Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Canberra Craft Beer and Cider Festival

It's on again folks,

The Canberra Craft Beer and Cider Festival is back with more breweries and exhibitors and loads more fun.

Check it out at      http://www.canberrabeerfest.com/index.html

Cherry Wine part 3

Brew Day plus 15

With all fermentation activity finished we take a reading with our hydrometer and it comes out at 0.998 a fairy dry finish and on tasting we are not tasting much more than alcohol with a little bit of plum in it.

We need to bulk age it so will leave it alone for about 4 weeks.

Brew Day plus 35

After a month of bulk aging the taste just isn't quite were we wont it to be, slightly harsh still. Carbonation should lift the taste just enough so its into a keg for a little bit of forced carbing.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Home Built Keg Chiller / Dispenser

With the many events and festivals we and through us the Kraken's Arms attend, the need has come about for a better way to serve our fine beverages. We looked at chiller plates and magic boxes, but in the end decided that a portable keg cooler designed to hold and dispense 3 kegs at once was where we wanted to go.

After a fruitless month of searching we decided to build one using 50mm thick cool room material, this has a layer of polystyrene foam between sheets of colour bond steel.

The first job was to mark out on the sheet all the required pieces and then cut them to size. We then needed to rebate the joints to allow the outer skin to be covered by the jointing alloy angle.

Next we put together the walls, using "blind " pot rivets to join the angle to the walls using plenty of silicon on each joint. The base was then added and a "U" channel used on the top lip to cover the exposed polystyrene.

The outer joints were also covered with angle and a piece of plywood was screwed to the base for better weight distribution. ( when full with 3
kegs and ice there would be an  approx. 80 - 100kg load ) Wheels were then fixed to the plywood for better mobility.

The lid also had the edges covered with the "U" channel and was attached with hinges. Lay flat D handles were bolted to each side, a piece of rubber was glued to the top edge to work with a foam strip on the lid as the seal and an elastic loop was fitted as a closure.

Finally the 3 taps were drilled and fitted. You will notice that the middle tap is set to one side, this is because the kegs fit in in a "V" formation rather than a straight line, this kept the unit slightly more compact and allowed us to make it out of one sheet of material.

Apologies for the photo quality.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Viking Totem Sticks

Viking Totem (or magic) Sticks are essentially branches or sticks, usually Birch or Alder, used to transfer the yeast used for brewing meads and ales between batches and also through the generational family.

Totem sticks were considered sacred by the family and were usually held by the wife or matriarch who would also be responsible for brewing the ales and meads. (1)

Basic brewing techniques apply; grains would be malted and crushed then steeped in hot water before being allowed to cool. Once cool the Totem Stick would be bought out and used to stir the wort. The same technique would be used on meads, except it would be just honey and water heated and allowed to cool.

The act of stirring the wort / must transferred grains of yeast previously dried and trapped in the ends allowing them to reanimate and continue their life cycle, a short lag period whereby the yeast would be multiplying followed by the growth phase. During the growth phase, the wort would be actively foaming and bubbling. The Totem Stick would traditionally be left in for the time the wort was active and this would help to reinforce the quantity of yeast on the Totem but also selectively harvest the quickest growing / working yeast.

   To reprove the concept, we first needed to kill off any wild yeasts by immersing the Totems in water doctored with sodium metabisulphate, we could then inoculate our chosen Totem sticks and to do this we brewed two identical batches of sweet mead. Both contained 2kg of yellow box honey, 1 teaspoon of yeast nutrient, 5gm of Lalvin D-47 yeast and water to make a total volume of 4.75L. The first batch was placed in a 5L glass demijohn with a bung and airlock inserted to seal it off, and the second into a glazed pot (a plastic bag was used over the top to seal off the pot and avoid any wild yeasts invading the must.). Once the must was fermenting and had a good krausen we placed two different versions of Totem sticks into it.

The first is a long stirring stick, which when used to stir the next batch will transfer the yeast over, and the second is a group of twigs which would be just dropped into the must once it was mixed.

After the first week of fermentation the Totem sticks are removed and allowed to air dry naturally.

After the second week of fermentation the must is moved out of the pot and can be consumed (known as small mead) or as we elected to do, racked into a secondary vessel. This allowed us to then clean and reuse the pot for the proof of concept batch. The batch would be made exactly the same as the first two except the only source of yeast would be from the Totem sticks. We would try first the long stirring Totem and in a subsequent batch, the shorter twigs.

After a week of air drying, we made up the third batch to the same recipe leaving out the yeast and using only the Totem stick to mix the must instead of the bar mix. This gave us less aeration of the must, but a more accurate representation of the original process.

Success, after a lag time of about 14 hours we started to see signs of fermentation. And after 18 hours we had a full krausen. The extra lag time is due to the lower levels of yeast at the start and the lower aeration.

The only change we will make to the Totems will be to carve their lengths, not only for decoration but also to allow the yeast more places to settle allowing a higher transfer rate.

(1)    Brewing was usually the work of women in medieval Iceland, and probably in the Viking Age throughout Scandinavia as well:  http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/drink.shtml

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Cherry Wine part 2

Brew Day plus 4

With a vigorous fermentation under way it's time to remove the fruit, this is where using the grain bag has its advantages.

Using a wooden spoon or something to span the opening of the bucket, tie the bag up so as it hangs out of the wine and the fruit pulp can drain off.

Once this is done rack off the wine into a sanitised fermenter and seal up with an airlock.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Brewing With Gruit Herbs part 1

Managed to get my hands on some Bog Myrtle ( Myrica Gale ) the other day and have decided to try a gruit beer.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrica_gale#Cautions please read the cautions on this page.

The story is well documented for those who wish to read about it,  the short version being that before hops were wildly popular ales and beers were bittered using a herb mix known as gruit, with the church of one form or another collecting a tax on it.

As usual the tax on gruit continually went up leaving brewers looking for a substitute and finding hops. Hops while still taxed could be grown by anyone so were more easily available.

Its been estimated that by changing over to hops that brewers could achieve 40% better effiecency from their brew days, this was due to the hops having a preservative effect, meaning the alcohol percentage could be brought right down. ( For the Love of Hops, Stan Hieronymus pg 55 )

So anyway to the brew day, I was making a Rye beer and before adding any hops to the boil, removed 5L of wort to a separate pot. Once this was boiling, I placed 12g of bog myrtle into a hop sock ( they keep the boil cleaned and allow you to remove the waste without staining the wort )
and boiled for 35 minutes.

Once cooled I placed another 12g into a hop sock covered it with boiling water and allow that to cool before adding the wort.

It is now fermenting using US - 05 as this is one of the cleanest fermenting yeasts I have found.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Cherry Wine part 1

Brew day minus 5

After you have bought your cherries home, you need to de-seed and stem them, and once this is done put them into the freezer for a minimum of 3 days. The freezing breaks down the cell walls allowing more juice to be extracted.

 Brew Day minus 2

Remove your cherries from the freezer and place them in  to a large sanitised bucket to allow the to thaw. ( We place the fruit into a large grain bag inside the bucket, this makes removing the fruit later a much easier task )

Brew Day

With clean or gloved hands squash the cherries as much as possible, do this in the bucket as they will squirt juice everywhere.
Cover the cherries with boiling water, cover the bucket with a clean tea towel and allow to cool.
After cooling add 1 teaspoon of pectinase to every 5L of must, stir well and put the tea towel back on.

Brew Day plus 1

Add 1 crushed campden tablet per 5L of must and stir well (this will kill off any wild yeasts from the fruit).

Brew Day plus 2

Mix 2kg of white sugar with 4L of hot water till the sugar is dissolved and allow to cool.
Once cooled add the sugar solution to the must.
Add your chosen yeast and stir well, recovering when finished.

Brew Day plus 3

Stir morning and night, pushing the fruit back underneath the liquid.