End of year odds and sods

It’s nearly the end of the year and the myriad demi-johns I had kicking about my living room has been reduced to two. I have a golden sour which was started as a thing on the Great Brettanomyces Facebook Group. We all brewed the Rare Barrel golden sour recipe but used different yeast strains, I used the Roeselare strain and split the batch between a clean demi-john and a herb liquor barrel. I eventually blended these back together, the demi-john was very earthy and the barrel really zingy so I thought they’d complement. A few months down the line and it needs uplifting with something, it’s just not quite there.  So I’ve decided to brew a bergamot wit beer to blend with the golden sour. I have some bergamot tea languishing in the cupboard and I feel like it will add some good and help with the drabness the beer currently has.

The other contains Spontanpeckham, I brewed this in March 2017. I’m hoping to brew another this season and eventually blend them if all goes to plan and they actually taste ok, if not, it was a fun experiment. I’m going to use a Plaato on the next spontaneous, I’m interested in the data output it gives over a longer period.

My freezer and cupboard are full of ingredients I have bought or been given to brew with and just haven’t got around to it. So my new years resolution for 2019 is to get on and use them.  Digging around I’ve got some grapes from my neighbour’s garden in the freezer. George next door gave them to me a while ago. He hates the grapevine that is growing next to his shed at the bottom of his garden and had hidden it behind a big board but I spotted it from an upstairs window. This year it has been quite prolific so he passed me a huge bag of plump purple grapes. I think I’m going to do a Kernel Biere de Saison inspired thing.

I also have some chaga which Keith Sowerby generously gave to me when I was in Manchester. I had a chaga brown in Beer Nouveau after he had given it to me and it was a delight so will probably be doing the same thing when I can figure out how to grate the bloody thing!

Other ingredients kicking about in the cupboards are Mahlab (ground cherry kernels often used in middle eastern and greek baking), hibiscus flowers, lapsang tea, sumac, dashi, peanut butter powder and Mike at WIB gave me a kombucha scoby to play with last week. So I best get my thinking cap on!

I’ve finally bottled the Funky Rye. This had been going since September 2017. It had stalled and I blended it with a saison and added cherries and oak to it in August this year. It got down to 1.008 and remained there for 2 months so decided to just bottle the damn thing and be done with.

I’ve also bottled a beer using Omega Yeast American Farmhouse and various hedgerow fruits (blackberries, elderberries, rosehips and rowans). I had split the batch and put the other half on local crab apples but something had gone horribly wrong with that half, it had incredible levels of ethyl acetate and needed to be dumped. The only difference between them were the fruit used so I assume there was something not good on those apples. The beer is currently conditioning in bottles, I’ll probably crack one open in the new year to see how it is coming along.

The last beer I bottled recently was my megablend. I added pomegranate molasses and golpar (Persian hogweed) to it, I opened one last week and it had massive amounts of THP in it, it’s just liquid  breakfast cereal. I’m quite sensitive to THP so this may just be me but I’m going to sit on them a while longer to let that disappear. More info on THP here

Next year I’d like to use more foraged fruits. I know there are Mulberries near my house and I have recently come across some medlars.  I’d also like to try more fruit powders, Black Bretty turned out quite well so I’m definitely going to look into using some more (I pick these up at Spice Mountain in Borough Market if you’re interested).

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And lastly because we should all bask in our own glory once in a while, I came 2nd in the Brett, Sours and Bugs category at Brewcon this year, hooray. I’m very happy with my scores, I was a little worried my beers would not be carbonated in time but something magic must have happened in the weeks from drop off to judging day! These beers take a lot of patience to make and to be recognised for them is amazing. It’s also nice to let other people try my beer and not just horde them in my house to myself. Big thanks to Simon Pipola for organising the event, it’s a huge undertaking and I’m amazed he hasn’t crumbled into a million pieces (note to everyone: we must clone him). I had a great time on the day; it was really good to meet other homebrewers who I had only really spoken to online before.  This year there seemed to be more from outside London which is great. The homebrew community in the UK is growing and that’s very exciting.

 

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Je ne rebrett rien

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I love De Halve Maan Straffe Hendrik Wild, so does Simon.  It’s a beer we should stock in our house more. We gladly have a crate of Orval or Burning Sky’s Petite Saison on the go every year but only ever have a few bottles of Wild kicking around at any one time. The Wild is a bretted version of the Tripel.  We discovered it when we visited the brewery in Bruges. I highly reccommend the tour for the building alone and for how they’ve adapted themselves around it (the beer pipeline is also a hoot). It’s the perfect marriage being able to taste both flavours of the tripel and the brett. It’s something Simon would very much like me to emulate, so why not have 20L of bretted tripel in your house?

I used the Epiphany Tripel recipe as the base from Brew Like a Monk. I fermented initially with WLP500 (I think this is the Chimay strain) and then transferred to a secondary and added Bruxellensis (my favourite brett strain). I was tempted to take half and bottle plain but I didn’t have a 10l demi-john available to put the rest in so hey ho 20l bretted tripel it is!

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I’m really pleased with how this has turned out, there’s a lot of funk from the brett and at around 8.5% it’s got the alcohol content of a tripel.  I believe Steve from the Beer O’Clock show would describe this as “Belgiany”. It’s Simon’s favourite homebrew so far. My only issue is with the carbonation. I bottled this at the end of August and carbonation has been very slow to develop, not sure if I maybe just miscalculated the sugar addition as I added more yeast at bottling. Despite the low carbonation I do like the flavour so all is not lost.

Kvieking Bishop Brennan up the arse

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I recently bought a packet of Omega Yeast’s Hornindal Kviek. Having read up on many of Lars Marius’ articles on Kviek I managed to meet him in person at the South East London & Kent Craft Homebrewing competition where he was doing a talk on the subject. Coming away with a bit more of an idea of how to use it, plus having bagged a free sample of the Lithuanian Simonaitis yeast from Lars I decided to shun the traditional route and try to highlight the fruity aspects of the yeast in a hoppy Pale (although I would love to have an oven, and oven gloves big enough, to bake the mash in to make some Keptinis).

I love the mystery surrounding the methods of making traditional Kviek beers. Why do you ferment so high? Answer: that’s how it has always been done.

I kept it simple with a SMaSH of Pilsner and El Dorado.

So 5kg pilsner, 5g El Dorado at 60 mins and 20g at 15 Mins in a 10L batch.

I cooled to 40oC and split into two adding the Hornindal in one and the Simonaitis in another.  Top tip from Wilder Wald on Twitter was to underpitch the Hornindal to bring out the fruit salad-esque flavours. Cheers!

They have started ripping through it quite quickly, I plan to dry hop after 2 days with some more El Dorado and then bottle at the end of the week.

Other goings on

Had a bit of a disaster yesterday when one of my 20L glass demijohns make a very loud cracking noise. Thankfully nothing in it and it is now in the bin. I was about to blend my Roeselare golden sour with the same beer that had been sitting in my herb liquor barrel into it. Turns out a 10l demijohn was a better fit anyway (evaporation much) I blended and added some orange blossom and sour orange peel.

My Petit Prince clone is a bit boring, I dry-hopped with Galaxy and it’s still boring. I’ve now added some elderflower to it.

My Funky Rye is stuck at 1.014 and has been for a number of months. I might try to blend it with something, it’ll be a shame to dump it as it has a lovely rich dark fruit flavour.

My apricot Omega All the Bretts beer has been bottled and is carbonated. It’s a lot more sour than I was expecting, pretty sure I only added 3% acid malt to the mash. The ph is at 3.4 which is too sour for my liking but other people seem to like it.

I also made a batch of bretted tripel as we love De Halve Maan’s Straffe Hendrik Wild and because everyone needs 20l of bretted tripel in their house.

I have also bottled a bretted version of my cubeb saison, now we wait.

 

 

Bam a lam

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I had a dream a while ago about making an imperial black bretted beer with blackcurrants called “Black Bretty”. This sounds like an awesome thing to do, Dali painted his dreams so why can’t I brew them? It’s at this point I’d like to point out I have also dreamt of making a steak stout that got served in a pastry pint. Sometimes dreams are best kept where they are, as dreams.

I’ve looked into sourcing blackcurrant puree and it is expensive, I’m assuming as most of the UK’s blackcurrants are shipped off to Ribena, so I had shelved this for a while until I came across a powdered fruit concentrate version in a shop in Borough Market. Apparently one of these small tubs is the equivalent of 3kg of fruit, bonza.  A quick google shows an American brewery has been using something similar with good results so I buy a couple of tubs and off I go.

I did some research into making a bretted imperial stout, mainly to see if there were any issues with the strength.  Although there were no issues in this regard I did come across a potential issue with making a stout. Brett accentuates the roasted notes of roasted malts so making a stout can be tricky, leaving the beer tasting very astringent and acrid. I read a few interviews with Chad Yakobson from Crooked Stave about this as Nightmare on Brett is one of my favourite beers and probably the inspiration for this dream and subsequent recipe. I followed his advice and used de-husked malts such as Carafa and Special B to make the beer dark, brett is very good at bringing out creamy chocolate and fruit notes from Carafa.

I’ve decided to add the powdered fruit 5 minutes from the end of the boil, I’m only adding one tub and will see if I need the other at a later stage.

Recipe

4kg Pale malt
200g aromatic malt
150g special B
120g Carafa II
400g dark Candi sugar
30g Fuggles at 60 mins

 

 

 

 

Mental Health Awareness Week

Hi, my name is Kat Sewell and I have/had mental health problems? Not sure you can say body dysmorphia ever goes away but I’m definitely a lot better than I was 15 years ago. I mean, I can still spend hours pointlessly staring at myself in the mirror for no reason other than to beat myself up about very minute details nobody else gives a shit about. However, the difference these days is that I know it is pointless and I can walk away after a few minutes and not let it take over. There are far more important things to worry about and as my old flatmate Gillie used to say: “Nobody’s looking at you!”

I suffered in silence for many years about my body dysmorphia. I didn’t even know I had body dysmorphia for most of that time. I started around 7 years old being a “picky child” and not eating anything. Back in the late 80’s/early 90’s not a lot was known about childhood eating disorders so this was just seen as being difficult and misbehaving. Being punished for this behaviour led to me being very secretive and ultimately led to bulimia. I suffered in silence with eating disorders on and off for many years, I’d say from the age of 7ish all the way to 20, it would usually flare up when something big happened like moving schools. The fact I was so secretive about it made it a lot worse to deal with. I finally had some kind of epiphany that I should probably speak to someone and got help in my late teens. This was the best decision I have ever made in my whole life. I don’t care who it is, if you are depressed or have other shit going on speak to someone, anyone. A professional, a stranger, a loved one, a friend or an acquaintance.  Anybody will do. I’m pretty sure if I’d spoken to someone sooner none of the crap I put myself through would have happened.

One positive from my experience was that as part of my recovery I learned to cook. Cooking from scratch allowed me to improve my relationship with food whilst reassuring me as to what was actually in what I was eating. As a result I now cook every day and as the years have gone on I have gotten deeper and deeper into a rabbit hole. I now make jams, chutneys, vinegars and oils with food I grow, find in local parks or in the clearance aisle. I bake, often adapting and making up my own recipes to suit my dairy intolerance. I also marry my love of beer and cooking often, finding new ways to combine the two. The knowledge about food and flavour combinations I have picked up along the way has definitely helped with my homebrewing and nurtured the experimental side within me. I have recently made some loquat and rosewater jam which, if I don’t scoff it all first, I’m likely to put into a saison (inspired by the Anspach & Hobday Maramalade Saison). I’ve added thyme and lemon verbena to a wit, dried Iranian limes to a gose and plan to add dashi to a stout. It doesn’t always work but the curiosity and enjoyment I gain from it are more than worth it. I genuinely feel at my most relaxed when I’m cooking.

Honestly, I probably wouldn’t be me without my mental health problems and, it’s a cliché, but I am stronger for it. It doesn’t have to have a stigma and it is totally normal. It’s more prevalent than you think. If you ever need to talk, I’m always here.

 

 

 

IWCB Day – an ode to the women of Peckham

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Three female brewers (me, Jane and co-owner Helen) from the Water Into Beer homebrew club decided we’d take part in International Womens Collaboration Brew Day. The theme this year is Exotic Unite. Seeing as we live in Peckham we decided to source inspiration from Rye Lane.

Rye Lane is awash with exotic ingredients, we are a bit spoilt for choice really. Spices, fruits, vegetables, nuts, things I have no idea what to do with all tumble from boxes in many Caribbean and African shops. Jane discovered Ugli fruit, they are a bit of a combo of a Tangerine and grapefruit, slightly smaller than a grapefruit but paler and a bit sharper than a tangerine. They also have a floral end note which we think would go very nicely in a beer.

What style to brew though?  Well, erm we live in Peckham RYE, so we decide to do a Rye beer of course to celebrate Peckham in all of its loveliness and the women living within it.  Peckham is definitely not ugli.

As part of this I decided to do some research about some of the prominent and important women who have had an impact on the area. It was really interesting to delve into this and learn so much about where I live. I highlight a few below, if you know of others please let me know I’d love to hear about them.

Una Marson

Una Marson moved to Queen’s Road from Jamaica in 1932 where she was the Secretary for the League of Coloured Peoples (a great organisation founded by Harold Moody, read up on it if you can). She was the first black female broadcaster at the BBC. She joined as a programme assistant in 1939 working on the Calling West Indies programme and eventually having her own radio show, Caribbean Voices.  As well as a journalist, Una was a poet, publisher, playwright and activist for racial and sexual equality.  In 1928 she was the first Jamaican woman ever to have launched her own magazine. Back in Jamaica she encouraged women to join the work force and make their voices heard.  In London she highlighted the feminist and racist issues that were confronting the Jamaican community. She also worked hard to encourage Jamaican women within the community to seek the beauty within themselves and fight against the light skinned, straight-haired ideal perpetuated by the movie industry.

In 1935 she was the only black delegate at the International Alliance of Women for Equal Suffrage conference and she eventually became appointed as private secretary to Haile Selassie where she used her role to highlight the atrocities Ethiopian women faced during Italian occupation. Not only did Marson have to contend with the prejudice faced from being a woman, but she was also black.  Marson was fearless and dedicated to fighting against the issues facing the Caribbean community in London.  A blue plaque commemorating her sits in Brunswick Square where she lived for a time and a blue plaque lies on Queen’s Road where Harold Moody founded the League of Coloured Peoples.

Elsie Bowerman

All round badass Elsie Bowerman was a barrister, suffragette and Titanic survivor.  She was a member of the Emmeline Pankhurst led group, the Women’s Social and Political Union; she served in WWI in a Scottish women’s hospital unit in Romania and became the first female barrister to practice at the Old Bailey. Her links to Peckham are through her voluntary work for the United Girls’ School Mission.  She had volunteered since her schooldays and eventually was made treasurer in 1931 and then Chairman until her death in 1973. Elsie saved the Mission from closure during a crises period and thanks to her it re-emerged as the Peckham Settlement. The Peckham Settlement provided a place where nurseries, children’s clubs and an old people’s daycentre could operate. They also organised meals on wheels and supervised accommodation and for a time it acted as a local church.  They organised day trips for disadvantaged children and pioneered a savings scheme which led to the passing of the first national unemployment insurance Act in 1911.  The Peckham Settlement still lives on today where it is now providing grants to community projects such as Age UK Lewisham & Southwark, Pioneer African Caribbean Over 50s Group and South London Cares.

Eileen Conn

A modern day heroine is Eileen Conn, Founder of Peckham Vision.  Eileen is a pioneer for the local community. She has been lobbying the council for this community and its businesses since the 70’s.  She started a resident’s group after a planning issue occurred on her street, this spiralled into her being recruited as chair for the Peckham Society and then starting Peckham Action Group. She has lobbied for better, long-term community buildings and public spaces for Peckham and recently formed part of the Peckham Levels Steering Group collaborating between the community, corporations and the council to get Peckham Levels underway and to transform the empty space into something useful and worthwhile for all. It was also Eileen who was responsible for the beautiful avenue of Birch Trees that were been planted on Nutbrook Road 40 years ago, if you haven’t taken a walk down that road to see them I recommend you do. In 2009 she was awarded the MBE for services to the community.

Girl Tribe Gang

There’s also Girl Tribe Gang.  GTG are the UK ‘s leading collective for women who have quit the 9-5 and are working for themselves giving them a space to come together, collaborate, coach and help each other. The Peckham branch meet at John the Unicorn. The leader of the Peckham Branch is Sarah Howat, she has also volunteered for the Smart Works Charity which helps women back into work by providing clothing for interviews and practice and coaching sessions. GTG offers an invaluable space for women starting out alone in the business world.

The connection to the Jamaican roots of the Ugli fruit and the fact that she was so fearless in the face of prejudice has helped us decide to name the beer Una after Una Marson.

Scouting for spices

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I had a week off last week so I planned to brew a Saison as I don’t actually have any homebrewed Saison in the house right now that isn’t currently swimming in Brett.

I wanted to spice it up but didn’t know what with so I went on a little scouting mission. I managed to get some cubeb pepper. I’ve heard about cubeb pepper being used in gin (One of my favourites, Opihr, contains it) and have always wanted to use it in a beer. It hasn’t got the typical pepper burn but instead has a floral pungency to it, almost lavender like. I carried on my search for ingredients to pair with it.

I ended up in trusty Persepolis in Peckham. I love Persepolis, every time I go in there I find something else I can brew with.  I picked up dried orange blossom and sour orange peel as well as a load of other stuff I intend to brew with that will remain a secret for now.

I made a tea with the cubebs, orange blossom and sour orange peel and added some coriander seeds. I think it works so time to crush some spices and brew some Saison.

Recipe

3000g Pilsner
2000g Wheat
40g Styrian Goldings at 60 minutes
20g Crushed Coriander Seeds at 5 minutes
20g lightly crushed Cubeb Peppers at 5 minutes
10g Orange Blossom at 5 minutes
10g Sour Orange peel at 5 minutes

I have used Belle Saison again as I was so impressed with it last time. I intend to add orange blossom honey after the krausen has fallen again and possibly add more sour orange peel in secondary. Quite excited about this one.