After the success of Simple Beer #1, I had to try again, didn't I?
Having taken feedback from friends and random strangers online, I made a few time-saving and flavour-changing adjustments to the procedure, tweaked the recipe (quite significantly), and here is the result.
Officially, this is Simple Beer #2, but, like any good sequel, it needs a subtitle. Since the actual brew day was 23rd November, 2013, the official 50th Anniversary of the first broadcast of Doctor Who*, I've called this batch "Doctor's Day".
(*Day of the Doctor)
Step 1: Equipment and recipe
First, refer back to the Simple Beer #1 equipment list, but I also made a filter-holder to make life easier, and stuck a magnetic write on/wipe off sheet to the hood over the stove to keep track of volumes.
I also used two saucepans at once - one 3 litres, one five litres
The recipe I used this time was significantly different:
You can buy all you need online, but I prefer to use local businesses to keep money in the local economy. I've found a supplier called You Can Brew It in Diss, Norfolk. Not a huge range of malts, but enough to experiment for months, and it's easy for me to get to, and they have all the equipment you could possibly need. They also cater for cider and wine making from kits or raw materials.
In the UK, brewing materials are often stocked by "health food shops", although they often restrict their ingredients to pre-packed kits.
Step 2: The modified procedure
The first batch of beer was extremely time-consuming, because I worked linearly, each step, one after the other.
Having a little more familiarity with what to expect from the equipment and ingredients, I was able to multi-task this time.
1. Start sterilising the brewing barrel, putting the spoon, hydrometer, bubble-trap, jugs and filter cloth in the barrel at the same time.
2. Put both pans on to boil, both with three litres of water in them.
3. While the water heats, go back to the barrel, and drain off the sterilising liquid. Stand the smaller pieces of equipment in one of the jugs. (I put some of the liquid into the pressurised barrel as well - it doesn't need sterilising yet, but it had developed a stale smell since the last brew.)
4. Pour the three-litre pan into the brewing barrel, and put another on to boil.
5. Pour half the malt into the five-litre pan, stirring until it is all dissolved. Keep an eye on the heat, because the malt causes froth which can easily boil over. When the malt is dissolved, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
6. Weigh out 25g hops, and crumble them in with the malt. Stir until they sink, then simmer gently for 50 minutes.
7. While the mixture is simmering, boil more three-litre pans of plain water in the smaller pan, putting a total of 16 litres of plain boiled water into the brewing barrel. Rest the barrel lid on the barrel between adding things, to stop random objects or bugs falling in.
8. Weigh out another 10g hops, add them to the mix, and simmer for just five minutes. This adds a hoppier flavour to the final brew.
9. Pour the malt & hops mixture into the the brew barrel through the filter jug.
10. Boil up 3 more litres of water in the larger pan, and add the malt and two batches of hops as you did the first time. Filter it into the brewing barrel as well.
You should now have 22 litres of hot brown liquid in your brewing barrel. Put the lid on, and leave it somewhere cold.
Step 3: Clean as you go!
Spills of the liquid, or the dry malt, get very sticky, very quickly.
The best thing to do is to clean them up immediately, with an ordinary cloth dripping with water as hot as you can stand. The malt is basically a complex sugar, and dissolves in hot water.
Step 4: Primary Fermentation
As with Beer #1, when the wort had cooled to just above room temperature, I sprinkled the yeast across the top of the wort, closed the barrel, topped up the bubbler with boiled water, and left the yeast to do its thing. Before you do the same, read the packet of your yeast - some need mixed with warm water before adding to the wort.
Last time, I left it for two weeks. This time, I only waited ten days, to leave more of the fermentation to happen in the pressure barrel.
Another difference this time, I remembered to check the gravity of the mixture before sealing it up.
It came out as between 1035 and 1040 (plain water is 1000), promising a final strength of about 6%abv.
Step 5: Secondary Fermentation
As with #1, after fermenting in the first barrel, I transferred the wort to a pressure-barrel to finish fermenting.
This time, I took extra care to make sure the lid was sealed with petroleum jelly, and added 100g sugar to keep the yeast fed and fizzing. I used soft brown sugar, in the hope that it would add a hint of toffee to the flavour.
As with beer #1, I left the beer in the barrel for about a week before drinking.
This time, though, the brew was quite cloudy.
To solve this, I added a sachet of beer finings. Over a period of about 2 days, the finings make the sediment clump and sink.
A point to note for vegetarians and vegans: finings are made with an extract of fish. I've never known them trigger an allergic reaction in those sensitive to fish (like me), but, if you have issues with using animal extracts, you will have to put up with cloudy beer.
Step 6: Drinking!
Again, to the point of the project...
I was expecting a strong beer, with a fresh hop-filled aroma and toffee undertones.
I got the expected toffee tones, but not the hoppiness. As I noticed during the cooking, the Fuggles hops are not so aromatic as the Challenger I've used before, so the lack of aroma.
The beer is strong (~5%), and quite "heavy" on the palate; for UK readers, this reminds me of local ales in the Borders region, a beer drunk by the descendants of Reavers. It's not a "session" beer, it's one to take steadily. I think it would go well with beef dishes, or even in beef dishes, like a steak and ale pie.
Another successful brew, and another step towards my ideal beer...