Mar 31, 2014

1834 Norwich Porter Review #IHP2014

I brewed this beer on February 25 as part of the International Homebrew Project organised by Velky Al of Fuggled fame. The recipe was for a porter originally brewed back in 1834.

Aroma: starts with cocoa when it's cool but as it warms it brings a fairly strong cherry aroma that verges on Dr Pepper. There's also tobacco, some earthiness, musk, roast and sweet malt. Very inviting.
Appearance: Blacker than black. Slight hint of red on the edges that shows it's very clear even though it's pretty much entirely opaque. Thin but dense head that lingers.
Flavour: very full flavoured! There's a roast flavour that you'd expect from a beer with heaps of black and brown malt but it's balanced with quite a significant amount of hop flavour, a mix of tobacco, herbal and something else, woody is the adjective I have but it doesn't quite do the job. There's also a malty sweetness that manages to avoid being too cloying. There's also a decent bitterness there but it isn't oppressive at all.
Mouthfeel: the carbonation is intentionally fairly low and it works well for this beer. I'd probably be reasonably happy drinking this one without any carbonation at all. Very full, smooth body. Some dryness from tannins and lingering bitterness in the back but nothing too crazy.

People in the 1830s had some delicious beer
to drink

To me porter is one of those tricky styles; easy to brew a solid version but really hard to brew something memorable. I think it's often that they lack nuance and depth. That makes this beer all the more impressive because it's crazy delicious and complex! I'd love it if a local brewery produced this regularly - I'd be a happy customer. They really knew what they were doing back in the 1830s, at least when it came to brewing porter. I've got a bunch of other recipes from Shut Up About Barclay Perkins and this has inspired me to keep working through the list.

Just about every part of this beer has been turned up to 11 and yet somehow the result is balanced. The epic level of bitterness is there but so is a balancing body and sweetness, the aroma is huge and the crazy amount of black and brown malt manages to sit alongside and complement the hop flavour. Even better, at only 5.6% it's a pretty extreme beer that remains easily drinkable and doesn't do too much damage. With the nights lengthening and the cold of winter approaching it's going to be nice to have some of this to keep me going.

I didn't quite hit the target OG of 1.066 and FG of 1.022 but it wasn't too far off with 1.065 and 1.023. The huge body that comes from the residual sugars means that the crazy 82ish IBUs isn't an overwhelming, mouth destroying bitterness but merely a pretty hefty but balanced addition to the beer. I suspect that if others brewed the beer and achieved a higher level of attenuation the beer would take quite a while to age into the high hop levels. I used WY1028 because it was the English yeast I had on hand and as far as I can tell it worked superbly but I'm interested in what other people used. I was a bit worried that it would attenuate the beer too much but in the end it only achieved 63.2% apparent attenuation rather than the 73-77% advertised - I guess that's what mashing at 69C gets you.

Given the differences between the ingredients then and now - Maris Otter is a new variety of barley, Fuggles a newer hop variety than this recipe, brown malt is a different beast today and hops are dried quickly and stored cold - it's hard to know how much this beer has in common with the original version. The history nerd in me would like to try a truly authentic version but the drinker in me is very happy with the version in my glass.

Next time: I'm not sure if any changes are actually necessary. I would be interested to try a couple of different strains of yeast and maybe East Kent Goldings but that's really just to see what happens rather than because anything needs to be different.

Thanks Velky Al for arranging this project! Consider me locked in for next year's brew whatever it will be. It's been fun to be part of things and I'm looking forward to reading about how everyone else went with theirs.

Mar 30, 2014

Brewday: Playoffs Rye IPA take 4

First hop addition, 60 of 340g
A disproportionate number of my brews are American IPAs and Pale Ales - 22 out of my last 67 brews. I love a wide range of styles but it's harder to get a good, fresh IPA than most other things so I need to brew these more often to get my fix. One thing I don't think many people, even plenty of beer geeks, grasp properly is just how quickly beer deteriorates, hoppy beer in particular. Freshness is hugely important for most styles of beer. For a bit of an insight into what I mean, Literature and Libation has a great writeup of the experience of tasting the same IPA at 5 days and 90 days old.

The huge distance that most beer has to travel is something we have working against us in Australia. Our population is so spread out that beers have to travel a long way before they get to the majority of consumers. I've had way too many IPAs and pale ales with little to no discernible hop aroma. A bottle might be a month within its best before date but still be long past its actual best. In my dream world everyone has at least one brewpub within walking distance of their house and the beer is always fresh.

In this respect home brewers have a serious advantage over other craft beer consumers. No one gets to drink beer that's more fresh. For brewers who can brew to a decent standard, that means that the beer in their own homes is often better than the majority of commercially available beer. Avoiding the travelling distance and having control over storage makes a particularly big difference for IPAs and other modern hoppy beers. You're also always aware of how old the beer itself is and how soon it needs to be consumed.

All that is really just to say I'm excited about brewing my Playoffs IPA again and having some fresh IPA action. It should be ready just in time for this year's NBA playoffs which are looking like they'll be fun, especially in the West. This is my 4th crack at this particular beer. The first one I loved, the second I had a couple of enforced changes and was disappointed, the third was in late 2013 and was just ok. It suffered due to my rushed production and the aroma was not impressive. It was there but the current batch of Columbus is more potent than what I was using back in 2012 so it dominated in a way that wasn't what I was after and the overall aroma and flavour was a bit muddled and didn't 'pop' like it should have. This time I decided to make some changes to my process and the recipe to hopefully improve things.

Probably the biggest change is with the hops because I felt like going with something different this time. I may return to the original hop varieties eventually but this time I wanted to make use of the opportunity to try new combinations. I've switched out the Amarillo and Columbus of the original recipe and added in Centennial and Ahtanum. The ratios are a bit different as well, I've gone for 2:1:1 Centennial:Citra:Ahtanum throughout and added an extra dose of hops for a 50 minute sub-80C steep. The aroma as I transferred the wort into the fermenter fully justified the decision - it was incredible.

One of the pieces of feedback I received last time around was that the rye that was advertised didn't really come through so I've increased it to 20% of the grist compared to the original 14%. I also went with the Joe White Traditional Ale malt that I used originally instead of the pilsner malt of my last attempt. It was partly a decision to increase the colour and partly to avoid burning through my pilsner malt before I can get a re-up through a bulk buy.

The process changes are relatively small but will hopefully improve the finished product a little. I've been reading a bit about mash and post fermentation pH and it seems that a lower pH will help the hops to come across with more clarity. With that in mind I've aimed for a mash pH of 5.3 rather than the normal 5.45 I've usually been after. All this is theoretical though since I'm working with estimates off a spreadsheet rather than actual pH readings. All I can say for sure is that the pH is lower this time than when I've brewed it before. I'm considering buying a pH meter so I've got a better idea of what's going on with my mash and post fermentation pH levels.

I've also decided to start experimenting a bit with chloride:sulphate ratios. My normal practice with hoppy beers is to add a decent amount calcium sulphate and a small amount of calcium chloride. This time I'm keeping the sulphate addition in my normal range but I'm pushing the chloride a bit higher to see how it alters my perception of the beer. It's just something I haven't really experimented with at all up to this point and I've been wondering about it so I thought I'd make the change.

So with all that decision making out of the way, the brew itself should have been pretty straight forward but I ran into a couple of problems. The big one was that when I emptied my urn I found that part of the element had blackened. I've had that happen once before and that beer had rye in it as well so I'm guessing that's something to watch out for when using that grain. Fortunately the wort itself smelled and tasted great so I'm hoping that I got away with nothing more than a fair bit of scrubbing to remove the cooked on stuff. The other problem was small but annoying. I missed my gravity target even though I already aimed lower than normal in my recipe design (75% instead of my normal 80%). 1.061 instead of 1.062 isn't a big deal but poor efficiency was the reason I stopped using Joe White malt in the past and this result isn't a strong motivator for me to buy more. I think I need to alter the extract potential in my brewing software to compensate for that because it's obviously yielding less than its specs say. Those problems aside, the aroma of the wort was fantastic and if the finished beer has a similar character I'll be very happy.

Sad burnt on element
Playoffs Rye IPA #4 (20L batch)
OG: 1.062 (1.061 measured)
FG: 1.012
IBU: 66
EBC: 15.5
ABV: 6.7%

76% Pilsner malt
20% Rye malt
4% Caramunich II

2.5g/l Aramis @ 60 min (41 IBU)
2g/l Centennial @ 0 minutes (for a 20 minute steep) (13 IBU)
1g/l Citra @ 0 minutes (for a 20 minute steep) (8 IBU)
1g/l Ahtanum @ 0 minutes (for a 20 minute steep) (3 IBU)
2g/l Centennial @ < 80C for a 50 minute steep
1g/l Citra @ < 80C for a 50 minute steep
1g/l Ahtanum < 80C for a 50 minute steep
3g/l Centennial @ dry hop
1.5g/l Citra @ dry hop
1.5g/l Ahtanum @ dry hop


  • Added 10g CaSO4, 5g CaCl2, 2g MgSO4 to increase calcium and sulphate levels
  • 4ml lactic acid for pH correction
  • Stepped mash: 62C (45 minutes), 72C (15 minutes) and a 78C mash out

  • 90 minute boil
  • 60g Aramis @ 60 minutes
  • 1/2 tab of whirlfloc @ 10 minutes
  • 40g Centennial @ 0 minutes
  • 20g Citra @ 0 minutes
  • 20g Ahtanum @ 0 minutes
  • 20 minute hop stand after flame out
  • Chilled to < 80C, added 20g each of Citra and Ahtanum and 40g Centennial for a 50 minute steep

  • Oxygenated for 90 seconds
  • Began fermentation at 18C, I plan to increase it to 20C by the end of fermentation
  • I'll cold crash and add dry hops once fermentation is complete

Mar 22, 2014

Tasting: Hansard's Delight Red IPA

Hansard's Delight was brewed with and for my mate Luke on January 4. It was inspired by Little Creatures' limited run brew called Shepherd's Delight.

The label I made for Luke's embarrassment

Aroma: Pine, sweet fruit, juicy, flowers. Bready malt. Some toffee and roast that complements the hops.
Appearance: Fairly dark but clear, deep red heading towards black. Red highlights. Thick, sticky and slightly off white head.
Flavour: Generous hop flavour, plenty of juicy berry flavours which mingle nicely with the malt. Some herbal flavours going on in there as well. Clean finish. Fairly restrained bitterness. A little bit much sweetness, possibly too much malt.
Mouthfeel: fuller mouthfeel than I'm looking for in an IPA, good low-medium carbonation level, no astringency.

Red like it says on the box

I don't know why it is but Red IPAs or their equivalents seem to be so hot right now in Australia, or at least so hot last year. Two of the best IPA style beers I had last year were Mountain Goat's Fancy Pants Amber Ale and Monster Mash's Hopped Out Red. They were probably the freshest commercial IPAs I've had and I'd love to get my hands on them again. Little Creatures' Shepherd's Delight was also a good showing in the genre although it wasn't quite up to the standards of the first two.

When I was planning the recipe I was uncertain about whether I'd get the red colour I was after and whether the hops would achieve what I wanted, a combination of light fruitiness with a bit of extra bite. Fortunately both those aspects of the beer ended up pretty much exactly as I intended which was a nice confidence boost. It's very approachable with a good, refined hop presence for a first pass at the recipe. As I've mentioned before, getting better at crafting recipes is one of my priorities for this year. It's pleasing to get one close to spot on with the first try. That said, I've got ideas for how to improve it.

If I was only going to make one change, I'd probably turn the malt down a bit. It's nice but there's a bit much malt flavour and at times it can feel a bit overwhelming. Blending the Golden Promise 50:50 with Australian pale malt or something like that. I think I'd also enjoy it a bit more if it was a little more dry, at the least it'd be more drinkable. If I was being really picky about it I think I'd also lighten the colour a little bit and perhaps fiddle with the ratio of Columbus and Centennial in the dry hopping stage. That sounds like a lot of changes but they're still keeping the beer fundamentally the same. The changes are all tweaks to wring the most out of what's already there rather than change too much about it.

Next time: Reduce the malt flavour a bit by shifting to a 50:50 Golden Promise:Australian pale malt blend, dry it out a bit more, slightly lower the Columbus and increase the Centennial in the dry hopping. I'd probably also make it a touch lighter in colour.

Mar 20, 2014

Sneaky Extra Brewday: Galaxy Wet Hopped IPA

Most of the gang
Yesterday we had the first meeting of our new home brew club, Hobart Brewers. There were 24 people present and several more who couldn't make it but are planning on coming along in the future. That's a pretty good start! We had a fun evening planning, talking about some fun stuff we'll be able to do as a club and enjoying a few beers. It seems like we're all pretty much wanting the same kinds of things out of the club - enthusing with other brewers, learning more about the craft and evaluating beer. I can't wait for the next meeting.

On top of that, at the end of the meeting we had a 20kg bag of fresh picked Galaxy hops to divvy up thanks to Owen Johnston and Hop Products Australia. The smell in the room was incredible and standing around stuffing bags with hops was a fun way to finish things off. We live in a great place to have a home brew club!
Duncan with his head in the bag while John
waits to see if he passes out in the hop fumes
I managed to come away with the leftovers after everyone had their fill and ended up with somewhere around 3kg of fresh hops. Today's task was to brewed a beer to make use of as much of that 3kg as I could.

After the meeting I didn't have enough energy to brew an all grain batch so I went with a simple extract recipe similar to Huw's Magical Mystery IPA. The whole brewday was a bit of a free kick as I had no real plans and a pile of Galaxy to play with. It's the first time in my brewing adventures where not wasting hops meant using as many as possible! If only every day was like this.

Since I had way more hops than I could use I decided to avoid adding them to the boil completely and gain all the bitterness I wanted from a flame out addition. From what I've read wet hops are worth 1/5 of the same weight of dried hops so assuming the alpha acids would be similar to last year's 13.9%, I aimed to add enough at flame out to get into the 60-65 IBU range. I normally calculate a 20-25 minute hop stand as a 10 minute addition so with a 25 minute hop stand I figured 750g of Galaxy (equivalent to 150g of dried) would be worth roughly 60-65 IBU. After the 25 minute stand I chilled for a couple of minutes to get the temperature of the wort down to 80C and added more hops. It was going to be a matching 750g but when I was shovelling the hops into the box I thought 'why stop there?' and brought it up to 1.5kg of hops. I'm not going to be dry hopping this one as the remaining hops will have deteriorated too much by then so I figure over the top is the way to go with the hop stand.
It's hard to stop smiling when you're pouring
1.5kg of hops into a 20L batch of beer

It was a relaxing brew that didn't require much energy or attention beyond inhaling deep breaths of fruity, dank hop goodness and grinning stupidly. It was so much fun to be extravagant and over the top with the hopping. My kitchen smelled heaps like Sierra Nevada's Southern Harvest turned up to 11. If the end product is in that ballpark I'll be very happy.

I don't have any room in my fermentation fridges so this one got packed up in the car and driven to my brother's place where it'll have an entire chest freezer in which to luxuriate. Extra fermentation space, that's what brothers are for.

Hopefully we'll get to sample a bunch of the fresh Galaxy creations in the next club meeting. I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else does with their hops!

Galaxy Fresh Hop IPA (20L extract batch)

Jiggling the chiller to get all the hops into
the wort.
OG: 1.065
FG: 1.012
IBU: 60-65 (estimated)
EBC: 17 (estimated)
ABV: 6.9%

89.5% Light dried malt extract
5.5% NFH Crackerjack biscuit malt
5% Dextrose

750g Fresh Galaxy hops @ 0 minutes (30 minute steep)
1.5kg fresh Galaxy hops added @ < 80C (50 minute steep)


  • 60 minute boil
  • 1/2 tab of whirlfloc @ 10 minutes
  • 750g Galaxy @ 0 minutes, steeped for 30 minutes

  • It's not very clear but all those little specks
     are bits of lupulin emerging from the cones
  • 1.5kg Galaxy @ < 80C, steeped for 50 minutes

  • Oxygenated for 90 seconds
  • Pitched 21g of US-05
  • Started fermentation @ 18C

20/03/14 - Brewed

Mar 15, 2014

Brewday: De La Tas (a hoppy Belgian pale ale)

One of my recent arrivals from Belgium
It's been a bit quiet around here this week. I've got a few other things going on including working on the plans for the home brew club and at this stage that means taking energy from blogging. There are tastings, reflections and a couple of other things to post about so hopefully in the next week or two I'll manage to get things flowing nicely again.

Today's brew is inspired by De La Senne's Taras Boulba, a hoppy, 4.5% ABV Belgian pale ale. Hoppy Belgian beers are pretty glorious; De Ranke's XX Bitter is one of my all time favourite beers (Actually, all the De Ranke beers I've had have been impressive). There's something about the interplay between the bitterness and the Belgian yeast character that totally does it for me.

Having said that, I haven't been super impressed with many of the Belgian IPAs I've tried. To my mind the most successful hoppy Belgian beers could be considered the Belgian cousins of the English pale ale. Belgian IPAs are generally based on the American IPA and they can be very hit and miss but the ones that are more like a bitter/English IPA seem to work far more often. I think it's because American/NZ/Australian hops in large quantities tend to overwhelm the yeast character and that ends up defeating the purpose of the beer. I also think floral and spicy flavours tend to be better companions to these kinds of beers than the fruit, pine or dank hops although Styrian Goldings and First Gold are exceptions to that rule. Although I didn't intend it when I was designing the recipe, the numbers for this beer happen to fit a best bitter much more closely than a Belgian pale ale. I feel like there's plenty of fun to be had exploring hoppy Belgians within the English pale ale paradigm.

The Hallertau Hersbruker and Topaz hop combination I've chosen for this one is a little odd and I'm not 100% sure how it'll turn out. My thinking was to use a decent whack of Hersbrucker for its floral and spicy goodness and use a smaller amount of the locally grown Topaz alongside it to provide a light lychee highlight. With its ridiculously high 17.8% aa, I decided to keep the hops to a post flame out steep to avoid overdoing things. There are also plans for dry hopping depending on how it tastes post fermentation. I've bought a couple of 10L jerry cans to use as fermenters so I can do split batches with different yeast strains or different dry hops so I might try hopping 1/2 of the batch with my home grown Hallertau. Another time I'd like to try a version with East Kent Goldings and First Gold or Styrian Goldings. I'd also like to try it with Saaz as a solo hop because that's what I'd guess Taras Boulba uses and because everything is better with Saaz.

The grain bill is primarily Belgian pilsner malt and has a small amount (5%) of Caraamber for a little extra depth. I'd also consider using some wheat and munich malt instead of the Caraamber another time. It doesn't need to do too much, just tie the yeast and hops together, and I think it'll do the job nicely.

For yeast I went with the old faithful, WLP530, the Westmalle strain. I like it because it's not too crazy but still has some character. With the bitterness and aroma turned up a bit, I want to be able to tell it's using a Belgian yeast but not be assaulted by it. I'll start fermentation off at the low end for the same reason.

The actual brewing was nice and relaxed. I'm recovered enough physically to be able to manage to brew without too many problems. Happy days are here again.

My 2 new 10L fermenters. If I was properly
organised I'd have used a different strain
of yeast in each one.
De La Tas (Hoppy Belgian Pale Ale) (18L batch)
OG: 1.044 (measured)
FG: 1.010
IBU: 33
EBC: 8
ABV: 4.5%

95% Dingeman Pils Malt
5% Weyermann Caraamber

7g Aramis @ 60 minutes
50g Hallertau Hersbrucker @ 0 min
25g Topaz @ 0 min
40g Hallertau Hersbrucker @ dry hop
20g Topaz @ dry hop


  • 8g CaSO4, 5g CaCl2, 2g MgSO4  to raise the calcium and sulphate level
  • 2ml lactic acid for pH correction
  • Stepped mash: 65C (45 minutes), 72C (15 minutes) and a mash out at 78C.

  • 90 minute boil
  • 7g Aramis @ 60 min
  • 1/2 tablet of whirlfloc @ 10 minutes
  • 50g Hersbrucker @ 0 minutes
  • 25g Topaz @ 0 minutes
  • 20 minute hop stand before chilling

  • Oxygenated after chilling for 60 seconds (30 seconds each fermenter)
  • Pitched an estimated 150 billion cells of WLP530
  • Began fermentation 17C, planning to increase to 20C over the course of the week

15/03/14 - Brewed

Mar 7, 2014

Brewday: Tmavý Ležák (Czech dark lager)

Tmavý Ležák is pretty straight forward. The name denotes a dark lager with a 1.040-48 OG. This one clocks in at a lean 1.044 and has one of my favourite things: a hefty addition of Saaz. I'm a sucker for low gravity beers, both in the drinking and the challenge of brewing them well. By the look of it this one's going to be a pretty full flavoured little beast. The only problem for me is that it usually requires a decoction mash but I don't have the setup for that yet so I've had to make do with my normal stepped mash.

It doesn't exactly fit into the BJCP style guidelines. It's probably closest to a Schwarzbier although it's a Czech take on the same kind of concept and has differences that make it a distinct thing. It's a bit lower in alcohol and higher in bitterness than it's German counterpart, often more malty and roasty and uses Czech instead of German hops. There are versions that are a size up and a size down from this one, more or less the same but 1.052-56 and 1.032-40 respectively. If this one goes well I might brew the size down (called Tmavé Výčepní) soon after. I love the idea of a version that clocks in around 3.5% ABV. As is usual when it comes to all things obscure and delightful in the beer world, Ron Pattinson has a site with descriptions of the whole range of Czech beer styles.

It's spent a long time on my list of beers I'd like to brew next list, a list my enthusiasm struggles to keep below 25, so I'm glad it's finally in the game now. I originally pinched the recipe from the Asheville Brewer blog and made some small modifications. Velky Al's input on a thread on the ratebeer forum gives a good starting point for thinking about the recipe:
From my research, the four basic malts of a tmave are:
  • Pilsner malt
  • Munich malt
  • Caramel malt - Czech maltsters generally have a light (100-130EBC) or dark caramel malt (180-220)
  • Coloured malt - a Czech term for black malt essentially, usually about 1200-1300EBC
Even with the term "pilsner" malt we need to remember that Czech malts are generally under modified.
My youngest brother Ben is visiting from Sweden at the moment and he came around today to brew with me. We brewed together last year on a previous visit and he's been brewing in his apartment in Stockholm since then so it was been great to hang, talk beer and brew together. In addition to brewing this beer, we also bottled the Bohemian Pilsner I brewed back in January. From the fermenter it was tasting delicious - clean and crisp with a firm bitterness and some lovely Saaz highlights in flavour and aroma.

Tmavý Ležák (20L batch)
OG: 1.044 (1.043 measured)
FG: 1.012
IBU: 35
ABV: 4.3%
EBC: 47

48.5% Weyermann Bohemian Pilsner
40% Best Malz Munich
6.5% Weyermann Carafa Special III
5% Weyermann Caramunich II

90g Saaz @ FWH


  • 3g CaSO4, 4g CaCl2 to get calcium up to minimum levels
  • Stepped mash: 64 (20 min), 68 (20 min), 72 (20 min) and a 78C mash out

  • FWH added at mash out
  • 90 minute boil
  • Whirlfloc @ 10 min

  • 90 seconds of oxygen
  • Pitched an estimated 350 billion cells of yeast from the slurry of the Bohemian Pilsner we just bottled
  • Begin fermentation @ 9C for a few days, increase by 0.5C each day over the following 7 days
  • Diacetyl rest @ 18C for a couple of days
  • Crash to 0C over a couple of days and lager for ~5-6 weeks

07/03/14 - Brewed with Ben

17/03/14 - Fermentation looks to be finished at 1.013. Raised to 17C for a diacetyl rest although the sample I took is tasting freaking amazing, all cocoa and weetbix and out of control smooth. No sign of diacetyl or sulphur so I'll probably start lagering tomorrow. It seems like the 2nd generation of the WY2000 has worked quicker and even more cleanly than the first gen. Very happy with how it's going so far.

Mar 5, 2014

Tasting: Dave's IPA (aka Huw's Magical Mystery IPA)

Huw's been a regular brewing assistant over the last 4 months or so. Without him, I would never have been able to get the wedding and birthday beers done. After all his brewing experience over the last few months he's kicked off on his own and brewed his first solo beer, an extract and specialty grains IPA.

Aroma: Pine, lychee, passionfruit and pineapple.
Appearance: Pale gold, good, sticky white head and a decent amount of haze that seems to be partly from yeast and I'm guessing some from the dry hopping.
Flavour: The hop assault hits first, fruit and pine and some spicy hop business. That's followed by a restrained light cracker flavour from the malt and finishing with a bitterness that lets you know you're drinking an IPA. Not much sweetness, it's nice and crisp. The flavours work very nicely together.
Mouthfeel: Mouthfeel on the light side, carbonation not too effervescent, the absence of most of the malt makes it feel lighter even though the actual FG is 1.015.

Wow! What a first effort! It took me ages to brew a beer this good and Huw's managed it on his first go. He's managed to brew it well, ferment it cleanly and has produced a crisp, drinkable IPA with a range of flavours that cohere nicely. I'd never have guessed it's an extract brew if I didn't already know.

It's good to see Ella and Galaxy working nicely in combination. One of my goals this year was to get to know our locally grown hops better and this is a good start. There's some of the characteristic Galaxy passionfruit and a slight dankness but it's not overwhelming Ella at all. There's a pine quality which is the dominant part of the the aroma

As an IPA it's pretty much just what I like. The malt is taking a back seat and the hops are doing their job well. It doesn't have that hop sweetness that can be a problem for some fruity IPAs, it just finishes crisply with a nice bitterness. It's not what many people would describe as balanced but the balance is just what I like in an IPA.

Next time: There isn't much to be picky about with this beer. I guess working on the clarity would be one thing. If I was going to change anything I'd probably increase the dry hop rate to the same as the flame out addition to give the aroma a little more pop.

For reference, the recipe:

Huw's Magical Mystery IPA (23L batch)
OG: 1.061
FG: 1.011 (1.015 measured)
IBU: 54
EBC: 9
ABV: 6.7% (6.1% measured)

90% light dried malt extract
4% NFH Crackerjack (biscuit malt)
6% corn sugar

23 IBU of Aramis @ 60 min (any clean bittering hop is fine)
2.1g/L of Galaxy @ flame out (16 IBUs with a 20 minute hop stand)
2.1g/L of Ella @ flame out (15 IBUs with a 20 minute hop stand)
1.3g/L of Galaxy @ dry hop
1.3g/L of Ella @ dry hop

US-05 yeast

Mar 2, 2014

The best money I ever spent on home brew equipment

Home brewers are attracted to all kinds of shiny stainless steel toys. We're like magpies or something. For all that shiny bling, the reality is that the best money I've spent is not on stainless steel but on things that make yeast happy. Good yeast management has been the key to improving my beer. If I lost everything else but still had this stuff, I could be up and brewing great beer again for less than the cost of a carton.

1. Temp controller for my fermentation fridge - $20

These babies are brilliant. They're such a cheap and easy way to keep the fermentation humming along at the temperature you want rather than being at the mercy of ambient temperatures. It takes a little wiring to get it set up but it's not too difficult. I scored the fridge I use for free so this is the winner of the biggest and cheapest improvement I've made to my beer.

2. Erlenmeyer flasks & stir plate - $80-100

I made the stir plate and bought 4 x 250ml flasks and 2 x 2000ml flasks along with several stir bars. That's enough to grow up yeast to keep up with my regular brewing schedule and keep several samples ready to be stepped up. It's a little bit of mucking around but with the help of a good yeast calculator it improved the consistency of my beer.

3. Oxygenation - $95

For some reason I found this one the most difficult to justify. It took me roughly a year of dithering about it before I finally pulled the trigger. Now I wish I'd done it immediately. I've used it for 12 batches so far and the slight off flavour I had with at least 1/2 my brews has disappeared. The rough routine I've worked out is to oxygenate for 60 seconds for gravities up to 1.060, 90 seconds for gravities between 1.060 and 1.075 and 120 seconds for lagers and beers over 1.075. In some ways this is the most satisfying improvement I've made to my beer. That niggling off flavour was annoying me and it seems to have been the final piece of the puzzle in terms of refining my brewing process.

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