Year-end roundup

London Homebrew Week and the BrewCon were the week of the 6th Nov. It was great to meet the brewers, James and Jack, at Redchurch Urban Farmhouse Bring the Funk event. James felt the Gorse sourced wild ferment had lacked oxygen during primary fermentation and had a slight off flavour as a result. I wondered whether this could have also been down to a low pitching rate of yeast. I only propagated a 250ml starter for the gorse. The general consensus on the Dandelion was very positive so I kept the bottle dregs and will try to keep the yeast going.

The highlight of the BrewCon for me was the MegaBlend, meeting fellow home brewers and meeting the team from Brewlab. They put Blend 1 and Blend 2 under the microscope so I was able to see the wild yeast and bacteria in the samples. Good to have confirmation that they’re there!

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About 15 – 20 samples were brought to the MegaBlend; a mixture of bottle dregs and wild captures. Brewlab took them away, will screen each sample and propagate the blend before sending it out to us. The story can be followed on the Facebook page.

I’m now drinking Blend 1 and some of the single source bottles that have gone into Blend 2. Tasting notes below and in the sensory testing diagram:

Date Originating Flower Tasting Notes
10 Dec 17 Hawthorn Low carbonation. Head ok. Rose gold rather than yellow gold. Medicinal aroma. Not astringent. Spicy fruity.
15 Dec 17 Rowan Light amber. Spicy, possibly slightly smoky. Rich fruitiness when aerated in the mouth.
20 Dec 17 Blend 1 Floral creamy notes. Spicy, sharp, clean, dry.
22 Dec 17 Broom Pea flower
1 Jan 17 Garden Apple 2 Little head. Low carbonation. Gold colour. Rose like aroma. Sweet and sour fruity taste.

I have wondered whether autolysis has influenced the flavour profile of the ales that went into Blend 1, which sat on the yeast for 5 months. If it has it is subtle and more akin to the positive attributes in Champagne making than brewing, where it is usually considered a bad thing. In Champagne it is associated with the creamy, buttery, biscuit and floral notes. In brewing it has been associated with marmite and rubber, which is not something I’ve detected in these ales.

On the 18 November I made some rosehip syrup. I did this after the first frost, which I have read can improve the hips, but this was the first opportunity I had had. I did this  to learn the process and experience the flavour. I want to drink the cordial but also add it as a priming sugar to ale. I researched a few recipes including these links from the Guardian and eattheweeds. 500g hips and 1 litre of water were simmered in a pan for 20mins. As they simmered the hips were mashed with a potato masher. They were then strained and squeezed through a double layer of muslin before adding the pulp back to the pan with 1/2 litre of water and setting the juice to one side. The process was then repeated with the pulp and water. The combined juice was then put back on the heat with 150g of golden caster sugar. The resulting cordial is a very good source of vitamin C and I have found it restorative, although I may have imagined this. The syrup tasted quite sugary so next time I will reduce it further with a vigorous boil and use a brown sugar.

Last a Friday night I finally managed to squeeze in a brew while my wife was out. I brewed a Flanders Red recipe based on Greg Hughes Home Brew Beer. And split the batch of 20 litres, using half with commercial yeasts and half with Blend 2. I’ve been fairly liberal with the traditional style. I am primary fermenting the commercial batch with a single strain saison yeast, to use it up and will add a roselaere blend to the secondary. The recipe was:

OG:1.056 FG:1.008 ABV:6.2% SRM:19 IBU:11 20L batch

57% Vienna malt
28% Maris Otter malt
6% Caramunich malt
5% wheat malt
4% Special B malt

13g East Kent Golding (5.92% AA) at 60mins
4g First Gold (6.63% AA) at 60mins

Mashed at 65 deg C for 60mins. Added hops at first wort. Boiled for 90mins.

Evening brewing went well, allowing for more family time over the weekend. With water filtered, grain weighed out and kit prepared in advance, I started the mash just before 8pm and was cleared up by 1am.

The brew was chilled, aerated, split and yeasts added. After a week fermenting with WLP Belgian Saison Yeast Roselare Blend was added to the fermenter. I intend to rack these to secondary rather than resting on the yeast cake.

Other adventures into fermentation in the few months have been sauerkraut and ginger bug which might make their way into my brews at some point. I have also made a deconstructed compound gin kit which I plan to use to gain a deeper appreciation of different botanicals.

After three months, I racked the Heather Ale off the sprigs of heather. A very thin film had formed on top among the floating fronds. This had been an experiment to see what would happen if I cut out the propagation steps and sensory testing. It was a bit of a gamble, a bit lazy but also a way to “dry hop” the ale with heather as well as add a source of yeast. The gravity was 1.007 and the pH was 3.9. The ale had mostly cleared and tasted of a floral honey.

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