Another really fascinating dive into beer comparisons at June’s meeting. Having two hoppy pale ale / IPAs and two traditional bitters to taste allowed us to try them side by side and discuss the differences in a lot of detail. As well as just enjoy the beers themselves which we flew through – there wasn’t much left when I thought to take a photo!
So first up were the hoppys. A dry hopped pale ale – my commissioning batch on a new Grainfather mash tun and a (as ever) beautifully labelled American IPA. The artwork and originality of the names is something that Ken always excels in. The AIPA was a beautiful copper coloured bright ale with a well balanced bitter linger that was really enjoyable. On the other hand the first batch had obviously had some issues on my Pale Ale. Although the aroma and flavour were ok the beer had a weird grey off colour to it that I usually associate with oxidised beer. Although we didn’t get to the bottom of it during the meeting on reflection I wonder if it was from the brand new kit. Maybe I’d not cleaned it as well as I thought before the first go?
Ding ding round two was a battle of the bitters. An ESB versus a more traditional Best. Both fine drinks very similar in colour but noticably different in taste. Where as Alan’s best had a more assertive hop profile and a slight roasty note Ken’s ESB was really malty and almost toffee in taste. This lead to a discussion about water profile and additions, especially gypsum, and the recollection of Hugo’s amazing presentation on the subject that can be found here.
Finally we were treated to the invention of a new beer style by Alan. A Weissbeir sour. A brilliant bright light golden coloured beer with the traditional bananary aroma. However when you took a sip there was a surprising acidity sourness to it. The sourness was very clean and fresh though, not off putting but just like a deliberately brewed sour beer. However not knowing where the sourness came from – assume the fermenter – it’s going to be hard to replicate in the future.
So onto next month when we’ve the West Coast theme I hope to see you there. In an effort to widen the attendance we have a little write up in this month’s Round & About magazine that you may get delivered through your door in and around Windsor.
Number one super guy. I love him but didn’t get it, the karate kicking hound looked good on the beer bottle label and I thought that was enough. Then it was pointed out he was Henry, the mild mannered janitor. Mild see! It was mild night at Homebrew club and puns were rolling. Welcome to the mild west.
Five different milds and an amazing amount of variation for what is essentially a very simple beer. The variations in colour firstly were very surprising when lined up. Individually you’d probably mark them all as black – but lined up and compared you could see the subtle range from pitch black down to a deep mahogany.
The flavours and aromas too held quite some variation. Malty caramels were abundant but beyond those there were liquorice and aniseed and smoke and chocolates. What – I think – was most welcome was the fact we all agreed milds are a good beer. I know there were reservations about the style, it’s a little old fashioned and unpopular – but it’s a great style, a real contrast against the hoppy pales that prevail.
The final Rye pale made with Motueka hops to give a light citrussy lemony flavour. And this sparked the conversation about the July theme. Back towards hops away from malts we decided the theme should be ‘West Coast’. As usual make of the theme what you will – the obvious West Coast IPA or maybe a California Steam beer or maybe something from Bristol! I look forward to seeing the interpretations.
We were lucky enough to have Paddy and Matt from the brewery with us in this month’s meeting and being back in the boardroom almost meant we lost someone in the bar. In the end it was all good though and we enjoyed some great discussions about the beers brought, enzyme use and parti-gyle brewing.
Before we got to the beers though Paddy and Matt were kind enough to spend some time talking about the history and brewing techniques and recipes you need to make a ‘bostin’ mild. I’ve captured what I can recall here so feel free to use these tips and points to make your own ahead of our Mild May meeting based on CAMRA’s Mild month! (That’s a mouthful that sentence)
First the history, and this is where the excellent ‘Designing great beers’ by Ray Daniels shows its value. The chapter looking at Brown ales and Milds gives a real historical view of their origins but the take away for me is that time was the choice in a pub was between a bitter and a mild, two beers at opposite ends of a spectrum. The bitter end is obviously just that, bitter, and the mild end focused on the malty side of the street. A Mild is a beer designed to showcase everything malt has to offer without the sharp tang of the hops taking up too much space.
The low strength many people associate with a Mild appears to be a newer phenomenon maybe based on ‘value engineering’ of recipes by the brewers as their popularity dwindled and they had to maintain the margins. Paddy created some notes around the recipe and process build – including the strength and I’ll share and explain those here. So first what would you aim for in terms of gravity, colour and bitterness.
So here we have the specification from two breweries Mitchell & Butler and Highgate. You can see the gravity here would give you a beer of about 4.0%. The interesting aspect of this is the PG. This is the gravity that the beer was filled into cask meaning the beer was quite actively fermenting still when it was packaged and so it really was extremely cask conditioned. The bitterness of around 24 is on a par with a modern commercial lager, enough to balance the sweetness but not overwhelm it. The colour here is quite dark – as I’d expect a mild – but the range can be from a chestnut up to black, so a lot of scope there.
What about the mash? This is a showcase for malt flavours and you can see here where they come from. The values relate to the mash tun at the brewery but the ratio would remain and then scaled down to your own mash tun size to yield 1035 or so. So a solid base of pale ale malt and then around 4% Crystal. This would probably be a medium colour crystal and then about half that amount of Black malt to get the colour up to where you like. Paddy’s tip was to aim low on the colour as you can always add more with liquid caramel (as per the recipes here) to increase it, but you can’t take it away. The 10% torrified barley and 6% malted wheat give you the body and thick head retention and then sugar as well. This is on top of priming sugar added into the cask. On top of the remaining gravity when filled that priming sugar would have made sure it was a real strong fermentation in the cask. I’ve no idea how it cleared. Note at the bottom Calcium Chloride. This should be added as opposed to gypsum to the mash liquor to emphasise the maltiness.
And finally the process details. You can see a slight difference in the mash temperatures between the two breweries here but it didn’t have much difference on the FG. The boil at Highgate you see is aiming for a massive loss of volume, over 8%, and at M&B it’s still high so a long boil is important, I wonder if that helps with the caramel and Maillard flavour development in the beers? Not mentioned in the notes are the hops. These were discussed but used only for their bittering properties the type of hop used is less important. Traditionally they would be English hops so for authenticity Fuggles perhaps, but they’ll not be adding too much to the finished product. We did discuss the likelihood that in the US an American twist on this beer would definitely be hop loaded – so not traditional but something that could be interesting.
Fermentation was pitched at a normal 17-19C and left to rise naturally up to 23-24C as the yeast got going. The relatively low OG should mean this would probably be done in 3-4 days – less if you move to cask with all those point of gravity left. So this is a quick beer to turnaround and it was often gone so fast in the midlands that it would expected to be drunk young. This means you’ve plenty of time to get yours done before the Meeting on the 25th May when Paddy will judge your efforts and interpretation.
Back upstairs in Unit 4 at the brewery for our March dive into easy drinking gave us a great selection of Pale ales, Saisons and some examples of technical difficulties.
The March meeting theme was easy drinking and it was a good night of good beers and good company all too easy to enjoy. First though we were inundated with hops. A mistaken order quantity left Fran with a big box of ‘surplus’ hops to share. EKG and Summit were welcomed as any free hops would be despite there being just past their best before date everyone was very sure they could find a use for them.
Onto the main event – the drinking – we kicked off with a variety of pale ales showcasing some fruity and zingy hops. The variety of flavours that can be drawn out of a SMaSH pale is astounding. This coupled with solid, well conditioned malt bases allowed some beautiful beers to be sampled. As ever the questions about ingredients and process, the sharing of advice and isolating improvement opportunities is what the club is for.
We then shifted up a gear to two super – but different – saisons. A very traditional one and one that was a raspberry bomb – the freshness of the fruit flavours being something else. The recipe for this wonderful beer can be found here.
Keeping it fruity we had an interloper of a cider that was light and zesty – a perfect palette cleanser before moving onto something a little more dark. Some great advice was shared regarding the importance of fermentation temperature and pitching levels will hopefully help the evolution of a Timothy Taylor Landlord and a Bass Red Triangle clone. Hygiene is another key factor in good brewing as was shown with a Hazy Jane clone that had been served from a dirty keg. So now we know what Brett tastes like – when it’s unintentional not good.
We saved a milk stout for last to try and erase the nasty taste filthy kit can leave and it delivered some excitement. She’s a gusher, thar she blows as it popped open it popped wasting a lot of a very tasty beer. Enough was salvaged to enjoy but we did ruin a couple or three copies of the CAMRA magazine.
Look forward to next month when it’s open house no theme bring what you have. May however is the month of Mild so start thinking about recipes to showcase malty goodness.
Well that was an unexpected delve into funky sour beers. February’s meeting threw curveballs in both the location and the selection of beers on offer.
Firstly thanks to everyone at The George for the (very) warm welcome and help setting up. The Hop House was a great venue for the meeting, plenty of space and quiet enough for easy conversation and sharing of beer details. I think if we set up more talks or presentation this will be an ideal location.
Then to the beers – without any prompting this session turned into an exploration of funky sour beers. A pineapple sour, a Flanders red, a lambic and a cherry lambic. Quite an exploration of the sour palette and some amazing examples of the layers of complexity fermenting with something other than saccharomyces cerevisiae. The night was topped off with a super Ginger stout that reminded me heavily of Dandelion & Burdock from the Pop truck.
One other difference was the later closing time of the pub – which meant a lively discussion about everything beer and not lasted quite later than usual. A great night all round.
It’s not too far away from our normal venue and, having had a drink in their in the past, I think is perfect for us. The reason for the temporary change is that unit 4 is hosting the Knightclub and launch of Windsor & Eaton’s platinum jubilee celebration beer Castle Hill https://shop.webrew.co.uk/products/castle-hill-12-x-500-ml-bottles This means they are moving their regular quiz to Wednesday and I don’t think we could compete with pondering the longest river in Asia as we discuss the beers. Everything else will remain as normal – 7:30 start and a bring anything theme. (Remember March theme will be Easy drinking) Look forward to seeing you there.
Our first meeting back after the Christmas break, and our first ever competition, saw some old friends making a welcome return back from the pre-Covid world meetings. The meeting was dedicated to judging the Winter Ale Contest but we also welcomed a few lighter palate cleanser beers as well to help with the concentration; an excellent dry hopped lager, a first spot on all grain attempt at a Landlord clone and a fruity Mosiac SMaSH
We had four beers entered – which may not seem many but given half of them had an ABV in double figures it was plenty to get though in a session. There were two prizes on offer. The main prize was the Champion beer as judged by combining a carefully thought out and considered scoring system looking at Appearance, Aroma, Flavour, Desirability and Style. After some discussion and recalibration of what 10/10 would mean for a strong dark winter ale (Note – it is not “Could drink pints of this”) the judging commenced.
We were also lucky enough to have Head Brewer Matt Stead with us as well to offer advice and choose the Brewer’s Choice prize. So to the beers, quite a range two extra-strong dark beers in a Russian Imperial Stout and an Eisbock and a couple of relatively lighter beers – relative being key at around 7% – with a traditional spiced winter ale and a Belgian Dubbel style beer. After trying the beers I’ll admit the maths proved to be more of a problem than I anticipated. Adding up scores and working out the average was impaired by the strength of the beers.
And so to the winner – a superb beer, perfect for sipping next to a roaring log fire with a cigar on the go. Congratulations to Iain M’s Russian Imperial Stout. A worthy winner and I’m sure he’ll turn the Maris Otter he’s won into a special beer.
Embarrassingly – and certainly not a fix I swear – my own Belgian Dubbel “Radiant Orange” was chosen by Matt as the Brewer’s choice and the rosette is proudly displayed in the kitchen now.
Overall another great night of fine beers and good conversation. Looking forward to February (Wednesday the 23rd) and then the March (Wednesday 30th) meetings we agreed to a free for all tasting and beer swap next month and then a challenge for the March meeting. The theme of the challenge for March – something to get started now – is a light beer. Make of that description what you will. I’ll be most looking forward to Fran & Vincent’s effort after taking advantage of an amazing offer from David E who got in contact with the club to offer to donate his 25L all grain set up to someone looking to move up their brewing to the next level. I think this applies perfectly to Fran & Vincent a perfect home for the equipment.
It’s been a while but I’m really happy to announce a comeback. While still in the midst of this depressing cold lockdown we’re following the rest of the world and joining the Zoom revolution.
On Wednesday 24th February at 7:30pm we’ll be hosting our inaugural online meeting. Even better to get the brain firing on all cylinders again it will include a talk on water chemistry from brewing guru Hugo Anderson.
Hugo has many years managing huge breweries and ensuring the quality of some of the world’s biggest selling beers, and he’s happy to share some of his wealth on knowledge with you. So if you want to know if the ingredient that makes up 95% of your beer is important this is the night for you.
After the discussion and questions it’ll be open season to show and tell about a beer you’ve brewed and are enjoying on the night. Maybe you’ve brewed a killer Kölsch or a brilliant Bitter. Maybe its a disappointing Doppelbock or a lousy Lager either way lets talk about it.
Really pleased as well that the Zoom facility will be kindly shared by Dave and Windsor’s best bottleshop and purveyor of every type of beer you could ever want A Hoppy Place.
Please contact through the facebook group here or twitter here if you’d like to join and I’ll send the log in details closer to the day.
Big thanks to Hugo for the time and vast amount of knowledge he imparted to the group. It was a really engaging walk through the importance and practical aspects of brewing water chemistry. He’s been kind enough to share the slides which can be found on the resources page here.
The second meeting of WEHomebrew proved even better than the first. It was great to see even more people turn up to enjoy what turned out to be some great beers. Prior to the meeting Paddy was kind enough to give a mini-tour of the brewery for members who hadn’t been round before; and also members who just love looking at big shiny tanks full of ale.
Then it was time for the science. Matt from Windsor & Eton brewery delivered a brilliant introduction to the science and art of mashing. Starting from the fundamentals of what the maltster and brewer are working with through to the implications temperature, water, pH and time can have on your finished beer product. It was a real grounding and I’m looking forward to looking at the next stage of the brewing process – wort boiling & hops next month.
After the science it was time for the drinking. We had half a dozen beers to assess and discuss and while the majority of the beers were dark – fitting in well with the coming seasonal weather and early nights – we kicked off with a cool Steampunk looking growler full of a light 6 day old beer that was ready to drink. Fermented warm using Kviek yeast this was a great introduction to Norwegian farmhouse yeasts and their potential in terms of fast turn around and robust fermentation profiles.
Wild hops, wild fruits, chocolate and espresso coffee were the added bonuses tasted in the following beers – something for everyone and a great show of what variation there can be in similar styles.
We ended the night in a great discussion over the potential causes of a phenolic / medicinal taste found in a beer. A lot of learning and some things to take away to remedy this. This bit is exactly what the club is about – fixing problems so we can make great beer.