Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas!

Or happy whatever over eating festival you celebrate at this time of year. I hope you all have a nice break. I would like to thank anyone who reads this blog. I love writing it, it's nice to have a place to keep a record of all the crafty things I do. It's really great when someone comments on a post.

So I'll raise a glass, of homebrewed beer of course, to you reader over the festive season and I'll see you here for more brewing and knitting/crochet adventures in 2009.

In our house during December the Fat Bottomed Santa makes a majestic journey around the room dropping presents as he goes.

He crocheted our turtles some festive santa's helper hats...

He made Monkey a dapper new waistcoat

He helped with the brewing

He brought some festive brews

He also expressed a wish to see more handmade gifts in the world

Even the dog isn't forgotten

From The Fat Bottomed Santa's Majestic Christmas Journey

He's off tonight to make the final leg of his journey. He's been quiet the last day and muttering things about space time and presents. I hope he makes it to your house to drop some presents by your tree.

A Necklace for Rebecca and Darkside Cowl

My friend Rebecca is off on her travels next year. It was her 30th birthday at the start of this month and Christmas is coming up too. I decided a pretty special necklace was in order. I set about designing something she would love. I thought nothing too big or bling would be nice on her. She said she'd like darker colours and no pearls. Here it is.

Black teardrop swarovski crystals are spaced with silver bead covers and bicone smoke swarovski crystals leading up into alternate smaller black and smoke bicone swarovskis and finished with glass black seed beads. The clasp is rhodium plated silver with a crystal in the middle, there had to be some bling!

The clasp was finished with a wire guard and a crimp cover bead.

Here is the lady herself wearing the necklace at her birthday party. It went very well with the black prom dress she was wearing. She told she got lots of compliments on the necklace. I think she liked it.

I also finished the Darkside Silk Cowl that I was making for my Mum for Christmas. She doesn't read this blog so I can put up pictures.

I think it turned out really well. The silk is so soft and warm. In the end this was the best pattern for the yarn. I think I may have bound off a little tightly but if it needs to be fixed I can do it after Christmas.

Christmas Beer and Phuca

It's getting very near Christmas and the beer stocks were low. So we made a trip to Redmonds Off License in Ranelagh which can be found on the ultra useful Beermapping website. I wanted some beer to go with my Christmas dinner.

I decided the Anchor Christmas beer would go well with the dinner and the Samichlaus will be savored with some pudding and cream.

Dave found some lambics to try. He's already a fan of Boon Kriek but he hadn't tried the Chapeau ones before. I still can't drink lambic beer. To me it's just too sour and off tasting. I'll keep trying it though.

I got some Brooklyn Lager which I love, it's such a tasty well balanced beer. It's very expensive here so a six pack is a festive treat. I'm hoping their IPA will be just as nice. I'm also interested to see what the Sierra Nevada anniversary ale is like.

I also got some Meantime beers, the Pale ale and the London Pale Ale. I've only ever tasted their IPA which was good so am keen to see what these are like. Is it sad to be impressed by the nice bottles they use?

On friday night before heading out we went to get a bite to eat in the Bull and Castle. We got a table thanks to the great bar manager. I remembered they should have a new seasonal special beer from The Franciscan Well Brewery. I asked for it and was rewarded with a pint of Phuca their spiced Christmas ale. Phuca is the Irish word for ghost and it's a good name conjuring up images of a dark cold night with lots of fog and maybe spirits abroad. What could be better than sitting in with this beer instead. It's lovely, dark and spicy with a big hit of ginger and cloves. The food in the Bull and Castle was excellent, I had roast beef and Dave had a lamb stew, both were very tasty. The beer went well with the hearty winter dinner. It wasn't too expensive either. The Bull and Castle is what Irish pubs should be.

Cold Weather Kolsch, Better Bottles and A Suspect Yeast Choice

More brewing! It's the season for beer after all. Ed, a friend of mine wanted to see an extract brew in action before he does one. He's been very successfully brewing kits for a while now so he knows a lot of it anyway. I ordered some stuff from the Homebrew Company which as always are great to deal with.

I thought Ed was brewing his own beer with me supervising but it turned out I was brewing for me. Since it's been so cold I thought I could make a lager. But I had no lager yeast, if I'd known I'd have got some. So in the absence of lager yeast I decided to use ale yeast and ferment cold to make a kolsch or blonde ale style beer. I raided the freezer and came up with some german hops.


10 Liter batch

Muntons Light Dried Extract 1kg

60 minutes - 17g Hallertauer (2.1%AA)
20 minutes - 20g Tettnang (4.5%AA) and 18g Halltertauer
5 minutes - 9g Hallertauer and 6g Tettnang

Yeast: Danstar Nottingham

OG: 1.040
The alcohol should turn out at about 4% ABV

During the boil the lads disappeared upstairs to watch the rugby leaving me to the brewing. I did manage to get them into the kitchen for the last bits where the wort was chilled and transferred. The yeast was pitched and Ed took a well earned break with a nice Clotworthy Dobbin.

I'm fermenting this brew in a Better Bottle. I got three of these for fermenting beer and mead in. I'm very pleased with them so far. They are light which when you're a weakling like me is a big advantage over heavy glass carboys. I am prone to dropping things that are heavy. Dropping a heavy plastic bottle of beer is annoying but dropping a glass carboy would probably mean a trip to accident and emergency.

This evening I transferred Westley's Winter Warmer to secondary. The better bottle made this very easy. I just attached a hose and opened the tap, also the clever valve means you can get the last of the beer out and not lose so much. I checked the gravity, it's down to 1.014 which gives it an alcohol of 5.7% ABV. This should rise a little in secondary. It should be ready to bottle just before christmas. The better bottle was very easy to clean too.

Of course we had a taste of the beer. It's shaping up nicely, spicy with oranges and stronger than I normally brew. There's a hint of spiciness but I would have liked more fruity yeast character with it. I think I should have used a belgian yeast like Safbrew S33 which I had in the fridge. It would have been more complex and fruity like Westmalle or something. Instead I used Nottingham as in theory it wouldn't interfere with the spices. Maybe I should have went mad and used the S33. Though when it's bottled and carbonated it might be a different story. I might be saying I'm glad I used the Nottingham.

Westley's Winter Warmer

It's pretty cold here for the start of december. Our new dog is settling in well and we brought him for a few walks in the frost over the weekend. He's so wooly that he didn't seem to mind the cold as much as we did. We decided to call him Westley. For the nerds among you yes that is Westley from The Princess Bride. For those who don't know it, it's the best film and book ever. He's a good dog apart from a tendency to dig up and eat everything in the garden. There goes my growing hops idea.

I haven't brewed since I made my all grain stout. I bottled some of the stout and the rest is in a barrel where it's supposed to be waiting until it's nearer christmas before it gets drank. This hasn't happened, myself and Dave are supping away on the stout. It's lovely, it's roasty and it has a lovely chocolate taste to it as well. It's not quite fizzy enough so I may have to carbonate it a little with some CO2 if I ever get round to buying the attachment for the barrel. It might be gone before then.

I wanted to make a warming spicy winter beer. I pulled out my recently purchased Complete Joy of Homebrewing and found a likely recipe. Then I set to work modifying it. I don't think I've ever made a beer exactly as it was in the book. This isn't because I haven't wanted to but because the ingredients are hard to get so I usually modify the recipe to suit what I actually have.

Westley's Winter Warmer

15 Litre Batch.

180g Crystal Malt (Steeped in 6L of water at 67 Degress Celsius for 30 minutes)
1.052g Light DME
1 kg Medium DME
About 450g Honey

12g Centennial Hops @ 60 minutes from end of boil
10g Cascade Hops @ 5 minutes from end of boil

10 minutes from end of boil
Rind of two oranges
10g grated ginger root
cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1/4 of a nutmeg grated
1 tsp liqurice root powder
4 whole cloves

Sachet of Danstar Nottingham Yeast

OG: 1.060

I wanted a high alcohol beer to give a bit of warmth to all those spices. As well the hops should add more citrus to the beer. I have no idea if it will be nice but that's the fun of homebrewing, making beer you'd never be able to buy. Hopefully it'll come out as a spicy warm beer.

As always I got some knitting done while waiting for the pot to boil. This is the Darkside Cowl I'm making for my Mum for christmas. I love the pattern and it's knitting up fairly quickly. The silk is so beautiful, photos don't do it justice.

I know this photo is blurred but the dog wouldn't stay still. They never do. This is Westley with his batch of beer, he tried eating the hops when I emptied the pot but he didn't seem so impressed with them. Maybe he'd prefer malt? That's one of my better bottles which I hope will make fermentation a bit easier. They have a tap on the bottom which you can adjust so it's just above the sediment so that should make racking to secondary and bottling the beer so much easier. The airlock is a dry trap which is pretty clever.