Oct 242011

Brew Pal App 

It was only a matter of time before someone made an app for the home brewer. I can plug my electric guitar into my phone and sound like Hendrix, I can put up a shelf  straight with the spirit level and even find my car in a large car park, all with my phone, oh I nearly forgot I can even call someone! The brew pal app can help you formulate and make your own beer recipes with relative ease and without using a program on your PC, for the tidy sum of 69 pence.

The blurb reads “Brew pal provides the all-grain or extract home brewer easy access to the most used calculations and statistics in an attractive, easy-to-use package”.

Grain Bill

Enter your grain bill (including sugars and extract) by selecting from the editable grain/extract list and quickly estimate your SRM (color), original and final gravities, as well as alcohol % given your brewhouse efficiency and yeast attenuation. 

Mash and Sparge

Calculate the amount and temperature of strike and sparge water you will need to hit specific temperatures. Supports calculations for batch, infusion and decoction with mashout. Start the mash timer, and get audible and vibrating reminders of important steps.

Boil/Dry/FWH hops

Enter your hop additions by selecting from the editable hops list and quickly estimate your IBU (bitterness). Supports dry- and first-wort hopping.

Flavor/Fining additions

Enter flavorings and finings by selecting from an editable list. Supports boil and fermenter additions.

Yeast pitching rate

Given a volume and original gravity (from your grain bill or measured gravity), get the number of yeast cells to pitch, conveniently translated into liquid packs and grams of dry yeast. Pick your yeast from a predefined list.

These are just some of the features of this App. I mostly use it for checking recipes and making my own subtle changes to taste. It is a great App and is handy to use during the brew day as its on a phone. My favorite feature is the style feature, where the app compares your recipe to BJCP guidelines for standard beers. If you want to make a stout it will tell you how close you are to the standard and you can tweak your recipe to suit. Its a definite buy if your a home brewer with a smart phone.
Brew pal by David Parker is available from the apple app store.

Oct 222011

Chocolate Porter

I found this recipe on askthebeerguy.com and liked the look of it. The recipe is an extract version of a show winning all grain beer made by Jon Griffin. I made the beer following the ingredients and method exactly with the only exception being i used molasses sugar instead of syrup.


1.4kg (3lbs) Light Dry malt extract £11.48 for 1.5kgs

1.4kgs(3lbs) Dark Dry malt extract £11.48 for1.5kgs

113grms (4oz) Crushed Chocolate malt £1.62 for 500grms

500grms (1lb) molasses sugar £1.00

226grms (8oz) Coca powder £1.79 for 250grms

85grms (3oz) Kent golding hops £4-20 for 100grms

1 packet Safeale 04 yeast £2.35

Irish Moss £2.35

Total £35.92 which works out at 89 pence a pint

OG  1.050

FG 1.016

ABV 5.05%


I followed the method exactly as found at the link above. First i heated up 2 gallons (10 litres) of water up to 160°f (71°c) and added the chocolate malt in a grain bag. The grains were left to steep for 30 mins. The grain bag was then removed and the brew brought back to a boil. The pot was then removed form the heat and 500grms extract (250grms of light and dark) were added with the first hop addition (1oz) and the 1lb of molasses, the brew was left to boil.  The second hop addition(1oz) was added 30 mins into the boil. With 15 mins left of the boil 1tbs of Irish moss was added to the pot. With 10 mins left the Cocoa powder was added. After an hour of boiling the final hop addition of 1oz was added and the heat turned off. The pot was then left for 10 mins.

The pot was then placed in an ice bath in the sink and left to cool. While this was cooling 2 gallons of cold water was added to a sterilised fermenter. The cooled wort was then strained into the fermenter. Further cold water was added to bring the beer up to the 23 litre mark at 70°f. The specific gravity was taken at this point. The yeast was then sprinkled onto the wort and the lid put on. The fermenter was then left in my brew cupboard at 22°c and left to ferment.

The fermentation was vigorous and lasted 5 days. The beer was then kegged and primed with 100grms of dry malt extract.

Taste and conclusion

I did expect alot from this beer and boy did it deliver. The beer was well carbonated and had a thick creamy head which remained to the bottom of the glass. The taste is a classic english porter, with a nice slightly bitter taste and malty chocolate after taste. The chocolate taste is very slight which is pleasantly suprising as i expected it to be a bit heavier. At 85 pence a pint it’s not too expensive and price wise is on parr with premium kit beers.  To be honest you can see why this beer has faired well in shows, its a very nice drop. Conclusion very nice english porter with a slight chocolate tinge- well worth the effort.

A big thanks to Jon Griffin at askthebeerguy.com

Oct 092011

Brewfirm Kriek

This kit is a belgium cherry beer.I bought this kit purely on impulse. I have never tried the bottled version of this beer but have heard off several people that it is not to be missed. This kit is expensive as it is £25 and makes 12 litres at 5.5% abv and also requires 500 grms of dextrose at £2.10 for a kilogram. This works out at a whopping £1.23 a pint. The reason for the high price is because the kit is made using 3kgs of cherries according to brewferm. The kit come with the usual packet of yeast and destructions.


This kit is very easy to make. with the only exception being that following the instructions you have to rehydrate the yeast. The can is heated up in some hot water and left for 10 mins, and then emptied into the sterilised fermenter. The can is then rinsed out with hot water and this is also added to the fermenter. Then add another 2 litres of hot boiled water to the fermenter and the 500grms of dextrose, mix thoroughly. The smell of cherries at this point is amazing! The fermenter is then topped up with cold/hot water to the 12 litre mark and a temperature of 20°c. To rehydrate the yeast let half a glass of boiled water cool to 25°c and add the yeast. Let this mixture sit for 10 mins then add to the fermenter, put on the lid and air lock and leave to ferment.

Once the fermentation is complete (around 10 days) batch prime with 100grms of dextrose and bottle.

Taste and conclusion.

The beer should be left for 6-8 weeks in the bottle before it is tasted. The beer when made is a red tinged copper colour and has a fruity aroma. The carbonation is good with a decent head. The taste is very nice with a sweet cherry taste which an acidic bitter after taste. This beer is strong, after one pint it started to take affect, after two I did feel a little merry. This kit is expensive, but compared to buying an off the shelf beer it is still cheap. To be honest its not really to my taste but other people who have tried it really like and enjoy it. Conclusion- expensive but a fruity gem of a beer.

Sep 112011

Coopers sparking ale

Cooper’s sparkling ale is part of the premium selection from cooper’s, which is designed for the home brewer who wants to do more than add white sugar.  I made this beer quite by accident, the local brew shop didn’t have the kit I was after, so decided to make this. The cooper’s blurb reads “Thomas Cooper’s Premium Selection Sparkling Ale – The big brother of Coopers Original Pale Ale, displays fruity esters on the nose, full malty palate with a generously hopped clean finish”. The kit costs around £14, but there are a few extra ingredients needed. First you need 1.5kg of light liquid malt extract which is around £13, as well as 500grms of light dry malt extract at £4 and 300grms of dextrose which is around £2 a kilo. The total is £33 for all the ingredients which works out at 82p a pint.


The kit is easy to mix and all you do is as in the basic brewing pages and bung it all in the fermenter,mix with boiling water, clean out the cans with boiling water and top up with water to the right temperature, then pitch the yeast.The beer takes around 7 days to ferment. This beer is better bottled, so you can use your left over dextrose to prime the bottles. The beer was then left for two weeks to age and carbonate.

Taste and conclusion

The beer cleared quickly and when I opened the first bottle it was sparkling. The taste was more malty than hoppy and to be honest was a little watery. I decided to leave this beer for longer to age and see if the taste improved. A couple of weeks later the taste had improved, but was still more of a malty flavour. I was a little disappointed with the results of this brew as it is quite expensive with all the required ingredients. I did find this a drinkable beer, and quite strong but was below my expectations. This beer would definitely be improved with a hop addition to overcome the malty taste. I dare say that some people would love this beer as people prefer different beers to others, but for the price i prefer other brews. Conclusion- easy to make and drink, but below MY expectation.


Aug 252011

Milestone Black Pearl Irish Stout.

Milestone is a craft brewery located in Newark, Nottinghamshire in the UK. They produce and distribute fine real ales have won many prestigious awards over the years.
The milestone brewery produces real ale beer kits that are modelled on ales that are brewed at the brewery. Milestone black pearl Irish stout can be bought in bottles from the brewery or you can make it yourself. This is kit is described as “Authentic Irish Stout. Dark & Mysterious” and is made with premium malted barley and hops. This a 3kg kit which makes 40 pints of the black stuff. The kit costs around £22, which works out at 55 pence a pint. The kit is made up of two cans of extract and a sachet of ale yeast.


This kit is extremely easy to make. The two cans of extract were warmed up in pans of hot boiled water (the heat was removed after the water had boiled).  After five mins the cans were opened with a sterilised can opener and the contents were empted into a sterilised fermenter.The cans were then topped up with hot boiled water and stirred to dissolve any remaining extract. The water/extract mixture was then poured into the fermenter. The mixture was then stirred and topped up with cold water to the 40 pint mark. The temperature of the wort was 22°c. The specific gravity was measured with my hydrometer and measured 1040. The yeast was then sprinkled onto the wort and the fermenter lid with air lock was put on. The wort smelled really malty as did the whole kitchen and I was looking forward to drinking this stout.

The fermentation of this brew was vigorous and a large foamy head formed quickly and was pressed against the lid of the fermenter. The airlock had to be removed and changed twice as the brew forced its way out!. After 5 days fermentation was over and the FG was 1010. The beer was then batch primed see here and syphoned into my keg. The beer was left to carbonate and condition for four weeks.

Taste and conclusion.

The waiting was killing me but I did wait the full four weeks before tasting. When I opened the tap on the keg and poured the first pint I chuckled to myself. The beer smelled like a class Irish stout, and poured like one too, pitch black with a storm of white as the beer settled. The head was thick and creamy, the beer had good carbonation. The taste was rich and smooth with a good body. There are hints of liquorish and chocolate in the taste mixed with the an authentic Irish stout taste. The head remained all the way to the bottom and I quickly poured another one. This kit is highly recommended and I have made FOUR batches of this beer. Want some authentic black stuff? Look no further.

Aug 252011

Muntons smuggler’s premium ale

Well to give this kit its full title its a munton’s premium gold, smuggler’s special premium ale. The kit consists of two cans of extract which weighs in at 3.6kg and a sachet of yeast. The kit costs around £25 which works out at 62p a pint. Muntons blurb says “A light, malty beer balanced with choice aromatic and bittering hops. Muntons Premium Gold beer kits are produced from carefully selected and malted English 2-row barley, blended with hops supplied by England’s most renowned hop growers”. When this kit was bought  I had great expectations, for two reasons really. These were the fact that this kit is the most expensive I have bought, and any review you care to mention is a rave one.


This kit is another easy one to do. Empty the warm contents of the cans into the fermenter,mix with boiling water, top up with water to the correct temperature, pitch the yeast and your away. The fermentation on this baby was riotous, it started within a few hours and was off. The foam created on the brew kept expanding until it touched the fermenter lid. It stopped short of shooting out of the airlock which was a relief. The fermentation lasted five days. The brew was batch primed with light dry malt extract instead of dextrose, and syphoned into my top tap keg. After two weeks a little glass of beer was taken out of my keg, and the beer was cloudy. Two weeks further on another glass was sampled and the beer was still cloudy. The beer finally cleared the week after, so in total it took 5 weeks to clear. Not too bad I suppose, but as I have said before the hardest part of home brewing is waiting.

Taste and conclusion 

This kit does what it says on the tin , it is a premium ale. The taste is slightly bitter and malty, has a great body and is very smooth. It reminded me of some good ales you can buy off the shelf or in the pub. The carbonation and creamy head are fantastic. I will definitely be making this one again, um and again. I really was gutted when the keg was finished. Expensive, but worth it, you do get what you pay for.


Aug 252011

St. Peter’s Ruby Red Ale

This is a two can 3kg kit which is made under licence by muntons. The St. peters ruby red ale kit emulates the ale which can be bought in your local supermarket. The blurb states”  a tawny red ale with subtle malt undertones and a distinctive spicy hop aroma from Cascade”. The kit costs around £22 which works out at 55p a pint. This kit comes with 2 cans of extract, a sachet of yeast and a sachet of hops. There are two other kits in this range which are St. Peter’s Golden ale and St. Peter’s IPA. I am a fan of darker ales so i decided to try the ruby red ale first.


This kit does not need any extra sugar or malt extract. This makes this type of kit one of the easiest to make for the home brewer. The two cans were warmed in boiling water and added to a sterilised fermenter. The empty cans were filled with boiling water to dissolve the last remnants of extract in the cans, and this too was added to the fermenter. There was enough water in the cans to mix the brew adequately, so no further boiling water was added. The fermenter was then topped up to the 23litre mark to the correct temperature. The hops were then sprinkled onto the brew along with the yeast. The lid was put on the fermenter, and the fermenter put in my usual place in my “brewing cupboard”. I didn’t take a starting gravity for the brew, there was no point as the only ingredients were the kit.

The beer happily fermented over 7 days and the final gravity was around 1.014. The beer was batch primed with the correct amount of dextrose and added to my keg. I did bottle some in 4 bottles just to make a comparison of taste between the keg and bottle. The beer was left for two weeks to condition. The beer cleared quickly so i did have a few “testers” before the 4 weeks were up.

Taste and conclusion.

This beer tasted great! The taste is smooth with a great balance between maltiness and hop bitterness. Its hard to describe in words how much I enjoyed this beer. The carbonation on the beer was great. The head on the beer was like an ice cream and remained on the beer to the bottom of the glass. The beer looked more brown with a red tinge than pure red. The beer that was bottled was equally nice just a tad more carbonated. This kit is at the expensive end of the market and to be honest you can see why, it is a premium beer. I would of liked to compare this homebrew to the shop bought version, but I didn’t get chance. I would like to bet though the hombrew is very near the real thing. The only problem with this beer is that 40 pints goes very quickly, it is very quaffable. This is a kit I can recommend and one I will be making again. Easy to make- very very easy to polish off!

Aug 242011

Coopers European lager.

This kit form cooper’s costs around £13 and is 1.7kg. The coopers blurb says” Coopers European Lager captures the style of the finest quality lagers exported from Northern Europe. Serve well chilled in a tall, narrow glass with a generous head of 5cm or so and savour the herbaceous hop aroma and crisp finish. For the best results mix with 1 kg of Coopers Brew Enhancer 2 and store for at least 12 weeks in the bottle prior to drinking. This kit was purchased on impulse as the shop had run out of mexican cerveza (see above). The 12 week conditioning required was putting me off, but what the hell eh? Cost of kit and ingredients was £18.30 which works out at 45p a pint.


This lager kit comes with a packet of lager yeast so has to be fermented at a lower temperature. The brew was mixed as usual (500gms dextrose and 500gms of light spray malt) and not with the recommended coopers brew enhancer 2. The fermenter was placed in my usual brewing cupboard and covered with a wet towel to keep the temperature at 19°c. The beer took two weeks to ferment and was rather inactive through the airlock, with only a few bubbles every now and then. The beer was then bottled with the required amount of priming sugar, and left for required 12 weeks, the hardest part of making this kit!

Taste and conclusion.

To be honest i did try a “few” bottles after 8 weeks and it tasted great. The carbonation was fine and it did have a decent head. It tastes like a lager and competes with anything supermarket bought. I did a taste test with a famous belgian lager and there was no real difference, in fact people preferred my homebrew! Next time i make a batch of this lager it would benefit from some hop addition, just to give it a little bit more clout. I still have a few bottles left and to be honest i have drank one while writing this review. Conclusion – Harder to make, but well worth the effort.

Aug 242011

Munton’s Connoisseurs Continental Lager.

This kit from munton’s costs slightly more at around £16 and is a 1.8kg kit. Munton’s describe this beer “This is a light amber hoppy lager modelled on the full-bodied beer available across mainland Europe. Serve chilled to appreciate its rich character.” The cost of kit and ingredients is £20.30 which works out at 50p a pint. The kit comes with its own packet of yeast which is an ale yeast and not a lager yeast so again the fermentation temperature is easier to control.

This again is an easy kit to mix and make.  The first thing i noticed when making this beer is the colour. When i added the extract i found it to be very dark and not as light as a lager should look, maybe it will lighten when the water is added, i thought to myself. I added the usual 500gms of dextrose and 500gms of light spray malt, topped up the fermenter to the usual 23 litres and the colour remained dark. When fermentation had finished it was bottled,with the bottles primed with dextrose. The beer was left to condition for 2 weeks.

Taste and conclusion. 
I opened a chilled bottle and the beer was nicely carbonated. The colour was still dark. When i say dark it looked like an ale rather than the usual straw lager colour as it shows on the tin. The taste of this beer was more of an ale taste than a lager. It reminded me somewhat of carlsberg special brew, a drink i am not a fan of.  Then i had a thought why it tasted like this. Is it that this is how it should taste, or did i do something different during the brewing process? The only thing that was changed was the steriliser, as i had run out of my usual and had bought another brand. On returning to my brew shop i enquired with the owner regarding the steriliser that was used, and he confirmed that indeed it could of been this. I am not so sure! Having only ever made one batch of this beer and wouldn’t make another, its still an unanswered question, although saying that it all got drank! Conclusion – easy to make, one i can’t recommend.

Aug 242011

Coopers Mexican Cerveza.

This is the first kit i ever made and started me on a long road of homebrewing. This kit is a good place to start for a first brew.

The kit is 1.7kg of malt extract and costs around £12, it comes with instructions and a packet of yeast, which is an ale yeast , so the ferment temperature is easier to control.

The coopers blurb reads “Mexico is known for its arid lands, dusty conditions and oppressive heat. So it is not surprising that the people of Mexico are expert at quenching a thirst. Coopers Mexican Cerveza (beer) emulates the style of the finest quality beers exported from Mexico. This premium beer is light in style with a fresh clean taste, ideally served ice-cold with a wedge of lime or lemon”.


This brew is easy to make. The ingredients required for this beer are 500gms dextrose and 500grms light dry spray malt extract.

The dextrose will cost you around £1.50 for a Kg  and £3.80 for the dry malt extract. Total cost of brew is £17.30 for 40 pints which works out at around 43p a pint!!

The kit is easy to mix and all you do is as in the basic brewing pages and bung it all in the fermenter,mix with boiling water and top up with water to the right temperature, then pitch the yeast.The beer takes around 5 days to ferment. This beer is better bottled, so you can use your left over dextrose to prime the bottles. The beer when bottled does not smell like mexican cerveza, such as corona, but this did change. The beer should be left to condition in the bottles for around 2 weeks, but you can “test” a few after a week to see how they are doing. For best results leave as long as you can in the bottle.

Taste and conclusion.

The finished beer is well carbonated and is very like the usual mexican cerveza, such as sol or corona. This beer though is a little different tasting and can be enjoyed by any beer drinker, especially when its chilled on a sunny day. I can recommend this beer as i have made a number of batches and have never been disappointed. The only problem you might have is getting hold of it, as when i was in my local brew shop last week there was no stock and the owner was having trouble getting hold of any, Bugger! Conclusion- easy to make and easier to drink!


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