Now Brewing: Tamar Pale Ale.

Last weekend I went to Chilled Cider, which is a tiny festival in a pub in Dorset. Unsurprisingly Sam and I skipped the cider and helped drink them dry of Harvest Pale Ale. I subsequently found out that it was Champion Beer of Britain last year, and very nice it was too. It got me thinking that I’d really like to brew a light, hoppy session beer. Much as I’m enjoying the Flashman IPA, at around 5.8% or so, it’s a bit much to have more than a pint or two. I aimed for under 4%.

The Citra hops that I got for the IPA are fantastic, so I’ve decided to go for a single hop Citra. This was my recipe, for 23 litre length.


4kg Maris Otter
100g Crystal (for a bit of colour and body)

Hop schedule. All are Citra (13.3% AA)

90 min: 5g
20 min: 15g
10 min: 25g
Post-boil: 10g

The YoBrew calculator reckons that’s about 37 IBU. Previously I’ve worked out at about 70% efficiency, so I worked off that, resulting in predicted OG of 1.037, leading to about 3.9% ABV. However I seem to have improved my technique. These are from memory, but I think I got over 1.045. That’s about 85% efficiency! I guess I’ve improved my sparging technique. I diluted it down to around 1.039, which should give about 4%.

Previously I’ve had real problem with clarity of my beers. The Chamomile Lawn never properly cleared, while the IPA is only just clear now. I think I did better with the Beergerac, but that went bad so I didn’t check. I think I’ve done better this time. I added half a tablet of protafloc at 15 mins, and used a big sheet of (boiled) muslin to filter the hops and break material as I poured it into the fermenter. I also did better at making sure I’d waited til it was at a good rolling boil before adding the hops and starting the timings. I think I’ve got a better chilling technique worked out now too: bath full of cold water, with frozen water bottles in it. The pan goes in there, on a cooling rack so it’s not sitting on the bottom, and I leave the tap running slowly.

Anyway, the pic above is the wort that I sampled before it went into the fermenter (before pitching the yeast), after settling in the trial jar overnight. You can’t see it too well, but there’s lots of break material settling at the bottom and the wort itself is pretty much perfectly clear. Winner (so far)!

Now brewing: Flashman IPA

Flashman IPA

Impressive cavalry whiskers

Yesterday was my second all-grain brew day. On one of the hottest days of the year, I think it was appropriate that I had planned to brew an India Pale Ale. This was originally brewed for export to India to lubricate the wheels of Empire. To survive the long voyage, it was brewed with lots of hops and higher than usual alcohol. It’s a style that has been taken up enthusiastically by American brewers in recent years, who have made it their own, with massive, in-your-face hoppiness (with American hop varieties), and very high alcohol levels to match. I wanted to brew a summer session beer, so I didn’t want to go down this path as however tasty they are, they’re not ones to drink in large quantities – both because of the high alcohol levels, but also the massive hoppiness which gets a bit tiring.

Last weekend, my local had Sharp’s new seasonal brew, Atlantic IPA which I found very impressive. I particularly liked the unexpectedly fruity hop aroma. It wasn’t as strong or as powerful as an American IPA, but it had some of the complex hop character. As soon as I got home (no mobile signal in the pub, otherwise I’d’ve done it on the spot) I tried to do some research to find out about Atlantic IPA. Imagine my luck: the head brewer of Sharp’s has a blog, and wrote all about brewing Atlantic IPA, including the hops. It seems it has a number of American hop varieties in it: Centennial, Simcoe and Citra. Being a homebrew newbie, I had to do more research on these, though apparently Citra in particular seems to be the talk of the brewing world – a new variety with remarkable fruity aromas. Seems that’s the one.

As I didn’t want to do a full-on American IPA, I decided against copying all of the hops, but thought Citra could definitely add something to my brew. I went with Maris Otter, the king of English malts, for my base, and in the end didn’t use any others. I used 6kg for a 23 litre length, because I’m not confident of my efficiency and want to be sure of keeping the gravity high enough. Staying English for the hops, I used 40g of Challenger for bittering at the start of the boil. I had Goldings left over from Chamomile Lawn, so went with 50g at 10 minutes. After the boil, I then added 50g of East Kent Goldings, plus 40g of Citra. In the end the gravity was 1.052. With the F40 yeast, that should give me around 5.7 or 5.8 ABV: just about right. An English India Pale Ale, with a bit of extra flash – Flashman IPA. Pics below.

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Chamomile Lawn in the cask

Fermentation stopped on the Chamomile Lawn on Thursday or thereabouts, but I went to Bristol at the weekend so casking had to wait til this morning. I was a little nervous to taste it, as my first taste at around day 4 had the chamomile flavour quite harsh. However it has improved greatly since then, and has a wonderful floral aroma and fresh, citrus flavour. This is going to be a dangerously drinkable and refreshing drink when it’s ready. The final gravity was 1.006, but as I was in such a rush when brewing it I forgot to write down the original gravity, that doesn’t do me much good. 

Now brewing: Chamomile Lawn

Chamomile and lemongrass

This is my first all-grain brew, so was always going to be a bit of an experiment. This is especially the case because I planned to use my own recipe (albeit one based on one from a book). My aim here is for a refreshing beer for springtime. Annoyingly I was under a bit of time pressure when I made it, as I had a deadline to leave the house. This may have caused problems but it seems ok so far.

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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

Cool box mash tun

As I want to make the leap to all-grain brewing, I need a mash tun. The traditional solution to this seems to be to convert a cool box/picnic cooler, by adding a tap and filter or false bottom. After finding a bargain priced 28 litre Thermos cool box on Amazon I decided to give it a go. I paid a visit to my local hardware store, who were very helpful and took me around the plumbing department looking for just the right fittings. More details below. Continue reading

Welcome to my blog

Hello. I’ve just started homebrewing (two brews under my belt so far) and thought I should have somewhere to record it all. I am just about to start the move to all-grain, so as well as keeping track of my brews, I’m planning to record my attempts as building equipment. This is much as place for me to keep records of my recipes as anything.