Beer Reviews

Yes that’s right I do love a Mild. In these times of Hop Bomb IPA’s I still turn to the classics and Mild is one I still really enjoy. Quite a while ago now I brewed Mild Cow, which is what I called my version of Barclay Perkins Boddington’s Mild. It turned out to be a stunning recipe and one I really enjoyed.

So taking this as my starting point I decided to see if I could brew a variant of it but this time a paler version so with less malts. If you have ever had Timothy Taylor’s Golden Best, this is kind of what I had in mind. golden-mildAnyway the best laid plans and all that it didn’t quite turn out as Golden as I expected as you can see it is more of a copper colour, still lighter than the original but definitely not Golden! The recipe sheet still says Golden Mild but for the bottle I thought I would just go with ‘It’s Mild’ to avoid any questions….

The big difference versus the Mild Cow recipe was the change of hops, I had lots of Fuggles so used those up instead and I even added a flame out addition too. I think to keep it Golden I should have only had a touch of Crystal in or even left it out all together. The yeast was West Yorkshire Ale – WYeast1469, which is one of my favourites especially for a beer like this.

You can download the recipe here.

With the brewing and fermenting over, about 4 weeks after the initial brew day we got to sample the finished beer. And wow, what a great hop forward brew Star Spangled Pale Ale is. We really enjoyed it and if there is one thing that lets down brewing in small batches, it is the small batches themselves as 12 bottles don’t last long!

p1020392This one didn’t hang around very long at all and Jim and I certainly enjoyed the fruits of our labours.

The finished beer had a lovely copper colour as you can see, poured easily and created a nice a head on the beer.

Highly recommended, if you want to try all grain brewing or if you want to get a scaled up version of this recipe Homebrewtique can supply it.

Homebrewtique logoI was recently sent a complete kit to review from the team at Homebrewtique and I have to say I am very impressed with what arrived in the box. The concept is simple, it’s designed to make all grain brewing easy to get into but importantly make it open to anyone no matter what space they have available for brewing. The kits they supply are designed to create 5 litre batches of beer.

Everything in the box is very well thought through and well presented, Step-by-Step instructionscomplete with easy to follow instructions. If you are thinking about creating great craft beer at home but are wondering where to start this kit from Homebrewtique would be a great starting point.

Boiler & FermenterIn the kit there is a large pan for mashing the grain and boiling the wort to make the beer. There is also a thermometer, fermenting bucket, bottles, sanitiser and everything else you need to get started. Of course the star of the show is the ingredients themselves, the pack I chose was Star Spangled, an American Pale Ale at 5.3%.

Supplied ingredients & instructions

So to give the kit a true workout I have recruited a friend with no all grain brewing experience to see just how easy it is. We will be brewing the beer in a few weeks but in the meantime watch my video review here.

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It was earlier this year when I experienced a day brewing with Hillside Brewery that I discovered Untappd. Some of my fellow brewers on the day were already avid users of the app and keenly introduced me to it.

It is safe to say that I am now a regular and find it a great tool to share my beer experiences with anyone who cares to follow me. It also allows me to discover new beers based on those I rate.

It’s a simple app that allows you to take a pic of the beer you are drinking, tag the location, rate it and comment on it before sharing with your Untappd followers.

App

If you would like to follow me on Untappd via iPhone or Android my user name is: thehomebreweruk

AG Hillside Legend IPAThe Hillside Brewery is set in the Forest of Dean, as the name suggests on a hillside looking back towards Gloucester. On this cold but sunny clear day it was a great place to be.

In February this year I was invited to take part in their brewing experience day along with 8 other guys all keen to see and understand how the pros do it, some with home brewing experience and others without but all there ready to get their hands dirty. The idea of the brewing experience day is to brew one of Hillsides core beers. Today it was ‘Legend of Hillside’ their English IPA, named such to separate it from those mega hoppy, mega strong IPA’s that proliferate today.

As part of the day there was also a tasting session guided by Matt, one of the Hillside Brewing team.

The Brewery

We spent most of the day in the brewery itself going through the process of making the beer. Head Brewer, Will expertly explained each step of the process that Hillside uses to make their beer. The brewery has a 5 BBL capacity from which they brew about 3 times per week. On entering the brewery the HLT was already primed and waiting to pre warm the Mash Tun. At this point we stood well back as a hose of hot ‘Burtonised’ water was waved around prior to going into the Mash Tun.

The Mash – part 1

Once warmed we were then onto ‘Doughing In’ and adding the grains, assembled in large sacks, next to the Mash Tun. Most of the guys there had a go at adding some of the grains. The grain bill for this beer is quite simple consisting of Maris Otter together with Munich and Wheat Malts. Once the mash was on and at the target temperature of 68 degrees we left the brewery and headed inside for breakfast and a chance to hear more about Hillside Brewery’s story so far.

Hillside’s Story

The brewery was acquired by the current owners, in 2013 and they have turned it from a hobby brewery to a very professional one, that in 2015 alone won over 16 awards for its beers. Being set on a farm they are blessed with space and construction is currently underway for more cask storage space, a new bottling and conditioning room as well as a new bar, café and events space. By July this year it will not only be a bigger brewery but a tourist and leisure destination in its own right.

The Mash – part 2

Now back to the brew with the mash complete, the sparge arm was engaged to draw the wort from the Mash Tun. Interestingly Will always aims a good distance over gravity for the wort aiming to then liquor back both pre and post boil. At all points the wort gravity is checked with the Refractometer, each measurement is done 3 times and an average used.

The Boil

As the wort is added to the Brew Kettle First Wort Hops are added to deliver a smoother and more rounded hop bitterness to the finished beer, this addition uses Pilgrim Hops. The breweries location is very close to the Hop Farms of Herefordshire so in most cases they even know the farmer who grows their hops. As an added bonus they are able to work with them on piloting new varieties in their infancy. Brewing ‘Legend of Hillside’ today also requires late additions of Northdown, Goldings and Challenger Hops. The boil time is just an hour with the additions coming at 15 and 5 minutes from the end. You can get my version of this recipe here.

Beer Tasting

With the boil underway we headed to the veranda and its stunning views to enjoy the guided beer tasting with Matt, this also included eating some raw grains and hops to understand the flavours more in the finished beer. The beers we tried were: Legend of Hillside, Pinnacle, Legless Cow and Over the Hill, the latter being a Dark Mild and interestingly their second best seller after Legless Cow! The tasting was followed by a stunning home-made curry, Hillside also offer a Curry Experience day!.

Fermentation

At the end of the curry it was time to make the final hop additions and engage the plate chiller ready to take the wort to the new fermentation room and fermenter ready for its arrival. Once in there the SO4 yeast was added and it is left for 5-7 days to ferment. Hillside vary fermentation time depending on the beer being brewed.

Conditioning

Bottled & ready to sell
Bottled & ready to sell

At Hillside time is given to the beers for the flavor to develop. Once primary fermentation is complete the beer is chilled for 2 days to settle out any remaining yeast or hop pellets. After which it is then racked to casks for a further 7 days and then either primed and fined for distribution in casks or is primed and bottled. It will then spend at least another 7 to 10 days in cold conditioning before being released for sale.

The Legend of Hillside Recipe – download my version here

After enjoying seeing the ‘Legend of Hillside English IPA’ being brewed and enjoying a drink of it afterwards I thought I would put together my own version of it if you fancy trying it.

You can of course buy the breweries beers too here.

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Since I met with the team at Corinium Ales (Read my ‘Meet the Brewer’ interview with them here) they have launched a new beer to their range, one that uses entirely British Hops so I was keen to get a taste! The beer is called Bodicacia, following on with their Roman theme. It was launched just before Christmas so I picked a couple of bottles up from them at the local farmers market, at the same time I also got two bottles of one of their limited edition brews, Glostavius a hoppy IPA. See the full Corinium Ales range here.

Corinium Ales – Bodicacia

Corinium Ales Bodicacia
Corinium Ales Bodicacia
  • See – Pale Straw
  • Smell – Mellow fruits
  • Taste – Subtle spices, giving way to a sweet maltiness
  • Bitterness – 7/10
  • Sweetness – 5/10

 

 

Corinium Ales – Glosatvius

Corinium Ales Glostavius
Corinium Ales Glostavius
  • See – Deep Amber
  • Smell – Grapefruit and lemons
  • Taste – Sharp happens with tangy citrus fruits
  • Bitterness – 8/10
  • Sweetness – 2/10

This is a much delayed ‘Part 2’ of my Honest Brew ‘Taster’ box review. See part 1 here. I received the box in December and having only just recovered from Christmas I thought it was time to publish it! The last four in the box were Four Pure Pils, Buxton Wild Boar IPA, Howling Hops Running Beer and Wild Beer Wild Goose Chase. I have tasted Four Pure Pils before and I do really like it especially when drunk very cold, it’s a really smooth drink. I have never had a Wild Beer before and Wild Goose Chase was really not to my taste, it’s a Farmhouse Ale so is closer to Cider than Ale in my opinion with plenty of sour taste to be had. The Buxton Wild Boar IPA is great, very hoppy and if you like a West Coast IPA you will like this and Howling Hops was again hoppy and West Coast like but dark in colour with a bit of malt, just how I like it.

The great thing is these beers were all in the ‘Taster’ box of 6 beers available for just £9 rather than the usual £18. Claim your discount by clicking here or entering the code ‘homebrew’ at the checkout on the Honest Brew site.

See the tasting notes for each beer below:

Four Pure Pils

Four Pure Pils
Four Pure Pils
  • See – Pale Straw
  • Smell – Subtle spiciness with a hint of fruit
  • Taste – Mellow hoppiness with a lingering spicy hop note
  • Sweetness – 7/10
  • Bitterness – 4/10

 

 

 

 

Buxton Wild Boar IPA

Buxton Wild Boar IPA
Buxton Wild Boar IPA
  • See – Very pale straw – there’s a theme with very pale ales at the moment
  • Smell – Typical citrus hit of an APA
  • Taste – Tropical fruits with a lingering bitterness
  • Sweetness – 5/10
  • Bitterness – 7/10

 

 

Howling Hops Running Beer

Howling Hops Running Beer
Howling Hops Running Beer
  • See – Deep, dark Copper
  • Smell – Tropical Fruits
  • Taste – New world hoppy Bitterness and tropical fruit
  • Sweetness – 3/10
  • Bitterness – 7/10

 

 

Wild Beer Wild Goose Chase 

Wild Beer - Wild Goose Chase
Wild Beer – Wild Goose Chase
  •  See – Pale Straw
  • Smell – Tangy Fruits
  • Taste – Very dry and sour fruit, very cider like
  • Sweetness – 3/10
  • Bitterness – 4/10

 

 

 

If you want to see what some of the other Beer Clubs have to offer check out my Beer Club Comparison Chart here.

 

 

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Tasting Box December 15
Honest Brew – Tasting Box December 15

Following on from my review of Beer 52, this month saw the arrival of my ‘Taster’ box from Honest Brew. Their approach is a bit different to the other Beer Clubs as they start by sending you 6 beers to taste to see what you like. Based on the ‘Taster’ box you fill in your preferences online and the next box onwards is matched to what you like, rather than being random each time. The great thing is the ‘Taster’ box of 6 beers is available for just £9 rather than the usual £18. Claim your discount by clicking here or entering the code ‘homebrew‘ at the checkout on the Honest Brew site.

Tasting Cards & Guide
Tasting Cards & Guide

The first two beers I sampled were: Five Points Railway Porter and Beavertown’s Neck Oil Session IPA,  both are great beers too, my tasting notes are below.

Within the ‘Taster’ box was a card for each beer complete with tasting notes to help  build your preferences online as well as a background on each brewery. Altogether it’s a really well thought out beer experience.

Other beers in the box were:

  • Wild Beer – Wild Goose Chase, Saison 4.5%
  • Four Pure – Pils, Pilsner 4.7%
  • Buxton – Wild Boar, IPA 5.7%
  • Howling Hops – Running Beer, Brown Ale 4.0%

Tasting Notes

Beavertown Neck Oil Session IPA

Beavertown Session IPA

  • See – Pale Gold
  • Smell – Subtle Citrus/Grapefruit
  • Taste – Very smooth, tropical fruit
  • Sweetness – 6/10
  • Bitterness – 5/10
  • Overall this is a great session IPA, very smooth and one I could quite easily just keep drinking!

 

Five Points Railway Porter

Railway Porter

  • See – Pitch Black
  • Smell – Slightly burnt toffee
  • Taste – Smoky malt with a spicy backnote
  • Sweetness – 1/10
  • Bitterness – 5/10
  • Overall this Porter was exactly how I would like to brew one myself, being smoky, spicy and pitch black it’s perfect for winter.

 

 

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During the first week of November I was lucky enough to be invited to interview Colin & Lucy, the team behind Corinium Ales, Cirencester to find out a bit more about their beers and what inspired them to start the brewery. I was also fortunate to be there on a brew day. On entering the garage in their garden I was greeted by Colin clutching his hydrometer!

Corinium Ales - Colin & Lucy
Corinium Ales – Colin & Lucy

1. When did you start the brewery and why?

As a number of home brewers are considering turning their hobby into a job I thought this would be a good place to start our conversation. Corinium Ales was inspired by redundancy and a trip to the USA a few years ago where they discovered a love of hoppy IPA’s whilst touring California and realized that such beers where difficult to find at home. At this point Lucy took a Snake River Brewing pint glass from the cupboard and said it was probably whilst drinking that very pint she proclaimed to Colin they would set up the brewery when they returned home.

2. How easy was it to get started?

‘Well after a lot of hard work….it was pretty straightforward as it turned out. Neither of us had much home brewing or professional brewing experience for that matter’, so Lucy undertook the 4 day Brewlabs course to get an insight into what is needed to be a professional brewer. Following that a couple of local brewers were kind enough to show Lucy & Colin the ropes in their own breweries after which they purchased a half BBL sized kit and converted their garage into the brewery.

3. What’s changed since you set up the brewery in terms of the business?

‘Well the kit has been upgraded to 1 BBL and the brewery is about to move to new premises in Cirencester that will, with a little re-jigging allow us to brew at capacity and allow the customers more access to the brewery and build on the excellent word of mouth that prevails locally about their beers’. The move has also been driven by their success in continually selling out of their stocks of beer and the fact the brewery and all it entails has almost taken over their house and garden as they have expanded.

4. You have won a number of local business and brewing awards can you tell me about those?

‘Since starting we have won no close to 12 ‘Best in Festival’ CAMRA Awards and two in the Cotswold Life Food & Drink Awards which is pretty good going in our first 3 years. Most recently we won ‘Best Farmers Market Stallholder’ for our regular stall at the Cirencester Farmers Market’.

Whilst awards aren’t everything Lucy and Colin believe they have really helped their brewery in gaining awareness locally but not only that it has given them the confidence that people do really like their beers!

Corinium Ales - Ale Caesar III a hoppy IPA & my favourite
Corinium Ales – Ale Caesar III a hoppy IPA & my favourite

5. Tell me about the range of beers you have and where the range is heading.

‘Corinium Ales is built around our three classic beer styles that we launched the brewery with’. They are:

  • Corinium Gold I (4.2%) An easy drinking, traditional golden ale with a mellow blend of malts and hops to give a subtle sweetness and a soft bitter finish…quaffable!
  • Centurion Stout II (4.7%) A light bodied malty stout with toasty chocolate undertones that leaves a long well rounded aftertaste…yum!
  • Ale Caesar (5%) A stimulating and well-hopped India Pale Ale with tropical fruit aromas balanced with a pleasing bitter finish…awesome! All three are very good and very drinkable, but in picking a favourite for me it has to be ‘Ale Caesar’.

‘To keep things interesting, and new for both Colin in brewing and their customers there are regular special brews and some exclusives too. One such exclusive is Beerus Brittanicus brewed using water from the local Chedworth Roman Villa and only available to buy exclusively from the National Trust shop there and the Cirencester and Stroud Farmers Market. Moving forward there are plans for new special beers and one about to launch that celebrates the local heritage and 3 varieties of British Hops’.

See the full range of beers from Corinium Ales

6. There are a number of local breweries both old and new, can you tell me which ones you most admire.

Lucy chose her words carefully as she respects them all and the local brewing community is very friendly too. But she picks out Stroud Brewery and Gloucester Brewery as the two that stand out the most.

7. And what about a favourite beer or beers (not your own)

Besides that fateful APA back in California Colin offers up Buxton Brewery’s Axe Edge and Lucy goes for the ever loved Timothy Taylor Landlord.

Corinium Ales Brewery
Corinium Ales Brewery

8. In terms of the brewery what’s the best bit of kit you invested in?

‘Lucy says for her it isn’t kit as such but the Corinium Ales branding and packaging. At the time we thought it was expensive, but thanks to ‘Smudge’ it has been money well spent as the bottles and the brand is very recognizable and stands out in the crowd’.

For Colin and the brewery the answer was easy, ‘Two big plate chillers and getting 200 litres of wort down to fermentation temperature in about 30 minutes. When brewing in the garage on the odd day it’s warm in the summer temperature reduction used to be a pain’.

9. What about some tips for the home brewer who wants to make better beer, what would you suggest?

Colin doesn’t hesitate in his response, ‘Temperature control! It’s the number one from chilling the wort quickly and pitching the yeast to keeping the fermentation temperature even and within range for the yeast’. Colin’s other tip was to ‘experiment as much as possible, swapping the yeast in a beer you’ve made before or just playing with the recipes to keep it interesting. As home brewers you don’t have customers to keep happy only yourselves so go for it!’

 

For more details visit: www.coriniumales.co.uk

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Coniston Bluebird
Coniston Bluebird

At long last I tracked down a bottle at least of this most revered of beers. I have been keen to see what it was like for a long, long time but alas never found it anywhere in a bottle nor even on draught in the Lake District!

A couple of week ago on a trip to Cheltenham I paid a visit to Favourite Beers, a shop with a vast array of bottled beers on sale. Amongst others I picked out was Coniston Bluebird, all I can say is ‘Wow’ I can see why it was once voted Championship Beer of Britain.

I am now working on an all grain recipe for something similar to this, which I will post when its ready. It is a Single Hop Bitter of about 35 IBU made with Challenger hops. It’s got a lovely floral aroma with a sweet bitter finish. One bottle was definitely not enough!

Favourite Beers, Cheltenham
Favourite Beers, Cheltenham

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