Monday, 12 May 2014

Crash Intro Homebrew Ale - How To - 101 - Part 3 of X


This isn't a masterclass of style - just a crash intro to get your first 40 pints down the necks of you and your mates!

Is your brew ready to be bottled?

Make sure your beer has finished brewing (about a week but maybe two if your kitchen is a bit cold!) - if you bottle beer that is still brewing, the bottles may explode, the beer will be way too fizzy and sediment will be stirred up as soon as you take off the lid.

To make sure mine is done, I push down the middle of the bucket lid and seal the lid. I'll check every half hour or so for the next few hours and see if it has puffed up - if not, its done.

You can check with a hydrometer, but if you stirred it right at the start, and it went a bit wild on the first day and is now flat then you can be pretty confident its ready to bottle.

Even when ready, it will be fine in the bucket for a while - so you can wait till the next week end if needed.


I brew in a bucket with a tap near the bottom - it twists out the way to stand on the floor - but don't accidentally undo the thread(!) - while brewing I put a plastic bag over the tap with an elastic band so it stays pretty clean.

In addition you'll need a bottling wand (a long stiff plastic tube with a gravity close/push to open valve on the end).

Bottles enough for your whole brew - I use brown plastic PET bottles - brewing bottles are special as they are laminated with a oxygen barrier membrane to stop oxygen getting through the plastic and your beer going off, and the brown keeps the UV out - remember lids!. I reuse bottles and lids - a rinse/wash as soon as the beer is poured out to drink and packed away (upside down in the original box) clean for next time.

Sterilizing Solution.

Sugar (preferably bewers sugar) say 100g for 40 pints.

Stirring Paddle.

Tea Towels.

Botting - Prep

First wash your hands and sterilize your kit. (not the bottles yet).

Carefully put your bucket on a table with the tap over the edge where you will sit to bottle - no shocks and don't stir it up.

Put the sugar in a pan with boiling water (enough for it to fully dissolve.. probably bit less than a pint).

Gently pour the sugary water into your brew, stirring to mix - but try not to get air in, and try not to stir up the sediment. This sugar 'primes' the brew - it will wake the yeast up enough to give your beer a bit of fizz after about about a week in the bottle - needs to be reasonably evenly stirred in, but no need to go mad!

While your primed brew settles (any sediment that got stirred up) sterilize your bottles.

I put the caps in a jug of sterilizing solution

For the actual bottles I quarter fill one with sterilizing solution give it a good shake around pour the solution into the next and put it upside down to drain, back in the box (with a tea towel in the bottom - so cardboard doesn't get wet!). Soon get through them all.

Make sure the bucket tap is clean, fit the sterilized bottling wand.

Put the caps on a tea towel to drain.


Turn on the tap (the wand valve should ensure it doesn't pour yet) - make sure the bucket lid is unsealed. Have a box of bottles to hand, then one by one, push them on the want 'till the brew is at the top, and take the bottle off. Moving the bottle off the wand will stop the flow, and as the wand comes up the level will fall slightly, so with a bit of practice you can go to the top without spilling, and then have a small air gap.

Pour yourself a small taster - it should taste OK - probably just a bit bland and flat.

Put a cap in the bottle (use a cloth - you can get blisters tightening 40 odd bottles!) - wipe the bottle of any spillage, put it back in the box right side up... repeat 40 times :)

To get the last few bottles out (just above the sediment), you'll need to tip the bucket and mess around trying not to stir up the sediment - improvise! Sediment isn't fatal - all bottles will have a bit anyway from the yeast that makes it fizzy.

Wash up the bucket - all that slimy sediment(!) and the crusty ring around the top from the initial brew... and all the other kit.

Wait a week - give a bottle a daily squeeze, you'll find it gets firmer as the yeast adds the fizz (and a bit more flavour) - try a bottle... another week try another bottle... once you find it OK, you (and your friends) can drink the lot - or it will keep pretty much for ever...

Pour carefully - there will be sediment - rinse the bottle as soon as its poured and it will all wash out with no fuss - when clean/dry store it upside down back in the box, ready for your next brew.

If your beer is too fizzy (overdid the priming sugar 85g won't but 100g+ might) it will fizz up and stir up the sediment... making it impossible to pour a clear glass - if this happens just go through all your bottles opening enough to hear the hiss then immediately closing... repeat this for a few days as required(!).

Friday, 9 May 2014

Crash Intro Homebrew Ale - How To - 101 - Part 2 of X

Get your brew on.

This isn't a masterclass of style - just a crash intro to get your first 40 pints down the necks of you and your mates!

You have all your stuff, and a place to brew so...

*Don't let your stuff get dirty in storage! - deep cleaning is a PITA, so store it where it (at worst) will get dusty, so only a quick wash is needed!*

Get your pan(s), kettle, bucket, lid, ale kit, tin opener, paddle, tea towels (or oven gloves) - WASH YOUR HANDS and make sure the equipment is are clean.

Make up some sterilising solution (half litre is plenty, but its cheap so 1/2 cap/two litres - meh). Put the lid on the bucket , swirl it all around.

Wipe everything else (except the tea-towels/gloves and kettle) over with sterilising solution - wait for 20 mins.

Tip away sterilising solution - ready to go!

- You need to heat the tins of malt so it pours - so put the whole tins in  a pan with water an heat them - take the tops off so there is no risk of explosion!
- Put the kettle (or other pan if not using a kettle on to boil).
- Once malt is warm and runny - pour it into the bucket.
- Fill each (now empty) tin with boiling (very hot) water swill it around (or stir with paddle) to dissolve remaining malt.
- Pour the hot solution into the bucket with the malt (holding with oven gloves/tea towel!)
- Add another tin full of boiling/very hot water to the bucket.
- Stir the malt solution in the bucket very, very well until the malt is dissolved. No sludge at the bottom!
- Add loads of cold water to the bucket, keep stirring and get lots of air in too.
- Make it up to 40 pints and a bit more (a pint or two) lo cover wastage/loss later
- (but less water means stronger beer, so it doesn't matter too much!)
- Sprinkle the yeast on the top, put on the lid (NOT AIR TIGHT)
- Cleanup your work area.
- Leave for a week or so (as per kit instructions)
- In the first day the bucket content will go a bit wild, then it will slow down a bit for the rest of the fermentation, and finally stop.
(the yeast is eating the sugar and making alcohol/CO2 - the yeast stops when it runs out of sugar or it gets poisoned by too much alcohol!).

About one week on and you now have a big bucket with 40 pints of very young, flat ale!

Bottling to follow!

Crash Intro Homebrew Ale - How To - 101 - Part 1 of X

Stuff You Need.

This isn't a masterclass of style - just a crash intro to get your first 40 pints down the necks of you and your mates!

You need:-

1) An Ale Kit

There are loads to choose from - different styles/types blah blah - choose an ale you think you know, this will allows you to verify your success or otherwise when it is complete just from the taste!

The kit will include 'malt extract' (concentrated sugary syrup - extracted from malted barley - with added hop oils) and a sachet of yeast.

The sugary malt is needed to feed the yeast - the yeast eats the sugar and converts it into alcohol and C02. The Hop oils flavour the final brew.

Good kits include two tins of malt, cheap kits include only one tin of malt and require you to top up the sugar content with plain sugar. Go for a good kit! Two tins, no extra sugar needed.

2) Brewing Equipment

A brewing bucket with a lid - for ale you can use one with an airtight lid and airlock, or just a lose fitting lid. I don't use an airlock unless I am using my wifes wine buckets, wine does need an airlock, so they have them fitted. For ale I have buckets with taps at the bottom - for easy/direct bottling - alternatively you can use a syphon.

A long handled paddle for stirring.

A kettle or a large pan to boil water for your brew.

A large pan to heat water to warm your tins of malt so it pours!

Sterilising solution - I recommend milton (as used for baby's bottles) it is quick and doesn't require rinsing - half a cap in two litres of water makes  a sterilising solution

3) Location

You'll need somewhere reasonably clean - average kitchen will do!

Water to wash your equipment and to add (in large quantities) to your kit to make your ale.

A hob to heat water

Ok thats your kit... next blog is what to do with it.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Charging for non-emergency NHS medical appointments.

This is an idea that may be promoted by UKIP - to make patients value appointments more highly, so be less likely to make frivolous ones and make non-attendance less likely. An extension to this is to only charge 'no-shows' - so making patients less likely to waste NHS time by not turning up.

If charging for no-shows is seen as a good idea, I would suggest a good way of implementing it would be to charge when the appointment is made, and then refund the charge when the appointment is complete.

This would mean a patient is asked for money when they have something to gain (an appointment they want), so are motivated to pay. Whereas trying to charge them after an appointment is missed will be asking them for money for something they never had (may even dispute), and wont want to pay. The number of unpaid fines, disputed debts and bad debts etc that we already have in the UK show how hard/expensive this is likely to be.

Payment could be made in a huge number of ways - even added to the phone bill of the person booking the appointment - so should be simple and automatically collected.

You could take this one step further - by charging different deposits for different appointment times - missing an appointment at a busy time could be *cheaper* as there will be plenty of people around to fill the space created, so no NHS time is actually wasted!

A further - and in my view vital - step would be for the patient to receive a refund greater than their deposit if an appointment is moved, cancelled, delayed etc. If a patient is being charged for wasting NHS time, surely it is only right that the patient should be compensated when the NHS wastes theirs?