Main Menu

December, 2014


Review: Barbãr Belgian Honey Beer

Barbãr | Brasserie Lefebvre

Honey BeerBelgian beers have always been a bit of a mystery to me. I live in the south of England, and the only Belgian beer you can get locally is Chimay which is priced as if it were unicorn blood*. Earlier this month, my girlfriend and I headed to London on a romantic day trip (pub-crawl-in-disguise) and in the evening we visited The Rake Bar, which I can only describe as beer-heaven. Here, I bought a selection of bottled beers from around the world to try when I got back home. The first of these beers was Barbãr.

* does not condone the unlawful killing of unicorns.…

Review: Arrogant Bastard Ale

Arrogant Bastard | Stone Brewing Co.

Today, America is the front-line in the battle for great beer. With craft breweries opening daily in the land of the free,  more and more people are saying no to the beerhemoths of brewing, Budweiser, Miller, and Coors. Instead, the American public are choosing quality beer from small local breweries. A beer revolution is in full swing, and heading the fight are San Diego brewers, Stone Brewing Co. Today we will be reviewing one of their most famous beers, Arrogant Bastard Ale.

Firstly, a few facts. Arrogant bastard is a 7.2% ABV Strong Ale. First sold in 1997, the blurb on the side of the bottle reads, “This is an aggressive beer. You probably won’t like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth.” Arrogant, indeed.Arrogant Bastard Ale


The beer pours a deep caramel red with a tan head which is retained for the entirety of the drink. Large bubbles of co2 and a good bright pour.


Very sweet aroma, deep notes of blackcurrant and cherry which give way to fresh hops and a hint of alcohol harshness.


It’s certainly an aggressive beer as the label and name suggest. A panoply of complex flavours assault your taste buds, the usual dark berry, black chocolate and coffee notes are accompanied by charcoal and molasses flavours.  With my first sip I realised that this was a beer unlike anything I’d tasted before – it was challenging and raw, every time I tried to pin down a flavour it would evolve and change, confusing my unrefined palate. The beer has a certain earthy and feral taste, it’s a flavour I’ve experienced before with other dark american beers; I can best describe it as an earthy almost peaty taste which personally I dislike. Despite it’s high alcohol content of 7.2% there was very little alcohol bite to it.


There’s a lot of hype surrounding Arrogant Bastard Ale, it’s widely praised and has many many hardcore fans, but for me it just didn’t live up to my expectations. Perhaps my expectations were too high, if they were, that had something to do with the boasts of supreme quality and complexity printed on the label. For me, this beer just wasn’t the ‘unprecedented and uncompromising celebration of intensity’ which the blurb promised. I look forward to trying Stone’s more humble offerings, and will be taking a holiday to San Diego in September to visit their brewery (My girlfriend thinks it’s a beach holiday, don’t tell her!)…

DIY Budget False Bottom

We’re back with a new addition to the 10 gallon eHERMS brewery; a budget false bottom for the mash tun. Here’s how you can make one.

DIY Budger

Oxo ‘Good Grips’ Splatter screen with handle:

3x 16mm long M6 stainless steel bolts and nuts.

1 brass tank connector

Total cost = around £20 or $30 at most.

I cut the handle off the splatter screen and then cut and flattened the handle mounting point securely. I then cut the hole for the tank connector, and the 4 holes for the bolts (which are used as stilts to keep it from collapsing.) I fitted the tank connector and bolts fixed with nuts on the underside. I then grabbed the angle grinder and cut two slots in each side of the mash tun’s opening so that I didnt have to make the false bottom a folding one. I plan to fix it with 15mm copper pipe using a small length of hose to join it to the outlet. The weight of the grain bed will hold it down.

And that’s how you make a budget false bottom for a mash tun.


Beer Kit Instructions – How to brew beer from a kit

This tutorial on how to brew beer using a kit was originally written by ‘tubby_shaw’ It’s a superb guide on brewing beer at home using a kit, and is best suited for premium high quality beer kits.

Beer Kit Instructions – How to brew beer from a kit

Two can or all malt beer kits are the pinnacle of beer kit brewing, these kits are available in a wide range of beer styles and are the best that can be experienced in home brewing before taking up extract or grain brewing.

This kit is Bardon bitter from Matchless Homebrew.

The kit contains two cans of hopped malt extract, comprehensive instructions and a sachet of yeast.

Recommended equipment is two 30l fermentation buckets with lids and taps, your choice of sanitising solution, a kettle, thermometer, hydrometer and trial jar and campden tablets or campden powder.
The first stage of the process is to clean and sanitise the fermentation buckets.
My recommendation before doing anything further is to dechlorinate your brewing water. Using 1/2 a crushed campden tablet or the equivalent of campden powder stirred into 25L of tap water will immediately remove all chlorine and chloramines which can give your finished beer a chemical or medicine taste.
Adding the campden powder to the tap water

Adding Campden to brewing water

Standing the two cans in hot water for 5 minutes prior to opening will soften the contents and make them easier to work with. Make sure to use a clean can opener.

Empty the can contents into the fermenting vessel.

Use some of the boiled treated water to rinse out all of the can contents.

Empty the dissolved contents of the cans into the fermenting vessel.
Warning the can will be very hot, use oven gloves or similar to protect your hands!
Stir to dissolve the bulk of the malt extract in the hot water added from the can.

Using the tap on the bucket containing your treated water, drop your treated water into the dissolved kit contents. This will ensure thorough mixing and also aerate your wort to give the yeast the best possible start.

Check that the temperature of your wort is between 20 and 28 Celsius.

If the temperature is correct add the yeast.

Take a gravity reading. In this case 1.040. If you plan to return the sample to the fermenter make sure that the hydrometer and trial jar were sanitised.

Taking a hydrometer reading

18 hours later at 20C and the yeast crop is beginning to form nicely

28 hours in and the yeast head looks like this.

7 days later and fermentation is finished
This is how it looks after a week, after another 3 days, it’ll clear down considerably and be ready for kegging.

OK so it’s been 8 days, gravity is 1.012, but now it’s time to keg.
I will be using a plastic home brew keg for this how to.
The keg was cleaned with Oxyclean, then sanitised with a solution of cheap, thin, unscented bleach. Then rinsed well with cold tap water and finally swilled out with a kettle of boiling water. (Be careful)
50g of sugar (I used demerera, but use what you prefer) was weighed out.

The sugar was added to the keg.
Using a length of hose from the tap on the fermenter, the beer was run into the keg which mixed in the sugar.

Once all the beer was in the keg a burst of gas from an S30 cylinder was added.

After 5 minutes to allow the CO2 to settle, the lid was cracked to vent the air in the keg and leave a protective blanket of CO2.
This keg has a mechanical pressure relief valve, a further squirt of gas and the indicator can be seen to be OK (Green showing)

40 Pints of Bardon bitter conditioning.

Give it a couple of weeks before checking for clarity.






Methods of Mashing

What is Mashing?

Mashing is part of the all-grain brewing process. Put simply, it is the act of mixing malted grains with hot water to convert their starch into sugar, it is this sugar which the yeast convert into alcohol giving us beer. Mashing is half science, half art; there are many different ways of mashing grains, and everyone does things slightly differently to eachother. When you are starting all-grain brewing for the first time, it is best to stick to the tried-and-tested methods of mashing, and find one that’s good for you. In this post I will be summarising the four basic mash types, and with a little help from various online sources will try to explain what makes each one different.

The Four Basic Types of Mashing

1. Single Infusion Mash

The Single Infusion Mash is the the most simple, and arguably the most popular mashing method for homebrewers to use. In an infusion mash, room temperature crushed grains are combined with a premeasured amount of hot water at an exact temperature. By taking the temperature of the grain, amount of water needed, and the mash tun’s properties the homebrewer can determine the exact water temperature needed, to ensure that combined with the grains they will achieve a mash in the 148 to 158 F temperature range. Infusion is typically done at a water to grain ratio of around 1.25 quarts per pound of grain. The easiest way to calculate the proper infusion volume and temperature is with an infusion calculator or brewing software such as BeerSmith The mash is then held at that temperature, usually by keeping the mash in an insulated cooler for 45-90 minutes. At this temperature, the mash will readily convert starches into sugars. You can test for conversion of sugars using an iodine test. Simply draw a small quantity of mashed grains out, add a few drops of iodine to it. If the iodine does not turn blue, then the conversion is complete.

2. Temperature Mash

The Temperature Mash is an alternative to the Infusion Mash. Rather than adding a known quantity of hot water, the mixed water and grains are simply raised to the target mashing temperature and held at that temperature until the starch conversion is complete. While this is quite practical for a commercial brewer, temperature mashing presents challenges to home brewers. Most homebrewers use simple pots over a stove or propane burner, and it is difficult to hold a precise mashing temperature for an extended period using just a stove and pot. A popular homebrewing method for acheiving a stable temperature mash is the use of a HERMS (Heat Exchanged recirculating Mash System), or RIMS (Recirculating Infusion Mash System). These systems are expensive, complex, and are usually used by more experienced home brewers. You can find more information about HERMS and RIMS brewing here.

3. Decoction Mash

Dcoction mashing is a traditional German mashing method. In a decoction mash, some of the mash including both grains and water is moved to a second container where it is brought to a boil. The boiling mixture is then added back to the original mash to raise the temperature of the overall mash. Again, a calculator or brewing software is needed to accurately calculate the correct volume to decoct. Traditional decoctions were typically done at higher water to grain ratios of 2.0 qt/lb or more (a thinner mash). More modern techniques often use water to grain ratios closer to the 1.25-1.5 qt/lb range.

4. Multiple Step Mashes

Multiple step mashes are very complex, and are not suitable for novice brewers. Although a single infusion mash is suitable in 95% of cases where modern well modified malts are used, some precooked adjuncts and undermodified malts require protein rests at lower temperature before the main saccrification (sugar conversion) step. These protein rests help to break down complex starches in preparation for saccrification. Infusion, temperature and decoction steps may be combined to achieve multiple step mashes. For example a complex three step decoction mash might start with an initial infusion step to an acid rest at 105 F, followed by a protein rest at 122 F, and a saccrification step at 155 F. In many mash profiles, a mash out step is used to raise the temperature of the entire grain bed in preparation for sparging. The mash out step helps to halt saccirifcation, and also helps ensure an efficient sparge by extracting sugars at a higher temperature.…

How to Harvest Yeast for Brewing

Hi brewers! I haven’t posted in a while, so I thought it was about time that I put another how-to guide up for all to see! :)

This guide was written by The Homebrew Forum member, ‘Oblivious’. It’s a superbly simple ‘how to’ guide which tells you how to harvest yeast for brewing.
You can find the original thread here.

How to harvest yeast for brewing

This is my method of yeast harvesting, this was done for my last brew a Saison with WLP550

After racking the beer to the keg pour the remaining liquid, trub and yeast into a sterilized container. I find one around 2 liters to be a good size. Place the full container in the fridge for a few hours.

The trub being heavier, will settle out faster than the live yeast. It is the liquid part we are interested in as this will have a greater concentration of viable yeast. Pour this liquid off into a new sterilized container, this can be of a smaller than the first and place in the fridge over night.

As the liquid we placed in the container is yeast rich, we want to harvest the sediment in this container. Decant of the majority of the liquid and transfer the rest includin the sediment to your storage vessel, I use sterilized 50ml tubes.

Decant off the majority of the liquid and pour the yeast in to your selected container. I find there is enough yeast  in each of these tubes to pitch into a starter for a month or so. Over that it I would add two of the tubes to a starter.


We’ve all been there – that horrible moment when we suddenly realised we’ve made a big mistake whilst brewing a batch of beer. Whether it’s remembering, after three days of no fermentation activity, that we forgot to add the yeast on brewday, or realising that we forgot to put the lid on our airlock and that our beer’s been sitting exposed to all kinds of airborne beer-ruining bacteria overnight!

What do we do in these situations? Panic.

“Is it ruined?! What if it’s infected? I must tip it all away down the sink because I messed up and ruined my beer! :(

What should we do in these situations?


Or in laymans terms: Relax, Don’t Worry, Have A Home-Brew!

There’s very little you can do to completely ruin a batch of beer. I once heard a veteran brewer give a panicking newbie the sound advice, “Unless you actually defacated into the fermentation vessel, your beer is going to be just fine.”

Whatever you do, do NOT dump a batch of beer. See how it turns out, and if it’s undrinkable after the full brewing process (after 3 weeks in the bottle!) you are then still not permitted to dump the batch. Beer gets better in time, and the yeast know what they’re doing. Besides, even if you do have an infected batch, it won’t do you any harm! No pathogens can survive in beer, due to the PH level. Even if your beer tastes like a small animal died in it, all it will do is give you an ‘icky tummy’.

So before you tip away that beer you ‘ruined’, give the yeast a chance to do their thing and clean up after your mistakes!…

Quicktip:Boil-kettle volume gauge

We’ve all seen those fancypants brewing rigs with welded in sighting-tubes for gauging the volume of water or wort in the kettle, but what do you do if you can’t afford a fancy boil kettle, or don’t have the skills to fabricate such an elaborate volume-measuring device?

The answer is a lot simpler than you might think: Use a sanitised metal ruler!

Before you brew, fill your boil kettle up in small increments. Each time you add another litre of water (or whatever your unit of measurement is) – dip the ruler into the boil kettle and take a reading of the measurement. Then when you need to know how much liquid is in your kettle during brewing, simply dip the ruler in and check what volume was recorded at that measurement!

You could also do the same thing but using a wooden spoon – score a line for each litre and a thicker line for every 5 litres to make it easy to read.…

Airlocks & Blow-off Tubes

What is the difference between an Airlock and a blow-off tube?

An airlock is a water-barrier that allows co2 to escape during fermentation, without allowing airborne particles, bacteria or insects to enter the fermentation vessel.

A blow-off tube replaces the airlock in a fermentation vessel. One end attaches to the top of the fermentation vessel and the other end is submersed in a container full of water.

Which one should I use?

For most brews, an airlock is fine. The advantage of an airlock is that it is relatively small compared to the blow-off tube, and is much easier to maintain. The problem with airlocks is that a very aggressive fermentation can clog the airlock with Krausen, causing a build up of pressure in the fermentation vessel. When that pressure gets too much, either the airlock or the lid of the fermentation vessel will pop off with great force, causing a big mess. A blow-off tube is much less likely to clog up than an airlock.

If you are brewing a beer using a top-fermenting yeast (most wheat-beers are brewed using this type of yeast), then you should always use a blow-off tube. This is because top-fermenting yeast produce a much higher, thicker krausen than regular ale yeasts and are much more likely to cause problems when using an airlock.

How to make a blow-off tube.

1. Attach a piece of sanitised tubing to the opening of your demijohn (or lid of your fermentation bucket) using a sanitised stopper with a hole in it.
2. Half-fill a small container such as a measuring jug or pint glass with water, and place the other end of the tube inside, below the level of the water. You do NOT need to use bleach or sanitising solution for this!…

Beer Styles: Irish Red Ale

Irish Red Ale is a medium to light bodied ale originating in Ireland. It has very little – if any – hop flavour or aroma. Irish Red Ale has a malty flavour profile with strong caramel notes. The deep red colour is achieved by using a small amount of Roasted Barley which also gives the beer subtle roasted grain flavours.

Examples of commercial Irish Red ales include Murphy’s Irish Red, Caffreys Irish Ale, and Smithwick’s. Despite the name, Irish Red Ale is not widely drunk in Ireland, where Stouts and Ordinary Bitters have become the ale of choice.

Original Gravity Range: 1.044-1.060 SG

Final Gravity Range: 1.010-1.014 SG

Color Range: 9.0-18.0 SRM

Bitterness Range: 17.0-28.0 IBU

Alcohol by Volume Range: 4.0-6.0 %

Carbonation Range: 2.1-2.6 vols


Irish Red Recommended Homebrew Recipe

Here’s a recipe for homebrewing Irish Red ale – You can find the original recipe

Brew Name: St Fuad’s Irish Red
Brewer: St Fuad AKA Pumbaa

Recipe Type: All Grain
Yeast: see below
Batch Size (Gallons): 5.5
Original Gravity: 1.057
Final Gravity: 1.014
IBU: 18.7
Boiling Time (Minutes): 60
Color: 15.9
Primary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): Until FG is reached
Secondary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): Optional

Batch Size (Gal): 5.50
Wort Size (Gal): 5.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 12.75
Anticipated OG: 1.057 Plato: 13.98
Anticipated SRM: 15.9
Anticipated IBU: 18.7
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75 %
Wort Boil Time: 60 MinutesGrain/Extract/Sugar
11.00 lbs. Vienna Malt
0.50 lbs. Crystal 30L
0.25 lbs. Roasted Barley
1.00 lbs. Cara-Pils Dextrine Malt

Hops1.00 oz. Fuggle – 5.00%AA – 15IBUs –  40 min.
1.00 oz. East Kent Goldings – 4.75%AA – 3.7IBUs – 8 min

Wyeast 1084 / WLP004
Wyeast 1728 / WLP028