Dragon Brewing", going back to the original name after a brief flirtation with Pivovar Brewing, which is almost a tautology when translated from Czech. Brewery Brewing? Nah, sounds a bit naff really. The name Green Dragon Brewing was chosen because in the film version of Lord of the Rings, Pippin and Merri sing a song about beer, which contains the line "the only brew for the brave and true, comes from the Green Dragon".

With the beers I brew, the names often reflect the ingredients, or what I am trying to achieve in making the beer - of course it is easy to say that I am just trying to achieve making a good beer, but there are often reasons that underpin the recipe creation process. Take for example my India Black Ale that I bottled last week, called Red Coat India Black Ale. The thinking behind the the beer is that India Black Ale, or Black IPA if you must, is nothing more than porter using different hops and too many of them. Replace the Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe et al with British hops to the same IBU rating and hey presto, you have over hoppy porter. Red Coat of course refers to the soldiers of the British Empire for whom beer was shipped out to both the American colonies and India.

A beer such as my spiced Christmas amber ale, called Biere d'épices, harks back to my growing up in Germany and loving the smell, and taste of course, of the gingerbread houses my mother made at Christmas. Why use French as the name though? Well, simply because my parents now live in France and given the Belgian yeast and French hops in the beer, it sounded more apt than "Lebkuchenbier" -  though of course a quick change of yeast and hops, and Lebkuchenbier could yet be this year's Christmas libation of choice.

Tomorrow I will be bottling the Best Bitter I brewed a couple of weeks back, single hopped with First Gold and fermented with Wyeast 1968 London ESB yeast. The name is Gunnersbury Gold, gold for the hops and Gunnersbury for the park in London where my brothers and I would play when we went to visit my nan in Southall.

The one thing I haven't done of yet is get seriously creative and create labels for my bottles. There is a very simple reason for this, I have, in the words of Blackadder, all the "artistic talent of a cluster of colour blind hedgehogs in a bag". I did though create this little thing for my recent weizenporter, Black Rose.

However, Rob from OptaDesign is supremely talented and created this label for LimeLight.

What then inspires your homebrew brands and label designs?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A carboy, a carboy, my kingdom for a carboy!

It has been a while since I brewed. My fermenters sit empty, forlorn and pleading to be filled with wort and yeast, apart from the dandelion wine that Mrs Velkyal made in our tiny little 1 gallon carboy which is being bottled this week and left to sit until Thanksgiving.

I am expecting to change this situation in the near future, in fact at some point today I will be buying ingredients from good old Northern Brewer, and maybe also from Rebel Brewer as they have a wider selection of hops. I have a few options when it comes to what beers to make next.

Of course there is the British Style American Style India Black Ale I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. I also want to re-make my Ring of Gold Best Bitter, largely because I am convinced the recipe is sound, it was just that the carbonation didn't happen because the cellar was too cold for the yeast. Then there are my winter beers, Machair Mor and Biere d'épices which maybe I should brew earlier this year to give them plenty of time to condition in the bottle. Also due to be done is making parallel versions of LimeLight using the two yeast strains I have used, to see the difference - on a side note, one of my colleagues mentioned that the 2.1 version reminds him of Hennepin from Ommegang.

Those are the existing brewing plans, and perhaps I think too much but I have a raft of other ideas floating around my head - one of which is to make maple mead, using maple syrup rather than honey, or possibly a combination of the two. Naturally I am planning to take Ron's posts and make some of those historic beers. Also maybe, just maybe, I should make a special beer for my birthday this year, perhaps something with an OG of 1.075 and an IBU rating of 35 or some such mess of numbers.

In the midst of all this homebrew stuff for my cellar, I have also had the delight of helping some friends take their first steps in homebrewing, both of whom work with me at the Starr Hill tasting room. One kicked off his career with a large scale version of the
Black Rose Weizen Porter (originally a dunkelweizen, but perhaps a touch too dunkel, though not too dissimilar in colour from Erdinger's dunkel), while the other started out with a California Steam Beer.

So many ideas, I think I need more carboys...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Homebrewer of the Week

The beginnng today of a new semi-regular series, in the spirit of my recent Brewer of the Week I introduce Homebrewer of the Week! First up is, well, me. So here goes.

Name: Velky Al

How did you get into home brewing?

My homebrewing was a result of my getting into beer more seriously than just chugging gallons of whatever industrial stuff was available while watching football in the pub. As much as I love Czech beer, which is predominantly pale lager, my first beer love has always been stout. My first legal beer was Guinness, I loved Murphy's and Beamish as well. I wanted to make my own because there is so little ale being made by commercial brewers in the Czech Republic.

Are you an all grain brewer or extract with grains?

I brew with extract and specialty grains. I don't have the space at the moment to go all grain, though I plan to eventually, the key word being eventually, I am in no rush.

What is the best beer you have ever brewed and why?

Difficult to say, I really enjoyed my imperial stout I brewed last winter as I did my Christmas beer. Having said that, a week or so ago I open a bottle of a barley wine I brewed last November in preparation for Thanksgiving to see if it was worth putting forward for the Dominion Cup. Well, simply put it was smooth, boozing and obscenely easy to drink for its 12%abv.

What is the worst, and why?

My first brew in the US was a total disaster. I wanted to make a pale ale with Amarillo hops, using White Labs' Burton yeast. For some reason the yeast didn't do its thing and the beer didn't ferment properly, so I had to pour 5 gallons down the sink. That was the reason I ditched the 5 gallon batches for 2.2 gallons and clear carboys rather than white buckets.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

It has to be LimeLight, my lime and coriander witbier, which is also very popular with people who drink it. It is such a simple recipe and the results are consistently good. Without having to go through the hassle of all grain brewing, I am done with LimeLight in about 2 hours from start to finish.

Do you have any plans or ambitions to turn your hobby into your career?

I would love to, but I have to admit that as much as I enjoy brewing, I prefer seeing the enjoyment other people get from drinking it. Working in a brewery tasting room has taught me plenty about serving beer, keeping lines clean and the like, so I would like to have a pub at some point in the future, whether my own brewpub or taking on a tied house with one of Britain's regional brewers.

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

My favourite to drink is my Scottish export ale, which I call Gael 80/-. It is very much a classic Scottish ale, more sweet than it is malty, lightly hopped and at only about 4.5% abv something I can drink plenty of. It was also the first beer I successfully conditioned in my polypin/cubitainor to replicate cask conditioning, and it was even better!

How do you decide on the kind of beer to brew and formulate the recipe?

As I said in the first question, it started out wanting to brew a stout. Otherwise I think about the kind of flavours I am looking for and then go from there, sometimes I want to brewing something as close “to style” as possible. For example at the moment I am planning a beer based on my favourite chocolate bar, the Twix. I am thinking about using Biscuit malt, Chocolate malt and one of the Caramel malts, and very lightly hop it.

What is the most unusual beer you have brewed?

In terms of ingredients, my Christmas beer was the most unusual, especially as I wasn't following a given style, just making it up. My initial idea was to make a beer that reminded me of the gingerbread houses my mother made at Christmas when we were kids. I started off with an amber DME base and added some Caramel 80 for colour and a touch of sweetness, for the hops I used French Strisselspalt, a very low alpha acid type. Nothing drastically unusual so far, but then came the spices I added to the boil, the classic Christmas spices of cloves, ginger, and cinnamon, as well as dried sweet orange peel. The result was essentially a very yummy liquid gingerbread, which I called Biere d'épices.

If you could do a pro-am brew, what would you brew and with which brewery?

A very difficult question, and I can think of several breweries I would like to do something with, all of them back in the UK. Everards would be an automatic choice as Mark there has given me tons of invaluable advice for my homebrewing, and I learnt a lot from his when we met up in Prague to tour some of the brewpubs there, not to mention the fact that I think Tiger is one of the nicest beers I had last time I was in England. Another brewer who has been a great source of knowledge and enthusiasm for beer, and whose beer I love drinking, is Jeff at . Finally would be Dave at the HardKnott Brewery because he seems to like doing random stuff, which kind of chimes with my own way of thinking about brewing. In an ideal world, we would all of get together to brew something, perhaps with one us choosing the malt, one the hops, one the yeast and the other the water!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What's Been Brewing?

It has been a while since I wrote about my homebrewing exploits, so I thought a little update was in order.

About a month ago I did a brewing double header, the joys of having two carboys, where I made a revamped Experimental Dark Matter, seriously considering a name change on that one once the recipe is settled, and my first American style IPA, which bares the moniker Old Baldy IPA.

Experimental Dark Matter was an attempt to recreate a beer kit recipe which was my first ever stab at brewing, and happened to turn out well. Taking on board the advice of BUL 180 up in Oregon, I cut the amount of peated malt from 0.5lb to just over 0.1lb so as not to overpower the beer with the aroma and flavour of peat smoke, and possibly to lessen the chances of homesick melancholy overcoming me whilst drinking. The original gravity on the beer was 1.052 and it finished off at 1.020, a touch on the high side perhaps, but it should give the beer some nice residual sweetness and an ABV of 4.3%. As I am on a month long beer fast, I will be waiting until July to actually try some.

Old Baldy IPA was originally going to be called Hopbombination, but as this beer is intended for Independence Day, ironically it is also my wedding anniversary that day and then Mrs Velkyal's birthday on the 5th, I decided on a more topical name. I used 5 different types of hop in this beer, Citra, Centennial, Amarillo and Cascade in the boil and then dry hopped with Challenger for a couple of weeks in secondary. If my calculations are correct, it should have an IBU rating of 125 if this website here is to be believed. On the booze side of things, it started off at 1.060 and once primary fermentation was done it came down to 1.016, giving me a nicely respectable 5.9% ABV beer, which I hope will be a hit come July 4th.

Currently in one of the carboys is another batch of LimeLight 2.0, again being made for a friend's special occasion, in this case a house warming party when they move out of Charlottesville to the wilds of Troy. Whilst on the subject of LimeLight, I mentioned previously that there was a bum batch, I think the extract was not as fresh as I would have liked, and it was much darker than usual, plus the fact that I used a different yeast strain. However, the feedback I am getting about that batch is extremely positive, so I am planning to do a batch of Limelight which I will then split into 2 carboys and see the effects of the different yeasts.

That's kind of everything at the moment, other than deciding which beers to put forward for the homebrew competition at the local county fair, and later this month bottling Mrs Velkyal's dandelion wine. You'd think we liked our booze in the Velky Al household, you'd not be far wrong!

Monday, May 3, 2010

To Wit or to Wheat?

One of my favourite beers that I like to brew has the "brand" name LimeLight. LimeLight, for those not in the know is my take on a Belgian witbier, but instead of curacao orange peel, I use lime peel, I use just one type of hop, the noblest of noble in my opinion, Saaz, and usually I ferment said brew with Wyeast's Belgian Wit.

My first batch of LimeLight this year was given the working title LimeLight 2.0, a reference to the fact that I was expecting it to be different from the original LimeLight that I brewed back in Prague, largely because I assuming the malt extract I was using was different. However, using Munton's wheat extract didn't change things dramatically and 2.0 was a slight, although definite, upgrade on version 1.

I planned to make a batch of 2.0 for the wedding of a friend in Greenville, South Carolina, that Mrs Velkyal and I went to last weekend. As it was, when I went to the homebrew shops here in Charlottesville, neither of them had the required yeast, and time was short to order it from Northern Brewer. Invention being the mother of necessity, I decided to use Wyeast's Belgian Wheat for the fermentation process, and hope the differences weren't huge. Thus LimeLight 2.1 was born.

Stuart Howe, over at Real Brewing at the Sharp End, posted last week about yeast, which was almost serendipitous as I had decided to post about the difference the yeast strain makes in two batches on the same beer, what I wasn't expecting was just how different the two beers are. Here is LimeLight 2.0:

and here is 2.1:

Quite a difference there in colour, the original is golden with an orangey depth to it, whereas 2.1 is coppery orange. I have read that yeast can affect beer colour, but I wasn't expecting that difference. Reviewing my brewing notes, yes I am that sad, and there were no significant differences between the two brews other than the yeast. So I need to ask those brewers more experienced and skilled than I, is it possible for yeast to make such a difference in the beer colour?

In terms of flavour, 2.1 has a more pronounced booziness, which in turn brings out the spiciness of the coriander, and has a fuller body, which would make it an excellent autumnal beer, as the nights draw in and the leaves turn the colour of the beer. 2.0 however, is dry and crisp, bursting with a lemony citrusness that makes it ideal for hot summer days, cold from the fridge.

It would seem then, that the yeast strain, even two which seem very similar according to the description in the catalogue, can make a huge difference in the beer. Naturally, this opens all kind of avenues for playing around with my homebrew, avenues that of course need to be taken, just to see where they go.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Passing the Test

I think I have mentioned before that I brewed a trial run of LimeLight for a friend's wedding, well, this weekend marked the third week it had been in the bottle, so it was time to see how it came out, first some pictures.

The Pour - cloudy orange, big rocky white head - bang on!

The nose - lots of coriander spice, grass and lemons, got to love Saaz, major salivation in the works.

The Taste - biscuits, lemons, spice, long finish, bloody hell this is good.

Drinkability - too damned easy, that's how.

The Finish - yes, and rather quickly.

If anything, this version of LimeLight is better than the one I made last year, so I will be happily giving my friend some of this for his wedding, let's hope he enjoys it as much!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Just a Reminder

This weekend is a brewing weekend, but not just any brewing weekend. This weekend is the beginning of the Fuggled International Homebrew Project, when those who want to take part will be brewing the American Pale Ale which is the product of all those polls I ran.

For those unaware of this project and interested in taking part, the recipe is here.

Originally I intended everyone to post about their beer on Monday 21st March, however I have decided to make the posting day Friday 25th March, just to make the schedule a touch easier.

On a side note, I bottled LimeLight 2.0 on Sunday. This version of LimeLight is a trial batch for a friend's wedding in April, when I am planning to make sufficient beer to give every adult a bottle. This version is far spicier than the original, and has more of a hoppy bite to it, so I have great hopes for it when I try it after 3 weeks conditioning. If the aroma that burst out of the fermenter is anything to go by though, it will be good.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bottled Gold

Yesterday was bottling day for my latest home brew, a Best Bitter which I named Ring of Gold - I used only East Kent Golding hops in the boil and fermented it with the Ringwood Ale yeast and thought "Ring of Gold" sounded better than "Golden Ring".

Since my disaster with the Copper Head Pale Ale, which I plan to make properly some time in the summer, I have gone back to using the Wyeast smack packs instead of vials from White Labs and have had consistently good fermentation as a result. I also brew quite small batches, only about 2.5 gallons a time, because I don't have much storage space in my cellar and I would rather have a broad selection of beers to choose from instead of filling the cellar with 2 batches, it also means I get to brew more regularly. I find the brewing process quite relaxing, so the more I do, the happier I am.

From a technical standpoint Ring of Gold performed exactly as I expected, going from an original gravity of 1.040 to a terminal gravity of 1.008, giving the beer an ABV of 4.3%. According to Beer Tools, the beer has an IBU rating of 28, which is on the lower end of the scale for a Best Bitter.

Next up in the brewing queue is another batch of LimeLight, a wheat beer I made last summer using lime peel instead of the more common curacao orange. The recipe for LimeLight was made available to Czech home brewers through - unless you speak Czech don't bother - and seems to have gone down well with people who have made it. Of my own version, Ireland's venerable Beer Nut described it thus:

"The carbonation is spot-on and I've got a nice, lasting layer of froth on the top. I'm tasting a sweet biscuity base, and then there's the sharp and tangy citric fruitiness. Topped with the froth, the whole thing is remarkably like drinking lemon meringue pie. A genuinely excellent beer, well done"

Taking on board some comments from The Beer Nut, I have decided to add some ginger into the mix for this version and see where that takes the beer.

As ever with my home brewing, every prospect pleases.

PS - there is only one day left to vote on the base beer style for the International Homebrew Project, and as things stand we have equal votes for three of the four beer styles. If they are still tied when the poll closes, I will pull the winner out of a hat.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Brewing Plans

Having not had a single beer throughout Advent, I was very much looking forward to Christmas Day and downing a few bottles, admittedly though, this week is a blip in many ways because I intend to keep my annual booze free January.

Much to my own surprise, I only drank my homebrew on Friday, mainly the Machair Mor Imperial Stout, but also a couple of the spiced winter ale - Biere d'épices. I will write more about the Biere d'épices some time during the week, as I have more back in Charlottesville and want to do a proper tasting, and take pictures and such like.

One thing I am very happy about with the Machair Mor is just how much better it was with an extra few weeks of conditioning in the bottle, the Galena hops have mellowed a touch and now combine with all that chocolate malt to make a beer which is dangerously moreish.

Possibly the greatest pleasure was being able to share my brews with Mrs Velkyal's father and uncle, both of whom were most complimentary. I think now though I will need to buy a few more of the 3 gallon fermenters and start making more of my staple beers, especially as my dad is keen to try my beers when he and my mother come to visit in March/April. Particularly in order will be more of the Gael 60/-, a fresh batch of my Experimental Dark Matter (not using a kit though this time), and a new, hopefully improved, version of Limelight, which from reading (only in Czech sorry), went down very well with other homebrewers.

With all this brewing to come, I must admit that I am doing so with an eye on entering a few competitions this year. I am well aware that I am unlikely to win anything, but I want the feedback from judges so that I can improve my recipes and get more pleasure from seeing people enjoy my beer.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Limelight in the Spotlight

Yesterday I finally got round to bottling the remaining car-baby of Limelight. I decided to use a bit more priming solution with this one because the couple of bottles I hd already indulged in were a bit under-carbonated and the head disappeared somewhat quickly. With bottling done with, I popped open another bottle of Limelight in order to do my official Cyclops analysis for this beer.

The bottle had been conditioning for 2 weeks and opened with a relief inducing pop, there is something about the sound of opening a bottle of your own beer and knowing that at least you got the carbonating process right! Just a quick recap, the OG of Limelight was 1.040 (that's 10° for all the Plato/Balling buffs), admittedly a little short of the style guides, but there we go. The FG for both car-babies was 1.012, which gave me an ABV of 3.8%

And the Cyclops looks like this:
  • sight - dark orange, cloudy, off-white head
  • smell - citrus fruits, spices, floral notes
  • taste - dry, crisp, citrus
  • sweet - 1/5
  • bitter - 1.5/5
The carbonation from this bottle was ok, as you can see from the head in the picture, although I thought the body was a little on the thin side - given though that my favourite beers are all big on body and flavour, it could be that this is perfectly acceptable and I just like fuller beers.
Given the lovely weather we are enjoying in Prague at the moment, and the fringe benefits that go with that, a few cold Limelights by the river would be a very refreshing prospect.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

LimeLight Details

I bottled one of the carboys last night as planned, I also got Mrs Velkyal to buy me four bottles of Bernard, in this case the dark, in order to have enough bottles to do the other carboy at the weekend.

From an OG of 1.040 this batch ended up at 1.012, giving it an ABV of 3.8%, which is a touch on the low side, as was the OG.

With regard to colour it is a darkish yellow at the moment, but I will post some pictures after I have given it 3 weeks to condition properly.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Bottling Day

LimeLight has been sitting in the carboys now for 11 days, so this afternoon when I get home from work I will be bottling it. I may though have to buy another couple of bottles of Bernard or Chodovar to indulge in before I start as I only have 10 empty bottles at the moment - I have drunk a lot more of both of them since I started making my own beer as they have swing tops and thus I didn't have to go out and buy a capper.

Remaining with home brew, but this time the kit itself, I have been asked several times where I bought my equipment from? A question which often precedes much umming and ahhing before trying to explain that I didn't buy a kit, I cobbled it all together - so for those interested, here is what my kit consists of, and the price thereof:
  • 2 x 5l wine bottles, 180k? each (about $9/£6/€6.60)
  • 2 x rubber bungs with hole, 45k? each
  • 2 x airlocks, 17k? each
  • 1 x hydrometer, 210k?
  • 1 metre food grade plastic tubing (1cm diameter), 15k? (I think off the top of my head)
  • 1.5 metres food grade plastic tubing (2.5cm diameter), 25k? (again, I think)
  • 1 5l food grade plastic jerry can with tap, 250k?
So for a grand total of 984k? - which is $49.20/£33.90/€36.45 - you too can have a brewing kit for making batches of about 8 litres a time. Sure it is only a small amount of beer, but if things go badly at least you're not throwing 18.5l worth of beer down the drain.
For my Czech readers, I bought most of the equipment from Billa and Bauhaus - the bungs and airlocks I bought from Hop Shop UK - this was before I knew Evan and he gave me the website of a Czech home brewing shop, where I now get my ingredients from, as well as my hydrometer. So far Mrs Velkyal and I have made the following in our kit:
It is perfectly plausible and possible to make a decent beer without spending tons of cash on the latest and bestest equipment with bells, whistles and LCD display panels, and it is hugely satisfying to know that so far no-one has gone blind or died from drinking my beer. Happy days all round, especially as I got made redundant the other day!
I am actually not too bothered about the redundancy thing, the severance pay will be very helpful in getting set up Stateside.

Friday, March 27, 2009

LimeLight Label

For some reason I like to mess about and create labels for the beers I brew, and here are a couple of ideas for LimeLight, let me know what you think.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Stepping into the Limelight

Experimental Dark Matter was a brew kit for all intents and purposes, I didn’t have to do a boil, add hops or think too much about ingredients, other that the smokiness I wanted to add. The fact that I got a dozen drinkable bottles of beer out of it was in some ways an added bonus, and the fact that the people who have drunk it haven’t thrown up or derided it as an abomination is also quite nice. The success then of EDM was therefore the spur to try my hand at brewing with dry malt extract; thus Limelight was born – thanks to Dave at the Woolpack Inn for the name. As a quick aside, I recommend you read Dave’s blog, it is very interesting to see beer from the industry side rather than that of just the consumer.
As I noted last week, the recipe for Limelight was inspired by an article on Irish Craft Brewer about small scale brewing. As a quick re-cap, for 4 litres of wort my final recipe consisted of:

500g wheat DME
15g coriander seed – crushed
10g lime peel
15g Saaz hop pellets
Wyeast 3944 Belgian Witbier yeast
Because I don’t have a decent sized brewpot, it is necessary for me to boil up about 2/3 of my water and put it in the carboy in advance. This is also necessary as a result of water loss from evaporation, meaning that my 2 litre boil ended up at about 1.2 litres after 60 minutes.
Once the water was boiling, I chucked in the malt extract and stirred thoroughly to ensure there were no lumps or scalding on the bottom of the pan. I also had to adjust the heat to maintain a rolling boil, at which point I added the first hop addition, 7.5g of the Saaz pellets, just after which I added the coriander and lime peel, making sure the boil was ticking over nicely.

The other hop additions came with 20 and 5 minutes of the boil remaining respectively, both about half of the remaining 7.5g of Saaz. Having turned off the boil, I strained the wort through a fine mesh sieve into the waiting, by now pretty cooled, boiled water – then brought the mixture down to a decent temperature for pitching.

With two carboys to fill, I did the recipe twice and ended up with two worts both with an OG of 1.040, or 10° Balling, which are both sat with big fluffy krausens while the Yeastie Boys get down and dirty on the sugars. The plan at the moment is to let them sit for 14 days before priming and bottling.

Pictures 2-4 were taken by my good friend, and superb photographer, Mark Stewart of Black Gecko Photography - he came round to watch me brew and enjoy a few bottles from the cellar. He also had the good grace not to die from drinking EDM.

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

I have to admit that there really are not that many things that I miss as a result of this pandemic. I am sure that comes as something of a ...