Beers of 2016 – Just top 10’s

A little late but I thought I would have a quick listing (for my memory if nothing else) of my favourite beers of 2016 (the only criteria is that I must have first drank them in 2016 so some old favourites don’t make the grade)

Cloudwater appear to have dominated the IPA scene in 2016 with no sign of them letting up.Mikkeller knocking the sours out of the park and finally To Ol putting out great Stouts throughout the year.

But what did you enjoy in 2016? Let me know in the comments, any tasting notes on the beers?


IPA / Pales / DIPAs

  1. Three’s Company – Cloudwater / Magic Rock / JW Lees
  2. DIPA Series v6 – Cloudwater
  3. Two Hearted – Bell’s
  4. Guardian of Peace – Moor
  5. Tidal Wave – Siren
  6. Lil’ Drunk Baby – Warpigs
  7. Kingmaker – Buxton
  8. Pulp – Verdant
  9. Armarilla Mater – Beavertown
  10. The Juice Brothers – BRUS / Cloudwater

Honorable mentions to Double Heathen and Heathen – Northern Monk, Lupoloid – Beavertown and Proteus on Cask – Siren


  1. Varg TaB Dry Hopped – Warpigs
  2. Key Lime Pie Gose – Westbrook
  3. Sour Power – Beavertown / Mikkeller
  4. Triplespontanblueberry – Mikkeller
  5. Far Skyline – Buxton
  6. Amarillo Sour – Chorlton
  7. Spontancassis – Mikkeller
  8. Kai Moana – Hawkshead / Yeastie Boys
  9. Palate Trip – 8 Wired
  10. Orange Boom – Siren

Stout / Porter

  1. Smoke on The Porter, Fire in the Rye – To Ol
  2. Imperial Nibs – Kereru
  3. Original Texas Pecan Icecream – Omnipollo / Buxton
  4. Noa Pecan Mud Stout – Omnipollo
  5. Spresso – Beavertown
  6. Limfjords Porter – Limfjords / Mikkeller
  7. Goliat – To Ol
  8. Black Mojo Espresso Stout – Tuatara
  9. Original Porter – Truman
  10. Stillwater is Nothing Big Bunny is Everything – Stillwater

Honorable mentions to – Coffee Time All The Time – BRUS, Malt – Northern Monk, and pretty much all versions of Beer Geek – Mikkeller




Cheers to 2016!



Freestyle Sourdough

I’ve been battling with trying to find the idea sourdough recipe to achieve a lovely plump loaf with caramelised ears and an open crumb with big air pockets to show off the power of naturally leavened dough.

The holy grail for me has been the open crumb.  I’ve tried various starter cultures, dough recipes and kneading techniques, following each to the letter with little success; frustrating considering the amount of commitment required.  Finally, in frustration, I threw all caution to the wind and decided to completely wing it; no recipe or timings; do it all based on feel and availability of my time – and I got the best result yet.


img_0173 fullsizerender


If you’re used to baking with fresh or fast action yeast, then you get an idea of flour, salt and water ratios, which helps.

Here’s the method I winged:

  • Sourdough starter – 100g (50/50 stone white flour and water made up over a week)
  • Flour, strong white – 400g
  • Flour, rye –  150g
  • Water – 250g + extra as needed
  • Salt – 2 tsp
  • Mix the starter in with the (blood temperature) water
  • Mix in the flours by hand until combined and leave covered to autolyse for [a time that suits] – 30min to 3 hours – add more water until you get a workable consistency
  • Flatten out the dough on a work surface and sprinkle over the salt
  • Knead for 10 minutes using the ‘stretch and fold’ method *
  • Shape into a ball, place in a bowl and cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge overnight until you’re ready for the next chapter.
  • Remove from fridge and leave out to warm up.
  • Stretch and fold in one direction, turn 90 degrees and repeat – repeat this twice more at 20-30 min intervals – as suits
  • Shape into a ball and place seam up into a floured proving basket in a warm place for 3-4 hours to prove – check it now and again to see if it is approaching double original size (I put mine in a luke warm oven)
  • Heat oven to 2ooc with a pizza stone if you have one and place a baking tray in the bottom
  • Gently tip onto the baking surface and slash a couple of times **
  • Add some water to the baking tray in the bottom of the oven to generate steam***
  • Bake at 200c for 20 min
  • Reduce heat to 180c and bake for a further 20-30 min, until the ears around where you slashed begin to caramelise


*(If you’re unfamiliar with this, it is a gentle method of kneading which incorporates air into the dough – here’s a succinct instructional youtube video demo from american Jacob Burton “Holy oven spring batman” being my favourite baking related exclamation

**Check out @minskitchen on instagram for some truly inspirational ear designs.

*** a steamy baking environment improves the crust of the loaf, helps it rise and even improves the shelf-life of the finished loaf.



#CraftBeerHour – Beer Review #1 – Flat-Pack Fruit Bat – Brewdog / Omnipollo – IPA

Raspberry berets might be forever alas this beer is not

What? – Flat-Pack Fruit Bat – Raspberry Smoothie IPA
Who? – Brewdog / Omnipollo – Brewdog a little known Scottish brewery… and Omnipollo, based out of Stockholm and brewer of some of my favourite beers, including the sensational Noa
Well? – Where to start. Cracking the can you are immediately hit by the fruit bomb, raspberry quite literally bursts out. 
Pours beautifully with a distinctive deep pink colour and creamy head. Immediate taste is incredibly tart with the sickly sweet lactose fighting against it.  There are some tropical hop notes coming through I’m told it’s mosaic but it’s hard to pick out individually as the raspberry really does have a punch and there are some other aromas muddying the water here… more on that later.
The mouthfeel is surprisingly thin for both a lactose IPA and a beer marketed as a smoothie.  The expected creaminess and full mouthfeel could well have rounded out some of the less subtle elements of this one and it feels a bit like an opportunity missed.  Overall it loses the fight against the raspberry.

The first impression fades quite quickly and you’re left with a beer that probably has too many clashes to be completely loveable. Vanilla comes through softly but blends with some slight diacetyl notes which only add to the slightly cloying nature of this one.  The tartness is a little too ‘synthetic’ in texture and becomes quite difficult when fighting against some of the other characteristics of this beer like the aforementioned vanilla and diacetyl.
Overall I’m not madly in love with this one. I am a fan of a lot of Omnipollo’s beers and have some very high hopes for the Buxton collaboration ice cream beers and unlike some I don’t hate on Brewdog who still produce some interesting beers.  I note on untappd and several other review sites this gets more positive reviews and I’m sure that some folk will think this is a fun little beer, but for me there are just too many flaws for me to get behind it.

Home-brew Kölsch

Beer Bottle Top_Kolsch

Searching for a home-brew to suit the lager preferences of some friends and to accompany a BBQ on a hot summers day, we settled on brewing a Kölsch.

Kölsch has a similar clear, crisp and refreshing style to lager but is top-fermented as an ale making it a readily achievable lager-like beer to home-brew as it doesn’t require the cold (7-13c) fermenting temperatures of lager.  Kölsch originates from the German city of Cologne which straddles the river Rhine in the west of the country. Kölsch is local dialect and literally translates as ‘of Cologne’.  The name (like champagne) is a protected geographical indication, restricting official naming rights to beer brewed in this style in the Cologne region.  Commercial variants will be labelled as ‘Kölsch Style’.

Approx ABV: 4.5%; Makes about 22 litres (40 pints)

Bitterness rating 25 IBU

Grain Bill:

  • Pilsner Malt – 4 kg
  • Carapils Malt – 500g

Mash at 65c for 1 hour with 11 litre liquor

Boil time 1 hour 15 min with 27 litre liquor


  • Spalt select – 44g – add at start of boil
  • Tettnang – 20g – add for last 5 min of boil
  • Tettnang – 44g – add at flame-out


  • Protrofloc – 1 tsp or 1 tablet
  • Yeast – Wyeast 2565 Kölsch activator (needs to be activated 1 hour before pitching)

Ferment temperature: 18-20c

Mix in around 8g of brewing sugar for each litre of ale to a bottling bucket before bottling.

Bottle conditioning gets best results at a cooler temperature of 12c for 3 weeks.  We cleared a couple of shelves out of the wine fridge and set the bottle in upright.

Beer Bottling

Kölsch (beer) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



A Starter for 10

So a barista walks into a bar… and ponders… how could I make some of this stuff at home?

This happens so frequently that I thought it would be worth a post looking at the bare essentials to make a half decent IPA without investing too heavily.  Like any good hobby, home brewing will inevitably lead to a constant cycle of buying or upgrading equipment, be it to increase volume (quantity) or, just… because new things are fun!

My first attempts at home brewing involved a kit consisting of a huge tin of extracted malts which you simply heated up, mixed with water and dumped into a fermenter with a sachet of yeast.  The quality of these kits can actually be pretty good, however the craft is virtually as non-existent as the satisfaction you get from preparing it.

The following basic equipment will be enough to achieve a 10 litre ‘partial mash’ brew.  A ‘partial mash’ requires no mash tun.  A mash tun is an insulated container which will hold malted grains mixed with water at a constant temperature (usually around 60-70c) for an hour or so to extract the natural sugars from the malts providing sugar for the yeast to eat and turn into alcohol.  For a ‘partial mash’ this process has already been done and dried out as one of the ingredients; ‘malt extract’ or ‘spray malt’.  We will still be using malted grains to achieve flavour.

Brewing Equipment


Basic Equipment Alternative – “I might get into this…”
15 Litre Stock Pot 30 Litre Brewing Pan
Digital Scales
Thermometer Digital Thermometer (Thermapen)
Long Handled Spoon Mash Paddle
Food Grade Bucket & Lid 25 Litre Fermenter
Food Grade Tubing Auto Syphon
Air Lock & Grommet (& vodka) Air Lock & Bung (& Jack Daniels)
Sanitising Liquid No Rinse Sanitiser & spray can
PET Bottles (Screw Top) Glass Beer Bottles
Bottle Capper & Caps
Ice Copper Heat Exchange Coil & Hose
Grain Bags/Hop Bags Mash Tun

So here’s a simple recipe and instruction which can achieve perfectly decent IPA. Ingredients and equipment are readily available on eBay and various home-brew websites, however we have had consistently good service from 

For the 20 litre yield, you will need a suitably sized pot and fermenter.

Ingredients/Shopping List 10 Litre Yield 20 Litre Yield
Malt Extract Spray Dried Malt Extract Light 1375g 2750g
Malt Crystal Malt 125g 250g
Malt Dingemans Aromatic Malt 125g 250g
Hops Cascade 33g 65g
Hops Centennial 33g 65g

Brewing Sugar

Safale US 0.5 Yeast

Brewing Sugar

1/2 pack


1 pack



  1. Add the Crystal Malt and Dingemans Aromatic Malt to a grain bag and tie off.
  2. Heat 2 litres (or 4 litres) of water in brewing pot to 71c
  3. Add the grain bag, remove the pot from the heat and leave to steep for 20 minutes
  4. Gradually raise the temperature to 77c
  5. Remove the grain bag and top up the water to 11.5 litres (or 23 litres) (best to pre-heat this water beforehand if possible, to save time)
  6. Gradually stir in the Malt Extract whilst the wort to the boil (this can be a bit sticky and messy)
  7. Once boiling, add the 8g (or 16g) of the Centennial Hops (tie off in a hops/grain bag)
  8. After 45 minutes of boiling, add 8g (or 16g) of both Cascade Hops and Centennial Hops (tied off in a hops/grain bag)
  9. After 1 hour of boiling , remove from the heat and add the remainder of the hops, again tied off in another bag.
  10. Start cooling the wort.  From this point onwards, it’s important to keep everything that comes into contact with it sanitised.  The boiling process keeps bacteria at bay however any that get introduced at this stage could multiply during fermentation and spoil the beer.
    1. No Rinse Sanitiser is a good investment as you can simply spray it onto any utensils etc.  It comes as a concentrated solution so a bottle will last a long time.  Standard sterilising solution contains sodium chloride so everything will need to be thoroughly rinsed in clean water before use.
    2. Immersing the pot into a sink of iced water will help speed the cooling up, however this can take a while.  A copper heat exchanger attached to the cold tap will take care of this within about 15 minutes!
  11. Cool the wort to below 29c
  12. Syphon the wort into the fermenter and top off with cold water to 10 litres (or 20 litres) agitating as you go to introduce some oxygen to help the yeast
  13. Pitch the yeast and stir in
  14. Seal the fermenter
    1. Rubbing some vaseline around the lid will help keep nasties out
    2. If you’re using a bucket and lid, you will need to make a hole for the grommet to tightly seal the air lock. Half fill the air lock with spirit (e.g. vodka).  The air lock will allow carbon dioxide produced by the yeast to escape, and prevent nasties getting in.
  15. Ferment for 2 weeks or until bubbling activity has stopped.  The beer should start to get lively within 24-36 hours if stored at normal room temperature


You can buy screw-top plastic (PET) bottles which removes the need to buy glass bottles and a capper, however even recycled glass bottles make for a much more authentic finish.

Once the beer has stopped bubbling, fermentation is complete and it’s ready to bottle.

Syphon the beer into a clean pot/bucket which has been thoroughly sterilised. Sediment created as waste from the fermentation process will have settled to the bottom of the fermenter so syphon from a few centimetres from the bottom to avoid too much of this ending up in your bottles.  Try and avoid introducing too much air at this point.

If you want the beer to be fizzy and produce a head, it will need to go through a secondary fermentation in the bottles.  There will still be enough live yeast in the beer to consume more sugar if you add it and thus create Co2 and pressurise the bottles.

Stir in 4g (1 tsp) of brewing sugar per 500ml of beer.  Overdoing this can lead to a lot of Co2 buildup in the bottles which can result in  them popping their caps and making a mess.

Syphon into your chosen (sterilised) bottles leaving about 3 cm empty at the top, and cap.

Ready to drink in a couple of weeks!

Pub Review – The Beer Kat



The Beer Kat is a new concept pub on Holloway Road (on the corner with Liverpool Road). The pub is set up to host  monthly takeovers / residencies of craft breweries putting their own stamp on the place and serving a wide range of beers, a sort of gypsy tap room.  For its inaugural month Tottenham Hale’s Beavertown take up the mantle and it’s a logical choice for the first month, their unique visuals leave you under no illusions that this is a special event. Nick Dwyer’s artwork gracing every possible surface including some great takes on classic film posters and the usual Gamma Ray and 8-Ball artwork throughout this 3 storey boozer.


Food was provided by Grill My Cheese and we enjoyed some excellent buttermilk chicken and hot sauce which went very nicely with the IPA I was drinking at the time. Music was a pleasingly old school 90’s R&B vibe including Inner Circle’s classic ‘Bad Boys’, I’m led to believe there is also live music from most weekends as well as other special events.


But the real reason we are here is for the beer.  18 different Beavertown beers are available plus a weekly guest brewery in the fridge (on the day we visited it was Stockholm Brewing Company).  Of course the core range is there plus some excellent seasonal and short run beers. Disappointed to miss out on Molecular Mayhem and ‘Spresso on cask but still couldn’t complain about the choice on offer!


I took the opportunity to try some of the beers I haven’t yet had chance to sample and wasn’t disappointed.  Bloody ‘Ell on cask was a pleasant surprise, giving a nice round taste to an already cracking beer.  I also took in two of the ‘Invasion of the Lupoloids’ series, Uy Scuti which was very decent but paled in comparison to the genuinely excellent Armillaria Mater.  AM was cloudy, rich juicy and beautiful tropical aroma and clean bitter finish.   Very drinkable and I went back for more as the night went on. It was also very exciting to see Heavy Water on tap, the Cherry and Sea Salt Imperial Stout was a real beauty, like drinking the kind of black forest gateaux that would give Mary Berry a soggy bottom.  We also enjoyed the collaboration with Heretic, Peacher Man was an enjoyable Witbier (I’d have like the peach to have been a bit fuller) and a new one from Beavertown’s Phantom sour beer range – Pom Pom Phantom a grapefruit Berliner Weisse, I’ve been spoilt by some excellent Berliner Weisse’s recently so PPP didn’t quite hit the spot for me, I’m hoping to see Yuzilla or Lemon Phantom make a return at some point but sadly these weren’t to be seen.  I finished up with Stockholm’s Hop Hound which was excellent and piqued my interest in them.



(photo courtesy of

Also a word to the bar staff who were very friendly and knowledgeable on the beers available.  No mean feat for a pub that was only two weeks old and with a constantly changing line-up of beer.  Overall an excellent idea well executed, it will be very interesting to see how it develops when the next brewery comes to town and what they bring to the set up.  Will definitely be there  to check it out and am hoping to get another visit in before Beavertown finish on the 26th of June.

Follow The Beer Kat on Twitter @beerkatpub and on Instagram

DIY Mash Tun


Mashing is the term used to describe the process of extracting sugars from the grain bill.  Mixing the grains with water and maintaining a set temperature for a set period of time promotes enzymes in the malt to break down the starches in the grain into the sugars required for the yeast to ‘eat’ and produce alcohol.

The vessel most commonly used for this process is an insulated container called a mash tun.

There are many methods for making your own, however here’s my take on a low-cost Instructable by ‘Rich’ or ‘Chard’ (depending on your familiarity with him) but using UK high-street plumbing. It is basically 2 buckets; one which acts as a filter, holds the gain bill and stacks into the second bucket.  The second bucket is insulated and will hold the liquor at a set temperature for an hour plus.  A tap or spigot makes sparging, circulation and racking off easier.

We have used this cheap mash tun on many occasions now for small 20 litre beaches and it works well, with no catastrophic fails or blockages.


  • Drill
  • Drill bit (ideally a step bit/unibit)
  • Spanner/adjustable wrench
  • Sharpie



  1. Take one of the buckets and drill holes in the base.  You can print out this hole guide to help.  Stick it over one quarter of the base and drill a hole at each place a line crosses.  Using a step bit/unibit will help remove any plastic burr.  Move the guide onto the next quadrant and repeat until the base is like a sieve.  This may take some time, however you can make a call on how many holes are needed.
  2. Take the second bucket.  Drill a hole approx. 2cm up from the base, big enough to fit the tank connector.  Clean off any plastic burr so that a clean fit can be made.
  3. Now you need to cover this bucket with 3+ layers of the foil insulation, including the base and one of the lids.  Use the waterproof tape to IMG_2469make a seal around the base and at the top.  Make a hole for the tank connector to jut out.
  4. Fit the tank connector and seal the insulation around the outlet.
  5. Cut a 10cm length of barrier pipe
  6. Slot in one of the inserts and fasten this end to one end of the ball valve, tightening with a spanner
  7. Cut a 5cm length of barrier pipe
  8. Slot another insert into one end and fasten this end to the ball valve outlet, again tightening with a spanner
  9. Slot on the stem elbow
  10. Slot this assembly into the tank connector
  11. Test for any leaks by filling up with water and then draining through the spigot.

Now just get yourself some malts and start discovering the self fulfilment of all grain brewing.  Our tried and tested recipes to come shortly.

Leave a comment if you’d like any further information or have any suggested improvements.