Big Ed's Craft Ale Kits

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

Sheffield Brew Club

Had a fantastic evening last night at the Sheffield Brew Club.  Held at the Bath Hotel and run by a group of passionate and enthusiastic home brewers this club is brilliant.  After brief and friendly introductions we started to sample seemingly endless amounts of fantastic beer and to have seemingly endless amounts of chat about beer and brewing... Wonderful!

I was very inspired by some of the beers we tried.  Some members of the group had used some yeast strains I haven't previously tried, strains that gave very interesting spicy, peppery and even tobacco (or perhaps electric cigarette e-liquid) notes to the beers they had produced.  And those descriptions are all meant as compliments.  Ian, one of the groups founders had produced an awesome roasted tomato saison.  Ed's American Brown Ale was a fantastic hop-mungous beast of a beer and has totally rekindled my interest in dry hopping.  He put 50 grams in 14 litres.  Very inspiring.

Watch this space for recipes inspired by this great evening out... and if you live in Sheffield get yourself along next month.   Check their twitter feed for the dates.

Written by Edward Thatcher — June 11, 2014

Our First Farmers Market

This Sunday, the 23rd of March, between 12pm and 4pm we will be taking our Craft Ale Kits along to the fantastic Netheredge Farmer' Market in Sheffield.  This event is held each quarter in the streets around the old Nether Edge Market Place (postcode: S7 1RU).  The market showcases local food and drink producers and has a varied programme of live entertainment.

We will be displaying and selling our kits, answering questions on brewing and... providing free samples of beers produced using the kits!  We will also be allowing people the opportunity to get up close and personal with the raw ingredients of beer, malt and hops.  Come and smell the difference between Simcoe Hops and East Kent Goldings. Compare Roasted Barley with Crystal Malt. Come along and be enthralled by the sensuous beauty of the beer brewing process!

It really is an excellent event and we hope to see you there. 

Written by Edward Thatcher — March 20, 2014

Keeping Warm

With the recent hikes in energy pricing, keeping warm has been a concern of many people... and good insulation is one obvious way of achieving this.  I've been particularly interested in this subject as I needed to find an economical and convenient, economical and environmentally friendly way of keeping a mash warm, that I can easily supply with my beer kits.

This isn't as easy as you might think.  An extensive search of the internet mainly reveals solutions based on glass fibre - not exactly food safe, or on expanded polystyrene - also not really food safe and one of the least ecologically friendly materials available.  So no go there.  But at last a solution presented itself.

WoolCool manufacture insulating liners made using 100% pure sheep’s wool, hygienically sealed in recyclable food-grade wrap.  These guys sounded the business!  I tried enclosing the pan in just one layer of their liner material and a simple packaging card board box for a one hour mash, and experienced a less than 1 degree drop.  This is awesome performance and exactly what is needed to produce perfect beer!

WoolCool liners will now be provided with every kit and will perform the double function of cushioning the kit during transport and keeping the wort warm during the mash.  Like all the best things in life they have multiple uses.

Testing a WoolCool Liner
Testing a WoolCool Liner

Written by Edward Thatcher — March 20, 2014

How I made up this mornings recipe – or – how fickle my mind is.

I'd been thinking for some time about brewing my Simcoe Smasher recipe again. Firstly because it was an amazing beer and secondly to investigate the effect some changes I have made in my brewing process might have on the beer. I planned to do it this morning. 

However, I'm a seeker after new experiences and my mind just wouldn't let the idea of using a different hop in the recipe go (really I wanted to explore a new single hop beer flavour more than I wanted to test out an old one). But which hop to use? Well, I had got hold of a couple of two very flavourful New Zealand hops was keen to try one of those. But which one?

Pacific Gem is a very high alpha acid hop that produces oaken flavours with a distinct blackberry aroma. From looking around the web it is clear that it is commonly used as a single hop but, also, that it is generally suited to strong Belgian style beers. I wanted a much lighter easy drinking beer, so that was no good. What about NZ Pacifica Gem? This is a mid alpha-acid hop where 'orange marmalade aptly describes the citrus aroma notes achieved through late addition'. And a bit of searching suggested that several people had successfully used it as a single hop in lighter beers. Right, NZ Pacific it is then.

Now what malt to use? The Simcoe Smasher only used Maris Otter. But I had been thinking about adding a little crystal to the recipe for more depth. But now I was thinking about using a different hop, perhaps I could try a different malt. Time to nip upstairs and see what I've got in my box.

A little digging around unearthed some Belgian Special B. This is normally used in strong Belgian Ales and dark ales but, since it is said to give a unique flavor to the finished beer that is often compared to raisins or dried fruit, I couldn't resist pairing it with the orange citrus of NZ Pacifica to (hopefully) create a beer with some rich Christmas cake/pomander type characteristics. And, if I only use a little of the Special B it should add just a little orange colour to the beer matching the look of it to the flavour. And, if I drop the bitterness of the beer the sweeter orange and raisin flavours should shine through.

This morning's special ingredients

So that's it then... a recipe designed. I started off intending to make a very bitter straw coloured pale ale, ended up with mid-bittered orange-citrus amber ale. Can't wait to find out what it tastes like.

Should be great though... I've found it's very hard to screw up brewing, as long as you start with good ingredients.


Written by Edward Thatcher — March 12, 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!


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