De Ranke XX bitter clone-ish

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Oh De Ranke XX bitter, let me count the ways I love thee.

I’m always shocked when I hear of people who aren’t aware that this beer exists. To me it’s a solid Belgian classic. It was an unusually highly bittered beer for Belgian standards when it first came to be (around 65 IBUs) and displays magnificent balance of that bitterness along with a touch of the usual Belgian notes of cloves and banana. It’s a beer both myself and Simon will choose everytime if it is on and we’d both love to produce something similar at home.

After consulting a few friends and brewers for advice on the yeast, the general consensus was to use T58 – although I had been warned it doesn’t attenuate well and I wanted some dryness.

For hops the original uses Brewers Gold at 75 mins and Hallertau Mittelfruh right at the end. Whilst I was mulling over deciding whether to make this Dorothy at A Bushel of Hops got in touch to ask if she could send me some of their Pilgrim hops to brew with. I gladly accepted them and thought they might work well in this beer. They have a spicy character along with notes of pear, lemon and grapefruit. They smelt of peaches to me. So in they go.

Malt wise it’s just 100% pilsner.

The brew went well and it was merrily fermenting at a nice temperature until the apocalyptic heatwave happened and it got up to 27 degrees. This resulted in the beer being slightly more ester forward and as everyone predicted it didn’t attenuate, it only got down to 1.010. However I am still pleased with the result, the bitterness is spot on and it’s a proper sit in the garden in the sun beer. The hops have worked beautifully, they marry very well with the spicy notes of the yeast. There’s a lovely lemon sherbert quality to them with a hint of fresh pear.

I have, of course, bretted half of it. It will attenuate one way or another!

A big thank you to Dorothy at A Bushel of Hops, I don’t usually use British grown hops and they surprised me with their flavour. Will definitely be researching British hops for a bretted black IPA which is in the pipeline.

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Griselda

IMG_20190527_155630.jpgAt Christmas Water Into Beer homebrew club had a lucky dip challenge where a malt, yeast and hop were picked out and we had to brew something with them. I wasn’t present for mine and I forgot to pick them up til a month later. I got Biscuit malt, New World Strong Ale yeast and Ekuanot. Sooo my first thought was BARLEYWINE.

However, I loved the Adambier I had from Hair of the Dog which, I think, is more of a smoked scotch ale as Adambier is usually soured. I decided to do something along those lines and adapted their recipe which I picked up from the Home Brew Chef website replacing some of the pale malt with the biscuit malt and using Ekuanot.

Recipe

10kg Pale Malt

1kg Biscuit malt

1kg Munich malt

600g Crystal malt

450g Peated malt

225g Chocolate malt

100g Black malt

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I had an issue with the New World Strong Ale yeast, it stalled at 1.030. I added a second packet which did some work but ultimately this only got down to 1.028. I’d would’ve liked it to go a little bit further so it didn’t have so much residual sweetness. It’s good though, I’ve enjoyed my test bottle, hic.

As I feel this is more of a peated scotch ale I’m naming it after my oldest traced Scottish ancestor, Griselda Shanks. Griselda is a pretty epic name to be fair.

 

Saison Vin du Peckham

I was round my next door neighbour George’s house for a BBQ last year when I mentioned to him that I had spotted the grapevine growing in his garden. George hates this grapevine and has been trying to kill it unsuccessfully for years. I had to look out from my bedroom window to see it as it was hidden behind a massive bit of wood to stop it overtaking the garden. This year it had been particularly prolific and George knocked on my door a few weeks later with a massive sack of grapes. We’d spoken at the BBQ about my brewing and so he thought I might like them. He thought correct. 

I’ve tried quite a few beer/wine crossovers this past year and loved them all. I’m quite excited about these two fields coming together and what the outcomes will be in the future as the use of grapes, yeast and techniques such as fermenting in amphoras develops more within the brewing industry.

I’ve gone with making a saison and sitting it on the grapes for three months. The grapes are very small and purple, super concentrated. I decided to freeze them first, 1 because I wasn’t planning on brewing with them straight away and 2. It makes them easier for the yeast to break down.  I used belle saison and although I do like the outcome I wish I’d gone with a Belgian strain and added brett at some point. I find Belle finishes very low and doesn’t leave a lot for the brett to eat if you don’t put it in quick enough. One to try for next time.

I had a taste before bottling. The colour of the resulting beer is beautiful, it reminds me of a few orange wines I’ve tried. There’s the classic saison notes on the taste but then you get a light rose feel at the end. It’s quite nice, I’m not a rose fan, mainly as I’ve only ever been subjected to that disgustingly cloying Echo Falls White Grenache one. Gillie if you’re reading this, I love you but that wine is hideous. Now we wait for it to carbonate, really excited about this one.

 

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.

 

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!

cof

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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