Sunday, 18 October 2015

Trip to Norway: Part 3. The New Way: Voss Bryggeri

The final stage of the bus journey up Kytesvegen (Kee-tess-vay-gen) to the Voss Bryggeri gave me déjà vu, for I had rehearsed it on Google Earth Street View in case I decided to hike up there on foot (see video). The scenery was more spectacular than I expected, the mountains closer and the peaks higher. As the familiar yellow building hove into view I was thinking "what a great place to have a brewery, but why all they way up here?" Soon we arrived at the hairpin adjacent to the brewery and the bus stopped to let me off. After a quick gawp at the mountain opposite I made my way in.

Credit: Lars Marius Garshol
It wasn't quite what I expected. Instead of a bar it looked as if the malt delivery van had just left. Pallets of Belgian malt lay around in a space that could have been a general store or a café before it became a brewery in 2012. There was a small bar but it was mainly used for dispensing growlers to the locals that came up here for their weekend refills. Apparently they only open for a bar night every couple of months or so but they are open 4 til 7 on Thursday to Saturday for growlers. What luck that I would be in Voss from Thursday to Saturday. Eventually a fair haired guy appeared and I introduced myself. 
"Hi, I phoned a few days ago. I'm the brewer from England". 
"I know", he said, "you spoke to me".  
He hadn't been too forthcoming on the phone but now I could see that he was friendly really, just very laid back. This was Dag Jørgensenone of the three owners.  "Come on", he said, "let me show you around."

Dag Jørgensen
Just a few steps away I found myself staring down on some very swish stainless steel. Squeezed in to a tiny space but extending over two stories of this building on a hillside was a very neat 10 hectolitre brewery. They brought it in through the back door and then stood the tanks upright. Very nice. "That was a big investment", I said. He didn't answer but it clearly was. The original brewhouse was manufactured in Portland, Oregon and additional fermentation tanks from Italy.

 Jeanette Lillås
On our tour we met one of the other owners, Dag's partner Jeanette Lillås and their delightful baby daughter. She and Dag are from the east of Norway, outside of Oslo but lived in Voss for a decade before starting this venture and now live in the brewery. From the balcony at the rear was that gorgeous view of the mountain again and evidence that they had recently been brewing some vossaøl: juniper in a large pot, a cauldron and remains of a hearth. 
"Yeah, we make real vossaøl once in a while, 3 or 4 times a year but we can't sell 8% beer to you in a growler. We have to sell it to the state monopoly because it is over 4.7%."

Juniperus communis, gathered from the hillsides to make a juniper infusion
We saw the lower level of the brewery and then came back round to the bar and there was American brewer Wright Hollingsworth filling up growlers. He had once been production manager in a big brewery in Montana  but was enjoying being part of the small team at Voss Bryggeri. He didn't like the state control of alcohol in Norway at all but Dag was quite philosophical about it. 
"It make sense in a way", said Dag. "It secures the consumers a broad selection at reasonable prices.
" Do you mind? Do you live with it?"
"Yeah, I think its good. I like it. Without the Monopoly you see the selection drop and the prices go up. If the bigger brands or importers have the funds to push their products to the retailers, you see the same product in every supermarket. In Norway you can go the Monopoly and get a nice imported product at a reasonable price. So yeah, I like the Monopoly even though it limits us in a way. It benefits the consumer. It would be nice to sell bigger beers out of the brewery but we've got used to it."

A beer was thrust in my direction, VPA (Vossa Pale Ale) 6.5% and I sipped it reverentially. It was good stuff: juniper infusion, fresh and interesting, fruity, grapey Nelson Sauvin NZ hops. We continued to chat, about how their name was growing and they struggled to keep up with demand. 

Then another beer was proffered. "That's vossaøl."

My first vossaøl
Here it was; the object of my journey. I held it up to the light. Distinctively deep dusky orange-brown, slightly hazy and gently carbonated as it had been kegged, with a tight white head. The aroma was slightly of orange marmalade but with something else. The first sip confirmed the weight of malt that went into the brew, it was malty, dry but with a peppery kick. It was nicely balanced with gentle hops, which Dag told me were Strisselspalt. There was an orange note but in addition there was that dry pepperiness that pervaded the beer, a flavour I had never encountered in a beer before. This was the juniper infusion that is typically used for washing down equipment (it has a bactericidal property) and also as the brewing liquor for vossaøl. It was a real quality brew and completely new to me.

I bought a t-shirt; dark grey, with their distinctive v-shaped logo of a glass of yellow beer with a white head. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the Dag was filling a two-litre growler. I thought it was the tap that he had got the vossaøl from. I bought a second t-shirt as it would make a good present one day.

Wright Hollingsworth, Dag Jørgensen filling two litre growlers plus two of their customers.
Dag served up a third taster, this time a black beer but I don't know what they call it. It had a strong roasted malt aroma but tasted much lighter body than I expected and drier that expected, heavy black malty flavour. Luscious.

He left me alone while I sipped the beer and he talked with his customers. I can't speak Norwegian but could make out the word "humle" in the conversation a couple of times and "vossaøl" and "kveik", so they were clearly talking beer. What else in a brewery?

"I'll be leaving in the next five minutes", Wright whispered in my ear, offering me a lift back to Voss. I went to say my goodbye's to Dag and wished him luck with his enterprise and with the growing family.

"I have a surprise. I am filling a growler for you", said Dag.
"You are?? You said you couldn't!".
"I can't, but if you come to Voss from England to explore the local brewing tradition..."
"You'd better work out a price", I said.
"Can't sell it to you, man".
"Well, I'll just leave it on the doormat then. How much is the glass growler?"
"One ten...or another t-shirt."
"We'll do that then. One-ten and another t-shirt".

I said my goodbyes and expressed my gratitude for the hour and a half's visit and a whole growler of vossaøl, saying that if he ever came to England I would give him any assistance I could. I then jumped in to the car with Wright and off to Voss, where he dropped me, of all places, right outside the Vinmonopolet - the state wine monopoly that controls the sale of everything over 4.7% alcohol. Ha!

Friday, 16 October 2015

Trip to Norway: Part 2. The Old Way: Mølstertunet

Norway, like many countries, is experiencing a healthy growth in the number of startup breweries but it also has a farmhouse brewing tradition going back centuries that it is alive and well in the districts of Voss, Møndal and elsewhere. On my first day in Voss I got to see examples of both: the old at the wooden farmstead of Mølstertunet, part of Voss Folkemuseum (this post) and the new brewhouse at Voss Bryggeri some 12 kilometres away from Voss (see Part 3). 

[By the way: the o slash character ø is fairly common in Norwegian and is pronounced somewhat like a German o umlaut ö. To say the word for ale - øl - round your lips and push them forward while saying "earl". Hope that helps.]

My trusty mobile has become an invaluable tool and now I almost entirely depend on it to run my life. A bewildering array of tools and services that only a few years ago would require a van load of devices and documents to provide its functions are now available in my trouser pocket. It is truly marvellous and yet my careless reading of the digital map of Norway on my phone would twice lead me the wrong way. Eventually I found the path up the hillside to the Voss Folkemuseum but not before I had the opportunity to inspect a lot of Norwegian domestic architecture and garages on the outskirts of town. More interesting than you would think actually.

A genuine turf roof, laid on layers of birch bark
What every man would want: a shed with a turf roof.
I was probably the only visitor up there that morning so Brita Tveite, the museum attendant, had to take a great bunch of keys to open up the ancient farm buildings for my inspection. Abandoned in 1927 when the two farming families who had occupied its 16 buildings built themselves new houses nearby, Mølstertunet remains untouched by the passage of time. Its dark wooden buildings beneath turf roofs and local slates (skifer in Norwegian) look just as if the old inhabitants would come around the corner at any moment.

I was left to my own devices and I wandered from building to building. Though it was a museum, the intervention of labels was almost non-existent and that made it easier to be transported one hundred, two hundred, three, even five hundred years into the past and I imagined the hearth alight, the smell of wood smoke and the conversations in Norwegian dialect as the days' chores were done. Everything was of wood: walls, ceilings and floor, utensils and containers. In contrast to the echoing terrazzo and marble of Italian rooms, the atmosphere is hushed, homely and wonderfully warm to the touch. And yet, when I looked closely I could see through the gaps where the walls meet the floor. "Wasn't it cold and draughty?", I enquired. "No", I was assure. "When it was occupied, all the gaps were stopped up and when the fire was lit they were very cosy."

The farmhouse with hops growing beside the door

Outside, the small farmyard was perhaps greener now than when rough shod boots tramped over it but there were huge slabs of flat rock laid in strategic places. Hops grew up the wall beside the farmhouse door.

Included among the cluster of buildings was the all important brewhouse, for beer was an important component of farm life, providing hydration and sustenance for hard workers, relaxation and entertainment after the day is done and comfort on long winter evenings. Back in the day they produced lower strength beer for daytime refreshment but today the only beer that seems to be brewed is the strong, dark vossaøl and modern variants of it. At the very least vossaøl is brewed in the autumn, ready for Christmas. Some brewers make vossaøl five or six times a year or for special occasions such as weddings. The attendant showed me the brewhouse, with wooden mash tun, copper cauldron suspended over the hearth, wicker sieves and wooden ladles. They had all the equipment to brew a vossaøl. The farm even produced its own malt, for there was nowhere to buy it and of course they used "kveik", the family yeast, that was handed down through the generations. It was preserved by drying in freshly ironed linen or on a complex wooden puzzle called a yeast ring, to tide them through periods when they weren't brewing regularly.

This open hearth room dates from around 1500 AD.

Mash tun (left) and fermentor
I asked Brita Tveite about traditional brewing but she professed her ignorance of the details, saying she would try to contact one of their joiners who was a traditional brewer. "They must be fairly thick on the ground", I thought. "That's three I know of already."

The modern Voss Folkemuseum building, cast in concrete using coarse wooden shuttering in imitation of the wooden farm buildings just downhill (to the left).
Sure enough, Magnar Garatun came and found me in the museum galleries and we had a half hour conversation, which I recorded, amongst the displays of traditional wedding costume and Viking drinking vessels (ølkjenge). He lives on a farm at Mjølfjel, to the west of Voss that has been in (his wife's) family for about 300 years and he learned about vossaøl brewing from his 80-year-old father-in-law, who also made his own malt when he was young. He evidently enjoys brewing with father- and brother-in-law for while it takes all day (and father sometimes nips off for forty winks in the middle of the brew) the occasion is a convivial one as they consume plenty of vossaøl while they brew. That might explain why he was hazy on the details of temperatures and gravities but he said that it was all written down in a book which they referred to on the day. They brew normally once a year, in October for the Christmas beer, or more often if they are going to have a party or a wedding. Their vossaøl is strong, around 9 or 10% and it has to be dark and thick if it is for Christmas.

Magnar Garatun, the museum joiner
Because there are many brewers they can nowadays buy malt, for instance Münich malt at Voss Gass in Skulestadmo, where they also sell propane gas and brewing equipment: everything they need really. They have a special room on the farm, with a big 180 litre 'copper' fired with wood. They use juniper (einar) infusion for washing down and brewing liquor (made from a couple of plastic bags full from the woods) and they mash in a plastic mash tun. Proceedings start at 7 o'clock in the morning. They brew all day and finish maybe at 8 o'clock. They boil the wort for "some hours", so they start with 120 litres and reduce it to 90 litres. Other people have said it is boiled for 3 hours. At the farm at Mjørfjel they like a good hoppy taste so they use vacuum packed pelleted hops (but he couldn't remember the variety) but he also uses the wild hops that grow around at the museum. For dispense, they use a Cornelius keg nowadays but previously they used plastic (Coke) bottles, which were not so good he says and before that it was wood, of course. They normally keep the beer a fair time before it is all gone; "we can't drink it all at Christmas."

A selection of ølkjenge: communal drinking vessels with horse's head handles
In Voss they have had a competition for the last 5 years, although last year may have been the last as the numbers had dropped off. It took place in a small guest house on the way to Bordalen (about 20 minutes from Voss) and  30 or 40 brewers used to enter one and a half litres of beer and there were 4 or 5 judges. They tasted all the beers and ranked them. There was a variety of beer, both good and bad and sometimes there was some discussion because some were thought not to be in the traditional Vossaøl style. I asked if many of the brewers used kveik and he hesitated. He said there was one man he knew of who was regarded as a good traditional brewer, his name was Himmler, but it is not so usual to use kveik nowadays as it was easier to buy yeast from the store.

A Voss marriage procession. Note the bride in the third row wearing the headgear unique to Voss
The wood carver made two identical sets but only this one survives.
The toastmaster on the left is carrying an ølkjenge for the vossaøl.
 I wandered around the museum and enjoyed the display but I didn't see a yeast ring; that would have been good. I wonder if they have one in the collection. The centre-piece is a beautifully carved wedding procession (Ridande vossabryllaup) made by a well known carver, Gudleik Brekkus. A similar second set was lost in a fire, so this is the only one surviving. I was also very taken with a temporary exhibition of cartoons by the talented and much loved Voss man, Ivar Kvåle. He was a little older than me and died only recently although he looked very fit and athletic in his recent photos (he was a marathon runner too and a musician). The clock ticked round and soon it was time to head back down the hill to take the bus to Voss Bryggeri (see Part 3). 

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Trip to Norway: Part 1. Providence and Serendipity

I suppose it all started with my eye. A naevus (a kind of mole) in my eye had been under observation since 2010 and this year it started to show signs of change. That’s dangerous because there is a good chance that it is eye cancer (choroidal melanoma) and so it had to be treated, just in case it was malignant. I went to London for an operation and then to Clatterbridge Hospital on the Wirral for proton beam treatment in June and here I was, post-treatment and apart from minor irritations, I was in good health and with fairly good sight. But it had made me aware of my mortality and it made me think.

“Life is for living”, said Stef. “Where do you want to go on holiday this year?” I briefly considered South Africa but then said “Norway”. Selfishly, I wanted to do some research there because for a year or so I have been following the blog of Lars Marius Garshol, a Norwegian and he had got me interested in Norway’s traditional farmhouse ales – maltøl, or more specifically vossaøl, the farmhouse ale from Voss in the west of the country. More to the point Lars had actually deposited some of the family farmhouse yeast – kveik- at the UK’s National Collection of Yeast Cultures which is in Norwich and as it happens I had also recently made their acquaintance when they visited Poppyland Brewery on a fact finding tour. Talk about coincidences!

“Do you really want me to come?” she said. That was thoughtful of her and I tried to be as tactful as I could in replying. “Well, for me it would mainly be a business trip”, I said. “I would be pursuing my goals and would want to be fairly energetic in achieving them. If you came too it would be a rather different trip.” She could see my point and knew she would never be able to keep up. A few days later she said quite out of the blue, “Okay, I’ve just booked you on a flight to Oslo with Ryanair, £10 each way. You leave of 22 September. But I want a holiday too. Let’s go to Italy, I fancy Bologna.” “Okay, you book an apartment in Bologna and I’ll cook for you”, I agreed.

And so it was that I found myself re-reading Lars’ blog and planning my trip to Norway. All that was fixed was that I was landing in Norway on 22 September. I wanted to brew with the kveik from the NCYC but first I needed to know what vossaøl tasted like. I needed to track down a traditional brewer, make friends with him and get him to share a bottle with me. So I decided to head for Voss and take it from there. I would land in Rygge airport, take a train to Oslo, stay overnight in a cheap hotel and continue the journey by train to Voss the following day. When I set off I still had no contacts to follow but thought I might get some leads if I visited the Voss Brgyggeri or the Ægir pub and brewery at Flåm. And then another one of my amazing coincidences kicked in.

Oslo Sentralen Statsjon

Aass Brewery at Drammen. One of the breweries I wasn't interested in, photographed from the train.
I was on the train from Oslo to Voss. Everything in Norway is new and squeaky clean. They have invested all that North Sea Oil wealth in substantial infrastructure improvements and continue to do so: roads, railways, tunnels and so on. I was impressed by the railway; quiet, smooth and comfortable with plenty of leg-room. I had booked a seat at the discount price and it turned out to be the aisle seat but when I got there I found that the window seat was unoccupied, so I placed by bag on my own seat and sat in the window seat. The scenery of forest, lakes, mountain torrents, small fields and the occasional station passed me by and I was fascinated as I looked out of the window. We were standing in a station some way down the line and I was daydreaming when I became aware of someone trying to attract my attention. “Excuse me, but may I sit in this seat?” she said. “Oh I am so sorry! Actually, this is your seat, by the window”. “No that’s alright, you can stay there”, she said. So I moved my bag and we settled down for the remainder of the journey and I continued to watch the scenery swish by. It wasn’t until we got to the mountains that I started to get up and excitedly look out of all of the windows to get the best views of the landscape. It was then that we began to speak. “Is this your first time here?” she asked, as if it wasn’t obvious enough. “Yes, I am going to Voss. I am a geologist, which is why I am so interested in the rock and the scenery but I am also brewer and I want to find out about farmhouse yeast and beer. I have been following a blog and only know the name of one person who makes it in Norway and that is Sigmund Gjernes, who lives somewhere near Voss. So I am going there to Voss to see if I can find someone who will share a bottle of vossaøl with me, before I try to brew it myself in my brewery in England.”

View of Klevavatn (I think) from the train between Finse and Myrdal

“Well”, she said, “I am going to Voss, I live there. And I also know Sigmund Gjernes. I used to work with him.” You should have seen the look on my face. I was incredulous. What were the chances? I was in a foreign country to seek an audience with a particular brewer and found that not only had I booked a seat on a train that carried someone who knew him but I had actually plonked myself in her pre-booked seat!

“I also have a brother and he brews in the old way, with kveik. I could see if he would meet with you if you like. He lives in Bergen but he is coming to Voss on Saturday.” What? I mean WHAT!? It couldn’t get any better if I had planned this for a year. But it just happened, spontaneously. When we got to Voss, her daughter was there waiting with the car and they kindly took me on a short detour through the town, pointing out a couple of bars I might to visit and there were the offices where Sigmund worked.

True to her word Anbjorg called me later that evening to say that she had spoken with her brother John and he would be pleased to meet with me on Saturday evening. This had the makings of a great trip.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

A Great Way to Lose a Day

It happens every now and then. You have something in your diary that is cancelled at the last minute. Mentally you have written that day off, so when you suddenly have a ‘free day’, what do you do with it? I’m not one for lazing in bed (oh okay, sometimes I do), but as a rule I try to get some ‘me’ time in and do something crazy instead.

So it was that last Thursday I decided that the time could be spent, squandered if necessary, on a deeply experimental brew. For some time I have been following the blog of Lars Marius Garshol, a Norwegian IT developer who takes his beer hobby very seriously and writes a very honest and engaging blog. He is currently researching some of the more obscure and ethnographic parts of the Baltic and Scandinavian beer world. He is telling us about Norwegian farmhouse beer – maltøl (more on that later) – and also about his travels in Lithuania and beyond. Now it so happens that my mother-in-law is Lithuanian and she is on her last legs as I write this; so I have been reading @Larsga blogs with interest. One of the styles he describes from Lithuania is a baked beer called keptinis and his latest blog describes the scant information recorded by historians and ethnographers. Responding to a challenge laid down by @thornbidgematt in a recent tweet I thought I would have a go.

I say that the information is scant: there certainly isn’t a recipe and some of the information is contradictory. The outline of the keptinis process is that the grains are made into loaves and baked, then mashed and the wort is fermented without boiling. It is a raw beer. What I don’t understand yet is, why would you do that? By all accounts it is hard work and time consuming, so there must be a good reason to make beer this way. What possible reasons could there be?

In broad terms any process (like baking) must either produce something that you want (like breaking down complex ingredients to something simple, creating some colour (from Maillard reactions) or developing flavour) or else it is there to prevent a problem, like infection by bugs that you would rather avoid by sterilisation.

If you do bake the mash it seems to me like a great way of destroying the enzymes that the maltsters have carefully generated from the barley. The job of those enzymes is to convert the starch in malted grains to maltose (a sugar) so that the yeast can ferment it. It seems wrong to subject the enzymes to heat and very likely destroy them. Along the way you may get some flavour and colour but it does seem rather dodgy. On the other hand, if you are not planning to boil the wort before fermentation you need some way of controlling the bugs you don't want; like killing off the naturally occurring bugs such as Lactobacillus that live on the grains, or otherwise you will always get a sour beer. Keptinis is not reported to be especially sour, at least not when it is fresh.

So I went in to this brew day not quite understanding why they used this method and having to best guess the exact ingredients, quantities, temperatures and timings.

The guidance given by the ethnographers in papers that was reported by Lars is vague and contradictory. While farmhouse 'styles' are notoriously variable there are a number of features that seem quite impractical to me:

1. The malt bill suggested by the historian Juozas Petrulis (1975) was "1 kg pale barley malts, 2 kg rye malt, and 2 kg oats". I regarded this to be the perfect recipe for a stuck mash. The quantity of oats in particular, without the use of rice hulls to aid the flow, was asking for trouble.

2. One wonders if there are enough enzymes present to convert the starch, from only 1kg of pale malt.

3. Would the baking process not destroy what enzymes there were?

Here is what I did, intending to make 19 litres of beer by the Brew in a Bag method:

3kg      Pale Maris Otter malt                                                
2kg      Rye Malt
0.5kg   Flaked oats
100g    Green garden Goldings hops
250ml  Yeast slurry (cultured from a bottle of Helsingborgs Kaffestout)                                         

The dry malt bill was mixed in a large bucket until even. Then 1.5kg at a time were put into a large mixing bowl and about 1.4 litres of near boiling water added, enough to wet all the grains and make a stiff mix. 

This was quickly put into a shallow baking tray to form a flat 'loaf' and turned out onto a newspaper. Four of these were produced, which fortunately was as much as I could fit in my oven. The instructions in Larsblog said to lay them on a bed of straw but I didn’t have any straw, so I used newspapers, as I guessed that the purpose of the straw was to absorb excess liquor during baking. 

They were taken to the kitchen and placed on oven shelves and baked at 190C for one hour. At that point three of the loaves had developed a toasted crust (a little darker in one corner) but the fourth (see second shelf up) was still soggy and pale, so it was placed back in the oven for another 30 minutes until it looked like the others. This contradicted the guidance in Larsblog which said bake at 177C for only 20-30 minutes but my loaves hadn’t cooked much by then and certainly hadn’t developed a toasty crust which is mentioned. One report in Larsblog said to bake the loaves until black and crisp but I thought that was just too extreme, and unlikely to produce any fermentable wort at all, so I ignored it.

The newspapers absorbed a fair amount of strong sticky wort that oozed from the base of the loaves. The original instructions called for straw but I didn't have any. A certain amount of the straw must have stuck to the loaves, so it must have been added to the mash too. I tried to remove as much of the paper as I could but it was very sticky. I might think of something else next time, if there is a next time.

The loaves were quite flat and apart from the crust were still very moist inside, despite being baked for much longer than the recommended 20-30 minutes. I took them out and set them to one side. They began to harden up a little as they cooled, as a cake would. They looked like giant flap-jacks.

A bucket was sterilized with Peractic acid and filled with 11 litres of boiling water, one kettle at a time. It was insulated with a large duvet. 2 litres of cold water were added to bring the temperature down to 72C. Then the baked malt, still slightly warm, was crumbled into the mash tun. I tried to crush the harder crust in a pestle and mortar, as recommended, but it wasn’t crunchy enough. The temperature of the mash had reduced to a perfect 65C. A further 1.5 litres of boiled water was added, by which time the 5 Imperial gallon (23 litre) bucket was fairly full. The whole mash was stirred and the lid put on and kept insulated for 4.5 hours (yes, 4.5 hours) inside a sleeping bag and a double duvet. After 2 hours the temperature was still 65C.

I quite forgot to add the hops to the mash, so 100 g of green garden Goldings were taken from the freezer and boiled separately in a couple of litres of the wort for 20 minutes. This was thought to be equivalent to 50 g of dried hops that should have gone into the mash to give an estimated IBU of 25 units.

After nearly 5 hours the temperature was still 64C (good duvet!). The hopped wort was added and the wort was strained off through a brew bag into a freshly sterilised bucket. The mash was gelatinous and very reluctant to run through the fine mesh. In the end I was satisfied to use only a 1mm sieve, then a after that collapsed under the weight I settled for a conical stainless sieve but it was still very slow because the mash was so gelatinous.

It seems like a huge amount of work (no, it WAS a huge amount of work) and the extract is not very good. I recovered only around 9 litres from the first runnings at a gravity of 1055. Vast amounts of liquor have been absorbed by the gelatinous grain and weren't running out. In total 16.8 litres of liquor went in and only 9 came out (before sparging). Should I sparge? It was half past midnight.

I sparged with a relatively small amount of boiled water, as I didn't want to reduce the OG too much. It came down to 1050 and at that point it was one o'clock in the morning. I pitched yeast cultured from Helsingborgs Kaffestout, aerated with an electric hand blender (whizzer), put it in the airing cupboard and tumbled in to bed at 1.30am.


The next morning I whisked the wort again to aerate it and encourage the yeast to grow. By the evening there was no discernible fermentation activity. I was concerned about infection, so I whisked again with my blender and tipped a packet of T58 in to the wort. By Saturday evening there was still no activity. On Sunday morning the wort was flat still and it looked disgusting (below). I tasted the wort. It was not especially sweet, had a certain acidity but most crucially had an thick mouthfeel, like engine oil. It was horrible. I had a feeling that there were no fermentable sugars in the wort at all and it was just jam-packed with unfermentable dextrins. Whatever bugs survived the baking were probably beginning to sour the mash. I thought that with that slimy mouthfeel and the growing acidity, this wasn’t going to produce a beer that I or any body else would want to drink!

Out of sheer curiousity I have put the brew back into the airing cupboard, just to see what happens. But I have every expectation that it will end up going down the drain. Was it a wasted day? It was certainly exhausting and I am still recovering from the late night. I doubt it will produce anything drinkable but it has been an experiment and even failed experiments teach us a lesson. What would I do differently next time, if there is a next time? I will hopefully be armed with more knowledge (maybe resulting from this blog) but at least I won’t be attempting it for the very first time; I have some experience now. I must certainly look at the malt bill and the baking times and the temperatures; they must be critical. Maybe I baked it too hot and/or too long; maybe just too much was loaded into my oven. Maybe...

It cost me a day but I now have more experience in making keptinis than almost anyone else alive. I just don’t have any keptinis yet. Ha ha ha. Cheers.