Friday is fast becoming the brew day of choice, for all kinds of obvious reasons, and this week saw me brew a small batch of Elvis Juice, according to a knock-off recipe courtesy of the Brooklyn BrewShop, a US-based start-up dedicated to good beer and good food.
Compared to my last brew, where the kit production was lavish, full, colourful and absolutely engaging, the kit here was, well, somewhat sparse: straight out of the box we have about a kilo of reasonably well-sealed malt, some hops (in pellets, this time – double vacuumed) and a barely-sufficient sachet of yeast (a little above 3g, this time). Brewing instructions – look on the website; flavour notes and tips – none. Hmm. Albeit that ‘Erica and Stephen’ wish me, via the label on the outside of the box, a happy brewing, while the Brooklyn BrewShop website is also happy to advise me in detail on what else I can do with my spent grains (and not only more granola). Probably, I suspect, it’s a good job that I’m reasonably familiar with what I’m doing as regards the brewing process at this point…
Future breakfast cereal (this time, using maple syrup, drawn from the Brooklyn BrewShop recipe, in place of honey and sugar).
Actually, this was an incredibly smooth brew day with everything proceeding more or less totally according to plan (Dear Reader: it’s not always like this). Bigger challenges will await, of course, but the point of using small kits is to prove technique and make mistakes before these get a bit more costly. However, this being a US kit, we now have a bit less than a proper gallon (around 3.8L) of good quality beer now sat contentedly bubbling away under the office desk, and the rhythmicality of which is a helpful reminder of the solid patterns of life and engagement in the time before now.
For those who don’t know the beer, Elvis Juice is strongly characterised by citrusy, grapefruity flavours – the brewing recipe calls for the addition of grapefruit, too – it’s a ‘grapefruit infused IPA’. However, most of the flavour comes from the hop mix, with US Amarillo and Citra hops to the fore, alongside the piney contribution of Simcoe. As a wee test and, as ever, influenced by the Reinheitsgebot, the German laws requiring the purity of beer (even if rather controversial as regards the purpose and, these days, somewhat open to interpretation), I decided to omit the grapefruit, intending that the hops should do their work (in conjunction with the malt and the yeast, and the liquor) and stand for themselves as regards the flavour of my beer.
Brewdog – formed only in 2008 and now, following the prospective sale of Marston’s, already the largest independent brewer in the UK – isn’t to everyone’s tastes. This is the case as regards the flavours of the beer – which can be a little unexciting to a modern, continuingly progressive palate versed in passion fruit saisons – or as regards the more controversial financial/ownership aspects of the business. (Not for nothing was Brewdog one of the first to turn its production over to making sanitiser in the current crisis. But at least it did.)
Nevertheless, what is undeniably clear is that, as regards the actual process of making craft beer, Brewdog is very open about its brewing recipes, having open sourced them back in 2016, long before Private Eye got – understandably – involved, and with the specific intention of encouraging craft brewers at home to have a go and make something better. You can, indeed, DIY Dog and, in terms of the flavour of the beer, tell the company at one of its regular events where it is going wrong. With 261 open source recipes, this may well be ‘craft beer nirvana’, although it’s also clear that most of these are small batch one-offs, trials (and probably quite a few failures) and which clearly did not find a regular market as part of the core range. All you need is an online supplier of quality, fresh raw ingredients (malt, hops and yeast) – and there are plenty of those around, even if some are, currently, somewhat challenged by the adverse environment in which we find ourselves. And, I reckon, a good craft brewer needs no more than probably five recipes – or beer types – in their armoury which can be done reliably, and well. Innovation is all well and good – and refreshment and replenishment of the armoury needs to be encouraged – but there are also many problems with a post-Fordist analysis of brewing based on endless variation. Identifying those five recipes is, of course, where there is room for debate; and that is evidently where the magic of choice lies. I have my own thoughts, obviously.
My kit is a little simplified, missing out the Magnum and Mosaic hop elements of the full Elvis Juice recipe – though it’s absolutely fair to comment that, on the basis of a 3.8L kit, less may well be more in terms of the hop contribution at this level. But, building a nation of brewers has to start somewhere and a bit of simplification is probably a good thing: at this level, SMaSH (single malt and single hop) has a lot commend it. Some dry hopping awaits in a week or so’s time, just to punch those citrus flavours home – but, with an astonishingly good brew day behind me, this is another beer whose results are, the outcome of fermentation and bottle conditioning pending, keenly awaited.
Edit 24 June: according to this thread, it might be better to see DIY Dog as a starting point, rather than reflecting a case of Brewdog having given away their actual recipes…