Sunday, 25 January 2015

One For The Boys



Dave over at http://www.northsiderdave.blogspot.co.uk/ asked whether Mr CT, my esteemed husband and brewer of all things beery, might be persuaded to do a Guest Post on Countryside Tales explaining how he makes the stuff.
This is Boy Alchemy as far as I'm concerned and I venture no further into the Mysterious Arts of home-brewing than to drink the end results, and Very Drinkable they are too. 
We (that's the Royal "we") have had some Famous Disasters along the way. The entire house had to be fumigated for several hours on one bloody irritating memorable occasion when the fish swim bladders that get added to the beer under the general heading of Alchemy were discovered to be off only after they had been opened (and my God did they stink). To be honest, you really wouldn't want to be anywhere near my kitchen when even the non-off Fish Bladders are being added. On the whole, it all works rather well and it keeps him busy, which is the main thing.
So, without further-ado, here, in a break with tradition and a first for Countryside Tales, is me handing the reins of my beloved blog over to my husband......

Hi Folks, Mr CT here taking over my wife's blog for the afternoon to regale you all with a tutorial on How To Make Beer....
I started making beer with my dad when I was a teenager (we also experimented with a variety of hedgerow wines, with varying results, but they generally propelled you directly to a hangover without passing Go). Having a supply of homebrew as a teenager felt a rather thrilling and manly thing to do.
Fast-forward thirty years or so and I was prompted by the urge to have another go. Even better, I have my own shed to store the stuff and it still feels thrilling and manly.

First things first. Beer is very simple stuff. It's made form barley, hops, yeast and water. The enzymes in the yeast convert the sugar in the barley malt to ethanol. Breweries start the brewing process by germinating barley grains, which transforms the starch into maltose, then roasting and mashing the grains to extract the malt. Hops are added purely for flavour. In practice, I don't have the time or the set-up to do any of this, so I take the easy route and buy a beer kit. 

Back in the 80s there were very few homebrew brands (the ones I remember are Tom Caxton and Boots), but now there is a vast array of them. I have experimented with a few and tend to get the best results from kits made by Better Brew.



This is a pre-prepared concentrate of malt and hops, with a separate sachet of yeast.  You need to add a kilo of extra sugar to this - I find that spray-dried malt gives the best quality.


Homebrewing happens in three stages:


Fermenting
1. Sterilise all the kit. 
2. Boil some water and stir it together with the malt and sugar in your fermenting bin. 
3. Add more water till the bin is full (the standard brewing volume is 23 litres (40 pints)).
4. Check the temperature- if it's between 20 and 25 degrees  then sprinkle in the yeast.
5. Leave for 10 days or so while the yeast gets to work on the sugar. 
It needs to be kept at the right temperature- I use a thermostatic fish tank heater which does the job nicely.




 Kegging
1. This step is optional but I heartily recommend it because it means that you can minimise yeast sediment in the bottles.
2. Lift the fermenting bin onto a worktop (plenty of grunting required here) and siphon it into the keg (this is for the secondary fermentation process which will give the beer its fizz).
3. Leave in a warmish place for another ten days or so to finish this stage (mine goes next to the airing cupboard).


After that the keg gets taken off to the shed and left well alone for a month or so to clear. If it's slow to clear then you need to add isinglass paste. Isinglass is mashed up fish swim-bladders, and I love to imagine the serendipitous accident that led to the wonderful discovery that they can clear cloudy beer. Isinglass smells awful but thankfully it doesn't linger in the beer.

Bottling 
This is the most involved stage.
1. Carefully clean and sterilise all your bottles.
2. Tap the beer into a jug and then fill up the bottles- it takes a while and can be a bit messy but is a great job for the shed on a summer's day with the radio on. We collect empties from friends who get rewarded with a full bottle in return.
3. Apply bottle caps with a special crimping machine (very satisfying, this bit) and bingo - you're done.

I've had one or two duff batches on the way and this has taught me that you really need to make sure that your keg is good and secure. Keep the pressure valve greased otherwise is goes flat and the quality rapidly goes off.  Also, you need to start the brewing process straight away once you've got everything mixed in the fermenting bin otherwise it will turn to vinegar....vinegar (ethanoic acid) is just oxidised alcohol (ethanol). I fell foul of this when my thermostatic heater bust and I didn't realise till it was too late.


That's it! It's a lot of fun and it's really not very hard to get surprisingly tasty results. 

Kits are available online, or you might be lucky and have a local beer shop who'll be able to supply you with everything you need to get started.

Good Luck!





 

20 comments:

  1. Sadly all gibberish to me Mr CT as I am not a beer drinker at all! Very informative though I am sure! xx

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    1. Hi Amy, perhaps more Mr Amy's cup of tea?

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  2. Nicely done Mr CT, I'm in favour of all things home made. And in envy of your shed.

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    1. Many thanks, CJ. A shed is an essential of life!

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  3. Hi Mr CT. I have never managed to make a nice bitter from home brew. Saying that some of the real ales I have bought I don't like. Perhaps it's just me. I never left them to settle for a month and always had to sample it after a couple of weeks. Would like to try cider making making with supermarket bought apples. Great post!

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    1. Worth giving it another go and leaving the settling time for longer. We have also had some not very nice ones along the way. Trial and error.
      Friends got an apple press and made some very professional (and strong) cider last year.

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  4. I remember my dad making bitter when I was a kid, we ted not to drink much at all ....half of larger passed my lips for the whole of last year, I know how to party...! fancy making some Elderflower cordial though..
    Amanda xx

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    1. Elderflower cordial is lovely, well worth making. I'm not a huge drinker either, although I do enjoy a glass of wine and the odd G&T :o) x

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  5. My husband makes beer & wine, I must do a post about it.
    Love discovering & reading your blog.
    Fondly Michelle

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    1. Our wine making experiments have been disastrous! Would enjoy reading a post on it :o)

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  6. Thank you Mr. CT that was really interesting, I was only saying to my partner last week he should have a go at it. He does like a drop of real ale, so did I but sadly can't drink it anymore because of the barley. Also thinking of having a go at wine at some stage.

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    1. You're welcome Chickpea. Brewing at home is addictive! We had poor results with wine but lots of people make it successfully so it's worth a go.

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  7. How very brave of you CT to let Mr CT loose on your blog! A very interesting post... I like ale as do my mum and boyfriend so perhaps we'll give it a go in the summer... is there any vegetarian alternative to fish swim bladders??? x

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    1. I know, I thought same! :o)

      Mr CT isn't sure re vegy fish bladders xx

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  8. Home brewing was very popular in the 80's.Remembering those old brands made me smile! I remember we made some red wine once and proudly had all of them displayed in our wine rack. One evening when we had some friends around for a drink we heard an explosion, rushing into the kitchen we discovered a flood of red wine! Sarah x

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    1. Oh no! I bet you all fell about laughing though :o) xx

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  9. Really interesting post from Mr CT especially as B has been on about starting to make beer again. Will have to stock up though as we got rid of all the beer and winemaking equipment when the children were little and never seemed to have any spare time!!

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    1. Many thanks Caroline. I'm sure he won't regret it if he does decide to start up again.

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x