Tag: Drink

Reading Beer festival food & frivolities

Every year we venture down to Reading’s Beer Festival, looking forward to sampling a little of everything we can manage to fit into our stomachs (especially the pies!). Well it used to be the hog roast, but it was a little disappointing last year, so now it’s the wild boar and mushroom pies! Yummy!

In the previous years I have tried some very tasty beers, ales and mead’s (I am not a cider fan). Probably since those dreaded teenage years of getting ridiculously drunk on white lighting & TNT and now the smell of any cider makes me want to hurl.

Unless you know your ales, it feels like lucky dip at times

Either last year or the one before, my sister bought me this German beer that I cannot remember the name of and nor do I want to remember its name. MY GOD it was foul! It tasted like the sediment you get at the bottom of a well-used BBQ drip tray with a hint of burnt sausage. It makes me very wary now of some those unusual varieties. So it can be a little like lucky dip which to pick, I am so glad they let you try a little sip before you buy, so I now try everything first. Saying that, I did try the BBQ drip tray beer prior to ordering it, but it must have been diluted with lingering sediment from the last drink (well that’s my excuse!).

This year’s changes to the festival, no one liked!!

Nobody seemed keen on the new entrance policy, splitting the event into two sessions. In previous years we really liked being able to turn up just after lunch, then sit out all afternoon in the sun but now they have changed it to close at 3pm and reopen at 6pm which is really annoying. The prime time is between 3-6pm, I am sure there was a reason but in our opinion it sucked! Sherrie was planning to write a letter of complaint just how dissappointed she was with these changes (hehe).

The layout of the one large tent in an L shape and the outdoor seating area did not create the same atmosphere as previous years; it all felt a little segregated. The last gripe on my list is this new system that was supposed to reduce the queues… LOL no we had to queue for almost half an hour before it even began to move!  We all felt this new system should be scrapped!! We would all rather pay an extra pound and leave it as it was….if it ain’t broke, dont fix it!

Brewing my next batch of beer

Well it got me thinking about what to try brewing next, as I am running low of the last homebrew batch, only 8 bottles left out of the original 22. I would like to try brewing mead or maybe something a little stronger this time! Though sometimes I think the Beer festival is lost on me, as I never know what to pick from the booklet/program and I always forget to mark them off with some form of rating, to know what’s good or not for next time. A master brewer I shall never be! Just a part time ammatuer lol!

Suggestions what to brew next?

If you got any ideas or suggestions on what I should try brewing next OR if you know the name of the so called “BBQ drip tray beer” I mentioned earlier, please post your comments below. Not that I ever wish to taste it again, but it would be interesting to know what it was called.

Interesting..Making wild nettles beer!

Making wild nettles beer

Oooh, this sounds interesting! Making beer from wild stinging nettles. You could end up being stung all over if you are not careful haha! I think i would need plenty of vinegar to hand and doc leaves.

I am quite curious to what it might taste like, we could either wait for them to force their way into our garden from under the fence or alternatively go on the hunt.

Here is the link, check it out! http://and-here-we-are.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/making-wild-nettles-beer.html


Brewing our own light beer

DIY microbrewery kit

DIY Beer Brewing! Frugal living…

I have been keen to learn how to make my own beer and for Christmas my sister bought me a wheat beer microbreweries kit. I know it’s a kit with the premade syrup already provided, so the process is much easier than preparing the hops. But I figure, you have to start somewhere learning the basic principles how to “home brew” and this kit just gets the ball rolling.

My efforts most likely will not be as tasty as the beer you buy from the shops, but hopefully this will get better with practice, plus the amount of beer you get, for the money you spend, is a much better Return On Investment (ROI) for only a little effort.

How much does it all cost?

Typically once you have the microbrewery equipment which will set you back around £30-£40, most of the beer kits produce roughly 40 pints and your costs to brew your own beer from a kit is typically:

  • £11-£16 for the beer kit
  • £2 for the extra 1kg of brewing sugar

*From time to time you will need to purchase new sterilising powder or find a suitable alternative.

With both options there are always the more premium brands/sugars that will cost a little extra, but typically it costs around £16.

How much can brewing your own beer save you?

For a pint can (568ml) of Stella Artois in the supermarkets we are looking at roughly £1.25 to £1.59 per can, depending on the bulk buy deals available at the time. If you quickly run the numbers for 40 pints we are paying somewhere in the range below for the equivalent amount of booze:

  • 40 pints x £1.25 = £50!! Or 40 pints x £1.59 = £63.60!!

So already investing a little time, energy and money upfront you can save yourself a staggering 68% – 75% off the cost!!! Or let me put it another way, for the money you would spend on buying beer in the off-licence for 40 pints you could brew between 125 – 159 PINTS!!!

Ok so the art here is to obviously master the brewing process, so that it tastes really good but that’s just a case of practise making perfect!

Ok I’m interested, but how easy is it?

Well I won’t lie, it was my first time home brewing so I was a little anxious that I got it right and aside from a few little mistakes it was surprisingly easy. Anyway before I get ahead of myself, let’s run through the steps!

Brewing your own beer, step…

  1. Sterilising the brewing equipment

    Step 2: Sterilising the brewing equipment

    Apparently I needed help, so I had no choice but to recruit a keen assistant, my father in law Paul. So we set about getting all of the equipment and ingredients together as featured in picture at the top of this post.

    1. 25 Litre fermenting bin & lid (bung & airlock beneficial)
    2. Paddle
    3. Syphon
    4. Steriliser
    5. Hydrometer & Trail Jar
    6. Thermometer
    7. Beer kit & Sugar (or malt extract)
  2. pour in the syrup

    Step 3: Pour in the Syrup

    One of the most important steps is to clean all your brewing equipment in warm sterilised solution in your kitchen sink and let it soak for a good 10-20 minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Otherwise you might end up with fluffy foul smelling growths in your precious nectar!

  3. Top up with cold water & get the temperature

    Step 4: Top up with cold water & get the temperature

    Ah the easy bit, pour in the syrup then add the sugar (or malt extract), top up slowly with 2 litres of boiling water whilst stirring with your paddle.

  4. Get the gravity reading

    Step 5: Get the gravity reading

    Then whilst stirring pour in 20 litres of cold water to create your wort. If necessary top up with a little extra cold/warm water so that its temperature is between 210C-270C (700F-800F).

    Ok before we put in the yeast we need to get our initial gravity reading using our Hydrometer and trail jar to later determine our alcohol content.

    1. With a sterilised jug fill up half a pint of wort (liquid) and slowly transfer into the trail jar until you are about 2 inches from the top.
    2. Slowly lower in your hydrometer, giving it a spin with your fingers as you release to remove the air bubbles.
    3. Let it get its buoyancy and look where the numbers settle on a level with the liquid and note down your (OG) reading. Some people online recommend taking the reading twice to be sure it’s correct.
    4. Pour all the remaining wort back into the fermentation bin.
    Now slowly pour in the yeast whilst stirring away with your paddle, once it’s all mixed in your just about done.
  7. fermentation

    Step 7/8: Find a warm place for fermentation

    LID IT
    There are a couple of different methods here open and closed, but we prefer the option that is less likely for errors (closed) which is also easier for carrying. The downside is that our microbrewery did not come with a bung and airlock to keep things simple; luckily we already had a spare with our winemaking equipment. So prior to sterilisation we drilled a hole in the lid to fit the bung and airlock (these can also be purchased separately)

    Find a nice dark and warm location for the beer to ferment for approximately seven days. For optimum results, it is suggested to leave it in an ambient temperature of 210C -270C. We placed our brew in our airing cupboard, as it was the perfect environment for fermentation.
    After a week, I did a (FG) final gravity test, I got a reading of 11. We are supposed to do two readings in two consecutive days and if the readings are the same then we are ready to bottle up. However, after running through the calculations I realised my beer was only 3.3% Alch Vol. So I decided to leave it for another week.

I was hoping for a reading of 10 or less, but after leaving it an extra week I decided it was time to bottle up, as the alcohol content was not going to get any higher. Next time I will probably add more sugar for a stronger brew!

How to calculate the alcohol content?

Well it turns out that it’s pretty easy using the formula below:

+ 0.5 = approx % alcohol by volume (ABV)

Formula Key:

  • OG = Original Gravity prior to adding the yeast
  • FG = Final gravity after fermentation

So in my case the readings were:

  • 10321010 / 7.46 + 0.5 = 3.45% ABV

Not very high I know, but I have learnt not to be stingy when adding the sugar and add more! As we don’t have a keg to store the nectar in, we had to use plastic bottles that came with the microbrewery kit, so now comes the fun part.

Bottling up your brew!

I think the hardest, most time consuming part of this process is the sterilisation of all the bottles and caps, it can be quite laborious as they also need rinsing properly. Once everything is sterilised, including the syphon (which I forgot to do at first) then we’re all set to bottle.

It can be a one man job, though it’s easier in a two man team, in my case I had a last minute substitute from my father in law, to his beautiful daughter Sherrie! I think this was the part he was most looking forward to, the bottling and sampling! Make sure you are in charge of controlling the flow of beer through the siphon; any extra spillage will accidently fall in your mouth!

So you don’t get too bored reading this, I will hurry along….

We added in 7 grams of sugar into each empty bottle, filled it up with beer, sealed and carefully tipped upside down several times before storing it away in an upright position for its secondary fermentation.

After a week, you are good to go! Pop it in the fridge to chill and voila, sit back and enjoy!

finished beer

The Finished beer! (sorry about the poor photo)

It does recommend leaving the beer to mature in flavour, or keep a couple of bottles back of each batch to mature for several months.

Going further

We are keen to try out different kits and maybe even make our own wort syrup one day. As you can tell we are certainly not experienced beer brewers, but it goes to show that anyone can do it if you are willing to give it a go and it will save you a lot of money over time!

Cheers to all of you scrimpers out there!!

If you have any ideas, suggestions or comments about our beer brewing, please leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you.


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