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



Me on the Edinburgh Brewing Podcast

Today saw the release of a podcast where Morag from the Edinburgh Brewing Podcast interviewed me about all things beery. It’s the first time I’ve been interviewed for a podcast so I was quite nervous (which comes across a little I think), but it was fantastic fun and of course, always nice to have an excuse to talk about beer and brewing endlessly.

I chat about how I got into brewing, entering competitions and about what’s it’s like to have the support of a fantastic brewing community like Scottish Craft Brewers.

Listen to the podcast

I was worried I’d be boring but I must have done ok as she’s already asked if I’ll do another one on the history of women and brewing so watch out for that.

Brew Barrel Review Part 2

If you have been following this blog you’ll have seen me testing out a Brew Barrel beer kit last week and having a go at making some beer and I guess you want to know how it went?

If you haven’t seen part 1, you can see it here:

General views

Last week I made up the kit following the instructions and posted the video here to let you see. I generally found it incredibly easy to do, the instruction were very clear and well illustrated which I think made them perfect for someone who has never done anything like this before. Essentially with this kit you just pour everything into the mini keg add water and then leave it to sit for 5 days. That’s it. The downside of this process is that you don’t actually learn anything about making beer, you don’t learn any transferable skills that you could then take with you to make beer again using different kits. Even the language used in the instructions and marketing material lacks any real brewing terminology. But I made the kit up as instructed and left it in my cupboard under the stairs for the 5 days. This however was where I noticed the first thing that I think could have caused a bit of concern for novices.

Each day of the 5 days I found quite a sizeable puddle of beer and foam on top of the keg. Now I imagine someone who doesn’t have the knowledge of brewing would either just leave this or wipe it with a cloth. However both these actions could potentially attract bacteria and spoil the beer. Because I have prior knowledge of the brewing process I knew to clean the keg each day and more importantly sanitise it to prevent the risk of infection. After all the keg isn’t sealed, it has an air relief valve on top which can allow unwanted nasties into the keg and your beer.

One concern I had was that even after the 5 days, the keg was still foaming, I did wonder if this meant fermentation hadn’t finished, but as you are not taught about this on the kit instructions I acted as anyone else would and didn’t leave the kit any longer, it went into the fridge for 2 days as instructed (maybe to stop fermentation)?

This is where the fun started. I set up the camera to record my review of the beer, and tapped the keg as instructed. Boom, beer fountain. There was just too much pressure in the keg and beer went everywhere, all over me, the laptop I was recording with, the seat, the table, even the plant beside me so I had to stop recording to get everything cleaned up. I did try to vent the excess pressure by letting  some of the beer flow from the tap, however this was crazy as well, I lost about 1.5 litres of beer as foam. So for a 5 litre mini keg, I lost beer every day with it leaking from the valve in the keg, I lost it in the beer fountain and I lost it in the explosion from the tap so I didn’t get anything like the 5 litres.

Unfortunately this is a real negative point as the kit itself is incredibly expensive. To buy this kit including postage would have been £33.50 for 5 litres. Your average home brewing beer kit costs about £12 – £20 pounds for 23 litres. Big difference, especially when you work out that to get 23 litres from this kit would be around £154. Eek!

So I did eventually get all cleaned up and managed to vent the excess gas from the keg after a few tries, and managed to have a taste.

How does the beer taste?

Given the cost of the kit, I was expecting a beer that was a little better than a standard beer kit product. Again I was disappointed.  My first instinct on smelling the beer was that it had in fact got infected, there was this really sharp, astringent smell. Quite overpowering and in the video below I think my face says it all. I did eventually realise that this was in fact the grapefruit chemical addition, it wasn’t as I had assumed a grapefruit like aroma like you get from new world hops, it was actually grapefruit, like someone had poured grapefruit juice into the beer. It completely overpowered everything else.

On tasting the beer, there really was nothing to write home about. I think at the time I kept saying that it was “drinkable” and to be fair it was drinkable. I wouldn’t order a pint of it in a bar and I certainly wouldn’t pay for it but it wasn’t hideous, just not very pleasing. The grapefruit aroma didn’t immediately come through in the taste of the beer, however it did leave a really strong chemical after taste that wasn’t pleasant.


Unfortunately I really couldn’t recommend this kit to someone who wanted to get into brewing their own beer, it just doesn’t have any of the elements of actually brewing your own beer and certainly didn’t give me a beer which would make me want to do it again.

I do however see that its market maybe isn’t the home brew community, I think this is more likely to appeal to folk wanting to buy a quirky gift, maybe from one of the websites like “firebox” or “not on the high street”. It’s a gimmick for home brewing rather than an actual home brewing experience.

I’m sorry Brew Barrel, it’s just not for me.

As I said the video review didn’t go to plan, but you are welcome to watch me get drenched in beer if you want to have a giggle.


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.



Building a party bar

WEDDING 3Any home brewer who says they wouldn’t love a bar to pour their beer from is quite frankly a big fat liar. So we finally gave into the desire  and had a go at building our own party bar to serve beer from and forgive me for being smug, but I think it turned out pretty damn awesome so I thought I’d share the details with you so you too can have your own party bar.

This blog post is written specifically as an instruction guide for building a bar as a DIY project so forgive me for being a bit boring as I go through step by step guides and show you my little doodled plans.

Hey you’ll thank me if you have a go at building your own bar – and if you do, I’d love to see photos of the finished build.


Equipment for the build

  • Workbench and clamps
  • Saw (I used a handsaw but a circular bench saw would be quicker and neater)
  • Power Drill +22 mm cutting bit to make holes for taps
  • Power screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Spirit level
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil


  • Floorboards -20mm X 120mm
  • Framing- 19mm X 38mm
  • Feather boarding – 100mm wide
  • Pressure treated boards 100mm x 20mm (used for bar top and tap board – make sure these are a suitable thickness relative to the length of the shanks on your beer taps)
  • 4 Heavy duty casters
  • Screws
  • Panel pins / ribbed nails
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood stain
  • Felt or other dark fabric to cover the beer lines and kegs to prevent skunking or unwanted fiddling with the set up of your kit


Step by step guide

Okay, here I’ve included my hand drawn doodles but I’ve also typed out my instructions, so don’t worry if you can’t read my handwriting, it’s all here. Now remember, we built this to fit the sizes we needed to fit four kegs inside buckets of ice, and to fit the space on our patio etc., your sizes might be different. Also, I’m a Librarian, not a joiner and my woodworking skills were mostly developed during time spent building stage sets for an amatuer theatre company, so Chippendale I ain’t!


Step 1 – The Base

The base is essentially a big square frame with 2 inner bracing bars to keep the shape rigid and also to support the flooring and spread the weight once the kegs are in place. The framing is formed by screwing together lengths of 19mm x 38mm framing, the flooring was made using 20 mm x 120mm floor boards which we had left over from another project. You could use a solid piece of mdf or other boarding for the floor – the key issue is to ensure it will be strong enough to hold the kegs – we had 4 full kegs plus buckets of ice water and the CO2 tank so the total load was about 120kg. Whichever type of floor is fitted ensure that space is left at either side to fit the uprights which will form the tap board and for the corner posts. If your bar is to be mobile, it may be worth fitting the casters at this point as it will help with working out heights for the bar top/back board – depending on the casters you use they can add 6 inches or more to the height of the finished bar.



The floor is screwed onto the frame.




Step 2 – The Top:

The top frame is constructed in a similar way to the bottom, however the bracing runs in the opposite direction to support the boards which will form the bar top. As with the base the corner joints were formed so that the “front” of the frame overlaps the sides to form a neater looking finish. We left the screws/nails etc visible but you could counter sink these and then use wood filler to conceal them.


Step 3 – Corner posts

The corner posts were formed by doubling up 2 pieces of the framing timber to form square posts – we used contact adhesive and screws to hold these together – as with many of our measurements and methods we were making the best use of the materials we had to hand rather than purpose buying additional timber for specific purposes – this kept the build costs down, but did mean a bit of extra work/ingenuity at times! You could just buy square posts in the first place.

The length of the corner posts will be determined by a couple of factors:

  • the clearance height required to accommodate the kegs in their cooling buckets and the connectors, with space to reach in and attach/adjust these
  • the desired height for the bar top

These measurements will vary depending on your kit and your own preferences (and height) but in our case we have corny kegs with pinlock connectors and Eli is 5′ tall so we settled on a height of 900mm for the posts, adding in the height of the casters this makes the bartop 965mm from the ground.

Depending on the dimensions of your bar you may also want to put in some additional posts in the middle of the longer edge of the frame. This might be good to prevent the bar top from sagging or bending if it’s quite long – we put one in the centre of the front – mostly to act as an extra contact point for the cladding – we didn’t put one on the back as it would have made putting the kegs inside a bit trickier.

corner posts




Step 4 – Uprights & Bar Top & Tap Board

Two uprights, roughly centre of the frame (sides) will form the frame for the tapboard – their positioning relative to the front of the bar and their height will depend on:

  • What type of taps you have – you need clearance under the taps for glasses
  • What your reach is for pouring – ie how high can you reach and how far back (so how deep will the bar top be)
  • Do you want extra height above the taps – to put tap labels, a bar sign or in our case to display the handmade mash paddle we were given as a wedding present. Best to err on the side of caution and make the upright too long and cut it back rather than find yourself short.

We went with a bar top that is 3 boards wide, and the tapboard is 7 boards high. The bar top is wide enough to accommodate a bar runner/drip tray etc. All the boards are screwed in place to ensure a tight fit and stable surface for the taps – last thing you want is to go to pull a pint and have the whole board come away in your hand!

Fit the planks for the bar top and tap board into position – remembering to drill the holes for the taps into the correct board before fitting that one in place – its easier to do this on the workbench to make sure the holes are straight and level.


top section



Step 5 – Cladding

Now that the basic frame is complete you can start adding the cladding. We used pressure treated featherboard as this is an outside bar and we wanted it to withstand the  elements – featherboard will allow any rainwater (or spilled beer) to run off the sides easily. As with the rest of the framing, we allowed an overlap either end of the cladding on the front of the bar so that it hides the ends of the pieces fitted to the sides. When fitting the last piece at the bottom of the front face, this piece is set at an slight outward angle due to the flooring protruding over the edge of the frame – however because we used feather board this was easy to accommodate and the addition of an additional piece of framing as facia plate covered over the small gap.

bottom section


Step 6 – Covering your rear

To protect the beer lines from light and to prevent unwanted or accidental tampering with the lines/gas tec. we added side cladding above the bar top at the rear of the tap board – adding a small upright to the rear edge to help anchor the boards. The final protection is a sheet of black felt the width of the tapboard stapled above the taps which drops over the beer lines and kegs to keep them out of the light and out of sight.

beer lines


Step 7 – finishing touches

Once the build is complete you can then sand down all the outer surfaces and paint/stain/varnish as you wish. As our bar will be for outdoor use, we used Ronseal exterior woodstain which has given the wood a nice warm color and also gives a good waterproof protection.

Equipment for the bar side of things (taps etc)

Our bar holds four kegs and has four taps. Remember that without the actual beer dispensing equipment your bar is just a big wooden box.

You would need;

  • Taps
  • Shanks
  • Beer line & Gas line
  • John Guest connectors or sankey connectors
  • Corny or sankey kegs
  • Co2 tank
  • Gas management board or regulator


Step 8 – Enjoy!

That’s all there is to it – now connect up your kegs and enjoy a well earned beer!

I hope this guide will encourage some of you to take the plunge and build your own bar – if you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to get in touch.






Our wedding – the little things that make life fun

Hold onto your hats folks, we finally did it. Kate and I are finally, legally and all officially married. WOOT!

Get us, the latest Mrs & Mrs to dance the night away and eat cake.

Now as blog posts go, if we were just wanting to make an announcement we could say goodnight now. Job’s a good ‘un but no, we wanted to share some little details with you about how we made things a bit more personal.

We all know that traditionally weddings are all about the bride, the bride’s dress, the elaborate venues and the traditions and rules that people follow even though they don’t know why. Well that’s just not us. So here are some little details from our very casual and very homemade wedding.

The venue

I didn’t quite tell the truth there, we did actually have a fantastic venue, but it wasn’t a fashionable restaurant or historical building. We had the wedding in our garden, the most special place we could think of to get married in and it was truly special.

We decorated the entire garden with bunting, put up a big gazebo on the patio to provide a sheltered space for sitting and eating or drinking and we dressed up the tables really simply with a checkered tablecloth and some flowers in a champagne bottle.

Making the guests feel welcome

Something we felt was important was that our guests, some of whom had never met each other, felt comfortable and able to chat to each other. So we asked each of them to submit a photo and a small paragraph telling us about themselves. We then turned this into a small booklet to go with the order of ceremony that everyone was given when they arrived.

We hoped this would help break the ice and it seemed to work as we had a sneaky peek out the window as the guests had gathered and they seemed to be mingling well. Even the two dads.

Another thing we felt very strongly about was taking away all the stuffed shirt type traditions and rules. So when our guests arrived, they didn’t have to worry about where they were to sit, which side and which row, we made it very clear that there was no assigned seating with a quirky sign, after all which side do you sit on when there are two brides and no groom?

take a seat


And we also did away with rules about attire, we told everyone to wear whatever they wanted and we ended up with a fantastic mix of outfits that really showed the personalities of all our family and friends…. we had kilts, tweed jackets, R2D2 tie pins, red chinos, brothel creepers, and a red trilby amongst other things. If you are observant you’ll notice a lack of big, white, meringue dresses too.

One other thing we did, my little brother Arlen and his wife Diane couldn’t come over from the US to join us for the day so we set up a Google hangout so they could watch the ceremony live. It did mean however that they both had to be up very, very early so they watched from the comfort of their bed.



Wedding gifts and favours

One of the first things we did chronologically, as you’ll have seen in previous blog posts is that we made some beer for our guest to drink afterwards. We actually made 3 beers for the wedding as we were intending on having a bar serving beers on tap but one was our official Bride Ale. You can read more about it in these two blog posts.

But we had a few guests who do not drink and we didn’t want them left out, so we also made Dandelion and Burdock and Ginger Beer (soft drinks). These specific drinks were requested by the two fathers of the brides. Apparently it was about reliving their youth.

We also gave them the same label designs as we had for the home-made beer we gave away as party favours so that no one would feel left out or treated differently.

Another of the other little touches we did to make our guests feel a really special part of things were to put together very personal favours for the ceremony guests, in this case something that was also very personal to us – books!

Kate and I are both huge book fans and indeed books played a part in bringing us together, so as a little gesture of thank you we chose a specific book for each of our guests and wrapped it up with some wildflower seeds (as you know we love our garden) and a key shaped bottle opener, for opening their beer later. This way each of our guests got a very special keep sake to take away.



Food and drink

Now you’ve realised by now that the theme to our wedding was casual and comfortable, right? Well this meant food and drink too.

We really didn’t want a sit down meal with a set menu. There’s nothing worse than being stuck sitting at a specific table and finding out that there’s only one thing on the menu that you like so you spend the rest of the night starving. So instead we had a huge street food menu for people to grab and eat standing or sitting and to grab as many different things to eat as possible. It seemed to really go down well.

For the drink part, I’ve already mentioned that we made beer and soft drinks to serve… but we also made the bar that the beer was served from (look out for Kate’s blog post on how to make a bar as she made this amazing thing).

It was a HUGE success and we’ll be using it again and again and again.

Oh and the cake… we just got a nice sponge cake from a local bakers and Kate made the cake toppers herself.

Get everyone involved

One of the things that has always struck me about weddings is that I always felt like I should stand quietly, not really be noticeable in case I take attention off the bride and most importantly just be a watcher, never part of the actual wedding. For our wedding Kate and I wanted all of our guests to play an actual part in the day after all they are our important witnesses to a life changing event. So we did a couple of little things so that our guests could really leave their mark on our day and leave us with a little souvenir or two from them.

We left little antique keys with paper labels attached to them on a table and we asked our guests to write on these paper tags and tell us their “key to a happy marriage”.  Kind of like a guest book but more personal.

We also asked each guest to leave a fingerprint on a print of a bare tree, making the leaves of the tree. This is now framed and hanging in the house as a reminder of all our family and friends who shared our day.

So I’ve told about some of the things that really made our feel very special and most of all fun, so I guess now you just want to see what the brides wore? Was it the brothel creepers?



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