Tag Archives: Meeting

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

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)