Discussion of Brew #1

After the shock revelation that my beer tastes like Robinsons, I had the following conversation on Facebook. Anyone want to weigh in with any comments on my brew skillz?

  • Me: Oh no, my beer tastes like Robinsons. It’s all the water’s fault.
  • Me: Well, this was only Brew #1. I put 200g of hops into Brew #2 so I hope this time around I’ll have beaten the water into submission. I bottled Brew #2 on Monday so I’ll get a better impression of what I’m dealing with then.
  • Matthew: I’m gonna put it out there - it’s your yeast.
  • Me: The amount of Columbus I cooked in should make light work of the yeast too.
  • Matthew: But but but - What yeast did you use? If you went with a dried or bought in yeast, you’re completely at its mercy. It has no character, or at least it shouldn’t. But if you want it to brew 7%+ American ales, it probably won’t stand up to it. For a proper double IPA style beer, you need a yeast that can handle it and rip all the oils out of the hops. Fresh yeast is the way to go if you wanna go wacky.
  • Me: Coopers Ale Yeast should be good for up to 10%. Surely the yeast is taking the fermentable sugar from the malt and converting into CO2 and ethanol. The hops are to bitter the malt and not provide any fermentable sugars. Likewise, the dryhop shouldn’t be affected by the yeast as the primary fermentation has already happened and will add aroma regardless of the the yeast.
  • If you want to get technical.
  • Matthew: I don’t wanna get technical! I can barely drink beer, let alone brew it. However, if your beer tastes like Robinsons you’ve only got a number of reasons why that might be:
    1. The water, but this should have already been Burtonised,
    2. The amount of hops used (you’ve got this covered),
    3. The yeast character,
    4. An infection, to give it that special Robinsons quality.
  • If I know anything about brewing (and I don’t), it’s that your first brew is always shit. I’m sure there are actual brewers who could give you pointers better than “Go ask Marble for some yeast”, but that’s where I’m at. Hey, I’m living my homebrew dreams through you.
  • Me: Ha, if the guys from Marble knew me as anything other than “that guy who comes into 57 Thomas Street and gets trashed and over-familiar with the bar staff” or perhaps “that guy who trashed Ginger 6% on his blog” then I might feel comfortable asking to steal some yeast from them.
  • I’m still using Beer Kit cans and you get standard yeast with that so I figure I should just stick with it. I’ve also avoided throwing chemicals at the water - other than the one that gets rid of some of the chlorine. I’m hoping to go with the American model of just chucking in much more of the stuff that I like to try to balance out the stuff that I don’t. I figure that I’ll get to grips with the basics and then start improving elements more.
  • The one currently in the fermenter should be 60 IBU, 7% IPA. I’ll let you know if it tastes like it in a month!

- 27th March 2012, Sustainable Alcoholic

Brew #1 - The tech review

Following my Brew #1 taste review I thought I’d provide all the technical details too just in case anyone was inspired to made a 2/5 scoring beer in their own homes.


  • Coopers English Bitter Kit (1.7kg Liquid Malt Extract + Coopers Ale Yeast)
  • Muntons Hopped Light Dried Malt Extract - 1kg
  • Brupaks Cascade Pellets - 60g
  • Dextrose - 170g


I followed a Zymurgy magazine (American Homebrewers Association) American Pale Ale recipe because it seemed pretty simple.

  • 30 min boil: 3l tap water, 1.7kg LME, 1kg DME (+ half a Campden tablet)
  • 10 min left: 30g Cascade pellets

Fermenter stored at around 22 degrees C.

Dry hops (30g Cascade pellets) added in a muslin bag on day 5 of fermentation. No secondary fermenter used.

Bottles primed with dextrose solution added to the bottling vessel: 180g Dextrose / 120ml water.

Bottles conditioned for 3 weeks at 22 degrees and 2 weeks at 14 degrees.

Fun facts

  • Boil Size: 4.5l (including LME)
  • OG: 1.048
  • FG: 1.012
  • IBU: 1.28
  • SRM: 7.11
  • Yield: 17.26l


I did a lot of Googling about tap water before I started to see if it would be suitable for brewing. Many sources suggested I should use bottled water but I resented the idea of buying in water and also liked the idea of seeing what Manchester beer would taste like.

There is noticable chlorine in the water and I’m in rented accomodation so I couldn’t fit a water filter. Instead I settled for half a campden tablet.

The water in Manchester is very soft, coming directly from the Lake District. Ultimately I should perhaps look to add chemicals to harden it up a bit.

My boiling kettle was far too small. The pan could only handle 5 litres so the fact that the resulting beer had very little hop character was no surprise. I’ve subsequently bought a larger stock pot, but I’m not sure it’s even big enough.

I bought hopped spraymalt because it was the same price as unhopped, I like hops and I thought that at worst it could just make it more bitter. The lack of anything resembling a hop character in the final beer make me think that this made very little difference.

No wort cooling was required due to the small size of the boil. The wort was at pitching temperature as soon as mixed with the cold water in my primary fermenter. I forgot to aerate my beer before pitching, but I strained the wort with a colander. The fermentation met expected gravities so I think that in this instance it was sufficient.

- 19th March 2012, Sustainable Alcoholic

Beer Review: Sustainable Alcoholic - Brew #1

  • ABV: 4.7%, Style: American Pale Ale
  • Brewed on 3rd February 2012
  • Brewed in Manchester, UK
  • Served: 500ml bottle poured into an imperial tulip pint
  • http://sustainablealcoholic.com
  • Raw materials cost: £0.63 per 500ml

Sustainable Alcoholic - Brew #1

So I made beer. I followed the “my first brew” recipe in Zymurgy magazine to the letter. It is made from a Coopers bitter kit with a 10 minute Cascade boil and dry-hopped with additional Cascade. It should be an American Pale Ale however, the look of it would disagree with that.

Aroma: Alcohol sharpness and soft fruit. If anything, it smells a bit lagery.

Taste: Tastes like bitter. Standard low profile malt then a fraction of hoppiness creeps in before it’s overwhelmed by a sort of metallic tinge. There is a bit of a finish, but it is short and drying rather than bitter.

Mouthfeel: Watery with light, spiky carbonation.

Overall: A fairly standard bitter. It’s not the APA I hoped it would be, but it’s drinkable. I tried a few bottles early and it has definitely got better with time although it mainly just tastes like Hobgoblin beer. If it was served in a pub as a beer hopped and dry-hopped with Cascade I think I’d be a bit disappointed. I don’t get floral notes I’d expect on either the nose or the taste. Perhaps my expectations have been bludgeoned by a steady diet of IPAs though.

All in all, for my first attempt I suppose it could have been a whole lot worse but as a beer I can’t give it more than 2/5

Sustainable Alcoholic - Brew #1

- 19th March 2012, Sustainable Alcoholic