Archive for the ‘Microbiology’ Category

Now Brewing: Triple A – Highly Rated Amber Ale

Note our brewery logo.

Exciting times in brew land for me. I’ve just moved 100 miles back to Bristol after two and a half years in Cornwall. In addition to all the obvious things to think about, brewing is taking a new turn for me too! For one, despite being smaller, the new house has a much better space for brewing than my old place. Secondly, my friend and one time brew buddy Sam now lives 92 seconds walk around the corner, which means there’s two of us to brew. I thought that this means it’s time for this brewery to get a name. Welcome to Saint Agnes Brewery, named after the tiny area in Bristol in which we live. In between all the unpacking that’s taken over my life, I took a few minutes out to draw a logo, based on St Agnes church just down the road from my house.

My new house has a conservatory which is a perfect space for brewing.

The other thing to consider in our new brewery is the fact that the extremely hard water in Bristol is completely different from the soft moorland water from my area in Cornwall. This will require a bit of getting used to. Luckily I have some help, in the form of the excellent Bristol Beer Factory. I popped in to have a chat with Brett, one of the brewers there. He was kind enough to give me a jar of their yeast, as well as a bit of info on the water. Seems they just use a bit of lactic acid, and he has no trouble when brewing at home in using no treatment at all, so that’s the approach I took.

For our first brew we decided to go for a variant on an American amber ale. Unlike its homeland, this is triple A-rated. Partly this was based on the fact I had various random stuff left over from brewing the Coal Porter and Red Top which would go well in this style.

Our first hop addition, of Citra.


Ingredient Amount %
Maris Otter Pale Ale Malt 3.200 kg 83.9 %
Amber Malt 0.400 kg 10.5 %
Munich Malt 0.100 kg 2.6 %
Medium Crystal 0.075 kg 2.0 %
Chocolate Malt 0.040 kg 1.0 %


Variety Alpha Amount IBU Form When
Citra 13.0 % 20 g 34.2 Loose Whole Hops 90 Min From End
US Willamette 4.5 % 30 g 6.0 Loose Whole Hops 10 Min From End
US Willamette 4.5 % 30 g 0.0 Loose Whole Hops At turn off
Slovenian Styrian Goldings 4.5 % 20 g 0.0 Loose Whole Hops At turn off
Expected IBU: 40.2 IBU Expected Colour: 19.8 EBC

At turn off we seemed to have hit the target OG of 1.045 right on the nail, but at pitching it was reading as 1.040 which was a little confusing as the refractometer is supposed to adjust for temperature. Perhaps boiling point is too high to correct for?

This morning, about 16 hours after pitching, gravity was already down to 1.028 1.020. That BBF yeast is certainly hard working.

It's been bubbling away like crazy overnight.

We did plan to add some hops to the fermentation vessel, but hadn’t decided which, and in the end completely forgot. Still may, though at this rate the fermentation will be over soon. We’re planning on bottling, so no dry hopping.

High class culture

imageIn preparation for my first all-grain brew, I had to make the important choice of which yeast to use. Being somewhat lacking in expertise in this area, I emailed Brewlab at the University of Sunderland on Friday for advice. I told them the sort of beer I’m planning to brew, and what sort of water I have (very soft) and asked for a recommendation. Within minutes I had a reply, suggesting their F40 strain. She told me she’d culture some over the weekend and send it to me on Monday. It arrived today with an invoice for £4. Bargain! It’s provided on an agar slope and needs to be increased by growing a starter before use. They provide instructions on how to do this, which basically consist of mixing up some malt extract in boiled water. Continue reading