20: The Sugary Tingly Belgian (e)

I poured my first ever beer down the sink last night – not because it was infected, but because it was crap.

The Sugary Tingly Belgian started bad and just got worse – the beer equivalent of the Eurovision Song Contest but without the sarcasm of Terry Wogan to make it work. Born on a day I was hungover and wanted to brew but my Sakeland order was late and all I had was LME and sugar, the beer’s fate looked iffy when I realised – after adding the yeast – that I’d forgotten to steep the speciality grains. Never brew with a hangover.

But it could have turned out OK if the yeast had been good. The S-33 was supposed to give Belgian flavours and so work well with some sugar, but at 19 degrees it did nothing. So I upped the temperature hoping to encourage out a more interesting profile – and I did. But interesting doesn’t mean tasty.

In an attempt to introduce some flavour, I racked onto frozen blueberries – but there were too few to make an impact.

The saving grace is that the beer was made from things I would otherwise never have used – LME, sugar, and a yeast I bought on a whim but later found out wasn’t really suited to any beer style really. It was a fitting 20th beer – taking me back to my first beer which also used sugar and was awful. That beer was a disappointment – this one wasn’t. I proved if you put crap in, you get crap out. And I cleared some cupboard space.

The Sugary Tingly Belgian. RIP.

Over the next week I may throw away some of my other old beers. As I was learning with my first 15 or so beers, I produced some mediocre ones. They were good accelerated learning experiences – I was often making 4 beers at a time – that taught me a lot about fermentation temperature, hop additions, which hops to use, and bittering levels. But there’s no point keeping them around when I have better beer on tap and in bottles now.


Half way between Roppongi and Shibuya, just off Roppongi-dori, I must have walked past Grail at least 100 times in the past three years.

Grail British Pub

Grail British Pub

I’ve not avoided the place as such, but I’ve never gone in. That’s partially because it’s half way on the walk home and far from any stations, so I’ve wanted to continue walking home, and partly because it looks like it might be a weird Japanese style British bar with a cover charge. Last night I finally decided to give it a try.

Surprisingly there was no cover change. Beer on tap was Guinness, Malts, Stella, and Hoegaarden. They also had Boddingtons in cans. That’s it. Certainly not a bar for the craft beer lovers. And when it came to pouring the Hoegaarden, they poured it without head and then pushed the tap back to generate head – not the best way to pour Hoegaarden! (For the benefit of those who don’t live in Japan, Japanese beer taps full forward to pour the beer and backward to pour a huge helping of foam head.)

But despite the mediocre beer, Grail had a suprise up its sleeve – it has possibly the best Fish & Chips I’ve had in Tokyo!

Until now Warrior Celt in Ueno had the best fish and chips in Tokyo – now its a very close call. Both bars make the batter fresh and dip the fish before serving, which gives it a wonderful fresh crispy taste. Warrior Celt probably wins overall on price, but for taste, both places are pretty close. I never expected food that good at Grail.

One thing to watch out for though – the guy next to me (whose dish had inspired me to order the Fish & Chips) got string French Fries as his chips, but I was given potato wedges. When I asked them to exchange them for French Fries, they did so without hassle. They turned up later on my bill as an extra though, but again they removed it without hassle. So if you’re going to order the Fish & Chips, make sure you ask for it with French Fries, and if you do have to exchange them, make sure you check your bill.

On balance, despite the so-so beers, I’d go back here for the Fish and Chips.

After the food. I continued the walk back to Shibuya. There, I decided to pop into Cataratas for a different Grail – The Holy Grail of beers:

Partially consumed Ruination in Cataratas

Partially consumed Ruination in Cataratas

In honesty, from lack of sleep last night I was half falling asleep – but Cataratas had kept their promise of mailing me when they put on Ruination, so I had to at least show my face and have one pint.

Beers currently on tap there are:

  • Stone Ruination 7.7% – UK half pint 1000 yen, US pint 1500 yen
  • Piraat Ale 10.5% – 330ml 1400 yen
  • Fullers ESB 5.9% – half pint 800 yen, pint 1400yen (don’t know whether UK or US)
  • Kasteel Rouge 8% – 330ml 1400 yen
  • Hoegaarden 5% – 250ml 700 yen, 500ml 1200 yen
  • Lowenbrau 5% – 360ml 700 yen, 1000ml 1800 yen

Cataratas gets knocked a bit for it’s prices – but although Ruination at Dry Dock was 1200 yen for half a pint, Catarata’s prices are not the most expensive out there. Ruination was over 1600 yen a pint at Popeye, and a small Hoegaarden was 800 yen in Grail.

I’d love to have tried the Piraat and Kasteel Rouge, but sadly I was just too tired. I finished the Ruination and headed home.

Homebrewing wise…

The Sugary Tingly Belgian still tastes rubbish, so I think I’ll be ditching that. It proves to me that LME + sugar can’t make good beer!

Hops of Mass Destruction will have been dry hopping for 5 days today. I gave the hops a gentle prod and stir yesterday. Since there’s quite a lot of hops on top, I’m going to leave the hops a little longer than usual – maybe 6 or 7 days instead of the normal 4 or 5.

I have the grain and hops ready to make a new beer, but I still don’t have my equipment sorted out yet. Hopefully this Friday I’ll get the weldless tap and fittings I need to the plate chiller, which means the weekend will be partially spent drilling my pot and buying tubing. I wont have my new mash-tun until next weekend but if I get the pot drilled, weldless tap filler, and plate chiller setup, maybe I’ll try a small half batch – something Imperial.

Last night I decided to dry-hop Hops of Mass Destruction IPA. Before doing so I bottled 1L in PET bottles and took out a sample to take a hydrometer reading. I dry-hopped in the primary, as I always do. Here’s what 19L of wort with 66g of Centennial looks like:

66g of Centennial on 19L

66g of Centennial on 19L

Although it’s been 8 days, I suspect I might have dry-hopped a little early. The hydrometer sample gave me a reading of 1.019, and after putting back on the lid again, within an hour it was bulging, which means CO2 is still coming out.

Still at 1.019 after 8 days, I don’t think it’s doing to get past 1.017 tops. I’m not having much luck getting my IPAs down to a drier 1.012/1.014 – either I need to use more yeast, make starters, or aerate more – but this time, with a massive 140+ IBUs of bittering, it might actually be OK a little sweeter (sweetness and bittering balance each other out).

I’ve force carbed one of the PET bottles. Might try it tonight.

Sugary Tingly Belgian still tastes awful. From tasting awful from sugar, warming up fermentation temperature has resulted in it now tasting of banana. I decided, therefore, to play a little experiment.

200g Frozen Blueberries

200g Frozen Blueberries

I’ve always wanted to rack onto frozen fruit, to see whether it’s safe. Here are the blueberries in the secondary, before racking (transferring) the beer from the primary:

No, it doesn't look like rats poop!

No, it doesn't look like rats poop!

Stop the little yellow thing to stop the blueberries coming out the tap when racking? It’s the same thing (though a new one) I used for the Coconut Wheat.

If it all goes wrong, I’ll have proved to myself that you can’t just use frozen fruit as is – they will have been blueberries of mass beer destruction. If it all goes right, I’ll have Blueberry and Banana beer – oh yummy (!)

The blog these days seems to be featuring more and more commercial beers and bar visits and less and less about homebrew. That’s mostly because my promised equipment upgrade is still coming together, and until it does,

Friday I picked up this plate chiller:

Plate chiller from Aus

Plate chiller from Aus

Like my pump, the plate chiller came with zero instructions. Apparently us homebrewers are just born with the knowledge; we won’t need sheets of paper to tell us how things work!

See that bag behind the plate chiller?

Please ferment me, Mr Homebrew Japan

Please ferment me, Mr Homebrew Japan

That’s a lovely 25kg bag of Pilsner malt, that is. Delivered on Saturday morning. That forces me to make beer sometime soon.

So what am I waiting for? I’ve got the pump, the plate chiller, the grain mill, and a drill – now I need to get the weldless kit for my aluminum pot, the tubes and connectors to connect everything together, and build a mash-tun.

I also need space – so on Saturday afternoon I kegged my Don’t Mention The War Pilsner and Coconut Wheat Porter (and bottled a little so Jonno and Chuwy could sample them when I hit Yokohama later).

Here’s the Coconut in my bargain 600yen “water container” primary:

Heaven and Hell

Heaven and Hell

Next to it you have The Sugary Tingly Belgian, which currently ranks as the most awful beer I’ve ever made. It just tastes like sugar. The Coconut Wheat Porter and the Pilner, on the other hand, are the best beers I’ve made to date – I just wish I had completed them in time for the Japan Hombrew Competition.

In the hope of getting some taste into the Belgian, it’s been out of the fermentation chamber since day 5. Maybe the higher temps will force the yeast into making some funky flavours. At the moment it’s a tossup between whether I throw it away or try throwing some orange peel or amarillo or both at it.

Back to nice beer. This is how the Coconut looked after two weeks dry-hopping:

I was a lovely bunch of coconuts

I was a lovely bunch of coconuts

Kegging was a breeze thanks to this little yellow thing I shoved in the tap when racking to the secondary:

Not a single bit of coconut made it to the keg

Not a single bit of coconut made it to the keg

26.25 yen well spent that was (105 yen for a pack of 4 from the 100yen shop).

As I said above, I rate the Pilsner and the Coconut Wheat Porter as the best beers I’ve made to date. The Saaz of the Pilsner it fantastic – maybe it’s not a 100% pure Pilsner (because I had to use some 2-row and my mashing technique doesn’t allow for perfectly clear beer), but it’s lovely – and the toasted Coconut is to die for. It’s not a sweet coconut taste like I’ve had before, but a delicious toasted taste.


Coconut in Tokyu Hands

There’s 5 packs on this unsweetened coconut in the 10-11L that I racked to secondary – more that I’ve seen in most other recipes, but worth it.

I got a bit of a shock opening the other side of the fermentation chamber – Hops of Mass Destruction IPA has been exploding internally!

Living up to its name...

Living up to its name...

...it's exploding internally

...there's been a war going on inside

That’s the most active fermentation I’ve achieved so far. Hope this one gets down to a nice dry 1.012. Cleaned up, it’s back in the fermentation chamber. I’ll be adding a lavish amount of dry-hopping later this week.

Beers kegged, bottles of Don’t Mention The War Pilsner, Coconut Wheat Porter, and America vs Britain Superpower IPA forcecarbed, it was time to hit Yokohama. That’s the next post…

A few weeks ago when trying the Westvleteren 8 & 12, the sugary tingling got me to thinking: I have a tin of LME and a bag of corn sugar that have been sitting unloved since I started homebrewing – maybe I should use them with some cultured Leffe yeast to try to make a sugary tingly Belgian.

I shelved the idea on account of not having any Leffe. And it probably being a crap idea anyway.

But on Saturday morning when my Sakeland order didn’t turn up – my fault for ordering too late Friday – I thought: What the hell? Let’s try it. All the ingredients are things I don’t really want to use in other beers anyway:

The S-33 seems to be a bit of an unknown – Fermentis claim it’s good for Trappist beers, other sites saying it’s Edme dry yeast and more of a general purpose yeast. With that “unknown” factor, I’m unlikely to use it for something a beer I care about – far too much uncertainty about how the taste will be affected.

Similar for the hops. The Saaz had been sitting under my desk for weeks – don’t know what condition it’s in (though it smelt OK). The Hallertauer – how close it will be to German Hallertauer, I have no ide (AA is 7% which is fairly high). Again the unpredictability makes it difficult to use these in beers I care about.

I hummed and ha’d about whether to make a Leffe Blond – which doesn’t include crystal – or whether to add crystal and make a Brown. In the end the decision was made for me – I completely forgot to add the crystal. I should know by now it’s not good to brew with a hangover.

The Sugary Tingly Belgian (Maybe)

11L filtered tap water
1.5kg tin of Black Rock LME
(approx 12L boil)

28g Organic New Zealand Hallertauer Leaf AA 7% – FWH from 70degrees + boiling 45m
8g Saaz Leaf AA 3.5% – 15m
8g Saaz Leaf AA 3.5% – 1m

500g corn sugar (added at flameout)

Ice added to cool and bring the volume to around 12L.

I decided to transfer everything into the primary – including the hops. Let’s Drinking with enjoy Our IPA was fermented that way and it came out very good – with the uncertainty around how much flavour I’ll get from the Saaz, I decided to try leaving it in there.

FG: 1.057-8 at 25
IBU: 41 + FWH – but that’s assuming the Saaz is healthy. I’m probably looking at around 40IBU altogether.

It will probably come out a bit hoppy for a Belgian – but hoppy is good! (Especially if the yeast turns out not to have much character!)

After adding the ice, the temperature was around 34. I put the bucket into the fermentation chamber to cool down, intending to add the yeast later – but the S-33 that I rehydrated in a little wort was going crazy and threatening to spill out the cup, so I just pitched it. It’s been in the fermentation chamber at 19 for 2 days now – I may take it out of there after a few days to give a final fermentation blast at higher temperatures… depends on whether I need the space!

I’m not particularly expecting this brew to come out stunning – it’s LME, corn sugar (I didn’t have citric acid to make candi sugar), a yeast which may or may not have Belgian influences, and unpredictable hops. But what the hell, at least I don’t have the ingredients cluttering up the house anymore! And actually, I’m quite excited to see how this will turn out – whether it will have a good or bad sweetness, whether it will taste Belgian at all, and how the hops will turn out.