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English Blog


Welcome,

To the English version of the blog of Leven in de Brouwerij. Here you can find a diversity of stories about wines, cheeses, and beers that I have made. And I am also not afraid to share the failures that I created. Perhaps these are even the most informative. They are surely the more entertaining stories.

I do not want to discredit myself, but I have to mention that I am an amateur without any training in the three arts. However that does not stop me from making very nice wines, cheeses, and beers.

Look here for the table of contents. And here are some links to other resources and some files.

Enjoy reading!

Hans

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Brewing beer at home: Not all roads lead to Rome

Volledig bericht lezen: Brewing beer at home: Not all roads lead to Rome

 

 

When you want a boring chore done you should give it to a lazy person. He will find the most efficient way to do the job.

 

And homebrewers have software. No complicated calculations, just fill in some numbers and everything will be done with the speed of light.

 

Wine makers have a bit more work. Measurements, consulting tabels, calculating.

 

Right, that is what you thought. The calculations involved in wine making are not many, and really simple.

 

And the homebrewers software? Yes, it is not correct. Calculating the alcohol percentage is no problem. But bitterness? Not really.

 

My friend uses "Biermacht". I use a dutch program called "Brouwhulp". Since he is more knowledgeable than I am, I asked him to make a recipe with liwuid malt extract, and some steeped malt. A simple beer, light in colour, about 6% alcohol, not very bitter, but a bit more hop aroma.

 

He prepared a recipe for me and it looked good. I entered it in "Brouwhulp" and the bitterness was IBU 32. Not extremely bitter, but still.. His program "Biermacht" said that the bitterness would be IBU 24. A huge difference.

 

 

 

Apparently there are more ways to Rome. But they are not going to Rome.

 

 

brouwsoftware-levenindebrouwerij

 

In "Brouwhulp" you have several options for the bitterness calculation. That sounds great, but it is not.

 

Here are the IBU values for my recipe with the different calculation options:

 

  • Rager IBU 32
  • Tinseth IBU 45
  • Garetz IBU 19
  • Daniels IBU 30
  • Mosher IBU 22
  • Noonan IBU 30

 

Between 19 to 45. Poor beermaker. How can you recreate a recipe when you don't know how the bitterness was calculated?

 

The nice book by Adrie Otte explains that there are several options for the bitterness calculation and advises to choose one and learn how a certain bitterness feels. In fact he sais that you should always make the same mistake. Which I believe is a good advice.

 

But it is impossible to copy a recipe from somebody if you do not know which method was used!

 

After this revelation it became even worse. You can also set several calculation methods for the colour of your beer. Behold the results:

 

  • Daniels EBC 23
  • Mosher EBC 15
  • Morey EBC 9

 

Again the results are very different!

 

And again the same advice. Pick a method and always make the same mistake!

 

Brewing software...... We sleep at night. With one eye open!

 

Hans

 

P.S. I: It gets worse. I will tell you later.

P.S. II: Visit the brouwstore of Leven in de Brouwerij. The Braumarkt with the best blog of all Brouwland!

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Is alcohol healthy?

Volledig bericht lezen: Is alcohol healthy?

A little over 10 years ago I started making wine. I read a lot about it and also about whether it was healthy or not. I found a lot of research that made me feel good. A few were not as positive but all together the results were surprisingly reassuring.

I started reading this scientific document but unfortunately I am not enough scientist to understand it. The part that I do understand is the message in this graph.

 

Alcohol-health-pearl-levenindebrouwerij

 

 

 

 

 

A so-called J curve. On the horizontal axis the amount of consumed alcohol and the vertical one can be called "health" I suppose. Drinking moderate amounts increases your life span. When you drink a bit more this positive effect disappears. And when you drink even more it becomes unhealthy.

The mayor conclusion that I pick up from this is: A moderate drinker is living a healthier life than the abstainer. Great news right?

Some time ago I client who is also a friend, asked me: "My cholestorol is a bit high. Is drinking beer good for me?"

I answered him: "I may not be a doctor but I prescribe it to all my patients."

 

I googled just for fun and I found a page that is typical for the days we live in. (Sorry that it is in Dutch)

 

It is the first hit in google and it must be the number one worthless pag on the whole internet. It opens with: Alcohol and cholestorol are no friends.

The writer continues to explain that 2 glasses alcohol per day improves the good cholestorol (HDL), and that the total cholestorol increases when you drink more than 2 glasses.

Then he reaches the conclusion that it is not adviceable to drink a lot of alcohol.

 

He twists and turns his own words just to say that alcohol is bad for you!

 

And that is what is happening these days. Alcohol is in the doghouse. In England they went overboard. A few years ago doctors would advice the elderly to drink a glass a day. And younger people also received the blessing: Three glasses per day for the men, and two glasses for the women was fine.

Now the policy is that each drop of alcohol is one too many. Every english person: Please stop drinking NOW!

 

Right. That is going to happen!

 

But what is the truth? Google it. You can find every answer that you are looking for. In the mean time I will find comfort in one of my favorite quotes.

 

“There are more old drunkards than old doctors.”

 

Benjamin Franklin.

 

Hans

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Killing Yeast Is Not Easy

Volledig bericht lezen: Killing Yeast Is Not Easy

A few years ago, when we started our company I had a clear moment which worried me. I realized that our products may be shipped under difficult circumstances. My main concern was temperature. Most products will be safe but what about the yeasts? As far as I know they should be stored in a refrigerator. There probably is a reason for this. On the other hand; supermarkets don’t store the bread yeast cold. So how important is this?

 

gist-temperatuur-test-LevenindeBrouwerij

 

I decided to test the yeasts. It was a very simple test. I placed the bags of yeast in the oven and let them stay there for a week at 40 – 45 C. After that I checked whether the yeast were still alive.

I was not disappointed. The yeast was not affected at all. It worked perfectly and my mind found peace again.

gist-test-starter-LevenindeBrouwerij

 

A few days ago I noticed that I had 2 very old packages of wine yeast. The expiration date is November 2013. Three years ago…. I estimate that the yeast must be 5 or 6 years old. Normally I would throw it away but I was curious. Would the yeast have survived?

cider-starter-LevenindeBrouwerij

So I prepared a very simple starter. It is only apple juice in a clean bottle with the cap placed on top of it. (Not sealed of course) I was actually not surprised that after a few hours the fermentation clearly was underway. Again, I could not see any difference between this old yeast and a new package. I have another package that expired November 2013. Maybe I will test this again in 2020.

cider-LevenindeBrouwerij

 

The juice is fermenting nicely and I am going to let it finish the job. See if it becomes a nice cider.

So if you have problems with a fermentation I would not blame the yeast. More likely the circumstances in which the yeast are put are too hostile. For example beers with a lot of alcohol may have trouble fermenting after bottling. If this is the case you can try to add champagne yeast which is very alcohol tolerant, give it a better chance with a starter, or in very serious cases you can try to restart the fermentation like this.

Cheers

Hans

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Brewing beer at home: Don't Lose your Head!

Volledig bericht lezen: Brewing beer at home: Don't Lose your Head!

The most frustrating problem I had in beer making must be the head. I tried my best to copy a successful recipe as good as I possibly could and when the beer was finished I would be very disappointed by it. I would pour the beer in a glass and foam would appear. But then, the small bubbles would turn in big bubbles and within minutes they would collapse and the beer would look as if it had been standing there the whole evening. The soul had disappeared. In Dutch we literally call it “dead”.

I had no idea why it happened because I did everything according to the recipe. So It was time to find out what went wrong. And I found some information that was very helpful. I normally don’t like copying information without testing it but I think that the information I found was pretty good.

First of all I found that there are positive and negative influences on the head. And that the negative influences are much greater than the positive. For example: A perfect beer in a “dirty” glass will always result in disappointing foam.

So what happens when you pour a beer?

First foam forms. I guess that usually this is not a problem When there is CO2, bubbles appear and they drag beer up to form bubbles.

After that the beer drains down between the bubbles and the foam starts to dry.

Then the foam should be strong enough to remain. Some kind of structure should form to keep the bubbles small and strong. If there is something wrong the small bubbles will not be able to sustain themselves and collapse, forming bigger bubbles that will also collapse. It’s like watching your work being destroyed without being able to do anything about it. A dead beer is a sad, sad sight.

 

gistende-abdij-bierkit-LevenindeBrouwerij

No problem with this beers head

 

So what are the things that attack our beloved heads?

  • Higher alcohols. When we talk about alcohol we usually mean ethanol. Ethanol has 2 carbon atoms. Higher alcohols have 3 or more. A strong beer contains more higher alcohols and this has a negative affect on foam.
  • Esters. Esters are formed by acids and alcohols. Stronger beers contain more acids and alcohol and therefore again they have more problems with foam.
  • The biggest influence are lipids: Fats, oils, wax, sterols. Drinking a beer while eating cheese is killing the beer. The best advice is to clean your glass with hot water and rinse it thoroughly to get rid of soap residues.
  • Mashing. Malts of the past needed more steps in mashing. These steps were needed to break down proteine chains. If you do this with “modern” malts the proteine chains are broken down in small chains that cannot sustain foam. So it is advisable to start with a mashing temperature of at least 60 C. In case you use a high percentage of unmalted ingredients you may need to start mashing at a lower temperature.
  • Boiling too long causes alpha acids to be removed from hop. These acids are a positive factor in head retention. Boiling longer than 90 minutes should be avoided. For other reasons you should not boil less than 60 minutes.

 

And what can be done to improve our head?

  • Hops. Isomerized alpha acids have a positive effect on foam. So a beer with enough IBU’s has a better chance of a good head.
  • Malts. Cara malts contain longer proteins and do not contain enzymes anymore to break them down.
  • Racking. Remove the wort from the yeast after the first fermentation stage is finished. Dead yeast may fall apart and enzymes will form that break down the protein that are helpful for the head.
  • Fermentation temperature. Yeast is extremely important for your beer in more than 1 aspect so you should do your best to keep them happy. In the case of head retention it is advisable to ferment at temperatures that are not too high. Esters and high alcohols are formed and they are not good for your head. (High alcohols are really not good for YOUR head as well.)
  • Shake the bottled beers 2 weeks after bottling. I am not sure if it is a myth or truly helpful but the idea is that shaking the bottles dissolves the CO2 in the neck back in the beer.

I am merely an amateur and do not have the intellectual background to explain all the above. I doubt that there is any person on earth that possesses so much knowledge. I gathered these tips and translated them in “normal people language” because I found them helpful and I hope that it helps to give you a healthy head.

Cheers

Hans

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Brewing beer at home: The Second Pils Experiment

Volledig bericht lezen: Brewing beer at home: The Second Pils Experiment

With a great result I must add.

Some time ago I tried to make a pilsner without the proper equipment. I do not have a location to ferment at the proper low temperature and therefore it does not make sense to use a lager yeast. It would produce too many esters which does not fit a pilsner.

So I tried something else. I tried champagne yeast because it ferments very well in wines. The result was a nice beer but obviously not a pilsner.

So this time I decided to use a more normal yeast. In this case Fermentis US 05 because it does not produce a lot of esters and it ferments to a dry beer.

The result is great. The champagne pilsner was a funny experiment but this is much better. It has a nice light hoppy aroma. The bitterness suits the type of beer very well. Not too bitter but definitely there. There are no aroma’s from the yeast or esters. It is very neutral. Since the alcohol level is not too high it is a very drinkable beer. The head is very good and the head retention is better than all my previous beers. I am sure that I will make this beer again.

 

pils-LevenindeBrouwerij


The drying foam is hanging on to the glass forever

The recipe is exactly the same as the previous experiment. The only difference is the yeast. And it is obvious that the yeast is of great importance.

So here is the recipe:

    Amount 15L
    Efficiency 68%
    IBU 24
    EBC 8
    Starting SG 1047
    End SG Oops. Forgot to measure
    ABV 5,3%?

Ingredients

    3,5kg Pils malt 3 EBC
    11 g Brewers gold from Turkey 9,5% for 75 min
    4 g Aroma from Turkey 8 % just after boiling
    11 g Fermentis US 05
    2 g CaCl
    2 g Citric acid

Mashing

    62 C for 45 min, 72 C for 15 min, 78 C for 5 min.

Boiling time

    75 min

Priming sugar

    8 g/L

Remarks

    No chilling after boiling.
    Fermentation at room temperature

Probably this beer is somewhere in between a blond and pilsner. The bitterness is there, the hop aroma is there but not very outspoken. It is a nice simple very drinkable beer. The head retention is very good. I think that it is the best beer I made so far.

Cheers

Hans

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Making beer at home: Beer Kits

Volledig bericht lezen: Making beer at home: Beer Kits

Who could have thought that making beer at home could be so simple? It is as easy as making lemonade. After my disappointing experiences with wine kits I was reluctant to try a beer kit but the beers are really surprisingly nice.

 

Bierkit-Grand-Cru-LevenindeBrouwerij

Since I was making wine already I did not need to buy any equipment. The only thing I needed were empty beer bottles. The ones that I have are from Grolsch which have so called “flip top closures” so I don’t even need crown caps.

There are instructions in the package but I don’t need them anymore. Actually my eyes are not able to read the small letters anymore.

This is my personalized manual

  • Open the can and place it in hot water. This way the syrup becomes more fluent.
  • Start boiling water. This is not strictly necessary but apparently boiling the water results in better foam on your beer.
  • Sterilize the fermenter and put in the syrup.
  • Rinse the can with hot water to get all the syrup out. Watch out, the can gets hot.
  • Add the sugar in the can and dissolve it in boiling water before adding it to the fermenter.
  • Sterilize a spoon (And your hands).
  • Add the proper amount of boiling water and stir. When a kit is meant for 9 liter I fill the fermenter up to maximum 9,5 liter. (During racking you will lose some beer.)
  • Close the fermenter and wait until the wort has cooled to room temperature.
  • Add the yeast. After a few hours you will see that the yeast starts working. Keep the fermenter in a room where the temperature does not fluctuate too much. Yeast doesn’t like that.
  • One day later you will see why you need a big fermenter. Lots of foam!

gistende-abdij-bierkit-LevenindeBrouwerij

You can't put hot water in a demijohn but this is the nice thing of a demijohn. You can see what happens! This was an abbey kit with wyeast abbey yeast. I discovered later that the yeast was too expensive to use for one kit but look at that foam!

  • When the fermentation slows down I transfer the beer to a demijohn. This is not really necessary but I need the fermenter more often and it looks nicer in a demijohn.
  • After 2 weeks the fermentation is usually finished. You can check it with a hydrometer but I don’t do that anymore. When in doubt just wait a week longer.
  • Then it is bottling time.
  • Rinse the bottles with a sulphite and citric acid solution.
  • Put the bottling sugar in another demijohn and rack the beer in it. Do not disturb the lees. Make sure that the sugar is dissolved before bottling!
  • Rack the beer in the bottles with the bottle filler.
  • Store the beer in a room with constant room temperature and wait 6 to 8 weeks. Some beers will improve when you age them longer.

At the moment I do not make the kits anymore. Nowadays I am brewing beer the hard way. But at the time I was already thinking about some experiments with the kits. For example; using another yeast, adding some hops, substituting part of the sugar for honey, using another kind of sugar, add some extra sugar for more alcohol, etc. etc.. There are many things that you can do to create “your own beer” with a kit as a start point.

Cheers!

Hans

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Vacuming a smooth bag

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Bags suitable for a vacuum machine have a structure inside that keeps them open so the air can be sucked out.

A professional machine does not need that. It simply presses the air out from the outside. They can also be used with bags that are smooth on the inside. The simple equipment for normal people cannot do this.

So I bought very nice air and light resistant bags that should be suitable for every machine. So I also bought a "semi professional" apparatus.

No way Jose. The machine sucks and closes the bag before the air is removed.

So what can I do? Of course the internet had plenty solutions. Just google.

I was not covincend and did some experimentation. The best option (Not found on the web) was mentioned in the manual of my vacuum machine. Who reads these things?

This is what you do:

  • Hold the bag between thumbs and index fingers at the sides near the opening.
  • Roll the bag slightly to create a wrinkle. The side is not really the side anymore.
  • Place the bag in the machine and watch it as it sucks out the air.
  • Seal the bag a little longer or hotter as you would normally do.

vacumeren-gebruiksaanwijzing-levenindebrouwerij

The user manual picture.

vacumeren-levenindebrouwerij

 

A bit difficult to see but this is the wrinkle on the left side.

 

vacumeren-glad-plastic-levenindebrouwerij

 

Not a very smart move for a smoker but as you can see it works also for different smooth bags.

Does it work for every machine? I am not sure. In case you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Hans

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Brewing beer at home: The Devil is in the Details

Volledig bericht lezen: Brewing beer at home: The Devil is in the Details

“Where people work, mistakes are being made.” This is a Dutch saying. As a matter of fact I use this whenever I make a mistake because the opposite is also true. “If you don’t work, you don’t make mistakes”. And I made a lot during the last 10 years.

As I said before; I share my mistakes so you don’t have to make them again.

Putting beer (Or champagne) in bottles.

The last step in making beer is putting it in bottles. It is my least favourite step because it looks a lot like working.

You can do this as follows:

  • Dissolve bottling sugar in water and add the right amount of the solution to each bottle and add the beer.
  • Add the right amount of sugar to each bottle and add the beer.
  • Add all the bottling sugar to another demijohn or bucket and rack the beer to that bucket. Then put it the beer in bottles.

The last option is my favourite because you don’t need to be very precise. Instead of measuring 2,64 gm per 0,33L bottle you can measure 120 gm per 15L. I also believe that is less work. I am not 100% sure of the last part because it requires one last racking extra.

So what I do is the following:

  • I clean a demijohn and add the bottling sugar. Usually about 8 g/L for beer (or 20 to 25 g/L for champagne.)
  • Rack the beer into this demijohn. Don’t worry too much about splashing and oxygen because you need oxygen to give life to your yeast again. Also don’t worry about racking some yeast. Your beer needs it. Try to get as much beer in this demijohn as possible. There is no need to to work extremely clean because new yeast will form in the bottles anyway.
  • Shake the demijohn until you are sure that all the sugar is dissolved in the beer. (For champagne this takes a bit longer because there is a lot more sugar to dissolve.)
  • Siphon the beer from the demijohn in the beer bottles. Get this tool if you don’t have it. It is worth its’ weight in gold!

 

So here comes the DOOOHH!! part

I made 2 huge mistakes in these simple steps.

  • I forgot to add the bottling sugar completely. I just racked the beer in another empty demijohn and into the beer bottles. After 1 month I found that there was no CO2 at all in the finished beer.
  • I added the bottling sugar to the demijohn but did not dissolve it properly in the beer. The result was that some bottles had very little CO2 in them but other bottles had very much and they created so much CO2 that you could barely taste the beer.

Learning all the time.

Cheers

Hans

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Champagne pilsner

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This is an experiment. The goal of the experiment was to make a pilsner without the use of a refrigerator. Why? Well because I don’t have a suitable refrigerator and I am sure that lot’s of people like to make beer but don’t have the room for another piece of furniture.

My first thought went to using wine yeast. Wine yeast usually don’t create a lot of esters and ferment until the last grain of sugar is eaten. Unfortunately wine yeasts don’t flocculate as well as beer yeasts. Champagne yeast is the best among the wine yeasts in that aspect. It also is a very strong yeast that can tolerate high levels of alcohol.

However after some research I found that wine yeasts cannot handle the more complicated sugars in beer. Of course the internet is not a great help because I also found some sites that claim that wine champagne yeast can ferment beer to dryness. Great, all this “information”. What can you do?

I decided to try it. So I made a simple recipe for pilsner which I fermented with champagne yeast. I made some changes to improve my chances for success and suitable for my situation:

  • I used mash temperatures which started a bit lower so I would get more “simple” sugars.
  • Since I don’t have a refrigerator the fermentation was at room temperature.
  • I stopped chilling wort some time ago and did not see a reason to do this.
  • Since I like the Turkish hops I used them instead of the hops mentioned in the recipe.

The fermentation started like crazy and after 2 days it looked as if it was finished already. I always leave the demijohn in peace for at least 2 weeks and then I measured the gravity. The hydrometer stopped at 1020.

This was not great news. When you look at the table you can see that the residual sugar is 50 g/L. This is obviously very much and it means that only 3,5% alcohol had formed. After bottling this would total to approximately 3,9%.

I decided to continue and see what would happen. After a few weeks I tried the beer and it was very nice. It was not pilsner but much more like wheat beer. An aroma of bananas and a good body. Since the higher sugars don’t taste sweet it actually feels reasonably dry and fresh. The colour is rather light and it is cloudy. Probably because the champagne yeast cannot compete with beer yeasts in terms of flocculation. In a strange way you don’t have the feeling that there is only little alcohol in it. Perhaps the higher sugars also give an alcohol sensation. I should look into that.

Anyway, the recipe is as follows:

Goal (Or I should say: Unexpected result)

  • Amount 15L
  • Efficiency 68%
  • IBU 24
  • EBC 8
  • Starting SG 1047
  • End SG 1020
  • ABV 3,5%

Ingredients

  • 3,5kg Pils malt 3 EBC
  • 11 g Brewers gold from Turkey 9,5% for 75 min
  • 4 g Aroma from Turkey 8 % just after boiling
  • 11 g champagne yeast
  • 2 g CaCl
  • 2 g Citric acid

Mashing

  • 62 C for 45 min, 72 C for 15 min, 78 C for 5 min.

Boiling time

  • 75 min

Remarks

  • No chilling after boiling.

champagne-pils-LevenindeBrouwerij

 

With all the modifications it is not a surprise that the beer did not turn out to be pilsner but some lessons were learned.

Champagne yeast can definitely be used in beer making. It does not create a lot of alcohol but still gives you a full bodied beer. I believe that it would be very suitable for a wheat beer.

Champagne yeast does not ferment all the sugars in beer. If you want a low alcohol beer because your friends cannot handle it, please start your own experiment.

Since this experiment is very drinkable I will start a new experiment very soon. That is what I love about making beer. It may not be what you aim for; It can still be very good!

Cheers

Hans

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Brewing beer at home: The Tsunami airlock

Volledig bericht lezen: Brewing beer at home: The Tsunami airlock

Fermentations can be deceiving. Look at the apple wine I tried to make yesterday. Fermentation would not start at all. I was lucky to get it going at all.

And see what happens next! When the fermentation finally started I was still a little worried because it remained a little slow. For that reason I decided to put it in the 15 liter demijohn and fill it up. Champagne yeast usually does not create a lot of foam so I did not expect problems.

Only a few hours later the weather changed dramatically. From a relaxed sunny day it turned into a hurricane. Fermentation became quite violent and I was afraid that the air lock would be filled with foam and eventually overflow and spill on the table.

A simple solution is to accept the fact that it overflows and place the demijohn in the shower so you can clean it easily. Perhaps your family will not think that this is a brilliant solution.

And they are right. A nicer solution is the Tsunami airlock. It obviously is not a high tech solution but it works good enough. And it is very easy to make.

  • Make two holes in the cap of a bottle.
  • Glue a tube in one of the holes. (The tube should fit in the hole for the air lock in the cap or bung.)
  • The end of the tube should be close to the bottom of the bottle.
  • Add water to the bottle so that the tube is in the water. (For security you can add some citric acid and sulphite to the water.)
  • Connect the tube to the demijohn.

groot-waterslot-LevenindeBrouwerij

 

Obviously it does not stop the foaming but the foam is collected in the bottle.

Please note that in extreme cases the bottle will be filled, so you still need to check it.

Cheers

Hans

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