National Homebrew Week Sept 29th-Oct 5th 2014

We at the National Homebrew Club are launching Ireland’s first National Homebrew Week. It will run from Monday September 29th to Sunday October 5th 2014 with brewing events island-wide.

Whether you are a beginner and don’t know your syphon from your  batch sparge or are thinking about taking the next step in your brewing career there will something for you.

NHC stand  at the RDSEvents are being organised by each of our local clubs and include:

  • Guided tastings
  • Making your own equipment
  • Hop growing & picking
  • Kit & Extract brewing
  • All-grain brew day demonstrations with hands on advice from experienced brewers.

We also have inaugural meetings of our fledgling local clubs in Meath and Crumlin. Over the next week we will have an itinerary of what is happening. Stay tuned and in the mean time check out your local club here or you can find us on Facebook or Twitter.

Bucket of Grain

Brewer Spotlight – BrenMurph

Brewer SpotlightThis month we’re chatting to NHC Best Brewer, BrenMurph.  He’s a long-time brewer and hosts the now famous, South Kildare  brew days.   In our interview,  Bren kindly shares some of his secrets for brewing and competition success and tells us all about his homebrewing history.

Hi Bren, can you start by telling us, how did you start home brewing?

First, I have to acknowledge Kellie (Co brewer and brew day cook), our supportive brewing friends, and our brew day guests from whom we learn so much.

Back in 1978, I think. I got my first job in Tesco in their Tallaght warehouse and a couple of lads there were brewing from kits so we had the odd (every Friday) meetup to drink the brews. The quality was very good generally and as I still say today, if you watch the basics, namely temp control and hygiene, the beer is usually grand to drink. We had regular Friday night brew/drinking sessions and we chipped in a tenner each and we played darts and cards. After the beer kits were paid for there was a tenner or so left to pay the winner of the darts and cards so someone went home with a free nights drinking. This went on for years. Over the next few decades I dipped into and out of brewing at one stage brewing wine quite a lot. To answer your question it was part social and part cost saving in addition to being a great hobby. I still have some of my original homebrew gear including a capper that leaves a lovely dimple in the cap.

What are your favourite commercial beers?

We love the Germans, nothing like a good Altbier or north German pilsner, however after being in Munich recently we were blown away by the incredible quality of their offerings not limited to Andechs Bock, Wehenstephaner Dunkel and Ayinger old beers including their outstanding old cloudy lager. Gong back a few decades it was Macardles when it was a special ale and Phoenix ale in bottle which is imprinted in my mind forever as very special ale creamy and flavourful.

Describe your typical brew day for us.

How long have we got???

I often brew two or three all-grains in a day, however to stick to a single brew day we would start with a recipe design on Beersmith followed to getting the ingredients out of the store and ground up in the mill. We never use crushed grain, always whole grains. Just like coffee is best fresh ground and brewed I believe whole grains are superior.

Our system is a simple four vessel setup.

Mash tun which is a cooler box, deep and well insulated

Burco for strike and sparge water heating

Boiler for the wort boil

A modified 7 litre boiler from Aldi for decoction.

 

This is incredibly reliable due to a few electrical tweaks we made and gets us through a full all-grain brew and clean up in sub 4 hours without rushing. During brew day, which can be 10am or 4pm depending on work commitments, we generally check up and taste previous and current brews for progress. On official brew days (rather than my regular solo ones), Kellie always has great food, neighbours drop in, friends call by, some stay and some don’t. The days always end up late and many enjoy staying in our wonderful setting with great facilities.

We generally have about 10 different beers on tap and there’s always something for everyone. For those who stay the night there’s our traditional breakfast, the last one in the polytunnel with about 25 overnight guests after our cask festival

Do you tend to brew tried and tested recipes or do you prefer to experiment with new ones?

I think the dozens of people who know us appreciate we are experimenters. We always sit down and discuss recipes and while tasting our numerous beers we critique them to find out how to improve flavour, balance and so on. We also continuously test commercial beers and beers left in by friends, guests and offer feedback to them. We seek out new ingredients and new flavours especially willing to try new hops. Recently we are working with minty and fruity hops.

What’s your favourite beer to brew? (Fancy sharing the recipe?)

We don’t have a favourite. Lagers are great but u need patience, 4 months patience which most brewers don’t have. We brew several times per week and always trying something different. For session beers we edge towards a session bitter or Scottish shilling, other than that we have numerous unusual beers on our books. Kellie particularly likes the shillings and English browns.

Click here for Bren’s award winning Scottish Shilling recipe.

You picked up Best Brewer at the NHC National Brewing Championships. Were you surprised to do so well?

Yes and No. In the previous 12 months we completed the BJCP course which helped a lot. My disappointment not to medal in 2013 only made me more determined to do better next time. We also built our dedicated self contained brewery and brewed every week, we also had in excess of 14 public brew days and attended nearly as many. We also attended Altech, RDS, and numerous research trips to UK and not least a week in Dusseldorf exploring their brewing traditions, Scotland and Munich. I also invested in a 1000 page Brewing Science journal collection, which has massively improved my understanding of all things brewing.

We worked really hard to plan our assault on the nationals, it’s no fluke we done so well as anyone who attended our brew days know, we have an incredible passion for brewing and we entered our passion in the nationals as well as our bottles. One strategy we used in the previous year was we used only 2 yeasts, notty ale yeast and Mauribrew lager yeast. This allowed us time to understand the yeast and concentrate on other variables like malt and hops, decoction and no-sparge mashes. Every one of our medal beers was brewed on the same Mauribrew lager yeast and that includes our Scottish Shilling and our Altbier, both ales!

We did have numerous comments after the show about targeting the ‘easy’ categories, well let me re-cap what we actually did, we planned 6-months in advance. Our motivation for lager came from our friend Dodge who took Master Brewer for the best overall beer, we picked up 7 medals including 3 gold out of only 10 entries. Our lagers were all superb following 4-6 months work on them and deserved their rewards. What a lot of people don’t realise is that we also won the Scottish and Irish ales section, which I believe was the most competitive category with the highest overall average scoring, we done this with a Scottish 80 shilling that was lagered for 3 months and this also made the final 6 out of 400 beers in the competition. This beer was inspired by the Dublin Craft beer Ladies society who came to a brew day and helped brew it, as you can imagine, they were delighted. This beer was reviewed by Gordon Strong at Altech who described it as having “everything a Scottish Shilling should have in it”, it got its deserved rewards, a very difficult beer to brew as it has hardly any hops, the bitter balance comes from subtle dark roasts, the maltiness from no sparge & long boil and its cleanness from lager yeast and long cold conditioning.

South Kildare Medal Collectors

South Kildare Medal Collectors

So I didn’t even know there was a Best Brewer prize till I got it and we believe we thoroughly deserved it. We knew that this year we had some outstanding beers and expected a medal or two but were delighted and excited to earn the title of best brewer 2014, we are of course on the 2015 case as we speak. Our brewing this year has gone from strength to strength, we have new methods and are working with new ingredients and using new water profiles, we also have some secrets weapons which we are not sharing at this stage as there is a considerable amount of prizes at stake that we are aiming to have a go at.

Which beers do you find most challenging to brew and get right?

None, we have made about every style of beer except Belgians at this stage and enjoy the challenge of making any of them. If I was to name the style I believe I am worst at, it’s the stouts. We make nice stouts but not outstanding stouts. However the most technically challenging beer to date was the California common that came so close to being a winner after 6 months attention to detail.

Do you have any favourite malt or hop varieties?

Yes, Dana, Saaz and Marynka. We took Gold in the nationals with a single malt and single hop lager made with Weyermanns pilsner and Marynka hop with just a touch of roast for colour in our Scwartzbier. I like a hint of Amarillo in an English ale.

What’s your favourite beer and food pairing?  

Without a doubt, beer and cream crackers…try it.

Abstract question here, if you were a beer, what would you be?

Tough question……but here’s an abstract answer from the top of my head…..

A bottle of Phoenix ale (anyone got a recipe?) as it reminds me of the good ol’ days when things were simple, no mobiles or computers, no Facebook or twitter and we enjoyed the simple things. When we went on holidays, we went on holidays, and escaped our normal life completely, this is something that today’s generations don’t understand. That’s what I feel a holiday should be.

You regularly host brew days and tasting events at your house. In a few words, why should people come along?

That’s best asked of someone who has been here. A guest’s view is better than mine. We offer a great social outing and we believe this is very important. We are really trying to get more wives onboard and we have significant success. We feel it’s a great social hobby and one the women can thoroughly enjoy. Our brew days are social, fun and entertaining. Kids are welcome and they have a great time too. We have gardens, vegetable crops, hop vines and even grapes in the polytunnel. We have BBQ and campfires where we really chill out later.

We brew and serve great beer on simple no-nonsense equipment and banter bout whatever. We promote healthy food and healthy attitude to beer, keeping all our beers fresh, local and natural as possible using some unusual ingredients.

Kellie serves incredible food and everyone goes home happy (some go home nearly crying coz they’d rather stay). For those who don’t go home we have the best overnight stay with camping, caravanning or camper-vanning or floor space or a bed for our guests. We grow our own hops and use fresh ingredients as possible for our dining and our beer. We get a lot of very positive feedback and people get a positive learning outcome and never shut up about their experiences.

Our dedicated brewery and brew house is fantastic and does what it says on the can. We are the busiest and most successful competition brewery in the country and our guests are well looked after with food drink and knowledge so ye know where we are if you to absorb some of that.

Last month was a beetroot lager brew day. Where did the inspiration for that recipe come from? Have you done many other “crazy” brews?

We have done beetroot several times and love it as a food and a drink; I’ll say no more only try it. Don’t put it in the mash coz it turns orange; just stick in the boil or fermenter. We often caramelise it on a pan to enhance the caramelly sweetness you get from root vegetables.

Other crazy brews include liquorice, Spruce, and a couple of other trials. We like chocolate and honey as adjuncts. We finished second highest score in the summer sessions with our lager made with corn from our own garden. I can’t say more about our current crazy brews coz they may appear in upcoming comps. Kellie has warned me that I’m in the doghouse for at least a month if I don’t win the “Red ale” competition…she wants that dirty weekend away in a fancy hotel! So I’m brewing and have been brewing a series of reds with a difference, we will have to wait and see in August if the dozens of hours experimenting pays off, I’m sure competition will be tough, keeping in mind it was the highest scoring category in the 2014 nationals!! However, we won that one!

If you won the lottery tomorrow what would be the first bit of home brewing equipment you would splash out on?

I would go to Weihenstephen and use their equipment when I enrol on one of their Master Brewer degrees! I already have a Master of Science degree in nutrition and would love to take up brewing science academically. If I won the lotto that would be my road, and no doubt I would be buying an apartment along the winding, steep, hop cropped hill up to Weihenstephener brewery and Studying just down the hill in the massive Weihenstephen brewing science campus.

Finally, any tips for home brewers looking to pick up medals in next year’s competition?

Yes, try ‘less talk and more action’….we brewed 200 all grain beers in the past 2 years and went on numerous brew holidays, events, seminars and thousands of brewing and drinking hours.

Really though just try get a passion to learn and practise as much as possible and the results will come. I’d also say please remember that brewing is as much an art as a science so experiment and don’t read too much into any one person’s opinion, get the general feel for a topic and play around with ideas.

Get to brew days, that’s where it all happens, we learned a lot from going to others and from people attending ours. Alex Lawes put me on to decoction, Dodge put me into lager mode and Rossa got me interested in old recipes, while BB got me focused on water treatments and Dodge showed me last year that keeping it simple and relaxed is a big plus. There are numerous other influences but it only happens by getting out there at meet ups, brew days and events. Gordon strong taught me to break the rules like starting a mash at 70 and let it automatically cool down through the range as well as never putting black malts in a mash.

Specifically for the comps, plan what you want to do and stick with it and become master of that style and seek out someone good at those styles and go get some tips.

E.g. Kildare, the lager champs! Rossa, for Saison advice. Dodge to learn how to brew a great Flanders, lager and many others and Partridge9 for help with weiss bier. And I’m sure there’s more that’s just a few off the top of my head!

Those dozens of brewers who have not yet visited us please don’t procrastinate any longer, come along to a brew day or just arrange to call in to us for a few beers. We have a very comfortable and private luxury caravan waiting to accommodate you if ye fancy trying our beers and going home the next morning (or evening in many cases). There is lots to do in the area and Kildare Village is around the corner!

 Cheers Bren!

 

washing yeast

Washing yeast is easy and rewarding. it’ll save you a load of money in the longrun as you don’t have to line the pockets of the big yeast making labs. It’ll also make you lots of new yeasty friends who’ll usually be happy to swap samples free of charge.

1 – Rack your beer off the trub (discard the beer, we don’t need it for this)
2 – Add a liter of boiled then cooled water and slosh up trub to get rid of lumps
3 – Pour the diluted trub into a big sterile jar and let it settle
4 – Pour the yeast into smaller jars (to the top), leaving the bottom layer of dirty gunk behind. label and date the jars!
5 – Put the jars in the fridge. The yeast will settle out under beer colored water. When you want to use them, drain the clear liquid and step the yeast up.

The best way to learn is by trying. The next time you’re racking a beer and are about to tip the trub, just wash it for the laugh. You’ll get a bit more value for your money even if you don’t use the yeast and all it does it educate and entertain you :)

The NHC Fermentation Controller – Hardware Build

The project chosen to showcase the possibilities of the Galileo single board computer is a fermentation controller. This will have the following features:

  • The device will manage the applied power to a domestic freezer into which up to three brewing vessels will be placed. Each brewing vessel will be fitted with a brew belt to heat the contained liquid and an immersed digital temperature probe to monitor each brew’s current temperature.
  • The device can control the fermentation temperatures for up to three brews simultaneously. The freezer will be powered on to grossly cool the temperature of all brews while the brew belts will be powered on to raise the temperature of individual brews.  In this way, each brew can, within reason, be set to a different temperature.
  • The primary user interface will be via a web page hosted on the Galileo itself. The webpage will be, as much as possible, a single page application that will be optimised for display on a mobile device. It will use HTML5 and a modern JavaScript library like jQuery to manage the UI components. I’ve included a small SD card in the Galileo to allow using the card as a server. At 2GB this will provide ample space to store the necessary images and JavaScript libraries.
  • Fermentation profiles can be set individually for each brew whereby the temperature of the brew follows a curve over a period of time. This is to allow proper hands free lagering for instance.
  • Alarms will be available to deal with such issues as over-limit and under-limit conditions; power failures (after power has been restored), etc.

The Hardware

First, the mechanicals. I had a largish junction box lying around that looked perfect for the job. It is about 100mm deep, 220mm wide and 150mm height and made of polycarbonate.  Into this I’ve bolted one or the SSRs on a homemade heatsink. This SSR will drive the power feed to the freezer. The freezer will draw about 3 amps when running but may surge to double or even triple that when starting up. This level of current is borderline for a bare SSR. A heatsink is needed for safety. I had some aluminium strip lying around and made up a suitable heatsink from this and some heat conductive grease. The other three SSRs are used to drive the brew belts. Each of these draw about one tenth of an amp each and, unlike the freezer, do not provoke surges. We do not need heatsinks for these as a result.

The unit will be powered by the mains. A switched and fused C13 male socket is located on the right side of the case for this purpose.

The freezer and the brew belts will receive their power through sockets located on the right side of the case. These controlled power feeds are output through standard C14 female panel sockets. The brew belts’ feeds are clustered together to differentiate them from the freezer’s.  Female sockets are used for safety so that if a brew belt or freezer cable becomes disconnected, that there is no exposed connector pin. These pins would be at mains voltages and would be potentially lethal. Female sockets protect against this by shrouding the live pin.

The bottom side of the case contains all the low voltage connectors. This includes the USB port and network port connectors of the Galileo board and the panel mounted connectors for the temperature probes. Inside the case I’ve added to aluminium strips to carry the Galileo PCB. Intel provides appropriate standoffs and screws for the job.

The power supply for the Galileo is mounted internally in the case. I bent another strip of aluminium to form a bracket onto which the power supply can secured with a cable tie. The power supply comes with interchangeable pin modules to allow it be used in various countries. Because the power supply will be connected to the switched fused C13 socket internally, no particular pin module is needed. Instead, I will need to solder connecting wires directly to the power supply itself. Here, I’ve repurposed the US pin module to make handy solder terminals.

Finally, four LEDs are mounted on the front panel. One is blue and the other three are red. These are used to show that the power is applied to the freezer or to the brew belts respectively.

Now, the wiring. The following diagram is a schematic showing how everything is connected together.

Here we see the “mains in” socket is connected so that the live wire goes first to a fuse. This is rated at 10Amps and should be loads for this application. The fused live and the neutral then connect to a double pole illuminated switch (the socket, fuse, switch and lamp are all actually one mechanical unit). The switched neutral is distributed to the power supply, the three heater outlet sockets and the freezer outlet socket. The earth from the “mains in” socket is distributed to all outlet sockets as well. The switched live wire is distributed to the power supply and to one contact on the switched side of each of the SSRs. The other contact on the switched side of each of the SSRs is connected to the live terminal on their respective outlet socket.

The input side of each SSR is connected directly to a GPIO pin via a header that connects to the Galileo board. Each SSR input is also connected to a resistor/LED which is brought out to the front panel to given a visual indicator that the freezer and/or the heaters are individually receiving power.

Three temperature probes are wired in parasitic power mode to mono headphone plugs. Three mono headphone jacks are wired with pull up resistors and are connected to individual GPIO pins on the Galileo header.

Altogether the electronics are fairly uncomplicated. No addition PCB will be used and all wiring will be done using a screw driver or a simple soldering iron. No reheat ovens or expensive SMD soldering gear is needed.

Next blog will include the first steps in software. For now, here are some images of the parts used, the mechanical construction of the case and its contents and the internal wiring.

The case is a spare junction box I had lying around. Dimensions are approximately 220x180x110mm

The SSRs are 25A rated with optoisolation and zero crossing switching.  Zero crossing ensures that no radio frequency interference occurs when these switch on and off.

I constructed a heat-sink from a strip of aluminium I had to hand. The SSR that will switch the freezer on and off is mounted to this using heat conducting grease.

The first image above has the output female socket, the male plug to be used for the freezer and each heater and the switched and fused mains in male socket. The second image above shows the digital temperature probes are waterproofed behind stainless steel cases and each have two metres of PVC coated cabling. At the temperatures we dealing with during fermentation, PVC is food safe (most syphons use PVC tubing, for instance). Do take particular care, though, when sanitising these. There are nooks and crannies that must be dealt with. If there is a concern, perhaps additional thermo-wells mat be considered as an additional layer of protection.

The front panel is drilled to take four LEDs. These show the state of the SSRs. They are individually lit when their respective SSR is activated. The LED associated with the freezer SSR is coloured blue and the heater LEDs are coloured red. Although not labelled here, the LEDs are, from left, freezer, heater 1, heater 2 and heater 3. The power connectors on the side are arranged with the freezer connector to the back (bottom in this picture), and with the heater connectors in a group.  These are not yet labelled but are, from the top (or right in this picture): heater 1, heater 2 and heater 3.

The bottom of the case shows the sockets for the temperature probes. These are unlabelled for the moment but are, from left, probe 1, probe 2 and probe 3. There are standard mono audio jacks. Each probe is wired to a corresponding mono audio plug.

Also visible are the two apertures I’ve cut to provide access to the Galileo board network connector and the USB port. I used a Dremel multitool for this. I would have preferred to use punches but I had none to hand. Punches would have been neater, but the multitool  is adequate for this prototype.

On the left side of the case I’ve mounted the switched fused power mains connector. A standard 10Amp power cable with a C13 plug fitted plugs in here to supply mains to the unit.

Internally, I’ve mounted the SSR for the freezer and its heat-sink towards the top of the case. Holes have yet to be drilled in the case top and bottom to allow air to flow over the leaves of the heat-sink. The freezer is expected to draw somewhere in the region of 3 Amps when powered up. Normally an SSR would not need a heat-sink at this current level (just), but I’ve fitted one anyway to protect against any additional current spikes that may arise due to the freezer’s compressor starting and stopping. It is possible that these current spikes will cause a temperature increase and kill a bare SSR.  The heatsink is just a little extra security. The SSRs for the heaters will need to carry about 100mA each. No heat-sinks are needed here.

I’ve added some mechanical supports for the Galileo power supply (a U bracket on the left) and for the Galileo board itself. The power supply will be secured by cable ties to the U bracket.  Intel provides four stand-offs with the Galileo board and I’ve used there here to separate the board form its supports.

The wiring began with the high voltage circuits first. Here the switched fused mains-in socket is wired to the Galileo power supply, on to the SSRs and from there to the controller power outlets. The overall high voltage wiring is shown in the last image. Notice that the earth wire, the green and yellow connects directly from the mains-in to all controlled outlets.

At the moment, the high voltage connections remain exposed. Once I’ve verified that high voltage wiring is working, each exposed high voltage connection will be wrapped in shrink wrap insulation before we move on. All hi voltage connectors must be insulated or otherwise shielded from someone placing their hands inside the box (someone like me, in particular).

The low voltage wiring connects the Galileo to the SSRs, the temperature probes and the front panel LEDs. The low voltage wires carry very little current. As such, they are very much thinner than the wire used for the high voltage circuit.

The next stage is a round of verifying that all is wired correctly, that all component work as expected and that no errors have been made. That, and the first steps in software, will be the subject of the next blog instalment.

/JD

DIY Stirplate

A Stir Plate can be made quite easily with a little time and very little money. You could even make one without leaving the house.

Why make a Stir Plate?

A Stir plate will help increase the number of viable yeast cells in your starter prior to pitching to your main batch. Pitching a large amount of healthy yeast cells helps to reduce lag time, decrease the chance of bacterial infection and give your beer the best start in life. The stir Plate will keep your yeast cells in permanent suspension making sure they are exposed to fermentable sugars and oxygen. Professional Lab Stir Plates can retail for well over €100 but by salvaging some computer parts we can make one for next to nothing.

How Does it work?

Using spinning magnets below a flask of starter wort and a small stir bar inside the flask of wort a magnetic field will spin the bar in the liquid and form a vortex.

What is required?

  • A 12v computer fan (minimum 80mm)

This can be salvaged from a PC or purchased in a PC repair centre. 80mm is a decent size to use with a 1l flask. If you choose a bigger fan you will need more or larger magnets. Most fans will have holes in the corners that will be used to mount it in a box.

  • 2 Earth Magnets

A large earth magnet can also be salvaged from your hard drive but two smaller magnets will work just as well. These will be glued to the fan.

  • 12v DC Power Supply

This powers the fan.

  • Housing box

Holds all the pieces in and will be used to sit the flask on. A cigar box works well but care should be taken as wood is not waterproof and there is a risk to the fan from an over excited starter if the box is not made waterproof.

  • Bolts, Spacers, Nuts
  • Stir Bar

The stir bar should be about the same length as the magnets are apart.

Assembly

Once you have gathered all the parts the first thing to do is figure out how you will mount the fan in your preferred box. Line up the fan on he top of your box and mark the box where the holes are on the fan. Drill the holes and make sure everything will fit in the box before proceeding.

Take the fan and draw a line along the center of the fan motor. The magnets must balance along this line. It is important to understand which way the magnets should be placed. The ends of the stir bar have opposite magnetic polarity so each magnet on the fan must also be opposite facing. This will ensure the stir bar will lock on to the magnets and spin with the fan. If you place the magnets the same way up, one end of the stir bar will be repelled and it will fail to spin as needed.

When you have assembled the magnets on the fan and glued them in place ensure the fan will be able to spin as close to the surface of the box as possible (without hitting it) using spacers to adjust this.

Getting this far is easy enough but the hard bit can be getting your stir bar to do the business. I had problems with the stir bar I bought not working all the time. It took some playing around before I found it’s best performance. A slower speed actually improved the vortex (somewhere around 9v). I would advocate trying to make sure the stir bar starts the same time as the fan so it can speed up and gain momentum with the magnets. Jumping in once they are moving did not work for this brewer. Your stir bar should hum more than rattle around the bottom of the flask. Another possible problem is the slightly concave base to some flasks, this will cause heartbreak. Also if your magnets are too powerful the fan may not start as required and may need a jump start from another magnet or a push with your finger which again can be problematic when trying to coordinate stir bar position within the flask.

To help keep a flat bottomed glass container on a smooth wooden surface I cannibalised an old mouse mat and super glued it on the top and the bottom to avoid any vibratory noises.

Liffey Brewers Dublin Area Homebrew Competition 2014

 

Folks,

I invite you all to enter the 2014 Liffey Brewers Dublin Area Homebrew
Competition. The competition is registered with BJCP and will be
judged to their standards by a team of hard working BJCP trainee
judges on the day. The competition will run on February 1st 2014 in
the Lucan County Bar beside the Spa Hotel. All are welcome to attend
on the day of judging for a few (well priced) pints and a bit of a
laugh. There is a Dublin Bus stop (7186) outside the door with buses
to/from the city centre every 10 minutes. Routes are 66/66A/66B and
67.

Competition details

The competition is open to all. It is limited to 50 entries total,
with a maximum entry of two per person. The cost per entry is €2, and
the winner takes all!

Entries may be made in any of the BJCP categories which are listed
here http://www.bjcp.org/styles04/

The judging will begin at approximately 1pm on the day and should last
for a couple of hours.

Entry details

Entries are now being taken, and are to be made by email only to delzep@nationalhomebrewclub.com. Please use the Excel entry form attached to the bottom of this post. Alternatively, you may enter your beer(s) using the following format in the body of your email

First name
Surname
NHC forum nickname
BJCP Category
Beer name
Liffey Brewers Competition Judge (y/n)
Phone Number
Email
Planning to attend on the day (y/n/maybe)

Entries not made by email may be disqualified. Changes to your entry may be made by email up until 31 January 2014. Once your entry is confirmed you may drop 1 x ~500ml, or 2
x ~330ml bottles along with payment to a drop point. Non-swingtop bottles must be capped with plain caps of any colour (including markings of any kind) to ensure anonymity. Please PM the drop point facilitator closest to you for more details on where and when to drop off your beer(s)

Malahide: Will_D
Clondalkin: delzep
Leixlip: Tube
South Dublin: JimmyM
Kildare: brenmurph

More drops points to be confirmed shortly

You can also drop and pay for registered entries on the day of the
competition up to 1pm but please be aware they will be competing
against settled and chilled entries. All bottles are non-returnable, so please consider this
if using swing-tops etc.

For any further information, please contact
delzep@nationalhomebrewclub.com or ask on the Liffey Brewers forum on
the National Homebrew Club’s website.

Thank you and good luck

http://www.nationalhomebrewclub.com/forum/index.php/topic,4951.0.html

Brewery Tour Review: Fuller’s, London

Getting There

The Fuller’s website recommends getting the tube to Turnham Green Station however I found it easier to get off one station before at Stamford Brook. You need to take the Eastbound District Line, just make sure it is going towards Stamford Book. Get off the tube and you have a short 10 minute walk through leafy West London avenues until you reach the dual carriageway and you simply follow it east until you reach the Mawson Arms, the starting point of the tour.

The Mawson Arms

The Mawson Arms is a Fuller’s owned pub situated a few doors down from the entrance to the brewery. Inside is a typical English pub with mainly Fuller’s beers on tap, including 6 unique beers on cask. This is also the meeting point for the tour so I grabbed a pint of Black Cab Stout and waited for the tour guide to arrive. The food menu was typical fare for an English pub as well and priced reasonably enough for London. If you’ve not already booked your tour now is the time to do so although you save £2 if you book online. I found out after that you can join the Fuller’s Fine Ale Club for free online and save yourself another £2 on top of that as well.

Tour

Our tour guide, Susan, arrived and gathered us outside. There were 15 on the tour, all lads. Susan gave us a brief history of the Mawson Arms and then led us into the brewery. We first went to the Tasting Cellar and were told to put a high-vis jacket on, a good sign for any brewery tour. Here Susan briefly talked about the history of the brewery, the original owners and talked about how their business has expanded and modernised.

Kegging Line

Kegging Line

Next we moved into the brewery buildings and went to the end of the process, packaging. We were told the kegging machine is normally turned off around 3pm  so we were brought here first to make sure we didn’t miss it. We saw the kegging machine washing and filling kegs and also saw the more manual cask operation however it was turned off. Most impressive was the robotic arm which was able to quickly pick up 3 empty kegs at a time, deposit them on the conveyor belt and then pick up 3 full kegs, as well as pallets, and stack them ready for movement to the warehouse.  Unfortunately the bottling plant was not part of the tour.

After that we saw the old mashing room which contains 2 old mash tuns, one of which you are standing in when you enter the room. Here our tour guide talked us briefly through the mashing process and a little about the importance of brewing water. I heard a few others on the tour discussing brewing aspects but largely the group was made up of people with little knowledge of brewing and the tour content was mainly aimed at them. In this room we also saw 3 massive HLTs before moving on to the hop store.

The hop store was a large cold room filled with familiar boxes from Charles Farams. There was a handy chart (included at the end) which listed what hop varieties went into each Fuller’s beer and I also found a brew sheet detailing what salts were used to ‘Burtonise’ the brewing water.  Here the tour guide discussed different hop varieties although wasn’t entirely aware of the reasons for using American hops (which got a boo from the natives). The tour guide then ploughed on asking the “last one out to close the door”. Had I not got a better conscience I could have been leaving with several souvenir kilos of Nelson Sauvin!

Hop Store

Hop Store

Next we saw the two grain mills, one for organic beer and one for the rest. I hadn’t realised organic beers demanded their own exclusive grain mills, no wonder they’re so expensive! We got a chance here to smell some different varieties of malt and were informed by Susan that the aspect that most effects the colour of the beer is the water and then to a lesser extent the colour of the grain. I think she was getting at London water being good for porter and Burton water being good for pale beers so we’ll let her away with that. Once again there was a sheet listing what malts are used in each Fuller’s beer.

We then made our way upstairs to see the new mash tuns and kettles. I’ve seen large mash tuns and kettles at the Lech brewery in Poland and when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all but we did get to stick our heads through the port hole to guage the size. The kettle had a boil on and we were told there was roughly 100,000 pints in it. A bucket of hop pellets (and salts) were sitting by the kettle waiting to go in but we didn’t get to see this happen. In hindsight, I would aim to be on an earlier tour as we were told that the brewers tend to be in from 6am so you’ve more chance of seeing a mash or getting to talk to them during the morning tours. Straight through then to the fermentation and conditioning room where we saw enough tanks to enable Fuller’s to brew over 1.4 million pints a week. We then walked through the storage warehouse and back to the Tasting Cellar for the most important part of the tour, the tasting.

Fermentation Room

The Tasting Cellar, aside from containing a bar, also contains a museum of sorts with plenty of brewery brick a brac, old bottle labels, wooden casks, and photographs of the brewery from days gone by. We were each given a half pint glass and were told we’d be sampling 6 cask beers, 2 draught beers and “if we were good, we’d get a treat”. The casks were 4 regulars; Cheswick Bitter, ESB, HSB and of course, London Pride. There was also 2 seasonal beers, Red Fox and Black Cab Stout and 2 keg beers, Honey Dew Organic and Frontiers, Fuller’s new keg lager. Each time we got roughly ¼ of a pint and then at the end we got a full glass of our favourite of the bunch. Biggest surprise for me had been the Frontier’s lager which differs from other generic lagers in that it has a healthy dose of American hops added in late. Bottles of Frontier are expected to be released in the next few months and imagine will make a great “gateway beer” for your uninitiated beer drinking friends.  Our “treat” was a sample of 1845, a 100 day aged bottle conditioned beer. Between it, the eight other samples and the glass of my favourite I was certainly in a merry mood leaving.

The Brewery Shop is next door to the Mawson Arms and carries the entire Fuller’s range as well as a selection of Fuller’s merchandise. I picked up a bottle of London Porter and their new “double hopped” pale ale, Two Rivers and made my way back to the hotel. Overall, it was a good tour. If you’ve not been to a large brewery it’s a good as any other and worth a visit and it’s also unusual to get so much beer on a tour (especially for only £8). Total time for the tour was around 2 hours.

Malt Chart

Hop Chart

ESB Brew Sheet

Brewer Spotlight Cameron Wallace, Eight Degrees Brewing Company

Welcome to an exciting special edition of NHC’s “Brewer Spotlight”. In addition to profiling a different NHC member every month, we will also be interviewing professional brewers and other industry figures from time to time. Today it’s Eight Degree’s Cameron Wallace in the spotlight. Cam and his business partner are both former home brewers who launched in 2011, establishing Eight Degrees in Mitchelstown, Cork. Before setting up for a life of brewing Cameron trained as a chartered accountant, whilst Scott was a water engineer. A good mix of skills for a startup brewing business!

Hi Cam, youself and Scott were originally home brewers. How did you get involved in the hobby?

Scott was living in Ireland, just moved into county cork and really missed the beers he could get back home(in NZ). So he started brewing at home (in Kildorrery). I was at the time back in Oz and had a home brew shop around the corner from where I lived. Chatting to Scott, he told me how he had just done his first ever brew and it was all grain and encouraged me to give it a go also, especially as it’s so easy in Melbourne to get started. I did an extract brew, a simple pale ale (Coopers I think) and it actually tasted ok. Second brew was a pilsner (stupid as it was the height of summer so trying to keep it cool during fermentation was a nightmare), the third was an all grain and the beer tasted so much better, so it went from there.

Do you ever still brew at home?

I haven’t done a home brew since the last test batch of Howling Gale in March 2011. Home brewing for us now is a single brew of one of our limited release beers. Mostly we have been lucky and the beers have worked out great, but there is always the risk we get it wrong and we have to drain 1500 litres of wort – but that’s what experimentation is all about.

Can you talk us through the recipe formulation process at Eight Degrees?

Trade secret, haha, only joking. It’s now a collaboration effort between Scott, myself and our head brewer Mike. Actually Mike does most of the hard work now. Research is a key component, drinking the beer style we wish to create from our favourite craft breweries, a lot of research into the particular style and what we are aiming to achieve and then lastly inputting this into some brewers software might help to get an idea of correct quantities to use and balance. It’s mostly an art form and from past experience and past brews we are confident enough now that we can create a drinkable beer, whether it’s great of not is still a good dose of luck and crossed fingers.

Is there a particular reason you and Scott chose to do the VLB course in Berlin over others? How beneficial do you think the course was?

We just liked the idea of spending some time in Berlin. I also did a short brewing course in the UK,

Eight Degrees LogoDave Porter’s course which was very practical. The VLB course is fairly technical and assumes a good amount of knowledge already gleamed from home brewing. It was very useful and yes we did enjoy the extra curricular activities of Berlin too.

Looking back on the 2 years you’ve been operating is there anything you would do differently given the chance? 

Working with a Kiwi is a big mistake. Seriously though, we have made lots of mistakes and done some pretty stupid things and with hindsight of course we could do things better but overall the journey has been a huge learning experience and mostly great fun. The enjoyment is seeing the reality exceed our goals.

What is your favourite style of craft beer and what beers would normally be found in your fridge at home?

I do love a good hoppy IPA. I think Irish taste buds are developing very quickly, some proper hop bombs will be commonplace soon enough. We have just developed a black IPA, its fun to challenge people perspectives and I think it does give an IPA a bit of balance.

As a professional brewer can you list the most frequent mistakes or flaws they come across in commercial or homebrew beers i.e. ingredient/taste imbalance, oxidation or off flavours etc?

Our biggest challenge is consistency. Anyone can produce a kick arse beer but to do it over and over again with hops and malt quality differing slightly is the challenge.

Given the growing list of breweries in development at what point will the craft beer industry reach saturation, stop growing and force domestic brewers to either start to export a lot more or poach customers from other craft brewers?

The states have 2,500 plus craft breweries, In Australia there are around 200 breweries, in NZ with similar population as Ireland there are 60, and they are mostly soft cock wine drinkers. 

I think Ireland could accommodate 50 craft breweries easily. We currently have well less than 1.0% of the Irish beer market, if we collaborate and help each other, as a collective, we can make that 5 or 6% in the next 5 years. Why not, it happened in the states where Bud light and Coors light rule the roost.

What further actions can government take to promote the craft brewing industry?

Possibly put craft beer on the same footing as wine. After all we are the wineries of Ireland aren’t we? We would love for licencing laws to be the same for indigenous craft beer as it currently is for imported wines. Oh, and it would be cool if we were allowed to sell our beers from the brewery, a bit like the cellar door experience.

Eight Degrees have recently started exporting as far as Italy. Have there been any major challenges encountered getting your products out of Ireland?

Mostly jumping through the bureaucratic hoops that is excise tax etc. The fun part is visiting northern Italy in the summer to do some promos, end up spending a day or two swimming in Lake Garda and enjoying the nightlife, it’s called networking.  Yep, it’s a tough life.

Eight Degrees have been helping a lot of start ups with contract brewing recently. Have you found it difficult to juggle the extra beside your own output? What advice would you have for anyone considering going down the contract brew route as a means of starting up?

Despite what it may appear, contract brewing does represent only a small fraction of our business and we generally nominate a small fermenter to contract brewing and simply book in the slots.

As well as an avenue for start up breweries to get product out there so they can focus on marketing, it has actually been great for us too, we do learn a lot from the guys, after all most of the start-ups are run by passionate and seriously great brewers, and especially from a home brewing background.

We only contract brew for people who are serious about craft beer and who are looking at it as a stepping stone to get their own brewery up and running.

Are there any plans in the pipeline for expansion to a bigger kit? 

We have just expanded the brewery again, another 5 conditioning tanks and one more unitank FV. The next step will have to be a larger unit and bigger kit, we simply can’t fit any more tanks into our unit. We think when all tanks are full the unit would have more beer in it than air.

What kind of hours would you work on an average week?  Is it really as cool as homebrewers all imagine it is?

That’s a strange question for anyone who is self-employed or who runs their own small business.

You are never really OFF, but because in our case its beer and owning a brewery, most people are really excited to talk to you. That’s never a bad thing.

It is COOL, Yes it is, but again we are running a business and we do need to do accounts, pay bills and ask customers to occasionally pay us. We also do have to deal with more than our fair share of bureaucrats. But we do get to make a product that puts a smile on our customer’s face which is so rewarding.

Obviously one of the questions you probably get asked most is, why 330ml bottles?  Have you any plans to offer larger sizes?

Ah the debate over 330ml v 500ml bottles. We have found the restaurant trade prefer the smaller bottles, off licences would prefer the 500ml. When we started we wanted to promote the idea of a 6 pack which works well with the 330ml bottles, which is the norm in Australia and New Zealand. We wanted to make it easy for someone to pick up a six pack or two on their way home from work instead of wrestling with multiple 500ml bottles in your arms. It does provide us with a USP.

One advantage of 330ml bottles is of course they are more suited to stronger ABV beers. Any plans for some Belgian styles beers, imperial stouts or double IPAs?

YES YES and YES. We just brewed a Russian imperial stout, will be released early Dec 13.

Actually we have just launched our limited edition ‘Back to Black’ range of beers. A little bit about the three new beers below.

Launching our limited release ‘Back to Black’ beer collection (all in 330ml bottles)

We are celebrating the dark malts with this trilogy of experimental beers designed to warm the winter evenings. Our Back to Black Limited edition series is a journey of discovery taking us on a trip through Ancient civilisations, Greek mythology and Imperial Russian courts.

For your enjoyment we have brewed a smooth silky chocolate stout spiced with chillies, vanilla and a touch of cinnamon, a heavy hitting Russian Imperial stout to warm those winter evenings, and a punchy black IPA carefully balancing the interplay of dark malts with tropical fruit hop flavours with a spicy bite.  Don’t be afraid of the Dark.

Zeus Black IPA 7.0%

This beer is designed to challenge your preconceptions. It looks like a rich dark porter but tastes like a punchy IPA. This Black IPA uses Zeus hops from the Yakima valley and Ella hops from Australia.  Think pine resins, citrus and tropical fruit aroma with a spicy bite. Close your eyes and take a sip and let your taste buds take over.

Aztec Stout 5.5%

The Aztecs civilization were famous for chocolate, chilies, vanilla and human sacrifices. Ireland: famous for stout. We’ve combined the two.

We’ve introduced smoky chipotle chillies supplied by our friend Lily @mexicanshopeire, cocoa nibs, vanilla pods and a touch of cinnamon to a traditional Irish stout. A healthy amount of oatmeal provides for a smooth silky finish a touch of cinnamon perfects the brew. The result is a rich warming dark ale to savour. Salute.

Russian Imperial Stout – 9.0%

This unorthodox Russian stout is like an iron fist in a velvet glove. Dark crystal, chocolate malt and roasted barley combines with intense hop bitterness to create a burnt caramel and espresso aroma with rounded rum and raisin notes. Enjoy as an after dinner digestif.

Visit the Eight Degree’s website for more information.

 

NHC Summer Beer Competition Winners’ Brewery Day Out

On the Sunday 20th October 2013, the National Homebrew Club held the finals of the Summer Beer competition at Farrington’s of Temple Bar.  The prize for the winner, sponsored by Barry Kavanagh (Farrington’s) in association with the Brú Brewery, was the opportunity to brew a beer with Paddy and Daire at their brewery in Trim, Co. Meath. A huge congrats to Cathal and Emma who were the winners on the day. They also won the Twisted Pepper competition later that evening and to crown their achievement of a perfect double they decided to brew one of those beers for their brewday prize.

So here is Cathal and Emma’s own account from that brewday.

Rascal’s Ginger Porter Brewday @ Brú Brewery 10/11/13

 [satellite gallery=1 auto=on thumbs=on]

An early but easy start at 6:30 am of a Sunday morning.  As we hit the countryside temperatures dropped from 4°C to -2°C, freezing! Beautiful morning though. We had prepared nearly 1 kg of ginger. This was peeled and blended the night before in surprisingly quick time. We arrived at the brewery before 8 am, same time as Daire. He had the grains weighed out and the HLT up to temperature from the night before so we could hit the ground running. First thing was to transfer 100L of hot water into the Mash Tun to heat it up. Next job was to mill the grain, 190 kg crushed and pumped to the Mash Tun in no time! Grains included Pale Malt, Chocolate Malt, Roasted Barley and some Flaked Oats from the local farmer. In Brú’s system the crushed grain and the hot liquor are mixed on route to the mash tun, minimal stirring required, but Cathal still had to have a go. A good gang of the NHC made it down to the brewery throughout the morning for a chilly days brewing. Finally someone had the time to take our photo as we started transferring the wort to the kettle. During the sparge it was time to get the hops ready, strange weighing out nearly 2kg of hops compared to the normal 50g!

Lucky we had Brendan keeping a close eye on us !

The hops need a little encouragement getting through the shoot with Daire’s patented poking device. As it was such a cold morning Cathal was more than happy to jump into the mash tun and get warm again. The quality inspection team were willing to offer a hand.

With 10 minutes to go in the boil the last of the hops and our not so secret ingredient, ginger, were added to the kettle. After cleaning and sanitising the line and fermenter the final product was cooled and transferred. A nice bucket of yeast was added and the fermenter was closed up.

Lastly, it was time for a few we made earlier!

A brilliant day was had out in Brú Brewery, a big thank you goes out to the lads, Paddy and Daire for hosting us and to Farrington’s for sponsoring the prize! There will be 14 kegs of Rascal’s Ginger Porter ready to drink in 2-3 weeks in Farringtons – Temple Bar, Laguna – IFSC, The Old Boro and The Forty Four – both in Swords. But if you can’t make it into any of the pubs to try our beer, here’s our homebrew recipe.

 

Pale Malt

4.2Kg

80.8%

Chocolate Malt

0.3Kg

5.8%

Roasted Barley

0.2Kg

3.8%

Flaked Oats

0.5Kg

9.6%

EKG

50g

24.3 IBU 60 mins

EKG

30g

8.8 IBU 20 mins

Ginger

25g

10 Mins

 

 

The Big 200!

It’s with great pride that I can make this announcement. We have just had a new member sign up to the NHC. This member is no ordinary member — Patrick Long from Limerick was the 200th member to sign up. Yes, we have hit 200 full members!

So here we stand, going into Christmas, with a huge member base, that is increasing all the time. On the way to this magic number we have passed many milestones: we manned a great stand at the Alltech Brewing & Distilling Conference; we had a stand and demo at the Maker Faire in Trinity College. We witnessed the winner of our national competition, Ormeau Dark being served at the RDS, and we manned a stand there as well, with a live demo and samples at hand. We ran the first homebrew festival in the Bernard Shaw where fifteen different homebrew beers were served to the public. Needless to say that was a huge success. We have seen the Demo Days in Belfast, Galway, Wicklow and Cork. People have also have run several homebrew talks in pubs. The summer beer competition was a huge success and the winners, Cathal and Emma, got the opportunity to brew recently at the BRÚ Brewery. The education side is progressing nicely with nineteen members meeting up for the Beer Judge Certification Program, which will be great for the club in the long term as we will have lots of Certified Judges for our competitions.

However, our biggest success, over this period has to be the huge growth at a local level. Most clubs meet up once a month, they organise local competitions and many are participating in collaboration brews involving barrel ageing. They get together for group buys, and lots of hops, grains and yeasts get exchanged at the meet-ups. Some clubs now have yeast banks: thanks to all the work by the scientists showing us yeast slanting techniques. Many of the local clubs are organising Christmas bashes, so if you’re not in a local club, or you haven’t been to a meet-up you can contact me on the forum and I’ll get you sorted with your local rep.

So congrats to Patrick our 200th member — I have a growler and some glasses for you. Roll on 300!

James Keane
AKA – Partridge9
President / Membership Coordinator.