Archive for the ‘IPA’ Category

Tasting the IPA

My first brew has now had over two months in the bottle. After throwing away the Light as detailed in the post below, I decided to see how the IPA is now. I opened one of the beers bottled in the cheap lager bottles (and my initial suspicions with these bottles is that they don’t develop the flavour quite as well as the thicker bottles, but its too earlier to tell really – and Im not sure if there could be any logical reason for this). The initial sweetness had mellowed nicely, so while still a little sweet, it is no longer overly so. It is definitely a refreshing summer beer. There is a noticeable subtle taste that reflects the fine flavour Phil’s IPA produced, but mine doesn’t have the depth or breadth of flavours he produced from the same kit.

Overall, I’m not too disappointed with this brew. I was my first brew, it suffered from major temperature problems because of the heating issues in my house, and it has still produced something pleasant and drinkable.

The real test will be of the stout that I will hopefully bottle at the weekend – another brew where Phil and I have done the exact same brew. If this one doesn’t turn out similar to Phil’s, I will start playing around with my brewing, warm week and maturing temperatures to see if I can improve the final product.


Read Full Post »

With Phil and another mate, Chris, round on Tuesday, I decided it was time to crack open a few more bottles of the IPA, and see how its doing at the 4 week (since bottling) stage. I seem to be swinging back and forth with my thoughts on my first brew as I’m back to being a bit disappointed. It hasn’t really changed since last week, so while it is nicely fizzy, and with a pleasant and mild taste, it still doesn’t have the depth of taste that Phil’s IPA had. I’m comforting myself with the fact that the best of his were at least a couple of months old. It still looks pretty good though:

3rd Taste of Munton’s IPA

Read Full Post »

I have decided to box up some of the Munton’s IPA, in order to ensure that at least some of it lasts for a few months. This should allow me the freedom to pinch a beer when I fancy one, but still allow me to learn how my beer tastes after a longer maturing period.
Boxed Muntons IPA

Read Full Post »

Three weeks after bottling the IPA, and a couple of weeks since the first (very early and slightly disappointing) tasting, I decided it was time for another go. I hoped this time, given we are approaching the 4 week mark where some suggest the beer should be at its best, the beer would be much more enjoyable. Phil (of Phil Norton’s Brewing Blog in my blogroll) had come round for the evening, so I popped open a bottle and poured the contents into two rather unmanly glasses and took a picture:

Munton’s IPA Second Tasting

With the previous tasting, I took one of the beers which was bottled last, and so contained a great deal of sediment. This time, I went for one of the first to be bottled. The cap came off with no noticeable fizz, which concerned me, given my fear that all the sugar had dropped and so the earlier beers might not have been primed, but as I poured a very pleasant head appeared. The beer had also cleared nicely, giving what I felt to be a very attractive looking beer, all be it a little dark for an IPA.

The beer had only a subtle smell, but still a pleasant slightly fruity smell as before. Now for the tasting… mmmmm, thats a tasty beer 🙂 I am really pleased with the results. While it is a fraction sweeter than I would choose, it is a really nice tasting IPA. It is nicely fizzed, though I hope it doesn’t get any fizzier. The taste is subtle but very enjoyable. There are plenty of flavours, but none are too strong or overpowering. Only the sweetness prevents you from considering it for a heavy session, but I could easily see mates downing a few over a relaxing evening. In fact, having had just a small glass each, I cracked open another bottle for Phil and I shortly afterwards. (This second bottle was the other silver topped bottle, so the last one bottled, but it was fairly indistinguishable from the first bottle to be honest.)

I am putting the slight over sweetness in the beer down to the boiler related temperature issues preventing me quite reaching the target gravity. However, this simply makes it a pleasant and relaxing post-meal kind of beer, which I am sure I will enjoy over the next month or two. I now intent to dig up a box or two to put away perhaps as many as 20 bottles so that I cannot be tempted to drink them all over the coming months. This should free me up to pick from the rest as I wish. I will also be taking a number of bottles to a family do towards the end of March, and will be interested to see how they go down.

Over the coming months I will continue to monitor and report on the beer as it matures. As always this will serve as a record to myself, and hopefully will be of interests to readers of this blog too.

Read Full Post »

First IPA Tasting

I debated when to open the first bottle of my very first home brewed beer. I had intended originally to leave it at least one month, but some expert advice stated that it could be at its peak after as little as 4 weeks. This advice went against my experience when tasting Phil’s homebrew (see my blogroll), as it seemed to get better and better up to at least 9 months in some cases, and not being close to its best until it had been in the bottles for 3 or 4 months.

My uneducated theory on these time differences is that it may be the case that after around 4 weeks, some of the strongest flavours like the hops and bitterness begin to fade slowly. However, other flavours grow as the beer matures. Therefore as time goes by you get a deeper, more blended and more well rounded beer, which to my personal pallet, is much more favourable.

Getting back to the point, I decided that as this is my first beer, I need to learn as much as possible about the phases the beer goes through, so opening a few of my 42 beers before the beer is at its best will be worth it. So, on Friday, 10 days after the beer had been bottled, I opened my first one.

First IPA Taste

I opened the very last bottle I bottled (one with a gold cap if you read the bottling post here). This would therefore have had a number of the lumps of yeast in. There was also the chance that it had extra priming sugar in, given I had intended to leave the beer with the priming sugar mixed in for around 30 minutes, but it had well over an hour as I cleaned all the bottles.

There was a pleasant fizzing sound as I popped off the cap. I poured it carefully and no head really appeared until I straightened the glass to pour the final third in, but even then it was just a very short-lived co2 head and was gone in 30 seconds. There were lots of bubbles rising in the beer to start with. As the picture shows, the beer was very dark, and not very clear at all. The aroma was pleasant, though very mild. I would say it was a slightly fruity smell.

When I finally tasted the beer, I was rather disappointed. It had very little flavour at all – barely anything to have an opinion on. It was pleasantly fizzy, but perhaps already slightly more fizzy than I would want an ale like this to be. There was a very slight after taste to the beer. It wasn’t very noticeable, but I might describe it as a slightly yeasty taste. The beer was also quite sweet. This made it hard to drink.

My overall feeling currently is disappointment, but I still have some hope for this beer. This was after all the last beer bottled, so the the yeasty taste, the fizz and the sweetness could all be explained by this. The desired flavour I hope will come with time, as will clarity. I intend to leave it a couple of weeks before opening another one, which will be one of the first I bottled.

Read Full Post »

Munton’s IPA bottling day

Muntons’ IPA Label

At last, the time had come to get my beautiful beer into bottles. I’d spend a lot of time working out exactly how I was going to do this, so I felt well prepared.

I started off by filling the trial jar I bought on Saturday using a sanitised tube connected to the tap. Using the hydrometer, I confirmed that the gravity was still around 1015, and also confirmed that the beer was coming out of the tap ok – it was cloudy but with no noticeable sediment from the bottom of the bucket. I took a taste and found the flavour very mild and rather shallow, but pleasant none the less. Hopefully with time in the bottle the flavour will develop, but I was pleased to still find no unwanted flavours at all. I lifted the bucket from the floor of the brewery, to the work surface in the kitchen.

Next I needed to add the sugar. After lots of indecision (worrying – thats what homebrewers do while waiting for their brews to do their stuff), I finally decided to add the sugar into the bucket before bottling, rather than added sugar to each individual bottle. This was considerably quicker and easier, and some research had reassured me that a gentle stir would not bring up the sediment from the bottle of the bucket. I weighed out 80 grams of glucose. This might be be slightly preferable to granulated sugar in terms of flavour but it is unlikely to be noticeable with such a small amount. In all honesty, I used it as it came with the beginners equipment I was given. I used 80 grams rather than the 85 recommended partly because by beer was already above the target gravity (and so slightly over sweet) but this also matched some recommendations from the web. I added the glucose to a jug, and poured on freshly boiled water – just enough to cover it. With a quick stir it was all dissolved. I covered the jug with clingfilm and made a couple of holes in the film before placing the jug in the microwave on full power until it began to bubble. This should ensure the sugar is sanitised. I left this to cool for a while, and later added it to the beer, very slowly making as little splashing as possible. I very gently stirred the beer for 20 seconds with a sterilised stirrer. Before adding the sugar, I had noticed quite a lot of clumps of a soft brown substance floating on the top. I hoped these wouldn’t be a problem.

Next it was onto the bottles. Thankfully the 48 bottles that Phil had ordered me as part of my Christmas present had now been delivered, so I didn’t have to complete the cleaning of all the donated bottles – that can wait for the next batch. I also included 4 of the cheap lager bottles I bought previously, as a tester for using more of them next time. During my trip to the brew shop on Saturday I had also bought a bottle tree, thinking that this would be the easiest way to dry 45 bottles at once. Having constructed the bottle tree (only 5 large pieces) and sterilised it, I filled the sink with water and sterilising solution and placed in 8 bottles. For about the next 45 minutes I continually took out 4 bottles and place them on the bottle tree, and added 4 new bottles to the sink. I always aligned 4 bottles facing towards the taps and 4 away in the sink, and with the most recently added bottles resting on top, so I could always see which bottles had been in the longest. I returned every 5 minutes to swap the bottles, so each bottle got 10 minutes of soaking. With the final few bottles, I also dropped in the crown caps to sterilise them.

I was certainly correct about the bottle tree – what an awesome purchase – I don’t know how I would have coped without it.

Bottle Tree

Once all the bottles were done, I removed them all, emptied the sink and, after rinsing the bottle tree, and proceeded to rinse each bottle in cold water and place it back on the tree.

In the gaps between cleaning, I had finished cutting out the labels I had printed out (using a craft knife and ruler). I laid these on the floor alongside a bowl with a little milk in, and a pastry bush. Between these and the beer bucket I laid the sanitised and rinsed crown caps in a bowl, and the capper which I got with my original equipment. I attached the sanitised tube to the tap again and let this fall to the floor and into a sanitised washing up bowl.

Bottling setup

Finally it was time to actually put my beer into bottles. I pushed the tube right to the bottom of the first bottle and slowly opened the tap. The first couple of bottles I filled too quickly, giving them something of a head inside the bottles. This also didn’t give me enough time to cap and label the bottles. I quickly found a nice slow pace was best. I also discovered that lifting the tube a little when the bottle was almost full allowed me to easily fill to within a couple of centimetres of the top of the bottle. I also added a clean towel to my setup, on which I placed each just filled bottle. This dried the bottom of the bottle and also allowed me to wipe any beer from the bottle ready for labelling. I spent the next 45 minutes repeatedly filling, capping and labelling. Having everything laid out for this turned out to be a very good idea:

Bottling Process

The first 30ish bottles all filled easily and without incident. However, after that, I started to find that bottles would only half fill and then the flow would slow or even stop completely even though the tap was still open. I found this was due to the clumps that had been left floating on the surface of the beer being drawn into the tap. I couldn’t see any sensible way of preventing this, so I continued bottling. I found that lifting the tube up a little would often free the flow, or failing that, opening the tap further worked (all be it with the occasional sudden overflow). Given these bottles would now likely have these clumpos in, I decided to label them as such, and put a small “L” on these bottles to remind me which were bottled later in the process. As I got to the last few I added “VL” for very late, as these were picking up quite a lot of the clumps. I even bottled a couple of extra bottles by tilting the bucket up. This were capped with a different colour cap (mostly because I had used the 40 blue caps now) but this was also a useful further indication that these last 2 would definitely not be ones for sharing.

It was a very satisfying sight when I finally had 42 capped and labelled bottles on the kitchen floor.

Bottled Munton’s IPA

I took the 4 beers in the thin lager bottles, and a couple of standard bottles and put these in a big black bin in my study. Hopefully, these will be fine, and I can use more of these thinner bottles with the next brew. However, if something does go wrong, at least the damage should be contained.

Thin Bottles Test

I must have been on a roll on bottling day, as I managed what I now think was another very good idea. In addition to labelling the last few bottles, I managed to keep all the bottles in the order I had bottled them. I maintained this order when putting the bottles on the shelf in the brewery, so that when picking a bottle to drink, I will be able to tell when it was bottled. This will be useful not only for seeing the effects of the clumps and any sediment that got picked up in later bottles, but also for seeing if the sugar (and so fizz) is equally distributed, or whether it dropped down the bucket while I was cleaning all the bottles. It will also allow me to select bottles for friends and family from whichever part of the bottling produced the best final beer.

If I felt satisfied after I finished labelling the last bottle, I felt even better when I had them all neatly shelved.

Shelved IPA

Job done. Now we wait…

Read Full Post »

Just about bottling time.

Almost ready to bottle

With the prospect of some time on Sunday where I might be able to bottle the Munton’s IPA , I decided it was time to take a hydrometer reading. I still don’t have a trial jar, though I hope to get one from the homebrew shop on Saturday. That mean carefully taking the lid off, at which point there was a noticeable hiss – yet more signs of life I hoped. I gently placed the hydrometer in the beer and took the above picture, before also holding the thermometer in the beer. The temperature settled at 16.5 degrees again. The gravity however I still find a little difficult to read, what with the markings only down one part of the hydrometer, as well as trying to decide exactly what level the reading is at. I settled on a reading of 1016, or possibly a tiny fraction below (though certainly much closer to 1016 than 1015). I had hoped for a reading of 1014 or less – the suggested finishing gravity in the instructions, but it does look like fermentation has just about finished, having changed so little now.

If it looks like I will have time to bottle on Sunday, I will first use the trial jar I should have by then, and take a final reading and a taste. If the gravity is still at 1016 and it tastes nice, I will bottle it. While at the brew shop, I will buy some light spraymalt to prime the bottles with (as suggested by the instructions on the box (and on various forums). I believe this is a better choice that standard sugar, in terms of the final flavour produced. I have opted to prime the bottles as I do not have a bottling bucket to siphon the beer into (while leaving the yeast sediment behind) and I do not want to stir sugar in and disturb all the sediment. I have bought some cheap measuring spoons to ensure I can prime each bottle with a very similar estimate of 1/2 teaspoon of spray malt, hopefully reducing the chances of any explosions.

I am looking forward to getting this brew bottled, both so that its closer to being ready and so that I can kick off the next one and see how well that copes with the temperatures.

Read Full Post »

It’s not over yet…

Beer still going

Great news. The beer is still fermenting. I popped the top off and gently dropped the hydrometer in. The reading was 1016, unmistakeably less that the previous reading. There were also some bubbles (though not that many) on the surface. I chose to give it another very gentle stir, being very careful not to splash at all. I think this will be the last stir as I really don’t want to risk introducing oxygen to the beer now.

I also measured the temperature of the beer, as it was pointed out to me that the temperature of the beer can often be a lot lower than the room temperature, and of course brewing guides refer to beer temperature. The beer was at 16.5 degrees, about a degree lower than the room temperature. I suspect this really is on the limit of what I can expect to produce beer consistently well, so depending on the success of the wine and the next beer (which hopefully won’t suffer the same boiler problems) I might have to seriously consider some form of heating for the brewery.

This temperature also means, according to my research, that I can actually lower the hydrometer reading by a point, meaning it is actually at about 1015, very close to 1014 – the highest target gravity for bottling according to the instructions.

Overall I am very relieved to see proof that the beer is still alive and kicking, even if it is a little sluggish. I will take another reading on Saturday, but will probably not be able to bottle until at least the following weekend anyway, so it will likely get another 10 days to finish fermenting.

Read Full Post »

Having given the beer four days since giving it a good stir to try to kick it back in to life, I decided it was time to take another measurement. Rather than taking the lid off I decided I would draw a sample through the tap. I wanted to do this for a number of reasons: I wanted to avoid taking the top off and exposing it to yet more oxygen, I wanted to be able to taste a sample, I wanted to be able to get a more accurate hydrometer reading, and I wanted to test out the tap before the bottling stage as I suspected being so low it would catch too much of the sediment.

Tube Test

Having put the bucket on a thick book to raise the tap off the ground to allow me to attach the tubing, I was fairly easily able to fill the tube the hydrometer came in with beer. As it happened I originally filled it to a level where, with the hydrometer in, the beer came up exactly to the top of the tube. This made taking a hydrometer reading very difficult with the beer making a bell shape at the top. The tube was also very tight, and so the hydrometer didn’t move smoothly up and down. However, taking a number of readings I would estimate the gravity at between 1017 and 1018 – in other words it might have gone down a fraction from the previous readings of 1018, but I’m far from certain that it has. I carefully poured out some of the beer (into my mouth of course but I’ll come onto the tasting in a minute) and tried to take another reading with the hydrometer, but the tube was definitely too narrow lower down, so I couldn’t. I took some reassurance from noticing that before drawing any beer, the lid of the bucket was noticeably pushed up in the centre, presumably the result of the beer producing co2 and the pressure building up. This dropped a little after I drew off some beer – perhaps there is still hope that it is fermenting ok.

So onto the tasting… I was very pleasantly surprised. Having fairly recently drunk a bottle of this exact beer (thanks Phil – see my blogroll for his blog) I could clearly recognise the taste as the same, just currently with a milder and shallower flavour and perhaps a fraction sweeter.

As for for using the tap, my suspicions were correct. With it being so low down the bucket, it picked up far to much sediment. I will use tubing fed into the top of the bucket to bottle the beer rather than the tap.

Overall I’m not very happy with the progress of this beer. Having nothing to compare it against, its hard for me to know whether things are still ok or not. After all, it is to be expected that the beer will be late finishing, given the 17-18 degree average temperature normally, not to mention the several days of 16 degree temperatures while the boiler was broken, which caused it to stop fermenting entirely. The pushed up lid today, and the hiss and bubbles when I opened the lid a few days ago give me hope. I will leave the beer alone for another couple of days before taking the lid off to inspect things and take a more accurate hydrometer reading.

If I’m keeping everything crossed for the wine, I’d better tie myself in knots for the beer…

Read Full Post »

Coming Unstuck

“The Brewery” temperature is now back up to about 18 degrees C and the beer had a stir yesterday. It was time to take the lid off the beer again, and see if it was still dead as a dodo, or if it had been resurrected, like the boiler.

Coming Unstuck

Good news I think. Comparing the picture from today (above) and the picture in yesterdays post, there are a lot more bubbles on the surface of the beer today. This I believe shows that the previously stuck fermentation has started to become active again. I took another hydrometer reading, and not unexpectedly it gave a reading of around 1018 still. However, I gave the beer another stir and I’m fairly hopeful that the beer will now continue to ferment.

The instructions suggest it should get down to at least 1014 and then stabilise, though I think I’d feel more confident that the yeast had properly woken up and finished fermenting if it gets to 1012 or less.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »