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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Tropical Weisse & Hopfenweisse

I've been brewing like mad lately. I think my fermentation chamber has been constantly full since the middle of January. I brewed a hoppy American Pale Ale that's just about ready to sample, and then a Hefeweizen that's currently souring at the hands of Cantillon dregs.

Next up is a Hefeweizen, done two ways, with soft fruits in common. Half the batch will be dry-hopped into oblivion with Amarillo hops, the aim being to pull out some nice apricot and peachy flavour to sit against the spicy, clovey quality of the yeast. The second half will be flavoured with a combination of mango and passion fruit.

The yeast is the real motivation behind this batch. I harvested loads from the Lactic Weisse and it seemed a shame to waste it. The grist consists of a Maris Otter base, some munich for malty complexity and then oats (because, again, I didn't have any wheat to hand). The base wort was hopped to 10 IBU's with an addition of Amarillo at 60 minutes and then with a small addition at flame out.

Three days into primary fermentation, I added a puree of passion fruit and mango. The passion fruit was passed through a sieve and then blended with the mango and a little boiling water to loosen. The whole mix was then passed back through a sieve before being heated to 70c in an attempt to pasteurise. The aroma that's currently escaping the fermenter is an irresistible amalgamation of tropical fruit salad and spicy, phenolic yeast.

Looking forward to sample these two in a couple of weeks time.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012


I like the idea of having lots of different wild homebrew aging in the cellar. Just hanging out down there, slowly maturing and developing. Not in bottles as finished beer, but in bulk. Ageing on different fruits and in different woods, ageing at the hands of different yeast and bacteria.

Trouble is - what with me not living in the 18th century - I don’t actually have a cellar. Nor do I have any wooden barrels to age beer in. What I do have though is a TESCO, a TESCO that’s started selling glass Demijohns. A TESCO, and a hallway with a bit of spare surface space. Sorted.

About ten months ago I made this. I then soured it further with a lacto culture and left it to do its thing. Rhubarb ‘Lambic’ therefore becomes batch 001 in my Hallway-de-Sour. Batch 002 is equally fun.

Batch 002 is 55% pale malt, 23% pilsner malt and 22% oats. It’s fermented with a German weissbier yeast, it’s bittered with hops to 10 bittering units and it has an original gravity of 1.057. It’s currently sitting in primary where it will stay for around 10 days. The plan is to then rack to glass and pitch a lacto culture and some dregs from assorted bottles of Cantillon. Once we’ve hit 1.000 and picked up some funk, I’ll pitch loads of lovely apricots and leave for further ageing.

My thought process is that the clove and banana phenolics produced by the weissbier yeast strain will work well with apricot. Tartness alongside that could be fantastic. I used oats instead of wheat because that’s all I had.

Batch 003 will also be fun ...

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Homebrew - Almost Tasty

I often hear people say: "anyone can throw a load of hops into a beer, it's balance that requires skill". Whilst I'm inclined to agree, I also think that achieving a bright, clean, pronounced hop flavour in a pale beer is far from easy. I know, I've tried and failed many times.

Increasing hop additions and delaying until the end of the boil hasn't made any real difference. I closely control fermentation temperature, use a clean, neutral strain and get beers without any yeast character; so it's not that the hop flavour is being masked.

The next variable is water. London water is hard. Almost as hard as understanding water chemistry for brewing. In simple terms, water contains minerals, the amount of these minerals in the water will depend on geographical location. London water is hard because it has lots of minerals in it. Two of the ions in these minerals are Chloride and Sulphate. I want to change the balance of ions such that there's a lot more Sulphate than there is Chloride. For reasons I won't go into*, a skew towards sulphate will accentuate hops, whereas the reverse will favour malt. To achieve this, I will add Calcium Sulphate (Gypsum) to my mash and Magnesium Sulphate (Epsom Salt) to my boil. Done.

When it comes to hop additions, large and late is the name of the game. Standard.

Here's my recipe:

Grain: Pale malt (61.6%) and pilsner malt (23.1%) for the base, carapils (7.7%) and flaked barley (3.8%) for body, pale crystal (3.8%) for some sweetness and complexity.

Hops: Centennial, Simcoe and Amarillo (all pellets). 3g addition of each variety at 10, 7, 5, 3 and 1 minute from flame out.

Other: Batch size 7 litres, original gravity 1.059, mash temperature 68c.

I missed the original gravity by a point and got 1.058; happy with that. I did lose A LOT of wort to hop material though, only ended up with around 4 litres. Instead of throwing away the dirty wort, I racked it into a second vessel and pitched some yeast. What's the worst that could happen?

I've named this one 'Almost Tasty', on account of the inspiration I took from Mike McDole's 'Tasty APA' recipe.

* mainly because I don't understand them.