Tag Archives: tasting

Jan 202418Thu

Cracked open the 10 litre MJ keg this evening, and it’s good. There’s a little bit of sweetness there, but also a nice tang, and practically none of the naffness that we had from the dessert apples. It’s drinkable in its own right, and I wonder how it would fare with a touch of flavouring (blueberry, etc) or a bit more sugar.

As for mouth-feel, it’s difficult to know how much CO2 / Beer Gas this was been exposed to since kegging, but right now it’s slightly sparkling, which works well with the dry | sweet balance. Any more bubbles and it would highlight the tartness, less and it would just be flat. Not a bad effort.

Aug 202326Sat

Yep, that’s good. Carbonation is OK but will be fine with another couple of days, mouthfeel good. Nice hoppy character. Nose could be a bit more bunny, but at least cold-crashing has removed all traces of yeast. Need to get this one drunk quick before it fades!

Jun 202306Tue

Really great taste to this; good mouthfeel and plenty of body, light enough to be refreshing and quaffable on a summer’s day. Not quite as clear as I’d hoped however, which I’m putting down to chill haze rather than anything else.

Ironically the 20cl »Stangen« which our guests kindly provided for this brew are difficult to pour and fill up with 50% foam each time, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for actual beer. Definitely one to be repeated though, probably more so than Sarka.

Mar 202331Fri

Nice! Very cloudy with a moderate amount of mouthfeel, perhaps slightly more carbonation needed. I did fill the keg fairly well and there probably wasn’t that much head-space, so perhaps that’s to account for the lack of bubbles. By no means flat, but then again also not overcooked.

FG was measured just now as 1.014 (1.016 @ 8.4℃) but there was a fair bit of foam so I’m going to say we’re near as damn it on target (1.012) for 6.6% ABV versus expected 6.9%. Tastes just fine to me. 😉

Dec 202219Mon

Geronimo and Yeti Hit the Road

We’re across with family for Christmas, and although I toyed with the idea of taking a couple of party kegs with me I decided against it in the end; it’s a short visit, I’ve only one decent dispense tap, and I still haven’t sourced (let alone tested) a Sodastream bottle for mobile use. All of which meant that I could put it off no longer, it was time to finally break out the counter-pressure bottle filler I thought I badly needed when I started out kegging.

It was actually fairly easy to rig up, with the most difficult part being a lack of compatible ¼” Duotight connectors, but that was soon overcome with a section of slightly smaller diameter beer line and a heat gun.

Purging and filling the bottles too was fairly easy. I started with Geronimo, which had been sitting at 15 PSI / 4℃ for 6 days by this point. The first bottle filled with just half an inch of foam thanks to some bubbles in the line, but subsequent bottles had no head at all. Maybe I should have tested the brew first – was it still not quite ready?

After 7 bottles were done I switched over to sanitiser and flushed the lines with about a litres, before switching to Yeti and again flushing through about half a litre. For this one I used 330 ml clear lager bottles, and these didn’t want to stay upright as readily as Geronimo’s 500 ml standard brown flasks. They were also a tad shorter, which meant the counter-pressure filler’s (CPF henceforth) bung had to be carefully moved to the extreme end of travel and monitored for blow-out. The carbonation was a little higher on Yeti, and combined with the narrower bottles I found that foam made its way more readily up the neck than with Geronimo. It’s difficult when you’ve only got one gas line running into the Kegerator…

All-in I had a positive experience with the CPF. It was a bit messy in places and took a few minutes to clean and sanitise, but on the whole I’d use it again, though perhaps for bigger batches. One thing I will definitely do differently next time is to rig up some kind of CPF suspender, because it’s quite a big old lump to delicately balance on an empty bottle while capping the one you’ve just filled. Live and learn.

Yeti and Geronimo, ready to go

Geronimo III: First Taste

Great hop flavour, maybe 5% too bitter for the style. Aroma could do with being more floral too. Mouthfeel isn’t quite there yet and neither is carbonation, so I’ll give it another 2 days at 15 PSI and then take it down to 10 since I’ll be away over the festive period. Generally OK.

Jul 202224Sun

I didn’t want to leave it too long before dipping a beak into this one; typical carbonation time from scratch is one week at 10 PSI, but we fermented at 10 PSI and it’s been at 15 for 24 hours now. That said I’m pleased that there’s some bubbles and a bit of body, good hop aroma and taste, with a very slight hint of yeast as well. The latter isn’t entirely unexpected since I’m drawing this from the 5 litre overspill keg which essentially contains the dregs from the fermenter, and is purely there as a carbonation budgie. So far so good.

Jun 202204Sat

Just poured myself a pint of this and it’s very nice indeed. Lovely light colour, very easy drinking taste, good aroma of hops. In fact it’s so light that I probably ran more beer through the freshly sanitised lines than necessary, because I thought it must still be mixed with StarSan.

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Apr 202229Fri

Wow, that’s nice! I just connected the 18 litre keg as soon as we walked in the door from 2 weeks away, and there’s a nice … peppery (?) side to the hops which I’d associate with a West Coast IPA but without the typical alcohol haze that you’d expect from such.

The brew is a good deal darker than I’d have expected from a Pale Ale but it doesn’t taste quite as malty as it looks. Looking at it now I’m reminded of the recipe error which I suspected when I saw it in the fermenter (too much Medium Crystal @ 240 EBC?) and I can’t help but think how the Kveik might have fared with a lighter brew. Maybe try that next…

Jan 202211Tue

This has been in the warm long enough to build up any carbonation there’s to be had, so let’s get it put into the cold. The plastic bottles have some good pressure too!

First Taste

Later that same evening I pulled one bottle back from the garage because I plan to put away the other two buckets later this week, and wanted to be sure the quantity of priming sugar / sweetener is acceptable. Here’s the note I just added to the drinks log:

First dip into the Riot, and it seems very nice although it’s not been in the cold for a full day yet. The nose is a bit yeasty but carbonation is spot-on and there’s not enough sugar to drive away the taste of apples, but enough to prevent it being too tart. I’ll seriously think about doing the same to the next batch from this pressing, Oslo or Wellies.

Jan 202207Fri

This has been conditioning for 10 days now and I’m interested to see how it’s getting along. Unfortunately my three taps are tied up with the last of Sarka, Farmyard Runt, and Yeti, so I’m taking this opportunity to modify the flow rate of my stainless party tap. The last time I used this tool she was just a bit lively, so I’m fitting a 10″ length of my finest 3/16 beer line in order to restrict the amount of foam produced. This worked well and I only got a little head (fnarr-fnarr) which may have been down to line temperature as much as anything else. I’ll leave it connected for now until one of the taps frees up.

Oh, and the brew? Interesting. There’s quite a lot of bittering going on, some major haze, but not as much hops on the nose as I’d like, and early any in the taste. It’s more like a traditional bitter, amplified and made cloudy than a pale ale. No complaints though. Patience reckons it’s another “sweet & sour” number, and whacks of something that’s about to turn but hasn’t got there yet. Like I said, interesting.

Nov 202129Mon

Well, to be honest I’ve already finished the 5 litre mini keg, but now that I’ve had a couple of glasses from the main keg I thought I’d best make a note to say that 3 weeks of conditioning still hasn’t cleared it. Although it does taste fairly nice.

Oct 202129Fri

There’s not much going on at the airlock, and the top of the brew has lost all traces of foam. SG weighs in at 1.001 for 8.5% ABV and the taste is quite dry, certainly less sweet than last time. I think another day or two and we’ll stop this, but it’ll need clearing up as it’s still fairly cloudy.

Oct 202124Sun

Fermentation picked up well after a day or so of pitching the yeast starter, and the airlock bubbled away happily for 3 days at 1-2 pops per second. Since yesterday it’s slowed down to just 1 pop every 4-5 seconds, so I took a gravity reading: 1.004 for about 8.1% ABV.

The colour’s lovely and the taste … is not bad, but there’s still a strong flavour of grapes rather than wine, and some sourness, although there’s sweetness present too. It’s too sharp for Patience, but I’m happy to finish off the contents of the sample jar without protest.

What to do now? I think that if I stop fermentation with a Campden tablet then we’ll still have the sweetness, but also the slightly sour edge which might translate to a rough finish with ageing. Let’s leave her to it for another couple of days so that the yeast can clear up after itself, even if it means losing some of that sweetness.

Oct 202123Sat

Well, that was weird. I poured a glass of Runt from the keg in order to check up on carbonation progress, and it was totally flat yet impossibly sweet! Not believing my taste buds I offered it to Patience for a second opinion, and she not only praised it highly but declined to return the glass – a first if ever there was one.

When I poured myself a fresh glass it was much less sweet, and almost back to the expected levels of dryness, i.e. sour. Thinking about it for a moment, it became clear that when I added the sugar to the keg and then poured in the cider it must have not mixed properly with the sugar, which had sunk to the bottom and was the first thing that was dispensed via the dip tube. Interesting.

Having guessed that we were now back to square one in terms of sweetness I mixed 300g of Xylitol with some water, which I then poured into the keg before well and truly agitating it. 24 hours on and it tastes uniformly sweet after several glasses, and now there’s some headspace in the keg we’re also beginning to see first signs of carbonation.

#wisdom: 300g of sugar is about right for 10 litres of cider (so 600 – 650g for a Cornelius keg) but it needs to be dissolved in water and thoroughly mixed in, not just chucked into the keg before cider is filled.

Oct 202115Fri

Had a sneaky taste of the Runt today, supposedly 4.7% ABV by now and the curve is starting to flatten out. Smells nice and doesn’t taste strong, but could do with being slightly sweeter so let’s stop it now before the rest of the sugar disappears. Added one crushed Campden tablet to the 10 litre bucket, leaving it for a few more days to see if there’s a tangible effect on the curve.

Incidentally, the Tilt report SG as 0.997 but I forgot to measure using the traditional hydrometer. Will do that when kegging.

Sep 202101Wed

Cracked open the 19 litre Corny keg just now and served a glass of Yeti using the Stout Spout – very nice stouty pour with lots of velvety bubbles, but then it felt kind of flat. I think this is the reason I stopped using this spout last time I made Yeti. I’ll persevere with it and maybe get some second opinions.

Anyway, the taste is just fine and maybe a touch more earthy than the last time I brewed this. Nice notes of roast coffee and a very fine hint of chocolate or malt.

Aug 202106Fri

We cracked open the 19 litre Cornelius this evening to accompany a Balti, and I must say that Sarka is just great! Not 100% clear yet but very tasty, with only a slight hint of the hoppy bite you’d expect from a Bohemian, and a perfect head of very fine foam. There’s no hint of alcohol at all which is surprising for a 5.1% brew, so I guess we’d best watch out for this one. All-in a very nice beer, just a shame it’s not a bit clearer. So far, so good.

Jun 202129Tue

Taste is pretty good here now that it’s had 3 weeks to condition fully, but I’m slightly underwhelmed by the lack of carbonation. There’s a hint of head, some very slight fizz on the tongue, but all said & done it’s not quite enough for a lager. I think next time we can increase it to 2g of Dextrose for those 330 ml bottles, maybe even 2.25g.

Jun 202124Thu

Yeah … not that great. I had hoped that the small amount of twang that I noted on my last (undocumented) taste would have conditioned out by now, but it’s still there on the periphery. Doesn’t ruin the beer, but it’s nowhere near as clean and crisp as the draught version. Hope it goes down well when we hand it out just under two week’s time.

Jun 202116Wed

It’s been a month since this was moved out into the cold, thought I’d neck a cheeky one to see if we’re onto a winner or if I’ll be handing out duds at the July shoot. Glad to say that it’s just fine; only the very faintest hint of twang on the nose and palate, maybe a touch too much carbonation at first but it soon settles down – unlike that Grapefruit IPA I’ve still got knocking about somewhere.

I seem to remember from my first taste of Bure Gold, another one that will be handed out in July, that it wasn’t quite ready yet, and could do with a few more weeks. Well, Wherry has now had a month of conditioning and Bure Gold just two weeks, so I’m going to make a note to check in on BG on 1st July.

May 202131Mon

We had some friends over last night to help us taste Thirst Scratch using a formal triangle test: each participant received three opaque plastic cups containing two samples, and then had to guess which two were the same before awarding points for aroma, taste, and feel.

Our two friends correctly identified which of their drinks was the odd one out, and when they expressed a preference for taste they chose the DH variant. They also chose DH in preference based on aroma, but it had to be pointed out that one of the two variants wasn’t going to be as strong as the other, without which this difference may not have been noticed.

The results from this test mirror my own thoughts based on the samples I’ve enjoyed from both kegs over the past week or so; DH has a slightly more complex taste and definitely more aroma, but that’s not to say HFR is unpleasant at all, just … different. One of the drivers behind HFR is the ability to add finishing hops while limiting exposure to oxygen – in theory – so I guess the experiment may yield different results were it to be conducted several weeks or moths later. Must make a mental note to do that with the bottled stock.

May 202131Mon

I had a cheeky snifter just a couple of days ago and that’s when I decided that the keg pressure needed to be increased because this brew seemed flat. Having sat at 30 PSI for 3 days I’m pleased to say it’s now much, much better, and so I’ve taken it back to 15 PSI, which is going to be my new serving pressure unless I find there’s too much carbonation in the lighter ales.

Line Change

Also helping Yeti along is a change to the beer line. The tap I’m using was the last of three not to have a 5/16 section between the 3/8 sections needed at either end, and was still using 18 inches of too narrow 3/16 instead, which throttled the flow too much and didn’t give me the range of adjustment I needed on the tap’s flow control. For some reason this was more accentuated with the stout, and so I swapped out the narrow stuff for 5/16, thereby matching the other two taps. Now I have a good amount of control via the tap itself, and don’t need to rely on line length in order to get the right serving pressure, allowing me to have a slightly tidier kegerator.

Phenomenal Taste

Back to the brew, and I have to say this stout’s amazing. A deep and complex palate of malts, coffee and chocolate, velvety mouthfeel, and luxurious texture in the head, which now lasts all the way down. One half pint is probably enough to round off a school night and you certainly don’t want more than two of those – absolutely perfect for an imperial stout. On a side note, the bouquet is not 100% aligned with the taste. It contains all those coffee hints but also a very very slight suggestion of yeast, which in itself isn’t unpleasant, just unexpected. Ageing may remove this, but ageing is unlikely with something this good.

The only question in my mind is whether or not it actually needs the extra 2.5% that I was going for in the original recipe, or whether that would just turn it into one of those ridiculous bigger-is-always-better American approximations. Strength seems fine to me, taste is more than adequate. I do know I’ll be brewing something like this again soon and if I can refine my sparging technique I may be able to unlock those extra gravity points – will be interesting to see what it’s like then.

May 202103Mon

I pulled 5 or six bottles into the fridge since they hadn’t really begun to clear in the garage, and the one I liberated hence looked exactly the same. Carbonation is OK but could just as well be dialled down 20%, taste is bitter with a very slight hint of twang. Mouthfeel smooth and pleasant without being overly complex, very good head retention. Another two weeks and this one will be almost as good as the kegged version.

May 202102Sun

Had another Second Extract Blonde just now and today the carbonation seems spot-on, with absolutely no twang at all. Not sure what the temperature is but it was straight from garage on a day when it’s around 11 ℃ outdoors. I would have liked just a touch more hops, but as it stands this would be a good ale for somebody who normally likes lager.

Apr 202122Thu

Decided to crack open the mini keg of Foxdale Gold with some Chinese today, and what a treat! Really pleasant aroma of ripe hops, very fresh clean taste, hoppy, with a slightly bitter lingering finish. Comparing this to Second Extract Blonde (my preceding extract attempt) this has definitely got slightly more hops and a more flavoursome body. The only thing lacking is clarity, with even the second and third pint still quite hazy. She’s had 3 days of cold-crashing and 12 days in the (refrigerated) keg – shouldn’t it be a little clearer by now?

Apr 202119Mon

Not sure if this is the first taste since I seem to be one bottle shorter than I remember (oops!) but after starting First Scratch this afternoon I felt I needed a reward.

Long story short: 20% too much carbonation (although it wasn’t fully chilled) and a great taste, with just a tiny hint of green twang shining though. I recon that will be more hidden if served properly chilled, and will likely subside with time anyway. Everything considered it’s a good copy of the kegged version, but not quite as good as draught. Will see what the others are like in a couple of weeks.

Apr 202105Mon

It’s been three days since the last sample, thought I’d dip my beak in again to see how this one’s getting on.

Cloudiness is still there, as is the lovely hoppy nose, and there’s a well-rounded bitterness where at the start was a touch of … I don’t know, “grassiness” … ? It’s slightly more drinkable than it was 3 days ago, and it wasn’t exactly bad then. A touch more clarity would be nice, though I wonder if in waiting for that to happen I’ll lose some of the hop aroma.

Parting thought: still too much foam. It’s been sitting at 10 PSI these past three days and I’m reducing it to 8 PSI until it calms down a bit. 30 was way too much at the start, not doing that again.

Apr 202102Fri

Decided that after today’s successful brew day I deserved an early go at this one. Way too much foam even once dispenser is chilled, maybe I shouldn’t have held it at 30 PSI for 2 days before dropping the pressure to 10.

Foam party (and some slight cloudiness) aside, the taste is very good and has a lovely hoppy nose. The body feels as though it may improve a little with another week or two, but it’s going to take some willpower to leave this alone that long.

Overall very positive.

Mar 202110Wed

I’ve been fretting about this one since my first test at the end of February – what if they’re all ruined? Well, needn’t have feared. This lates sample has good clarity, a very malty, hazy flavour, and – above all – some carbonation!! Not quite enough for such a high ABV beer (in my opinion) but certainly enough to make it drinkable. To give it credit I’m not supposed to go near for another 10 days, but signs are good again.

Tripel clearing up nicely

Feb 202128Sun

OK, so I couldn’t wait. There are still 20 days to go until this brew should be ready to taste, according to the manufacturer, but I’ve had my fill of beer for the night and while searching the garage for a cider to finish on I tripped across this box of Belgians, patiently waiting underneath a KTM. Why not wrestle one out and rip it open?

Clarity looked promising through the brown Steinie and when I popped the cap there was a reassuring ‘snick’ – but that was it. No carbonation at all, flat as a pancake. To think I was worried about creating bombs when I over-carbed this halfway through January! Really disappointed by the lack of bubbles. The flavour is OK; maybe a very small amount of twang and an obvious hit of alcohol, with strong malt notes and only a slight handful of wheat – another disappointment. Then again, there’s only so much wheat you can put in at 8% ABV before it gets mis-sold as malt, IMHO.

All of these flavours are fine, or they would be, if only there was some actual fizz to add texture. But no. Nothing. I’m hoping that I grabbed a duff bottle but chances are against it. It’s a real shame since I now have regulated CO2 on hand to carbonate to any level I want without relying on secondary sugars, but I don’t know how I’d get the bottle contents into a vessel without exposing to oxygen. Who knows, maybe I won’t have to write this batch off, depending on how the next bottle turns out. Maybe I will.

Feb 202126Fri

Since the Fermzilla defrosted following its accidental brush with permafrost a few days ago I’ve been gradually creeping the fridge’s temperature dial down again, and it’s been on maximum cooling for two days now. The dial on the spunding valve has been reading 5 PSI for a couple of days which should give me 2.0 vols at 2.0 ℃, so I was a bit surprised to find almost no carbonation when I poured a glass straight from the FV just now. I upped the pressure to 10 PSI prior to serving and got a perfect amount of foam, but there’s no real fizz in the glass, which is a shame.

On a positive note, the colour is amazing and once it’s in a pint glass it looks much clearer than it does in the Fermzilla. There’s a good aroma of hops but the taste isn’t as hoppy as the nose leads you to expect. I’m tempted to dry-hop a bag of Citra for a couple of days, but then again since this will be my first kegged brew I’m going to stick with the original plan.

Speaking of which, it doesn’t seem to be clearing up any more than it has a couple of days ago, so I’m going to keg it ASAP. The hold-up until now has been the fact that I need to deep-clean and then passivate all my new stainless toys, including the B40Pro that arrived a few days ago, and I want to do that in one session with as much re-use of chemicals as possible in order to save costs. This brew will be just fine in the chilled FV for a couple more days … if I don’t drink it first.

Feb 202119Fri

I opened one of these two days ago under a mixture of curiosity / impatience, and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. So much so in fact that I decided I need another one tonight.

The aroma is sweet like Honey Porter and there’s a touch of mellow maltiness to it, but also a hint of iron contributing to well-rounded mouthfeel with lingering notes of caramelised nuts. It’s better than a kit brew has a right to be, and I’m wondering if I’m seeing this at its peak of if the best is yet to come. As it stands I’ll gladly brew this one again, and wouldn’t change a thing.

To be continued …

Feb 202119Fri

Three weeks of conditioning should be enough – crack one open!

Update 02 March: I’m seven bottles in now and have just opened an eighth, this time choosing a yellow cap and opening it over the sink in view of my note-to-self made at bottling time. Carbonation was indeed more than necessary but by no means a gusher, and the amount of citrus is just right. I don’t think I could drink more than a pint of this on any given night, but the landlady reckons its fine; not too bitter but a bit on the fizzy side.

Question is, will it hold? I’ve heard that the fruity kit beers are best consumed early because the character fades quickly with time. We’ll have to wait and see.

Feb 202113Sat

After yesterday’s positive test I couldn’t resist the temptation to try another one from this batch, this time a Hoppy. Same cloudy appearance and good carbonation, strong taste of hops, thankfully no twang here either.

In hindsight I reckon 20g of Cascade would have been enough for 4 litres, as it’s quite a strong taste and not as citrusy as I was hoping. The 30g I used probably prevent this from being a true session ale even though it’s very pleasant to drink. Question is, would 20g be enough had I used Citra?

Feb 202112Fri

What am I doing trying this already, just two days after it’s started conditioning? Well, I wanted to see what she’s like now versus when she’s cleared, if there are any nasty flavours that will get worse or will condition out, and because at only 3.7% ABV it’s a perfectly acceptable thing to open at 18:00 on a Friday evening.

Turns out they’re pretty good! I had a Dippy one, and there was plenty of carbonation resulting in a good head straight from the bottle. Nowhere near clear and yet there’s tons of sediment cruising the bottom, some of which made it into my glass despite best intentions. Flavour is very nice; none of the home-brew twang that I was afraid of, and a simple, clean taste that would probably be improved with a touch of malted grains and finishing hops.

This bodes well for Hoppy, which I’m also going to test over the coming days. If that turns out well then I’ll brew another 8 or 10 litre batch with plenty of hops using my new stainless mini bucket from SS Brewtech, which I’ll be able to purge of oxygen thanks to the new CO2 kit.

Feb 202110Wed

Not bad, not great. There’s less of a synthetic taste about this than the two concoctions I brewed up purely from Tesco fruit juice (Summer Turbo and Farting Thrush) but that ‘fake’ palate is still there underneath our own cider, and not entirely welcome.

Right now I feel as though next time I’ll use half the amount of external flavouring as I used here, and I’ll try to make that external flavour something natural, wether it’s fresh cherries / berries or at least fresh-frozen. This stuff is drinkable, but not great.

A bottle of the sister brew, Blueberry Orgy, has been given to a friend along with a bottle of the Mangrove Jack’s Blueberry Cider on which it was based. Will be interesting to see what kind of comparison he makes.

#wisdom: don’t use too much flavouring, especially from artificial sources. 2 litres of juice mixed with 2.5 litres of cider was overkill, and one litre would have been enough.

Feb 202107Sun

Sneaked a quick 500 ml bottle tonight before moving onto the cider, and although it’s not quite clear yet (only been conditioning for 8 days) it’s really not too bad. There was a small amount of residue in the neck but no off-flavours, good amount of citrus notes thanks to the prevailing grapefruit taste. Carbonation seemed OK; not a gusher but quite fizzy on pouring, in-glass bubbles accentuating the citrus and mouth-feel. Looking good so far!

Edit: I just checked the bottling notes, and as my sample just now had a red crown cap that means it received 2 carbonation drops, which is the recommended amount for this size. The yellow crown caps had 50% more, and judging by the bubbles in this bottle that could mean a problem. Let’s open those near the sink, eh?

Feb 202103Wed

It’s been a great evening. Our first outing to the range since the second lockdown was lifted on Monday, four great rounds shot, and two pints of MPA – one while bottling my first extract brew, another over excellent chicken & chorizo Jambalaya dinner. What better way to finish than with a comparison between two dry-hopped ciders currently hiding in the fridge?

Mangrove Jack’s Dry-hopped Cider

Great carbonation right off the bat, absolutely perfect for this type of drink. Looking back over my notes I see that each 50 ml bottle had two Easybrew carbonation drops, but so have plenty of my beers and none of them has this amount of fizz. Must be a cider ‘ting.

Taste is perfect at first hit, the hops adding a definite flavour of their own which is unlike anything else you can put in cider. Just wonderful. Sweetness is also great at the start, then you begin to wonder halfway through what it would be like with the sugar turned down by 50%. Not that it’s cloying or overly syrupy, you just get the impression that it would work equally well as a semi-dry or a dry cider. Repeating this at different levels of sweetening shouldn’t be too hard, as I recall there was a small sachet of sweetener to be added before bottling, with instructions to add half for a semi-dry cider and add all for a sweet cider. I added all because it was a ridiculously small sachet for 23 litres of brew, but next time I’m going to try just half.

Orchard Orgy Type 22a

My second hoppy dose of apples this evening, and this one’s a deeper shade of greeny-amber (damn this colour blindness!) with a totally different feel and taste.

First off it’s the carbonation, and there’s a whole lot less of it. Looking back over my notes just now (and in the bin, to get the bottle’s number) I see that I bottled 37 x 500 ml in total with various amounts of sugar and carbonation, but my bottle is #38 and it’s a 275 ml Heineken, one of the runts from the bottom of the bucket. (the other recent trial was probably #39) With no record of how much sugar and carbonation I added to this one it makes the comparison rather pointless … erm … yes. But to be repeated! *

Worth noting however that the cider in our own Type 22a tastes much more like real cider, and I’m not just saying that because I helped press it 131 days ago. There’s a scrummy, scrumpy complexity that you just don’t find in the extract concentrate, and I can’t wait to sample & compare some full-size bottles of this stuff over the coming weeks.

Oh, and the hops? Different too, and not as prevalent here as in the MJ version. Each had 50g of Citra added before bottling (MJ 2 days, 22a 3 days) and I’m inclined to put a difference in taste down to the type of cider that we started with rather than the extra day that was afforded to the Citra in 22a. It’s almost certainly something to do with our apples, most of which were of the sweet variety as opposed to dedicated cider apples.

… and the winner is:

Undecided. Let’s revisit once we know we’re comparing apples with apples, at which point I’ll get some photos and a second opinion.

* Scratch that – just read my notes properly and apparently the Heinekens had 2 carbonation drops and 10 ml sweetener. Well, they were flat, and tasted as though no sugar was added. Neither of those facts bodes well, though I suppose there’s the outside chance that the caps didn’t go on 100% right on the Heineken bottles, which have small shoulders and felt iffy during capping. As always, fingers crossed.

Jan 202131Sun

Decided to sneak a cheeky 22a in after our Rogan Josh tonight, seeing as there were two 275 ml Heineken bottles that seem to have lost their way between the server room and the garage, ended up in the fridge for 2 days.

The bottle I liberated had no sediment in the neck and only a very small amount in the bottom, which is interesting since being a 275 ml unit it would have been from the end of the bucket when I didn’t thin I’d have enough to fill another of the usual 500 ml bottles.

It may have been the MPA or the Guinness (or the curry) that went before it, but this Orchard Orgy Type 22a was absolutely sublime, and knocked the spots off the Kingstone Press which followed. There’s something about the inclusion of hops which lends a piquant crispness that’s extremely difficult to describe, especially after four beers, two ciders, a curry and a Guy Ritchie fillum. I do hope that the strange deposits I saw in the other bottles aren’t going to pose a problem, because this one’s a corker.

Jan 202130Sat

Been in the warm for 2 weeks now, time to put her out in the cold for at least 7 days to clear.

Since I was at it, why not sample one? Look, there’s a cheeky little Heineken number that nobody’ll miss. Forgot that this was one of the over-carbonated ones, receiving nearly twice the recommended bubble-magic for its tiny 275 ml size. Unsurprisingly it was a bit of a gusher, spewing up a relentless fountain of bubbles from the base, turning the already unsettled contents ever more turgid. Managed to catch about half a small glass and it didn’t taste too bad – maybe a bit yeasty and very grapefruity. Once these settle down a bit in the cold they could be quite nice, I just hope that the small amount of high-tide sediment in the necks isn’t anything to worry about, just like the white sheen on the bubbles before bottling.

Jan 202126Tue

Had a couple of these lately without carbonation. What’s going on? Maybe I should check if the caps can be spun before opening, as I can’t think of any other reason why these should be flat.

Jan 202126Tue

Opened one of these as an end-of-evening drink the other night, and it’s OK. Not great in the same way that a sweet perry or cider would have been, but not terrible either. Carbonation was spot-on and there was a hint of alcohol, though nowhere near the 6.5% that’s actually in there.

The only real detractor was the same, slightly synthetic, syrupy finish that was also present in the combined ingredients, which took some of the joy and depth out of what I was hoping to be a fantastic outcome. Then again, it’s probably a matter of crap in, crap out: 5 litres of cheap sugary gluff from the supermarket isn’t going to transform into a hipster’s elixir, no matter how much yeast and sugar you add.

I’d like to repeat this mix one way with real fruit ingredients and maybe a more considered choice of yeast, until then it’s probably going to stay in the garage until we need a novelty beverage to put out a summer BBQ.

Jan 202125Mon

Enjoyed the taste, but there was no carbonation at all. Flat. I’m wondering if it’s a case of the wine yeast that was added on December 5th having reached it’s maximum alcohol tolerance and not being able to digest the carbonation drops in order to produce CO2?

The fact that was made a FG of 0.996 leads me to believe there was still something going on in there, and besides – doesn’t wine regularly get to 14% ABV? Don’t know enough about that process (or this yeast) to make any assertions, but I’m keeping it up there as a possibility. Two consecutive flat bottles should rule out leaks at any rate.

Jan 202122Fri

Summer Turbo. What can I say? It’s like a cider for millennials who don’t like apple. Lots of sugar, plenty of alcohol. Carbonation is spot-on for this type of drink, taste is 100% synthetic instagram-inflatable with no off-flavours and no twang. The Mitsubishi Evo of home made alco-pops, the Subaru of home-brew. I like this very much, but in a quiet, personal kind of way. Dirty and unapologetic. Back of the closet.

A success? Possibly … can’t seem to remember the criteria right now. Anyone seen my pants?

Jan 202122Fri

This has had just over 8 weeks of conditioning now, and I’m guessing it’s about as good as it’s going to get. Which is very good indeed; deep red colour, perfect clarity, ideal head retention, good carbonation. Taste is great, though there is a tiny amount of twang left, and that’s hard to quantify. Would you say this is Beer of Britain, an accolade it achieved in 2015? Probably not. But that’s my failing, not Tiny Rebel’s. On the other hand, if I were on holiday abroad and this is the only ale on the menu, I’d have 3 or 4 successive pints with no hesitation at all. Perfectly enjoyable.

Ideas for Next Time

Looking back over my notes I see that there’s a couple of hydrometer readings with excessive surface tension, which may have led to slightly off numbers and slightly iffy timing. I also suspect that closer attention to fermentation temperature won’t hurt.

Jan 202122Fri

This has been conditioning for 5 weeks now so I thought I’d try another one in order to see if the last of the twang has disappeared. I’ve drunk a total of 6 bottles so far and they do keep getting better, but there’s a running theme of slight under-carbonation common to both those bottles marked with 2F and those marked with 1C – 2 Fox’s drops and 1 Coopers respectively. By no means flat, it’s probably within tolerance for this type of ale, but I’d place it at the lower end of acceptable. Maybe I’m drinking it slightly cool at 9.9 ℃.

Colour is very nice right now, and clarity on par with anything I’d expect to get in a pub. There’s a lot of autumnal flavour on the palate with an acceptable amount of malt and lingering traces of honey. I don’t remember if this is what Wherry tasted like on draught as it’s been a very long time, but I’m very happy with this as a session-opener.

Ideas for Next Time

  • Maybe a little more carbonation?
  • Get better at reading the hydrometer. There is a 2 point difference between the good and bad readings taken 12 days in, and that can make a difference when it comes to flavour.
  • Temperature was quite high at the start, ambient and ultimately that of the wort. Tighter control of actual fermentation temperature might help in future.
17 days after bottling: Woodforde’s Wherry

Jan 202120Wed

After 10 days of conditioning I can safely say that Mangrove Jack’s Dry-Hopped Cider is a resounding success. It’s as sweet as it needs to be (maybe add marginally less sweetener next time?) with no twang, no syrupy finish, and an indefinable, magic ‘green’ quality that just has to be the hops. This will be the best thing in the world on a hot summer’s day, on the beach, with a bucket of ice and something nice to look at. Cheers!

Jan 202120Wed

Popped one of these last night and must say it was very nice; great fruity flavour with only a very slight syrupy finish that will probably abate over the coming weeks – after all it’s only been 2 weeks since these were bottled.

What was most impressive was the lasting level of carbonation – absolutely perfect for a cider drink that’s served straight from the fridge over ice. I note that two Easybrew carbonation drops were used per bottle, so I’m now a little worried about those brews I’ve bottled since where I’ve used more than the recommended amount. Let’s hope I’ve not created any gushers!

Jan 202114Thu

Can’t believe I lasted just 3 days before trying one of the precious eight – it’s not even ready for tasting for another two weeks! Blame the three Evil Dogs that slipped by in search of Bangers & Mash tonight. Still, awesome flavour (the 25b, not the ‘dogs) albeit entirely devoid of any carbonation. Did I drop anything in before bottling? Writing the flatness off as ‘too soon’ because I’m lazy and have high hopes for the next bottle.

Bottle #7 of 8: RIP.

Jan 202111Mon

This is pretty sharp. Not acidic or bad, but you have to be in the frame of mind for a tart (fnar-fnar) or a Sour, otherwise this will disappoint. Based on this I think we’ll keep producing unsweetened ciders in future but we may try to stop them sooner in order to retain some of the natural sweetness rather than adding it back in with non-fermenting sweeteners. But will it be possible to carbonate them if fermentation is stopped before bottling? Need to research that one.

More Carbonation?

Speaking of bubbles, I see from the notes that each bottle had 2 carbonation drops aimed at 500 ml and while this cider is certainly sparkling it’s nowhere near the level of a sparkling wine. Might be worth paying attention to other stuff we’ve bottled and tagged as over-carb in order to get a feel for how far we can push it – maybe 3 drops would have been possible without risking explosions?

Jan 202111Mon

This has mellowed a little since the last one I tasted, but there’s still a tiny bit of twang. The carbonation is much better and results in a nice head which hangs around for a while as you drink. Colour’s good. Still pleased with it.

Jan 202105Tue

Not the first one – I’ve had eight of these now – but certainly the first one which hasn’t featured an almost overpowering rawness, a definite twang that’s probably due to the 14 days with finishing hops before bottling. This still isn’t great, but makes me think that I should have a little more patience and let the remaining bottles condition for a couple more weeks before trying my next Razorback.

On a positive note, there’s no complaints regarding carbonation from any of the three bottling variants in this batch, which means that the crown caps did their job despite some of them being loose enough to spin with bare hands just after bottling. Which is nice.

Dec 202031Thu

Just cracked open a Wherry that was bottled with 2 Fox’s carbonation drops, and although there was a slight schnick as the cap came off I didn’t find it too fizzy at all, pretty much perfect for an ale in fact. It hasn’t cleared fully yet and there’s a very slight twang about it, but it poured cleanly leaving minimal sediment and the overall flavour is pretty damn good.

Dec 202030Wed

Cracked open our first bottle of this brew in Port St. Mary last night, and it was fantastic. Hardly any twang, just pleasant notes of honey and malt. Very easy to drink too – I’d still have two pints despite the sweetness before moving onto something else near the end of an evening. Very pleased with this.

Dec 202025Fri

We kept two bottles back from the batch that moved to the garage today in order to have a cheeky sample before Christmas lunch. Both had 5 ml of non-fermenting sugar added, one Xylitol and one Erythritol, both primed with one Fox’s carbonation drop aimed at 500 ml.

It wasn’t a true one-on-one comparison since we’d shared one bottle with ice before opening the other, but we couldn’t really tell much of a difference between the two – though Jackie thought the Erythritol was more apple-y and had slightly more carbonation. What was indisputable was that 5 ml of non-fermenting sugar results in a cider that’s toward the dry end of the scale but perfectly enjoyable. This doesn’t bode well for the unsweetened bottles, which may be on the sour side, though I’m now looking forward to finding out if the 15 ml versions – our sweetest variant – is going to be sweet enough. I hope so, because 15 ml of sugar is quite a pile for one bottle.

To be continued …

Dec 202009Wed

It’s been just over two weeks now since Cwtch was moved to the garage for conditioning, and since I note from the key dates that she’s supposedly ready I thought it best to open a bottle.

Not that different from the one I cheekily popped 11 days ago after just 4 days in the garage, perhaps this one (36 of 36) is a tiny bit less twangy and a slightly better head, background fizz is just fine for an ale but would be disappointing for a lager. Maybe that too will improve with time, but as it stands right now I’d be happy to regularly neck one of these without too much of a struggle.

Dec 202001Tue

Very premature but I couldn’t wait, so I cracked open one of the two “half bottles” on the pretext that there was too much air in there and it’d be a shame to lose them to oxidation. Greeted by a satisfying schnick on opening, there were slight signs of carbonation at first which then built to a steady stream of small bubbles, keeping a respectable head (for an IPA) the whole time it was in the glass.

Taste was OK; a well rounded mouthfeel somewhat on the sugary, slightly bitter side, but that would have worked well if I’d added those finishing hops much later. Letting this settle for a while when I move it to the garage in 4 days time also won’t hurt. Might have to try that other half bottle before the official tasting … just to be sure. ?

Nov 202028Sat

Decided to open a test bottle of Cwtch this evening on my way between Okell’s MPA and Guinness West Indies Porter, despite it having been in the garage at 7-9 ℃ for just eight days. What’s the worst that can happen?

Not much, apparently. It’s perfectly clear already, and there was a slight schnick as I popped the cap, so some carbonation has clearly taken place, but I was expecting a little more from bottle #34 with 2 Fox’s drops aimed at 500 ml. Can’t see the yeast doing much at those low temperatures though, so unless I bring her indoors it’s probably not going to get more fizz. Could be interesting if I have to move bottles about in future.

In terms of taste there were some lovely blackberry notes and a very slight smokiness, like roasted chestnut ice cream. No, I can’t explain that either, but it’s lovely. It’s also a little sweet and, dare I say it, unrefined, but not enough to distract from making a very enjoyable pint. Another couple of weeks and this will be excellent session material, though I do wonder if it needs a week somewhere warm in order for the yeast to do its thing.

Overall a very pleasant experience, given the short amount of time since I started this one.