20 Feb 2014

apple pie mead 1Every year my apple trees are kind to me with an abundance of fruit, Im not sure why because I don't treat them nicely by any means…. One year I took to them with my chainsaw in a pathetic attempt at pruning, only to later find out I had cut off all of the most important branches. But despite my butchery they grew back with so much fruit I struggled to make use of it all. Nature is a patient and kind lady! 

 Im not sure what kind of apples they are, perhaps some kind of Braeburn, they are tart and slightly bitter and don't taste much like culinary apples, I really should do some investigating. Last year some friends and I spent the afternoon mincing and pressing the juice. I then added some whitelabs 007 dry english ale yeast and fermented the must out, then back sweetened with concentrate. It was a delicious cider and opened my eyes to just what was growing in my backyard (we inherited the trees when we purchased our home 5 years ago).  That cider went on to win a bronze medal at NHC last year and considering it was a year old and pasteurised I suspect it could have done very well if fresh and not long in the bottle.


So this year I decided to make a Cyser. Ever since I heard of Moonlight meads apple pie mead Ive been wanting to try it. Apples, honey, Vanilla and cinnamon…. Its a combination of flavours that even when heard, gets the old saliva running! Unfortunately you can't find it in New Zealand and I just happened to stumble across 6 kilos of organic Manuka honey from Great Barrier island and I thought the strong musky taste of the Manuka would work well in a spiced Cyser. Ive selected Vinters Harvest MA33 wine yeast which ferments some malic acid since my apples are very tart I don't want the mead to end up too acidic and I don't want to do a malo lactic fermentation if I can avoid it. This is the first time Ive fermented with wine yeast and the first time Ive ever made a mead. One thing that has been very new to me  is the way mead and wine makers work with yeast. I can't for the life of me find a good reference to inoculation rate. With beer we go by 1 million cells per millilitre of wort per degree plato, nice and simple. But there are no references like this for mead. Because the must is %100 fermentable, a different technique is used where by the focus is on yeast nutrition and environmental health  throughout the fermentation i.e. Rather than the focus being on pitching rate, wine makers turn their attention to yeast nutrients and correct ph of the must in order to get the cell growth and fermentation character they are looking for. Im still a little uneasy about not having a firm inoculation rate to work with, but Ill wing it for now and stagger my nutrient additions over the first week of fermentation.




apple pie mead

20kg apples crushed and pressed (I added three bags of culinary apples to fill out the batch)

6kg Organic manuka honey

4 campden tablets crushed

16g of Vinters Harvest MA33 wine yeast

11g of Fermaid A nutrient (staggered throughout the lag phase)

1 Vanilla Bean (split)

1 cinnamon quill


19/03/2014 - Mince the apples in a blender and then into this great little piece of gear my friend Logan Douglas built. He's a bit of a genius with wood (even builds his own surfboards) and this is no exception!

Collected 18 Litres of juice 

Added crushed campden (to kill bacteria and slow wild yeast)

Added honey

Blended it all with a stick blender for a few minutes then left in my basement for 24hrs to let the campden do its thing.

O.G. 1.115 - PH 3.6

20/03/2014 - Added pure O2 at one liter per minute for two minutes. Added  yeast and 3/4tsp fermaid A. 

22/03/2014 - Added 3/4tsp Fermaid A. PH shows 3.4

24/03/2014 - Added remaining Fermaid A and degassed the must again. Took a PH reading that showed 2.6 Far too low for healthy yeast metabolism. Since yeast needs potassium and honey doesn't provide enough, Ive chosen potassium hydroxide (KOH) to both raise the PH of th e must and contribute potassium ions.

Prepared a 1N solution of KOH. This was used (1ml at a time) to titrate 100ml of must back up to a PH of 3.6 Multiply the titrant by 10 and then by 18 (the total volume of the must) and you know exactly how much is needed to correct the PH of your fermentation.

apple pie mead 3apple pie mead 5apple pie mead 6photo

20 Feb 2014

I imagine that back in the days of gunslingers and gold miners the ales that quenched the thirst of the common man, the 'hoople' as David Milch so eloquently called him in the TV series Deadwood, was something akin to a French saison. Of course it wouldn't have been as clean as the modern day cultured yeasts allow for, but all would've had the same premise: hoppy, lots of fruity esters from a warm fermentation, and bone dry! I imagine that they were all different with every batch having its own special kind of strange.  The story of saison is of a drink developed to quench the thirst of the local farm hands in Wallonia, but I don't think this would have been common practice in Belgium alone. Saison's and ales like them, would be a global style for the hoople the world over. And Im sure as the mid days sun rolled over, the afternoons got a bit wilder as our hooples quenched their thirst tending less to the fields and more to the bottle, with greater and greater depravity and abandon. 

I like the connotation of this style. Its a truly unique expression of the brewer and the indigenous ingredients available. Ive been incessantly brewing saisons for months trying to pin down the perfect balance.  Ive worked through three different strains of yeast and finally settled on a private collection strain from Wyeast called 3726-PC Farmhouse Ale. This strain was isolated from Braserie De Blaugies in Belgium and behaves like any other ale yeast with an average attenuation of about 75%. Rather than pushing the temperatures higher and higher to get the fruity flavours, you can use a fermentation temperature of 23C which brings out a mix of tropical esters and spicy phenols that just scream out for some New Zealand hops.

So I went overboard! Motueka and Kohatu late in the boil add a significant spicy zest to the beer and its the dry hop schedule that really tips this on its head and turns it into a more ‘farmhouse’ type of ale.  Combined with the yeast esters its a tropical fruit bowl dominated by pineapple and mango with an intriguing dry, spicy character layered underneath. Its so unique that I ended up brewing five more batches just to check it was not a fluke and to try a few different finishing gravities before settling on the right amount of body to balance the heavy load of hops.

You see most Saisons are very dry, some finishing as low as 1.000 SG. I'm looking to make an easy drinking ale thats sub 5% ABV and if the beer were to finish too dry it would lack a substantial malt character to keep it interesting. The hops would have to be toned down to balance this and I want more hops and more character without all the alcohol. So we're mashing high at 68C and using a yeast that leaves a little sweetness but still finishes dry and tart. To me this is the fundamental difference between a saison and a farmhouse ale (although many would argue they are one in the same).

The malt is all from Gladfield Malt in Canterbury. Pilsner makes up the majority of the grist and leaves a very floral honey character to the beer while some vienna and wheat give it that rustic complexity which typifies the style. This is a true New Zealand style farmhouse ale made with traditional yeast and fresh local malt and hops.

Saison Blog post 800 x 921

Prospector - Farmhouse Ale

O.G. 1.049
ABV 4.9%


68% Gladfield Pilsner 
16% Gladfield Vienna
16% Gladfield Wheat

4.0  IBU Motueka at 60 minutes

Yeast nutrients and Koppafloc at 10 minutes

7.9  IBU Motueka at flameout
8.0 IBU Kohatu at flameout

Ferment with Wy3726-PC Farmhouse Ale at 23C for 4 days and raise it up to 25 for another 2 days. When terminal crash to 2C and rack to a keg before adding dry hops and force carbonating at 15PSI for 7 days. 

2g/L Motueka Dry Hop
2g/L Kohatu Dry Hop

The keg will taste good for a few weeks before it needs to be transferred off the hops and into another keg (If you can't keg then transfer to a secondary and dry hop for 4 days before bottling), until that time you can enjoy totally fresh hoppy beer with every pint so rip through it! After its transferred as the hops drop out the yeast esters remain and keep the beer interesting!

19 Feb 2014

You know you’ve got a special wife when she will drive you half way around the city on New Years eve as you dart in and out of establishments trying to find someone, anyone serving a quality stout. Alas I think the middle of summer is a bit of a desert in terms of the good stuff, there are a few options on the market but none of them really tickled my fancy (to be fair I hadn’t discovered Panheads black top at that stage, and Hallertau double stout wasn’t on the shelf). I left 2013 without a stout… And woke up the next day to brew one myself. A couple of years ago I was enjoying a special reserve extra stout by Emersons at Galbraiths in Auckland, I was completely blown away by it… Coffee, chocolate, liquorice and hints of rum and raisin… All held together by an interesting water profile, slightly salty, that really brought out the liquorice notes and a great snappy finish.. I had to make this beer!

stout gold medal

This is the beer that we are launching with. It won a gold medal at the soba NHC in 2012 and a bronze medal in 2013 (under-pitched that version and it struggled to clean itself up during fermentation). So Why a stout like this instead of the trusty pale ale or IPA? Well firstly I'm not sure how the beer is going to sell, I have no idea about that end of the business just yet and I don't want a pale hoppy beer sitting on the shelf for 6 months before someone buys it and decides its shit, writing off our beer on the spot. A strong dark beer will only improve as time goes by (as  long as its properly brewed). Second is that there just aren't enough of these beers on the shelf. Its what Im always looking for and its one of my favourite styles and this venture is primarily about me sharing my interests with a greater audience.

This version handles some hefty late hopping rather well and Ive experimented with most of the notable New Zealand varieties. From Motueka and Southern Cross, to Cascade and Kohatu.  Every combo seems to work well and its the kind of beer that has layers of unfolding flavours and smells which age gracefully and only seem to get better. Im giving this brew a combination of Styrian Goldings, Riwaka and Southern Cross at flameout. To be honest I don't think it resembles Emersons stout any more but its inspired by the skills of the brewers down the coast. 


stout process 5

Testing out a new fermenter designed by a local outfit Indemic Design here in Auckland New Zealand.

5KG Gladfiled Ale Malt

500g Gladfield Vienna

400g Weyerman Chocolate Malt 1175 EBC

400g Weyerman Roasted Barley 591 EBC

300g Thomas Fawcett Medium Crystal 150 EBC

150g Bairds Pale Chocolate 950 EBC

150g Briess Special Roast 98.5 EBC

80g Thomas Fawcett Dark Crystal 288 EBC

20g Southern Cross Boil 60 mins 38.9 IBU

80g Styrian Goldings Steep 20 min 9.3 IBUStyrina Goldings hops

15g Riwaka Steep 20 min 1.7 IBU

15g Southern Cross Step 20 min 4.2 IBU

2.4g Yeast nutrient

0.8g Koppafloc kettle finings

22g Safale US-05 dry yeast




stout process 312/04/2014 - Milled grains and mashed in with 22L of water at 70C for a 60 minute rest at 64C.  Sparged with 20L of 5.5 PH adjusted water slowly for 40 minutes. Boiled for 30 minutes then added the first hop addition. Boiled for a further 60 minutes added nutrients and finings then killed the heat and aded the steeping hops. Left to stand for 20 minutes. Chilled, added pure oxygen at a rate of 1L per minute for two minutes (Used extra because of the high gravity). Added yeast and left to ferment at 19C

This style requires some attention to your water. Make sure to adjust the PH of the mash to 5.2 I use Calcium Hydroxide to buffer some of the acidity in the roasted malts which would otherwise drop my PH to well below 4.5 This also means that I can add calcium ions without additional chloride or sufate ions (I like to keep the latter on the low side for this beer at about 30ppm). Also a touch of Sodium Bicrabonate to further buffer this drop and add sodium ions. You really want at least 20 to 25ppm of sodium in a beer like this to make all the flavours pop and get that liquorice thing happening.



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