After a wet week it was another glorious, sunny weekend with many spring flowers coming into bloom. A trip across the South Downs on Saturday showed the county at its best, with the sunlight and shadow highlighting the soft contours. With 4 weeks to go to the Southampton Marathon, a 20 mile run first thing Sunday morning took me half the way to Pevensey Bay and much of the route was lined with a riot of primrose, wood anemones, milk maids / cuckoo flower and lesser celandine. There were also a few early dandelions that, with any luck, will be fermenting in April!
The activity in the test tubes had slowed earlier in the week, after about 10 days, so it was time for the sniff test and to step them up to 250ml in conical flasks. Most of the gorse flowers, which had fermented less vigorously, smelled of coconut from the flowers and a little of pear drops. They were promising and so kept. One smelled of cabbage and was binned. A starter wort of 1035 SG was prepared, cooled and aerated. The three that smelled most similar were poured into one flask and the two that were a bit weird were placed in another.
The catkins, which fermented more vigorously were less promising. Three smelt of nappy / dustbin so were binned. The remaining three were a bit weird and earthy but not necessarily bad so they have a stay of execution until the next round of judging, at which point it might be me that gets killed off by drinking them. This could be a short running blog in that case!
To keep things sanitised I rinsed the conical flasks with boiling water, rinsed all equipment with no rinse sanitiser (which again I rinsed off!?). Following a tip from Ales of the Riverward I also used a spirit lamp to try and keep the air clean. I was making sour dough earlier in the day so there was plenty of other microbes floating around. As an aside, Wild Beer Co have made a tasty beer from sour dough culture so that might be another project to mimic in the future.
The next pair of flowers were also collected this weekend. What I think is wild cherry has been lining many of the roadsides in the last few weeks. If I could find it near the house, away from the road and positively identify that it is wild cherry I would have used it. Maybe next year. I was, however, in no doubt about spotting primrose and blackthorn. I learnt a good bit of country lore from my wife, “blackthorn is flower before leaf and hawthorn’s leaf before flower”. They were bagged up, insects given some time to vacate, and placed in tubes as before. The spirit burner was used to try and keep the air clean and the starter wort was 1025 SG.