Thursday 26 February 2015

The twig box runneth over

...well, almost....

To explain for those that live under a stone on Uranus (hur hur), we find twigs rather amusing, but especially hop twigs which a lot of brewers use as a derogatory phrase for boring old man's brown beer as it's made with UK hops which, so the story goes, are half twigs, 33% leaves, 20% hop cones and the rest random organic (and occasionally non-organic) material.  

Well, to be honest, ALL hops come complete with twigs - especially American ones - which have some whoppers hiding in them!  They're not actually twigs,  usually parts of the hop bine itself, although twigs is a far more evocative name for them!

Anyhow, we've been collecting all the wood we harvest from our hops in our very own twig box and, as you can see here, it's getting rather full now...

We do a jokey "twig of the week" post on Facebook where we show a photo of the week's best twig for the jollity of the populace at large, examples of which can also be seen below.

More serious stuff next time, I promise.  Oh yeah, we brewed our chocolate rye oatmeal stout today, if you're interested...

See, it's a bine!

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Finings tests in glorious colour!

I've talked about finings tests before (at some length!) so this photo is only on here as I like the picture... plus it's a good indication of what we do to ensure the beer leaving us will clear down in cask the way most customers expect it to and thus be served reasonably clear, or at least as clear as the hop oils in suspension allow!

We use the minimum amount of finings we can get away with as they strip out flavour, mouthfeel and body from the finished beer - and anyhow, who wants fish guts dissolved in phosphoric acid in their beer? - although brewing the kind of beers we do, VERY pale and hoppy, the lower limit is a tad higher than I'd like as any clarity imperfections are very obvious in the style of beers we generally produce, meaning we must add more than I'd really like to (actually, I'd love to add zero, but the UK isn't ready for that as yet except in a very few cases)...

In the photo here you can see the finings are clumping the yeast together into floccs which are heavier than the individual yeast cells themselves and, consequently, sink to the bottom of the bottle (or cask, or keg, or silo, or whatever you put the beer in) in a matter of hours rather than the weeks it would take for the yeast to settle out under it's own violition (and it still wouldn't be totally clear after a few weeks); fining is, in essence, the process of making yeast (and protein) do what it would do in weeks in a matter of hours.

On the left we have "Mate Spawn and Die" and on the right "Dance with the Devil"; MSaD was casked up today, DwtD was transferred from fermenter to conditioning tank.  We do a finings test at this point to check the protein fining in the fermenter has worked and taken out the majority of the haze causing protein which, as you can see, it has!

More beers on the way!

Regular readers won't be surprised to hear this, seeing as we don't really do the traditional "standard range" thing, but I thought this week's brew was worthy of a bit of a plug seeing as it's not a pale & hoppy one for a change, plus a reminder what's going on with the rest of the brews we've completed recently.

This week we'll be brewing "Straight to the Light", a chocolate rye oatmeal stout, which will hopefully come out as lovely as it sounds right there!  Specialist German chocolate rye malt and UK malted oats will be combined with East Anglian pale malt and some unusual Polish hops - Junga - to produce a stout with a difference, or at least not your usual boring "dry stout" with no hop character and a mere hint of roasted barley...

The following week will see the deployment of a brand new hop which comes highly recommended by random people on the internet, which is important as no-one I know has actually used it yet!  Azzacca promises to be a big fruity beast and we're hoping for great things from it... hopefully it'll be as good as new Aussie behemoth Vic Secret which has lent it's catty, fruity and luscious character to "Mate Spawn and Die" which we casked up today; beers generally taste better after a few weeks in cask, but this one tasted amazing straight out of the conditioning tank today, albeit with a mouthful of hop bits to contend with!

Our collab with Cardiff's Crafty Devil brewery "Dance with the Devil" is on it's dry hops now and will be casked up next week alongside the final tanks of "Millennium bug" (lean fruitiness) and "Party Line" (zesty lime marmalade!) for your delectation....

Keep the faith, hop lovers...

Friday 20 February 2015

Start of the Deutsch Projekt

We like projects, or even projekts; they glue together a series of beers with a tenuous link and make it look as if we know what's going on with brewing and in the wider beer world.  Yeah, that's right, of course we know what's going on...

Anyhow, fresh on the heels of the "Whole Pack Project" - in which silly amounts of dry-hopping (5kg per 650 litres) is added to the conditioning tanks to infuse the brew with  massive amounts of hop aroma - comes our latest endeavour, the "Deutsch Projekt".  Now the more multilingual amongst you - or, to be fair, anyone with a modicum of common sense, seeing as a hell of a lot of English comes from German - will have realised that this is our "German Project", but what could that be?

Well, it probably won't surprise you to learn that it's about hops.  When you think about German hops you'd probably imagine the classic Magnum, one of the world's finest bittering hops, but it's hardly a sublimely luscious "hollywood" hop as is Citra or Centennial, for example.  You may think of Brewer's Gold which is, admittedly, a pretty damn good flavour and aroma hop although it's still quite European in it's restrained, leafy way, or maybe one of the many "noble" lager hops such as Tettnang or Spalt which have, for years, ruled lager production.  So, you may rightly ask, why the hell are we making beer with these kinds of hops?

We're not.  Well, actually, we are using Magnum, but only because it's a fantastic bittering hop and Gazza loves it, but the main thrust of the project - sorry, projekt - is the new German "wunderhops" which have recently been released and, presumably, are supposed to transform the German hop industry, already a world leader, into a world leader with some new-world style hops; we've had a quick dabble in the past with Hallertauer Blanc and weren't that impressed but this time we've got enough hops to do it justice - hopefully!

So, the project - or projekt - will encompass three of the new German varieties (we're not using Polaris as it tastes like cactus in a not very nice way) and also the one that started it all, Cascade, but these particular cones were grown in Germany!  Hopefully we'll do all the individual hops justice - principally by adding loads of them as dry hops - so look out for the beers in the coming months and, as is usual, we always enjoy feedback both good and bad!

Click the names to see the official info on Mandarina Bavaria, Huell Melon, Hallertauer Blanc.

Thursday 12 February 2015

Collab brew with Crafty Devil

Today we hosted Adam from Cardiff's latest micro brewer, Crafty Devil of Canton, when we cooked up what should be a right tasty Red IPA together.  The brewery was positively seething with people as Jay and mate Gav were also in attendance, meaning Gazza could actually deal with emails and sort out some paperwork rather than digging the mash!  Well, that's his excuse for lazing about...

Anyhow, the resulting beer should be around 5.5% and it's definitely red, a difficult thing to achieve in beer believe me!  It's hopped with Centennial, Amarillo and Columbus and will be dry-hopped with Citra and more Columbus to give a very hoppy, bitter and well tasty brew!  As is par for the course it's not got a name as yet but there's loads of time for that.

Jay and Adam mash in

About to start breaking up the hops.... Gav, Gazza and Adam

Jay and Adam with the mash

Adam digs out the mash

A tasting session whilst the transfer was on!


Tuesday 10 February 2015

Sometimes it's the little things that make a difference

... in this case a rather big, heavy 6mm steel plate, but it's made such a difference!

Before our mate, Hotrod builder Owen, made this behemoth for us we literally couldn't get pallets in and out of the door due to the knackered tarmac and step, as can be seen here (which is a lot worse than it looks, believe me) ...

It wasn't simply a matter of concreting up the holes as we roll casks out of the door to the coldstore and they would have demolished the concrete in a matter on months (as they have done the current floor!) and tarmac isn't strong enough either.  So, after a bit of thought, we asked Owen if he could make us a steel ramp which he did, powder coated it and even cut hand holds into it!  It weighs a massive amount, mind you, but at least now we can wheel pallets in and out of the brewery meaning we don't have to handball a tonne of malt off one pallet, through the door, then precariously stack it onto another one now, plus we'll be able to build pallets of beer inside during the summer when it's just too hot outside.  Result!

Monday 9 February 2015

First photos of the Hopbunker

Yes, you heard that right - here's the first few photos of the current progress of our bar in Cardiff, the Hopbunker, hopefully there will be loads more of work in progress leading to completion very soon... !

Follow us here (you have to join the group)...

One of the latrines.... honestly, it is!

Work in progress

This will be our keg dispense once the keg taps are installed

The entrance when we moved in

Friday 6 February 2015

Yet more obscure music references

The extra-pale "Mid-Atlantic pale ale" we brewed yesterday with all South Pacific hops, namely Green Bullet for it's chewy hedgerowy berryness and Waimea for a pineapple and tropical fruit hit, is now in FV1 and about to begin it's primary fermentation.  

So, we needed a name... various things had been suggested along the lines of Vic, seeing as the finishing hop is new Aussie superstar Vic(toria's) Secret - which had to be renamed save anyone thought that instead of hops they were buying frilly knickers - but nothing quite worked for me.

Then, Gav (who was helping us out) brought in some industrial CDs, one of which was Lard (look em up!) and after I'd remembered just how good they were the name jumped out at me... OK, it's not your usual nicey-nicey name and some people won't like it, but hey.... sometimes being bleak and depressing is the only way, even more so with the Soviet panelacky and high-impact font on the clip.

Look out for it in a few weeks in the usual places when it'll be dazzling you with it's super-pale colour and big hoppiness for sure!

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Today in pictures

Here's a couple of photos from today!  

We casked up (racked) 45 9's of beer plus 4 kegs, washed out the tanks, then took the opportunity of an early finish to clean all the conditioning tanks with a full caustic wash.  I also secondary fined (protein finings, it takes out excess protein from the "green" beer to prevent haze) Millennium Bug ready for transferring to CT tomorrow, then it was time for some paperwork and invoice chasing.... rock'n'roll.

Tomorrow we're brewing a pale ale with Aussie / New Zealand hops which doesn't even have a name yet - as per usual!  We'll think of something...

Hop pellet trub at the bottom of a conditioning tank after casking up the beer

I call this "sunlight on casks" !

This will be going into conditioning tomorrow with dry-hopping.

Tuesday 3 February 2015

"State of the Nation" at Brewdog Cardiff

We were invited to submit a beer for this event at Cardiff's new Brewdog bar in late January and so, despite some issues with which beer to supply and delivery, we finally got everything sorted and joined keg beers from such luminaries as Otley, Waen, Tiny Rebel and Heavy Industry along with newcomers Crafty Devil and Cardiff institution Pipes.

A good evening was had with much banter between the various brewers, can't be bad.

The beer board

"Something must Break" from keg in a Brewdog glass

Hops for the "Deutsch Projekt" have arrived

Yet another of Gazza's little projects is now officially underway!  He's long been interested in the new German aroma hops (Mandarina Bavaria, Huell Melon and Hallertauer Blanc) although they are notoriously difficult to get hold of being still grown on a trial basis in their homeland, which means there isn't a lot to go around!  

Well, we've now acquired 5kg of each hop in convenient T90 pellet form for dry-hopping, so once we've got the next few brews out of the way we can begin to experiment with these!  The running order will probably be Blanc, Melon and Bavaria although this may (and probably will) change on the whim of the head brewer!  The base beer will be kept simple and rather understated to allow the hops to show their true character, so look out for the first one in a month or two and see how far European hops have come.

Monday 2 February 2015

Tap Takeover photos

A grand night was had by all (I assume!) when we hit London town with a pallet-load of our beers last Thursday at the Fox on Kingsland Road, E8.  Here's a few photos from the evening, thanks to everyone who supplied them as I forgot to take many.... I was too busy having fun, apparently, which I assume means drinking lots of beer.