Category Archives: Beer

Antwerp

Antwerp is just a short railway jaunt from Brussels, where I often find myself these days, and last Saturday we headed off on a little day trip to meet the ‘Twerps (we never called them that so I’m not sure whether they find it acceptable or not). Arriving in Antwerp is pretty spectacular, it has one of the most beautiful railway stations I have been in. Walking in to the city it became apparent that it’s a pretty trendy city, there were a lot of design shops, and their

‘Twerp Choppers

city bikes are this excellent cross between a BMX and a chopper with the high handles. It’s like they have a city council stuffed with hipsters. Added to that, there were almost as many people riding fixies as there are back at home.

The main square rivals Brussels (and any in Europe I’ve been in) for beauty, plus it has a fountain in the middle which features a beheaded giant, and the water spout feature is cunningly used to recreate the blood spewing forth from his neck. Cute! The beer in Antwerp is local brew, De Koninck Belgian Pale Ale, which is a reddish coloured beer, but with enough bitterness to make it a bit of a quaffer. It seemed pretty popular, it’s always nice to see a local beer hold its own. I found it quite nicely balanced, and if I lived in Antwerp I’d have no problem with it being my everyday drinker.

Signs in the Oude Arsenaal

Beyond the workingman’s delights of De Koninck though, I checked out two speciality bars, the Oud Arsenaal, and Kulminator. Oud Arsenaal is a lovely little bar, it seemed to draw more of a local crowd than a tourist one, plus, it’s very much an afternoon bar. It opens until 22.00 on Friday, but on Saturday it closes at 19.30. On Monday and Tuesday it’s closed. It’s a relatively small bar, square, open, with the walls covered in tin beer ads. It had a couple of taps, among them Rodenbach, but I decided to go for the ‘huis’ beer (unspecified), just for fun. It turned out to be a lovely drink, it had the spicy caramel sweetness that I associate with many American beers, but, it well enough hopped as to produce a very pleasing beer, with a really rich mouthfeel, full of caramel but not cloying. We didn’t have time for another, but I asked the barman what it was before I left. He told me it was Troubadour ‘Special Belge’. Some years back, the bar asked Troubadour to brew an old recipe that used to be brewed by a now defunct brewery attached to the Oud Arsenaal. It was successful, and Troubadour released it as ‘Special Belge’. I hadn’t heard of ‘Troubadour’ before, so I took him up on the offer of a four-pack of different Troubadours for €7.50. Why not? (but more on that in another post).

The Kulmination (Boom!) of our evening in Antwerp

We made our way to legendary bar ‘Kulminator’, which appears at the top of all of the nerd-sites, for what that’s worth. I can see why, it’s a beer-nerd’s paradise. Their speciality is aged beers, such as particular vintages of Lambic beer and Trappists. But at the prices, I’d rather just wait it out. I had an Oerbier instead. While I was perusing the magnificent beer list, a Belgian teenager flicked a Westvleteren cap on to the menu in my hand. I looked up, slightly taken aback. “Very good beer” he confided. “Very expensive beer”, I returned. “Yes, but it’s my favourite”. I couldn’t resist. “Oh, do you drink it often”, I asked? Chortles from his companions. They asked me where I was from. “Dublin”, I replied. “Ah”, nodded one of them, before sagely adding, “England”. A third one apologised that his friend’s geography was not great. No, nor his politics, I thought.

Kulminator is higgledy-piggledy place, with tables strewn about, hops dangling from the roof, and crates of beer stacked everywhere. I don’t think they had any sort of food. Their selection is almost paralysis-inducing though, it’s cosy, and the proprietress was very friendly. I’ll certainly be back.

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The future looks Epic (Guest Post)

*What follows is a Guest Post from my associate, here known only as Dr. K, who, taking time out from receiving the normal type of scoop, received a scoop of the journalistic kind. If you’re all nice to him he may even get off his backside and start his own blog. His views in some ways represent my own, but it wouldn’t be safe to assume so in all cases- Stoutfellow*

First off what a great honour and privilege to be offered a guest post on Ireland’s premier beer blog!! Whoop, totes amazeballs.

 Hot off the press from a source close to Luke Nicholas, Founder/Head brewer Epic Brewery, is the exciting news that at last EPIC will soon be available in Ireland. The first bottles are due to hit Redmond’s, Ranelagh. The exact date is unconfirmed but it should be soon. I am, however, slightly terrified by what the Irish list price will be.

Redmonds perhaps? 

 So big deal, another foreign brewery with an expensive hoppy beer? Well yes, of course. But also, definitely, no. Epic as the name suggests strive for “big aromas, flavours and taste in the beers.” We get so many UK and American beers, and a spattering of beers from Europe, many excellent, many pretty forgettable. So far I’ve been extremely impressed by Epic’s beer. I’m sure there are many blogs out there telling you what they taste like if you’re into other people’s tasting notes, knock yourself out. Or, even better, wait and try it for yourself and make up your own mind!

All the beers I’ve tried from Epic have been well thought out and executed perfectly. With that in mind it’s probably no surprise that Kelly Ryan joined Epic when he returned home to New Zealand, or that Sam Calagione has collaborated with Nicholas (Portamarillo).

 I’m also pleased to see Epic arrive here because (in my mind) I hope it will be a spur to some of our burgeoning Irish micros to not be afraid to make a properly tasty beer and push the boundaries for Irish beer; And I don’t mean copying Diogenes, making a [Galway] Hooker clone or another stout. Please, a distinctive, clean, well crafted consistent beer with bags of flavour. But that’s another issue and the soon to be Dr. Stoutfellow will have to redact this if I’m not careful.

So rejoice more super beer hitting the shelves soon! Whoop whoop!

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Ikea trial jar!

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Homebrewers! Jazz up your homebrewery with this stunning trial jar* from Ikea! Made from hand blown glass!

*for some reason they market it as a ‘vase’, but it is a trial jar, rest assured.

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Yeast Slants

Slant City

This bank holiday evening I finally got around to slanting some yeast that had I sat aside in the fridge. My normal practice when I get a new yeast vial is to pitch all but a few ml, that’s all I need to create a few slants. Tonight I slanted yeast for Wit, Saison, Belgian Abbey, California Ale,  ‘Denny’s Favourite 50’ and Czech Budojevice Lager.  Let’s hope they all take!

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Recipes: Wit and Saison

Saison Label

Here are two of my recent brews, two excellent summer styles, both of which turned out really well, and just as I had hoped. First a Belgian style Wit (white), and also another Belgian style, a Saison.

When I was developing both of these I took inspiration from two excellent books: Stan Hieronymous’ Brewing with Wheat  for the Wit, and Phil Marowski’s Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition for the Saison.

First up, the Wit. Wits are white beers, the most common one around is Hoegaarden. They are white because they’re very pale, and cloudy. This is mostly due to the use of raw wheat, unlike German wheat beers, which tend to use malted wheat. I think the raw wheat makes Wits a little sharp, and less bready than their German cousins. somewhere around 40% wheat or even more is normal for this style, the rest is generally a pale type of malt. I used Bairds Lager malt. For the wheat I used simple rolled wheat flakes which are used in baking, and you can probably get them in a health food shop. I also added some oats, for a bit of body and head, it was recommended in the book. This style tends to have very little hop character, so I bittered to only about 14 ibu with Marynka, the Polish Saaz related hop.

36L     ‘Infantile Wit’    OG 1.042  85% efficiency    4.3% abv

Grain: 3 KG Lager Malt, 1.5 KG Flaked Wheat, 1 KG Wheat Malt, 250G Porridge Oats

Hops Etc: 25G Marynka  60 mins, 7G Fresh Orange Zest 5 mins, 15 Chamomile Flowers 5 mins.

Yeast: White Labs ‘Belgian Wit’ (WLP400)

Other: Water treated with Acid Malt (in mash) (150G) to acidify, and 15G Calcium Chloride (in mash), 5G Gypsum (in water).

This beer has turned out very refreshing, dry, (it finished just below 1.010), though I would add a little more chamomile next time as it is barely perceptible, this may change after bottle conditioning for a few weeks.

My second beer is a Saison. The beer is supposed to be dry and refreshing, and not too strong, though nowadays some examples are reasonably strong. It was made on farms in Belgium and used to quench the thirst of the seasonal workers, which is the origin of the name. I modelled mine on Dupont’s saison, which is something of a classic in the style. The name is a nod to Brasserie à Vapeur’s Saison de Pipaix  , another favourite. I used the Slovakian hop ‘Dana’, since it is a variant of Styrian Goldings, which are a classic for this style. I used a yeast that is supposedly originally from the Dupont brewery.

34L  ‘Saison de Richaix’  OG 1.057   90% efficiency, 6.5% abv

Grains: 7KG Pilsner Malt

Hops: 20G Dana 60 mins, 25G Dana 30 mins, 40G Dana 5 mins

Yeast: White Labs ‘Belgian Saison I’ (WLP565)

Other notes: I mashed low, at 65c, so this beer would dry out. The mash was treated with 5g each calcium chloride and gypsum. I added 150g acid malt to the mash to adjust the ph. I fermented extremely high, at temperatures well in excess of 30c, in fact, at 33c for the first 24 hrs. FG reached 1.008

Unlike other yeasts, 565 thrives at these temperatures. It feels wrong, but you have to try it. The beer is neither hot nor estery as you might imagine, rather it is full of lemon and spice, complimented by the lemony/herb flavour that I have found Dana tends to provide. Tasty summer beers, now all we need is a sunny spell!

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Good beer in Venice

Great bottle selection in Venice

It’s a game of two halves, Bill. In the first half, I stood in a Venetian square beside some Dutch racists, and behind a baying Italian mob, only to see Ireland finish their dismal European championship campaign with a 2-0 loss to Italy. In the second half of the evening, I found a great little beer pub and drank some really nice beer. Up until then I had despaired of Venice; for all its beauty, for all its excellent food and wine, all I had seen was Moretti, Peroni, Castello and a few red versions of same. Then we happened upon a bar which didn’t seem to have a name, but which had something like “beers from all over the world” on a blackboard outside. They only had Becks, Budels, and Leffe on tap, but they had six fridges full of bottles, including many Belgians, Italians and Germans. We had two very pleasant American IPA style beers from Ducato, and a Birra del Borgo / Dogfish Head collaboration called ‘My Antonia’. Although it was described as a ‘pils’, which was continuously hopped, it tasted pretty much like Dogfish Head’s 60 minute IPA to me, but unfiltered and bottle conditioned. I had a local dark ale from ‘San Gabriel’ called ‘Nera di Tarzo’, which was a little sour-fruity, I’m not sure it should have been as sour as it was. This place is a beautiful find if you’re in Venice though.   You can find it in Cannaregio, the northern quarter of Venice, on the ‘Fondamenta degli Ormesini, which is the same canal as the “Fondamenta de la Misericordia”, just further west. I think it was number 2708. Here is a link to a Google satellite map which may help.

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A pair of Ducato beers. Both full of US hops

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Yeast Ranching: storing yeast on slants

“Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’, keep those yeasties rollin’… don’t try to understand em…”  etc.

Yeast slants

Storing yeast on slants is a handy way to keep a ‘bank’ of liquid yeast strains in your fridge that will keep for months and months. The basic idea is this- you make a jelly from malt extract and something to make it set, either agar or gelatine, you put some in a vial, sterilise the whole thing with steam, let it set almost horizontally so you get a larger area, and finally swab it with a source of yeast, like a vial of liquid yeast or a previous slant. Within a few days the yeast will grow on top of the jelly, and you can stick the whole thing in the fridge. To revive it, simply mix some weak wort like you would for a normal starter, put some in the vial, shake it to dislodge the yeast (or scrape it with a sanitised implement if necessary), and add it to the half pint of wort you’ve made, and build from there.

Malt extract from the health food store, and agar agar from the Asia Market

There are other more technical posts on yeast ranching, but here’s how I do it. I add 10g of agar agar to 250ml of wort. Agar agar is available in shops that sell a lot of Asian ingredients. I got mine in the Asia Market on Drury St. in Dublin. Beware- when I went in first the only stuff I could see was in the Japanese aisle, and it came in either red, or green- it was clearly dyed in order to make some hideous dessert. The slants I made with it didn’t work, green dye ran everywhere. In one of the Chinese aisles though, I found the clear, uncoloured stuff. It’s made from red algae, and it looks like scrunched up cellophane.

Dissolving agar in the wort

You have to heat the wort and add the agar gradually, until it has all dissolved. This took a while, maybe 10 or 15 minutes. Unlike with gelatine, it doesn’t really matter if it hits the boil now and then. It was hard to find good information on ratios, but 10g/250ml made quite a well set jelly, you could probably get away with less.

When it had all dissolved, I added it to 10 or so vials. I used vials I got from a fellow homebrewer, Shane, who got them from some scientific supply place. They are handy because they are large, but also have a flat bottom, and they’re made from a resin that can withstand high temperatures. This means I can stand them in my pressure cooker. Real scientists

Fill them to between 1/4 and 1/2 full

use a thing called an autoclave to sterilise with steam, but it’s essentially a big pressure cooker with more bells and whistles on. Steam sterilises, and the higher pressure the steam is at, the faster it does it. I popped everything in the pressure cooker for about 15-20 minutes, with the lids lightly on the vials.

When that was done, I screwed the caps on, and I laid the vials on their side, so that the jelly came almost to the lid. This means we have a surface area that is a diagonal cross section of the tube, that is, quite a nice little area for the yeast to grow. Popping everything in the fridge at this stage speeds up the setting.

When it’s all set, it’s time to inoculate the slants with yeast. If you can find an

Sterilisation by steam

inoculation loop in a scientific store or on ebay that’s great, I made one by twisting a guitar wire so it had a loop about 2mm wide on the end. I had sterilised this loop in with all the rest of the  gear in the pressure cooker. The loop picks up the yeast on the end. It’s not necessary to have it dripping with the liquid yeast, a small amount of cells will grow up to be colonies of millions.

Old slant containing yeast growth on the right, fresh slant on the left

For the next stage it’s crucial that everything is super clean, because this is when the sterile slants get open, and there is the risk of exposure to something other than yeast. Make sure hands are sanitised, and surfaces, and if possible work beside a flame, as this means the air above where you’re working is less likely to have any nasties in it. I do this step in my kitchen beside the gas cooker with one ring on.

Each time you dip the loop in the original yeast, you need to sterilise it. You can do this by holding it in the flame for a few seconds. I cool it then by dipping it in a glass of starsan. Some people recommend touching the hot loop off the inside of the vial to make sure it’s not still hot as this will kill your yeast. Dip the vial in the yeast, and then quickly remove the slant’s cap, swab it from the end to the entrance in a zigzag motion, and replace the cap. Sanitise your loop, and repeat with all your other slants. That’s it, you just leave them out somewhere and in a few days you’ll notice a nice creamy coloured growth where you swabbed, that’s the yeast. A week later you can pop them in the fridge for storage. By this time, if any are bad, you’ll notice. It has happened once or twice that I got some blue mould growing in my slant, so it’s always a good idea to do more than you need in case this happens.

After 5 days or so, healthy white yeast growth is visible!

You can then grow up a fresh, 1st generation yeast whenever you need it, and if you fear that your slants have been in the fridge a little too long, you can always use an old slant to inoculate a new slant, as I did in this case. Instead of dipping your loop in the liquid, you just scrape it on some of the yeast in the old slant.

Tip: When you buy a liquid yeast vial from Whitelabs or whoever, leave a few ml of liquid in the vial when you pitch to your beer, and pop it back in the fridge. This will be enough to make slants with at a later date.

Other resources:

I cannot recommend Yeast by Chris White (of Whitelabs) and Jamil Zainasheff highly enough. Get it if you’re interested in yeast and how to handle it properly.

There are lots of other online guides to making slants such as

http://www.antiochsudsuckers.com/tom/YeastSlants.htm

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/wiki/index.php/Yeast_Slants

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