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!

Hops!

This blog covers the other front in my headlong charge to make something from my new hobby (but, very old passion!). From the beginning, my vision for ‘Brewery-dom’ involves some vertical integration i.e from raw materials to pub. On my way I have fallen in and out of love with parts of this concept, but the one part I have not allowed to fall by the way-side is the growing and using of my own hops.

As you may know, I was very kindly given some hop rhizomes of three types: Chinook, Cascade and Centennial. They are all American hops and will impart the citrusy taste to more or lesser degrees. I have read somewhere that Chinook has a taste that has been described as ‘dank’. That doesn’t exactly sound inviting, but I’m sure it refers to some very potent flavour profile. We shall see…if I ever get any hop-cones from it…

I planted the rhizomes on land that has been lent to me by very kindly relatives. So already you can see that the ‘hop journey’ has been nurtured and made possible by the ‘kindness of others’. Quite simply, amazing! Hopefully, the wider family, including children, can get involved in the harvest and have a great weekend in August or September (typhoons pending). Us adults will also be able to enjoy the fruits of the labour in the form of some good brews. Presuming I have been successful in completely getting control of the fermentation temperatures with my new ‘Wine Cooler/Cellar’, which is due any moment.

Anyway, back to the hops. They have not exactly stormed out of the gates and only the Chinook rhizome and one Centennial have put in appearances. Annoyingly, there is an invading weed with some hop-like characteristics which I will have to watch. With the temperatures here starting to really climb, plants and seeds of all types are starting to grow all over the plot. I have been raking over the ground to unseat baby weeds and expose their roots. But, alas the life-force here is strong and I will have my work cut out just to keep on top of the plot throughout the summer.

Weeds are not my only challenge. Hops growing habit is something to behold. They climb and, to be honest, I think they are in competition with NASA. They make a bid for the stars! So, they will need some support on their skyward journey. This will be no mean feat. I have already designed the support trellis (more like a frame, really) and ordered the timber. The timber is now ready, needs paying for and collecting. Then I simply have to make my fairly large structure, which thankfully my kindly relatives are ok with.

Here is a sneak peek at the hop-patch. Not much to look at, I know, but you can see where the hop rhizomes are by the locations of the mounds of earth (or ‘hop-hills’ as they are called, apparently).

The hop plot

The benefits of gardening are great. I love being outside with the sound of life around me. I find the smell of soil and plants up-lifting. Though maintaining the plot adds to my already pretty long day, it is something that will energise me and keep me happy. It may well also be a source of frustration, but that is what this journey is all about, finding solutions to problems and not giving up.

Brew Day 3 this weekend with the new brew bucket (sorry Fermentation Vessel) and my singing and dancing Wine Cooler Cabinet! Will it be the end of the ‘Homebrew taste’? We shall have to see.

Brew 1 is ready!

The moment I have been eagerly waiting for finally arrived last night. I could wait no longer and cracked open my first bottle of Brew 1. It made a reassuring hiss sound, letting me know that there was some carbonation/ secondary fermentation in the bottle (also known as conditioning).

I poured it out into the glass and it was soon apparent that the hiss was all the carbonation that I was going to get. It had no head to speak of, just a few bubbles. Well, worst things have happened to brews, I’m sure. My bottling process was a real mess with this brew and I have got my eyes on a better method for Brew 2. More on that later.

As for colour, it was much darker than I was expecting. I really thought Pale Malt would deliver a very pale drink, but as you can see that wasn’t the case. The ale wasn’t cloudy and was quite clear considering I hadn’t used ‘Irish Moss’ or finings to clear it. It had a lot of time though, 1 month in total. The yeast, Safale 04, also makes a good solid yeast sediment at the bottom of the glass.

How did it taste? A lot, lot better than the drinks I remember from my university days. There was a slight yeasty edge but overall, it tasted like a Pale Ale. There was a hoppy aroma and bitterness to it. It’s actually a little too bitter, still very drinkable though. This slight over-bitterness is due to me putting a third of my hops in way too early. This was thanks to my mis-reading of the recipe I was using. The longer hops are in the wort during the boil the more bitterness they deliver. So, my mis-reading of ’15 mins’ in the recipe as being from the start, as opposed to from the end was crucial. If I was making a IPA and adding loads more hops nearer the end of the boil I would have gotten away with it, but sadly I wasn’t. Despite this it is still very drinkable and I think I have drunken similar in pub gardens over the years. I have rectified my hop error with Brew 2 and am hoping for a much improved ale.

Anyway, I am much heartened by first ale. It really is pretty good considering I made it in an old (but spotless) pasta pot on my stove in the kitchen. I have higher hopes for my following brews though. I have my sights firmly fixed on quality brews that match professional breweries.

My attitude here reminds me of something I was told by an African lady once. She said this “If you aim high you can always come half-way up”. It was something like that, you get the rough idea anyway.

Suntory, Kirin, Sapporo and Asahi, I’m coming for you. “Be afraid, be very afraid”.

Brew Day 2!

Oh yes, we are brewing again. On Saturday I was joined by a potential fellow journeyman and I ran through the process with him which was much smoother than Brew Day 1.

I had hoped to brew 10 litres by doubling my malt and hops and liquoring back in the cooling stage. In the end I didn’t risk it and opted for the same method, but with the addition of medium crystal malt and a better job of ‘mashing in’ (steeping the grains, a bit like you would tea). This time I found I could hold the temperature at 66 degrees for the whole hour, which should give a much silkier and maltier taste than Brew 1.

I used the remaining half of the yeast (Safale-04, an English ale yeast) and again pitched at 24 degrees, which is officially too warm. Again time constraints dictated the pace. The temperature dropped to better levels fairly quickly last time and it didn’t seem to cause any problems. I will however, adjust my volumes next time, so that I can add more cool water to hit 18-22 degrees before I pitch the yeast for my next brew. This simply means that I’ll mash and boil with less water and make up the difference by adding chilled water at the cooling stage. All good in theory…

Next brew I will probably do exactly the same, but will use Safale-05. This yeast is used for American Ales and will give a drier ale and may accentuate the hops more. Who knows? By only changing the yeast, it will be very interesting to see the result (presuming I can keep all other variables the same…see below). I might also add a secret local adjunct (special ingredient) to add a unique taste element.

The weather is now perfect for brewing with temperatures hovering around those that are ideal for yeast and fermentation (16-22 degrees Celsius). By the time of my next brew I am likely to face my first climate-related challenge and will have to employ my grey matter to solve it. The temperatures are only going to get warmer now. But, this journey is all about challenges.

By the way, the picture is of my mini-cellar. It is located below the floorboards. It is the coolest place in the house, bar the fridge/freezer. I am running out of space though and may need to find another solution soon…

A garden full of meaning

As you may know, my project of starting a brewery also entails developing a garden where I can drink my experimental brews without being pestered by mosquitoes. However, todays post touches on this, but focuses on something that just struck me this evening. The garden is imbued with meaning! Sound strange? Read on.

As far as defeating mosquitoes are concerned, the garden is progressing nicely, but as I mentioned above a lot more is going on.

A couple of years ago my daughter started playing piano (stay with me) and one of the tunes that came up was ‘Lavenders Blue’. Though I am English, I had never heard the tune before, but immediately fell in love with it. Anyway, we were watching the recent real-life incarnation of ‘Cinderella’ on Friday night and this tune featured in the Ball scene. So, today I have been playing it on the fiddle and my daughter has been singing it non-stop. We have two Lavenders (ok, so they are French Lavenders) growing in the garden, part of the natural anti-flying menace barricade. But, it is so much more than just a plant. It is a tangible link to our family’s English heritage, a song and a shared musical experience. All in a plant!

The sweet peas growing in the background are from seeds I took from our garden last year when we lived in Tonbridge, UK. The parent plants were a fantastic feature of our small garden and provide memories of that significant and treasured experience. They will soon provide colour and important nitrogen for future plants next year. Again, far from just a plant!

potatoes.JPG

The potatoes I planted with my youngest son and daughter are now coming up and look very healthy. They too are not simply plants, they represent a whole experience for the children. Something small that you plant, see grow and eventually harvest and eat. It is the same plot that recently had some Japanese badger footprints (also the culprit of the mysterious case of ‘the disappearing cabbage leaves’, no doubt!). You can see peas in the background which like the sweet peas will be good for the soil and give the children a rich experience of eating produce direct from the garden.

The sunflowers I planted with my son are also just coming up and now need supports. I love sunflowers, not just for there bright, massive, gaudy flowers, but also because standing tall they also remind me of growing children. There are tiny Marigold seedlings in the foreground that I planted at the same time. As you can probably guess these are indeed part of the fortress experiment.

Chrysanthemums April.JPG

The Chrysanthemums have really gone crazy since I cut them back. They are also a part of the anti-mosquito curtain, which may yet prove as effective as the Maginot line, but they also are more. As it happens they are the national flower of the country we now call home and provides a great deal of colour when they get going, to boot.

Would any of this even occurred to me a few years ago? I can’t say. Is my ability to even think about a garden like this related to my adoption of Mindfulness and stepping back from pre-occupations and just letting life and consciousness flow, who knows?

Just a garden? Think again.

The journey is filled with kindness

Every day seems to bring new information, insights and acts of kindness on this quest to turn a hobby into something more. As you will know, I am fervently researching the business of brewing beer in my adopted homeland, Japan.

I have been getting quotes for brewing equipment from a number of Chinese companies and they have all been very friendly and free with their advice and expertise. Of course, they know I am a potential customer, but I am only ‘potentially’ a customer and they know that. The chances of me buying equipment from them in the foreseeable future is low, yet they have been very generous with information. Their quotes are very reasonable too. The figures mentioned are still out of my reach at the moment and though it is hard to see at present how I will raise the funds, I am not about to throw in the towel.

However friendly the Chinese companies are they lack the detailed local knowledge of the Japanese market and regulations. Plus, they are located in another country, so shipping costs etc…must be factored in. What about Japanese companies? Surely they offer something similar, albeit more expensively, no doubt.

With this in mind I contacted the two companies that I could find that supply brewery equipment in Japan. One replied with a rough quote 10x that of the Chinese companies, which is pretty impressive when you think of it and some information about contacting someone who offers advice to people like me. While the quote might have been a bit ridiculous, the offer of information for advice was something that they didn’t have to do. I duly contacted the man and he called me back and discussed all the pitfalls and short comings of my initial plan. Amazing! This man has nothing to gain from me (as far as I know) and was giving me fantastic advice. I am now planning in a much more concrete way and it appears that a Brew-Pub, rather than just a Brewery, is the way to go. Yet more expense, great. Again, the towel is firmly in my grasp and I’m not about to throw it anywhere.

Despite my determination and spirit to succeed, even I have to admit that there is a chance that this project will never reach realisation. Of course, that is not my ‘modus operandi’ and I am still going to give this a mighty good go. However, the journey keeps confirming how generous people can be when you put yourself out there and strive for something.

On a slightly different note, I am going to have my second brew day tomorrow. I will tinker with the method and ingredients a little by using local spring water, a mix of malts, throwing in an ‘adjunct’ (mysterious local ingredient) and will ‘liquor back’ my wort to make 10 litres this time. As they say, ‘Time (and looming, nightmarishly hot weather) wait for no Green Man’.

In case you are interested, the picture today is of an old road near my work that was once used by Saigo Takamori (the man ‘The Last Samurai’ film was based on). Beautiful, but a bit slippery under-foot!

The Ancient Tipple

My Pale Ale is conditioning nicely with no bottle explosions just yet. All good there. I am itching to taste the result of my labours though. Can I hold out for another 10 days? It will be tough, but I really want to try my ale at its best, so I am just going to have to be patient.

A drink that I have been meaning to make for about two and a half years is the oldest alcoholic beverage of them all, Mead. I actually got a demi-john and a packet of champagne yeast in the summer of 2014 with this in mind. However, constantly moving and not really having time or focus, I let it pass. Role on to 2017 and the appearance of the Green Man’s Quest and now it has added significance.

One of the reasons I had wanted to make Mead in the first place was kind of spiritual. As I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs, I have a unique spirituality, which blends Mindfulness and Zen Buddhism with Pagan/Animist and Heathen traditions. This means that on eight days a year I mark the Solstices and Equinoxes and what are called the Quarter Days (halfway between the solstices and the equinoxes). My ceremony is very simple and just consists of a few words to pay respect to the power of life (call whatever you want, even I don’t know what to call it!) and then pour some beer on some soil or grass (not on concrete or anything man-made). I may blog about this in more detail another time. Anyway, this simple sacrifice, or offering, keeps me connected to my natural environment in a concrete and spiritual way. Mead being an ancient alcoholic beverage has been used to celebrate special occasions like this since time immemorial. I’m not saying that the ‘ancients’ used Mead in the same way as me, but it is the most appropriate drink for my spiritual purposes.

So, feeling buoyed with my with my Pale Ale tasting and bottling, I felt like giving the Mead a try. I had a good read on-line for advice and went for it. As with everything in life, a lot of the advice and information I found was conflicting, so I decided to go with my instincts (and the general gist of the information I had read). Whether this will turn out ok, or not, who knows.

My demi-john is a one gallon/5 litre type. So that is how much Mead I wanted to make. Before anything else I cleaned and sanitised everything. First, I boiled up some water and turned off the heat. Then I threw in about 1kg of Honey, as I want my mead to have some residual sweetness. I stirred all the while. I could have added some fruit, but actually I just want to make ‘good old’, plain Mead, so decided against it. Then I let the warm water and honey mixture (called Must) cool a little. In the meantime, I re-hydrated my old champagne yeast, all 5 grams of it. This is supposed to be too much, but given that the yeast is on the old side and that a good few yeasties have probably passed on, I figured the whole packet might be ok. I tested a sprinkling of it in some sugary water and got some reaction, so there was life in the old packet yet.

A lot of the information on the web also mentioned Yeast nutrient. I don’t have any and I’m pretty sure in Anglo-Saxon times (and before) they didn’t have any either. So I won’t be losing any sleep about that. I then waited for the temperature to drop by putting the pot in the bath for a while and then adding cooled water. Like a fool, I forgot to check the temperature before pitching the yeast and to my horror found it was still way too warm. 35 degrees Celsius! Now, this is supposed to kill the yeast and if you read the advice on the internet, you’d think that you might as well just give-up and throw it all down the drain. Not one to throw in the towel however, I left to go to work (I work irregular hours) and waited to see what would happen. The temperature had gotten down to 24 degrees by the time I had got home and by the next morning was bubbling away and still is.

My problem now is where to keep it. The weather will get warmer and with the air-lock on it is too tall for my cool, mini-cellar under the floor. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that as there is so much sugar in honey it will be fermenting for a few months, possibly. So, by the time it is almost done (or maybe not done) the temperature will not be dropping below 20degrees Celsius at any time and will reach highs of about 30 degrees at least (and this isn’t even the hottest time of the year!). This one will have to take some thought. Some kind of cool bag with ice packs, perhaps? Likewise, this will be a formidable challenge with m Homebrew too.

As you can see, the mead at the moment looks quite cloudy and there is no foam on the top of it, which is apparently more usual. There was a layer of foam there the first morning, but it disappeared. Whether this bodes well or ill, I have no idea. It is bubbling away pretty well though, so the yeasties seem to be doing their job. If you are in the know, don’t be shy, drop me a line.

I have also been busy sorting out a support system for my hop plants. That too is for another blog.

Bottle Day and First Tastings!

It’s been two weeks fermenting, and today was time to bottle my first proper brew. You may know that there were a few mistakes with the brew process. Not necessarily terrible, thankfully. However, if ‘Brew Day’ went smoothly, ‘Bottle Day’ did not.

Before I get into that, the ‘good news’. I got a chance to taste my brew and, quite frankly, I was amazed. Not only did it taste like beer, it actually tasted almost like pub beer! It was flat and not cold, so it was very similar to a Pale Ale or Summer Ale, you might be enjoying in a Pub Garden on a warm summer’s day. I really was astounded. I wouldn’t be writing like this, if I was not, and I can tell you that this discovery was entirely unexpected. A second tasting revealed a very bitter and dry taste, but one where the hops could be tasted though. I’ll blog again when have I tasted the truly finished product.

There are two weeks to go for this second phase and then it’s time to crack open some bottles for real! But, first back to today. I first cleaned everything with warm, soapy water and then sterilised everything thoroughly. This was straightforward, obviously. Coaxing the amber nectar from its home for the last two weeks to a second home was not so easy. Firstly, I couldn’t hold both ends of the tube at the same time…and had to call on my daughter to hold the one end in the bucket of amber liquid. Then even with my daughter present, I couldn’t create a sufficient vacuum to entice said amber liquid into awaiting glass vessels. It didn’t help that I still hadn’t worked out how to use the tap! Now, I know. 90 degree twist to stop, not 180 degrees. I eventually had to suck on the tube to get sufficient vacuum. This element of the process I really do need to work on. I will have this better sorted next time.

Because of earlier mentioned problems the ale was churned up more than I would have liked and so did not bother bottling the last bit of ale, though I think I could have got another bottle out of it, had I been better organised. What I had read about the yeast I had used forming a solid base at the bottom of the fermenter was spot on. It really was quite a solid, impressively large-looking biscuit!

I had noticed that I was probably only going to get 9 bottles out of this max and then with spillage, some for the Final Gravity reading and the amount I left at the bottom of the bucket, I ended up with 6 and a half 500ml bottles. It’s not much, but I always knew this would be a small batch. I’m almost convinced I will do double this next time, 10 Litres. ‘Liquoring Back’ with cold water to help the cooling process.

Strength-wise the FG came out at 1.006 which means that my Pale Ale is about 5%. Ooops! Sorry, arcane homebrew laws, it was accident. It may creep up further, as the sugar in the bottles is converted by the remaining yeast in the beer. The idea is that this secondary fermentation (aka, conditioning) puts this fizz into the beer as the CO2 produced has nowhere to go but back into the liquid. I don’t want too much fermentation, or I could end up with glass explosions (the famous ‘bottle bombs’). This phase is also a chance for more clear beer and also for the yeast to get around to eating their way through off-flavours. Though, I couldn’t taste much of that to be honest these next two weeks can’t hurt (he says, famous last words?).

Anyway, back to today. Another screw up was the addition of sugar to the bottles. I needed a funnel, but didn’t have one, so ended up using a teaspoon and the sugar went everywhere. Far from ideal. I think I may rack to a second container next time, one with a tap (next purchase?). In this second container will be a sugar solution, eliminating the need for a teaspoon! It may help to clear the beer too.

Regardless, I have two weeks more until I can taste my treasure! I have learned so much already, that this journey has already provided more than I could have hoped for. I need to get a few more brews under the belt now and to tinker with a few recipes. All in all though, a very good day for the Green Man!

Can my ale really be worse?

Today the Green Man is a little sleepy as he was woken in the early by his dog, who had alerted him to a Japanese ‘anaguma’ Badger rifling through his exposed bins. However, ‘Japanese Critters and Where to Find Them’ that is not the subject of todays blog.

The Green Man is still bristling with excitement at his discovery regarding the brew limits for ‘happoshu’ and he is busy doing a lot of research. Exciting days! As ever, the Green Man is determined to keep on track and do as much as he can to realise his goal. Oh dear, ‘Craft Breweries and How to Set Them Up’ is not the subject of todays blog either, not doing very well at getting on-topic today…

To the topic, at last. The other night I visited a friend’s bar and he had a few craft beers on tap. An IPA, which was very good and it’s related cousin, a Pale Ale. Where the IPA was everything you’d expect from an IPA, the Pale Ale was the opposite. Admittedly, my friend had over carbonated the keg, so it was too fizzy, but there was something amiss with the Pale Ale. I commented at the time that perhaps the brewer had forgotten to add the aroma/flavour hops, as the drink was bitter (so, bittering hops had done their job), but there was hardly any hint of anything else. The other thing I have realised is that there was also no real Malt flavour either. The result was just a fizzy, bitter, golden coloured alcoholic drink.

I’m really interested to see whether, despite my faux-pas on brew day, how my brew will stand-up next to this pretty poor offering from a small, but professional brewery. After all, my brew is also a Pale Ale. I did have lofty ambitions of Mashing it a higher temperature to make it a little Maltier, but that didn’t quite go as planned. In addition, one third of my flavour hops went in too early and so would have made my ale quite bitter, I imagine. However, I did then, inadvertently, do an Hop/Aroma-Steep. Who knows what the result will be?

There are only three more days to go to ‘racking/bottling day’ and I should be able to taste a little then. This taster will be from the Final Gravity reading tube. It won’t be the final product yet, but I should get an idea of the final flavour and whether it really is drinkable or simply plug-hole worthy.

My tasting experience on Saturday night though has left one impression with me. This is that my beer needs to be either ‘Hop Forward’ (more hops taste than malt taste) or ‘Malt Forward’ (more malty than hoppy). I think I will aim to get two regular beers going, an IPA and an ESB, hoppy and malty respectively. I can add a third or fourth seasonal tipple to this which I can experiment with and eventually rotate. Let the home brew experiments begin!

The Mysteries of Brewing

The Cherry Blossoms have just about reached their peak and we celebrated last night by having a barbeque. In Japanese the word is “hanami“. The English translation is the nice, punchy “Cherry Blossom viewing party”. Just proves that some words are better left untranslated, in my opinion. All the while my brew continues to fester….sorry…ferment, though the former description may still prove to be more accurate.

Since Brew Day, I have been looking in more detail into the potential effects of my errors on the day. I have also met two like-minded people who are very keen on setting up a Brew-Pub. It was great, but they were bringers of less than perfect tidings.

Well, it turns out that the errors on the day were this. 1) It looks very much like I probably pitched (threw in) double the amount of yeast that I should have…oops. This may produce some ‘off-flavours’ and make my ale a bit non-descript, as a lot of the sugars would have been turned to alcohol. Therefore it may also be a bit more potent than I thought. But, I am no expert, yet. So there is Mystery Numero Uno.

The next mystery, is a little more positive. It turns out that what I did by leaving the hop bags in after ‘flame-out’ (turning off of the heat) through the cooling phase was rather similar to something called an ‘aroma-steep’ or ‘hop-steep’. This is usually done to ramp up the hop flavour and aroma. So that may not turn out too badly…if the over-present yeast don’t drag all of that down to the bottom of the bucket with themselves as they ‘flocculate’. Love that word, by the way, kind of reminds me of erectile dysfunction…not that the Green Man has any ‘flocculation problems’ you understand. So getting back to my ale, Mystery Numero Dos is ‘will my ale be hopp-ier than I thought, or not?’

As for meeting a like-minded couple, it was a mixed blessing. Of course, it is always great to share information and experiences, but the information they shared with me was that the Japanese Brewing License is an absolute swine to get a hold of. Basically, it is set-up to stop competition with Japan’s massive established breweries. Not a massive surprise, to be honest. However, the Green Man will have to prove that he can produce and shift 60 Kilolitres of ale before he can get a license. To put that into perspective, that’s over 10,000 litres of beer a week! Bit of a jump from 5 litres every month, wouldn’t you say? There is no half-way house. Even worse when you consider that brewing a beer of over 1.5% alcohol at home is illegal! So, although the Beer industry is officially de-regulated, in fact, it is nothing of the sort.

However, The Green Man is not to perturbed by such trifling ‘challenges’. The existence of at least three small-guy breweries in my own Prefecture attests to the fact that it can be done. And the like-minded people I met are going for it anyway. It may take some imaginative problem solving, but I’m not giving up yet. He says, having not tasted even one brew of his own brews yet…

This weekend is bottling time. I will be back to give you the low down and taste notes from that. Until next time.