What makes beer beer? The Germans and their Reinheitgebot law were certain they knew. Water, hops and barley. What happens if you can’t tolerate one of those ingredients? Do you give in and live a dismal existence existing on cider and wine like peasant? You do not. You use the might of technology and science available to you and you learn how to make beer with no barley and to hell with the 16th century Bavarian bureaucrats. And you do it well.
We welcomed a new member to the club who brought along a couple of very unusual beers. Gluten free brews made with sorghum and millet. It was – to be honest – a little trepidation I tried them and was pleasantly surprised. They were both beer, light in colour, hoppy in aroma, quite dry but very crisp. Great brews.
This brought the discussion around to gluten-free beers styles. With the pallet of colours and flavours that maltsters offer the brewer – how to make something other than a light coloured and flavoured beer using alternative cereals and ingredients. Give it some thought – this will definitely be a monthly challenge probably early next year. How would you make a full bodied stout or an ESB?
As well as the gluten-free beers we had a great selection of hop driven brews to sample. Pale ale, NEIPA, Grapefruit-IPA and Tropical Storm the Black-pale ale served at the WeBrew beer festival.
The range of hop flavours on display – including the intensity of a NEIPA made with Cryo hops got the technique discussion and comparisons flowing. The use of hop spiders, magnets and marbles(!), time and temperature there are so many levers you can pull to get the most out of the hop aromas and flavours. Swapping stories and techniques is – as always – a great way to spark ideas and prompt change in your own routines.
So this leads nicely into October’s meeting, planned for Wednesday 26th, we’ll be taking advantage of Owen’s flavour training kit again to look at the hop flavour components. So getting to know the following hop oil components; Myrcene – (fresh resinous hop character), Linalool – (spicy hop character), Geraniol – (floral hop character) and unfortunately Valeric acid – (cheesy, stale hop flavour).
On Saturday afternoon and night Lee and myself put a beer each up against the professionals as we served our wares up at the WE Brew beer festival 2022. As the beers weren’t in the official beer list we decided to call it the secret bar.
So I thought I’d share a few photos from the afternoon. We had a fantastic day – well I certainly did! – and got to share and talk about our beers with dozens of people and got some really good positive feedback. We also got the chance to talk about the brew club and try and recruits some more members.
Lee also got the good news that his beer won the Old Windsor show brewing competition!
I hope we can get the opportunity to do this again so other members can show off their talents.
Number one super guy. I love him but didn’t get it, the karate kicking hound looked good on the beer bottle label and I thought that was enough. Then it was pointed out he was Henry, the mild mannered janitor. Mild see! It was mild night at Homebrew club and puns were rolling. Welcome to the mild west.
Five different milds and an amazing amount of variation for what is essentially a very simple beer. The variations in colour firstly were very surprising when lined up. Individually you’d probably mark them all as black – but lined up and compared you could see the subtle range from pitch black down to a deep mahogany.
The flavours and aromas too held quite some variation. Malty caramels were abundant but beyond those there were liquorice and aniseed and smoke and chocolates. What – I think – was most welcome was the fact we all agreed milds are a good beer. I know there were reservations about the style, it’s a little old fashioned and unpopular – but it’s a great style, a real contrast against the hoppy pales that prevail.
The final Rye pale made with Motueka hops to give a light citrussy lemony flavour. And this sparked the conversation about the July theme. Back towards hops away from malts we decided the theme should be ‘West Coast’. As usual make of the theme what you will – the obvious West Coast IPA or maybe a California Steam beer or maybe something from Bristol! I look forward to seeing the interpretations.
We were lucky enough to have Paddy and Matt from the brewery with us in this month’s meeting and being back in the boardroom almost meant we lost someone in the bar. In the end it was all good though and we enjoyed some great discussions about the beers brought, enzyme use and parti-gyle brewing.
Before we got to the beers though Paddy and Matt were kind enough to spend some time talking about the history and brewing techniques and recipes you need to make a ‘bostin’ mild. I’ve captured what I can recall here so feel free to use these tips and points to make your own ahead of our Mild May meeting based on CAMRA’s Mild month! (That’s a mouthful that sentence)
First the history, and this is where the excellent ‘Designing great beers’ by Ray Daniels shows its value. The chapter looking at Brown ales and Milds gives a real historical view of their origins but the take away for me is that time was the choice in a pub was between a bitter and a mild, two beers at opposite ends of a spectrum. The bitter end is obviously just that, bitter, and the mild end focused on the malty side of the street. A Mild is a beer designed to showcase everything malt has to offer without the sharp tang of the hops taking up too much space.
The low strength many people associate with a Mild appears to be a newer phenomenon maybe based on ‘value engineering’ of recipes by the brewers as their popularity dwindled and they had to maintain the margins. Paddy created some notes around the recipe and process build – including the strength and I’ll share and explain those here. So first what would you aim for in terms of gravity, colour and bitterness.
So here we have the specification from two breweries Mitchell & Butler and Highgate. You can see the gravity here would give you a beer of about 4.0%. The interesting aspect of this is the PG. This is the gravity that the beer was filled into cask meaning the beer was quite actively fermenting still when it was packaged and so it really was extremely cask conditioned. The bitterness of around 24 is on a par with a modern commercial lager, enough to balance the sweetness but not overwhelm it. The colour here is quite dark – as I’d expect a mild – but the range can be from a chestnut up to black, so a lot of scope there.
What about the mash? This is a showcase for malt flavours and you can see here where they come from. The values relate to the mash tun at the brewery but the ratio would remain and then scaled down to your own mash tun size to yield 1035 or so. So a solid base of pale ale malt and then around 4% Crystal. This would probably be a medium colour crystal and then about half that amount of Black malt to get the colour up to where you like. Paddy’s tip was to aim low on the colour as you can always add more with liquid caramel (as per the recipes here) to increase it, but you can’t take it away. The 10% torrified barley and 6% malted wheat give you the body and thick head retention and then sugar as well. This is on top of priming sugar added into the cask. On top of the remaining gravity when filled that priming sugar would have made sure it was a real strong fermentation in the cask. I’ve no idea how it cleared. Note at the bottom Calcium Chloride. This should be added as opposed to gypsum to the mash liquor to emphasise the maltiness.
And finally the process details. You can see a slight difference in the mash temperatures between the two breweries here but it didn’t have much difference on the FG. The boil at Highgate you see is aiming for a massive loss of volume, over 8%, and at M&B it’s still high so a long boil is important, I wonder if that helps with the caramel and Maillard flavour development in the beers? Not mentioned in the notes are the hops. These were discussed but used only for their bittering properties the type of hop used is less important. Traditionally they would be English hops so for authenticity Fuggles perhaps, but they’ll not be adding too much to the finished product. We did discuss the likelihood that in the US an American twist on this beer would definitely be hop loaded – so not traditional but something that could be interesting.
Fermentation was pitched at a normal 17-19C and left to rise naturally up to 23-24C as the yeast got going. The relatively low OG should mean this would probably be done in 3-4 days – less if you move to cask with all those point of gravity left. So this is a quick beer to turnaround and it was often gone so fast in the midlands that it would expected to be drunk young. This means you’ve plenty of time to get yours done before the Meeting on the 25th May when Paddy will judge your efforts and interpretation.
It’s not too far away from our normal venue and, having had a drink in their in the past, I think is perfect for us. The reason for the temporary change is that unit 4 is hosting the Knightclub and launch of Windsor & Eaton’s platinum jubilee celebration beer Castle Hill https://shop.webrew.co.uk/products/castle-hill-12-x-500-ml-bottles This means they are moving their regular quiz to Wednesday and I don’t think we could compete with pondering the longest river in Asia as we discuss the beers. Everything else will remain as normal – 7:30 start and a bring anything theme. (Remember March theme will be Easy drinking) Look forward to seeing you there.
The second post COVID-Disaster-World WEHomebrew meeting took place at the amazing looking Unit4 WEBrew venue. Sat up on the mezzanine gives a great view down on the busy bar where a busy Wednesday night crowd enjoying the huge range of beers available.
There was a big variety of beers on offer from the club members as well. A really eclectic set of ales. From Saisons (including a surprise mystery beer I found in the shed) through to a lovely Belgian strong dark ale packaged in some fancy half champagne bottles. Along the way we sampled, IPAs, Mild and Stouts all great examples prompting in depth discussions about every technical aspect you can imagine.
Aside from the good beer it was great to catch up with members new and old. It’s been a long long time since the unexpected last meeting and it’s good to see some familiar faces. It’s also brilliant to see so many new faces, introductions and hearing about people’s set ups and what they love brewing is what this is all about. It’s a growing community of knowledge we can all share and learn from – and more free beer to try every month!
And so to what’s new. From next month (Next meeting will be Wednesday 24th November) we’ll be trying a new Beer Swap feature. So as well as the usual couple of bottles you’d bring for group tasting and discussion for Beer Swap you can bring a separate bottle labelled with your email address or other contact details (Maybe your Untapped Homebrew account) and someone will take home your beer, sit down one evening and give it the time and contemplation it deserves. Then contact you with their thoughts and feedback. This means you’ll get thoughts about it’s drinkability and not just the immediate impact our tasting sessions offer. Help overcome the Pepsi-paradox.
In addition to this new idea we agreed the Winter challenge – our informal homebrew competition. In time for the January meeting (Currently planned for Wednesday January 26th) think up, brew and package your interpretation of a ‘Winter ale’. It’s a broad category with plenty of scope for interpretation – so make of it what you will and surprise us with your innovation and skill. There’ll be more details on how it’ll work soon, but there’s no time like the present to get started on that recipe.