Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dunning-Kruger Bliss

"In the field of psychology, the Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias, wherein a persons of low ability suffer from illusory superiority when they mistakenly asses their cognitive ability as greater than it is. The cognitive bias of illusory superiority derives from the metacognitive inability of low-ability persons to recognize their own ineptitude. Without the self-awareness of metacognition, low-ability people cannot objectively evaluate their actual competence or incompetence. 

... the corollary to the Dunning-Kruger effect indicates that persons of high-ability tend to underestimate their relative competence, and erroneously presume that tasks that are easy for them to perform also are easy for other people to perform."

Since starting my job at Grain & Grape I've learnt two pretty important things:

- I know absolutely nothing.

- Most people also know absolutely nothing.

This, on one hand, is very humbling and on the other, very exciting. For those who find the language in the quote above a bit ridiculous, the basic concept of the Dunning-Kruger effect is that you are more confident in your ability and knowledge when you don't know shit and you end up being the annoying guy at the bar attempting to assess how many grams per litre of supposedly Galaxy hops are in that obviously Mosaic hopped pale ale, and then if you do know shit you realise how little you actually know and don't flaunt your knowledge around because really, no one knows what hop is in that beer until they are told*.

Now, I'm not trying to say I'm so full of knowledge now that I have surpassed being that guy, but i certainly know a lot more now than I did in my last blog post (which was too long ago, again, I'm sorry). I also have gotten to the point of making beers that I am consistently happy with. This may not sound like such an achievement, but for those of us who brew, I'm sure you understand how easily it is to be the harshest critic of your own product.

So what's been going on then?

Well, I've completely upgraded my system

So yeah, a three vessel keggle system (most of which I bought off Matt from G&G) with a hot liquor tank that I built myself (with help from Matt from G&G):

It works really great, it allows me more time to focus on the beer and not worry so much about variables in my equipment. It's not perfect, and it never will be: another important lesson I've learned working in a homebrewing shop is that unless you're a kit and a kilo brewer or you're super rich, your system will never be complete.

"So what's this blog post all about?" you might ask...

Honestly, it's not about much. I do a lot of thinking about homebrewing now, and I talk to a lot of people about it. One of the best things about it is that it is a hobby, there are no expectations. I'm probably the least knowledgeable brewer at the shop, but I feel like that's fine. If someone wants to know about the exact science of how enzymes break down complex sugar chains* then there's someone I can pass them on to, but 95% of customers I can help, because most of the customers just want some good advice from someone who enjoys the hobby as much as them.

So what's next? I'm going to keep brewing mid strength pale ales, because I love the social aspect of beer brewing. I love the history of beer too, and have recently been thinking about moving away from hops and trying some gruit style beers, which I will document well and post here on this blog.

Thanks for reading!

- Oscar

* Maybe the dunning-kruger effect in full swing.

Monday, May 30, 2016


Brewed a big beer last night (we filmed it and will be up soon) and this happened while I was home, the foil got some actual distance too...

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Bread and Bitter Pudding

How good is English beer?

I dunno if I've mentioned it before but I love English beer, Timothy Taylor's Landlord (or Timmy T's) is by far one of my favourite beers ever.

Also, how good is bread and butter pudding?

Picture credit to

How good is drinking English beer and eating bread and butter pudding on a cold winters night?


Can you see what I'm getting at here?

Bread and Bitter Pudding. A sweet English Strong Ale that tastes like bread and butter pudding.

So first things first, the base beer. A bready, sweet English Strong Ale to replicate that creamy buttery goodness of the great bread and butter pudding. I chose to use Maris Otter as my base malt (there's no other way to make an English beer) with a bit of wheat and carawheat to help get that breadiness, a good amount of English light crystal malt for the sweetness and a small amount of Gladfields Toffee malt for the butteriness. For yeast I used Wyeast Thames Valley II because it sounds amazing and perfect, estery, fruity and generous with malt.

The Malt Bill:

4kg Simpsons Maris Otter
350g Simpsons Crystal 40L
200g Joe White Wheat Malt
120g Gladfields Toffee Malt
100g Wayermann Carawheat
90g Flaked Wheat

Mash went well, I was pretty happy with the colour of the first runnings. Nice and golden, like the crust of a good bread and butter pudding.

Time for a beer!

What's this? This is the Cookie Brown Ale from the last post.

This was interesting, on one hand it was quite delicious, on the other hand it was pretty average. Up front it is a dry, roasty brown ale that is maybe a little over-carbonated (still getting used to the kegging setup) but with a big milkshakey mouthfeel. Then you get the diacetyl, and that paired with the opaqueness, isn't very appealing. I blame this on me being impatient and forgetting to ramp up the temperature near the end of fermentation and just chucking it straight into the keg. This beer actually finished a bit higher than expected too, which is totally normal for English yeasts. They usually require a bit of convincing to get to a reasonable FG and I didn't allow it, paying the price.

The delicious price...

I think next time I will add a bit more crystal malt - or cut down on the brown malt, that stuff is pretty invasive (and I mean that in the most delicious way). Massive coffee and bread notes but it was just a little too dry for my taste.

Back to our pudding! Mash is over, got the wort on the stovetop, time for some hops! What hops?

I used all East Kent Goldings because of their spicy sweet English vibes, I'll be damned if they aren't delicious and perfect for this beer. A workmate would probably be pretty upset that I didn't use any Fuggles, but I think they're just a little too earthy.

The hop schedule was:

40g EKG @ 60 mins
35g EKG @ 10 mins

After the boil, before cubing for no chill, I took some of the wort to make a RWS (real wort starter), one of the benefits of no chilling. 

Got the beer in the cube, got almost exactly the amount I had planned, with an OG of 1.058. HI FIVE!

The next day my yeast starter was looking hungry so I pitched it.

But not before having to defrost my refrigerator. One of the downsides to have a fermenting fridge that seconds as a keg fridge... help please send space

After about 4 or 5 days the fermenting seemed to slow down a bit, hitting 1.018 and stalling. Aha! Learn from my mistakes, I ramped the temperature from 18*C to 22 and roused the beer a little, hoping to get some of that high flocculating yeast back into suspension.

Didn't work so I did it again the next day.

The next day, gravity had dropped to 1.014, perfect!

I let the beer sit for another week, letting the yeast rest up for what was going to come next!

What is a bread and butter pudding without raisins, marmalade and most importantly, brandy?

I soaked oak, raisins and orange peel in brandy for a week to add to the beer. I wish you could smell it, it was unbelievably good.

Also that Pirate Life IPA is pretty good, if you are in Australia and haven't tried Pirate Life before WHY ARE YOU READING MY BLOG GO AND GET ONE OR SIX OR TWENTY FOUR NOW

So that brings us to now, I've just kegged the beer, removing the bag of orange peel and raisins, they don't look so appealing anymore...

And all I can think about is that I should have used these to make a bread and butter pudding...

Maybe next time.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Fermented Dreams

I have this really bad habit of making beers and completely forgetting that I run a homebrewing blog, well this won't happen again! Oh I know what you're thinking "but Oscar, you've said this before and nothing changed!" yeah well guess what? You're probably right.

Anyway! What's up people?! ...


Well I've been busy, sorta. Firstly, and most excitingly, I've got a couple of sweet new jobs. One is at one of my favourite local breweries: Moon Dog, serving beers at their brewpub, and the other is working at Grain and Grape, which if you have followed along, is my go-to homebrew supplies store.


Also, if all goes to plan, there'll be a little bio about me on this page with a link to this blog on it. So if you've come from there, welcome. My infinite loop is now complete and I can now begin work on my anti matter machine.

Ok, enough about me, let's get down to why you're all really here:

So I've made a few beers since my last post, I made the Burnt Toast and Jam again, which I mentioned a couple of times throughout the blog. It's basically my favourite beer to make/drink and the taste is exactly what the name suggests. I'm not telling you the recipe though because then I'd have to kill you, ferment you and make you into... Uh-oh, I've said too much.

It turned out great, if you were wondering, it always does.

Another beer I made was one to test out my new kegging setup (woo!), a Citra/Amarillo pale ale. Really simple, nice and dry with a delicious tamarillo-esque hop profile, and I churned it out quick enough to just see the last of the hot weather. The recipe was as follows:


2.5kg Pale Ale Malt
100g Medium Crystal
50g Flaked Wheat

80g Citra @ flameout (the reason it's all at the end is because I was no chilling and it would cook for a bit more as it cools.)

80g Amarillo dry hopped for 4 days

Fermented for 2 weeks with Wyeast 1056 American Ale and then straight into the keg.


I think next time I would swap the hops, so use Amarillo in the boil and dry hop with Citra. Really keen to maybe throw some actual tamarillos in next time too...

The latest beer I've done, which is still in the fermenter, is a beer inspired by a recipe in Radical Brewing: a cookie brown ale (or biscuit brown ale for all us non-americans).

What separates this recipe apart from other brown ales is that it uses a big hit of oats, kinda like an oatmeal stout, except that you toast them in the oven to give it that real oat biscuit vibe.

So I toasted some oats in the oven about 2 weeks prior to brewing the beer, the reason for the wait is because of something John Palmer said about letting some of the harsher aromatics to escape and if there's one thing I've learnt it's that you should always follow John Palmer's advice even if it doesn't necessarily make sense to you, because science.

Is this obsession healthy?

Brew day was smooth, hit all the numbers which was nice. Particularly hitting my mash out bang on the dot.

I used a malt in this beer that I have been loving lately: Gladfields Toffee, and I haven't even used it in a recipe yet, I could just eat handfuls of it all day long.

A workmate told me that if you use too much there's a chance it can end up giving a buttery taste to the beer that can be confused with diacetyl, and I did use quite a lot of it so I guess we'll just see. I can't imagine it will be terrible either way.

I don't know why I first wort hop so much, I read somewhere that it gives a smoother bitterness and in my experience it has, but this is pseudo-science 101 right here so don't quote me on that.

Here's the recipe:


1.7kg Maris Otter
1kg Pale Ale Malt
.400g Toasted Oats (300g lightly toasted, 100g dark toast)
.200g Brown Malt
.200g Gladfields Toffee
.080g Dark Crystal
.020g Roasted Barley

10g Fuggles @ FWH
25g Fuggles @ 20mins

No Chilled and fermented with Wyeast West Yorkshire 1469


So hopefully in the next couple of weeks you'll get an update post about how this beer tastes, fingers crossed, like biscuits!

Stay smelly,

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Tale Of Two Fermented Lovers, An Auto-Siphon From The Eleventh Dimension And Core Brewing Concepts (or Where Did Everything Go Wrong)

Hello there lonely traveller, stay a while and listen. I have tales of fruitfulness and .. fruit and ... Stuff.

Sorry it's been a while since my last post, this thing called 'life' has been getting in the way, but I'm back, and I know you're all pulling your hair out to hear more.

What's new.

Well, firstly I bottled the Pinot-Noir Oak Aged Belgian Raspberry Chocolate Stout, (you can read about what I was trying to achieve here), basically I was trying to clone a beer I really liked.

I made a super low gravity Belgian chocolate stout to blend with the first beer, which was a really intense Pinot Noir Oaked Raspberry Imperial Stout.

Before transfer

Bottling day was insanely stressful. Since it was the first time using a carboy, it was also the first time using an auto-siphon. No one at my local home-brewing store told me that you need a very specific sized hose for the auto-siphon. So here I am, spending most of the day trying to hose clamp on some vinyl tubing to the end of the siphon, panicking that the beer is being oxidised and ruined every time I pump and just get bubbles...

After transfer

Well, eventually I got it all into the one fermenter, as you can see, it only just fit.

So, the question you're all OBVIOUSLY dying to have answered...

Did it turn out good?

Well, does the pope shi -


The answer is: yes of course it did.

The reason I say 'of course' is because, to be honest, this wasn't a hard beer to make. One of the things that I learned early on in my home-brewing career is that anyone can make a decent imperial stout, not anyone can make a decent pale ale.

Sure, it took a little bit of knowledge (AKA: google) in regards to how many raspberries or oak chips to add and when, but it was all still pretty vague. The amount of different flavours in this beer mean that if there are any problems with the base beer, it's not really going to show. As you all probably know, making a light ale or lager is much harder because there's nothing to hide any of the small off flavours that very easily occur if you don't know what you're doing. I still don't think I've made a pale ale yet that I'm completely happy with, but I've made a LOT of flavoursome beers that I could find almost no faults with.

So, how did this beer taste?

Well, as mentioned earlier, I did decide to put oak chips in after all. Pinot Noir soaked oak chips in fact (which was part of the original Boatrocker recipe).

The beer is amazing. It's all sweet raspberries and wine up front, a little acidity, then a nice malty hit of chocolate and the vanillins from the oak followed by a dry finish with a little of the acidity hanging around. It's ridiculously smooth. I had no idea that blending beers could actually be a thing I could achieve, and considering the problems had during bottling, I'm actually surprised it turned out this well.

Another really interesting thing that's happened recently is this run in with a company called Core Brewing Concepts. I'm not going to go into details about what happened, but you can read about it here and there is also an interview with the person in question here.

I'm helping a good friend start up a small brewery in Melbourne called Bale Worker Project Brewery, and he's had a really hard time with the company supplying him equipment. The guy who he was getting things from was being flaky, not replying to emails or calls, and ended up not getting the fermenters to him. This is after about a year of trying to get the equipment.

At the time I thought that this was just my friend who was having these problems, turns out it's not. Someone from Temple Brewing contacted my friend recently and told him they were also having problems with Core, and that they were doing a fundraiser brew with a bunch of other small start up breweries from around Australia who'd had similar problems.

I'm the ugly one, second from the right.

It was an amazing day, I met a lot of incredibly nice people, stood around and drank a lot of beer, it's just a shame it had to happen under such sour circumstances. Some of these people have put around 20 - 30k into equipment, relying on it to get things started, and have gotten nothing. Knowing how much red tape and how brutal the tax office can be on top of that makes this problem so much worse.

Speaking of Temple, I had an amazing beer of theirs recently when me and Becky went and had burgers at their brewery bar (the burgers were pretty good, but the bacon aioli they served with the chips? oh my). It was called the New World Order.

It's an American Style stout, so basically a really big hopped up stout. It sent me back to the days when Southern Bay Brewing's Metal Head and the Holgate Temptress were actually good dark beers. When it's cold you get a big mouthful of Vegemite, cranky roasted malts and big hop bitterness with some nice fruity hop aroma on the back end, and as it warms up it completely smooths out, bringing the hoppiness down a notch and letting the roasted and caramel malts shine. I definitely recommend getting a bottle or a pint at some point.

Until next time we meet...


Monday, February 23, 2015

Trying to replicate one of my favourite beers ever.

If you've been following my blog you might remember a beer I mentioned in a post a while back, the Belgian Summer Stout by Boatrocker, a Belgian Chocolate Stout with added raspberries. It is in my top five, or maybe even top two, favourite beers ever (probably tied with Garage Project's La Calavera Catrina)

I loved this beer so much that I actually emailed Boatrocker asking them when they were planning on making it again, as it was a seasonal beer. The response I got was:


Well, the response wasn't just no, but the whole truth was so much worse. You see, it was an accident and "not easily repeatable".

From Tim at Boatrocker:

"Basically it was a portion of the base imperial stout used to make Ramjet (about 9% abv), put into an ex-wine barrel with fresh raspberries for a few months. The high abv of the stout provided a very fresh and vibrant extraction of Raspberry character. When we racked it out of the barrel the Raspberry character was way too intense, so we decided to blend it down and make it into something more sessionable. We blended it heavily with a batch of dry (low FG) Belgian Chocolate Stout (less than 5% abv). The flavours combined very well, as it turned out Chocolate and Raspberry compliment each other nicely. But it would be exceptionally hard to recreate the same profile."

Ramjet is an incredible barrel aged imperial stout by Boatrocker that, if you haven't tried, you should definitely try.

Well there's no point in crying over spilt beer, I'm a home-brewer, a fucking home-brewer! We can do anything! I'm not going to let this shit stand!

I'll make it myself, I'll create this beautiful, delicious mistake at home!

Credit to contreras19 for the Invader Zim

So I made an imperial stout, around 8% ABV to soak the berries in. The brew day went well, Nothing really to report. My dad was over from NZ and so he came over to help out, along with my friend Jared. It was based on an old recipe of mine, the 'Nathan Fillion' Imperial Stout. It turned out very well and so I figured it would be best to be safe rather than try something new, especially considering how crazy this process is going to be.

So next step is to add berries. I want to add a lot too, I've made a beer with raspberries before and I wasn't happy with amount (the beer was great, just not raspberry enough). So for 20L of beer, I added 1.5kgs of frozen raspberries which I made sure weren't hepatitis A berries.

So first thing was to bring them to just under a simmer for about 10 - 20 minutes. This kills off any bacteria living on the berries that could possibly infect the beer.

Once it had sat for about 10 minutes and was pretty warm, I transferred it into my flask and put it back on the heat. I don't have a funnel so this was going to be the easiest way to get it into my new Better Bottle.

Success with no red stains anywhere!

I haven't decided yet if I'm going to add wood chips soaked in Pinot Noir, this is really the last step to making it an exact replica, but I might do it in the next few weeks. I don't want it to end up being overly oaky, I feel like it could possibly kill the refreshing-ness pretty easily.

And there it is, after a few days of sitting in my fermentation chamber it's starting to show some signs that the berries are fermenting. Will leave it for a few weeks in the fridge then I might move it somewhere dark so I can make that Belgian Chocolate Stout to blend it with!

P.S. The other beer I mentioned earlier, Garage Project's La Calavera Catrina, guess what? They don't make that any more either. 

EDIT: They do make it! But it's just not as good as it used to be...

Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Jared and the Giant Peach

Holy damn, we just made an IPA.

For the first beer after getting my new mill I decided to make a huge single malt IPA with mostly New Zealand hops and some Amarillo for bittering. Something to burn your taste buds out.

8kgs (17.6lbs) of Maris Otter.

320g (11.3oz) hops.

21 litres (5.5 gallons) of beer.

It ended up being about 300 IBUs and 8.5% ABV.

Here's the hop schedule:

40g Amarillo @ FWH

40g Amarillo @ 60 mins

60g Nelson Sauvin @ 30 mins

60g Motueka @ 20 mins

60g Cascade @ 10 mins

40g Motueka, 20g Nelson Sauvin @ flame out

Oh and Dan, who just got back from the states visiting family brought us some presents which I will talk about later on. Hint: it has something to do with IPA.

Click to enlarge!

'Milhouse' is what I'm calling my new mill. He's such a champ.

From about this point on, Jared got his hands on the camera and started taking ludicrous amounts of pictures. I filtered through them and he actually got some pretty tasty shots. Thanks Jared!

Dan's first time putting a record on, and it was a good one too!

Seriously some of the best brewing music.

I honestly didn't think we'd fit 8kgs of malt in my mash tun with 26Ls of water... But we did, and it smelled amazing. Maris Otter is just perfect.

Time for a beer!

You know what kinda annoys me? This trend of making weak ass smoke beers and labelling them 'Bacon Beers'. Any time someone calls the Schlenkerla Rauchbier a 'Bacon Beer' I want to slap them, that beer is the best example of a smoke beer, and it only tastes like bacon because both the flavour of bacon and smoked malt are derived from smoking over a wood fire. It would be like eating some smoked cheese and saying "this is bacon cheese!". Epic make great beers, but this beer is just kinda weak.

The first addition of hops: 40 grams of Amarillo at first wort hopping. Damn! It smells and looks just like a big juicy peach.

Boil time!

I remember my nan used to drink spirulina when I was younger, this is exactly how it looked, but definitely not how it smelled.

Speaking of grandparents, my other nan also bought me this sweet little bowl as a birthday present once, and it is a perfect hop measurer! Particularly with some Nelson Sauvin in it!

Lots of Motueka too, probably one of the best smelling hops I've ever used.

Waiting for the next addition.

I feel like using this many hops is somehow a criminal offence...

Flameout hops and then into an ice bath, give it a few stirs every few minutes and let it cool.

I'm hungry, what shall we have to eat?


That's right, the one and only.

Look at his smug little face. GOD DAMNIT DAN.

Dan: "If you fuck this up Oscar, I swear I'm going to murder you."

So as I mentioned earlier, Dan went back to Nappa Valley in CA for his sister's wedding and just happened to bring a few of these back for us with him. It is probably his most talked about beer, and there is definitely a reason for that.

Pliny the Elder is an incredible beer. It has 100/100 on both Beer Advocate and Ratebeer, which obviously doesn't automatically make it the best, but it's still pretty convincing.

Actually tasting the beer was a weird experience. Pliny the Elder has a sort of mythical aura within the craft beer community, particularly in somewhere like Australia where we can't really get it retail without it losing some of it's freshness, and Russian River are very obsessed with freshness (it says DO NOT AGE about 7 times on the label). Dan made sure to get it just before he left, and the bottles we had were bottled about 2 weeks before we got them.

It is an amazing beer. That's it really. My expectations were the highest for any beer I've ever drank, and they were met, but this beer isn't some crazy amazing weird different beer, it is just a perfect example of a double IPA. Beautiful sunset orange, amazing smooth bitterness that lingers just long enough, and an incredibly rounded hop flavour and aroma. Dan even said that he wasn't sure it should have 100 scores because it's not different, but then we both agreed that it does deserve it because it is the best example of a double IPA we've ever had. You just can't compare it to any other beer. I wanted to compare it to Epic's Hop Zombie, but it just doesn't work.

Also, I've yet to find an Australian IPA that could even come close to this beer. Why not?!

But really I am actually hungry, so we made some food.

Shredded supermarket roast chicken with diced bacon, jalapeños, and this awesome bourbon smoky bbq sauce we found, all smooshed into a wrap with cheese on top and home-made coleslaw.

Yep, that's how you make food to go with the Pliny.

So we ate in the backyard in the amazing Melbourne spring twilight.

Then me and Dan squeezed beer out of some hops. We weren't leaving any behind.

This was just one out of about 4 strainer loads of hops.

Got my yeast starter out, Wyeast American Ale II, pitched it into the beer. Got 1.082, a little under what I was expecting, but I got a couple of litres more liquid. Got to get onto my calculations!

Then we jumped onto the couches and put on an episode of Spaced, because Dan hasn't seen it yet. I've probably seen it about 10 times through. It's one of the best series ever.

Oh and Dan brought some more beers too!

Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Wild. This beer was awesome! A really hoppy, fruity, funky wheat beer that apparently you can buy from the supermarkets in the states for $10 a 6 pack. That doesn't make me sad at all.

It's time to get funky, so we put on the Mighty Boosh, which Dan hadn't seen either!

Russian River Supplication. Uhh... Holy shit.

A sour beer with Brettanomyces yeast aged in Pinot Noir barrels with added cherries. This just blew my mind. I never thought I'd see the day when the Caractere Rouge got a run for it's money, but this is it. The added funk from the Brett almost takes it a step above, and speaking of the devil:

Rodenbach Caratere Rouge. The lack of focus in this pic indicates that we had had just the right amount of beers.

This was the last beer of the night. If you haven't tried this beer you really should. A red sour beer aged with cherries. It is just a perfect example of a really, really good sour beer. At our bar we refer to it as 'Unicorn Blood'.

Cheers! Here's a picture of a door knob that Jared took: