Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Brew Dogs, beer and women.

So here's a topic that i think could use some more discussion: the treatment of women within beer culture.

Recently i watched the first and only season of 'Brew Dogs', a TV show hosted by the owners of Brewdog, James Watt and Martin Dickie, in which they travel around America, brew beers related to the current state they are in, all the while trying to take strangers "craft beer virginity". The trailer can be seen here.

They do make incredible beer.

Production wise, the show is terrible. A mush of cheap American TV cliches (double takes/record scratches galore), bad music, and a B grade action trailer voice-over. It really feels like they tried to emulate modern MTV reality shows, which i think they actually fell short on, creating a grotesque beast that would be more at home on public TV.

Content wise i loved it. Lots of brewing with weird ingredients, interviews with famous american brewers at their breweries, lots of beer tasting and food matching, and a good 'best of' breweries and pubs segment which will be useful when i head over there to drink beer. The hosts were also pretty fun to watch, and most of the time had good things to say. The beer virgin part was a bit weird though, there were some good moments, but what i found really off-putting was the fact that most of them were women. This is what i wanted to talk about.

The amount of casual sexism littered throughout 'Brew Dogs' astounded me.

About touching super-heated coins.

Aside from the fact that they would mainly target (or maybe only air) their "craft beer virgins" segment with women, in which they would demean and sleaze all over them (quite often asking for kisses on the cheek, joke about marrying them, or ask them if that was the best thing they've had in their mouth), they also would casually call each other 'women' like it was a bad thing.

As far as i can see, they are trying to have this 'one sleazy guy, and one sensible guy' chemistry which just comes across as sleazy, because Martin: the sensible guy, never actually tries to stop the ultimate awkwardness of his friend, James, as he rampages around continually hitting on every single female they come up against.

For instance, in the first episode they go to a famous restaurant to do beer and food matching. The chef is an attractive young female.

James: "And Amanda is one of the hottest chefs in the country" 
Martin: "Don't you mean hottest new chef?" 
James: "No, i mean hottest chef."

They then agree, before even meeting her, that whoever does the best pairing gets to go on a date with her, like a trophy. Amanda, who probably lives happily in reality, is really weirded out by all of this. Here is a face that explains the awkwardness of this scene perfectly.

"Please let this be a nightmare."

I could go on, but if you want to hear it all, then watch it. TO BE FAIR, THEY ARE FROM SCOTL- SHUT UP! Everyone knows that sexism is unacceptable wherever you are, and just because maybe your culture has more of it, doesn't make it any more right. One thing i will say though, is that although i found these things rather disturbing to watch, i did enjoy the show, nor will i stop buying and drinking Brewdog beers...

The reason is because this is a pretty normal way to behave in beer culture.

This isn't the first time i've seen or heard of this type of behavior within the craft beer/home-brewing scene. I often see things like "what beer should i brew that the ladiiezz would like?" or "cider is craft beer for women" online and in real life and it hurts me. It hurts me, because it hurts people i love.

Can't we come together? I mean, aren't we already fighting a war? A war against shit beer? If a guy likes shit beer or cider, you don't say "shit beer is for men" or "cider is craft beer for men"...

Why do some men seem to think they have a monopoly on beer? That unless you're a male, you don't understand beer? Is it because they are afraid? Just like how some Australians are afraid of immigrants taking their jobs, are 'BEER MEN' afraid that women will drink all the beer AND take all their jobs making it? Surely this simple minded, ignorant, offensive view can't be something that is held by people in a society so advanced as ours...

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pseudoscience 101: the experiment.

A big part of beer brewing that i love is the ability to sound like you know what you are doing, and feel like you know what you are doing, but really have no idea what you are doing.

A good dose of 'science-eyes' and we have a finished product.

Time for an experiment: get a friend, brew 2 beers side by side, the only difference: the scientist behind the wheel. But first:


So the beer we decided to make was an British Pale Ale, because we were both a bit sick of american hops and yeast. We wanted something a bit dirty, something that tasted like earth. The recipe was as follows:

Oscar/James the Pale

Grain Bill:
3.25kg Maris Otter
1kg Wheat malt
300g Crystal 60L

15g Target @ 60 mins
20g EK Goldings @ 30
20g EK Goldings @ 15

Safale s-04 fermented at 18C for 2 weeks, then bottled.

OG 1.050

The brew day was to be at James' house, since he has a bigger stove and is able to have our 2 pots on it at the same time.

Feels good.

I have a secret love affair with Mornington Pale, which is an amazing Pale Ale brewed in Victoria (in Mornington, would you believe it?). One of the reasons it's so good is that it adds a significant amount of wheat malt to give it a nice tang, which is why we decided to do the same.

Read his second book: 'How to Poo'

So, there we were, two pseudo-scientists waiting to make sweet, sweet pseudo-science together, but not without the help of a couple of good friends:




Brew day went well, everything went to plan and it was fun having some more people along to help and watch.

It was kind of like synchronized swimming in a lot of ways, except instead of it being graceful, beautiful people in a swimming pool, it was sweaty, hairy people stirring big pots of boiling sticky sugar and getting a bit drunk.

Pretty much the same thing.

Two methods of milling = the same product, i think.
Great foam.
Great form.

Brew in a bag is definitely the best way to start all-grain brewing, it requires much less effort, cleaning and equipment than using a mash tun and you can get just as good results. The only thing that i think is better with using a mash tun is that you have a little more control, and you can do bigger beers because of the extra space.

Time for the boil.
 First hop addition.

English hops are amazing, they are so under used in Pale Ales too. Even though i love American hops, i think they are a bit overused in most styles of beer. Recently i tried Timothy Taylors Landlord, an English Pale Ale from England, and it is incredible. It tastes so earthy and malty, and so easy to drink too. If you can get your hand on one, then definitely try it out.

Re-hydrating the shit out of that yeast.

And there we are, two pretty much identical beers, together at last in eternal slumber.

So, the experiment, how'd it go?


Pretty average to be honest. We totally miss calculated the priming sugar and they both ended up pretty under-carbonated, which really detracted from the flavour. The beers tasted pretty much the same, James' was a little bit better, but not enough to put your finger on.


But hey, that's what brewing is all about, right? 

This beer was made quite a while ago, and i have made some killer ones recently that i will blog about soon. Trying to get back into doing it regularly, so thanks if you are reading, and comment if you want, it would be good to hear some feedback.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

This is how you make a pumpkin porter.




Imperial Roasted Pumpkin Porter:


6kg - Pale Ale Malt
540g - Crystal 60
370g - Crystal 120
370g - Black Malt
240g - Roasted Barley

20g - Northern Brewer @ 60mins
20g - Fuggles @ 30mins
15g - East Kent Goldings @ 15mins

1kg - Roasted Pumpkin
1/4 tsp - Nutmeg
1/2 tsp - Cinnamon
5 whole cloves

Safale S-04, 1 Litre starter, made the night before.

19 litres, SG 1.072 

Use 800g of the pumpkin in the mash, and 200g at 30 minutes in the boil.

Take a cup of the boiling wort at about 30 mins and add your spices, taste it and make sure it's not too overpowering as the flavours will increase in the finished beer. And if not, you can always add more later, it's better than ruining it.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Homebrew therapy.

Recently i started realising that a lot of problems i have in life are to do with stress. I worry lots, stress out quite easily and have some anxiety issues. Not extreme like other people have, but enough to make me feel pretty shit. I also work as a Barista in a pretty busy Cafe which is quite stressful, and a lot of my life i spend worrying about whether or not the art that i make is good or not, or whether i make enough, which is normal for artists... I think.

I had these realisations around the time i started seriously homebrewing. Anyone who has done all-grain brewing at home probably remembers their first couple of solo encounters to be quite stressful. It requires a lot of patience, multitasking, organisation and hands on work, all while worrying whether you are doing something wrong. In a lot of ways, it isn't much fun.

But then it flips completely. Everything that was stressful, becomes stress relieving. The thought behind all of the processes becomes second nature and you only really think about things if you are trying something new. Knowing what you are doing, and having everything organised is very relaxing. The hands on approach, even though sometimes requires a lot of effort, gives a sense of satisfaction, and using all of your own equipment over and over again has a nice sentimental feel to it. You really let the practical part of your brain take over, meaning you can just do the required tasks without much thought, but just enough so that it is almost like you are thinking about nothing. This especially comes into play when you brew on your own, but also adds to the social aspect when brewing with your friends.

Then once you have finished a batch, you get to taste it, and on one hand you say "this is fucking fantastic" but the other is "i think i know how i could make this better". Constantly improving your methods and thinking up new ideas means that, most of the time, your next beer will be better than the last.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Collaborating with Nathan Fillion.

Killing me softly with your cancellation...

Nathan Fillion is a great guy, some might say the best guy, and i wish he was my friend... I wished so much that the next beer that i brewed was an Imperial Stout that i decided to name after him. I present to you:

Or the 'If You Haven't Watched Firefly Go And Watch It Now'

This brew was also a good occasion because it was my first time doing an all grain with other homebrewing friends: James and Alex. There was really no way this beer could go wrong considering the circumstances. Me and James decided upon a recipe a few nights before, this is how it went:


Nathan Fillion
Imperial Stout:

Joe White Pale Malt   - 6kg    (13.2 lbs)
Crystal 60                  - 600g  (1.3 lbs)
Brown Sugar              - 300g  (0.6 lbs)
Chocolate Malt           - 200g  (0.4 lbs)
Crystal 120                - 150g  (0.3 lbs)
Roasted Barley          - 150g   (0.3 lbs)
Black                         - 100g  (0.2 lbs)

40g of Columbus at 60mins  (1.4 Oz)
30g Fuggles at 30mins          (1 Oz)

Reused S-04 from a previous batch.


I basically wanted the biggest, most epic beer that you could have. It was planned to be a 8 or 9% ABV (alcohol by volume) beer. That's why we put 7kg of grain, and 300g of brown sugar into it to make 15 litres.

You may be thinking.

To put that in perspective, i put 6kg of grain into my Pale Ale to make 30 litres of beer, which also had a much lower alcohol %, meaning even less grain was needed.

I'd been obsessing over big dark beers for a while before this was brewed, the 8wired iStout was one of my favourites, but mostly any beer that traded freshness/hoppy-ness for big malty/black fruit/coffee goodness was my friend.

Brew day was a breeze. We drank a lot of beer, made a lot of sandwiches, and had a lot of laughs. It made me realise how much it helped to have people around who also knew what they were doing, so that you didn't have to do all the worrying. If you are finding brewing is getting boring or you are losing motivation, then definitely find some people to brew with. Considering how much time is spent waiting on brew day, it makes it a very social activity.

The only trouble with it was that i forgot to take many pictures...

One of the things that i found most interesting when i got into all grain brewing was that in dark beers, the majority of malt (by far) is base malt (Pale Malt). As you can see in the picture above, and in the recipe i posted, there is only a very minimal amount of dark roasted malts being used, even in a beer recipe that is considered really fucking dark!

If you look hard enough, you can see your soul.

Definitely the best photo of the day.

The original plan was to put only 150g of brown sugar in, but i like to improvise while brewing so i upped it to 300g, upping the alcohol content and adding some more alcohol warmth, for that cold Melbourne winter coming up. We figured that why not go all out on a beer that is meant to be served to Imperial Russian Czars?

This picture is titled "Catherine II - as drunk as a turtle"

We also put more hops than we'd planned, and probably put about 45-50g of bittering hops, and about 40g of flavouring hops, but that's something everyone does... Right? 


Best beer i've made yet for sure, only wish you guys could all taste it... If you know how to brew, i suggest trying it, and then commenting and telling me how it went.


Monday, June 17, 2013

I so Pale.

You can tell she's thinking about brewing a Pale Ale.

Time to brew a session beer, i thought.

While buying the grain for the Amber Ale i brewed, me and my friend bought a 25kg bag of pale ale malt because it cost less to buy over 20kg, we knew we'd use it, and it was a fucking 25kg bag of grain.


So after brewing 2 all grain brews: the Coffee Stout and the Amber Ale, i decided to finish off the hops in the freezer and use some of this grain i had sitting around to make an awesome session beer that my friends could drink, and the idea was to make lots of it.

As mentioned previously, i have a 32 L pot, and i wanted to make 30 litres of beer. The best way to do this would be to dilute. 

The recipe was simple:

-6kgs of Joe White Pale Malt, finely crushed.

Left over freezer hops (guess work):
-20g Chinook at 60mins
-20g Centennial at 30mins
-And a definite 30g of Cascade, dry hopped for 7 days.

It was a 20 L mash for 60 minutes from 68C down to 65C and then an hour long boil, giving me a very concentrated 15 L of sweet wort. Just before adding the yeast i added an extra 15 L of cold tap water, bringing me up to 30 L at about 1.045. Perfect!

I had a friend come over and help out on the brew day, he is the bar manager at Deja Vu, his name is Joe.

Another thing was that i borrowed my friend James' grain mill for the day, which he had recently purchased. It was fun... I got to use a power drill.

1.5L of grain = 1kg of grain.

Hamish's "power drill".

Getting better at sparging i think...

Thanks Joe!

Something something boil is finished! And this is what it looked like after leaving it to chill on its own in the bathtub for a while!

A nebula of beer...

A nebula of beer... Changing my blog from 'Smell My Beer' to 'The Beer Nebula'. DONE.

Here is the tasting of the beer about 2 weeks after bottling:

Photos and video taken by Becky Nosiara unless otherwise stated or obvious.