Tag Archives: homebrew

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!

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

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!

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

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!

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.