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.

Of Mice and Men

The Home Brewer's Guide

Just before I went on the family’s summer holiday last year, I posted about what I’d like to brew though the rest of the year. As Burns wrote though, the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.

I’d laid out six brews that I wanted to tackle, with three being completely new to me. As with all plans though, things crop up and priorities change and so it was with me. The holiday was slightly more expensive that envisaged, so I’ve just not had the funds to do everything I’ve wanted and some hard decisions were made on a month by month basis; do I brew or go to the Grand Final of the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt for example.

Not brewing has also been hampered by the decision to make cider last Autumn, which I need to write about. Since all the apples were free, it seemed like a good way for making a shed load of cheap booze. Most of it is still waiting to ferment, as the shed is too cold for the yeast to work. The side effect of this has been that all my fermenters and all those I borrowed from friends have been tied up with cider must, so I haven’t had anything I could’ve fermented beer if, even if I’d wanted to.

It was only this week that I finally managed to free up a fermenter, so thoughts have inevitably turned to brewing some beer; especially as pay day is round the corner. This has also coincided with me buying a copy of Ronald Pattinson’s The Home Brewer’s Guide to Vintage Beers for my Christmas. It looks a great resource if you’re at all interested in brewing vintage beers and I can’t wait to brew a few of the recipes. Although I’m not quite sure how I’m going to choose which one to brew first, I might just have to drop the book and see what page it opens on!

I think I’ll ease back into it though and probably brew a couple of incarnations of my Binary Star series and definitely a Coronal Mass Ejection. Once I’ve got a couple of brews under my belt again, then it’ll be time to spread the wings a bit and try something totally new. Until then, I get to add lots of the recipes from The Home Brewer’s Guide to Vintage Beers into Beer Engine and dream…

Chieftain Pale Ale

Williams Bros. Chieftain Pale Ale

I first heard about Chieftain Pale Ale via twitter, when someone mentioned that it would be on sale in Aldi the week leading up to Burns Night.

It appeared in store last Thursday, but as I don’t normally shop in Aldi, I have no idea how long it will be in store for. It wasn’t with the rest of their beer on what passes for shelving, rather, it was stuffed into a basket in the middle of a random aisle along with a a load of other "Scottish" goods.

While the attractiveness of the display was questionable, there’s was no denying the attractiveness of the price, being a very reasonable £1.39 a bottle. This puts it slap bang in the middle of the 4 for £5 (£1.25 a bottle), or 4 for £6 (£1.50 a bottle) supermarket offers that have been available for the last couple of months. Having said that, it’s only a great price, if the contents of the bottle are any good, so what was Chieftain Pale Ale like?

It poured a pale yellow colour, with a loose white head. The head didn’t hang around for long, dropping to a thin ring round the edge of the glass. Think of the colour of a Czech Pilsner and you’re in the right ballpark. The nose wasn’t overly powerful, but did reveal some bitter orange notes.

It was quite lively with an initial rush of carbonation round the mouth, before it settled down a bit, although it wasn’t overly carbonated. It was the lighter side of full bodied, but not watery, just that really refreshing type of body from a beer that isn’t too sweet. Just like the nose, the flavours were on the restrained side too; with some light, almost faint, citric marmalade flavours, leading to a slightly sweet lingering aftertaste.

It wasn’t a complicated beer, but that was sort of explained on the label:

... designed to slake the thirst of all you folk in need of well-earned refreshment.

I’d just come home from work and wanted a beer that wouldn’t make me think, that I could just drink, rapidly, and feel all the better for doing so. I had three bottles, one after the other. The first hardly touched the sides and I didn’t take notes. The second, felt slightly sweeter, maybe because I was concentrating, so I could try and get something coherent down on paper. The third bottle slipped down much as the first had and didn’t seem overly sweet.

So as a don’t think thirst quencher, this fitted the bill perfectly; that £1.39 per bottle in Aldi at the moment, is pretty good value as far as I’m concerned.