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.


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.


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


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


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.




Tryanuary tales

It was New Year’s Eve (my birthday) and as I was making my way through the 5 10%+ beers the Buxton Tap House had on that night the other half made a suggestion. “Why don’t you only drink beer 6% or below in January as your Tryanuary challenge?”  Through the fog of imperial stouts I agreed and drank a farewell Tsar Bomba.

Tryanuary is a great concept, a big fuck you to the deluded dry crowd who think they are somehow healing themselves and gaining some sort of smug enlightenment by not drinking for the whole of January.  It doesn’t help you, you go back to drinking how you usually do in February, and sometimes more to compensate. Just learn moderation and stop being so extreme you dicks.  Tryanuary is also about trying new things so for me this means a lot of pale ales.  I don’t usually drink pale ales that much, preferring dark beers or sours.   It’s also about visiting new places, extending your beer love money to new faces and generally supporting the beer industry.

I started on New Year’s Day in Buxton.  We visited some pubs we hadn’t been in and I drank a few beers which I usually avoid and describe as “old man beers”, mainly bitters and red ales.  Tribute Extra was one that stood out to me. I was quite taken aback by how much I liked it. I also had this in a great little micropub in Buxton called Ale Stop. They only have three taps but they are pretty good and have a fantastic bottle selection. They had beers from Torrside and Tempest on whilst we were there.


Some examples of the beers that Ale Stop have had

Back in London I popped into Hop Burns & Black for drinks for a friend’s birthday, I searched the shelves for something under 6% I hadn’t had and came across Wild’s Epic Saison in the bin ends box.  It’s the last one so surely I need to rescue it!  And so I did and I was rewarded handsomely, how have I not had this before? I suppose it got overshadowed by Wild’s more exotic sounding offerings (winey beast, bibble, ninkasi, sleeping lemons etc). I will definitely be having this again, tryanuary success!

Going through my Untappd I can see I’ve had quite a lot of flavoured beers. Not sure if this is the in thing, I’ve seen all sorts of weird abominations (Jester King’s – Snorkel, an oyster mushroom and sea salt farmhouse sour) is this going to get a bit silly?

I’ve had To ol’s Releaf Me which is a refreshing blonde brewed with keffir lime leaves. Black Market’s Blackberry Berliner. Thornbridge’s Charlie Brown (Peanut butter Brown Ale) needed more peanut butter but their strawberry pale (I love you will you marry me) was spot on and reminiscent of Campinos.  My favourite was Lindeman’s Pecheresse at only 2.5% I could drink it all night. I have a major sweet tooth so this suited me down to the ground.

I’ve tried a few things I would definitely never go for. Such as Weird Beard’s Faithless Spreadsheet Ninja. I’m not a pilsner or a sorachi ace fan but, I have to hand it to them, this was fantastic. I have another bottle waiting in the fridge already.

But , as they say, you win some you lose some. I tried a can of Adnam’s Crystal Rye IPA after spotting it in Morrison’s and, although it was perfectly drinkable, me and crystal are just not going to ever get on.

I also picked up a Theakstons Distillers Cask which reminded me of Innis & Gunn but without the sweet sickly taste. For 79p it was worth it and I’m sure it would go lovely in a cake.

Beer of Tryuanuary for me though is Mad Hatter’s Brunch Club.  It’s a pale ale at 5.4% but the flavour hit is ridiculous.  The word juicy banger gets banded around a lot but this certainly deserves it. I just need somewhere local to stock it now. It’s borderline whether I prefer this over Magic Rock’s Cannonball. Shock, horror.

I’ve not done too well on the visiting new places front mainly due to moving house halfway through.  My new location is Peckham and I’ve not been to The Hope before so I popped in there for a Sunday roast and a pint of Brick’s Peckham Rye. They have a great selection of beers on cask, keg and in bottle. The Sunday roast was fantastic with a choice of beef, pork, lamb, duck, chicken or a veggie.

I also managed to pop into The Beer Shop in Nunhead for a bottle of Cloudwater Ardbeg. I didn’t get to sit in and drink but I’ll be returning on Friday.

I also went along to The Bottle Shop for the Crafty Beer Girls monthly meet up. There were 17 of us when I left, a great turn out and fun to drink and chat beer with girls for a change. Plus the cakes provided were scrumptious. If you are a woman who works in beer in London get yourself along. They have a Twitter and a Facebook group you can join.

My challenge was all going well until 23 January.  For this was the day I was reunited with my one true beer love, Noa Pecan Mud Cake.  The Bottle Shop thwarted my challenge by having it on tap but the other half said I’d done well and that if I was going to fail it should be on my favourite beer.  So fail I did and it was a glorious failure as it was the barrel aged version!

Tryanuary has taught me a few things. I’ve learnt to like lighter beers, I’ve learnt to pair them with food.  I’ve also learnt that a good bitter can be a great warming friend on a cold day.

Next year when you’re feeling guilty about all the food and drink you’ve had just sit and think about all the food and drink you haven’t had.  Get out there and get trying. You might like what you find.

Happy Ølekalender


It’s the 1st of December which means I can finally start unwrapping my advent calendar beers from To Øl. Hooray.

I was thinking about putting one together myself this year until To Øl stuck one on their webshop, I believe I was the first to order it (to be honest I was checking the website quite regularly for it to appear). They arrived all wrapped up in tissue paper so I couldn’t see what they were and even though I am incredibly impatient and have for the last 2 weeks contemplated peeking at them I have been very good and left them alone.

This has made Christmas exciting again, I’ve always found it to be a bit of a let down as an adult. I think making my own would have no anticipation or excitement when I come to open it every day so I’m pleased I took the plunge and bought one. The plan is to unwrap the bottle each morning, stick it in the fridge and then it’ll be ready to drink when I get home from work and I can dream about it all day.

I’m going to update this blog every day with information and my reaction to the beers I get behind every number.

On the first day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

… one bottle of Sun Dancer


It’s a low ABV to kick off with which is handy as the average ABV in my fridge had reached a terrifying 10%.  It’s got a floral nose and a bitter sweet crisp finish, I imagine this would be lovelier in the sunshine but it is going well with my curry.


On the second day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

……a bottle of Hop Love Pils

Another summery beer. I think To Øl might be doing us a favour here by not giving us Christmas beer fatigue too early. This is a pilsner hopped with mosaic and simcoe I think and is part of their sessions range. Hopefully we’ll get some dark christmassy beers soon and a few more of the sessions range will pop up to break down the heavyness.

It pours Amber and is well carbonated. Taste is peachy and long lasting. Nice and crisp and easily drinkable, going very nicely with, you guessed it, leftover curry from last night. Shame I only have one as it is moorish. Guess I’ll have to dip into the 10% fridge of doom.

On the third day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

….. A bottle of Eurodancer

Upon opening this I started throwing some shapes in my living room pretending I was in a club in Berlin dancing to cheesey eurobeat. After reading the blurb on their website it appears that was the right reaction.

The other reaction I had was to have the words “hold me closer Eurodancer” in my head all day. If I could hold this beer closer all night I would, it’s a fantastic American Pale Ale exploding with centennial, galaxy, simcoe and citra hops. It tastes of orange, peach but with a honey/biscuit finish which may be from the melanoidin malt. The initial taste reminds me of Magic Rock’s Cannonball. It’s the stronger sequel to Summer dancer at 6.5%. Thoroughly enjoying this one. The balance of flavours is spot on.

Would go well with The Macarena after a few.

On the fourth day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

….. A bottle of Nelson Survin


It’s Friday and I have a feeling To Øl had worked that out when compiling this advent calendar as they’ve given us a 9% Sour Nelson Sauvin DIPA to celebrate with. Wallop, ‘ave that sunshine!

I love nelson and I love sours and I love DIPA’s so I guess I’m going to really love this.  I’m a big fan of their Sur Citra so hoping this is along the same lines (and hoping for a Sur Citra at some point). I’m out tonight celebrating workmates’ professional exam passes so will try to get home at a reasonable time and in a reasonable state to enjoy this to the max.  Should have bought it with me really!

I’ve been reading descriptions of this beer all day and it sounds like a proper banger.  Tart, tangy, mango, pineapple, passionfruit, lemon, juicy and boozy have all been used.  I’m at danger of disappointing myself by getting too hyped about this beer before I drink it but i’m sure it won’t let me down.

Will be back later to let you know if it has lived up to my hype.


I’m back after only having one pint due to the fact I’ve become one of those twats that doesn’t see the point in drinking something unless I’m enjoying the taste of it.

I can safely say I am enjoying the taste of tonight’s calendar beer. It’s malty then tart and then the Nelson hop’s grape notes shine through. There’s also a little tickle of pineapple at the end. Very impressed with all the beers so far.

On the fifth day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…


Wish it was five. I was predicting this beer as the fifth one last night. The ABV has been rising (this is 12.2%) and the bottle was slightly bigger than usual. Just call me mystic meg.

Liquid confidential is a big imperial stout made with ancho, guajillo and chipotle chillies which gives it a light smokey undertone and not the harsh holy shit my mouth is on fire feeling you get with most chilli beers . It is then aged in rum barrels which adds a spiced boozy note to the beer which is initially liquorice in quality. It’s ideal for warming you up whilst Storm Desmond rages on outside. It feels very grown up but still a bit of a dude.

Goes well with The Big Lebowski

I sense a pattern here. Predicting the ABV to plummet tomorrow and to slowly rise again until beer 11 as its also slightly bigger.

on the sixth day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

…. A bottle of frost bite

We are a quarter of the way through and we get our first Christmas themed beer, a 6% pale ale brewed with orange peel and pine needles. I think it’s more of an IPA myself. It’s incredibly marmaladey and has a very bitter pine finish. Would go well with an armchair after you’ve lugged home the Christmas tree.

I personally don’t lug home a real tree as I can’t imagine why you’d get a real one when you can get a fake one that means you don’t have to deal with the shedding crap everyday. Plus I hate the smell of pine. This beer smells a bit like one of those car air fresheners but the orange peel is saving the taste.

On the seventh day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

…. A bottle of Maj Pilsner

This is a pilsner hopped with Tettnanger, Mosaic and Amarillo. It is at first citrussy but this quickly makes way for a peppery finish. It’s light and refreshing but feels thicker in your mouth to normal pilsners and I don’t think it will last in my glass for long. Would go well with a pad thai or some fat salty chips fresh from the chippy down the road. Mmmm chips.

On the eighth and ninth days of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

A bottle of Fuck Art this is Architecture and a Sofa King Pale


I’m double parked tonight as I had my office Christmas do last night. Cheeky names aside these are both solid offerings and also at 5% and 4.7% respectively they are not a bad pair to be double parked on.

The first is a Belgian bretted table beer. You can smell the trademark farmyard whiff of the Brett a mile off and the taste is heavy on the horseblanket. Luckily I happen to like Brett. For those not in the know. Brett (Brettanomyces) is a strain of wild yeast which can be introduced to a beer to give it “funky” flavours although sometimes it gets in by accident and seen as a defect. This has a great musty Brett hit but also a slight banana hint at the end. It’s not going to be for everyone but I like it. I imagine it’d be nice with some brie.

The second is from their already mentioned sessions range. It’s a pale ale hopped with tettnanger, simcoe and citra. It’s large on the pine notes but with blood orange and pineapple thrown in. It’s very easy to drink which is its main aim really. Goes well with your sofa and some sport on the tv.

On the tenth day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

… A bottle of snowball saison


This is very crisp and refreshing and as the bottle states you can drink it whilst you wait for summer to come. It’s peppery from the saison yeast but there’s no Brett coming through which is probably because this bottle is too young for it to develop. Buy one and leave it for a while to funk up. I’ve absolutely demolished my bottle and just read it’s 8%, dangerously easy to drink this one.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

Another bottle of Liquid Confidence

Hooray. I think this one is the non-barrel aged version. I am out tonight saying farewell to a couple who are off out of this country on adventures (good luck Dan and Catriona) so won’t be drinking the advent beer tonight. Unless I fancy it when I get in which is quite likely as that 12.2% shitbag will be whispering and winking at me the filthy tease. So might be here later with sensational, garbled tasting notes, might not.

I was too tired to drink the Liquid Confidence and will fit it in tomorrow somehow.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

…a bottle of Sur Simcoe

I’m excited about this as I bloody loved Sur Citra, their single hopped sour. It’s defo up there as one of my highest rated beers of the year. This is nice but not quite got the edge of Citra. Commendable but just not quite as good.

On the thirteenth day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

A bottle of Reparationsbajeren

We are halfway through and after a day of Christmas pub crawling yesterday this is the perfect beer to get in the calendar. It’s a pale ale with punchy American and NZ hops designed as a recovery beer. It’s easy going and although I don’t get hangovers, I’m thankful it’s not a rich, strong number as I’m getting a bit of beer fatigue. Much better than any recovery green smoothie bullshit.

On the fourteenth day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

… A bottle of Sur Yule

I’m dreaming of a sour Christmas. Yum. Another great alternative to the traditional overspiced Christmas beers. A lovely tart cherry sour with a light sherbert like feel. Goes well with wrapping presents.

On the fifthteenth day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

…a bottle of Markedspils

Was a bit disappointed when I opened this one. It’s very similar to the two pilsners I’ve already had. Hop profile is slightly different as the tettnanger is coming through more but this coupled with a stressful day means I’m very unenthused. It’s an alright beer, could just do with something more exciting today.

On the sixteenth day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

A bottle of Music Non Stop Techno Pop

I’m in a funny mood this evening. I may, possibly, be exchanging on a house I m buying tomorrow so I’m really happy but also on the edge of my seat expecting some stupid shit to go down and for it all to go to pot. A bit similar to how I feel about this beer. Initially the taste is lovely, citrus, pineapple and marmalade but then I get a horrible mango aftertaste which I don’t like and it’s yet another pilsner which I’m guessing contains mosaic. I need some variety! Still it’s named after a Kraftwerk song so swings and roundabouts.

On the seventeenth day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

A bottle of Cloud 9 Wit

We’ve exchanged, hooray. Let’s celebrate with a light, refreshing wit beer brewed with mango and orange peel. Lovely stuff and went really well with my fish dinner.

On the eighteenth and nineteenth days of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

A bottle of Jule Maelk and a bottle of Hardcore Maelk

Both of these sound amazing. The first is a heavely lactosed Christmas milk stout and the second is a black milk IPA collab with Brewdog aged in scotch barrels. Sadly I cannot drink either of these due to the lactose so in the spirit of Christmas I have given them to my lovely friend Emmy who is the biggest milk stout fan I know. I treated myself to a Double Axe from Buxton instead.

On the twentieth day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

A bottle of Mikropolis

This was brewed to be a house pilsner for a cocktail bar and uses Curacao Orange peel to keep with the cocktail bar theme. It has a lovely orange hit at first followed by a bitter citrus hop finish. I like it a lot.

on the twenty first day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

A Mocchacino Messiah


I can’t drink this due to the dreaded lactose again but the other half relished the chance. He said it was very roasty, smooth but not overly bitter. It really smells of coffee and he is very much enjoying it. I treated myself to a Vocation Naughty and Nice instead.

on the twenty second day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

A bottle of Stalin’s Organ


This is a California Common, it’s a lot hoppier than usual and has an undercurrent of smoke on the finish. Not sure I could drink too many of them but it is interesting.

on the twenty third day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

A bottle of LikeWeisse


I’ve had this beer before and couldn’t believe how much flavour it had for a 3.8%. It’s definitely one that can be enjoyed all day long. It’s incredibly juicy with grapefruit and lime bit not too sour with a slight breadyness. Lovely one to start off my Christmas drinking with.

On the twenty fourth vand final day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

A bottle of Shameless Santa

This is a big 750ml bottle of a 10% Belgian red ale. I’m going to put it away and have it as my Christmas dinner beer next year.

Looking back this advent calendar has been pretty good quality. Had a few missed bottles due to my lactose intolerance and maybe a few too many pilsners for my liking but other than that it’s been great. Would definitely recommend this if they sell it again next year.

Antipodean delights

The big news from the Rainbow Beers Project 2016 draw was that the British breweries will be collaborating with some NZ breweries this year.  This excites me a lot. I’m hoping, firstly, for some proper style variety next year.  I felt this year was just too overly sour.  I love sours but in 2015 it seems everyone is jumping on the sour bandwagon and, in most cases, falling dead on their arses.  I’m also hoping they bring some of their lovely hops with them to the table.  I’m a huge fan of hops from New Zealand and Australia.  I find their flavours more delicate and subtle than the big American in your face hops which I find can be a bit harsh and one dimensional.

Here are the results of the draw (also excited to see Burning Sky are involved)

Violet – Partizan and Panhead brewery
Indigo – Siren and Garage project
Blue – Wild Beer and 8Wired
Green – Hawkshead and Yeastie Boys
Yellow – Magic Rock and Fork and Brewer
Orange – Burning Sky and Liberty
Red – Beavertown and Parrot Dog

Getting back to hops. I thought I’d detail some characteristics of some antipodean hops, my experiences with them and suggest some beers made with them.  No hops are native in New Zealand and Australia, most are a cross breed of various European hops such as Saaz.  There is a great breeding program in both countries which produces outstanding new hops quite regularly.  I love the variation and depth of flavours you get from these hops.  They are not just going to hit you with grapefruit.


These are probably the most recognised Australian hops, added late in the brew the big alpha acid hop gives passion fruit, peach and citrus aromas. They are dual purpose so can be used for early bittering too.


Ella (formerly Stella but changed for obvious legal reasons) is a hop which best suits pilsners and lagers as it is similar to the European noble hops.  When used in the boil it can give a beer a spicy finish or when dry hopped it imparts floral flavours and star anise.  Probably the most well known beer is Brewdog’s IPA is Dead series Ella single hop which is incredibly floral.


Enigma is just that, a bloody enigma.  I have used this in homebrewing to make a Black IPA.  It has many possible flavour profiles and I wasn’t sure what I was going to get.  I was hoping for a strong dark berry flavour but at first there was nothing.  It took 6 weeks in the bottle for it to eventually develop a melon flavour.  Other flavours reported are pinot gris and pineapple.


Ahhh lovely Rakau, I’ve made a Double IPA with this and it was deeeeelicious. Hailing from New Zealand this hop gave my beer a big juicy apricot tang. It has high alpha acids but low cohumulone so makes it great for making hoppy beers which are not too bitter.


I have used Motueka in a couple of saisons.  It comes across quite limey and I find the citrus quality plays nicely with the spicy saison yeast. It’s quite versatile, I’ve seen saisons, pilsners and big high gravity beers made with this hop commercially.

Nelson Sauvin

Anspach & Hobday make a Nelson Sauvin Sour Saison which I recommend to cider or wine drinkers.  Cider drinkers because the sourness of the beer is akin to a cider and wine drinkers because this hop was named after Sauvignon Blanc for a reason.  It imparts grapey, gooseberry type flavours similar to the wine. I find it tricky to get right and also don’t think it suits many styles.


Another New Zealand hop variety, this time with a low alpha content but high on mandarin flavor which best used as late as possible in the boil/dry hop and I feel best supported by another hop to get the bitterness up.

Pacific Gem

This is a great bittering hop imparting wood and dark berries, great for dark strong beers such as strong Belgian style ales. Not to be confused with Pacifica which is very marmaladey. I may use both Pacific Gem and Pacifica in a scotch ale recipe I’m thinking about.

Southern Cross

Great bittering hop delivering pine and lemon flavours, found in most NZ lagers.

Beer recommendations

Arbor Ales – Why Kick a Moo Cow


Named after Waikikamukau (which is a colloquial term in NZ for a small rural town) this beer is heavy on the NZ hops using Southern Cross and Rakau and then dry hopped with Green Bullet. I picked this up in my local M&S.

Stone & Wood Pacific Ale


This is one of my go to chill out beers.  This is made using Australian barley, wheat and Galaxy hops. It is golden in colour with a pleasant peach and lemon taste.  It’s not too in your face so great for a session.

The Kernal Pale Ale Motueka

I think I had this a few years ago now at their taproom and it was the first time I’d ever heard of Motueka. I loved the fruitiness prevalent in this beer and the dry resinous finish. They also produce a great Rakau IPA.

Renaissance – Marlborough Pale Ale (MPA)


I really dig Renaissance’s beers, this one in particular.  It’s a double IPA coming in at 8.5%. It’s their take on the big American double IPA’s but using NZ hops.  It’s a riot of apricot, melon, pine and pineapple but also has a great malt backbone.

Tuatara – Aotearoa Pale Ale


Another beer taking the American style of big hopping and using NZ hops.  They use  Pacific Jade, Nelson Sauvin, Cascade and Motueka.  It’s got a big marmalade smell and a lovely citrus and herb taste. The bottle is pretty cool too.

Yeastie Boys – Pot Kettle Black


I’m pretty sure when I first bought this it was marketed as  Black IPA which just didn’t fit as it was just too roasty but whatever, there’s a big debate about what makes a Black IPA a Black IPA.  It’s now labeled as a NZ porter, it’s rich with chocolate but with a slight orange finish from the hops.  I haven’t had many dark antipodean beers but I’m attending Hop Burns and Black’s All Black event tomorrow night which will be showcasing some dark beers from down under which I am very much looking forward to. This may result in me adding to this post afterwards.

Barrel aged beauties

As most of my friends will attest, I love a big barrel aged beer especially at this time of year when you need a warming, rich beer that hugs you on its way down and there are some mighty fine ones out there right now.  This is putting me in a difficult situation as I am in the middle of buying a house and so I am not meant to be buying beers for the “cellar” as it would mean we have more beers to move, but I just can’t help myself!

I’ve often toyed with the idea of barrel aging a homebrew but so far have not fully looked into how much of a faff it is so now would probably be a good time.  Firstly, I’d need a barrel.  Now there are loads of barrels you could choose from. Just this past month I’ve had beers aged in grappa, rum, bourbon, Cointreau, pinot noir and chardonnay barrels.  Obviously different beers would suit different barrels and bourbon barrel aged imperial stouts are up there as my favourites, they impart smokey, vanilla and wood flavours (as a side note gin aged in whiskey barrels is glorious).  Not all beer styles work however; big hoppy beers would lose their flavour profile by the time it is done in the barrel as hop aromas fade over time.  Low ABV beers (except sours) would run the risk of contamination and the barrel flavour would overpower the beer and could end up tasting overly of the wood.  There’s also a big risk of producing a really imbalanced, astringent beer. I’d like to get hold of an amaretto barrel myself and stick a stout in it or perhaps an ouzo or herb liqueur barrel.  I’ve seen 25l herb liqueur barrels for sale and will be very tempted once I’ve moved to get one and stick it in the spare room with some saison in.

The faffing starts when you get the barrel.  Ideally, you want the barrel to be as fresh as possible, like 2 days after being emptied.  The second problem is size.  A lot of commercial barrels are 100l+ and not suitable for a homebrewer such as myself.  It’s best to contact small boutique distilleries who may have smaller sizes.  Your barrels may be good for 2 uses but after that the flavour of the spirit will have vanished but they can be used as souring vessels so all is not lost!  Smaller barrels may also impart flavours quicker than larger ones meaning you only age for 2 months.  Bigger barrels can take six months or more plus high ABV beers can inhibit the process with their high alcohol content so patience is needed.  Stick it away somewhere and forget about it.  Other ideas could be to put the barrel aged beer into another fermentation vessel with fruit afterwards to ramp up the flavour profile more.

Barrel aged beers I love

Brooklyn Cuvee Noir – I had this so long ago but can still remember how it tastes even now.  It’s a Belgian Strong Dark Ale (well more of a stout made with Belgian yeast) and then aged on bourbon barrels with orange peel for 6 months.  It’s refermented in the bottle which gives it a velvety mouthful with notes of coffee, chocolate and orange and vanilla and toasted coconut from the barrel it’s like all of your favourite desserts rolled into one.  Wish I’d not guzzled down my bottle and kept it for further aging.  Try also Brooklyn Black Ops.

Wild Beer Wineybeest – This is their usual Wildebeest (an imperial espresso chocolate vanilla stout which is very good in its own right) aged in pinot noir barrels for 9 months.  It still has the big chocolate and vanilla stout taste but with an added berry tartness and balsamic.  It rich and vinous and a great alternative to a bottle of wine.

Anspach & Hobday Barrel Aged Triple – working at the bar I’ve had the pleasure of drinking this a few times and also had to apologise many times for it not being available in the bottle.  Guys bottle some of your barrel agers, there’s a demand!  It’s a malty, sweet triple aged in Chardonnay barrels.  The first run was aged for a month I believe and came out deeeeelicious. I hate chardonnay so I was sceptical when I saw the barrels but this works. wonderfully. There’s some lovely fruity apricot flavours and a bitter sweet finish.  It’s certainly boozy but a good one to have if you’re after just the one (ie not a session!).  The guys have some syrah barrels kicking about so watch this space.

Rodenbach Caractere Rouge – I’m greedy therefore I have 2 bottles of this at home. It’s a flanders red aged in oak vats for 2 years (technically not barrels but fuck it) and then it goes through an additional aging on cherries, raspberries and cranberries before being refermented in the bottle. It’s a lesson in how to marry flavours. You get the cranberries first up, then some figgyness, dried fruit and spice and then the raspberries but its super smooth. No astringency, no vinegar, it’s not overly sugary and it’s not overly acidic. It’s just perfectly balanced. You get the fruit, you get tannins, you even get the malt and slight Brett but it’s not overpowered by any of these things.  Another great replacement for wine. There were only 900 bottles of the first edition from 2011 made but the 2012 edition is more numerous and I’ve seen a few still out there on sale.

Harviestoun Ola Dubh – Their usual Old Engine Oil beer ramped up to 10.5% and aged in Highland Park 18 year old single malt casks for up to 6 months.  It’s a thick black slick of a beer (Ola Dubh is Gaelic for black oil).  It’s chocolatey sweet, woody, tabacco with raisins and dried fruit, the barrels used to hold the whiskey were used to hold sherry in a previous life so you get some sweet fruity flavours from that.  It smells very very much of whiskey and freshly laid tarmac and is a lovely warming drink to have with a bit of chocolate on a shitty cold day. 

If you really want to go barrel aged mad try a Beer Geek Breakfast Brunch Big Blend from Mikkeller.  It’s the usual (fantastic) coffee oatmeal stout which is aged on bourbon, brandy, cherry wine, cognac, tequila and whiskey barrels and then blended.  I’ve not tried it yet but it sounds risky.

I’ve got a couple of barrel agers in the “cellar” (cellar is actually a larder); these include Brooklyns Quintaceratops (a Belgian quad aged in rum barrels and then whiskey barrels). De Molens Blood Sweat and Tears (Bloed, Zweet & Tranen) a smoked beer aged in oak barrels. Shnoodlepip by Wild/Burning Sky/Fork Brewing a saison made with pink peppercorns and then aged in French wine barrels for 4 months and finally with passionfruit and hibiscus flowers added. Lastly I have a Tsjeeses Reserva Bourbon BarreL Aged, a Belgian ale aged in bourbon barrels of course.  Along with a few sours, it’s hard to keep your mitts off this stuff.

If anyone knows of any other barrel aged beers I’d like let me know