Monday, 12 March 2012

American Brown

I have until Friday to decide whether I'm going to enter a beer into the Bristol Beer Factory homebrew challenge. With that in mind I cracked open a bottle of my American Brown, to see how it was coming along.

Immediate hopes were dashed, as it's not quite what I had envisaged - but I shouldn't be surprised as that's mainly down to me being lazy. With my homebrew I aim for style, but if the starting gravity is a bit out, I tend not to bother liquoring back. Too much of a faff and all that.

But clearly, If I've taken the trouble to design a recipe with a certain gravity/hop ratio I should have bothered. Especially if I want a competition winning beer.

The problem came about as I adjusted the setting on the mill which increased my efficiency by some margin. Instead of the anticipated gravity of 1.051, I ended up with 1.056. The upshot is that all the American hops I put in have got a little lost.

On the upside, that's only MY impression, as I'm the only person who knew what I originally intended. The beer itself is good, really good.

Almost black, the beer has a lovely soft mouthfeel and the blend of malts have worked really well. I used up some malt that had been hanging around a while, so the grist consisted of pale, crystal, Munich, chocolate and Belgian aromatic malts. If I'd not overdone the gravity, the combination of hops would have shone through better, but there's still a nice low level of bitterness with a hint of sherbet lemon coming through.

So the upshot is, I'm going to enter it. It might not be good enough to win, but you never know what the judges are looking for and it's definitely an acceptable beer.

Sorry there's no picture, but it's an easy-drinker that hides it's alcohol level well, so it didn't last long. Maybe next time.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Episode IV - A New Hop

Difficult to believe these tiny shoots of new growth will soon be clambering up  my hop frames to provide me with around a kilo of fresh hops. These are the variety 'Target'. No sign of the Bramling Cross just yet, although I did deposit a shedload of chicken muck on those over the winter, raising the soil level, so they have that bit more to get through, before they appear.

I strengthened the hop frames over the winter, replacing the horizontal beam with proper timber instead of the bamboo canes which couldn't withstand the weight last year.

It was a pain to untangle the vines from the canes too, so the runners to the top will be string this year, as the hops are much easier to harvest if you can simply cut the vines down.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Home Brew Review - Gatekeeper

This is a beer I brewed back in November using some of my homegrown Target hops.

I probably over estimated the alpha acid content of the hops and will bear this in mind next time. It's not unbalanced in terms of bitterness, it's just I was expecting a little bit more judged on what Beersmith was predicting. Playing with the alpha content and looking at the bitterness ratio in the software, I'm guessing they were no more than 9%, rather than the 10% I originally estimated.

Anyhow, on to the beer. I split the 10 gallon batch into two 5 gallon fermenters and used a different yeast in each. Both were a dry yeasts, one Fermentis US-05, the other Brupaks English Ale Yeast.

The upshot is, I don't like either. The US-05 has an unpleasant nose on it and I'm not sure why, as I've had good results with this yeast in the past. The other is marginally more acceptable and while neither appears to be infected, it's not a beer I'm happy with.

It's the first time I've used delta hops too, so I didn't know what to expect from them. I guess I could brew this one again to see if it was anything in the process that went awry, but fankly, life's too short. My brew notes from the day don't indicate any problems, although I did change my usual water treatment with this one, but only following an alkalinity test of the brewing liquor, so if anything, it should have improved the beer.

I'll finish off the few bottles that remain, but it's certainly not a brew to share with friends.