Batch No. 8 – Cascade & Amarillo American Pale Ale

Despite being over 6 months since I brewed an extract batch, brew night went more smoothly and efficiently than any of the previous extract brews that I’ve done (I must be getting the hang of this home brewing thing!).

This time I used the blender to grind up my steeping grain (Crystal 60) – not totally ideal as it gives an uneven grind (pulverises some of the grains and leaves others almost untouched), but I reckon good enough for steeping grains and a lot faster than pounding with a pestle.

The other interesting thing this time is that I uesd yeast that I harvested 6 months ago. It’s stretching it a bit in terms of how long yeast stored in the fridge is good for. I prepared a starter Friday night with the intention of brewing Saturday night but come Saturday there was no signs of any action out of the yeast. Continue reading

No The Homebrew Didn’t Kill Me!

It’s been a while since I posted here and a logical thinker may surmise that I might have succumbed to the effects of drinking my home brew. I’m happy to report that is not the case. I’ve had a bit of a break from the homebrewing over the winter. But now I’m just about to get stuck in to a new batch, batch #8. In case you’re wondering, batch #7 was a Cooper’s European Lager which turned out nicely.

Tonight I’m going to brew my favorite style, American Pale Ale. But I still haven’t quite decided what hops I’m going to go with. I have some Simcoe, Cascade and Amarillo in the freezer, so might go with either an all Simcoe or a Cascade + Amarillo combo. I have to get stuck in to the Kit And Extract Beer Designer spreadsheet now and figure out my hops additions.

I have some harvested yeast that I’ve revived and are rearing to go to work. They were sitting in the fridge for the last 6 months, so they were a bit slow to get going in my starter that I made 2 nights ago and I was about to give up on them yestrerday but found them in action today so they should be good to go.

Well I better get down to it and do some multitasking home brewing while watching the Rugby World Cup semi-final between the All Blacks and the Wallabies.

Batch No. 6 – Aidan’s Slutty Red

Aidan's Slutty Red

Roll over Mac's Sassy Red, here comes Aidan's Slutty Red

One of my favorite commercial beers here in New Zealand is Mac’s Sassy Red so I decided to have a go at making something similar. I found a recipe for an approximation called ‘Slutty Red‘ and I converted it for extract brewing and made a few mods based on ingredients available and getting some good advice on the home brewing forums.

The main hops flavour in Sassy Red comes from Motueka hops. These used to be known as ‘B Saaz’ hops (as they were bred by crossing Saaz with New Zealand breeding selection), and hence the name ‘Sassy Red’ for a Saazy beer.

One new experimental thing I did in this batch was using a pre-hopped kit as part of the fermentables. Why? Cost – the unhopped malt extract in either dry or liquid format costs significantly more than a corresponding amount of pre-hopped kit. I reckon it’s a supply and demand thing – more people are buying the kits than malt extract. So I used a can of Coopers Lager as it is one of the lighter ones available. Since it is already hopped I factored this into my bitterness calculations using the handy Kit & Extract Beer Designer. With most of the bittering coming from the Coopers can, I went with a 30 min boil instead of the usual 60 min as I was primarily just doing flavour & aroma hop additions after steeping the specialty grains.

So here’s the recipe and beer profile: Continue reading

Batch No. 5 – Nelson Amber Ale

I’m calling this one ‘Nelson Amber Ale‘ because it features Nelson Sauvin hops and I’m brewing it in Nelson. I used the handy Kit & Extract Beer Designer spreadsheet to work out the recipe quantities. It’s basically in the style of an American Pale Ale or an American Amber Ale, but more towards amber than pale since I used all amber malt plus a little medium crystal steeped grains. I used US-05 yeast harvested from batch no. 3. Fermentation started very quickly, within a few hours, and is still amazingly active – it’s been bubbling like crazy for 3 days.

Here’s the recipe: Continue reading

Updated Extract Brewing Process

The second extract batch went smoother and quicker than my first one and the brewing process was much more relaxed and enjoyable. The biggest improvement in the process was changing my sanitiser from sodium metabisulphite to iodophor. The sodium metabisulphite requires 1 hour of air drying to work, iodophor just requires 1-2 minutes of contact time, so it’s a hell of a lot more convenient to work with as you can sanitise on the fly instead of having to carefully plan your sanitisation in advance.

A significant difference in the process this time was the yeast preparation. Last time I rehydrated dried yeast, this time I had some yeast harvested from the last batch so I had to make a starter for it the day before. By the way, I found some helpful videos on a website called billybrew.com for how to harvest yeast and how to make a yeast starter.

So here’s the new improved process:
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Thar She Blows!

The Coopers Stout kicks out one hell of a big foamy krausen:

To deal with this mess, I pulled out the airlock cleaned and sanitised it, cleaned off the mess off the lid and stuck the airlock back in. It’s still foaming out of the airlock a little bit but under control.
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Third Batch Fermenting – first foray into hops and grains

This one is going to be interesting, I’ve got my fingers crossed and hoping for the best. That’s because when I tasted the wort, it was a bit, well, scary. I totally realise this may not mean anything but the wort from my previous two batches actually tasted good but this time I tossed out my OG samples after a little taste. But the first two batches were pre-hopped kits so it might not be a good comparison. This time the wort was very bitter and had a very concentrated hops taste. So I’m hoping this is normal and that the fermentation process will turn it into a nice tasty American Pale Ale. Otherwise I’ll probably be more inclined to stick with the pre-hopped kits, they are a lot less work and I have already got great results – my first batch is a very nice drop and it hasn’t even fully aged yet. Continue reading

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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