Big Ed's Craft Ale Kits

New recipes with new hops!

I have just added two new recipes to the store!

Written by Edward Thatcher — November 16, 2017

'Big Ed' sets up commercial nano-brewery

I worked with local food events and trading cooperative, Regather, to set up Sheffield newest and smallest commercial brewery.  We specialise in brewing the best Craft Ale, with nowt taken out (just like beer made in a Big Ed's kit).

Regather's beer is:

  • Unfined and unfiltered craft ale,
  • Uses, where possible, fresh local ingredients.
  • Suitable for vegans

Regather Brewery

Opportunities

Regather have opportunities to:

  • Volunteer in the brewery. Learn to brew as you help create delicious beer. 
  • Take a formal course in brewing - focussed either on home brewing or commercial nano-brewing.
  • Commission a special beer, brewed to your personal requirements, for a special occasion (stag do, wedding, party, etc).  You can even arrange to come and help brew it.
 
To find out more email: info@regather.net
 

Written by Edward Thatcher — June 14, 2016

Fantastic New Beer Recipe

Jim's Whitey 5.2% - £15  

A fantastic American style Wheat Beer hopped with Manderina Bavaria hops. The special Munich yeast imparts some classic wheat beer funk whilst the hops the hops impart pineapple, lemon and citrus flavours with a resinous, herbal finish. Delicious.

Written by Edward Thatcher — April 04, 2016

New Products & Site Organisation

The Simoce Masher ingredient pack has now been replaced by the Mosaic Thump ingredient pack to take advantage of this newly available incredible hop. Still at the great price of £12.

Other new packs include:

  • Craft Melb-A-le 5.5% - £15: A delicious fruity wheat-beer. Nuff said!
  • Smoked Cherry Ale 6.4% - £15: A strong complex red wheat beer with brandy-like almost medicinal qualities. Not for the faint hearted
  • Plum Porter 6% - £17: A rich, unctuous, Robust Porter. Belgian Special B malt adds a delicious raisin like sweetness whilst New Zealand Rakau hops provide a balancing bitterness and the aroma and flavour of fresh orchard fruits. Add some plums to the boiled wort for extra fruitiness

It is now possible to buy the equipment without the ingredients... and, indeed, to buy a full kit you need to buy both separately.  

More info, ingredient packs and a newsletter... coming soon.

Written by Edward Thatcher — July 30, 2015

Big Ed at Sheffield Brewery Company's Beer Club - 27th March

On Friday the 27th of March I will be giving a short presentation of my kits, my thoughts on recipe formation and other beery ramblings at the beautiful Sheffield Brewery Company Tap Room, Percy Street, Sheffield, S3 8BT as part of their Beer Club’s HOME-BREWERS SPECIAL PRESENTATION.  I will also be bringing along some recent eclectic brews for people to taste.

There will be music from the Sevenths, four loveable oddballs who just happen to know how to play instruments. The Sevenths are aged between 22 and 50 and have been going for seven years. Being called the Sevenths and having been in existence for seven years it now seems the right time for them to record their first studio album. They have had two recent singles and played a few festivals as well as the soundtrack to a forthcoming film. These promise to rock the brewery.  Watch them here first before they hit the big time!!!

There will also be a presentation by Sheffield Brewery Company's very own Dr Tim Stillman, head brewer, and home-brewer for almost 40 years!!

Whilst there is normally a membership charge to join the beer club, Tim is prepared to waive this for the evening for members of the Sheffield Brew Club and for friends and clients of Big Ed’s Craft Ale kits.  So get down there for a fantastic evening of beer, music and chat!  If you want to pick up any equipment or ingredient packs from me at the event, let me know and I will bring them along.

Presentations will kick off from 7pm.  Anyone interested in the delights of home-brewing should not miss this evening!

For more information about Sheffield Brewery Company's monthly Beer Club have a look here: http://www.sheffieldbrewery.com/beer-club.php

Written by Edward Thatcher — March 19, 2015

Time-lapse video of the brewing process

Brewing with our kits is quick and easy.  Watch this video to find out just how quick and easy it is.
This video was filmed for us by a first time brewer as a thank you for selling him a kit.
Filmed over approximately four hours... but check out how much of that time is spent chatting on the phone and drinking cups of tea. 

Written by Edward Thatcher — November 07, 2014

A Day at Hartingtons Brew School

Chris Horne, co-proprietor of Hartingtons of Bakewell, was kind enough to invite me to attend one of his recent Brew School’s courses. The course is led by Paul Taylor, an experienced home brewer who heads up the laboratory at Murphy & Sons, brewery supplier, in Nottingham.

The day is primarily focussed on hobby brewing at home rather than brewing on a commercial scale. That said, we started the day by investigating a general brewing process, relevant to brewing at any scale. We looked at and were encouraged to smell and taste a variety of brewing ingredients. We discussed how to modify your tap water to suit brewing different styles of beer. This was a truly fascinating part of the day for me, as I know relatively little about the subject, whereas Paul is a real expert. I’ve since started adding a little Gypsum to some of my Pale Ales, which seems to increase the acidity and improve the hop flavour and aroma. Interesting stuff!

Next we looked at the equipment used in a traditional home brew set up, which led us onto putting a mash on. A couple of volunteers helped Paul add malt and water to the mash tun and the room started to smell a little like a brewery. Lovely.

During the mash hour we had a break for a coffee and some fantastic home cooked cakes and biscuits. We were also invited to look around at various bits of equipment, grains, hops, etc.

After the break we lautered and sparged the grains and put the wort on to boil before adding the bittering hops.

At around 1pm we broke for a delicious lunch of cheese, cold meats, salads and home-made bread. Lunch gave us students a chance to chat to each other. It was interesting to find out the different motivations people had for attending. Many of the students had never brewed before and just wanted to find out if it was for them. Others were experienced brewers there to pick up tips. Others, still, saw the course as the first step towards opening a brewery.

After lunch we finished off boiling the wort and learnt about late hop additions and their effect on flavour and aroma. We then started cooling the wort before taking a short break.

During this break we all took part in beer tasting exercise. The exercise was made especially interesting for me as Paul had managed to find an American red lager that tasted more like traditional red ale than any lager I have ever tried. Very curious!

After the tasting we added the yeast to the freshly cooled wort. Then we all had a go at bottling the beer that had been brewed by the previous courses participants. This meant that everyone was able to take home a bottle of beer that they had just bottled themselves and that had been brewed to the same recipe using the same process as the brew they had just undertaken. Very nice!

At all times throughout the day Paul was open to questions and was knowledgeable and friendly. All in all, this course provides an excellent introduction to traditional home brewing.

If you are interested in learning about more commercial brewing Hartingtons run another course on setting up a micro-brewery.

For more info visit: http://www.hartingtons.com/brew-school/ or email: info@hartingtons.com .

Written by Edward Thatcher — October 18, 2014

The Three C's Competition

Visit our Facebook page to take part in this fantastic competition.


There you will find this picture of some Cascade Hops. These hops are supplied with some of our kits (both the Chocolate Fountain and the Yankee PA contain Cascade hops, see www.craftalekits.com/pages/the_beers for more info). On opening a bag of these American hops you are hit by a delicious flowery and spicy, citrus-like aroma with a distinct grapefruit characteristic.
Cascade hops are part of a trio of hops, known as the Three Cs, that have been instrumental in American Craft Brewing. Between them these hops can deliver pungent citrus qualities, high bittering potential and earthy, spicy, herbal flavours - it can be argued that their development and use was largely responsible for redefining pale ales and IPAs.

The prize for this competition is £15 off your next purchase at www.craftalekits.com. This could buy you an ingredient pack, some PET bottles or a variety of accessories.

To enter this competition you simply need to like this post and put your answer to the following question in the comments box:

Q: What are the names of the two other hop varieties that, along with Cascade, make up the Three Cs?

Also, please tag a friend who may be interested in taking part in the competition.

The winners name will be chosen at random from the list of entrants with the correct answers – using a number generated at www.random.org.

Only one entry per person. People with multiple entries will be disqualified.

Closing date for entries is: 20th September 2014. The winner will be announced here on the 23rd September 2014.

NB: This competition is in no way sponsored by, administered by, endorsed by or associated with Facebook.

Written by Edward Thatcher — September 11, 2014

Brewing for Hazy Lazy Summer Days

Thank Dog the Indian Summer is Here...

... 'cos I started thinking about writing this column several months ago, but took so long to finish it that the traditional summer months have been and gone.

Traditionally most brewing in the UK has taken place in the winter.  There are a number of reasons for this, the two main ones being that it is much easier to avoid contamination in cold weather (there are less bugs about) and fermenting at a colder temperature causes yeasts to produce the cleaner crisper flavours generally preferred by British beer drinkers.  These two reasons are actually closely linked, since one form of contamination common in the summer is wild yeast which can lend beer tart, sweet and sour, funky flavours not at all common in British ales.

Even when brewing with a pure uncontaminated cultured yeast, warm fermentation conditions can produce fruity, banana and clove-like flavours from the esters and phenols created.  Such flavours can mask the hop and subtle malt characters highly prized in traditional British beers.

So how can we produce great beer in the summer?  One solution is to ferment in temperature controlled vessels and this is what most commercial breweries do.  An easier and, I feel, more satisfying approach for the home-brewer is to produce beers that are immune to or actually benefit from warmer fermentation temperatures.

The rich complex flavour profile of porters and stouts can easily deal with a moderate fruity contribution from esters and phenols, and may even be improved and balanced by them.  When brewing this type of beer in the summer it would be fine to use the same yeast with which you would normally brew the beer but sensible to brew in the coolest part of your house.  That said, don’t worry about temperature too much – your beer will turn out fine.  I have had great success brewing the Sheffield Stout Porter in the hottest part of the British summer.  Stouts and porters improve with time in the bottle, so brew them now for drinking in the autumn and winter.

Many Belgian, German and other continental styles, usually brewed with wheat or Pilsner malts, actually require high fermentation temperatures to achieve their classic flavours.  If you like the funky fruity citrus and banana flavours associated with wheat beers like Hoegaarden and Franziskaner you’ll like beers produced in this way.  These beers are brewed using special yeasts that impart beautiful flavours when fermenting up to and sometimes beyond 30˚C.  My current favourite, and the yeast supplied in our kits, is Neale Brewing Supplies’ Saison Yeast.  Try the Pacific Foam or Saison of Satan both of which use this yeast.

Amazingly, some continental beers actually depend on ‘contamination’ by wild yeast for their classic flavour.  These Lambic beers are very distinctive with dry, vinous, and cidery notes.  They usually have a sour aftertaste.  This summer, I brewed a beer with wild Sheffield yeast by placing a sheet of muslin over the top of an open fermenting-vessel full of wort and leaving it under the apple trees in my back garden.  Whilst it certainly worked (it produced a very alcoholic beer) it tasted pretty awful!  More experiments are required! If you’re keen trying this you can always split a batch.  Ferment half with the supplied yeast and leave half in the pan in the garden under a layer of muslin.  Just remember to bottle each half of the brew with only half the bottling sugar – or else you will be making some nasty bottle bombs!

If the promised Indian Summer doesn’t arrive you can still brew delicious summer beers out of season. Ideally find somewhere where the temperature is a steady 25?C or there about, an airing cupboard for instance, and brew in there.  If you haven’t got such a warm place in your house ferment in the warmest place you have and insulate the tub inside the wool blankets and cardboard box supplied with the kit.  Fermentation is an exothermic process so if you insulate the tub it will heat itself up!  Either way you should produce delicious summer beer.

The tart flavour of many summer ales can be varied and potentially improved by the addition of fruit.  Often the sugars in the fruit will fully ferment out leaving an even more tart and wine like beer with only subtle hints of the fruit you added.  The best way to achieve this using my kits is to bring around 300g or two cups of your fruit of choice to a simmer in 100ml of water or vodka.  Simmer this for 5 mins then cool for 20 mins or so before adding it with your final hop addition (at the end of step 3).  Virtually any soft fruit is suitable.  I have successfully used raspberry, strawberry, peach and cherry.   You can even use some vegetables - rhubarb makes a fantastic addition to a Saison.

If you prefer your fruit beers to be sweet, this can be achieved in one of two ways.  You can reduce the quantity of bittering hops to allow some additional sweetness to come through from the malt.  Alternatively, you can add non-fermentable sugars such as lactose when you bottle the beer. The advantage of adding lactose when you bottle is you can adjust the quantity to taste - but make sure you do this before adding your fermentable bottling sugar!

One great advantage of summer ales is they tend to condition very quickly.  Generally they are ready to drink after only one week in the bottle.  So you may still be able to turn out a delicious summer beer before Autumn gets here... and if not, well, your beer will be a lovely reminder of hot lazy summer days.

Written by Edward Thatcher — September 09, 2014

Today in the Kitchen - Smokestack Darkening

One of my best customers, inspired by Brew Dog's fantastic Paradox Smokehead suggested I develop a recipe for a strong stout oaked with whisky barrel chips.  The Cooper Workshop helpfully provided some Bourbon barrel chips that had been used in the production of Speyside whisky.  Their aroma, on opening the bag, was fantastic - deliciously rich and mildly smoky.  I was immediately inspired to use them in a brew based on my Sheffield Stout Porter.  But to achieve a result similar to the Smokehead Paradox I’d need to up both the smokiness and the strength of its formula.

My solution was to add smoked malt (supplied by Copper Kettle) and some dark Belgian Candi Sugar (from the Malt Miller) into the recipe.  The smoked malt should accentuate the mild smokiness of the barrel chips, whilst the Candi Sugar will up the ABV and hopefully add a slight Bonfire Toffee edge to the finished beer.  I used Chinook hops for bittering and Willamette hops to add a little peppery spice to the aroma and flavour.

I have just finished boiling the wort and it smells delicious - rich and smoky.  Tomorrow, after it has cooled, I will pitch the yeast. Then after four or five days, when initial fermentation has slowed, I’ll steep a few hundred grams of the barrel chips in a few hundred ml of 70˚C whisky and once they have cooled add them to the fermenter. Suffice to say, I'm very excited about how this beer is going to turn out.

I’m pretty sure a version of this will be making an appearance in our next batch of new recipes – but if you’re desperate to try and you can’t wait please contact me and I will endeavour to put together a bespoke ingredient pack.  The cost will be around £25.

And the name... well, I was listening to Muddy Waters as I was brewing this smoky beer but Smokestack Lightening seemed misleading for such a dark beer.

Written by Edward Thatcher — September 06, 2014

Equipment + Ingredients from £105 (total cost)

Please ensure you buy one set of equipment and at least one ingredient pack to make up a complete kit!

News

New recipes with new hops!

I have just added two new recipes to the store! The 'Indigenous Yankee PA' is a re-working of our classic Yankee PA recipe. It is still a delicious well hopped American IPA with rich...

'Big Ed' sets up commercial nano-brewery

I worked with local food events and trading cooperative, Regather, to set up Sheffield newest and smallest commercial brewery.  We specialise in brewing the best Craft Ale, with nowt taken out (just...

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