Lock-down delights

Believe it or not, one can take some pleasure from the current COVID-19 crisis. In my case, it has given me the opportunity to set up and use a hand pump that I refurbished. A neighbour gave it to me courtesy of a pub clear-out and a skip. The hand pump cast iron base was badly rusted and the pump cylinder was full of old, caked beer. Here’s some pictures of before and after of the hand pump.

And how it looks now after being cleaned, re-varnished and repainted.

I’m going to use it to serve my English IPA that has just finished conditioning. Here is where the hand pump is going to sit in my cellar bar.

The hand pump now in place ready for connection to the cornie keg.

A ‘cornie’ is the abbreviated name for a Cornelius keg. This is a 19 litre stainless steel canister originally used as containers by the soft drink industry. They can be pressurised and used to store and dispense homemade sodas and home brewed beer. They act like a rather giant bottle and beer can stay fresh in them for up to two years. Here’s a picture of two of mine in my cellar bar.

I bought this demand valve to use with the hand pump.

The unit is used in the beer line just before the beer engine to stop the beer flowing forward through the beer engine when there is no demand (pump not being pulled).

Demand valve screwed into position under the shelf.

A view from the back of the shelf showing me at work setting up the pipework.

Connections made and showing the 3-position valve I am using.

The beer line runs through a 3-way valve then to the demand-valve. One side of the valve runs to the cornie keg, the other side to a bit of pipe that I will use to pull water through to clean the beer out from the valve and pump after a session.

And here we are – the first pint through the engine. Delicious!

A view of the pump clip label and a picture also of the rear label I used on the few bottles I packaged.

Whilst I was working in the bar, I also thought it was time to put the Baltic Porter on tap in the kegerator as well. Pictures of the beer and labels.

While I have my own beer on tap the Coronavirus lock-ins doesn’t seem too bad. In the words of my brewery motto “Vires Cervisiam” (Strength through beer).

Brewing a Belgian white beer (or Witbier)

In spite of the really foul wet and windy weather, I decided to brave the elements and brew a beer over the leap year weekend – after all, I did have an ‘extra’ day in the year to do it!

English Ales are all very well, but once in a while it’s nice to brew something different, so I decided to brew a Belgian Witbier. To make the brewery day slightly easier I used my Braumeister 50L (BM) one-pot brewing system – less equipment to wash up at the end of the day!

Belgian white beer (or Witbier) has a unique cloudy-white appearance with very little bitterness, some spiciness, and a slightly sour/tart finish. There is a very light sweetness with soft, creamy feel that is not cloying or heavy. None of the flavours or aromas stand out, making for a light refreshing beer with a moderate alcohol level usually hovering around the 5% ABV mark. Wit beers are usually quite cloudy from starch haze, with a very light straw to light golden colour. It’s a refreshing beer for hot summer days (or even horrible winter ones!)

Arguably the most popular commercial version of this beer is Hoegaarden, named after the village near Tienen in Flanders, which was the modern birthplace of witbier. Records of brewing in the village date back to 1445, when the local monks were enthusiastic brewers, but the tradition died out in the 1950s as consumer tastes moved towards different styles.

Ten years later, Pierre Celis, a milkman who had grown up next to the brewery and sometimes helped with brewing, decided to try to revive the style. He started a new brewery, called de Sluis, in his hay loft. He used the traditional ingredients of water, yeast, wheat, hops, coriander seed, and dried bitter (Curaçao) orange peel. In the 1980s, with demand for the product continuing to grow, Celis bought a former lemonade factory, to expand his brewing operations.

Things changed after a fire in 1985. As is traditional in Belgium, several brewers offered their help to keep the business going and Interbrew (now InBev) lent money for the purchase of other buildings to rebuild the brewery. Over time, Celis felt very strongly that the company used the loan to pressure him to change the recipe to make the beer more “mass market”. So Celis decided to sell them the brewery and moved to the United States where he set up the Celis Brewery in Austin, Texas, to continue making witbier to what he described as the ‘original’ Hoegaarden recipe. It was later acquired by Miller Brewing who eventually closed the brewery and sold the equipment and brand names.

Most Witbier recipes will call for crushed coriander seed along with the zest of fresh (or dried) oranges. I find that much of the spicy flavour behind a Belgian Wit already comes from the yeast (White Labs WLP400 Belgian Wit Ale or Wyeast 3944 Belgian Witbier) so I will often completely leave out the coriander and orange peel. Try it either way and see which you prefer. You can also use sweet dried orange peel, which is what I have used in this brew. Some witbier recipes will also call for chamomile flowers as a reportedly “secret” ingredient that Celis used in the original Hoegaarden recipe. He debunked this in later interviews, indicating that coriander and bitter orange peel was all that he ever used.

As well as the more usual Pilsner malted barley malt found in this beer, I used flaked oats and flaked wheat (both unmalted). I did a short cereal mash at 50C to help the flaked grains along. A cereal mash step is used with unmalted or low enzyme grains such as rice, corn or oats to gelatinise the sugars before continuing with a traditional mash. To avoid a possible stuck mash with all the flaked grains, I used some rice hulls to help break-up the grain bed and allow the mash liquor to properly circulate during the mashing process. Flaked wheat and oats do not have a husk, so the natural filter bed in the Mash/Lauter Tun is greatly reduced. Brewers with systems that are prone to stuck sparges should add rice hulls at a rate of about 20:1 wheat to rice hull ratio to avoid stuck sparges.

A pretty standard BM brew really, but I used a new Bacbrewing top extender filter with a cross tension piece of my own making. The Bacbrewing plates are supposed to be used with the supplied wing nut on its own, but I found that this did not clamp the plate tight enough to prevent grain seepage out of the malt tube. So I used my cross piece with the wing nut. This worked perfectly.

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 55.77 L
Post Boil Volume: 50.52 L
Batch Size (fermenter): 45.00 L
Bottling Volume: 43.00 L
Estimated OG: 1.057 SG
Estimated Colour: 6.8 EBC
Estimated IBU: 15.7 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 75.4 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Water and treatment
75.0 L Thames Water tap water
18.5 L RO Water (from the Kingfisher’s Aquarium in Beckenham and used to dilute the tap water mineralisation)
500.0 mg Potassium metabisulphite (adding to the bulk water to remove chlorine and chloramines)
13.0 ml Lactic Acid 80% (used in sparge water only)
80.0 ml Hydrochloric acid 1M (used in mash liquor)
13.0 ml Sulphuric acid 2M (used in mash liquor)

0.6 kg Rice Hulls (0.EBC) 5.0%
5.0 kg Wheat, Flaked, Unmalted (4.EBC) 41.3%
5.5 kg Pilsner (Weyermann) (3.3 EBC) 20.7%
0.5 kg Oats, Flaked (Instant/Ready Oats) (3.EBC) 4.1%
0.5 kg Brewing Sugar (Dextrose) (0.EBC) 4.1%
100.0 g Hallertauer Hersbrucker hop pellets 3% Alpha (Boil 60 mins) 15.7 IBUs

100.0 g Dried Orange Peel, Sweet (Boil 5.mins)
30.0 g Crushed Coriander Seed (Boil 5.mins)
0.5 Items Protafloc Tablet (Boil 15.mins)
1 tsp Yeast Nutrient WLN100 (Boil 10 mins)

4 packets Belgian Wit Ale yeast (White Labs #WLP400)

Mash Schedule:
Total Grain Weight: 12.1 kg
Mash In: Add 52.87 L of water 50C 15 min
Mash Step: Heat to 68C for 90 min
Mash Out: Heat to 76C for 10 min
Sparge: Fly sparge with 15.00 L water at 76.C

Brewing Notes:
Water treated with brewing salts to: Ca=50, Mg=10, Na=16, Cl=70, S04=7
(Hit minimums on Ca and Mg, keep the Cl:SO4 ratio low and equal).

Mash liquor pH no grain after acids was 2.98. Sparge pH was 5.3.
Mash pH at 68C was 5.68, then 5.47 after 4mins.
pH in boil kettle was 5.47. Post boil volume in kettle was 54L.
48L into fermenter at pH 5.3.

Cool wort to 20C and aerate well. Wort was aerated with pure oxygen using a wand for 60 secs at 1L pm flow.

Start fermentation at 20C and raise to 23C for the last third of fermentation.

Now for some pictures of the brewing underway

Summary of water additions using the Bru’n Water app:

A video of my grain mill in action:
Pilsner milling

The flaked oats and flaked wheat:

“Mosaic” shot of the grains before going into malt tube:

Unfortunately, at my age, a few aids are needed to help get the grains in the malt tube!:

Malt tube top filter in place:

And a video of the top plate performance showing the mash recirculation just starting to rise:
BAC top filter with my spreader

Mash pH:

Hops, ground coriander and sweet orange peel ready for the boil:

Final appearance of beer as it went into fermenter. Looks just the right colour and cloudiness:

Package as you would normally. I rack to 19 L Cornelius kegs that have first been purged with CO2. I chill the kegs to near freezing while carbonating at the same time in a keg conditioning fridge. After about 1-2 weeks at serving pressure the kegs will be carbonated and ready to serve. If you are in a hurry to drink it, this beer is best served fresh, so raise the CO2 pressure temporarily to 30-40 PSI to carbonate fast over a 24 period, and then turn back down to serving pressure. Carbonate this beer to higher than normal levels, around 2.5 to 3.0 volumes of CO2.

Brewing a London Porter

I love my dark beers, and if I’m honest, prefer them to many of the cloudy, hop milkshake, American type IPAs that you seem to get everywhere today. So here is how I brewed an old fashioned style London Porter derived from a Fuller’s 1880 recipe. The recipe I have used is based on one from Graham Wheeler’s book called “Brew Your Own British Real Ale”, 3rd Edition, and was published by CAMRA in 2009. As well as using traditional English hops, this will be an all-grain brew using kilned malts only. No additional sugars or adjuncts are used. The brewing method is as pure to traditional English brewing as you can get in a home brew setup!

The origin of how ‘Porter’ got its name is an unsolved mystery subject to much speculation. The usual explanation is that it was named after the London street porters of the 18th and 19h centuries. This has never really been proven. Originally, when this beer was made it was stored for some time to mature. Graham Wheeler suggests that the name may come from the Latin “potare”, which was probably chalked on the wooden casks when the beer had matured enough and was fit to drink in the sense of being potable.

A word on the ingredients
The Fuggle hop originates in England and was first discovered in 1861 in a hop yard owned by George Stace in Kent. Some 14 years later it was officially named and introduced by Richard Fuggle of Benchley in 1875. Similar to a Styrian Golding, it is noted for its distinct European aroma and has enjoyed a long, versatile run. At its peak nearly 100 years ago Fuggle was known as a dual-use hop, used both for bittering and aroma. Today however, as other higher alpha acid varieties have become more prevalent, it’s now more prominently used for its aroma. In this recipe it is used for both.

Maris Otter Ale Malt is a traditional, two-row, low-protein, winter barley variety with deep roots in English brewing. It is today considered the keystone malt for authentic British ale flavors. It was first bred in 1966 by Dr G. D. H. Bell, the director of the British Plant Breeding Institute (PBI), which was then located on Maris Lane, in Trumpington, England. Maris Otter is considered a very “malty-tasting” pale base malt, which has made it a favourite among traditional cask ale brewers for decades. Using Maris Otter, brewers are able to create beers of relatively low gravity and alcoholic strength, such as “ordinary” bitters, while retaining a genuinely malty flavour profile. After its introduction, Maris Otter quickly became popular with brewers because of its low nitrogen content, excellent malting homogeneity, and good enzymatic strength, which makes it easy to malt and mash.

Traditionally Brown Malt was produced on a special kiln which was heated by wooden poles and faggots. Hornbeam faggots were the most commonly used, cut to 5 foot lengths, and burnt to give the malt a harsh, smoky and biscuity flavour. Because of the lack of availability of these specially prepared brushwood faggots, all Brown Malt produced in the UK is now made in the roasting drum. It is sometimes referred to as ‘drum-brown’ and is cooked at a low temperature to impart a dryer and less sweet character than Crystal Malt of the same colour. Its uses are generally restricted to specialist bottled beers, brown ales and sweet stouts.

Crystal malts are specialty grains that add flavour and colour to any brew. These malts are used in many beer styles, from pale ales to porters, and are the most widely used type of specialty grain. You can use crystal malt no matter what type of homebrewer you are — extract, partial mash or all-grain. Adding crystal malt is a common way to add a sweet flavour to beer. The sweetness of crystal malt has distinct caramel tones to it. Crystal malts also add body to your beer.

Special B Crystal Malt is the darkest of the Belgian crystal malts. This malt will impart a heavy caramel taste and is often credited with the raisin-like flavours of some Belgian Abbey ales.

Black malt primarily gives a highly roasted flavor, that carries some bitterness and acidity. But it can also show a deep fruity character reminiscent of currants, blackberries or sultanas. It gives deep contrast to a round malty beer by giving it some elbows, without being pushy. Most importantly, even in very small quantities, it provides a drying quality that brightens up the finish of any beer.

Carafa Special III dehusked chocolate malt is a dark-roasted specialty malt made from high-quality spring barley. It’s carefully roasted to add an espresso-like bouquet, coffee and chocolate flavors, and a mild but noticeable roasted aftertaste.

Here is the recipe:

Type: All Grain
Batch Size: 42 L (into fermenter)
Boil Size: 52 L
Boil Time: 90 min
End of Boil Vol: 44 L
Final Packaging Vol: 39 L
Brewhouse Efficiency: 91 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 94 %

Original Gravity: 1.058 SG
Final Gravity: 1.015 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 5.6 %
Bitterness: 33 IBUs (International Bittering Units – how strong the hop bitterness is)
Colour: 60 EBC (The colour of beer is measured in EBCs. EBC stands for European Brewery Convention)

Mash Ingredients:
6.65 kg Maris Otter Ale Malt (5 EBC) 73 %
1.10 kg Brown Malt (105 EBC) 12 %
0.9 kg Crystal Malt (140 EBC) 10 %
0.24 kg Carafa Special III dehusked chocolate malt (1400 EBC) 3 %
0.10 kg Special B Crystal Malt [Steep] (300.0 EBC) 1 %
0.10 kg Black Malt [Steep] (1300 EBC) 1 %

Mash Steps:
1.) Mash In. Add 47 L of water at 70 C, hold at 67.0 C 90 min
2.) Mash Out and Vorlauf. Add 0.00 L of water and heat to 77.0 C over 20 min, hold at 77.0 C 15 min
3.) Fly Sparge. Sparge with 13 L water at 76.0 C

Boil Ingredients:
125 g Fuggles leaf 3.8 % Alpha – Boil 90.0 min – 29.7 IBUs
40 g Fuggles leaf 3.8 % Alpha – Boil 10 min – 3.2 IBUs
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Boil 15.0 mins)

2 pkg — Wyeast Labs 1968 London ESB Ale (aka Fuller’s yeast)
Ferment at 18C – 20C for 10 to 14 days

Water adjustment:
You may remember in my last article I wrote about the need to get the water right for brewing purposes. When I brewed the English Pale Ale we needed water that was high in sulphates and low in chlorides. When brewing a porter the salts need to be the other way round. This helps to give a porter the roundness of flavour and the smoothness we expect from a dark beer. So in parts per million (ppm) this is what the brewing water (liquor) looked like after my adjustments:
Calcium (Ca) 113
Magnesium (Mg) 5
Sodium (Na) 27
Sulphate (SO4) 70
Chloride (Cl) 174
Thus giving a chloride to sulphate ratio of 2.4:1.

Now for some pictures of the brewing equipment and the process.

For this brew, I am not using my normal 3 vessel setup as shown in the November posting, but using a one-vessel system called a Braumeister. This is really a large, stainless steel version of a simple BIAB system (Brew-In-A-Bag). You still need an HLT (Hot Liquor Tank) for sparging. Here’s a picture of the setup:

This is the home made control panel that I use to control the Braumeister and the HLT:

Here’s what the grains look like after crushing and before adding to the mash process:

After the mash is underway for 20 mins, it’s time to check that the pH is right for the conversion of the malt starches to fermentable sugars:

This is a view inside the Braumeister showing the mash liquor rising up the inner tube:

Once the mashing is over, the inner metal tube containing the malt grains has to be raised to do the sparging (grain rinsing). Full of soaked grain, this tube can be very heavy and needs some kind of hoist to lift it. I use a small car engine hoist:

Pumping the finished wort after the boil into the fermenter via the cooling coil:

This is a view of the spent hops left after finishing the hop boil and draining off the wort to the fermenter:

Well, that’s it for now. This beer turned out really well for me and I won second prize with it in a recent national brewing competition. For further explanation of the brewing terms have a look at the end of this article “Brewing an English Pale Ale” on my HOME page. If you do make this beer, drink it slowly and give a thought to Graham Wheeler. Thank him for the rich brewing knowledge that he so willingly shared in his lifetime.

Brewing an English Pale Ale from local Beckenham hops

I was most fortunate in September in that I was the happy recipient of some very fine hops from Bob Keaveney’s garden. Harvesting the hops themselves was a great deal of fun on a very hot late summer day. Besides me, a good crowd of fellow CAMRA Bromley branch members turned up to give a helping hand. Here is a picture of us all hard at work:

The garden was like a hop jungle and it looked as if they were taking over Bob’s house!

After much hard work and plenty of refreshing beer, as well as fine food from Bob’s cuisine, we had a bumper crop of fresh Cascade, Fuggles, Target and Goldings. Here is a picture of some of the Cascade.

I took my share of the hops home and duly dried them out over 7 days on large trays in my loft. The late September weather was perfect for drying as my loft was very much like a warm oven. In a way, the conditions were very similar to the traditional oast house, but without the fire and smoke. The smell of the hops wafting through my home was wonderful.

After drying, the hops were carefully packed in 100 g bags and vacuum sealed. Stored at near zero temperature in my Brewing fridge, they will keep their usability for 2 or 3 years at least.

So, having picked and dried all these fine hops, I decided to brew a traditional English Pale Ale. For the technically minded, under the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) this would be classed as “11C Strong Bitter”. More well-known commercial varieties of this style would be Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery Pale Ale, Shepherd Neame Bishop’s Finger, Shepherd Neame Spitfire, or Young’s Ram Rod.

As well as using traditional English hops, this will be an all-grain brew using traditional kilned malts and adjuncts. The vast majority of the hops used will be “Bob’s” hops – Target, Cascade and Fuggles. However, to give the beer slightly more hop complexity, some additional hops from my own stock will be added in the boil. These will be Challenger, Northdown, Hallateur Blanc and Epic. Recipe details now follow. (For those of you who enjoy drinking beer, but may not know how to make it and the brewing terminology used, a short explanation is given at the end of this article.)

Type: All Grain
Batch Size: 45.00 L
Boil Size: 56.5 L
Boil Time: 90 min
End of Boil Vol: 49 L
Final Packaging Vol: 44.00 L
Efficiency: 75.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 80 %

Est Original Gravity: 1.066 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.017 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 6.5 %
Bitterness: 49 IBUs (International Bittering Units – how strong the hop bitterness is)
Est Colour: 23 EBC (The colour of beer is measured in EBCs. EBC stands for European Brewery Convention)

Mash Ingredients:
11.50 kg Extra Pale Propino Pale Malt whole (3 EBC) 89.4 %
0.60 kg Heritage 1823 Greenwich Crystal Malt (10 EBC) 4.7%
0.60 kg Flaked Maize (1.0 EBC) 4.7 %
0.10 kg Special B Crystal Malt [Steep] (300.0 EBC) 0.8 %
0.06 kg Black Malt [Steep] (1300 EBC) 0.5 %

Mash Steps:
1.) Mash In. Add 39 L of water at 70 C, hold at 67.0 C 60 min
2.) Mash Out and Vorlauf. Add 0.00 L of water and heat to 77.0 C over 20 min, hold at 77.0 C 15 min
3.) Fly Sparge. Sparge with 29.58 L water at 76.0 C

First Wort Hops:
34.00 g Target 14.0 IBUs
32.00 g Cascade 11.5 IBUs
32.00 g Fuggles 6.6 IBUs

Boil Ingredients:
35.00 g Challenger pellets – Boil 60.0 min 10.7 – IBUs
35.00 g Northdown leaf – Boil 5 min – 2.1 IBUs
55.00 g Hallauter Blanc – Boil 2 min – 1.8 IBUs
23.00 g Epic pellets – Boil 2 min – 0.4 IBUs
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Boil 15.0 mins)

Steeped Hops:
50.00 g Fuggle leaf – Steep at boil end – 15 min – 2.3 IBUs

4 pkg Safale English Ale S04 yeast (aka Whitbread yeast)

Water adjustment:
The biggest ingredient in beer of course is water. Water direct from the tap is often not suitable for brewing. My water is from the Thames Water Company. Although perfectly drinkable, and better than many bottled waters, from a brewer’s perspective it has several faults. Namely, it contains chlorine/chloramines for sanitation, the acidity (pH) is too neutral, the minerals in it are not in the right proportions, and lastly the alkalinity is too high.

For brewing a Bitter type beer the sulphate to chloride ratio needs to be about 2:1 or more to accentuate the bitterness. The pH of the mash and sparge water needs to about 5.2 to 5.6, as opposed to 7.5 or so from the tap. Lastly, if the chlorine/chloramines residue is not removed the beer can have a medicinal, TCP like, taste.

The total volume of water needed for this brew was 70L. So the first step is to add 500 mg of Potassium Metabisulphite to the bulk water to remove the chlorine and chloramine residues. Thames Water has chloride and sulphate mineral salts that are roughly matched at 50 ppm (parts per million) each. To change the sulphate to chloride level, careful and measured amounts of Sulphuric Acid are added to give a final ratio of around 200 ppm of sulphates to 50 ppm of chlorides. This also has the effect of changing the pH of the water to 5.4, which is ideal for the mash and sparge water. Once the water is treated and ready for brewing use, the water is no longer called water but mysteriously acquires the name of ‘liquor’.

Now for some pictures of the brewing equipment and the process.

All set up and recirculating water in the Hot Liquor Tank (HLT). The HLT is where the treated tap water (now called liquor) is heated up to the required mash temperature:

A view inside the HLT showing the heating elements and the recirculating coil:

Transferring the liquor to mash tun prior to adding the grain:

A close up on the ‘Mission Control’ centre:

A view inside the mash tun showing the sparging hose and the false bottom that holds and strains the grain bed:

Here the grains are all ground up and ready for scooping into the mash tun:

Stirring the grains in the mash, or “doughing in” as the Yanks would say:

Changing the hoses around for sparging and running off into the boil kettle (BK):

A diagrammatic view of how the mashing works:

A view into the boil kettle showing the hop filter and whirlpool arm fitted:

A view of the run-off into the boil kettle from the mash tun:

What a boil!

Have a look at the video as well on Youtube

After boiling, the wort is pumped via a Counter Flow Chiller (CFC) into the fermenter
Exit temperature from the CFC at 20 C was just perfect:

It’s a long way from the CFC to the conical fermenter! The Chugger pump handles it well:

The boil is over and the BK has been drained into the fermenter via the CFC. The whirpool arm and hop filter really worked well at keeping the hop residues back and the BK was drained practically dry:

Now the beer is happily in the fermenter and the yeast is pitched or added:

Fermenting and allowing the beer to condition takes about four weeks. Then it’s time to bottle it and keg it:

After about three weeks in the bottle it’s ready to drink. Cheers!

Explanation of brewing terms:
Mashing – The goal of mashing is to produce wort (pronounced ‘wert’), a sugar-laden liquid extracted from the starches in the grains. Hot water and the milled grist (malt, adjuncts and grains) are mixed so that the enzymes in the malt can convert starches into sugars for later fermentation.

Mash Out – After the mash sugar extraction is complete, the mash temperature is raised to around 76 C and held for 15 minutes. This helps decrease the viscosity of the wort and improves sparging performance. It also stops the enzymes from further starch conversion and ‘sets’ the sugar level. This is often combined with Vorlauf –see below.

Vorlauf – This is a German brewing term; recirculation is the equivalent English term. During this process the wort is recirculated over the grain bed, or mash, in the mash tun to establish the grain bed as a filter, which removes large particles and clarifies the wort before transfer to the boil kettle. At the start of the Vorlauf the steeping grains, which are kept out of the main mash, are added. Using the dark grains and crystal malt in this way reduces the harshness in a beer since the husk materials are exposed to hot water for a much shorter time.

Sparge – Fly sparging involves spraying water gently on top of the mash while adjusting the runoff rate to the boil kettle to match the sparge rate, so as to maintain a constant level of water on top of the mash. The goal of this step is to have clear, sweet wort with good flavour in sufficient volume for the boil kettle. Sparging is stopped once the boiling quantity is met. Care needs to be taken to avoid unwanted tannins being flushed through if the sparge water is too hot or too much sparge water is used.

First Wort Hops – A special form of hop boiling, where hops are added to the boil kettle before the boil begins. They are typically added as the first sparging runoff flows into the kettle. This method provides a smoother, cleaner bitterness with significant hop flavour.

A walk from Maidstone to Rochester 15/06/2019

I thought it was some time since I did one of my long distance pub hikes, so on Saturday 15 June I did a 15 mile walk from Maidstone to Rochester. First pub stop was as soon as I left the train at Maidstone East. A nice pint of Ruddles in the Wetherspoon “Society Rooms” at 09:48:

Maidstone is a quaint town, but I didn’t have time to explore its streets:


I followed the path from the station to the River Medway and was greeted with this view looking southward as I walked down the steps to the river tow path:

But this isn’t the way I wanted to go as I was walking north towards Allington Locks.

As I walked along the tow path some fine old Thames barges were spotted
And soon enough my second pub came into sight, The Malta Inn:
I find the lock machinery at Allington quite fascinating:
As did this cute swan family of mum and dad with eight signets:
I soon reached the fine old stone Aylesford Bridge
…………. and my next pub right next door, The Chequers.

I quickly walked through the picturesque old town with its noisy traffic and entered the flat river meadows and marshes:

I was now approaching nearby Burham, which nestles between the Medway and the North Downs. It felt about right for another pint, so I diverted slightly off route to The Butcher’s Block at Burham and a nice pint of Old Dairy:
Walking past the ancient church of St. Mary’s at Burham, I was soon once again in the riverside marshes.
Walking through the desolate marshes I came across the memorial stone, set up as a monument to the Battle of the Medway in 43 AD, when British tribes under the command of Caratacus tried to halt the advancing Roman legions and failed.
The wide sweep of the river 20190615_132117soon brought me to the new dwellings of Peter’s Village.
Lovely houses, but no pubs here I’m afraid. Still it was a good place to sit and eat my lunch – a large chunk of homemade cottage pie.

A quick tally of my pints so far revealed I had only managed to sink four – hardly my normal pint per mile. So I hastened on towards Wouldham, where I knew two good pubs awaited me.

Sure enough, the first pub at Wouldham was The Medway Inn and a good pint of London Pride:

Only a short hop from here to the the next great Wouldham pub, The Waterman’s Arms, and a gorgeous pint of Spitfire Gold:

From Wouldham, I took the high ground up to the North Downs ridge and then my descent towards Rochester:
passing some old square oast houses on the way:

As I passed through Borstal, I remembered The White Horse on the way and was pleased to see it still thriving:

And this is where I met my new friend Frank – a rather gorgeous French Bulldog puppy whose coat colour is known as ‘blue’:

Two pints were swiftly downed here as Frank’s owner and I swapped experiences of owning French Bulldogs.

And now the final sweeping approach to Rochester and its famous bridge, still privately owned would you believe!

Rochester Castle soon came into view, followed quickly by my first pub in Rochester proper, The Crown:
I fought hard in Rochester, but the pubs came thick and fast and I was unable to beat them off:
First two up, right next to each other so I had no chance, were The Jolly Knight and The King’s Head:
Followed swiftly by Ye Arrow:
and a pint of St Edmunds
I realised now I was not going to win this battle, so after a quick glimpse of Rochester Cathedral for divine guidance,
I dragged myself into The Smoke Liquor for a bottle of smoked porter – gorgeous!
Now having decided I was truly defeated, I finished off at The Two Brewers and The Eagle Tavern:

I fought a good battle, but decided to yield at this point having imbibed a total of 15 pints during the day. So eventually I did meet my pint per mile target. I got home at 21:30, was kicked about a bit by SWMBO, and went off to bed to have a fine sleep. An excellent day out. Soon to be repeated I hope by going along the Medway in the other direction southwards from Maidstone to Tonbridge, but that will be another tale!

A late tribute to Graham Wheeler

I have just brewed two beers as a personal remembrance to Graham Wheeler. The first was a German Pilsner style beer modelled on Graham’s recipe for ‘Jever Pils’ from his book “Brew Classic European Beers At Home” (1995). This beer has rich aromas of malt and hop. With a delicate and refreshing balance of malt and hop in the mouth, leading to a dry finish with a pleasing blend of hop and honey sweetness. Here is my pump clip label:


The second was taken from Graham Wheeler ‘s “Home Brewing” book (1990) and modelled on his recipe for an old style porter. This black beer has a biscuity, nutty flavour with a chocolate and roast coffee background. The hops are quite pronounced and give a fruity and spicy character. Pump clip label:


If you are wondering about the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ image above, Graham was rather camera shy and used this particular silhouette as his on-line avatar in brewing forums.

I will sup these two beers slowly and give a thought for Graham, who inspired so many to brew their own quality beer in defiance of commercial blandness. They are brewed in commemoration of his life and with thanks for the rich brewing knowledge that he shared.  Sadly, he left this world to become ‘Supreme Beer Cicerone’ on 30/11/2017. RIP.

A Parti-Gyle Brewing Session – Part 3

So now on to part 3, which is brewing a Brown Ale of the Northern variety. The first gyle, a barley wine, was made as a “no sparge” from the first runnings, and will take a few years to age properly, but here I want to make a session ale that can be enjoyed right away. This will be made by adding more liquor to the previous mash grains in the mash tun, adding additional crystal and roasted malts, and steeping/vorlaufing the new mix for 30 mins before running off. Here are the recipe details:

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 44.79 l
Post Boil Volume: 38.54 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 32.00 l
Bottling Volume: 29.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.051 SG
Estimated Colour: 52.6 EBC
Estimated IBU: 24.3 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 54.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 62.4 %
Boil Time: 75 Minutes

60.00 l Thames Water
300.00 mg Potassium metabisulphite
55.00 ml CRS/AMS
15.00 kg Maris Otter (Crisp) (7.9 EBC) 90.4 % (grains left from first brew already in mash tun)
1.00 kg Crystal Malt Dark (240 EBC) 5.6 %
0.50 kg Oats, Golden Naked (Simpsons) (18.0 EBC) 2.8 %
0.20 kg Chocolate Malt Crushed (1050 EBC) 1.1 %
45.00 g Northdown leaf [6.88 %] – Boil 60 mins
0.50 Items Protafloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins) Fining
25.00 g East Kent Goldings [5.93] Boil 10 mins
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient WLN1000 (Boil 10.0 mins)
2.0 pkg London Ale (White Labs #WLP013)

Mash Schedule: Steep, then vorlauf to allow grain bed to form before run off.
Total Grain Weight: 17.70 kg (including mash grains from first brew)
Mash Step Add 56.61 l of water and heat to 77.0 C 77.0 C 30 min
60L of Thames Water treated with 55ml of CRS. ph 5.33, alkalinity 21.

Here’s a picture of the grains in the mash tun left after the run-off from the first brew:

The next batch of crystal and roast grains ready to be added:

I am using a fairly new grain that has recently appeared on the home brew market – Golden Naked Oats. This a huskless oat crystal malt described as an “Exotic ingredient for a subtle nutty difference”. The sales jargon for this grain says:

“Sweet berry-nut flavour. Use to add a deep golden hue, light caramel flavours, and a creamy, satiny finish. This unique product from Simpsons has a special, sweet berry-nut flavour. Used at a rate of 4-15% of total grist by weight, Golden Naked Oats will deliver a deep golden hue with light caramel flavours to the finished beer as well as a creamy, satin finish.”

Sounds good, if not poetic! We shall see what difference it makes when it comes to the drinking.

Here’s a shot inside the mash tun just after finishing the vorlauf and before run-off into the boil kettle:

Running the clear mash liquor into the 100L boil kettle. It’s a lovely dark colour:

Hops ready to go:

After the 75 min boil, a picture showing the cooling and running into the conical fermenter:

As in all my brews, pure oxygen was pumped into the chilled wort using a wand airstone for 60 secs before pitching. Final collected wort was 32L at an OG of 1.043.

So, now that my first parti-gyle brewing session is all over, what do I think? As compared to the standard one-off brew, it can be quite complicated. You have to keep several proverbial balls in the air at the same time, for instance, there are two boil kettles to watch and you need much more treated water. That can involve a double set of water calculations tailored to each brew, as the first and second runnings have a different composition, and not just of sugars. It is also hard to work out, and consequently plug into brewing software, the brewing and mash efficiency for the second brew as you cannot tell with any accuracy the sugars remaining in the ‘spent’ grains.

On the plus side, the second brew gyle does not have to be “re-mashed”, as all the conversion has already taken place. This makes it much quicker to do multiple brews. I would never be able to do two full brews in a day with the normal all-grain mash process.

The main lesson learnt with my parti-gyle session was in under estimating the potential liquor absorption by the grains. I found that initially the mash tun level for the second brew was about 5L short. I also miscalculated the temperature drop when I added the hot treated water from the HLT to the second gyle grains. The steeping temperature dropped to 70C instead of 76C, so my steeping and vorlauf extraction may have fell slightly short on gravity points. At this point I had used all the water from the HLT in refilling the mash tun, so I could not recirculate the mash liquor through the HLT HERMS coil to heat it up.

Having tried the parti-gyle method though, I can say that it was immensely enjoyable and I feel I have earnt another brewer’s stripe to go on my arm. And yes, I would do it again – I am already thinking of a strong Scotch ale and a dark mild parti-gyle. Finally, a picture of the contented brewer, weapon in hand, at the end of a hard day’s work, as taken by SWMBO.

A Parti-Gyle Brewing Session – Part 2

I went through the prep work for my parti-gyle brew in my last post.

The first beer from the parti-gyle was an English barley Wine, hopefully along the lines of Thomas Hardy’s Ale when fermented and conditioned. Here’s the ingredients:

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 38.12 l
Post Boil Volume: 28.12 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 22.00 l
Bottling Volume: 20.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.117 SG
Estimated Color: 27.7 EBC
Estimated IBU: 62.7 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 54.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 66.3 %
Boil Time: 120 Minutes

300.00 mg Potassium metabisulphite
43.00 ml CRS/AMS
14.00 kg Maris Otter (Crisp) (7.9 EBC) 93.0 %
1.00 kg Minch Irish Pale Malt Crushed, Hook Head 6.6 %
0.05 kg Chocolate Malt Crushed 0.3 %
85.00 g Northern Brewer Alpha [7.00 %] – Boil 60 mins
50.00 g Challenger pellets [6.50 %] – Boil 30 mins
0.50 Items Protafloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins)
40.00 g Crystal (Malt Miller) [3.70 %] – Boil 10 mins
40.00 g Fuggle [4.50 %] – Boil 10.0 min
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient WLN1000 (Boil 10.0 mins)
3.0 pkg Super High Gravity Ale WLP099 (White Lab Yeast )
20.00 g East Kent Goldings (EKG) dry hop 4 days
20.00 g Hallertauer Mittelfrueh dry hop 4 days
1.00 tsp Gelatin (Brupaks) (Secondary 3.0 days) Fining

Mash Schedule: No Sparge Mash
Total Grain Weight: 15.05 kg
Mash Step Add 48.31 l of water at 72.6 C 66.0 C 90 min
Mash Out Heat to 77.0 C 77.0 C 15 min
50L of strike water. Alkalinity 51. pH 5.62.

Hose configuration:
By connecting up in this way I can get two lots of water heated for the two brews at the same time. The mash tun is filled with the Barley Wine mash liquor (48L) and the HLT is filled with 60L of liquor for the second brew, which will be steeped and not mashed. The liquor in the HLT is heated up by recirculating from bottom to top, while the mash liquor is circulated via the HLT coil and heats up in that way.

Grains ready to go into the mash tun:


Mash recirculation under way:

Pumping into boil kettle after mash is finished:

Hops all weighed out ready to add to kettle:

Running into the fermenter and cooling with the CFC to 20C:

The OG ended up at 1.123, which was spot on the target. That’s enough writing up for the moment. Part 3 – the second runnings – will follow shortly.

A Parti-Gyle Brewing Session (Part 1)

Tomorrow (Friday) and over this weekend I will be trying out for the first time a historical English brewing method in which the same mash is used to produce multiple worts and produce different beers. In my case I will be producing two distinct beers from the same mash and running off the sweet wort into two different brew kettles. One beer will be an English Barley Wine – hopefully a Thomas Hardy clone at 12% – and the other will be a Norther English Nut Brown Ale at 4.5%.

Because a parti-gyle is difficult to do with my 50L Braumeister, I will be getting my 3V system out of mothballs and using that. Actually, it will be a 4V as I will be using two boil kettles for the two different beers. I have not used my 3V system for over 18 months, as I have used my BM exclusively over this period, so it will be an interesting experience.

In view of the amount of preparation needed, I started to set up the operation today. So just in case anyone might be interested I thought I would post some pictures of the setting up and preparation. I will then follow this up with more pictures of the actual brewing after it has occurred. This also gives me the opportunity to show some greater detail of my 3V-4V system itself and hopefully other Hop members will find it interesting.

First picture show the four vessels and the control panel I have built. It uses Blichmann pots: 1 x 75L HLT, 1 x 75L mash tun, 1 x 75 boil kettle and 1 x 100L boil kettle. For Clive’s benefit, the picture also shows my SSBrewtech 64L Brewmaster Chronical – fully assembled and cleaned ready for use.

This is how the hoses are connected for recirculating the mash and the water in the HLT:

Both boil kettles and the HLT are fitted with two stainless steel elements each. One 5500w and one 2400w. They are independently switchable, giving a range of power from 2400 to 7900 watts per pot.

That’s it for now. The brewing starts tomorrow and I will put up the brew pictures as quickly as I can afterwards in the “Brewdays” section.