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Danger~Quicksand!

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Introduction

How To Use This Site

Equipment You Will Need

DIY Corner

Materials You Will Need

Water Treatment

A Walk Through A Brew

A Few Recipes

Creating Your Own Recipes

Danger - Quicksand!

Frequently Asked Questions

Links and Further Reading

What Is Sensible Mole?

Contact The Head Brewer

 

 

No site of this nature would ever be complete without a word to the wise...

As your interest in brewing grows you will discuss the craft with other brewers, whether face to face or in an internet forum, and you will quickly realise that there are very few matters on which all brewers are agreed. We all have our different ways of doing things and we all believe we have rational reasons for doing it that way.

This demonstrates that there are very few absolutes, a great deal of freedom, and an awful lot of bull in brewing.

The fledgling all-grain brewer will understandably be keen to Do Things The Right Way. Consequently he is in great danger of taking on board every scrap of ’good’ advice that is casually tossed in his direction. However, some scraps will contradict other scraps, until it gets to the point where he doesn’t know which way to turn and he feels like he’s slowly but steadily sinking in quicksand...

aaaghh....yeeurgh!!Examples of nonsense abound. For instance, one well regarded book talks about the need to lower the PH of the mash from 5.7 to 5.3, but the author conveniently forgets to mention that, due to damp or old PH strips and inaccurate PH meters, it isn’t possible for the average brewer at home to measure the PH of the mash so accurately in the first place. So relax and ignore this guff when you come across it, and recognise it for the unhelpful blast of hot air that it is.

A similar situation arises when brewers talk about the level of hop utilisation they can achieve from their systems (basically this is how much ’bitterness’ you can extract from a given weight of hops). Some brewers will, and have in the past, confidently given figures such as 20%, 70%, 80%, 85%... these brewers, some of whom have been brewing for many years, either ignore or do not know the simple truth that hop utilisation cannot be measured without access to more than one laboratory and even then the measurements may not be accurate. So when brewers expand on the subject of hop utilisation, relax and breathe in the farmyard aroma...

yyyyaaaarrrrggghhhhhhhh!!!!!!!

Hot Side Aeration (HSA) is another white elephant, with some brewers warning everyone that HSA is something that gives beer a "wet cardboard" taste and is caused by splashing hot wort around, whereas other brewers (and I’m including myself in this camp) ask whether HSA really exists at all, seeing as we’ve splashed hot wort around for years with gay abandon and have never experienced this alleged horrible phenomenon.

Nothing guarantees a collective groan amongst brewers more than a discussion on water treatment. A lot of brewers expound at some length about the so-called Holy Grail that is Burton on Trent water. You can even buy a ready made water treatment that will ‘Burtonise’ your water. The theory goes that the geological set up of Burton on Trent provides the very best water to brew bitter and this is why so many breweries over the centuries have had a presence in the town. This is quite a romantic story and many brewers still cling to it, but unfortunately it’s nonsense; detailed water analysis of two wells in Burton not more than 200 yards apart revealed not only a substantial difference in the make up of the water present in each well, but a substantial difference in the make up of the water that was present in the same well when tests were performed at eight hourly intervals. People don’t brew in Burton on Trent because the water is fantastic - from a chemical analysis point of view there is no such thing as a definitive and constant/consistent Burton water; people brew in Burton on Trent simply because people have brewed in Burton on Trent for ages - or at least, ever since a group of Benedictine monks who knew how to brew decided to live there and they spread the word. Similarly, the London porter brewers did not build their breweries in London because the water had some unique property, London was simply where loads of potential customers happened to live.

Golly!Historically "unsuitable water" was often used as an excuse for what was essentially shoddy work. Some breweries used the standard of water as an excuse, a convenient scapegoat for their cock ups, especially when they were unable to equal the quality of the beer coming from some Burton on Trent breweries. Obviously the Burton breweries were keen to encourage the myth that their water had some sort of superior quality as it made their products seem so much better. What did the Burton breweries blame for their cock ups you might ask? "Atmospheric electricity"... whatever that is!!!

So relax whenever you hear brewers go on about Burton on Trent and water quality; it’s yet more bull...

(Incidentally there is more ‘pooh-poohing’ of the myth that is Burton on Trent water in the excellent CAMRA book, ’India Pale Ale’, in their ’Homebrew Classics’ range. Sadly at the time of writing this entire series is out of print.)

Whilst we’re talking about avoiding bull, you absolutely should join an internet-based discussion group on brewing, preferably one based in the country in which you live as this means you will have ready access to the products and equipment being discussed.

All discussion groups should carry a health warning though, and it‘s this; just because someone answers your question, don’t assume that person actually knows what they’re talking about or even wants to help you. Let me explain...

Aaaeeiii.... halitosis!!!!!

Although the sole purpose of discussion groups on brewing SHOULD be to help inquisitive brewers expand their knowledge by providing helpful and informative answers to their questions, many types join these groups for wholly different reasons and you should be aware of this.

There’s the drunkard, who usually only posts messages late at night when he is pissed, and these posts are invariably sarcastic and/or a very poor attempt at humour. Unfortunately he wrongly believes he is one of the funniest people on the planet, so he will just keep on posting no matter what...

Further up the tree we have the "earnest but confused", the sort of person who means well but knows little and answers every question with, "I might be wrong here but I think..." This is not good. When you ask a question you’re looking for facts, not what some bloke thinks he may or may not have remembered correctly from years ago.

oh no... badly drawn!

At the very top of the tree, but no less annoying, sits the trained professional. He is a fully qualified chemist, biochemist or pharmacist and everyone knows this because it’s a fact he happens to drop in to the conversation once in every nine or ten posts. If you’re very lucky he’ll even give you the string of letters after his name. The answers he gives to the questions posed are couched in such technical terms as to be incomprehensible to the layman. He has not joined the group to answer your questions or to further the cause of home brewing - he has joined the group to have his ego stroked. Unfortunately it has to be conceded that you can learn a lot from listening to, and enduring, people like these.

Do not despair though! In addition to the boorish and boring, on the forum will be ordinary decent blokes who have once been where you are now and who will do their best to bring your brewing expertise along. It won’t be long before you recognise these genuine people and warm to them - and listening to these sort of people will save you years of making mistakes - so get stuck in there and don’t be shy!!!

has to be Oz, doesn't it?Remember - the most stupid question of all is the one that wasn’t ever asked!

  On the next page is something extra to help you avoid the quicksand - Frequently Asked Questions.

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