Monday, 21 February 2011

Bete Noire

The Black Beast
The name of one of our long standing beers
A term used to describe something partcularly dark, sinister and nasty
Oh how all of this is true

I brewed a batch of Bete Noire last week, which will be rolling out the door at the end of this week. To say it's been a pain in the rump to brew would be an understatement.

This particular brew is very dark with black malt and roasted barley which makes it a lovely darkly malted, rich stout with a real caramel kick. At 5.5% it's one of our well known beers. A beer as dark as this isn't particularly hopped for aroma, mainly bitterness. These few pesky hops however, did cause rather an issue.

All was going well, I was brewing smoothly until about lunch time when I was ready to transfer the wort (the hot, unfermented beer) from the copper to the fermenting vessel - the last stage of the day.

I started the transfer and could hear the pump struggling after only a few minutes.
Turned it off
Turned it on
No joy
Turned it off
Turned it on
We're off!
Oh. No we're not

I cleaned the very very bunged-up hop filter, which is on the pipe line, and shoved it back in
Phew! All is well

So after that fiasco it was OK. For about 5 minutes. During these five minutes I thought to my little self 'so this is going to happen all the time, or worse, the hop filter at the bottom of the copper will get covered in hoppy schmush and I'll not be able to get any of the wort out'.

Oh how the pump struggles. The hop filter at the bottom of the copper is covered in hoppy schmush and I cant get any of the wort out.


What's the solution? Forcing the wort back up the line into the copper and blowing Oxygen through the filter to un-bung it. Oxygen is extremely flamable and would therefore not mix particularly well with anyone having a cigarette nearby (or perhaps would mix a little too well....boooooom).

I had to do the oxygen blasting business a couple of times, but after taking about three times the normal time to transfer, the wort was in the fermenter - woop woop!

Chapter two...

It's a week later and the beer didn't ferment fast enough. It was meant to ferment the sugar to give a 5.5% beer, which usually takes about 4 days. After 6 days it pretty much came to a halt so we have now given up. (It will be fine after conditioning though.....we hope). Unfortunately this has shoved our brewing schedule out by a day so we're now a bit behind.

So, Bete Noire. Appropriately named, me thinks.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Small Beer

Small beer. A beer for small people? This is something I was reading about the other day, and being a fan of brewing history, thought I'd share it with you. Apologies for not blogging FOREVER by the way, been terribly busy!

From what I gather, a 'small beer' was made from the second sparging of the original mash. What does that mean? After the barley grains were steeped in hot water and this liquid was collected it was used to make a strong beer. The soggy grains left would then have more hot water put through them to get as much of the remaining sugar out. This second lot of sugary water was then used to make a second, very weak beer.

So who drank this really weak beer and why did they even make it? The history of brewing dates back thousands of years when sanitation was poor and nasty water-borne bugs like cholera killed many people. It was known that the process of brewing involved boiling the water and adding hops which have antibacterial properties, which effectively made the water potable.

The problem was that to drink this 'safe' beverage all day, its consumers would quite probably end up trolleyed as it was high in alcohol content - not particularly conducive to a productive day. The medieval solution was a home-brewed 'small beer' which was given to children, women, and labourers. It was usually under 2%, and often under 1%ABV which meant it served the purpose of hydrating without intoxicating. Marvellous.

I fancy making a small beer. Make a lovely barley wine with the first runnings and then make a really low alcohol 'small beer' with the second. Maybe one day...

PS Apparently 'small beer' was also something to do with porridgey stuff which I don't understand, and it's also a term use to be mean about modern beer which tastes a bit like dishwater.