Homebrew Tasting

Having gathered a few bottles of homebrew from the good people around Manchester I decided to have an evening dedicated to some of this beer. Wednesday seemed a good day for this, so last night I drank some homebrew and made some notes. Here are the results of that.

Trans-Tasman Pale Ale

53 IBU, 5.8%



Having brewed a Trans-Tasman beer myself I was eager to try this offering from Matt. It poured nice and clear with no yeast in the bottle, I believe it was bottled from a keg.

First impression I got from the aroma was caramel, then some citrus hop wafted up my nose too.

When drinking I got a fairly thick malt flavour with more caramel coming through, then there was some grapefruit hop flavour joining it. The bitterness of the beer was good for my taste buds and sat on the tongue afterwards, especially at the sides. There was a touch of harshness to it which I have tasted before that could be from Galaxy.

Good beer. Personally I’d up the hop flavour but I do love me the flavour of hops – some say too much. Stories are told in hushed tones around a bonfire late at night…

Yellow Sky Light Citrus Blonde




This beer, while bottle conditioned this time, was crystal clear as well. There was a slight head, which did its job nicely!

There was a citrus aroma on this beer too, this time with the added smell of sweets -specifically sherbert. Lovely.

The flavour was very clean.  There was gentle, smooth malt with a crisp, light citrus hop flavour. Chris wasn’t misrepresenting when he named this beer. The finish was good, clean, dry bitterness. It left me refreshed and wanting more. Very drinkable.

I do wonder what makes it a blonde rather than a pale ale!


(Should be 65 IBU, 6.5% but it depends on the brewer)



This was Connor’s contribution to the ABC brewing we did a month or two back. It was interesting to try a proper glass of this as I only got a taster at the homebrew meeting where we tried these.

The colour of this beer was an excellent burnt orange with what can only be described as a craft haze. The head was up to snuff.

The aroma was mainly of pine with some oranges lurking in the shadows. Imagine an evergreen forest where the trees are gently cradling oranges in their boughs. You pick your way through the forest, breathing deeply to savour the fresh pine smell. Occasionally a tree throws an orange at you.

The flavour was thick and malty initially with a slight sweetness but soon the bitter hoppiness took over. The flavour is back to the evergreen, with a touch of dankness and a little marmalady orange supporting it. The hop presence was still pretty big, which is good with me! Yum.

Smashton’s Insult To History BIPA Mk1

64.5 IBU, 6.4%



I opened this bottle to a loud hiss, which worried me. Luckily it only foamed slightly and so I managed to pour without getting the beer everywhere. It did have an impressive head on it though!

The aroma was spicy almost farmhouse, which I imagined would come from the new Experimental 366, with some fruit lurking behind it and a touch of roast.

The flavour was slightly chocolately, slightly malty sweet, quite bitter with an orange fruitiness, a hint of pine and, of course, the spice. The bitterness and spiciness gave it an almost liquorice tinge.

I liked this beer very much and it made me think, which is always dangerous. Firstly, are the chocolate and liquorice elements to the beer coming through more due to the colour? That can have an effect. Secondly, this crop of Experimetal 366 (now called Equinox I believe) could work well in a Saison. The spice from the hop should compliment the yeast – I might have to give this a try as the weather is warmer.

A good selection of beers that I enjoyed. There are some talented brewers around our way!


Brewday: Imperial IPA

A bit of a delayed write up, I did this a few weeks ago. I got here eventually!

I wanted to brew something big in both strength and taste. Last year I brewed a 10% beer that was actually pretty good even though I was using up some hops I’d had left in the freezer. This time round I used a similar malt bill but planned the hops more around what I thought would work than what I had to use up.

The malt bill was fairly straight forward: Maris Otter, Crystal and Torrified Wheat. Some dextrose was added in the last 10 mins of the boil to increase the ABV slightly but more importantly help it ferment down to a lower FG and give it a dryer quality.

For the hops I decided to go all C. They tend to work well together, are tasty and I have a lot of them! I went with Columbus for FWH and bittering. I’ve done a few Columbus heavy beers recently and so only added a bit in this for the bitterness and a touch of flavour, I’ll probably add a bit in dry hop too. Cascade and Chinook for during the boil, followed by some more of each at Flame Out along with a healthy dose of Citra. This will hopefully give a good flavour with Citra and Chinook being the main players, a combination I know works well.

The recipe looked like this:

7.5Kg Maris Otter (88.5%)
340g Crystal (4%)
335g Torrified Wheat (4%)
300g Dextrose (3.5%)

15g Columbus @ FWH
5g Columbus @ 60 mins
60g Cascade @ 15 mins
60g Chinook @ 10 mins
40g Cascade @ Flame out
70g Chinook @ Flame out
150g Citra @ Flame out

I know for high gravity brewing I tend to get worse efficiency that usual, so I moved it down to 65% (I usually get between 70% and 75%).  This gave me a target OG of 1.092 and an IBU of 74.8.

For my mash, I went long and low. I was aiming for 64C for 2 hours, but hit 65C and decided that would do the job. The idea is that we get more simple sugars from the malt so this, along with the dextrose, will help the wort ferment down to a lower gravity and thin out the beer.  I do find some high gravity beers can be too thick and cloying for my tastes.

As it was a long mash I decided to bottle my Rye beer while it was ongoing. Due to delays with this the mash ended up being 2.5 hours and the final mash temperature about 63.5C. I was not upset about this, it should just help with my low FG.

Water treatment was added as normal (when I remember!), 2 teaspoons of Gypsum and 1 teaspoon of Calcium Chloride to both the mash and the sparge. At some point I’m really going to have to look in to this and start being more precise. Maybe a Ph meter would be a good starting point.

The draining of the mash and sparge went well, they always go smoothly when I have a large amount of grain. Something to do with the larger mash tun I bought, I would think.

I boiled for a hour, adding the hops as planned. I added Irish Moss and the immersion chiller at 15 mins and the Dextrose at 10 mins before Flame Out. At Flame Out I cooled to 80C before adding the hops and then let it sit for 45 mins, stirring occasionally.

I cooled to about 20C, took a gravity reading, pitched 2 packs of US-05 and tucked it away to ferment. My OG turned out to be 1.084, much worse efficiency that I hoped for. Still if the FG is 1.008, which it was last time, then I have my 10% beer. Even if it is a slightly higher FG then it should still be >9% which is acceptable.

The fermentation was pretty vigorous at first. Although it did slow down it seemed to go on for about a week, which is a good sign. It’s over-due dry hopping now. I’m thinking mainly Chinook backed with a little Columbus and Citra.

Brewday: Rye Pale Ale

Sunday was another brew day, I have plenty of hops to get through so I should be brewing a lot in the near future. This time I decided to brew a Rye Pale Ale. I’ve had a few commercial rye beers and have enjoyed them, and brewed a tasty one with a few friends, so it seemed a good thing to brew myself.

After reading around I bit I decided to go with 20% rye malt. This will hopefully give me decent rye flavour without being overpowering. It seemed a good place to start, I can up the quantity in future brews if I want more rye character. I also got some oat husks to help with draining the mash and sparge. I’ve seen what a pain it can be without husks when we had a stuck mash brewing the Red Rye at Quantum with the Manchester Homebrewers.

With the rye malt and, of course, pale malt I used some crystal and some Munich malt. The thought behind this was to add some more maltiness and a touch of sweetness to go with the dry and spicy rye.

Finally, hops. I was originally going to use Simcoe and Nelson Sauvin which I thought would be a good mix and would work with the rye. However, my last two brews have included those hops and I wanted some variety. A Nelson/Simcoe brew is still on the cards for the future!

After rooting through my hop stores I decided on Amarillo and Citra. The reasons for this were threefold:

  1. I think they will work both together and with the rye.
  2. I have lots of Citra coming my way soon and already have 300 or 400g of it
  3. They were both older packs of hops so need using soon.

I wanted Amarillo flavour most prominently with Citra backing it up. For bittering, I have a lot of Columbus so a touch of that as First Wort Hop would give me bitterness and possibly another dimension to the flavour. The recipe ended up as:

3.6 Kg Maris Otter (72%)
1 Kg Pale Rye Malt (20%)
200g Munich Malt (4%)
200g Crystal Malt (4%)
200g Oat Husks

7g Columbus @ FWH
35g Amarillo @ 10 mins
10g Citra @ 10 mins
65g Amarillo @ Flame Out
40g Citra @ Flame Out

Estimated OG 1.056, 36 IBUs.

I used a 60 min addition time as the IBU calculation for FWH. Previously I’ve used a 20 min time; the theory goes that the perceived bitterness is lower than it actually is but my beers tend to be more bitter than I sometimes want. We’ll see how this works out.

I added twice as much Amarillo as Citra and the Citra is 2011 harvest while the Amarillo is 2012, so the Citra shouldn’t dominate the taste.

The mash and sparge went fairly smoothly, I mashed at 67C – my usual mash temp now. It stuck slightly during each, easily fixable after a little poking with my spoon. Might use a few more husks next time. This time I even remembered to add my water treatment at the correct times! I used slightly less than I would normally for a hoppy beer as I wanted the malt to come through more, 0.5 tsp Calcium Chloride and 1 tsp Gypsum to both the mash and the sparge.

No drama during the boil, added my cooling coil and Irish Moss at 15 mins, and hops as specified. After the boil I cooled to 80C and let the flameout hops stand for 45 mins before finishing cooling, transferring and pitching the yeast – rehydrated Nottingham.


The yeast, bravely rehydrating before doing its good work.

The yeast, bravely rehydrating before doing its good work.

After transferring to the fermenting bucket, I got 19L, I tested the gravity. 1.056 spot on.

The colour looks good too.

The colour looks good too.

Tasting the wort I got a hit of the hop flavours, bitterness that will hopefully be balanced by the alcohol post-fermentation and a spicy after-flavour which I presume comes from the rye. Can’t wait to try this beer!


See you in a few weeks.

See you in a few weeks.


Brewday: ABC

Sunday was an important day, it was the day I brewed my ABC beer.

At the start of March @hopsinjoor and @PyotrSidwell devised a brewing challenge for the brave of heart and strong of soul to undertake. We have to brew a beer to specific guidelines: Pale Malt and up to two “Cara” malts; Columbus, Simcoe, Experimental 366 and Cascade hops, added in that order; 6.5% ABV and 65 IBU. As long as you followed those guidelines then you can brew what you want. We are going to get together and compare to see what people’s brewing styles bring to the mix. For more information see:

There is still time to brew if you fancy joining in.

So, my plan for the ABC brew was to make a red/amber beer using CaraRed and a little Carafa III for colour and a hint of flavour. I wanted some malt flavour to come through all the hops I’m going to be adding. For the hop additions I decided to use the hop bursting technique, something I’ve been heading towards but never totally done.

In case you are not aware of it, hop bursting involves adding all your hop additions in the last 15/20 mins. The idea is that you use large additions to extract the bitterness required in a shorter hop boil time and because you are adding all the hops towards the end of the boil you get bigger aroma and flavour. You still boil for the full hour, you just get to sit around for the first 45 mins.

My recipe ended up looking like:
4.9Kg Maris Otter (94.2%)
250g CaraRed (4.8%)
50g Carafa III (1.0%)

30g Columbus @ 15 mins
40g Simcoe @ 10 mins
51g Experimental 366 @ 5 mins
80g Cascade @ Flame Out

The SG for this is an estimated 1.060, with an FG of 1.010 I will hit 6.5%.

I heated up my mash water, measured out my grains and mashed in. I was aiming for 65/66C so that it would ferment down a decent amount but I ended up with 67C.  I added a little cold water and stirred but the temperature was now reading 63C (I didn’t think I added that much cold water), so I added some hot water. After some frustration and swearing at physics I got the temp to 65C and left it for an hour.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I managed to forget my water treatment AGAIN! So once more I added the first lot of Gypsum to the mash drain off and the rest of the Gypsum and all the Calcium Chloride to the sparge. I’ve done that on the past 3 brews too with no noticeable adverse effects so it should still turn out well. You’d think I’d start remembering. I will next time!

After this slightly painful start I hoped nothing else would go wrong. Thankfully nothing did. I got the required volume from my mash and sparge and remembered all my additions during the boil.

I didn’t take any pictures during this brewday, so you get the pleasure of my amazing drawing skills.


Hop additions. From left to right: Columbus, Simcoe, 366 and Cascade.

Once again I cooled to ~80C before adding my flame out addition and letting it sit for 45 mins. I then cooled to pitching temperature, transferred to the bucket for fermenting, checked the gravity and added the yeast. 1.060 spot on! As long as the yeast does it’s thing then I’m good for the target strength.

This time I used rehydrated Nottingham yeast. I do like Nottingham, neutral with good attenuation and sticks happily to the bottom of bottle when pouring.

I tasted my gravity sample, as I usually do. For this brew I also wanted to make sure it wasn’t too light on bitterness from just late hop additions no matter what it says on paper. It tasted decently bitter and full of flavour, looking forward to this beer.

I ended up with just shy of 19L in my FV, a litre or two more than usual with that amount of hops. It occurred to me that with the lack of first wort or bittering hops taking up space I started off with more liquid in my boiler than normal, something to consider when I want to make a bigger batch again.


Wort in the FV

For dry hopping, I’m thinking of going predominantly 366 with some Cascade and Columbus to back it up. 366 is a lovely hop but I’ll wait until tasting post-fermentation before making the final decision.

Now I just have to wait until June when we’ll be comparing the brews at the Manchester Homebrewers meeting.

Update 29/04/14

I dry hopped this on Sunday and took a gravity reading. 1.012 – a little shy of the gravity I wanted so the strength is only 6.3/6.4%. Bugger!


(You get a proper photo this time)

It’s also not as red/amber as I thought it might be, although when I put it in a glass and less light could pass through it did darken more to the expected colour.

Oh well, at least it’s tasting good so far. Getting dank pine initially from the Columbus and Simcoe and it ends with fruit and citrus from the 366 and Cascade. There is some malt coming through too to add a little balance to the beer.

Dry hopped with:

  • 52g Experimental 366 (whole hop)
  • 30g Cascade (whole hop)
  • 20g Columbus (pellets)

Hoping to get some good fruit on the nose!

Brewday: Trans-Tasman IPA

I’ve brewed a lot of 5%ish beers recently and so felt the urge to brew something stronger this time. I’d also got some 2013 Nelson Sauvin and Motueka hops from the local homebrew shop so the decision on what to brew was almost made for me. I knew I had a little Galaxy left over from a previous brew so a New Zealand and Australian IPA it was.

The malt bill is pretty straightforward, pale paired with a bit of crystal to give a clean malt flavour.

I decided, for the first time in a while, not to first wort hop. Instead I used a small bittering addition of Magnum (not from New Zealand or Australia but if you don’t tell then neither will I) and plenty of hops in the last 15 mins. I found some 2012 Motueka and 2011 Nelson in my hops stores which smelt good so I used half of the old and half of the new harvest for each addition. I only had 38g of Galaxy left-overs, which is why it is such a small addition in comparison to the other hops. As I’ve had issues with a harsh taste from using too much Galaxy before, I was happy with just using a small amount to hopefully give an extra dimension to the flavour without it being a major component.

After some playing about my final recipe was:

5.8Kg Pale Malt (96.7%)
200g Crystal (3.3%)

10g Magnum @ 60 mins
20g Motueka @ 15 mins
20g Nelson Sauvin @ 15 mins
30g Motueka @ 10 mins
30g Nelson Sauvin @ 10 mins
15g Galaxy @ 5 mins
23g Galaxy @ Flame Out
90g Motueka @ Flame Out
60g Nelson Sauvin @ Flame Out

Which, using my usual efficiency for this equipment, gave me a target SG of 1.072 and 63 IBU.

I mashed at 66C for an hour to hopefully ferment down fairly low while still leaving some body, although body may not be a problem with this much malt. I batch sparged at about 73C, stirring well then leaving it to sit for about 10 mins before draining it off. Draining my mash and sparge was surprisingly painless which made me worry what might go wrong during the rest of the brew. I often have to play about with my false bottom to get it to start flowing freely!

It was draining nice and clear

Draining the sparge

I had forgotten my water additions in the mash (I keep doing that), so I added 2 tsps Gypsum to the mash drain off, 2 more in to the sparge and 2 tsps Calcium Chloride also in to the sparge. This is a very rough measurement of the additions needed based on my online water report, some online calculators and a crib sheet that I got from Thornbridge Dom a few years back. It seems to work so I’m not being any more anal about it, yet!

I did a 60 minute boil and added the hops as specified above. For the flame out hops I’ve started cooling to about 80C before adding them then letting it sit for 45 mins, stirring occasionally. This seems to give good flavour without having to worry about too much additional bitterness. I used to add it immediately at flame out and compose the recipe expecting some extra bitterness. This was quite inexact though, so I’ve tried the cooling first method for the past few brews with good results so far.

Magnum added when we start to boil

Magnum added when we start to boil


Loads of hops, lovely!

Hop stand

After the flame out hop stand I cooled using my copper coil which took about 30 mins. I used the high-tech “jug and sieve” method to transfer to my sterilised fermenting bucket and then added the yeast, in this case 2 packets of US-05. It’s been a while since I used 05 as I’ve taken quite a shine to Nottingham. I don’t often rehydrate the 05 so it takes a little bit of faff out of the end of the brewday and I can cope with the slightly looser yeast in the bottle.

I ended up with 17L in the FV from 23/24L pre-boil.  This is about what I usually get from highly hopped beer, you don’t half lose a lot of wort to hops!

Are you even reading the alt text?

In the FV

Taking a gravity reading at the end I had an SG of 1.067, lower than expected but not unacceptable. I do find I lose efficiency for higher gravity beers and I could probably drain the sparge slower to increase it. Maybe next time. This did theoretically increase the IBUs to 65 but I doubt I’ll notice that small change.

Now I just have to wait. Luckily I have plenty of other beer to keep me going.

My next brew in a few weeks time will be the ABC brewing challenge that Peter and Al have concocted (see http://hopsinjoor.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/the-abc-brewing-challenge.html and http://unfocusedbrewing.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/easy-as-abc-same-but-different/).

Note: The name “Trans-Tasman” come from the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand and is used to describe something that is related to both countries. Thanks Wikipedia!


Update 29/04/14

Bottled this last week after I’d dry hopped it for about a week. For dry hop I’d added:

  • 53g Nelson Sauvin (whole hop)
  • 50g Motueka (whole hop)
  • 36g Galaxy (pellets)

The FG is 1.014 which makes a decent 7% beer.

I’m loving the flavour as it stands. Getting the dry grape flavour from the Nelson with fruit from the Motueka and hints of Galaxy. I wish it would hurry up and carbonate!

Let’s Blog

This could be easier than multiple updates on Twitter.  We’ll see how much I update it, and how good it will be, but I’ll give it a go!