Monday, 28 March 2016

Review: Novax 20 B Brew Pump by Rover Pompe

Summer 2015 I started looking in earnest for a pump to replace my "solar projects" P.0.S that I
blindly bought on someone else's (bad) advice. That pump has never been much use as show it a speck of grain and it jams... and jams so well that the only option is to drop what you're doing and dismantle the damn thing. Once people realise they're garbage and they want something better the usual advice is to buy a Chugger. That has always struck me as odd though, as in all my time spent in micro-breweries I've never seen a Chugger pump; their recommendation seems to originate from the US, where they're made, and where of course they don't have European pumps. So using a US-made pump in Europe doesn't seem to make sense when we have plenty of European made pumps up to the job.

Enter the Novax 20 B from Italian company Rover Pompe. A semi-professional pump intended for transferring beer and wine. The Novax bit means it has Viton® seals, which can be operated at higher temperatures than their regular transfer pumps. I've done a comparison of the home brew Chugger model and the Novax 20 B below, though the 20 B is equivalent to a higher model.

I picked mine up for €102 including shipping from here in September 2015, so this is a long term review.

Chugger CPSS-IN-2Rover Pompe Novax 20 B
Cost delivered to Ireland€150+€102
Country of manufactureUSAItaly
CE MarkNo*Yes
Fittings1/2" NPT (i.e. American) thread3/4" BSP (UK/Irish) thread with 20mm removable barb
Self-primingNoYes, 5 metres
Can be run dryNoYes
Drive typeMagneticDirect w/ thermal shutoff
Head height4.1 metres25 metres
Max flow22.7 litres/min28 litres/min
Active CoolingNoYes (cooling fan)
Overheat Thermal Shut-offNoYes
Head material316 Stainless steelStainless steel
ImpellerPlastic (Polysulfone)Stainless steel
Recommend max temp121°C95°C
Peracetic acidYesYes
Peroxide (Oxy)YesYes
Hydroxide (Caustic)YesYes**
Phosphoric Acid (Starsan)YesYes
Cirtic AcidYesYes
*US-bought 230v Chugger pumps are not CE marked.
** Compatible at normal cleaning concentrations. Not recommended and incompatible at concentrations exceeding 50%

Stainless impeller, Viton® seal
As can be seen in most ways the Rover Pompe model is superior. Magnetic drive is normally preferable but with food grade seals and bearings along with thermal protection and reversible operation direct drive is probably more beneficial. I use this pump for whirlpooling without issues. The body of the pump is passively (fins) and actively cooled (yes, it has a cooling fan!) so I haven't checked the pump body to see if I'm exceeding the 95°C but it works flawlessly. Viton® has a working temperature of twice boiling point.

Now that I've been using my Novax 20 B for several months I can say the things I like most about it in order of preference are:
  • Reversible: Unclog hoses at the flick of a switch
  • Self priming: While it won't self-prime from a height dry it will self-prime dry if it's not far from the surface of the liquid to be pumped. Add a drop of water into the inlet pipe to wet prime and doing so from any height isn't an issue.
  • Powerful: Mixed blessing but this can move, so much so that I had to fit a throttle valve to mine (see below)
  • BSP fittings, so no anxiety about connecting other locally purchased fittings.
3/4" ball valve from B&Q fitted for throttling
Being as powerful as it is this pump will collapse silicone hose on the inlet quite easily due to negative pressure (the manual does state that reinforced hoses should be used). It also pumps way too fast for a lot of jobs, like transferring to the fermenter. There is a version of the pump with a built in bypass valve that can reduce flow by 50% but my understanding is that it's not reversible, and it costs about €35 more. However fitting a throttle valve to it is a simple job. A €6 ball valve from B&Q along with a 3/4" rubber washer and we have a factory-look throttle valve that works perfectly. Note: if doing this you should only throttle the outlet. Throttling the inlet does no harm to the pump but it doesn't work well. You should never throttle the inlet of a pump which can't be run dry like a Chugger as you risk damage to the pump.

Transfer champ

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Chloe Dancer @ Boundary Tap Takeover BrewBot March 5th

Boundary Brewing Co-op turns one this year and to celebrate the taps at BrewBot Belfast are being taken over for the evening by Boundary and friends, starting March 5th at 6pm, and I'm super excited that Chloe Dancer will see its first public availability on tap.

White Hag, Yellow Belly and Galway Bay Brewery will also be on the taps and the brewers will be there to chew the fat. I'll be there too, if you want to stop by and say hello.

Chloe Dancer is extremely rare (for now*) but I'm delighted that a keg is also going to BrewDog Clapham Junction as part of their St. Patrick's week celebration, as well as The Great Scottish Beer Celebration, which is to Glasgow what Indyman is to Manchester.

Boundary's Specials (Border Hopper No. 2 will also be at Brewbot)

Great Scottish Beer Celebration

BrewDog Clapham Junction

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Flanders Red with Blackman F4 Yeast

Barrett Tillman is an award winning US homebrewer who took the unusual steps of finding someone to dry his yeast, lacto and pedio mixes and then release them commercially as dried sour mixes. I ordered the full gamut towards the end of last summer and have been slowly getting around to them. Barrett is a nice guy, I've had a few exchanges with him via email and he even went so far as to include a hand-written personal note with my order. From reading on-line, this is not unusual. Great to see someone who knows customer service out of the box.

The first brew I did was with A4, the American Sour Mix, and I wasn't happy with the results. I didn't blog about it as basically the screw up was my fault. I left the beer to develop in my shed which was too cold for the lacto (probably no more than mid teens centigrade at the best of times), so the sourness never developed. In an effort to kick start it I raised the temperature to around 28°C at which point I was too late, and the yeast just gave off peppery phenolics which some people liked but I didn't care for... and the end result was a million miles from where it was supposed to be.

Early last November Roger (second best sour brewer in Ireland ;)) contacted me to see if I'd be
interested in contributing a Flanders Red style beer to the ex Bushmills barrel in his shed. I hesitated as that barrel used to be in my shed and the Imperial Stout that was in it achieved a whopping 93% attenuation on Nottingham Ale Yeast, clearly not right. Additionally Roger's shed is like mine, unheated. But in the end I said feck it, Roger's a good brewing mate whom I've known for a long time... I'll double batch and it'll give me the chance to try the Blackman F4 Flanders Sour Mix.

40 litre batch, brewed November 30th 2015.

Amount Item Type % or IBU
8.26 kg Pilsner (2 Row) UK (2.0 EBC) Grain 62.29 %
2.40 kg Munich Malt (17.7 EBC) Grain 18.10 %
0.50 kg Aromatic Malt (51.2 EBC) Grain 3.77 %
0.50 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (118.2 EBC) Grain 3.77 %
0.50 kg Special B Malt (354.6 EBC) Grain 3.77 %
0.50 kg Wheat, Whole (3.3 EBC) Grain 3.77 %
0.40 kg Acid Malt (5.9 EBC) Grain 3.02 %
0.20 kg Amber Malt (43.3 EBC) Grain 1.51 %

A handful of shitty hops in the mash. Roger's original recipe called for EKG which I didn't have, but I have plenty of stale hops for this kind of brew.

Est Original Gravity: 1.074 SG Measured Original Gravity: 1.074 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.019 SG Measured Final Gravity: 1.021 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 7.16 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: 7.06 %
Bitterness: 0.0 IBU Calories: 90 cal/l
Est Color: 33.9 EBC

The mash was fairly thick but I hit all targets, and after a one hour boil I hot-filled two 25 litre jerry cans and left them to cool overnight. Next day the one for Roger got a dose of Mauribrew 514 Ale Yeast and mine got the F4.

This time I decided that the fermenting beer would stay indoors, close to a radiator (just in case!), and I'd be in no rush to move it out. Within a day there was a good krausen on the F4, but that didn't really concern me as the A4 did something similar. It was the lacto and pedio that I was concerned about.

18 January 2016 tasting

Fast forward almost two months and it's time to taste. The results this time are far better than the A4 and the extra warmth of the kitchen seems to have helped. There is a pronounced lactic acidity, no perceivable acetic acid, and the pH of 3.5 confirms that it is moderately tart. The gravity has dropped to 1.021, but with the bacteria in there it's not necessarily 7.06% abv as some of the sugars are now lactic acid, not alcohol, but it's not far off. It's also kind of murky, I'm not sure if it's from me hoofing it around or from the no-chill, it doesn't really matter either way as it's not for drinking yet. Also, and a first for me in any beer, is a huge bang of autolysis, i.e. a strong Bovril flavour.

As there are no Brettanomyces strains at all in this Barrett recommends adding some for added complexity, by way of bottle dregs. I would agree: there is no funk or hint of funk in this beer, and nor will any develop. I think in this case I would go even further and say that brett is not optional as that autolysis needs to be cleaned up, and brett is known for feeding on dead yeast cells.

I always keep a stock of dregs, but unfortunately none are from the Roeselare, but when racking this off the yeast cake I did have a good stock of Hanssens Artisanaal dregs from their Oude Geuze, which is particularly plentiful where I live at the moment, and quite reasonable too at €4.20 a 375ml bottle to take away.

Hopefully time will improve the wobbly start that F4 got off to. These kind of beers are best not rushed anyway, so the racked beer has been put into storage to be revisited in 2017.

10 February Sneaky Peak

Well I'm glad to say the Hanssens dregs were obviously alive and kicking as a nice pellicle has formed :)

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Quare Black IPA

Pac Man meets Wrasslers..
Dave, from the Wexford Mountains, as previously mentioned managed to score himself a bottle of Black's Black IPA from his local SuperValu and was impressed enough to ask me to do another brew, but this time of a black IPA. I had a feeling that Dave was associating the flavour with the colour, whereas that's not the case. What makes Black's Black IPA so unique (and yummy) is the dank and cat-pissy hops: Citra and especially Galaxy.

I didn't have any Galaxy, so I decided rather than clone Black's brew I'd plough my own furrow. I resurrected a recipe for a porter I made with home roasted malt that was truly amazing (someone, I don't remember who, compared it to bottled Wrassler's, but I didn't get that) and subbed in Carafa III for the the roasted malt. The original had just Mosaic and Summit so I decided to stick with that combination but just up the quantity. I had intended on sticking with my favourite yeast, WLP-644, but I got caught short and had to use some dried Mauribrew 514. I picked up a 500g block of this a few years ago, which has been in the fridge since, and it has bailed me out a few times. One thing I have found about this yeast though is that despite claims (which I can't verify) of attenuation in the 80s, it has never broken the 75% barrier for me.

40 litres
Amount Item Type % or IBU
8.00 kg Pale Malt (2 Row) Bel (5.9 EBC) Grain 80.00 %
1.00 kg Barley, Flaked (3.3 EBC) Grain 10.00 %
0.50 kg Carafa III (1200.0 EBC) Grain 5.00 %
0.30 kg Wheat, Torrified (3.3 EBC) Grain 3.00 %
0.20 kg Corn, Flaked (2.6 EBC) Grain 2.00 %
100.00 gm Pearle [7.00 %] (60 min) Hops 40.5 IBU
100.00 gm Summit [17.00 %] (0 min) Hops -
100.00 gm Mosaic [11.00 %] (0 min) Hops -
1 Pkgs Ale (Mauribrew #514) Yeast-Ale

Dave's batch dry hopped for 5 days with 35g each of Summit and Mosaic
My batch dry hopped for 5 days with 40g of Amarillo and 20g Hallertau Hersbrucker

Est Original Gravity: 1.056 SG Measured Original Gravity: 1.057 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.016 SG Measured Final Gravity: 1.016 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 5.31 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: 5.35 %
Bitterness: 40.5 IBU Calories: 541 cal/l
Est Color: 53.7 EBC
The resulting beer came out black as expected, and Dave's had a greater degree of dankness, whereas mine was a bit smoother with orangey Amarillo flavour. Surprisingly I preferred mine, as while neither were close to Black's, mine was further from it. One thing I would probably not do again was the flaked barley. This left a silky smoothness that doesn't seem quite right in a beer like this, so I'd omit it if brewing again.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Golden Pint Awards 2015

Better late than never, my take on these popular awards.
  • Best Irish Keg Beer: Tough one as it's such a moving target. Some stalwarts have dropped in quality, and at the same time there are some great new entries... but you can always rely on Porterhouse Hop Head. Honourable mentions go to Carrig for Poachers Pale Ale, and Metalman for their once game-changing Pale Ale, which is still a great beer all these years later.
  • Best Irish Bottled Beer: That basically throws the whole floor open. I quite enjoyed Black's Black IPA, one of the best black IPAs anywhere, as I did The White Hag's excellent Black Boar imperial stout, and their Beann Gulban (Ben Bulben) sour heather ale. Pokertree's Dark Nirvana is also excellent, and a little different, but I'm giving this one to a new-comer: Kevin Dundon and his King's Bay Irish Pale Ale.
  • Best Irish Canned Beer: Not a lot to chose from but the concensus seems to be Black's KPA. I'd go along with that. 
  • Best Overseas Draught Beer: We're fortunate in that some of the best new breweries in Britain are getting an outing in Ireland, among them is Siren. While not widely available, it can usually be found in the better bars and it goes to their red IPA, Liquid Mistress.
  • Best Overseas Bottled Beer: Boon Mariage Parfait. All day long. Close seconds are similarly sour beers from Belgium that are easily gotten in Ireland: Liefmans Cuvee Brut (formerly Kriek), Liefmans Goudenband, Gueuze/Oude Geuze by Hanssens Artisanaal, Tilquin and Cantillon. Oh, and Siren Calypso.
  • Best Overseas Canned Beer: We've had an increasing number of imported canned beers, and Beavertown produced Quelle Saison, I think the only Saison that I've truly enjoyed enough to buy again.
  • Best Collaboration Brew: I'm not sure if it's a beer collaboration brew as such, but my buddy in beer Alain Dekoster of RadikAle did Curious Brew with gin botanicals from Blackwater Distillery. Alain is Belgium's premier Irish resident brewer, so it's not altogether unsurprising that he's making great beer.
  • Best Overall Beer: The White Hag's imperial stout, Black Boar. Kinnegar's Geuzberry comes second.
  • Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label: Brú probably have the clearest and most instantly recognisable branding, but I think Galway Bay go one better with more interesting names, the non-core beers especially.
  • Best Irish Brewery: For sheer business acumen, dogged determination in the face of criticism and meteoric rise this has to be Rye River, one of the biggest players in the Irish micro scene. In beer terms this goes to those who will take the biggest risks to brew great beer: Boundary and Simon Lambert & Sons.
  • Best Overseas Brewery: It's been a great year for the Brits and I've really enjoyed brews from Wild Beer Company, Buxton, BBN, and Siren this year, but ultimately it goes back to Belgium and Boon takes it as I got to visit it this year and spend two wonderful days at a beer festival there as part of Toer de Geuze.
  • Best New Brewery Opening 2015: Going to give this to the small guys, again for showing their willingness to take chances. Boundary, Simon Lambert & Sons, The Old Schoolhouse, and if contract brewers are allowed, RadikAle and James Brown Brews.
  • Pub/Bar of the Year: Brewbot Brewbot Brewbot. Brewbot of Belfast. Head and shoulders above the rest. The best selection of beer under one roof in Ireland. Great staff, great food, and all beers available for offsales at a 20% discount. Honourable mentions to the Porterhouse (Parliament St), 57 The Headline and the Beer Market.
  • Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2015:  Brewbot. Honourable mention to the Beer Market.
  • Beer Festival of the Year: Would you prefer to see your favourite band in Vicar Street or in the 3Arena? Exactly. Out this year were the mega festivals and in were the smaller boutique festivals where the vibe is more important than piling them high. Kilkenny Craft Beer Festival, as run by beer buddy and owner of Costello's Brewing Company, Gerald Costello, pips it. Fantastically organised and run by Ger and his family this was a lovely way to spend a few hours. There is nothing negative I could say about this festival. Close seconds were those run by Simon Broderick and Wayne & Janice Dunne. Overseas festival it would be Tilquin English Beer Festival, so good that it's to be repeated this year... where else could you drink Calypso and Oude Gueuze Tilquin à L'Ancienne under one roof?
  • Supermarket of the Year: I'm somewhat reluctantly giving this to SuperValu, for beer selection alone as I find SuperValu to be one of the most expensive supermarkets in Ireland for everything, including beer. A reluctant recommendation.
  • Independent Retailer of the Year: Bier Tempel. In Ireland, Drinkstore, with honourable mentions going to Worldwide Wines in Waterford, and Belfast's Vineyard and Lighthouse Wines.
  • Online Retailer of the Year: Belgium in a Box.
  • Best Beer Book or Magazine: Unusual Railway Pubs, Refreshment Rooms and Ale Trains. Considering every major railway station in Ireland had a "refreshment room" and now only three have (Connolly, Heuston and Belfast Central), this is a reminder of what we could still have.
  • Best Beer Blog or Website: Without doubt Milk The Funk, which has lifted the lid on sour beers and increased our understanding of them more in one year than any other website or publication. Though the real value is in the 5,000 strong Facebook group.
  • Best Beer App: I'm still using BeerSmith 1.4 almost daily, so I guess that must be it. Honourable mention goes to the mobile app BeoirFinder although it is decreasing in usefulness more and more now that craft beer has become so prevalent.
  • Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer: Not big enough of a Twitterer to recommend anyone.
  • Best Brewery Website/Social media: Eight Degrees, simply as they are the only brewery selling beer from their website (I'm aware that Galway Bay are also selling via their website, but from what I can work out this is technically off-sales from one of their bars, and not the brewery itself selling direct).

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Brewing Irish Sour Beers in Belfast

On November 17th I packed up the car and headed to Belfast on an invitation from Matthew in Boundary to brew a couple of my own recipes in collab. You may have seen the pictures on Twitter, now here's the story behind them.

Stardog Champion is a light coloured beer heavily hopped with Cascade, Centennial and Citra hops and fermented with a slow moving brett like yeast that produces lots of fruitiness, a bit of funk and if you're lucky you'll get a hint of sour. 5.5% abv in 330ml bottles.

Chloe Dancer is very sour and has an intense raspberry flavour and colour. It has been fermented with lactobacillus in the brew kettle and then fermented again with the same yeast as Stardog Champion in French Chardonnay barrels. pH 3.3 and 4.7% abv in 330ml bottles.

The Story

15 litres of goodness, Belfast bound
Around November 10th Matthew invited me up to brew, an invitation I gladly accepted! We had a bit of a chat over the phone about what we'd brew, two were selected, and on that basis he asked me to grow up a metric shit tonne of "Trois", the yeast that I used in the original beers upon which these two were to be based. With a sense of panic I grew up the yeast from just a few ml to approximately 3 litres in record time, and it smelled and tasted wonderful. It was ready to roll, just about, by the 17th (I must thank Mark Nixon for bailing me out with a few kilos of DME which made my task a lot easier).

Cometh the hour cometh the man, and around 11am on the day we arrived at Boundary, where Matthew already had the mash on for Stardog Champion. This first brew was a slightly tweaked version of Quare Good IPA: IBUs reduced to 70 and abv reduced to 5.5%, to fit in with Boundary's "Push and Pull" series. The original hop bill remains unchanged, and this is a very hoppy beer. Once again thanks to Mark for sorting us out on the shortfall of hops (the cheque is in post!).

Come the 18th, the first brew was ripping along, which Matthew top cropped from several times for the second beer: a barrel fermented version of the infamous winner of Sourfest 2015, Raspberry Turbo. This beer requires a lot of attention and was brewed meticulously, from acidification of the strike water (to pH 5.2) to acidification of the wort (to pH 4.39) to selection of lacto starter: on the 17th I had prepared several starters and on the 18th we picked the best (and decided once and for all to abandon White Labs lacto). As this beer isn't exactly the same as Raspberry Turbo it has been called Chloe Dancer, a name which compliments Stardog Champion.

The two brews should be available to buy just before or after Christmas, I'll update here when they are. I'd like to thank my buddy in beer Matthew for the opportunity to brew these beers and I'm looking forward to them being available commercially as I think they're helping to push the boundaries of Irish beer (pun intended). I'll never forget Steve Lamond's quote at Sourfest about Raspberry Turbo being the most sour and most raspberry beer the Irish market would be able to take!

Let's hope he's right!

Evaluating lacto starters. The middle two won.

Recirculating the mash

Cleaning out the mashtun. I'm not cut out for this!

Mashtun cleaned!

Getting the hops for Stardog ready

Boiling the wort that will become Stardog Champion

All the starters in the warm room

Pitching temperature

Starter being pitched into 300 litres of what will become Stardog

Cleaning the hops out of the kettle. Stardog gets dry hopped too.

Stardog on day 2, ripping along

Raspberries in the freezer. I wonder what they could be for!

Wort that will become Chloe after acidification, pre lacto

Matt and Bill bottling in champagne bottles
Sour wort+WLP644+raspberries+Chardonnay barrel=Chloe Dancer

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Boundary Set to Enter Second Round of Funding

Matthew Dick, founder, part-owner and head honcho at Boundary Brewing Co-op is quite a remarkable chap. Anyone who knows Matthew will know that he has a great knowledge and appreciation of beer, an infectiously positive personality, and a great drive to succeed. Combining these was always going to produce results and the first of those was achieved in spectacular style just a year ago when Boundary set a target of £70,000 and within just 8 days had raised £100,000 via a community share offering.

So it would come as no surprise that Boundary are going back to raise more capital. The business is quite successful with demand outstripping supply so it's time to take it up a notch.

Boundary will be launching another share offering to raise another £100,000, this time to buy among other things a canning line. The craft beer market is increasingly moving away from bottles in favour of cans so this would be seen my many as a wise investment.

The offering is to go live on December 7th to new members. Keep an eye here. I know I'll be investing.