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Time to wrap up the updates for Snow Drop ahead of a couple of looming brews (more about those very soon). This one has actually been conditioning for some while. I’ve even had a couple of sneaky bottles. Just to check it’s okay, you understand…

The Snow Drop fermented out as expected and was moved into secondary for a further five days. We added a good chunk of Goldings dry hops in both fermenters at a rate of 100g to 50 litres. After hoiking these at the end of secondary, we racked 20 litres into a Cornie, filled 24 glass beer bottles and put the rest into clear bottles for ‘test drinking’ over the next few weeks!

One week priming with light Spraymalt in the warm then four weeks cool conditioning.

Anyway, here are the last few photos for this brewday before the next one, which will get its own overdue post in a few days…

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Fermentation all seems to be going well. We’re using SafAle US-05 to make a clean golden ale with hops cutting through the finish. The downside is that fermentation is never particularly spectacular with this particular yeast strain, and it isn’t highly flocculant, so not the best for bottling. Worth the extra care and a period in secondary for the crisper taste though.

We named it Boxshed Snow Drop for a few reasons. Outside the Boxshed the actual snow has now gone but the snowdrops are all coming through. We also have a little white Pekin hen called Snowdrop who is the only one of our birds to have laid through the cold Winter. But mainly, it should prove to be a nice Drop to have while watching the next deluge of Snow!

It’s a pretty selfish recipe, to be honest designed to be drunk by a motivated brewer! It’s over 90% pale malt and uses Target and Northdown as copper hops, with favourites East Kent Goldings and Mount Hood as aroma and steeping additions, all in large measures.

We went for a shorter brew length this time to enable a more vigorous boil without too much mess. A three stage batch sparge began with a cool mash and ended with a hot mash out. Sadly we lost a few litres to the copper when the pelleted hops swamped the hopstopper completely, but still managed to stow away 40 litres or so at the target gravity of 1.047. We’re hoping for a brew in the 4.4 – 4.6 ABV range.

Fermentation is taking place at the cooler end of the recommended scale at around 66-68 degrees, and we’ll test for progress towards 1.012 on Monday.

Really looking forward to drinking this one!

*EDIT: Checked progress on Monday after a pretty unspectacular fermentation to discover that both bins are already down to 1.013. That US-05 is a strange old yeast, but very effective! Brew looks pale and cloudy. We’ll leave it a little while longer and then transfer into secondary fermenters later this week to get rid of some of that yeast and trub and give it a chance to drop a bit clearer.

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Brrrr! It’s damn cold in this corner of East Anglia right now, despite the clear skies and sharp sunshine. Good weather for conditioning beer though, so it’s time to stick on some warm clothes, put a lame pun in a blog post headline, and get to grips with cleaning endless vessels and moving beer between them.

The Boxshed Dark Garden ’09 has dropped perfectly in secondary and now needs to continue its journey towards 80 or so pint glasses. Later today it will be moved into a Cornelius keg, ten swingtops and a King Keg. The Cornie and most of the bottles will stay here, but the KK will go and live in my brother’s own shed, conditioning for the festive season.

We’ve been very pleased with the smells emanating from the Boxshed Timmy’s Original FVs over the last week and have high hopes for this well-hopped Best Bitter. It’s already hit 1.014 in primary on its way to a 1.012 final gravity, so it can also be moved now, this time off the yeast and trub and into clean secondary FVs.

Clean. Now that’s a deceptively evil little word. After the day jobs today, we need to clean at least one crate of bottles, two Cornelius kegs, two King Kegs, four FVs and a bundle of assorted pipes, jugs, connectors, taps and bottling doo-dads. I won’t be the last brewer to complain about it, but cleaning is no fun at all in any circumstances, and especially on a cold day with season old beer stone doing its best to resist the brush, bleach and iodine treatment.

Ah well, if you want to get a beer on, get a warm hat on.

This is why it’s very, very important to remember the time spent freezing alone with a hose and a bottle of Iodophor when you finally get to drink a few cosy pints with friends. And of course it’s precisely why that same beer means so much more when you created it yourselves from raw ingredients in a breezy shed.

And it could most certainly be a whole lot worse – just ask ‘brew from 592’.

Anyone brewing this week?

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Right, this idea is not intended to be useful for anything other than a stopgap situation. I made mine because I had a brew planned and all my hops were suddenly only available in pellets. I use a standard looking drilled copper pipe filter in my copper – a Brupaks style gadget attached to my tap with tubing. It would have struggled to have handled all those Challenger, Mount Hood and Willamette pellets from Down Under.

I’m soon to have a new boiler and when I do I will ask a friend to help make a proper Hop Stopper, but if you get caught short – steal a 10″ stainless steel sieve from the kitchen or ironmongers, bend up the expensive looking handle at a right angle and squish on a flat surface until you have made the sieve sit square. Get a Dremel (or kitchen scissors, razor blades, welding torches, hangnails…) and cut a small hole with side slices, so you can shove a standard squished 12mm copper pipe hop filter through it.

Anyway, you can get the idea and the sieve is still usable.

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I’m writing this report up in stages during a brew evening, so if you’re really lucky, it’ll start of all optimistic and cocky yet end in disaster and woe. However if I’m lucky, it’ll go largely to plan, with just a few fun obstacles along the way.

This evening’s brew is Boxshed Hop Juggler (BHJ), a completely new recipe for the Boxshed, loosely inspired by Oakham Ale’s excellent Jeffrey Hudson Bitter (JHB). I say loosely because noone has managed to come up with a satisfactory recipe to ‘clone’ this beer as yet. Marc Ollosson gave me the basic IBU strength and the tip to use Challenger for bittering, but the feedback from craft brewers having a stab at his recipe, always suggests that it doesn’t hit the right aroma hop notes with the stated small addition of Mount Hood.

Oakham’s recipe history was inspired by a lack of available English hop varieties during a time of low yield in this country, as well as a surge of interest for American hops. The brewery’s own website mentions the following: “The choice of varieties was influenced by the scarcity of Goldings and Fuggles at the time and the suggestion by Mr Paul Corr-Bett of Charles Faram and company that the American varieties of Mount hood and Willamette might be used instead.” We’ve taken this information on board and decided that a few more IBUs are needed from those copper Challenger hops, more Mount Hood need to bump flavour towards the end of the boil and contribute to the bitterness as well as the aroma, while a bunch of Willamette at flameout might just steep in the missing citrus and spicey highlights. I guess time will tell!

The mash is currently underway at just 65c to ensure the required dryness.

All good so far. After a 90 minute mash held at 65 degrees in the thermobox, I took around a half dozen jugs of runnings in turn and returned them into the mash before draining. These pale brews always look a little cloudy and thin, but once the turgid bits and pieces were out of the flow, it all ran into the boiler looking fine enough. It also tasted very sweet and pleasant. I’ve now topped up the mashtun with 9.5 litres at 77c for the first of two bath sparges and given the thing a good stir. I’ll check back in ten minutes or so. In the meantime I’m going to have a pint of mystery beer that I found in the Boxshed – a swingtop with no labels on it. I hope it’s a good ‘un…

Think it’s our own Best Bitter. Last of the stout next. Right, second batch coming to the end, copper nearly at boil, Challenger pellets all measured out. Better get with it…

Slight stuck mash with five litres or so still in the tun. I was at the end of a sack of grain, so suspect undue flouriness. Restirring, waiting ten, taking runnings and going again…

Okay, that worked out just fine, must have been flour as I’d guessed. Challenger pellets in, boil on in anger. Man, I’m so cold. Need to warm hands over the copper.

Good stuff – all rolling nicely, Willamette and Protofloc going in now. Nice 6Music accompaniment! ‘Dr Strangely Strange’ – sixties band from Kerry.

All hops in, Protofloc, chiller on – it’s all down to the Acme Hop Thingy next. I find using pellets really odd and not as satisfying as whole flowers, but if they filter out fine, then the proof will be in the tasting!

Excellent – nothing untoward in the end – 25L in the fermenter at 1.041. The flow from the copper was slower I guess, but the makeshift Hop Stopper wotsit worked a treat thankfully! Left a strange mound of green slop in the boiler like no hop bed I’ve ever seen before, and the cold break is a much more granular cloud, but the wort ran into the FV pretty clear (more bits in the seive though). Pitched US-05 half way through the run-off, and it’s all now indoors. I’ll rouse this brew 24hrs into the ferment, because that worked a treat last time out with this yeast.

Right, everything cleared up apart from the tun and copper! Time for some sleep and a Lemsip.


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