Eurostar has two beers: Kronenbourg 1664, and Vedett Extra Blond. Neither are very exciting. Our hotel, at which we arrived late last night, offers Stella Artois, Carlsberg (!) and, in a slight nod to the fact we’re in bloody Belgium, Leffe. But I know things are going to get better.
We may have found the answer to the stuck fermentation problem we were having.
The last brew looked to be going the same disastrous way. We had an Original Gravity of 1066, which we would expect to drop to between 1017 and 1022. After an initial strong fermentation and then appeared to stop. We took a reading a week later, and were disappointed to find it had only dropped to 1032. Another week, and we were at 1028. We almost gave up but thought we may as well leave it. Good move, as after three weeks it had dropped to 1021, and was actually beginning to taste drinkable too. It’s now around 6.1% ABV! We’ve put it into secondary fermentation, and think we might leave this to mature in bottles for a couple of months.
Anyway, the point here is: don’t get hung up on what homebrew books / websites tell you. They all disagree with each other and often contradict themselves within a few pages.Â We were getting worried because most sources seemed adamant that a week should be sufficient for a primary fermentation. We’d read that primary fermentation should be 2–3 days and also 3–5 days. In the same book. But then the book goes on to give recipes with up to 4 weeks primary fermentation.
Similar with mash temperatures – I’ve read that it should be 65degC, 70 deg C and even 75–80 degC. The thing is that all of these books are so dogmatic, and terrify you into thinking you will ruin your beer if you’re a degree or two out. Whereas in fact it may make the difference of a few grams of sugar BUT IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD!
Sure, if you’re running a microbrewery or more, precise temperature measures, careful water treatment etc might make all the difference, but by then you’ve probably moved on from “basic” homebrew manuals.
The trouble is, for amateur homebrewers like us, it’s very difficult to work out what advice is absolutely essential (possibly the sanitising stuff?) and what advice is just what works for that particular author, with his particular set up (it always does seem to be a “he”). It would be great to see more homebrewing guides a la Jamie Oliver (“just bung the malt in there, heat the water a bit, leave it a while” etc).
If I was into lazy gender stereotypes, I’d suggest the overly complicated and specific homebrew book is the natural result of a male-dominated hobby. Perhaps we need to think back to the middle ages, when most households (Read: housewives) would brew their own. I’m sure they didn’t worry about the hop utilisation rates, or the ph of the water.
We’re off to Brussels for a long weekend in a couple of days. We’ve been a couple of times before but this time we’ll be armed with laptop and camera for instant blogging.
We’re putting together some plans for what we’re going to try but wondered whether any of you had suggestions for how to navigate the enormous universe of Belgian beers. Are there any beers you think we should definitely “try before we die”? How about some themes for beer crawls (perhaps a geuze night, or a night on beers less than 5%…) Or are there some amazing beers you’ve never tried that you want us to attempt to track down and review? We like a challenge…
We’ve found that Belgian Beers is a useful place to start – as well as reviews of Belgian beers, one by one, Andreea lists breweries and bars. Nice photos too.
We’ll be based in Brussels but plan to do some day trips. We have three complete days, and possibly an extra night depending on how late we get in on Thursday.
When we set up this blog, one of our unwritten rules was that we would not be overly negative about beers. If we didn’t like something, we would move on and blog about something we did like.
I’m going to break this rule now to warn to fellow beer lovers, particularly you experimental types. Do not try Mongozo coconut beer. It is possibly the nastiest thing I have ever tasted (yes, that means worse than the polio vaccine). I’m not the only one to be disgusted – see reviews on RateBeer.
One of my locals has been stocking this stuff for years, with increasingly desperate signs (“Have a refreshing, unique coconut beer!”). I should have heeded the warning, but I was in an experimental mood. Oh dear. Having had a couple of sips and visibly reeled from the shock, I tried my usual tactic in these circumstances of pretending it wasn’t beer. That didn’t work either.
The sad thing is that I like the idea in principle. The Mongozo beers are brewed by Brouwerij Huyghe and use fairtrade coconuts. I’ve nothing against coconuts in beer, and think they could work quite well. Lew Bryson (“Seen through a glass”) has a review of a Coconut Porter here which sounds right up my street.
The problem with this one is the sugar. It is just so sweet, you can feel your teeth rotting as you drink it. I can forgive many flavours in a beer, but excess sweetness is not one of them.
Weird and worrying news, which we picked up through Akelas Biggins – Steve Harrison, the Vice President of the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, has gone missing. It seems he had been depressed. Let’s hope he’s OK.