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April Shilling

I’ve been homebrewing again. Having enjoyed the results of the February Flowers so much, I decided to try another of Graham Wheeler’s recipes from Brew Your Own British Real Ale. As before, I scaled it down using what seems to be a workable method for the equipment I have available, balancing everything round the measure of a 1kg bag of crushed pale malt. As well as not overwhelming my equipment, this means I can buy a fresh bag of crushed malt for each recipe. Pale malt is the main element of the grain bill for all sorts of beers I’m interested in trying and readily available in bags of that size. Other additions keep better – for example, I have a bag of crystal malt and a bag of black malt, but those are uncrushed and will have a much better shelf life – and while it means a much greater processing time per bottle, it also means I don’t end up with a long bottling session and lots to drink through before I can practise my brewing skills again.

The main innovation in my approach for this brew (based on Belhaven 80/s, hence my April Shilling moniker) comes from the realisation that using a brew in the bag approach means I don’t need to bother with “sparging” (pouring hot water on the grains after they have been mashed to rinse more fermentables out of them). I’ve been using a bag for my grains ever since I stepped up from brewing with kits but I’ve also been sparging. Recent reading on some forums suggested this was unnecessary and so this time I left it out. That was a worthwhile result: it is easier to hold a larger volume of water at a consistent temperature during the mashing phase, it saves the complexity and potential hazards of sparging and, to cap it, I found that I nailed the target original gravity of 1.040 (@ 20°C). I will be doing this again.

Anyway, the wort is now mixed with the yeast and in my fermenting vessels (I left it overnight in a plastic jerry can to cool). For reference, my recipe was a grain bill of 1kg of crushed pale malt along with 29g of crystal and 17g of black (crushed together in my grain grinder, on a loose setting). That was mashed in 9.2l of water for 90 minutes at 66°C. My strike temperature (the heat of the water before adding the grain) was 70°C and I only needed a few small adjustments along the way (checked every 15 minutes and swaddled in blankets while resting). I removed the grain bag and strained it to get some more wort but didn’t rinse with any more water. Bringing the wort to a gently rolling boil I added 86g of brewing sugar and 11g of Styrian Golding hops. The recipe called for Whitbread Goldings, which have slightly higher Alpha Acid content, but Styrians are the Goldings I have so I’ll see how that turns out. I also added 4g of further Styrians and some Irish moss (so light it is hard to measure but it is to help clear some of the crud before fermentation rather than for flavour, so I just used a good pinch). The yeast is the second half of the Nottingham Ale Yeast I used with Flowers.

There is a little more washing up to do but, otherwise, it is just a case of waiting for a week or two before bottling.

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