The First Taste of My First Brew

23 Mar

Five weeks ago, I made my first ‘full-mash’ or ‘all-grain’ brew. I followed a recipe that was supposed to emulate Timothy Taylor Landlord, an award-winning pale ale (CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain 1982, 1983, 1994 and 1999). I had two good reasons for selecting this particular recipe. Firstly, the recipe was fairly simple, mostly pale malt with a little black, and easily available hops – Goldings and Styrian Goldings. The description of the brewing can be found in a previous blog. Secondly, Taylor Landlord is an excellent beer.

After fermenting for a week, the specific gravity was steady at 1.014, so I transferred the beer to a pressure barrel, primed with a little (50g) sugar. The book I was following the recipe from (Brew Your Own British Real Ale by Graham Wheeler, CAMRA Books, 2009, 3rd Edition) recommended leaving the beer to mature one week for every 0.01 of original gravity. As the OG of my brew was 1.043, I waited for four weeks, though not without the odd sneaky sip.

As the beer was supposed to emulate Taylor Landlord, I drank it side by side with a bottle of Landlord that had been kept at the same temperature as the cask.

Brew 1 to the left, Taylor Landlord to the right

Seen side by side, the Landlord was a shade or two lighter than my brew.The head of my brew was slightly whiter and consisted of slightly larger bubbles, though this could have been a result of the method of dispense.

The Landlord was smooth with a warm malty start, and a burst of hop bitterness at the end. There are slight hints of caramel and it is clean and crisp throughout.

My beer, which in a flash of creative genius I dubbed ‘Brew 1’ also starts with a warmish malty taste, and yes, it’s followed by a touch of hoppy bitterness, but nowhere near as ‘clean’ as the Landlord. I thought the hops were far more noticeable about three weeks ago, at my first crafty sip. They seem to have faded a little now, though a distinctly hoppy bitterness continues in the mouth long after the swallow. Also present in the taste are occasional hints of acetaldehyde, though this is by no means as prominent as it has been in previous kit beers that I’ve brewed.

Overall, my biggest disappointment in this beer is that it still tastes rather like homebrew. It’s a subtle flavour complex that I can’t describe, but I’m sure all homebrewers are familiar with. I don’t know what it is. I wish I did.

Having said the above, the beer is tasty and really quite drinkable. It presents well with a bright white head, which lasts well, and only a very slight protein haze. I’m drinking some as I write this.

So, winner? Loser? I’m going to withhold a judgement for now. On the pro side, I’m happy to drink it and happy to offer it to any guests who may visit Alebagger Towers and Brewery. It does taste like beer, it does have a nice malt/hop balance and it slides down quite easily. I’m not going to beat myself up over it, after all, this is my first brew, and young Timmy’s been at it for 164 years.

On the con side, it’s still a bit ‘homebrewy’.

Colour comparison

Next, I’m going for a darker, stronger brew. I’ll report back in due course.

For those interested in the technicalities, here’s the recipe I followed:

The brew is 19 litres.

3510g Pale Malt 25g Black Malt

Mashed at 66C for 90 minutes

Start of boil – 25g Golding hops, 25g Styrian goldings.

Boiled for 90 minutes.

Last 10 minutes of boil – 16g Styrian goldings plus 3g Irish Moss

Mash liquor 8.8l

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Posted by on 23 March, 2012 in Home Brewing


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12 responses to “The First Taste of My First Brew

  1. Boak and Bailey (@BoakandBailey)

    23 March, 2012 at 12:27

    Know what you mean by “homebrewy”. Quite a few of our beers have it, though only the darker ones. Wish we could pin it down and fix it.

    • Alebagger

      23 March, 2012 at 12:36

      Evidently rather naively, I thought I would lose that taste when I lost the malt extract. Hey ho. I’m going to make it my mission to find out what causes it. I’ll let you know. Thanks for commenting.

  2. broadfordbrewer

    23 March, 2012 at 14:41

    Good work and a nice comparison. What yeast did you use?

    • Alebagger

      23 March, 2012 at 14:45

      That’s a good question, and the answer is ‘I don’t know’! Just before I brewed the beer, I was at Quantum Brewery, chatting with brewer Jay Krause @misterjk. I said that I needed to get some yeast and he said ‘Have some of this’, and scooped some moosey foam off a bucket of homebrew hidden behind the fermentation vats (he’s a *really* keen brewer!) I’ll ask him.

      • broadfordbrewer

        23 March, 2012 at 15:01

        Oh right, wow that’s a pretty cool way to start!

    • Alebagger

      23 March, 2012 at 17:59

      OK, Jay says that it’s a Gales/Courage yeast that he got from Marble Brewery.

  3. nosniboR natsirT rD (@ephemeraldog)

    23 March, 2012 at 14:48

    Nice write-up Alebagger, good to see the side-by-side comparison. As for the ‘homebrew’ flavour I don’t have an answer for it. As you’ve commented to me before, most of mine don’t have it, but it’s not something I’ve deliberately engineered out.

    • Alebagger

      23 March, 2012 at 14:52

      I’ve noticed that the homebrewey taste lessens the more I drink. By which I mean that as my barrel has a float, then maybe the homebrewey taste is concentrated on the top of the beer. If I draw the top ‘layer’ of beer off, then the later draws are less affected by it. That makes me think that maybe it’s an oxidation issue.

  4. nosniboR natsirT rD (@ephemeraldog)

    23 March, 2012 at 14:56

    That could be the case actually. The IPAs of mine you’ve tasted were either bottle conditioned or hand-pulled from a polypin with no venting, so very little opportunity for oxidation.

    • Alebagger

      23 March, 2012 at 15:05

      I’ll make that a working hypothesis, then. Next time I’ll vent the barrel after a couple of days and top up with CO2 from a cannister. The problem may be that even with the full batch in the cask, it was little more than half full. That’s quite a lot of air available for nasty oxidation.

  5. Boak and Bailey (@BoakandBailey)

    23 March, 2012 at 16:16

    Ed Wray suggested on Twitter than post-fermentation oxidization and yeast bite could be to blame. He advised secondary fermentation in a pressure barrel. We’ll give that a go at some point.

    (Incidentally, we were drinking a beer last night that had it, but it disappeared a couple of inches into each glass. Something volatile on the surface which dissipates?)

    • Alebagger

      23 March, 2012 at 16:53

      As I mentioned above, I’ve noticed this as well. My prime suspect is a layer on top of the beer which is slightly oxidized. Are you drinking from a cask, and does it have a float at the end of the delivery tube?


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