Category Archives: Recipe

The Blood Of Revolution


Legendary Brewer Rossa O’Neill Announces the Winners. Picture by @galwaybrewers


Ireland has just had its first full scale, multi category brewing competition. Organised by the National Homebrew Club, there were about 350 entries over 8 categories. I managed to enter all but the Cider/Perry category, and some of my results shall forevermore be passed over in silence (my Weiss got such a low score it must have exploded in the judges’ faces).

Nonetheless, my well hopped American Amber beer won first place in the Pale Ales and IPAs (BJCP Styles 8,10,14)! I was told it was one of the largest categories, with over 90 entries, so I’m quite delighted. I called it “The Blood of Revolution”, since it was quite red, and it reminded me of the famous quotation from Thomas Jefferson, that

“Occasionally the tree of Liberty must be watered with the blood of Patriots and Tyrants.”

All the organisers and stewards from the NHC did a great job, and although I had to leave just before the announcements, I’ve been told there are some goodies from Eight Degrees waiting for me, so thanks to them for sponsoring that category! Congrats to Reuben from with his silver medal winning “Dark Stranger”, I remember drinking an ancestor of it (Cloaked Stranger) many moons ago at an ICB homebrewers’ meetup. It was narrowly pipped to the Stout Gold Medal by the eventual overall winner, Belfast Brewer Chris Todd.

In any case, for those of you who are interested, here is the recipe, it’s not too busy or complicated. Using such a large proportion of crystal malt was something of an experiment, and I mashed at a middling temperature to reduce the potential heaviness. Although the IBU should theoretically be near 80, I don’t think it was, since the Green Bullet I used were a little old, and not vacuum stored. The Cascade and Galaxy were also old, but well stored so I expect they contributed less IBU than the calculations supposed. The Citra however, was straight off the bine! I dry hopped twice in the corny keg, I removed the first dry hop bag after 5 days and added the second. Obviously your water treatment is your own business, but I went for a fairly balanced chloride/sulfate addition on the calcium front.

"The Blood Of Revolution" OG 1.060  FG 1.017

Pale Ale Malt  59%
Crystal 60L    26%
Munich Malt    15%

Mash at 65C 60 mins

Green Bullet, 60 mins for 40 IBU
Galaxy, 15 mins for 35 IBU
Cascade, 2.5G/L 5 mins
Cascade  2.5G/L Steep

British Ale/Ringwood Yeast (WLP005)

Citra Dry Hop 3G/L 5 days
Citra Dry Hop 2G/L 3 days

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Carbonade Flamande (food recipe)

Here is a short report of one of the nicest dishes I’ve made in a while, perfect for cold and dark evenings. My girlfriend has moved to Brussels, so I’ve been spending a lot of time here, and I was keen to cook something local.  Carbonade Flamande is a Flemish speciality (as the name suggests), and it’s basically a beef and oignon casserole, with a nice rich Belgian beer forming part of the sauce. It’s also a simple dish that uses beer very nicely. Stews are an inexact science, so it’s a little made up, but the following quantities are about right. For the beer, I have used  Westmalle, they’re cheap here but you may balk at using a bottle of that at home. Anything dark and not too bitter will work, Leffe Brune is fine, Chimay is often cheap enough, even a porter will work, and in any case something similar to this is done at home (Ireland) in a beef and stout stew.

Westmalle, It’s a cooking beer, really.

You’ll need the following ingredients

500g Stewing Beef (this is a slow cooker. Chuck, Shoulder, Blade, all sorts of cuts are used by the Belgians, and their cuts are different to ours so I’m not sure what exactly I got at the butcher). Cut into 1 inch cubes.

100g Salt Pork – Rashers will do, but preferably something thicker, it’s nice to have this in relatively large cubes (1cm). Pancetta would be good here, the key is to have something fatty to keep everything moist.

2 or 3 onions, halved and then sliced thin along the length

3 cloves of garlic finely chopped

3 shallots, chopped

1 tsp sugar

2 tsp vinegar

1 tsp thyme

2 bay leaves

300g Veal stock (veal is traditional, but beef or whatever will do)

330ml dark Belgian beer

pinch of flour

knob of butter

dash of oil

2 tsp plain flour

Stale Bread


Ok here goes. First set the oven to about 160/170c.  Fry the cubes of salt pork/bacon/pancetta/whatever in a little oil until they have a bit of colour and the fat starts to go translucent. Set them aside in a bowl. Now brown the cubes of beef in a pan, and set them aside, with whatever liquid has come out of them.

Next, take a fairly heavy pot. Heat a lump of butter and a little oil, and fry the onions and shallots. When they are starting to cook, add a tsp of sugar, to help them caramelise. As they’re getting brown, add the chopped garlic. Once they are a golden brown colour, deglaze the pan with the vinegar and turn off the heat. Add the thyme and bay leaves, return all the meat to the pot (sprinkle about 2 tsp of plain flour on the meat first), add the stock, and the beer. Mix it around, and stick a lid on it, or some tin foil if you don’t have a lid. Pop it in the oven for 2.5 – 3 hours. Check it once in a while to make sure it’s not getting too dry, if it is, add a little water. With about an hour to go, taste the casserole and season with salt and pepper if needed (depending on what bacon you used it could be salty enough already). Slice the stale bread in to thick rounds, spread some mustard on each one, and sit on top of the mixture. They will soak up some of the juice, and bake on the top of the casserole, forming a delicious mustardy crust. This dish is traditionally served with potatoes, steamed, or perhaps mashed. Perfect dark-day comfort food.

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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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Matrimony-Ale: A Wedding Beer Recipe

Photo by Ben Smith (Thanks!)

Recently, two of my oldest friends Yas and Ally got married in Marylebone town hall . They are staunch supporters of my brewing efforts, and I was excited when they asked me to brew a beer for the wedding. To my delight it was a hit, unless everyone was just being polite. The bride, who is a very talented illustrator designed the label (she also designed my blog banner), and I think it’s gorgeous. It’s perfect for a summer wedding, and it reminds me of certain Beaujolais nouveau labels. I don’t really have a brewery name that I use, but we thought the label should have a brewery name. ‘Velocity Brewing’ and the little penny-farthing man is a motif that Kevin and I have been toying with lately. Of course no wedding beer would be complete without some puns: ‘Matrimony-ale’ and ‘beerly beloved’ make it on there. It was served before dinner at the restaurant.

I wanted this to be a fairly easy drinking, light beer with a hoppy finish, and I must confess that I looked to brew365’s account of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale for inspiration. I based the hopping schedule on that, but I complicated the malt bill somewhat. The late hops are all cascade, there’s amber malt in there to give it a biscuity body, a light caramel malt for sweetness, and I used my current favourite yeast, the super clean San Diego strain from White Labs. Here’s what I brewed:

'Matrimony-ale'       -36L-    OG 1.044     IBU: 35
Malts:  5.5kg Pale Ale Malt,   250g  Amber Malt, 250g Pale Crystal Malt,  200g Wheat Malt. 
Hops: 20g Dana (60 mins), 25g Challenger (30 mins), 50g Cascade (10 mins), 100g Cascade (end of boil)
Yeast: White Labs 'San Diego Super Yeast' (WLP 090)

I assumed about 85% mashing efficiency but you may have to adjust malt levels based on your own system. Additionally, I treated my water with calcium sulphate and calcium chloride, with the emphasis on the sulphate level to accentuate the hop flavour somewhat. Because my water is quite hard, I also added roughly 100g of acidulated malt in order to lower the mash ph to the correct range, but this would depend on your own water. I used Carrageen as a fining agent at about 15 minutes left.

I brewed this beer again at the weekend because I felt like I didn’t drink nearly enough of it when I was in London (I had three in the restaurant, and began to feel a little self-consciously greedy). I also think it’s a good summer drinker. For the second round, I doubled the 10 minute cascade addition to 100g, to ramp up the late hop flavour. I also had to substitute Northdown hops in for the Challenger.

To the Bride and Groom!


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Return of the Barrel: Rotunda’s Revenge

Doughing in (mixing grain and water)

Anyone who has read my blog will undoubtedly have seen one of my frequent links to ‘The Great Barrel Project’ that I undertook with two brothers in brewing, and worse, anyone who has met me will probably have been regaled with the tale of Rotunda the Bourbon barrel, and how she came to be filled with a dark and potent stout called Diogenes. I’m probably like one of those parents who finds it hard to discuss anything other than their child. I think all three of us would agree that it was far and away the high point of our distinguished brewing careers to date though; who can blame us if we talk too much about it? So it’s probably no surprise that after some serious procrastinatin’ and prognosticatin’ we’ve started to refill our beautiful barrel.

We considered a number of beers we could do: perhaps a nice raisin heavy

Kevin’s thermometer, better known as ‘The Geiger Counter’

Belgian ‘dubbel’ style beer? Maybe a barleywine loaded with English hops? In any case it had to be strong, after all it now needs to stand up to not only the original whiskey flavours of the barrel but also a 10% abv stout that was absolutely loaded with black malt. In the end, we decided to brew what we are going to call a ‘Double IPA’ (not that we coined the term, but that we think this is what most appropriately describes our beer. Beer styles are for losers in any case).

Sometimes brewing makes you feel a bit like a drug dealer. It’s calcium chloride flakes for the mash yer’ honour.

To give a brief sketch of the beer itself, the original gravity will be in the region of 1.090 – 1.100, which we hope will ferment to below 1.020, giving us a beer that is something in the region of 9.5% abv. We found with the last brew that time in the barrel increased attenuation, so we should get to our projected 1.018. Our yeast is White Labs’ ‘Super San Diego’ yeast, wlp090. Where malt is concerned, we’ve kept it simple with about 85% pale malt, and the rest being made up by some crystal malt, some Munich, and some sucrose to lighten the body a little. Hopping is high, with flavour additions at 30 minutes and at the knockout, and

The ph of the mash is important so that the enzymes can convert starch to sugar. This one was bang on.

we’re using a tag team of the classic American Cascade, and a hop that has only recently found its way into the homebrewer’s repertoire, Marynka. This Polish hop is cheap, reasonably high in alpha acid at about 8%, but it also has an interesting flavour and aroma. It is a descendent of the classic European hop Saaz, probably crossed with a high alpha hop like

There were so many hops going in to this we didn’t want to clog the tap, so we used some nylon net to form a huge hop bag.

Magnum. I brewed a single hopped ale with it, and at high concentrations I found I was getting a lot of peach, both in flavour and aroma, so let’s hope something like that comes through in this beer. Our software tells us that the IBU (international bittering units) will be high on this, perhaps 180, although tests have shown that these measurements make less sense the more you go over 100.

We got together recently to brew this, and we managed between us to brew 70L. We need a good bit more, since Rotunda is in the region of 214L, but between us, another epic collaborative brewday should do it! We’re not sure what our Double IPA is called yet, so, answers on a postcard. All will be considered, and the winning entry can be sure of a couple of bottles for his or her trouble.

And there were a lot of hops left after we took the net out!


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My Christmas Barleywine: A Simple Recipe

On Sunday evening I brewed this year’s Christmas beer. I decided not to go with spiced beer as I had in the previous two years. I found that last year’s attempt was a little too sweet and heady, I overdid the spice, and I couldn’t drink much of it. All the same, I wanted something quite strong, and full of body for sipping in the dark and cold December night. This year I’ve gone for a straightforward Barleywine, and my recipe is pretty simple. At 1.070 original gravity, depending on how the yeast attenuates the beer should end up at somewhere between 6.5 -7%abv, a nice winter warmer. I brewed 19L.

The malt bill is simple. I used Bairds Pale Ale Malt. It’s not the much prized Maris Otter variety, rather it’s their standard pale malt, apparently the variety (for the nerds) is “Flagon” . A group of us got a bunch of bags of this in recently, and I decided that the premium price of Maris Otter wasn’t worth it; I have always felt that the preference for Maris Otter is a baseless preference in brewing, and I agree with this post by Brewsters Brewing Company that Maris Otter is a “sacred cow”.

I used 6KG Pale Malt, and 1KG Dark (120 SRM) Crystal Malt. That sounds like a lot of Crystal, and it is. I’m hoping that 14% Crystal Malt will give me a really big sweet body that will stand up to the alcohol. Of course such body and alcohol needs adequate hopping. I used Northern Brewer as the bittering hop, 60G at 60 minutes. The rest was the well tested tag team of Challenger and Northdown, reputedly the hop combination that Fullers use in their delicious ESB. I used 30G of Northdown at 30 minutes and at 5 minutes, punctuated by 30G of Challenger at 10 minutes. I used Carageen as copper fining (to clarify the beer) as usual, at 15 minutes. Northdown is said to have good flavour and aroma, so I’ll be interested to see if it breaks through. According to my recipe program (Brewtarget) this beer should be 98IBU, which could be a little high even given the big OG and sweet body, but I find that Brewtarget’s estimates never come out quite as bitter as they say, so I’ve started overcompensating.

Welcome to my Brewery/Sauna

The brew went well, and I pitched the yeast from a previous brew (2 weeks ago), about a cup of White Labs 028 “Edinburgh Scottish Yeast” yeast gunk. I had kept half of the yeast from said previous brew in the fridge for the last week, and the other half went into the big stout that Kev and I brewed last week. The only thing that went wrong was that, as you can see from the picture, my tried and tested method of “leave-the-door-open-and-hope-the-breeze-takes-all-the-steam-out-through-the-skylight” didn’t seem to be working. I half expected to find Van Morrison magnificently sailing into The Mystic each time I went out there. Looking out the back door towards the shed gave the impression that some beautiful, mythical transformation was going on inside, and I suppose it was.


Twelve or so hours later, and fermentation is strong. Here’s a little video of an airlock bubble. 


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Trappist Technique: Belgian Sugar

For now we see as through a glass, darkly

Recently one of my viewers asked me how my Rochefort style beer Rochefortesque was getting on, now that it has aged a bit, and whether I would do anything different. As luck would have it, a couple of weeks ago I had another go at a big Trappist beer again, and yes, I did try something new out. As to Rochefortesque, it seems to be thining out slightly, and as I said at the time, I would have preferred it to have a little more of the ‘rummy’ character in a real Trappist. Hopefully the following will address those defects

Big Trappist style beers are the dark, rummy strong beers that a number of Cistercian Monasteries brew in Belgium (also a German and one in Holland). I thought I’d use White Labs number 530 yeast, which is supposedly derived from Westmalle’s yeast strain. So far so good. But what I decided to do differently this time as opposed to my last Trappist style beer was use some homemade caramelised sugar for colour and flavour. As you can see from the recipe below I only used a very small amount of black malt for some extra colour, and I used some dark crystal malt to give me a good caramel sugar flavour. I used the same amount by weight of sugar. The method I used to darken this sugar was simple. I simply heated it in a pan along with some citric acid, and slowly it went a cream colour, then a bit yellow, and it began to clump together and finally it liquified. Then it was a matter of boiling it gently until it didn’t seem to be getting darker any longer. I could have boiled it for a shorter time if this had been a different type of beer, and I could have achieved a nice amber colouring, but for something like this I wanted maximum colour and flavour from the caramelised sugar. My inspiration here, as always with brewing Belgians is Stan Hieronymous, whose books I can’t recommend highly enough. The recipe site also documents the process of boiling sugar with acid, the point of which is to ‘invert’ it, which means the sucrose breaks down in to fructose and glucose, by a process apparently known as ‘hydrolysis’. The point is, they are easier for the yeast to eat than sucrose is. Here are some pics of the process. click for bigger versions.

Sugar begins to clump together, keep stirring it!

Almost all the sugar has started to liquify

At this stage it is darkening

Pour in to a foil-lined tray, it will harden and cool. Remove from foil and break it in to pieces when it has cooled

This beer turned out Big. I used 7KG Pilsner Malt, 500G dark Crystal Malt, 500G Caramelised Sugar, and 60G Black Malt for 20L. The original gravity was 1.116! It finally finished at 1.026, which gives it a whopping 12% ABV. I hopped with Northern Brewer at the start of the boil, Hallertauer at 10 minutes, and Styrian Goldings at the end, for an IBU of 40. You really don’t taste it though since the final gravity is so high.  It is quite sweet, and what I like most about this sugar method for darkening the beer is that, while it sits in a chalice style glass it looks very dark, but it is very clear upon inspection, with a beautiful ruby colour. I said above that it finally finished; this was a troublesome brew. Although I made up a decent sized starter,  I clearly didn’t pitch enough yeast, and for one of the few times in my brewing life I had a properly stuck fermentation. I pitched a load of s05 from a pale ale fermentation, and that sorted it out. It still has the characteristic Belgian yeast flavour because, even though it stuck at about 1.050 it had started at 1.116, so the WLP 530 had ample chance to do its thing! In any case, s05 is well known for being a fairly neutral yeast. I thought I knew this lesson already, but the moral of the story is Caveat Cervesarius! Don’t underpitch with a beer this big.

Colour inspection


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