Sunday, 27 October 2013

SWIMBO's Cider

I have to admit something a little embarrassing - my lovely wife does not like beer.  I'm not sure how we make our relationship work, but it can be a trial at times.  I get excited about a new batch of beer, give her a sip, only to be informed that she doesn't like this batch either...

...Luckily, she does like wine and cider.  We've brewed a bunch of wine, but seeing as its prime apple season we're now doing a batch of cider, largely following the instructions in this BrewingTV video:

We are fortunate that our orchard UV-sanitizes their cider, so we don't need to sulphate it to kill off wild yeast.  We're not looking to mess with things much, so we merely added 0.5kg of dextrose to up the low-ish gravity of our cider from 1.042 to 1.053 - leading to a remarkably simple recipe and process, which can be found below the fold...

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

10 Dollar, 10 minute Tap Handels

Over the weekend I built a pair of tap handles, based on a derivative of Revvy's design.  His design is quite innovative - a handle &  frame supports a magnetically-attached collector card card protector.  The label is inserted into the protector, thus labelling the brew.  My design (picture to right) is based on Revvy's, but is a little more svelte in design, easier to build, can be made for less than $10 each, and takes about 10 minutes to make (not including drying time).

The design is simple - the centre pin of a pre-turned replacement chair leg is removed and replaced with a threaded insert which allows it to be screwed onto a keg post.  A bit of the handle is cut away to allow a steel mending plate to be attached vertically to the tap - this holds the card protector/label in place via a strip of magnetic tape attached to the back of the card protector.

This has a number of advantages - aside from letting a label do double duty as both a bottle label & keg label, the labels from old batches of beer can be stuck to the keggorator/keezer - ala fridge magnets - allowing them to be reused and providing a bit of visual appeal to the fridge (and working as a reminder of the many magnificent brews that have passed through your kegs).

Very few tools are needed for this project - a saw that can do fine cuts (I used a table jigsaw, but a jewellers saw or razer saw would work equally well), a screwdriver, a pair of pliers, a hand drill, and a paint brush!

Details of the build can be found below the fold.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Watery Tart

On Tuesday I experienced the one event that al brewers fear - the empty keg.  Somehow, I have three beers in-progress, but not one ready for drinking.  So its time for an emergency brew session.

Today's beer is a somewhat special brew for me - for the first time I grew my own hops over the summer, and have a few ounces of Goldings that need to make their way into beer. Because the goal of this brew is to highlight these hops, the beer itself is simple - it would be a Marris Otter/Golding SMaSH, if not for the addition of the invert sugar I accidentally made while trying to make my own Belgian Candi Sugar.  I purchased some East Kent Goldings for bittering, as I do not know the alpha acid content of my home-grown hops.

Some may be wondering about the name - it comes directly from one of my favourite Monty Python scenes:
ARTHUR: The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water signifying by Divine Providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur.
DENNIS: Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
ARTHUR: Be quiet!
DENNIS: Well, but you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!

Details are below the fold...

Monday, 14 October 2013

Tasting Notes: Dog Days of Summer ESB

A Pint of DDoS ESB in its
Natural Environment
The Dog Day ESB has been in the keg for a while, and so its time for a review.  Overall, this is a pleasant beer - not as good as my Vestigial Bitter, but certainly is a brew to be proud of.

This beer pours with a thick creamy head and the aroma of malt and goldings hops.  A bit of yeasty-ester undertones can be found in the aroma as well.  The body of the beer is is a brownish-red in colour, clear, and modestly carbonated, with a semi-dry mouthfeel.  The bitterness was not as strong as I'd normally expect - closer to an American-style pale ale than an English bitter.  Whether this was due to the use of first-wort hopping or due to recipe formulation isn't clear.  For me, this is the biggest detractor of the beer - it is a good beer, but it lacks the bracing bitterness I like in my bitters.

The beer has a real nice hop flavour, with the herbal flavours typical of fuggles and goldings hops.  Balancing this is a bit of sweetness from the crystal malt and some fruit esters.  Combined, these make for a very pleasant flavoured beer, although a bit more bitterness would balance the sweetness a little better.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

42 - A Belgian Dark Strong

42 - to some it is the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything; to others it is merely the number that falls between 41 and 43. . .

. . .But today, it is the name of my next recipe.  Motivated by a Chop & Brew video and a Jamil show webcast, this is intended to be a classical Belgian Dark Strong Ale - high in alcohol, lightly bodied, long ageing and slow drinking.  A real treat for most brewers.

This recipe is taken straight off of the Chop & Brew video, aside from some minor adjustments for my system.  This beer will feature my homemade Belgian Candi Sugar (Links: 1, 2, Youtube), plus a limited release Wyeast yeast (3822-PC - Belgian Strong Ale - available in my yeast bank).  It is lower in alcohol that many beers of this style because a) I want a faster-maturing version, so I can see how my homemade candi sugar works in a beer, and b) I want to send a few bottles of this out for Christmas (edit: and c) because I screwed up my sparge somehow).  This beer should be bottleable in 6-8 or so weeks, although it will continue to age and improve for 6 or more months in-bottle.

The video that spawned this brew, as well as brew-day notes & the recipe, can all be found below the fold.

Belgian Candi Sugar II

EDIT: I have refined this process somewhat. Please see this this post for some simple changes to my procedure which leads to a better tasting and more consistent candi.

As described a couple of posts ago, I have been working on a method to prepare Belgian Candi Sugar at home.  This method uses commonly available household ingredients to prepare the sugar, and requires no more equipment than you'd normally find in your average kitchen.  I have posted my method in the following video, with this post acting as a synopsis you can follow in the kitchen.

I owe a debt of gratitude to a few bloggers for helping me find my way - in particular, I'd like to direct you to the posts on Ryan's Blog, Life Fermented and on An Engineer & His Carboy for the posts that directed my attempts.  Before I go into the details I'd also like to point out that the method outlined in my video and in this post are the product of about a half-dozen trial runs.  As such they represent a process in development, and may be subject to future improvements.  If you have any luck (or ill-luck) in trying to make your own candi sugar, please let me know in the comments.

EDIT: I have solved some of the crystallization issues people have been reporting when making candi sugar. Details can be found in this blog post.