Home Brewing: AG9 – Cupboard Ale

Beer Homebrew

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.

ag9-1

Cupboard Ale

  • 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
  • Windsor yeast

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.

tank-2

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.

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