Homebrew 5

Brewday - 6/10/13

Sweetcorn Bush - 4.3% Pale Ale

My brief for this, as written in my notebook, was "Pale ale, crisp, biscuity, moderately hopped with good head retention and light colour". I'd admired the biscuity taste of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and when I noticed a bag labeled "Biscuit Malt" in the homebrew shop, I couldn't resist popping it in the basket. I set about attempting to use it in a recipe to create a biscuity taste.I called the beer "Sweetcorn Bush" because on the afternoon of the brewday, we had a family day out and a little incident where my three year old son got lost in a maize maze for about half an hour. When I eventually found him, I asked where he'd been, and he replied, "I was just in the sweetcorn bush, Daddy!" 

Grain Bill:

3727g Maris Otter
250g Biscuit Malt
156g Torrified Wheat
100g Carapils
44g Wheat Malt
23g Light Crystal

Total 4300g

For this brew, I paid attention to the volumes for the first time. I marked the copper at 23L and also at 25L because 2L is left in the bottom when it's drained. I kept topping up the copper with water to make  25L throughout the boil and also put a further 2L of wort in a pan and boiled it. I added this to the copper for the final top-up to get 25L. The final runnings from the mash tun were 1.020 gravity and the colour of the wort was much lighter than any brew I'd made before. I think the Crystal Malt I have is pretty dark so using much less for this brew was no bad thing.


60mins 100g Dextrose
60mins 20g Fuggles 6.4%
60mins 10g Target 11.12%
15mins 1tsp Protofloc
10mins 30g Fuggles 6.4%
1min 30g Styrian Goldings 2.4%

Total IBU about 30

Once cooled, I drained the copper into my bottling tub, running the wort over sanitised ice bottles as it went in. A further transfer into the FV made exactly 23L, which is what I wanted, so I was pretty pleased with this.

For the first time, I used Safale US-05 yeast in this brew, instead of the English S-04 variant. I'd been disappointed with the fruity, spicy "Englishness" of the previous brews, so figured an American strain might be a bit cleaner and impart fewer yeast-driven tastes into the final product. I hydrated one 11g packet of yeast into about 1/2 L of boiled and cooled water, about 2 hrs before pitching.

The O.G was 1.043, which was spot-on. It did take a while to start bubbling though, and didn't really get going in any meaningful way for a day. The fermentation didn't go quite as planned and seemed to be constantly slow and sluggish. I left the brew in the FV for 2 weeks and on day 14, I dry hopped with 50g of Cascade.

And that's when it happened.

I had transferred the brew into my big bottling bucket to do a secondary ferment in there. After doing so, for some reason I left the bucket propped up on a cardboard box in an upstairs room. The cardboard box was full of beer bottles and so I thought it would be quite sturdy. However, the bottles all finished short of the top of the box so there was no strength there.

I was in the room below when I heard a big "THUD" reverberating through the ceiling. The "SPLASH!" that followed two seconds later will stay with me until the grave. With heavy heart, I ran up the stairs clutching some hastily-grabbed towels. The scene that greeted me was absolutely awful. The entire 5-gallon bucket had tipped over and released its contents all over the carpet of the upstairs room. There were hops and beer soaking into the carpet, splashed up the walls and stuck to the ceiling.

I threw every towel in the house onto the floor and started trying to soak up the ill-fated brew. Over the course of the next few hours, my very understanding wife and I managed to towel most of the mess up, fired up a carpet-cleaning machine and somehow returned the room to a reasonable state.

The only sign that remains now is the stain on the ceiling of the room below, where the beer was dripping through. It will require a repaint at some point but for now, I'm saying I got away lightly.

In the aftermath there were many emotions running through my mind but the one I felt most guilty about was the sense of loss I had for the beer, which I didn't think I had any right to have. I'd very nearly wrecked the house but after having made the beer and nurtured it through fermentation for two weeks, checking how it was doing every day and making records of the gravity and the temperature, it was still actually quite a wrench to see the fruit of my efforts just disappear like that.

So I will never know how this beer would have turned out but it's fair to say I learnt bigger lessons from "Sweetcorn Bush" than from any other beer I'm likely to brew for a while.

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