Brew Day – Black IPA

Brew Day was Saturday, as it turned out. I was hoping to fit this in earlier during the week – but dienst ist dienst und schnaps ist schnaps and, well, work has continued to keep me fairly occupied these last few days. (Unless, of course, dienst ist schnaps – though that’s a different blog post entirely!)

This brewuk kit (once again accepting orders, BTW, though the Black IPA seems to have disappeared, amidst a general run on kit stocks across all UK suppliers) closely follows a recipe in Greg’s own Home Brew Beer and it was good to have a bit more technical information from that about the malt bill and also the contents of the individual hop packets in the kit. (Incidentally, the idea that lockdown is turning us all into a nation of home brewers is, I think, a most wonderful thing.) Brew day went pretty well, albeit not without a few alarms, and 4.5 litres of Black IPA are now fermenting happily away in my demijohn, airlock bubbling nicely and a bit of krausen already building up after only about 18 hours in the fermenter:


(Now tucked away nicely under the office desk where it’s quite a bit darker but, nevertheless, precisely the right fermenting temperature. Incidentally, I love the way the demijohn reflects back the rest of the office (including your photographer/blogger) in a kind of ‘fish eye’ style and makes it look cavernous!)

The use of real (dried) hops in this kit was a nice touch, rather than the pellets I’ve used before, while the 1.3kgs of malt made me realise that I’m gonna need a bigger sieve (a second, smaller one was (quite) quickly pressed into action but I still needed to drain the wort, and then sparge it, in batches. Brewing in a bag is probably a good idea – also from the point of view of keeping back some of the trub which you can see settling out at the bottom of the demijohn: going to need to be very careful there when the time comes to getting the demijohn to the bottling line.

Also, it would be a really good idea to measure the original gravity – the starting point for working out the beer’s eventual ABV – after topping up the wort to the batch size with more liquor – I achieved, on my measure, 1.074 which is waaay above the 1.054 I expected according to the recipe and this made me wonder how I’d managed to get such a potentially super-strong beer until I realised that there was a timing issue involved. The books really ought to make that point a bit better. I did seem to lose a lot more wort from this brew than previous attempts during the boil so, in technical terms, the efficiency of this brew was pretty low – I was considerably under before adding more liquor to the demijohn, even accounting for spillages as a result of trying to keep out as much foreign matter as possible. It’s a really good idea to keep a pre-boiled kettle of water at pitching temperature close to hand. And then measure the OG.

Next stage will be to add some dry hops on Wednesday – though adding them through the neck of the demijohn (I have no second fermenter) without introducing oxygen into the liquor is going to be a challenge although the lightweight nature of hops means I probably shouldn’t worry too much. And, I can’t get them out once in, which is also a bit of a concern.

Worry and stress is probably not the natural state of a home brewer. We’re a fairly laid-back bunch and, where we’re not, we need to learn to be, chiefly by remembering the core principles involved about why you do what you have to do – which is where your original research comes in. But some degree of, well, anxiety is probably inevitable where the potential for things to go seriously, catastrophically wrong – even in a process that is entirely straightforward – is sizable on top of a time commitment which is pretty substantial. My brew day took me, for one reason or another, from about half two in the afternoon to about eight in the evening during which time not a lot else can be done, when you’re not being called upon directly, than simply watching over the pot(s). Still, it’s all good learning and experience for the grander things that are planned 🙂

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