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

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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. 

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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.

  

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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Getting the Christmas brew in early

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I had planned to make this just before Christmas and then bottle it for a year but the mortgage process, as always, had other ideas and we were delayed in buying our house until the new year.

Now safely in and having got the house up to a reasonable fermenting temperature (it has been empty for a long time and was a cool 5oC when we moved in) it’s time to finally get on with it.

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My first problem though is removing this bad boy!  Yes, all the taps in the new place are a bit style over substance annoying shits.  Kitchen designers: please spare a thought for people who want to water their gardens when you are designing these twatty things.  I got the other half to dismantle it and, success, it comes off but my hose connector doesn’t fit.  After locating one that does I set my chiller up so I could check it works as I don’t want to get to the cooling part and find I can’t do it.  Our water pressure is high and at first the water doesn’t run through and explodes all over the show at the tap.  After a bit of physics (ie gravity) I get it running.

The idea for this beer came about from my friend Emmy who just announced “OH MINCE PIE STOUT” very excitedly one day.  Now, you can’t just go throwing mince pies in to your boil due to the pastry.  Nobody wants fat floating around in their beer. I had to sit down and have a good think about it.  I know I wanted a whiskey element in so decided I’d soak some dried fruit in whiskey and put them in the boil. Next the spices, I don’t want to over spice it.  I’ve had a few Christmas beers and some of them are disgusting due to the spices just overpowering the beer and leaving a powdery taste in your mouth.  I should probably be adding cinnamon and ginger but when it came to it on brew day I decided against spices.  I just haven’t had a beer that wasn’t ruined by them.  I did add dried orange peel though and will add more if needed after fermentation. I’d like to also age the beer on more dried fruit soaked in whiskey to try and impart more of that flavour.

Hop wise I’m going for Bramling Cross to give me some deep blackberry and also some peppery notes to offset any sweetness.

I’d like to make this an imperial stout so I’m going for as strong as I can get it.  I have some scotch ale yeast which can tolerate up to 12%.  Malt wise I have a lot of stouty malts in the cupboard so have devised something with what I have got.  I do like Mikkeller’s Black Hole so had a quick nose at that to see how they got it so strong.  Turns out they had a fuckton of sugar and honey.  I’ve decided to add a bit to mine but not as much as that.

Out of the whole brewing process I’d say malt is the stuff I have the least knowledge about.  It’s the backbone to many a beer and with hop shortages malt forward beers may soon become very important.  I’ll certainly be doing more research into malts, I plan to get myself a smoker and smoke my own soon.

Malt bill

6.5kg Pale malt
500g Roasted Barley
350g Chocolate malt
225g caramel malt
200g flaked oats
200g Caraamber
200g Brown Malt
120g Special B

Other stuff

500g light muscovado sugar
50g honey

To accommodate this in my Braumeister I need to attempt a double mash as the Braumeister is only meant to have a max of 4.5kg of malt at a time.  Now I’ve never done one of these but it means to make it easier I’m going for a one step mash at 67oC.  If I did a stepped mash I’d have to use the chiller to cool down the wort at the end of the first mash ready for the second which I just can’t be arsed with to be honest. I split the malt bill into two equal parts of each malt.

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The double mash is not as much of a pain in the arse as I thought.  I set the first mash up and after an hour I stop it, remove the basket, dig out the grains and then put the new lot in and set it to mash again at the same temperature.  I think I lost a few degrees which didn’t take long to recover.

It would be easier if I had a second malt pipe but y’know they’re like £70 a pop!

Mashing done, time to boil.  I add 100g of Bramling Cross at the start and the dried fruit, sugar and orange peel at 45 mins. I stick the honey in at 55 mins.

My chiller system is ace as the water that comes out of our taps is super uncomfortably cold at the moment so I think it chilled in less than 10 mins.  I was aiming for around 10% and the gravity reading says 1.10. I transfer it to my Christmas present (SS Brewtech fermenting bucket).
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I popped out for evening and when I returned it was already bubbling away, hooray.
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I plan to leave this for a few weeks then transfer it to a secondary on the dried fruit and orange peel and then leave it in the bottle until Christmas.  Anyone want a Christmas present?

Brew day – Black IPA

A Black IPA (Cascadian Black, India Stout whatever else you want to call it) is hopped like an IPA but has dark malts within it to give it the black colour and slight roasty notes.  It’s a beer made for me as I love really hoppy beers and dark, rich stouts but not much in between!

I’ve had a few recently (Beavertown, Anspach & Hobday and Brew by No) and brewed one on a brew day with the London Beer Lab in Brixton so now I want to try one on my own.  Plus I’m quite frugal and try to use up ingredients I already have and spotted I had some Carafa special III kicking about.  This malt is often used to darken the beer without adding too much of the stouty flavor.

Carafa Special III
Carafa Special III

If you know how to brew beer skip this paragraph.  There are 6 stages to the brew day.  Cleaning, Mashing, Boiling, Sparging, cooling and fermenting. Cleaning is incredibly important.  Everything that is going anywhere near your beer has to be sanitised to avoid your beer getting infected. The mashing stage is where you steep your malt grains in water (in today’s case heated to 66 degrees) for an hour to release their sugars.  You then sparge them, this is just rinsing them with hot water to wash off the sugars.  The mixture collected is called wort.  You then boil your wort for an hour and add hops at different intervals depending on whether you want the bitterness (start of boil) or more of the aromas (towards the end of the boil) to come from the hops.  You will need to cool the wort before you add your yeast as the hot temperature would kill the yeast.  I usually cool to around 23 degrees.  You can cool using the heat exchange method whereby you run cold water from your tap through copper tubing which is placed in the wort.  The heat exchanges between the two and the now heated water in the tubing comes out the other end, preferably in your sink!.  When the wort is cooled you can add your yeast and your airlock and then wait for it to do it’s magic.

My malt bill is as follows (please note this is for a 10 litre batch)

Pale Malt 2kg
Wheat malt 900g
Carafa Special III 140g
Crystal 30g

As for the hops, most Black IPAs I’ve had have been American in style and mainly use Simcoe as it is a hop that can stand up to the richness of a dark malt.  I, however, do not have any Simcoe.  I have instead some T’N’T and some Enigma hop pellets laying around, I like experimenting so decided to plonk them in and see what happens.  That’s one of the advantages of doing small batches, it’s not too much of a disaster if it goes wrong.

T’N’T are a noble hop from Germany.  They give red berry and citrus in the boil and green fruits in a cold infusion.  They smell amazingly of passion fruit.  Enigma hops are from Australia and are said to provide redcurrant, raspberries, mango and tropical fruits.  I’ve decided to add the Enigma in 20g batches every 5 minutes  during the last 20 minutes to get the most aroma out of them.  I’m not sure yet which hop to use for dry hopping.

My equipment is pretty primitive.  I have no fancy stainless steel stuff here as I just don’t have the money or the space (as much as I would love a braumeister or a Grainfather, I like the learning curve that comes from using less technical equipment).  I use a digital plastic mashing bin.  I used to mash on a hob in a big pan but since moving I now have a very frustrating electric hob which periodically turns itself on and off and is a nightmare to control. The mashing bin is great as you can set the temperature and it will stay there.  You can also do your boil in it.  Only downside is that the element is bare so you need to brew in a bag to stop the grains burning onto the element.  I bulldog clip a net curtain to my mashing bin as a cheaper alternative to mashing bags.  I also use old tights as hop bags (all ladies reading this will know that tights have a life span of approximately 2 wears so it’s great to have another use for them!).

Hop bags
Hop bags
Mashing
Mashing
Running off the wort
Running off the wort

The only complicated part of my brew day is the cooling.  The other disadvantage to my current flat is that it is full of horrendous mixer taps which I am yet to find a connector for so I cool my brew using the ice bath method.  Basically sticking my bucket of wort in a bigger bucket that’s full of ice and water.  It can take longer than the copper cooling tube heat exchange method on hot days such as today but when you are doing smaller batches it’s not actually that much longer.

To ferment I am using Safale US-05 which is an American ale yeast, again as I had it laying around and don’t see why not.  I ferment in 5 litre demi-johns and I always put them in boxes as they are green and would allow light to get in.  This can cause a defect called lightstruck.  Lightstruck happens when light penetrates the green (or clear) demi-john or, indeed bottle (yes, this is why most beers come in brown bottles) and reacts with the hop acids creating a sulphur like skunk smell.  Do not want.

Fermentiation vessels
Fermentation vessels

The original gravity reading was 1.060 which should give me an ABV of around 6%.

I’m going to leave this to ferment for a few weeks then have a taste test and decide which hops to dry-hop with (dry-hopping is where you add hops in to the fermentation vessel, I usually only do it for the last 2 days of fermentation).