Posts Tagged With: Home Brew

Homebrew: When is a bottle day not a bottle day?

When it’s a keg day!

So, the original plan was to bottle my latest homebrew batch. Last Sunday (09/02/2014) the beer was ready to go. The gravity had dropped from 1.044 to 1.012 and there had been no activity for at least 48 hours. All was good thus far…

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Extract Brew #4: Whitbread Mackeson Clone – Take 2

The first thing I noticed, when I opened my homebrew notebook to begin planning my latest batch, was that my last brew day was in July!

Anyway, for my first brew of the 2014 I decided to revisit the recipe I have for Whitbread Mackeson Stout. The main reason being that I had some issues with the temperature during fermentation last time.  Which I believe caused some off flavours.

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Whitbread Mackeson Clone – Tasting

Initially the plan was to leave my recent home brew attempt for around a month to settle down – if you read any of my previous posts regarding this batch you’ll know I had a couple of things go array during the brewing process (perhaps the worst being the temperature being too high for around 24 hours when it was first fermenting).

So it is fair to say I was prepared for some off flavours in this one.

However, my plan to hold out for a month lasted just seventeen days. What can I say… curiosity got the better of me.

I also blame Lord Sugar, as my fiancée is an Apprentice fan and this week they were set a task of selling beer – how could I not try my own when beer was on the TV.

The Tasting

First off, I forgot to take a photo of the beer. I may add one at some point, but for reasons you are about to find out, that won’t be for a while.

Anyway, I opened my first bottle and was happy to hear the resounding hiss and sizzle as the CO2 escaped to freedom. The beer poured well (straight into the glass in fact) and I was pleased with the colour and head.

It had a nice roasted aroma. The first sip blew away my worries over the potential off flavours – however, this didn’t last long.

First impressions were that the beer had a slight nutty, roasted flavour and finished well with an earthy almost black pepper taste. I was impressed.

But then I got about half way through the pint and started to notice a quite undesirable (but bearable) bitter tang that seemed to be gripping the sides of my tongue.

As the glass emptied this taste became more prominent and started to border on the unpleasant.  So, obviously, I tried another – just to make sure. Again it started well but as the glass was consumed that bitter tang remained.

Time Will Tell

I always had an inkling that the 24 hours spent fermenting at around 26C was going to take its toll on the flavour, so I wasn’t too disappointed – I’d prepared myself for such an outcome.

However, ever the optimist, I’m going to leave the remaining bottles for a month or possibly two to find out if the bitterness will eventually drop and mellow out.

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Extract Brew 2: Whitbread Mackeson Clone

Brewing Beers Like Those You BuyAs I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the first person to inspire me to attempt home brewing was my Granddad. With a plan to spend 2013 (and beyond) expanding my knowledge on brewing beer and at the same time concocting beers from more than just a kit, I was left with the problem of deciding what recipes to try.

It wasn’t until after I completed my first extract brew – a Fuller’s ESB clone that worked out quite well – that the answer occurred to me.

In the copy of David Line’s Brewing Beers Like Those You Buy – which had previously belonged to my Granddad – there are a number of beer recipes highlighted.

So there it was right in front of me, a path to follow – brew the beers that my Granddad made. I’m not doing them in any particular order, if I fancy trying a certain style I will go through the book and dig out a beer he tried.

Its my way of following in his footsteps, tasting the beers he tasted – that sort of thing.

Brew Day #2

Anyway… yesterday (07/04/2013) I brewed a Whitbread Mackeson Clone. One of the main lessons I’ve taken away from the day is that hangovers and brewing are not an ideal match. However, I soldiered through and was fairly happy with the day.


The Recipe


  • Dark Malt Extract
  • Chocolate Malt
  • Soft Dark Brown Sugar The recipe called for this, but poor planning meant I only had brewing sugar to hand – so this was used instead
  • Brewer’s caramel
  • Fuggles Hops
  • Northern Brewer Hops Another substitute, I used Columbus hops in place of these
  • Yeast – I used Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale Yeast

Boil time: 45 minutes (with 5 minute rest at the end)

OG: 1.042 (wort temp was 20.6C)

Anomalies/cock ups: There is some excess barley and/or hops in the fermenting bin. How did this happen? Well, I added the wort chiller into the boiler around 10mins before it was set to end – I have read online that this a way of sanitising it.

However, after I transferred the contents of the boiler to the fermentor – catching the hops and grain in a muslin bag – I plonked in the wort chiller without thinking. It turned out that several piece of brewing debris were clinging onto the chiller and are now in the beer. Live and learn.

What Happens Next

IMG_20130407_165615[1]Once the beer has finished fermenting, I’m planning to bottle it. As much fun as it was drinking 40-odd pints in one weekend last time, the advantages and longer shelf life of bottling a home brew seems the way to go for now – if only as a favour to my liver.


Categories: Extract Brewing | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Choosing Yeast for Ale

I previously mentioned in my last post that I’m working my way through Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation by Chris White & Jamil Zainasheff. It is a great reference and is helping me in understanding how important those tiny wee guys are when it comes to brewing.

As I work my way through the book I am taking notes… and low and behold, here they are:

Choosing Yeast

Before you choose a yeast strain for your fermentation, it is importance that you  know what you are brewing – this may seem like an obvious statement, but it is extremely important. Try answering some of the following questions to help you pin point what you need from your yeast:

  • Is your beer going to be dry and hoppy?
  • Is your beer going to be sweet and malty?
  • Is your beer going to be clean or cloudy?
  • Is your beer going to be high or low in alcohol?

By knowing the answer to these questions you can start to explore the strains available and find one that will provide you with the correct outcome.

When selecting yeast consider what each strain offers in terms of:

  • Attenuation
  • Flavour profile
  • Flocculation (aggregation of yeast into larger clumps)
  • Temperature range productivity

Different Yeast Strains

Saccharomyces Cerevisiae – Ale Yeast to you and me. This is a large group that contains yeast that works for bread, distilling and labs.

Ale yeasts typically ferment quickly, consuming the correct profile of sugar and tolerate levels. It is normally a top fermenting yeast – the foaming head produced in fermentation is perfect for top cropping.

The temperature range in which Ale Yeasts generally produce their best flavours when fermenting is 18-21C

Clean Ale Strains

Popular in the USA. Produces low fruit flavours and fusel alcohol. This strain is good for brewers looking to showcase the flavours of their hops and malt.

The strain is known to produce a trace amount of sulphur when exposed to stressful conditions.

Fruity Ale Strains

Traditionally used in English brewing, but it gaining steady traction in the USA. Produces more interesting flavours and aromas than Clean Ale Yeast strains. The fermentation process is generally quicker as well.

As a general rule, Fruity Ale Strains produce clearer beer, but has been known to leave behind more by-products. The strain is often described as leaving behind hints of honey and citrus.

Hybrid Ale Strains

Typically, this is a strain that ferments at a cooler than average temperature. Produces a clear, almost lager like beer.

Phenolic Ale Strains

Historically used in Belgian ale and German wheat beer. The main characteristic is an increase in phenol – an aromatic compound. This is from the same class of compounds as used in antiseptics and some drinkers describe the flavour (plus aroma) of beers brewed using this yeast strain as medicinal.

Most phenolic beer strains do not flocculate well, leaving behind a cloudiness to the beer – this is something which is often aimed for when brewing a German wheat beer.

Eccentric Ale Strains

This strain is typically any Ale yeast that has not been pigeonholed into any of the previous categories. Again, this strain is most commonly used in Belgian-esque ales. This is due to the fact that it produces some unusual flavour compounds. For example:

  • Earthy
  • Barnyard
  • Sourness

Deals well with extremely high gravity wort.

And… that’s that for this post. Apologies – I sometimes struggle to conclude a post concisely. So yeah. Done.

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Yeast – Much More Than a Microorganism with a Sweet Tooth

I recently started reading Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation by Chris White & Jamil Zainasheff to get a better understanding of Yeast. I had read some basic information in the past, but it wasn’t until I started reading this book that I have began to understand the imperative importance of yeast in the brewing process.

It goes much deeper than just “yeast eats sugar and makes alcohol” which, although a bit dumbed down, was my basic understanding before.

Looking back now at times when I brewed beer from kits, as well as my recent extract brew experience, I didn’t choose in the right way. It was based – I’m afraid to say – on what was cheapest. Don’t worry (I could see the worry on your face) I will no longer use price as a way of choosing a strain in the future.

Anyway, as I have been working my way through the book I have been taking notes, which I’ve decided to put up on this blog as a way to document my growing understanding of these tiny, but hugely vital microorganisms.

Only 55 pages in, but here is what I’ve learned so far.

Very Quick History

Although yeast had been observed in the past – under the microscope around 1680 – it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that Louis Pasteur established that yeast was a living micro-organism  Previous to this, it was believed that yeast was simply a by-product of fermentation. Pasteur experimented for many years with various yeast cultures and sugars to better understand what made it tick. 

One of the 1st breweries to adopt his ideas was Carlsberg. Under Emil Christian Hansen the brewery’s lab managed to isolate the 1st Lager strain of yeast – Saccharomyces uvarum (today known as S. pastorianus).

Due to the fact that Lager yeast has specifically used and therefore well cared for, with the brewers understanding what to expect from it, lager became clearer, more consistent and gained a longer shelf life. Ale production was not as sophisticated with wild yeast and bacteria problems common place. This led to a rise in lager drinking, over Ale.

Very Brief Overview

  • Yeast is a part of the fungus family and is a single cell organism.
  • There are over 500 species of yeast – each with thousands of strains.
  • Yeast coverts sugar into alcohol, CO2 and other compounds that influence the taste and texture of fermented food and drinks.
  • Different strains of yeast produce different flavours and characteristics. Knowing what different strains of yeast produce – in terms of aroma, flavour, etc – goes a long way to producing beer that matches your intended vision.
  • Yeast requires nutrients to improve and/or maintain good health and performance.
  • Temperature control is essential for consistent beer. If there is a problem – and contamination can be ruled out – the majority of the time the issue will be temperature related.
  • There are two main species of yeast favoured for the brewing of beer:
    • S.Cerevisiae (ale yeast)
    • S.Pastorianus (lager yeast)

Next up in the book is the section on how to choose the right yeast for your beer. This is something I’m quite interested in, so once read and digested the information  I’ll no doubt write-up a post about what I learn.

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