Archive for November, 2013

AG#4 – Pork Chop Porter


The amusingly-named Pork Chop Porter was the first dark beer I ever attempted. How delighted was I when I discovered how good it turned out. It was based on Jamil Zainasheff’s Robust Porter recipe in Brewing Classic styles, albeit with a few minor changes to the grain and hop bill. I used the same bittering to gravity ratio though and the same proportion of roasted malts. It turned out to be fantastically balanced and the level of roast in the beer was spot-on. Pork Chop scored an impressive 38/50 in the 2013 National Homebrew Championship and I want to try the recipe again, making a few changes to get a bit more character into the beer.

Where the beer fell down was the level of alcohol. It was at the very limits of ABV for robust porters, but it actually came out a little over the predicted gravity. The extremely perceptive judges noted this and both felt that it had been entered in the wrong category.  Pretty disappointing to have lost out on a higher score due to such a technicality, but that’s brewing competitions for you. Being able to accurately categorise your beer is all part of the process. This time around, I’ll be using the exact same recipe, but possibly entering it in the “Foreign Extra Stout” category which has a higher limit for ABV than “Robust Porter”. Of course, it all depends on how it tastes when it’s fully-conditioned. This was my downfall the last time, and I’ll be carefully assessing the beer before deciding which category to enter it in in.

I’m going to increase the amounts of black malt and chocolate malt just slightly, but keeping the proportions of these lighter and darker roasted grains the same. I’ll also be adding the small portion of Munich malt to add more depth to the maltiness. The 170g of amber malt in my original recipe will be replaced with 300g brown malt.

In order to replicate the original recipe, I need to adjust the recipe for the ad-hoc changes I made the first time around in BeerSmith, my current brewing software. Punching the original recipe into BeerTools (the online version) gives me a different OG and IBU than I got when I was brewing this beer for the first time. It’s now giving me an OG of 1.063. I can’t figure out why I’m getting the extra two points given that I’m specifying the same malt varieties (though not necessarily the same maltsters). Also, I didn’t record what efficiency I was using at the time, though I’m pretty sure I would have been using the default BeerTools 72%.

I made some last minute additions to the recipe way back then, because I only realised at the last minute that I wouldn’t be able to do the sparge step that I had intended to do. Fearing for my efficiency, I added an extra 300g of base malt and 100g of spraymalt. I’ve put these extra fermentables into BeerTools in an effort to find out what my true  targeted OG should have been. It’s coming out as an OG of 1.068 and an ABV of 6.9%! That’s quite an increase, though according to my notes, my calculated OG was still only 1.065. So I’m not sure how to approach this… I want exactly the same beer though I’m worried that if I just target 1.065, then it won’t have the luscious mouthfeel of the first batch – the “no-sparge” may have contributed significantly to this quality. I’m going to target an OG of 1.068 and hopefully if my efficiency is slightly off, I’ll still be in the same ballpark.

I recorded a mash temperature of 68C which of course I’ll be shooting for again, but this time my excellent mash tun will ensure that I won’t have any heat losses.

Recipe Specifications

Boil Size: 25.88 l
Post Boil Volume: 22.88 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 19.00 l
Bottling Volume: 17.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.066 SG
Estimated Color: 38.7 SRM
Estimated IBU: 38.6 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 69.5 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


4.000 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM), 59.0 %
1.600 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM), 23.6 %
0.450 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM), 6.6 %
0.340 kg Chocolate Malt (450.0 SRM), 5.0 %
0.225 kg Black (Patent) Malt (500.0 SRM), 3.3 %
0.170 kg Amber Malt (22.0 SRM), 2.5 %
24 g Northern Brewer [9.70 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 30.7 IBUs
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins)
21 g Goldings, East Kent [6.00 %] – Boil 15.0, 4.9 IBUs
21 g Goldings, East Kent [6.00 %] – Boil 1.0, 3.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg Dry English Ale (White Labs #WLP007), 300ml yeast slurry from Penny Lane Brown Ale

Mash Schedule: Bubbles’ Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 6.785 kg
Mash In           Add 19.00 l of water at 75.9 C          68.0 C        60 min
Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun, , 14.18l) of 77.0 C water


24/11/2013 Brew Day – Mash water was 82.2°C before transfer to mash tun. 77.5°C after transfer. Did some stirring and settled on a strike temperature of 75.8°C. Mash temperature was 68°C, bang on target. Temperauture at the end of the mash was 67.2°C. Heated sparge water to 88°C but the temperature of the grain bed had dropped to 73.4°C after transfer to MT!!

Took a pre-boil gravity reading and got brain got mixed up; I thought I was reading the original gravity and was disappointed to see 1.056. Delighted when I realised my mistake and even more delighted when I checked my notes in BeerSmith and discovered that the pre-boil gravity was perfect.

However, I got 25 litres for my pre-boil volume, not the ~25.5 litres I expected. My measure original gravity was a point or two lower than expected as a result of the higher finishing volume.

I forgot to take a post-boil volume reading, but I got a lot more into the fermenter than expected: 20 litres instead of 19. I think I need to pay closer attention to the sparge water temperature and to slightly reduce (in BeerSmith) my values for “boil-off” and “losses to trub”. Then my system might be more predictable than it currently is.

Still, a very successful brew day havnig almost hit my numbers. I pitched about 350ml of WLP007 yeast slurry and there were visibile signs of fermentation a couple of hours later. This time I took the precaution of using a 33 litre fermenter as I feared a volcanic fermentation, it being a dark, high-gravity beer.

25/11/2013 – Airlocks are hugely entertaining! Lots of blip-blip-blipping going on! I’d filled the airlock with StarSan and some of it has spilled out of the airlock because the fermentation is so vigorous. I’d say there’s at least 3 bubbles per second.

26/11/2013 – Still big bubbling going on, but the kreusen is only a finger high. Not as volcanic as I’d feared. Could be a feature of the WLP007 yeats I’m using.

26/11/2013 – Evening time. Kreusen has fallen – this WLP007 is a beast!! Either that, or the fermentation has gone horribly wrong. Still plenty of action in the airlock and lots of small bubbles coming through the surface of the beer. I’ll do a gravity and temperature reading tomorrow I think.

11/12/2013 – Bottled with 130g dextrose. Got 35 bottles from the batch though I expected to get more than this. Calculated my priming sugar at 19 litres at 2.5 vol = 130g. FG was a little bit higher than expected at 1.016, but it tastes great. A lot of sweetness but plenty of bitterness and roasty flavour to balance it.

AG#3 – Buckshot Flag Irish Red Ale


This beer was a bit of “spur of the moment” job. I hadn’t planned on doing an Irish Red this year, but I’d messed up the gravity on my English brown ale due to grain crushing issues and I wanted to do a little practice brew to sort those efficiency problems out.

I’ve done a red ale before and it scored 38/50 in last year’s National Brewing Championships. I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the beer, to be honest, but I entered it in the competition regardless just to get the feedback. Even though it scored highly it failed to take a medal, so there’s obviously room for improvement in my recipe.

I’m using the Leann Dearg recipe as a base, but making some changes to the malt bill. There was too much heavy dark crystal flavour and it was making the beer seem overly roasty also. So I’ve replaced the Crystal 100 with Crystal 75 which has a completely different character in the finished beer. I’m also adding a small percentage of amber malt which really accentuates the malty flavours in beer. I’m also adding a significant portion of wheat malt to aid head retention. Of course, this time I’m also using an all-grain recipe with almost four and a half kilograms of Maris Otter.

For yeast, I did consider repitching some of the WLP007 yeast cake from my Penny Lane Brown Ale, but that will probably give an inappropriate level of esters for the style. So I’ll be using a fresh sachet of US-05 which I will be sprinkling straight into the wort. Hops will be East Kent Goldings, just the bittering addition and a small flavour addition at 5 mins.

Recipe Specifications

Boil Size: 25.88 l
Post Boil Volume: 22.88 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 19.00 l
Bottling Volume: 17.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.051 SG
Estimated Color: 13.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 27.7 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 69.5 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


4.450 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM), 85.8 %
0.250 kg Wheat Malt, Bel (2.0 SRM), 4.8 %
0.200 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM), 3.9 %
0.125 kg Amber Malt (22.0 SRM), 2.4 %
0.100 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 75L (75.0 SRM), 1.9 %
0.060 kg Black Barley (Stout) (500.0 SRM), 1.2 %
25 g Goldings, East Kent [6.90 %] – Boil 60.0, 23.4 IBUs
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
25 g Goldings, East Kent [6.90 %] – Boil 5.0, 4.3 IBUs
1.0 pkg Safale American  (DCL/Fermentis #US-05)

Mash Schedule: Bubbles’ Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 5.185 kg
Mash In           Add 14.52 l of water at 74.6 C          68.0 C        60 min

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun, , 17.05l) of 77.0 C water


17/11/2013 – Heated strike water to 80°C which had dropped to 75.3°C after transfer to mash tun. Rather than add cold water to reduce the temperature by just one degree, I just stirred vigorously and splashed the water up the sides of the MT a little. This did the trick and dropped the temperature to 74.3°C. Time to dough in.

Added grain and stirred, then took another temperature reading. Settled on a mash temperature of 67°C, which is 1°c less than intended. However, after mashing for 1 hour, I took another reading to check if the temperature had dropped during the course of the mash, and I was surprised to see the thermometer reading 68.1°C! A degree more than I had originally recorded. I must remember to take a few readings at different areas of the MT in future.

Heated sparge water to 85C as I was banking on the grain bed being at 77°C after batch sparging. However, I was slightly off with my measurements as when I took the temperature of the sparge it was at 74.4°C. Not catastrophic, but still slightly off. I left to settle for 10 minutes before running off.

I had just over 25 litres pre-boil gravity but I ended up chucking a little (say half a litre) of my sparge water as I was concerned about having too high a pre-boil volume, as I had last time. For the first time, I took a pre-boil gravity reading and it came out just slightly higher than BeerSmith predicted at 1.044.

After boiling was finished, I had 22 litres post-boil volume and got 19 litres into the fermenter, though I think there was a lot more break material in the fermenter this time. Though I did tilt the boiler slightly at the end of draining. Great to have my efficiency issues mostly sorted, after only 3 brews with my new system. Toasted my success with the last bottle of Von Smaullhausen, not a bad drop considering all the trouble I had with it.

Chilled to 17°C and sprinkled a new packet of US-05 and snapped the lid on before transferring the FV to “Der Fermentationsraum”.

18/11/2013 – Still dark and flat as a pancake when I got up this morning, though in fairness, it had only been 9 hours since pitching. A very small patch of yeast fermenting yeast, I think. Brought the fermenter into the kitchen. Took a temperature reading when I got home from work: 18°C. Just worried about it getting too warm.

19/11/2013 – Took another temperature reading of 18.5°C.

10/12/2013 – Bottled with 110g of dextrose (17l @ 2.5 vol). In actual fact, I got more out of the fermenter than expected, just over 17.5l so will end up with slightly less carbonation than intended. Got 35 bottles from the batch.

18/01/2014 – Got some decent comments about this at a tasting meet the other night. It’s actually much nicer tasting when you drink a full pint of it and can appreciate the colour in a full-sized glass. The colour is not as red as the last Irish Red I did, it’s more “amber verging on red”, but I’m still pleased with it. A very pleasant flavour, though I think slightly more roasted barkey dryness would be appropriate. The amber malt really makes itself known, despite using only 125g in a 19l batch. It really is an awesome grain, but has to be used judiciously in anything that’s not a porter/stout. Head formation is awesome and lasts pretty well to the bottom of the glass. Excellent level of carbonation also.

31/01/2014 – Excellent result, though it could definitely do with another smidge of roasted barley. I’ll probably reduce the amber malt slightly too as it might be just a little too prominent.

12/03/2014 – On side-by-side comparison, the head formation in the O’Haras is surprisingly good, and the homebrew is quite poor for a change. The head formation and retention in this beer is normally pretty good. Must be a grimy glass or something. The first thing that immediately strikes you is that O’Haras is a slight shade darker and much clearer, because it’s filtered obviously. The flavour and body is quite different. Normally, my side-by-side comparisons yield a clear winner, but in this case, I think both beers are equal. The O’Hara’s is a lower gravity beer, which makes it quite refreshing. The homebrew has a lot more body and crystal malt sweetness. The amber malt also lends a massive malt flavour punch which makes it quite different. But still, with the homebrew, you’re left in no doubt that’s an Irish Red you’re drinking. The O’Haras has more roasted barley character that I think is missing in the homebrew. It also has a little chocolatiness which is very pleasant. The homebrew definitely has a more prominent hop bitterness; I might even consider taking this downa notch or two next time.


Milling Grain





AG#2 – Penny Lane Brown Ale


My first partial mash recipe back in May in 2012 was a great success and was the first indicator I had that “going all-grain”, at least partially, would be the key to producing good beers at home. Krook’s Pale Ale (named after Johnny Vegas’ character in BBC’s Bleak House. Don’t ask, long story…) being a partial-mash recipe allowed me to use some grains that had previously been off-limits because they need to be mashed. Mashing is steeping grain at a controlled temperature for a certain period of time. It’s different from simply steeping grains, which I’d already done as an extract and kit brewer, because temperature is more critical. It’s easy as pie though.

Krook’s used Nottingham dried yeast, which is supposed to be fairly neutral in flavour (though it tastes very English to me) so most of the flavour was coming from the amber malt, which gives the beer a super-malty flavour. I also used dark crystal malt which lent the beer a dark colour and lots of raisin-like caramel flavours. The problem with the recipe though, was that the beer simply came out too dark. So I decided to do a re-brew and designate it a brown ale instead. I’ve rowed back just a bit on the dark crystal and a little on the amber malt. I’ve also added a fair portion of biscuit malt, just because I love it. I’ve added a bit more of the medium crystal malt too, because this is supposed to be a more caramelly beer. Hopping is all EKG.

Recipe Specifications

Boil Size: 26.88 l
Post Boil Volume: 22.88 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 19.00 l
Bottling Volume: 17.50 l
Estimated OG: 1.051 SG
Estimated Color: 11.7 SRM
Estimated IBU: 27.2 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 69.5 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


4.300 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM), 83.1 %
0.300 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM), 5.8 %
0.200 kg Wheat Malt, Bel (2.0 SRM), 3.9 %
0.175 kg Amber Malt (22.0 SRM), 3.4 %
0.075 kg Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM), 1.4 %
0.075 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt -100L (100.0 SRM), 1.4 %
0.050 kg Pale Chocolate Malt (300.0 SRM), 1.0 %
25 g Goldings, East Kent [6.90 %] – Boil 60.0 Hop, 23.4 IBUs
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
20 g Goldings, East Kent [6.90 %] – Boil 10.0, 3.8 IBUs
20 g Goldings, East Kent [6.90 %] – Boil 0.0, 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg Dry English Ale (White Labs #WLP007)  – 1.5 litre starter

Mash Schedule: Bubbles’ Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 5.175 kg
Mash In           Add 14.49 l of water at 74.6 C          68.0 C        60 min

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (4.61l, 13.91l) of 77.0 C water

06/11/2013 Brew Day – Despite being in the midst of water restrictions, I decided that I had to get another brew on. For this brown ale, I had 25 litres of mash water in the boiler which had been treated with campden tablet the night before. After the last brew which involved numerous boils of the kettle in order to the bring the water up to mash temperature, I heated the water up much more this time to 85°C. Directly before adding the mash water to the MT I added a kettle-full of boiling water and swirled the contents around. I drained the MT and added 15 litres of water from the boiler. after transfer the mash liquor measured 79.9C. After I added some jugs of cold water it had dropped to 68°C!! So then I had to use my kettle adjustment method to bring it back up to a strike temperature of 73.3°C.

Assuming the mash liquor loses 5°C on transfer to empty (but heated) MT, this means my mash liquor should be heated to 79°C in order to achieve a strike temperature of 74°C.

After doughing-in, I took a temperature reading of 66.9°C and snapped the lid on. I heated 18.5 litres of sparge water to 80°C. But my batch sparge temperature was well below what it should have been after the water had been transferred back to the MT. Obviously I didn’t heat my sparge water high enough but I think the grain bed had cooled so much by the time I did my batch sparge that the resulting temperature was a really low 71.1°C. Assuming the sparge water loses 9°C on transfer to the MT, this means that future sparge water will have to be heated to 86°C to get a proper sparge temperature of 77°C.

I got a disappointingly low OG of 1.040-1.042 (from an expected 1.051) which I suspect is caused by the grain consistency coming from my new grain mill. I’ve only used the mill once and I thought the crushed grain looked a bit coarser than the pre-crushed grain I usually buy. I did think that some grains were barely cracked. However, I couldn’t be sure and decided to trust the factory settings on the mill and mash in. At the end of the mash, the grain definitely looked different from usual. I picked out some grains and it appeared some of the grains were not crushed through. I used the factory setting on the mill which is 0.05, though it’s also possible to adjust the rollers (thinner at 0.025 and thicker at 0.1).

I’m not sure if this has any bearing, but I used a drill on a screwdriver setting and it flew through 5kg of grain. Would I get a different result from doing it manually? My effiencies were set pretty low as it is in BrewSmith (60% total efficiency and 70% mash efficiency) so I have to get this issue sorted before I do another brew. I was thinking of grinding a few test bowls of base grain at the various settings and comparing them to the pre-crushed malt from the HBC. I could also adjust the rollers on the mill but I’m concerned that the 0.025 setting would result in lautering issues.

My pre-boil volume was spot-on but my post-boil volume was a little high, as was my volume in the fermenter. I’m sure this hasn’t helped the efficiency problem either.

One positive that came out of this brew was my discovery that the two kettle elements work very well together at the same time. My pre-boil volume of 27 litre took 21 minutes to come up to a rolling boil. On my previous brew, this process took about 45 minutes. That’s an incredible improvement.

09/11/2013 – I was rather concerned this morning to see that the yeast had completely flocced out, so this evening I took a temperature and gravity reading. The beer was at 13.5°C (holy shit!) and the gravity was just over the 1.010 mark! I decided to move the fermenter into the hall and gently rouse yeast with a sanitised paddle. The slightly warmer conditions will hopefully make sure this attenuates further.

11/11/2013 – I moved this into the kitchen and have it sitting on the worktop as it was 15.5°C out in the hall! It’s definitely bubbling a bit more as a result of the warmer temperature. No more kreusen developing but the layer of bubbles is definitely thicker. I’ll have to take another temperature reading.

11/11/2013 – Evening time, and I’ve just taken a temp reading of 19°C. The bubbling has calmed down a lot, so hopefully it took the increase in temperature to make the thing finish out. I’ll leave it where it is until tomorrow and then move it back to it’s first location in order to cold-crash it before bottling next week.

20/11/2013 – Bottled with 90g of dextrose (18 litres at 2 vol). Got 36 bottles out of the batch.

21/11/2013 – After bottling this last night I checked the bottles first thing this morning to see how cloudy they were. They were absolutely sparkling clear which made me think the yeast had instantly flocced to the bottom of the bottle. So I shook up the bottle and discovered there is no yeast or trub on the bottom of the bottle either. This is a little worrying. There seems to be plenty of bubbles in the beer when I shake the bottle up, however. I’ll have to open up a bottle in a couple of weeks (before I bottle my Pork Chop Porter) to see if I need to be re-seeding these bottles. I think I’ll have to leave it for an extended period at fermentation temperature though – if there are only a few yeast cells in each bottle, then I’ll need to give them time to work.

24/11/2013 – Just drank the beer that was sitting on the saved yeast that is destined for my new batch of Pork Chop Porter. The beer is pretty damn good.  I was concerned there was diacetyl in it, but my fears have been proved unfounded. There’s plenty of English yeast character in the beer – whoever said this yeast is clean is talking out of their arse. The flavour is a little mild, however. You can tell that this is a low-gravity beer you’re drinking and not the 5% brown ale it was intended to be. It’ll be great with a bit of carbonation in.

01/12/2013 – Not even 2 weeks in the bottle but I wanted to check that the batch was carbonating correctly in the bottle with the WLP007 before I bottle-condition another beer with the same yeast. Carbonation is quite light in this particular beer, but it seems to be just fine. The beer is surprisingly good – light bodied as you’d expect considering I missed the target OG so badly, but it’s got quite a good flavour, particularly when it warms up a little. Definitely not competition standard, but a nice easy drinker for the winter months.

10/12/2013 – I think this one is going to disappear pretty quickly! Fantastic malty flavour from the amber malt which works really well with the WLP007. Plenty of crystal sweetness with the C100 showing nicely but nicely subtle. The pale chocolate malt works really well with the amber, giving a nutty flavour. Very faint chocolate tones too. Much nicer when it warms up. Great amber colour. Low head but lasts well. Carbonation well judged I think.

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