Sunday, 22 December 2013

Brewday number ten

To mark an occasion as special as my tenth homebrew, I decided to take a risk and make something a bit different. I enjoyed making the Black IPA and it's fair to say it's probably been my most successful brew so far so I decided to do another black beer.

With a rush of blood to the head, I came up with the idea of trying to make a fruit-infused black beer and settled on mango, based on my immense enjoyment of Magic Rock's The Great Alphonso. I have no idea whether it's possible to get the subtle mango taste to stand out against a dark malt background but I figured that if it worked, it would probably be quite nice.

I reduced the ABV from last time, to 5% from the grains plus whatever the sugar from the mangos adds. I currently have no idea what this figure might be nor how to measure it. A bit of googling is probably required.

I kept the grain bill percentages fairly similar to the Black IPA, with 6% Light Crystal, 5% Torrified Wheat, 5% Carafa Special III and 2% Chocolate Malt complimenting a base of Maris Otter. Propaganda had so much dark malt, it easily went black but with the volumes of malt being lower, I was a bit worried about this one ending up dark brown at one point. I needn't have worried though and the final result looks to have scraped in as black by the skin of its teeth, which is just what I wanted.

I wanted the finished product to be much less bitter than a Black IPA, to let the fruit character come through and I designed the hop additions to hit 35 IBU, using Centennial and Nelson Sauvin. Mrs Nelly very kindly got 12 juicy mangos for me (have you seen the price of mangos?) and I put the flesh of five of them in the boil. Adding fruit to the boil can cause haziness but with a black beer, this doesn't really matter, of course.

I'm going to put the rest into a secondary ferment, once the initial fermentation is largely complete after 5 days or so. To avoid oxidation, I rigged up a neat system (pictured below) which uses the CO2 from the primary ferment to purge the air out of the secondary fermentation vessel. I drilled an extra bung hole into the lid and dropped a tube from it down into the vessel. This can be used for the CO2 and also to feed in the beer when I do the transfer. I'll dry hop at the same time as adding the mangos.

It's always good to take a risk and try something a little out of the ordinary once in a while. This may not work but if it does come off, I'll be very happy.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Rudolph's Reward, Shepherd Neame

Regular readers (if there are such a thing) may remember how my delight at picking up a bottle of Adnams Sole Star in Budgens for the princely sum of a pound quickly turned to disappointment on tasting the damn stuff. 

But I can't resist a bargain. Stepping into that quality establishment I noted another offer from a reputable brewery - a bottle of Rudolph's Reward from Sheherd's Neame for, yes, a pound. 

As you can see, it's very well carbonated, with little head. Nelly asked who was buying these things - me, for a pound. 

To the lips, it's actually fruity, with bits of caramel and toffee, and a gentle whiff of hop. 

Sadly this is marred by a minging long bitter aftertaste, which leaves one thinking, "ah! That's why it's a pound". 

Meantime at The Hermitage, Hitching

It's testament to the educational power of this blog that three short months ago I would not have DREAMT of looking on the keg taps for a decent beer. Little did I know that all the trendy breweries these days had long since eschewed the traditional big hand pump draughty thing (I know eff all about beer) and were cool with kegs now. 

And so it was with a little burst of joy I saw Meantime on a keg at the marvellous Hermitage restaurant and bar in Hitchin. 

(Not my pics - I'd forgotten my phone. If you're the copyright owner, let me know etc). 

The lovely lovely beer was sold in special glasses too:

Mmmm it was lovely. Really lovely. We've reviewed Meantime a lot so if you've not realised how much we like it, then read more. 

As for The Hermitage, it's fabulous - a converted theatre with a bar much hipper than you might expect from Hitchin, and I had six delicious oysters, an amazing ribeye steak, and a cracking bottle of Malbec for just £40. Highly recommended. 

Whapweasel at a The Thatched

I've been drinking at the Thatched House, Poulton-le-Fylde, for over 20 years now. My father calls it his "office", and it's always had the reputation - amongst a small town with a disproportionate number of pubs - as being the only one properly serious about beer. 

It basically is in a permanent state of beer festival - there's rarely the chance to drink the same pint twice, unless you're in there every day (er, which a lot of people seem to be). Hence why they feel the need to give a hint as to what the beer within is like, as per the massive GOLD sign on the pump below:

I'm not entirely sure what "GOLD" really means; however, I'd guess it signifies those Northern beers with a creamy taste and, er, a golden colour (most beer's golden, surely?) - a bit like Boddingtons when I was a kid *sniffs*. 

And yes - Whapweasel is all of those things. It's a decent Northern session ale, and I could barely drag my father away from it. 

The Thatched is a bit tatty round the edges, slightly marred by four giant tellies, and with a snug you're only allowed in if you've been drinking there since 1962. Still, whenever I'm back, it's the first port of call.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Weird Beard - Little Things That Kill

It seems like many microbreweries offer a low ABV beer these days, which is no bad thing. Big IPAs are all very well but there's definitely room in the stable for a beer you can drink several of without being completely out of action the following day.

At 3%, Simpleton by Magic Rock is my favourite of these. Making a low-strength beer that's still full of flavour and body is technically quite difficult but MR pull it off brilliantly. When I saw Little Things That Kill, from Weird Beard (my second-favourite brewery!), I had to grab a bottle.

At 3.4% it's a little stronger though, and those few tenths of a percent will make the brewing process much easier. It's easy to forget that this sort of strength is fairly normal for most beer. As with all Weird Beard beer, it was well-carbonated, which I really like.

The Centennial, Nelson Sauvin and Cascade hops provided a lovely aroma. Grapefruit citrus was the main taste and it felt like drinking a 4-5% ABV beer, which is a compliment.