May 4, 2012 § 1 Comment
The Beer Moment
What is it to me?
The beer moment to me is the thing that drives me through the drudgery of the working week, the light at the end of the tunnel, the 20 minutes at the end of the working day where I can sit down, relax, bitch about the crap I have had to troll through for the past 10 hours, and the short time where I can enjoy that fantastic living breathing cask sensation that is real ale, with a like-minded beer lover in my local.
The Beer Moment is a release, it’s also a time for discovery, revelation and wonder.
Let me explain, I am a regular at 2 local public houses not far from my house, the beauty with these pubs is that they have an ever-changing stable of new beers on tap, therefore each day there is always something new to try, and if not there is a real smorgesboard of choice, & choice and new flavors, is a real fascination to me, there is nothing like trying a beer style you didn’t think you liked to find that the pint you have in your hand is the most interesting and delicious pint you have tried all year, Beer can surprise you, and beer that has been made by a passionate and gifted brewer can really surprise you.
So in summary for me the beer moment is the 20 minute transition period that I can lose myself in a wonderous liquid, after work before facing a hectic house of home life where the demands of a dad take over from the demands of a manager in an office, It’s a time I can grab for myself kicking and screaming, “its my time” and long may it be so.
Transit of Venus and Several Stupid reasons therefore to believe this is the year to set up a new Brewing Business
May 2, 2012 § Leave a Comment
2012 is to be a year of The Transit of Venus,
What is a transit of Venus I hear you all say?
The Transit of Venus when Venus passes directly between earth and the sun, we see the distant planet as a small dot gliding slowly across the face of the sun. Historically, this rare alignment is how we measured the size of our solar system.
When Is it?
The next transit of Venus occurs June 5 or 6, 2012, depending on your location. This will be the last transit of Venus to occur in your lifetime, the most recent transit of Venus was a thrilling sight in 2004. After the June 2012 transit of Venus (the last one in your lifetime), the next such alignment occurs in 2117 , so if you miss it you wont get another chance!!!!
Now I was not really privy to the Transit of Venus until a few short weeks ago, but since I was made aware i have read a few things etc etc and noticed a few odd things that stupidly, got me thinking that setting up The Cheshire Brewhouse (something i have been planning before my knowledge of the transit of Venus) this year could be aligned in the stars better than I thought!!!!!!
This is where you start to read what a knob, however i will go on with my ramblings if you care to read, Looking at Past Transit of Venus events,
The first recorded Transit of Venus was 1639 and was seen in the Village of Hoole near Preston Lancashire.
The Next was 1761 followed by 1769,
I looked up notable events for these years and this is where It got interesting I couldn’t find much of interest in the way of beer for the first two Transits but there it is recorded that Guinness was first exported in 1769, also Scaldis (Dubuisson Brewery) were also established in 1769, Tennants had a change of Regime and Name in that year also with the Company Changing to J&R Tennant, at the Wellpark brewery Glasgow. all large events in beer in what was the duplicate 8th gap year of the second recorded coming of the Transit.
I moved on and looked at the next transit dates 1874 & 1882, with interest in the trailing Transit year of 1882, Notable beer events for 1882 Include Brains Brewery were established in Cardif, Kopparberg were established in Sweden, Shumensko pivo (now Carlsberg) were established in Bulgaria, Joseph Holt handed the reins of the Holts Brewery Manchester, over to his son Edward, Ram (Young’s) Brewery Complex) was rebuilt, & most notably Wrexham Lager brewed their first lager in 1882.
It appears on the surface that the years of the second occurrence of the Transit of Venus (the transit that comes 8 years following the first of the pair of Transits), is good for Beer Businesses and brewing in general, as nearly all the above are still household names to more than just beer people.
Therefore with this in mind I am hoping the 2012 Transit of Venus is going to be a Good omen for a strong start for The Cheshire Brewhouse, I have the 14th May as the date I am moving into premises, Forms for licences etc are filled and sent, plans are in place for build of equipment, drains etc are in place & I hope to be getting the first commercial brews on around the time of the transit, ready for release to the general market for Mid June . Exciting times & one can but hope, the omens are good ones.
Further to this if you have a home brewed beer and want to enter a most interesting competition held in the Village of Hoole on June 4th 2012 please look at Transit of Venus Real Ale Competition
For more information on the Transit of Venus please visit
April 15, 2012 § Leave a Comment
On Saturday the 14th June, I was Kindly invited down from Sunny South Cheshire to a Friends house In rural Leicestershire. Several members of the Midlands Craft Brewers had gathered to learn how to herd and nurture yeast, & I was going to be one of the lucky ones who was going to be learning the dark art of yeast management.
Now I have pretty much used liquid yeast for the whole time I have dabbled in home brewing, and there have been a number of reasons for this, the main one being that due to a few contacts I could pretty much get hold of very viable brewery yeast that made great beer, free anytime I wanted, and there is nothing quite like getting something for nothing.
The other reason was that by using a secret liquid strain, I felt I could make beers that would differ from my peers, who were all using Nottingham, SO4 or US05 Dried yeast. Now don’t get me wrong dried yeast is used by plenty of award winning Home and Commercial, brewers the world over, but I personally think that the commercial dried strains tend to be very very neutral, and feel that the brewers that stick to dried yeasts are missing an extra dimension in their beers, after all “Brewers make wort & YEAST MAKE BEER”
Which brings me to the reason I had jumped at the chance to learn how to become a member of the “Secret order of Yeastie Shepherds”.
I had a career change last year, and as such my supply of my main ingredient dried up, I knew how to pitch yeast into my beers at the optimum quantities, and could keep the same batch of yeast going no worries for about 8 brews or gyles, before I needed to get some fresh. But I didn’t have the knowledge of how to store yeast in a stable manner for use at a later date, or how to keep a strain healthy and to hand indefinitely.
I set off down to Newbold Verdon early, I felt tired and a bit dozy due to the fact that I had struggled to get to sleep the night before. I was so looking forward to a day out with friends, and learning, that at midnight on the Friday I remember feeling like a six year old waiting for Santa to come. (a bit sad for a 41 year old I suppose, but at least I know I haven’t lost some of the child in me ). The drive down was uneventful but pleasant, & the sun illuminated the green midlands fields as I traveled along the A50 towards Burton on Trent. ( I have done the Drive to Burton hundreds of times but it had been 6 months since the last time I had made a visit and the route to my destination was sending me straight through Burton) as I entered the old town, I felt a strange emotion, the sort you feel when coming back home after living away for a few years. Strange really as I only ever worked in the town, for four years, but Beertown holds a special place in my heart, its the sort of place you just have to go look see and spend some time in if your into beer. There are a few magical taverns with some excellent locally produced real ales if your prepared to go look, & I know more about the history of Burton on Trent, than I do about my hometown of Macclesfield, (strange how beer interests more than Silk.) I just had to pull up get out of the car and breathe in the air and take in the unique smell of the town. However it dawned on me that I needed to get a reality check, if I didn’t get a move on I would be late for the meet, therefore I set the controls for the heart of the sun and crossed the great stone bridge over the mighty River Trent and journeyed onto my destination just north of Market Bosworth.
Pulling up the Gravel Drive of a large bungalow, I was met by Allan G, (Allan is a member of the Midlands Craft Brewers, very passionate about Home Brewing, his local group of brewers, and I always look forward to spending a few hours with him, as he is a great character and just one of those people you just cannot help but like). I hadn’t been in the house more than 2 minutes and I had a Cup of tea a warm welcome, and we were well into discussing manufacturing new brewing equipment, & 2o minutes later 10 Amateur Brewers were waiting expectantly in the Kitchen, ready to learn how to become better brewers and learn yeast management.
The Agenda for the day was to be full & we were to learn plenty.
1. Welcome and Introductions (AG) 10.00-10.15.
2. Aseptic Technique (AQ) 10.15-11.00 (to include practical)
3. Sources of yeast (PF) 11.00-11.15
4. Reusing Yeasts (PF) 11.15-11.30
5. Storage including viability of stored yeast (PF) 11.30-11.45
6. Propagating yeasts (PF and AQ) 11.45-13.00 (to include practical1 and 2)
7. Lunch 13.00-13.45
8. Strain Maintenance (PF) 13.45-14.00
9. Splitting vials (PF) 14.00-14.45 (to include practical3)
10. Temperature control (PF) 14.45-15.00
11. Problem areas (AQ) 15.00-15.15
12. Use of Microscope (AQ) 15.15-15.30
13. Summary and Conclusions (AG) 15.30-15.45
14. Feedback (ALL) 15.45-16.00
Alan Q, opened the proceedings and we learnt a few key things
- Yeast storage and management is well within the grasp of anyone
- You don’t need hundreds of pounds worth of equipment, a pressure cooker, a couple of pans, some sample pots a glass measuring jug, a wire inoculation needle, a blowtorch and a spare fridge (freecycle) is all you need for success.You can do all the work (should read enjoyable pastime) in a well prepared kitchen as long as its not a draughty/environment.
- You must be a stickler for cleanliness and sanitation, (however if your already making decent all grain beer, this should be second nature)
If you want to be successful propagating and storing yeast you also need to understand where you can go wrong, the biggest issue is contamination, from unwanted organisms, i.e. Wild yeasts and bacteria.
Contamination of a slant and your yeast culture can occur in 3 ways.
Airbourne contamination: (to avoid this, ensure all windows and doors are closed, ensure people are not coming in and out of the room you are working in, and only open and close the storage media when required to, for as short a time as possible and work in close proximity to a flame, such as a camping gas single burner or blow torch)
From the equipment being used:(To avoid this ensure you clean everything spotlessly and then sanitise all the equipment that will come into contact with yeast)
From yourself: (To avoid this, roll up your sleeves, take your watch off, scrub up, use an alcohol wash, and cover your hair if practicable)
We then went onto practice flaming a wire innoculator, flaming a glass pipette and transferring 1ml of liquid from one pot to another, extremely nerve racking when done with an audience (my turn came and I relived the terror of my first science class aged 11). Opening jars and keeping things clean and ordered is also a lot harder than it looks, but a doddle once you know the secret handshakes
Following the terror of a Practical, Peter F, a very active member of The Midlands and also The Cambridge Craft brewers continued the talk.
We had a brief discussion on Dried yeasts, their pros & cons and went through the tips and tricks to getting the best out of dried yeasts should you not have time to manage or prepare a liquid strain.
Why use Dried Yeast?
- cheap as chips
- easy to store (but you should store in a fridge at home
- time saving
- easy to use
The main thing to take from this is if you do nothing else, ALWAYS re-hydrate dried yeast with boiled water with a temperature of at least 26 deg Centigrade, (its surprising how many people that go to the trouble of making an all grain beer (5-8 hours of work), then they bugger up their chance of making the best beer possible, by sprinkling a pack of dried yeast on wort at 18-20 deg,) sprinkling kills a great chunk of the dried yeast, (so always re hydrate with boiled cooled (26-35 deg C) Water, you will get so much better fermentation and better beer as a result).
We then went to discuss the Liquid yeast strains available to everyone in the UK.
I will add here that if you want to really dial in a flavor in a beer you intend to make a bit of online research and prudent yeast choice, is going to pay dividends in your finished product, Dried Nottingham is not going to give you a decent hefeweizen, so if you want to add that extra dimension, take some time to experiment, it will pay dividends. I will also add if you learn to make slants, you will probably only ever need to buy one particular strain ever again, Liquid yeasts are not expensive if you know how to look after them.
Yeast strains are available from White Labs and Wyeast both american brands and available in many online Homebrew suppliers, But make sure they keep the vials in refrigeration, or you will be asking for trouble. Brewlab in Sunderland is also a very affordable and good source of liquid yeasts already supplied on slant. & if you want to pay the earth you could also try the national collection of yeast cultures
It was then time for lunch and a stretch of the legs, I had a good chat about what we had learnt and had the usual discussion on equipment etc with the other brewers (its amazing what home brewers get up to tinkering & making things in their sheds and garages, to make life easier brewing) & I dined on a diet of Leicestershire Cobs washed down with a spectacular Galaxy light Bitter, kindly given to me by Peter F. (over the years I have tried a number of hobbies, Fishing, Road Rallying, CB radio, etc etc, however I have never ever come across a more agreeable and friendly crowd as the lesser spotted home brewer, and long may it stay that way I have never gone to a meet and left empty handed, or not tried a new beer)
The method is to make a starter wort to a gravity of 1035og, then add agar flakes or powder, (plenty of places sell it, but asian shops are usually the cheapest source), pour into 30-50ml sample bottles, fill about 1/3rd full,place the sample jars in a pressure cooker and steam for between 15 and 30 minutes at full steam to sterilise the sample slants.
(note when doing this you need to a) ensure the the bottles are upright in the steamer b)the bottles are made from polyprop or glass, not plastic or they will melt in the heat C) you have cracked open the lids on the bottles, to allow gas equalization, failure to do this will result in a few small explosions in the pressure cooker and a mess for the wife to clean up
Once steamed tighten up the lids on the bottles so they are sealed, and place resting on an angle until they set, about 20-30mins waiting time. Once the agar/wort mixture has set you are ready to start the innoculation culturing process.
To Innoculate, is pretty straightforward you need to flame your wire, open your yeast vial, White labs, etc, dip the sterilized wire in the yeast.
Then streak the yeast on the wire over the surface of your prepared slant, ensuring you don’t leave the pots open for long in between operations, and also ensure you work close to the flame source at all times.
Once streaked you then put the slopes in a temperature stable warm environment (20 deg constant is ideal) with the lids slightly cracked to allow co2 release, for 3-4 days, (you will see the yeast culture growing on the surface of your agar slant during this time, great for keeping the kids amused). & once you have given it 3-4 days the slope can now be stored in a fridge for up to 6 months safely with no real detriment to the yeast strain. If you want to keep the strain going indefinitely, you repeat the process every 4-5 months and streak from your stored vial, onto a freshly made one, yet another hobby & I am introducing you all to “Culture” (I’ll get my coat).
By doing the above, you are able to over time, build up your own yeast bank, and if you can get your fellow home brewers interested in this practice, you will have yet another thing to swap on meet ups Win Win for everyone.
Summing up I had a great day out, I would like to thank the Midland Craft Brewers for inviting me, I learnt a very simple but effective technique & its something I intend to do going forward. & I hope my ramblings have inspired you to go and have a go yourself.
For further information on Yeast & Brewing try the following resources
Yeast Culturing FAQ by Mike Sims clear guide to making slopes
Yeast By Chris White & Jamil Zanasheif This is an invaluable book for all homebrewers and it will unlock a lot of useful knowledge as well as help you understand yeast better.
If you want to learn and also meet plenty of like minded individuals who will be more than happy to help you make great beer then get in touch with the following groups.
Midland Craft Brewers Cover West and East Midlands area, plenty of meetings and lots of knowledge in the group
Northern Craft Brewers (cover northern england from south cheshire/north staffs, to Scottish Borders, and also lots of members & meetings in Yorkshire)
April 14, 2012 § 1 Comment
Recently I helped to organise an English IPA Craft Brewing (Amateur) competition, at the Wonderful Saltaire brewery at Shipley Near Bradford, Yorkshire. A wonderful old building run by a great team, who will welcome the world and his dog in as long as you are as crazy about beer as they all are, if you get the chance pop in and say hello, & buy some beer off them too, i’m sure they will be more than happy to sell you some .
As well as dealing with the entries, sorting out the judges, mingling with the brewers, and generally making myself available, I thought I’d also better be part of the entertainment for the afternoon. After all being as I had insisted that the brewers only use English Hops I’d better put some conviction into what English IPA means to me.
True English IPA is a mythical drink that should be protected, by style, & I think any Englishman worth his salt should band together and, fly a Banner for this much underestimated style of beer. We should be trying to stop other countries using IPA to describe a beer that never was intended to be brewed for English shores, It should be a style that is as English as the Magna Carta, and it should also be a formidable beer not a 3.5% offering from East Anglia with added caramel.
I therefore presented the Following Talk for the entertainment of the baying crowds….
What truly is INDIA PALE ALE?
Well for me it certainly isn’t any beer that comes from America or any other county other than England, neither is it made with anything other than Pale Malt, with maybe & I stress maybe a hint of crystal, and good quality English Hops. It certainly isn’t a beer made by Caledonian or Greene King, & I would like to see them hung drawn and quartered for having the gall to call their pishy offerings IPA.
India Pale Ale needs to be robust, be strong, have, body, plenty of flavour and lashings of bitterness that fizzes on your tongue and brings your palate alive when you take a sip.
If sampling a commercial example or if sampling a Craft (Home) brewed example.
It needs to be a beer that makes you stare into it with wonder, it needs to be respected & it needs to amaze, each and every time you visit it.
American & New World AIPA’s also do this and there are some amazing beers out there, but it is the English India Pale Ale that is in my opinion the King of Pale Ales.
There are many myths and untruths about this revered style of beer, and I would suggest a true example of this beer style would be very hard if not impossible to recreate, by anyone other than a rich eccentric, with a passion for brewing, sitting around pondering, and trans-Atlantic sailing.
For to make a True IPA, you need lots of malt, lots of Hops, lots of time, an abundance of patience & access to Ocean going Yacht bound for Calcutta.
Recipe for a True IPA, (To make one BBL):
You will need around 35-40KG of good quality English Pale Malt, (some would argue lager malt is truer to the pale malts originally used)
1.5-2.5KG of good quality dried Whole Flower English Hops (purists would say IPA should only be made with Golding’s & preferably only East Kent Golding’s)
To make an original London Style IPA, you will need a London Water Profile, But for a more outstanding example I would recommend a Burton on Trent Water Profile, High In Calcium Sulphate, to allow the Hop bitterness to cut through, and also to give you a paler more sparkling beer, due to the fact that less colour will be picked up from the malt with a burton profile. (I won’t go any further into water or we will be here until next year, but if any of you want to learn more on water profile manipulation, I would suggest you order the newly published book Titled “Water” by John Palmer and Colin Kaminski released in a few weeks, time)
1) Mash your crushed Pale Malt at 68 degrees for 3 Hours in a well, insulated Tun.
2) Lauter & Sparge very slowly into your Copper & with water at 76C 1.5-2hrs run off and Sparge is ideal.
3) Simmer your Sweet Wort for 3 hours (a vigorous boil is not required for this brew), adding at least 1.5KG of East Kent Golding’s, for the final 1.5hrs of the Boil.
4) Use a good quality English Liquid yeast strain, Such as Burton Ale Yeast from Brew labs, White Labs or Wyeyeast, and don’t over pitch, or you will lose a lot of bitterness to the yeast, Burton Ale loves to strip Bitterness out of the brew.
5) Pitch at a nice cool 18Degrees C and let free rise to around 21 degrees and rouse every other day if using a Burton strain or you will not get full attenuation.
6) Ferment out for 6-10 days and then cask adding 200-500G of EKG to the casks, and bulk age in cask for 3-6months, at 12-15 degrees, remembering to vent the excess pressure at least weekly, this style tends to secondary ferment for a good few weeks following the initial 6-10day fermentation, and will finish nice and dry if handled well.
7) Whilst bulk conditioning is taking place, polish the brass and varnish the wood on your yacht, make sure the sails are tip top, no ropes are frayed and ensure all shipshape as you and your pale Ale are going on a very long journey.
8) Once Happy that secondary fermentation is finished & you have vented your cask enough to ensure its not going to blow on your journey (Ask Pete Brown about this), load your 3 casks onto the Skylark, and put them in the bottom of the ship for ballast, please also ensure you can’t get at them easily, Sailing can be Thirsty work, you don’t want to be turning up with 1 half empty cask do you. I would recommend a few cornies of English session bitter and one of Barley Wine, should keep you away from the goods in the hold.
9) You are now ready to Set Sail for an adventure into the great big briny blue Atlantic, on route for The Canaries. Once there stock up on fresh food and water & carry on to Madeira, Where if you want to make an authentic trip, you now need to pick up some Pipes of young Madeira Wine, put these pipes in the bottom of the boat along with your IPA, they are going to be good bedfellows for the journey ahead. (Madeira was traditionally traded by the East India Company, and as a result of the sea journey, Madeira is now made in large warm rooms with the bulk casks being rocked for months at 35deg C the wine thus metamorphoses into the beautiful honeyed liquid that connoisseurs love today)
10) Once stocked up with Madeira, it’s time to hit the trade winds and travel towards Rio de Janero, the journey to India is now not going to be an easy one, & if you are lucky the winds will be good to you, & you will pass through the Doldrums without too much issue, (if the winds are not favourable you could end up in trouble here, there are stories of sailing ships being stranded in this area of water for months, drifting with no trade winds to carry them to their destination). If you have time on your hands you could take a trip on to the cococobana beach and sink a few cold Brahma’s whilst watching the beautiful ladies top up their tans, however that won’t get your IPA made.
11) If the winds are favourable your Yacht should now be making a big turn towards Africa and you will be making the trip back over the Atlantic towards Cape Town, the sea will be warm as hell and the temperature and rocking motion of the ship will be producing the magic elixir you have set out to make.
12) On successfully reaching the Cape Of good Hope, it’s time to round the cape and head north up the coast of Africa in the warm Indian ocean, all the time the rocking and warmth are hopefully making a beery ambrosia below your feet. Ale force, alchemy, working at its best. But Watch out guys for those Somali pirates Sinbad’s out to get you.
13) Once safely out of reach of the Pirates it’s time to navigate to Calcutta, the sea temperatures not going to let up and the rocking is still doing its work in the bowels of the ship, but don’t be tempted to drink just yet although the temptation must be hard by now.
14) On arriving to Calcutta after between 4-6 months at sea you now need to bottle your beers, now this is where it gets a little sketchy, did the Anglo Indian merchants re-pitch and prime with a secondary dried bottling yeast or did they just fill and cap and hope for the best? My moneys on the second method the other thing is & did they have some peracetic to hand to sterilise those bottles, better make sure you packed some in the hold.
• the Indian Customs don’t confiscate your beers when you go ashore
• your casks have not burst due to pressure build up
• you bottled well without oxidising your beer
You can now go and educate the nice Middle Class Indian gentlemen, on the finest ale to have landed on the Indian shores for over 100 years.
But remember to bring a bottle back for the author of the recipe, just to sample.
I would love to see someone do the above, and sample the beer just to see what that journey actually does to the beer.
One can only imagine what the style should be like, by trying to recreate the recipes of Old, (especially the Durden Park recipes), at home and sitting on the beer for a few years, hoping it’s going to be a gem, that you can share with friends talk about into the night and pass on the rich history that was the part of the fabric that made the British empire great, British pale ale to keep the merchants and troops on far off shores going, in the face of adversity.
India Pale Ale the beer that made an Empire great, please raise your glasses in a toast to IPA, Cheers.