Goodbye Banana!

This blog is all about challenge. I’m cataloguing how I’m overcoming those to brew decent ale in a climate which is just not suited to it. I am also investigating very seriously the possibility of opening a brewery here too, but first things first, brew great ale! It is with great satisfaction that I blog today about a significant challenge that I have made in-roads with i.e the elimination of the ‘homebrew twang’ or as friend has noted ‘banana-taste’.

Brewing beer is fun. You get to design the beer you want, choose your ingredients and come brew day you have all the excitement and challenge of putting it all together (and it is a challenge, keeping everything at the right temperature!). The only snag is that it takes a month to see if tweaks and improvements to the process have worked, since that’s how long it takes to go from Brew Day to Drinking Day. Of course you have sneak peaks, like at Bottling Day (2-weeks in).

The other issue is that any mistakes you have made take a while to come to fruition and by the time you see them you may have made the same mistake with the following batch. A bit frustrating, to say the least. I could wait a month between Brew Days, but due to my very small batches (5 litres) I would run out of beer and that is not a situation I am willing to contemplate.

Anyway, there is method in my madness. I do not want to brew 10 or more litres of horrible beer and have to drink it all! So, I am going to stick with my current method, albeit slightly flawed and frustrating. It has already yielded some great lessons. My first two batches were tainted by the ‘Homebrew Twang’, a taste noted by a friend as ‘Banana’. This was down to me pitching the yeast at too high a temperature and not controlling the subsequent temperature well. My plans to put it all in my mini-cellar just didn’t work. So I have invested in a ‘Wine Cellar’ which can fit my small fermenter and a batch of bottles. See below.

Wine cellar

Wine cellar inside

As I mentioned above, one window to see if any changes have had any impact is at Bottling Day when you get to drink your gravity reading sample. Well, to be quite blunt, I was blown away! What I tasted was a citrusy and hoppy IPA! Not a banana in sight, none that I could taste at any rate. So it would seem the dreaded, brew ruining ‘banana and homebrew twang’ have gone (or have been sufficiently masked by lots of hops, can’t say 100% which yet). It’s also worth noting that I changed the yeast to the American style one and this too may have had an impact.

Is the brew perfect? Absolutely not. Sadly, I made another error in my Dry Hopping (adding hops to the fermenter after fermentation). I had read about people just adding hop pellets directly to the fermenter with out any bag. So rather than put the pellets in a bag I just dropped them straight in. Well, the aroma of the beer and the taste is something to behold, it truly is, but the sight of little flecks of green floating in your beer isn’t. Plus, during bottling the hop material blocked the spigot (tap outlet) and caused lots of dribbling and erratic flow. As a result, I lost about half a bottle at least and had a sticky, messy floor. Lesson learned, bag your pellet hops!

In addition, this time I started my next brew and did the bottling in the down time (waiting for Mash and Boil). It seemed to work pretty well and is very time efficient. The only issue was that I didn’t adequately check my tap on the fermenter and when I poured my wort into it, I hadn’t noticed the tap was open until I saw wort running down the bathroom floor into the drain! So if I had a small batch to begin with, now I have a tiny batch. Nevermind, ‘all good things…’.

There were other tweaks to the IPA, such as Munich Malt, which I haven’t used before. I didn’t use Oats in it either, I simply forgot to buy them… We will see how it stands up to the American Pale Ale body-wise and head-wise. It will make an interesting comparison anyway. I also ramped up my hop additions and used Nugget hops for the first time. The result, in a months time, will be interesting. It should be a very hop-forward IPA set against a malty background. At least I’ll have American Pale Ale to drink in the meantime, once I have strained it to stop the tiny leaf particles ending up in my glass… Hope those don’t ruin what should be an excellent ale in the meantime!

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