Our last batch of Real Ale was done in the Maldives, using our watermaker water. Unfortunately, the watermaker wasn't working correctly - the water it was producing was too salty - and we didn't discover the problem until after I'd made that batch. So I ended up producing an "Isotonic sports beer" with lots of electrolytes (salt) to replace those sweated out of the body.
The most work is cleaning the bottles
But more to the point, I didn't have any of the Brew Enhancer #1 (a dextrose and maltodextrin mix) left, so I used Brew Enhancer #2, which also contains light dry malt, for that previous batch. I believe that this, rather than the salty water, produced a batch of beer that was OK, but a bit maltyer than we like. The problem was that once we started sampling the Australian Pale Ale that we brewed in the Seychelles, we much preferred it to the malty Real Ale. So we decided to toss out the old Real Ale (life is too short for poor beer) and make another batch.
Since I still have several Real Ale kits, I thought I'd try another one. This is, perhaps, a little pig-headed of me, as I have yet to produce a good batch of Real Ale, but I am ever the optimist. (Pessimists may be correct more often than optimists, but optimists have more fun!) So the decision was made to try (yet another) batch of Coopers Real Ale.
Then came the decisions of what water and what sugar to use. My last batch of Australian Pale Ale used Seychelles tap water and it seems to have turned out pretty well, despite the chlorine that we can smell in the water at times. But it's been raining pretty hard for the last few days and this sometimes introduces significant sediment into the water supplies of small islands. Also, we've recently fixed our watermaker (we think) and we have a whole 400 liter tank of beautifully pure Maldives rainwater (only 40 parts/million total dissolved salts). So we decided to use that rainwater instead of the domestic tap-water.
As for sugar, I still don't have any of the recommended dextrose and maltodextrin blend available. But several home-brewers I know turn out very presentable brews using just standard table sugar. I've yet to try this, but circumstances seem to be pushing in that direction, so that's what we decided to use.
Sunday, 2 September 2007 - Preparation:
We'd collected quite a bit of rainwater lately but I didn't really want to use it for the beer. We're anchored more or less directly downwind of the main power-station for the island, and we often smell its exhaust. But the rainwater should be fine for cleaning purposes, so I could do all my preparation on board. Although everything was already pretty clean, I gave it another cleaning with brewers detergent and a thorough rinsing. Then I mixed up a sterilizing solution of sodium metabisulfite and soaked everything in that for about 20 minutes before again rinsing everything thoroughly.
Sunday, 2 September 2007 - Coopers Real Ale:
Having decided to go with standard table sugar (sucrose) I grabbed a 1kg bag, poured it into the carboy, added several liters of water, and started stirring in order to dissolve the sugar, which was fairly granular and didn't dissolve nearly as quickly as my fine brewers sugars. I poured in the Real Ale brew-kit, spooned out as much as I could, and dissolved what was left in the bottom of the can in a bit of hot water, pouring that into the carboy as well.
It was only as I was adding the water and stirring up the wort that I remembered that sucrose is "stronger" than brewers sugar, and not as much is needed. Since I'd already put in a full kilo of sugar, the only thing I could do was to add a bit more water. So although the brew-kits are designed to make 23 liters (6 US gallons, or the equivalent of 2.5 cases of beer) I decided to boost this batch up to 25 liters. Our friends on Papagena regularly boost their brews up to 30 or even 40 liters, but I didn't want to take too large a new step. Still, the initial specific gravity was fairly low at only 1.035.
Screwed the cap on tightly, added the water-trap, put the carboy in as cool a corner of the cockpit as I could, and waited for the magic to start...
Monday, 3 September 2007 - Fermenting:
Fermentation was a bit slow to get going, really only starting a full day after the wort was put together. It's relatively cool out (about 82°F or 28°C) so that could be part of it, but I suspect that my yeast is showing it's age. These brew-kits were bought in Darwin, over a year ago. They're stored in relatively cool parts of the boat (behind the salon cushions, where they get no direct sunlight) but ambient temperatures are still in the 80's (upper 20s C). I'm told that the yeast should really have been kept in the fridge if it's to be kept over a year. We're still well within the "use-by" date printed on the brew-kits, but I may have to resort to buying brewers yeast when I can find it (probably not until South Africa).
Still, once it got going it seemed to progress happily. Extending the fermentation cycle seems to produce better beer, so I keep it as cool as I can. I always move it to the shady side of the cockpit, and leave it out in the breeze whenever I can. This batch has foamed up more than most, but I don't know if that's good or bad.
Fermentation lasted 3.5 days once it got started, which is actually pretty good down here. Daytime temperatures are typically 82°F or 28°C, which is pretty warm for brewing beer.
The Real Ale is actually a dark amber in color
Sunday, 9 September 2007 - Bottling:
Cleaning the bottles was fairly routine - checked them by smell and rinsed them once, then made a strong sodium metabisulfite solution and poured it from one bottle to the next, letting it sit for a few minutes. Then the bottles were all rinsed thoroughly to remove all traces of foreign matter.
The final specific gravity was very low, at 1.002. Not sure why this happened, but perhaps it's an artifact of not having any maltodextrin in my initial sugar mix. Maltodextrin adds "mouth-feel" according to my brew-master brother, but it isn't really metabolized into alcohol by the yeast. Also, my initial specific gravity was low (1035) probably because I added too much water. So the sugar/alcohol of this batch may be a bit whacked. But going through the formula, I expect a net alcoholic content of about:
((1035-1002)/7.46) + .5 or about 4.9%, which is actually exactly average for one of my recent beers.
As we did with our last batch of Australian Pale Ale (which has turned out to be a delightful brew) we primed with table sugar. This will be my first all-table-sugar batch. The Australian Pale Ale seems to be well carbonated, so we just dosed with the standard amount for the 1.25 liter bottles we used.
Filling the bottles was a bit interesting, as this beer didn't really foam at all. This allowed me to fill all the bottles right to the very top, leaving essentially no air gap. I'm hoping this forces more of the CO2 (produced by the yeasties) into the beer as carbonation. We Shall See...
This batch started out as 25 liters, and we harvested 18 1.25 liter bottles. This multiplies out to 22.5 liters, but I suspect that I got a bit more than that, as I filled the bottles fuller than the oiginal soda companies did. These were stored under the cabin sole in the spare stateroom to keep as cool as possible while they age.
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