At the beginning of this month I posted “Equipment upgrade fortnight”:

Over the next two weeks I will hopefully complete the following:

  1. Fermentation chamber
  2. Immersion chiller
  3. Mash tun

The fermentation chamber is complete but I’ll be making revisions to it over the next few weeks to improve efficiency. The version I made before was quick and cobbled together from 4 cool boxes, and it struggles to maintain 19 degrees due to badly fitting joins – but as a proof of concept it worked, and this week I’ve been collecting more cool boxes to put together a chamber with better sealing.

I’ve ditched the idea of an immersion chiller after borrowing a friend’s for the last two brews. Instead I’m going with a plate chiller, imported from Beerbelly in Australia (they seem to be in the middle of redesigning their site at the moment so I can’t link direct to the PC). At around 12,000 yen it’s about twice the price of an IC, but it is much closer to a professional brew setup than an IC. How many craft brewers do you think shove copper coils into their boiling brews 15 minutes before the end?

I used a PC at Kiuchi for my beers; professionals use a PC in the commercial environment – if I’m ever going to get my brewery launched, I want to get as close to a commercial setup as I can now. Obviously space has it’s limitations but a PC is a step in the right direction.

I’ve made no progress on the mash tun, mainly because I’ve been researching plate chillers. However I have a plan and it’s simply a case of getting over to the not-so-local home store and buying the picnic cooler, some copper, and the relevant attachments. I’ll probably build it around the time I add a weldless tap to my aluminium pot.

In addition to all of the above, I’ve also bought a March pump from the US – and will hopefully have it next week. Not only will I be able to use this with the plate chiller, but I’ll be able to set up a HERMS system.

I’ve also bought one of these, for opening European (and therefore Japanese Asahi) sanke kegs. The reason I bought it wasn’t actually for opening, but for safely releasing gas from sanke kegs for when all that comes out the kegerator is bubbles (my kegerator came with an Asahi sanke attachment). However I have to admit that I’ve always had a curiosity for sanke kegs and would really like to see how they tick. I can see myself buying a small keg of Yebisu, drinking it over the summer, then playing around with it and returning it before I leave Japan.  

On top of that lot there’s the four thermometers I bought, plus an auto-siphon, several disconnects and picnic taps, and a copy of Beer School: Bottling Success at the Brooklyn Brewery on their way – phew!


Last night's beers

It has become increasingly apparent to me recently that I need to keep a better record of the beers I’m drinking – because otherwise I just forget what I’ve drunk and what I thought about it.

With my iPhone, my blog has become my “on the go” record of what I’m brewing, so what better place to record the beers I’m drinking also? As a reader, this should also give you an idea of what influences me. I don’t intend to comment on everything – but if something is special in a good or bad way, I want to record it so that I can remember later.

Last night’s beers I’ve been wanting to try for a while – beers aged in whisky casks from Scotland. I anticipated a lot from these – sadly I was very very disappointed.

Here’s a photo of some of the Harviestoun Ola Dubh 12 year old in a glass:


Harviestoun Ola Dubh 12 Year Old

Very very dark – much darker than I expected. Sadly, the whisky taste is overpowering – it really does taste like mixing 4 shots of rough 12 year old whisky with a beer. There was a slight hint of the base beer, but really it just tasted like whisky.

The 18 year old had less roughness than its 12 year old sibling and a weaker overall whisky taste. 18 year old whisky does tend to be smoother and more refined than 12 year old – and though I’m not a huge whisky fan, I do really love the way an old whisky melts in the mouth. However whether the weaker whisky flavour in the 18 year old is due to the whisky or just them being more sparing with the time in the barrels, it’s difficult to say – certainly the weaker whisky of the 18 year old revealed that the base beer itself is rather flavourless.

But at least the Harviestoun’s were drinkable. The Brew Dog Storm Islay Whisky Cask Aged IPA was so bad I had to throw it away – the smoke taste was unbearable. As one reviewer on Beer Advocate says: “One of the most unpleasant beers I ever spent eight bucks on”. I couldn’t find it listed on the beers page on Brew Dog’s site, so maybe they have thrown it away also.

To clear my palette I had one of my Kiuchi IPAs and then moved on to the Lagunitas IPA. What can I say? First taste the beer felt a bit weak for an IPA, though nicely hoppy – and unlike some American IPAs in bottles, it had a bite at the end, not a downer. But the more I drank it, the more I liked it. It actually tastes like unfermented wort which has been dry-hopped – and as any beer maker knows, unfermented wort has a lovely hoppy, sweet and satisfying taste (usually because you made it) though it tends to be a very bitter. Dry hop it to offset that bitterness and you’d have the Lagunitas IPA taste. Very nice.

I brewed a clone of Lagunitas IPA without ever tasting it and so I’ve been wanting to taste the original for a while. I’d love to taste this on draft. My clone? I deliberately made my clone stonger in alcohol and IBUs, so it tastes quite different. It also needs a little more time to mature. Maybe in a few weeks I’ll do a proper comparison.

Hmm, I didn’t intend to write this much – but the whisky beers were unique (and bad) enough that they deserved comment. If you’ve tried them, let me know what you thought.