Category Archives: News and updates

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.

Gluten free beer guidance

As mentioned in the write up from September’s meeting January’s theme will be a technical challenge; brew a gluten free beer.

So the first place you might think of heading is some sort of protease to add to your Russian Imperial Stout brewed with about 20kg of malted barley. We’ll not so fast, that won’t cut it. There are important rules as someone choosing a gluten free beer is doing so for a reason.

So Ed has been good enough to write the rules for us. So get your recipe development hats on because I am expecting some exciting tasty brews following this guidance and a little innovation.

The ingredients below that contain gluten and so should be avoided ahead of GF beer week in January 2023:

• Barley

• Wheat

• Rye

• Triticale

• Spelt

• Oats is a controversial one as it contains proteins that mimic gluten. If you do use oats, they need to be labelled gluten free as normal oats are commonly processed alongside Barley and Wheat and so are often contaminated with gluten

Ingredients you can use:

Malted millet (quite expensive): https://altgrain.co.uk/collections/malts

Hamstead brewing centre for sorghum LME:

https://www.hamsteadhomebrew.co.uk/Gluten-Free/

Rice flakes:

https://www.hamsteadhomebrew.co.uk/Briess-Rice-Flakes-500gm

Corn flakes:

https://www.hamsteadhomebrew.co.uk/Flaked-Maize-500gm

Commonly used unmalted grains to add flavour, yeast nutrients, colour and head retention properites. These will need to be cooked prior to mashing in order to gelatinise the starch:

• Split quinoa

• Lentils

• Teff

• Amaranth

• Buckwheat (yes it is GF despite the name!)

Exogenous enzymes help a lot with extraction, this is the one I’ve found works best:

As you can imagine, brewing with high adjunct % and small grains can cause a stuck mash so don’t be shy with the rice hulls:

https://www.hamsteadhomebrew.co.uk/Briess-Rice-Hulls-200gm

GF grains/adjuncts are typically low in FAN as well so I would recommend using yeast nutrient. 

The Zero Tolerance Home club on Facebook contains a wealth of information… The US are a lot further ahead than we are and have access to many types of malts (e.g. rice, buckwheat and millet) and enzymes so it’s important to factor this in when looking at recipes.

https://m.facebook.com/groups/179311875956380?group_view_referrer=search

If you’re not on Facebook then you can access the ‘wiki’ page directly from the Zero Tolerance Homebrew club here. This has recipes and info on fermentables:

https://zerotolerance.mywikis.wiki/wiki/Main_Page

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me.

Cheers

Ed

The secret bar

On Saturday afternoon and night Lee and myself put a beer each up against the professionals as we served our wares up at the WE Brew beer festival 2022. As the beers weren’t in the official beer list we decided to call it the secret bar.

So I thought I’d share a few photos from the afternoon. We had a fantastic day – well I certainly did! – and got to share and talk about our beers with dozens of people and got some really good positive feedback. We also got the chance to talk about the brew club and try and recruits some more members.

Lee also got the good news that his beer won the Old Windsor show brewing competition!

I hope we can get the opportunity to do this again so other members can show off their talents.

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

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.

Beer tasting

Easy Tiger

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.

Beer tasting

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.

February change of venue

Our next meeting on Wednesday 23rd February has had a change of venue away from Unit 4 at the brewery to the Hop House at the George inn. https://www.georgeinn-eton.co.uk/hop-house/

The George in Eton


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.

Winter warmers

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

Judging the beers

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.

Counting is hard

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.

A worthy winner

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.

Cheers!

Incredible India

I love the crash and bang of a busy pub, music playing people laughing and the feel of being back in raucous company as much as everyone. Also my hearing isn’t what it used to be, so while I really enjoyed last month’s meeting up on the mezzanine of unit 4 above the bar it did make discussion about the beers harder than normal. In all honestly we did sort of split into two groups at either end of the table because they were the people you could hear.

This month was different – we’ve moved again. Thanks to Will for helping us set up space in the shop – we were fully equipped and supported as usual and had the added benefit of being able to hear each other’s feedback and questions. Another really nice surprise was seeing Paddy again. His help initially setting up the club is still very much appreciated.

And so to it – in our audibly improved environments what did we taste and share? In all honesty this was one of the strongest selections of beers I can remember us having and a really wide range of beers, but pair of styles to help with direct comparisons.

We started comparing two versions of the same beer; a sessionable pale ale – the question posed which should be the house beer A or B? Obviously we’re never going to answer in that manner and it ended up being a little from pot A (A malt balanced easy drinking hoppy pale) and a little from pot B (A more typically assertive bitter pale). That said I’d happily have sat around drinking either of them. Recipe C ideas shared we moved onto a subtle & delicate Belgian wit and a couple more pale ales. All of exceptional quality.

But the night just kept delivering – a fine example of a traditional ESB (who’s recipe is now in heavy demand) with some fancy Dan artwork on the bottles lifted the standard again and led us into the battle of the stouts.

This was a great comparison that showed the different takes you can bring to the recipe when making a big stout. In the red corner we’ve the sweet malty chocolate monster and in the blue corner his emphatically hopped American style cousin. Both beers were of excellent quality but used a similar malt bill and yeast – the tunes you can play on beers with ingredients and process were highlighted amazingly and gave great food for thought on what a stout could be.

Then the weird beer! An experimental recreation of an ancient Indian beer painstakingly recreated from 7000 year old texts. As you’d imagine it was hop light but flavoured with 11 plants and spices (Or is that Colonel Sanders?) to give a complex, but surprisingly drinkable, brew. The beer had layers and trying to pick out the flavours; earthy, ginger, fragrant, curry leaves was very difficult. They just kept coming. A fantastic successful experiment that put me in mind of what you might call an Indian Wit – fascinating.

A fantastic meeting again and we ended with the exciting news of the January meeting Homebrew competition (Details here) having a prize on offer. Get your beer brewed and ready for our next meeting in 2022 to have a chance to win 25kg of Crisp Maris Otter malt.

Cheers