Homebrewer’s recipe calculator – free toy!

Just a quick plug for an excellent product I found a few months ago and have been using ever since

Qbrew is a free-source homebrewer’s recipe calculator which you can download and use to formulate recipes. Basically, you can put in the quantities of malt (or extract) and hops you’re using, set your “efficiency” (i.e. how good you are at turning raw ingredients into alcohol) and end up with predictions as to the colour, bitterness and strength of your beer. There are a load of recipe “styles” you can compare your beer too and there’s even a handy hydrometer correction tool.

How do you work out your efficiency? Well, if you have a few brews behind you, you can put in the raw ingredients and play with the setting until you get Qbrew to end up with your end product.

Once you can get over the disappointment of being told you are only 60% efficient, it’s an extremely useful way to predict future brews. [Various snotty homebrew books say that “beginners should achive around 80% efficiency”! I blame London tap water]

I’m fairly new to homebrewing, so was surprised to find that there are a number of homebrewing programmes out there – though most of them you seem to have to pay for, and I’m not sure if the added features are worth it (“Hop Time Degradation” calculator, anyone?)

Boak

Nice pubs near stations #1: Victoria Station, London

UPDATE APRIL 2012: These days, if you’re at Victoria, you’re fifteen minutes’ walk from Cask, arguably London’s best pub.

I thought it would be good to start collecting information about nice pubs near stations. There’s nothing more frustrating than having an hour to kill at a station and no idea where to head for a decent brew, so I hope this is of some use.

First up, Victoria Station, London. If you only have 20 minutes or so, your best choice is probably the Wetherspoons in the station itself. Head outside the station and it doesn’t look particularly hopeful. However, there are some excellent pubs in the vicinity, if you know where to look.

5 minutes walk away
This will get you as far as the Jugged Hare on Vauxhall Bridge Road, an excellent Fullers Ale and Pie House. Alternatively, you could head for the Cardinal, a Sam Smiths pub near Westminster Cathedral, but it’s only five minutes if you know exactly where you’re going…

10 minutes walk away
The Horse and Groom is a charming Shepherd’s Neame pub tucked away in a Belgravia Mews. Listen to the locals discuss the price of diamonds.

15 minutes walk away
Head down Buckingham Palace Rd (away from the Palace) and eventually you get to the Rising Sun, a Young’s pub on Ebury Bridge Rd. Last time I went, they did tasty cheap pizza as well as most of the Young’s range.

Alternatively, head into deepest Belgravia for the Star Tavern. This is a great Fullers pub with a decent menu, hidden behind the Austrian embassy.

Google Map link to all these pubs.

Boak

Beer heroes of the month (May) – Landbierparadies, Nuremberg, Germany

A litre krug from landbierparadiesThe first of a monthy series where we honour those who have gone the extra mile to promote good, interesting beer.

This month – Landbierparadies, Nuremberg, Germany. I came across this while researching pubs and breweries for our recent trip to Bavaria.

Landbierparadies is a company that showcases beer from small breweries in Franconia. I don’t read much German, but they proudly announce (in the “Uber uns” section) that they are not just a large off-licence and pub chain – they are “eine Philosophie in Bier”. They deplore the trend towards homogenous beers produced by large companies, and instead provide an outlet for the hundreds of small village breweries that can be found around Nuremburg, Bamburg and Bayreuth.

We went to the shop first – an enormous warehouse with at least fifty types of local beer, none of which we had ever heard of. We almost despaired – we were due to travel home the next day, and I’m not sure one lifetime would be enough to try everything there, let alone one night. Still, in the knowledge we’d be going to one of their pubs, we settled for a couple of litre krugs as a souvenir. (NB – this was the best place we found to buy krugs and glasses – a fantastic selection from various local breweries, priced very reasonably).

Krugs safely back in the hotel, we then went out to one of their five pubs – we found that the one on Rothenburger Strasse was the easiest to get to on foot from the town centre. The surrounding area was not the most attractive, and the pub was rather quiet – but this could have been because FC Nuremberg were playing in the German cup semi-finals that night and the pub didn’t have a telly.

We were blown away by the choice of beer – they had one on tap, and over 30 in bottles. I’m not sure where the one on tap came from – it was just called “Landbier vom Holzfass”, which my primitive German dictionary translates as “Country beer from a wooden barrel”. Incidentally, according to the German Beer Institute, Landbier is “general term denoting a simple everyday session or quaffing brew”, with few other specific characteristics. All the “Landbiers” we found in Germany were unfiltered, and we wondered whether “Landbier” was the German equivalent of “real ale” – it seems to be in sentiment if not strict definition.

Anyway, this particular variety was very “ale-like” (i.e. did not taste like a lager) and was very refreshing.

We then moved on to the bottles. We had six different types in total; what was interesting was that they all tasted very different. Most were amazing, but a couple were not very nice at all – but after a couple of weeks of fairly similar German lagers, we could take the occasional duff one in return for the fabulous variety. (Again, the parallel with “real ale” in the UK – some of it tastes foul, but I’d rather have the variety any day.)

The beers we particularly liked were;

  • “Schluekla”, a smoked beer from Brauerei Saurer in Gunzendorf – this was a much more subtle smoked beer than the more famous “Schlenkerla” of Bamberg. It didn’t smell of bacon, like some smoked beers I’ve tried, but had a lovely smoky aftertaste. It also tasted very malty, i.e. you could taste other malts other than the smoked element.
  • “Dunkles Vollbier” from Brauerei Drummer in Leutenbach – served in a “Buegelflashe” ( a swing-top bottle). This was fabulous – it had an amazing burnt sugar / candyfloss aroma with a roasted, slightly smoked malt taste. There was a great balance between sweetness and bitterness.
  • “Dunkles Vollbier” from Brauerei Penning in Hetzelsdorf – roasty, smoky with a bitter aftertaste. Tasted a lot like a dark ale or porter, due to the lack of carbonation and the bitterness
  • “Schwarze Anna” from Neder-Brauerei in Forchheim – a dark beer that, once warmed up a little, tasted a little smoky with a hint of coffee.

Good effort, chaps. Well done.

Info

From the Landbierparadies homepage, “Laden” will take you to details about their shop, and “”Wirtshauser” lists the pubs by address.

The Franconian beer guide is an extremely useful website which lists breweries and pubs in Franconia. It lists all the producers of the beers mentioned above, plus many more, with advice on how to get there by public transport. It also has some “road trip” articles to inspire you…

Boak

Light Lithuanian Lagers – face-off round 1

We’ve enjoyed Svyturys a lot in the past, and were wondering whether any of the other Lithuanian lagers that are often available in London cornershops would prove equally enjoyable.

utenos.jpgSo we popped into our local store and picked up some Kalnapilis (Original) and some Utenos. These were both ostensibly “Muenchner Hell” types, i.e. light lagers. (NB – both these breweries do pilsners and, more interestingly, baltic porters, but these are less readily available. Will do a taste test one day).

Kalnapilis had the prouder boasts (“finest Saaz hops”) etc but it was Utenos that won the day – quite a hoppy taste for a light lager, and very smooth and easy to drink. The Kalnapilis, if it tasted of anything at all, was rather sweet.

The websites for these beers do not fill the real ale / craft beer lover with joy – both are proudly boasting their “Ice” brand – boasting an even milder version of their current products. And I’m sorry, but counting the tinned version of your brew as a different product from the bottle (when both are pasteurised) just doesn’t convince…

Next round – Svyturys v Utenos… then we can move away from light lagers and tackle the heavy stuff.

Boak

P.S. the Lithuanian word for beer is “alus”. Presumably some sign of the old Indo-European roots of our word “ale”?