Better late than never

Yes I agree this is very late isn’t it? Forget? Me? That’s madness. While I may have moved 180miles away my number one priority is to this club. You can take that to the bank. Well that and cutting the grass, and that TV isn’t going to put itself up and – really this is important – recommissioning the shed brewery.

The downside to leaving it this long is my aging memory means the night was just a beautiful hazy beer filled night of chuckles.

Let’s see what the notes say shall we? It certainly looks an eclectic night from these eh?

I now remember my first Kombucha which may be an acquired taste, Alan’s mystery beer – which was obviously a wheat beer

Owen’s Light Heart US IPA clone showed off the usefulness of RO water in the Windsor area for use in pale beers and sparked a bit of a discussion about a clone wars competition idea for the future. (Who can get closest to the beer of their choice type affair)

We enjoyed Alistair’s newest brewing gadget – a really cool keg and discussed how dark a pale ale can be? We revisited our hop nemesis Cryohop blend again and found Lee’s beer to be beautifully conditioned (While still managing to have a go at the hops!)

Then for a couple of European beauties from Ken a Vienna fermented with a bit of McGuyver style engineering using a Swamp chiller and a multi-yeast lovely Belgian Dubbel. This led onto plans for a Belgian coach trip – something we were all down for.

My own contribution – as the brewery wasn’t yet built at home – was a beer from my new local favourite St mars Of the Desert. A huge stout of a beer from a wonderful – if oddly located in the middle of nowhere – tap room.

Upcoming dates for the diary;

  • June meeting is Guess the brewery – with Byzantine rules and a baffling scoring system it’s sure to be as confusing as it is fun!
  • Ealing Beer Festival is 10th-13th July in Walpole park
  • Windsor beer festival – where we hope to serve some homebrew beers again – is at the brewery July 26th – 28th
  • Second Love & Beer festival 14th September at Hackney brewery (I think)
  • BrewCon 2024 maybe in October? TBC

When is a Porter not a Porter? When it’s a Mild

When is a Porter not a Porter?  When it’s a Mild.  Or when it’s a stout. And when is a Baltic Porter not a ‘Porter’? When it’s ‘Baltic’.  These critical questions and even fewer were very thoroughly debated and deliberated at the WEHomebrew Dark Ale themed meeting, on the last Wednesday of March.  And you may not be surprised to hear that our answers to these existential philosophies were: A. Inconclusive. B. Confused. C. Wrong.  Otherwise we hit the nail cleanly on the head and came away with a thorough knowledge of dark beer styles.

We hope the move went well Ian.

Our deliberations were helped by the sheer quantity of beer on offer at the meeting, with the five brewers in attendance delivering a mouthwatering array of 8 beers.  We were however without our club Chair, Ian, who took the questionable decision to prioritise moving house on that day, rather than attending WEHomebrew.  In a club first, a motion was raised, seconded, and unanimously agreed that this was a terrible ordering of priorities, and that Sheffield isn’t that far away really, and the journey would have been easier, faster and much more fun after 8 pints of WEHomebrew’s finest offerings.  Regardless, we honoured our club Chair, by saluting his usual seat (as shown above, distressingly empty), and we reminisced on his very encouraging approach to all of us keen amateurs. On several occasions Owen has remarked  that the quality of the beers offered each month has improved greatly over the last two years – and we all agree that he is right.  Not that they were ever bad, but the consistency, flavour and inventiveness of WEHomebrew beers has gone from strength to strength.  So thanks Ian for helping us develop our styles and techniques, share the joy of success and smack the bottom of off flavours.  Luckily our Chair informs us that his work continues to bring him to Windsor on the last Wednesday of each month, for which we are thankful, for we still have much to learn Sensai!

The evening progressed working from lowest ABV at 3.6%, to the downright liver picklers  in excess of 8%.  Satisfyingly, three Milds were on offer to get the ball rolling, from Alan, Owen and Lee, all of which had a wonderful dark aspect that glowed ruby with he patented torch test.   Alan came in at 3.6%, a lovely smokey note on the back of toasted malt. A beautifully coloured ale, and with a high depth of flavour, but with a delicate mouthfeel also.   Owen was proudly exhibiting his first brew using water from his home RO kit.  This came with a sweet syrup smell, almost bubblegum, but with a flavour that was absent of candy flavour, but high in malty goodness.  And to round of the Mild opening, Lee’s 4%+ was a delight, again with a roasted aspect but Lee fessed up at just over 4%, was it strictly a Mild?  But as discussed earlier, we’re not really sure we can define a Mild beyond describing it as dark, sessionable, with a nice gentle malt, so we all agreed that it was a Mild, and anyone who disagrees should stick to Babycham.  What a great trio and a delightful start to the evening.

A dazzling smorgasboard of dark and not so dark beers. You need to top those glasses up chaps.

Next up, we had an interlude from the ‘dark’ theme and cleansed our pallets with three lighter coloured offerings from Alan (his second beer of the night), Ed and Owen (his second offering also). Ed presented a wonderful bright  SMASH Cascade, 3.9%. A nice foamy head which lasted down the glass and tasting to a dry finish with a very nice cascade flavour coming through. As always from Ed a gluten friendly beer this one I recall with a strong millet component in the recipe.  Moving on then to Alan’s Wheat Beer, at 4.5% and apparently not called ‘Hazy Dazy’ despite what the bottle may say.  This one definitely nailed the banana flavours, helped by brewing at a 25C, and as we understand a favourite with Alan’s other half also (good call Alan).  On to Owen’s second offering of the night – a Cryopop.  You may remember we had mixed results previously here, to put it mildy with the Cyropop brand, with us all struggling to get much hoppiness.  Not to be daunted, Owen took his kegged Cryo-ale, and chucked in a good amount of mosaic into the keg, as a last ditch effort, and left it to dry hop for what I believe was an astonishing 6 weeks, allowing us to sup on the goodness of mosaic.  So nice to have a result with the cryopop although I fell this is more attributable to the tenacity of the brewer rather than Takema Chief.

Heading to the later part of the evening with the two higher strength offerings, opening up  with Lee’s Baltic Porter.  This was a fun experiment, as this brew was made with the same recipe as his Mild, but splitting the runnings out, with the first mash liquor going to the Porter, and the lower gravity sparge water making up the Mild.  And an excellent Porter it was, dark, and luscious, very full bodied.  A great toasty feel and a touch of caramel. This pair from Lee definitely opened the conversation further on the Mild/Porter/Stout conundrum.  A little further ‘googling’ has told me that  Porters ‘originating in 18th Century London, descending from Brown Ales, and drunk by Street and river porters, should be dark brown or black’.  ‘A stout, was, apparently, first known as Stout Porter as a stronger version of stouts’.  But what of a Baltic Porter?  According to Craftbeer.com  ‘Baltic-style Porter is a smooth, cold-fermented and cold-lagered beer brewed with lager yeast’ which fits with Owen’s thoughts on the need for a lager yeast for a Baltic. But then according to hopculure.com, ‘created in the Baltic countries the Baltic porter gained fame when introduced to London’s working class: porters, who often loaded ships and traded with the Baltic states — hence the name.’  So are we any clearer?  Perhaps.  Did we enjoy the Milds and Porters? Yep.

And finally we brought the evening to a conclusion with a Belgian Dubbel  from Ken. A wet yeast problem here as the original Trappist Ale White Labs yeast showed little signs of activity after 36 hours, leading to the addition of an English dry yeast, and a rapidly acquired dried trippel yeast.  But it seemed to come out pretty good, mahogany coloured, full bodied, spice with caramel, with a rather striking 8.5% ABV.  An of course, probably never likely to be recreated with such a mysterious fermentation schedule.

And so we left brewclub eight beers down, and feeling warm and toasty. April and May are ‘freestyle’, whatever floats your boat.  June is ‘Who Would Brew a Beer Like this’?  Inspired by Lee’s observation that all brewers have their own ‘flavour signatures’ we will be testing the hypothesis that in a blind taste testing, on any style, we can guess the brewer. Beers will be ‘randomised’ by  an adjuticator (victim yet to be named), and to make it more fun, a ringer will be added from the WEBrewery tap.  Also, a ridiculously over contrived and complicated scoring system is in the works, but with a focus on who can identify the brewer, so less focus this time on ‘beer critique’.

https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=982807543845141&set=a.534142845378282&locale=en_GB

And finally, WE Brewery have their beer festival on 26-28 July.  We have been invited as amateur brewers to showcase our best, so we have a booth where we can bring our own keg of beer.  Pale Ales are great, but something ‘a bit different’ is fun.  If you don’t have a keg, the WEHomebrew members can always help find a way. 

Next meeting is Wednesday 24th April.

Loft conditioned goodness

A couple of loft experiences this month and while the first one was intentional the second was surprising. We started off with a non-alcoholic Hop Water commercial product that Ed brought along. We’d talked about these previously and it was interesting to see they really are just hop flavoured (Well more scented than flavoured) sparkling waters. This was a product by Manchester brewery Track and the aroma from the clear sparkling liquid was an intense hop loft. Fresh hops out of a vacuum pack, lemon and bright citrus – as you’d expect from Citra hops. The flavour was less – it was simply sparkling water I thought. It felt like a really grown up 0% ABV beverage for a summer beer garden.

We moved on from this sophisticated grown up drink to Unicorn beer. This was a stove-top 1 gallon kit brewed by Malcolm that should have been pink in colour with glitter. Thankfully the beetroot for colour (Surely it would add a soil flavour?) and the glitter were left out so it ended up being a clean pale ale style beer. Being a kit we did have a guess at trying to work out what the hops and grist were. It was quite fruity and the link above seems to indicate Amarillo and Mosiac. Seems about right

We followed this up with a paradox. How do you enter the SIBA homebrew contest where the concept is the best tasting Wheat beer in the UK when you’re a Gluten Free brewer. If you’re Ed you raid a vegetarian’s store cupboard and brew a light, refreshing Belgian Wit. Mashed with Teff, Millet, Quinoa, Rice and Lentils the beer was extremely light in colour, held a good white foam and had the gentle estery pear aroma. There was a lot of yeast handling discussion about how to get the best from the Lalbrew yeast; pitch rates and fermentation temperatures as well as considering the use of car wash water.

Lee had also been to visit the car wash to get the benefit a beautiful soft water as befits a wonderful Kolsh. Really clean and fast and wonderfully conditioned the yeast benefitted from a cool fermentation due to an absent son and a switched off radiator. I thought I picked up an English style hop aroma despite the use of hallertau mittelfruh. More down to my lack of sensitivity than the German hops going British I Imagine.

We had a return up next – a re-drink of Ken’s Cryo-hop entry – Polar Beer – again we discussed our disappointment with the cryo-hops and wondered if the fact the samples we snagged were out of date may be part of the reason for this. We also saw a little bottle to bottle differentiation. The first bottle having some astringency that wasn’t evident in the brighter and fresher tasing second bottle. Full marks for the use of AI in producing the excellent label – that really is the future. No more messing about with powerpoint.

Our second loft example was from Alistair who’d taken the unusual process step of bottle conditioning a beer in his loft for 2 or 3 years. While that wasn’t intentional (We all have bottles of brew stashed away in forgotten locations) the huge temperature fluctuations we get in our loft: Ice cold in winter and oven hot in summer, are not ideal storage conditions for aging beer. So how did this fare? It was actually really well conditioned. It had obviously kept fermenting in the time as it was highly carbonated – meaning a slow opening or a beer explosion – and had some considerable amount of sediment at the bottom. On tasting it wasn’t bad. Really complex is how you might describe the host of flavours fighting for attention, surprisingly drinkable for a not-to-be-repeated experiment.

Mine was the last beer and, as I am soon to be moving house, it is sadly the last beer I’ll brew in my Old Windsor shed brewery. It was a schwarzbier that is quite light and fruity with some dark flavours coming through. I’m hoping to enter this in the Lager than life homebrew competition and so look forward to seeing how it scores there.

We ended the night remembering Lee’s brilliant idea for a club competition we will aim to host in June we’re going to call (Loyd Grossman voice) “Who would brew a beer like this?” We think after trying each other’s beers so often now we can pick out each member’s brewing style in a blind tasting. While we’re still working out the logistics there’ll be two winners. The best identifier and the most confusing brewer. With the spanner in the works of throwing in a Ringer beer from the brewery this should be an interesting test of our sensory prowess.

Cheers.

The Cryohop results

So back last year we acquired a hop loft full of hops following our visit out to BrewCon. Chief amongst the hoard were Yakima Hops Cryohop blend. We divvied up the hops and agreed to bring back beers using them to compare in February. So here we were and we lined up the brews while welcoming a new member into our fold.

With nine beers to get sample it was always going to be a good evening and we had a bit of variety away from hoppy ales as well to finish the night off. Half a dozen hop experimental beers first and then a real mix to finish the evening off.

We welcomed new member Malcolm along and were suitably impressed with photos of his RIMS set up built from kegs during lockdown. Especially impressive was the counterflow tube-in-tube heat exchanger. Nice work. It was good to discuss some of the issues he was seeing with the beers being brewed and hopefully identifying the off flavour as phenolic and using the beer fault guide and experience in the room we’ve, hopefully, given some thoughts on how to fix it.

It was also good to welcome John back after a while and he brought some beers for the end.

So how did the beers compare? Let’s get analytical and build a table. What I wouldn’t give for a lovely Venn diagram though….

Who’s beerHops usedComments
EdCryohop & TalusA 4.1% GF beer based on Millet, Quinoa, Buckwheat and Amaranth. A clean beer but very low hop aroma. An odd aroma that we put down to the first appearance of Amaranth in a beer, but it didn’t follow through to the taste.
OwenPure CryohopThis beer had quite a sweet flavour that could have had more bitterness to balance it out a bit. The aromas were very sweet as well with mentions of toffee, sweet fruits and confectionary.
IanCryohop & HBC586We have hops! Fruity passionfruit and grapefruit aroma however due to a freezer issue the beer itself was a little thin maybe because of a freezer issue repeating the Eisbock fiasco.
AlanCryohop, Amarillo & bittered with ChallengerA lovely pop indicating an brilliantly conditioned beer on opening, this poured like a traditional English IPA and would have been better suited to Traditional hops. The exotic fruitiness of these hops could have been improved by using the more earthy, floral English hops.
LeeEukanot & Idaho 7An out of spec beer in terms of strength – 6.5% – meant for a great beer. Full bodied and a little darker than Alan’s again this felt like a full on traditional English IPA. There was faint hop aroma but this is a beer that works excellently for a dark cold January night. Again – more traditional hops perhaps?
KenCryohop & HBC586Houston we have hops. Again the fruity aroma shines through in this out of spec beer (Inaugural brew on new Brewzilla kit – so getting the efficiency right). The bottles conditioned beers showed the US-05 yeast welded to the bottom of the bottles. Something we’d earlier had a discussion on the pros & cons of this yeast. Another dark English IPA style in appearance and a great beer. Maybe this should be a style we all explore in the future.
Cryohop beers

All in all we were quite disappointed in the lack of hoppiness we encountered from these Cryohop blends. It seems blending with the HBC586 works well for the aroma and also dry hopping into still fermenting beer – looking for biotransformation – gave improved aromas. That seems to be the key to getting the best out of this blend.

We also had some additional beers to round off the night John brought in two beautifully labelled beers a Yuzu Saison and a Russian Imperial stout. The saison had really great typical saison aroma and the citrus of the added yuzu really came through in the flavour. In order to get more on style the carbonation could have been increased quite significantly. The use of a carbonation calculator like the one linked here would have helped for priming the bottles.

The Russian imperial stout felt like a perfect beer to end the night on. Really well conditioned and carbonated. Sweet and strong – a shoe in for the Old Windsor competition – a really impressive beer with the sticky toffee pudding flavour lingering on the palate after tasting.

We really cocked up though – we should have finished on the intense flavours of the stout but then remembered Owen’s pressure fermented lager. This placing in the taste order probably did it no favours as it was hard to pick out any flavours. That said in a lager like this subtlety is exactly what you’re going for. Maybe some faint ester flavours complementing lightness of the body worked well and the bitterness was balanced perfectly to give the beer a lift. The pressure fermentation keeps the yeast in control even at high temperatures for a lager yeast.

As ever a great evening and we agreed the March theme. Something dark…

Hops Galore

As well as a host of Green hop beers to try this month we also got to divvy up the hoppy spoils from our visit to Brewcon last month. We spent quite a bit of time chatting with the Yakima Chief Hops people, learning about their company and seeing a lot of photos about their harvesting and processing operations in the States. On top of all that good stuff we also managed to snag a host of samples, a hop loft full.

Packs of Yakima Chief hops

Most of the samples included the hop blend they call Cryopop a proprietary blend of their cryohops that can act as an amplifier of the hops you’re using or even a Citrus-Stonefruit-Tropical blend of hops to give a real fruity intense hoppy flavour to your beer. That said we did look through a lot of descriptions of hops online and found that different hop types are often described as a combination of these three words. Oh Galaxy hops eh? They have a lovely Stonefruit-Citrus-Tropical aroma, I love Mosiac and the Tropical-Stonefruit-Citrus punch it delivers…

Despite this limited vocabulary issue we issued out a pack of Cryopop and A.N.Other pack of Yakima hops with the plan that we use a combination of these two hops into an ‘IPA’ ready for our meeting in January. Details of the agreed recipe guidelines can be found here.

Sorting all that out took a bit longer than we expected and there was a clamour to get down to the proper business of our meetings and get to the beer drinking. As advertised this month was Green Hop month – something we agreed should be an annual tradition as it gives a guaranteed outlet for the homegrown hops many of us have in our gardens or allows the wild foraging of the hops we see all over the hedgerows to actually result in a beer.

So we had four different beers made with fresh hops a couple of Gluten free lagers a dark smoky porter and then a bright and lively Mead to end the night on along with a sophisticated surprise.

We kicked of with a revisit of Owen’s Green Hop golden ale. A lovely light and bright refreshing beer, where the delicate flavour of the Earnest and Golding hops gave a flowery and spring-like freshness to the beer that may have faded a little since last month but not significantly. A lovely session beer.

We moved onto Ed’s two variations on a lager theme. His devotion to getting a Gluten free recipe nailed down and focusing on changing the controllable parameters and building on the learnings from each brew is testament to his scientific training. One of the Brewcon speakers talked a lot about the techniques and requirements to get the most out of your yeast. Things like Zinc, oxygen and Free amino nitrogen levels. While much research and understanding has been written around malt based beers the change of grist removing cereals that contain gluten means that all that knowledge is more guidance then detailed instructions. So the recipe and process development continues. The two lagers this month were very different. One was fined and the appearance showed a difference because of this and both were relatively young. This was apparent as both beers had a noticeable sulphur aroma that will probably fade with time. The other difference was the older beer had a really citrussy-fruity juice flavour that was very pleasant and balanced well with the beer’s acidity but a little out of character for a lager. Would be a fine pale ale.

We moved onto an even younger beer, Ken’s green hop pale. This had only been packaged a few days ago and it’s greenness was apparent. However hiding behind the diacetyl butterscotch flavour (that will fade quickly as the yeast takes it back up) was a nice beer waiting to appear. Three drops of 150g of fresh cascade hops were apparent in the aroma and flavour and I hope this 5.5% Pale ale will make a return to see what sort of beer it will condition into.

Onto our third green hop beer of the night and Lee had experimented with a hop addition schedule for his homegrown cascade hops. Adding a handful of the hops every minute through the boil is a laborious endeavour but it led to a real fruity grapefruit flavoured beer. This was overlaid on a base beer that had a saison like characteristic, a spiciness and estery aroma and taste that was surprising as you wouldn’t expect this from the choice of yeast and fermentation profile used. However it was a happy accident as this worked as a farmhouse beer and was very drinkable.

The last Green hopped beer was a little more challenging. A lack of care and precision when weighing out my malt meant that what was supposed to be 6% beer turned into a 8.7% beer, that’s a lot of beer. As it is a saison it followed nicely from Lee’s but the intensity of the beer and the fact I didn’t adjust the bittering hop charge for the higher gravity meant it was a little unbalanced, a little too sweet but maybe something that could be sipped on a long winter night.

We moved onto a beer that really was set up for dark, cold November nights; Alan’s Smoked porter. The sophisticated grist and incorporation of Rauch malt meant that the beer felt bigger than its 4.4% strength. The smoky aroma was striking on the nose but subtle when tasted – the perfect balance. I’ve struggled previously with Rauchbiers but this was a welcome smoky flavour that didn’t overwhelm. A really silky body that reminded us of an old fashioned smoky pub on a rainy winter’s night.

A final lovely surprise to the evening was the pairing of a wonderful delicate 10.5% mead created from orange blossom honey that was the perfect complement to Lee’s wonderful membrillo accompanied by a manchego cheese. A step up in sophistication from our usual crisp based sustenance and an elevated end to the evening.

In conclusion, our Green Hop month was a delightful journey filled with hoppy flavors, experimentation, and sophisticated surprises. Cheers!

Cryo pop Challenge

As per the meeting report from October 23 our first meeting of 2024 will be the Yakima Chief hop Cryo pop challenge. Brew a beer within the following guidelines ready for the January 31st 2024 meeting.

Style

An IPA – make of that what you like. This link here is what Siren Craft brewery make of the style but there’s a wide variety of beers types to choose from.

Grist

Brewers choice as this will very much depend on the style, however there is a range for the finished product ABV. Aim for a beer between 4.5-5.0%

Yeast

After much deliberation we settled on US-05 – something that will get out of the way of the hop flavours and aromas.

Hops

Now to the main course. Only two hop types are allowed. Cryopop and one other type. The hop addition timings and amounts are the brewer’s choice but the aim of the challenge is to showcase the hop flavours and aromas. So aim for something with punch.

Good luck!

Championes!

No not the tasty French woodland fungus but the champions of the world. And by the world I mean the prize giving for the most important Homebrew competition of the year. The Old Windsor handicraft, horticulture and produce show where – drum roll please – we managed a wealth of rosettes. A triumph of brewing excellence that unearthed a new preference in the judging. No longer dark and sweet, now strong and spicy. Note for 2024.

To celebrate such an important event we were lucky enough to have fancy glasses in the brewery boardroom and special glasses deserved some special beers.

And ciders. First up was a fresh ’23 Cider from neighbour apples. Tangy, fresh and zesty, a lovely rose colour from the cranberry juice added both sparkling and bright. The technical specification of one wheelbarrow of apples to 20 litres of cider is a metric I will long remember.

We stayed Gluten free for the next couple of drinks. A direct comparison of the impact of a yeast nutrient on the sensory characteristics of a GF lager. The difference was clear – a significant improvement – where the control, lacking the additive, had a sweet diacetyl flavour that coupled with apples to give a surprising toffee apple taste the special was much cleaner and faster. A good beer showing an important improvement, but one that could still take some more bitterness maybe to make it sharper still.

A month earlier than expected was a green hop blonde ale from Owen next. Using Challenger to set the bitterness and then finishing with green Ernest and Golding hops it gave a fresh, hedgerow, English countryside aroma on a full body. The grist is a brilliant base for letting hops express themselves and it will be interesting to see how this matures and conditions over the next four weeks till the official Wet hop week in October.

More punchy hop aroma next as we tasted Alan’s Siren Soundwave clone kit from the Malt Miller. The three C hops gave an expected powerful and vibrant fruity aroma as you’d expect. A taste directly against a can of Soundwave showed this brew to be even more pungent than the commercial variety. The colour, however, was surprisingly dark compared to the canned beer. Obviously some differences in the malt bill used here. As it was a kit it’s hard to know what that might entail.

Ramping up the hops again we enjoyed Alistair’s amped up IPA. Somewhere between 6-7% this harked back to the days when IPAs were bitter and their were wars between breweries over who could cram in the most bittering hops into their beers. Because of the strength and darker malt bill this easily carried the bitterness. A great example of a Westie from the 2000s.

Finally we ended on a rebrew of my Alt Bier. This was different to the first brew a little more fruity and complex – described accurately as a sweaty German aroma – and so a little off style. I think the last brew used some old Carafa malt to give it colour, this brew I had ordered some new and so the flavour was there that was missing last time.

I’ve been a little late writing this up, but it does give me the opportunity to tell you about Brewcon 2023 at Hackney brewery. A day on tour for the club with some really interesting talks, a lot of good brewing people to chat with and a bunch of free hops. The hops have been collated and we’ll be looking to see how we can do comparative brews and see what tunes we can play with the same recipes.

Cheers

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!