Extract Brewing Process

To make sure that I don’t miss anything important for my first extract batch and end up running around like a chicken with it’s head chopped off, I have written up my process in advance. This process is my version of the extract brewing process based on best practices that I gathered from various sources and tailored to suit the ingredients and equipment that I have available. Continue reading

Froze my beer in the fermentor!

I had read about it happening to others (John Palmer relays his experience freezing his lager in How To Brew), so I didn’t cry when I discovered my frozen ale as I was about to bottle it this evening. But I surely did have to abandon hope of bottling it tonight. I had all my bottles sanitised and my priming sugar boiled when I went in to the fridge to lift out the fermentor of beer that I had been cold crashing for 5 days. I didn’t like the solid look that I saw from the outside and sure enough when I opened the lid, here is what I saw:

Arrgh! It's FROZEN!!!


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My very first bottle of my own beer!

This evening I cracked open my first bottle from my first batch (Mangrove Jacks Munich Lager). All I can say is WOW, I’m impressed. This hobby is going to be with me for a long time. I’ve had some previews of what it might taste like – all those SG samples, and my mate Andy’s batch of the same beer. And it was nothing like any of them. The gravity samples were interesting and I actually enjoyed them but they were heavy from all that yeast (not to mention flat and warm). I found Andy’s batch kinda like a good malty lager – I compared it to a Macs Gold. But my was nothing like a Macs Gold, it was much more crisp and bitter, more along the lines of a Steinlager Classic only much more dry and bitter. I think if there was any complaint it would be that it is overly bitter, but I like bitter and I think that will mellow a bit with age. Interestingly my wife commented that she liked it but it seemed a bit one-dimensional to her and I think I know what she means – I reckon it’s because it’s so crisp, dry and bitter. (In all honesty I think the fact that I brewed it myself adds a bit to my enjoyment of it.) But it is also much more of a lager type beer than I thought it would be, having brewed it with the kit standard ale yeast and considering that it’s looking a bit darker/redder than typical lager. Continue reading

Recipe for first extract brew, a lot learned

As I wrote in my previous post, I have decided on brewing an American Pale Ale and had picked out my ingredients but I hadn’t a recipe to follow. So I turned to the forums to get help coming up with the recipe. After a lot of discussions back and forth on the forums (especially this thread), I came up with a recipe that I have confidence in and I had learned a heck of a lot about home brewing. Continue reading

Planning my first extract batch

I am now planning my 3rd batch with batch 1 bottled and batch 2 still in the fermentor. I have yet to taste any finished beer but it is time to get prepared to brew my next batch. (As I mentioned in the previous post, brewing beer is a bit like growing a garden). And my next batch will be another step in the learning process as I take on an extract batch. The difference between extract brewing and kit brewing is that you use unhopped malt extract and do a boil to add in bittering and finishing hops at different times during the boil. I will also use some speciality grains to add an additional dimension and fresh flavour to the beer. Continue reading

A new batch brewing

Brewing beer is a bit like growing a garden – it takes time, so you need to plan ahead and then wait patiently for the fruits of your labour. So even though I’ve just bottled 20 litres of beer, it will be weeks before it’s ready for drinking and months before it reaches it’s prime, so in the meantime I’ve got to sow the seeds for next batch. While my first batch was fermenting I had already purchased supplies for my second batch. I went to Bin Inn (the only place in Nelson that sells home brewing supplies) to pick out something to brew next and got a can of Blackrock East India Pale Ale and some BrewCraft beer enhancer (English Bitter No. 70).

The night after bottling batch 1, I got to work on getting my IPA kit brewing. Despite having absorbed a lot more information and tips about brewing since the first time around, it did not exactly go as smooth as I’d hoped. Continue reading

First batch of home brewed beer – from can to bottles

I just bottled my first batch of home brew the other night, a lager made from a kit – Mangroves Jacks Munich Lager. Actually technically it is probably an ale as it was brewed with ale yeast but as long as it tastes good who cares what it’s called. And I have tasted it, and I can tell you that even at this premature stage it actually tastes quite nice. I even had a glass of it while I was bottling and I’ve also tasted all my hydrometer samples – yum! Definitely an incentive to take lots of readings. After the bottles have carbonated and conditioned for a few weeks, I’ll get to taste the final product. If it tastes this good already, I reckon it should be pretty damn good by then!

Brewing from a kit is very easy but there are so many different ways of doing things that it can get confusing, especially for a beginner with a perfectionist streak who wants to get the best results. Continue reading

Home Brewing – start of the adventure

I’ve just got started on a new hobby that I’m very excited about – making beer! There is some kind of revelation that happens when a man discovers how to make his own beer – it’s almost up there with discovering how to print your own money. And the cool thing is that it’s even easier than I imagined it to be.

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First day of BeerAndGarden.com!

Welcome to the new site! I had previouslystarted a gardening blog hosted on WordPress.com – http://aidansgarden.wordpress.com. I recently got into home brewing and decided I would like to blog about my experiences in that area as well so today I set up this new website, Beer And Garden, to blog about both of these interests. Continue reading

Getting rid of ants in the garden

I noticed recently that there are ants all over one of my raised beds – they are all over the lettuce and other greens. On closer inspection I see that the leaves are also covered in aphids. The little blighters are running an aphid dairy farm in my garden! That can’t be good for the crops so I have to get rid of them. After a quick look on the internet I found one of the most widely suggested ideas for getting rid of ants is with borax, which is a white powdered acid (boric acid) that kills the ants by dehydrating them and drying them out. Here in New Zealand I was able to find borax for sale at my local Binn Inn. Generally it appears you need to mix it with something that makes it more attractive as a food to the ants.

Ants feasting on powdered sugar mixed with borax

Ants feasting on powdered sugar mixed with borax

So I started with an easy recipe – just mix it with some powdered sugar (has a similar consistency as the borax powder). I set some out for them in a beer bottle cap and dusted a little bit directly on their trail. They seemed to be avoiding it at first but when I checked this morning, they had cleaned up all the loose stuff from the trail and they were all over the bottle cap. So this morning I laid out some more second helpings for them. My plan of attack is to get rid of the ants first and then tackle the aphids.

Latest worm farm update

The worm farm is going strong for over 4 months now. It produces about 1.5 litres of worm juice per week. I’ve been putting this on my veggie garden and look forward to seeing some good results this year. My tomato plants are looking strong but probably still a month away from producing fruit. I’ve applied some worm juice to everything I’m growing – tomatoes, zucchini, cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, spinach, bok choy, silver beet, herbs, carrots, turnips, potatoes, pumpkins and even to new apple and citrus trees. I reckon it can’t hurt. Maybe next year it would be interesting to experiment by applying to some plants and not to others to see if it makes much difference.

The worm juice is collected in a one litre container placed under the drain home of the bath tub. Some worms do make their way out into the container (as noted by Rodney of justaddworms.com) but I just strain them out and throw them back into the worm farm. I then add the litre or so of worm juice to a watering can and dilute by filling up the rest of the can with water and put it on a part of the garden.

Brief update on worm farm

My worm farm has been going for about 2 months now and seems to be working well, producing a decent amount of worm juice. However some rain seems to be getting in as a lot of liquid is coming out after heavy rain and it looks diluted. The duct tape I used to hold the weed mat in place is coming loose but the contents are holding it in place so it’s not a problem at this point. There seems to have been an explosion in the worm population which is a good sign – they’re all over the place now when I open up the lid – on top of the cardboard layer, on the sides, on the lid, everywhere. And as Rodney commented, there are a few of them getting into the worm juice but it’s just a few so it doesn’t seem to be a problem at this point.

My no cost bathtub worm farm

There was an old bathtub lying at my place, I thought maybe I could get someone to haul it away but a friend of mine suggested turning it into a worm farm and he told me about worm juice and how great it is for fertilising the garden crops. Sounded like a good idea but the tub sat there for almost another year until today I finally did turn it into a worm farm.
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