Monday, 3 January 2011

So, It has been a while.

As most of you know who follow me on Twitter, I don't get much time to do this blogging thing and Tweeting suits me better as I can do it on the run, whilst brewing etc, on my phone.

My New Year's resolution (apart from losing that stone in weight I have managed to gain since June) is to get some sort of regularity into posting here. It will be mostly beer, brewing a bit of food and hopefully a big dollop of food/brewing science chucked in too.

I hope you enjoy!


Saturday, 3 July 2010

This is MY Brewhouse....

This is my brewhouse. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My brewhouse is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. My brewhouse, without me, is useless. Without my brewhouse, I am useless. I must brew better than my competitors who are trying to outsell me. I must brew before he outbrews me. I will hit our target O.G....

My brewhouse and I know that what counts is not the way our copper is fired, the noise of our boil, nor the steam we make. We know that it is the hop utilization that counts. We will hit our target O.G....

My brewhouse is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel capacity. I will ever guard it against the ravages of weather and damage as I will ever guard my legs, my arms, my eyes and my heart against damage. I will keep my brewhouse clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will hit our target O.G...

Before Ninkasi, I swear this creed. My brewhouse and myself are the defenders of my trade. We are the masters of our craft. We are the saviors of my life. So be it, until we have full fermenters and there are no empty casks.

The inspiration

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Lessons learned in Belgium this weekend

This weekend I went to Belgium with Phil, Mark, Owen, Dom from Marble, Janine from Ashover and J.C.

Great fun was had by all and I'm sure it will be better documented by others who have better blogging chops than I.

These however are the most important things I have taken away from the weekend.

1) Being bumped up to first class on the Eurostar is really rather pleasant.

2) Jean at Cantillion is a lovely bloke. So lovely, he even said nice things about my attempts at creating a homebrewed kriek style beer.

3) Jean's cognac aged lambic is outstanding.

4) Table service at beer festivals is civilised

5) Moeder Lambic is a really cool place. So cool it made me do this.

6) The Delerium Cafe is expensive, smelly and full of tourists.

7) Belgian hobbies between midnight and 6am mainly involve shouting and beeping their horns.

8) Two days of wild yeast, fast food and little sleep have an effect on 4 men that renders the air inside a van almost as potent as Sarin.

9) Mark didn't buy that much beer (honest Lauren).

Sunday, 21 February 2010


Everyone seems to be talking about it this week, so time to throw my oar in.

Multinational giants Anheuser-Busch have been using this ad to describe their Bud Light brand in the US for the last year. What Anheuser-Busch are trying to state with this ad and the whole ethos behind Bud Light is that it isn't heavy tasting, or too filling. In essence, although Bud Light is a light beer, and inherently suggests it is a bit girly, you drink it because you can easily drink more of it. Ergo you look/feel more manly as you can drink loads.

For me however, the vast majority of the drinkability argument is a nonsense. I'm going to widen the spectrum a little here outside of just the beer world to illustrate my point. You see, drinkability is not about the volume you can consume, or the alcoholic strength of a drink. Drinkability is all about having a correct time and place to enjoy that drink. Let me explain a little further.

In the summer I am drawn to paler beers with low abv. You have a terrible thirst, the sun is beating down, you are dehydrated, you aren't going to reach for the room temperature bottle of barrel aged Imperial stout are you? Likewise in the winter, it is cold, dark and rainy outside, that once inappropriate barrel aged stout really hits the spot. While I'm at work I crave tea, I'll happily drink four or five cups a day while I'm brewing. If it is late and I have come home on my own, I'll often have a small glass of whisky (single malt Islay is my favourite).

Every drink has a place and a time, one of the main things I struggle with Brewdog's new Sink! beer is that I can't really ever imagine a time or place I would really want to drink it.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

As Live: Racking

Remember that 8 barrel brew of Skrimshander from last week? Well, it finished fermenting and has been chilled down over the weekend. It is now ready for putting into casks. There is also a 10 barrel brew of Incubus to do today as well.

I took the keystones and shives out of the dirty casks on Friday and gave them a blast through with hot water too. The first job when I arrive at the brewery...

8.30 Is to put some water into the caustic bin on the cask washer.

8.34 Attach sprayball and switch on heating element on the cask washer.

8.37 Attach hose to the rinse tank of the cask washer and turn on.

8.44 Turn on the music and attach my iPod. Select 'Brewery Tunes' playlist. A mixture of punk and ska to satisfy Tonie, some Madchester and Reggae for Neil and a bit of everything else for me. Neil Young's 'Old Man' is the first tune on. A corker!

8.50 Nobody else has arrived here yet, but it is snowing outside and the traffic is heavy.

8.51 Fill up the kettle and make tea. Flick through Good Beer Guide for ideas for places to go near Reading for a decent pint and lunch on Saturday.

8.55 Kettle boiled, brew in hand, grab some finings and take them upstairs to the clean area near the fermenters to dilute them down.

9.10 Tea finished and finings at the right strength. 1inch reducer on bottom RJT of fermenter.

9.12 Run off some beer until it clears, don't want to drag any big lumps of yeast through into the casks.

9.14 Run some peracetic acid through a long flexihose to sanitise it and attach it to the reducer on the fermenter. Place racking spear into the peracetic bucket.

9.20 Neil and Tonie arrive. An accident on the A2 has held them up for nearly an hour.

9.25 Grab the bags of keystones and shives and bung a handful of each into a bucket of fresh peracetic.

9.25 Neil starts washing casks and banging in the keystones

The Cask Washer

9.55 I lay the cask stackers out and fine the first 6 casks.

10.00 Runoff begins.

Casks ready to go on stackers and be filled

10.23 Fuck yeah! Led Zepplin on the stereo.

12.00 The last of the Skrimshander is run off and the flexi hose is disconnected.

12.04 Run off some of the Incubus to remove the big lumps of yeast.

12.10 Quick pause for a cup of tea and a sandwich. Sandwich today is pastrami, mustard and diced gherkin in a white roll. Pretty awesome.

12.20 Start racking the casks of Incubus.

13.14 This week's malt order arrives. Everyone downs tools and helps carry it off the lorry.

13.30 Racking resumes.

Flexihose and racking spear

14.45 The last of the Incubus run off, time to clean down.

14.50 Disconnect all the hoses, to drain them of beer and then attach one end of the racking hose to the tap and run through with fresh water.

14.59 Lift the lid on FV1, remove standpipe and spray with water to wash all of the solid yeast out.

15.15 Attach cip sprayball to the top of FV1 and connect one end of the flexihose. Attach other end to hot water and pump about 70 liters into the FV.

15.20 Attach second flexihose to bottom rjt valve on FV1 and other end to CIP pump.

15.22 Turn on pump and get hot water recirculating. Add caustic.

15.30 Once recirc is going take steps to FV2 and spray with water to remove yeast.

15.48 Switch off cip pump and connect hoses to FV2. Pump caustic from FV1 to FV2. Put on recirc.

16.02 Spray FV1 with fresh water to remove all the caustic.

16.17 Switch off cip pump and drain caustic from FV2.

16.24 Spray FV2 with fresh water to remove caustic.

16.31 Gun down floors and gutters to remove any yeast or caustic left on the floor.

16.42 Attach flexihoses to the tap and rinse with fresh water to remove causic. Coil up and put them away.

16.50 While I have been upstairs Neil has put all the full casks away, washed down the cask washer, sprayed the floor clean, cleaned all the finings jugs.

17.00 Top up the hot liquor tank to the right level for brewing tomorrow, weigh out the malt, add liqour treatment, print out a brewsheet and fill in the gyle number, abv, and date.

17.30 Kick off wellies and put shoes back on. Remember I haven't set the hot liquor timers and run back to do it.

17.40 Leave work, get home, realise I have no food in the house and mission it to the shops.

Evening: Eat, watch a crap film and sleep!

Dinner- Homemade pizza with N'Duja De Calabria and onions.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Brewday: Expanding A Few Points.

I'm brewing again today, so I have decided not to do another as live blog as it would be pretty much identical as yesterday, making it pretty dull reading. Instead, I will elaborate and explain some things I glossed over in yesterday's blog that might have had you scratching your head or opening another browser tab to google it.

Firstly you might have noticed there is no reference to water either hot or cold anywhere. The term brewers always use for brewing water it 'liqour' I'm not really sure why, possibly to make sure in the brewery that there is no confusion and mixing of cleaning and general purpose water with that for brewing.

Secondly, I mention I add DWB to the malt while it is in its sacks before mashing in. DWB is powdered gypsum, better known as plaster of Paris. Almost all breweries will add a little of this to alter the levels of dissolved salts, minerals and other ionic compounds in their water. This is done because some water styles suit certain styles of beer. Burton is the most famous example of this, the local water which is very high in minerals and salts makes amazing pale ales. London and Dublin, both famous for their stouts and porters have relatively soft water. For this reason adding compounds to brewing liqour is sometimes known as 'Burtonising'.
I also mention something called wort. Wort (pronounced wert) is what brewing liquor that has been added to the malted barley in the mash tun is called. It is sweet and sugary and tastes a little like Horlicks or Maltesers.

I also mention something called a heat exchanger. This is a vital part of the brewing process. It takes hot wort from the copper and runs it through a series of plates which look a little bit like belgian waffles. Sandwiched in between these plates cold liquor is pumped in the opposite direction. What this does is sends cold liquor in one direction, heating it up as it goes and sends hot wort the other direction cooling it as it goes. The individual plates are waffle textured to maximise the surface area in contact with the cooling. This is also used as a money saving technique as the hot liquor coming out of the heat exchanger ends up in the hot liqour tank, reducing the amount of time the elements need to be on for the next day's brewing.

To clean stuff around the brewery we use dilute caustic soda as most breweries do. Caustic cleans stuff but it doesn't disinfect. For this we use peracetic acid at 200ppm. It takes about 15 minutes to completely kill any microbes living on things so forward thinking is always needed, anything touching the wort after the boil in the copper must be sterilised first.

Any other questions, feel free to ask! And to the the cheeky person who emailed (you know who you are) yes, I do listen to radio 4 in the morning, but I switch to BBC 6 music at work. In answer to your second question, tea at work is PG tips, milk, no sugar, drunk from a plain blue mug with no design or logo.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

An As Live Brewday At Hopdaemon

I fancied a bit of Gonzo blogging this week, so while brewing an eight barrel brew of Skrimshander today, I wrote everything down on my BlackBerry as I did it, creating a timeline for the brewday. I'll try and do one of these every day, to show you what I get up to over the course of the week.

The Today Programme on radio 4 wakes me up, it is 6.30am.

I get up and perform the normal morning tasks, make a sandwich for lunch and leave the house at around 7.15. Once I have arrived at work, the first thing to do is to check the hot liquor tank is up to temperature, about 72 degrees. The heating elements not being switched on correctly are the one thing I lie awake at night and worry about.

7.30 I open the requisite valves and recirculate the hot liquor for 5 minutes or so to make sure there are no hot or cold spots.

The Hot Liquor Tank

7.40 Grab the malt out of the malt store, sling it on a pallet and wheel it to the pre-mash pump ready for mashing in.

7.50 Open the sacks and add a little DWB, while this is happening I preheat the mash tun with about 50l of water from the HLT through the rotating sparge arm.

8.00 Then I start mashing in proper, water and malt are mixed and pumped into the mash tun. Once all the grain and water are in the mash tun, a quick stir and temperature readings are done.

The Mash Tun

8.30 Kettle on. Cup of tea. Weigh out hops and sanitise heat exchanger for later.

The Heat Exchanger

9.25 Connect the mash tun to the copper and start sparging hot water over the bed of malt. Switch the mash tun pump on and start to transfer the wort into the copper.

The Copper

10.10 Switch on the 18kw element in the copper and add bittering hops.

10.15 Put kettle on. Cup of tea #2

10.30 Switch on the 30kw element in the copper.

10.35 Jump up and sit on the mash tun lid in an attempt to keep warm, realise all the water vapour is making me damp. Too lazy and warm to move. Warmth makes me feel slightly snoozy.

11.00 Sparge liquor ends and transfer to the copper nearly complete.

11.20 Transfer into the copper complete, I faff around with the valves on the copper and switch the wort pump on to recirc for 15 minutes. This helps the copper boil a bit faster.

11.30 Pull the lid off the mash tun, wash off all the bits of malt. Open the side manway and grab my trusty malt shovel and start digging.

12.00 Mash tun is dug out but not clean yet. The copper comes up to the boil and I jump in the mash tun with a brush and a bucket of caustic.

12.30 Halfway through the copper boil, time for some floc tablets.

12.35 Scrub the mash tun plates and get them hauled back into the mash tun.

12.50 Mash tun lid goes back on. Now the start of the tricky bit.....

12.51 Dash upstairs to the fermenters and run some Peracetic acid into the fermenter to sterilise it. Connect the hoses and cip sprayball and get it on recirc.

FV1, 2 and 3

12.54 Put the standpipe in to sterilise.

12.56 Take the hops and rouser up to the manway at the top of the copper.

13.00 Switch off 30kw element and add late hops and stir.

13.05 Back upstairs to the fermenters. Switch off the acid recirc and drain the fermenter. Remove hoses and attach runoff hose to the side rather than top of the fermenter.

13.15 Undo the valve at the bottom of the copper for the hot break. Run some wort through the heat exchanger to clear it of peracetic. Attach other end of runoff hose.

13.20 Switch on wort pump and cold liquor pump. Visual check wort is running into fermenter.

13.23 Fiddle with cooling side of heat exchanger to cool to 24 degrees.

13.30 Sandwich. Ham, mustard and lettuce on brown granary. Kettle on, cup of tea #3.

A pause for lunch...

13.50 Grab the bucket of yeast from the yeast fridge and take it upstairs to the fermenters.

13.54 Take a few jugfulls of cooled wort and add them to the yeast to bring it up to temperature gently. Too much of a quick temperature change can shock and kill it.

14.00 Add the yeast and give it a really hard rouse.

14.12 Take another jugfull of wort and do a gravity check, we are aiming for 1045 today and we are bang on.

14.18 Seal the fermenter and wash up yeast bucket.

14.30 Runoff ends. Disconnect everything and recirc the heat exchanger with hot caustic.

14.50 Grab trusty shovel again and start digging out the hops.

15.20 All the easily removed hops are gone, now time to climb into the copper with a bruch and some caustic to get it properly clean. This is my least favourite job apart from cask washing.

15.45 Clamber out the copper with all the grace of a blind Labrador puppy with no limbs. Swear a little bit.

15.50 Rinse the copper and backflush the heat exchanger with fresh water.

16.20 Run the flexihose upstairs and connect it to the peracetic tank and run a bit though the heat exchanger and wort pump.

16.30 Disconnect all hoses and put them back upstairs filled with peracetic.

16.45 Gun the floor down and clear up any spent hops or malt left on the floor.

17.00 Set hot liqour timers, weigh out the malt, add water treatment, switch mains water off and drain everything down so it doesn't freeze overnight.

17.30 Fuck! Is that how cold it is in here?

17.32 Pull off wellies, lock up, drive home.

17.50 Arrive home, shower, change, open a beer, get dinner cooking.