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Saturday, 28 August 2010

B-Day +1

The Scarecrow IPA is bubbling away as expected so hopefully this brew will be successful. Not much else in the way of real ale news or info. Except I have been watching a programme called Save Our Boozer I thought that this was a really interesting programme but also very worrying. Somewhere in the region of 50 pubs are closing every week. Many will close forever and be bulldozed to make way for housing or shopping centres. Sadly some will just lie derelict for years and years. The pub is often the centre of community life, especially in rural areas. If your local boozer is under threat and you feel you ought to do something about it then look at these sites.

Community Pubs
More Community Pubs
Even More Community Pubs

I could have a good old rant about this because I do feel passionate about local communities and their pubs. However, I shall reign in my natural enthusiasm and just say take up thy pen or email and contact your local MP and ask them what they are doing about all these unprecedented pub closures. Is it right that city centre drinking dens can sell cheap alcohol that fuels violence and anti-social behaviour and costs a fortune to police, while good, responsible well run pubs are closing. OK, so I had a little rant but it does make my blood boil. Thats all for now, ffffoolks!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Brew Day

Visited Weatherspoons Staple Hill yesterday evening. A few of the usual suspects were missing but a good evening nonetheless. A couple of pints of Golden Bolt 3.8% with my chicken bhuna curry went down a treat. After curry I had a Doombar 4% a very nice ale and finished up with another Golden Bolt. All this rounded off by Pete giving me some lettuces. Ta Pete!

And now to the subject matter. Started Scarecrow IPA today. Dissolved 1.850 kg of light dried malt extract in 17 litres of  water at 40C. Added a filter bag containing 275 grams of crushed crystal malt and 22 grams of whole black malt and brought to the boil. Took out the filter bag and added 19 grams of target hops. 45 minutes into the boil added 295 grams of caster sugar. 80 minutes into the boil added 9 grams of styrian golding hops and 3 grams of Irish moss (as opposed to Kate Moss, a little joke there). After a total of 90 minutes boiling turned boiler off and allowed the trub and debris to settle. Meanwhile I sterilised a fermenting vessel (fv) ready for the wort. About an hour later I ran off about 5 litres of cold water (which I had boiled the day before and allowed to cool overnight) into the fv. Then I ran off the hot wort from the boiler and topped up to 23 litres with the remaining cooled water. The fv is now in the fermenting cupboard with the doors open. When the wort is below 30C I will pitch the yeast and leave to ferment, probably for 7 or 10 days depending on the gravity readings, into lovely beer. Just took the gravity (1.035) and temperature (36C) of Scarecrow IPA. Looks like I won't be able to pitch the yeast until later tonight. I will keep a beady eye on the temperature and pitch the yeast as soon as I can. There is a danger, though in my view slight, that the wort will become infected before the yeast has time to start making alcohol and lead to a bad, undrinkable brew. Its not happened to me yet, fingers crossed, but why take chances?

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Brew Day Minus 1 (B-Day -1)

Doubled checked all my ingredients and found no problems. I have just put 20 litres of liquor (tap water) in the boiler. I expect to get about 15-17 litres out of this due to steam and evaporation. There is not much else that I can do at this stage except to keep checking the boiler to make sure that there are no over spills as the liquor begins to boil. A rigorous boil of about 15 minutes will be enough to kill off any naughty bugs, wild yeast and to drive off the chlorine

Is it really Thursday again so soon? Ah! Time once again to visit Weatherspoons in Staple Hill this evening. They say that as you get older time seems to pass much more quickly. Well I can attest to that, it is true. According to Albert Einstein time is subjective and passes at different rates according to the speed at which you are travelling relative to an observer and could, at least in theory, pass at different rates for different individuals. So perhaps I am actually travelling in time at a faster rate than others. Maybe I am a time traveller or perhaps horror of all horrors I am being abducted by aliens. Now theres a thought! Or is that lack of clear, logical and reasoned thinking? You dear reader can decide for yourself. If you have any thoughts on this please leave a comment.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Casking Day

Took a gravity reading of River Dog and it was steady at 1.006 so decided to run the wort into it's cask. Placed 75 grams of granulated sugar into a sterilised King Keg top tap pressurised cask and emptied the fermented wort into it. Placed the cask into the fermenting cupboard and there it will stay for two or three days at a temperature of around 22C. It tastes rather good but not yet ready to drink. It should be ready in about 2 or 3 weeks. However I will probably leave it for about 3 months. It will go into the garage after its time in the fermenting cupboard. Then after 2 days or so I will vent it to release any oxygen that may be on the top of the wort.

I checked my stock of ingredients for brew day on Friday and found that I had enough malt of various hues and flavours, hops of the right variety and white sugar to render ordering unnecessary. The new brew will be called Scarecrow.

Monday, 23 August 2010

A New Brew Day Approaches

Measured the River Dog yesterday. It seems stable now at 1.006 so will barrel on Wednesday.

Friday will be the new brew day and it will be called Scarecrow in honour of the scarecrow festival that is held in Lynton and Lynmouth every August. I will order the ingredients on Wednesday. This time I will make sure that I have all the necessary to save having to rush up to the corner shop again. Also I will make sure that the water problem I made for myself last brew day is sorted out. I am trying for an IPA style ale with an ABV of about 3.5 to 4%.

This is a cider recipe if anyone wants to try it:

Cider Recipe.

This will work with the cheapest apple juice you can find in the cheapest supermarket. Or you could press your own apples until you have 17 litres of apple juice. The champagne yeast will make this cider dry. If you want it a bit sweeter try ordinary beer yeast. Try substituting pear juice and perry for the strong cider if cider is a bit too acidic for your taste or stomach.

17 litres apple juice
3 litres strong cider
champagne yeast
Half pound of sultanas
put in Fermentation Vessel, mix, ferment for 10 days

Barrel and leave for minimum 3 weeks


Sunday, 22 August 2010

Nick's Beer and Curry Afternoon.

Why are Saturdays so short of buses to and from the country. They basically run a skeleton service. From one every hour to one every 2 hours. With the last bus being at a stupid time of 4pm. I just don't get it. Saturday is probably the one day when most people want to get out and about. They want to visit the big city and do some shopping or whatever. Rant over.

Due to buses, or should I say the lack of buses. I didn't get to Nick's until 13:25. By then the usual suspects had started on the barrel of Wadworths 6X I am not usually a great of fan of 6X. However, this beer was excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Nick served up Cheddar and Stilton cheese with bread and grapes to keep Jim going until the curry was ready. Barry had prepared the curry which was a sort of chicken jalfrezi with pilau rice. Can't really go wrong with chicken curry in my very humble opinion. Extremely tasty and just spicy enough, at least for me. I had two good servings. Jim had three. An extremely nice afternoon drinking Nick's beer, eating his curry and talking the usual bullocks about everything from politics to food and back again. However the beer ran out about 6 o'clockish, so we packed up our troubles in our old kit bags and hit the road. Duncan had already left about fivish to cycle home. Beryl, John, Richard and Jim also got on their bikes and peddled home. I left in the company of Barry and Tony and walked to Warmley where Barry and I got the bus for the last mile or so up t'hill. I got home about 7.35 pm and rounded the day off with a pint of home brew, a clone of Ex Valley Spring Beer. A delightful way to finish a great afternoon out. When is the next one? Over to you lot.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Thursday Night Out

Accompanied Jim, Geoff, Pete, Duncan, Mary and John to Wetherspoons Staple Hill for a curry. This week they had the beef madras that I wanted. The curry was a tad too spicy for me but edible none the less. Had a few pints of Yellow Hammer from O'Hanlon's Brewing Company which was very much enjoyed until it ran out. So had to finish with Otter Ale from the Otter Brewery, Devon. A very enjoyable evening talking bullocks with friends.

The gravity of the River Dog is 1.006 today. There are still a few bubbles rising in the fermenting vessel so will leave it another two days and take a reading on Sunday. There will nsot be a Wednesday outing next week so I will probably barrel the River Dog then.

Off to Nick's beer and curry afternoon tomorrow at his house in Wick, together with the rest of the usual suspects. Barry, who is a great cook, will be doing the curry. So looking forward to that very much. Though the bus may prove to be a challenge in getting back. Still a 5 or 6 mile walk will not kill me after bellyful of beer and curry. I hope!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

River Dog - progress

My latest brew, River Dog, continues to bubble away nicely. I took a gravity reading this morning. It was at 1.008 with an original gravity of 1.042 this will give River Dog an ABV of about 4.5. But I don't think that it has finished fermenting yet. I will take another gravity reading Friday and decide then on a barreling day.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

A Fine Day Out

Checked the River Dog brew on Saturday afternoon. It was bubbling away nicely. It still amazes me that yeast cells can contentedly munch away on sugar, then belch CO2 and poo alcohol. Then most of them conveniently die leaving just enough to continue conditioning beer whether in a bottle or barrel. Not much happened Sunday, brewing wise, so straight on to Monday.

Headed towards Dursley and the Old Spot with Jim and John on the bus. The last time we made this bus journey the driver seemed to have quite a bad attitude and in my opinion drove too fast through some narrow lanes. However, this time the very same driver seemed more amenable and was quite pleasant. Stopped off in Wooton-Under-Edge to wait for the bus to Dursley. We had about an hour to wait so revisited the Falcon Inn for a few refreshments, it was a very hot day after all. Ordered 3 pints of Pigs Ear from Uley Brewery this proved to be off so we exchanged them for Laurie Lee's Bitter which was good. I think that I prefer Laurie Lee over Pigs Ear. Two pints and a Cornish pasty from a local bakers shop later and we are on the bus again going to Dursley.

Arrived at the Old Spot and met one of Jim's mates, Roger also a real ale lover. All the real ale lovers I have met are all very nice people. They are witty, good looking and very intelligent. All these admirable qualities seem to increase exponentially as more ale is consumed. A little while later our driver, Richard another nice man, arrived. The following beers were bought and quaffed. Old Ric, Butty Bach, Dorset Gold and Hop Head. Some beers have wonderful and imaginative names.

No new brews are planned at the moment. So I will have content myself with the two barrels that need to be cleaned and sterilised. Oh well! No rest for the wicked.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Brew Day

Tried out a new method. Boiled 15 litres of water the Thursday afternoon and left overnight to cool. The idea being to add the cold water to the boiled wort and so be able to pitch the yeast the same day instead of having to wait for the whole 23 litres of boiled wort to cool down and waiting until the next day before pitching the yeast. However, did not put enough water in the boiler with the hops. Ended up with about 17 litres of water so had to boil up another 10 litres and add that to the wort. This resulted in the wort being nearly as hot as previously. Will make notes and learn. The alternative is to invest in a wort chiller to fit inside the boiler. However, the logistics of running a hose from the kitchen tap and then disposing of the cold water as it runs through the chiller and emerges out the other end has defeated me so far. Though I am open to ideas and advice. They say I am a proud old bugger but I'm not really. Gathered all my ingredients together except the white sugar. Luckily the corner shop was open. Returned to the brewing. Dissolved dry sprayed malt into 10 litres of liquor (water) at 40C and transferred to the boiler. Put some crystal malt into a bag and pitched into the liquor. Waited for the liquor to come to the boil and added the hops. All went well until I misjudged the amount of time it would take for the wort to come to the boil. Having forgotten to top up the wort to about 17-18 litres. This slight miscalculation resulted in a slight over boil and some of the wort escaping over the side of the boiler. Luckily I caught it in time and not too much damage was done. 45 minutes later I added the Irish Moss and the white sugar. Left for a further 45 minutes to a rigorous boil. Turned the boiler off and let the wort to settle for 30 minutes. Added some cold water (from the batch I boiled the previously day) to the fermenting vessel (fv) and run the wort off from the boiler into the fv. Topped up the fv with remainder of the cold water and additional boiled water to 23 litres and put in the fermenting cupboard to cool overnight. Re-hydrated the yeast at about 6 this morning and pitched into the fv. Will check later to make sure that fermention has began.

Got my Wednesday purchase of  cooked faggots out of the fridge. Cut in half, sliced some mushrooms placed in a casserole dish and poured a tin of French onion soup over the faggots. Put in oven at 160C for 35 minutes. Served with mushy peas and horseradish mashed potatoes. Yummy scrummy. Thanks to Pete for the original idea. It is simple and quick and delicious. The same idea could be applied to other things such as sausages or even haggis maybe.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Curry Night

Visited Weatherspoons at Staple Hill last night for a curry. Asked for Beef Madras, at the bar, told it was not available. OK. Then I will have the Chicken Tikka. Sorry not available. Can I have the Sweet Potato, spinach and chick pea curry. Yes that was available. Thank you very much. At least I found out what was not available ordering at the bar and not after I had sat down. An improvement on last week performance so perhaps Weatherspoons Staple Hill are getting it together. Tried Severn Vale Brewing Co's Session 3.4% a really nice beer so I stayed on it all night. Steve McDonald proprietor and Head Brewer of the Severn Vale Brewing Co was present so I had a word with him. We had a very interesting but short chat. Apparently their Session beer was created at the specific request of the landlord of the Old Spot also in Dursely. He wanted a low gravity beer with plenty of flavour. In my opinion that was achieved. We will be visiting the Old Spot on Monday with Jim, Richard and John. Steve has promised to turn up for a longer chat. Hope to learn a lot more about his beers. Once again a really nice evening eating, drinking and talking bullocks. Yes Thursdays are good, really good.

The ingredients for the River Dog brew arrived yesterday so today is brew day. It is also Friday 13th. Oh no. DON'T PANIC. DON'T PANIC. I boiled 15 litres of tap water yesterday afternoon. This sterilises the water and gets the chlorine out of it. It has cooled now and will used in today's brew to adjust the gravity. Read tomorrows blog for the results.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Another Wednesday Out

Met Pete in Keynsham at the Old Bank (which has reopened the old brewery) I like this pub. it is rather small but very lively and the food is popular. One of the offers of the day was ostrich. I have never had ostrich and was tempted but resisted in the end, maybe next time. Tried a pint of Palmers Dorset Gold 4.5%. A nice refreshing beer. Hurried over the road to the butchers to buy some faggots and then onto the Talbot. A nice family friendly pub which does a two course meal for £5 mid week so it was pretty much full up with children and people with grey hair. Pete had a pint of Greene King IPA 3.6% and I had, wait for it, a pint of Courage Best Bitter 4% something which I vowed I would never do again after a bad experience involving a dirty glass, a revolving door and a stroppy barmaid but that as they say is another matter entirely. However,the Courage best was served a bit too cold for my liking but once it warmed up a bit I quite liked it. Left and headed for the New Inn but the place was practically deserted and the real ale pumps didn't look all that inviting so we left and went to The Ship Inn and downed a pint of Ringwood Showman's Tipple 3.8% and it did just what it said on the tin or this case in the tasting notes. This pub appears to be under new management or maybe just a bit of a shake up. I can't put my finger on it but it was better than I remembered. Shared a bowl of rather good chips with Pete and finished up in the Old Bank for a pint of Flowers Original 4.4%.

Brew day tomorrow for 40 pints of  River Dog but I am going to adjust the recipe a little to match the ingredients that I have at hand and to try to reduce the ABV from 5.6% to between 4.5 and 5%. So 500 grams of white sugar instead of 660, 49 grams of challenger hops instead of 45 trying to add a little more bitter bite, 1500 grams of light dried malt extract instead of 2180 and 500 grams of medium dried malt extract which will see the end of that mis-purchase instead of 35 grams of black malt.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Brew Day Approaches

Just placed an order for the ingredients for Friday's brew with the Thrifty Shopper. I use them because they offer free next day delivery on orders over £25, other internet home brew shops need an order of over £60 for free delivery. If you have a problem with an order or the service they provide they put it right quickly and efficiently. They also offer small quantities of hops. So generally speaking I can order just the right quantities of ingredients that I need for my next brew and they are not sitting around going stale or losing flavour.

For my brew on Friday I ordered 2 kg of light dry malt (I already have 500 grams of medium dry malt which will replace the Black Malt called for by the recipe.) 49 grams of challenger hops and 1x11 gram pack of safale04 yeast. I have all the rest of the ingredients at hand. This brew is a clone of Batemans XXXB I shall be calling it River Dog. It is a long story and involves, Lynton, walking, pubs and very hot days.

Going out with Pete later to Keynsham for beer and faggots. See tomorrows posting for the results of this exciting adventure.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Richards 60th Birthday

Joined Richard, John, Beryl and Jim in Bath to sympathise with Richard on turning 60 and still having to wait for his bus pass. You have to chuckle though Richard would disagree with a passion! Started off in The Old Green Tree in Green Street. Had a couple of RCH Brewery Pitchfork 4.3%. A nice refreshing beer. But the barrel went so had to have a Cotleigh Golden Sea Hawk Eagle 4.2%. Then onto The Raven of Bath a Blindman's Brewery pub a nice place but not impressed with the beer. Raven Gold at 4%. I don't really agree with the reviews. I found it lacked depth of flavour and was a bit bland. However, John and Jim tried Pheonix Mild. Not to mine or the others taste. Again I thought it lacked real flavour. So ever optimistic especially after a few pints it was onward to the Saracens Head. Delighted and very pleased to see they had Adnams Broadside on offer. Quickly ordered 4 pints and sat down. Beryl when off shopping. The Broadside was a touch cloudy and although didn't quite taste right was just about drinkable. A quick look around the pub revealed that everyone else was drinking lager. Although they had 4 or 5 real ales on offer they clearly didn't look after them. Future visits to Bath will not include the Sarcacens Head. Two disapointments in a row drove us back to The Old Green Tree where thankfully they had put on a fresh barrel of Pitchfork. Leaving the others to cycle back to Bristol I caught a bus and comtemplated a very interesting day.

Will order my hops and malt tomorrow for brew day on Friday. Meeting Pete in Keynsham tommorow. Should be able to track down a few good ales there. There is also a butchers shop Banables which sells lovely faggots.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Another Quiet Night In

My calculations, regarding the amount of beer left in the Young's Special barrel, was a bit off. So had to start on the Bathams Best Bitter 4.9%. A pale yellow, fruity, sweetish bitter with a dry, hoppy finish. A good, light refreshing beer. Very tasty and it went down a treat. Most of my brews are coming out a bit stronger than the recipe suggests. It slowly, very slowly dawned on me what I maybe doing wrong. I may not be quick but I usually get there in the end. Probably because I am using quantities of malt and sugar for a 25 litre brew and only putting 23 litres of wort and water into the fermenting vessel (or beer bucket as my grandchildren call it. I must teach them the correct terminology or or beer speak as it is known in the trade. I hope they take up home brewing before I get too old to brew my own. They can then smuggle beer into the home or park bench where I shall be staying). My age is definitely beginning to show. Oh well, sitting in a corner dribbling and occasionally shouting incomprehensible and obscene insults probably awaits us all! Although having said that the original gravity of my brews are pretty close to that in the recipe.

Dug a few spuds and picked a few runner beans to go with stuffed marrow bought from the St Nicholas farmers market last Wednesday, for lunch. Yummy, yummy.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

A Quite Pint At Home

Getting to the end of the Young's Special (4.9% ABV) barrel.  Quaffed a few pints last night. I made a few errors when I initially brewed this beer. I forgot the Irish Moss and the second lot of hops for the last ten minutes of the boil so I had to put the moss and hops into my second boil. Which means boiling tap water for 10 minutes or so to make up the volume of the wort to 23 litres. I also used a large sparging bag to contain the hops and grains in the first boil. The idea was that I could just lift the debris of hops and grain out of the boiler at the end of the boil. Thus saving a lot of cleaning. I won't be doing that again!! First it means that the wort was not filtered through the remains of the hops missing out on some flavours and aromas, apparently! Second the whole thing boiled over because the bottom of the bag acted like a big bung forcing the hops and grains upto and over the rim of the boiler. This made a right mess of not only the boiler but part of the shed. The clean up operation took a while I can tell you. However, all that aside the finished ale tasted just fine. It was clear and bright. Some of my friends also liked this brew declaring it very tasty and very drinkable and not just because it was free. Call me a cynic if you like! This brew was fermented on 26 March 10, casked on 3 April 10 and the first tap was on 25 July 10.

Brewing Data
Name - Young's Special.
Date Fermentated: 26-Mar-10
Type of Sugar: Light Spray Malt
Hops: Fuggle at start of boil. Golding for last 10 minutes of boil
Type of Yeast: Safal 04
Original gravity: 1044
Final gravity: 1006
Primer: 75g unrefined demerra sugar straight into barrel
Date of First Tap: 25-Jul-10
Date of Last Tap: probably 8-Aug-10.
Cost Per Brew: £26.79
Cost Per Pint: £0.67
Tasting Notes: Sweet citrus on the nose follows through into a malty, hoppy flavour with a dry
bitter aftertaste and a touch of toffee.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Evening Out

Had a regular Thursday evening out at Weatherspoons Staple Hill Oak for a curry last night with some friends. Tried two ales Jurassic and Spinning Dog. After ordering a Luxury Chicken Tikka Massala and sitting down the manager scurried out to tell me they didn't have it. So I went for my second choice of Beef Madrass and the manager scurries back to the kitchen only to return a few minutes later to tell me that they didn't have that either. Had to settle for the Chicken Bhuna in the end, which was very nice but not what I really wanted. Why can't Weatherspoons find some way of telling their tills what they don't have or improving their communications between kitchen and bar. Apart from that had a very enjoyable night out eating curry, drinking beer and talking bullocks with a group of friends. What could be nicer? Maybe two nights out eating curry, drinking beer and talking a load of new bullocks with friends. Ah! Thursday my favourite night out.

Wednesday Special

Took a regular Wednesday outing with a friend. Visited Weatherspoons Commercial Rooms in Bristol a lively pub with students, tourists and older people. Bar service is slow had to wait 15 minutes to get my pint of Deuchars IPA. Then onto the Cornubia  Bristol. A real proper pub with loads of interesting posters and photographs etc on the wall. Card carrying Camera members can get a discount here: 4% £2 per pint 4-5.5% £2.50. Tried a couple of pints of Great Western Brewery Maiden Voyage 4.0%. After a bowl of chips we ended up in the Seven Stars for a pint of real ale but the name of the brew escapes me at the moment. Perhaps I should visit Drinkaware a bit more often or maybe my age is beginning to show. Now what was I writing about.......? Where did I put that pen...? And why on earth did I bother climbing the stairs and what I am doing in the bedroom...? Perhaps I will remember after few pints! Ah! Wednesday my favourite day out.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Next Brew Day

Will be 13 August 2010 when Batemans XXXB will be attempted. This is a best bitter with an ABV of 5.6% in the recipe I will be working to, though I will be trying to bring this down to a more acceptable 4.5 to 5% ABV. Currently this beer is brewed, by Batemans, to an ABV of 4.8%. A good ale should be enjoyed and savoured and not used to get legless. If only this were true!

Malt Extract Brewing

About 5 years ago I started to brew beer using kits, such as Milestone London Pride, Muntons IPA and many, many others. In all I made nearly 100, 40 pint brews. Last September I gave up the kit brewing and concentrated on brewing beer using the malt extract method, as recommended in Graham Wheelers excellent book 'Brew Your Own British Real Ales'. To date I have brewed 20 or so real ales using the recipes in this book. Future posts will detail the real ales I brew. Which recipe I have followed, any variations I may make along with successes and disasters. And most important of all how the finished beers taste. Along with any critique from my friends and neighbours who help me sample the various brews.

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