Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bia Hơi - Vietnam's Favorite Street Beer. So, how's it made?

Bia Hơi is Vietnam's favorite, drink on the street, beer. For many Vietnamese, it's a substitute for clean water. For foreigners, people watching and trying to fathom the chaos that is city traffic is an essential part of the Vietnamese travel experience. And its cheap! Super Cheap!

Now, Bia Hoi is often referred to as "Fresh Beer" but actually it translates as "Draught Beer." Some claim instead that 'Fresh Beer' may be a reference to the location where "Bia Tươi" is drunk, and that "Bia Tươi" is "Fresh Beer." Be that as it may, "Bia Hơi" when combined with some other words translates as "Steam Beer," which kinda opens the door to an interesting sideline discussion.

Be that as it may, it is conjectured that Bia Hơi contains no preservatives and that is why it goers off in a couple of days. This is not the case. Bia Hơi is an non-pasturised beer and as such it is meant to be consumed within a short time of it being opened.

The reason for this is that it is normally dispensed by gravity feed: that is, a tap goes on the bottom of the keg, the top is opened to the air, and the beer is allowed to drain out of the keg.

This exposes the beer to oxygen which goes to work fairly quickly on oxidizing the beer. It the beer was dispensed with the use of CO2 instead of air, the shelf life could be extended from several days to almost a month. This is also the reason behind why Bia Hơi tasted better in the morning than in the afternoon, because has had longer exposure to the air and has started to oxydize, thus changing the beer's flavour profile. As a result most street vendors that distribute Bia Hơi need to ensure that the keg is 'usually' finished the same day it is opened. 

What goes into Bia Hơi?
At it's most basic, water, malt, hops, and yeast. In Asian countries, dry finishing beers with lower body are preferred, as such Rice is used as the main adjunct. This adds no colour to the beer and also helps to reduce the cost of manufacture of the beer. Malt is absolutely necessary in order to provide the essential enzymes required for converting the starches in the grain into sugars that can be consumed by the yeast.

Another core feature of Bia Hơi is that is is lightly hopped has light to moderate alcohol content and is not particularly "malty." Having said that, when served around 8-10 deg. C the malt flavours tend to make their presence apparent. Served cold 3-5 deg. C much of that flavour disapears.

It's also been said that Bia Hơi tends to have a greenish tinge and metallic copper taste and that this comes from the fact that is made in copper vats and is not largered or aged for any significant length of time

This point may be in dispute, as some claim that it is kegged the same day that it's made. If that were the case there would be no effective fermentation process - something essential to the manufacture of beer and a step that takes several days to a couple of weeks. However filtration and kegging under CO2, post-fermentation is highly plausible.

So, how to make a Bia Hơi like beer?
:- Good, soft water
:- The palest pilsner malt you can get your hands on
:- Whole Grain Rice, Flaked Rice, Rice Noodles or Rice Malt Extract/Syrup
:- Tettnanger, Fuggles or Pride of Ringwood Hops: i.e. a neutral bittering hop with mild spiciness and mild aroma
:- A neutral flavoured, Czech Pilsner style, Larger Yeast

Depending on the desired dry finish for the beer, adjust the rice to malt ratio between 15-25% i.e. start out with 15% rice to 85% malt. A good rule of thumb would be to use rice in a similar way in which wheat malt is used in Wheat Beers.

Crack the grains separately. Cook the rice for 30 min to 1 hour in water: 1 part rice to 4-6 parts water, Rice is known to absorb up to 3 times it's weight in water.  

Add malt to strike water and bring up to Protein Rest temp. Add cooked rice and water and bring temp up to next desired rest temp. Mix well. If using extract/syrup thin it in hot water and add to the brew kettle - rice extract should need to be mashed unless you want to play around with the sugars. Oh yeah, mix well.

Proceed as normal for the rest of the mash procedure. Bear in mind that the 'gelatinous' nature of the rice may increase the risk of a stuck sparge. So adding some additional rice hulls may be in order, but too much may increased the risk of tannin contamination in your Lautering.

At the boil proceed as normal. If you boil for an hour, add hops at the start of boil. If you boil for an hour and a half, wait 30 min then add the hops. There should be no need for an aroma hop addition, but feel free to play with that as you see fit. A small amount in the last 5-10 should be more than ample, but remember hop aroma is not an integral part of this style.

Cool the wort  and pitch your lager yeast. Ferment at lager temperatures. Bia Saigon seem to aim at a Primary Fermentation @ 12-15 deg. C, Secondary Fermentation @ 8-10 deg. C and Settling/Clarification @ 0-2 deg. C - bear in mind that they also ferment under preasure, filter and force carbonate.

As a home brew I'd suggest Primary Fermentation at 12-15 deg. C then keg, mini keg (...this would probably be the best option for table service and a 'real' Bia Hơi experience using  gravity feed dispensing) or bottle for secondary fermentation - prime as required; at 8-10 deg. C then Crash Chill at 0-2 deg. C for 2-4 days before consuming.

Time from Grain to Glass should be around 10 days. 

Bia Hơi does not retain a head overly long, and is not highly effervescent. Bubbles tend to be large and the beer degasses fairly quickly.

Experiment with rice to malt ratio impacts on colour and dryness of finish
Experiment with Saccharification Rests - impacts on maltiness or body of beer
Experiment with Hopping Schedule - impacts on flavour and aroma: bear in mind you need sufficient bitterness to balance the malt profile of the beer
Experiment with Lager yeast - impacts on the malt, and other flavour profiles of the beer including susceptibility to diacetyl production.
Experiment with partygyling a regular brew and adding some additional rice malt extract
Experiment with recycling your hops from a first brew

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cider and Brewing Equipment

A while back I knocked up a 20L batch of Cider (hard cider for you US-based folks). I used Berry Apple & Pear juice as the base, pitched the yeast directly into it and then let it ferment out to very dry over about five days. Took it off the yeast and kegged 18L in a s/s cornie keg and left it under the stairs for nearly a month.

Now, normally after it's kegged and gassed, you'd consume it relatively quickly, but I had a problem: How to chill the bastard down to serving temp. My mate said bottle it up in 2L bottles and stick them in the fridge. But that missed the point. If I couldn't serve cider, chilled from the keg, how could I possibly do that with beer? (The real problem)

So, the cider sat and I cogitated. Now, it so happens that I have a couple of 27L circular eskies and one of them, I'd played around with, modifying this and that for it's use as a mash tun. I had long ago retired it from that use and had re-tasked it as a rubbish bin. The other one is regularly used as a chiller for cans of beer at bbq's and parties.

But, I got to thinking and started tinkering and after a while, I took the redundant beer line I had in the brewery and made a plastic coil inside the redundant esky. Why not? For slow pouring it should work? But just to make sure, having proven the concept for myself, I bit the bullet and bought 12m of 12.7mm dia. stainless steel tubing. Trouble is it came in two pieces, each 6m long. Yet, a 20cm coil diameter, the two were just too tall for the esky assembly. I knew I should have got them bent into 25cm dia. coils...

Thus, a 6m s/s coil plus the beer line, gives me a drink reserve of just over 2L = 4x500ml serves, or 7x300ml serves. Not bad, but not great either. Oh, and it takes about 5 min to chill the beer to a comfortable temp: esky - coils - water - ice - tap - glass. Problem solved, except I now had to give it a real run, and needed something to serve.

Cider! I've got cider under the stairs in a keg! Great Stuff, time to try it out. Hope it ain't dead... Oh, and it was lovely. Everything works, no leaks, and the cider is lovely. It's primarily flat, with a light spritz the tingles the tongue, and crystal clear. Very easy to drink, no belly full of gas, and no headache the next morning - the body's a bit sluggish, but no headache.

Cider. Ready in five days. Carbonate it or leave it flat. And easy to serve - now.

Until next time,

It's Your Shout, Mate!

Monday, October 25, 2010


Recently, I've been slowly going out of my mind. I sit in my brewing space and stare at the walls, quietly scrutinizing every aspect and element of my brewery, from grain storage, through brewhouse, to cellar operations and serving options. I'm stuck.As far as my brewhouse is concerned, I've attained the holy grail, a "self sufficiency" sized brewhouse. But I'm not brewing.

It's funny how all the books I've read, spend sweet bugger all time on dealing with the issues and problems of fermentation, conditioning and serving. The answer usually is a trite comment about kegerating with a chest freezer. There is little to advise the growing home based craft brewer about moving from 19L production to around the 76L mark (sub-100L production, 94L = 5 corny kegs).

I live in a tropical zone. Temperatures in my brewspace, currently run at 30 deg. C ambient. In summer, 40+ deg. C is normal - in the room. Winter is cooler with overnight temps in the 10-15 deg. range.

Its a challenge. So what to do? Brew only in Winter and make ales? Build an Ice driven cooler box? Try using A/C to control the insulated box temp? Done all that, not happy with it, worse still some of those experiments have resulted in me having to through away beer. Bad Beer. Bad Beer that should never have happened in the first place.

So now I'm looking and thinking long term - double jacketed, glycol chilled, refrigerated Fermenters and conditioners. So what size? (80L) What configuration? (vertical conicals, horizontal conditioners, pressure safe) What framework to support them in my brewhouse? (Steel shelving) What cost?!? Can't be done straight away, damn too costly.

So I sit and cogitate some more, Cafe Del Mar on the boom box, to help mask some of  the environmental white noise. The missus informs me that the neighbours are selling several HDPE 2 barrels, 1x30L, 2x60L, & 1x120L at 10-15 bucks each - "Buy them! lets do it now!" I say. Luckily we score all of them, with an option on a 3rd 60L barrel. Within 30 min. I've got two 60L fermenter made and shelved, an option on a 30L fermenter and the 120L barrel is housing 50kg of base malt. You little ripper.


The A/C driven temp control cupboard doesn't work. The A/C doesn't cool, at all! ARRRRGGGG! What to do? Working with such volumes in a fermenter requires a very different approach to that of using 19L water barrels. What to do?

Sit. Cogitate. Change the CD.

I've got some basins. Could fill one with water, and drop a bag of ice into it each day, that might work, bit hit and miss though given the swings and slides of ambient temp at this time of year. My mate, Peter's Extra suggests using a couple of cooling coils, insulated tubing, and a pump to circulate cooling fluid through the fermenter - like an immersion chiller, ala some guy based in Brazil or Honduras. Then we conclude, that in end effect the best option would be to either have a large, temperature controlled, refrigerated, insulated cool room, our, just lash out an buy a chest freezer. Running all the other guff would end up costing more than the outright purchase and operation of a new chest freezer.

So here I am, gotta convince the missus I need a chest freezer. Good thing she's a great sport! Ticked off the idea and so the financial controller has authorized the purchase. Got a mate heading back to OZ for a quick visit, and hopefully he'll be able to bring back a temp controller for the fridge, s/s probe, and a refractometer with ATC.

I move forward. Slowly. Haltingly. But it is forward movement.

I'll be brewing again this week. I have to. It's a must do thing, that can no longer be ignored. I'll stick the barrel fermenter into a basin and dump in some ice, and measure the temp as a result. Watch it closely and keg it asap. but I look forward to getting the chest freezer and temp controller.

Keep Moving Forward...

Until the next time,

It's Your Shout, Mate!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Beers For Books, Hanoi

What a fantastic event this turned out to be!

A while back I was approached by Gary Bremermann, from Tokyo, and asked if I was interested in the Beers For Books concept. he'd seen a Twitter feed by Greg Koch of Stone Brewing Co. which mentioned a youtube video of a gathering of the Hanoi Handcrafted - Brewer's Guild that I'd posted.

Anyway, I approached House Husbands United - Hanoi to see if they'd be interested in leading the charge on getting this type of event up and running here in Hanoi. Several meeting later and 20.10.2010 Beers For Books at Le Pub Xuan Dieu was born.

Beers For Books supports the charity, Room To Read and it's activities in several countries around the world. Until the hanoi event, fundraising has never been conducted in a country that was a recipient of donated funds.

The 20.10.2010 event was generously supported by sponsors who committed approx. 10,000 USD worth of prizes and products to the event for auction or raffle. As a result, just over 2,300 USD was raised on the night through drink sales, raffles and a silent auction. This event has shown that, in Hanoi, at least, it is possible to raise funds locally to support children's literacy initiatives currently being pursued in country.

It was a wonderful feeling to be involved with such an event and I look forward to seeing this type of event spreading to other Vietnamese cities, and also for local Vietnamese to take up the reigns and drive such fundraising forward into the future.

Until the next time,

It's Your Shout, Mate!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Wants, Desires and Realisation (cont.)

So here I am, contemplating, cogitating. I got the 50 cm pot, it’s 58 cm tall - 113 L capacity. It needs a 5-8 mm metal plate to go between the bottom and the burner to protect from scorching - it’s a bloody good burner 22,000 btu’s, or something like that. For the Lauter Tun I’m thinking of a s/s 45 cm x 45 cm x 45 cm square box with false bottom and a shower lid. 
Let me explain, the false bottom and the ‘shower rose’ are made of the same perforated material. Run the water into the shower lid - bit like a square shower rose and let it drip down onto the mash. The lid would be 1 cm thick, hollow and have a pipe entry from the side. I could equally do this with a couple of rubbish buckets, and cheeper too, but, I like the idea of durability.
The last thing I want to make is a copper cool ship with fermentation cellar under it. Basically a glorified Ice Chest. The cool ship would be covered and top insulated so that bar ice could be put into it. The cold would transfer into the cabinet and descend. Inside the cabinet I’d store my fermentors so as to control what’s going on. In a relatively, energy passive way. I’d probably be better off with a chest freezer, but finding a used one in VN is a hard ask.

Yesterday I also saw a 500 L brewhouse, sitting like scrap metal outside a brewery. It was the first time I actually got to crawl around one of these copper topped beauties. What I discovered annoyed the crap out of me. Basically, it was a large brew Kettle/Mash Tun with steam jacket heating. The other side of the system was a slotted false bottom Lauter Tun and a whirlpool. Nothing more! It's a single pot with two types of filter devices and a pump, plate cooler and bunch of programable control valves! Where has all the magic gone? Perhaps before I pulled back the curtain on the wizard I expected so much more, maybe a four chamber system, dunno why, but that was my thinking. These things are hooked up to a separate self standing HLT, and a CIP Unit. It would not be hard to build such a brew house using pots and a sludge pump, but then I think, why even bother? 

Mash in your kettle; transfer via hand, tipping cradle, or pump, to the Lauter Tun; Vorlauf back into the Kettle; Attach a pump to the side of the kettle and use that for whirlpooling. The reason most of these systems have a separate whirpool is due to the Kettle/Mash Tun having an integrated stirer. On a 50 cm pot system, it's still possible to manually stir, but then again... gadgets and devices... Maybe I ought to get a pot for whirlpooling...

Until the next time,

It's Your shout, Mate!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wants, Desires and Realisation

I wanted many things for my brewing system. Stainless steel pots, 1 1/2 inch pipe work for transferring sludge, pumps that can move both grain and water, automation the whole gear junky bit. What I really want is simplicity.It took me months to look at my pot system and design a stand of it. Now, I’m gonna get a 50cm dia. pot that is way to big for the design. It’ll sit on top of the stand but the safety concept originally built in will be defunct. 
The other thing I’ve been tormented with is, “What sized pots?” Do I go with three pots all the same size or do I go with different pots? Conventional wisdom says, “All the same size!” I’d been wrestling with this idea for a while now, but my mate Peter turned up and started talking about latuering in a sink!?! Think about it for a moment. What is it we actually do, and what is the volume of fluid we use at each step? Lautering in a stainless steel sink (which has been insulated) makes sense. It’s no different to any other methodology we use where the mash is transfered to some filtering system.
This forced me to rethink the whole process. A 50cm pot has a workable volume of around 70 L after the boil and a total capacity of around 83 L depending on the height of you pot, here they tend to be as high as they are wide. So in end effect, we are talking about a brewhouse that make roughly 4 cornie kegs of beer in one batch.
Lets step it back a bit. After Lautering the total vol is somewhere near 80 L. Sparge is what ever the hell you want to use. Some go with 1:1 but I use a 1:2 ratio myself - that is 1 volume of sparge water to 2 volumes of mash liquor. This means I need an HLT with a 26L capacity max. It also means that I need a Mash/Lauter Tun that can hold approx. 53 L of fluid + grain.
Surprise, surprise! With a 50 cm Boil Kettle, I need a 45 cm Mash/Lauter Tun and a 35 cm HLT. Can you believe it? All this time I thought I needed pots all the same size! Now, if I mash in my kettle, all I need is a Mash Filter/Lauter Tun! 
Pappazian, where the fuck are you!
A light goes on.
The way I brew, now, is to mash in the kettle, transfer the mash to the Lauter tun, vorlauf the mash into an Underback until clear and then run the clarified wort back into the cleaned Kettle. Drain to near dry and then sparge. What would a sink do? The exact same thing as the Lauter pot! Which is the cheaper option? I guess that depends on which country you live in. Either way you need some kind of false bottom or manifold or s/s braid filter to separate the fluid from the grain.
The way I brew is dictated by the difficulties I’ve faced with brewing. It’s cost me a packet of money to come to this point. I wanted to Mash and Lauter in the same pot. I couldn't get a false bottom here in Vietnam, it has to be custom made, for the pot and usually that is not with any great success. Stirring the mash disturbs a manifold or a braid resulting in a disconnect. Yet, if you don’t stir you get significant temp differentials throughout the grain. Extraction efficiency anyone??? I’ve lost count of the number of times I had to don a pair of long rubber gloves and put the braid back while blowing bubbles through the drain tube to clear any grain that might be blocking it as I reconnect. So, now I mash in the Kettle and transfer the mash by hand to the Lauter tun. I may as well be using fucking plastic! 
Where IS that Papazian guy....

Until next time,

It's Your Shout, Mate!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fears, Smells and Aromas

Have you ever poured that first new beer of a batch, looked at the copious foam on the top of the pour, taken a deep whiff and thought, "Damn! it's all screwed up! What is that 'spicy' note?"

I did, the other day,  How can I describe it? I smelt a spicy, almost pepper-like, seemingly chemical or 'bug-like' aroma. It's the kind of aroma I usually associate with oxidized beer. To me, personally I find it slightly unpleasant and certainly an undesirable quality in my beer, yet many barely notice it.

The interesting thing is, the flavour profile shows no hint of this spicy, nose flaring, aroma. Its a smooth, mildly bitter, mildly malty, with a moderate to soft mouth feel, low carbonated, easily drinkable beer. Ok, it's supposed to be a Red Ale: more by happy accident than by deliberate planning; which foams easily but has low head retention with mild, initial lacing of the glass.

I'm really quite surprised.

19L Batch, 1.5kg Czech Malt (3 EBC), 1.4 kg Aust. Pale Malt (4.9 EBC), 1 kg Munich Malt (18 EBC), 0.375 kg Karamel Malt (50 EBC),  15g Cluster@60 min, 7.5g Cascade@20 min, 7.5g Cascade@5 min, re-pitched live brewery yeast.
30°C x 10 min in 20 L; 63°C x 60 min - pH 4.9; Gravity = 1035
7L sparge; Gravity = 1020; pH 5.0
Post Boil
Gravity =1030; pH 5.3; Fermentation Temp 17.5-22.7°C x 2 days; Final Gravity = 1005
Kegged in 18L Cornie with 500 ml Unfermented Wort Primer. Color approx. 7.5-9°L (Light Amber). Sampled after 19 days.

So, there it is, a troublesome worry sitting in the back of my head - what is that aroma, and how did it get there? Yet, in the taste test there's nothing for me to worry about. Strange indeed. Cheers!

Until next time,

It's Your Shout, Mate!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Brewing Furniture and Safety

What's wrong with this picture?

It's not a mess, it's not disorderly, it's easy to see a clear workflow operates from right to left, intermediate steps are managed in place, so what's wrong?

The furniture. It's bamboo. Now, when you load bamboo along its length its very strong, however, table tops of split bamboo are not designed for supporting 30 or 40+ kilograms of grain, water, burner, terracotta tiles etc. Well at least not for the long term. To top it of lateral movement stability leaves a lot to be desired once you start getting a vigorous stir up and going.

But, sometimes brewers will compromise on the support foundation of their brewhouse by cobbling together what ever they can find, rather than focus on building a great foundation for supporting their equipment safely. It took an ominous threat of spillage to force me to think about this particular issue.

Sure I wanted my pots, I wanted my cooler and I wanted everything organized so that I could "get brewing" but I had to wait a little while to get the right furniture, and it took me quite a while to think of the design, carefully, and sketch it out so that the Vietnamese steel workers in Hanoi could produce exactly what I was looking for.

And, here it is...
Now, having a 'pretty brewery' is no guarantee of making good beer, but it does go a long way towards making a consistent product safely and comfortably. Cheers!

Until the next time,

It's Your Shout, Mate!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Singapore - Touring The Pump Room

Whilst meeting with some of the Brewers from The First Homebrew Club of Singapore, I had the chance to talk with Jamie Hawkes, Restaurant Manager for The Pump Room Microbrewery and Bistro, ad he organized for me to meet up with their Brewmaster, Hayman TKM, the very next day.

So lets go inside and take a look around.

Now, The Pump Room is located behind a glass wall in the back corner, to the left of the stage, diagonally opposite the main entry to the Bistro, and the first think you notice when looking at the brewhouse, is that its a two pot confguration...  Mashing and Lautering are done in the smaller upper tun, Boiling and Whirlpooling are done in the larger lower kettle.

Hayman TKM and The Pump Room Brewhouse.

Hayman is a good natured guy and makes a decent IPA using this NDA manufactured equipment.

Just behind the entry door and to the right of the two main pots is the control panel. This Brewery is a hands on system! All the valves (left side of picture) are turned by hand and the pumps are activate by selecting the correct  nob (lower right side of picture) on the control box. Another interesting aspect is that the after the grain is milled (center of picture), it is mixed, in the pipe (bottom center of picture) with water and this moves both milled grain and mash-in liquor into the Mash/Lauter Tun.
Grain Hopper, Mill, Valves and Pump Station

After Boiling and whirlpooling, the wort has to be cooled as quickly as possible. In  The Pump Room this is accomplished using a standard industrial plate chiller. Hayman tells me that this is one part of the system that they plan to upgrade so as to improve their cooling flowrate and to allow larger volumes of beer to be cooled more quickly. Presently it take a couple of hours to complete the cooling process.
Plate Chiller

Now, space is a premium in most breweries and here it's no different. On the right are the fermentation tanks and on the left is the CIP unit - which can be moved to each piece of equipment; and. behind it is the hot Liquor Tun. After the Fermenters is a panel of sight glasses showing the various beers currently on tap.

In the Cellar/Coolroom several conditioning and Serving Tanks are kept, along with smaller kegs which are used for distributing finished beer to various Singapore locations that also dispense beer from The Pump Room.

Next to the Cellar Door is a small conical fermenter which is used for yeast harvesting, Whilst next to the Mash tun & Kettle is probably one of the most important peices of equipment in any brewery - the Step Stool!

Now, we've had a look around the place but I know you're dying to have a peek inside the beast... So here we have it...

The Mash Lauter Tun has a screw down false bottom and rakes for stirring the mash. Removal of spent grain is done by hand as the rakes don't particularly help in this situation. Afterwards a few screws in the false bottom are removed, the plates lifted up and the underside can be cleaned.

In the Top of the Mash Lauter Tun is a sparge ring with several spray-myst nozzles, and to the right of the ring is the CIP Inlet. In the centre of the ring is the drive shaft for the rake arm.

The Whirlpool is driven by pumping the wort back into the Kettle to create a vortex in the Wort.

The Pump Room relies on having a good whirlpool result as the beer is not filtered downstream. Natural flocculation methods are used to help clarify the beer to some extent.

Hope you enjoyed this tour of the Pump Room Brewing Facility, I certainly did, and it's great to see that some of these craftbreweries are making their beer in a way that is very recognizable even to the small, home-based or hobby brewer. Thanks Hayman, and The Pump Room for letting me have a look around.

Until the next time,

Its Your Shout, Mate!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

First Hoby Brewers Club of Singapore

Well, I met up with Bill, and Michael from the First Hobbybrew Club of Singapore at Brewerkz at Riverside Point (you would hve seen a few pics from a previous post.)

From there we went to The Pump Room. The beer of choice on tap was an IPA. It was a golden brown colour, quite cloudy and noticably citrusy, like grapefruit - really, like grapefruit.

We discussed this a bit, and it seems some people can't distingush between Citrus - Orange; Citrus - Lemon; Citrus -Lime; or Citrus - Grapefruit (or Pomello).

After a few beers in The Pump Room, it was time to go. Here's a pic:

and hopefully I'll get a closer look around the brewhouse, tomorrow.

Until the next time,

Its Your Shout, Mate!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Expedition Singapore

So, I got the beer into bottles, and the missus had us booked onto a plane bound for Singapore.

Singapore, the land of Raffles!

Did you know they also did home brew? I didn't know until I Googled it - home brew club, home brew shops etc.

So here we are: Just done the Santosa Island experience, and we're in need of refreshment... we end up on Riverside Point. One place, two places, Brewerkz!

Hey, I saw this mob online!

So I went in, looking for the 1st Hobby Brewers Club of Singapore, as I thought it was also associated with this place, but no cigar, I couldn't even find a staff member who knew anything about the group: I was feeling very sad :-(

So I decided after looking around the place to settle down in front of the brew kettle, at the bar and order an Indian Pale Ale...

...and a very nice ale it was. I also noticed one of those curiosities about Singapore that seemed a little out of place in this pub - that is the, "don't go beyond this point our you'll get shot!" signs. It begs the question, why would you get shot for going near the brewhouse?!?

So, craftbrewing here in Singapore is almost a matter of, "Life and Death" and not worth chancing. However, the beer does taste good. That's all for now, so...

Until the next time,

Its Your Shout, Mate!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

First Cornie Keg

Well, here's an update. The test beer fermented out quite quickly, or so I thought. So, I racked it to the secondary added a touch of nutrient and popped into the fridge. Guess what? it started fermenting again! I guess the ambient temperature the day after pitching was too high and caused a stuck ferment. The temp drop got it going again and I left it there for almost a week. I recon I could have left it there longer, but I'm off to Singapore for a few days and figured, why not, lets test the keg!

NOw the keg came up to me from HCMC via Dean of The First Hobby Brewer Club of HCMC. I added 200ml of primer (unfermented wort collected from the Open Day Brewup) and put it all into the keg which was washed, then dosed with Sodium Hydroxide and then rinsed with water and iodine. The total volume was around 10L of beer.

So, now its in the cuppoard and we'll see if it conditions, some say theres a problem due to insufficient sealing of the o-ring when the keg is under-preasurised, thus developing CO2 escapes out rather than carbonating the beer. We shall see what we shall see.

I also took some time to put the Open Day Brew into bottles. In the end, I bottled in 16 Grolsch bottles, 2 Flensberger 'Mini' bottles and one HB Munchen bottle, these brown glass bottles will serve well as samplers, I recon.

So, there it is, from grain to glass (so to speak) The beer's in the bottle!

Until the next time,

Its Your Shout, Mate!

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Funny Hobby

Its a funny hobby this, “wanting to make beer” hobby. My journey as a brewer could not be described as typical, but certainly it also would not be considered unusual. I’ve participated in making beer with others. I’ve made some beers on my own. I’ve read forums, I’ve listened to the podcasts and watched the streaming vids; I’ve even poisoned myself! But I’m still here, plugging away, always learning, trying, refining the process and my system for making good beer. As I said, nothing unusual.

Unlike many home based brewers, hobby brewers, and other craft brewers, I don’t brew in the garage, or in the front/back yard, on the patio, or in the kitchen. I tried to but; well, my garage is a car port which serves as entry to the house and kids play area; My kitchen, whilst sizable and usable does not have the storage support necessary for the scale at which I wish to brew; and, we have no front/back yard or patio, or shed: and as we all know, “All Australian boys need a shed;” so, my space is a top floor, sun room and all my brewing junk is kept in the one place. I call that space, “The Herald of Change Brewery.

Now some people meditate with their eyes closed, others relax and listen to music, chant a mantra or focus their eyes on some mandala, me? I kick back on the couch in my brew space and gaze at my brewery, and think: think about the pots, the tubing, the lab, the little bits of lab equipment, the malthouse, the grain in stock, the fermenters, the fridge, the cleanup area, the benches... the list goes on. I think about how to improve things, simplify things, get the next bit of equipment - And I caught myself! I realized I’d been caught up in the home based brewers equivalent of an “arms race.” It’s a question of scale.

I’ve made beer in a coffeepot - a lovely maple beer, and a poisonous gruit ale debacle; I’ve brewed on the kitchen stove;

Brewing on the Stovetop

and, mashed in a cooler bucket and multi-step mashed in the same;

Single Step Infusion Mash Brewery

I’ve bought various s/s pots of differing sizes and three tiered the brewhouse with various combinations; I’ve even built a kit system for others to start out with making 10L of all grain beer!

All Grain Brew In a Bag Starter Kit

Each system had its nuances and as you mingle with old hands at the game, its easy to be discouraged by others who have bought into the bigger is better argument: it takes the same time to brew 50L as it does 10L; 10L is not self-sufficient, but 100L is... etc.

What struck me is that many of the people who have the larger systems only brew once or twice a month. I’m a stay at home dad. I’m lucky to have a wife who not only works but is also supportive of my hobby. I can brew almost any day of the week; i.e. I can brew more than twice a month, and twice on the same brew day! So the question of scale must be augmented by a second question, one of frequency.

Recently I opened my brew space formally. I needed to get into it and working with it and making beer. So using what I had, I built a 19L (5gal) three tier system using a modified 27L cooler as a MLT. Straight away I instin

ctively wanted to step mash with it which meant using hot water additions. Now, with a bit of math its not too hard to work out what the additions needed to be but it IS a complication that is tricky and fiddly. My mate was not impressed with this and thought it just a gimmick, that its not possible to make GOOD beer in a repeatable way with such a system - he’s a 1516’er and I like that about him, it helps to maintain focus and perspective. So, I replaced the cooler with a burner and another pot, which increased the system capacity to 28L (10gal.) Approval! He said, “Now, you can brew any beer you could possibly want.”

But here’s the question, do I want to brew any beer I could possibly want, or just the beer I’d like to drink? and, does single step vs multi-step really make a significant difference when it comes to brewing the beer I want to drink? Thus the issue become more muddied... Choice of beer style and choice of malt directly influences the choice of equipment, and the size of the equipment is influenced by spacial constraints and frequency of brewing. Then, there’s the issue of self-sufficiency - do I want, or need, to make enough beer that I don’t need to go to the shop and order a typical mega-swill? Again, a factor that influences size and/or frequency.

I set up The Guild to share information and resources about brewing good beer at home. It has been a driving factor for me to acquire knowledge, and experience as a brewer so that I could share it with others. it has also driven me to seek out suppliers of equipment and ingredients to solve technical issues and problems associated with trying to brew in Hanoi. It has even led to me offering to provide a equipment purchasing & training service to new members of The Gu

ild who would like to start brewing their own beers.

But it has also drawn me away from my primary focus, to make beer, good beer, repeatably, for myself. So, I sit on the couch and stare into the distance,

The Herald of Change


beyond the HLT, MLT, Underback, Kettle, Chiller and CWT... and think, “What next?” Single Tier? I’ve got the pumps; Automation? What size pots? What happens when there’s no power? Some more Stainless Steel? Plastic or Silicone Tubing? Keg System? Fermentation Control? Fermentation and the risk of Light Strike...

... And slowly it dawns on me, I need to get back to perfecting recipes, just making beer, repeatably. The space works, everything is in place except for some iron benches to replace the bamboo tables and stools, but it all works. It’s all in order. The workflow is streamlined, efficient and orderly.

Its so easy to get caught up in the Brewers Arms Race, to be misled by ambition and loose sight of one of the most important aspects of making beer, and that’s the simple effort of actually making it, regularly, to build experience by doing over and over again like anyone who wishes to gain mastery of a skill that requires both physical presence and effort.

I’ve done what I need to do for The Guild. There is a pathway in place for new brewers to follow. Its time to do for myself. Its time to start making beer.

Until the next time,

Its Your Shout, Mate!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Herald of Change Brewery

Last Sunday I launched my new brewspace - The Herald of Change Brewery, by inviting members of the Hanoi Handcrafted - Brewers Guild to come along and participate in the making of some beer. One of the attendees, Dean Anthony is the founder of Hobby Brewer Vietnam, another, Peter Lentes is the first hobby brewer in Hanoi. The third attendee was Alex Graham, who is one of the early adopters of my All Grain 10L Pilot Brewery Kit. As luck would have it, a few days before the opening, VTV4 contacted me and asked if they could do a segment for their "Expat Lives" program. [See the video below...]

The name of the brewery took quite some time to work out. I was looking for a, 'Ye olde worlde' type pub name like "The Farmers Arms," or "The Pig and Whistle," or "The Bearded Clam," but nothing sat quite just right. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks, many people use their own name, e.g. Peter's Extra; to label their beer or brewspace, so why not mine? It just didn't have quite the ring I was looking for, but the meaning of my name did - Herald of Change.

Taking the initials led to an additional, unexpected pun, THC - another intoxicating substance; I was sold; the name had been found, and it was good!

My brewspace is a 4 by 5 meter room. It is set up with:
- a malthouse for grain storage and milling
- a brewhouse for the mashing and boiling of wort
- a wetshop for clean up and washing of equipment
- a cellar for the fermentation and storage of packaged beer
- a warehouse for the storage of empty bottles, kegs and miscellany
- a laboratory for yeast cultivation, storage, and starter preparation
- an office for recording brewday data, and inventory management, and
- a couch for sitting on and gazing at the whole system - quite meditative really.

There's an insulated keg that serves as a nice beer table and magazine rack and the rest of the middle room space is kept open and clear of clutter. All in all its a very orderly and easy to use space.

The brewhouse s , at present, for the purpose of moving forward and making beer, a three tier, single step infusion mash system built around a insulated cooler with braided hose as a manifold. Trouble is I keep trying to multi step mash in it - I've even calculated the temp absorption by the cooler and the individual water additions for a 5 step mash program and not blow out the 27L capacity of the cooler.

The current plans are to replace the existing bamboo tableware with stainless steel or painted iron, purpose built benches; and to replace the cooler with a 2nd burner and 40cm stainless steel pot; and, the transfer pipes will be replaced with silicon tubing. But, the need is to get going and brew, replacements can be integrated along the way but can't be allowed to stop the brewing process, hence the Opening last Sunday.

Hope you enjoy the video:

Until the next time,

It's Your shout, Mate!