Here is an update on the journey so far. I have finally brewed and now tasted my first brew. I have also got a second opinion on it, which was invaluable. Today, I bottled Brew2, which involved me sampling the flat beer (in order for me to bottle it, you understand).
First things first. Last weekend, I visited a friend’s bar and took a couple of bottles for us to sample (behind closed doors). His reaction was that this beer was quite raw. I’m not convinced he had ever tried homebrew before (otherwise he would have recognised the taste). However, this is actually a good thing, since I’m not aiming to make good homebrew, I’m aiming at making good beer in it’s own right. Anyway, the taste that I identified as ‘yeasty-homebrew’ taste he recognised as fruity (‘a bit like bananas’). This was very useful and I could look up that particular off-flavour. Turns out that my pitching the yeast at 24 degrees C and thinking ‘that’s all fine’ wasn’t. This flavour is a by-product of fermenting at too high a temperature. Lesson learned. Too late for Brew2 sadly, as I made the same mistake with it. I still think Brew1 is a pretty astounding homebrew, so Brew2 can’t be worse. That said, as I stated above ‘good homebrew’ is not my end-game. ‘Astounding beer in it’s own right’ is what I’m gunning for and from what I have read, I know that it is achievable.
Getting back to ‘Banana-taste’ issues though, I could recognise this taste when I had to create a syphon for bottling. I am generally hopeful that my addition of a proper level of sugar this time will kick start the second fermentation (aka ‘conditioning’) which may not have ever got going with Brew1. With a bit of luck, this will mop-up this off-flavour to some degree. We will have to see. My screw-up with Brew1 at the bottling stage was very sloppy addition of sugar to the bottles. This time it was much more measured and accurate…he says. So, along with the potential for mopping up the ‘banana-factor’ I should also get some fizz and, I daresay, some head. I didn’t realise it, but using medium crystal malt should help with the ‘head-factor’ too.
Research into the ‘perfect brew’ has led me to consider adding oats in my next brew. This should make it feel silkier to drink (a fuller ‘mouthfeel’). So this and the American-Ale yeast may well be my changes. I might add a little bit of Green Tea too, just to see what impact it has on flavour (if any).
However, how do I aim to ferment at the right temperature when the weather here is getting warmer all the time and will hit 29 degrees C tomorrow? If you have read any of my other blogs, you will know that the ‘Green Man’ is not one to shrink away from challenges. This is no different and, to be honest with you, I knew that this would be one of my larger headaches from the outset.
I thought about and considered all kinds of ways to deal with the temperature problem, but they all involve having water around the fermenter. This means the potential for mould and/or rot problems in our wooden house. However, it just so happens that on my visit to my mate’s bar, he showed me his ‘wine cellar’ (I think ‘Wine Cooler’ is a better description). It is a very inexpensive cabinet with fans (no nasty chemicals) and you can set temperatures up-to about 20 degrees C. It only keeps the cabinet about 15 degrees below the external temperature, but for my needs that is going to be fine. The order is in and I’m expecting it mid-week. I also ordered a second fermenter (10 litres) which will fit in this cabinet. With any luck, it will be ‘bye-bye Banana-taste!’ for Brew3.
Still, Banana-taste or no, I am eager to try Brew2. The suspense is killing me already.
By the way, apologies for the hopeless photo. Despite being out of focus, you can see that Brew2 is beautifully clear. Oh and I nearly forgot, Brew2 is a hefty 6%. I think this a result of using the medium crystal malt and mashing at 66 degrees.