A few months ago, sat in a field outside a train station at the Reading Beer Festival (which, for the record, is my favourite beer festival in the country) I made a rather rash promise to make some beer especially for my friend Dave’s party.
Now, I’ve let people try my home brew before – it’s even been reviewed – but somehow the prospect of an entire batch being dedicated to the entertainment of others is fairly daunting.
As it was for a summer party, my plan was to go for something fairly light, both in terms of body and strength. Dave has a taste for the darker side, so some sort of slightly hoppy mild seemed like a good choice.
The actual recipe was a bit of a random one. My pale malt supply was a little low, so I ended up throwing in every last gram of pale, amber and crystal malt I had in the cupboard, and topping it up with black malt until BeerSmith told me it would be about the right colour. This is not how I normally like to work, but by pure chance the grain ratios looked fairly decent, so I decided to just see how it came out.
Challenger seemed to be a good bittering choice for a mild, but to mix things up a bit I added in some late and dry hopping with Amarillo.
3100g pale malt
380g amber malt
300g black malt
190g crystal malt
12g Challenger hops for the full boil
12g Challenger hops for the last 15 minutes of the boil
20g Amarillo hops at flameout
20g Amarillo hops, 7 days dry hopped
The brew day ran suspiciously smoothly; I hit my 65 degree mash temperature perfectly, and I had the boiler on by lunchtime. The boil was obviously more vigorous than usual though, as by the time I was finished and had the wort cooled down, I only had about 15 litres in the fermenter and it was way too strong.
It took around 4 more litres to get the gravity down to 1036, and by morning the Windsor yeast had generated what was comfortably the deepest head I’ve ever seen on a fermenter!
I’m starting to get into a fairly standard brewing routine – the beer spends one week in the primary fermenter before being moved into a secondary, which is where any dry hopping gets done. A further week later and it’s time to bottle or, on this occasion, transferring into another tank to take down to Reading.
Tasting it right after dry hopping, I admit to being a bit concerned – it was light to the point of being slightly watery, and the hops were not exactly subtle. A further week in the tank, however, gave it a chance for the body to fill out a little and the hops to calm down. By the time of the party, it was pretty close to what I’d been aiming for – a gently hopped, slightly fruity mild that was light enough to be just right for a warm summer’s afternoon sitting in the garden.
The only real issue was the lack of carbonation – as you can see from the picture above, the beer didn’t have anything in the way of a head, because I didn’t bother priming it in the tank, and it wouldn’t have held any pressure once the party started anyway.
My new tanks have the added benefit that as the caps are standard IBC size, it was easy to pick up a cap with a built-in tap – perfect for parties, although for future use I need to rig up some kind of breather so that I don’t end up with air bubbling up from the tap through the beer.
The conclusion? Well, I saw more than one person have more than one pint and the majority of the tank had been drunk by morning which is just about the highest praise a beer can get.