How Bad Can It Be…? Q.E. Cherry Wheat Beer

Elgoods Q.E. Cherry Wheat Beer

Last week I found myself in the same garden centre where I purchased the Elgoods Q.E. Apple & Vanilla Wheat Beer last year. After thinking that was an abomination, I had reservations about buying the Q.E. Cherry Wheat Beer which they also had on their shelves.

Since I’ll try anything once and Glyn said he liked it, I thought I had to give it a try. It poured a deep cherry red, with a shocking pink coloured head that didn’t last. The nose was all cherry, think of opening a can of those cherries you’d put on a 1980′s Black Forest gâteau and you’re in the ballpark.

In the mouth it didn’t really taste of beer at all, it was more of an overly sweet, fizzy cherry squash. If you liquidised the afore mentioned can of black cherries, I’m sure they was taste exactly like this did, except not as sweet. Did I mention it was sweet yet? As it started sweet and just got sweeter and sweeter.

It wasn’t nearly as bad as the Q.E. Apple & Vanilla Wheat Beer though and was crying out to be mixed with something else. I don’t know how sour their Coolship Lambic is, but I imagine that a mix of those two might work. It’s either that kind of thing, or a large chocolate stout that can dull the sweetness. As on its own, unless you like your beer so sweet it takes the enamel off your teeth, it’s really not that great.

AG #09 – Binary Star: Galaxy, Citra

Taking the temperature of the grist...

I went on holiday last August, fully intending to brew the moment I got back, I’d even produced a brew schedule for the rest of the year. As it turned out, the holiday cost a bit more than we budgeted for, which meant that I had to make some hard decisions during the rest of the year; should I brew, or go to the grand final of the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt, for instance. Then there was the small matter of #projectcider. I still have some unfermented must and while I’ve given back the majority of the fermenters I borrowed, both of my fermenters still have cider (in various states) in them.

My wife has made her thoughts on #projectcider well known, especially the lack of brewing beer while its all been fermenting. So a couple of weeks back, I popped into Cutlacks on Mill Road and bought another fermenter, then placed an order with The Malt Miller for some grain. I didn’t buy any hops, as I still have a freezer full, as I bought a load before we went on holiday last year. I was all set to brew again, so decided to brew the second thing that I was going to brew after coming back from holiday last year. Here’s the recipe:

Fermentable Colour Grams Ratio
Crisp Lager Malt 3.5 EBC 3269 grams 87%
Thomas Fawcett Pale Wheat Malt 4.9 EBC 326 grams 8.7%
Crisp Cara Gold 15 EBC 161 grams 4.3%
  5 EBC 3756 grams  
Kettle Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams IBUs IBU Ratio
2012 Galaxy Whole 13.9% 90 7 15 30%
2012 Galaxy Whole 13.9% 15 8 8 15%
2012 Citra Whole 14.8% 15 12 12 25%
2012 Galaxy Whole 13.9% 10 11 8 15%
2012 Galaxy Whole 13.9% 5 20 8 15%
Other Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams
2012 Galaxy Whole 13.9% days 12 to 17 54g
2012 Citra Whole 14.8% days 12 to 17 38g
  Expected Actual
Volume (in FV) 19 litres 21 litres
Mash 90 mins at 68°C 105 mins at 68°C
Original gravity 1.040 1.040 (10 Brix)
Terminal gravity 1.007
Attenuation 81%
ABV 4.3%
GU/BU ratio 1.25
Yeast: NBS West Coast Style Ale
Brew fridge: 19°C ±1°C

Unlike all the other Binary Star beers I’ve brewed, this one has three malts in it, rather than just two. I decided to try this after reading Phil Lowry’s homebrew article in BEER magazine, where he chatted to Mark Tranter. Darkstar Hophead is one of my favourite beers, so if it’s creator offers a recipe with a similar malt bill, I’d be a fool not to try it.

I know I said after my last brew that I’d take a look at proper water treatment going forward. But as it had been ten months, I just wanted to brew without the complication of an extra new step. I’ll take a look at proper water treatment on the next brew…

The brew pretty much went without a hitch, it did take slightly longer than it could have and I didn’t get to bed until 03:30 or something daft. I also went with a much higher mash temperature, 68°C, than I normally go for, 65°C, I’m not sure why I did that if I’m being honest.

The main difference with this brew, was the use of oak husks in the mash, to help avoid the dreaded stuck mash. They worked an absolute treat and I had absolutely no issues with run off, from either of the two batches. I’ll definitely be adding some of these to every brew going forward.

The only other thing that I changed, was the yeast I used. Rather than the ever reliable US-05, I decided to use one of The Malt Miller‘s own packaged yeasts, just to see what the difference would be. It seemed slower to start, with only a partial krausen after 32 hours and slower to chop down to terminal gravity. Normally I’d have dry hopped for five days and be ready to bottle, in the time it took to reach terminal gravity.

Update: 23/04/14
As the yeast had finally chomped its way through the available sugars and hit terminal gravity, it was time to dry hop. Due to the tardiness of the yeast and the fact that I was brewing another beer this evening and needed the fermenter, I was forced to use a spare keg, that was waiting for another batch of #projectcider. As I’ll only be dry hopping for five days and the cider hasn’t quite finished, there shouldn’t be any contention for the keg.

Normally I whizz up the whole hops in the food processor and add them to the fermenter. Since I was using the keg, I decided to try blending the whole hops in the Vitamix, to see if that would help release anymore hop oils into the beer. So I added the remaining Galaxy hops and enough Citra to leave half a packet for another brew to the blender and three hundred millilitres of boiled water.

To be honest, I doubt I do this again, especially if I then have to put the resulting mush into a keg. The first issue was that the hops wouldn’t really blend, they just absorbed the water and stuck in the jug, rather than dropping into the blades. Secondly, getting the hops out of the blender jug and into the keg was nigh on impossible, without two pairs of hands.

Somehow I managed it, but I’m sure that there’s a bit of paper in there, and some of the paint from the plastic place mat thing I ended up using too. I’d been planning on trying this at some point, now that I’ve done it, I’ll probably just start buying pellets, as they’ll be rather easier to use…

Bottle Crates

Building the prototype crate...

My loft looks like a glass recycling plant, with various sizes of bottles spilling out of knackered cardboard boxes, left, right and centre. I needed to find a solution and since there was a small pile of wood in the garden, I thought I’d have a go at building a couple of prototype bottle crates.

The reason I say they’re prototype crates, is due to the wood, it was left over from a fence that was built in the garden the other year, so it quite thick. It’s not the kind of wood I’d use if I was making creates for real, but perfect for chopping up and screwing together to flush out any design flaws.

I started off my measuring the diameter of the various 500ml bottles that I have; ex Thornbridge, Oakham, Brewers & Union, Karg and Worthington’s White Shield. The White Shield bottles were easily the widest, so all the dimensions were based around creating a crate that could hold twenty four of them.

After deciding on the dimensions, it was just a case of lots of sawing, drilling pilot holes and screwing the bits together in the right order. It still took what felt like all afternoon and made me really wish I had better tools and a proper workshop. It was quite a chilly day and even with gloves on, my fingers were struggling by the end.

The finished crate, just waiting on the bottle divider...

As you can see from the photo above, the first prototype is a bit on the industrial side. It’s also full of ex Thornbridge bottles, which just goes to show how much extra space is required for those fat White Shield ones. All that is left to do is to make the internal dividers, so that the bottles don’t clink together; I have some spare lite-ply that should fit the bill.

I still need to build the second prototype, just to make sure that they will stack correctly, but I need to buy some more screws first as I’m pretty much all out. Ideally, I’d also buy one of those fancy circular mitre saws, so that all the cuts are perfect. One of those router dovetail jigs would be pretty sweet too, as then it could mostly go together with glue. But that’s all pie in the sky, if I had that kind of money to throw around, I’d be upgrading the homebrew kit…

Throwing Sidra

Throwing Sidra...

My kitchen worktop is a mess of splashed Sidra and it’s all Pete Brown’s fault.

I read Pete’s recent blog about throwing sidra in Barcelona with interest. Mainly due to the bit that said:

The idea is to throw the cider into the glass from a great height. It explodes onto the side of the thin glass, which sings with the impact. This aerates the cider, giving it a champagne-like moussy texture and softening the acidity to something pleasant.

This peaked my interest as I’ve recently made my own cider, not that I’ve actually written up what happened when I did, that’s for another day (you can see the holding page here though). I’ll admit that my first impressions of my first batch weren’t great, I think I was heard to comment that you’d need an asbestos lined stomach to drink it; it was just rather a touch acidic. So it crossed my mind that maybe I could throw my cider and it would have the same effect as Pete described.

The only problem with this, was that I only have two bottles left, of the initial carbonation test bottling I did a while back. The rest of the first batch I’d just bottled with a load of sucralose, so it needed time to condition. I’d noticed a bottle of Asturian Sira for sale in Waitrose though, so I thought I may as well buy a bottle and throw some of the proper stuff. Turns out that it’s carbonated, rather than still and not overly acidic, but there you go.

I’ll admit to not throwing it from any great height, hand eye coordination when you’ve got monocular vision isn’t the best. Even from eight to ten inches high though, it had a marked effect on the mouthfeel and taste, softening the carbonation and rounded off the acidic edges. It’s not an overly practical means of dispense for the house though, as I can’t imagine my wife would be overly impressed with me throwing cider in the living room while we watched the telly.

I think it’s definitely something I’ll try with my own cider, when I have some more in a drinkable state.


Calibrating a new fermenter...

The most tedious homebrewing task after bottling…?

It has to be done though, as I have had one fermenter that was out by quite a bit. In this case though, it did confirm that the printed on markings are pretty accurate; if your read the volume to the bottom of the line.

How Bad Can It Be…? Blue Moon

Blue Moon

We had some friends round for dinner the other weekend, they brought some beer with them. It could have been worse, they might have brought a six pack of Bud Light…

I’ve never had Blue Moon before, it’s just never really appealed. I’ve read a lot about it online and in books like Brewing With Wheat though, it’s quite a divisive beer. But is it any good…? Shirley that should be the only criteria for judging a beer, it shouldn’t really matter who brews it.

Since we had a six pack taking up space in the fridge, I thought it was about time I broke my Blue Moon cherry, so to speak, and try one, or two. As you can see from the photo, I did add the requisite slice of orange, when in Rome and all that.

It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t to my tastes either, being a bit too spice forward and a bit lacking in everything else. The slice of orange was almost overpowering, I like my Belgian Wit beers to be light and refreshing, this just felt like coriander heavy, wishy, washy, overly orange flavoured generic beer.

While I didn’t think much of it, if it was the only thing available, I’m sure I could choke a few down. The rest of the six pack isn’t going to waste though, as my wife has taken a liking to it, silver linings and all that…

New Zealand Boutique Beer Chocolate Collection

NZ Craft Beer Chocolates

My parents went on an Antipodean adventure late last year, they brought these chocolates back with them and gave them to me for a Christmas present.

I’ve been meaning to write about them for just over a month, but to be honest, I’ve had a serious case of can’t be arsed. I’m so can’t be arsed, that I think I’m going to have a break from blogging for a while. I have a few posts in the backlog, but once they’re done, that’s it…

Anyway, about these New Zealand Boutique Beer Chocolates. They were nice, well, I liked all but one of them, but that’s just me. If you find yourself in that part of the world and you like chocolate, then pick up a box, you’ll find the following chocolates in it:

  • 1 x Stoke Biscuit Cup Cake
  • 1 x 8 Wired Double Coffee Truffle
  • 1 x Emerson’s Taieri George Dome
  • 1 x Yeastie Boys Gunnamatta Truffle
  • 1 x Seriously Good Chocolate Salty Caramel Square
  • 1 x Mata Truffle Manuka Honey
  • 1 x Epic Armageddon I.P.A Square
  • 1 x Pitch Black Boysenberry Dome
  • 1 x Three Boys Stout Beer Truffle

My parents also brought me back a 100g foil bag of Motueka hop pellets, which will be finding their way into a couple of up coming homebrews.