Rob: Note that there are some pretty serious no-nos in the method below:
- never boil honey; add it at the end of the boil so as to conserve the delicate aroma molecules that make honey the joy that it is.
- I see no reason to skim off the kruasen during fermentation; you’ll remove healthy yeast and risk infection.
- Never brew to a particular specific gravity. Always brew to completion (generally defined by the same SG reading three days in a row), then add a controlled amount of priming sugar during bottling or racking. I like to bulk prime.
125g heather tips (softer green parts of the plant, with the flowers if possible)
30g dry heather twigs (to provide tannin)
60g yarrow (the feathery leaves plus the flowers if possible)
30g dried hops
1.8kg honey (the nicer the better, but cheap honey will be absolutely fine)
1.3kg malt extract (Edme SFZ or similar – from a home-brew store)
500g crushed crystal malt (home-brew store)
1 tsp dried carragheen (Irish moss)
1 sachet of ale yeast
25 litres of water
Steep the crystal malt grains in 10 litres of water at 65C, cover and leave for 30 to 40 minutes. Strain the grains from the “wort”, as the liquor is called, remembering to throw away the used grains and not the wort (a terrible novice mistake!). Add 5 litres of hot water to the wort and bring to the boil. Add the malt extract, yarrow, heather, twigs and hops and boil for one hour. Savour the truly wonderful aroma. After one hour add the carragheen and the honey and boil for another 30 minutes, then leave to rest for further 30 minutes.
Drape a large muslin cloth over a large sieve and strain your brew into a 25 litre plastic fermenting bin. Top up to 25 litres by pouring some cold water through the muslin and its aromatic contents. Cover and leave to cool to room temperature. Swish with a spoon or whisk to aerate the wort until there is a bit of a froth on the top. Allow to settle then add the yeast according to the instructions on the packet. Cover.
After 24 to 36 hours a cauliflower-like head will have form on the surface. Skim this off and allow the beer to continue fermenting until the specific gravity has dropped to 1010 (this is where the hydrometer comes in). Siphon into clean beer bottles or into a 25 litre plastic pressure barrel. Check every day or so to make sure the pressure has not reached explosive potential. The beer “conditions” (carries on fermenting) in the bottle, creating more alcohol, reducing the sugar and adding fizz. It is ready to drink after one to two weeks, though I couldn’t wait that long and drank a, slightly sweet, pint eight hours after bottling.