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Kit lager with Riwaka hops and Golden Syrup


brewing lager with riwaka hops
I sniff around a couple of homebrew Facebook groups and every time a beginner pops up asking for a really simple beer recipe for using a kit, this dude pops up says something like:

"Mate, I've had some amazing brews with a lager, riwaka hops and golden syrup!"

I was like, hmmm. 

Would this really work?

I prodded the guy a little bit and he then added that he also would use a beer enhancer. 

Which makes sense as enhancers really do wonders for your beer's performance - both in body, taste and mouth feel. 

So, I put this idea to the test. 

I used the following ingredients for what I'm going to call the Golden Riwaka Lager recipe :

·      Black Rock's Lager Kit and standard yeast
·      One whole packet of Riwaka hops
·      One 300 ml bottle of golden syrup
·      One beer enhancer which contained dextrose and DME.

To clarify, golden syrup is treacle, not molasses, nor maple syrup. 

I prepared the brew as per standard beer practices - cleaning and sanitizing the fermenting drum with sodiumpercarbonate, using boiling water and making sure my stirring spoon was nice and clean.

I made my wort and then I dryhopped the whole packet of Riwaka hops pellets. Gosh, they smelled like beer heaven. At a pinch you could probably substitute some Saaz hops as Riwaka was born out of the Saaz variety but the point of this exercise is to try what the random dude on social media suggested...

I then wrapped the fermenter in some old sheets and left it in my man shed for a week. 

The first day I went in to check that fermentation was occurring, my nostrils were swamped with that delicious hops smell that had just enveloped the whole room and I could hear the airlock bubbling away quite happily. 

Winning. 

So, after one week the bubbling had died down to a slow occasional blip, so I decided to bottle. 

I've recently been doing a bit of a cheat when it comes to bottling my beer. Despite recommending it elsewhere on this site, I've become lazy in a sense. What I do after each bottle has been emptied of its liquid gold, I rinse it out at the kitchen bench, adding in some washing up soap and using the bottle brush as need be. 

The bottle then gets a spin in the dishwasher. My theory is the heat from the dishwasher kills any nasty germs that are lurking. Be clear though, it's not likely much hot water is getting into the bottles to help clean them, it's the heat that I am after. 

I then store the washed bottles in a 50 litre washing basket with a sheet over the top and use as required.

If I start to notice a few bottles tasting a little off, I know that it's time to do a proper santisization where the bottles are soaked in sodium percarbonate for a couple of hours at a minimum. 

Phew, we wondered off the track there a bit!

Where was I?

Ah yes bottling.

I batch primed the brew with 80 grams of sugar, capped the bottles and put them back in the shed for some alone time in the dark.

Now, I know that the seasonal warmth coming into summer is not really the ideal time for making a lager. Anyways, this patient brewer will wait and see how my Golden Riwaka Lager pans out.

-

So, it’s been a couple of weeks and I’ve had a chance to sample the batch.

I placed a bottle in the fridge overnight and sampled it with my dinner. 

Holy shit, I made a damn good beer. That random dude on social media has stumbled on an amazing combination of ingredients.

lager with riwaka hopsIt's a little fruity as the hops are quite strong. It has a good mouth feel for a kit lager. It feels fresh on the mouth and as a real summer beer vibe. 

It looks like the 80 grams of sugar was just right as the beer has good amount of bubbles that continue to rise up in the glass. 

Given it's nature, this beer is definitely best served cold. 

Would I brew this again? 

Most definitely but I would reduce the hop level, a whole bag of Riwaka feels like overkill but that's down to personal taste. The choice is yours. 

How to get that bottle washing done quickly!

how to attach a brush to a drill for bottle washing

Not a bad way to help get those glass bottles clean!

Bottle washing sure can be a chore but with a bit of DIY, problem solved.

Take your bottle brush, cut the end off and then add it to your electric drill as you would your drill bit.

You do need to make sure that the brush is well set into the drill so make sure you have enough width for the drill head to really clamp down on.

Photo Credit: Ryan @ Home Brew Blog NZ

The horror, the horror of Garage Project's decision to withdraw Death From Above

death from above garage project


"Death from Above" has been one of Garage Project's most well known beers for a couple of years now. We've extremely enjoyed the odd bottle when we've had the cash to spare for it was a pricey wee brew, often cited at 12 dollars a bottle in the Supermarkets of Wellington.

It was officially described by Garage Project in it's tasting notes:

"Big, juicy, death. The ultimate combination of fruity, herbal, spicy, and citrus. DFA is largely herbal on the nose with the Vietnamese Mint rearing to go, being pushed up and out of the glass by the also bold mango aroma."

And it was paired with a label which had flash backs to Vietnam War era imagery of a Helicopter reigning Death From Above with Napalm.

It quickly became a very popular beer around Wellington and beyond.

Well it used be popular until Garage Project brewer and co-founder Pete Gillespie completely lost his nerve and withdrew his companies most popular beer from sale as a result of a single contact by an Australian woman.

Brewer Pete Gillespie is reported by Stuff as saying that "ending the beer was his personal reaction to the letter from a Australian woman of Vietnamese descent."

He's also on the record as saying "She wrote a very long and detailed letter to us explaining how upset she was and how the imagery and name had triggered things in her."

I wonder if this woman has also written to every Hollywood film producer who ever released a movie about Vietnam. I wonder if she has written to every author of everybook about the Vietnam War? Has she asked for any books or films in her local library to be removed so that young children are not triggered too? Has she written to Netflix to ask the to stop streaming it's war films?

It's my view that while one can defend movies and books as really exploring the issues surrounding Vietnam as being more 'proper' in taste and treatment of the issue, the moment you publish for profit, everything is in the camp, whether it a beer or the Platoon movie.

I appreciate the letter writer may well have some residual issues with her possible experience with the Vietnam War (it's not made clear and the use of 'Vietnamese decent' suggest may may have born in Australia) but come on.

Unlike Death From Above, Gillespie appears to lack some balls.

What's quite amusing is that when the beer was first released to the market 4 years ago, it was met with some quite verbal resistance from the Returned Servicemen Association.

At the time of release the RSA president Don McIver, who served in the Vietnam War, said he found the advertisement "cheap" and "disrespectful", although he noted New Zealand never used napalm. "It seems to me this is almost celebrating it. It's terrible stuff - I don't agree with it."

Garage Project's other co-founder Jos Ruffell responded at the time that the promotion was "a playful pop culture reference" to to the classic war film "Apocalypse Now". That movie famously opens with an attack which uses napalm.

So let's get this straight.

On release of the beer, the RSA, a respected New Zealand society group that represents soldiers who fought in the Vietnam war makes their displeasure known and Garage Project responds by say it's just referencing a movie.

But now when an AUSTRALIAN of Vietnamese decent says she was 'TRIGGERED', they take their beer off the market?

It just makes Garage Project look like hypocrites and their decision is almost a double insult to the RSA!

We imagine Death from Above clones are about to become pretty popular recipes!

I note that Garage project have deleted all references to the beer from their website however by the power of google cache, I found a deleted blog which actually covered the inspiration of the name:

"The beer was originally going to be called Hopocalypse Now, a hoppy pun pop reference to the cult movie by Francis Ford Coppola. The only problem was that there are 12 other Hopocalypse beers in the world. Perhaps one more wouldn’t have mattered - but not everyone agreed with us. So we made the decision to change the name to Death from Above, the motto of the US Airborne Division, a lateral reference to the famous Ride of the Valkyries scene from Apocalypse Now… and the name of a jolly good band into the bargain"

The post also said "It was never meant to be a controversial brew. It is just meant to be a good beer."

So there's that.


Maybe Gillespie and Reffell can reconsidered their decision and come back with the originally intended name?

Either way, based on comments around the social media traps, I suspect that Garage Project has lost a small amount of goodwill.

There is another possible, less 'genuine' reason - simple marketing and brand promotion.

 It could be that Garage Project have decided withdraw the beer from the mark - maybe it was too expensive to make, not actually selling well. To make this call by way of 'The Letter' gives the brand some publicity - and a chance to increase short term sales before they sell out of the drop - and thus giving extra interest in what ever new beer the team has up their sleeve.

Time will tell. 

Article has been edited slightly in response to some thoughts raised on social media.

Brewing ideas for a Winter Christmas

winter christmas brew ideas

Mistletoe and Wine?

No, it's time for some brewing if you get the chance!

But what are some good brews to have a crack at over Christmas?

Depending on where you live, you're either in the heart of winter or you're enjoying t-shirts and shorts under the summer sky.

But if you're at the top of the world, perhaps somewhere in the latitude of the North Pole, winter naturally suggests that it's time for some winter ales!

A winter Christmas the diet might consist of figgy puddings, mince pies, toffee treats, caramel chews and the odd bit of dried fruit. And these food items contain 'note flavours ' that can be fairy good in an ale.

And that's not to forget cookies, mulled wine and other spices like cinnamon and orange zest.

All these things and more can go into your winter beer.

So what am I blathering on about?

Basically I'm suggesting one could make a beer which matches the food fare served on Christmas day!

Let's start with the basics. You're going to need to consider what your 'base beer' should be. Here's some traditional ideas for a Christmas or winter brew:
  • Ales!
  • Stouts, Porters
  • Wheat
  • Scotch Ale
  • Old Ale
  • Dark malty beer!
  • Nut Brown Ale
  • An old fashioned doppelbock 
One you've decided on the base you need to think about how you are going to impart some of those holiday season flavour characteristics.

There are several options to choose from...
  • Spice Up Your Life was not just an amazing mega hit song for the Spice Girls, it's a way of life for many brewers. The beer most suited to the addition of spice is a moderately dark, alcoholic beer (often an Old Ale) that has a good body to complement the cold weather and choice of spices. Just make sure you don't add the spice from Dune or your eyes will go blue! Certainly. never over spice your beer. 
  • A Belgian-style ale can be flavored with cherries and honey. Goes well with waffles, I'm told.
  • This next one may seem odd but people do seem to love a batch of Christmas cookies and if for some unfathomable reason you want your beer to taste like a biscuit, make a sweet ale and a hint of lactic acidic to get that 'warm biscuit feel'. If you're brave add a hint of maple syrup.  
  • If you're going for that classic Christmas cake vibe, why not try using some dried (or zest) citrus peel (orange and lemon), or dried fruit such as raisins or plums?
  • Coriander. It adds a lemony, spicy flavor and aroma. Coriander is typically used in Belgian ales, especially witbiers. Crush the seeds well before adding to the wort.
  • Try a combo of a cranberry and orange zest.
  • Gingerbread spices
  • Juniper berries (wanna make some gin?)
  • Mint (actUally this sounds bloody awful - Ed)
  • Mulled wine
  • Chocolate. There's many a recipe out there that incorporates chocolate.

It's important to not overspice your homebrew! How much spice is too much? 


Let's look to what the much vaunted brewer John Palmer says. For his "Ol' Yule Loggy" Christmas beer, he uses 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, and 1/8 teaspoon each of nutmeg and allspice. You can find the recipe in Palmer's Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew.

When should I brew my winter ale?


If you want to be drinking on Christmas Day, we suggest you brew two months in advance.

That is to say, you should get your brew down by the last week of October so that it has time to bottle condition nicely. There's nothing like a well condition ale so ensure you stick to this time table, especially if you want the characteristics you've worked so hard to product to really shine.

A last few points:


  • When brewing your holiday beer, consider that you might want to use as an additional fermentable such as honey, molasses, golden or maple syrup. 
  • What you may want to use less of is hops. This is beacause a beer with too much hops character would contradict the spices. 
  • You'll have to think of a cool name for your Christmas beer. Ruddolph's Revenge, Sozzled Santa, Who ate all the pies? 

Using Baking Yeast to make home brew beer

using bakering yeast with beer brewing

I was doing the shopping last night and I came across a line row of baker's yeast and I wondered if you could use that to make home brew.

After all, I'd heard of beer a craft brewer made from yeast found on his hipster beard, so why not?

So I did some research, and it turns out you can use baking yeast.

The real question is should you?

Craft brewers are probably shuddering at the thought of using a yeast that's normally used to make bread but let's have a look at the idea.

You could use baking yeast for brewing, as both yeasts (beer and baking) are different strains of the same species, saccharomyces cerevisiae. Which sounds like a good starting base!

The difference between the two kinds of yeasts is their cultivation. Each has been grown for the the attributes they bring to the final product. In the case of beer yeast, the popular strains have been cultivated for hundreds of years to hone their specific attributes being flavor produced, attenuation, and consistency.

I found a great comparison of the two: brewer's yeast was bred to produce more alcohol and less carbon dioxide while baker's yeast was bred to make more CO2 and less alcohol.

So be warned using a baking yeast in place of a brewing yeast is like driving a Ford and expecting to drive like a Ferrari!

There is of course, nothing wrong with driving a Ford.

How much baker's yeast to use? 


I've read that 11 grams of baker's yeast per 5 gallon or 23 liter fermenter drum is recognised by many brewers as a fair amount to pitch in.  Too much more will probably be redundant. 

What percentage alcohol does bread yeast make?


Bread yeast tends to ferment alcohol up to about 8% without too much effort, but when trying to produce alcohol beyond this level, the bread yeast begin to struggle, very often stopping around 9% or 10%. And that's actually fine because beers are generally brewed between 4 and 8 per cent.

Clearing baker's yeast


When using this yeast, you just have to be conscious that your beer won't taste as clean or look as clear as beer that you may have become accustomed to brewing.

This is in part because the yeast doesn't settle quite as well as most brewer's yeast does. Careful pouring and chilling the bottles before pouring will help alleviate this somewhat.

If you are bottle conditioning, another trick you could try to clear the baker's yeast, is by cold crashing the fermented wort (often referred to as the primary) and then racking it to a bottling bucket and then bottling.

The reason is that the baker's yeast will likely stay suspended in the beer for a lot longer than brewing yeast does (it has a tendency to be awesome at floccing out and then sticking to the bottom of bottles). The cold temperature will force the baking yeast out of suspension and to the bottle of your beer.

Can I use baker's yeast to make mead?


You sure can. Wine too! Some specific mead recipies state to use baker's yeast!

Using it to rescue a beer


If you're worried your pitched beer yeast has run out of puff, in a pinch you could add some baker's yeast to help get things going again. Just remember by adding a second yeast, the intended nature of your beer will change. If you go down this path you may need to activate the yeast in water before you pitch it, just to give it a helping hand. 

How to save time and make beer bottling easier


There's no doubt that the care and maintenance of beer bottles to ensure a good brew can be a pain in the ass to keep up and get right.

From cleaning the bottles, removing label, sanitising, filling and capping there's a lot to take care of and it can take a fair amount of time to get bottling done.

The obvious answer to save time is to keg your beer but for many brewers, that's a step too far both in the scale of their brewing and expense.

So for those keen beer bottlers, here's 5 ways to cut down on bottling time and getting your beer in the bottle more easily

Sanitize all your bottles at once in a big enough bucket


Sanitizing your beer bottles is a key element of beer brewing to keep those bugs at bay. A trick I like to do is dump all my bottles in a giant plastic washing basket, drop in some sodium percarbonate and fill it all up with the garden hose.

It's a pretty efficient way of ensuring you have healthy clean bottles ready because of you are bottling 23 liters of beer, a 30 or 35 liter bucket will be enough for all the necessary bottles to be covered in percarbonate solution.

The beauty of the sodium percarbonate is that it's 'no rinse' so you just need to empty the bottles and you are good to begin bottling.

So, now your bottles are sanitised, you may now wish to consider batch priming.

Batch Priming Beer to save time


In short, priming the batch is when one adds the entire amount of sugar needed to the fermenter so that when you fill each bottle, you don't need to add sugar as well, it's already in the beer wort. 

It saves you time as you don't need to add sugar to each individual bottle and it also saves you mess as we all know how sugar can end up everywhere when bottling!

This sounds simple right?

It really is. Here's how to do it but for this easy, the consideration of how much sugar to use is really important because if you add too much sugar you will suffer the terrible fate of beer gushers!

How much sugar do I need to prime a batch or beer?


Batch priming benefits from some simple calculations that can be made to get that sugar just right.

If you're using a kit, you've probably used 23 litres (5 gallons) so the focus is on how much sugar you need to use. 

So first up, different beers need different levels of sugar. Advice from people who have brewed many beers suggests that ales need less sugar than lager style beers.

This is because many drinkers prefer a lager to have more carbonation and ales are quite drinkable with less.

Our analysis of beer brewing forums suggests these are the commonly used amounts of sugars to use for priming for a 23 liter brew.
  • Dextrose (Corn sugar) 3/4 cup or 4 or 5 oz / 95 grams
  • Cane sugar 2/3 cup or 3.8 - 4.8 oz / 86 grams
  • Dry Malt Extract - 130 grams
If you are priming with a different volume of beer, I suggest you try this priming calculator.

There's a reason Cinderella's Fairy God Mother used a wand


A bottling wand can help make bottling beer so easy. You stick the wand into the tap. You can then bottle without the need to turn the fermenter tap on and off because the wand's automatic foot-valve can control the flow of beer into the bottle when you touch the bottom of it to the bottom of the beer bottle!

Using a bottling wand also very handily keeps too much oxygen from entering your beer!

Capping your beer - two tools to do it


Beer cappers come in two forms being the hand held and the bench capper, one is easier than the other.

The 'wing' hand held capper


The hand held wing capper is a popular way to cap your beer. Often referred to as universal Rigamonti cappers  or the Red Baron, they are pretty handy and durable to use.

They do have a couple of draw backs - they can sometimes be hard to separate from the capped bottle if you've applied too much pressure and if you do apply to much force, then you can break the glass bottle, which is something that really bugs me.

It's actually very satisfying getting a cap on a bottle properly, there's this sudden 'thump' moment when the crown bends down and forms the seal.

If you get into a good rhythm, you can cap bottles very quickly, especially if you line them up with the caps on the top and go down them like a factory line.

The bench capper method of bottling

The bench capper can be easier to use because it's a simple pull down lever action that one does with one hand whilst the other hand holds the bottle firmly in place. 

If you think a bench capper is for you we suggest that you buy one that accommodates different sized bottles. 

The Ferrari model does exactly that which can be quite handy if your bottle collection is all kinds of different shapes and sized.

Any decent beer cap should have a magnet where the cap goes so that it doesn't fall out just as you go to clamp it down!

So well done, you have easily bottled your beer and hopefully saved yourself some time. 

Your work is not finished 


No, you need to properly condition your beer and that doesn't mean you hide it in a under a tired blanket in an old swap-a-crate box and forget about it for a few weeks. 

Well actually you can do this if you want to be a reckless beer brewer, but it you want beer that you would be proud to share with friends,  there's a few things to think about when storing beer.

Here's some things to think about when storing your beer.
  • It's really good to have a storage place where the temperature is maintained at a steady rate.
  • Ales are condition best at lower temperatures
  • Lagers are happier to condition under higher temperatures
  • The middle of your house is probably cooler than nearer the outside. That could be a factor where you store beer.
  • If you find your beers are in too hot a place, move them!
  • Whatever you do, keep them away from direct sunlight. 
Now let that beer rest quietly for at least three weeks. Before you enjoy that first taste test, refrigerate your beer for at least a few hours. 

Should you use plastic instead of glass to ferment beer?

using plastic for brewing
I saw on the 'net there had been some debate on NOT using plastic fermenters because of the risk of beer infection.

I thought this was a subject worth investigation further.

All I ever use is plastic fermenters and having only ever had once incident of infection which occurred to two different fermenters used in the same batch, I could be confident that I've never had an infection caused by using a plastic fermenter.

So what's the argument from the naysayers?

The reasoning is that given plastic is more easily scratched than glass those scratches can harbor bacteria  So, the risk of infection is greater.

This seems a reasonable argument right?

And the simple solution would be to not scratch the plastic as you are cleaning and sanitizing right?

Given my experience and the fact there are millions of plastic fermenters safely and happily in use around all corners of the globe, then there is nothing much to worry about.

That's provided of course that you follow a proper cleaning process before you add your beer wort for primary fermentation. 


Any decent beer brewer will tell you that the number one key to beer making success is by adopting methodical cleaning and sanitisation practices every time you make beer.

We've covered this need before, but our favorite trick is to use sodium percarbonate and not being shy about using boiling water to kill bugs. Home brewers around the world often swear by the ability of PBW to get their brewing gear brew ready.

So, to be clear I don't see the threat of infection as a reason to not use a plastic fermenter. Sure, if they get too old or scratched the you might totally want to replace one but on a cost basis when compared to glass carboys, they are a lot cheaper, indeed a check on Amazon shows that a carboy is generally roughly twice the price.

Indeed, if you are new to home brewing, the use of a plastic drum is a great way to start where you don't have to worry about damaging the glass!

Oxygen and beer aging


Aging beer is perhaps a reason that you may wish to use something other than a plastic fermenter. The reasoning here is that it's a bit easier for oxygen to enter the beer via plastic than it is beer.

If you weren't aware, other then when first mixing the wort, beer is best brewed with minimal exposure to O2 - and it's the same when bottling your beer as well.

That said the difference in permeability between glass and plastic arguably negligible when you consider most oxygen exchange is occurring through the bung and airlock.

ALSO, if you are trying to mimic the effect of a barrel aged beer using oak, then some brewers do consider that some oxygen will help!

What you could do is do your primary fermentation in plastic and then if you intend to age a stout or whatever for a long time, you can transfer it to a secondary glass carboy.

Also bare in mind that by making such a transfer you do create an opportunity for oxygen to enter the beer.

What ever way you go, you totally need to keep your vessel free from a large amount of oxygen entering as it can assist with the growth of mould or other nasties and we really don't want that do we?

As you can see, it's a vicious cycle of contradictory information!