Spring awakening

To recap, back in November I went to the London BrewCon and took part in the MegaBlend. For this Brewlab took away participants’ wild cultures, house cultures and bottle dregs, screened them, propagated the blend and distributed it around the world. My wild flower yeast blend 1 and 2 went into this.  They did this all free of charge so it was an amazing effort by them. Last weekend I made my first brew with the culture and Emma Inch, a journalist and home brewer who had taken an interest in the project, came round to see what I was doing. The brew day was a week later than planned because of snow, which meant that the ingredients arrived too late and we were snowed in.

The brew day was a bit chaotic. I’m learning I’m not as good at multitasking as I would like. I attempted two overlapping brews – starting the second mash once the first was complete – and, with talking to Emma at the same time, my timings and attention to detail were a bit off. In the end the first brew went fine, the second was salvaged and the kitchen looked like a bomb site. It was really nice to meet Emma though and I look forward to reading her article.

For the MegaBlend culture I wanted to brew a pale farmhouse ale with some complex fermentables from unmalted grains and some extra body and mouth feel from rolled oats. Call it misplaced nostalgia but I also wanted a varied grain bill to add some preindustrial complexity and a sense of making do with what was available. The recipe is below:

OG:1.055 ABV:6.6% SRM: 7 IBU: 8

67% Maris Otter
10% Wheat Malt
10% Spelt Malt
8% Flaked Oats
5% Flaked Wheat

Mixed Bushel of Hops Heritage hops at 60mins and flame out
60min mash at 69deg C

I intended to add a little Epsom Salts and Precipitated Chalk to aid fermentation, as both magnesium and calcium are low in our moderately soft water, but I forgot… I also added 10 minutes on to the boil because the Protofloc went in late…

I had made a starter for the MegaBlend to ensure it was vigorous. Alison from Brewlab had told us it was big enough for 20 litres so cell count should have been fine. Because of the snow delay the starter had a week in the fridge following a week fermentation but it quickly became active again once I took it out. The aromatics coming off the starter were really appealing: there was an acetic acidity and depth of funk. Possibly wrongly, I didn’t pour away the starter liquid, mainly because the yeast was still active in suspension and also because the aromatics were so good.

Within 24 hours the airlock was very active and I opened the window to keep the room temperature below 20 deg C. After a few days the airlock had slowed to a regular bubble.

For my second brew I wanted a wort of similar colour, strength and character to top off the Flanders red. I had also become interested in stock ales from reading Country House Brewing in England by Pamela Sambrook and drinking Burning Sky’s Stock Ale. I intended to draw off 15 litres of wort and use 5 litres low hopped for the Flanders Red and 10 litres high hopped for the stock ale. I took far too little wort and so, post boil, ended up with 5.5 litres of stock ale and 3 litres to top up the Flanders red. I realised I had residual sugar in the mash so remashed and made a 5.5 litre batch of bitter. The mash had been left dry for at least an hour so I don’t know whether this will affect it. I think there was still residual sugar in the mash also. I clearly need to do some homework on brewing strong beers and parti-gyling. I started with the intention of brewing an entire ale and ended up parti-gyling. I realise I was winging it, messed up the volumes but I think the character and strength of the stock ale, flanders red top-up and bitter should be fine. I imagine the malt for country house brewing would be a bit less uniform than what we have today so I’ve used a mixture of Maris Otter, Chevalier (a heritage variety) and crisp amber malt to provide a varied complexity to the taste.

  • Flanders red top up OG:1.073 ABV:8% SRM: 24 IBU: 11
  • Stock ale OG:1.078 ABV:8.5% SRM: 23 IBU: 70
  • Bitter OG:1.040 ABV:4.0% SRM: 17 IBU: 45

39% Maris Otter
39% Chevalier
11% Crisp amber malt (25L)
5.5% crystal malt (30L)
5.5% medium crystal malt (75L)

60min mash at 67deg C.

Stock ale hops:

  • 50:50 East Kent Goldings and Mixed Bushel of Hops Heritage hops at 60mins (49 IBU)
  • Mixed Heritage hops at 30mins (18 IBU)
  • Mixed Heritage hops at Flame out

Flanders red top-up hops:

  • Mixed Bushel of Hops Heritage hops at 60mins (11 IBU)


  • 50:50 East Kent Goldings and Mixed Heritage hops at 60mins (29 IBU)
  • Mixed Heritage hops at 30mins (22 IBU)
  • Mixed Heritage hops at Flame out

I took samples of the Flanders red before topping up. The batch fermented on commercial yeast was racked when I made the Oud Bruin. It tasted fine but not quite happy in its skin yet. It wasn’t very smooth and hadn’t developed much acidity. Hopefully the addition of fresh fermentables from the top up will feed the bacteria as well as the yeast.  The batch fermented on my wild flower Blend 2 was a lot smoother. Still a bit sweet and young so I hope it becomes more savoury with age. It took a couple of days for these to start fermenting. As is consistently the case, the wild yeast ferments slower and for longer, and this is still the case compared to the Roeselare Blend.

I also recently bottled Blend 3 and the reuse of Blend 1. A portion of Blend 3 has been kept back for blending with Blend 1 and 2. Blend 3 had a gravity of 1.004 and a pH of 4.3 with a spicy, Turkish delight taste. Blend 1 reuse had a gravity of 1.003 and pH of 4.4. The taste still had some body, which was surprising for the gravity, and the taste was clean but tangy.

Tasting notes…. Blend 2 has a strong nail varnish aroma, which is probably beyond pleasant. I will leave it a few months and see if it improves in the bottle. Elderflower has a floral aroma, a biscuity taste and creamy mouth feel. I particularly liked this one. Dog rose had a softer floral aroma than elderflower, a slightly darker colour and a taste reminiscent of Turkish delight.  Heather ale was pale gold, tasted of flower honey with a tangy finish. The head quickly diminished.

I am concerned about the oxidation from blending and head space. Blend 2 has definitely suffered because of this and Blend 3 might be affected. While I’ve enjoyed drinking Blend 1, the single flower ferments have a cleaner, less creamy taste to them. This year I will only Blend if the ales will benefit from balancing out. I will still Blend the yeast though.

The first flowers are now out with a scattering of snowdrops and clumps of primrose. It feels like spring is breaking through. The birds are more active and the dawn chorus streams through the window in the mornings now. I might revisit primrose after using them last year. I read somewhere that veg near to the ground has more lactobacillus present. I’m wondering whether the same is true with flowers and will try and encourage a sour culture from them soon.

Bruin Porter

It’s dark, damp and misty out there. Still, the sky’s are lightening as I leave the house each morning and there are even a few flowers knocking about. Gorse is indefatigable, snowdrops are coming through and I think catkins count as flowers. With the full vibrant richness of summer stripped away I can also appreciate the subtler points that can now stand clear: The lichens are diverse in colour and texture; Moss carpets horizontal oak branches above the road; The pattern formed by the tips of branches are unique and distinctive.



My taste in beer tends to follow the seasons so at this time of year I have a yearning for darker ales: porters, old ales, stock ales, Flanders reds and oud bruins. I need to get better at brewing a desired style in advance of wanting to drink it. I’d love to be drinking my recent brews now but, with a bit of discipline, I will leave them alone until next winter.


The weekend just past was a marathon session of blending bottling and brewing. On Friday night I started by bottling the demijohn of Blend 1 on American oak chips. It had a soft, smooth, vanilla aroma and floral notes. The oak character might be better if it was more subdued. Let’s see how it develops in the bottle. I will be putting some of the blend of Blends 1, 2 and 3 onto oak but I might try light toast French oak for a subtle, more spicy character.

Blend 2 had developed a mega pellicle since November. I bottled 17 375ml bottles and retained a gallon demijohn to blend with Blend 1 and 3. There was a nail varnish and cherry aroma, though not unpleasant. Looking back I reported the same when I was propagating the the Rowan capture.


The remaining five single flower ferments were taste tested for blending. These were elderflower 1 and 2, rose, meadowsweet and heather. Again the character of each can be traced back through the stages.

Originating Flower Gravity pH Tasting Notes
Elderflower 1 1.006 4.9 Clear. Light gold. Aroma of pea flower. Did not taste due to high pH. BINNED
Elderflower 2 1.006 4.5 Clear.  Light gold. Astringent flower and honey aroma. Spicy taste. Slightly harsh aftertaste.
Rose 1.005 4.6 Clear.  Light gold. Soft floral aroma. A bit soapy in the mouth. The most floral.
Meadowsweet 1.009 4.4 Clear.  Golden. Somewhat unusual but pleasant aroma – like tutti frutti. Also sweet biscuit and honey. Fairly clean in the mouth. The most interesting.
Heather 1.006 4.0 Clear. Golden. Not so distinct after the Meadowsweet. The most honey-like


These demijohns were then blended and some bottles taken. As before there was no great contrast in acidity to balance out so I went for roughly equal measures. I bottled 4 Elderflower II, 4 Rose, 3 Meadowsweet and 2 Heather. The reason for the different number of bottles was that the 2.5 gal carboy wasn’t filling up enough. Elderflower I was binned because the pH was not low enough to be safe and the aroma of pea flowers wasn’t amazing. Some of the dregs from each demijohn were retained for the following brew. The dregs from the Heather had been kept in the fridge since it was racked off the plant matter.

Saturday morning was brew day. I wanted to brew something close to an Oud Bruin but with a nod to a brown porter that I brewed last year. That had been a clean fermentation but I had kettle soured half of it and it worked rather well – a sort of chocolate yoghurt; rich, smooth, cleanness.

For this brew I wondered if a bit of smoke flavour would add a nice complexity. I was concerned that I could end up with harsh, phenolic bitter flavours from the smoke, acidity and bitter roastiness so I asked others on Milk the Funk and Great Brettanomyces Facebook forums. I decided upon 15% cherry wood smoked malt. The consensus of opinion was that too little smoked malt would be indistinct and phenolic and the fruit wood smoked malts were less bacony. Oak smoked wheat was another strong recommendation. I also used Carafa I for a debittered roastiness.

Before Christmas I went to an open brewery event at Cellarhead, which is just down the road. The brewer, David Berry, recommended A Bushel of Hops. I’m so pleased and excited to discover this. Dorothy Hallamby is growing heritage varieties of hops and she’s based in my village. I’ve now got a big step closer to brewing local. I bought a blend of old English varieties that included Mathon, Cobbs, White Grape, Early Bird and Fuggles.

The recipes is below:

OG:1.060 FG:1.009 ABV:6.6% SRM:33 IBU:10 20L batch

44% Munich malt
26.5% Maris Otter malt
15% smoked cherry wood malt
5.5% Caramunich malt
2.5% Special B malt
1.5% Carafa I
5% rolled oats

18g Old English Blend (5.92% AA) at 60mins
Mashed at 68 deg C for 60mins. Boiled for 70mins.


Once chilled the batch was split, racking half on the slurry from last month’s Flanders red and half with with the combined wild slurry from Elderflower 2, Rose, Meadowsweet and Heather. The Flanders red was racked to secondary just before. To recap, this slurry was WLP565 Belgian Saison 1 and WLP665 Flemish Blend, which includes Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces yeasts with Lactobacillus and Pediococcus bacteria. I have read that the bacterial souring can increase when the slurry is reused so it will be interesting to see. It will also be interesting to see whether my wild yeast changes its character and whether it becomes more sour.

Down the line I am considering racking some of this onto Elderberries. It would be a nice nod to the source of the yeast. I think there is a dark elderberry ale called Ebulum but I’ve never had it. One to track down maybe.

London BrewCon Megablend update; Brewlab have packaged it all up and are sending it out so I need to plan what to do with it. It will be nice to see whether I can detect the character of my yeasts in the blend.

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!


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.

Blending into Autumn


Since the last post the seasons have shifted into autum, the valleys have been cloaked in mists and now the first frost has come.  The blackbirds chime together a tinking call like an engine cooling down after hard effort.  The leaves have turned through a spectrum of colour and now mostly fallen, as have the apples, starting with our early tree and finally the cooker.  I’ve retained some for cider if time permits.  The woodland trails are a wonderland to run through; the hollow-ways carpeted in leaves, providing a secret solitude.  Beachy Head Marathon was an exhilarating highlight of the last month.  The view from the top of Windover Hill was stunning, with clear cold blue skies and the perfect undulations of the Downs unfolding to the sea.



The ale has been biding its time, slowly changing it’s character. A pellicle formed on Blend 1. I think this was because I ran out of carboy bungs so for a few days it was sealed with cling film allowing some oxidation. Some fermentation recommenced as different gravities combined with the different strains of yeast.


In the last month I have opened bottles of Gorse, Primrose, Wild Apple, Blackthorn and Dandelion, which were bottled on the 9 September. My tasting notes are below.


Date Originating Flower Tasting Notes
13 Oct 17 Gorse Low – moderate carbonation. Pale gold. Aroma of heady funk. Floral, marzipan, coconut, pea flower – gorse. Not distinctly sour.
21 Oct 17 Primrose Moderate carbonation. Pale gold. Floral and something almondy like meadowsweet – an astringent raw nut.
28 Oct Wild Apple Moderate carbonation. Gold. Fruity, clean.
4 Nov 17 Blackthorn Moderate carbonation. Pale gold. Marzipan, softened by the carbonation
6 Nov 17 Dandelion Yellow gold. Indistinct but floral aroma. Bitterness.  Spiciness. Slight astringent aftertaste. A bit acidic – slightly mouth-watering pH 4.3 however.

On the 4 November, after two months in the carboy I bottled half of Blend 1 into 32 375ml bottles. At this stage it had a gravity of 1.003 and a pH of 4.25. There were aromas of marzipan as well as some higher alcohol /estery notes. The flavours were of pale fruit like apple or grape. The other half of the blend was split into two demijohns: one with 8g of medium toast American oak chips and one to eventually blend with Blend 2 and 3 once they are ready.

The same day I sampled and blended the next four demijohns – Garden Apple 2, Broom, Hawthorn and Rowan. They were sampled first at room temperature and then chilled.



Originating Flower Gravity pH Tasting Notes
Garden Apple 2 1.003 4.0 Clear. Golden. Hoppy, floral aroma. Dryer than the other samples.
Hawthorn 1.004 4.3 Clear.  Rose gold colour.  Not distinctly aromatic. Stone fruit. Creamy flavour.


Chilled – Deep fruity.

Rowan 1.004 4.3 Clear.  Straw gold. Subtle roselike aroma, stone fruit. Spicy

Chilled – Astringent

Broom 1.007 4.0 Clear.  Straw gold. Honey aroma, pea-flower. Tangy compared to the other samples.

Chilled – Some medicinal, petrol aromas

4 x 375ml bottles of Garden Apple II, 4 of Hawthorn, 3 of Rowan and 2 x 330ml bottles of broom were taken from the demijohns. I bottled straights from the demijohns with granulated sugar in the bottles. While I normally decant what I’m bottling into a bucket with sugar syrup, it seemed logical with such small quantities to add dry sugar to each bottle. I also filled the bottles first so as not to disturb the trub at the bottom of the demijohns. I took a different number of bottles from each demijohn because I saw, half way through, that I was not going to fill the carboy if I filled 4 bottles of each.  This left 2.5l of Garden Apple II, 2.5l of Hawthorn, 2.875l of Rowan and 3.34l of Broom to fill the 11.4l carboy.  I was not aiming for a specific ratio for blending because each ale had a similar acidity and structure.  The dregs from each demijohn were combined for the next brew. As I wasn’t able to brew the same weekend I have prepared a 500ml lightly hopped starter.

I’ve also retained the dregs from Blend 1 and a third of the dregs from the four demijohns (Blend 2) and fed them with 250ml of lightly hopped malt extract for the BrewCon London Megablend. Also, as part of brewCon London’s Homebrew Week , I’m taking a bottle of Gorse and a bottle of Dandelion along to Bring the Funk at Redchurch Brewery. I love their Urban Farmhouse range so it will be interesting to hear what people think of my brews.

Over the year I have recorded notes in this blog but it’s difficult to quickly reference and see how one observation has flown into the next. I have created a flowchart to chart my sensory tasting notes and brewing and blending process. I hope this creates a visually clear reference. A pdf is here and I will keep it up to date.

Sensory testing flow diagram_V4


Tipping point


It often feels like September can go two ways; an Indian summer or plunge straight into Autumn. This year the weather seems to be doing a bit of both, changing the mood, as it does. @circleofpines on Instagram quoted Tove Jansson from The Summer Book, better articulating this tipping point:

“It is still summer, but summer is no longer alive. It has come to a standstill; nothing withers, and fall is not ready to begin”.

A few flowers are still holding on: water mint, perennial sowthistle, common fleabane and heather are still providing colour. On the flip side there are now plenty of mushrooms and the apples are falling. I started collecting the apples this weekend. I love the peace of this annual ritual for me. There is always a stillness in the air after the buzz of summer, broken only by the occasional robin or blackbird pipping in the tree next to me. There is the smell of dampness, soil and decay in the air and I enjoy the meditative repetitive action: pick apple, inspect, wipe, bag, repeat. The apples will be juiced, I’ll make some cider and make some beer with the lees.


The family left me on my lonesome for the weekend, which gave me the space and time to blend and bottle a few of the single flower ferments from the spring and brew a batch for the yeast / trub left behind.

Before blending I took samples from the first seven demijohns, took gravity reading and pH readings before tasting. I tasted at room temperature and then again after they had been in the fridge. The findings were as follows:


Originating Flower Gravity pH Tasting Notes
Gorse 1.010 4.6 Clear. Golden. Aroma and taste of honey and slight petrol (like some rieslings). Sweeter than blackthorn. Not much acidic structure.

On second (chilled) tasting, marzipan/coconut-like gorse flowers. A slight astringency.

Primrose 1.005 3.8 Clear. Yellow gold. Flowery. Marzipan. Less zingy than Wild Apple.

Honey like. Less marzipan like.

Blackthorn 1.005 4.8 Clear. Yellow gold. Less distinct.

Most sloe gin-like marzipan character.

Dandelion 1.003 4.5 Clear. Golden. Really nice perfumed floral aroma. (this might be the higher hopping). Zingy hop bitterness.
Wild Apple 1.003 4.2 Clear. Golden. Slightly dirty on first tasting but this might have been in comparison to Dandelion. Pleasant fruity tang.

Fruitier than Garden Apple 2.

Garden Apple 1 1.002 4.6 Clear. Golden. Zingy tang again. Fruity.

Not as sweet as Wild Apple.

Garden Apple 2 1.006 4.0 Slightly cloudy. Sweeter than Garden Apple 1.

Bitterness. Less aroma than first three.


Overall I was pleased they were drinkable and slightly surprised by the lack of variation. That said there were only three base brews for the seven samples and the recipes were similar. The Nelson Sauvin was the most distinct because of the relatively high rate of hopping. The level of hop bitterness in all three batches had likely inhibited lactic acid production and in future I need to be bolder and braver and reduce the hop level below 10 IBU. I knew it was too high but I wanted to replicate saison recipes that had previously been successful. The multiple sensory tests before the main brew probably also account for the lack of off flavours and funkiness. They are also still fairly young. More savoury brett character might develop over the next six months. There are also another eight single flower based ferments to blend over the coming months.

Following the tasting I decided to leave Garden Apple 2 to further clear and develop over time and to blend equal measures of the other six to combine the floral/marzipan aromas with the fruity zingy hop character, making 21 litres. That left two 375ml bottles of each unblended for comparison and yeast storage and 1000ml of yeast slurry / trub for the next brew. I used 400ml of this slurry in 10l.


1 litre of yeast slurry and trub from the first six demijohns

Next year I need to try and focus on a lactic acid culture in some of my wild capture starters. I will read up about it but I will probably minimise hop bitterness, exclude oxygen and keep the temperature around 40 deg C.

Standing forgotten on a shelf were four 250ml conical flasks from at least a month ago. Musk mallow had developed a thick gelatinous cap and fluffy mould so was binned. Blackberry 1 was cloudy and had an aroma of spicy fruit. The gravity was 1030 and the pH was 4.8. Blackberry 2 was clear with a thick gelatinous cap. Initially it smelt slightly cheesy but this passed. The gravity was also 1030 and the pH was 4.5. As little alcohol or acidity had been produced I decided to bin both. That left the final flask. The meadowsweet was clear and had the aroma of nectarines. The Gravity was 1008 and the pH was 3.6. The taste was tart, astringent and fruity – definitely a keeper.

For my next brew I decided to take elements of the grain bill from the 8-wired Nelson Sauvin recipe used in batch 3 and the European hops from the Burning Sky recipe used in batch 5, making a few changes to use up the grain I had available. My intention was to use 10 litres for the blended yeast slurry from the first six captures and 5 litres for the meadowsweet yeast capture and, for the final 5 litres, I collected a couple of large handfuls of flowering heather and put them straight in a demijohn. I thought it would be interesting to skip the propagation steps, increase the quantity of flowers, hopefully adding flavour as well as yeast and bacteria.  The base recipe was as follows:

OG:1.056 FG:1.009 ABV:6.0% SRM:6 IBU:17 20L batch

53% Maris Otter malt
24% Pilsner malt
11% wheat malt
2% spelt malt
4% flaked wheat
4% caragold
2% acidulated malt

18g East Kent Golding (5.92% AA) at 60mins
18g East Kent Golding at 15mins
15g each of Saaz, Celeia and East Kent Golding at 0mins

I mashed at 65 deg C for an hour then sparged to 22 litres when the gravity was 1.010. 7 litres evaporated or were absorbed by the hops during the boil and, in a rush, I liquored back to 20 litres without taking gravity readings. When I then checked it was 1.048, so the ABV will be 5.1%, but I’m not going to loose sleep over it. I should have sparged a few more litres before the gravity fell below 1.010. Looking back over my brewing calculator the efficiency was set higher than I would normally set it, so that’s probably why. There was a couple of hours pause between chilling and racking to fermentors. While I would have preferred to avoid this it did allow the cold break to settle really well, allowing clear wort to be siphoned off.


So what next? I don’t intend to collect anymore flowers this year. I will continue to blend the beer I have when it is ready, bottle it, propagate the yeast and and report back on that process and the results. If the beers from the blended yeast is successful I will get a barrel and start ageing them – fingers crossed. Over the autumn and winter I would like to give a bit of time to pale ales, bitters, porters and maybe a stronger stock ale and will report back if I think they’re relevant to the blog. Looking ahead I have had some thoughts for next year but I think I will leave that for another blog post in a few months time.

And finally, proof that not every brew is a success. The braggot with saison yeast, strawberries and grains of paradise from a few months ago was a “Braison” failure. 5g of grains of paradise were added rather than 0.5g. I hope it might improve but it reached tipping point…


August – time out

It’s been a while since I last posted, but summer travels got in the way of beer making. I spent a few days in Suffolk, where I grew up. While there I went on an early morning run in the sunshine around the local lanes. It was Sunday, it was quiet and the sun was shining as I set off at 0630. I covered 19 miles, training for a marathon, so lots of time to think.  Some lanes I knew well and some not so well, even though they were reasonably close to home they were paths less travelled.

I had mixed feelings travelling that route. Some warm rememberances but some sadness at places that had faded: pubs I worked in in my teens now closed; houses where friends had lived now unwelcoming as they have since moved on; and other houses, once proudly maintained, now overgrown and up for auction.

In some ways I am spoilt in Sussex by the natural diversity but the silence of the large Suffolk arable fields, stripped of hedgerows, is a shame. Most notably birdsong but something is missing. That said there were still moments of wonder – there were hares! I love hares but never see them in our corner of Sussex and I don’t know why. On my early morning run one crossed the road in front of me, one sunk down into its form in the field as a I approached and another darted for cover in the yet unharvested wheat. There were also plenty of partridges. Fat hen and mugwort were growing by the roadside, which I find less frequently in Sussex.


Macfarlane’s The Old Ways and a Shield Bug

Macfarlane’s “The Old Ways” (my holiday reading) starts each chapter with an apparently random list of words and phrases, meaningless at the start of the chapter, but looking back they represent shorthand for the story now understood and flow together. This is much like how points on a map join together to make an integrated path when travelled. Similarly a run from disparate place to place becomes one fluid memory and while running the mind has the time to piece together memories with new ideas providing clarity of thought and deeper understanding.

While in Suffolk I was able to visit Little Earth Project brewery. It was great to meet Tom and inspiring to see what he is doing there. I found their approach a very honest and logical way to brew; wherever possible everything was of its place and, to my mind, if you can, why wouldn’t you brew this way. Any other way is just a collection of things from elsewhere brought together and a bit contrived. The brewery has a borehole for water, solar for heating, local renewable coppiced wood for fuel and a thoughtfully constructed building. The barley and hops are grown locally and organically in their own field and wild ingredients are foraged. Tom explained that the name for the brewery had come from a comment made in an interview he heard with Jester King brewery, that they were trying to create something from their little piece of earth. I think they are achieving it at Little Earth Project with a sustainable, self contained, nuclear brewery. As with the book, the map and running, the brewing ingredients and processes come together to form a meaningful beer.

I tasted a few of the beers at the brewery and took a few bottles home. They have a unique complexity of wild flavours. The flavours gave the beers a distinct identity that I doubt could be replicated by another brewery unlike a “clean” beer that could be reproduced anywhere. Some of the beer sampled straight from the barrel, including a porter on plums and a saison in a Chardonnay barrel tasted great, so I look forward to these reaching the shops once bottled. Of the bottled beers drunk so far the Glebe Organic was fantastic and the Elderflower Hedgerow Sour was great too. If I were to splitting hairs, a little more consistency between bottles would refine the product, but I’m really excited to watch, and drink from, this brewery as it progresses.


Back home the buzzard family have fledged and fly together, wheeling weightlessly overhead, free and with effortless grace. I’m noticing more bats but maybe it’s because it’s dusk now when I’m running home. I swear I can hear bats! They sound like a thumb nail being dragged across a comb. The thistles and rosebay willow herb are now downy. Hogsweed and meadowsweet are also now offering up  their seed heads. Black knapweed and birdsfoot trefoil flowers are still holding on. Common Fleabane and Watermint are now plentiful and Lady’s Bedstraw is also growing in small patches in some areas. The heather is now beautiful in the woods and it would be fun to recreate an historic ale with it. I Think I identified some wild Angelica in the woods (might have to make some more bathtub gin!).


There’s glut of blackberries. Their evocative scent filled the air as I ran down one narrow path flanked by brambles. I made some fruit leather from them as a new experiment. I followed the River Cottage Hedgerow Handbook recipe. It was beautiful to look at, tasty and so didn’t last long. I also racked a gallon of saison onto 300g of blackberries. A little less fruit than I intended but let’s see.


Watermint is also prolific in the woods at the moment.  I would love to use it for something but I’m not sure what beer it would complement. I think I will make a cordial from it and then add to beer at bottling as priming sugar.


More brewing, and blending, next time I promise.

My delight on a shining night

I’ve been meaning to collect meadowsweet and yarrow for a week or so. Meadowsweet especially as it’s been around for a while whereas the yarrow has some time yet, I think. With one thing and another it wasn’t until half ten on a Monday night that a slightly exasperated me set out into the woods to collect some. That night turned out to be such a rare treat, emphasised by my lack of expectation. I had never heard a nightjar before but as I walked further into the woods the repetitive cricket-like churring became louder and louder. The bird was in the bracken and I skirted round it passed the stream to where the meadowsweet grows. I didn’t find any yarrow but the meadowsweet, at chest height with a heady fragrance, was easy to feel for in the half light. I snipped flossy heads into sanitised centrifuge tubes. Something strange flew overhead that I still can’t place. It crackled and half roared like dragging a foot over gravel, reminiscent of a flare firing before it pops. It was maybe a bat or a large insect but not one I’m familiar with. I carried on over the hill and looped back round towards home. A juvenile tawny owl called and the soundless silhouette of the owl’s steady wing beat moved across the sky. I returned to the nightjars, which were now louder than before. One rose from the bracken, poised like a kestrel against the last light in the sky, before settling again into the undergrowth. One clapped its wings and moved its position when I got too close. As I headed home the full moon shone bright through traces of clouds and unseen creatures shifted their position, given away by the dry leaf litter.


That night I made a fresh starter for the elderflower and rose captured yeast with lightly hopped wort and also made a starter for some of the WLP 566 Saison Ale II, saved from last brew day. The dog rose had a moderate film pellicle on it and smelt of roses and perfume. I feel like that is stating the obvious but the dog roses had no significant scent when I picked them and are now two propagation steps removed from the flowers. Do any flower/fruit aromas come from the esters these microbes create? Clearly, I don’t know what I’m talking about and am stabbing in the dark (recently I picked up a satsuma with a mould bloom on it and the orange ester smell was amazing). The elderflower was floral but less distinct. One had a stonking pellicle, wrinkled and holding large bubbles. The other had a thin film.

That night I also racked the “Braison” off the strawberries. I had used 1.2kg of strawberries having read that there are 5g of sugar in 100g of strawberries. This quantity seemed in line with some recipes in Greg Hughes’s “Home Brew Beer”. This would have added 60g of sugar plus 140g of honey making the OG 1.062.  Unfortunately I think the “Braison” is a failure. I knew I had put too much grain of paradise in and the flavour was very phenolic and reminiscent of pencil lead. I will leave it alone for a month and decide then whether to ditch it.

I squeezed in a brew day on Sunday (23 July). I tried to keep it fairly simple with a 20litre batch following the Burning Sky Saison Provision (one of my favourite beers), from Euan Ferguson’s Craft Brew. My recipe was as follows:

OG:1.052 FG:1.009 ABV:5.5% SRM:4 IBU:13 20L batch

85% Pilsner malt
5% wheat malt
5% spelt malt
5% caragold

16g East Kent Golding (5.92% AA) at 60mins
8g East Kent Golding at 15mins
17g each of Saaz, Celeia and Sorachi Ace at 0mins

The mash was held for 60mins at 65 deg C with a water grist ratio of 2.6 l per kg. 0.5g each of calcium carbonate and magnesium sulphate were added to the mash to improve my water profile for a heathy fermentation. pH was 5.5. I did an iodine test at the end of the mash to try something new and the starch was converted. 22l were sparged, which in retrospect was too little as the gravity was 1.020 and I only ended up with 18l at the desired gravity post boil and after liquoring back. This was enough however to fill four demijohns. Rather than chilling in the boiler I transferred to a bucket and chilled in there, which achieved a far better cold break.  I struggled to separate the wort from the trub but I’ve read conflicting report of whether this needs to be done.

The four demijohns had rose captured yeast, elderflower 1 and 2 captures and WLP 566 Belgian Saison Ale II added respectively. The pellicles were really impressive again; wrinkly on the rose and bubbly on elderflower 2. Elderflower 1 had a very thin film.



Meadows on the Mind

In the last few weeks some of the meadow flowers have really peaked. One field in particular was a wash of colour, photographed by my wife. She identified spotted orchid, black knapweed, greater hawkbit, lesser stitchwort, selfheal, birdsfoot trefoil, yellow rattle, pig nut, yarrow, lesser trefoil and many more. It’s such a special place, breathtaking to see. The grass heads are now abundant and catching my interest. Perhaps they could be another source of yeast captures in future years.


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Since then many of the fields have been topped and the hay collected in, changing the view across the valley dramatically. The fields are now pale and dry, in stark contrast to the mature dark green of the hedges and trees.

Meadowsweet is now thick and heady in the lower damper areas, lining ditches and road verges. In other areas rosebay willow herb is locally abundant, like cascading fountains of pink, at the station and some banks along the roadside. Neither are toxic so possibilities for this project.

Tennis ball sized rabbits are now hopping around the garden, eating all the nice plants and with no fear of us. They’re safe for now. I’ve mentally earmarked them with “grow now, eat later”. We heard a fledgling tawny owl in the woods which caused some confusion; clearly owl-like but not a sound we were familiar with. My wife also heard a nightjar that I will have to listen out for.

The rhubarb saison from batch 1 and saison from batch 2 are both drinking now. I’m happy with both. The rhubarb saison has only a subtle rhubarb flavour but it is there and the pH has dropped to 3.1. The yeast character in batch 2 from the NBS Saison sachet is bolder than the White Labs WLP565.

The elderflowers and dog roses were removed from the centrifuge tubes after a couple of days. At this point they both smelt of the flowers; the rose less distinct than the elderflower. After two weeks these were sniff tested and stepped up to 250ml flasks. Of the rose, those that were sweet and floral were combined into one flask and those that had a touch of tang and funk were combined in another. None were discarded. Of the elderflower: two were perfumed, a bit funky and, like broom, giving of a pea flower aroma; two were flowery and spicy; and two earthy and musty, which were binned.

For the next brew day I wanted to try something different. I needed wort for the broom and rowan harvested yeast and I had a sachet of WLP566 Saison II yeast to use. I had also thought that a braggot fermented on saison yeast could be interesting. While I appreciate building a beer around a name is silly, I thought this combo would be “braison” and if it was second fermented on strawberries, peppered with grains of paradise and aged on rose petals it would be pretty brazen….

The Rowan flask had strong, but not unpleasant aromas of nail varnish. The gravity was 1.016, so had attenuated more than some and the pH was 4.0. This tasted of plums or stone fruit. The broom was less distinct. The gravity had only dropped a bit to 1.030 and the pH was 4.5. I decided not to taste this one because these levels were still high.

To get a saison base and the braggot base from the same batch I parti-gyled 50:50 by volume, adding a bigger dose of honey to the second gyle. My total grain bill, which was a variation on the second Funky Flower base used for blackthorn and primrose, was:

2.8kg Pilsner Malt (70%)
0.6kg Vienna Malt (15%)
0.2kg Wheat Malt (5%)
0.2kg Spelt Malt (5%)
0.2kg CaraGold (5%)

The mash was held at 65 deg C for 1 hour and then I continuously sparged two batches of 10 litres. From further reading, I possibly should have batch sparged taking two separate runnings but I don’t know how much difference this made. I originally intended to add hops at 60min, 15min and 0mins but the boil was extended for 15mins (while I nipped to the shops). Hop additions to each batch were:

7g Northern Brewer (8.4% AA) at 75min
7g East Kent Golding (5.46% AA) at 30min
10g East Kent Golding (5.46%AA) at 0min

In the last 5mins of the boil 250g Sussex Honey was added to the first, Funky Flower, gyle and 900g was added to the second, Braison, gyle with grains of paradise. I intended to add 0.5g but added 5g so this could be very peppery! Assuming 58% of fermentables were in the first half of the mash, the two batches were as follows once the honey was added:

Gyle 1 for Funky Flower
OG:1.061 FG:1.009 ABV:6.7 SRM:6 IBU:17 10L batch

Gyle 2 for Braison
OG:1.063 FG:1.009 ABV:6.9 SRM:5 IBU:18 10L batch

The Funky Flower batch was split into two demijohns with the Broom yeast added to one and the Rowan yeast added to the other. The Braison batch was kept entire and a second fermentation will be conducted on 1.3kg(??) of locally picked strawberries. I will then split this batch, if it is not too dry, adding dried garden rose petals to both and adding some of the dog rose derived yeast to one for added complexity. I don’t think the honey had the sugar concentration I had expected so I will add more to the secondary to account for this – the braggot OG was 1.058.


I had a busy midweek evening bottling saison, stepping up small flasks and collecting more flowers while listening to the Foo Fighters Glastonbury set. This saison had fermented at snail pace, having been racked into secondary too early, I suspect. White Labs WLP565 has a tendency to stall and I think this happened in the primary, which I should have checked for. This was from the first Funky Flower base, from which the rhubarb saison was made. It is tasting promising however, if a little sweet at 1.016 SG. I would have liked to have added some wild yeast to a portion of this but I’m starting to feel a little overwhelmed by demijohns, if I’m honest, and hadn’t planned for this.

After two weeks in small flasks the rose and elderflower were stepped up to 500ml flasks. One rose flask had a fly in it so was binned. The other was floral, perfumed, a bit funky and musky. Both elderflower flasks were similar but stepped up separately, to avoid disappointment. I had forgotten my comments from two weeks ago but, again, they smelt like the broom samples – pea-like. There was also a thin film on them.

At 11pm I went out with the head torch to collect musk mallow from our overgrown garden and bramble flowers from the track. A fox screamed from very close by, making me jump out of my skin. Another called from further down in the valley. The musk mallow had come up wild in a big clump over the last few years and is looking great. The flowers had closed for the night and many grass hoppers and long horn beetles were using them as perches. On the track a fox paused, it’s eyes gleaming in my head torch. The bramble were a little over, and many fruit were forming, but enough fresh flowers remained.

As a side note my sour dough culture is pellicle-tastic. Having forgotten about the starter in the back of the fridge for a month I discovered it had grown a thick pellicle, dark from the whole meal flour I think. I poured away the pellicle and hooch, cleaned it, removed the top layer and fed it and after another 36 hours another, thin, pellicle had grown. I had also forgotten about the sourdough starter on malt extract from a few weeks ago. It too had grown a thick pellicle. I will definitely try brewing with this when I have more time. I could either propagate the bubbling floury mixture or the hooch, once the mixture has settled.

I’m quite keen for some results now. I have 10 demijohns filled from this experiment with no clue whether they’re any good.   At least three should be ready to taste blend and bottle by the next brew day. I’m keen to move on to the next stage.


Summer is a comin’

In the last couple of weeks a host of new flowers have come up to catch my interest. Elderflower is now dominating the view of hedgerows I pass by train, car and foot. Dog roses are a close second with their feral polkadots of white and pink punctuating the green. The meadows now have many white and red clover flowers as well as birds-foot trefoil (thanks for the guidance @lucyinthewild). In the woodland edges and my overgrown garden common vetch, common orchids and wood avens are pushing through the long grass. Fox gloves have dramatically shot up. Beautiful but also deadly, so I won’t be brewing with them.

Running, by the speed and height at which one travels, provides a different perspective to experiencing a landscape. As described in Thequietfundraiserruns blog, The Weald Challenge provided that intimate acquaintance with the transition between the heathland of Ashdown forest and the woods and pastureland that I call home. The Way to Battle run last year provided a similar deepening of awareness but from the coastal marsh flats surrounding Pevensey inland to the small wooded hills surrounding Battle. Sometimes, by studying that which is different I gain clarity of that which is familiar.


I listened to some slow radio in which Horatio Clare walked in the Welsh Borders. He described the “wonderful toppling May feeling. Half spring, half promise of summer.”

I sometimes see a barn owl working the hedgerow that divides the fields in the valley below us or fluttering over the field edge, left fallow by the road up to the village. It’s flight is slow, delicate, almost butterfly like. I don’t imagine a barn owl has been likened to a cabbage white before.

One of the Rowan flasks developed a multicoloured mould, while this was not promising, the mould was removed to see if the culture was redeemable.

Hawthorn 1 was very clear having fermented quickly. The gravity was 1.012 and the pH was 4.0. It smelt very clean, English ale like, maybe slightly stale, but unfortunately a couple of fruit flies had got in.  Hawthorn 2 was very similar, maybe a shade less clear, the gravity was 1.012 again and the pH was 3.9. The taste was clean and fruity. This sample was taken forward to the brew.

The mould grew back on one rowan flask so was dumped.  The other was spicy, fruity and flowery. The broom based culture had a perfumed, pea flower aroma. The flask was cloudy and the yeast cake was lumpy. These were stepped up to 500ml flasks with an OG of 1.038 and IBU of 10.


Mould on a rowan based culture. Binned.

For the latest brew I decided to do something a little different and recreate a pale mild recipe from two years ago, loosely based on Andy Hamilton’s Brewing Britain and flavoured with foraged herbs. Last time I split a 15litre batch three ways and flavoured with spruce tips, nettle and ale hoof in the boil and at flame out. This time I split a 20litre batch four ways with sorrel leaves, meadowsweet buds and woodruff. While these three were fermented with White Labs WLP002 yeast, and should retain some sweetness, the final quarter was used as a base for the hawthorn propagated yeast. I’m intrigued by meadowsweet. I used the flowers last year without drying and they added a floral and medicinal flavour. I heard Lottie Muir, the Cocktail Gardener, on Radio 4 describing the buds. We found them near the house and the marzipan hit was intense. These and the sorrel leaves were added for a final five minute boil after splitting the batch. The coumarin smell in woodruff intensifies as it dries so I added this post primary fermentation. I was worried about airborne mould settling on the woodruff and, without the preservative properties of hops, I decided not to simply “dry hop”. I had read about the traditional German Maibowle so partially dried 28g woodruff for 48 hours then steeped the woodruff in 750ml of reisling (10% ABV) for 24 hours before topping up the demijohn with 500ml of flavoured wine. I expect this beer to be about 4.5%. The flavoured wine, mixed with a little sugar, brandy and sparkling wine was pleasant if a bit unusual. The carbonation released the coumarin flavour. It was intensely hay-like with a deep forest sort of flavour to it (I appreciate that means nothing to anyone other than me…). Woody. Maybe a bit earthy and green.

The base beer recipe is given below:

OG:1.045 FG:1.015 ABV:3.9 SRM:11 IBU:14 20L batch

81% Mild ale malt
10% pale crystal malt 30L
5% biscuit malt
4% flaked barley

22g East Kent Golding (5.46% AA) at 60mins
26g sorrel / 20g meadowsweet buds at 5mins in 5litres

Mash at 69deg C for 60mins. Boil for 60mins



New flower yeast captures were taken from elderflower and dog rose.

I also wanted to capture the heady fragrance of elderflower and so made some cordial. I added 1.7litres of boiling water to 900g of sugar, stirred until dissolved and let it cool for 10minutes while I stripped the elderflowers from 30 heads. These, 3 sliced lemons and 50g of citric acid were added to the sugar syrup, stirred and left for 24hours before straining into sterile bottles. It was so easy to do, with more than enough elderflower growing on the track by the house. The cordial will mainly be drunk as normal, with sparkling water or sparkling wine. I will use some of it to prime beer bottles. 10ml will be equivalent to 6g of sugar.


Nelson S’ in the Funk

The fauna has been more noteworthy than the flora since my last post, as the plants seem focussed on green growth rather than new flowers. Highlights from running have been an early morning barn owl, a handful of handsome and self-assured foxes in their prime and the occasional roe buck. Roe make an exciting change to the herds of fallow that it seems are more numerous than livestock locally. I’ve seen herds of 50 on a number of occasions. We saw a fox cub on the drive for a couple of days. I think there’s been an earth for a couple of years near that spot but we never see the vixen and our chickens are left well alone. Yellow hammers are maging themselves known, darting out of the roadside hedges ahead of me. Their song is part of my soundtrack to a lazy hazy summer evening so it’s a pleasure to see them.


Plant wise, cow parsley dominate the roadsides and buttercups have taken over the meadows. Some hawthorn – May Flower – are still going strong. Getting off the London train to a fresh evening breeze full of their scent reaffirms my love of home. The bluebells are fading and the wild garlic flowers have gone. Nothing worth picking for yeast propagation at the moment. Red campion are now much bigger plants. I wondered about picking cow parsley, the elderflower is just starting to come out and guelder rose might be an option. Also, I’ve seen the first signs of blackberry flowers.

The flasks of wild apple, garden apple and broom and the tubes of woodruff and hawthorn were stepped up in size on the 9th May to 500ml flasks and 250ml flasks respectively. Some hops were added to the malt extract for 20min boil to achieve 10IBU to inhibit some bacteria and see what difference it would make.

Wild apple were both fruity and cidery so were combined. Garden Apple 1 had a pellicle and yeasty, eatery notes. Garden Apple 2 had an aroma of red apple ester. Dandelion was indistinct. After 24 hours the Wild Apple had developed a krausen before the other samples, but two smaller flasks had combined for this and so the yeast probably had a higher cell count. After 72 hours there was some activity from both garden apples but little activity from the dandelion.

Of the hawthorn tubes, two smelled of cheese (maybe isovaleric acid) and were binned, two were clean but indistinct and formed flask labelled Hawthorn 1. Two were fruitier, more cherry-like and went into flask Labelled Hawthorn 2. After 24 hours a krausen had formed on both.

Of the woodruff plastic tubes, two had mould with black spots and were discarded, all smelled strongly of woodruff and all bar one had a pellicle. Two woodruff flasks were made. The stronger pellicles were put into Woodruff 2. After 72 hours there was some activity.

After a week in tubes all the broom smelt of broom, two of the rowan tubes were smelling off, so binned, and the remaining four smelt of flowers. All were bubbling.

I mentioned previously that I was asked to brew for a friends wedding. Had a disaster with the Vienna lager. At some point, probably bottling, it got gusher yeast. Only had it a couple of times before so gutted to get it now. Drinkable but not wedding worthy. The session APA was great so all was not lost and I made some labels for it by carving rubber stamps.

22 May was brew day for the Wild Apple, Garden Apples and the Dandelion. The Wild Apple flask had finished fermenting the quickest, had floculated and cleared. There was a fruity saison-like smell to it. With a pH of 3.4 and a gravity of 1.009 I deemed it safe to taste. It had a light saison taste, slightly tart, dry, cider-like and possibly a touch astringent. Garden Apple 2 had apparently stopped fermenting and floculated but this was easily disturbed. It’s smell was not so clean and a bit funky. The gravity was 1.038 and the pH was 3.9. Garden Apple 1 hadn’t cleared and was still fermenting and there were some signs of a pellicle. The gravity was 1.018 and the pH was 3.1. It had a fruity, spicy aroma and and a clean fruity taste. Dandelion was cloudy and still fermenting. It had a slightly pink film on top (is that bad?!). The gravity was 1.020 and the pH was 3.1. It had a phenolic aroma and a perfumed, floral taste.

For the base beer I though that Nelson Sauvin hops with their fruity, wine-like character would complement the apple yeast aromas. I followed the 8-wired Nelson Sauvin Saison recipe from Euan Ferguson’s book, “Craft Brew”. The level of attenuation predicted in the recipe seems a bit extreme so the finished beer will probably be nearer 6% than 7% and I have reduced the hops to achieve 35IBU so as not to overpower the wild yeast aromas, I hope. I appreciate this level of hopping may inhibit some microbes but I wanted to experiment and produce a range of beers. The recipe was:

OG:1.056     FG:1.010     ABV:6.0     SRM:7     IBU:35     20litre batch

59% Pilsner malt
23% Maris Otter
8% wheat malt
4% flaked wheat
4% Caramalt (15L)
2% acid malt

25g Nelson Sauvin (AA 12.7%) first wort
50g Nelson Sauvin 0mins
25g Motueka 0mins

Mash at 64deg C for 60mins, boil for 60mins

Once cooled and aerated the wort was split into 4 demijohns and the Wild Apple, Garden Apple 1, Garden Apple 2 and Dandelion were added. After 12 hours Garden Apple 1 was very active. After 24 hours all were active and, with the exception of Garden Apple 2, had shot through their air locks.

A total of 8 fermenters are now bubbling!

2 litres of spare wort were used to step up starters. Hawthorn 1 and 2 were both very clear having stopped fermenting quickly. The smell was clean with notes of plum or other stone fruits. They were stepped up from 250ml to 500ml starters with 1.045 gravity wort and 30IBU from the Nelson Sauvin although the previous starter that was not all poured away would have diluted this. Both Woodruff had a thick cap and furry mould so were dumped. They smelt mouldy, mushroomy and dank. I had not been very attentive with these samples and maybe could have removed the first signs of mould. Rowan and broom were stepped up to 250ml with a gravity of 1.040. Of the Rowan three were spicy and earthy and stepped up. One had a black spotted pellicle, smelt of nail polish and, although not furry, was dumped. Of the broom three had aromas of pea, flower, perfume and quite medicinal. These were stepped up to Broom 1. One that was similar but not so clean was dumped. Two had a pellicle and an almond note along with the pea aroma. These were stepped up to Broom 2.

Because I had dumped the woodruff I had two flasks of starter wort remaining. I added a heaped teaspoon of sour dough culture to both to see what would happen as a possible side project. The sourdough culture is 17 months old and called Sven. He’s had one son, Svenson, who lives with a colleague. My colleague. Sourdough cultures don’t have colleagues; that would be anthropomorphic and ridiculous.