Saturday, January 20, 2007

The story so far PT 1 - 101

Just a quick update for those of you wondering how the first few runs of Beer Bloke Beer is going.

The very first batch of Thomas Cooper’s Heritage Selection Lager - or ’beer’, for short - is now almost two months old.

Bottled on November 30, and tasted at two minutes past November 30, you will remember that the ‘green beer’ had a slight, though not really unpleasant, bite at the end. After a month and a half we can report that the product is now noticeably better - smoother drinking, finer bubbled, sweet in the front and bitter in the back. It really is heart-warming to see your little ones grow up so well so quickly.

The Pale Ale, or Cascade Imperial Voyage Pale Ale, for long, is maturing at a similar rate, although there is something, here and there, that makes me wonder if we slipped up somewhere in the process. Still can’t quite put a name to it, it’s just a slightly “misplaced” flavour note in the middle of the taste that just seems a bit dud. It does, however, appear to be dissipating with time so we might just store it away for bit and let it get over its’ malaise.

The second batch of Lager will be bottle conditioned by January 24 and we will have a quick taste for note-taking purposes and then put it away for a few months. You may recall that this is the one in which we used liquid malt extract and sugar rather than the dried malt extract. It was also the one which was subjected to higher fermenting temps and we wait to see how this affects the finished product.

Production is now geared up towards building a stockpile and as each batch is bottled we prepare for the next. At the moment this involves buying a bit of the shop stuff for the empties but we’re getting there. It’s tough. We also now have a few mates on board who are keeping us supplied with empties. We have also begun the next phase of the adventure and Dr Lager is beginning to source kegging equipment for the eventual tapping of the Beer Bloke Beer. Watch for the brand appearing in a half-arsed converted fridge near you soon.

Prof Pilsner & Dr Lager

Friday, January 19, 2007



I hope you all had the opportunity to catch up with friends and family over the Christmas break and, more importantly, had the fortune to share a glass or two of your favourite laughing liquid with said family and friends.

The holidays, if you are lucky enough to have more than a few days off, is the perfect time to try a new beer or five - with extra time to sit and appreciate beer, time to cook up a treat that is flavour-matched to the beer and time to recover if it all goes pear-shaped.

The new trend with office or work parties seems to be to down-size everything for political-corrected ness fears of upsetting people and, as a result, less “nice beers” are offered. So it is on your own broad shoulders to get on down to a good bottle-oh or fine liquor purveyor and suss out some interesting and often off beat beers. I have a few places that I would be more than happy to recommend, but I don’t yet have their permission and if I give them a big rap, I want some freebies anyway. Allright?

Apart from the standard offerings this Christmas I enjoyed a very nice Christmas brew called, appropriately, Christmas Cheer. This one comes from the Sydney craft brewery, Redoak ,and is one of their very well constructed specialty brews. Based on the Christmas pud recipe of the brewer’s grandmother it pours a beautiful rich copper-red with a nice thick collar. A heady warm aroma of spiced fruit and sweet sugary air greets the shnozza and beckons you to continue. Speaking of continuance, as the bottle notes promise, the beer actually changes personality as it warms in the glass -flavours develop and round out, spice notes get sharper - so that there is a feeling that the beer is enjoying itself along with you.

Redoak produces a number of this type of brew - complex, fruity and a little different. A while back I tried their Belgian Chocolate Stout. They also have a Blackberry Hefeweizen and a Choc Cherry Stout along with more mainstream style Pilsener, Pale Ale and Vienna red-style Lager. At 250mls each they price up a bit, but then you’re not skolling a dozen, are you?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Brew update 101

The latest batch of Beer Bloke Beer is the experimental first attempt at a constructed brew. Still using a can kit but with the addition of a “beer improver kit” containing extra malts, grains and hops. We chose a Czech Pils kit because, in line with our earlier brewing philosophy, we will both have a fair inkling of what the stuff SHOULD taste like, having downed commercial quantities of most available pilsners. Plus the style is a favourite of mine. So there.

The basic concept of these kits is that the tinned stuff is great for convenience and for economy of shipping and shelving at the retail end, but they are made to made easily and for the enjoyment of many types of drinkers. They can tend, then to be a little light on the aroma, flavour and bitterness scale desired by some drinkers. Drinkers like us. And you, too, hopefully. So to the beer improver kit.

The recipe is simple. And, put simply, if you read twenty books and twenty articles on home brewing using these kits or similar purchased ingredients, you will find twenty different methods. No two experts seem to agree. Which is why you don’t hear the words ‘beer’ and ‘expert’ in the same breath very often. This is, however, a great advantage to brewers like the Beer Blokes. You just cook it all up and chuck it all in and then add the can and then add water and then add yeast and then look for the text that says you have done it all perfectly correctly well.

The method we employed was to boil up a couple of litres of water, add the malt, grains and bittering hops and simmer for 30 minutes. With a couple of minutes to go we added the aroma hops then let it cool a bit, strained the liquid into the fermenter and continued as usual. The kit indicated that this would result in higher SG readings and a slightly longer fermentation time. Before adding the yeast we checked the specific gravity only to find that it came in at only 1035. The three previous batches were between 1040 and 1046 so we panicked a little at this point. But, such is the relatively unwarranted confidence that we have achieved by getting this far and not blowing anything up, we soldiered on and boldly decided to chuck in a half kilo of brewing sugar and see what happened. After a bit, we had powered it up to 1036 and patted ourselves on the back.

I have to say that, despite the stumble, the beer smells really good - very naturally floral and sort of herby - and has a lovely, if bright, bitter edge to it. I will let you all know in about a month.

Meanwhile, if anyone out there has a recipe that exactly mimics our method, feel free to send it on. Cheers.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The New Year Beer - 2 - 101

In spite of testing climatic conditions, the beer is in the bottle and another waiting game begins. The outside temperature hovered around the mid 30’s for the duration of the fermentation and we await the results with just a little uncertainty.

I was able to monitor the indoor temp fairly accurately and was able to keep this to around the mid 20’s with the fermenter sitting at a constant 26 to 28 c. now, this is about two or three degrees higher than the two previous brews and I hope it doesn’t have too much of an adverse effect. The fact that it brewed out quickly - just on five days - is either a great sign, or a reason to panic. I choose to be an optimist. And I will pray to the beer Gods.

Having said all that, I will now pass on some valuable and perhaps beer-saving information that I wish I knew before I did this. LOOK STUFF UP. Read a book, consult a homebrew website or ask your homebrew shop bloke. What I found out -about ten minutes after securing the cap to the final stubby- was this;

“Remember your beers will taste much better if you can keep the fermenter close to 20 degrees Celsius all the time your beer is fermenting.

KEEPING YOUR FERMENTER COOL: 1. In hot weather wrap towelling around your fermenter like a skirt. Gather the top of the skirt into the lid. 2. It's easy to keep it cool. Pour cold water into the recess of the lid. 3. Add water when it starts to dry out. This simple trick will help you keep your fermenter nice and cool on hot summer days. The hotter the day gets, the better this works. If you want to make it colder, set a fan to blow gently on the fermenter and don't forget to keep the water topped up.” This site is a great, easy to navigate and resource rich guide for any homebrewer.

… so now I know for next time.

Friday, January 5, 2007

The New Batch













Ahhh! Another batch only months away!

Thursday, January 4, 2007


To celebrate the underwhelming success of the first Beer Blokes’ Lager - we’re keeping a lid on the hype - the lab has given us permission to let rip on a second round of brewing. That is to say that Mrs Pilsner has said we can use the laundry again as long as I keep it clean and that we have amassed enough empties over the Christmas/New Year break to take the batch. Or batches. We might lash out and brew back to back to back this time to build up our stores for the winter. Any excuse, really.
Dr. Lager is letting his scientific heritage lead us into the next phase of our brew history. His father, Dr Lager Snr, was something of an emminent white-coat in his professional life and some of this analytical, empirical-data led, laboratory-control type of thinking is obviously inherited as he has convinced us to brew another batch of the first brew - The Thomas Coopers’ Heritage Lager - with slight, recordable differences in the production phase so that we can accurately monitor the improvements this will bring to the beer. Sounds a bit wine-guy, doesn’t it? But no, I know that this will give us more tools to do the job of brewing consistently good beer. It also enables us the expertise and confidence to create beer. Hmmm. Besides, another well known and respected sciencey guy from history was also one of the new worlds' first beer blokes.

So, off to the homebrew shop and the adventure continues.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007


As the clock struck midnight I was likewise struck by the warm inner glow that I was surrounded by family and friends on a warm Melbourne evening feeling happy and glad. The food had all gone down a treat, the kids were all having a hoot and, most importantly, the Beer Blokes First Lager had been given the harshest critics’ approval.

To be fair, our mates had not yet been fed when they tried the beer. Maybe there was a nervous undercurrent of doubt ensuring a favourable response. “If I bag this stuff I might get a burnt chop ” kind of thing.

And here is something that always makes me smile. Jimson, the comedian used to talk about it, too. A peculiarly Australian thing is the reverse comment, or negative appraisal. If someone asks, “How’s the weather ?”, the reply would follow … “ Orh, it’s not pissing down.”., or, “ did you blokes win ?”. “We didn’t get pumped.” You can always be assured of what it’s NOT, but not necessarily what it IS. And so the most welcome and quintessentially Australian compliment from a mate upon tasting your homebrew is, “That’s not bad.” And that’s exactly what we got. And that’s not bad.

The brew was actually released to the public, as it were, in two separate locations with two different sets of anxious and well educated beer critics. The first group, at Prof. Pilsner’s place were impressed with the quality for a first up effort. Some had bad homebrew experiences in the past, which may have helped us. But thanks to Billy, John and Sed for their encouragement.

Over at Dr Lagers’ bash the critics were ready and willing and, by all accounts, quite prepared to shoot us down. But, in the end, the beer prevailed and the critics gladly drank their words. Thanks to Liam. Kizza, Harro and Sean for being gentle with us. The boys even came up with a marketing slogan. Beer Blokes Lager - It’s Not Offensive!

On with the next brew, I says.