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: http://www.eliapplebydonald.co.uk/blog/brew-barrel-reviewing-a-beer-kit/

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.

Overview

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.

 




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

Materials

  • 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.


base

wpid-imag3672.jpg

The floor is screwed onto the frame.

floor

wpid-imag3677.jpg

casters

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.

top

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

wpid-imag3680.jpg

brace

 

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.

uprights

top section

wpid-imag3687.jpg

wpid-imag3683.jpg

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

wpid-imag3703.jpg

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

wpid-imag3812.jpg

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.

11059564_10101337470860081_6989082182298089380_n

11817160_10101337448275341_6218955116769542437_n

bar

 

 




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.

wpid-wp-1434179622471.jpeg

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.

wpid-wp-1434179601619.jpeg

 

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.

wpid-wp-1434179577318.jpeg

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.

wpid-wp-1434179483993.jpeg

 

Oops!!!!!

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.

wpid-wp-1434188436886.jpeg

 

 




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.

IMAG3198

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.
image

finished taps no labels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

tap board finished

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




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.

 

Warning

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).

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

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.




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 Bruidair, 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/c/eliapplebydonald

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