The number thirteen has long been regarded as a bad thing, but being practical and sceptical people Carl and I fearlessly put down 13th May in the diary as the date for the first practical mashing session of the year. Fortuitously as it turned out, because after the wettest April and the coldest wettest first few weeks in May in Living memory (what happens to global warming when you need a bit!) the weekend of the 13th was rather pleasant and the sun shone on us all on Sunday.
This was my first time leading the Practical Mashing course, but I was not unduly nervous before hand, as I knew it was a winning formula. First there’s the classroom bit, but not really formal, as it’s a practical demonstration with the opportunity to take part. Then around lunchtime we start on the beer samples. These should demonstrate that we are learning about making the real thing. Indeed that is the point of why we mash. As amateur brewers in this country we are fortunate to have access to the same high quality ingredients as the professionals, so can aim high, if on a small scale. After the mashing and sparging we take the wort outside to boil, so a warm sunny day like we had this May is to be hoped for. The plan is to make sure there is enough craft made beer on hand to try while the beer we are making is boiling for 90 minutes. If the beer’s good and the sun is shining, the event begins to seem like a mini festival. During the boil, the two experienced brewers, Carl and I, are on hand to endeavour to answer the many questions that everyone has.
The Beer I chose to make this time was Old Scout, the recipe that Richard had devised for the occasion; I don’t know how long ago, a nicely balanced strong old ale style of beer. Naturally this was also one of the beers I had produced for sampling. It’s a pity though it was the one that had obstinately refused to clear completely, so it wasn’t looking quite its best, sorry Richard! Fortunately all the others were nice and bright. I think the beer we made on the day is going to be much better. It is also going to be a bit stronger. This is because we were a little short on volume going into the boil and boiled away more than expected. I took a hydrometer reading after cooling, we were aiming for 1.0052 but it was showing 1.0060. I explained that we had a choice, we could add water to bring the volume up and the gravity down to what was intended, ‘liquoring back’ in brewers speak, or we could go with what we had. The consensus was clear; we should stick with the higher gravity beer. To everybody who took part; I will e-mail you all to let you know when the beer we made will be in the shop to try, don’t forget to come and collect your share.
It was a learning experience for us all, as I said at the beginning of the day, for me too, as it was my first time taking the course. My feelings about the day are wholly positive, I met some great people, and we shared together some of the real pleasures of beer, from making to the tasting. Please do feel free to comment here about how you found the day if you were there.
Practical Mashing will be back again, the next date to be advised; after all I need some time to brew some more beer.
On the subject of unlucky numbers, surely if such things existed for real, they would be universally observed? The Chinese however have no problem with the number thirteen; instead they think that four is unlucky, why, because in both Mandarin and Cantonese the word for four sounds like bad news.
Any queries phone Paul on 020 8644 0934