Not Black & White

Notes from brew day #4 & #5
Blog: Brewshido
Categories: 9-minute read
Tags:

Subtitle: A little less stout*

As I sit waiting for the mash stage of my 6th brew to complete, I figured this was as good a time as any to post the belated summary of my previous two brews.

I’ve decided to bundle them together as both brews were using the same base recipe and whilst one was a pretty smooth ride, the other was a catastrophe of errors!

As I’ll be covering two brews I’m going to condense my normal layout a little and skip over parts which went OK for both brews.

First though, a small bit of background on these two brew days.. Brew day number 4 was on a Friday, a day which is traditionally reasonably quite for my job and thus, I figured a day where I could fit in a brew whilst also working.. That Friday was not a normal Friday, that Friday demonstrated the clairvoyance and devilry that my colleagues apparently possess.. just as every single stage deadline approached, I was called, pinged or otherwise engaged to carry out some work. Stage transitions were rushed, wort was spilled and walls were decorated in partially formed stout.. It was a terrible idea and a disaster of a day!

Brew day 5 was an entirely different beast, having learned from stupidity, it was scheduled for a quiet Sunday. Every stage was carefully considered, measured and executed and bar introducing the 2nd hop 5 minutes early and not having fine mesh hop bags available, the day was a resounding success!

The Beer Kit

The beer kit for both of these brews was this Imperial Stout 23L All Grain Beer Kit (pictured above) from Edinburgh based brew store .

The kit contained a pre-ground bag of grains (unspecified) and 2 vacuum-packed foil wrapped packs of hop pellets (namely hop A and hop B).

The yeast differed between brews, one brew day #4 I used a liquid yeast (White Labs WLP001 California Ale Yeast ) and on brew day #5 a dried yeast (Mangrove Jack’s M44 West Coast Ale Yeast ). Though, to what end this contributed to differences in the beer, I am still too inexperienced to ascertain.

White Labs WLP001 California Ale Yeast sachet Mangrove Jack’s M44 West Coast Ale Yeast sachet

Additionally on brew day #5, I added a couple of adjuncts, 100g of cocoa nibs and 100g of coffee beans.

The ingredients were accompanied by some general brewing tips and as always the …

Brew Day Sheet

This very handy two page guide split the brew into its composite stages and provided target temperatures, gravity readings and volumes as well as space for recording timings and measurements throughout the day. It was very useful and despite my occasional flapping it kept me pretty much on track. The composite parts of the sheet will be incorporated below in the stage sections.

Stage 0 - Prep!

No isues here on either day so, moving on!

Stage 1 - Striking & Mashing

On brew day #4, I started poorly and continued in a similar but more frantic vein.. First mistake, aside from scheduling a brew on a work day, was that I had pushed the pipework too far down into the heated grain was unable to retrieve it, resulting in grains being able to bypass the false floors and potentially block the filer in the brewing unit.

On brew day #5 there seemed to be some sort of blockage in the circulation pipe and it wasn’t circulating as much as I’d have liked, but I managed to fix this on the fly with only a momentary drop in mash temperature.

Photo of the mashed grain

Otherwise, the striking and mashing stages went OK for both brews, though I noted yet again that my grainfather is definitely struggling a little with consistency when heating and maintaining heat.

Stage 2 - Lautering & Sparging

DISASTER ZONE! For day #4, I was very, very flustered by this point and was trying to rush the sparging stage. In order to try and get the sparge water to drain more quickly, I was attempting to stir and break up the grain cake, however the metal bar supporting the insert containing the grains and water was not designed for additional weight, the force that I was applying was too much for it and it kept disconnecting from the unit and as a result wort and grains were propelled around the room, primarily up the wall and over a frustrated amateur brewer! I was certain at this stage that any hopes of making a drinkable beer were ruined.

Photo of the sparged grain

No issues experienced here on day #5, I made no attempts to rush the process, though I did very gently stir the grain on occasion when I couldn’t hear water passing through. It took almost 4 hours! No mess though!

Stage 3 - Boiling

Nothing to see here.

Stage 4 - Hop Additions

The schedule for this both brews was:

  • 36g of hop B at 60 minutes (start of boil)
  • 36g of hop A at 25 minutes (35 minutes into the boil)

In addition for the second of the brews:

  • 100g of cocoa nibs at 5 minutes (55 minutes into the boil)
  • 100g of coffee beans at end of fermentation for 24 hours.

Post boil on brew day #4, I attempted a whirlpool but the additional false bottom within the unit was rising every time I got some sort of pace going.. conclusion, no more whirlpooling attempts with this set up.

Stage 5 - Cooling

This is where the grainfather’s flaws come into play, whilst trying to rapidly cool the wort and transfer to the fermenter, it’s heating unit kicked in and started super-heating the wort. The fermenter is thankfully temperature controlled and was able to cool the wort back down to the target range before I added the yeast.

This happened on both days but I was more mentally equipped to deal with it on the second of the brew days. Added a lot more time to the process though!

Stage 6 - Fermenting

My experiences with previous brews led me to purchase a cheap cooling system for my fermenter, involving an ice box and pipes which pump cooled water through the sleeve of the fermenter. As such despite the wort hitting the fermenter at a higher temperature than desired on both of these brews, I was able to cool it down in the fermenter before pitching the yeast.

Not much otherwise to report here from a process perspective, the only difference between both stout brews was that after arriving at a consistent final gravity reading for the second of the brews, I added 100g of coffee beans which had been briefly rinsed with boiling water into the fermenter, and then let it steep for 24 hours.

Despite the calamity of the first of these days, the gravity figures were surprisingly similar which you might think would mean a similar alcohol by volume figure.. that doesn’t appear to have been the case, although the estimate is pretty much the same the drinking experience suggests that the second beer was considerably closer to the target than the first. The impact of the booze after drinking was definitely more obvious with the latter beer.

For reference the following were my volume and gravity targets and final gravity (FG) results:

  • Desired Volume: 23L
  • Actual Volume (day #4): 23L
  • Actual Volume (day #5): 22L
  • Desired OG: 1.083
  • Actual OG (#4): 1.070
  • Actual OG (#5): 1.069
  • Desired FG: 1.016
  • Actual FG (#4): 1.040
  • Actual FG (#5): 1.044
  • Desired ABV: 8.9%
  • Actual ABV: ~4%
  • Actual ABV: ~3.5%

This leads me to believe that I have a little bit more to learn about how to use my hydrometer. The first stout might have been around 4% the second was not, it was definitely much stronger. I have a fairly high resistance to alcohol (not a brag) and I was decidedly tipsy after just 3 schooners of it, 3 similar sized 5% beers have little noticeable impact normally. Yes, this is circumstantial but I’m calling the 2nd beer as hitting its ABV targets regardless of the evidence suggesting otherwise! This screams user error to me!

Stage 7: Kegging & Carbonising

Not much to mention here, I’m reasonably well versed in this process now and didn’t experience much worth reporting, except disappointingly off-target figures, but as noted above, I suspect I am somehow recording these inaccurately.

Photo of the stout being transferred to keg

Stage 8: Drinking

The first beer turned out to be surprisingly passable, it wasn’t a clean tasting beer, it had a bit of funkiness, probably due to the comedy of errors surrounding it’s inception, but it was assuredly drinkable regardless. It was a homebrew though, no doubts about that, it would be returned at a bar and replacement sought.

It seems though that perhaps stouts, in our house anyway, have a larger buffer for success than IPAs do.

The second beer was OUTSTANDING! It was exactly what I wanted it to be, it’s an imperial stout so not really designed for ease of drink, it’s thick and oily, carries a punch in flavour and alcohol volume but is rounded off with very subtle hints of coffee and cocoa. This wasn’t just passable, it was wonderful! As I sit here, now at the boiling stage of my current brew, I can only hope that I am able to replicate this level of beer for my 3rd imperial stout in a row!

Photo of my first or perhaps second Imperial Stout

Imperial stout number three is so far going well, and is basically the same as from brew day #5 but with 50% more cocoa nibs. They are only in the mix for about 5 minutes so not much time to make an impact so we’ll see how that goes.

Onwards!

  • A little less stout came to me one evening in the 90s as I sat in the Bell’s bar in Aberdeen for happy hour with a good friend. The bar was quiet, and to entertain ourselves we were re-branding the drinks we could see at the bar or marketing them with new slogans. One of my funny at the time creations was Guinness Lite with the slogan ‘A little less stout’. Whilst we went on to get fairly inebriated that one always stuck with me.. then some time later when I took my girlfriend (now wife) to Dublin to propose, we visited the Guinness storehouse and I discovered that at some point (possibly the 70s based on the font and graphical stylings) that Guinness in fact did have a beer called Guinness Lite, though I have no idea if they ever used the slogan ‘A little less stout’.



Hoppy Days!

Heriot-Watt University PgDip course acceptance
Blog: Brewshido
Categories: 3-minute read
Tags:

As stated in my founding post for this beer focussed blog, I have future plans to one day establish a modest craft brewery of my own in rural Japan. In order to help achieve those goals I tentatively applied for the MSc Brewing and Distilling By Distance Learning course run by Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.

Learning to brew beer through practice and experimentation is all well and good but I really wanted to understand the science behind the brewing in order to be be prepared to tackle future challenges and ideally preferred to do so in a structured manner, so this course seemed perfect for my needs.

Unfortunately, the soft requirement for entry into the course is an undergraduate degree in science or engineering and my degree in Japanese language and culture fits neither bill so I was apprehensive that I may not be considered. I therefore lined up some former lecturers to provide references if required and penned a passionate accompanying statement ensuring the university that faith in me would not be misplaced.

Offer letter from Heriot-Watt University

Fortunately, the soft requirement was indeed soft and without any request for references I have been offered an unconditional acceptance into the programme, which I have confirmed! WOOHOOO!!!!! If we’re honest, this is probably more to do with harsh financial challenges facing our universities than it was to do with my passionate plea but either way, come September 2020 I shall commence studying in the programme which I think makes my dreams to open my own brewery far more attainable.

Whilst, this is an MSc course, every new student is enrolled in the postgraduate diploma course and opts in to the dissertation for MSc at a later date, should they wish to pursue this. I do not currently have plans to complete the MSc, nor even the PgDip but rather intend to exit after completing 6 courses and attaining a postgraduate certificate (on completion of 4).

My reasoning is that I’m attaining industry knowledge which will then be applied in practice to my own company, as such I am not so inspired to study the courses relating to academic writing and research. This could however change and the course offers me the flexibility to make tho choices further down the road.

Offer details from Heriot-Watt University

In recognising that I don’t have a science background the offer also included a book recommendation for me to prepare for the start of the course, which shall be studied intently during the coming months.

I am very excited to start, a little daunted by the idea of studying a postgraduate science programme but ready to face the challenges and rise to them!




Of Sugar Munchers and Chilly Gas

Post-brew discoveries #1
Blog: Brewshido
Categories: 4-minute read
Tags:

As I settled down to read over the brew sheet for my impending Imperial Stout brew and after over 2 hours of cleaning and sanitising kit, I made a discovery.. I did not have enough yeast for the next day’s brew and had no means of acquiring more in time. So I hugged the windows in this mobile network black spot we call home in order to latch on to a signal to advise my scheduled brew buddy of the postponement.

YEAST

Purepitch Yeast Packet Front

When buying the beer kits I have been using to learn brewing, I had noted that for certain kits I could choose dry yeast or liquid yeast. I had previously read in slightly out-dated brewing books that liquid yeast is superior to dry yeast and so I have, for the last few orders, been opting for liquid. As it turns out, in doing so I’ve unknowingly been brewing with insufficient volumes of yeast!

Nowadays, due to improvements in the science dry yeast is apparently pretty close to liquid yeast in terms of quality but one advantage to liquid yeast is it enables you to create a yeast starter. This is currently too advanced a process for me to include but in essence you create a low gravity wort using dried malt extract and pitch the yeast into this a day or two before, which enables you activate and grow the yeast cultures so that you have sufficient volumes to pitch into higher gravity worts. Still with me? (who am I kidding, I’m the only one reading!). This is also advisable if your yeast is a bit older.

Purepitch Yeast Packet Back

As a result of the previous paragraph, when you order liquid yeast in the kit, you are only sent by default one sachet. If you don’t make a yeast starter then this is likely to be insufficient, and you have the option of ordering more. If only I had realised this at the time of ordering I’d have an exciting stout in the fermenter.. and my last beer would be much better!

This may go a large part of the way to explaining why I missed my final gravity reading in the last brew.

So today, I’ll order the extra two sachets of liquid yeast required to munch on high gravity stout wort and then I’ll buy dried yeast going forward until I’m ready to advance to yeast starters.

Force Carbonation

As I opted to skip the bottling phase for the time being and keg my beers, I have been trying to follow steps with regards to properly carbonating the beer post-fermentation. Carbonating using CO2 rather than brewing sugars is referred to as force carbonation (not force carbonisation as I keep calling it) and the trick is knowing what PSI or volume of gas to introduce to the keg for how long.

Han Solo Force CarbonisationForce Carbonation NOT Force Carbonisation

Everyone seems to have their own method and so for the beers I have made up to now I had opted to follow a generic instruction from the manufacturer of my brewing kit, Grainfather. Their instructions are simple to follow:

  • 30 PSI for 2 days
  • 10-12 PSI for 1 day
  • 8-10 PSI and refrigerate for 4 hours

They are simple to follow but haven’t really worked for me, in each case the resultant beer was a little too flat. My experiments thus far in correcting this have been disappointing, for my NEIPA I cranked the PSI up for too long, resulting in a massively over-carbonated beer, I’ve been able to eek it down again but there is a lasting bitterness in the beer as a result.

I’ve been looking in to this and possibly the issue is that I’ve not been considering temperature as a variable. When I pressurise my kegs, I do so inside the kegerator (for that is where the gas outlets live) and this is maintained at a temperature of 4°C whereas the instructions above seem to infer that the keg is only refrigerated for the final age.

My meanderings led to further discoveries, namely gas carbonation charts and gas carbonation calculators because I, of course, and not re-inventing the wheel here.. many brewers precede me and careful web searching could have saved me a bit of effort.

Different beer types have different recommended gas volumes and working out how to deliver this volume at my working temperature can be attained using either the charts or the calculators (the latter being quicker, easier and more likely to be my way forward).. so from here on in I’ll be using this calculator from Brewer’s Friend, a website which I suspect I’ll be visiting often.




Chinook What I Made

Notes from brew day #3
Blog: Brewshido
Categories: 10-minute read
Tags:

After the abject failure of my previous brew determination was high. Mistakes would not be made, at least not with regards to the most important stage of the process, sanitisation!

This was my first brew day with assistance, in the form of my dad, and having someone to “teach” really helped my focus throughout the day, not only were there considerably less mistakes there were also notable improvements throughout the steps compared to previous attempts.

TL:DR I DIDN’T DESTROY THIS BEER!! WOOHOOO!!

In my summary of brew day ichi-ban I described in detail (my understanding) of the steps involved so I’ll not go into as much detail this time but will attempt to follow the me structure.

The Beer Kit

19L New England IPA

The New England IPA 19L All Grain Beer Kit was the same beer kit that I had used in the previous disastrous brew however due to issues with online payment I had to vistt the brew store to pick up, and the hops that were included in this kit were different from the previous kit. I’m a novice so I didn’t question this at the time but at various times during the brew I considered that perhaps I had been given the wrong hops.

Grain bill for brew 3

In the kit this time was a bag of mixed grains, 200 grams of Chinook hops as well as a sachet of White Labs WLP066 London Fog Ale Yeast (liquid).

As previously ingredients were accompanied by some general brewing tips and the …

Brew Day Sheet

This very handy two page guide split the brew into its composite stages and provided target temperatures, gravity readings and volumes as well as space for recording timings and measurements throughout the day. It was very useful and despite my occasional flapping it kept me pretty much on track. The composite parts of the sheet will be incorporated below in the stage sections.

This was actually missing from the kit on this occasion but I had the previous brew’s sheet and I noted all of the important steps and numbers in a notebook.

Stage 0 - Prep!

Not only did I clean and sanitise EVERYTHING immediately after the last brew, on the night before this one, I went through the whole process again! This time however, on the advice of a retired chemist on the fediverse I noted every measurement and each step down.

Brewday 3 - Notes

In addition to directly address the issue that wrecked my last beer, I bought accurate measuring devices in the form of a glass pipette set which enabled me to measure exactly 2ml of the ‘no rinse’ sanitiser in with 1 litre of water for the spray bottle.

Brewday 3 - Pipettes

I also endeavoured to spray less enthusiastically, or rather less intensely.. enthusiasm levels were high regardless of the somewhat tedious task at hand. The extra focus on preparation definitely provided a solid foundation for the next day’s activities!

Stage 1 - Striking & Mashing

Another lesson learned from the previous brew was to heat the strike water as soon as I rolled out of bed, this meant that by the time the brew started the water was already at the correct temperature.. enabling me to spend just short of an extra hour with my daughter before I started in earnest.

Previously, I had noted that the thermometer probe wasn’t secure and had slipped out during the last brew.. this was firmly taped to the unit this time and didn’t budge through the whole day.

With the mash, we actually actively mashed and stirred the grain in for the entire duration of the water dropping from 76°C to 66°C.. this was tough work, I’m not entirely sure how long it took but my dad and I took turns, and in actively working the mash for the whole time we not only reduced the cool down time considerably but also released more sugars into the wort than previously.

This stage was absolutely nailed, a marked improvement on previous attempts, and the benefits of having a brew buddy became very apparent, very quickly.

Stage 2 - Lautering & Sparging

According to the brew sheet for this NEIPA recipe, approximately 8-10 litres of 76°C water should be rinsed or sparged through the spent grains in order to hit a pre-boil wort volume of 25 litres.. I needed 12L which was the same as last time.

It could be that there are improvements that could be made to this part of the process so I’ll maybe agitate the grain a bit more during this process to release more sugars and move the sparge water through, I suspect that of the 12L poured in a fair amount was still sitting within the grain cake.

Stage 3 - Boiling

Somewhat excitingly (likely to a very limited audience only) there was some proper protein build up as the wort hit the boiling point. I had experienced this during a trip to the Stewart Brewing Craft Beer Kitchen with friends a few years previous and was a little confused as to why it hadn’t happened on my earlier brews.. but it seems that our increased activity during the mash stage was the reason. What nice, natural, confirmatory feedback on our enhanced efforts!

With the confidence that the thermometer probe was securely attached and accurately measuring temperature, after breaking up the protein with a paddle, the rest of the boil went very smoothly.

We filled the time reading brewing books and chatting about my future brewing plans in Japan. As my dad was driving later in the day we weren’t drinking.. my next brew buddy is a non-driver!

Brewday 3 - Books

Stage 4 - Hop Additions

There was an initial 50g of the Chinook hops as a 10 minute (from end of boil) addition, then the hop stand which involves lowering the temperature post-boil to 70-80°C, adding in another 50g of the hops and holding the hot wort at that temperature for 30-45 minutes, we went for 40 minutes at 76°C since 76 appears to be a special number.

So far the hop stand seems to be a specific step for this style of beer and must contribute to the hazy or rather juicy look of the final beer.

Brewday 3 - Chinook Hops Label

Whilst we were reading in the previous stage, I had spotted a note attached to a recipe from BrewDog’s DIY DOG 2017 which stated that they get the be results when dry -hopping for 5 days (rather than 4 recommended elsewhere) at 14°C. It wasn’t overly clear if they meant specifically with the recipe the note was attached to or as a general rule of thumb but with my newly acquired chiller, I gave it a go.

Hop schedule for this brew was:

  • 50g of hops at 10 minutes (50 minutes into boil)
  • 50g of hops post-boil in a hop stand
  • 100g of dry hops post-fermentation for 5 days at 14°C

Stage 5 - Cooling

Post-brew it occurred to me that I missed a step which could logically fit in this age, I briefly mentioned it in my first brew post and will remember to do it next time.

The whirlpooling stage is primarily meant to separate trub (errant hops or grains which managed to escape the grain basket post-sparge) from the wort by dragging them down to the bottom of the .. boiling vessel.. but also the act of a 5 minute (yup!) whirlpool will also cool the wort a little, albeit slower than the cooling coil that comes with the Grainfather.

We cooled the wort to 18°C and transferred into the fermenter at a higher elevation than previously in order to increase the oxygen in the wort for the hungry yeast.

Stage 6 - Fermenting

The target original gravity (OG) for this beer is 1.063 which on my previous disastrous brew I hit on the nose, this time though I missed it by a little, landing on 1.059.. There was about an extra litre of of pre-boil wort and it seems that this was extra sparge water resulting in a very slightly weaker final wort.

Brewday 3 - Hydrometer for measuring wort gravity

The fermentation of this beer was the most active (noisiest) so far.. even into day 8 there was still the occasional bubble through the airlock. However, as previously experienced the active yeast increased the temperature of the wort in the fermenter, and it occurred to me finally that I had forgotten to buy a cooling system, so I ordered an inexpensive one and took immediate action whilst awaiting its delivery.

On noticing the temperature creeping up to almost 23°C, my wife and I carefully moved the fermenter on to a worktop in the utility room, opened the window to a Scottish winter and watched the temperature drop. The fermenter has a heating element so whenever it drops below the target temperature it slowly recovers.. so whilst there were a few periods where the temperature was slightly below 18°C, they were brief and the heat never exceeded 20°C for the remainder of the fermentation window.

During the fermentation, I noted that the yeast dump deposits were a bit smaller than previously but this made sense because the yeast was .. expiring.. at a slower rate. Where the fermenter previously went dormant after 4 days it stretched out twice as long this time before fermentation seemed to be done.

Again though, my final gravity (FG) reading was higher than the target and this time I’m not sure why. It was closer to the FG this time (1.026) than last time (1.033) so some progress is being made. Perhaps I need to look into the pH levels of the water or perhaps it will improve upon the introduction of a 5 minute whirlpool.. This is a challenge I feel will take a bit of time to understand.

As a result of missing both OG and FG targets my final ABV (according to the Brewer’s Friend Calculator ) is 4.33% had I hit my OG this would have been 4.86%.

For reference the following were my volume and gravity targets and final gravity (FG) results:

  • Desired Volume: 19L
  • Actual Volume: 19L
  • Desired OG: 1.063
  • Actual OG: 1.059
  • Desired FG: 1.013
  • Actual FG: 1.026
  • Desired ABV: 6.6%
  • Actual ABV: 4.3%

Stage 7: Kegging & Carbonising

I force-carbonated the beer for 2 days at 30PSI, brought it down to 12PSI for another 24 hours, hooked it up to the tap and lowered the pressure to 10PSI. However, as I had noticed on my first brew this resulted in a slightly under-carbonated beer so I cranked up the PSI to 30 for another 24 hours.

Stage 8: Drinking

Vindication you taste awesome! OK, dialling it down a bit.. this is a tasty beer, I would be happy if I ordered this in a pub and would enjoy every last drop. I wouldn’t necessarily rush back to order it again though but that’s an issue of personal taste..

I like my NEIPAs to be almost fruit juice like, certain hops give off more fruity qualities that I think are better suited to a NEIPA than others. Chinook has some of those qualities it seems but also some resin-y qualities, this is fine, Fierce Beer make a very nice juicy beer which is quite resin-y (Late Shift ) but it just isn’t my personal preference.

Brewday 3 - NEIPA

As an exercise in brewing this was a fantastic experience and my confidence and enthusiasm has been restored.

Will I drink this beer? Of course, with pride and I’ll make it again, but next time I’ll use El Dorado hops and see if they taste like I think they would taste without the accidental inclusion of sanitising chemicals.

For the next brew, I have a friend joining me and whilst we enjoy this NEIPA, we’ll be having a crack at an Imperial Stout.. arguably my favourite type of beer!




Why Pixelfed?

Why I host a Pixelfed instance
Blog: Whitabootery
Categories: 5-minute read
Tags:

Since December 2018 I have hosted a Pixelfed server, intended for family and friend use but in actuality currently only used by myself and very occasionally my wife.

The reason that I’ve not applied a @dansup level of marketing to encourage my circle to move over to the platform yet is due to a few bugs and polish items that I am awaiting, but as we are edging closer to a version 1 release, I thought this might be a good time to jot down my thoughts on the application. Primarily intended for the audience that the instance is targeted towards.

I have previously written about the fediverse and why I have left facebook, google etc. so if you need a primer then that’s the place to go first.

What is Pixelfed?

Pixelfed - A free and ethical photo sharing platform.

Pixelfed is, in a nutshell, a free and open-source instagram replacement. It allows you to upload photos and short videos, create albums, collections and ephemeral stories and enables sharing and interaction across the fediverse.

Mastodon, Pleroma, Friendica etc. users can follow a Pixelfed account and interact with the posts and account owner from the safety and comfort of their own hidey-hole.

Further information can be found at pixelfed.org .

Why use Pixelfed?

I’ve been asked this question a couple of times by folks already using federated social media. Their reasoning is usually that the other application such as Mastodon and Pleroma not only allow you to upload media but also to have media only tabs so why have another account on a photo & video only site?

This is a fair question and I sometimes upload photos to my pleroma account rather than Pixelfed.

However, most of the applications that I host are provided on the basis of the use cases of family and friends. In my circles instagram is very popular and pixelfed is pretty close functionally to instagram, getting closer by the day and improving on the concept too.

Pixelfed Collection - Craft Beer

I do also use Pixelfed though and there are unique aspects of it that I like such as the organisational functions such as the ability to create collections or hashtags discovery groups.

Pixelfed Discover Page

I like that Pixelfed processes the photos on upload (massively decreasing storage space for me) and I like, though rarely use the photo editing functions such as cropping and filters.

I don’t think I ever used stories, if it was even called that on instagram, but I can understand why others might find it fun, interesting or useful.

An upcoming feature named circles which will enable you to create groups of friends/followers who you can share photos or video with and no-one else will see them. This sounds good, whether or not I’ll personally use it in practice remains to be seen.

Scopes enable you to manage the visibility of your posts, either:

  • public - visible by everyone via a public timeline
  • unlisted - will appear on publicly profile page but only followers can see in their timelines
  • followers only - can only be seen by followers even on profile
  • circles - SOON™

This enables me to have a private account for photos of my daughter which are only visible to people I personally approve - family and friends only. This is a common feature across fediverse applications.

Pixelfed visibility scopes

Embedding! You can now embed photos and profiles into other blogs or web pages, which is nice!

I like the developer(s). This is generally common for most of the open source apps that I use, the developers are generally very open to feedback and are excited that people are using their application. Marketing mogul and time-illusionary @dansup is no exception! I have had many interactions with him over the past 15 months or so, and whether it be a unique issue I was experiencing during initial set up, a feature suggestion or a bug report the interactions are always gratefully received and pleasantly handled, and wherever possible bugs are fixed as quickly as they are reported. This interaction means a great deal to me, it re-affirms my decision to leave faceless corporations in favour of people-oriented open source developers.

Wish list

As mentioned above, I have been waiting for the application to be in a more polished ate before trying to onboard family and friends and whilst I feel we are nearly there I have small list of outstanding tasks or features that I’m looking forward to being addressed:

  • A federated timeline or federated discover page - I think that the discover page will only really bask in it’s glory when it allows discovery of accounts and media from other Pixelfed instances.
  • Remote account avatars - Currently avatars for accounts from other remote instances are not pulled, it’s a minor thing but it makes the application feel unfinished (which it is of course!)
  • Fixing the bug I raised eons ago ;) - #1359
  • Notifications for all interactions - Currently notifications are limited and don’t include comments.
  • Ability to choose photo order when uploading multiples
  • Webfinger support - a bit jargon-y but makes searching for other accounts more user-friendly. Added since post
  • Instagram and Pixelfed imports - The ability to import media from instagram or other Pixelfed accounts. It’s coming, I’m patient.
  • Pixelfed app - There are a number of apps on your chosen phone OS and I like them, but I think having an official Pixelfed app will help bring people onboard.. most folk are used to an app per site which seems pretty inefficient to me but for this reason a Pixelfed app will be really help shift folk over to the platform. This is also in progress.

This list used to be a lot bigger and I’m sure it won’t be long before it shrinks again.

Pixelfed is a fantastic application and I look forward to encouraging tho close to me to join.

Pixelfed on Mastodon




2020 Provisional Plans

Big plans for a busy year
Blog: Whitabootery
Categories: 6-minute read
Tags:

On our return from our most recent trip to visit my wife’s family in Japan I posted on my pleroma account about my ambitious plans for 2020 in order to hopefully facilitate a move to rural Japan as early as Spring 2022.

This article is an attempt to flesh the out a little and to have somewhere that I can more easily refer to for updates, amendments etc. So in no particular order:

Japanese Government’s Rural Initiative (not correct name but will update and write about in greater detail in the future)

This is a scheme aimed at encouraging more families to move from the big Japanese cities to rural locations, with a focus on encouraging retraining, community involvement and company creation. Each town government has its own requirements and the can change on an annual basis.

Successful applicants have up to three years to make a life in the town and contribute to the local economy, during which time the government will subsidise rent, home refurbishments and pay a regular, sufficient wage. After three years then you are on your own so to speak but by then hopefully you have established an income of your own.

A brief look into the scheme would suggest that so long as I have a driver’s license by the time of application and am capable of participating in an interview, then I should qualify. I already have a litany of ideas the biggest of which is to have my own craft beer brewery however, it is a mid-to-long term plan and hopefully some of my more immediately implementable ideas will impress the government officials when the time comes.

Japanese Language Proficiency Tests

Initial plan is to sit and pass JLPT N3 - which I should already be able to do, but the intention is to study for it properly in order to establish a study pattern for the more challenging N2 exam which I hope to sit in 2021.

If I’m to get back to a level where I can participate in a Japanese interview for the above scheme then the JLPT exams will help to focus me and fill the large gaps in vocabulary that have appeared since I graduated with an undergraduate degree in Japanese in 2011 - not that I was particularly good with the language back then, I was more interested in Japanese feudal history.. regardless, N3 this year, N2 next.

Brew regularly

Starting next week, I’ll be trying to brew a different beer each month and attempting to study the science of brewing so that by the time we move to Japan I have a solid knowledge-base from which to reach out for potential brewery internships as brewing beer at home is kind of illegal in Japan (unless under 1% ABV).

I am still a beginner and my second brew was somewhat of a failure. I hope to improve my understanding of the basics, tighten my quality control process and become very familiar with the different grains, malts, hops and yeasts over the next few years. I’ll initially probably be focusing largely on IPAs but before we move to Japan I want to experiment with dark and sour beers. I’ll endevour to record everything in my blog and as my Japanese improves, add translations where relevant or interesting to build towards a profile which can be understood by potential future employers.

Study the science of brewing

Hand in hand with the brewing plans, I hope to find some online courses or books from which I can learn more about molecular biology etc. I want to be in a potion where I understand protein chains, yeast storage and quality, water quality etc. This knowledge will be very important when the time comes to establish a brewery but also before then it will enhance my ability to design beers based on more than a hunch about tasty flavour combinations.

I recently re-visited the Heriot Watt University MSc Brewing & Distilling course page and discovered that it may be possible for me to study towards a Postgraduate Certificate online which if an application was successful would enable me to study exactly the content that I will need to for a career in brewing. I have contacted HW admissions and if I get a positive response to my multiple questions then I think I’ll apply for this course which would begin in September this year. Fingers crossed!

Depending on work-load and progress with this, I may also reach out to some Scottish craft brewers to see if there are any prospects for short-term internship or shadowing to set in place for next year.

Cook-A-Lot

I already do a fair amount of cooking at home and when time allows like to spend 4-6 hours in the kitchen making delicious #vegan food. However, as my future in Japan will revolve around both drink and food and in all cases vegan varieties of them all, I need to up my game and focus on mastering some fundamentals from which potential menus in potential cafes or food trucks might be devised.

I’ve previously worked in the kitchens of hotels and pubs in a variety of roles and several of the roles involved cooking for the public so I’m not completely unfamiliar with the requirements, but if I’m to be a lone vegan cook in our wee village in rural Japan, then I’ll need to really understand dashi options, umami and cooking with the local ingredients I’ll have at hand. Fun!!

Get the house in order

Literally! We’ve had an unfinished garage conversion for several years now! The building contractor who was hired to do the work upped sticks and ran away when the council returned a list of issues. Since then it has fluctuated in importance and several attempts to enlist the help of other contractors to finish the job have failed. We need to get this fixed once and for all or selling the house in a few years time is going to be somewhat of a challenge.

Sundries

Undoubtedly there will be more plans made, developed and or abandoned as the year progresses, but I hope to write about as much of it as possible, particularly where it relates to potentially interesting information uncovered as we learn more about the process and challenges of moving (back) to Japan.

Next year: driving license, JLPT N2, studying for Japanese beer proficiency tests (yes, really), strengthening of pretty much everything above.




Crying Tears of Hazy Gold

Notes from brew day #2
Blog: Brewshido
Categories: 10-minute read
Tags:

Enthusiasm for my second brew day was very high, expectations were moderate and preparation was good (or so I thought). Enthusiasm for writing this blog post after the disappointing conclusion to the brew day was somewhat minimal, but at the me time I am a new brewer and I need to record failures as well as success if I am to learn from my mistakes!

TL:DR this brew failed and resulted in all of the beer being poured down the drain!

In my summary of brew day ichi-ban I described in detail (my understanding) of the steps involved so I’ll not go into as much detail this time but will attempt to follow the me structure.

The Beer Kit

19L New England IPA

I had hoped to use the me beer kit consistently for the first three or four brews but I also wanted to step up from 11L to a 19L brew and the previous beer kit was not in stock for this volume, so I opted for New England IPA 19L All Grain Beer Kit , once again from Edinburgh bad brew store . I knew off the bat that making a NEIPA is a more involved process but I was up for the challenge.

In the box this time was a slightly damaged bag of mixed grains, some of which were clearly oats and as I hold the opinion that any beer is made better by the inclusion of oats, I was pretty happy with that!

Grain bill for brew 2

In contrast to the previous brew I also knew which hops I was using! 200 grams of the excitingly named El Dorado hop as well as a sachet of White Labs WLP066 London Fog Ale Yeast (liquid).

200g Vacuum-packed bag of El Dorado dried hops

As previously ingredients were accompanied by some general brewing tips and the …

Brew Day Sheet

This very handy two page guide split the brew into its composite stages and provided target temperatures, gravity readings and volumes as well as space for recording timings and measurements throughout the day. It was very useful and despite my occasional flapping it kept me pretty much on track. The composite parts of the sheet will be incorporated below in the stage sections.

Stage 0 - Prep!

I almost feel like I should address this section last but as I’ve already shared the disappointing conclusion to the brew day, I’ll grudgingly explain the one major mistake of the day which added an unplanned heat to the drinking of the final product.. think less of habanero and more that acid vat from robocop.

As I had previously extolled as the most important factor of the entire brewing process, I cleaned EVERYTHING and sanitised EVERYTHING so that no stray bacteria would contaminate my beer at any age of the process.

Shiny interior of the Grainfather mash tun Look how shiny it is!

The issue wasn’t with cleaning, everything was as clean as it needed to be. The issue wasn’t that I forgot to sanitise anything, absolutely everything that had any contact whatsoever with the ingredients and the wort at each age of the process was sanitised. So what was the problem?

Over-sanitisation, or rather insufficient attention to detail when mixing the sanitiser with water resulting in the wrong ratios and a much more potent solution than I should have been spraying on absolutely everything.

The sanitiser bottle comes with a 10ml measuring, eh neck section.. which is the amount to be mixed with 5L of warm water. My spray bottle holds only a volume of 1L so I eyeballed 2ml .. because obviously there is such a huge margin of error that this was a class A idea.

I have had some sound advice from a friend on the fediverse who previously worked in pharma, which I shall be following henceforth! Namely, record everything in detail to which I’ll also be incorporating proper measuring implements.

Let’s leave this disappointment behind and move on to the actual brew day, shall we?

Stage 1 - Striking & Mashing

The temperatures involved in the striking and mashing ages mirrored that in my previous brew though obviously the water volumes increased for the larger grain bill and thus the heating process took a lot longer.

Note to self: Start heating the water as soon as you get out of bed!

This should have been a straight-forward, stress-free age and a simple repeat of la time, however I discovered my first issue with the Grainfather brewing unit, and that is that the thermometer probe does not snap or lock into place. Due to this, the probe actually slid out a little and the temperature readings as a result were not accurate. When I noticed and pushed the probe back in, the accurate reading was higher by several degrees than it should have been.. and by this point I had already mashed in·

Lid off of the grainfather to try and reduce the mash temperature more quickly

So the strike water was too hot and it took longer to cool to mash temperature, which elongated the process and would have impacted on the gravity and potentially the taste of the beer had it not been already, unwittingly destroyed by this point. I tilted off the lid from the Grainfather which would normally be sitting atop the unit, in order to try and facilitate the cooldown process.

Otherwise, the grain bill was well mixed and mashed and despite this minor setback I was excited to plod on.

Stage 2 - Lautering & Sparging

According to the brew sheet for this NEIPA recipe, approximately 8-10 litres of 76°C water should be rinsed or sparged through the spent grains in order to hit a pre-boil wort volume of 25 litres.. I needed 12L to hit about 24L thanks to the increased evaporation in the previous stage. This would presumably have very slightly weakened the wort but not by enough to be concerned.

An off-the-cuff amendment to bring the brew day back on track, morale was still high!

Stage 3 - Boiling

By this age of the brew things have been a bit more hands off for a while, and I was really starting to feel the impact of my scheduled brew buddy cancelling on me, again, for the second time. The whole process was much longer than the previous, smaller brew and extended by the thermometer issue. I was at home and could have attempted to alleviate my encroaching boredom but as I’m still learning the basics, I didn’t want to become too distracted and make more mistakes.. So the isolation started to set in around now.

.. the boiling stage is pretty tedious to write about.. wort boiled for 60 minutes, next!

Stage 4 - Hop Additions

This was the stage I was looking forward to the most, aside from drinking this gloriously hazy, juicy New England IPA that I was crafting. A new process to test and learn!

There was an initial 50g of the El Dorado hops as a 10 minute (from end of boil) addition, then the hop stand which involves lowering the temperature post-boil to 70-80°C, adding in another 50g of the hops and holding the hot wort at that temperature for 30-45 minutes.

It took about 15 minutes to reach the temperature range and add the hops.. I appear to not have recorded the temperature nor time I maintained the wort at the temperature.. but it was within both target ranges.. I’ll do better with the recording next time.

As it turns out this is the only added complexity in this NEIPA brew as opposed to the previous US IPA brew and it would have been nice to enjoy the beer and mull over the influence of this new process.. hindsight!

It did make for an even longer brew, that’s for sure.

El Dorado Hops!

Hop schedule for this brew was:

  • 50g of hops at 10 minutes (50 minutes into boil)
  • 50g of hops post-boil in a hop and
  • 100g of dry hops post-fermentation for 4 days

Stage 5 - Cooling

During my first brew, I over-chilled the wort and introduced the yeast at too low a temperature potentially killing off some yeast from the get go, I was not going to make the same mistake again.

This time, I very carefully cooled the wort to 18°C before transferring the wort from the brew unit to the fermenter and only pitched the yeast once the temperature had been maintained for a little while.

Stage 6 - Fermenting

Just prior to pitching the yeast into the fermenter I took a sample for original gravity (OG) measurement, my target hydrometer reading was 1.063 and my measurement read 1.063, through the tiredness I felt vindicated that perhaps my amendments had fixed everything and in just two short weeks I’d be swimming in glorious, juicy beer..

I had issues with hitting my gravity target on my first brew and one of the reasons I think was that I didn’t try to oxygenate the wort on it’s journey into the fermenter, so I tried to do so this time and next time I’ll try a little harder to do so..

The liquid yeast and hitting the target temperatures before pitching definitely appeared to make big improvements, this time the fermenter bubbled much more rapidly, aggressively and for several days longer than before. So much so that it naturally increased the temperature in the fermenter to higher than the preferred range.. I adjusted the temperature regulator accordingly.

It was during the 10 days of fermentation that I started to suspect something had gone awry. Every 2-3 days I would take a yeast dump (much more carefully this time!) and a sample to measure progress. I also tasted the samples.. for educational purposes, you understand.. and immediately was concerned that this beer was hotter than anticipated. I did however already have a cold and a sore throat so I wasn’t absolutely sure if my suspicions were on point. So I continued.

Again though, my final gravity (FG) reading was higher than the target and this time I suspect it’s a combination of the higher strike and mash temperatures leading to a longer mash process as well as despite my attempts, under-oxygenating the wort when transferring into the fermenter. It possibly wasn’t aided by excessive sanitisation liquid contaminating everything.

I’m still learning, I’m still learning, I’m still learning.

For reference the following were my volume and gravity targets and final gravity (FG) results:

  • Desired Volume: 19L
  • Actual Volume: ~19.5L
  • Desired OG: 1.063
  • Actual OG: 1.063 - NOT A TYPO!!
  • Desired FG: 1.013
  • Actual FG: 1.033 - Also not a typo.
  • Desired ABV: 6.6%
  • Actual ABV: ~4% again.. probably.. I guess

Stage 7: Kegging & Carboning

I had identified and resolved the minor CO2 leak from my gas cylinder and honestly, this might have been the smoothest part of the whole process.

I force-carbonated the beer for 2 days at 30PSI, brought it down to 12PSI for another 24 hours, hooked it up to the tap and lowered the pressure to 10PSI. I left it for a couple of days more before pouring as I was pretty ill and also pretty busy.

Stage 8: Drinking

So, was it all worth it in the end? sob gulp sob

My heart was already seeking consolation from my ankles by the time I came to pour the beer. On a positive, it looked gorgeous, it smelled fresh and lightly hoppy and the head was bubbly, stubborn and inviting.

However, I had to check my neck immediately after drinking to ensure it hadn’t burned through my throat and poured on to my chest.

Without any further ado, I unhooked the keg and poured all 19L of the “beer” down the sink. Gutted! The brew day was about 8 hours long and it was really hard to keep up concentration levels for that stretch of time.

For the next brew, which of course there will be on our return from Japan in January, I hope to try the same beer again and correct the one major and few minor mistakes. I will have a brewing buddy this time, a real one and not just the kindly souls from Estonia and Finland!

Beers from Estonia and Finland




And So It Begins

Notes from brew day #1
Blog: Brewshido
Categories: 11-minute read
Tags:

The much anticipated first brew day in what I hope to be many subsequent and incrementally improved brew days finally culminating in a career in the #craftbeer industry, has come and gone. This shall be a summary of the events as well as the mistakes I believe that I made along the way and thoughts on how to fix them for my next brew day.

The Beer Kit

US IPA 11L All Grain Beer Kit

For the first handful of brews I am trying to understand the methods and get used to the equipment that I’ll be using for the next few years of home brewing and so I have opted to buy all-grain beer kits in an effort to focus on process. The beer kit for brew numero uno was this US IPA 11L All Grain Beer Kit from Edinburgh based brew store .

The kit contained a pre-ground bag of grains (unspecified), 2 vacuum-packed foil wrapped packs of hop pellets (namely hop A and hop B) and one sachet of Mangrove Jack’s M44 West Coast Ale Yeast.

The ingredients were accompanied by some general brewing tips and the …

Brew Day Sheet

This very handy two page guide split the brew into its composite stages and provided target temperatures, gravity readings and volumes as well as space for recording timings and measurements throughout the day. It was very useful and despite my occasional flapping it kept me pretty much on track. The composite parts of the sheet will be incorporated below in the stage sections.

Stage 0 - Prep!

This was added to this post as an afterthought but it is far to important to be so. Not only did I have to finish setting up my brewing equipment and hooking up gas etc. to my kegerator.. I had to CLEAN EVERYTHING and SANITISE EVERYTHING! Not doing so can lead to the beer being infected and being undrinkable at best.

I’ve worked for many, many years in bars and kitchens, I’m an avid cook and I have drilled myself during this time into always maintaining a clean and organseid work area (only in the kitchen!) so this wasn’t a stretch. I also found it very relaxing and quite nostalgic to be cleaning beer lines etc. again after all this time.

There was little risk of me not doing this stage well, but it would be remiss of me not to mention it all the me.

AWP Cleaner and Sanitiser which I used to clean everything!

Always thoroughly clean and sanitise your food/drink preparation and equipment.. anything that comes in contact with the beer or ingredients during the brew day must be clean and sanitary.

Chemsan no rinse sanitiser - because it’s handy to have spray bottle even though everything was already technically sanitised

Stage 1 - Striking & Mashing

In a nutshell the mash is the introduction of the grain bill to the hot strike water and steeping at an ideal temperature for a set period of time. The process activates enzymes which breaks down the starches in the grains into sugars which are then dissolved into the hot water to create wort.

The first part of this stage is measuring the volume of strike water (12L) and getting it up to ideal temperature, in this case 76°C. Whilst there really isn’t much room for error here, I did heat the strike water in an electric urn rather than in the mash tun.. it may have been quicker the other way around.. we shall see next time.

I then slowly introduced the grain bill into the water, stirring as I wanted to ensure that any grain clumps are broken down and then once the porridge-y concoction as in place, we reduce the temperature to 66°C to steep the grains for an hour. The temperature of the mash influences the body of the beer, lighter and drier beers are mashed at slightly lower temperatures than full bodied beers. This beer is middle of the road, a medium bodied beer.

So far, so good!

Stage 2 - Lautering & Sparging

Lautering is a term used for the removal of the spent grains from the mash tun, leaving only wort behind which in larger volume brewing is transferred to a separate boiling unit. My grainfather acts as both a mash tun and a boiler so I guess my beer is only partially lautered??

Several of the snippets of wisdom come second hand from this book: Brew by James Morton

The next process is the exquisitely named sparge! This step in my generously named ‘brew kitchen’ involves lifting the inner chamber of the grainfather and pouring 4-6 litres of 76°C water slowly through the spent grains so that all of the remaining sugars are rinsed off and into the wort below.

My target wort volume after sparging was 15L and I’m relieved to report that I hit the target on the nose.

Two stages down and though there may be some efficiency gains for next brew, no actual beer affecting mistakes yet!

Stage 3 - Boiling

In layman’s terms, this method involves raising the wort to boiling temperature and maintaining that for a period of time, in this case 60 minutes.

NAILED IT!

Stage 4 - Hop Additions

This is where it can get a little tricky because the hops have different functions or rather add different qualities to the beer depending on when they are added. Hops add flavour, bitterness and aroma, I guess technically bitterness is a subset of flavour but it’s my blog and after buying the kit and brewing it.. my beer so :P

Hops added at the start of the boil are bittering hops and when added later in the boil or even post-fermentation this is for flavour depth (as in not bitter notes) and aroma.

The schedule for this brew was:

  • 10g of hop A and 10g of hop B at 60 minutes (start of boil)
  • 10g of hop A and 10g of hop B at 7 minutes (53 minutes into the boil)
  • 10g of hop A and 10g of hop B - Dry hop 4 days. The hops are added to the fermenter (secondary if you have one) once the beer has fermented and left to steep for 4 days.

I had noted from various books and online videos that a very important process when adding hops is called whirlpooling and involves using your stirring implement of choice (sanitised of course) and creating a whirlpool in the wort for about 30 seconds, this allows the hops to disperse more evenly into the beer (or something like that, I need to revisit the theory).. and this was the step where I met my first challenge.

Due to me opting for a small batch, I didn’t have a lot of liquid to work with and struggled to create a proper whirlpool without hitting the false bottom inside the grainfather and potentially dislodging filters etc. The same challenge awaited me with the dry hopping stage.

So lesson 1, make larger volumes of beer! There are probably other ways to have overcome this challenge but too late for that now!

Stage 5 - Cooling

During this stage we rapidly cool the wort from boiling to a target temperature of 18-23°C for transferring into the fermenter. In my case using the grainfather this is done by pumping the boiling wort through a counter flow wort cooler which is a coil that ts atop the unit and attaches to a cold water outlet of your choice, the cold water is contained within the cooler and the hot wort is pumped through the coils, reducing in temperature with each circuit. Conveniently the hot wort sanitises the cooler as it goes through the first run as that would be a nightmare to have to sanitise otherwise.

Grainfather wort cooling coil

I had a few issues here due to buying a cheap garden hose to connect my only compatible tap to the cooling unit a number of metres away.. there were leaks and containing them wasn’t fun.. but only water was sprayed about so no big deal.

As I have no thermometer unit in order to gauge the temperature of the wort as it flows through I also over-chilled the wort at this age, reducing the temperature to about 14°C. Which was the temperature that I transferred the wort into the fermenter.

Stage 6 - Fermenting

The temperature was too low, but I have a temperature controlled conical fermenter so I set the temperature to 20°C and I took my sample to record the original gravity (OG) reading from my hydrometer. However due to the leaks and missed target temperature I got slightly flustered and instead of waiting until the wort had hit the preferred temperature I pitched the yeast too early (at about 15°C).. This mistake inevitably impacted the beer.

Wort trickling into the fermenter

Once the wort was transferred and yeast pitched, I sealed the unit and added the airlock. Before long the yeast that hadn’t needlesy died of hypothermia started munching on the sugars creating alcohol and causing the airlock to gently bubble reasonably frequently. The sound of the yeast ‘farting’ was a source of entertainment for a couple of days.

The wort is left to ferment and turn into beer over the next 7-10 days, or whenever two identical gravity readings are taken over the space of two consecutive days. Every 2-3 days I needed to perform a yeast dump, which is to slowly .. dump dead yeast from a valve at the bottom of the fermenter.. I wish I had paid more attention to the word slowly before engaging in this process.

7 days passed and I had very static gravity readings, not anywhere near target but consistent.. in fact I had them after 4 days but didn’t want to give up hope so waited the week. Hops were added, a failed attempt at whirlpooling occurred and the fermenter was re-sealed for 4 days.

So, to summarise my mistakes in this stage:

  1. Over-cooled the wort - recoverable, but…
  2. Pitched the yeast before the wort recovered to a target temperature - killing some yeast and leading to a higher final gravity and lower ABV beer.
  3. Rapidly dumped yeast, losing a fair amount of wort in the process.

Lessons learned: Breathe and take your time.

For reference the following were my volume and gravity targets and final gravity (FG) results:

  • Desired Volume: 11L
  • Actual Volume: ~11L (woohoo!)
  • Desired OG: 1.061
  • Actual OG: 1.059 - That seems pretty close to me
  • Desired FG: 1.012
  • Actual FG: 1.027 - Ah FFG! Missed by a whack but I think it’s explained by the mistakes I made.
  • Desired ABV: 6.5%
  • Actual ABV: ~4%

Stage 7: Kegging & Carbonising

After 4 days of hops steeping in the fermented beer it was time to transfer this nectar into one or many receptacles.. I opted for a keg because it’s simpler albeit more expensive. I also, as a bartender of almost two decades, really, REALLY wanted to have draft beer on tap at home.

Panic set in a little here as I had read so many different carbonation methods, some ‘natural’ ones involving the introduction of brewing sugar and storing at room temperature for weeks and some rapid ‘forced’ carbonisation using CO2 at high pressures in order to produce carbonated beer on tap within 4 hours. I am by nature a very patient man but I forgot to buy sugar so.. I opted to carbonate the beer using CO2.

The option I eventually settled on actually came from the grainfather manual and involved pressuring a keg at 30PSI for 2 days in the fridge, reducing this to 10-12 PSI for 1 day in the fridge, then reducing this to 8-10PSI and hooking the beer outlet pipe up to the tap.. then after 4 hours.. DRINK!!

So I followed the instructions and sampled the beer after the suggested duration.. it poured like a dream! The head retention was phenomenal.. but sadly the beer itself was a shade flat. It occurred to me pretty swiftly that this was due to the lower volume of beer in the keg.. so I disconnected, upped the PSI to 30 again for another day, reduced to 10-12 PSI for half a day then hooked the beer up.. BINGO!

However, I have noticed that I do have a very slight CO2 leak. I think I know why, I don’t think the keg is sealed as well as it could be. I’m going to try and focus on this a bit more with the next brew but honestly, I think it will take some practice before the leakage is eliminated.

Stage 8: Drinking

So, was it all worth it in the end? Hell to the yes!

It’s a baby beer!

I have never drank this particular beer before and so I don’t have a direct comparison.. It is however, despite its flaws, drinkable and even quite enjoyable! Even more so after a few days of settling.

There are improvements that I think could be made and reached primarily by resolving the mistakes above but also I could have used irish moss to clarify the beer if the haziness was of concern (it wasn’t) and this will be a consideration going forward.

My next brew day is tomorrow and all of my equipment has already been cleaned, I will sanitise as I go. Whilst I had hoped to use the same beer kit in a larger volume the brew store didn’t have it, so I’ve gone with their limited addition NEIPA (New England IPA) which I am very much looking forward to.

The journey continues!

Note: The image at the top of the post is a photo of a selection of beers from Fierce Brewing in my beer fridge. They are one of a number of breweries who have inspired me to this point.




Tasting Notes - Op & Top

Blog: Brewshido
Categories: 1-minute read
Tags:
Name (名前) Brewery (醸造所) Country (国) Type (種類) ABV % (アルコール度数) IBU (アイビーユー) 
Op & Top Brouwerij De Molen Netherlands English Bitter 4.5 38

This was the first of a short-lived effort at cataloging my tasting notes using paper and pencil. It was also my first attempt at recording my thoughts about the pour, nose and taste of beer. I’m hoping that with more experience, I’ll be a shade more creative going forwards!

以下は私の初めての紙と鉛筆で書いたビール試飲ノートの試みです。説明で非常に基本的な言葉をたくさん使いましたが、まだまだ勉強しています!これから面白いビール醸造関連の言葉をもっと学びたいです。

Disclaimer: I’m not an artist and there will be some shockingly poor logo sketches in this series! I just wanted to mention this before someone else did!




Brewshido - A beer journal - Intro

Blog: Brewshido
Categories: 3-minute read
Tags:

Some time ago, I made the decision that at some future point in my life I want to be a craft beer brewer. For reasons this has not yet transpired but the dream still remains and recent plans to relocate to rural Japan in 4 years time provide potential opportunity for the wheels to be put in motion.

以前からずっと、将来ビール醸造者になりたいと思っていました。まだまだ夢の段階ですが、4年後ぐらいに日本の田舎に引っ越す予定なので、達成可能な夢だと思います。

My only experience thus far of brewing was when a few years ago, a friend invited myself and a few others to the Stewart Brewing Craft Beer Kitchen where under the guidance of a resident brewer we had a fairly decent go at making a milk stout. The day in the brew kitchen was excellent and really encouraged me to learn more about the process.

今までにビールを作ったことが一度だけあります。その時は友達と一緒にStewart Brewing Craft Beer Kitchen(スチュワート・ブルーイング・クラフトビール・キッチン)でビール醸造者からミルクスタウトの作り方を学びました。それはとても面白い経験だったので、ビールの作り方についてもっと学ぶように励まされました。

As it stands, in a room which was formerly a garage but hasn’t quite finished it’s conversion into anything resembling suitable, sits a Grainfather All Grain Brewing System along with a conical fermenter, a large urn and various other brewing paraphernalia. All as of yet, still boxed and awaiting their inaugural run. I have a few other pieces to “invest” in before I’m ready to start brewing but the main barrier has been the unfinished room.. which will hopefully be finished soon.

残念なことに、「Grainfather(グレーンファーザー)」というビール醸造機や円すい発酵槽、その他のいろいろな醸造の機器を買ったにもかかわらず、私はまだビールを醸造していません。できれば近いうちに最初のビールを作りたいです。

I’ve been a member of the Beer52 craft beer club since a month after its inception (I think) and have sampled many craft beers from around the planet and each month I learn a little more. I initially started a paper journal, just recording the hop choices and tasting notes for the beers I was getting delivered, however that soon became tiresome and primarily delayed the drinking of the beer so I stopped. I still have a lot of learning to do and am hoping that recording my drinking and eventually brewing experiences will help me in this process.

「Beer52]というクラフトビールクラブが始まってすぐの頃から、私は会員です。毎月いろいろな世界中からの新しいビールを試飲する度に、ビールについてもう少し深く学べています。でも、まだまだ勉強するつもりです。

Some reading materials

So, the purpose of this blog will be primarily self-education and note-taking but I hope that it provides some interesting reading for fellow enthuasts who like myself don’t necessarily have all the jargon knowledge of more seasoned professionals.

このブログでビールの試飲や醸造の記録を書きながら、ビールの作り方について学んでいこうと思っています。このブログで他の方と興味を共有できれば幸いです。

I’m categorising this journal under brewshido.. Bushido is the Japanese term for “way of the warrior” and I previously had a blog called bushidodreams (which can be found on this te).. so I’m coining the term brewshido to mean the way of the brewer.

I acknowledge that neither my brewing nor my Japanese language knowledge are of a sufficient level to warrant the brashness of coining a new word in my second language but it is what it is!

ところでビール醸造以外には、武士道と日本の歴史に興味があります。それで、Brewは「醸造」という意味なのです。でも私の日本語もビール醸造のレベルはまだまだですが、侍もビールも好きなので、ブログの名前をbrewshidoにしました。