Our first official beer review

hello dollyAt the beginning of December I sent some beer away as part of a brewers secret Santa, where beer from one brewer could be anonymously reviewed by an other brewer.

It was a bit nerve-wracking but I sent out a couple;

  • Hello Dolly, (which is the first blog post I wrote telling you about how I make beer) and
  • Cinderella’s Ruin, our pumpkin ale.



It took a couple of months get the first review back but it was worth the wait and it has definitely given me confidence in our beer. We’re just waiting on the second review now.

Hello Dolly tasting notes.

A very interesting brew, this one, with excellent clarity, colour and head retention, superior to other extract brews I have had (and made, for that matter). The crystal malt gave some very good, rich colour and balanced nicely with the hop flavours (both bitterness and dry hop). The label said this was the brewer’s first attempt at extract – in which case, well done, and I look forward to trying the next one!



All grain brewing – Eli’s first brew with her fancy new kit

Well I’m at it again, more beer being made. I’m trying a strong belgian ale – it should be similar to Pauwel Kwak. If I do it properly.

This time it’s a bit special, this time I am brewing what’s called “All Grain”. If you remember the last beer post I wrote I talked about the different ways you can make beer… well this is the one I called the big brother of the home brewing world – all grain.

Thanks to two brilliant presents I now have the equipment and ingredients to do this. (Thanks Leigh for the sack of grain).

Essentially what it means is that I started with grain and water, added hops and yeast and at the end you have beer. Previously when I posted it was about brewing where you buy some of the ingredients ready-made for you.

All grain brewing needs a wee bit more kit than I originally had, so I treated myself to a new electric boiler and a new mash tun so that I could make beer this way. I’m quite excited about the whole thing and so far I think it was a good idea. (Last year I spent my bonus on the greenhouse, this year on beer kit)












I also got a fantastic present from my little sister Leigh, a sack of grain!

leighs gift











So what have I done then? Here goes….

I started about 10 am getting things set up and the kitchen cleaned and sanitised (while Kate baked a lemon drizzle cake for us to eat later when the beer is done) – I know, I know, I know exactly how lucky I am.

First thing I had to do was get 14 litres of water boiled to what’s called strike temperature. This is the temperature you add the grain at and mix it with the water. The grain then causes the temperature of the water to fall and hopefully if your maths is right it falls to the temperature you want to “mash” at. This is the temperature that makes all that lovely grain turn its starch into sugar, to make your lovely beer.

It all seemed to go well although I may have to ask for help to calculate just how efficiently everything went.

As usual the main obstacle I have to overcome is my height… so out came the steps so I could reach to add the water to the boiler – no laughing peoples!











Now once you have the water ready, you add it to the “mash tun” (big picnic cooler you can see which has a tap) and stir in the grain. In this recipe it was 7kg of grain (Munich and Pilsner).

The idea is to get the grain and water all mixed together so that all the grain gets a chance to get wet, no “dough balls” or little pockets where the grain is dry.

Once this is done, and the temperature is right, you close the lid on the big cooler and leave it for an hour to give it time for all the starch to turn to sugar.

So far I have to say I am amazed at how simple it’s all been. I had expected it to be way more complicated considering what a pain it was trying to do partial mash before – I guess having a proper mash tun (big cooler) makes a difference.

So what was next?

Well when the mash was done – 60 mins up, I wanted to check that I got all the sugar I could and didn’t leave any starch unconverted, so a wee drop of iodine on Kate’s white Denby plates (oh I panicked when the iodine stained – but I scrubbed and scrubbed and I think I got away with it) and added a wee drop of the sugary liquid that came out of the grains and it didn’t turn blue. That’s a good thing!

So that meant time to drain it off and rinse the grains to get as much sugar as possible – this is called sparging. I had planned to be a bit fancy and do something called fly sparging with a fancy spinning shower arm thing, but it was a bit of a pain, so I went for batch sparging which really is as simple as dumping hot water(again a certain temperature) in, stirring it, leaving it for 10 minutes and then draining. I did this twice.


By this point it was after 1pm and I was starving, but Kate to the rescue again with a lovely lunch of homemade bread and pate. So I put the lid on to protect the wort (sticky, sweet liquid) from curious kittens and we had some lunch to fortify me for the last two hours – the boil.

This one needed to boil for two hours, with hops being added at various points. The new boiler came into its own here, with the old stock pot on the stove way I used to do this, I had to stand over it the whole time to stop it boiling over. Not today, I left it and went and made bread and wrote this blog post :0) I think it’s safe to say I am happy with the boiler.
The only down side to today has been the yeast – I bought a Belgian ale yeast for this beer, but the activator pack was a dud so I’m having to use a pack of dried yeast I had as a spare for emergencies (I guess this counts), so a bit disappointed in that, but all in all, it seems to have gone ok.

If anyone out there is thinking of switching to all grain brewing but you are a bit nervous….. it’s just as easy as extract brewing, just needs a mash tun and a bigger pot :0)

Phew… Six thirty and that’s me finished, cleaned up and got a cup of tea.

If you want the recipe, get in touch.


And the winner is….


Cinderella’s Ruin

Given the clear lead that this beer title had in the poll, we have closed the poll a few hours early to announce the winner we all knew was coming.

Well done to Valerie for her fantastic beer name which won the vote by a huge amount from both homegrown votes and those of our friends in the states.

We’re in the process of getting the bottles labeled ready for our thanksgiving/winterfest feast on December 1st.

We just hope no angry fairy godmother sprinkles fairy dust in the beer before then.

Personally, I can’t wait to see how the beer works alongside one of Valerie’s famous pumpkin pies – maybe we can convince her to blog her recipe and let you all try some too.


Hello Dolly…

wpid-facebook_288093567-150x150I thought it was about time I told you a bit more about my beer than just that it tastes good so I think it’s time to share some secrets.

I am an extract brewer (or I was at the time of writing this post). Big statement… But what’s that?

Extract brewing is the most popular type of home brewing in the US and it’s quickly picking up popularity in the UK too.

It’s a bit simpler than its big brother “All Grain” where you have to coax all the sugars out of the grains through a variety of processing to make your liquid wort. Wort is the sugary liquid which fermented to become beer.

Extract brewing jumps in after the sugary stuff has been done. You can buy this malt extract already to use. Saving time and the need for equipment. Which leaves you able to add speciality grains to alter the colour or flavour and hops for bitterness and aroma.

Of course if that sounds too involved, you can buy kits where all the hard work is already done, you just add water and yeast and let it ferment.

“Hello Dolly” was the first extract brew I tried and also my first attempt at creating my own recipe. It’s amazing what you can do in a large huge stockpot.

“Hello Dolly” came about because Kate and I are both fans of a particular ale called “Black Sheep”. So my recipe was an attempt to copy it.  When you copy an other beer it’s called a clone beer. Hence Hello Dolly… (Sheep, clone, Dolly the sheep).

Ok so here’s the skinny on “Hello Dolly”


Amount Name Type %
0.30 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L Grain 11.2 %
0.05 kg Roasted Barley Grain 1.8 %
2.10 kg Light Dry Extract Malt Extract 9.6%
0.26 kg Wheat Dry Extract Malt Extract 9.6%
60.00 g Goldings, East Kent [5.22 %] Hops
35.00 g Fuggles [4.80 %] Hops
1.0 pkg Ringwood Ale (Wyeast Labs #1187)


How to

Step 1 – the steep

I steep the grains to extract the sugars, colours, flavours and aromas they contain— I am not talking about “mashing“, steeping is quicker and easier and temperature is nowhere near as important as with “mashing” .

So I start with three times as much water as grain by weight, e.g. 400g of grain should be mixed with 1.2L of water, 500g grain with 1.5L water so basically I have a watery porridge in my big stock pot. (To help with clean up and to stop unwanted bits and pieces getting into my finished wort, I use a large mesh bag to hold all the grain – nice and easy to lift out again).

For the “Hello Dolly” recipe I steeped  0.30 kg of crystal malt and 0.05kg of roasted barley, the guy at my local brew shop had cracked these for me.

I steep these grains for 45 mins at as constant a temperature as I can get – between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit and keep them moving to make sure all the grain gets wet and I get as much colour and flavour from them as I can. If you go to high in temperature you  get a funny taste in your beer.

Once I have left the grains steeping for the required time, I take the bag out and sit it in a colander which fits nicely on top of the stock pot to let all the good stuff drain out of the grain bag (I help this along with a little warm water pouring it gently over the grains).  I do this with the heat off.

When there is no more run off from the grains, they come out and go in the compost.

Step 2 – Adding the Malt Extract

The malt extract is the bit that makes this type of brewing simpler. I don’t make my own, I buy it from my local brew shop. You can get it as a dry powder or as a thick syrup. I prefer dry powder. It keeps longer and it’s easier to measure but everyone has their preferences.

I let the hot liquid that the grains have been steeping in cool until there is no steam, as any moisture hitting my dry malt extract powder makes it go cloggy. Usually once the grains have released all their excess water and stopped dripping, the water is cool enough so I can then add the malt extract to the pot, stirring like a mad stirry thing to get the lumps out (although as you start to heat and stir these lumps do go away).

So as I said, put the heat back on once you have your dry malt extract in there and keep stirring. You want to get rid of all the lumps but you also want to make sure you don’t get anything stuck to the bottom of the pan where it can burn.

What you are doing now is called the boil, basically all the recipes have a timeframe attached, this one is a 1 hour boil, so once the malt is added, turn up the heat and the timer starts once I bring it to a boil.

Step 3 – The boil and adding your hops

As I’ve said, this recipe is a one hour boil, but as well as just boiling the liquid in the pan, I add hops at various times throughout the boil. The purpose of the hops is to add the bitterness needed in the beer (otherwise it would be sickly sweet) and also to add aroma.

So hops, in the ingredients lists you’ll see that I used two types;

· Goldings, East Kent, and

· Fuggles.

These are both English hops, so you’ see these used frequently in English beers. In this recipe I add them at these intervals and amounts.

1. At the start of the boil – 40 grams – Goldings

2. 40 mins into the boil – 15 grams – Fuggles & 15 grams – Goldings

3. 55 mins into the boil –  – 15 grams – Fuggles & 15 grams – Goldings

Once the 60 minute boil is over, it’s time to cool the wort as quickly as possible. I only boils a small percentage of the finished amount so I can easily cool it by adding the boiled wort to the big fermenting bucket and then topping it up to the desired amount with sterile, cold water. In this case 21 litres.

Make sure you give this a really good stir, you want to get lots of oxygen into the mix for the yeast to live on.

So we’ve added the water and got things up to 21 litres and hopefully cooled the wort down to the temperature that your yeast likes, time to add the yeast then.  Once the yeast is in, you have to put the bucket away out of eye level and be patient for a couple of weeks while it makes beer.

The last thing I did, in this process was dry hop. This means I added some hops to the fermenting bucket after about 4 days to add aroma to my beer. This is where I learned a valuable lesson. I just added the hops straight into the fermenting bucket thinking I’d scoop them out later before I bottled the beer, right? WRONG!

Those things are a nightmare to get out, some sink to the bottom, some float, some break up……. arrrrrrggggggg. I have since learned to add the hops to a mesh bag and add them that way!!!

So the joy of that experience means that our beer is lovely, really enjoyable and every other bottle or so, if you are lucky, you get a free hop flower, or bit of hop flower in your beer – oops!!!






The Pumpkin Beer Is Born

pumpkin alesWell Ladies & Gents, the pumpkin beer we have been brewing for Thanksgiving is now ready to be bottled and put away to condition.

It’s already tasting fantastic and can only get better.

A nice strong ale on the darker side of amber made with caramelised pumpkin and a little bit of pumpkin pie spices in the background.

It’s a whopping 6.8% so a real winter warmer to keep us toasty through the evening if Hayley and Luke’s range packs in leaving us without heating :0)

It’s one of the new beers we’ve been doing using a method called extract brewing where we actually brew to our own recipe using malt extract, grains and hops to make it just how we want it. Again though the only extra bit of equipment you need to do this is a big stock pot. I’d definitely recommend giving it a try.

The quandary is the name, we have a few ideas but thought we’d open it up to a poll to let you decide.

The poll will open at 7:30 pm UK time tonight and will appear right here.

Place your vote and we will announce the winners here on the blog on October 15th.

The Goblin Queen has landed

wpid-IMAG0744-1-1-134x300Well we promised you an update on our beer making fun and so, here it is.

Our first attempt at making beer had been an aussie style lager which was “ready” for drinking at the end of June. We tested it at various points along the way and were really happy with it, and so were the friends we asked to test it. It was a really good sunny day beer and we have enjoyed one or two in the garden on a sunny day with a BBQ.

So buoyed with the confidence of that success we decided to try a dark ale (after all I am a big ale fan and Kate doesn’t mind a wee ale either). So our first ale went in the fermenter, with a wee tweak or two to the recipe to add some of the things we like. We substituted some of the sugar for dry malt to give it a bit more of an ale feel.

We let this one sit for a fortnight in the fermenter to make sure the yeast had done it’s work before we bottled it and added more sugar to allow the yeast to carbonate it.

The beer has more of a ruby colour than a brown ale and when we were playing with the idea of a name for it we came up with Goblin Queen as we are both fans of Hobgoblin ruby ale.

We even had a wee taste alongside a Hobgoblin just so that we could have a wee compare and we were really please. It’s a bit warmer than the Hobgoblin, less hoppy and we absolutely love it.

The best thing, although we have tested it, it won’t properly be ready until the end of July, so it is only getting better as it sits and conditions in the bottles.

We’ve already started planning for our next batch, we are going for an amber ale and we are going to play with the idea of “oaking it”. Watch this space.

A new food & drink hobby… Making beer

summer-beer-150x150We’ve taken up a new and exciting hobby and thought it would work well with our blog.

We are making our own beer.

Beer is considered to be one of the oldest fermented drinks possibly dating back to around 9500 BC and is recorded in the written history of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Here in Scotland beer is recorded as early as 4000 years ago with Heather Ale being the preferred brew. My favourite “fact” about heather ale…. did you know that this was the “magic potion” which Asterix spoke of?

Well as I said, Kate and I have started brewing our own beer. Very much on a small scale at the minute, but it’s lots of fun and a great learning experience.

We’ve started off with a simple kit brewing method for just now, but intend one day to go the full hog and be writing and brewing our own recipes.

About us

We are Kate and Eli and we love gardening, growing veggies and cooking. A great combination. We live on the East Coast of Scotland and tend an average sized household garden.

Our house is called Ar Bruadair, which is Scottish Gaelic for “our dream”, the house and garden very much are, our dream. So we thought what better name for our blog. Since then, of course, the blog has grown and now incorporates a youtube channel too. Pop along if you like videos of garden and food nonsense. https://www.youtube.com/user/elidonalduk/

We hope you’ll enjoy tagging along on our adventures, and please feel free to drop a comment or two if you want to get in touch. We want this space to feel very much like a community, sharing ideas, lessons and thoughts.

much love,
Eli & Kate