Monday, 24 December 2012

Hop Squeezing

Hi All,
Very last post of 2012! While thinking about how i wished HopSynergy 4.0 to develop i had intended to leave the beer until the end of January to bottle. Subsequently the rate of fermentation has been faster than i expected, with this in mind and combined with my work schedule slipping i should be able to bottle Synergy before departing for Azerbaijan on the 3rd January. I had not expected to be dry hopping this brew so during initial prepwork i did not sterilise HopThang. :(

As you can hopefully see from the photo above i DID dryhop but in a low tech way! The hops of choice for this were 1.5oz of Styrian Goldings and 3.5 oz of Chinook. The muslin bags are weighted with glass marbles and miscellaneous stainless steel fittings (all sterilised of course).

The beer is coming along nicely so it was just a case of fitting a sterilised string and then dunking into the beer to beat the yeast layer back into the beer.

I then decided to try a new technique (to me). Each morning and evening i have sterilised my hands and then pulled the hopbags out of the beer. I have given them both a good strong squeeze. They both run green with hop solution when squeezed. I then dunk them into the beer to allow the hops to absorb beer again and repeat twice.
Presqueeze and Dunk with nice yeast shape
Post squeeze and Dunk with yeast desolation all around!
I read a beer book a few years ago which wrote of the handling/& rubbing of hops preboil to break open the lupin sacks and increase the hops effectiveness in the brew. This is a truly oldschool technique(1800's). I liked the tactile idea of that, very basic and satisfying i thought. The same thing occurs here with a wet hands on approach to dry hopping. Possible downsides are risk of infection and massive additions of bitterness (especially with 16.5% aa Chinook hops). The upside is of course the huge hop aroma that i am ensuring is making its way into the beer and also gaining insight into a new wrinkle in brewing
. I did the hop squeezing for 3 days, today the 4th day is the final day as there is a marked drop off in aroma when squeezing so i would say i have got all that is worthwhile out of these hops. During days 1 & 2 the aroma coming off of the hops when i squeezed them was fantastic, worth the experiment just for the olfactory benefit in those minutes. Time will tell as to how bitter this beer will be, it should have been a 60 IBU beer but if the bittering extractions are large using this method then i could have an 80 or 100 IBU on my hands. I drew a sample from the bottom of the conical and allowed it to ferment out indoors in a trial jar. It achieved a FG of 1.006! The yeast to beer ratio was insane probably 80:1 so hopefully the big batch will stall out sooner than that. See you in the New Year for the trial of the batch. Cheers, :).


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Wednesday, 19 December 2012

HopSynergy 4.0

Hi all,
I recently returned from Azerbaijan, whilst there i tried the light and red beer from the simply named 'The Brewery'
Very nice beers indeed, the light was a yeast heavy pale ale which was lightly brett'd and the red was a toffee led smooth yeast heavy pint of loveliness. By the time i returned from Baku i was absolutely gagging to get a brew on.  I am always tempted to make big strong IPA's full of flavour and character, sadly only a couple of these can be consumed before the effects begin to manifest themselves. As a side note, approximately 9 months ago i tried a scaled down version of Brewdogs 5am saint, the name of this beer was Blitz, it ran at 2.5% but sadly it was a step too far and the hop presence was totally out of balance with the watery beer, truly a lesson on 'why beers need balance'. Dead Pony club by Brewdog on the other hand is a good balance of the 5am saint profile but at a quaffable 3.5% abv. This is the sort of area i am aiming for, a decent bit of body to balance out lots of wonderful hop presence and a lightish abv to have a few if the mood takes me.
With all this this in mind i kept the recipe simple.
 HopSynergy 4.0
16kgs Marris Otter
10.5 oz Cascade FWH
2oz Bramling Cross 5 mins
7oz Willamette 90 minute steep
3.5 oz Fuggles  90 minute steep
3.5 oz EKG's  90 minute steep
1.5 oz Bramling Cross  90 minute steep
Handful of gypsum
Yeasts Burton Ale & US-05
Final volume into fv was 19 gallon with approximately 60 IBU's and hopefully no greater an ABV than 4.2%. I won't dilute my finished products as that's heresy and would damn me to Budweiser purgatory when i stop breathing!
I have been deliberate in my depletion of grain stocks over the past months to allow myself a fresh start in Spring. With this in mind i used my remainder sack of MO for this beer.

Using a single malt recipe i ran a higher mash temp, strike temp was 80 degrees and it settled at 69 degrees. Hopefully a good bit of body in the glass.

I really like these Cewal gauges, good big clear displays and accurate.

 i ran off the first two gallons of wort and reduced them down to a gallon or so to infuse some sweeter flavour to the final product. I am a bit of a woose when reducing and stop too early as i always fear buring the reduced wort and ruining the beer.

Business as usual after that with a load of FWH'ing during the wort recirculation, sparge and runoff.


 Its been a while since i brewed and it was great to be opening hop packages again, what a smell! The Cascade in particular. I like this photo as it says it all about brewing tools.

Also this one for the larger brewing tools.

I finally took a picture of my kettle full and boiling!

I think i will have to extend or make a new cooling coil as my current unit takes over an hour to cool a 20 gallon batch to 30 degrees. i would like to get a lot more cold break out of the beer before transfering to to FV so a bigger cooler will be the way forward i think.

Transfering the cooled wort went well but the US05/Burton Yeast wet repitch was very slow in taking hold. Two days in and it was just forming a layer on top of the wort. I pitched a fresh packet of 05 and it took off like the excellently predictable rocket that it is.

Yeast head 24 hours after pitching fresh yeast

Temperatures in the garage are between 3 and 7 degrees. I am aiming for a long cool fement (as if i have another choice)! I should be bottling this beer at the end of January prior to a trip to Turkey.
So that's it, the sack is empty.

I've just got time to show you my Xmas lights.

Also, our tree.

Finally, I'd like to wish you all a Happy Christmas and i hope you all have a peaceful and prosperous New Year.
P.S I have always believed that laughter and joy are tremendously beneficial to the soul and that laughter helps to keep the bad stuff at bay. Its not been the best year for many of us so i'd like to share with you out there something that i do to keep my family smiling when they are down. I tend to walk into walls when cutting about like this but it does give them a laugh so its worth it!

Simple eh? Just like me. :)


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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Dark Sin Wild Solera Xmas Beer

Hi all,

Today i bottled my dark solera. It is my first attempt at a solera. For those not in the know, a solera is a combination of various ages of beer combined in ratio and then left for a time to blend together to make a unique product distinct from the original ingredients. In this instance my solera is a combination of Belgian Golden Ale, Apricot soaked Saison, and Russian Imperial stout. Its had been on a couple of kilos of figs for a year or so and has many yeast varieties in it (Duvel, Dupont, Chimay, US-05, Brett C) and whatever wild yeasts were present on the figs and on the various fruits i have introduced.

The beer had a final gravity reading of 1.003. Part of the solera (RIS) dates back to 2008 and when i checked my brewing journal i found that it had been bottled at 1.016 FG. I mention this to highlight the fact that i can only guess at the ABV of this beer. I have put 9.5% on the bottles and a 'treat with respect' notice. NOT a session beer!

I was absolutely gobsmacked at the smells coming out of the FV during bottling. There was a very obvious chocolate smell, as well as dark fruit and liquer alcohol. I have resisted the temptation to try the trial jar as i have work to do this afternoon! In addition to the above mentioned olfactory pleasures there was also a distinct Brett C wild edge. This was very apparent when the beer was going into the bottles. I immediately cross referenced it to Orval. Gods homebrew eh? These people with the wild phrasing really need to come to Scotland to try real homebrew!

All too soon the bottles were capped and i was left with a sad collection of depleted cherries. No sign at all of fig remains and not an apricot in sight. The cherries are now on the composter so there will be some drunk insects at my house today.

There is no way that i could let this mad combination of yeasts go down the drain. The question of course is 'what to do with it'? As there is so much Belgian and wild yeast in the litre or so and its a quite frankly preposterous combination that i have decided to try and match it with a preposterous beer. I have a truly outrageous IPA in mind, more on that next time.

The beer was bottled at a carboantion volume to produce 1.5 vols of co2. I went deliberately light as the beer style suits it and i'd rather not have any bombs. Also very aware to leave a decent headspace in each bottle.

The labels on these bottles are a wee bit weighted towards darkness. What with the Big Bad Wolf motiff and the Halloween bottling date. Hopefully get a shiver at Christmas when i try one!

This beer has been great fun to make and going by the nose its a seriously complicated beer with huge depth. Anticipation for excellence is high. Cheers! :)

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Thursday, 11 October 2012

Quad B MK4 initial impressions & Quad B MK5

Hi all,
I have a bad habit of brewing beer and then not posting any info on it. Sorry about that but its all pretty good and no real dogs! The QB4 has settled and carbonated nicely. Its not 100% clear yet (not an issue for me) and has some beautiful delicate interaction going on between the yeast and the hops. A nice sweet flavour, maybe a touch like lychees? Not at all powerful but there in a nice ratio to compliment the Chimay & Duvel Belgian flavours. Really glad its only a 40IBU beer as much higher bitterness would take away from ther overall mellow fruit thing thats going on in this beer. Nice carbonation but not excessive and holds a reasonable head for a few minutes. Also glad that it is only 4.2%, a perfectly quaffable Belgian beer that does not do what Achouffe Blonde does to me after a couple (fall down). Here it is in all its glory!

I also decided to bottle the MK 5 version which was contemptuously Brett'd last month. What a beast of a yeast that Brett C is! Dregs of a bottle and it runs the Quad B4 down from its FG of 1.010 to its own FG of 1.003.
 This final version is a shade over 5% ABV and will i'm sure be a fine beer. I hope that the Brett C is in the background and the fruit flavours remain, time will tell.

I really like the flavours that this Duvel/Chimay split throws out. I couldn't bring myself to dispose of all of the yeast from the 4 gallon brett'd batch so i have decanted the yeast and cleaned it up.There is enough to do a 10/15 gallon batch easily and it has been put aside for a future project. That project will be my first go at one stop shopping in a tube (Sacc thru to Brett) when brewing and should make for an interesting beer. I am erring towards a heavily hopped MK 6 Quad B (Got to get Bramling Cross involved in it)!

I am flying out to our Turkish apartment tomorrow night with my wife and daughter. A few of my mates out there have been on an Efes only diet over the Summer so with this in mind i am taking a few beers out with me for them to try. I look forward to their reactions and I am sure it will be interesting one way or the other! The beers range from the 4.2% QuadB MK4 thru to the magnificent 7.3% Scottish SteamPunk MkII and a couple in between. What they all have in common is that they grab your taste buds, give them a damn good shake and shout, WAKE UP!
Cheers :)
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Sunday, 7 October 2012

Neglected hops

Hi all,

A few years ago i purchased three hops, a year later a fourth was added. To date i have had no crop worthy of mention & one of the plants died! I thhought we were too far North to grow hops properly and decided to leave them as ornamental. With this in mind i left the hop plants alone this year. No composting, no pruning or maintenance at all. Two out of the remaining three again did very little BUT the last one went crazy!

This hop plant has been planted in a sheltered corner and is West facing. This is Year four for the plant so i can only guess that it has now fully established its root system? I plan to move the other two bines next year to see if i can encourage them to perform as well.

This variety is a dwarf hop called 'First Gold'. It is a UK low Alpha Acid variety. Nothing showy or fancy just a nice mild slighly spicy brewing hop.  The cones are quite small, maybe 15 to 20 mm long but there are a lot of them!
I spent a couple of hours yesterday and the same again today stripping the plant of the flowers. I knew there were a good amount of them but was still pleasantly surprised at the final result. I am currently drying the hops and did not weigh them when wet. They are spread across 6 opened newspaper sheets. My guess will be around a kilo when dried.
I have been brewing with American and NZ hops most of the time for the past year or so. As a result these seem really mild! With this in mind I am going to place them at a girlish 2.5% AA when i work out a recipe. I will go for a Maris Otter only, high mash, a good caramelisation of the first runnings and a neutral yeast. Nothing fancy but special to me as it'll be from my own garden! :)

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