Friday, April 30, 2010

Down the drain...

... not beer. Trade effluent.

I had to work out our discharge volumes the other day, so that the nice folks at United Utilities could figure out how much to charge us. It's not a complicated sum, but it's quite instructive. Your mileage may vary.

Of the water that comes in, about 15.5% goes in product (beer) or is lost in evaporation, around 2.3% goes out in by-products (spent grain, waste yeast) and 82% goes down the drain.

I know that doesn't add up to 100, but that's rounding error for you.

Or to put it another way - each pint of beer we produce means we need 6.5 pints of water, and gives rise to about 5.3 pints of effluent.

This is actually pretty good for a tiny brewery. And of course, we're not short of water 'round here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Eeuw, nasty.

I was in a pub recently, drinking some beer that we'd made. It's a particularly flavour-packed fairly high ABV little number with some quite forward esters bordering on the solventy (N.B. this wasn't a mistake - was intended). It had about 10 weeks on oak chips in stainless, then re-racked into our plastic casks where it passed another few months. It's been interesting.

But this one, eeuw, what's that nasty smell? Some people couldn't smell anything wrong. Becky didn't like it but couldn't name it. One person referred to laundry. I smelled damp cellar, musty, something.

I'm guessing that here we have a hint of
trichloroanisole (TCA). You'll observe that this looks a lot like those chlorophenols that come up when chlorine based sanitisers are allowed to come into contact with the beer (or with wood). It might be derived from an undetectable trace of chlorophenol, methylated by some kind of bug, giving us TCA, which is incredibly smelly - detectable at parts per trillion.

Our noses are all different, and thresholds for detection of TCA vary by orders of magnitude, which is to say that I might not be able to detect something that you find utterly horrendous. Also, many people get used to TCA quickly, so after a few sniffs, it might stop bothering you (or not).

It's quite possible that the bad smell had got into the beer via dispense equipment, or was even migrating through beer lines which might be perfectly clean on the inside, if they were in contact with some minging gunk.

To be on the safe side, we need to make sure that our casks aren't building up scale (or beerstone) which might be giving a home to bugs, or impeding the rinsing away of sanitisers.

Since we normally use a chlorinated caustic cleaner which doesn't have anything special to restrict scale in it, we're starting an acid wash on the casks - every few trips. This gave me an excuse to go shopping at one of our excellent local agricultural supply and engineers. I wanted a John Deere hat but all I got was this stupid milkstone remover.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mais qu'est que c'est exactement...

... a black IPA? Let's call it a BIPA. And let's not hear anything about "Cascadian Dark Ale". That's a really stupid name. Although to be fair, one Lisa Morrison gives good argument here The original may have been Rogue’s "Skullsplitter" (and that's not even an original name of course).

So what is it then? Is it original? Is it new? Is it a hoppy kind of stout? Or a very dark kind of hoppy bitter? How hoppy should it be? Like an American IPA? Or not? Should it be roasty?

And all this gets me thinking. What is an IPA? What colour should it be? And for that matter, what is a stout? Does a (dry) stout have to have roast barley? Or at least get a noticeable chunk of it's astringent bitterness from high-roast goods?

I can't answer any of these questions, so we've posed them in the form of "Paint it Black", our take on a BIPA. It's out there somewhere. If you see it, drink it, and report back.

Oh, and is a lightly hopped dark ale a mild? I say yes. Even if dry. We don't make sweet beer. So look out for our "Go! Mild" special, and our regular "Dark Country".

Friday, April 09, 2010

Oh, why didn't I listen to Woolpack Dave...

See, a while ago the big element on our copper cut out during the boil. We managed to limp along on the little one (which will keep the boil going). I can't get at the head where the connections are without moving the copper (that's as much fun as it sounds) out of the corner where that nice Mr. Porter put it, so it wasn't until the next day that I managed to get in there with my trusty roll of insulating tape and bodge things up.

Job done?

Mr Woolpack pointed out that I should have used heatshrink as it's less prone to slip. But I hadn't got any - that's a bit silly. I didn't get any - that's really stupid of me.

And of course, it's just come back and bitten me. i.e. it's gone faulty again. We're not even boiling, there's 650 litres of wort in the thing (weighs a lot) so it's an immovable object.

Back of envelope calculations suggest that it's going to take something like 4 hours to come to the boil, and I'll probably have to boil for at least two hours rather than the 90mins that we usually do. I'm not exactly sure when I'm going to get home, but it'll be late.

Learning is fun!