November 2018 | Karl Gammler
NOW IS a good time to start thinking about having some quality beer ready for Christmas – two weeks in the FV (fermenting vessel) and a minimum of two weeks in the bottle. Bottle-conditioned kit beer does improve with time.
Between 6 weeks and 3 months it’s generally at its best. Here are some tips to help improve a basic kit (extract) beer:
1. Keep a diary/journal – This is the most important thing you can do. I never had consistent results until I started writing things down.
2. Only use quality ingredients/fermentables. Use a recognised brand of extract and try to use at least half light dried malt in your mix.
3. Temperature control. Most ale yeasts won’t develop unwanted flavours and esters when fermented between 18°C–22°C. Aim for 20°C.
4. Seek out a quality yeast. Use more than 1 packet if only using supplied kit yeast.
5. Increase fermentation time – Allow 2 weeks for your yeast to fully ferment out and clean up after itself when fermenting at lower temperatures. Be patient – really good beer takes time – your hydrometer will tell you when it is ready to bottle or keg.
6. Be clean. Unfortunately, there is no way around this step. Cleaning and sanitising will become second nature, but there are some things you can do to minimise labour time.
7. Gain knowledge, seek advice, ask questions, read books, watch videos. I have been brewing for over 15 years and I am still learning every day The most common mistake with budding beginner brewers is to just use sugar when mixing and then ferment at warm temperatures and bottle after 1 week.
There’s no shame in it, we’ve all done it. After all, this is how the instructions told us to do it. (In Germany, it’s actually illegal to put any sugar in beer.) This method will give you something drinkable, but chances are, it will also have that cidery, home-brewed twang.
This method most benefits the makers of the extract, as you will be buying one tin a week instead of one a fortnight. If you need more than one batch every two weeks, get a second fermenter.
One batch and it will have paid for itself, by not buying store-bought commercial beer. Light dried malt or liquid malt extract will improve your beer enormously, along with a longer ferment at lower temperatures and by using adequate quality yeast. Some dextrose is fine depending on the tin and the style of beer you are brewing.
Some dependable ratios are: 800gLDM/300Dex for ales, half and half for lighter styles. Cut your final volume down a bit as well, between 19 – 22 litres. Experiment! Half the fun is creating your own recipes. But don’t forget to write things down! It’s too easy to make that one spectacular batch and then forget your exact ingredients and technique when you try to repeat the recipe.
For help with all your brewing needs, try Andy at Brew By You, 120 Invermay Road. Little John’s Brewing and Fast Homebrew (both on YouTube) also give in-depth advice and tips.
Recipe for Boag’s XXX Ale (red) clone:
Ingredients: 1 tin of Black Rock Draught,
500g LDM, 500g dextrose.
Method: Mix to 22 litres with a good quality ale yeast (Fermentis US 05 will be sufficient). Let it go for 2 weeks at 20°C. This kit does turn out quite a bit darker than the original XXX but it tastes surprisingly similar. If you choose to increase the malt ratio or use Light Liquid Malt it becomes closer to Boag’s Wizards Smith’s Ale. Good brewing!
Photo | Image Supplied