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BIAB#21: Sorachi Squeak

This was Kev’s first solo brew on the new kit and the basic idea was to make a stout with a twist/something a little surprising in it.  Following a disappointing recent experience with adding vanilla to a Porter (BIAB#18), he didn’t want to achieve that by using any ‘crazy’ ingredients and so ended up looking to introduce additional flavour and character through hops instead.

There was only really ‘hoption’ as far as Kev was concerned, and that was to go for Sorachi Ace. Sorachi Ace is certainly a hop that gets a lot of attention, and not only because of it’s kind of cool and distinctive name, but also because it delivers a lot of different flavour to the typical citrus, pine, etc. associated with high alpha, American varieties. While lemon/lemongrass is the characteristic generally associated with Sorachi Ace, Kev has always found it to have a lot of coconut to it as well and it was that aspect he hoped to capture in the finished beer. It felt like it might go well as an late/aroma hop in a stout.

Stouts are definitely our most brewed style and we’ve been using pretty much the same Stout recipe for a few brews now. It’s always been perfectly nice, but there have been some concerns it was a bit too dry and thin. As he was flying solo, Kev decided to go back to basics and develop a new recipe that might remedy that.  And that is the recipe below:

Sorachi Squeak (25l)

5000g Pale Malt  (74%)
500g   Rolled Oats  (7%)
300g   Chocolate Malt  (4%)
300g   Roasted Barley  (4%)
300g   Caramalt  (4%)
100g   Carapils  (2%)
75g     Black Malt  (1%)

150g Lactose was also added in the boil

15g Magnum @ First Wort Hop [11AA]
10g Sorachi Ace @ 30m [14.9AA]
25g Sorachi Ace @ 0m – 30m Hopstand

65g Sorachi Ace DRY HOP for 4 days

White Labs 004 (Irish Ale Yeast) – 170ml of slurry (2nd Generation)

Vital Statistics
OG: 1.054
FG: 1.016
ABV: 5.2%
IBU: 37
SRM: 40

Tasting Notes
Really very happy with how this has turned out. The Sorachi notes in the beer are just what was hoped for… not overpowering or jarring in anyway, but unmistakably there. This adds a depth and an interest factor to the beer that makes for very pleasant drinking. And, yes, there’s definitely more coconut than lemon. For Kev anyway, but perhaps that’s just him?

As a first go at a new base recipe, it’s really not bad either. Could do with more body, but comments from Keith at Brewclub (@beifbrau) suggest that more oats, and swapping our some Pale for either Munich or Vienna, might help with that. The recipe definitely has a lot of promise and will be tinkered with in future.


BIAB#19: Pilrig

After an unplanned, life and motivation-centred hiatus, I’m going to try and get back to blogging our homebrewing exploits again. Hey, I’ve been busy brewing too… so, I guess that’s a decent excuse.

I thought I’d just start with the most recent beer and see how we go from there, rather than take on the – frankly intimidating – task of catching up on all the brews I’ve missed out.

This was the first brew on a new kit. It may not be the biggest, fanciest or shiniest kit on the block, but it’s an exciting step-up in volume for us. In one swoop, we’ve gone from a maximum brewlength of about 10 to more like 25 litres. More beer! Sounds great. It should also allow us to get more control over the brew, especially mash temperature. This was an ongoing problem for us with our old kit.

For your delectation, here’s the upgrade. It’s an Electrim Digital Mashing Bin. So we’ll still be brewing in a bag and this will be used as both mash tun and boiler. This will allow us to reach and hold temperature much more easily and precisely.

New Mash Tun and Boiler

For this first brew, we played it safe and went for 20 litres of something pale and not too hoppy. It was an also opportunity to use up an ’emergency’ pack of US-05 that Kev had in the fridge. It was getting old and couldn’t comfortably have managed much more that 20 litres at this gravity.

Pilrig (20l)

3500g Pale (75%)
1000g Munich (21%)
300g Wheat (6%)

10g Magnum @ 60m [11AA]
50g Citra @ 0m – 30m hopstand [14.5AA]

50g Citra DRY HOP for 5 days

Safale US-05 (1 pack rehydrated)

Vital Statistics
OG: 1.048
FG: 1.014
ABV: 4.9%
IBU: 43
SRM: 5

Tasting Notes
Definite positives and negatives to this beer for me. On the plus side, using really fresh Citra has clearly proved a winner. It’s wonderfully fruity, with a hint of something a little dark and suspicious… just how I think Citra should be. Hopstand technique working well again.

Very much lacking in body and bitterness, though, and am struggling to disentangle the two a little. Less bitterness is fine… much as I’m very happy with ruinously bitter beer, not everyone is and maybe this will be a positive for others.

Or, maybe the hopping schedule of just 60m plus hopstand has left it lacking a little something that some hops in the boil can help with. Will be interested to hear what others make of it.

Definitely too light a body, though. It was mashed at 67c (according to the new digital display), so will try mashing higher on future brews, especially relatively low gravity ones. Think we might also need to start experimenting with caramalts for future attempts at the style.

And it’s under carbed. Again! Was looking to prime to 2.5 volumes, but it doesn’t really feel like it. Hoping the colder weather means it’s just taking it’s time and it’ll get there in the end.

Anyway, bottles will be tasted by others soon, will post any comments here.

SOLO BIAB#4: Wheat is this?

SOLO BIAB#3: Wheat Is This? (Wheat Wine)

As is often the way with blogs, I imagine, I have fallen very behind with posting, but do want to try and get all the recipes up here. So, I’ll keep this fairly brief.

Wheat Wine is an unusual beer style (certainly in the UK) and something that I’ve heard tell of, but never drunk before. I needed no further incentive or encouragement to give this a go. I found a Wit Wine recipe in Radical Brewing, made a few changes here and there, especially around removing the wit-style spicing, and came up with the following:

Wheat Is This? (6l)

1000g Wheat
430g Pale
390g Lager
400g Brown Sugar
25g Hallertau Hersbrucker @ 60m
20g Saaz @ 20m
30g Saaz @ 5m
White Labs Strong Belgian Ale Yeast (WLP545)

OG: 1.006
FG: 1.085
ABV: 10%
IBU: 41
SRM: 9

This was my first properly big beer and found this really useful set of advice (originally from @thornbridgedom) on high gravity brewing from the Manchester Homebrew website. Thanks to the tip-off from @mpdutton.

Following this advice, I did a 90 minute mash and shook the bucket very vigorously both immediately after pitching (having remembered to fit the lid first!) and about 24 hours later. This, plus the persistence of WLP545, did a great job of fermenting the beer.

I only did a 6l batch of this as that was all that one vial of WLP545 could comfortably handle. The plan was to treat this as a kind of hybrid between a beer and a yeast starter… the yeast cake from this beer will be washed and used to make a second batch of something similar in the future.

I’m really happy with how this is starting to taste at three months old.  Still quite hot, but I’m pretty confident that will settle down and improve in time.  I was also really pushing the gravity/volume that one vial could handle without a starter, so some more undesirable/interesting (depending on how generous you’re feeling) flavours might have come from underpitching too.

I’m really happy with this beer, though.  Tasty in it’s own right, will give birth to a full 10l batch of something similar soon and was a generally successful foray into high gravity brewing.

SOLO BIAB#2: Barrel’s Bottom (IPA)

This was a quick and dirty user-upper brew. As beer stocks were looking low, there were a couple of bags of old hops and some ageing Crystal, Carapils and WLP001 knocking around, Kev couldn’t resist the temptation to put a nice and simple solo brew together. The intention was for an easy-drinking, 5-5.5% APA.

The was something quite comforting about planning a bit more of a back-to-basics, simple drinking beer too. Quite a few of the more recent brews had contained a lot of wacky flavours, with varying degrees of success. Now, much as Kev loves wacky as much as the next person, there was a definite appeal in trying to pin down a solid, go-to recipe.

This sort of lower risk brew was also an opportunity to work on a couple of things. Firstly, three of the previous four brews have been outrageously overcarbed and the suspicion was this was down to overpriming. This beer would be deliberately primed more frugally to see if that was the problem rather than an infection in the brewkit somewhere.

It was also the first brew done across two nights, with the mash & sparge done one evening with the boil, pitch, etc. done the next day. The hope behind this was that it would be a more time/family compatible way of getting a batch brewed.

Anyway, enough blethering, on with the recipe:

Barrel’s Bottom (10l)

2000g Concerto Pale Malt (83%)
100g Munich (4%)
100g Crystal (4%)
100g Carapils (4%)
100g Wheat (4%)
10g Green Bullet / 10g Dr Rudi @ First Wort
10g Dr Rudi @ 5m
10g Dr Rudi @ 0m
DRY HOP (5g/l):
25g Dr Rudi / 15g Green Bullet / 10g Equinox for 6 days
White Labs California Ale (2nd generation)

OG: 1055
FG: 1007
ABV: 6.6%
IBU: 34
SRM: 9

This was a very straightforward brew all things considered. Nothing remarkable other than splitting the brewing across two nights. Which was brilliant, by the way. It takes a bit longer all in (prob about 20-30 mins to get room temperature wort up to mash temperature), but it’s all a lot more relaxed. Couple of hours each night – where I can also pick away at those less glamorous, household jobs I’d be doing anyway – with the brew doing its thing in the background works really well if, like me, you can’t even think about getting started until about 8pm. I will definitely be doing this again.

Thanks for reading. Questions, comments, etc. always more than welcome. Cheers!

UPDATE: 24/10/14

You may have noticed from the stats above that this beer didn’t end up quite as expected. Kev’s gentle 5%ish APA turned into some kind of accidental 6.6%er. He’s just going to call it an IPA and say no more about it. This was down to the yeast really and it attenuating much further than anticipated. It was fermented warmer than was ideal (c.25C) and the second generation WLP001 was clearly very happy with that. So it ended up being a drier, stronger beer than planned, but that’s no great problem. If this was the intent, Kev would have increased the IBUs but, actually, it turned out plenty bitter anyway.

The beer itself was a little underprimed but, actually, that was good news. There were two main theories as to what the likely cause of our recent, foamy beer was… infection in the kit somewhere or too much priming sugar. As dropping the amounts of priming sugar resulted in no foamy beer, this must have been the culprit. Just need to pay a bit more attention to sugar quantities when bottling, I think.

In terms of tasting notes, this was what the (mostly!) good people at our local homebrew club thought of it:

“Interesting use of Green Bullet. Gives a great taste and bitterness I’ve not come across.”

“Piercing, resinous, spicy. Could work well with full fruity aroma hops. Great potential for recipe development. Bit yeasty though.”

“Nice grassy wheat aroma. Very mild.”

“Quaffable. Would happily drink away. Think it would be good with meditteranean food.”

We’d generally agree. It could be more bitter, and the slightly odd New Zealand hops might not be to everyone’s taste, but this is pleasant drinking and deceptively strong. A solid recipe to work on.

Plan from here will be to tinker with the grain bill for a while and try and pin down a decent base IPA recipe from there.

BIAB#6: Sloan (Sloe Stout)

For the @brewstore Homebrew Society, August 2014 (random ingredient/style challenge)

As those of you who’ve read the blog before might well know, Kev and Jono are regular attenders at Edinburgh’s original, biggest and best (only?) Homebrew Club run by the marvellous people from Edinburgh’s original, biggest and best (only?) homebrew shop, Brewstore. These really are great evenings and are probably the one thing that has accelerated both our enthusiasm for, and proficiency at, brewing our own beer more than anything. It’s fun too and there are some really excellent beers on show every month. If you’re in Edinburgh, or have an equivalent nearby, do give it a try.

Anyway, digressing again! At the July meeting we played a little game. There were two bags there with slips of paper inside. One with a range of beer styles inside and another bag with a bunch of random ingredients. Yep, you guessed it, everyone interested drew one of each and that was their beer to brew for the following month. We gave it a go and drew Sloes and Stout. We were delighted with that as a result, especially when you consider some of the beers that others selected. Banana Lager? Liquorice IPA? Cardamom Eisbock?

Anyway, it was Jono’s turn to develop the recipe and this is what he came up with.

Sloan (10l)
1800g    Concerto Malt  (62%)
210g      Flaked Oats  (7%)
200g      Flaked Wheat  (7%)
130g      Chocolate Malt  (5%)
130g      Flaked Barley  (5%)
120g      Crystal Malt  (4%)
110g      Peated Malt  (4%)
110g      Roasted Barley  (4%)
50g        Lactose
30g        Black Malt (1%)
10g       Fuggles / 6g Green Bullet @ 60m
10g       Fuggles / 6g Green Bullet @ 20m
100g     Hazelnuts in the Mash (10g/l)
20g       Dried Sloes @ 60m
20g       Dried Sloes @ 20m
150g     Cocoa Powder / 25g Cocoa Nibs @ 10m
60g       Lactose / 40g Dried Sloes / 2 vanilla pods for 7 days
White Labs California Ale (2nd Generation)

OG: 1066
FG: 1016
ABV: 6.8%
IBU: 48
SRM: 40

There were a few things to note with this particular brew. First off that it was, certainly in terms of using sloes, very much guesswork. The plan was to try and use their natural flavour as an additional bittering agent in the beer, hence the use throughout the boil as well as in secondary but we totally guessed in terms of quantities.

This was also the first time that we’d added some wheat to the mash for a Stout. Much as we’re already using a (too?) complicated grain bill in our stouts, this was added in to hopefully help with head retention.

The final new thing that we tried was bringing some hazelnut flavour in there to complement the sloes. A few months previously, we had sampled a Hazelnut Brown Ale made by Rory at Brewstore. The hazelnut flavour was clear, smooth and gorgeous and we thought this would work excellently both with a Stout and alongside the flavour of sloes. We copied Rory’s method to the letter (other than upping the amount of hazelnut, at his suggestion). This was to roast the hazelnuts for 15 minutes to release their oil before taking them out and transferring them between paper bags to remove as much oil as possible. We then blitzed the nuts into the size that you’d use as the topping for Brownies and added these bits for the full 60 minute mash.

Also, and maybe sightly oddly, we used WLP001 as the yeast. This was because we had forgotten to get any specific Stout yeast and there was some rinsed WLP001 sat in Kev’s fridge. It seemed far better to use that than to have to go to the shops the next day before pitching.

That’s that, really. Thanks for reading. tasting notes will follow but, as always, comments, etc. are more than welcome below. Cheers!

UPDATE: 21/10/14
Lots of good and lots of learning in this beer. Starting with the downsides, the sloes really didn’t come through anything like as much as hoped. The flavour’s kind of there, but nothing like prominent. A shame but, as mentioned above, we were totally guessing with quantities and I guess it’s better for it to be too subtle than overwhelming and ruining the beer.

The beer as a whole was grand, though, and the hazelnuts a revelation. Really like the smooth nuttiness these bring to the beer, adding a super tasty, nicely complex layer to our base stout recipe.

This one was, however, one of several beers in a row that we had overprimed. So can’t really comment on whether or not the wheat has aided head retention at all. Head taming was more the order of the day, truth be told!

Lots of potential for this one anyway, so might rebrew. Next time? More sloes at all stages of the process, keep the hazelnuts in, don’t mess up the priming sugar.


For the @brewstore Homebrew Society’s August Meeting (2014): IPA Theme

This was not another solo brew but, in a shocking departure from the norm, this brew did not involve Jono either.  While Kev and Jono have brewed separately in the past, never before had they invited a third person in to bag their hops or touch their wort chiller.  That is, however, exactly what happened on this particular occasion,

After a long evening in the pub, Kev was propositioned by his pal, Mick.  “How about we make a quick Black IPA”, he said.  “Jono will never know”, he said.  How could Kev possibly resist?

After that fateful night, and a couple of weeks where Kev could only look sheepishly at Jono over the mashing and sparging bags, the guilt became too much!  Kev told Jono he was going to brew a one-off beer with Mick and the inevitable happened.

This brew was very much Mick’s choice.  He decided the beer style but, never having brewed before, left the recipe formulation to Kev.  Having got some basic information from Mick about the desired end product (ABV, levels of roastiness, bitterness, aroma, etc), Kev was off to try and create something magical.  Well, you know, drinkable at least.

A bit of rooting around on the internet for other people’s recipes as a starting point, led to the three different Black IPAs posted by @broadfordbrewer.  He had used three different techniques with which to get the ‘black’ element of the Black IPA.  Namely: some Carafa III in the mash with more added for the sparge, Carafa III for sparging only and an overnight steeping of Black Malt.  As might be expected, these all led to quite different levels of roastiness in the respective beers.

As the hope was to get some roastiness in this beer – but not too much – the option of some Carafa III in the mash (with significantly more for the sparge only) was selected.  The hope is that this will be an IPA that is black in colour, yes, but that also has a good whack of black in the flavour as well.

Just as it looked like the recipe was all set, Kev stumbled upon a conversation between @richardmackney and @kempicus about this very subject.  Always keen to learn – and never afraid to follow others in a sheeplike fashion – Kev also requested @kempicus’ briefing sheet on Black IPAs.  Having effectively disregarded the information on water treatments (not at that stage of development yet), the section on hopping was great.

A significant reworking (i.e. massive increase) of the hop schedule followed and the beer below was born.

Black IPA Recipe (10l)
2500g Concerto Pale Malt  (77%)
500g Munich Malt  (15%)
165g Crystal Malt  (5%)
90g Carafa III  (3%)
(another 210g Carafa III added for sparge only)
14g Columbus (pellet) as First Wort Hop
5g Cascade / 5g Chinook / 5g Experimental Hop 366 @ 10m
5g Cascade / 5g Chinook / 5g Experimental Hop 366 @ 5m
10g Cascade / 10g Chinook / 10g Experimental Hop 366 @ 0m
DRY HOP (8g/l for 3 days)
20g Cascade / 20g Chinook / 20g Columbus (pellet) / 20g Experimental Hop 366
White Labs California Ale (2nd Generation)

OG: 1066
FG: TBC (1016 after 7 days)
ABV: 6.7%+
IBU: 60
SRM: uncertain

The process was very similar to other brews, so won’t be covered in detail.  Kev actually forgot to fully adjust for the larger grain bill, meaning we mashed with too little liquor and were down on volume overall.  Other than that little mishap – and there always seems to be one – all went very smoothly.  Mick will be brewing with poise and prowess in no time!

A couple of new things were brought into the the brewing on this occasion.

Firstly, following a conversation at the local homebrew society, everyone seemed to feel that the process we had undertaken previously of squeezing the grain bags in an effort to extract the maximum amount of wort was not a good idea.  It was felt there was a high risk of tannins that way and that we were risking the quality of the beer by pushing efficiency too hard.  So this was the first ‘no-squeeze’ brew.  As it further affected our issues around total volume detailed above and also took our efficiency down from 65% to 60%, it was far from ideal.  It will be good to see if it positively affects the finished beer, though.

The observant among you might also have noticed that the yeast used was second generation WLP001.  We pitched about 100ml of washed yeast / slurry from the previous brew into the cooled wort.

Much as all the internet guides on washing yeast for re-use make it look very straightforward, Kev & Jono did find the whole process a little confusing and uncertain. (“Is THAT the yeast?” “I dunno.” etc.)  Because of this, the wait after pitching was a nervous one.  It worked really well, though.  Fermentation was strong after 12 hours and the beer was down to 1016 after a week.  The Mr Malty Pitching Rate Calculator proved an indispensable resource.

So, all being well, this should turn out to be a dark, quite roasty Black IPA with balanced bitterness and lots of aroma from the hops.  That’s the theory anyway… we’ll see if we managed to pull it off.

Thanks for reading.  Any comments or anything more than welcome.


TASTING NOTES – 21/10/14

This turned out to be an excellent beer, really happy with it as a first attempt at a Black IPA. The Carafa III technique we used ended up being just what we’d hoped for. There is a distinct roastiness in the flavour, but this is gentle and plays very nicely with the rest of the beer. The hops are strong. Grubbily wonderful and very dank indeed. Best aroma Kev has ever managed to coax from one of his beers too. Really was spot on flavour-wise, delighted.

Wouldn’t do too much different next time, it’s more about taking the learning from this and applying it to future beers. In a future BIPA, Kev would definitely do something very similar with the Carafa III again and the short, but quite heavy, dry hopping is something that should definitely be repeated.

BIAB#5: Bonnington

Brewed for the July Brewstore Homebrew Society Meeting

Well, the local Homebrew Society meetings @brewstore continue to get a bit more structured and organised.  The back room of the shop is just not big enough to house us all, so we’re moving to a bigger venue.  We now have information sheets to fill in (see below) and apparently more plans in the pipeline.  Exciting times!

brewstore check in sheet

Anyway, as part of this move to elevate a perfectly pleasant, if somewhat busy, drinking session into something more respectable, July will be the second month in which a theme has been set.  For July we’ve been asked to brew a beer using a single hop variety.

As Kev had brewed for the previous month’s low ABV challenge, Jono took the responsibility on himself to develop a recipe for this one.  Having decided to go for a Black IPA as the style and to use Palisade as the hop (because we had plenty of it and hadn’t used it before), the following recipe emerged (10 litre batch):


  • 2370g   Concerto Pale Malt  (90%)
  • 132g     Crystal Malt  (5%)
  • 132g     Carafa III  (5%)


  • 20g       Palisade @ 60m
  • 20g       Palisade @ 30m
  • 20g       Palisade @ 0m


  • OG:     1052
  • FG:      1014
  • ABV:    5.4% (after bottle conditioning)
  • IBU:     59
  • SRM:   27
  • YEAST: WLP001 California Ale Yeast

It was a pretty uneventful brewday, all went smoothly and according to plan really.  The Palisade smelt great and surprisingly punchy in the bag but, in the end, was less obvious in the finished wort than we were expecting from that aroma.  Tasted promising, just not as hop-forward as we’d anticipated from the smell.

The Carafa III in the mash ended up giving a great colour and we picked up some, but not too much, roastiness from that.  All boding well prior to pitching anyway.

We are still looking to try something new brewing-wise wherever possible just now, so this brew was our first time using liquid yeast (WLP001).  Having heard nothing other than how it can make a massive difference to the finished product, we thought we’d give it a whirl.  Certainly after 24 hours, the fermentation vessel was positively bulging and there was lots of krausen forming, so it’s definitely working.

Kev has plans to brew another Black IPA very soon, so the plan is to ferment this beer, rack it to secondary for dry hopping and then clean the yeast from this batch.  Inspiration for that came from this post from @happyhomebrewr.  As they’d made it look so easy, we’ll look to re-use this cleaned yeast for the next Black IPA.  (Don’t worry, a backup sachet of US-05 has been bought, just in case this doesn’t work out.)

So, that’s Bonnington – a Palisade Black IPA – doing it’s thing.  Will update on progress as and when.

Thanks for reading, any comments are more than welcome.