Archive for October, 2014


I’ve bought 50 litres of freshly-pressed, unpasturised, unfiltered apple juice as part of a National Homebrew Club group buy. The juice is a blend of real cider varieties, comprising of Dabinett and Michelin. There is also a small proportion of Karmijn de Sonnaville and Bramley in the juice to balance the acidity.

All of my previous cider-making endeavours have been turbo cider efforts. Very drinkable for my taste, but I’d say the more sophisticated cider afficionadoes would find the flavour coarse and palate-strippingly dry.

As this is a premium juice, I want to treat it with maximum respect and produce some excellent cider. I also want to experiment with the juice using different yeast strains and different treatments. I’m planning on fermenting one 25 litre batch with an English ale yeast, WLP002. These liquid yeast strains are over €7, so no expense is being spared on this particular batch. I’m hoping the ale yeast will leave a bit more sweetness and body than a cider yeast, as well as contributing some unique flavours. I will probably force-carbonate 18 litres of this and prime and bottle condition the remainder.

Another 20 litres of juice will be fermented with Young’s Cider yeast which will result in a much drier cider. I plan on back-sweetening and pasteurising a large portion of this batch. I’ve never used this technique before, so lots of new skills to learn here. For the final 5 litres, I plan on adding approximately 1kg of honey in order to make a cyser. I will probably use a wine strain for this.

24/48 hours before juice is due to be delivered, I will be making a yeast starter for the WLP002 using some of Lidl’s finest AJ. (Lidl, where would my liver be without you?) Then when the juice arrives, I will dose with crushed Campden tablets at a rate of 1 tablet per gallon, in order to suppress the wild yeasts that occur naturally in the apples. After 24 hours, I will then pitch the various yeasts along with some nutrient and pectolase at a rate of 1 tsp per gallon.

04/11/2014 – Made some small starters for my two yeast strains using 1.5 litres of Lidl apple juice. 750ml went into each flask, aerated and pitched the two yeast strains, WLP002 and Young’s cider yeast.

05/11/2014 – Starters are quietly chugging away this morning. Juice arrived around 8pm! Some of the drums on the truck had already started to bulge slightly and so had to be vented. So, a big hiss when I opened my 2 drums of juice. I dosed each drum with 10 crushed campden tablets. Gave a stir with a sanitised racking cane and cleaned the spouts with a sponge and some StarSan. Sanitised the lids for good measure and put the drums back outside in the cold to slow any further fermentation.

06/11/2014 – 24 hours after dosing with campden tablets, it’s time to pitch the yeast starters. I sanitised everything with StarSan apart from my pot which I mixed my cyser in. For that I boiled water in the pot for a few minutes and then left it to stand for 15 mins. I also popped in the stick blender attachment to sanitise in the steam.

The juice was really and showing visible signs of fermentation. I racked about 4 litres of the juice a sanitised demi-john and left that aside for making cyser. I then racked the rest of the drum into a fermenter, taking care to splash the juice in order to introduce plenty of oxygen, and added 1 sachet (25g) of yeast nutrient. I had planned on adding tannin and citric acid, but I figured I really don’t know what I’m doing with this stuff, so I’ll wait until the cider is fermented to see if it needs adjustment. I decided not to add pectolase, as I’ve learned that it can strip flavour out of the cider. The extended aging will help it clarify anyway. Pitched the Young’s cider yeast starter (along with the fermented apple juice) into the fermenter.

I then racked the other drum of juice to another fermenter. Stirred in the yeast nutrient and pitched the contents of the WLP002 starter. This yeast start is much darker than the Young’s starter.

Then it was time to make the cyser. I poured the 4 litres of juice from the demi-john into my sanitised pot. I then added the honey (which I hadn’t warmed, like I did the last time), 1/2 tsp wine tannin, 1 tsp citric acid and approximately 15g yeast nutrient. I then whizzed the mixture thoroghly with the stick blender before adding the must back to the demi-john. I think the volume is a little too high for the demi-john, so hopefully the fermenting cyser won’t escape. It might have been a bad idea not to warm the jars of honey as there was still a little bit of honey stuck in the jars, and some more stuck to the bottom of the pot. Very small amounts though, so I didn’t bother to retrieve them. Pitched the Lalvin 71B yeast slurry from my Wildflower Mead.

The cider is fermenting in a colder room, whereas the cyser is sitting in my kitchen. Great smell of apples in the kitchen all evening. I’m planning on leaving the cider 4 weeks in the fermenter. I’ll keg the two different batches and bottle-condition the rest. The cyser will probably be in the demi-john for 4-6 weeks and then I’ll rack to a secondary. It will have a pretty high ABV so I can top up with a little water in the secondary in order to eliminate the head space.

#AG21 – Pork Chop Porter


It’s that time of year again – time to get Pork Chop Porter on! This recipe did very well in last years competition, and so I’m doing nothing to it except changing the yeast strain back to an American ale yeast, instead of the less attenuative English strain. As good as last years attempt was, I thought the previous years was nicer and more drinkable.

This year I’ll be getting creative, post-fermentation. I’m planning on racking different portions of the beer into demi-johns for some creative flavour additions. One gallon is going to be aged on raspberries (fresh or frozen, I’m not sure yet). Another gallon will be aged on oak chips and bottled with a little vanilla-infused bourbon. And another gallon will end up as some some of spiced beer. I’m not sure about this one yet – might be vanilla or chipotle chilies. And of course, I’ll be bottling some plain porter too.

Recipe Specifications

Boil Size: 26.40 l
Post Boil Volume: 23.40 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 19.00 l
Bottling Volume: 17.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.068 SG
Estimated Color: 76.0 EBC
Estimated IBU: 41.3 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 71.1 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


5.800 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (5.9 EBC), 82.9 %
0.450 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (78.8 EBC), 6.4 %
0.350 kg Chocolate Malt (886.5 EBC), 5.0 %
0.225 kg Black (Patent) Malt (985.0 EBC), 3.2 %
0.175 kg Amber Malt (43.3 EBC), 2.5 %
26 g Northern Brewer [9.70 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 32.2 IBUs
25 g Goldings, East Kent [6.00 %] – Boil 15.0, 5.6 IBUs
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
25 g Goldings, East Kent [6.00 %] – Boil 1.0 min, 3.5 IBUs
1.0 pkg Safale American (DCL/Fermentis #US-05) (400ml yeast slurry from Mulligan’s Irish Red)

Mash Schedule: Bubbles’ Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 7.000 kg
Mash In           Add 19.60 l of water at 74.6 C          68.0 C        60 min

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun , 14.31l) of 77.0 C water

12/10/2014 Brew Day – Mash temperature was a good bit lower than I wanted at 64.5C, so I did a 90 minute mash to ensure good conversion. In screwing around trying to correct the mash temperature I might have added too much mash/sparge water and ended up with a larger pre-boil volume than intended. Took a pre-boil gravity reading though, and all seemed fine. Boil was uneventful, all additions made at the correct times. Was a bit worried about the rate of boil-off though, and had both elements on, furiously boiling down the wort. Again, my post-boil volume was only barely over 23 litres, so I wasn’t concerned. My OG came in at 1.060, which is disappointingly low. I need to watch my volumes more, I think. I also need to tighten my grain mill a little bit and I’m not sure my crush is fine enough and may be losing a lot of efficiency as a result.

01/11/2014 – The porter has been sitting in the fermenter a couple of days longer than I intended, but tonight I set about splitting the batch of beer and bottling and adding various flavourings. I bottled 10 bottles of plain porter. Laziness got the better of me though, and I ended up using carb drops instead of batch priming. However, I did 5 bottles with 1 carb drop, which I’m expecting to be under-carbed, going on past experience. I also did 5 bottles with 2 carb drops per bottle, which will obviously give a livelier carbonation, but might end up being too lively. At least I have some insurance with the other 5 bottles.

I racked 4.5l onto 350g of thawed frozen raspberries from M&S. The raspberries tasted lovely. I squashed them to a puree as they went through the funnel into the demijohn. This batch was refermenting within a couple of hours. Might be difficult to separate this beer from the fruit debris and might involve a secondary, as I did with my berry cider some months back

I also racked 4.75l to a demi-john and added 11g of sanitised, American, medium-toast oak chips. The chips were sanitised in a steamer beforehand. My experience with oak chips in the Trade Winds Imperial Stout has shown that it’s best to tread carefully with the oak. The stout ended up tasting very astringent, possibly due to the oak chips not being sanitised first. I suspect the steaming process draws some of the harsher flavours out of the oak before it goes into the beer.

Finally, I racked 4.5l onto 250g of coconut flakes. 200g were toasted lightly in the oven and 50g were left untoasted. This batch might give me some difficulty when siphoning due to the tiny, broken coconut flakes.

The batches look mad sitting side by side. Not like beer at all, yet looking very tasty. more like dessert than beer! I’m not sure yet how long I’m going to leave the beers on the flavourings, more research needed, but I’d say the raspberry batch will be in the fermenter the longest as I want to make sure the sugars in the fruit are fully fermented out.

12/11/2014 – I was all geared up for a mammoth bottling session of my flaovured porters, not expecting that one of the worst disasters of my home brewing career was right around the corner. The oak batch was a breeze and got 8 bottles from that batch. The coconut was a complete diaster, however. The bits of coconut blocked the siphon as I feared it would. I got one bottle done before putting the bung back in the demi-john to deal with on another day. The raspberry was looking to be the same pain in the arse – i had to restarter the siphon a couple of times. But I eventually got seven bottles done. To further add to my woes, I had taken samples of all three beers and all extremely disappointing – the oaked version was completely over-oaked. The raspberry porter was far too acidic, with the porter flavour struggling against the fruit. The coconut had an impressive whack of coconut off it, but far too much. Again, I struggled to taste the porter behind all that coconut. I’m not sure what to do with the rest of the coconut porter now – it’s probably not worth the inevitable hassle that I would have trying to bottle it. Some important lessons learned with this one – tread more carefully with these flavourings and use muslin bags to contain the mess!

19/11/2014 – Got around to bottling the coconut batch. It is surely the most disastrous batch of beer I’ve ever done. Nothing good can come of this. I knew trying to siphon this again was doomed to failure, so I figured it was either a case of dumping the batch or dispensing with brewing best practice. What’s the worst that could happen? So I ended up straining the beer through a sanitiised muslin hop bag into a 5l fermenter. Looked pretty clear and free from coconut debris, so I was happy enough. I figured there was no point in siphoning into bottles at this stage – after all, I just want a finished beer now so that I can get a sense of the level of coconut required if I ever do a coconut beer again. (Which at the moment, is highly unlikely..) So I just poured through a funnel, then carbed with 1.5 carb drops and put the caps on. After the bottles had settled a few hours later I noticed that a load of oily scum had risen to the top of the bottles! An absolute disaster, but a few lessons learned.

03/01/2015 – Time to do a long overdue update on these beers. The base porter is tasting really good, though perhaps not as good as previous attempts. The raspberry version was vile on the first couple of tastes, far too acidic. Great raspberry flavour but not showing enough porter flavour. But it has started to grow on me, I have to say. Not sure if it’s competition standard though. The coconut version is cursed with a layer of white scum around the top of the bottle, but actually tastes decent. Far too heavy on the coconut flavour though, and masks the porter flavours once again. The oaked version has completely failed to carbonate, as of this writing, but I’m trying to rescue it. A noble experiment, but overall, a disappointing result. Especially given the amount of planning, work and expectation involved.

12/01/2015 – after taking the oak-aged porter into the house again for a couple of weeks, it’s actually carbonated. Carbonation level isn’t great though. Flavour-wise, it’s not bad, but not as good as the oaked Winterfell.

MEAD#1 – Wildflower Mead


I’ve been meaning to do a mead for a long time now. I finally got around to ordering a sachet of Lalvin 71B, which is a popular choice for mead makers. I also got some yeast nutrient, which I’ve never used before, but is crucial when fermenting honey. Honey, unlike malt, has no nutrients which allows the yeast to ferment fully and cleanly.

It took even longer to get around to sourcing some honey. I eventually sourced some in Holland & Barrett health food shop. Not exactly artisan product I know – “wildflower” is not a varietal honey, rather a catch-all term for honey made from unknown or mixed flower sources. I’m hoping that I’ve preserved whatever aromatics are in the honey by not heating the must at all.


700g organic wildflower honey
900g blended honey
2tsp nutrient
1/2 tsp tannin
1 tsp citric acid
Lalvin 71B

04/10/2014 – I just blended the honey into the bottled water using a sanitised stick blender, along with the nutrient, tannin and citric acid. Worked a treat. Have some honey left, so might do a melomel or a metheglin. Will leave this on the yeast for a month before racking to secondary.

09/10/2014 – Walked into the room where this is fermenting and got a big bang of licorice. Not unpleasant at all, but unexpected.

06/11/2014 – Just had my first taste of mead! Not just my first taste of my own mead, but any mead! I tasted the mead that was sitting on top of the 71B yeast slurry that I’m fermenting my cyser with. Tastes pretty nice. The alcohol is still a little overwhelming, but this shows great promise. Lovely honey flavour and aroma. Would like to taste it with a little carbonation in though, so I’ll be looking into bottle-conditioning it.

30/11/2014 – Bottled my first mead into some 330ml and 500ml bottles. There was a bit of trub at the bottom of the demi-john after the secondary aging, but it looked weird. It was a black colour, not something I’m used to seeing at the bottom of a fermenter. It’s already very clear, but should clear more. Weird to be bottling a beverage without adding priming sugar of some description. It’s got a great aroma and flavour of honey, as you’d expect, but it’s surprisingly sweet. Will try to stay away from this one for a year.

27/09/2015 – I opened a bottle of this at a home brewing meet a few weeks ago and it went down pretty well. Today was the second bottle I opened, and I enjoyed it even more. It’s still got the big honey nose and some lovely melon fruit flavours. It looks like I went a little bit heavy on the acid addition, so I’ll dial back on this next time. The 330ml bottle is a good size to package meads as it allows you to have 2 small wine glasses, perfect for sharing but not too much if you open one on your own.

22/11/2015 – Side by side tasting of the wildflower mead with the cyser. Wildflower has a massive, almost overwhelming floral honey aroma. It’s also got some melon fruit aroma. Flavour is moderate honey, some fruity esters, alcohol prominent but not hot. Finish is acidic and slightly mouth watering, making it very drinkable. The cyser aroma is predominantly apple, not too much honey, some alcohol. Colour is a shade or two darker than the wildflower mead, as you’d expect. The cyser is not as sweet up front, mouth watering, nice meld of apple and honey flavours.

20/12/2015 – This is almost gone! It’s extremely good, but not perfect. First thing that stikes me about it is the amazing and almost overwhelming honey aroma. It’s almost perfume-like. From the aroma alone, I can see why people fall in love with this stuff. The flavour also has the prominent honey character you’d expect in a show mead, but thereis a serious flaw in that I seem to have overshot on the acid addition. It’s a little out of balance. It is quite literally mouth watering, in that a taste will get the salivary glands going. It’s not unpleasant though, and certainly invites another sip and keeps the mead drinkable. Though I just don’t have enough experience with mead to know quite how serious this flaw is. It’s certainly better than having something that is sweet and insipid. On the whole, I feel this is an amazing score for my first attempt at a mead, and I’ll certainly be doing lots of these in the future.

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