Category Archives: VicBrew

ANHC & AABC wrap

So its Sunday evening, I’m back from my Mums birthday lunch, I’m on the couch and my hangover has mostly subsided. Dinners cooked and I’m thinking a beer could be an option.

Well maybe, if I do it will be a beer that almost got a place at the Australian Amateur Homebrewing Competition (AABC). I am however conflicted about having a beer though, as the hangover was a pretty solid one. This hangover is a 100% Australian National Homebrew Conference (ANHC) hangover. Club night was awesome but brutal, well the brutal bit was this morning. 5 coffee’s, 4 Panadol, 4 neurofen, a beroca and a toasted cheese sandwich. And I still didn’t feel right after all that.

So back to ANHC, and how AABC fits into it.

ANHC 2012 was great. I heard some great speakers. met some great brewers who shared their knowledge (and beer) freely. I hung out with some great people, most of whom are excellent homebrewers who also shared their knowledge, beer, bad ideas, good ideas, and terrible beer jokes (Dan that is aimed straight at you).

It was a great vibe, really positive, really inspiring, really fun. We did have a beer in our hands by 9.30am on both days, and there was more or less free beer 100% of the conference (good beer too) so that may have given me rose-coloured glasses but I got a hell of a lot out of the speakers. Barrel ageing, extreme brewing, foam stability, Belgian yeast, contract brewing, hops, hops and more hops, sour beers, just to name a few. I even now have an idea of how to make sake (but I’m not going to)

My personal favorite bits of the conference were;

  1. Matt Brynildson’s talks on hops and barrels, great info shared so generously. I also got to share some of my Tex the third IPA with him, a particularly proud moment for me as my beer is based on a recipe for his Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA. Thanks Matt, I will now be putting more hops in my beers and getting an oak barrel.
  2. Stu McKinlay – get obsessed, stay obsessed. Yeastie Boys crank out some great beer even though Stu does look like Murray from Flight of the Concords (awesome checked pants). Stu’s 10 commandments of home brewing were great, focused and realistic. They also made me realise that I need to get back focussed on getting some beer made. I’ll post his 10 commandments at some stage, right now I’m just glad I got to hear him speak, have a yard with him and also share a bit of my peach saison with him. Oh and I’m stealing your wine candy sugar idea – ha!
  3. Good people make good beer. Club night was awesome, great beer shared among strangers with nothing in common but brewing, and friendship. Some say booze causes problems, fights etc. There was a hell of a lot of booze on hand last night, all free, and not one hint of a blue or a cross word. I put it down to the good people 🙂
  4. Sake – it sounds interesting to make but I want nothing to do with it.
  5. Sharing knowledge in a humble way. It’s good to let people know what you know, even better to do it in a nice way. Well done to the conference organisers and speakers for making it an open info sharing forum.

There’s more I can write about, but not now. Plenty of ideas still floating around in my head that need a chance to settle before I do anything with them. They need to ferment a little and age a bit. More to come though.

And that gets me to AABC, it links in with ANHC as the judging is done and announced at the conference. I missed the dinner where the place getters for the classes were awarded, but had I been there I would have got to go up on the stage to pick up a second place for my English Barley Wine (woo hoo for me!! I got a score of 132, third highest in the total comp). I entered 6 beers in VicBrew, 4 of them made it through to AABC, all with third places and I got a second place at AABC. Those are strike rates that I like. But it was so close to being 2 places, I missed a place with my Tex the Third IPA by 1 point! bugger, so close. Ah well something to aim for next year.

So now what? Get obsessed, stay obsessed. I am and I will. Time to focus on improving the quality of my home brew, and on getting a beer on the shelf somewhere. Thanks ANHC and AABC, now I have something to focus on for the next 12 months.

Cheers D

PS – Bring on ANHC 2014, and no I didn’t get have that beer tonight


VicBrew 2012

Well the beer judging went well, met some good people, had some interesting beer, spent some time focusing on bee. All good.

While I judged some beer, I also had some of my own beers entered and this morning I got the email letting me know that 4 of my 6 beers had gotten 3rd place in their category and therefore are off to the Australian Amateur Homebrew Competition. The beers are a Belgian triple, an English barley wine, a peach saison and an American IPA- tex the third. I wasn’t expecting any places from this years entries so I’m pretty happy with the result. Perhaps brewing less is good for my brewing?

Now I just need to figure out how to arrange the logistics of moving my beer whet I’m on holidays. Just a small challenge, I think it’s sorted but I’ll owe a few people a beer or two to get it sorted.

Time for another celebratory beer.

Cheers D

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Beer Judging

In the not so great movie “Judge Dred” Sly Stallone said “I am the law”. Well that s what the script said anyway, it actually sounded more like “eye yam da wawr”.

Today I am judging beer and I will not ne taking any of my cues from Sly in Judge Dred. This will be my first official crack at judging beer, it’s the VicBrew 2012 comp. For those that havent heard of it its the Victorian state home brew competition, and I’m judging the pale ale category, with I think about 25 entrants. It’s a voluntary organisation, so as an entrant for the past few years its about time I chipped in and did my bit. There we go community spirit and beer!

While I have done plenty of sensory evaluation of beer this is my first crack at doing so many in a row, and where I’m not choosing the beers. I’m guessing some will taste like angels pissing on my tongue, others like a bathroom floor*. There is a fair chance that I’ll be buggered and sick of pale ale by the time we are done.

Anyway I’d better finnish fueling up on good bread and coffee** (does anything make a better start to the day?) so I have the strength to get the job done. Then its a week of holiday for me.

Two thumbs up to holidays, now for more coffee and a read of the style guidelines for Pale Ale.

Cheers D

*I have no real idea what either taste like.

** coffee beans from Clement, bread from the good bakery on Fitzroy st, can’t remember the name

fingers crossed for bottling

I have some bottling to do this weekend. Well I think I do, if the beer is ok that is.

I brewed two batches last Friday, an IPA and a low ABV Saison/farmhouse beer, that I plan to bottle this Sunday providing they are good to go. The little complication here is I don’t know if they are ready as I havent seen them since I dropped the yeast in. Also I really need to get them bottled this weekend as I need them ready for competition entry deadlines in the coming fortnight.

So no pressure at all. I did get my Dad to check them, apparently they looked all foamy, so that sounds good. Dad doesnt know anything about brewing though so I really don’t know. They are just sitting in a woolshed lunch room fermenting away, well actually I hope they are done by now and should be good to bottle. Fingers crossed.

It’ll be interesting to see how these beers go, the saison farmhouse ale should be ok, they thrive on neglect. The IPA may be another case though. I’ve had success over the past couple of years with my IPA’s in Vicbrew, medals both years. I really babied those beers though. Multiple dry hops, ferment temperature monitoring and adjustments mid ferment, then counter pressure bottled out of the keg. This version of my Tex IPA series, Tex the Third (first it was 2 Foot Tex, then Cosmic Tex Rebooted) didn’t even get dry hopped properly, I just threw them in with the yeast. Not sure how we’ll go here but I did put a shitload of hops in. Might think about how I can add some more hops…

Anyway cross your fingers for my brews, hopefully it will be a zen bottling.

Have a good weekend.

Cheers D


Heretic Shallow Grave

Only days to go now in my current job, then I’m unemployed. Well kinda, I have a week until I start the new job. In that week I currently plan to brew some beer in preparation for VicBrew, maybe sneak into a brewery or two, and just bum around before putting the suit back on and getting on with work. It’ll be a good week, here’s hoping a bunch of stuff I don’t really want to do doesnt really sneak in. Time will tell, a week is such a short thing, who knows what I’ll get up to.

One thing I want to do is brew an IPA to replace the one I brewed a few weeks ago. I think I got something wrong somewhere on this brew. I checked the gravity on the weekend, it’s sitting at about 1.024, not low enough, it also tasted too sweet, and I think there was kinda a banana flavor in it. Not good anyway. I think the yeast must have crashed out, and it is in a very cold shed with a heat pad on flat out. Temp control is not occurring on this beer thanks to the electrical fire. No good. I need to get that gear replaced asap but I dont think I want to do the wiring myself. One electrical fire a year is enough.

Anyway I think the brewing may consist of something for the low ABV comp at the upcoming ANHC, havent figured out what that’ll be yet, perhaps an English pale, or something hoppy, not sure yet. I also think I’ll have a crack at a porter, perhaps like the one I’m drinking right now – Heretic Shallow Grave.

This is a more or less black beer with a chocolaty roasty hit, yet its smooth. I could drink a lit of this. And it has a really nice roasty aroma. All in all this is a good beer. I’m not really surprised though, I’m yet to have a fail from Jamil on his Heretic beers, or his books and podcasts for that matter (perhaps with the exception of those porn adds?).

There is something in this beer that just has a nice weight to it, its a rich thick smooth drop. There are also things about it that remind me of a nice smooth short black coffee, its that sweet roast flavor.

Anyway thats enough for now, I need to focus back on the rack of lamb I’m cooking for dinner. Later on I need to remember to book in for ANHC before the early bird rate drops off. If you havent signed up for ANHC yet and plan to do so do it now. Oh and get your entries for VicBrew ready.

Thats enough public service for me. get yourself a Heretic beer, the Shallow Grave is good, but they all are, so just go with your mood.

Cheers D

PS – I also did a crop walk on the weekend at the folks farm, all the crops are looking pretty good with the exception of about a third of a paddock of canola of my uncle Ben’s. My wheat however is looking the goods as you can see from the pic. I think I might need to figure our how to turn some of it into beer. Any suggestions welcome.

The perfect Saison recipe….my search for it

I like saisons. Brewing them and drinking them. I may have mentioned this before. When I brew them I feel verry zen. I am also developing my own take on what it is, or should be.

The Australian Amateur Brewing championship style guidelines put it in category 17. Farmhouse Ale & Wild Beer. The background they give is as follows – Saisons – History: A seasonal summer style produced in Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium. Originally brewed at the end of the cool season to last through the warmer months before refrigeration was common. It had to be sturdy enough to last for months but not too strong to be quenching and refreshing in the summer. It is now brewed year-round in tiny, artisanal breweries whose buildings reflect their origins as farmhouses. You can find more of this here – AABC

James at Beer Bar Band wrote a really nice piece on saisons and what they taste like here with his Beer – Verticle Saisons post. Excellent writing and it covers two beers that I can vouch are great saisons, especially the Saison DuPont. That is the one they named the style after.

What a saison actually is though is an interesting question? the guidelines are really broad on this one in the style guideline, lots of may be this, might be that, pale to amber, 5-7% ABV, clear or cloudy…. it goes on.

I think the best description of this beer is in it being a farmhouse ale made for the workers. This gives a few hints and the following points are my interpretations of this;

  • I doubt it would be all that consistent in malt bill across the geographic spread of the beer.
  • They would have used a fair percentage of what they grew. I doubt it would have been all that pale as the malting and kilning would have been inconsistent and probably burnt some of the malt, adding some colour.
  • Clarity, that depends on your brewing process and how you let it sit. It is possible to have perfectly clear bottle conditioned beers.
  • Hoppyness? I think it’s often under estimated. You want the beers to last so probably add plenty of hops, or maybe even other herbs and spices (havent tried that yet).
  • Add in some sugar? if its cheap why not, these people were brewing to keep the workers happy.
  • Now to booze % I wouldn’t want people working for me to be drinking 7% ABV beer for lunch. Would you?

That’s my kind of guiding ideals for designing my saisons, so I tend to end up with a lower ABV, hoppyish beer with some sugar, and a range of grains, often some unfermented (my folks have a farm so I use the home-grown ones). And how am I going in finding my perfect saison recipe using my self-imposed saison rules? Well I’m getting some beers I like, and some that I’m not sure of.  Here are my last few cracks at it.

Saison 2011.

I really liked this beer, might be hard to replicate as the Vienna that I used was really old stuff that I got for $2 for 2kg which I had to use when I discovered that mice had made a mess of the bag of wheat I intended to use. Really nice clean beer, started at 1.042 OG  (terrible efficiency) and finished at about 1.010. This is based on a saison I brewed the year before. This one got the Wyeast Farmhouse ale, a blend. I had to use this instead of my prefered Belgium Saison yeast.

Amount Item Type % or IBU
3.50 kg Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (3.9 EBC) Grain 68.36 %
0.75 kg Vienna Malt (6.9 EBC) Grain 14.65 %
0.50 kg Wheat Malt, Ger (3.9 EBC) Grain 9.77 %
0.10 kg Acid Malt (5.9 EBC) Grain 1.95 %
0.01 kg Roasted Barley (591.0 EBC) Grain 0.20 %
19.00 gm Magnum [14.00 %] (50 min) (First Wort Hop) Hops 35.6 IBU
25.00 gm Pearle [8.00 %] (1 min) Hops 4.3 IBU
0.26 kg palm sugar (2.0 EBC) Sugar 5.08 %

Saison Stella.

I wanted to use my hopback on a saison, and Stella hops apparently had some kind of berry like background taste. I thought that sounded like a good idea. OK not so much. Its got a taste that sticks out, I think its the hops, kind of a resiny oily hop taste, and I might have added a little too much character malt. Its kind of a pumped up version of the Stella 2011. I’m having one right now. Its far less saisony than the Saison 2011. Same yeast though. The raw wheat and barley were only harvested a few days before I made this beer. It’s probably my favorite little bit about this beer. A little bit bigger, this beer had an OG of 1.048 and finished at about 1.010 (really must pay more attention to the FG!)

Amount Item Type % or IBU
3.50 kg Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (3.9 EBC) Grain 63.41 %
0.75 kg Vienna Malt (6.9 EBC) Grain 13.59 %
0.50 kg Barley raw Grain 9.06 %
0.50 kg Wheat raw Grain 9.06 %
0.15 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 80L (157.6 EBC) Grain 2.72 %
0.10 kg Acid Malt (5.9 EBC) Grain 1.81 %
0.02 kg Roasted Barley (591.0 EBC) Grain 0.36 %
16.00 gm Magnum [14.40 %] (50 min) (First Wort Hop) Hops 30.9 IBU
100.00 gm Stella [16.60 %] (1 min) Hops 36.0 IBU

Saison 2012 – the Sushi Tribute

Sushi was my goldfish for about 6 years. He died a few weeks ago, I’m naming this beer as a tribute to my little orange swimmy friend who is no more. This beer is a tweaked version of Saison 2011. More roast, more palm sugar, more hops I (doubt the homegrown ones add much) my prefered yeast, and some fresher vienna. Not really sure how it’ll come out, it appears darker than I expected, one of the increase in roast barley, and fresher vienna, or the addition of rye malt has done this. Also the palm sugar was different to the previous batch, darker I think. Time will tell. It started at 1.052. A little bigger than planned but still ok. Oh and I didn’t put any home-grown barley or wheat in this beer cos I’m lazy.

Amount Item Type % or IBU
3.50 kg Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (3.9 EBC) Grain 64.81 %
0.75 kg Vienna Malt (6.9 EBC) Grain 13.89 %
0.50 kg White Wheat Malt (4.7 EBC) Grain 9.26 %
0.10 kg Acid Malt (5.9 EBC) Grain 1.85 %
0.10 kg Rye Malt (9.3 EBC) Grain 1.85 %
0.05 kg Roasted Barley (591.0 EBC) Grain 0.93 %
20.00 gm Magnum [14.00 %] (60 min) (First Wort Hop) Hops 41.9 IBU
9.00 gm home grown wet hops [5.00 %] (1 min) Hops 1.0 IBU
30.00 gm Pearle [8.00 %] (1 min) Hops 5.4 IBU
0.40 kg palm sugar (0.0 EBC) Sugar 7.41 %
1 Pkgs Belgian Saison (Wyeast Labs #3724) Yeast-Ale

So that’s what I’ve been doing in relation to the saisons. Havent got it figured yet but I think its in between these recipes. Oh now I need to explain the palm sugar. In Thailand it came to me that saisons suited asia, dry, refreshing beers, that could have a whole bunch of different ingredients. Saisons also go well with Thai food (well actually any light and cold beer does more or less). So anyway I figured a Thai ingredient would be a nice touch. Funky looking stuff isn’t it?

funky palm sugar for the saison

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2 Foot Tex IPA – 2011 reboot

Hello punters, its finalls season almost for AFL (one day in September that will actually be in October) and for VicBrew.

Last year I got first place in the VicBrew IPA category with my 2 Foot Tex IPA recipe, a recipe heavily based on the CYBI Union Jack clone. I loved this beer, so hoppy so not crystally, so drinkable. Getting a medal was pretty nice too. Although freshness is the key to this beer (it tanked in the nationals) I did manage to find an old bottle only a month or two ago that was wonderful. The hops had dropped and more of the yeast and malt flavor had come through. I’ve said it before, but I love the flavor of aged American hops with UK yeasts.

I’ve only really entered beers in competitions like VicBrew and the Westgate Brewers Stout Extravaganza for the past couple of years, previously thinking them to be a bit like cake shows, and they are to an extent. BUT you get really good feedback (OK from some of the judges). Each beer judged receives 3 written score sheets with fully independent reviews of the beer. It’s easy for your mates to say “mate that beer is fucking awesome” as they neck their 7th for the evening but an independent unbiased perspective is, well I think welcomed by anyone who is proud of their craft. Not all the judges are awesome, but then neither are all the beers. Some people enter some really shit beers, I’m not a fan of entering something that you wouldn’t drink yourself or serve your mates.

So closing date for VicBrew 2011 is September 10. As today is August 16 that is really close, which means I need to brew this beer this weekend so I can have some hoppy entries. I have not been brewing anywhere near enough this year. It kinda sucks bit I do have some beers in the can for entering. Stout, Porter, and Tripple along with a beer or two pimped out with oak, coco nibs and there may be a bit of bourbon thrown into a beer, just for good measure. There is a old english pale ale (from Dazzapalooza) perhaps a really dark saison I have but no idea what category I’ll enter that in. Really like the beer though. Still I need some hoppy beers, and thats what I’ll brew this weekend. So on to 2 Foot Tex rebooted, or 3 Foot Tex or what ever the hell I’m calling it. Oh and I need to bottle that fucking barley wine, will be young, very young but will see how we go.

Las years beer had an OG of 1065 (bit lower than the target of 1070) for a 23litre batch with a calculated IBU of 82. This year I have a hop back, still in the box untried but it will be part of this beer. Its time to tweak things up for 2 Foot Tex Rebooted to have a crack a reclaiming the prize (or at least getting myself some good beer) 

But maybe its time for a new name? 3 Foot Tex perhaps? I’m not really sure how tall he is (Stu any help here? ). basically I’m bumping the hops up a bit and kicking in some galaxy through the hop back. Drinking Hop Zombie earlier this year just made me want to throw in more hops.

So target OG is around 1065-70, with a boil length of 70 minutes and a 20 minute whirlpool once the gas goes off. The yeast will be the same, 1098 from Wyeast with a low starting ferment temp to keep any nasty hot booze out of it. This beer probably falls in between single and double IPA. I’ll just call it an IPA. So heres the recipe, the hop back amounts may change as I dont know how much it holds?

2 Foot Tex rebooted

83% Pale Ale Malt

10% Munich

5% Carapils

2% Simpson’s Crystal

Mash at 64 for 60 minutes with a teaspoon of gypsum, and throw some in the boil too perhaps

25 gm Warrior at First Wort Hopp

20 gm Centennial at 30 min

20 gm Cascade at 30 min

55 gm Centennial at Flameout, steep 20 min

55 gm Cascade at Flameout, steep 20 min

40 gm Galaxy Hop Flowers through the hop back

Dry Hop #1 – 3 days in primary at end of fermentation

44 gm Centennial

44 gm Cascade

Dry Hop #2 – 3 days in the keg

30 gm Centennial

30 gm Cascade

14 gm Amarillo

14 gm Simcoe

I might as well brew a Pale Ale as well, got to keep the hat thrown in the ring. Just need to invent a recipe now???

Cheers D

Black Sunday

Hotel AtitlánImage by carlosoliveirareis via Flickr
Boo, I’m buggered. Today I knocked out two batches of stout, an oatmeal stout and an American/foreign extra stout in sis hours. Thats a little more brewing than I usually do in an arvo, especially when I don’t start brewing until 1pm. I wanted to get the two batches done so I’d have something to enter in the Westgate Brewers Stout Extravaganza. I do like an Extravaganza, and stout. Anyway I was running low on free weekend time to brew so it had to happen. And it all happened pretty well, apart from finding a couple of dead mice in my mill, and a couple of mini stuck mashes, and a massive dump of rain. Other than that, and me being a little buggered all good.

Both taste pretty good too, even if I do say so myself. I cant be bothered posting the recipes now but will do some time later in the week. I also had a fairly efficient day as far as brew length. Making less hoppy beers has a nice positive side effect in that I end up with more beer. So as part of my strive for interesting beers I made up a combo of the two worts, about 6litres and added a bunch of American Oak Chips and some English yeast. Not sure how it’ll come out, time will tell.

So that’s about it. Not sure if I’ve solved my issues with leaving blog comments (working on it Mark CA!O), might try and leave a comment somewhere. If anyone knows how to fix this please let me know.

One thing I do know if that Stu is threatening to sell of the key bits to my brewery upgrade. I’m working on getting there, not sure how but apparently I have to get to Beechworth sooner rather than later or my kegs will be back on Ebay where I found them. That would not be good. I think I need the Iron Man suit to fly there. hmmm?

That’s enough for now, not sure if I’ll see out the end of Iron Man (now showing on GO!) but I will see the end of my beer, an accidental beer I’m calling a “new world sour”. Its a blonde ale I made for my Dad last year, it got some really ordinary points in VicBrew (rightly so) but now, what I think is the last bottle has developed a really awesome sour twang to it, not quite an Orval or a Cantilion, but nice and refreshing. I really have to make some of these sour beers, I’d just like it to be deliberate, perhaps repeatable too.

Cheers D

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