Mindfulness

I think too much and that interferes with my happiness. I’m constantly over thinking and analysing and I need to be at peace with myself and the world. I do sometimes have difficulty switching off as I feel I need to be doing things all the time. This anxiety is always worst in the evenings which is the time you most need to be resting and in a calm state of mind to prepare for bed. I don’t like change much and I’ve recently undertaken quite an overhaul to my current regime as I’ve stopped drinking alcohol but ironically replaced it with a daily coffee and sweet. I’m working more and it’s more physical as its gardening so I’m losing weight but after were done since I don’t have a social life really I spend too much time online and that’s really bad for my eyesight, well being and I’m wasting the opportunity to do something better with the glorious weather that we have been having as it’s not usually this good. I also feel that the internet constantly dropping out and being slow means I’m supposed to be doing something else but I’m generally too tired to read. My attempts at Greek are laughable and if even Greeks tell me not to bother or there leaving their country and going to England what is the point as everybody knows how hard the language is. I just thought that I could learn it if I studied hard enough but it’s proving another thing I tried but simply wasn’t good enough at. Having a confidence crisis in my abilities I think as I was so looking forward to this for months but I think once again I have deluded myself as to the realities of a situation. Rose tinted specs are horrible.

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Watching beer being brewed

Yesterday I went over to a friends house to see how beer is brewed. While the procedures was simple enough and there wasn’t too many ingredients or equipment involved, it’s extremely time consuming and keeping your concentration on the same task for 6 hours was quite an effort. Plus that was only making it, it’s not fit to drink for about a month yet. This is a very generic recipe for a hoppy pale and that was how he brews it but you can do it a lot more scientific and measured if your that way inclined. He has posted the recipe online but I just thought I would do a general operating procedures post as he doesn’t tend to write down what he does relying on memory as he has been doing this for about 2 years now so knows what he is doing.

Step one

Get a big pot and boil some water in it it. If you have limestone heavy water some carbonate reducing solution is advisable because it will affect the quality of your beer otherwise. (Like when making hot drinks etc.)

Step two

Get a big container and put a permeable lining in it so that it doesn’t touch the bottom. Then put your carefully weighed out malts in it and possibly oats/other grains.

Step three

Put the hot water from your pot into the container and let it steep for about an hour depending on how much grain etc you have.

Step four

While your waiting weigh out your hops into separate containers for later adding to your wort. Label so you remember when to add each of them as you could have 4 different additions or more and there is so many different combinations you can use.

Step five

Make up some sterilising solution if you don’t already have some as you will need this later to sterilise the bucket that you will be using to contain your beer. If its already made, you can sterilise your bucket but keep it away from fruit flies which will be attracted to the sugars present in the fermenting malts/alcohol.

Step six

Put a little bit of your wort in a bottle and use iodine solution to check to see if all the sugar has come out of the malt. This may take as little as 30 minutes or may take significantly longer depending on quantity used. The test itself is instant and if its stays the same colour, a yellow/brown then you can move on to the next step. If its a black/purple colour then you need to let it continue for a bit longer. This is not a definitive test but works well enough.

Step seven

You drain the liquid from the container into another tub. This is your wort. You look at the colour/clearness of it and it should resemble a murky brown that clears as you continue to wash your malts etc in clean hot water. It is ok if it doesn’t come completely clear just clearer than the start. Three times should be sufficient

Step eight

Your wort goes into your big pan and you use what is in effect a bain marie to put your hops in so that they are contact with the water so that they infuse it with bitterness, flavour and aroma but you don’t get bits of disintegrated hops in your wort. Irish moss is useful for keeping your beer clear and doesn’t add any strange flavours etc that other ingredients may.

Step nine

So your water has boiled, you have added your hops and now it is time to cool your beer. This can take about 2 hours again depending on heat, quantity etc. You can get piping that absorbs heat and lets you flow through cold water to assist in this endeavour.

Step ten

When your liquor has reached about 20c you can put it into your sterilized bucket being very careful not to get anything that may taint the liquor also inside. Now you add your yeast and oxygenate the mix so that the yeast works quicker and close up your bucket when done.

Step eleven

Your beer is now made as you have added water, malts, hops and yeast which are the four main ingredients. Now you need a sample of your beer to check its gravity. This is important as it allows you check its alcohol percentage and how much sugar is still unconverted. It can be diluted possibly if you want a weaker beer.

Step twelve

Now the boring bit, the washing up. Plus you will probably be hungry after all that time so eat something.

Step thirteen

After about a week look to see what state your beer is at. You could possibly dry hop it at this point in time (more on this later) or you could possibly bottle it (more on this later).

Step fourteen

When bottling it must be sterile and if fermentation has not finished it could cause the bottles to explode so you have to be careful but if you have done everything right it shouldn’t happen. Its best to label your brews otherwise you will forget what’s in them if you make lots of different types in the same type of bottle.

Step fifteen

Drink and analyse to see what went right/wrong and what you would do differently if you were going to make it again. Temperature and humidity can affect how a beer turns out as well as the storage conditions. Freshness of ingredients is also key as well as cleanliness to prevent degradation and off flavours from entering your precious beer. Documentation is helpful not just for posterity.

4 containers of hops

Hops

Eight per cent of British craft brewers have PhDs and other dubious statistics

Some fascinating facts about small (ish) British craft breweries. Tiny rebel and dark star among them that are mentioned and I’ve tasted.

Zythophile

I have a new book out, A Craft Beer Road Trip Around Britain, with snapshots of 40 of Britain’s top small breweries from Scotland to the South West. Don’t rush to try to buy it from Amazon/your favourite independent bookseller, however, because it’s only available via Beer 52, the craft beer club people, who are giving it away to people who sign up to their “case of beer a month” service. Putting it together was quite fun, but hard work: getting craft beer brewers to co-operate in supplying information about themselves and their beers turns out to be like trying to herd cats, and my deepest sympathy goes to anyone who has had to put together one of those 666 beer to try before you’re dragged off to Hell-style compilations.

Still, at the end I found I had ended up with a big enough stack of information…

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