Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Getting in the Winter Spirit

I was recently sent some beer by two breweries to write about. I happily accept beer for an honest opinion when I write an article about them. For the second year, Smithwicks have released Winter Spirit. I was at the launch last year and learned that it's basically normal Smithwicks with extra roast barley. Is it an inspiring recipe? No, of course not. It's not trying to be. You drink with your eyes and typically, people prefer lighter beer in summer and darker beer in winter. A Smithwicks drinker might prefer a darker version of their favourite tipple in winter. Winter Spirit in my opinion is like Smithwicks how it should be and quite possibly more like it used to be. I have nothing to base that statement on but anecdotally, modern beer from large producers has had ingredients reduced to save money and make them more assessable to the masses.
Winter Spirit has a large malt forward body with hints of fruit cake and a nice bitter finish. It's inoffensive but has enough flavour to keep you interested for the duration of the pint. One thing worth mentioning, and nothing whatsoever to do with the beer is the lovely looking bottle opener pictured above is useless.

A few weeks previously, I was sent some of the Franciscan Well's new pale ale aged in Jameson barrels. This follows on from their very successful Jameson barrel aged stout series. I'm not 100% sure how well this marriage works in this case however. The ale itself is a nice sticky orange marmalade affair with a hint of hop bitterness and oak from the barrel. There isn't much in the way of whiskey itself, so don't expect Innis & Gunn here. I had quite a lot of this on tap at the ICBCF in September and it seems different to me. In the bottle, it's more subtle and old ale like. It was more carbonated and quicker drinking on tap. At 6% you can expect this to provide a little warmth on a cold winter evening.

Personally, I think whiskey barrel ageing works better with stouts but that's just me perhaps. My advice is to try it for yourself. In the meantime, I'm ageing all of the different releases of their wonderful barrel aged stout for a vertical tasting sometime soon.

It's also worth noting that Jameson have recently released a whiskey aged in stout barrels. Essentially, the barrels that Jameson sent to the Franciscan well for their stout were returned to Jameson and whiskey was aged in these barrels. They are calling it caskmates, a fitting name. I have no idea if it's any good but it's an interesting idea all the same.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Beer Tourism - Why Do We Travel For Beer? - #TheSession 93

In this November Session, Brian from The Roaming Pint asks us to put in words why we travel for beer. Indeed, beer tourism is an emerging sector of tourism these days. It's one that Ireland's own tourism organisation (Fáilte Ireland) hasn't quite managed to promote yet and I strongly believe they are missing out. It somewhat defies logic when you consider that according to Fáilte Ireland, the number one paid visitor attraction in Ireland is the Guinness storehouse. It had over 1 million visitors in 2013 for what is essentially a museum. It's a very interesting museum though, it spans over 250 years of brewing history and marketing.

Here's the thing, visitors to Ireland want something that's uniquely Irish! That can't be said about Guinness any more. On the other hand, Ireland has an increasing number of independent Irish breweries who are brewing beer that in some cases are uniquely Irish in style and even ingredients on a rare occasion. 

This leaves a gap in Ireland for those that wish to engage in Beer Tourism. Many stumble across Beoir, Ireland's beer consumer group. They gather info on what breweries are on their route, perhaps they download the BeoirFinder app to help them find locations serving Irish Craft Beer or Cider. Those that wish for a more structured vacation might book a tour with Brewery hops.

Long time readers might recall that one of my very first articles was a travel article, indeed it was my second article in January 2009. Technically it was the first article I started writing but I threw one in about homebrew before I was finished. Christmas in Alabama was followed with New Year in New Orleans.

If I move away from my blog though and concentrate on just me, what I have found in the last few years is that I usually pick my holiday destination based on what beer will be available when I get there. Even down to the hotel I stay in, it must be walking distance to a recommended bar that serves local craft beer. Ideally, there should be a local brewery or brewpub to visit. The only non beer related vacation I have taken in the last 5 years was when I went to Croatia this year and that's only because I went there to go scuba diving.

The question is why though? Let's just concentrate on the question of why visit the brewery when I can just enjoy the beer at a local bar?

That's an interesting one to think about. On the one hand, if you have been on one brewery tour, you have been on them all. That's a common statement I get from those that simply don't get it. In some ways, that's correct but do I care? Not in the least. Actually, I don't always go on a brewery tour. Sometimes I simply go to a tasting room and drink the beer from the source. 
Does it taste any better? Usually not. 
Is it cheaper? The opposite is often true.

So why? I suppose it's a way to pay homage to the beer I am enjoying. Sometimes I simply want to buy a T-Shirt or some other paraphernalia. In the end, the main reason is that I simply want to support the brewery and giving them my money directly is the best way I can think of doing that.

Perhaps this beer tourism thing is news to you but it gives you a great idea. When you think about it, most people spend a lot of their time drinking while on vacation. So why not just cut out all the other stuff and go on a holiday where drinking is the sole purpose? Does that sound attractive? I should point out that I in now way suggest drinking from the moment you wake up until you go to bed. That would be boring and unhealthy in my view.

My wife and I love going to a new city and experiencing their culture in the best way possible. We usually avoid normal tourist attractions and instead enjoy walking around and hopping from bar to bar. You almost get to feel what it's like to be a local, until you open your mouth that is. I often have set destinations in mind, bars I have found on Ratebeer or Beermapping. Sometimes we stumble in to a random and inviting looking place because something catches my eye and all of sudden we are in some sort of beer heaven. It might not have as big a range as the places on my list but it makes up for it in atmosphere. This happens at least once every time we are away.

When we are in the US, we often have a rental car. We drive to different breweries and do tours or just visit the tap room. My wife does the driving and I do the sampling and navigation. It's a good and simple system.

Not everyone wants to do a DIY visit though. Some people enjoy structure and prefer to go on guided tours. If you are visiting Ireland for instance, we have a group offering day trips or 5 day brewery tours of Ireland. They are called Brewery Hops and I can certainly recommend them. In the winter months, they will happily organise bespoke day trips or office trips/Christmas parties.

Of all the countries known for good beer, Belgium is probably the number one place that springs to mind. There are many reasons for this. I could mention all of the different and unique styles of beer or even the high strength of many of them but I don't think that's the real draw. I believe the real draw in Belgium as a beer tourism hotspot is geographical. The country is tiny, about a third the size of the island of Ireland, yet it has nearly twice our population. Public transport is so prevalent that you really have no need to rent a car unless you plan on going to one of the Trappist abbeys such as St Sixtus. Travel between cities is cheap and fast with regular trains. Once you are in a city, they are compact and walkable but have great public transport if you want to rest your weary feet. People often say that Belgium is boring, especially Brussels. For people like us, it's a beer lovers playground.

I imagine that there are all manner of tours available around Belgium. I have never seen them myself but I am sure there are plenty.
One company I am aware of is Taste Vacations. They are part of Zephyr Adventures who in turn run the Beer Bloggers Conferences in Europe and USA. Their 7 day tour of Belgium will bring you from Brussels to Brugge (Bruges). It's not cheap but it includes accommodation, breakfast, dinner and transfers in Belgium. I should mention that the hotel they have picked for Brussels is actually the same one I stayed in when I first went there in 2009. It's a pretty unique hotel and we loved it. Anyone can tour Belgium on their own and cheaper than with a tour but if you prefer structure and experienced guides then a tour is the best way to go and you are more likely to see things you might not stumble across on your own.

If there's one lesson that this months session has taught me, it's that beer tourism is on the rise and will continue to do so. We are catching up with wine tourism but the great thing about beer tourism is that many breweries are in cities and can be easily reached. Wineries on the other hand tend to be in the countryside and only reachable by car so beer tourism is just easier and in my opinion, a lot more fun and I say that from experience as I have done plenty of both.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Irish Growler

In 2012, I wrote a short session article about growlers in Ireland. At the time, they were only starting to make an appearance. Things have changed as you might imagine. Many pubs around the country now have a growler service.

What's a growler though? I'm sure some people reading might be a little unsure so let me explain.
A growler is basically a large bottle to store draught beer in. The idea is to take your growler to the bar, have it filled and bring it home to drink it. They are usually large glass bottles of varying volumes but even a 1 or 2 litre PET bottle can be used. They tend to either have a screw cap or even better, a swing top.

The best ones are the large 2 litre swing top growlers such as my Hopus bottle. The best thing about that one is that it came filled with Hopus!

So, why do people use growlers? It tends to involve going to a bar in the first place so why fill a growler? Growlers have always been a US/Canadian thing and to some degree Australian. These are large countries with very poor public transport outside of the major cities so driving is almost essential. It's often the case that people bring their growlers direct to the brewery to be filled and taken home. They are being responsible by not drinking and driving.

How relevant are they in Ireland as we approach 2015? Increasingly so it would seem. The problem with a growler in a city like Dublin is that driving to a pub doesn't make sense as there will not be any convenient parking. Taking a growler with you on public transport doesn't make much sense either as they are bulky and heavy, especially once filled and since you are already on public transport, there is little stopping you from having a drink in the pub. This doesn't stop many people from getting growlers filled. Often, it will be a beer that isn't available outside of pubs or a special one off beer. J.W. Sweetman, Dublin's only brewpub has been filling growlers for over a year now and since you can only get their beer on tap at the bar or a few select bars around the city, it makes perfect sense.
Galway Bay bars in Dublin and Galway also fill growlers. I have a growler of their Goodbye Blue Monday in my fridge at home. My lovely wife brought it home on Sunday as it's one of her favourite beers and she knows I like it too.

Recently, a new type of growler location appeared. The Carryout off-licence in Tyrellstown is the first in Ireland to provide growler fills using the Pegas CraftTap system supplied by Craft Beer Growlers. It's an impressive setup with multiple filling stations and a rotating keg menu to choose from. I brought my Hopus growler along last week to get Black's Rocketship IPA filled. The price was right at €14 for a 2 litre fill. I hadn't even had it on tap in a pub yet.
I should point out that ordinarily they would only fill their own growlers. That's because the Pegas system is filled under pressure so they need to be sure the growler can handle it. Since mine was identical to theirs, there was no issue but that might not always be the case.

They also sell their own growlers and the price is a very reasonable €7 for a two litre swingtop that's identical to my Hopus bottle. There are also 1 litre swingtop bottles, the same sort that Franciscan Well use in their specials. I have a large number of those at home ready to be filled. Unfortunately a 1 litre fill isn't half the price of a 2 litre fill for some reason so a €14 2 litre fill will cost €7.50 for a 1 litre fill. I don't get the logic myself, unless it's to dissuade people coming in with multiple 1 litre growlers as that would take more time than a single 2 litre fill.

If you don't want a proper growler, they provide PET bottles though I didn't notice the price of those. These are free of charge, just be sure to cover them to prevent light getting in to them.

This format is ideal for me because I work a few minutes away and can drive down at lunch time, get a growler fill and bring it home with me. I should also note that the off license has one of the most impressive ranges of Irish and world craft beer in Dublin. The Blanchardstown/Dublin 15 area might be sorely lacking in pubs serving Irish Craft Beer but there are two outstanding bottle shops with an unbelievable range. The other one is the massive Molloy's on the Clonsilla road.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest missed opportunities in growlers is when it comes to breweries. Ireland still uses archaic licensing laws left over from our days under British rule. They essentially mean that a brewery may not sell beer to the public unless it exceeds about 19 litres. I say about because the actual number is an old unused one that equates to about 19 litres. That means that the only way a brewery could sell me beer would be if I rocked up with a corny keg to be filled. I think it would be a great revenue stream for breweries to be able to sell their beer to the public as well as a revenue stream for the government too lazy to update our licensing laws.

For a little more reading on Growlers, The Irish Beer Snob wrote a piece on about them a few days ago. You can read his article here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Donegal Sea Sessions

Sea Sessions is a surf and music festival in Donegal. To commemorate it, the Donegal brewing company released a pale ale of the same name. As you might expect, the beer is designed to be sessionable. At 4.5% it just about achieves this. I might have liked to have seen it more around the 3,8% mark but that might have detracted from the body significantly. On the nose, it's clear that this is a malt forward beer. In fact, I didn't perceive any obvious hop aroma but perhaps I had it a little too cold. It tasted like a cross between an English pale ale and a Vienna lager with a lingering bitter finish. It's not exciting, just a very well made beer that I could easily stick with all night. 

One of the newer Irish brands is Clough More which is contract brewed at the Whitewater brewery for Noreast, one of Ireland's beer distributors. They have a few beers such as Granite Lager pictured above as well as a Heather IPA and Dark Water stout. Coming from Whitewater, these are very well made beers as you might expect. I didn't bother taking any tasting notes, I simply enjoyed the beers. As you can see from the picture, the lager is unfiltered and quite murky. In fact, it looks a little like a first homebrew attempt but it does taste rather pleasant. I thought the stout was the strongest of the lineup. A pretty robust flavour from a stout with a very light body.
The heather IPA was interesting in that it wasn't too different to the lager. It was bigger but it looked and tasted quite similar. I'm not 100% sure what the heather was doing for it. I'll probably have to revisit it at some point as to be honest, I only had a mouthful and let my wife drink it.

The most interesting thing about the Clough More beers is that a distributor/importer is having them produced. I imagine it's an easy way to increase their portfolio to include more Irish beers rather than relying on imports. In fact, I wonder is imported beer starting to see a slight decline now that Irish beer has become so easy to get around the larger population centres and even in many rural areas?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What I did On My Summer Holidays

It's one of those titles that every child in school has to write an essay about at some point. It has been many years since I did and I thought I was long overdue.

This year, I stayed in Europe. I had already gone diving in Croatia at the beginning of summer and at the end, I went to France and Spain. I'm cheating here somewhat because it was technically autumn when I went as it was mid-September when I went but a little creative licence never hurt anyone.
This was a road trip and while not quite as epic as my original grand plan, it was still a lot of driving.

After we got off the ferry at Roscoff, I drove to Bordeaux and arrived sometime in the evening. Once we checked in to our hotel, I went off in search of beer. I had looked things up beforehand and my options were limited. There was a beer bar somewhere called Lucifer but I realised it was a longer walk than anticipated so we switched instead and went to the Frog & Rosbiff, one of many brewpubs in this French chain. Thankfully, the beer was very different to what I have previously experienced and it was all excellent. A worthy stop if you are in the area.
I would say that the servings are hit and miss. Most of them included a lot of extra foam so weren't full measures. The French speakers got the same treatment and as it turned out, it was just the norm the further south I went.

The next stop was Barcelona where we spent 3 fantastic nights. All research indicated that BierCaB was the best place to be and it was indeed our first stop. They have this awesome digital beer board that if configured correctly will not only display what's on tap, it will also show the levels of the kegs and any social media happenings. The keg fill levels didn't look to be working but the social media part was. You could see untapped checkins and twitter action. It did rotate old data as the next day we were in, we also saw tweets from the day before. It also automatically updates the website with the current tap list so if you are sitting out of view of the tap list, you can use the free Wi-Fi on your phone to view the list while waiting for a server to come and take your order.

One of the many beers I had in BierCaB was De Molen's Mühle & Bahnhof. It's a Gose and really smelled like a margarita with prunes and other dark fruit, salt and quite a toasted malt aroma. It tasted like a mix of salt and booze. Which is to say, a lot better than my description. Lots of prune, very salty. Perhaps a little over the top on the salt actually. Doesn't seem 9.2 though, I downed it pretty quickly.

Fellow blogger Beermack described BierCaB as one of his top 5 bars in the world. Personally, I thought it was excellent but I didn't even think it was the best bar in Barcelona and I have been to many bars that surpass it in every way.

There are many things to like about BierCaB. The décor, the beer selection, the atmosphere to some degree and even the food. The food is awesome. It's not cheap but a lot of care and effort has gone in to the menu. The best patatas bravas in Barcelona perhaps. There were also things I didn't like. Just like in Bordeaux, there was a lazy attitude to serving measures where two beers of the same size measure arrived with vastly different beer to head ratios. That aside, we had a great time both nights we were there and will be back. In fact, I believe my wife is heading there next year with some friends and I know she will be heading there.

A quick lunch pit stop on of the days and a random find with our tapas. The brewery is Barcino and there was a pale ale and a wheat beer so we tried both. Gotico Pale Ale & Bogatell Wheat. Both were tasty enough but not exciting in any way. Still, it's always great to drink local when rambling about a foreign city.

My absolute favourite place was Ale & Hop in a quiet, unassuming part of town. We initially got there too early so we went back to the hotel for a couple of hours to freshen up before returning just after opening time. It was already full at the bar so we went in back because it was time to eat.

Ale & Hop has an all vegetarian menu. I'm not a vegan and would never become one but I have dabbled with vegetarianism from time to time and do like interesting vegetarian dishes. You just can't argue with some good humus and something to dip with. It makes a great starter.

We both ordered burgers and sweet potato fries. My wife went for a sort of Mexican style burger made from various beans.

I went a little more adventurous and tried a beetroot burger. Sure enough, it turned out to be purple. It tasted interesting, very earthy as you might expect. My friend Brendan is a home brewer and brews a beetroot ale that's basically an English pale ale with beetroot. It's a pink beer and the beetroot adds the same earthiness to the beer. I reckon they would be a pairing from heaven. The only issue I had with the burger was that it didn't hold together very well and broke apart very easily.

One of the highlight beers on tap was Nomada Royal Imperial Porter. It's a 10% beer imperial stout. I found it incredibly sweet and it seemed like it finished at a very high gravity. There's more than a fair bit if lactose/milk to it. Bitter burnt and caramel finish. Great desert beer but I wonder is it really better classified as an imperial milk stout (porter)?

Now, this is why Ale & Hop was my favourite place in Barcelona. Firstly, the music. It was awesome! Whoever was in charge of the playlist had a very similar taste in music to myself and my wife. Lots of 80s rock. That just created a cool atmosphere though. Was there as many taps as BirCaB? Not even close as we are talking 10 taps versus 30. Both had a great bottle selection but I didn't even try and compare them so in terms of range, Ale & Hop isn't a patch on BierCaB but you know what? I would drink in Ale & Hop over BierCaB any day. The reason is simple. The staff give a crap! The bar man was very busy and perhaps he spent a little more time serving a very pretty girl but here's where it mattered. He served the beer with precision, attention to detail and professionalism. Every pour was measured, the head whipped off with a knife and then topped up as needed. There was no laziness, no glasses with 4 inches of head. Every beer had exactly the same beer to head ratio. This was the only bar during the entire trip where I found this to be the case.
Ale & Hop, I fully expect to be back there some day.

On the way back to Ireland, I picked up a rather large and expensive pop up tent for €99. It's French made and unlike other instant tents, this has been designed to be camped in, not for beer festivals. Dual layer, Waterproof and windproof up to hurricane levels, tested in wind tunnels etc. Quechua tents are innovative and with a little practice, quite easy to fold back down. The reason I had to buy a tent was that on the way back, I had the Beoir camping weekend. I arrived back in Rosslare on Saturday morning, dropped my wife at the bus stop in Arklow where she would head in to Dublin to meet friends and stay the night. I then drove to Redcross and pitched my tent in moments at the Rivervalley camp site.

Rivervalley camp site is home to Mickey Finn’s Pub and more importantly. to the Wicklow Brewery which was only open a few weeks. The beer was ready so we sat down at the bar and ordered some pints and were told we could head in to the brewery. Our scheduled tour wasn't until later but myself and Kevin who had arrived the same time as me were treated to a private tour by the brewer.

The brewery is a very impressive piece of kit. Everything is precise and clean. It's easy to operate. It's actually the most impressive Irish brew kit I have seen. Many Irish breweries have been using old kits from older breweries who either closed down before the craft beer boom set in or else from larger breweries that have traded up. This was a custom designed piece of German engineering and was recommended by Shane Long from the Franciscan Well brewery. Shane spends a lot of time helping new breweries get set up. His own brewery is financially secure as part of the Molson Coors family now so it's great that he shares his time and experience with the new guys.

Each batch can be 15HL and there are 4 fermenters. Three are 30HL with one smaller 15HL down the back. There are already plans to expand and perhaps start selling beyond their own premises.

How's the beer? Well, it's all very well made. The brewer is also German so it shows in his beer. It's all clean and well made but is never going to excite. The IPA needs more hops and will probably receive said treatment. It is the first batch after all so I imagine some tweaking will occur.

Some people did have a bad time when a shift change saw an old cranky bar man take over. Apparently, he started screaming abuse at his younger colleague in front of a packed bar and was acting like it was the customers fault that he was serving craft beer, something he seemed to disdain.
I missed all this because he had kicked me out when I brought in food from the on site chipper. I had been directed there for food by the brewer? I wasn't too bothered as it was a lovely night and I enjoyed my chips outside but everyone else had enough of him and left so we ended up going across the road for Guinness in a more relaxed setting. It was a shame to leave and I will not let it put me off going back.

We made up for the Guinness by sitting outside the tents tasting many craft beers and some homebrew under the stars until about 2am. We could still hear the live music in Mickey Finn's until just before we went to bed. It sounds like everyone had a great time.

So that's it, how I spent my "summer" holidays. I believe I will be in Florida for Christmas and then Iceland in January. For now, be content that I brought a load of Spanish and French beer home in the car along with many cases of wine and a mass of credit card debt that I am still recovering from.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Belated Homebrew Recipes - Brews 62 - 64

I'm brewing today for the first time since I moved back to Westmeath. In fact, for the first time since April. The reason it has been so long is that when I was living in the tiny house in Blanchardstown, there was nowhere I could ferment with temperature control. Even in the winter it was hit and miss as room temperature was often far too high and in the summer, the room would often be 30c or more. This resulted in a couple of highly phenolic beers.

I have two things going for me back in Westmeath. First is the spare room which never gets direct sunlight and stays cool almost all year round. Unless it gets very hot outside. It is usually cellar temperature and easy to warm with a low power heater.

The second is that I'm building a brew shed and gym out the back. You might have read my last article which mentioned it. I suppose I can add a third thing to the list. The water is much more beneficial to brewing.

There are 3 recipes below. One is my standard stout, Dark Stranger. The 5th version of that name, although the 6th version of my original Cloaked Stranger recipe. As a recap, Dark Stranger is my award winning dry stout. It doesn't quite fit in to the normal BJCP definition of a dry stout because it purposely finishes at a quite high gravity. This is down to the stupid levels of dark malts in the beer. Version 5 wasn't the best version but this might be down to the high fermenting temperature rather than the tweaked recipe.

Mildly Nuts was a bog standard British Mild, a lovely sessionable beer.

The beer I brewed today (Sunday) was another version of Hopping Mad, an American Amber with a stupid amount of hops. It is dry hopped as per the recipe but will be dry hopped again when kegged. My hope is that it will be the the last beer brewed on this kit in my kitchen and the next beer will be brewed in my brew shed, preferably on a larger scale kit that I'm in the process of putting together.

If you are keeping count, there's a brew missing. That was the international homebrew project beer for 2014. You can read more about IHP2014 here.

So, below are the recipes which bring me up to date as of today. I'll try my best to post my homebrew recipes in a more up to date fashion. I suspect that will be easier from now on,

Dark Stranger Stout 5

13-E American Stout
Author: Reuben Gray (Saruman)
Date: 26/01/2014
BeerTools Pro Color Graphic
Size: 22.08 L @ 20 °C
Efficiency: 74.57%
Attenuation: 60.7%
Calories: 194.29 kcal per 12.0 fl oz
Original Gravity: 1.057 (1.050 - 1.075)
Terminal Gravity: 1.022 (1.010 - 1.022)
Color: 83.78 (59.1 - 78.8)
Alcohol: 4.55% (5.0% - 7.0%)
Bitterness: 47.3 (35.0 - 75.0)


3590 g (60.2%) Maris Otter Pale Ale Malt - added during mash
1063 g (17.8%) Brown Malt - added during mash
230 g (3.9%) Amber Malt - added during mash
500 g (8.4%) Black Malt - added during mash
582 g (9.8%) Roasted Barley - added during mash
16 g (19.5%) Brambling Cross (7.3%) - added during boil, boiled 60 m
40 g (48.8%) Perle (7.3%) - added during boil, boiled 30 m
26 g (31.7%) Perle (7.3%) - added during boil, boiled 15 m
1 ea Danstar 3767 Nottingham

Mildly Nuts

11-A Mild
Author: Hilary Gray
Date: 20/04/2014
BeerTools Pro Color Graphic
Size: 23.04 L @ 20 °C
Efficiency: 75.0%
Attenuation: 75.0%
Calories: 125.94 kcal per 12.0 fl oz
Original Gravity: 1.038 (1.030 - 1.038)
Terminal Gravity: 1.010 (1.008 - 1.013)
Color: 44.59 (23.64 - 49.25)
Alcohol: 3.73% (2.8% - 4.5%)
Bitterness: 17.4 (10.0 - 25.0)


2800 g (69.1%) Maris Otter Pale Ale Malt - added during mash
500 g (12.3%) Crystal Malt 250 - added during mash
250 g (6.2%) Amber Malt - added during mash
100 g (2.5%) Belgian Biscuit - added during mash
100 g (2.5%) Munich Malt - added during mash
100 g (2.5%) Vienna Malt - added during mash
100 g (2.5%) Black Malt - added during mash
100 g (2.5%) Chocolate Malt (pale) - added during mash
20 g (66.7%) Brambling Cross (7.3%) - added during boil, boiled 60 m
10 g (33.3%) Brambling Cross (7.3%) - added during boil, boiled 5 m
1 ea Danstar Nottingham

Hopping Mad 2

10-B American Amber Ale
Author: Reuben Gray (Saruman)
Date: 12/10/2014
BeerTools Pro Color Graphic
Size: 23.43 L @ 20 °C
Efficiency: 75.0%
Attenuation: 70.4%
Calories: 229.59 kcal per 12.0 fl oz
Original Gravity: 1.068 (1.045 - 1.060)
Terminal Gravity: 1.020 (1.010 - 1.015)
Color: 24.22 (19.7 - 33.49)
Alcohol: 6.32% (4.5% - 6.0%)
Bitterness: 111.9 (25.0 - 40.0)


6500 g (90.3%) Maris Otter Pale Ale Malt - added during mash
500 g (6.9%) Amber Malt - added during mash
200 g (2.8%) Wheat Malt - added during mash
39 g (18.4%) Nelson Sauvin (12.6%) - added during boil, boiled 90 m
40 g (18.9%) Cascade (7.0%) - added during boil, boiled 60 m
27 g (12.7%) Cascade (7.0%) - added during boil, boiled 30 m
27 g (12.7%) Cascade (7.0%) - added during boil, boiled 15 m
20 g (9.4%) Nelson Sauvin (12.6%) - added during boil, boiled 5 m
29 g (13.7%) Nelson Sauvin (12.6%) - steeped after boil
30 g (14.2%) Nelson Sauvin (12.6%) - added dry to primary fermenter
1 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 15 m
1 ea Fermentis US-05 Safale US-05

Friday, October 3, 2014

Home Brewing My Way Through Life - #TheSession 92

In The Session 92, Jeremy from Pintwell asks us to write about how homebrew changed your view on beer. At least, that's what he asks the homebrewers among us and that's the category I fit in to.

The thing about brewing beer at home is that it gives you not only an appreciation for how a beer is made, but also what it's made of. For instance, a beer drinker might enjoy a stout and would likely be educated enough to know that it contains roasted barley. However, short of having the odd taste at a brewery tour, it's unlikely that said beer drinker would know what roasted barley really tastes like other than anecdotally. Now, roasted barley is a fairly common malt but what about the more obscure? Brown malt is less common these days or how about rye? And then we move on to hops. The homebrewer has a ready supply of hops and can sometimes learn to distinguish them by aroma alone. Personally I don't hold to that level of geekery and almost never try to identify a hop by aroma.

Homebrewing gives you an appreciation of not only ingredients but also process. An advanced homebrewer might brew the same recipe using different mashing techniques to see how the beer changes. While single infusion mashing is the most common and easiest to perform, will your Bohemian Pilsner really change for the better by trying a triple decoction mash? Only a brewer who has tried it will really be able to tell because the beer drinker usually only tastes the commercial end result and not the experimental in house stuff.

When I first started writing about beer, it was a more homebrew themed blog. That has changed over the years and I don't often write about homebrew any more. I occasionally post my recipes but I am way overdue to do that now. That's probably because I don't use my big PC which contains my recipes all that often these days so I never think of it but certainly in the beginning, my blog was about my journey through homebrewing and all the new beers I was trying along the way.

I believe that if I hadn't been homebrewing, I might not have become as involved in beer as I am now. It has also resulted in career change thoughts. I'm in IT professionally and I used to really love my job. Now, it's just a job to pay the bills and my dream is to run a brewpub some day. It's unlikely to happen but one needs a dream to keep going. I don't think I want to run a commercial brewery but a brew pub would be just right for me.

Where am I now with homebrewing? Well, I haven't brewed since about May. That's because I can't brew in the summer due to lack of temperature control as well as time to do so. I have since moved back to my Westmeath home and am in the process of building a man cave which will be a brewery and gym. Here's a picture of the outside. I'm currently insulating and drywalling the inside. Once complete, I plan on doubling my brew setup to 50 - 70 litre batches up from 25 - 30.

It's a lot of money and effort considering I only hope to be living there for 3 years and try and sell the house then but I am hoping it will increase the value of my house to have a pretty high quality external concrete building come with it. I could have simply got a shed and used that.

I'm fixing 50mm insulated plasterboard to the concrete interior using pinkgrip adhesive which is designed for that sort of thing.

I have insulated the roof with reflective bubble wrap stuff and will also be using the insulated plasterboard screwed in to the rafters. I should be finished the walls this weekend all going well.

When I'm finished, I will have an insulated room with full electric hook up. I'm not putting in plumbing as I can simply run a hose through the window on brewday.