Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Ala Town Beer Festival - Beer City

Well... I've bit the bullet and decided to join two local mates and enter the Beer City Brewing competition.

The brief is a sessionable, fruity, Summer Beer, 500-1000L per group. The Shanghai Homebrewers decided to encourage three teams of home brewers to enter and I'm on one of the teams. Our group, "Side Hustle" involves myself and two instructors from SAS - Shanghai American School, John and Mike. John and Mike aspire to start their own brewing company, called "Side Hustle Brewing Co.," hence the team name.

We decided to brew 200L of and American Pale Ale style beer, called "Summer Job," with an aroma and flavour profile leaning towards tropical fruits, rather than citrus. I'll eventually put a recipe up in the BeerSmith Cloud, if its not already there. To help bolster the backbone of the fruity note we decided to use a yeast, called, "Levure Pop Ale," an hitherto unheard of yeast in hobby brewer and Craft Beer communities, (well... I can't find any mention of it on the web anywhere, except on the manufacturer's website,) as we had been given some samples to play around with - it was free!

The specs looked pretty encouraging and this was about as experimental as it gets. Free, and not a whisper about it, untried... that's pretty ballsy, daring, and experimental, if you ask me. My call, and it made the others, shall we say, somewhat nervous. I have to admit though, I contacted the manufacturer and their parent company to get further information from them but to date, two weeks later I have still had no word from them. That's disappointing, because the yeast is a beast of a performer, and does what it says, beautifully!

To brew the beer we had to check in to a government certified brewery - we chose to use Shanghai Brewhouse. We found Kevin to be really helpful and supportive, and we couldn't have been more happy with his help, it was excellent.
Me and the Zong Ru 200L Nano Brehouse

John and I loading the grain bill

One of the specific gravity measurements

Kevin up the ladder, with Mike waiting to dry hop

All in all the brewday was fantastic! 3 days later we'd gone from 1.052 to 1.012 and Kevin had to stabilise it at 1.012. The fourth day we dry hopped and after secondary we had bottomed out at 1.008. Amazing! The flavour was all that we had hopped (sic.) for so now, we can't wait to present it to the public. If you're in Shanghai and you read this? come on over, try, "Summer Jb,' give us your vote and considered feedback, oh! And don't forget to say, "Hi!"

Until next time,
It's Your Shout, Mate!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

AD:HOC Privat Brauerei

Ad Hoc is an interesting word. It means:

ad hoc
/ˈæd ˈhɑk-ˈhoʊk/
made or happening only for a particular purpose or need, not planned before it happens:
The ad hoc committee will meet next week.
Unfortunately, we deal with problems ad hoc.

(Definition of ad hoc from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)This sums up my brewing activity very, very well. HOC also works as an anagram for , "Herald of Change" which is the basic meaning of my name, and has been the working title for my brewery for quite some time. (Look back through earlier posts if you wish to follow that rabbit hole... 😜)Whilst in Germany, I changed the working name to, "Aus Deutschland: Herald of Change," that is, "Out of Germany, Herald of Change." So, AD:HOC is the short form, and Private Brewery, (as I don't sell my beer) translated as, "Privat Brauerei," giving a full working name for my brewery as, "AD:HOC Privat Brauerei."I like the name. It's catchy, easy to remember, and very workable. So, look forward to trying some of my brews, on an AD:HOC basis. 😛

Until next time,
It's Your Shout, Mate!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Packing it all up and all in...

Five years in Hamburg and the time to go is rapidly coming. The last couple of years of association with HobbyBrau Hamburg has been completely hands off. The Germans have taken it forward in leaps and bounds and the group is well entrenched in the local craft beer scene. Congrats to them.

In September I'm off to Shanghai. The wife's job has finally meant that we can start a new chapter in our lives and return to China. This time as a whole family. I have to pack all the gear up and ship it out, so I won't be brewing for a while, not that I've brewed in quite some time.

It'll be great to see what the local craft beer scene is like in Shanghai. The last brewpub I visited in China, was based in Zhuhai. I wonder if they are still there? Let's take a look shall we?

Until next time,
It's Your Shout, Mate!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Spring is Here - Firesale!

Hi folks,

well Spring is well and truly on its way and I'm starting to clear some space in my cellar. I have a medium sized Hobby Brewery up for sale and I'm looking for a buyer. Please share this link around:  http://kleinanzeigen.ebay.de/anzeigen/s-anzeige/hobbybrauerei-aus-edelstahl-/183887942-248-18568?ref=search I could use all the help I can get.

BTW here's a pic of the system:

Until next time,
It's Your Shout, Mate!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

More on Hamburg Bier

So the research continues, a bit like a dog with a flea that can't quite be scratched.

Hamburg Bier was a Weißbier or Weißen, that is it it was brewed with some wheat and the malt was air-dried. Apparently air-drying lead to the production of paler malts. The inherent sourness of Weißens came for lactorbacillus contamination of the barrels.

Beer barrels of the time were made of wood but had thicker staves than wine barrels, to help keep the pressure in, and were generally not scorched inside. According to correspondence with Ron Pattinson, beer makers didn't want the barrels to add a flavour component to the beer, so as neutral a wood as possible was used to make the barrels and usually a darker beer would have been used in the first few uses to remove any lingering taste contribution. Similarly, the barrels were so well made that salt water contamination is not an issue.

Hops, what hops? Apparently, around 1220 AD a customs ordinance for the city of Lübeck stated that hops carried into the city by The Wendes (Wendisch, Elbslawisch) were exempt from customs duty. Who were the Wendes? Well, apparently they were neighbours with Haibathu and according to Hans Michel Eßlinger in Handbook of Brewing: Processes, Technologies, Markets, the Wendes laid waste to Haibathu in 1066. Not much else is really known but apparently the town of Wendish Waren, near Stadt Goldberg in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern was established in 1292 as a farming village. 

Now, according to our friend, Muessdoerffer, "... a hop garden in Geisenfeld near Freising mentioned in 736 AD is said to have been set up by Wendic prisoners of war." (Meussdoeffer, p11) This same garden is one of the oldest gardens in the Hallertau region. According to Deutscher Hopfen, due to the rise in prominance of brewing in the Hansa, Spalt became the first large scale hop growing region in Southern Germany. As a result, Spalt was conferred their first hop Seal for quality in 1538. Thus in all likelyhood, the primary, commercially used hops for brewing Hamburg Bier, were most likely hops grown around the town of Spalt. Today, we'd probaly use Spalter Select.

The last nobly piece of this puzzle is the "Hamburg Method" of brewing beer, so superior that no one was able to discover it or reproduce it during the prime of the Hanseatic Bier Conquest of the top end of Europa. Now, it turns out that there are many different ways to mash, and many different ways to boil and many different ways to ferment. Because of all of this, I haven't yet got this section down. More to come...

Until next time,
Its Your Shout, Mate!

Friday, December 13, 2013

In Search of "Hamburg Bier"

"Hamburg Bier" also known as Hambourg Bier and Hambourger Bier was the beer that made the fortune of the Hanseatic League. It became famous and synonymous with beer that was made with hops. Unfortunately, few descriptions about the beer and how it tasted exist, and most historical treatments deal with the beer trade of the Hansa rather than characteristics of the beers themselves.

Over the past year, I've been doing quite a bit of research into the historical background of this "Hamburg Bier" circa 1300-1500's. Here's a summation of my current research efforts.

Seems that there are two distinct elements to it. First it is variously described as a red ale made from barley (and wheat) the is sour and more bitter than other regional German biers.

Later the term is used to cover any type of bier that was sourced from the Hansa, i.e. the name "Hamburg Bier" was effectively a regional catchall, covering some 14 or more different styles of bier being produced.

In this regard the historic record is quite muddied making it near impossible to identify one specific style of bier as being definitively the original Hamburg Bier.

In one way, this is good news insofar that anyone producing bier in the former Hanseatic region can rightly call their bier, "Hamburg Bier" however, they cannot claim that it is the original Rezept and method. More on Method, later.

So as far as I can gather, the Original "Hamburg Bier" had the following characteristics:
:- it was a top fermented bier;
:- it was a red bier - not hell, or dunkel, etc;
:- it has some wheat in it; it is sour-ish;
:- it was transported in wooden barrels;
:- it was relatively strong alcohol-wise, i.e. it was no table bier;
:- it was noticeably bitter;
:- the Rezept was given to the brewer by the Stadt and the brewer had to brew according to the Rezept

So, we're looking at a wood aged, sour, bitter, red ale. In beir flavour and tast we are concerned primarily with three dominant taste sensations and with this bier, perhaps a fourth due to Hamburg's water profile. These are: Sweetness, Bitterness, Sourness, & Saltiness.

The other two taste sensations (if you give it any credence) are Savoury (Umami) and Fattiness (Recent Taste Discoveries) and these may assist us to notice fuller flavour and body; and possibly oiliness, which is considered an undesirable defect in bier.

Now, the contentious issue above is with Saltiness, that is the mineral composition of Hamburg brewing water, but also possible seawater contamination of casks (if any). What is interesting to me is that salty biers are not uncommon or considered especially bad, so using this as a possible profile attribute is something I never thought about before.

Before we get into a possible Rezept, we need to look at methods. It is reported variously that the method of brewing Bier in the Hansa was so different, and superior to existing methods that the bier could not be reproduced, or in modern parlance, "cloned" successfully.

More history, around this time most brewers were brewing with Gruit. This only required a Mash Tun and a Lauter Tun. These were typically made of wood, so it seems, and boiling was not a highly required brewing option unless there were some specific vegetals in the Gruit that needed to be extracted.

So, no Kettle in general. If there was boiling needed to be done, it is surmised that it was either done with hot rocks, which adds smoky, ashy elements to the bier, OR a smaller metal kettle was used and a decoction was boiled and added back.

Historians quite clearly state that hops needed boiling, and that hops were the most likely reason for separating the mash tun and the kettle. I would go even further to say that hops are the reason that the Germans developed decoction mashing.

Still further: because of the large volumes of bier being made in urban environments, decoction mashing made it possible to make more bier in large wooden lauter tuns with kettles made of metal that were smaller in volume than the Mash Tun. This what I believe to be the "magical" method that made Hamburg, "...the brewhouse of the Hansa."

Another factor to consider is that several smaller kettles could be used concurrently to shorten the time to produce table or small bier, while minimising the risk of spoilage of the partygyled grist.

Decoction Mashing involves taking around 10% or so of the mash in a porridge like consistency and boiling it before putting it back into the mash. This often leads to caramelising the decoction somewhat due to burn spots in the kettle as a result of uneven heat distribution throughout the base of the kettle.

This results in bier that tends to have toasted and caramel characteristics, which are complemented by malty full bodied bier styles. So, back to the Rezept.

Red ales, as we know them, are typically a malt forward, well bodied bier with complementary hop flavour if it is present at all. Usually such bier is, "all about the malt." But "Hamburg Bier" was also bitter and sour. Therein lies the rub.

First: Hops. While the Hansa saw a great trade in hops it is reasonable to proceed that the most commonly used hops would have been grown locally or sourced close to the region. today, the most likely candidate for such hops are from Tettnang. It is my conjecture that these would have been the primary hops in used back in the day.

Next: Malt. It is probable that due to the malting methods of the times (floor mating, and fire kilning in particular) that the malt was have been underdeveloped thus would have needed a protein rest. It would also have been slightly smokey. Malt would have been imported from other parts of Germany because the weather in Northern Germany is too unpredictable and cold for consistent and reliable malt production, or so I've been told.

Not being described as a, "Wheat Beer" (Weißbier, Weißen) it is my supposition that "Hamburg Bier" was mostly barley malt, with some wheat (or wheat malt) - to pull some percentages out of the air? Perhaps 10-15% Wheat in the grain bill?

Next, We need base malt plus some "Munich" or "Amber Malt" to bring the red colour up. Hazarding a guess based on trade activities, I would say that Munich Malt would have been the colouring malt OR the local malt was generally darker in colour and naturally tended towards reddishness.

Today, I'd recommend using Pale malt and Caramber malt.

Lastly, maltwise, "Hamburg Bier" was sour. There are four ways to do this:
:- allow the fresh wort to naturally ferment with wild yeasts;
:- dose the fresh wort with sour dough starter;
:- ferment with barm from a previous bier and then inoculate post-primary with a lactose strain;
:- or use Saurmalz.

It is my reckoning that due to production consistency requirements that dosing post-primary with a souring agent would have been the usual method, as we find record of this in later brewing records for the making of "Berliner Weiße."

I also think it is highly plausible that Sauermalz may have alternatively been used. The first two methods would have produced results but I hazard that they would have been to unpredictable for large, reliable, consistent production usage.

With Sauermalz we would possibly want around 1-2% of the grain bill. this would need to be experimented with to get a good balance of sourness against maltiness.

This brings us to yeast. Sour Dough Starter or Top Fermenting Yeast? I think top fermenting yeast would have been known about, and preferred. It is of course possible that sour dough starter may have been used as a souring agent post-primary.

Barrel Aging. Wooden barrels either from oak or from beech were commonly used. The question we need to ask here is whether the barrels were purpose built or recycled from wine use. Thus, were the barrels toasted inside?

Personally, I think they were not given a charring inside and would have been used raw. Apparently, they were purpose built for beer, and thicker than wine barrels, so as to handle the greater pressures in the barrel. The next question that comes then, is if sour bier is left to sour in the barrel, do the bugs which sour the bier stay in the barrel and if so how do you get them out, if at all? Quite probably, and the barrels were often reused because barrels were expensive.

This concludes my current thought process on "Hamburg Bier." Next to come is the development of a test Rezept and then some more tinkering and fathoming on how to produce a more historically accurate rendition of the bier.

NOTE: Be aware that in light of any new information turning up, all of the above could be completely wrong. But then, I'd be happy to be wrong if, in being so, a genuine, original Rezept for "Hamburg Bier" AND an historically accurate Hamburg brewing method, was to surface and be made freely and publicly available to all.

Until next time,

It's Your Shout, Mate!

Monday, June 3, 2013

iCelsius Pro Review for Home Brewers

Great idea, badly executed - next to bloody useless if you ever dreamed of using it with your iPad/iPhone for HACCP Monitoring, or even just monitoring temperatures in your mash.

I was Soooo Happy when I finally received my iCelsius Pro Temperature Probe for my iPad, thinking it was a, "... shame they didn't have one compatible with the iPhone 5 - ah well, need to get a dongle." I won't be doing that, I can tell you right now.

The iCelsius Pro has a 4" stainless Steel probe with shrink wrapped cover and 1 meter black cable. With the iPad switched 'On,' it plugs directly into the 30 pin port and automatically prompts you do download the App on the first use, otherwise it launches the App.

The box it comes in is nothing fancy, but functional and the instructions while brief, are straight forward and explain what the App does and details the probes operating parameters, which for this probe is apparently: -30°C to +150°C with an estimated accuracy of +/- 0.2°C at 25°C.


Sous Vide system monitoring, kettle profiling, ambient room temperature monitoring and profiling, overnight Fermentation condition monitoring... the Homebrewing applications are many and at €55.99 plus shipping my expectations were quite high.

The manual is sadly hilarious.

"The product is not to be used for medical or for public information, but for home use only." What on earth does public information mean?

When I bought this online it was described thusly, "Pferde Hunde Katzen Tier Thermometer für Ihr Iphone iCelsius Pro," which is veterinary use. Very curious. Ahh, medical use but not for Humans...

"Do not use the iCelsius... in or near water. Only the metallic tip can be immersed." Thanks for the clarification. The original pics certainly show that the probe is not waterproofed...

 ...yet what I received has had clear attempts to cover the stainless steel shaft-wire interface with waterproofing and shrink wrapping. So is it waterproof? I don't know. The packaged product is not as advertised.

"Avoid placing your iCelsius sensor near a source of heat or exposing it to sunlight (even through a window)." Are you kidding? In what circumstances do you mean?

A Temperature Sensor is for measuring temperature, or so one would normally expect, for answering the questions, How hot? How cold? is it not?

So, the best part of €60,00 down and the manual is cautioning me against using this for measuring heat.

Is this some kind of Scam!?!

Aginova and TFA Dostmann you have some answering to do!

So, onwards and upwards, lets see what this thing can do. I put a hole in a rubber bung, and inserted the metal part, the stainless steel probe, through the hole and then pushed this into the brass thermowell on my brewpot. I pushed the probe all the way in until it made contact with the end of the thermowell and then backed it out just a touch so as not to be in direct contact.

Now, yes I know that there will be a delay in temperature measurement due to the air pocket in the thermowell, for this reason I allowed the system to stand so that the temperature in the air pocket stabilized, but I didn't expect the probe to read more than 5°C low at boiling point and similarly throughout the Mashing Temperature Range. Even the original dial thermometer that came with the Thermowell was more accurate than that, not accurate enough but still, more accurate that this iCelsius Pro Temperature Sensor.

Damnit! So, I have to test the bloody probe. I tell you, this is not what I thought I'd need to do.

Into the manual, check the Troubleshooting tips, yeah, yeah, done all that; onto the websites, can't find didley squat. Search the net? Nada, just glowing praise and advertorial material all about what it can apparently do.

My results from a simple calibration check for this probe.

Using two, separate, Laboratory quality temperature probes, one of glass and one digital, along with the iCelsius Pro sensor, all used at the same time, I measured several  stable temperatures as below:
1: < 0°C (pobes encased in frozen gel pack), at
2: 25°C (probes exposed side by side to ambient air temperature at the Listed Calibration Temperature)  at
3: 30°C (probes exposed side by side to ambient air temperature in a warm room, indirect sunlight) and at
4: 100°C (probe/bulb/sensor ends immersed in boiling water: altitude approx. 10.587 meters above sea level).

These are the results:

< 0°C




iCelsius Pro + iPad App 

(-30°C - +150°C)(+/- 0.2° @ 25°C)??? 
(-50°C - +300°C)
(+/- 1° -50°C - 150°C)
(-10°C - 110°C)
(mercury column)

Now, if I were just testing against one thermometer, I'd have to rightly ask which one is inaccurate? But when I have both a digital and analog thermometer, which I've relied on for reliable temperature measurement for years, both in complete agreement, for my money that tells me the new kid on the block has some serious problems.

Now, the application itself. It's nice, its clean, It has Bling! BUT, its next to completely useless. It requires that no other application is running at the same time. If the iPad goes into Sleep mode, then all data is lost. It cannot operate in the background monitoring a data stream from the sensor. Unless you export the data at the end of your session the data is lost. It has no archiving capability, No History capability, you cannot vary the time scales or the sampling rate, and it MAY interfere with wifi access.

It is, in essence, a Kiddy App for entertaining primary school students whilst trying to teach them a little something about science and the art of measurement. The probe app combination, unfortunately, is unreliable, inaccurate, incapable of documenting AND safely storing, measured data over time.

What this means is:
a) if you wish to Monitor your Sous Vide Cooking Pot, for HACCP purposes, it's wildly inaccurate especially if you are trying to monitor/control temperature fluctuations at the 0.1°C - 0.5°C accuracy level. There is no data protection or historic record (date, time, temperature measurements) of your session, and the only way to get data out is to manually send the data during or at the end of the session.

b) if you wish to profile the thermal capacity and rate of heat exchange in your brew kettle, identify ramp times and monitor your Mash Temperatures within a 3 - 5 degree range of accuracy, then this probe is also wildly inaccurate. Historic Data recording of temperatures from brew sessions is not possible for reasons stated above, unless you manually export the LIVE data.

c) if you wanted to use this to monitor fermentation temperatures over a period of several days? Forget it! The max operating time is one battery charge for your iPad as it uses the same 30 pin port as your charge cable. Second, if your iPad goes flat, looses charge, etc. then all data is lost. This is a particular bugbear especially if you wish to determine the stability and seasonal profile of ambient temperatures in you Fermentation Chamber, Cellar, or Room.

All in all, the iCelsius Pro Temperature Sensor and App are a complete waste of time and money, as well as being inaccurate and functionally useless.

How would I rate it?

To quote the acerbic TV Personality, Chef and Actor, Bernard King, "Minus Five!"

Until next time,
It's Your Shout, Mate!

The above review is based on ONE probe from iCelsius, obtained via Amazon, from a 3D party provider.