06 October 2015

Maris Otter Golden Ale: Results

I cold crashed and added gelatin to the Maris Otter golden ale after three weeks in the fermenter.  I then kegged it only a couple of days after adding gelatin.  This was a lot less time than I'd normally wait, but I needed freezer space. 

This is the beer as it left the fermenter. 
I carbonated it reasonably slowly over about a week at 2 degrees Celsius and 12 PSI. 

This is the beer after about a week of carbonation.  I was quite concerned at this point, as it was the least clear beer I'd produced in some time.

Happily, after another week or so in the keg at 2 degrees, the cold crashing did the job and the beer cleared nicely.

Flavour-wise, I'm pretty happy with it.  I'm not sure that the Maris Otter adds a lot relative to the Gladfield Ale malt. But if I squint and stand on one leg I'm pretty sure that I can detect improved mouthfeel.

It's malty, mildly hopped  and easy to drink a lot of, but not particularly sessionable at 5.5%ABV.  As with many beers I brew that aren't heavily hopped, I tend to think that it could probably use more hops. But for non-hop heads, it's very approachable and can be offered to guests without worrying that it might be too bitter or aromatic.

11 September 2015

Maris Otter Golden Ale

My second brew on the Grainfather was an attempt to create a simple, easy drinking golden ale and at the same time learn something about basic malt flavours.  It used nothing but pilsner malt and was late hopped with Motueka. Mainly because that's what we had lying about.

It was perfectly drinkable, but nothing to write home about. But obviously you can write about any old crap in a blog, so here we are.

Nevertheless, there is strong domestic demand for easy drinking, malty, lightly-hopped beer so I have continued to experiment, adding more variety in the malt and changing the hops.  The most recent iterations have been quite successful.  Generally, I still usually prefer hoppier brews, these golden ales have been an enjoyable vehicle for showcasing malt flavour. They've also been favourites among those of my friends who are less enamoured of darker or very hoppy beers than I am.

At Beervana, as mentioned in my last post, Renaissance Brewing had two England vs New Zealand Special Bitters, brewed to identical recipes but one with New Zealand ingredients and the other with English ingredients. As one would expect, the two beers were very similar, but the version brewed with English ingredients (to my mind) had superior maltiness and mouthfeel. According to the chap manning the Renaissance stand, this difference was largely down to the use of Maris Otter as a base malt.

To test this myself, I decided to brew a version of my golden ale to the same recipe as I've used previously, but using Maris Otter instead of Gladfield Ale malt.

Here's the recipe:

4.5kg Maris Otter
300g Vienna
100g Gladfield Gladiator
10g Gladfield Dark Chocolate
10g Gladfield Roasted

14g Pacific Jade as a first wort addition
5g Pacifica at 10 minutes
5g Riwaka at 10 minutes
5g Pacifica at flameout
5g Riwaka at flameout

1 pkt Mangrove Jack's Burton Union

1 tsp of Irish Moss
1 tsp of calcium sulphate
1 tbs of 5.2 Stabilizer

The calcium sulphate was mixed into the malt before mash in, and the 5.2 Stabilizer just after mash in. The Irish Moss was added with the 10 minute hop addition.

Single infusion mash at 68 degrees Celsius (154F) for 60 minutes. Mash out at 75C (167F), and boil for 90 minutes.

The target original gravity is 1.057, which I hit pretty well bang on on brew day, which was the Saturday before last. 

I ended up brewing this recipe twice that day, as the husband of a colleague of my mother* wanted to try brewing.  He didn't like very hoppy or dark beers and I couldn't be bothered coming up with another recipe. 

Both brews went well. I used my new twirly thing to aerate the wort after cooling, which I've only recently started doing. The yeast appeared to get started quite quickly which was good to see.

Airlock activity seems to have stopped, so I'll look to add gelatin and cold crash this weekend (assuming that it has actually stopped fermenting).

Incidentally, this was also the first brew I did using the Grainfather upgrade kit, with improved connections and filters.  Quite a big improvement. 

*You might say that he was just somebody that I brews to know.  But probably only if you'd had your sense of humour surgically removed and replaced with a poorly coded dad-joke generator. 

Beervana Redux

So two more things about Beervana.

Firstly, I forgot to mention Renaissance Brewing.  They had a New Zealand vs England line up of two special bitters brewed to exactly the same recipes, but one with New Zealand ingredients and the other with English ingredients. 

This was a really interesting palate testing exercise.  Obviously the two beers were very similar.  The English version I thought had better mouthfeel, which may have been due to the Marris Otter malt as opposed to the Gladfield Ale malt. 

This inspired me to try modifying one of my recipes to use Marris Otter as the base malt and see what happened.  I'll post on this later.

It would be good to try this again with a cleaner palate.  And blind, perhaps.  Not actually blind, I don't see how that would help, just without knowing which was which when tasting.

Secondly, I had lunch with a friend on a while back at Fork & Brewer.  I took the opportunity to taste (well, drink) the Golden Mile Dry Hopped Lager, which was one of my favourite beers at Beervana this year.  At Beervana, I had this beer after having already tasted a lot of very hoppy beers.  This time, I came at it with what ought to have been a pretty clean palate.  As I had sort of expected, it was still a very nice beer, but I felt it could have used more hops.

This does reinforce my view that Beervana might not do full justice to some of the beers on show.  It's possible that I just need to put more effort into palate cleansing.  But then I'd run out of time to drink all the beers....

01 September 2015

My Brewing Set-up

The odds were against it, but behold: a second post!

Before blogging about my weekend brewing, I thought it would be worth detailing the kit I'm using.  This is what I currently have, after about a year of all-grain brewing:

  • a stir plate and flask
  • three corny kegs
  • a CO2 bottle
  • a working chest freezer
  • a non-working chest freezer
  • a heat pad
  • a temperature controller
  • a stirry thing that attaches to a drill for aerating wort*

The Grainfather is an all-in-one all-grain brewing system.  It's essentially a kettle in which sits a removable grain basket.  So you mash in* with the grain basket, lift it out to sparge and then boil.  It has a counterflow cooler for chilling the wort and transferring to the fermenter.  The kettle has a 30 litre (8 gallon) capacity, which allows for the production of 23 litre (6 gallon) batches.

The Grainbrother is the same thing, but without the grain basket, so after the sparge you empty the grain basket, transfer it to the Grainbrother and mash in your second brew.  This makes for a more efficient brew day.  If I'm organised (not an especially common occurrence) I can get three brews done in a day.

The kegs (and CO2) are a relatively new addition.  Until very recently I was bottle conditioning.  This was fine, but one does like to be able to take bottles of beer places without getting sediment all mixed through.

For a brief but glorious period I had two working chest freezers.  This enabled me to do temperature-controlled fermentations and store frozen food.  Good times!  Then one broke. 

The working chest freezer is currently storing kegged beer, which I'll shortly bottle.  That'll then free up the temperature controller, which I'll plug into the heat pad and see if I can use that in combination with the non-working chest freezer for low-temperature fermentation.

I got the stir plate and flask specifically to make a scotch ale, which required a yeast starter. 

*Glossary of terms for any non- or beginning brewers whose poor life choices have led them to this blog:
  • Mash: the process of immersing crushed malts (mainly barley) in hot water to convert starches into sugars which can be fermented.
  • Sparge: the process of draining hot water through the grain following the mash to extract the last of the sugars.
  • Boil: More or less what it sounds like.  The wort is boiled to sterilise it and boil off 'volatiles' that might cause off flavours.  This is also when hops are added.  Hops added early in the boil create bitterness, those added late(r) in the boil add hop aromas.
  • Wort: Beer before it was cool.  Or at least before the yeast has consumed the sugar and produced alcohol.
  • Refractometer: a tool for gauging the gravity of - which is to say the amount of sugar in - wort, by measuring how the distortion of light as it travels through the wort.

26 August 2015

Et in Arcadia malter ego: Beervana 2015

I'm sorry. That's a ridiculous title for a blog post. I won't do it again*.

My wife and I attended Beervana again this year, on the Saturday (a couple of weeks back now). We went last year with our son. This year my parents were good enough to look after him, which was fortunate because since last year he's turned two and learned to say 'beer', and 'more beer'. Frankly I can't see that that would have been a good look.

It was a fantastic event. If you've not been, you should. They have beer.

Having just been to Beervana, this seems a good time to kick off a beer blog and comment on some of the beers I tried before moving on to posts about my own brewing adventures.

So, without further ado:

Cabbages and Kings, Garage Project
This was the first beer I tasted, no doubt because it was the showiest and I am nothing if not crass. It was billed as an imperial oyster and horopito stout and clocked in at a whopping 12% ABV. Cabbages and Kings was the showiest beer because, not content with brewing the beer with manuka smoked malt, Garage Project used a hand-held smoker to pump additional manuka smoke through the beer on serving. It was a beer drinking experience unlike any other. Unfortunately, I have rather enjoyed other beer drinking experiences. Full credit to Garage Project for creating an oyster beer, in which the oyster flavour comes through and isn't unpleasant. But, I found the smokiness fairly over-powering and was unable to detect horopito. Also, I think 12% is more alcoholic than I can easily enjoy in beer. I found it a bit spiritey spiritish spirit-like ... it tasted of spirits. I didn't love it, but I'm glad I had it.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Porter, Good George Brewing
This was a smooth, rich chocolaty porter. Had the words 'salted caramel' not been included in the beer's name, I don't think I'd have worked out that that's what they were going for. After a few mouthfuls I convinced myself that I could taste a faint saltiness, and there was definitely a flavour that one wasn't malt, hops or chocolate. A very nice beer which I would happily drink again.

Mama Mighty IPA, Beer Baroness
A very drinkable IPA. Smooth maltiness, nice hop aromas and a good bitterness level. This was my favourite IPA of the day, which surprised me a little, because...

Snapperhead, Rocky Nob
This was my favourite beer from Beervana 2014. I'd been looking forward to trying it again off the tap this year, but when I did, it didn't have the same impact. Still a very nice Imperial IPA, but it didn't stand out this year like it did last year.

Blanc de Houblon, North End Brewery Co
A 'Belgian IPA', which I think means in essence a high-alcohol, hoppy hefe-weizen. This was interesting, as I'd been thinking about brewing something like this myself. For my money, however, it was too hoppy to be a good wheat beer, and insufficiently malty to carry the hop load they'd given it. I note, however, that the average rating on the Beervana app for this beer is 4 out of 5, so I appear to be an outlier.

Golden Mile Dry Hopped Helles Lager, Fork & Brewer
Another of the beers I most enjoyed at this year's Beervana. Again this surprised me, as I'm not normally a big lager drinker. But it was very smooth, great hoppiness and very easy on the palate.

Beast of Baltic, Wild & Woolly
A strong, roasty Baltic porter. Rich, and, dare I say, luxuriant. The brewer claims that it's 'lightly roasty', but for me the roasted barley came through loud and clear.

Van da Tzar, Baylands Brewery
A strong, Russian Imperial Porter. 10% ABV. Rich caramely malt flavour with vanilla notes. Again, a bit more alcoholic than I prefer but in this case drinkable enough to be hazardous. This was the highest rated beer of the event, so congratulations to the gentlemen at Baylands on that score.

I tried other beers, but I won't write them all up for a couple of reasons. One, the main risk to this blog is that I never finish writing posts and two I am insufficiently endowed with adjectives to write about more than a half dozen beers without becoming very boring.

I found it interesting that the highest rated beers on the Beervana app this year were malt-heavy, rather than intensely hoppy. I wondered whether this heralds a shift in consumer preference, but I suspect that that's not it. After a few heavily-hopped beers, I felt this year that my palate had been a bit overwhelmed. I suspect that that's why I enjoyed some beers more than I expected to, and others, such as Snapperhead, less than I expected to. I'm hoping to find and drink some of these beers again and see how differently I feel about them when I've not already consumed a lot of hops.

I'm planning to make some beer this weekend, so will hopefully post on that subject shortly.

* I will probably do it again.