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Review of William Warn's 'Bohemian' Pilsner beer kit


I decided to try the Williams Warn Bohemian Pilsner at the suggestion of a keen home brewer.

Williams Warn’s version of a traditional Bohemian Pilsner is touted as having “a rich, complex maltiness and a crisp finish”.

So that’s the challenge for this home brewer, can I produce a beer as described?

What is a bohemian pilsner?


There are basically two kinds of pilsners, the German and Bohemian. The difference between the two is often the  geographicsource of their ingredients.

Bohemian brews are said to have a more malty character that the German version and so I guess that's why WilliamsWarn is mentioning it in their product description.

Let’s talk about the actual kit


The kit includes a 3.75 pound can of pre-hopped Premium Bohemian Pilsner liquid malt extract, designed by Ian Williams and crafted at Lion Brewery in New Zealand. 

Lion is of course famous for producing it’s own world conquering beer, Steinlager.

I combined the beer kit with WilliamsWarn’s own DME pack which I think from memory was 1250 grams or about 3 pounds.

The yeast was the Fermentis Saflager W34/70 lager yeast which is a popular brewing yeast for lagers that originated from where else but Germany.  

Brewing the kit


The brewing was a pretty standard affair following the usual beer brewing practices, the only thing of note was I added some cascade hops. I should more properly use a noble hops such as sazz but the cascade was all I had!

I suspect this combination may give me a potentially fruity taste which could contradict the intended crisp taste that’s sought but we’ll see.

Let’s talk about the yeast


The first thing I noticed about the yeast packet was that it had approximately twice the amount of yeast of any other beer kit that I’ve ever used.

So I was not surprised when less than two hours after pitching the yeast I walked back into the man shed and heard the barrel happily bubbling away quite strongly.

I looked into the yeast a bit further and learned that the Williams Warn claims 'When you pitch these yeasts into your wort, you’ll see activity within hours.'

So their claims were true and that totally gives me confidence that this beer kit comes from a brewer who actually knows what they are talking about.

Good stuff.

The brew carried on bubbling very strongly  for three full days at a pretty good rate and then it slowly wound down.

Into the bottle goes the brown liquid


Bottling day came 6 days later.

The beer smelt and tasted good. 

I bottled into a variety of 750 and 500 mls bottles.  

I also tried to use as little sugar as possible as I’m quite conscious that I’ve had a few too many gushers of late.

That’s just a waste of beer and money eh?

So what's the verdict on the beer?


The pilsner proved to be quite a tasty drop. It had a nicely balanced body and left a great after taste.

Despite the addition of cascade hops, their effect was quite minimal. I perhaps should added more.

Being a pilsner it was drunk nice and cold, which is just what you need for some summer drinking. 

It also gave good head, which is always pleasing... 

How did the beer compare to Williams Warn's description? Did it have a “a rich, complex maltiness and a crisp finish” as touted by the brand?

Kind of!

The beer certainly did have a malt taste that I would not expect of a pilsner but that could be the effect of too many years drinking mass produced pilsners.

As for a crisp finish, I would not describe my brew as having one, none-the-less it was a very drinkable beer. 

And what of the beer's look?

Indeed, I made a fine, deep golden beer.

I would happily brew this beer again!

If you want more than my word for this beer kit, check out the reviews for it on Amazon.

My unsurprising beer making success with Te Aro's Obligatory fresh wort pack


Brewing an Obligatory Pale Ale

My unsurprising beer making success with Te Aro Brewing Co's 'Obligatory' fresh wort pack


I was lucky enough to catch up with Nathan from Te Aro Brewing Company (we used to be workmates at a fairly well known internet company some years back) and to meet the brewery's founder Karl Kayes.

The brewery has a front-of-shop known as Brewtopia, wherein they shared with me a taste of some of their wares.

Nathan offered me a sample of their Oligatory pale ale beer. A fine tasting beer, I offered my compliments. He then blew my mind by offering me one of Te Aro Brewing Company's 'Obligatory' fresh wort packs to try out and review.

Obligatory fresh wort packSuch is my sophistication when it comes to beer making, I'd never heard of a fresh wort pack before but soon enough I was lugging around 20 litres of ready made Obligatory wort back home.

On arrival my wife looked at me with some suspicion.

What had  I brought home in this mysterious black container.

Petrol? Insecticide?

No darling, beer!

So, I grabbed the fermenter and gave it a clean and then sanitized with some sodium percarbonate.

I was extra particular about this process and I rinsed it all out with boiling water. There was no way I was going to let this special treat from Te Aro get ruined by poor preparation! This took me about 10 minutes.

Before I started this cleaning process I actually got the yeast going by adding it to a glass of warm water. The yeast was the popular home brewer's choice of Safale US-05.

So, now it came time to prepare the beer.

I emptied the 20 litres of wort into the fermenter, making sure it splashed around quite a lot to ensure the wort got some oxygen into it (this helps with fermentation).

It was a nice light drown colour and not as thick as I imagined it would be (probably as I'm so used to making brews with beer kits).

And then less than a minute later, I was ready to pitch the yeast.

It was almost too easy.

I put the lid on the fermenter and added the airlock.

I did not add any hops at this stage. Not my normal approach, but I intended to follow Nathan's instructions as best I could so I added the hops at day 5.

So straight away I was able to see the benefit of using a pre-made wort - you save a lot of time, there's no need to go and buy a beer enhancer or DME and it's a lot less messier than dealing with a beer kit.

Indeed, there's no mess with a wort pack!

You can actually recycle the wort pack container by taking it back to Brewtopia on a brewing day for a new wort and a wee discount as you are using your own storage device!

Nathan recommended that the brew be stored in a dark place with an average temperature of between 14 to 22 degrees centigrade and that 16 - 20 is best. I'll be frank, I have no idea what the temperature was but I left it in my warm kitchen for 48 hours.

I then transferred it to my man shed outside and covered it in a whole pile of old sheets and towels.

Classic move eh?

At this point I noted that no bubbles were coming out of the air lock, nor did I observe any scum or residue lining the inside of the fermenter, early days though and the lack of bubbles after two days does not mean I have a brewing disaster on my hands!

At day 5 I added the hops - a combination of some delicious smelling Nelson Sauvin, NZ Cascade and Motueka. On opening the fermenter's lid I was now able to see a great layer of bubbles and scum so clearly something good had been occurring.

So now it was a waiting game to let the brew do its thing.


Bottling day


I prepared the Obligatory on the 27th of September and bottled two weekends later on the 9th of October. This was a couple of days shy of the time recommended by Nathan but whatever, close enough!

Bottling was a straight forward exercise and I was very diligent with sanitizing the bottles.

Now it's an even longer wait!

So while I wait, let's talk about ingredients of the beer and whether fresh wort packs are worth it.

Wort pack ingredients


Malt: Gladfields American Ale Malt, Gladfields Pale Crystal, Gladfields Toffee Malt,
Hops: Nelson Sauvin, NZ Cascade and Motueka

I gotta tell ya, that combination of hops was one of the most delicious smells. I kept them in the fridge until it was time to add them and everytime I opened the fridge, I got the most delightful whiff of them.

Pricing and whether a fresh wort pack is wort(h) it


So what's the cost? Let's be clear, this is not a cheap product. It's a quality product so expect a quality price of $70 for the wort.

This also includes the Safale yeast and the hops which should make your wallet feel a bit better.

There is no need for an enhancer because Te Aro Brewery has made the wort such as they would make their Oligatory to sell to their keen punters and the local Wellington bars which want quality craft beers to serve their fickle* patrons.

If you compare that to a using a beer kit, fresh yeast, extra hops and an enhancer, you're looking at approximately $40 a brew (that is if you use a lower range beer kit). So that $30 odd dollar difference is buying you a beer quality well above what may be achieved with a standard beer kit.

It's also buying you time.

It took only a few minutes to get the fermenter clean and the yeast pitched into the wort. And that was the longest part of the whole brewing exercise.

So if you are time sensitive, a fresh wort pack is the way to go.

Let's be clear, I'm not knocking beer kits, I think they are great!


The verdict. How did the Obligatory taste?


I'm not a patient man, I could hardly wait a week, let alone three to try the Obligatory.

So, I tried one a week after bottling.

I gotta tell you, I had some high expectations around this brew and I was not disappointed.

This was a most excellent tasting beer, even only after a week of conditioning. It possessed a bold, hoppy taste.

It felt oakey in some way, which sounds pretentious but it's not.

It has an excellent mouth feel with some good body.

It's a very easy drinking beer and I look forward to enjoying it further with the first BBQ of the summer season.

I firmly recommend this to any beer maker who is looking for a quick way to make genuine quality home brew beer.

Update - after a two week conditioning period I had another crack and the flavours were even more amazing. This is probably the best tasting beer I have ever brewed. 

I'm sold Jimmy, where can I buy the wort kit?


Brewtopia sell their wort online, so grab yourself one today - you can always visit and have a yarn with the brewing team.

You can also sign up to Te Aro's Wort Pack email list so you'll be in the know when batches are ready.

*fickle, yes I said that. Beer drinkers can be the worst snobs. 

How to stop cloudy home brew from happening


Cloudy beer can suck visually, but why does it happen?


I did a batch of beer and nicely conditioned it and on pouring, it came about cloudier than usual.

It looked like a wheat beer that had been mixed with saw dust.

Tasted alright though, but I wondered what had caused this to happen? Usually my brews look deliciously golden.

  • Was it because I made a mistake brewing?
  • Did I get the temperature wrong?
  • Was my yeast off?


Well, the truth is cloudy home brew beer is a common thing and it can occur for various reasons.

First up, as you are bottling your beer, you may notice that beer can be cloudy. This is a very normal part of the process as the beer hasn’t fully become beer yet.

As you bottle, you add some form of priming sugar. The residual yeast in the bottle will feed on that sugar and carbonation war occur. As the sugars are consumed by the yeast, the yeast will fall to the bottom of the bottle and the beer will go "clear".

You’ll obviously be able to tell this has happened as your beer will not be cloudy AND there will likely be some sediment at the bottom of the beer bottle.

Leaving the beer in the fermenter a bit longer than you might usually do so gives your beer time to clear even more.

By letting the yeast do its thing for a longer time, your beer will taste better too.

Do you know what the best trick is to avoid cloudy beer is? 


A careful pour from the bottle will usually avoid stirring up the sediment which causes a cloudy glass of beer. 

This is especially so if you have got a perfect level of carbonation – an over sugared beer means more bubbles which increases the chance of the sediment being stirred up into your pour.

If opening your beer causes the beer to go cloudy because the bubbles stir the sediment up too much, I've found cooling the beer in a fridge for 24 hours can help prevent this quite well.

You can also use finings to 'clear' your beer of unwanted proteins what can also cause cloudiness.

Cooling and refrigeration


One of the reasons why beer does go cloudy is due to improper refrigeration timings and techniques.

The process of storing beer is called laagering (sounds like lager eh?). Lagers are lagers because they are best stored cold.

Nordic Vikings learned this method years ago when they laagered their beer barrels in cold caves over the winter or something...

Refrigeration of storing beer in a cool place helps to clear beer rapidly.

The science behind this is at lower temperatures it is more difficult for the yeast, tannins and proteins in the beer to remain suspended.

Cold stored beer will clear much more rapidly than beer stored at a normal room temperature.

If you intend to laager your beer you must wait until carbonation has occurred. If you cool your beer too soon, you run the risk of disrupting the yeast from its secondary fermentation process and carbonation may not occur (or it will be very slow to do so).

Fining agents can reduce cloudiness


A number of fining agents can be added to the finished beer that will aid in clearing the beer quickly.

These agents work by attaching themselves to the yeast, tannins and proteins to help them precipitate to the bottom of your fermenter or bottle more quickly.

Plain gelatin can be used quite well. Dissolve it in a warm sterile water and add it to your fermenter a few days before bottling.

Polyclar is also a popular product to use.

I also have a sneaky suspicion that gelatin in jelly beans also works to help clear the beer.

Chill haze and the 'cold break'


You may have heard of ‘chill haze’. This is a really common cause of beer cloudiness where the wort has been boiled and the cooling process has not generated enough ‘cold break’. 

The cold break is the proteins from the beer that are precipated to the bottom of the beer by the cold temperature.

Using a copper wort chiller allows for an effective way to get more cold break forming and thus reduces the chance of chill haze in your finished beer.

German wheat beers are often cloudy and that's just the way it is

If you are making a German style wheat beer, it is natural for a wheat beer to have an element of cloudiness.

Some beers, like German Hefeweizens, use yeasts and ingredients that make the beer cloudy no matter what you do.

So how do the big breweries avoid producing cloudy beer?


It’s a simple trick.

Commercial brewers filter their beer. From it they take all the live yeast and basically bottle a “lifeless” product. The beer you brew and drink still contains live yeast so there’s a much more likelihood of a cloudy home brew happening.

The beer like Steinlager that you buy from commercial brewers (and even craft beer breweries) will have been be filtered.

Another handy trick that the home brewer can do to improve their beer is to use a fining agent. 

The agent is usually a form a gelatin or moss (!) and it binds to the yeast and other particles in the beer and drags them down to the bottom of the beer to take their grave as sediment. 

A cloudy beer isn’t the end of the world but hopefully this will give a little insight into why your beer is cloudy and how you can try to clear it up the next time that you brew.