This is one of those projects that started off as a hobby or weekend interest, became too engrossing to put down, and grew into something that consumes an awful lot of my headspace and has morphed into a huge part of my life.
The idea initially was to build a big shed and buy an old motorbike. That idea got binned, ironically oer a beer or two, and the idea of a brewery replaced it. Now I get such pleasure from the space and the fact that it produces beer I can’t believe I ever considered a Japanes two stroke instead; such is the fickle nature of a beer nerd’s middle years I guess.
Once you start brewing it quickly becomes very clear that making beer isn’t all that hard and is absolutely fascinating. The first time I saw a fermentation that I had created from grains and yeast I was hopelessly hooked.
It has to be said right here that although making beer isn’t hard making good beer actually is. It’s a meticulous and patient process which is quite easy to screw up so I learned quite quickly to pay attention, particularly to time and temperatures, and I’ve never paid such attention to hygiene in all my born days but the results are good beer; consistently good beer.
It’s a nice little world as well. I joined a site called Brewers Friend and it’s a friendly place with lots of knowledgable folk who are happy to help and to share their knowledge; I like that.
I’ve been quite closed minded about beer for the longest time so am now finding that the New World hops like Citra and Cascade are something of a revelation and the beers they produce are just so punchy that I can’t get enough of them. I’ve also learned anew to respect old stagers like Fuggles and Bramling Cross with their earthy and old school characteristics; they’ve been around for hundreds of years and are still relevant.
Brewing beer has definitely expanded my palette as far as appreciating great craft products goes and has opened my eyes, and my mind, to a whole new world of beer possibilities.
This particular beer, that we’re calling Shed Bodds, is on my mind because I brewed it again last weekend and it has me conflicted. I’m super nostalgic about Boddington’s, the beer was absolutely sublime back in the 1980s and I thought that if I could get anywhere close to reproducing it I would be a very happy puppy. I didn’t want to copy it, more like brew a beer with a similar hop profile that might be a tribute to the original and be a decent beer in its own right.
Well, the beer turned out okay but it was nothing like Boddington’s; nothing! I got two pins, 4.5 gallon casks, and 20lt that went into a keg and into my personal stash in the shed.
The two pins went to our club, Tee Time Social Club , and as I wasn’t registered and licensed at that stage we had to give it away as a test brew. I’ve been okay with that because I want the feedback and I do find that if you want honesty then the product to ask people about is beer; everyone has an opinion about the beer they drink and are generally very forthright with those opinions.
As an aside, I had put a stout on the bar previously and it was genuinely the best beer I have brewed; it was superb. It’s a complicated grain bill with new and old world hops so just this gorgeous, deep, roasty, mellow complex beer at 5.6% ABV that I was really, really pleased with. We were giving it away so to me it was just a nice talking point, free beer, what’s not to like about that?
So I put a glass of stout, a beer that I made and am proud of, in front of this guy (for nothing) and he said it was “putrid”. Now, I’m okay with objective criticism but some people are just assholes and, unfortunately, you’re going to have to bump into them from time to time when you put yourself out there. I don’t mind “not for me that one” or anything alone those lines but he was just a nasty prick and some people are. I get that I’m asking for honesty so am going to hear personal opinions but personal opinions don’t have to be steeped in nastiness.
So the Shed Bodds went on the bar at 3.5% and went down really well. My conflict comes from the need to fine it. What I’m finding is that with those old timey style beers comes an old timey mindset that beer needs to be crystal clear in order to be good; and putting that shit in my beer genuinely grieves me.
The fining of choice for us at the moment, and has been for the last hundred years or so, is isinglass and isinglass is a genuinely disgusting fish derived product that I truly believe not many beer drinkers understand. What I’m finding though is that beer drinkers of my kind of age, mid 50s, expect clear beer and don’t care how it’s achieved.
My solution currently is to fine the beers that are going onto our bar and not fine the ones that are going into my personal keg stash. I brewed the Shed Bodds again a couple of weeks ago and made a couple of changes. It came out at 3.94% so I let it be instead of liquouring back to 3.5% so it should be a bit more full bodied. I also hopped it a bit more aggressively and gave it a lot of dry hops at the end so it should be really good on the nose with plenty of earthy/floral hop flavours and a malty body. The 20lt in my kegerator will be a bit hazy but lively and full, the pins that I put into the club have been fined and will be crystal clear but compromised as far as I’m concerned. That’s life though, and I’m fine with it. Just don’t fine my beer…