Sunday, 29 December 2013

Black Forest Stout Comes Under Scrutiny...

Looking back to my last brewing attempt my ambition maybe outweighed my skill, with a half a dozen ingredients and none standard adjuncts it should have been a disaster, but there are occasions where inexperience and naivety can lead to something interesting. When I posted my brewday write up I wasn't expecting the attention it had received by the kind Twitter folk, some of which were bloggers of some of my favorite beery sites, such as the guys at Beers Manchester and The Beer O'Clock Show. I decided to fire off a couple of bottles their way, just to say thanks and maybe get a little feedback, I certainly wasn't expecting a full on review, but that's exactly what I got! Even better that my humble little beer was included in Beers Manchester's #12BeersofXmas roundup, rubbing its tiny shoulders with some of the big brewers out there! Thankfully it was a positive review and a huge confidence boost! 

Slainte! ;)

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Bottling the Christmas Stout, Bah Humbug...

With the current cold weather, the fermentation process for this brew has been a bit more of a hands on task. In an attempt to keep the temperature within the yeast's sweet spot, I've had brew belt on and off, made the FV a jacket out of insulation wallpaper and moved the whole thing to various different rooms. Thankfully my attentiveness paid off as my microscopic friends had worked their magic and after a couple of weeks the beer was ready for bottling. 

As this was the first recipe born from my booze-addled mind, I wanted to give it a little more attention than my previous attempts. So, with that in mind, the brew deserved to be contained in proper glass vessels, instead of the plastic bottles that came supplied with my starter kit. I'd spotted a cracking deal being offered by Majestic – 12 bottles of Anchor Steam for just shy of £20 (that's £1.66 a bottle)! Not only is it a very palatable beer, it's sold in quirky bottles which I considered perfect for the stout. As well as the nifty bottle I would need a sweet label, especially as I'm going to debut the beer at the December Macc Homebrew meetup! With me being a bit of grump, 'Bah Humbug' was an obvious name choice and the geek inside has an affinity with Grumpy Cat, the two marry up nicely! The missus is a bit of a whizz with the old Photoshop, so I enlisted her help with the cutting out of the miserable moggy, along with a few layout tips. Ten minutes later we had whipped up Lo-Fi label...ding!

With the packaging sorted, the festive brew was due a gravity test. This was quite a momentous occasion as this would be the first opportunity to taste my creation. With a gravity of 1.010 jotted down I emptied the specimen into a glass and nervously took a sip. My taste spuds were greeted by a subtle introduction of sweet chocolate, which pleased me as I had actually wanted to throw some cocoa nibs into the boil for some extra choccyness (is that even a real word?). Unable to source any nibs locally, I was pleased that the cocoa notes had managed to push through the malt and the crystal added enough sweetness to balance out the bitterness. So far so good! A second later the cherries burst on to the scene throwing sour shapes all over the place. Crikey, I wasn't expecting that! This highlighted something I'd neglected to do during the brew - taste the damn cherries! I had no idea whether they were sweet or sour, but I assume that this sourness was from the cherries and that the beer hadn't just become infected by any wild yeasts. Either way, even at this stage, the brew is very drinkable and it's at least on trend for 2013. Let's see how it tastes in a few weeks time.

The weekend had arrived and I took a second sample. There had been no movement with the gravity, which meant the beer's ABV came to 5.25% – a little shy of my original target, but still decent enough. I bottled the beer and figured out, that due to my improved brewing efficiency, I ended up with probably a litre and a half more than my previous effort... result!

BAH Humbug!
Having seen what happened to the labels we'd applied at the Brew School I thought it best not to print them using our inkjet printer at home, not unless I was looking for a tie-dyed effect. So instead, I printed them on the massive black and white copy printer at work. With the labels produced and cut to size, I set about sticking them to the bottles using a saucer of milk and a pastry brush, and I have to admit, I was pleased with the final product. Lets just hope the beer inside does the labels justice!