journal of a self proclaimed beer connoisseur

William the Bastard – Northern English Brown Ale

William the Bastard – Label and two week tasting

Here is the (simplistic) label we designed for this batch:

It is a little bit on the “long” side but it should still fit on our bottles nicely. Next batch I hope to get into color labels and I will just have them printed at the local print shop.

Yesterday (Monday, February 1, 2011) we cracked the last 1 liter bottle of beer that we had filled. It was not completely filled like the others so it makes a good choice for the first taste test.  We popped it open – and I mean popped. I pushed the swing top lid and a very loud pop resulted. Good sign that we got it carbonated.

The beer poured beautifully with just over one finger of head. So far so good.

As we took our initial smells we both agreed that there was a bit of a funky aroma going on with this beer. I am too inexperienced at home brewing to know exactly what or why this is. I have a suspicion that it is just because our beer is still so green and needs to bottle condition a few more weeks.

It has been in the bottle for about 2 weeks and our understanding is that it is thought to be best to wait 1 month before drinking it. Hopefully over the next little while the aroma mellows out to something more pleasing.

As for the taste…it was green but very good. The weird smell was definitely not in the taste of the beer. It is still young but was quite tasty. I can already see that our adaptation of this kit from a Cream Ale to a Northern English Brown Ale has been successful. I hope some more complexity develops in the flavors but as it is now it is already clearly the style we were going for.

We each downed just under a pints worth and were left satisfied with our efforts and hopeful for the remaining 21 liters.

I’ll post pictures next time I open one up.


William the Bastard – Brew Day 3

Brew Day 3 – January 16, 2011

End goal for today was to get the beer into the bottles. There was a lot more work for today’s efforts compared to bottling our Blackout Stout. This was due to the fact that all our bottles have been used one before and also have a Blackout Stout label.

First thing we did was clean all the bottles and remove the labels from the last batch. We then submerged and soaked the bottles in a sanitizing solution made from Diversol and water. Once sanitized we rinsed the bottles and let them dry.

All equipment being used needed to be thoroughly sanitized as well. This included:

  • bottling bucket (i.e. same bucket used as primary)
  • spoon
  • measuring cup (for dissolving sugar)
  • siphon hose and pump
  • thermometer
  • hydrometer
  • beer thief
  • sampling tube
  • bottling attachment (just attached to a hose and then when pressed beer comes out!)

We submerged everything we could and let it sit for 15 minutes. We periodically wipe the sanitizing solution up the walls of the bottling bucket to ensure that it comes in contact with the sanitizing solution periodically. Once the time had elapsed we rinsed all the items and let them rest on a sanitized surface.


William the Bastard – Brew Day 2

Brew Day 2 – January 6, 2011

Today we racked the beer from our primary to our secondary. This is the quickest stage of brewing I find. The majority of our time was spent sanitizing all of our equipment.

This is what the beer looked like after sitting in the primary:

Once sanitizing was finished, we got everything setup in the brewing area of my basement and started the auto siphon.

Next we just stood there and held the auto siphon in place being careful not to disturb the sediment at the bottom of the primary. We carefully tilted the bucket to get all the beer we could without bring along the sediment. There was very minimal beer left on top of the sediment when we were finished.

We kept the siphon in that last few drops and detached the one of the hose. We then took turns sucking a bit of the remaining beer from the  bucket to get a sample of our creation. Despite our own curiosity this isn’t bad practice to ensure that your batch hasn’t spoiled already through contamination or anything else.

We were both quite impressed with the taste and are now very excited for the finished product.

Once the carboy was full of our brew we put a bung and airlock in the top and hoisted it up onto the elevated surface. Best to do this now while any sediment in the carboy is already stirred up. You don’t want to do the lifting immediately before you bottle the beer or you will kick it all up and more sediment will  end up in your bottles.

We didn’t take any measurements of the beer (i.e. specific gravity) because the data at this point does not really matter too much. In other words, it doesn’t factor into the calculation to determine your alcohol by volume (ABV) at the end of the process. At least that was my thinking at the time.

In retrospect, we probably should have taken those reading and recorded them. I was thinking if my batch screwed up (or ended up delicious) we could compare our second attempt at it to these data points to see if we were on the right track. I suspect it would have given us the ability to be more consistent if we attempt this beer again in the future.

Should be about a week in the secondary and we can bottle!

William the Bastard – Brew Day 1

Brew Day 1 – December 27, 2010

This beer is being made using the Cream Ale kit from The Brewhouse and “hacking” it by creating a mini batch of wort and adding it to the kit.

Other than what is different from the mini wort batch we have modified the kit by discarding the dry yeast and using Wyeast 1098 Brit Ale.

To hack this kit we have purchased 1/2 lb of dark crystal malt and 1/4 lb of chocolate malt. The first thing we did was measure out the malt and add it in approximately 4 ounce batches to a heavy plastic freezer bag. We then used a standard rolling-pin to crush the malt within the bag. You don’t want this to make the malt powdered at all – just enough to break the husk.

We then added all the malts to grain bags and tied them off to prepare them to be added to the heated water. These were set aside.

All equipment being used in the days efforts was then thoroughly cleaned and sanitized using Diversol. This was done while we had 4 liters of water being heated on the stove.

Once the temperature was at 160 F (71 C) we submerged the grain bags in the water. Heat on the element was adjusted to maintain this temperature for 30 minutes.

We stirred the mixture lightly every 10 minutes.

At the 30 minute mark we removed the grain bags from the water and placed them aside for cleanup. The pot of heated wort was then taken outside (it is winter and cold here) and placed in the snow. This is to bring the temperature down to room temperature (approximately 21 C) and is known as “cold crashing”.

Once the temperature was about 21 C the mixture was brought back in the house to the “brewing area”.

Next we added the pH buffer to the primary before pouring the remaining 4 liters of water into the primary. We then added the wort from the beer kit. We were sure to pour this fairly aggressive to adequately aerate the wort. The more oxygen in the mixture the better the yeast will ferment the beer.

The last thing to add to the mixture is the liquid yeast package. We had “smacked the pack” about 4 hours earlier to break the nutrient pack and release it into the dormant yeast. This starts activating the yeast. We poured the yeast over the top of the wort. You do not stir the yeast at this point because you don’t want to fast track it to the bottom of the bucket.

The lid was then placed loosely on top of the primary and we hoisted it up on to an elevated surface so that when we go to rack the beer to the secondary we don’t need to move the primary and disturb the sediment that will have accumulated at the bottom. We covered the whole thing with a blanket and there it will sit until Brew Day 2 where we rack it to the secondary (i.e. glass carboy).

Brew Day 2 should occur in approximately 3-5 days or whenever the initial fermentation has settled down from the “aggressive” stage.

Data recorded:

Datecode on kit: 20101116
Datecode on yeast: 20101116
Original gravity (OG): 1.054
Temperature: 16 C (61 F)
Temp adjusted OG : 1.054

William the Bastard

We have decided what we are going to do for our second batch of beer. It is the base Cream Ale kit from The Brewhouse; however, we are going to “hack” it using some guidelines found online.

To summarize these modifications we would basically be doing a small wort batch independently using some dark crystal malt and chocolate malt. We’ll add this wort to the wort from the kit. The end result is intended to produce a Northern English Brown Ale.

We’ll also be substituting the dry yeast in the kit for Wyeast 1098 – British Ale Yeast.

That being decided…we have started to think about potential names for the beer. After much thought, I have reached what I think would be the most appropriate name.

English Brown Ales are characterized by their nutty flavor. So there is always the temptation to name the beer Busted Nut Brown Ale. But that has been done before.

My vote is to call the beer William the Bastard.

William the Bastard is another name by which William the Conqueror was called. William was the first Norman King of England from Christmas, 1066 until his death. His birth was illegitimate which is what landed him his unfortunate nickname.

I see three good reasons for this name:

1. William the Bastard was from Northern England and so is our style of beer.

2. Our beer is also of “illegitimate” birth as we are arriving at Northern English Brown Ale through a base kit of Cream Ale. Cream Ale is traditionally an American pioneered beer style.

3. It sounds cool and will allow me to use the picture above (of William the Bastard) as our label!

Feel free to send me your thoughts.