Category Archives: Meetings

Fran’s Homemade tonic recipe

As shared by Fran following on from the update about the tonic water kit made by Grainfather below is the homemade tonic recipe.

Homemade tonic Water (cordial) recipe

900mls Water (original recipe 3cups/675ml)

37g Chopped Cinchona bark (original recipe 1oz/28g) (I put mine in a mesh hop/tea bag to be re-used a few times. You can obtain this Cinchona bark online from natural remedy medical places.)

83g citric acid (original recipe 2.2oz/62g)

15g limes (3) – peeled zests only (original recipe 0.4oz/11g)

19g lemon (3) – peeled zests only (original recipe 0.4oz/14g)

19g oranges (2) – peeled zests only (original recipe 0.5oz/14g)

44g (3) stalks lemongrass tops and bottoms trimmed, outer leaves removed then sliced into tiny slices (2.5oz/71g)

5 whole allspice berries (original recipe 4)

4 whole green cardamom pods (original recipe 3)

1.25 tablespoon lavender (original recipe 1)

Combine all ingredients into a large lidded glass jar, put in the fridge and shake once a day for 72 hours (I wrapped mine in a towel in the boot of the car which did the job of daily shaking. Works for any infusions such as limoncello).

Simple sugar syrup

355ml Water (1.5 cups)

600g Natural cane sugar (3 cups/21oz)

Dissolve the sugar over med heat until sugar is dissolved. Cool.

Strain the infusion then strain again through a coffee filter. Add to the syrup. Refrigerate or heat seal this cordial into small bottles. 

Use with soda water or sparkling water for the tonic part of gin or just as a lovely non alcoholic drink we call Monic (mock gin & tonic).

Have fun. It doesn’t last long.

Fran

Gin and Hops

A little late writing up the October meeting so the hazy vague memories a night on the beer often leads to will be even more fleeting as I try and remember what we had.

We did start the night off with a little sensory training using Owen’s kit. The theme being hops – a lot more pleasant than the previous ‘off flavours’. We spiked samples of Republika with spikes of Myrcene, Geraniol and Linalool for aroma and with the dark brown liquid of Isomerised hop extract to boost the bitterness. It does not take a lot of that to make a tasty lager something that would strip paint.

The varying amounts (measured scientifically in ‘drops’ by me) that are needed to make the hop aromas easily noticeable, but not overpowering is a fine balance. It shows as well – the differences in amounts – that it’s nt always the highest oil content of the hop that will dominate. The balance and ratios of the oils are something that – as we see – offer a multitude of different overall aromas. This comes back to the blending ratios I mentioned before. It’s not alway more and more hops that improve a beer but the ratios of different hop types that can accentuate or dull the overall impact.

After all the sniffing it was time to get back to the drinking. As ever some great beers and we’re really getting a taste for the Gluten free brews. An interesting experiment looking at two similar pale ale style beers, one with Sorghum and one with added Buckwheat. As I remember I think the buckwheat softened the beer and maybe even added a little body. Getting body in these is something that is an important club to have in your bag when using enzymes that will make every sugar molecule in sight available for the yeast to devour.

Back with the malt based brews we enjoyed a great clone of the 5 points best bitter – maybe this is a theme / competition for later. Clone wars, who can get the closest to a beer they bring in in a head to head style comparison. Will put that on the back burner. Also a return of the Pale from the previous month that was a little under-carbonated. It was lifted by more gas that also had a slight detectable banana flavour. This led to an interesting discussion of yeast pitching techniques and the benefits of dry and liquid styles and building starters. 

A green hop IPA gave a seasonal feel to the drinks and is definitely the way forward to anyone growing their own hops. Something that should be in everyone’s brew schedule each year we can look forward to. We finished off with a copy of the ESB recipe from a previous meeting that had run away with itself. The Nottingham yeast Alan used munched through the wort and ended up with a brew that was packing 6.3% and had a lot of body to show for it. A lovely beer and an idea for adding body to gluten-free beers. The alcohol itself adds body to a beer, so even when there is no residual sugar there it will feel heavier.

In a change to the advertised programme we finished with a sophisticated G&T. There was a reason to this, at the recent BrewCon when speaking to Grainfather they gave a sample of a kit that allows you to make 19L ot tonic and the carbonate it in your Corny keg. I brought this is because it tastes amazing, surprisingly so. It’s now on draught in the shed and we will never run out of tonic again – this is a game changer. Next step distilling our own gin…

As a last point we agreed to a theme for the February meeting next year. January will be the Gluten free challenge and then Feb will be Stout month, so we can look forward to some warming drinks in the cold nights.

The no malt challenge

What makes beer beer? The Germans and their Reinheitgebot law were certain they knew. Water, hops and barley. What happens if you can’t tolerate one of those ingredients? Do you give in and live a dismal existence existing on cider and wine like peasant? You do not. You use the might of technology and science available to you and you learn how to make beer with no barley and to hell with the 16th century Bavarian bureaucrats. And you do it well.

We welcomed a new member to the club who brought along a couple of very unusual beers. Gluten free brews made with sorghum and millet. It was – to be honest – a little trepidation I tried them and was pleasantly surprised. They were both beer, light in colour, hoppy in aroma, quite dry but very crisp. Great brews.

This brought the discussion around to gluten-free beers styles. With the pallet of colours and flavours that maltsters offer the brewer – how to make something other than a light coloured and flavoured beer using alternative cereals and ingredients. Give it some thought – this will definitely be a monthly challenge probably early next year. How would you make a full bodied stout or an ESB?

As well as the gluten-free beers we had a great selection of hop driven brews to sample. Pale ale, NEIPA, Grapefruit-IPA and Tropical Storm the Black-pale ale served at the WeBrew beer festival.

The range of hop flavours on display – including the intensity of a NEIPA made with Cryo hops got the technique discussion and comparisons flowing. The use of hop spiders, magnets and marbles(!), time and temperature there are so many levers you can pull to get the most out of the hop aromas and flavours. Swapping stories and techniques is – as always – a great way to spark ideas and prompt change in your own routines.

So this leads nicely into October’s meeting, planned for Wednesday 26th, we’ll be taking advantage of Owen’s flavour training kit again to look at the hop flavour components. So getting to know the following hop oil components; Myrcene – (fresh resinous hop character), Linalool – (spicy hop character), Geraniol – (floral hop character) and unfortunately Valeric acid – (cheesy, stale hop flavour).

Cheers!

Taste training

The smell of failure

It absolutely stank in the room during the taste training. I nipped out to get some more Republika to spike with terrible beer fault chemicals and when I walked back in the combination of six different off-flavours filled the room like a miasma of badly made beer. Luckily these were mostly new aromas and ones we won’t come across very often, or at all, in future.

I have to say thanks to both Owen, for sharing the kit for us to use, and Deb for setting up and running the fascinating professional taste training.

Taste training
Setting up taste training

The training itself followed a set method. We had a control sample of high quality Republika and then were offered a cup of spiked lager and asked to write down what aromas and tastes we could describe. These were shared across the group and then we were told what the beer had been spiked with and we discussed where that flavour might come from. For that this paper here was a fantastic reference.

The horrible half dozen of flavours we tasted and discussed were; dimethyl sulfide (DMS), Chlorophenol, diacetyl, isoamyl acetate, isovaleric acid and Eugenol (Phenol). Individually many of these were horrific – the combination was an assault! But it was all worth it the learnings and vocabulary to describe the faults will make identifying and rectifying faults so much easier.

Get a whiff of this

Thankfully we had some great drinks brought in to be shared after the lesson to wash away the faults and remember how nice booze can be. A real varied selection as well. We started with two American wheat beers the difference between the two highlighted the impact of US versus UK hops. Citrus versus floral and the impact of oats on head & body.

We then tried a returner, a hoppy pale ale we’d tasted before. This really meant we got to use the lessons we’d just learnt. The beer had transformed from a light clean fruity pale into something that closely resembled a superb clone of Saison Dupont. The phenolic flavour that had developed as it bottle conditioned and some leathery farmyard flavours pointed to an infection in the bottle – a fortunate one that led to a real farmhouse beer.

The easiest homebrew in the world came next Aldi apple juice cider. Get juice from the cheap German supermarket, pitch in some yeast and wait. At the end of it you have a spot on cider. Not too sweet, the fruity acidic bite of apple. Refreshing, bright and clear and tasting exactly like a cider should. Easy.

A real treat of a beer next a dark Belgian strong ale that had been aged for a couple of years and had aged wonderfully. The dark fruit, treacle and sweetness of the beer evoked a fireside sipping beer with a big cigar to see the winter night through. The complex flavours developed from a a simple malt bill of pale ale and dark candy sugar is amazing. A super beer.

Pop!

To wash down this beer and end the night of a fruity high we finished with a blueberry & Blackcurrant fruit wine. Sweet and sour perfectly balanced in a drink that was like sipping Ribena again amazing flavours from a simple sugar, water steeped on fruits. The simple process is obviously the best way.

Cheers.

Taste training in August

What is that egg smell? Why does my IPA taste like the Daily Mirror? If you want answers to these questions and want to be able to identify off-flavours in beer we’ve got just the meeting for you.

Thanks to Owen Orton for sharing his Brewlab taste training kit I’m really excited to announce we are running a training session on identifying off flavours in beer at the August meeting planned for Wednesday the 31st.

The session will be set up and run by Deb Woodcock who worked in quality & production for 16 years in a big multinational brewery. For a lot of this time she set up and managed the sensory panel including training sessions just like this.

Brewlab Taste Training Kit

We’ll be looking at tasting examples of five or six common off-flavours that you’re likely to see in your Homebrew and explaining their origins so you can make sure you don’t get them in future brews. So whether you’re an experienced beer sommelier or don’t know catty from skunky this session will be a great introduction or a nice refresher.

Please let us know if you’re attending to make set up and preparation a little easier.

West coast is the best coast

What is a West coast style? That was the theme set for July’s meeting and it was nicely vague enough to get two very different styles and then even more variety within the styles.

West Coast IPAs

The obvious – first thought in my mind – is a West Coast IPA. A bright and lively, hop bomb of a beer with a sharp bitter linger and an explosion of fruit or resin on the nose. A beer that’s strong and punchy enough to make sure you know you’re drinking it. We had three great examples that showed the base of pale malt and a bit of crystal can carry a huge range of flavours and aromas and give quite different drinks.

We tasted the three IPAs directly against each other and could easily describe the differences; more body here, a brighter appearance there, assertive bitterness in this one, softer fruitier flavours in this one. The differences gave opportunity for an in depth discussion on the processes used and hop varieties chosen.

One discussion point I found interesting were firstly around dry hopping temperature. Personally I drop the FV temp down to 14C let some of the yeast drop out for 12-24 hours and then add the hops for about 3 days. Pellets just dumped in. Other regimes focussed on taking great care to minimise oxygen pick up and not changing from fermentation temperature when dry hopping. I think there’s a great opportunity for an experiment with everyone brewing the same recipe but following their own dry hopping regime. One for the future.

One of the resources I used to develop the hopping recipe was the amazing work done by Scott Janish. He has done some really interesting work looking at the flavour and aroma components of hop varieties and their expression in beer. It here I got the idea of using 14C but also the realisation that it’s not always more is better. The tool linked here – Hop Oils Calculator – made me realise that it’s the combination and relative levels of hop oils that make the beers pop and not necessarily just adding in more and more of all the hops. I’ve pasted some screen shots from the tool that give the expected flavours from dry hopping at different ratios of Simcoe, Amarillo & Mosiac. The different descriptions mean this is a tool that allows you to target the flavour and aroma you love in your beers. It’s genius! The variations are amazing just by tweaking the ratios of the different hops so the oils mute or lift other oils in the hops. There’s a lot of levers to pull here.

All three hops the same level

More Amarillo
Adding a lot of Mosiac

And speaking of delicate hop flavours the last two beers of the night were a fascinating experiment. Another Westcoast style – Steam beer or California Common – made famous by Anchor brewery is a great easy drinking beer for sipping in the sun. Using it’s very heat tolerant yeast and usually hopped with Northern Brewer hops gives it quite a delicate, sweet and piney herbal aroma. Some ingenious recipe development improved on this. We tasted two versions of a split batch (As always beautifully labelled) – the first brewed traditionally with Northern Brewer hops the second substituting them for Elderflower. A bold choice you might think. It worked really well.

The delicate slightly perfume flavours from the Elderflower sat perfectly in the beer. If I hadn’t been told the flower was in there I would have put the earthy flowery taste and aroma down to the use of a English or noble hop. It really brightened the beer and in my opinion improved it on the more traditional take, without it being obviously a “flavoured” beer.

A great night as always. Looking forward to next month’s meeting planned for August 31st where we might be doing something special, watch this space.

Cheers

Unintentional invention

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.

Great artwork

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.

Cheers

Three glasses of mild beer

Hong Kong Phooey

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.

That said we did also have some additional beers to sample – Al’s great porter was just that. The malt experienced continued with a beautifully conditioned Altbier – the German ‘Old Beer’ style from Dusseldorf. And we ended with some hops to freshen the palate.

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.

Cheers

How to brew a Mild

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.

The gravity, colour and BU of a Mild

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.

Mash ingredients for a Mild

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.

Additional info on a mild

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.

Alan’s Raspberry Saison recipe

Alan’s Raspberry & Lemon Saison

BrewerAlan MolloyStyleFruited Saison

Beer details

This beer was brought into the March 2022 meeting and was an instant hit. Fresh, fruity, zesty and bright it was a real summer drink that sings out with the raspberry flavour perfectly balanced against the Saison base.

OG1.034FG1.002
ABV4.0%IBU28
ColourRaspberry pinkBrew size40L

Mash ingredients

IngredientsWeight
Extra Pale Ale5.4kg

Boil additions

IngredientsWeightTime
Target Hops 10.5% AA25gStart of boil
Protafloc tablet1 tab50min
Lemon zest60g55min
Celeia 4.1%AA48gFlame out for 20min

Yeast

Type2 x Wyeast 3711 (French Saison)

Fermenter

IngredientWeightTime
Frozen and crushed raspberries4.0kg5 days
Mash:
On my set-up I required 11L at 78C to give a starting mash temp of 65.2C & ending at 62.4C, after 90mins I sparged with 35L @ 80C.This gave me 35L @ 1.036, which I diluted with 3L treated brew water to reduce OG to 1.032. 

Boil:
38L in the boil for 60mins with Target hops. Protafloc added 10mins before end of boil. Lemon zest added 5mins before end of boil. (TIP: peel the rind of the lemon & chop it up in a food processor, much easier). Celeia added @ switch off & left to cool to 80C stirring twice. Took 20mins. 

Fermenter:
Run wort through plate chiller to reduce temp to 30C & collected 32L @ 1.034.Agitation with a sterilised paddle. Pitched yeast direct from “Smack Pack” into wort @ 28C. (TIP: Spray outside of pack with steriliser before opening). This yeast ferments better at higher temp – 28 to 32C.After 5 days reached 1.002 & dropped temp to 8C overnight. 24hours later I added 4,000g of crushed raspberries in a fine muslin hop bag into the fermenter. The wort was now @ 14C. left them to soak for 5 days. 

Bottling:
31L bottled in 330ml & 500ml bottles. The final gravity was 1.003 giving ABV of 4.1%.I prime each bottle with normal white sugar, 330ml=<1/8tsp, 500ml=1/8tsp.