Competition warm up

Pre-game nerves and tactics were on display at August’s brew club meeting. The Old Windsor Horticulture show on the 1st of September – the biggest match of the season for local homebrewers – was on people’s minds. Entry papers submitted and beers chosen, maybe, as the decision to go ‘Strong & sweet’ or try something left-field and surprise the judge was passionately discussed. We’ll find out who had the right approach at full time on Saturday when the rosette for best homebrew beer is awarded.

Amongst the competition deliberations it was good to welcome a new member and we look forward to tasting John’s beers as he gets to grip with the Grainfather.

We had a great selection of beers to taste this month, including some of the entries for the OW show. First up was my Pseudo-lager brewed for the Elusive birthday homebrew competition. It was fermented with the Lutra Kviek yeast at 30°C which meant it was done and bottled in less than a week. From a taste point of view, however, I don’t think it is a traditional lager. The yeast seems to give a distinctive citrusy lemon flavour. So drinkable, but certainly a little unusual.

We stayed with a Kviek yeast for our next two beers. Firstly a super American pale ale. This will be an entry at the OW show so we got a peek at the quality of the beers that will be there. The hops really zinged in this and that was down to the water adjustments made that lifted the beer and made it much sharper and crisp. A stronger, more bitter version of this would make a first class West Coast Pale Ale. We had a long discussion about the high carbonate level in the local water and how it is not suited to pale beers.

This really set up for the next beer an evolution of the popular Tropical Storm Black pale ale from the W&E beer festival last year. Again using a Kviek yeast that stayed out of the way to let the English hops shine through. There was an assertive bitterness and a lingering pleasant liquorice aftertaste from the black malt. The dark malt also helped make this a crisp fresh beer without the need for excessive pH adjustment of the water. Our water is perfect for dark beers like this.

We followed this with another OW show entry (maybe) a beautifully conditioned ESB. Clear as a bell and a stunning chestnut colour. The slight fruity-sweetness from the English ale yeast balanced against the hoppy bitterness nicely. A lovely beer you could drink pints of as it hid its 6% strength really well.

Staying above 6% and another OW show entry, AND another brew from the W&E beer festival we moved to the Low Countries for a Belgian Disaster. I’ll just leave possible the best description of a beer ever made here; “A sweaty Dolph Lungden.” We think Ken might have meant Jean Claude Van Damm, and it’s not 100% clear if it’s a bad description but I’ll take it!

Staying Belgiany we had the comeback of the Elderflower Saison. As before this was a great example of a saison and while last time I didn’t get any of the elderflower – I could pick it out this time as a delicate fruitiness. We discussed the remarkable lack of foam and think it could actually be from the elderflower addition.

To wrap up we were looking forward to a light coloured 10% mead, that would have been a lovely finish. What we got was a mystery beer in the same bottle as mead with the same colour cap on. A copper coloured, slightly caramel tasting body with grassy hop aromas brewed at some distant point in the past.

Just a reminder that September is an open month again but October we have the wet / green hop brews. There’s a lot of wild hops knocking about that look about ready to pick so maybe a wild farmhouse ale is out there waiting to be brewed.

Cheers

Homebrew kit you can use

A lot coming up and free kit!

After our min-month jaunt out to Reading for the Meet-the-supplier event with the Malt Miller at Double Barrelled brewery it was good to be back on home turf. A small gathering with concentrated beer quality. Four lovely beers and great discussions and ideas.

So to the beers first; an Elderflower Saison, a British golden ale, the return of the Belgian Wit and an Alt bier. 

Saison bottle

The aroma on the saison was spot on for style, the yeast choice and warm fermentation highlighting the spicy clove phenols and fruity esters. Really good carbonation but low head retention. A subject we had a lot of discussion around. The grist was as expected so what could cause it? Although a good sized portion of elderflow was added to the boil there wasn’t much more than a hint of its presence. We talked about the potential to add the flowers into the FV as if dry hopping – something to try in the future.

The Golden ale was a hop bomb. Intense tropical fruits on a well-balanced full-bodied beer that was perfectly carbonated in the bottle. The Talus hops gave immense flavours and aromas even though they were only dry hoped at 50g / 20L a real impressive performance. The beer was fermented using US-05 – a notably clean yeast – so the fruit flavours weren’t coming from there. It was a real testament to the intensity of Talus and a prompt to use these in the future.

The welcome return of the Belgian wit we tasted last month showed that the yeast mishaps that led to it haven’t caused any stability issues with the beer. It was interesting to see the head retention on this compared to the saison and we discussed the grist differences that might cause this.

We had an expert in for the last beer. After a trip to the Bolten Brewery near Dusseldorf Lee was primed to compare my Alt Bier with the real McCoy from Germany. I’m glad to say it was in the ball park as I brewed it without ever tasting one! Very malty, clean finish with a soft mouthfeel. Maybe would be improved by upping the bitterness but a beer – and yeast – I’m very happy with. I think the yeast (White Labs WLP036 – Dusseldorf Alt yeast) could be used for anything where you want a really clean fermentation on.

Bottle filler attached to a beer tap

How to fill bottles direct from a keg / tap was something we pondered over. Mainly because I felt the Alt Bier was a bit under-carbonated as I’d just filled it directly into a bottle without using my patented squeezy bottle filler (See photos). There are multiple professional and homemade solutions out there, some you can spend a lot of money on.

Looking to the future on the first weekend of September Hukins Hops have an open day where you can pick your own. A great day out at a hop farm in a beautiful part of Kent. This led to the agreement that – as many people also grow their own or you can find a lot of wild hops – the Theme for October would be Wet hopped beer or is it green hopped beer? Either way something to look forward to.

That first weekend in September is also home to the Old Windsor show where there is a category for home brewed beer judging. As we all know the judge does like them dark and sweet. So you know how to win that rosette. Entry form is here.

A little further into the future is BeerCon 2023 the homebrew expo that’s been so successful over the last few years. A great day out at Walthamstow’s Wild Card & Hackney breweries. So get a Saturday afternoon session booked in on October 7th. The talks and exhibitions of kit and ingredients make it really worthwhile. I did hear there is a talk by Windsor’s own Hoppy place Dave talking about how to go professional. Learn about the set up of Indie Rabble brewery (Who are crowd funding at the minute and planning to open very soon) There are also a few competitions to enter your beers into; the Club Challenger cup and a Lallemand sponsored Pro-Am trophy for brewing a British lager. 

Lastly the club received a really generous donation from Mr Hadjimichael. His brewing kit, a superbly made insulated mash tun and an electric heated bucket as well as a fermentation bucket. We also have a pressure barrel. So this is a call for anyone reading who would like to give all grain brewing a try; we have the kit you can use to get started and hooked on brewing your own beers. Thanks to Lambros – really appreciate your gesture, and good luck!

Please get in touch if you want to use the kit to get started.

Cheers!

Back on the wagon

Is it on or off the wagon when you start drinking again? Anyway after an enforced no boozing time out I was lucky enough to start up again with some fine examples of Summer lovin’ – light beers for the summer heat, our June theme.

A great turn out with a lot of beers to get through showcased some superb hops and demonstrated brewing excellence with clean lager styles.

We started off with a gluten free lager based on millet grist that is more or less spot on. Really feels like Ed has nailed this beer now. We had some pouring issues, but the top half was bright, golden straw in colour and clean on the palate and nose. Amazing work.

We followed this up with another clean pale style the Kolsch. Despite some brewing issues – running out of hops – this is a classic easy drinking beer. We discussed whether adding more gypsum would give a cleaner sharper bitterness and is is possible to post-dose to finished beer?

We moved onto the Pales next. A Gluten free Cascade SMaSH repeated from last month had conditioned well and showed off the classic C-Hop aroma well. Another SMaSH followed – in fact two versions of the same beer.

We did a side by side comparison of a Strata Hop SMaSH one bottle filled from a Corny keg and the other bottled conditioned. There were real noticeable differences, the consensus being that the bottle conditioned beer was superior. It was a more rounded and better carbonated beer even if the hop aroma seemed a little less intense. Something to think on for competition entries – bottle conditioned beers are better than beers filled from a keg.

A shift of pace away from hops towards malt next. A Pilgrim hopped Steam beer that combined the more delicate hop flavour with a strong flavourful malt back bone. Caramel and toffee sweetness balanced well against the bitterness. There was discussion about the summeryness off it – and we settled on Late September.

This was followed by another club favourite that probably nicely sits in the late summer / early autumn classification. Tangmere Bitter a lovely traditional bitter, perfect session drinking balancing the malt against solid British hops.

We finished off the beers ramping up the alcohol content nicely with a Belgian Wit. Lovely spicy yeast notes and fruity esters in a dry highly carbonated beer with bitter orange and coriander notes on the nose. This was a saved beer following a yeast failure. Initially pitched with Sussex yeast after very little action this was re-pitched with Belgian Wit yeast. Maybe there was some of the estery goodness combining from the two yeasts – spiciness from the Belgian and fruitiness from the Sussex – it really worked and carried the 6% ABV nicely.

We ended the night with a super dessert. A bramble gin that had an amazing plum and sloe aroma but pitched up with a blackcurrant fruity tang. The simplicity of Gin, Sugar & Blackcurrants superbly blended by Alistair into a lovely aperitif that worked great on its own and would make a fantastic long drink.

Upcoming Events

I’ll see you there!

Quaffable Ale

Elegant, clear, subtle and refined.  No, I am not describing the members of the WE Brew club from last Wednesday’s meeting, but am referring to the top notch offerings this month.  This was a ‘freestyle’ week, but if we had to provide beer style in retrospect, then this month’s theme would without a doubt be ‘quaffable’.

A couple of shout outs to start.   Firstly a shout to our resident club Chair who is out of action for this meeting. We raised a glass to you Ian, drank it, then raised another, drank that one too…..you get the picture.  So please, any complaints about  this write up should not be addressed to our resident beer journalist Ian, but to Ken, the junior tea boy.

Secondly, thanks to Ed was unable to stop at the meeting due to a important work commitment the following morning for which he needed a clear head  However in the finest brewers spirit, Ed arrived with two bottles, and let them with us to enjoy.  Many thanks!

After Ed left the building, we pounced upon his two offerings for the evening.  We started off with a Millet lager.  A beautiful straw colour, very bright and clear, and a very good level of carbonation, with the bubbles clinging to the edge of the glass and rising to the surface in a constant stream.  An aroma reminiscent of a champagne nose, to me, but perhaps the best compliment here is that it ‘smelled like a lager’ – so job done!  All agreed it had a wonderful light and pleasing flavour,  a real winner.  Second on Ed’s list was a SMASH cascade.  Slightly darker in hue than the lager, with very nice tight bubbles.  Aroma of fruit coming through to us, we detected apple, passionfruit and lychee in the mix.  Taste had a rather pleasant toasty edge, reflecting the ‘toasted millet’ grain used in the mash, and had very nice body for a 3.9%.  An edge of cream crackers too, and then a distinctive bitterness to finish. Surprisingly we didnt get much ‘cascade’, but that didn’t matter, as we very much liked what we’d got.    A unanimous decision was that these are the two best gluten-free beers we have tasted, two great offerings.  So very kind of you Ed, to leave two of your finest with us to drink at our leisure.

We followed, by moving into two darker brews, each using  traditional English hops, including Challenger, Fuggles and EKG.  Alan provided us with his house special, a rather excellent ‘Best beer’, and Ken provided an ESB. Comparing them side by side, we had quite a discussion on what was chestnut coloured and what was mahogany coloured, and in short order decided that both were in the ‘brown’ ballpark, and we’d rather drink them than obsess too much on ‘how much brown is brown’.    Now my notes become a little hazy (or non-existent at this point).  This reflects two things; the lack of attention to detail in my note taking, and also the desire to spend more time tasting versus scribbling.  Alan’s ‘Best’ came in (if I recall correctly) at just under 5%, and had a nice gentle flavour, and pleasant bitterness to follow, in all quite a gentle and delicate profile.  The ESB presented with a pleasing creamy head (pleasing to me, given my challenges in this area). Coming in at 6%, with slight toffee/caramel notes, but not proving overbearing given the strength.  So compared side by side, two beers that looked to the eye quite similar, gave very different flavours, but which again both slipped down very easily.

Serious discussion and thought on ‘how brown is chestnut versus mahogony’

So last Wednesday provided four very quaffable beers which could be drank very easily by the river on a long summer’s day.  Next month the style is ‘easy summer drinking’, I reckon some of these four could easily fall into that category too.

SMaSH’d Peas

 

April was a month of Smashed Peas for the WEHomebrew Club, as we all tried our hand at brewing a SMaSH beer, and not getting all poncy about naming mushys. A SMaSH beer is one that is made with only one hop and one malt, this allows you to really focus on the flavors of each ingredient.

By a quirk almost all the hops used started with a P (Until I ruined it) Pilgrim, Progress, Pacific Gem is definitely the name of a long lost John Wayne film.

So here’s the beers!

Alan’s Pacific gem pale

Alan’s Kviek pale was fruity and clean tasting, even though the hops were years out of date. He fermented it warm around 30C, which complemented the fruitiness of the hops well. This makes it a great choice for brewing SMaSH beers, as it can help to bring out the flavors of the hops and malts.

The Pacific Gem hops gave it a citrusy and tropical flavor.

The result was a delicious and refreshing beer that was perfect for a spring day.

Lee’s Golden ale / English Pale ale

Lee’s Golden ale used Maris Otter malt and gave a darker more amber/copper color than the pale ale malt used by Alan. This left the beer with fantastic foam and lacing and a beautiful flavor that was seasoned lovely by the Progress hop choice.

Progress is a hop variety that is known for its fruity and floral flavors. It is a great choice for brewing golden ales, as it can help to create a beer that is both flavorful and aromatic. The result was a delicious and well-balanced beer.

Ken’s Pilgrim hopped Vienna malt ale

Ken’s Pilgrim hopped Vienna malt ale had an issue with strong almond/marzipan flavors. He had issues with no fermentation starting and pitched three times before it took off. He also saw a weird thing happening with the break in the fermenter. Issues with hot and cold break going into the fermenter can cause Benzaldehyde to form in the beer, this could be what we tasted.

The amount of benzaldehyde that is formed in beer depends on a number of factors, including the type of yeast, the temperature of fermentation, and the pH of the wort. Higher temperatures and lower pH levels will lead to the formation of more benzaldehyde. The break is made up of proteins, carbohydrates, and other compounds. When the break is not removed from the fermenter, it can provide a food source for the yeast. This can lead to the production of more benzaldehyde.

As we said, all beers seem to improve with age, so best not to throw anything away, it will improve. The concept is definitely worth going for again – especially interested in the malt flavour here

My Belgian blonde

My Belgian blonde made with Pils and Styrian Golding gave a lemon/lime flavour to the beer leading to an almost fruity acidity. This example was bottle conditioned but I kegged some of the beer that was picking up strong farmyard flavours. The root cause was a dirty dip tube so we discussed ways to get the inside of thin pipes like this clean and sterile.

Styrian Golding is a hop variety that is known for its citrusy and herbal flavors. It is a great choice for brewing Belgian beers, as it can help to create a beer that is both flavorful and aromatic.

Superb Kolsch

Our last SMaSH was a superb Kolsch made with pils and Hallertau mittelfruh hops. Pin bright, beautifully carbonated with long lasting tight foam. Really crisp and dry with a faint sulphur aroma. This was of commercial quality and was made with Tesco spring water to get the mineral content just right. We’d previously been talking about yeasts packing down and the difference between US05 and other yeasts. The Kolsch lallemand yeast formed a clods of sediment that were really visible after the pour in the last bit left behind.

Ken’s Citra Pale

Vindication as we retried a super Citra hopped pale again. Ken nailed this brew – while not a SMaSH (I think it had some caramalt in there to bulk up the base of the beer) it was a great showcase for the citra hops. The wonderful aromas of lemon, lime, grapefruit – well basically citrus fruits right? Excellent.

 The SMaSH month showed how much complexity and variety can be found even when only using one hop one malt. It doesn’t have to be a complex blend of ingredients to make a fantastic beer.

Oh it’s an Eisbock

The meeting started with me drying out after an ill conceived idea to cycle in through the pouring rain. It also highlighted my poor memory when Ed walked in with 25kg of floor malted Maris otter that he had gotten by mistake. He’d very kindly offered to divvy it up to anyone who wanted some and everyone was very happy to receive it. It also gave us the opportunity to see an “ancient” Chinese grain scoop, which Alistair brought to fill a bucket. The grain scoop was a simple design, but it worked perfectly.

We had seven beers tonight – a great haul – and with no theme a real mix of styles. First up was Alan’s raspberry saison rebrewed. It was a great fruity, zingy, and mouthwatering summer drink. The saison characteristics were less pronounced than in the previous version of the beer, which led to some discussion about whether under- pitching yeast can give saison flavors. Maybe stressing the yeast a little increases the esters and phenols that give the beer it’s funky flavours?

The second beer was a beautiful Citra-based APA. The hops exploded with citrus aromas, and the beer was really bright. It was made with Kviek Oslo yeast, which demonstrated how simple good beer can be in terms of recipe. It also led to general agreement that 14C is the optimum temperature to dry hop at if you can control temperature.

Number three was a Red Rye ale that the group christened “Dishwater!” It was very murky looking, but it tasted good. This led to a discussion about the use of finings to clear beers. The group discussed everything from simple use of gelatine sheets to two-stage professional fining systems.

Next up was a textbook example of an ESB. The caramel and toffee flavors were balanced well against the bitterness of EKG hops. There were yeasty fruity notes that made me wonder if the beer was stronger, could it even transform to a Belgian dubbel with a slight recipe tweak?

The fifth beer was a surprise: a Squid stout (actually made with cuttlefish ink because it’s brown not blue). The beer still needed more colour to get into stout territory, so the group discussed some viable non-gluten options that could be used; Treacle, Mollasses and Candi sugar. The aroma however was pure marmite – really meaty. This is usually from yeast autolysis, but this was a young beer so maybe not. Maybe it’s the meaty taste of the deep sea ingredients?

Google tells me (as I knew nothing of it) that squid ink is a dark ink produced by squid as a defense mechanism. It is used in a variety of dishes, including pasta, rice, and sauces. It has a unique dark color and rich, savory flavor – this could explain things. Squid ink contains many unique compounds, including melanin, and has a variety of uses, including culinary ones.

The sixth beer was a surprising Dunkle bock that last month was very bland and nothingy. Six weeks in a keg had transformed this into a dark sweet desert beer! The group had no idea how this had changed so much? I have however worked out exactly what’s happened. My keg fridge is temperature controlled by an Inkbird and set at 6C. That’s what the display reads now. However I opened up the lid tonight to find it full of ice and the colling running. The temperature sensor was iced up and still reading 6C. I think what’s happened is the water in the beer has frozen and we were drinking the high alcohol remnants. An inadvertent EisBock. I’ve no idea what strength it is but think I’ll bottle the rest of the keg! I’ve also a second keg in there with a Brewdog Elvis Juice clone in it. I’ll get a bottle of that as well for us to try next month.

The final beer of the night was a beer that the group had been worried about – an entry to the Chertsey brew competition that had been called “undrinkable.” But it wasn’t! It was a good pale ale – British hops coming through nicely and clean and bright. The thinking was it could have been too young, too green at the competition and had conditioned nicely. In brewing, time is your friend.

All in all, it was a really strong month in terms of beer quality. Next month – April – is the SMaSH theme – may well be some Maris otter beers there. In June we agreed a theme of Summer Lovin’ – light refreshing beers for drinking in a pub garden or at a hot BBQ – Alan’s saison is a prime candidate for this.

Cheers!

Post Script June 2023

So I decided to enter the Eisbock into the Lab Open 2023 Homebrew contest (Link) and was over the moon to get placed Third on the Strong Lager table. Everyone loves a rosette eh?

The Spoils

A shedload of Stout

Is a shedload the right word for a lot of stout? An Oil tanker? A Swimming pool? I’m not sure there’s an official term but whatever we decide it is that’s what we had at the February meeting. As well as a lot of beers it was great to see a lot of people. A couple of new members and great to see some old faces again.

Fifteen beers is a good old session and we had some superb specimens. I think there’s a wealth of stout brewing capability in this group. We need to turn our hand to malting and come up with a way to get the dark colour into Gluten Free grains. The first beer was a GF Stout but suffered from low colour. The use of tea in the recipe, I think, helped with the dark flavours but there’s a solution to the increasing the colour out there somewhere.

We then had a couple of versions of the same beer – Camden’s Ink – two great dry stouts the biggest difference that jumped out was the body. The beer with amazing body, much fuller than the 4.5% abv warrants was mashed at 66.5C. So there was a lot of surprise and discussion about how high this seemed, but it obviously worked. Both these beers were great examples of a stout in terms of both recipe and execution. It also led into a discussion about how using a higher mash temperature could inject a fuller body into Gluten free beers. Mashing these in at 68-70C may have a dramatic increase in unfermentable dextrins that would add to the mouthfeel of these beers.

We had a little jaunt away from Stout-land with a malty clean schwarzbier and discussed the use of oxygen scavenging caps , really useful if you’re planning on keeping your beers for a long time. This was followed by a Dunkel Weiss which was drinkable but lacked a little in the banana aroma department and had quite an acidic bite. The source of this acidity was discussed and various potential reasons were proposed.

Back on the stouts we delved into commercial samples – see what we’re aiming for. One of these was a beer brewed using Kviek yeast – something we’ve often discussed – the strong coffee and chocolate and full body were something we could all aim for. I’d recommend Mammoth brewery’s Aguacatones breakfast coffee stout A great beer.

Back to the homebrew and we get right back onto a return star we’ll now call Mt Vesuvius. The Cherry and tequila soaked oak chip stout we’ve tasted rounding out over the past few months has fantastic flavours but is a lively beast. It took some opening and we lost a very high proportion of the bottle to excessive foam loss, but it was worth it.

Alan’s cooking stout we tasted while the explosive beer settled down to pouring effervescence and this was a treat. A classic dry stout with a subtle flavour of dandelion & burdock from a Barr’s pop lorry a happy reminiscence. We followed this up with a triple Christmas stout comparison. The same beer made for the last three Christmas’s from 2020 to 2022. The flavour changes were noticeable as the beer aged, some slight oxidation flavours in the older bottles gave a sherry note, the others were enormous with a lot of complex flavours marrying together in a way that clearly rounds out over time. Maybe the oxygen scavenging caps are perfect for beers that are to be aged like these.

Our last stout of the night – not the last drink mind – was a strong 7.5% boozy brew that had a slight apple flavour to it we couldn’t pin down. Was it red apples or maybe even soft fruits? However the beer was one you could sit down with a big cigar in front of a roaring fire on a dark winter’s night. Stout level completed we rounded off the night with some fruit.

Brining the bananas was a classic representation of a Hefeweizen. Bang on spec, doing everything as it should, cloudy, thick white head and the distinctive aroma and taste direct from Germany.

For desert we ended with two meads. My first time drinking mead and I can say I’m a fan. I was expecting honey but got a zingy, refreshing, smell of springtime from the elderflowers and punchy in your face fruit-acidity in the red fruit version. The flavours belied the strength of the beverages and you could easily see yourself sipping a lot more of these than you expected to.

We ended the evening finishing off the remaining beers and agreeing that the Old Windsor Horticulture show can act as our annual homebrew contest as they have rosettes and a judge known to like strong sweet beers. The idea was floated to all brew the same recipe for this, something we will discuss further I’m sure as ew have until the beginning of September to get our act together.

We also agreed on a theme for April. SMaSH. This is a Single Malt, Single Hop brew. Something you can use to highlight of experiment with a malt or hop variety you want to shine through. That’s the only requirement, one hop type, one malt type. Your mashing, hop additions, yeast, water additions etc etc are still a free for all. I look forward to trying them.

Cheers.

(Note : updated 27 FEB 2023 following an error on the mash temperature used to make the Ink Stout)

Gluten Free Zone

Gluten free month started with me admitting I had cocked up my brew. I had great intentions of brewing some sort of Belgian style Dubbel. I had loads of GF cereals and plenty of enzyme to convert them. Except I didn’t. I had some AMG from Malt Miller and thought I had some Amylase from a previous life. However I did not have any amylase. This meant after mashing in, and realising what I was missing, I added the AMG and hoped that would work. It didn’t I had 30 litres of hot flour water basically. And it stayed like that for hours while I wondered how to save it.

Not Wort

Fun fact. Honey is a source of Amylase. This is an issue when making BBQ sauces that contain it as over the shelf life the enzyme breaks down starches in the sauce to sugars These are much less viscous. This means the sauce loses it’s body and turns to a thin liquid. Not so fun fact, this takes months to happen so adding honey to your mash doesn’t breakdown the starches in there. It just adds expensive honey to something you’re going to end up dumping.

Luckily other members had a lot more success and we had some beers to get stuck into. First up was a lager brewed using Sorghum. This had a really fruity aroma and flavour to it. So much that you could mistake if for a pale ale dry hopped with a lot of American hops. So it was drinkable but not quite to style. We discussed what might have caused the yeast to kick out such flavours – especially as the temp was controlled through fermentation.

Next up was a GF Belgian Wit. Really characteristic of the style with the spicy notes and after-taste of bitter orange coming through strong. It would be hard to say this didn’t have wheat (as it’s name demands) in it. We then went back to a beer I had tried before. This was entered into the Chertsey homebrew competition back in December mimicking the supplied Burton Pale Ale recipe provided. The extra few weeks in the bottle had done this the world of good. It had conditioned beautifully and we thought is a great chassis to build other beers on. A foundation beer that was great on its own but you could see the possibilities that a different hop regime could bring to this.

We then made a rookie mistake. I made a Ginger ale as the ingredients (140g Ginger, 200g Sugar, 2 x Lemon Juice & Kviek yeast to give 2 Litres) are all gluten free. It’s a great and simple recipe, really nice on a hot summer day, but ginger does pack a flavour punch so trying it mid-flight does sort of blast your tastebuds a little as well as making the glass and room smell of ginger for quite some time.

So for me the the next non-GF beer we tried. A clean cold Kolsch had a distinct ginger flavour/aroma to it. However I’m certain the beer itself was a great example. We discussed the usefulness of brewing a Kolsch as it’s much more forgiving than a traditional lager and yet can easily pass for one with friends and family who are less discerning in their appreciation of beers. It’s the ideal brew to make for a family BBQ for instance where everyone will pile into it and assume it’s ‘lager’.

We finished the evening with the return of the cherry & chocolate, tequila oaked stout we tried before Christmas. Again time has been a friend to this beer. The chocolate flavour was outstanding – a lot of this coming from the use of Phoenix hops which are described as bringing ” mild spicy, chocolate and molasses” aromas. These seem to be an ideal hop choice for a stout like this where you’re aiming for that Black forest gateaux flavours.

As an afterthought we tried a little experiment adding some Ginger beer to the stout. While we didn’t quite get the ideal ratio this did show that ginger is an ingredient that would work well in this style of beer.

Lastly I need to say thanks again to Lee who made me one of these amazing bottle carriers for me to carry beers to future meetings. The workmanship and quality are outstanding thank you!

Outstanding craftmanship

Next month is Stout month so looking forward to some deep dark beers. Cheers.

Cold cans

Another new location for the club meeting this month – we were in the midst of the brewery next to the new canning line and Matt Stead gave us a quick overview of how it’s going. While it was interesting and pretty cool to be in the heart of the brewery it was pretty cold in there. Luckily we had a beer or two to warm us up as you’d hope.

We had a massive range of beers to try this month and started the evening with a non-beer beverage. A super neighbour’s-apples winter cider. Really sharp but with added cranberry and other flavours added to give it a bit of a Christmassy vibe. This was followed up with more fruit – a gluten-free grapefruit IPA. This was a great sessionable IPA that could probably take even more fruit – pile in the zest in the fermenter as well as the boil.

The next beer was a lovely dark mild – a great example of the style and something I could imagine enjoying in a country pub on a cold dark afternoon a real seasonable beer.

I brought in my entry to the Craft beer channel vs Meantime English IPA competition run by the Malt Miller as well as the can of the Now IPA that inspired the competition. I’ll be honest I wasn’t that keen on my own beer. It was hopped only with Olicana hops – I’d never used these before – and I just felt it tasted of Spangles. Also despite dry hopping with 100g in 20L there was no hop aroma at all. I put it down to dry hopping at 5C instead of my usual 14C. Something I’ll not do again.

We ramped the quality of beers right back up with a couple of stouts after this. Both strong beers one flavoured with cherries and oak chips soaked in tequila. The second also conditioned on oak chips. This was a fascinating insight into how aging really rounds out, softens and improves beers. One of the beers was aged significantly more than the other and the sharper jagged flavours in the newer beer were noticeable. The good news it this will definitely age into something super.

We ended the session with a real 2-cigar next to a log fire barley wine. Aged over a year (I think) this was a fantastic well balanced strong beer that would be a perfect after-dinner end to an evening. Beautiful.

That’s it for this year – we’ve no December meeting (it would fall on Christmas) – but we do have the Chertsey brew competition on the 10th December with the club being well represented. So fingers crossed. What will be interesting – and it could be an opportunity for someone as there’s also a pie and vodka infusion competition at the same time. It will be a great afternoon I’m certain.

Remember January is our gluten-free challenge. I’ve been emptying out the gluten-free isle at Sainsbury’s in preparation. Look forward to seeing what everyone else brews in 2023.

Merry Christmas & a happy new year!

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