Archive for the ‘Brewing’ Category

The brewing cycle – another battle with choice

It seems that the battle with choice is a recurring theme for me. When it comes to my home brewing I have a similar battle. WHAT should I brew this time? Even without some of the currently trendy home brewing accoutrements (pressure fermentation, anyone? Oxygen-free transfer?), the range of beers available to the homebrewer is great. In a slightly smug way I’d say that none of the all-grain brews I’ve done have been undrinkable, and some I’ve been very sad to finish the last bottle.

In fact I’ve moved to smaller batches typically around 10 litres instead of nearly 20. There were two principal reasons, firstly simply trying to consume up to 40 bottles of the SAME beer became a bit “challenging” during the period when we were self-isolating. Secondly my brewing machine routinely overflowed during the boil phase and while this wasn’t a particular problem, it did mean I had to pay more attention during the brewing process.

The reduction to smaller batches has given the opportunity to try a few more different styles and recipes. This has meant the paralysis of choice while I try to decide just what I’d fancy. I’ve also turned out to be poor at planning sufficiently far ahead to have seasonally-appropriate beers to hand. Trying to remember to brew something lighter in March or April for consumption in June and July should be simple, but for some reason I struggle. Part of the reason for this is that from time to time we are seduced by offers from our favourite commercial brewers and suddenly we have a stock of delicious other beers that need drinking and my plans to produce some batches of my own take a back seat.

I’ve also been trying to do a brewing/bottling combo day (bottling a previous brew while the next brewing is being processed by my brilliant Brewie machine). This has felt like a very efficient use of time, though it does mean I get into a cycle where I produce more beer than I’m drinking and I have to break that cycle! I’ve been considering my beer choices in batches of three lately, using a combination of “using up” to use whatever ingredients I have “lying around”, spotting interesting beers in YouTube videos I watch, responding to friends’ requests, and even repeating previous recipes that I’ve particularly enjoyed. The next three in the pipe are looking like a porter to use up some smoked malt (“Smoke On The Porter”), a Dark Mild (my first foray into brown malt), and a clone of Leffe Blonde (friend’s preference).


Cider Time

It’s a time of year when some-time beer brewers think about turning other things into alcohol. Personally I’m not a great fan of putting fruits into beer, for me it’s all about the malt and hops. I am, however, partial to the occasional cider, and I particularly like my cider to taste of apples (I know, how strange, Kopparberg are definitely not aiming at me). Mass-produced cider tends to be homogenised beyond taste to produce the cheapest possible alcohol content, although the recent “cloudy” versions have added some more interesting flavours.

So, producing home-made cider is definitely on the agenda, and this year we’ve been lucky enough to procure enough apples* and have invested in a scratter and a press, and roughly 30 litres of cider has been the result. The first effort was a mix of some Ben’s Reds and other local (unknown) apples, which seems to have produced a pleasant apply dry cider which we’re trying to leave for a few months to mature. Since we know the taste you can guess that we’ve tried a bottle of the dozen or so we made – and of course shared a few with the apple donators! Our second, larger effort was again from Ben’s Reds, all the way from Cornwall, plus a decent quantity of Bramleys from a tree across the road. It’s in the second racking stage waiting for me to get around to bottling it, so I can’t report a taste test yet.

Yes, you’re supposed to use mixtures of sweet and sharp apples and specific varieties are grown for cider, but when the raw material is effectively free apart from the time to pick it, it’s hard not to. It’s certainly simpler than beer brewing, at least at the basic level, although a little more physical effort if you’re scratting and pressing by hand!

* Thanks to the tree owners who generously offered their trees for picking