Friday, 22 February 2013

A financial review of homebrewing

This evening SWMBOd noticed me pouring a pint, and asked if I had "saved enough money to pay for all the [brewing] crap I had bought".  I don't brew to save money - I brew because I love the process and the product - but I often tell my wife that I save us a bit of money every time I brew. . .

. . .so am I a liar?

Saturday, 16 February 2013


Our Garden on Brew-Day
So its nearly 10C below freezing, and I'm stuck in the garage.  That is the bad new; the good news is I'm brewing an American-style IPA.  Big hop flavour, and enough bitterness to make my Merlins Mild crawl into a corner and fear for its life. SWMBO'd named this beer Hopsteader - a name I hope it lives up to.

This beer is brewed slightly differently from most IPAs and other high-IBU beers.  Instead of hop additions for the full 90 minutes of the boil (to get the maximum bitterness from the hops), all hop additions in hopsteader start at 60 minutes into the boil - a mere 30 minutes from the end of the boil.  This means a lot of hops go into this beer to get the desired 65-67IBUs of bitterness - the four hop additions (30min/15min/5min/dry) amount to nearly 200g - almost a pound - of hops.  By adding this huge amount of hops late in the boil, this beer will have a tonne of hop flavour and aroma, while having a strong (but not overpowering) bitterness.

Recipe below the fold.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Tasting Notes: Merlins Mild

So the Merlins Mild has been in the keg for a while, and has cleared and carbonated.  Its not quite what I was hoping for - too 'mild' for my taste, and weakly flavoured compared to milds I've tried in the past.

Merlins Mild
The beer is darker than expected, an estimated SRM of 20 instead of the planned 15SRM. The beer is carbonated to a higher level than is normal for this style - by choice.  As off-style as it is, I simply do not like the low carbonation typical of some English styles.  The carbonation pushes up a nice head, but the head itself is short lived.  Even so, Belgian lace hugs the glass throughout the pint.

The beer itself has a malt aroma with a slight hint of hoppyness.  The low level of hop character surprised me - Fuggles at flame-out usually leave a nice hop aroma.  The hops added at flame-out could easily be doubled.

As the name would suggest, this beer is mild.  Problem is, it is too mild.  Minimally bitter, minimal hop flavour, subtle maltiness and few esters from the yeast round out this beer. I suspect the hops must have lost of of their alpha acids, as there should have been 20IBUs worth of bitterness; I'd estimate this beer has about half of that.  Initially I was worried about oxidation, as there was a slight cardboard flavour, but it appears to have faded.  On the plus side, the flavour lingers shortly after the sip, and is features a nice modest maltiness.

This beer has a thin body, which is normal for the style. The higher level of carbonation gives it a nice effervescence and a slight carbonic acidity which is pleasant on the tongue. No astringency mars the beer, making it a great thirst-quencher.

Its not a bad beer, but it lacks the hop flavour I'd normally prefer.  A good brew to convert a bud drinker to homebrew; not a beer to impress the guys and gals at the brewclub...

Brewing Challenge: The Grocery Store Brew

Home Malting Quinoa
L-R: Raw white quinoa, partly malted, dried & roasted.
One of the more enjoyable aspects of belonging the London Homebrewers Guild are the group 'group brews'; events where multiple brewers brew the same (or similar) recipe, and then have a sampling afterwards to compare results.  Its a great chance to see the effect of various brewing setups, methods, and fermentation conditions on a beer.  Its also a chance to try some things that as an individual brewer you may  not have the courage to try.

The first "group brew" of 2013 is more a challenge than a brew - the goal is to produce the best beer you can sourcing as many ingredients from the grocery store as you can.  The official rule is that a minimum of 50% of ingredients should be from the grocery store.  But many of us - myself included - are shooting for a higher percentage than that.  In my case, I'm going for broke and sourcing 100% of ingredients from the grocery store.

Since barley & hops are not normally found in grocery stores, I am adapting via a mix of historical and modern approaches - namely, replacing hops with a herb mixture used prior to the widespread adoption of hops, combined with a modern health-food craze - quinoa (pronounced "keen-wa") - malted, dried and toasted by myself, to replace the barley that normally comprises the base malt of beer.
This post is being assembled over several days, and will be fairly extensive, so all of the details can be found below the fold.