Wulf's Webden

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Ruby Return

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Yesterday afternoon, I made use of some of the new brewing supplies I’d ordered in last week and set to work on my first batch for the new season. One of Jane’s favourites out of the various recipes I’ve tried over the years was based on Graham Wheeler’s version of Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby [Graham Wheeler. Brew Your Own British Real Ale (3rd ed.). CAMRA Books (St Albans) 2009. p103] so that’s what I set about cooking up.

I had all the necessary ingredients to stick to the recipe although I did add in a small amount of black malt too. I think that was from the first batch of grains I bought at least seven years ago but black malt is highly cooked and more about colour. If it had been pre-crushed it probably would have to be thrown out but it came as whole grains and I seem to be working through the original 500g bag at no more than 50g / year and less than 0.1% of any given grain bill!

One idea I carried forward from the previous batch I brewed was to scale up my ingredients a bit. For several years, I’ve been calculating around a starting point of 10l water but, with my previous batch I mashed with 10l water and then used another 4l of water to sparge (rinse) the mashed grains after removing the bag from the mash tun. My notes said that felt a little too much for the boil stage so I reduced it down to 3l of sparge water. By the time that had been boiled for an hour (and left to cool overnight) I ended up with about 9l of wort. There are several more points of wastage along its journey to become beer but I should end up with around 8l bottled rather than the 6l I’d typically get for sticking to the 10l water method, making the process about 25% more efficient.

Getting the fermentation going this morning took longer than I’d hoped as I had to do a bit of improvisation along the way. I realised the siphon tube I’d planned to use was dirty inside and, rather than risk introducing infection, I opted for pouring most of the wort into my plastic jerry can and using a jelly bag (part of my jam making kit) to get the last litre out with a relatively low amount of sediment. My experience is that the sediment doesn’t particularly seem to hurt the fermentation process but it does make getting it cleanly bottled more challenging and makes it more likely that I’ll produce several “gushers” (bottles that need to be opened near a sink!).

The wort has gone into the fermenter with some “Midland” yeast from Crossmyloof Brew, which is similar to the commonly used “Nottingham” strain. Adjusting for temperature, the original gravity was 1.058, bang on target and suggesting that my use of additional sparge water helps get the expected level of goodness from my grains.

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