Clearing your beer – the gelatine effect

There has been a lot of talk at my home brew club recently about clearing your beer. Should you or shouldn’t you, how do you do it, does it affect flavour etc. So I thought we’d have a wee experiment to see. I’ve got a batch of Amber Ale in the fermenter just now and I know from previous brews that this beer doesn’t clear very well naturally, so I thought it would be the perfect candidate to have a wee test with.

Now I’ll get this out the way before people start bumping their gums.

You do not need to clear your beer, hazy beer is fine and will not do you any harm. Some people think hazy beer tastes better, some think clear beer tastes better. It’s all about personal taste, however it’s also nice to sometimes serve a nice clear beer and feel smug about how pretty is it to the beholder. There, preachy bit done.

Firstly why gelatine?

Well there are different ways to force clarify your beer, I say force because most times your home brewed beer will clear over time, however if you are too impatient or don’t have time – gelatine is just one of the simplest and it’s quite quick so I thought I’d use it for this example. It’s really effective at dropping yeast out of solution and importantly all the haze-forming particulates.

Hints and Tips

If you add your gelatine to the keg rather than the fermenter, you’ll have to pour off the first very cloudy pint before the beer clears up. Gelatine literally drops all the nasties down to the bottom of the keg where the dip-tube pulls the beer from, that yuk will be the first thing pulled from the keg. After a pint or two, it’ll be gorgeous.

If you had it to the fermenter then you have to be careful not to pull that stuff up the siphon when you rack your beer.

How do you?

So as I said  you can fine with gelatin in either a fermenter, or in the keg. I go with the fermenter simply cause I don’t want the faff of the gloop yuk in my keg, this way I can leave it behind as I rack to the keg and get clear beer from my first pour.

However, no matter which way you choose, you want the beer to be cold, and I mean COLD. The colder the beer is, the more haze-forming particulate will form. The more haze-forming particulate that forms, the more particulate the gelatine can fine out.

Ok so you’ve got your beer cold as a cold thing, lets go through step by step of what to do next:

  1. Get a microwave-safe cup and measure out 150-200ml of cold water.
  2. Add a teaspoon of gelatine and stir. I like using my thermometer probe cause I’m going to be using that to check temperature anyway.
  3. Put the mixture in the microwave, and heat it 15-30 seconds at a time, stopping to stir and check the temperature. The gelatine will begin to dissolve as the solution heats.
  4. The goal is to heat the gelatin to 65C, but not much over. All we are doing is pasteurising the solution, not trying to make jam.
  5. Give the mixture one last stir and pour it straight into your cold beer. Very gently stir the fermenter or keg with a sanitised spoon, and return it to your fridge for at least 48 hours then keg making sure to leave the yucky stuff at the bottom.



Ok so the point of this was to see how clear a problem beer would get with the use of gelatine. I followed the steps above and after 4 days (with the beer still in the fridge) I kegged it trying to leave behind the gelatine and trub.

The beer has only been sitting carbonating for a few days and this is the first glass I’ve poured from the keg.

Can’t wait till it’s properly carbonated.

Red Hop Lover Amber Ale



Brew Barrel – reviewing a beer kit

Something a little bit different for you. I’ve been sent a Brew Barrel beer kit to review here’s a wee video where I test out how simple the kit is to use and next week I’ll add another video of my review of the actual beer.

For those of you who are unable to watch the video, I’ve added my written review underneath.


Brew Barrel: My review

brew-barrel-beer-kitBrew barrel is a beginners level beer kit allowing people with no or very little experience to brew a beer at home. Basically it’s dehydrated beer, just add water and stir. So if you can make a cup of tea, you can make beer using a beer kit.

There are two differences with this kit though;

  1.  that they claim your beer will be ready to drink in just 7 days. That’s a big claim as a normal beer can take from 4 weeks upwards to be ready to drink,
  2.  you make and serve everything in one vessel, no need for separate fermenting buckets or bottles so it doesn’t take up a lot of space. Unfortunately it’s a mini kegs which only holds five litres so at around £33 for this kit (including delivery), it’s quite expensive per pint for homebrew.

So what was it like to use?

Well I have to say, pretty easy. The instructions are really well written and illustrated making them easy to follow. Given that it’s a beginner kit, this also means you aren’t having to get to grips with proper ingredients, there is a bottle of ready-made liquid extract in the box and some little bottles of hop extract/oil for flavour.

For me, I was a bit disappointed at the lack of options, but I’m someone who already brews and  is used to being able to completely control my beers. I found it frustrating that there was no real detail of what you were buying. I got a pale ale, but don’t know if it’s a British or American version, also no idea what the bitterness level is or even what the alcohol percentage of the beer should be.

Looking at this through the eyes of a beginner though (which is their aim), I guess its a bout keeping things simple and taking away anything which could be seen as difficult or technical which might scare people off.

I did find a couple of things difficult, opening the little bottles of hop oil was a bit fiddly, they all had child proof caps and everyone knows adults can’t open child proof caps. Also trying to push the barrel bung/vent into place was really hard but apart from that, really simple. You simple pour the liquid malt extract into the mini keg, top it up with specified amounts of hot and cold water, then add the yeast and hop oils and that’s it. Leave it for a week and bob’s your uncle.

I guess the big test will be next week when we taste the beer, so pop back then to see a full review.


Homebrew competitions: what am I entering?

Just a quick blog post today.  The first of the homebrew competitions that I submit beers to, takes place at the end of January and I’ve just put my beers in to crash chill. The best thing about these competitions is that they are a fantastic way to get great, unbiased feedback about your brewing to help you really perfect your recipe and technique. Sometimes you are really surprised about the feedback; beers you thought were great don’t score well with the judges and beers you weren’t impressed with do. You can never tell. Last year my bitter won a silver medal which blew me away as I really was not impressed at all with it and gave all of it away.

I have been brewing diligently since September and they haven’t all gone to plan but there’s at least one that I’m really pleased with.  I’ve brewed beers for the following categories;

  • Bitter
  • English IPA
  • American Pale Ale
  • American IPA
  • 80 Shilling

There are a couple in there which I’ve never brewed before; 80 shilling and English IPA so that was a bit of an adventure and I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the English IPA. I’m not normally a massive fan of English beers (preferring the big hoppy American beers) but I really love this one and so I’m hoping good feedback will help me to improve it and make it an even better beer for us to drink in the garden this summer. It’s quite light and refreshing and has a really nice balance of hops.

The competition is at the end of the month so check back and I’ll update you a little bit about what it’s like to have beers submitted in a competition and what kind of feedback I get from the judges.





The road to ruin – in pursuit of that perfect pumpkin ale

IMAG2365_1 When the weather turns and it’s dark, cold and wet, my thoughts immediately turn to homebrew for the season. With Halloween and Thanksgiving with friends followed by Christmas, I want a deep, rich beer that reflects the weather outside. Usually this means turning to our Autumn staple of Pumpkin Beer. But there is a split in the camp about what makes the perfect Pumpkin beer.

For me, last years recipe, Stingy Jack was my favourite pumpkin beer from all our batches. It’s was a glorious deep red colour, had hints of toffee apple and just enough spice to kick you in the backside and toast your cockles. For my friend Luke (who hosts Thanksgiving, the reason we make the pumpkin ale) his favourite is our Cinderella’s Ruin recipe. A much sweeter, fuller bodied brown ale which has a much more subtle spicing regime.

So what’s the trick, which is a good pumpkin beer? Well either really, it’s about personal taste, but one thing that’s for sure it all has to start with a good, strong, malt backbone.

Giving your beer some backbone

Any good beer always starts life with a good base recipe. Pumpkin beers are no different. You can load it up with pumpkin and spices but it’s not going to fix a mediocre beer, it will however, if done well, accentuate a good beer. Recipe wise, I’m a fan of the traditional amber beer. I just think if has the right amount of sweetness, the right body to be a satisfying beer on a cold night and of course the colour is everything about crap weather that is good. It’s the beautiful colour of the leaves changing on the trees, the crackling fire in the grate on a cold night and the warmth we all look for when you come home from work with cold rain drops trickling down the back of your neck.

You don’t have to go along with my preferences though, you can have your pumpkin beer made from a stout recipe, which I have done or even a pale beer but there are a couple of things to think about before you decide.


Pumpkin is a really subtle flavour and it’s very easy to lose it in a beer that’s full of hops, especially big American hops. So pick a base recipe where the malt is a key feature and tone down any hop additions to be little more than a way to combat the sweetness.

Pumpkin, whole or puree

So you’ve decided on your base beer style but you’re not done yet. There are some choices to be made about adding your pumpkin. I always add the pumpkin to my mash, I haven’t tried adding it to the boil but I figure that pumpkins are full of sugars so adding it to the mash and letting the enzymes work is a good thing. I also always roast my pumpkin before adding it. I can’t imagine adding raw pumpkin will give you those lovely roasty flavours we’re after but I’m pretty sure that raw pumpkin will add unwanted vegetative flavours.

But, do you add chunks of pumpkin or do you add purée?

Murky beer
Murky beer

Well I’ve tried both and adding chunks of whole, roasted pumpkin to the mash is my favourite way to do it. I just feel like although puréed tinned pumpkin is a time saver, I don’t like how it disappears into the mash and I can never get beer to clear if I’ve used pumpkin purée, meaning you get a murky beer which is less than appealing. Chunks also mean you are not so worried about causing a stuck mash and I may be wrong but I think you get more recognisable, roasted pumpkin flavour from whole pumpkin. I may be wrong but just my opinion.

Shhh it’s a secret.

Now this bit is a secret, so shhhh. Just between you and me, ok? No telling anyone. Although I keep talking about pumpkin beer, pumpkins aren’t known for their fantastic culinary flavour. Gourds however as a group give you some amazing options and I admit to doing a little experiment a couple of years ago and using butternut squash instead of pumpkin. That year I got a lot of comments about how the pumpkin flavour was much better in that beer 🙂



The amount of spices you add to your beer is personal taste, but be careful, if you overdo it you risk overpowering your beer and wasting all that effort you went to, to make sure your beer had the right base recipe.

Also when do you add the spices? I prefer to add them to the keg rather than in fermentation. I just feel you get a better flavour although remember that like hops, spices will mellow over time so don’t panic if your first taste slaps you in the face. It will mellow.

I add two teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice mix to an 18 litre corny keg and I’ve found this is enough. I wouldn’t go any higher than that.

So armed with all that knowledge… here’s my favourite version of my pumpkin beer recipe.

Stingy Jack

IMAG2646_1Batch Size: 18 litres
Color: 30 EBC
Bitterness: 25  IBUs
Boil Time: 60 min
Mash: 66C for 60 mins (roasted pumpkin goes in the mash)
ABV: 4.8%

2kg Pale Malt
300g Crystal Malt – 40L
200g Crystal Malt – 60L
1.5kg Munich Malt
50g Black (Patent) Malt
40g Goldings, East Kent [5.0%] – Boil 60 min

4kg of roasted pumpkin in the mash
Add 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice

Creating your own beer recipes

designing great beers

When I first started brewing I was completely by the book. I found a recipe and did exactly what it said making sure I had the very specific malt and hops and yeast mentioned. Pretty much all my beers were clones of other beers;

  • Goblin Queen was a clone of hobgoblin
  • Heather Ale was a clone of Fraoch
  • Kwackers was a clone of Pawel Kwack
    and so on.

I don’t know what made me decide to create my own recipe one day, probably just the fact that you always think, “this beer would be better if…”

Take A Beer Recipe And Tweak It

I’d say it’s a pretty sure bet that most recipes are the same in principle.You have a base malt and some specialty malts to add flavour, colour and that “something” a good beer always has. You also have hops, always bittering hops and usually aroma hops and of course you have the yeastie beasties who do the work of turning your wort into beer.

I started out pretty small, I took a recipe I had brewed a few times and I changed just one ingredient. You can do this with any recipe. If the grain bill is 95% pale malt and 5% crystal (low colour), switch out the crystal low colour for extra dark crystal or add some torrifed wheat. Not only will the beer look completely different but there will be subtle changes in the flavour.

Hops are the easiest thing to change up. If you swap say Fuggels (English hop) for a big bold, American hop like Citra. You’ll instantly get a different flavour and aroma in your beer.

This let me test out what different ingredients did, how they changed the beer. Then I did it again and again. I had eventually made 4 or 5 beers, each slightly different from each other and I had learned lots about what ingredients did, but I hadn’t learned to write my own recipe from scratch. I had been making tweaks of an American Pale Ale but it didn’t set me up to be able to make a stout for instance.

So as is always the case when I decide to try something new, to the internet and the books to do some research and somewhere I came across and bought a fantastic book Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels. That moment was like a light bulb turning on. I don’t know why but that book just seemed to speak to me and suddenly I understood what made each beer unique.

double and pale

Now loads of brewers out there are really clever and can do all sorts of pen and paper maths to create their recipes, knowing how to work out the IBU or ABV etc. Unfortunately maths was never my strong suit so I use brewing software to guide me. I won’t teach you how to use it here as there are plenty of great tutorials out there, just google brewing software but this is something with which you can plug ingredients in and it will work out your figures, so if using Ray’s book and you want to make an American Pale Ale, you can look up the stats for this and plug away at your ingredients to get the colour, IBU, ABV etc to match and use the hints and tips in the book to ensure you are on the right page with flavours and aroma. If you don’t want to buy yet another brewing book, use the BJCP guidelines that are available online.

Discussion on brewing software

Keep a journal

brewing journalThere is one other thing I recommend, keep a journal. Write down everything about your brewday. A recipe isn’t just a list of ingredients, the process, the techniques and sometimes the mistakes can make or break your beer. Write it all down so that when you brew that amazing IPA, you know exactly how you did it and a few months or years down the line if you want to recreate that beer or just wonder why beer X had a better flavour than beer Y, then your journal will have the answers.


Useful things to make a note of:

  • How much water did I mash with?
  • How old were the hops?
  • Different malt supplier?
  • Did I dry hop, for how long?
  • Did I use a bag when I put hops in the kettle or did I throw them in free?
  • What was the fermentation temperature?
  • Was there anything different I did on the brew day?

I even know of one brewer who notes the music he had playing on his brew days.



Our bride ale – our wedding favours and the Black IPA recipe

The big day has come and only just gone which meant we got to enjoy giving our wedding guests the bride ale we created in their honour. You can read about its creation in a previous blog post: Brewing up a bride ale

favoursWe had decided a while back that we wanted our wedding day to be very personal, very casual and most of all 100% us. That meant no big white frocks, no formal traditions or rules and most importantly involving the people who are important in our lives and the things which are important in our lives. Two of those kind of come under one header as Kate and I, and our friends are all lovers of good beer and most of us brew our own beer. This made one of our first decisions quite easy, the wedding favours were bottles of home-brewed beer and the beer being served on the day and the bar which the beer was served from were both home-made.

We promised you in the previous post  that we’d share the recipe with you, so I will keep that promise and post it here, but first, just cause it’s me and I’m a beer geek – a little bit of history.

India Pale Ale – (IPA)

The beer we decided to make was a Black IPA, which as the name suggests is a bit of a weird one. A Black India Pale Ale????

India Pale Ale is a hoppy beer which roughly falls into the pale ale category. In the 18th century, pale ales were lightly hopped and very different to today’s versions, the IPA came about as a need for pale ales to be sent to civil servants and military personnel serving in the colonies arose. Unfortunately the beer was usually spoiled by the time it finished its long ocean voyage. The solution was supposedly come about when Allsopp’s brewery brewed a version of pale ale with a higher alcohol content and higher amount of hops used in the brew. The alcohol and hops helped to prevent infections in the beer and so it survived the journey. It was the now famous East India Company who then brought this beer to India and to its staff and customers in india – Hence INDIA pale ale.

So what’s with the black bit?

black ipaA black IPA is basically a beer brewed like an IPA with similar alcohol levels and hop bitterness, but with a little bit of extra malt thrown in to add a little bit of dark malt character and colour.

For us, it was about having a little bit of fun as our guests realise they were drinking a black beer that’s called a pale ale. Incidentally, because some brewers felt that a black IPA was going against style and history, this beer is sometimes called a Cascadian Dark – named after the Cascadia region in the states where it supposedly came from.

Just to show you the difference here is a picture of one of the standard IPAs we brew and next to it our BLACK IPA.

The Recipe – Black IPA

Boil Time: 60 min
Batch Size: 20 liters
Efficiency: 77%
Original Gravity: 15.4 °P
Final Gravity: 3.3 °P
ABV (standard): 6.5%
IBU (tinseth): 60

4.83 kg United Kingdom – Maris Otter Pale
0.37 kg German – Carafa III
5.2 kg Total

25 g Gallena 14.1% 60 min
33 g Citra 14%  10 min
30 g Citra 14% Whirlpool 10 min
30 g Amarillo 8.9%  Whirlpool 10 min
30 g Citra 14%  Dry Hop 4 days

Mash Steps
Step 1 – add 25 L and heat to 63 C hold for 10 min
Step 2 – Raise temperature to 65 C and hold for  70 min
Step 3 – Raise temperature to 73 C and hold for 5 min
Step 4 – Raise temperature to 78 C and hold for 5 min

Boil Guidelines
Top up to 25L and boil for 60 min

Brewing up a bride ale

Firstly I should probably do the announcement, Kate and I are getting married. Letting you in on that little secret might explain the rest of this post :0)

If you’ve read my previous post which talks about the history of women and brewing a lot of today’s post will be familiar territory. If you haven’t read this I would recommend you do so now and then pop back here for the rest of the story.

Beer pairing – women and beer. A history reader

Ok now that you’ve caught up. I’m going to throw some controversial history stuff your way for this post.

There are two camps to this little piece of brewing history but as I’m neither a historian nor have I made any more effort to research this topic than a quick Google search I’m just going to tell a bit of a fun story that I like.

The fun story

It is said that the term bridal comes to us via tradition of the bride brewing a special batch of beer to be sold on the wedding day. Some stories tell this with the bride brewing alone and others with the bride being helped by her close female friends who would be the bride ale party. Guest would pay whatever they felt appropriate for the beverage on the wedding day and that this would go towards the expense of the wedding.

Bridal, bride ale. See the connection.

It was Thomas Dudley Fosbroke, Church of England priest and antiquarian, who claimed in a book called “Encyclopædia of antiquities: and elements of archaeology, classical and mediæval”, published in 1825, that “It was called Bride ale … from the bride’s selling ale on the wedding day to raise funds.” Some history buffs dispute this over the origin of the phrase. They claim that it instead comes from “brýd-ealo”. Ealo or “ale” was being used here in its secondary sense of “merry-meeting at which much ale was drunk” (just as “tea” means both the drink and – as in “afternoon tea” or “high tea” – the meal). Pretty much what we’d now refer to as a wedding reception rather than as a term for a specific beer made by the bride.

However there are a number of traditions around weddings that involve ale which are matter of fact, for instance, one called “running for the bride’s door”.  According to one 19th century writer, in North Yorkshire, after the wedding ceremony had taken place at the church, “there took place either a foot or horse race, the first to arrive at the dwelling of the bride, requested to be shown to the chamber of the newly-married pair, then, after he had turned down the bed-clothes, he returned, carrying in his hand a tankard of warm ale, previously prepared, to meet the bride, to whom he triumphantly offers the beverage.” The bride, in return for this, “presented to the ale-bearer a ribbon as his reward.” I’m not sure our guests would be happy to swap a tankard of our bride ale for a pretty ribbon though but I’ll make sure to put a ribbon in my pocket.

So to our bride ale.

Kate and I decided we’d have a bit of fun and brew a beer together to serve to our wedding guests. We wanted to brew something that incorporated both our beer loves and something that we’ve never brewed before so that it was a bit special. This proved difficult as we’ve pretty much brewed most beer styles.

It also gave us a chance to play with our new toy, meet BrewinHilda.

wpid-imag3389.jpgBrewinHilda is a stunning piece of German engineering encorporating both a heating element and a pump controlled by a programmable computer interface. She is a thing of beauty and an upgrade to my old brewing kit which was Kate’s wedding gift to me.

So with Kate at the helm, our special beer was born.

We are deliberately not telling you what beer style we have gone with as we want this to be a surprise for our guests but the grain bill made for the most interesting looking mash I have ever seen.


It looked like we were making a giant chocolate milkshake.

It didn’t stay that way though, and the usual creamy, frothy malt mixture soon appeared.



What BrewinHilda does that my other brew kit doesn’t do however, is that she uses a pump to recirculate all this loveliness through the grains which act as a filter, so that creamy mixture eventually turns crystal clear.


So that is the beer, can you guess what it is yet?

With the “brides to be” finished creating their special bride ale, it was put to bed. Which is when the yeast had their own special party and created the beast at the back of the cupboard.




So there we go, the story so far. If you check back in August, we’ll share the recipe and tell you what the guests thought of our very special brew.




Crafty Corner – home-made beer tap handles

Kate and I had another fun crafty afternoon this week.  We made fancy tap handles for my beer serving board.

We have the ability to have 4 different kegs of beer at home but were using little plastic “picnic” taps to serve the beer. It worked ok but didn’t look very pretty and definitely lacked the “cool” factor. Especially at parties. So we decided to see if we could come up with a way to make it a bit cooler

We had picked up some taps cheap on eBay, unfortunately though they didn’t come with handles and handles on their own can be quite expensive. So, we decided to make our own. The taps are chrome and have a screw in the top where you would normally screw the handle on which is also chrome. We decided to have some fun with this.

new taps











We got some big sturdy test tube type things on eBay and thought they would be cool tap handles as we could put things in them to customise them a bit. Oh the fun we could have.

empty vial











We started by drilling a hole in the top of the cap so that the bolt on the tap could be fed through it and then we could use a nut on the other side to secure it. Trip to B&Q (an hour of looking at new bathrooms – as you do) and we were home with some washers and nuts.

Unfortunately we weren’t very careful at measuring so the washers were too big but the 3/8th inch nuts were perfect. I will add a washer to this at some point just to add a little more security and strength to the handle, as this is the piece that gets pulled on but for now they are working perfect as they are.












Once we had a way of attaching the handle to the tap it was time to decide on what to put into them. We could just put a piece of paper with the name of the beer, or even paint them but we had a bit more of a fun idea. We have filled them with different types of malted grains.

Malted grains are what beer is made from, well decent beer anyway, and different types of malt have different colours so we were able to make handles which had a mix of dark and light grains in them.  Now we have functioning tap handles but they are also quite fitting showing off the raw ingredients of beer.

Now here is a tip for anyone who fancies trying this, you need to turn the handle full of your grain or other decorations upside down to get it onto the actual tap. I stuffed the top of mine with bubble wrap before doing this to stop the grains from falling out.

grain in tubes











They look pretty cool on the taps I have to say but one thing Kate did to just finish them off perfectly was to spray paint the white plastic caps silver.  Instantly it just looked amazing.

finished taps no labels








So there you go, our finished, fabulous tap handles complete with labels.

tap board finished









Naming the pumpkin beer

name meIt’s time folks.

Your chance to vote for the name you’d like our pumpkin beer to have.

We’ve compiled all the suggestions we’ve received into a poll and we’re giving you the chance to vote for your favourite.

The winner will be announced on the 27th November.


What should this year's pumpkin beer be named?

  • Stingy Jack's (25%, 10 Votes)
  • Thankful (18%, 7 Votes)
  • Good Gourd (18%, 7 Votes)
  • Jack's Harvest (15%, 6 Votes)
  • Pumpkin Pie-nt (5%, 2 Votes)
  • Pumpkin unparal-ale-d (5%, 2 Votes)
  • Twisted Sisters (5%, 2 Votes)
  • Pimpin' ma pumpkin (3%, 1 Votes)
  • Pimpin Pumpkin Pinup (3%, 1 Votes)
  • Samhain pumpkin ale (3%, 1 Votes)
  • fómhar (Irish for Harvest) (3%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 28

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Learn to homebrew day – 5th November

The American Homebrew Association (of which I am a member) has declared the 5th of November as “Learn to homebrew day” formerly known as “teach a friend to homebrew day” so in the spirit of things, let me tell you about a fabulous first homebrew session we had with the Harpers.

Kirsty and Dan’s Christmas Beer

Kirsty and Dan (Dan is the one with the beard incase you hadn’t realised) are hosting their family christmas event this year and thought it would be a nice treat to have a homemade beer to serve. They are both beer fans as is Dan’s dad, so the idea for a bit of a brew with the Hodgeheg girls there for support seemed like a no brainer.

step oneStep 1: Planning and formulating

The very first step in the whole process for the guys was to plan out what type of beer they wanted to serve at Christmas. Not all that difficult to decide as Dan is a complete hop head, meaning he likes very hoppy beers of the pale variety. Poor Kirsty didn’t really get a look in. However on the plus side, this did mean that they had to sample lots of different beers so that they were able to discuss hop varieties and malt profiles.

This beer making malarky really is such hard work!

So yes, there was a lot of  discussion about malt profiles, hop varieties, bitterness, balance, aroma  etc etc. They tried a range of beers suggested by local Edinburgh beer geek and owner of the world’s best bottle shop Peter Sherry from The Beerhive in Edinburgh and from this they came down to two beers that they liked, although each of them chose a different beer – ooh controversial.

The one thing both beers had in common was that they were of the american pale ale style, so at least that was a starting point, we now knew what style of beer the guys fancied brewing up. Also coming from this was a choice of hops, the guys decided they liked the fruity hops in the american style beers they tried so decided to go with Simcoe and Citra as their hop variety.



warningNow I feel it’s my duty to talk about being sensible when you are drinking and not overdoing things and drinking too much, therefore this photo is to show you what can happen if you drink too much good quality, craft beer.

You run the entirely possible risk of being very happy!


 Step 2:  Recipe writing

So beers picked out, style chosen, hops chosen, now it was time to put together a recipe. That’s where a little bit of help from myself came in.

If we were sticking to style for an American Ale, it would have very little in the way of malt. Pretty much it would just have plain malt and the hops would be the showpiece of the beer. However the beers that Kirsty and Dan chose were both British versions of American beers so they were both beers which had a good malt backbone as well as lots of hop profile. This mean that I worried a plain old American beer might be a little bit disappointing. Therefore I put together a recipe which had all the standards of an American pale ale but added a tiny bit of crystal malt for colour and a teeny bit of munch for a little “something” in the background of the malt. To keep things nice and simple for a first time brew, we went with an extract recipe, that is to say that we used pale malt extract to make up the majority of the fermentables and added just a little bit of malt to boost the flavour and colour.

Unfortunately the local homebrew shop didn’t have any of the Citra hops so Dan and Kirsty went crazy and substituted Citra with a relative newcomer called “Ella”. Those two are just crazy I tell you.

Step 3: Brew Day

The big day arrived and we had great fun.

We drank beers (but not too many) and brewed with Kirsty and Dan doing all the actual brewing and me mostly drinking beer and ordering them around – oops I mean offering helpful advice and support.

IMAG2511There were a few small mishaps that we didn’t foresee, like:

  • the scales the guys had couldn’t measure low enough for our hop additions – fix – we eyeballed it (not very scientific but the day was about learning the process of how you make beer not getting bogged down
  • the boiler the guys owned died – luckily I brought mine
  • Dan’s tablet ran out of charge  so we had to use smartphones to follow the recipe
  • the guys had no tap and hose to connect a wort chiller to so we had to leave the beer in the back garden overnight to cool

We McGuyvered our way out of everything except one mishap – Dan poured a couple of litres of beer onto the floor – fix – Kirsty cleaned up!

All in all it was a fun evening and a great introduction to brewing your own beer. So much so that the guys went out and bought some new scales –  so watch out as I suspect there will be another beer on the horizon.

How to brew the Harper’s “Beer for baby Jesus” American Pale Ale

This brew will make around 18 litres of beer (if you don’t pour any on the floor).


  • 3kg Pale Liquid Male
  • 170g Crystal Malt 40L
  • 60g Munich malt
  • 100g Simcoe hops
  • 100g  Ella Hops
  • Safale US-05 yeast

Equipment For this specific recipe

  • A pot large enough to boil 25 litres of water
  • Thermometer
  • Muslin bags X 3
  • Hydrometer
  • Long handled Spoon
  • Large vessel to ferment in – around 25 litres
  • Sanitising solution


This beer is brewed using a method called “Extract Brewing”, it is a quicker, simpler method which requires less equipment.

To get going, heat 20 litres of water to 68 celsius then add the a muslin bag holding your grains. Make sure the grains all get soaked and then leave in the water to steep for 30 minutes. Dan had great fun doing this, he was in charge of the spoon for prodding the bag, nuff said. Leave the bag soaking in the water for 30 mins so that all the colour and flavour will come out of the grains into your water. Don’t panic at this point if it now looks like you are heating a pot of muddy water. Trust me the colour in the pot is nothing like the colour when the beer goes into the glass.

After your 30 mins are up, squeeze the bag a little to get all the good stuff out then discard.

Top up the water to 24 litres and set  to boil. This is where the fun begins, you are now about to turn the water in your pot into something brewers call wort. Wort is the sticky sweet liquid that is the basis for beer. When it’s ready, you’ll “pitch” the yeast and the yeast will turn this sticky sweet liquid into beer. Brewers have a saying,

“Brewers make wort and yeast make beer.”

Once your water or liquor as brewers call it is almost boiling, drain 8 litres and mix the liquid malt extract in. Make sure you really give it a good mix so that everything dissolves nicely  before returning to the pot.

Congratulations now you have wort! You are now officially making beer.

The next thing we are going to do is to add some flavourings to the wort to make it more recognisable to the taste of beer we recognise. We are going to do this by adding hops to the liquid as it boils. The hops also have a further purpose, the are slightly antiseptic and help to preserve the beer.

Adding your hops or Hop additions in brewer’s speak

There are three stages to this,

Bittering – the first hops to go in are to add a bittering element, this is to say that we are extracting the oils from the hops that counteract the sweetness of the wort in it’s current state.

To do this, we add hops right at the beginning of the 60 minute boil period and we leave them there for the full boil. This extracts oils from the hop flowers and does sneaky science stuff to slightly change their make up which gives the beer it’s bitterness.

So once the liquid is boiling add  5 g of Ella and set a timer for 45 minutes.

Flavour – near the end of the boil, we add more hops and because they are in the boiling liquid for a much shorter time the oils don’t go through the same change and instead of adding lots of bitterness, they add flavour. When your 45 minute timer goes, you are going to begin adding your flavour hops.

At 45 minutes, add 5g of Simcoe and 5g of Ella. Set a timer for 5 minutes

On the next alert, add 10g of Simcoe and 10g of Ella, again set a timer for 5 minutes

On the next alert add 15g of Simcoe and 15g of Ella and set a timer for 5 minutes.

Switch the heat off and  add 15g of Simcoe and 15g of Ella

Now you want to cool your beer down as fast as you can to around 18-20 celsius. You can do this buy sitting the pot in a bath of ice water

When wort is cooled transfer your beer into a sanitised fermenting vessel straining out any of the hops or debris in the wort. This is when you should use your hydrometer to take your original gravity reading (OG). Note it down as you’ll need it later to work out how alcoholic your beer is.

Add the yeast, cover and leave the fermenting beer somewhere which has a relatively stable temperature and out of the light.

Aroma – we add hops to the fermenting beer in the very late stages to add aroma. This will give your beer that fantastic smell when you open the bottle. The fact that the hops are going into the fermenting beer which is relatively cool in comparison to the boil and the fact it now has alcohol in it strips some more f the oils from the hop flowers and these oil make the beer smell lovely. It’s called a dry hop.

Dry Hop

  1. After the beer has been in the fermentor for 10 days, place all of the remaining hops into a sanitised muslin bag and tie a loose knot.
  2. Use a sanitised spoon to poke this bag down into the beer and get it soaked – good and proper.
  3. Leave for four days before removing, taking anothe rreading with your hydrometer called your final gravity reading (FG) and bottle your lovely brew.

How to work out your alcohol

% Alcohol = ((1.05 x (OG – FG)) / FG) / 0.79

So, given a few numbers suggested above:

OG = 1.045
FG = 1.008

The equation would look like this:

.0487 = ((1.05 x (1.045 – 1.008))/1.008) / 0.79

So, this beer would be about 4.9% alcohol.

You have made your first beer. Enjoy it sensibly with friends and family.

 Useful Videos

How to use a hydrometer

Watch an extract brewing session

If you fancy having a look at some of the pictures from their brewday, click on an image below for a larger version.