Spontanpeckham

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I decided that over the Easter bank holiday weekend I would try to attempt a spontaneously fermented beer. The temperatures were cool, the cherry blossom was just starting to shed its pink blanket over my garden and I had a four day weekend to play with.

I went with a simple 30% wheat to 70% pilsner malt bill but then decided to add in (around 3%) acidulated malt to try to deter mould and e-coli growth. I got hold of some 2011 Hallertau hops, I added around 60g of these to the boil at 60 mins.  These stank so bad, they were delivered to work and my desk, a week on, still smells faintly of hamster cage.  I would have liked to have gone with the romanticism and tradition of a turbid mash but I do not have the time, patience of equipment quite frankly.  I went instead with a 90 minute mash at 69oC and a 2 hour boil.  I started quite late in the day in order to leave my wort to cool overnight.

I transferred my wort into two 5 litre stainless steel cooking pots and tied cheesecloth over the top to stop any insects from getting in.  I left these under the trees in my garden overnight (1 cherry blossom and 2 sycamores). The colour in the morning was alarming, it’s amazing what oxidation can do.  It’s now bright orange.

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I moved the wort to two glass demi-johns and left them.  Well, when I say I left them, I actually checked them an unnecessary amount of times for signs of fermentation.  A watched demi-john never ferments.

I did the brew on Monday and it wasn’t until Friday morning that there were visible bubbles on the surface.  The water in the airlock had started to move a bit on Wednesday but Friday was when I could actually see the wort change.  It fascinates me how quickly this change happens. In the space of 2 hours the whole surface was covered in a white blanket of bubbles. Today is Monday and the bubbles are just started to sink, what will happen next?

I’m going to leave this for at least a year.  I’ll check on it from time to time to see if it needs ditching, I’m not expecting much, it’s more just for my own interest of witnessing a spontaneous fermentation in action.

UPDATE

A week after writing this blog stuff started to happen in the demi-john, a pellicle started to form and it is now full of massive bubbles.

Saison Apothicaire

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Cast your mind back many months, you may remember I got a 10l herb liqueur barrel.  Well, I’ve finally used the damn thing.

It’s been sitting in my kitchen with holding solution inside it just waiting for some beer. Holding solution by the way is 1.5tsp potassium metabisulfite and 1/2 tsp citric acid per gallon.  I think a lot of people don’t realise how important it is to not let your barrel get dry or to not leave it sitting around acquiring mould. You should change the holding solution every few months if not in use.

I’m a huge fan of brewing saisons.  It is probably the style I have brewed the most.  I wanted to run a saison through the barrel for the first fill.  I have some nelson hops in the freezer and feel they may marry well with the herbaceous flavours in the barrel along with the earthy, spicy characteristics of the saison yeast (in this case Belgian Saison I).

20 litre batch

5,000g Pilsner
230g Wheat
230g Vienna
230g Aromatic
115g Munich
20g Nelson 15 mins
20g Nelson 10 mins

OG for this was 1.060 and it finished up at 1.010

This yeast, as always, got down to 1.020 then did nothing for a week until one day I was sat eating my breakfast and the airlock suddenly blew off and whacked me on the head. Hooray it had started again, a week later it was ready.  I transferred 10 litres to my barrel and 5 litres to a demi john which I dry hopped with a bit more nelson.  After a week I blended both of these and transferred them to a corny keg.  I only left it in the barrel for a week as I was worried that the barrel would rub off too much on the beer due to the large surface area that was in contact with the beer.

This was going to be the first beer I force carbed in a keg and bottled using a Blichmann Beer Gun.  Big thanks to Pete for helping me out with how it all works. We of course were missing a small connector so couldn’t bottle the beer as planned so I managed to drink 3 litres of it from the keg in a week.  The part arrived and I used the gun, which is a bloody dream! It was so quick, however I must have fucked something up somewhere as the carbonation has dropped somewhat in the bottle. Top tip for bottling with the beer gun, ensure everything involved is in the fridge and chilled beforehand otherwise you’ll be trying to bottle foam.

barrel keg

The taste of this beer though is fascinating, it’s herby and citric and very refreshing. It’s initially like a standard saison but then you get this almost Nordic herb liqueur twang followed by a big lemon drop.  Very happy with this, just need to get the beer gun down for next time.

 

New Fashioned

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I’ve started attending the homebrew club at Water into Beer in Brockley.  It’s a great little group with a good mix of experience plus you get a discount on any ingredients you buy whilst you’re there. If you’re lucky, Olly the Brockley cat will saunter in and show you who’s boss. It’s held on the first Sunday of every month, come join us.

The challenge for April was to brew a rye beer which I’ve never done before.  I’ve had a few rye beers recently that are trying to imitate the cocktail Old Fashioned (Namely Tempest’s Old Fashioned and Brooklyn’s Improved Old Fashioned, both, quite frankly, bloody delicious).  I’m a huge fan of Old Fashioneds, it’s my go to cocktail if I have one.  So I decide I want to give it a go. I wanted smoked rye to get a little peaty note in but couldn’t get any so went with roasted rye instead.  I added the rice hulls to avoid a stuck mash which I was very nervous about but the day went surprisingly well.

I did a 10 litre batch

1,730g pale rye malt
500g Rye malt
160g Carared
110g Crystal malt
110g Melanoiden malt
35g Roasted rye
125g rice hulls

15g Amarillo 20 mins
10g Amarillo 15 mins

US05 yeast to ferment
50g bourbon oak chunks and zest of 2 oranges added for last 2 days

The OG for this was 1.061 and it finished off at 1.010 so came out about 6.6%.

I am so happy with how this has turned out.  It’s kind of desserty, the vanilla in the oak has really shone through.  I did want to add angastora bitters but I just wasn’t sure how much and it was tasting so nice I didn’t want to risk ruining it. Sad I only made 10 litres.

 

 

 

Won’t you take me to Funkytown

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I’ve been wanting to brew a proper sour beer for ages now.  Having binge listened (or gang listened as they say) to The Sour Hour I’ve finally plucked up the courage to step into the funk.

I’ve played with a bretted saison and used the Funktown Pale Ale yeast but I really want to delve into it properly.

I’ve been a fan of Belgian Lambics for a while now.  I was very lucky to have some friends who lived in Brussels who took me to Cantillon when I stayed with them back in 2013 and have recently got into American sours since they have become more readily available to buy over here.

A huge thanks to my Boyfriend’s brother Mark for buying me Michael Tonsmeire’s American Sour Beers book.  It has been an invaluable resource, I highly recommend it to anyone who is thinking about trying to brew a sour beer.

I also been very lucky in that I still have a brett strain from Chorlton Brewery to use.

I decided to do a strong Belgian style brown. I got a but merry one night and decided to grow the dregs of a bottle of Cascade Sang Noir which are raging with lactobacillus.

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My malt bill was as follows

3kg Pale malt
1.2kg Munich malt
1kg Pilsner
340g Biscuit
340g Crystal
60g Acid malt
60g Midnight Wheat
400g dark candi sugar
15g Hallertauer at 60 mins

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I’ve made sure I have a separate set of equipment to use for any sour brewing I do and it is kept in a completely separate room to my clean stuff.  I mashed at 68c and stepped up to 75c at the end. I mashed high to get as much dextrose out of the grain for the bugs to feed on. I also kept the IBU low as anything over 8 will start to inhibit the lacto. I couldn’t find any Belgian yeast that I wanted in stock but my local homebrew shop, Water into Beer in Brockley, had some Mangrove Jack Belgian Ale Yeast so I went with that.

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It fermented rapidly and went down to 1.010 very quickly.  I moved it to secondary (glass demijohns) and pitched the Cascade Sang Noir dregs and the Chorlton Brett.

I pitched some dregs from a bottle of Boon Black label into one of the demi-johns, can you guess which one?

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I’m quite patient when it comes to brewing so I have no problem waiting around for this to develop. Plus I find the whole process of the pellicle development fascinating.  I plan to add some more brett to layer up the flavour profile later on.

I am planning to do a spontaneous fermentation in the near future. I have a shed with windows that open onto a cherry tree so hoping there are some good yeasts and bacteria floating around. I may cheat a little by spiking my shed with bugs. If anyone has any advice on doing a turbid mash on a Braumeister,  I’m all ears.

 

 

 

 

 

The Goatshake

goatshake

I love a chocolate stout and I really love chocolate milk stouts.  Sadly, they do not love me as I am lactose intolerant.  I picked up a Dark Revolution Velveteen chocolate milk stout AG recipe from Brew UK and decided to experiment. Big thanks to Brew UK for sending me the recipe after I managed to be a complete numbnut a throw the one that came with the kit away without punching it into Beersmith.

I can tolerate goats dairy products but I have not been able to find a UK producer of goats lactose. I can get a 500g bag shipped from the US but it’ll cost £40, fuck that!  I did find some goats whey protein powder and thought, hey Omnipollo have been putting this whey crap into everything why the hell not?  Whey contains lactose so it should, theoretically, work

 

The AG kit came with the following:

3250g Marris Otter
500g Carafa Special III
500g Oats
475g Brown
240g Crystal
240g wheat
26g Magnum
44g Fuggles
500g Lactose
1 bag of cocao nibs

 swapped out the 500g lactose for a plain flavoured goats whey powder.

Mash schedule (for Braumiester) 

Mash with 23L of water at 65c for 60 mins. Raise temp to 77c for 10 mins then remove malt pipe and top up to 27L. Bring to boil then follow hop schedule.

Hop schedule

Total Boil time:60 mins
Start of boil: All Magnum Hops
10 Mins from end: 21g Fuggles + 500g Lactose Sugar
End of Boil: Balance of hops then cool.

 4 days after fermentation add cacao nibs
I used US05 to ferment. 

stout

The initial wort without the cacao or yeast added tasted wonderful, I am very likely to use this as the basis for a stout recipe again.

A few notes about adding the whey powder. After adding I instantly thought I should have dissolved it in water first.  Some of it, as you would expect going into a boil, clumped up into weird rubber balls . which made transferring the wort to my primary tricky.

When I transferred to my bottling bucket the yeast cake at the bottom of the fermenter was very odd.  It was a strange, rubbery honeycomb like structure which you could just pick up in one lump.  Made clear up a lot easier!

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only added the cacao nibs for a few days as I have learnt from previous experience that it can impart a very tannic bitter flavour if left in for too long.

have no idea on what the ABV is as I forgot to take a picture or note down my O.G., according to the recipe kit it should be around 4.8%, I think mine turned out slightly higher which may be due to the whey powder. 

It has taken an age for it to start carbonating which I suspect is because it’s bloody cold.  6 weeks in and it’s finally nearly there, it has a creamy mouthfeel and a lovely chocolate tone but then it gets a bit goaty. Might have been nicer with a vanilla flavoured whey powder.  Some experiments just do not work and I’m unsure what to make of the result of this one.  Maybe I should stick to taking lactase pills when I drink normal milk stouts and leave the goats alone.

  

12 beers of xmas

This year I have decided to forgo the advent calendar and join the Beer O’clock Show’s 12 beers of Xmas.  I will be starting mine early (ie tomorrow with my 12th beer being on Christmas day) as the normal dates don’t fit in my with Christmas plans. Basically you pick 12 really special beers and have one each day. I can’t decide which ones to pick (It’s like picking your favourite child I’d guess) so, to make it fun, I am going to draw my beers from out of a santa hat.   I’ve picked 60 beers which I think are worthy of being part of it and have numbered them accordingly. I’m actually very excited about this. I’ll be posting little videos of the draw and revealing the bottles behind the numbers on Instagram (KatrinnaSewell) and updating this post everyday with the results.  You can also follow the hashtag #12beersofxmas on Twitter. 

Get involved! 

 

Beer 1 – Owa Brewery Ume Lambic

So I pulled out number 15 from the hat which was Owa’s Ume Lambic.  Owa are based in Belgium brewing Japanese inspired lambics. The Ume is a variety of plum which are a lot more tart than traditional plums,  they are usually pickled in Japan.  I came across Owa when I was looking into places in Brussels where my friend Emmy could kill some time (other than Cantillon).  Emmy attempted to get me a bottle from Delices and Caprices but alas they were closed.  A few weeks later I found them online.  

This is stunning,  you get a syrupy plum at the start then the acidity washes over you.  I will endeavour to seek out more of their beers. 

Beer 2 – Dugges Jamaica 2000

I got this beer from The Beer Shop in Nunhead a few weeks ago.  It’s a big,  spiced rum heavy,  barleywine with a lot of wood up front. Very much a sipper. 

Beer 3 –  Oud Beersel Bersalis oak aged Tripel 2015

From what I can remember of the blurb, this is a tripel aged in oak chateauneuf du pape barrels which goes through a secondary spontaneous fermentation.  It’s incredibly balanced for its complexity. You get a lovely tripel flavour which changes into an apricot and lemon laden geuze.  The surprise is the 10.5% abv,  definitely doesn’t feel like it when it goes dpwn.  I bought this at De Hop Duvel in Ghent because it was quite cheap and sounded interesting.  I will definitely pick up more if I see it again. 

Beer 4 – Windswept Brewing Co Wolf of Glen Moray Port Cask Finish

The original version of this beer is my favourite scotch ale. So when I found out they’d have this one at Craft Beer Rising, buying it was the first thing I did when I got there.  I find a lot of scotch ales have that alcohol burn but this has none,  it’s got a strong vanilla finish and just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. My Scottish ancestors are from Moray going way back to the 1700s, perhaps I should go visit sometime.

Beer 5 – Omnipollo Noa Pecan Mud Cake double barrel

If you’ve ever smelt this beer you’ll understand the above photo.  Never has a beer bought me so much joy just from the smell alone.  It always makes me giggle. Noa is one of my favs and this is the double barrel version. I purchased this in The Bottle Shop.  I’m getting more of the Cognac barrel since I last drank it,  along with some acidity and berry notes.  It’s a bit like when you have raspberries and dark chocolate. 

Beer 6 – Prairie Gold

Prairie Gold is a saison fermented with ale yeast, wine yeast, lacto and brett.  Considering its contents, it is a masterclass in balance and harmony. If only all sour beers were like this.  It’s dry from the saison but you can definitely pick out the acidity from the lacto and the brett characters. There’s lemon, grape and wheat notes and I bloody love it.  Only let down was that it was a bit too eager to get out of the bottle and onto my kitchen floor.  I bought this bottle from Beergium in their Black Friday sale. Not usually into Black Friday but hey cheap American sours!

Beer 7 – De struise Pannepot Grand Reserva 2009

I bought this beer last time I was in Belgium. De Struise’s beers were hard to come by (except the fuckoff overpriced Black Damnation series) but I was tipped off that I could get them in Ypres (thanks whoever that was).  Sure enough, in an unassuming chocolate gift shop in Ypres, were Black Albert, Blue Monk and copious versions of Pannepot at very very good prices.

 This is the Grand Reserve version from 2009. It’s aged in oak for 24 months with 10 months of this being Calvados barrels.  It’s probably the best Pannepot I’ve had, bursting with dried fruit, vanilla and boozy calvados goodness it was a proper Christmas treat. Yum yum.

Beer 8 – Siren Maiden 2014

So today I pulled a Siren Maiden out of Santa’s hat.  This is 2014’s edition and I have absolutely no idea how it got in my house, it just seemed to appear one day (ie I probably bought this when I was hammered).  Basically, Maiden is a barleywine which is split into many different barrels then reblended after a year.  I heard mixed things about this but time has been kind to it.  There’s no big alcohol burn, just sweet brandy snaps filled with whiskey cream flavours. A lovely drop, well done drunk me.

Beer 9 –  Brekeriet Sour Brown 

This one got mixed reviews amongst the people I shared it with. I personally was not a fan as I found it had an almost mushroom, soil type taste. 

Beer 10 – Mad Hatter Salted Caramel Quad 
Well this is tasty.  You get your usual quad with a lovely smack of salt and a caramel mouthfeel. I got this in the Imperial Beer Club box. I’m a fan of Mad Hatter and wish more places in London would stock them. 

Beer 11 – Alvinne/Insight Brewing Sour’ire de Mortagne

This is a sour barrel aged quad with smoked peaches. I bought this from etre gourmet at the same time as the Ume lambic because I couldn’t resist that description.  It’s initially sweet with vanilla and peach then smokey and then the acidity kicks in.  Very enjoyable. 

Beer 12 – Borg Surtur 30.1

I first had Surtur in a bar in Reykjavik. Simon paid £20 for the bottle and it was worth every penny. Surtur 30 is an imperial stout smoked in a traditional sheep dung house. I didn’t know this at the time but even still it was my favourite beer all trip.  Surtur 30.1 is aged in Brennivin barrels.  Brennivin is an Icelandic caraway spirit.  It’s very marmite but I happen to like it.  The smoke makes way for the booze in this one.  I bought this through 101 Reykjavik and you can now get more of Borg’s beers in Royal Mile Whiskeys in Bloomsbury. 

I Gose Back to Black

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Simon was on his mate’s stag weekend in Lisbon so I decided to brew a beer and have some friends over.  I invited Mick and Si to pop over for a brewday (ie I brew beer whilst Mick and Si ask me silly questions and generally stand in the way).  A few weeks before, we entered into discussions as to what to brew.  Mick was after something funky and we decided on a gose. Si mentioned it was blackberry season so we ended up with a blackberry gose.  I then mentioned I had some black lava salt so we could use that to carry on the black theme and we could use midnight wheat malt to make it black. So a black blackberry gose made with black lava salt it is!

Si was determined to forage for the blackberries, however, he failed.  He turned up to brewday late and empty handed with a hangover.  Mick to the rescue, he foraged for blackberries in our nearest Morrisons and bought a bottle of Westbrook’s Mexican Chocolate Cake with him.  Gold star for Mick.

Grain bill

2.0kg wheat malt
1.2kg German Pilsner malt
900g acidulated malt
400g Midnight Wheat
15g Hallertauer hops at 60 mins
28g ground coriander seeds at 10 mins
20g sea salt at 10 mins
2kg Blackberries at 10mins

We mashed in at 65°C all of the grain apart from the acid malt and midnight wheat malt.  We mashed those in after 1 hour for a 45 min period. Was great to watch the wort change from pale to black.
During the boil we added the blackberries and the blackness disappeared. Should have guessed this really, you add 2kg of blackberries and it’s going purple whether you like it or not.  The addition of midnight wheat was pointless.  I let it ferment with WLP029 kolsch yeast for a few weeks.  Initial fermentation was very vigorous, I awoke to find the airlock had blown off across the kitchen and the beer had fermented all over my floor.  I had to put in my first blow off tube system in 5 years.  I moved it into secondary on a further kilogram of blackberries. After 2 days I bottled it and the colour has much improved.  Before the secondary it was quite wishy washy but now it is a definite purple. It’s come out a bit strong for a gose at 6% but I assume this is down to all the blackberries and I should have accounted for that in my grain bill. I tasted it before bottling and there was a definite blackberry taste with a yoghurty creaminess. 

After a week I noticed there was a pellicle forming in the bottles. Uh oh, in to the cold shed with you!  Not sure if the lacto was eating all the fruit sugars or if aceto was forming but they are lively buggers and it took a week for the pellicle to drop out. It smells and tastes very yoghurty and is cloudy as hell so I’m keeping this out in the shed for now.  I probably should have waited a bit longer before I bottled it for the fruit sugars to ferment out.  Lessons learned.

Got a few brewdays coming up.  I’m experimenting with a chocolate milk stout made with goats lactose instead of cows lactose as I’m sensitive to it.  Also brewing a strong dark Belgian ale which I’m going to pitch the Chorlton HS2 brett strain in the secondary.

Saisons in the Abyss has been bottled since September now, it’s tasting very winey. I’m incredibly pleased with it. I can’t wait to experiment more with sours.

Pellicle from Saisons in the Abyss

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