Cask failure

Morning Steve. First bit of bad news! I can’t get your 1851 to clear. And it went mental when I tapped it!

Not the best text to get on a Sunday morning from the pub landlord. First, no one calls me Steve. More importantly, this hasn’t happened with a cask before. In a way I’m surprised it hasn’t happened. I mean, it’s not so long ago that I found out the difference between a cask and a keg.

Let’s step back a bit and see if we can work out what’s happened here. The 1851 (a nice pale Scottish table beer based on a recipe from Youngers of Edinburgh dating from 1851) was brewed on 5 June and went into the cask on 26 June. I haven’t noted when I moved it into the secondary. Maybe it should have spent longer.

It was primed with 75g of sugar (for a 40l cask) based on the beer priming calculator at Brewer’s Friend (or you could try this one which gives much the same result). It sat in the Shed for a week before being delivered to the pub last Friday (1 July). It was tapped on 9 July. Neither of these is untypical. Actually, until recently I’d been using 150g of sugar but cut back thinking that was too much. Two weeks between casking and tapping is also what usually happens.

So what’s different? I’m guessing the combination of still too much priming sugar, time and the weather. I’ll explain:

  1. A different calculator suggests that the beer already had 1.7 vol of C02 in it. Since casked ale aims for between 1.2 and 1.4, it didn’t need priming at all but by adding sugar, the cask is heading for 2.2 vol.
  2. If 1 is true then adding any sugar means there was too much sugar.
  3. Time and the weather are working together here, I think. The recent warm weather – it’s been 18-20C in the Shed in the daytime and barely dropping at night (it’s still 18.2C at 10.30pm) means that the yeasts have been working more than usual, accelerating the carbonation in the cask.

So, after two weeks we have a big fizzy cask of beer ready to gush when the tap goes in. Maybe I’ll try the next one with no priming at all and see how it goes.

In better news, I’ve been playing with label ideas. I quite like these, with my little drawing of the Ship Inn.



Cask failure

Transatlantic smoked porter

The great thing about living in a small village is that word travels fast. Having seen the beer in the pub some lovely soul suggested that the inaugural local celebration of all things boatie – the Limekilns River Festival – should have have local beer, rather than the one keg of Belhaven Best normally available at the boat club.

Opportunities like that don’t come along too often and, sensibly, since they were running the event for the first time, the boat club were nervous of ordering too much so I took the chance to make it a low-risk proposition: 300 bottles sale or return. If it went well, we’d all do nicely from the sales. If it went badly, if rain stopped play, I’d have to find space for hundreds of bottles of beer but it wouldn’t go to waste. In the end, there was a great turnout of thirsty sailors – the back-up supply was needed.

One of the beers I brewed for the occasion, to make sure there was something for everyone, was a smoked porter. The recipe comes from The Craft of Stone Brewing (which is a great read) and while it’s a nice beer, it’s not (to me) all that porterish (at least not as nice as Pressure Drop’s Street Porter) and not very smokey. So today I thought I’d have another go at it. I may have overdone it.

First up, smoke. I like smoke. In food and whisky. Yesterday, I made some pastrami according to Tim Hayward’s recipe. Four hours of feeding a smoking pile of apple wood and you know what smoke smells like. That kind of smoke. So Stone’s hint of peated malt (2.5% of the grain bill) was out and in came the German smoked malt, cranked up to 15%.

Stone’s hops are, naturally, all-American: Columbus doing the bittering, with Mt Hood at the end. But, of course, porter hops would be British or European (see Ron Pattinson’s book of Vintage Beer guide, which has a whole chapter on porter), so I kept the Columbus but substituted Fuggles for the Mount Hood.

And coffee. Half a litre of strong black coffee in the boil. Because.

And like the single hop Nelson Sauvin, we’ll see how it goes.

Transatlantic smoked porter

Full Nelson


With all the waiting on HMRC, things had been slow to move out of the Shed. My four wee casks were full, waiting to go to the pub and the tanks were also full so I could only brew small, 25 litre batches. But there was a recipe I was interested in trying – a single hop IPA made with Simcoe.

There’s been two packets of Nelson Sauvin hanging around since God knows when, bought on a whim when talk of hop prices going through the roof first started circulating. To be honest, I blow hot and cold about the big brash, hoppy beers. So the Nelson has sat around waiting to be used. Now was its chance. Andy’s barbecue is at the end of July so that should be just enough time to get this ready.

Let’s substitute the Nelson Sauvin for the Simcoe and see what happens. And substitute the pale malt for the pilsner malt I had. Oh, and substitute the biscuit malt in the recipe for the flaked barley that I had. Toast the flaked barley in the oven for a bit to maybe give it some biscuity character. And we’ll see what happens. This is how I imagine beers are developed. Recipes are tweaked and we see what happens.

It’s bubbled away happily for a couple of weeks and been sitting clearing for a couple more. The 50g of Nelson left over went in for dry hopping a few days ago. It’s strong – just under 7% and hoppy. In small doses and ice old, it should be a nice summer drink, though definitely not a session beer.

Full Nelson