Brewdyssey: Small brews for the broad minded

The consuming fire of the abstract realms beyond our own often float into our latent thoughts; pulsing with an eldritch sensibility they can often steer those once deemed as great ones into depths of despair, madness and worse. Sometimes, though, an embrace of the otherwordly can push those gifted with preternatural prowess into further reaches of superiority. Men become hallowed, Kings become Gods…. so it is our two adventurers plunge themselves into the very heart of the great old ones, seeking the greatest of achievements, aiming for the epithet ‘of godly prowess’…. but do they have the strength, the will, the might or shall they plummet from the echelons of potency and land in the greatest recesses of darkness and dismay. We shall see as the quest for Brewtopia continues..


We Dwarves are normally immune to the corrupting effects of insidious otherworldly creatures, but after reading Nyarlath’on’tap article on small batch brewing both Dwalin and I felt the tug of the dark power in our minds and decided to veer off on a small batch tangent for the next part of our Brewdyssey.

Why did we do this?

In truth there are probably lot’s of answers to this question but the one we probably both have in mind first and foremost is to do with mitigating potentially damaging outcomes within our brewing when attempting more adventurous beers.

We know we can brew beer well. This sounds like a boastful statement but looking over this blog, perusing our Twitter and Instagram, you can see time and again we have created delicious beer which not only we enjoy but has garnered solid thumbs up from friends, family, colleagues and brewers (even international ones). The issue is we are brewing styles which we know we love, fairly understandably, and whilst we try to explore interesting new ideas, ingredients and concepts each time we brew we do have to rein our general insanity in a little to ensure we don’t end up with 20 odd litres of liquid filth… there would be nothing as heartbreaking as spending hours planning, purchasing, investigating and brewing (as well as spending money) only to realise you’d completely fucked it all and had nothing to show for it. Particularly if you know you normally get 30 odd pints of yummy beer to show for it.

Small batch opens the gates to more wild experimentation; if we mess up we only lose 12 or so bottles of beer. At this level it’s totally worth experimenting… particularly as it’s possible to brew a small batch at the same time as a more predictable/tried and tested big batch recipe (which is either maximising our efficiency in a very dwarfish way or madly careening away from our established practices all the while cackling like demented dark ones, we may have been affected by Nyarlath’on’tap corrupting influence…)..

SOOOOOOOO…. with this small batch adventure in mind we put our heads together and asked ourselves the glorious question ‘what should we brew?’. We eventually decided our big batch was to be an IPA, not particularly adventurous, but our beer stocks are running dangerously low and, well, we like IPA… we did decide on a little bit of adventurousness with this brew though. As we had a fair amount of hops left over from previous brews we decided it made complete and utter sense to… throw them all in. We should get a massive IBU and still have a massive amount in at the flavour/aroma stage… Blow the Load IPA was born!.. Yes, we are disgusting.

For the small batch however we smashed our heads repeatedly against each other until blood trickled down our faces and landed on the floor; we then stripped naked, writhed on the bloody floor and chanted our mantra “anheuser butcsch can suck our dicks” and BOOM the word ‘Witbier’ appeared in the blood. EPIC!

Ok, that may not have happened but, you know, artistic licence.

Decision made to make a Wit we put together a malt profile that would contain Flaked Wheat and German Pilsner grain, two ingredients we’d never used. We decided we go for a much smaller hop profile than we were used to, in keeping with the traditional style of the wit… we did, however, decided to play with the flavour a little and went for a lemon hit (Fruit to beer? Dwalin insisted, apparently its tradition with this type of beer and who am I to stand in the way of tradition?), omitting coriander because we didn’t want to add coriander.

We ordered all of the grain we needed for the IPA and the wit and realised we have ordered too much grain. We only needed 500g of Wheat and 500g of Pilsener but they both only came in 1 kg bags…

Bif: so…. we have enough for two Wits?

Dwalin: Yeah

Bif: So … why are we only brewing one

Dwalin: erm… I don’t know

Ok, so our first multi-beer Brewday would not only be the first time we tried to use a small batch technique, but it would be the second as well… this is clearly a very bad idea, no?

Our first new problem to overcome would be: How to mash? After some discussion we decided

sparge in a bag

Brew in a bag Manly Mens Brewery style

to try the brew in a bag approach, but, being cheap, we decided to try and not spend any money to get the grain bag (apparently £10 is waaaay too much for brew gear…). Dwalin skills to the rescue and he suggested we scavenge some net curtain. Nets would allow the water to penetrate the grain mass nicely and circulate, none of the vital sugars should get stuck in it and all should be right with the world. Before Brewday I managed to acquire a net curtain from Ms Bifurs mother and cut a decent sized square. This, along with all of the other brew gear, was scrupulously cleaned and sterilised.


Under this lies brew…

Once the big brew was happily Mashing under the pile of duvets and towels that keep it warm we started on the first small brew. Water boiled (This takes no time at all for a small batch) and in goes the grain in the bag. Following the advice of Nyarlath’on’tap we used the oven to hold the mash temperature steady and regularly checked the temperature. Mashing done the small batched was sparged by transferring the liquid from the pan to another vessel and them (using our high-tech Sparge arm, below)wp-1490805801347.jpg having water run through the grain which, while still in the net, was in a colander balanced delicately over a pan. I don’t think this method is as rigorous or as efficient at removing sugar from grain as our usual technique but it is much, much quicker! Sparging done and it was onto the boil. While it was heating up we started the sparging process of the big brew and our small batch was up to a rolling boil before we’d finished the sparge… As we were using the Pilsner grain we knew we had to boil for an hour and a half. During the boil we added a total of 10 grams of Hops (10 whole grams!) and the peel of most of a lemon. Boil done and it was into the sophisticated cooling system (read: Sink full of cold water) to bring it down to the correct temperature; then the mixture was sloshed into a mini fermenter (Read: Water bottle) and aerated further. The final step was to add some Wyeast Belgian Witbier yeast and cap with an airlock. This done it was set aside in a quiet part of the cave to begin the magic of fermentation.

All the while this was happening our big brew was quietly getting on with being boilded, having hop additions, finishing the boil and being cooled.

What’s that? The third brew? Oh yeah…

Our third brew was definitely inspired by the darker powers… Yeah, this is probably us descending into madness

I will start this by saying that while we were brewing Dwalin and I were indulging in a few beers from a variety of sources. When I say a few I mean a lot. ..

Initially everything followed a very similar pattern to the first small brew, similar grains and similar sparging techniques. We decided, however, that we were going to try and push into real experimentation with this beer; we have a fairly tame wit, why not see what a wit inspired by IPA is like? This thought, partnered with a vast over order of Caramalt (which, by the way, is a malt we’ve never used before so even our big batch is a new thing for us- Dwalin) meant we decided to add some more of those thicker, caramel, notes to the beer and, because of this, we would be able to more assertively hop to get a beer that was truly unique…

Then we got to the boil, got a little drunk and that was where stuff got weird… like really fucked up weird.

Normally we are scrupulous in our addition of hops and the like to our brews: carefully measuring and recording the amounts, having pre planned the entire hop profile days (if not weeks) before. Bittering hops are balanced against aromatics and IBUs matched to Malt profile. This time?…

Bifur – What shall we add?

Dwalin – Hops.

Bifur – Yeah, but which ones?

Dwalin – All of them?

This was the extent of our planning. At various times handfuls of hops went into the boil. I genuinely have no idea how much of what was added when. To be honest, that’s not that weird- just a very aggressive process which should result in an aggressive beer…

Bif: Shall we add this lemon peel?

Dwalin: Yeah; should we add this Jerk spice?

Bif: No

Dwalin: Too late

Bif: Shit, it’s not going to work with the mint!!!!!

Dwalin: Balls! Of course! The mint and the Jerk won’t balance!

Yeah- that’s not a joke… we had some lemon peel left from the other small batch, that went in. I have a small mint plant on my windowsill, some of that went in. Dwalin found a pot of Jerk spice, some of that went in.

lots of hopsBy this point we had gone too far to the side of madness (we were genuinely running around Bif’s kitchen grabbing things and laughing insanely. Every so often throwing indeterminate handfuls of hops into the pot in ‘trick shot’ fashion… I’m pretty sure Bif managed an under the leg throw that even Michael Jordan would’ve been proud of- Dwalin)

The boil continued, as did the additions. When the mixture was cooled and vaguely thrown inwp-1490805770382.jpg the direction of the fermentation vessel you can see the resulting hop sludge we were left with…


Aeration of this creation was aided by a maniacal dance by both of us passing the bottle to and fro, accompanied by equally maniacal laughter, yeast was added and the bottle capped. This epic and unique brew was placed next to its much more straight laced brother to ferment and our brewing day was completed.

We have no idea how these three will turn out but stay tuned and I shall update you as and when they can be wrestled into bottles and drunk…tentatively…

One last thing. In our slight (Very?) inebriated state and riding high on a wave of manic adrenaline we headed down to visit our sage Brew Master at the, now renamed, Southey Brewery . Once there we were able to indulge in a further few libations in their new and very swanky tap room. Including one glass of an interesting 11% lager. It tasted of Baked Beans…

Freud Judges Bif and Dwalin for their general inebriation and irresponsible nature… he hopes their beer is tasty though