How Bad Can It Be…? Fagerhult

Kopparberg Fagerhult

It turns out that Kopparberg, Swedish purveyors of apple and pear flavoured sugar water, also make beer. It can’t be that bad though, can it…?

Unfortunately, if you fancy trying this, you’ve got to buy a four pack. Currently on sale in your nearest Tesco for a fiver, it doesn’t look like there’s the opportunity to buy just the one. Which is a shame, as once you tasted it, you’re then stuck with another three cans of utter shite that you wont want to touch with a barge pole.

It didn’t smell to bad, which is probably the nicest thing I can say about it. The initial flavour and mouthfeel weren’t the greatest, but pretty par for the course for a macro lager. It then all went to hell in a handbasket, with what my wife described as an off wheat flavour, before finishing so sweet, you’d think you’d just been sucking on a sugar cube.

I thought it was absolutely, totally and utterly dire. It has no redeeming features at all and you should avoid it like the plague. If you do buy some though, then as my wife also commented, you could at least use the remaining three cans to make shandy with; presumably for someone you hate…

Jaipur X

Thornbridge Jaipur X

Smells like Jaipur, tastes like Jaipur that’s been on a steroid fuelled gym binge.

The first bottle I drank left me be a bit disappointed, if I’m being honest. I thought it was a bit too sweet and with a touch too much fusel alcohol burn. I’ve not noticed it as much with subsequent bottles though, and it’s really grown on me; it certainly slides down as easily as normal Jaipur. The only real problem with it, is once you finish a bottle, you immediately want another. Which is a bit problematic at 23:00 on a school night as it can leave you somewhat Jaipoorly the following morning.

Rooster’s

Roosters Cans...

Another brewery jumps on the nano-keg bandwagon

Rooster’s aren’t a brewery you see much of down these parts. So when I heard that they were having a launch event, as they’ve started canning, and I knew someone who was going, I asked if they could grab me one of each. They kindly obliged and a week or so later I picked them up.

I was going to take tasting notes and write a bit about each one, but I don’t want to be beer reviews anymore, so I’ll keep it brief. I thought all three were very nice and I’d happily drink them all again. I know that Baby-Faced Assassin isn’t quite the same beer that got Zak Avery all giggly, but as a homebrewer, it’s nice to try a commerical beer that started out life as a homebrew.

Twenty Fifteen appears to be shaping up as a year that will be defined by a method of dispense, i.e. the can, rather than a particular style. It’ll be interesting to see if the standard of canned beer remains as good as they few I’ve tried so far. There is a lot of dross out there claiming to be craft, it’s not suddenly going to stop being dross just because its been put in a can.

I wonder if canning is going to be the big craft differentiator. Those that are accepted by the hive mind as craft will can, those that aren’t wont…

Brew Year Resolutions

Yeastie Boys Digital IPA in the Pint Shop...

Twenty Fourteen is over, so it’s time for a bit of introspection, before looking towards what I’d like to achieve homebrew wise in Twenty Fifteen.

With AG #14 sneaked in just before the turn of the year, it meant that for the second year on the trot, I managed to brew six times. Six short of what I wanted, but with most of the early part of the year spent dealing with a shed full of cider, it’s understandable. There wasn’t much in the way of brewing in the Autumn either, which was due to making even more cider. EcoKeg fermenters full of cider... Although at least this year I got my act together with the fermenters, so they’re not in the way.

Even though I didn’t brew as much, or as regularly as I wanted, I still think I brewed my best beer to date. AG #10 – Coronal Mass Ejection: Kohatu, Motueka, Nelson Sauvin tasted absolutey lush, a further subtle tweek to the malt bill should see me happy with this one. While AG #13 – Binary Star: Chinook, Citra gave it a run for it’s money, especially in the aroma department, I’ll have to revist the Binary Star mash temperature, as I think it could benefit from a touch more body.

I don’t think brewing my best beer last year was a coincidence, as there were some notable improvements in technique and process. Proper water treatment for a start, albeit based on old information from Anglian Water, certainly helped although I have a lot more to learn on this subject. In February, I’m going to invest in one of those inline carbon water filter things and send a sample off to Murphy & Son for analysis. This should hopefully result in another step forward in beer quality.

I was also pleased that my first attempt at reusing yeast appears to have been a success. I’ve shied away from buying vials of liquid yeast due to their expense, but if I can reuse the yeast from batch to batch, then this open up a whole new world of yeast strains. EcoKegs... If I’m going to go down this route, then I either need to invest in a stir plate, or build my own. I’ve already bought a gas powered camping stove, as you can’t boil wort for a starter in an erlenmeyer flask on an induction hob.

The biggest thing I would like to change for this year though, is my kit. I really struggle to get a decent volume of beer with the mash tun and boilers that I have. As I have a source of free EcoKeg’s, I’m going to make a HERMS brewery out of some of them. Initially this was a bit pie in the sky and was going to take a while to complete, as I couldn’t afford to buy all the required fixtures and fittings in one go. Then I got a Christmas cheque that was an order of magnitude larger than expected, so not only can I afford all the aforementioned fixture and fittings, I can also afford to buy a couple of Cornelius Kegs too.

The new kit won’t magically appear overnight (although I’ve already started gathering bits and bobs), so I’ve still have to brew on the existing kit for the next few months, while I amass everything I need and put it together. Once that’s done though, I really must make this year, the year I finally brew a Belgian Wit. I’ve been saying I will for the last couple of years, but I never quite seem to get round to it. I’ve had a mad idea that a Gooseberry and Elderflower Wit, with Sorachi Ace, would work, there’s only one way to find out.

Finally, I’m going to brew a shed load of IPA’s, in the US West coast stylie. I’ve been a bit reticent to brew one, mainly as I’ve felt that I don’t know what I’m doing and thus think I couldn’t do one justice; what kind of malt bill do I use, when do I add the shed load of hops? Glass rinser... Luckily for me though, there are a few resources out there if you find yourself in a similar boat. Firstly, there is the Yeastie Boys Digital IPA, which has an open source recipe, so I’m definitely going to have a go at brewing it. As an aside, it’s a beer that I never thought I’d get to try, so imagine my surprise in early December to find it on tap in the Pint Shop, I’m sure I can do a homebrew version justice.

There are other resources too, like this decade old page on the Brew Your Own website, that lsts lots of clone recipes. I’ve also got a homebrew recipe for Mikkeller Green Gold as featured in the The Complete Homebrew Handbook. I wasn’t luck enough to find a copy to buy, but one of the authors kindly send me the recipe via eMail; I really need to try and track a copy down, as there’s recipes for some seriously good beers in it.

My main target for this year though, was to brew once a month, but given summer holidays and cider making, I know this would be impossible. So instead of the target being to brew once a month, the target is to brew a minimum of twelve times during the year. I appreciate that there will be months where I don’t brew and then months where I brew multiple times. That’s life though, at the end of the day, it’s just a hobby and I have to fit it in around everything else. Hopefully though, I’ll achieve at least some of what I’ve planned for the year.

AG #14 – Brown Dwarf: Amarillo, Chinook, Simcoe, Cascade

Thermometer and PH meter readings...

I needed to use up a load of old hops and wanted to try something new, so I decided to brew an American Brown Ale. You’d think that the amount of hops being used was way, way too much, but time has most likely not been kind to them.

As I mentioned in the write up of AG #12, my hop drawer in the freezer was full, so I needed to use up some of my old stock. After having a good rummage around, I felt that I should either use up all of the old open packets of hops or just chuck them. Since I’m not rolling in it, especially around the turn of the year, I decided to use them up.

I can’t remember exactly why I choose to brew an American Brown Ale. It might have simply been a desire to try some malts that I’ve not really used before, especially as some of them will be used in the next few brews too. Or it might just have been a desire to try something new, something that wasn’t pale and hoppy.

Not too sure of what I was doing, I decided to Ask JK what he thought of the recipe I’d concocted:

With his comments in mind, I completely redid the recipe, subbing out the Mild Ale Malt for Weyermann Vienna Malt. To get to a slightly higher original gravity, rather than using half a kilo more Vienna Malt and having some left over, I decided to use up the Weyermann Pilsner Malt that I’d had lying around for a bit.

It wasn’t just the grain bill getting a working over either, as while rummaging around in my mother-in-laws chest freezer, I came across more open packets of hops that I’d totally forgotten about. Given how old most of the hops were, and the state in which they’d been stored, I decided to use an online Hop Alpha Acid Loss in an effort to try an get a better idea of what their current alpha acid percentage (AA%) would be.

Fiddling with the timings of the hop additions and the much lower AA% values, this allowed me to use up all of my open packets of whole leaf hops and still keep the IBUs within the style guidelines (for what they’re worth). It also left enough to properly dry hop the target volume with just over 5g/L and use up all of the remaining Amarillo. I just hope that I’ve used the online calculator correctly, or this will be less of an American Brown Ale and more of a Brown IPA (PDF).

The recipe...

The other thing that JK mentioned was water treatment, so I fired him an email and he sent me back a profile to aim for. I generally use Wheeler’s Liquor Treatment Calculator, which is hosted on the Jim’s Beer Kit website, as you plug your values in, set the target values and it tells you what to add to get there. Except in this case, it didn’t tell me to add anything other than some AMS (CRS), even though you can clearly see on the Cations side that additions are required.

Mash liquor treatment...

All this meant that my Sulphate was too high and out of kilter with the Chloride. This should result in the hops being a bit too forward, when really they need to be balanced with all the malts. My knowledge of water treatment is a bit limited to say the least, so I’m not sure how I get rid of excess Sulphate for future brews. Definitely some reading up required in this area.

I’ve also found that without adding any other water treatment than the AMS (CRS), the mash efficiency suffers and while I hit target gravity in the fermenter, I was about 1¾ litres shy on volume. I know that I couldn’t, safely, get any more wort in the boiler and that losses to hops were greater than planned for, but still, it’s annoying to miss the target volume.

In another first for me though, I pitched the rinsed yeast from AG #13 into this batch. I was very relieved when checking on it the following morning, seventeen hours after pitching, to discover a healthy looking two and a half litres of krausen on top. So while it set off like the clappers, it did seem to be taking it’s time to get down to terminal gravity, so I decided to leave it an extra day before dry hopping.

Update: 03/01/15
I decided to have another go at the dry hopping technique I used last time out. So I boiled up some water and added just enough of it to aid in blitzing the dry hops with the stick blender. The beer was then transferred off the yeast and onto the dry hops, before being put back into the brew fridge.

According to the brew schedule, I wont need any US-05 for the next five brews, but I had another go at rising the yeast anyway. Good practice, even if I don’t use it. I’m not sure when I’ll bottle it, technically it should be Thursday night, but my wife is out on Friday night, so it might just be easier to do it then. Either way, I’m looking forward to trying this one.

Rinsing Yeast

Rinsed yeast...

Two homebrews in quick succession, gave me the perfect opportunity to try reusing the yeast from the first batch in the second.

While packets of yeast aren’t the most expensive of homebrew ingredients, the cost can add up. It also seems quite wasteful to just use them once and then chuck a perfectly good yeast cake down the loo when it’s finished fermenting. I found an post on one of the Jim’s Beer Kit forums about rinsing yeast, so that it could be either repitched immediately, or stored for later use.

I was initially going to attempt to rinse the yeast from AG #12, as I wasn’t going to dry hop it, but due to being a dunce, that idea went out the window. So I decided to try a different way of dry hopping AG #13, so that I could get my hands on the yeast cake, without any dry hop debris. It was make or break, as I’d used my last packet of yeast and hadn’t ordered another with the ingredients for AG #14, so it was this or nothing.

After transferring AG #13 to another bucket, along with the dry hops, I added a litre of boiled and cooled water to the yeast cake and swilred it around to loosen everything up. After leaving it for a while to settle, I carefully decanted most of it into a litre Kilner jar and left it on the kitchen worktop for the night. In the morning, there was two distinct layers in the jar, with the top one still looking quite yeasty.

I popped the jar into the fridge and went to work, working on the theory that the chill would drop more yeast out of suspension and into the bottom layer. When I got home for work, the top layer was much clearer, so I poured it off the thick slurry and down the sink. I sterilised an old milk bottle and my small funnel and decanted the thick slurry from the Kilner jar, into the milk bottle. This was then sealed with a double wrap of cling film and put into the colder of our two kitchen fridges.

Yesterday, I pitched about half of the slurry from the milk bottle into AG #14. It’ll be interesting to see if it works and what, if any, effect it has on the resulting beer.

AG #13 – Binary Star: Chinook, Citra

Steaming...

Sometimes the path to homebrew nirvana is simple and straightforward, other times, is a tortuous experience.

Sometimes I find it difficult to make my mind up, should I do this, or should I do that. Often, I end up chasing my tail, coming up with new idea after new idea, only to become agitated and frustrated and back where I started. Ages ago, I bought enough malt for a couple of brews, one of which was to be in the Binary Star series, the other to start the Nova series.

A lengthy gap in brewing between April and August, sort of put pay to the brew schedule that I had worked out. When I eventually harvested this years homegrown Cascade hops, there simply wasn’t any room in the freezer for them. Especially as there was also 1Kg of hops in there, that I’d kept after sending Adnams a couple of bin bags full for their Wild Hop beer. So I decided that instead of using the malts I had to hand for what they were purchased for, I needed to come up with a couple of new recipes to use up some of the hops clogging up the freezer.

So I settled on AG #13 being a slightly amped up Pulsar, single hopped with a whole bag of 2012 Citra hops that had been hanging around the freezer for ages. I wasn’t overly happy with it though and was endlessly fiddling with the recipe, to the point where I got all frustrated and decided to just brew what I’d originally planned, another Binary Star. So I asked on Twitter what everyones favorite hop to go with Citra was, as I didn’t fancy using any of my homegrown hops:

I wasn’t about to try Graeme’s suggestion of Goldings, but the multiple suggestions for Chinook really pushed my buttons. So in went a Malt Millar order for the hops and some oat husks. With all the sticky mash issues I’ve had, I’m now really reticent to brew without some of these in the mash.

I knew that I was pushing it with the lateness of the order, but orders from the Malt Millar have allways turned up the next day without fail. I knew something was up though, as I didn’t receive the usual early morning txt from DPD with my delivery slot. My order was then flagged as being unable to be delivered, due to a local event, which was news to me. As it turned out, the local event was nothing more than the complete and utter meltdown of DPD‘s Peterborough depot. I eventually received my order five business days late, which pretty much put pay to this beer being ready in time for Hogmanay.

Fermentable Colour Grams Ratio
Crisp Lager Malt 3.5 EBC 3485 grams 87.7%
Thomas Fawcett Pale Wheat Malt 4.9 EBC 326 grams 8.2%
Crisp Cara Gold 15 EBC 161 grams 4.1%
  6 EBC 3972 grams  
Kettle Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams IBUs IBU Ratio
2013 Chinook Whole 14.8% First Wort 7 8.91 15.37
2013 Chinook Whole 14.8% 15 7 7.3 12.6
2013 Citra Whole 14.8% 15 13 13.56 23.38
2013 Chinook Whole 14.8% 10 10 7.62 13.15
2013 Chinook Whole 14.8% 5 19 7.96 13.74
2013 Chinook Whole 14.8% 85°C steep 27 6.31 10.88
2012 Citra Whole 14.8% 85°C steep 27 6.31 10.88
          57.98  
Other Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams
2013 Chinook Whole 14.8% dry hop 30g
2013 Citra Whole 14.8% dry hop 60g
  Expected Actual
Volume (in FV) 19 litres 21 litres
Mash 90 mins at 65°C 90 mins at 64.5°C
Original gravity 1.043 (10.6 Brix) 1.044 (10.8 Brix)
Terminal gravity 1.008 1.002 (4.5 Brix)
Attenuation 81% 95%
ABV 4.5% 5.4%
GU/BU ratio 1.35 1.32
Yeast: Safale US-05
Brew fridge: 18°C ±1°C, with two days at 2°C ±1°C before bottling

As this is the first Binary Star since I started using the Brewer’s Friend recipe builder, the values, especially for the IBUs are slightly different. Wheeler’s Beer Engine doesn’t calculate IBUs from first wort hopping, or flame out steeps. So it will be interesting to see if it’s appreciably different in terms of the upfront bitterness, or late flavour.

I’m not sure I’ve got the first wort hopping correct though, as I should have used the large 15 minute addition, instead of the bitterning addition, if that article is to be believed. It’s all new to me though, so if it doesn’t have a load of upfront bitterness, I know what I did wrong and how to correct it for next time.

Other than that, the brew went pretty smoothly, other than overshooting my mash strike temperature by twenty degrees. A slow decant from boiler to bucket and back again, brought the temperature back to where it should’ve been, at the cost of half an hours faffing. I did miss my intended 65°C mash temp, but then that thermometer is well knackered, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I’d hit it, or going slightly higher than it.

I also overshot my target gravity in the fermentor, so I took the opportunity to liquor back with a couple of litres of water. The gravity is still just a touch higher than planned, but that’s fine. It also means that even with losses to yeast and dry hops, I’ll have more beer to bottle at the end of the day. I really should try and work out my brewhouse efficiency one of these days, but it’s nice to plan for slightly less and then have the ability to liquor back.

Update: 17/12/14
I decided to try a slightly different approach to dry hopping this time. In the past I’ve tried with whole hop cones in stockings, blitzing them in the food processor and liquidiser and the results have always been a bit disappointing. I came to the conclusion that I just wasn’t using enough, as it was generally what was left in the packet after the rest had gone in the boiler. So in some cases, not really very much at all.

If you look at JK’s dry hopping rates, I should really having been buying more hops,rather than just using what I had left over. It just so happened that since both the Chinook and Citra had quite high alpha acid percentages, there was enough hops left over to be able to hop at a rate of 4.5g per litre, probably around the correct amount for this beer.

Update: 22/12/14
After sitting at 18°C for three days and then being chilled at 2°C for a further two days, it was time to bottle. I have high hopes for this one, as the smell streaming from the fermentor when I pulled the lid off was immense. It looks l23ike I have a new dry hopping regime, at least until I start using pellets that is.

I made up some primings with 6g a litre of spray malt in a few hundred millilitres of water and boiled it for ten minutes. Then it was just a case of syphoning off the dry hop trub onto the priming, then into the bottles. Twenty four 330ml bottles and twenty three 500ml bottles, so a decent amount to be getting on with.

It’s just a shame it wont be ready for Hogmanay, as was planned. I may open a sneaky bottle just to check how it’s getting on though. Although I expect it will need at least another week after that before it’s open season.