1 year of brewing - what worked, what didn't

Discussion in 'General Beer Discussion' started by Ale House Rock, Oct 10, 2019.

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  1. Oct 10, 2019 #1

    Ale House Rock

    Ale House Rock

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    Hi everyone. Been browsing this forum for help on and off for the past year so thought it was time to make a contribution and hopefully give something back. First up I have to thank all those who posted advice, reviews do's and don'ts that have helped me along the way.
    I have brewed kits mainly from Bulldog, Youngs or Festival ranges, although St Peter's Cream stout is very nice if you like that kinda thing.
    My first brew was not one of the above and it was awful. Undrinkable. It tasted like you were drinking a hangover - just dreadful. Naturally this was very disappointing and if I hadn't already got another one fermenting I would probably have packed it all in. Luckily, brew no. 2 was drinkable. Not fantastic, but drinkable. So, after disaster no.1, the search was on for info and advice to try to find out what went wrong and how to fix it. So, here goes - this is what has worked for me. Hope some of it works for you.

    1. Patience - best advice ever. The instructions in kits do tend to be a bit optimistic time wise. I seldom dry hop after the number of days it says in the kit - wait till it has stopped fermenting. Add hops. Leave a couple of days. Bottle. Assuming you want a hoppy beer of course.
    The problem with brew no.1 was, I now believe, I followed the instructions to the letter and hopped after 5 days but the brew kept fermenting for about another 10 days. From what I was now reading, this was too long with the hops in as after around a week you will start to get some 'off' flavours. Mine was certainly well off.

    2. Temperature control - got a small aquarium thermostat heater. Its only 25 watts but perfectly fine for a 23L brew. Only cost about £12. Get one and put an LED strip on the side of fermentation barrel - I find these reasonably accurate and you can keep an eye on things so that the temp doesn't go drastically too cold or hot. This has worked great for me.

    3. I think the next challenge was when to add the hops. If I'm not sticking rigidly to the kit instructions, what should I do. I think this has been the trickiest part of my learning curve but the key here is patience. I appreciate when your are new and keen you want to get on to the next stage. Now, I wait until I'm sure that fermentation is complete. SG readings are vital of course but even if your brew has stopped bubbling, SG can still fall a bit more. For me, its a combination of the SG being where it needs to be and that I can see the brew starting to settle out in the barrel. Some IPA kits (Youngs especially) go really milky when fermenting but if you wait, when its finished, this starts to settle out and clear a bit in the barrel.

    4. Now I dry hop. I don't have a big kitchen so its not practical to brew in there but I do need the kitchen when bottling. So, when fermentation is complete, I turn off the heater and move the brew to the kitchen. Add the hops. After a day, gently rock the barrel - just lift one side a few inches and set it back down again. You'll see a cascade of hoppiness drifting down through your brew. keep doing this every time you pass and you'll get most, if not all of the hops settled down at the bottom.

    5. So now I've got the dry hopping sorted the next challenge was finding a way of leaving as much of this behind when siphoning into bottling barrel. I had initially tried putting the hops into muslin socks but felt that these were not letting the hops really mix with beer well enough to make it sufficiently hoppy. Of course, personal taste and preference come in here but for me, I wanted more hoppy flavour. So next, I just chucked the hop pellets all in and used a hop filter on the end of the siphon. But then I found that siphoning took forever cos it seemed the sock was getting drawn in against the siphon and the gunge on the outside slowed the flow to a trickle. Then I read a tip on here about putting the cage from a champagne/prosecco bottle - the bit that holds the cork in minus the disc at the top - inside the hop sock to keep the fabric of the sock off the opening of the siphon. Eureka!. This worked a treat. What I do now is sterilise 3 of these before I start siphoning, change the first one at around 8L, change the second one around 15L and the third one does the rest.

    6. Priming - after one session of faffing about with a sugary solution and a syringe, I batch prime. Always.

    7. And that's about it. 2 weeks at room temp for carbonation and at least a month in the loft for conditioning (2 months would be better but that a lotta beer up there).

    Hope some of this helps someone and happy brewing!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 15, 2019 at 5:46 PM
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  2. Oct 11, 2019 #2

    DavieC

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    Great post.
     
  3. Nov 5, 2019 #3

    RichK

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    Nice post. I agree No 1 is patience. If in doubt, wait a bit longer.
     
  4. Nov 5, 2019 #4

    stephen1546

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    Good post, i have been brewing for around 18 months, my first brew was ok, the 2nd i put in a keg. Did not carb up. Have since dumped the kegs and now bottle using mostly swing tops.

    I now dry hop and dont really mind if a little finds its way into the odd bottle.

    Yeah, patience seems to be the most important aspect of the brewing game.
     
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  5. Nov 5, 2019 #5

    An Ankoù

    An Ankoù

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    Nothing that some stout boards and a couple of acrow props couldn't handle. acheers.
     
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  6. Nov 5, 2019 #6

    GhostShip

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    Great post! I've probably only been home brewing for 2/3 years and would almost certainly have given it up by now if it wasn't for the help and advice I've received on here.

    As I've learnt, so my beer has improved - there's absolutely no doubt that the two things are inextricably linked.
     
  7. Nov 5, 2019 #7

    Clint

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    Yes time...cleaning and sanitising...nailing your process. This applies to all types of brewing.
     
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  8. Nov 6, 2019 #8

    RockHopper

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    Great post ...athumb..
     
  9. Nov 8, 2019 #9

    Arrakus

    Arrakus

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    Fantastic clapa
     
  10. Nov 14, 2019 at 8:27 PM #10

    Davvy

    Davvy

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    Well done !
    A thoughtful and insightful posting.

    Yes we all should listen and learn and improve as we go....

    All the best,
    David.
     
  11. Nov 14, 2019 at 8:41 PM #11

    Onlyme

    Onlyme

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    Seems we are travelling similar paths, though I am a few months behind.

    +1 for the 25w fish tank heater, excellent buy for such a modest price. Think I paid £9

    Will try your dry hopping technique.

    Cheers
     
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