Best Home Brew This Year?: International Homebrew Project 2012 Tasting

Seven weeks after brew day, I’ve finally opened the strong mild beer brewed during the International Homebrew Project. And it turned out very well.

international homebrew project tasting - glass of mild ale

The Project is organised by Alistair Reece, who writes about beer at Fuggled.net. The idea is that brewers throughout the world brew the same recipe on the same day.

Voting determined that this year’s beer would be a recreation of a Scottish mild from the 1850s.

Although termed ‘mild’, this particular beer is anything but.

Historical use of the word was aimed at beer served fresh, soon after brewing, in contrast to ‘stale’ or aged beers. Although more recently mild has come to indicate weaker, easily drinkable brews, this recipe from William Younger’s brewery is for a savagely strong and bitter ale.

For the benefit of anyone planning to follow the recipe themselves I’ll first run through the making of this exciting beer.

Recap of Brew Day

This is the recipe (adapted to allow for my expected mash efficiency and batch size):

Recipe

Recipe Volume
10 litres

Start Volume (Brew in a Bag)
19 litres

Malts
Pale Ale: 6 kg

Mash Time
120 mins

Mash Target Temperature
66°C

Hops
Kent Goldings (5.3%): 75g pellets for 90 mins
Fuggles (4.8%): 59g pellets for 20 mins
Fuggles (4.8%): 17g pellets Dry

Yeast
Danstar Dry Windsor Ale

Original Gravity
1.114

Final Gravity
1.046

(Efficiency 60%)

As you can see, it is straightforward. The interest lies in the large quantities rather than an unusual choice or combination of ingredients.

Brew Day

Using the brew in a bag method, I struggled to fit the malt required by this big beer into the pot. Even after scaling Alistair’s recipe down by half I still faced 6kg pale ale!

In the event, my setup didn’t reach high enough levels of efficiency and I undershot the original gravity, only getting 1.090.

Despite this I decided to risk it and stick with the calculated hop quantities. Soon afterwards I became concerned about high levels of bitterness and regretted this boldness.

However, I’m glad of the decision, as you’ll see in the tasting below.

If you’re interested in knowing more, there’s a detailed account of brew day here.

What I’ve Done To It Since Brew Day

Dry Hopping

Following the recipe, I added extra hops to the beer after the primary fermentation finished.

Due to availabilty I used Kent Goldings rather than Fuggles.

Although both are mild hops with good aromas, I expect the Fuggles would have produced a rougher finish.

dry hops floating in home brew

I also took the opportunity to transfer the beer to a secondary fermenter (hence the spotless bucket in the photo).

Apart from commitments that meant I was unable to bottle until five weeks after brewing, I was also keen to get the beer off the substantial hop pile at the bottom; not to reduce the impact on the flavour (this was going to be a bitter brew no matter what), but to minimise blockages during bottling.

Choice of Priming Sugar and Bottling

Priming sugar used in the International Homebrew Project

To prime the beer I opted for a tasty unrefined sugar that I’ve used to good effect before in English bitters. As there were no indications in the recipe this seemed a reasonable choice. I was expecting a flavoursome beer and this sugar tends to work well in that scenario.

Hops floating on the surface of home brewed beer

I bottled just over seven litres of beer…

Bottles of mild made during the Internation Homebrew Project

…around ten days ago.

Verdict and Tasting

The beer is very intense coloured, and is almost orange. It’s clear, especially in the bottle.

Aroma appears to be controlled by the hops. The dry Kent Goldings are successful and up front, causing an interesting, ”mild’ touch – the beer smells like the raw ingredients!

This is the best home brew I’ve made in a while. The underlying liquid is sweet, thick and oily, with a head that is frothy and enduring.

The alcohol is evident but not unpleasantly so. Rather it serves to suggest that this is not a session beer but one to savour, perhaps as a nightcap.

Although I was apprehensive about the hoppy excess this has ended up being the highlight. Rather than bitterness, the hops have created a tangy, 3D quality that’s hard to describe. You can feel the taste digging into your tongue like mild sherbet.

The overall effect is rich and fresh.

I’m pleased, excited and encouraged that such a simple recipe can create this complex and unusual beer.

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