Archive for November, 2010

Home Brewing – No Half Measures!

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Frog, my neighbour, had to weld a pipe coupling to an old beer keg for someone a while back. This set us thinking and we made some mental notes. Suffice to say, a few months later we had bartered, bought and scrounged some beaten up old stainless steel kegs. Frog has the hoarding gene, passed down through generations of Flanders. Scrap, especially stainless is always reclaimed, so we had enough pipe and couplings to recycle for the job. He set about welding the pipe and couplings into the kegs and I got the rest of the gear together. We decide to start with kits to make sure it was all working and then try from scratch later. I did some research and got a few kits, brewing sugar, sterilising chemicals, thermometer, airlocks and so on. One of the main requirements of brewing is plenty of hot water, so we cut the top out of one keg and welded in a fitting for a 2KW heating element, a sealed tube for a dairy thermostat (up to 120°C, so can boil water) and a fitting for a tap. We lagged the keg to make an effective boiler. We fitted a grate higher than the element so that it can be used for preserving too.

2kW, 50 litre keg boiler. Takes 2 hours to boil. Can be used for crustaceans and preserving too.

OK, so we have hot water for cleaning , dissolving and adjusting the temperature for the yeast. One kit is designed for a brewing bucket of 23 litres, we are using 50 litre kegs, so use two kits. The process is that we warm 2 tins per keg to make it runny. Sterilise the keg, blanking plate, o-ring, bung and airlock. Next the can contents are poured into the keg, the cans rinsed with boiling water also to dilute the syrup and then the brewing sugar poured in and stirred to dissolve. The keg is then topped up with cold, filtered water to almost full. A temperature sensitive label lets you adjust the temperature to between 18°C and 28°C before adding the yeast and stirring a little. Now we fit the sterilised o-ring, blanking cap (with hole), bung and airlock with filtered water.

Keg with 100mm coupling fitted with blanking plate, bung and airlock.

100 litres of beer brewing for the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

The instructions state 4 to 7 days between 18°C and 28°C. I’ve aimed at the lower end of this scale, 20°C to 22°C. Rather than measure the S.G. (Specific Gravity) I simply wait until the the fermentation has just about stopped which typically takes at least 7 to 10 days. At this stage, the beauty of the keg over bottling is that it’s a lot less hassle. Using the pipe cleaning set up the pick-up pipe and coupling can be sterilised and rinsed. Normally a teaspoon, or 5g, of white sugar is used per bottle. I remove the blanking cap and airlock, add around 350g of caster sugar straight to the keg, stir with the pick-up pipe, or a sterile spoon and then seal up and tighten the lid/pick-up/keg-coupling good and tight to withstand the carbonation pressure. Next keep at 20°C or more for a further 4 or 5 days to complete the secondary fermentation.

The coupling welded into a blanking lid and the pick-up tube extended to allow for the new neck on the keg.

The cleaning set up can clean the keg pick-up/coupling and the pipe and tap for pouring.

50l of East India Pale Ale from kits from Black Rock maturing.

Immediately after second fermentation the beer can be drunk, but it is better to let it mature for a few weeks, or even months in a cool place.

At least for the lager/pilsener beer it needs to be chilled, especially for a New Zealand summer, so Frog plumbed an old fridge freezer to chill and pour the beer.

Beer in fridge …

… tap on fridge …

… crystal-clear, refreshing, cold beer in glass – happy days!

Is it worth the effort? Well, it costs about 1/4 of the price of 330ml bottles, stubbies, and we’re not even trying to source the ingredients at a better price or in bulk yet. No non-recyclable glass bottles to dispose of. Also, Frog assures me he doesn’t get the acid reflux he gets with some of the commercial brews. A wee bit of planning, a bit of prep a couple of hours in advance and about an hour of work – enjoyable and satisfying too!

Nelson and Golden Bay

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I traveled to Wellington and then Nelson with a colleague, Chris, from work. We had meetings with DOC (Department of Conservation) in both cities. After our meeting in Nelson on Friday morning we drove down to St Arnaud beside Lake Rotoiti in Nelson Lakes National Park.

Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes National Park.

If your hovercraft needs topping up with eels then Lake Rotoiti is not the place!
It would be like shooting fish in a barrel.

I dropped Chris off at the airport later that afternoon. I checked in to the Custom House backpackers hostel that night which was exactly what it said on the tin. I had a great meal on Friday night at the Boat Shed Cafe, a Nelson institution.

On Saturday morning I had breakfast at Lambrettas cafe, another Nelson institution and definitely recommended.

I was a little disappointed it was cloudy when the forecast was for clear skies. I then drove to Motueka, a wee bit inland and up, up, up. The gravel track up to Flora Saddle carpark is a cracker. There are sections that are seriously steep, steep enough that an aggressive approach was required in a little front wheel drive rental car. There were pitches where I was trying to maintain some speed, but was getting slower as the front wheels were struggling for traction until the gradient eased a bit. Fun, but not for the faint-hearted when you see the drop-offs at the side of the track. A good friend recommended walking here and he was right. Starting at over 900m, well above the low cloud below, it was brilliantly clear and sunny.

The splendid view from just below the Flora Saddle.

I walked part of the Flora Track, past the Flora Hut and on to the Gridiron Rock Shelters, the site of one of NZ’s gold-rushes.

Gridiron Gulch sign tilts to the gold-rush history, used to be a population of 471 apparently.

The Upper Gridiron Shelter has a hut with bunks and a fire-pit outside. The Lower Gridiron Shelter is alfresco but looks like a cool place to spend a night.

Lower Gridiron Rock Shelter

A 15km round-trip, not particularly challenging, but stunning scenery and interesting history.

I had booked a night in a cottage at the Eatery on the Rock, just outside Takaka, the hub of Golden Bay. From Motueka there is the amazingly tortuous Takaka hill road over to Golden Bay. I thoroughly enjoyed driving my little rental car like I stole it. You can have a lot of fun in the smallest rental car on a really twisty road and you’re nowhere near the speed limit! Whilst enjoyable in a wee hire car, it would be fun beyond description on two wheels – it could outdo the amazingly twisty road I traversed on a rental VFR800 in the Sierra Nevada’s a couple of years ago – even if that topped out at 11,000 ft compared to less than 3000 ft on the Takaka hill road.

The weather forecast for the Sunday was appalling, so I explored as far as I could that evening. Golden Bay is a beautiful area and I will definitely head back on the motorbike, to tramp, or to get on, or in the water. I had a great dinner, the pan-fried deep-sea dory was cooked to perfection. Overnight the weather did turn to poo as forecast. It was absolutely chucking it down, so I headed straight back to Nelson and managed to get an earlier flight home to Hawkes Bay.