Brew It Yourself, Franciscan Well, Cork 2009

On Saturday the 18th of April we loaded up the car with bottles of homebrew and some brewing gear and set off at a very early hour. We stopped to pick up Sean Billings who was wandering the streets with a corny keg full of beer while we tried to find his house. Eventually we were all loaded up and we headed towards Cork.

The Franciscan well Brewery kindly agreed to host the first Irish Craft Brewer Brew It Yourself event. The idea was that basically the ICB forum would come alive for a day and people could come meet up exchange advice, see the equipment and get to taste some quality home brewed beers.
A lot of organization went on from various members such as The Beer Nut, Beer Is The Reason, Ale Man, Sean Billings, Thom, TheSolutionTo, Geoff, N1umbus and many others (don't be upset if I forget you), mostly taking the form of many musings in this meandering thread.
The HomeBrew Company also came along so that people could actually buy equipment on the day. The event was also supported by The Bull and Castle pub.

We arrived early and set a few things up such as the shiny new Irish Craft Brewer banner. Ale Man arrived and set up his very cool mobile bar. This dispensed his pale ale and IPA which were both very tasty. Sean also had his lager on tap which was a lovely and hoppy. Lots of fantastic home brews were on show throughout the day. Taf had a lovely cider, there was a lovely simcoe ale from Shane of the home brew company. I really liked Thom's pilgrim ale, an american style pale ale with loads of cascade hops. My own Black Abbey Dubbel was an explosive hit. I think the gravity hadn't quite dropped enough when I bottled it so it exploded out of the bottles. When it settled down it was pretty nice and there were two gentlemen who followed me around asking for more.

There was more going on than just drinking and chatting about beer though. Peter and Paudie, brewers from the Franciscan Well, decided to make a demonstration home brew version of their Rebel Red beer. Beer Is The Reason also brewed a beer using ingredients donated by The HomeBrew Company. The smell of mashing and hops filled the air and drew many curious people over to see what was going on.

A good crowd of people turned up which was great to see. Many of them were people who had brewed in the past and were hoping to get back into it. I think most people were very impressed with the quality and range of beer you could make at home. I think a lot of people are put off home brew by dodgy kits made years ago. Nowadays kits can give you great results if you buy the right one. I also discovered that wearing a Cantillon t-shirt attracts beer nerds like a magnet. This was ok though as I like talking about things like spontaneous fermentation and for once people weren't getting bored listening to me witter on about beer.

The Beer Nut was twittering live from the event using the wireless internet. A glass was raised to Barry of The Bitten Bullet in his absence as it was his birthday. Barry is a founding member of Irish Craft Brewer who moved to Germany recently.

The sun shone down, there were lots of people talking about and drinking home brew. It was a fantastic day.

Here's Shane from the HomeBrew Company with his shop which was emptying out by the end of the day. A friend of ours who came along bought a starter kit so hopefully we'll be tasting that soon.

After all that we moved on for some food and then with steering advice from the ICB Cork members we headed to The Bierhaus to sample some of their great selection of beers. I had a Galway Hooker Dunkel Weiss which I thought tasted a bit less fruity than the last time I had it.
Then it was on to the Abbott's Ale House which is a cool quirky little pub with a great selection of beers. Talking and drinking went on into the night. I'm not quite sure what's going on in the photo below though I have heard reports that Bavaria and syrup de picon might have been involved.

For those interested here's a link to a full set of photos of the day. You can also read Beer Is The Reason's blog post about the day here.

Brew It Yourself 2009

Come along and learn how to make home brew. It's sure to be a great day out, lots of the experts from Irish Craft Brewer will be there to dispense advice and their tasty beers.

New Brewery Set Up

It's an exciting day here at Aran Brew. Last weekend we went up to Ikea in Belfast where we bought the stuff to make new shelves for my brewing gear. It was about 40 pounds all told for the shelves. Needless to say we also stocked up on some lovely english ales and ciders in the supermarket too.

My lovely husband who has a horror of flat pack furniture very kindly suffered the pain and put the shelves together. I gave them a coat of beeswax and today I put them in place and stacked all my brewing gear on them. Here they are.

I think they're great. The brewing gear had been threatening to take over the room since I started making all grain beer. This way everything is all neatly stacked up. Hopefully it'll make brew day easier as I used to spend ages hunting in all the stuff for some vital bit of kit. The add on baskets are handy for keeping chemicals and small bits of kit in. The shelves are adjustable which was a vital feature as brewing stuff is not a standard size. The better bottles even have their own fermentation shelf.

I think some mead brewing may have to be done to celebrate.

First yarn off the bobbin

Here it is! I'm very excited about the first yarn I've made with my spinning wheel Gloria. We got on pretty well me and Glo. I over twisted the singles a bit too much as the yarn was coming out thin so I decided it needed a good bit of twist to hold it together. I now realise it doesn't need that much twist.

This was a merino and silk blend which was lovely to spin. I spun it worsted style and I came out with 167 metres of yarn. A useful measure for hand spinning is wraps per inch where you measure the number of strands of yarn in an inch. You can then tell from this what weight the yarn is which is useful if you want to use the yarn in a pattern. This yarn is about sport weight as it has thirteen wraps per inch.

I'm thinking of making this morning dew scarf since I have enough yarn for an entire project. I'm really happy that I'll be able to make something usable from the yarn, there must be a great smug satisfaction being able to tell someone that you spun the wool and then crocheted the scarf you're wearing.

An afternoon of felting

A while back I got two great craft books on sale in the local bookshop. Natural Dyeing and Creative Felting which I got mostly for it's great photography and use of colour. As I read it dawned on me that I had everything needed for felting lying around the house. The main ingredient is wool fibre and having taken up spinning I have plenty of that around. I had also got some fibre for needle felting a while ago. The other equipment is pretty simple and is lying around most houses, bubble wrap, rolling pin, plastic sheeting and a towel.

I haven't needle felted much stuff as I'm too good at stabbing myself with the needle. Also needle felting seems to be more suited to embellishing and decorating felted and knitted pieces than for making large pieces.

First I laid down a towel and put a piece of bubble wrap on top of it. I then pulled out the fibre and laid it on the bubble wrap. All fibres go one way for the first layer then the next layer goes perpendicular to the first. Then I laid a piece of muslin cloth over the fibres and wet them with hot soapy water. Then I pressed down and made sure it was wet through.

That done I peeled off the cloth and put a piece of plastic over the fibres. Then it's a matter of rubbing and rubbing until the fibres mat together. When they've matted enough no fibres will lift up when pinched. It should be looking more like a piece of cloth now. I added a bit more hot soapy water to help it along.

I then rolled up the bubble wrap, felt and plastic around a rolling pin and drained out the water. Here's a photo of that plus some felt beads I made as well, the tutorial for how to make them is in Knitty, they're really easy to make. I then rolled the felt about 50 times in all directions. I turned it around and around until it really started to felt and get smaller. I rinsed it in very hot water and rubbed it on the bubble wrap some more until it looked good and strong with little stretch.

I then had my finished bit of felt. I am aware it looks like something a five year old would produce. Not a very creative first attempt, blue sky, green grass and flowers. I'm quite proud of it though, at least it worked and now i can go on to make more felt. I may try a slightly more grown up looking design next time.

It's quite amazing how hot soapy water and agitation can turn fluffy fibre into something dense and matted with completely different properties.

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