Being rostered on a week of night shift means that I get the chance to brew some beer.
Finding the space to brew any other time is tricky. With a wife and kid at home it hardly seems fair to ignore them for more than two hours on a weekend while I mash and boil.
Much better to wait until they’re out of the house for a few hours. Or when they’re at work or pre-school and I’m not due in the office till midday. That way I’ve got about three hours to my beer-making self.
Yesterday I brewed an attempt at a Hoegaarden clone – which you can see boiling away in the picture above. I call it Sarcasm – because that’s the lowest form of wit (get it? Because it’s a WITbier? I’m making a joke about my limited homebrewing abilities).
It’s an extract brew, with some whole wheat and carapils (at least I think it was carapils, I don’t have my recipe book handy) mashed in and then boiled with some hops at the start.
The tricky thing for me was working out how much coriander and orange peel to put in. I figured I’d be sweet to just chuck in a whole orange rather than peel it (hey, only the peel would come into contact with the wort anyway). But Darren, a knowledgeable homebrewer on Twitter, who also writes the I Dream of Brewery blog told me, in a nice way, that I was being an idiot and that peeling the oranges was the way to go. He also reckoned my one orange wasn’t going to cut it, saying to go for at least three or four.
So I went with five just to be sure. I also used the advice I found online to cut the oranges in quarters, eat out the flesh and then fillet off the white part of the skin. But I quickly found out that was frigging stupid and took ages so I grabbed a potato peeler and got through the other four oranges in less time than it took me to fillet the first.
As for the coriander, that was a tricky proposition. I knew it’s a pungent spice and I didn’t want my Sarcasm to be overwhelmed by it. And yet I also didn’t want the spice to be absent. So I went with what looked like 6g (I haven’t got any scales so all these sorts of measurements have to be done visually – ‘‘okay, the pack says it’s got 36g in it, so 6g means one-sixth of the pack).
I thought I’d screwed it up massively when I tasted the first hydrometer sample and found coriander riding roughshod over everything else. And the orange was barely noticeable in the aroma and not at all in the flavour. But I opened the brewery door this morning to be greeted by a very pleasant orange aroma, so I took a sneaky taste. Luckily for me the coriander had faded to the background while the orange had moved up enough to be easy to find but not so much as to be overpowering.
It was also a relief to see the colour of the brew starting to resemble a witbier. On brewday it looked a murky browny colour in the fermenter and I thought I’d screwed something up.
So I’m glad it seems to be working out – I love a good witbier. My wife’s happy too – both because I didn’t have to spend hours on a weekend making it and because she’s a huge Hoegaarden fan.