Tag Archives: Beer

Don’t Lose Your Bottle

With the brew ready it’s time to bottle up. Final measurements were taken and according to the formula I quoted in my first post I’ve got a beer around 5.5%ABV. Not bad for a beginner.

Before I could syphon the beer into bottles they needed cleaning. I managed to borrow 40 bottles, caps etc from a friend but the bottles had been in the shed for a few years.  Thankfully Rach stepped in and with some broken up denture cleaning tablets we let nature take its course and soon the bottles were sparkling again. Then they were sterlised and rinsed out. Lastly I added 1/2 tsp of sugar to each bottle before syphoning the beer from the fermenting bucket into each one and capping off.

I’m giving them another couple of weeks before the first tasting session and if all goes well they’ll be consumed in the run up to Christmas. Or, if luck isn’t on my side, they’ll all go down the drain!

First Brew

I mentioned in a previous post that I was going to start brewing my own beer. I want to have a proper go at it when the garden jobs have wound down for the winter but I’m not quite there yet getting the stuff together and having the time to give it the right level of attention. So against my better judgement I thought I’d give one of the cheap kits a try. Now I’ve been warned off them but with a weekend away with some friends from uni looming I thought it was a good opportunity to get some cheap homebrew on the go. Then I can see for myself whether or not these kits are any good.

Rather than waste my money on one of the more expensive kits between £20 and £25 I went for one at £12, an English Bitter kit, made by an Australian company, Coopers, one of their International Series. Uhhm not sure that was a good idea but what’s the worst that can happen? A few hours wasted and £12 down the drain.

First I sterilised the bucket, spatula and hydrometer in baby sterilising fluid. About an hour later I gave it a good rinse out and started the brew. I dissolved the contents of the can and a kilo of sugar in 2 litres of boiling water and then topped up with cold water to the 20 litre mark. Not sure about whether I should have added the sugar as the instructions just say dissolve contents of the can and any additional fermenting sugars. Oh well, I’ll soon find out if that’s right. Then I gave it a mix and checked the temperature which should ideally be between 21 and 27 degrees centigrade. It was 17 so I then topped up to 23 litres with hot water (got to 25 degrees), took the specific gravity reading (which is the original gravity, OG) and bunged the yeast in. The OG was 1030, is that good? I have no idea…….

According to the instructions temperature control through the fermentation process is important so I’m keeping mine between 21 and 27 degrees with an electric heating wrap (when my friend finds his, for the meantime an ordinary blanket will have to do). The bucket is covered with a clean cloth and the lid sat on top, not sealed, to allow the gas to escape but hopefully nothing nasty to get inside. The bucket went into the outhouse with a blanket wrapped round it to try and keep it warm enough for the yeast to do its thing.

Then I’ll leave for 5 days and check the specific gravity readings for a couple of days to see if I have a steady reading which will be the final gravity (FG). Well that’s what the instructions say anyway!

The formula for working out the final alcoholic content of the brew is (OG-FG)/7.46 + 0.5 = % alcohol by volume (ABV). I’d hope to get somewhere around the 4 % mark. Adding 0.5 into the formula is to reflect the addition of priming sugar for secondary fermentation (the bit at the bottling stage). So if I have an FG of say 1006 that means I should have an ABV of 3.7%.

So there it is, one brew on the go in about an hour. It should make around 40 pints, fingers crossed it won’t be 40 pints of cat pee!

This morning I knew virtually nothing about brewing beer, now I know a tiny bit more. The next step will be to get this lot bottled up and see what it’s like in a month or so. Then I want to move away from kits and onto better things when I have a bit more time on my hands. I’ll let you know how I get on!

First Foraging Trip and Veg Update

I mentioned in my last post that this blog would start to diversify a little as the garden winds down for the winter. One of the things I’ve been interested in for a while now is foraging. Now I’m not talking running the gaunlet with wild mushrooms just yet but simple “get out into the fresh air and fill up some plastic tubs with stuff” type foraging.

So off we went for a drive and stopped in the first likely looking spot by a track alongside a lovely looking hedgerow.

Chloe spotted them first, although Emily didn’t seem too interested……….


Whilst the girls sat down to share the blackberry spoils I went about stripping a couple of kilos of elderberries from the hedge. A batch of wine was the goal, more on that next time.

We spotted a nice patch of teasels and lots of sloes and rosehips we’ll be back for.

On the veg plot I decided to tackle the front bed which I’ve been neglecting for a while. The sprouting broccoli are getting quite large now so I earthed them up and staked them to protect from rocking. This year I’m growing early white and late purple varieties. The sweetcorn came out, I’ll be growing more next year as it was superb. The last of the cabbages will make some more coleslaw.

Still not sure what I’m doing with the celery, it must be a self-blanching variety as it tastes quite good.

I tidied up the brussels and picked the first handful which the girls loved with their roast dinner. Elsewhere in the garden I belatedly staked the raspberry canes, took out the sweet peas and red orach and started to pot up 120 strawberry plants! After which I deserved a sit down with a beer. More foraging and brewing to come!

A well earned break

The garden is starting to wind down now and my mind is thinking of Autumn projects. One or two will be gardening related no doubt like building a decent set of compost bins but there’s other things I want to do like learning the art of foraging for wild food, cooking more meals and brewing my own beer for Christmas. So this blog may become a little bit more diverse over the next few months. But before all that it’s time for a well earned break, and one or two drinks from a selection of real ales I’ve been collecting.

During my younger days I’d drink all sorts, alcopops, when they were all the rage, and lager mainly, but over the last few years I’ve come to appreciate a decent real ale. Now I’m not a member of CAMRA or anything but I know what I like and here’s a few of my favourites that I’ve sampled recently.

Bath Ales Gem & Wild Hare, St. Peter’s Brewery Original Best Bitter, Black Sheep Golden Sheep, Badger’s Golden Champion, Golden Glory & Cricket and Hop Back’s Crop Circle & Summer Lightning. One or my regular reads ‘Caught by the River’ has real ale reviews from time to time if you fancy a change. Cheers!