Category Archives: Zen

The Sessions No 72: How we love beer – Zen Man

session_logo_all_text_300The Session (aka Beer Blogging Friday) is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic.

This month’s session is hosted by Ryan Newhouse at Montana Beer Finder, who wants to know how we love beer. Not why, but how. So we say we love good beer but how do we show that?

So how do we love beer? and when I say we I mean me. How do I love beer?

I love beer by putting myself out, in pain, by stretching my wallet, by doing things that are not comfortable or sensible. I put beer first. Oh god this will start sounding like a Hugh Grant movie script if I don’t start putting some more substance around it.

Did I mention its been a long week in the office, I may have had a beer or two more than I needed last night and I’ve had to try to fit 5 days work into 4 days thanks to the Australia Day long weekend?

Back to how I show I love good beer. I show it through my actions, many of which are related to making the damn stuff.

I’ve completed a Graduate Certificate in Brewing, meaning I had to go back and think about things like HACCP plans and amino acid pathways (oh  how I hate biochemistry). The time and expense involved in this was all for my love of beer.

All the cuts, burns, scrapes and bruises from manufacturing and cleaning brewing equipment, and lugging around kegs and bottles. Stainless steel splinters are a bitch. Full kegs and fermenters are just that weight that you can lift them but with a dodgy back like mine there is always that moment when you can feel your back just about to go twang. Dont start me on the cleaning products (read semi toxic chemicals). The pain and the scars are all for my love of beer.

The heartache and mental anguish that comes from striving for perfection in my beer. Stuck mashes, infected batches, spilt beer, marks missed, hop blend not quite right, malt balance so close argh!!!! it’ll all break your heart. The time, effort and waiting that goes in all for something that just may not happen. I lost a batch to an infection just a couple of weeks ago, my Something Sexy in French Saison, such heartache, RIP to the beer. I put myself through all this for my love of beer.

The logistics of making beer for me are a bitch. I have a 350km round trip if I am to brew beer. Then another 350km round trip to package it. I brew in  my parents wool shed on the farm. At times I am kicked out of my brew house so the sheep can be shorn, at other times well-meaning individuals move things, buggering them up. This means I can’t just brew on a whim, when I have 3or 4 hours spare. I hate planning. My girlfriend also likes to see me sometimes, but understands that I love to brew. So my brew day is 4hrs of driving, 4 hrs minimum of brewing, and I have to plan the recipe and order ingredients ahead of time. I put all this time and planning in for my love of beer.

So without even getting into all the wandering to far-flung bars and bottle shops checking out new and exciting beers, often shelling out more than a fair amount for something that just often enough hits the highs that its been talked up to. I mean who lines up to get into a bar full of blokes with beards? (OK probably hipsters). All this chasing is for my love of beer.

So all this and why do I do it? (yes I know thats not the question but bugger off, I’m on a roll here). It’s for those zen moments when the brew day is going perfectly, when the first taste off the fermenter makes you smile, when the drive home to brew has nothing but awesome tunes or Kerry O’keeffe calling the cricket on the radio, when the new release beer takes your fucking head off, when one of your beers wins the cat and dog show and takes a prize. They are my Zen moments when how I love beer pays me back.

I love my beer so damn much I’m even looking into trying to make the stuff commercially despite all the sensible thoughts in my head suggesting that I wont make a cent out of it. Still I’m in for it. Beer seems to make a fool out of me, I guess love does that too.

I call my brew time my zen time, I think I’ve hijacked the word from its original use, as some kind of religious state of goodness or happiness. I call by brewing time my zen time, and that’s how I think I love my beer, by going through all the trials and tribulations listed above and reaching my zen place.

Enough of this folly, need to order some malt now, oh and do some work.

Cheers D


Brewers and Drinkers

There are two kinds of people in the world. Those that brew and those that don’t.OK well that’s technically correct, but it’s also bullshit, and not really on topic of “Brewers and Drinkers”.8055045283_f19683a3f3_o

So before I launch into the topic a quick brewing and stuff update. The pale ale and porter that I brewed for the family boxing day party went down fantastically. This is always my favorite thing to brew for as I get to enjoy my beer with family. The most memorable part was my mum and aunts (none of them really craft beer drinkers) getting stuck into the robust porter. It had a nice chocolate and coffee to it and it was over 6%ABV. I guess they slept well.

I also brewed my first saison for the season, this time using the french saison yeast rather than my usually go to the Belgian one. I was going to knock out a batch of pale ale also but with the heat wave we are getting right now in Melbourne it was just better to leave it alone. More brews to happen in the coming weeks.

A_mXac7CEAI6kj2Now to the wheat harvest that usually gives me some home grown grain for brewing. Not so awesome this year, the harvest which is all done now went pretty well but the wheat has ended up being “shot”, that is it has started to take up moisture and think about growing. Not awesome for storing and I’m not too sure how it’ll go in the beers this year. If I want to use any it’ll need to be early in the year I think.

Now back to the topic of the Session – Brewers and Drinkers

What is the difference between brewers and drinkers, not a lot I’d say. Firstly I need to state, for fairness, that I am both a brewer (homebrewed) and a drinker. Both brewing and drinking take me to a zen place. Probably more so with the brewing, my 4 hours of zen providing everything works properly.

I think that in general brewers are a subset (sub species?) of drinkers. If I can recal year 8 maths I think a ven diagram would be the best way to put it in a picture. There would probably need to be subsets of both drinkers and brewers, but in general I think the brewer circle would sit 100% within the drinker circle. So in general all brewers are drinkers (I think, although I have heard of a former pro brewer who prefered wine to beer, or perhaps just his beer).This is a non related Venn Diagram just for the hell of it

I think that it should also be noted that neither brewers or drinkers can really survive without each other. I think you call that a symbiotic relationship.

People who only drink are just the ones who havent figured out how to DIY, just like people who watch Jamie and Nigella yet never pick up a pan or knife (or do speed cooking or lick the spoon with cleavage showing). That said all drinkers can be brewers (yes I know I am making a huge assumption that by drinkers we mean beer drinkers, but economists get to make assumptions and they never get things wrong, right?). All becoming a brewer takes is a trip to Kmart and the purchase of a home-brew kit. Its

easy, I got a mate going on this in mid December and he was drinking homebrew on Christmas day. Easy.I’d like to think more on the end of the drinker and brewer brackets who focus on good beer, craft, boutique what ever you want to call it, just not industrial lager.

Drinkers of good beer are all about making choices in beer that give them a high level quality experience that enhances all things around them. It is not simply a refreshing booze delivery device (but yes they are excellent attributes of beer, especially today when its 40 deg C in Melbourne). Brewers of said beer often start as drinkers of said beer who ask the questions like “why is x beer different to y beer?”. This leads to questions like “can I make x beer?”. Thats pretty much how I became a brewer. I do have to add that I have a background in science and agriculture, and love tinkering so the process and engineering that goes on in brewing is right up my alley. However so many brewers have backgrounds that in theory should make them completely unqualified to brew (all these bloody IT people), yet they still do.

Thankfully many drinkers realise that they cannot brew and get the beer they want. Both for them and their friends this is probably a good thing.

So Brewers and Drinkers. Where am I heading, I don’t really know but I told James (Beer Bar Band) that I’d post something.

When looking at the subsets these are my findings;

Drinkers only – essentially lazy or skill lacking people.

Brewers only – very strange people, I recommend that you show extreme caution when dealing with these people.

Drinkers who brew – very well-rounded people who are highly skilled and generally awesome.

And that my friends is the post, a rather biased one, and none of it factual in any way. It actually felt a bit like doing a Biology exam at Uni. I usually did quite well at them.

I’ll post some more saison recipe updates in the coming weeks as my search for the perfect saison recipe continues (and yes I know there is no such thing).

Cheers D

Zen and free beer

Despite the heat my levels of Zen are sitting at a higher than normal level this week.

My weekend brewing session went well (yes I remembered the yeast and hops) seeing me punch out two batches in 6 hours. Thats pretty damn good and I managed to keep my efficiency up. And thanks to a phone conversation with Hendo distracting me from where I was up to I ended up with more beer than I was shooting for but it still made the gravity targets ( I transfer wort in a bucket 5 litres at a time, I lost count). Sometimes it pays not to have things go to plan.

Brewing these two pretty simple beers, a porter and a my old pale ale also reminded me of how good some simple things. Firstly my pale ale uses Chinook hops, a hop I havent used much for a while. It might just be this particular batch but damn they smelled great, just an awesome punchy smell. Loved it. And the smell of a porter mash, all coffee and roast and blackness, fantastic!

Might have been my mood or what I had for lunch or just the high levels of zen I was experiencing but these two smells just relly made me smile. Must make more porters and use more chinook. Perhaps chinook mash hopped in a porter?

The zen continued past the brewing. I got some free beer from twitter. Thanks to the guys at Renegade Brews I got a free glass of Bayrischer Bahnhof Berliner Weisse at Slow Beer. This was a great beer, really complex, sharp and tart with a great nose (even though my first thought was a feet like smell, piedo I think?). It also gave me a chance to have a chat to one of the guys from Renegade (whose name now escapes me, that’s a tad embarrassing). Anyway good beer, good conversation. Cant go wrong with that, and I’m looking forward to some more interesting imports from these guys, based on the Berliner Weisse I expect good things.

Add to that my humble little attempt to get some beer made commercially sneaking along a bit more and I’m off fishing on the bay tonight, all in all it was a very zen week. Even if I don’t catch a massive snapper this evening I think its going to round off as a good week.

Have a Zen weekend everybody.

Cheers D


What are you brewing this weekend…

Its Friday and I’m not brewing this weekend.

I probably could if I really pushed things but it’s just not going to happen. It would probably result in a Zen free brew day, not something I’m after. So instead I’d like to live vicariously through the brewing of others.

Tell me what you are brewing this weekend?

Cheers D

PS – may there be much Zen in your brew day

PPS – yes I know this is a lame post


Hoppy IPA Goodness, Tex the Third

Bottled some beer yesterday, the IPA and Low ABV saison/farmhouse that I brewed a couple of weeks ago.

In the past I have brewed at my parents’ farm and fermented in my spare room (about 170km away). This meant I could control my temperatures, add dry hops, rouse it a bit if I needed, take gravity tests, keg it, add more dry hops, taste, taste and taste again. Now I brew, add the yeast and drive away. Thus when I’m driving to the farm to bottle I have no idea what I will be bottling, good, bad or indifferent.

I brewed an English IPA about a month ago, it was a drain pour, however I was pretty happy with the beers I bottled yesterday. Especially the IPA. I’m going to hold comment on the low ABV saison/farmhouse beer as I just haven’t decided if I like it yet.

Back to the IPA, the third iteration of an IPA named after a sons kid, Tex. Both of the previous Tex beers have medalled at VicBrew, looking for a 3rd with Tex the Third. On tasting the un carbonated beer it was dry and hoppy and aromatic. I could just smell that citrus bomb of an IPA as I was bottling, all the things I wanted. Big smile on my face for a more or less neglected beer.

Time will tell how it goes, but at least I think I have a beer I’ll like. Here is the recipe;


Batch Size: 22.00 L            Brewer: Darren Keating

Boil Size: 28.00 L                Boil Time: 55 min

Mash Temp 64 deg C, Ferment Temp 20 deg C                  Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 (I actually think I got more like 65%)


Amount               Item Type                                    % or IBU

6.25 kg                  Marris Otter Pale (5.9 EBC)          Grain     79.82 %

0.90 kg                  Munich Malt (17.7 EBC) Grain     11.49 %

0.38 kg                  Cara-Pils/Dextrine (3.9 EBC)        Grain     4.85 %

0.20 kg                  White Wheat Malt (4.7 EBC)        Grain     2.55 %

0.10 kg                  Caramel/Crystal Malt – 30L (59.1 EBC)      Grain     1.28 %

15.00 gm              Magnum [14.70 %] (60 min) (Mash Hop)               Hops      5.8 IBU

30.00 gm              Simcoe [12.60 %] (Dry Hop 3 days)           Hops      –

30.00 gm              Amarillo Gold [9.20 %] (Dry Hop 3 days) Hops      –

27.00 gm              Warrior [16.70 %] (55 min) (First Wort Hop)          Hops      63.2 IBU

20.00 gm              Centennial [10.90 %] (25 min)     Hops      11.5 IBU

20.00 gm              Cascade [6.20 %] (25 min)            Hops      6.6 IBU

50.00 gm              Centennial [10.90 %] (1 min)       Hops      11.9 IBU

50.00 gm              Cascade [6.20 %] (1 min)               Hops      6.8 IBU

10.00 gm              Simcoe [13.00 %] (0 min) (Dry Hop)          Hops      –

10.00 gm              Cascade [6.20 %] (0 min) (Dry Hop)          Hops      –

10.00 gm              Amarillo Gold [9.20 %] (0 min) (Dry Hop)               Hops      –

10.00 gm              Centennial [10.90 %] (0 min) (Dry Hop)  Hops      –

11.62 gm              Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) (Mash 60.0 min)          Misc

2 Pkgs   British Ale (Wyeast Labs #1098) Yeast-Ale


Beer Profile

Est Original Gravity: 1.072 SG      Measured Original Gravity: 1.065 SG

Est Final Gravity: 1.018 SG            Measured Final Gravity: 1.012 SG

Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 7.13 %               Actual Alcohol by Vol: 6.92 %

Bitterness: 105.8 IBU      Calories: 615 cal/l

Est Color: 16.0 EBC

Brew that one and fingers crossed you will have an IPA that is not to bad, and if all goes well you will even have a Zen brew and bottling day as I did. Ah Zen, and it was a beautiful spring day out on the farm, on the day after the Catters had a good win. Cant go wrong with that.

Cheers D

PS – I’ll post the low ABV Saison recipe when I get around to it


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


The 10 minute commute and a Seedy Goat Coffee IPA

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned but I’ve got a new job. Its a good gig, more cash, great opportunity, all that stuff. Oh and did I mention that my commute to work is now only a 10 minute walk? Yep its great. It’s through a nice park too. Excellent way to start the day, that and coffee, that makes for a good start to the day. However today I am choosing to also end my day with coffee. It’s in beer though, a Seedy Goat Coffee IPA.

I will get to that in a minute. Firstly I brewed last week and it all went more or less to plan. Let there be ZEN! After my resignation IPA that was a prick of a brew day (mice, blocked equipment and electrical fires) and then the beer didn’t even work out (all sour and off tasting, I tipped it out) I was really hanging out for a good brew day. New equipment, fresh ingredients, no sheep in my brew house. What could go wrong? well a lot actually but the only two things that were anything other than spot on was some hops that I’d had for a while didn’t smell right so I used some other hops instead (it was some whole cone galaxy that was oxidised, didn’t smell good at all) and I forgot to put a charge of hops in the low ABV saison so I added it as dry hop instead.

Both beers are now fermenting away beautifully, well at least I think they are. My Dad checked them last night and reported that the temp controller was on 19 deg C (its set for 20 deg C) and that they looked all foamy and a bit brown. I’ll take that as a healthy krausen, and call them fermenting well. They need to be, I need to have the low ABV saison set for the ANHC “How low can you go” comp next weekend (the 15th Sept I think) and the IPA ready for Vicbrew (the 22nd Sept). So far so good, will have to see how they go.

Anyway back to the beer, its one of their seasonal releases, I usually like them but seldom go crazy for them. This beer is no real difference. Its good, and clean with some coffee character that’s a bit like you get out of those pour over or siphon coffees. Dont buy this beer expecting to taste espresso. It fits in the realm of an English IPA, the fruity coffee from Nicaragua sits well with fruity beer. They apparently also used galaxy and cascade hops, I’m not really getting them though. Could be the coffee cutting over the top or just me not getting them. Not sure, I may be having a bad tasting night? I’m not really sure on this one either way. Let me know if you’ve tried it?

Anyway that’ll do for now, day number 2 of the new job tomorrow.

Cheers D




No Zen

So I brewed yesterday. An English IPA, lots of East Kent Goldings and Fuggles hops, English malt, all the good stuff. I hadn’t brewed for months si I was really looking forward to it. I needed to get my Zen on.

Little did I know that it would fail so well.

So I got away a little later than I wanted to, no real stress, just meant I’d be late home.

Then I discovered that one of the large plastic tubs that I keep some of my brewing gear had a hole in it. I discovered this by finding mouse shit everywhere. It had been moved and somehow a hole got knocked in it. That let the mice in, and that’s why I had to spend a bunch of time cleaning mouse shit of brewing gear. That was -1 on the zen scale.

Next bit of fun was my plate chiller seems to be blocked. I found this out mid way through chilling. I also had to first check that my hop back wasnt blocked, it wasnt but the added resistance meant that my pump wouldnt handle both it and the plate chiller. So I got to deal with hot wort, wasted hops, and a really slow runoff time. It should have taken 25 minutes, it took over an hour. Really not fun.

But the next bit was perhaps the most entertaining. All cleaned up, everything put away, just had to hook up the temperature control gear and pitch the yeast. All was going well, I was in the clear until I plugged in the digital temp control unit. This is a simple digital thermostat that I wired up myself several years ago. Somehow in moving I must have loosened a wire, not sure how but it had a less than desired effect. I switched on the thermostat. Nothing happened. I shook it. Then sparks, crackles, and flames. Needless to say I switched it off.

I then pitched the yeast, and simply plugged the heat pad in. The beer is fermenting in a cold shed, the farm workshop where we park the truck and generally fix stuff. I have no idea of the ferment temp, it’ll average out at something like 18-22 I hope but I really don’t know. After the brew day I had I kinda don’t care. The only problem is that this will probably be one of the best beers I’ve ever made and I’ll never be able to replicate it. Or it will suck.

For the benefit of the few readers that may come across this blog I have omitted the large amounts of swearing that occurred in this brew day. At one stage I had to ask my Dad to leave so I don’t think it would be ok to share that kind of language with the blogosphere. Fuck I was cranky.

So that was my brew day. Very little zen, no good at all, at least the beer still has a hope of being ok.

Such a shit brew day, so little zen yet I still hit all my numbers more or less. How strange.

Looks like I’ll be buying a new plastic storage tub, a new thermostat controller, and a new place chiller. And perhaps and Enya CD.

Cheers D



Hallertau Porter Noir

I am drinking a chocolaty Orval. Thats right, it doesnt make sense but it is good.

What is this beer you say? not something that you’ll easily find in Australia, whether you have access to grey imports or not. It’s from a little brewery on the outskirts of Auckland, in the land of the long white sheep. This is a damn nice beer. It’s a barrel aged, bret infused porter from Hallertau called “Porter Noir”.

The beer is part of the “Heroic Range”. A range that has pictures of ancient Greeks (I think) doing heroic things. It also has a touch of arogance, love this description from the website;

Frankly, this beer is probably best enjoyed by the filthy rich.
If you are one of these people, or would like to taste the things filthy
 rich people drink, then drink this beer. You’ll no doubt appreciate its
heroic qualities: the perseverance in brewing, the meticulous selection
of the finest ingredients, and the tenacious desire to sell it in spite
of its sheer unprofitability. Imbibe and you’ll find it’s truly a triumph
over mediocrity.

I’ve had this beer sitting around for over a year following a visit to the brewery for Easter 2011. Great little brewery, really well run, nice food, great beers. I also got a t-shirt, biggest one they had. Well I’m almost small enough to ware it. Anyway the beer. I brought this beer back in my luggage (read grey imported, I am a bad man)with fingers crossed that it would survive the baggage handlers. It did, then I looked at it in my fridge for months waiting for the right moment to open it. And for no real reason, its tonight. Nothing special just felt like something good to drink.

What is it? an almost black porter, nice and chocolaty, almost with a coco dry type finnish. And it has a really nice orval type bret nose, and a little bit of a sour type twang, more a hint of bugs than a sour blast but its noticable. And it works. I wouldn’t have thought of adding bret to a porter but it works, I guess this kind of thing used to happen all the time by accident way back when. Back in a time when a man wearing a bed sheet could lift six barrels. Now those were the days. Most men struggle with five barrells these days and they go to the gym.

To the beer again, great beer, really complex but immensely enjoyable. Its kind of a desert type thing, chocolate, length and an interesting finnish. I think I know what my next bret brewing experiment may need to be. Speaking of brewing I have a rough plan to brew for the first time in who knows how long next weekend. Thinking an IPA (english) or a stout (US) not certain yet. Got a week to think about it. If you have an idea, let me know.

Bring on the zen.

Going to finnish my beer now.

Cheers D






Farewell yazzle dazzle (otherwise known as Yarraville)

I’m having a beer right that I should be blogging about, it’s some sort of collaboration between 8 wired, Renascence (I think I’ve spelled that wrong) and Nogone (yep that one too) called O is for Awesome. Nice beer, Imperial Amber, bit more like a US brown. Nice beer. Like I said I should be writing about it but I’m too buggered after moving over the past couple of days. Who knows how many times I walked up and down stairs.

I now live in StKilda West after 3 or so years in Yarraville, otherwise known as the Village or yazzle dazzle. Actually I don’t think anyone calls it yazzle dazzle except for Crackas and Sal. I think I picked it up from living with them. That was how I came to live in Yarraville, a relationship went pear-shaped and they were kind enough to offer me their spare room, put up with my random mess and home brewing and generally keep me sane. I also became good friends with their dog Pardo, a great dane, and was reminded just how bad of a cook Crackas was. Musrooms, consume, meat past its used-by, cornflake crumbs and some chinese cooking wine does not make a meal.

This emergency exit plan, found me in Yarraville. And I loved it. I lived in Yarraville for over 3 years, mostly in a little apartment that nearly had trains running through it. Not an ideal brewing environment but that more beer came out of that little apartment than is probably legal. It was only a couple of minute walk to the train station. Same to a good coffee (Wee Jeanie and the Corner Shop), good bread (at the surprisingly good little Foodworks), and an awesome butcher (Andrew you know who you are, I will still be getting my Christmas ham from you), the Blarney Stone Irish Pub, the Sun Theatre, and numerous weirdos. For a while I may have been one of the weirdos, but my Zen is back.

Now I’m moving on and out.

I liked Yarraville, but its time to move, back over the Westgate bridge. Thankyou Yarraville, I’d like to think I’ll be back some day.

Cheers D

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