Ben Dean-Titterrell

Month: August, 2017

1001 Beers: 10. Thornbridge Saint Petersburg

Saint Petersburg

Saint Petersburg Imperial Russian Stout

From: England

Brewed by: Thornbridge Brewery

First brewed: 2005

ABV: 7.4%

Obtained from: Beerhawk

I’d never tried a stout before I picked out this beer. It already felt like it was more than about time I did so. And yet I tasted this beer with some trepidation. As a well established fan of lighter, hoppier, fruitier beers I had the lingering belief that stout may be too adverse a taste for my liking. Yet I tried as best I could to take this beer as it was rather than how I thought it would be.

My first thought remained my overriding thought: “Damn that’s bitter.” The bitterness was deep and strong, it descended into something of a sourness. It was incredibly full bodied and dominated the mouth, almost burning on the tongue. The north of 7% strength left a kick in the back of the throat that stayed for some time.

Bottle Cap

Speaking of the strength of this beer; it may have been a mistake to start off with such a strong stout as my first. Having say for instance an IPA that was 7% as mys first IPA may have warranted a similar reaction. Starting with stronger beers seems like quite a backwards way of doing things; like putting the stabilisers on a bike after learning to ride unaided.

So a mistake on my part possibly. But the strength of this stout doesn’t change the simple and unavoidable fact that I just don’t really like bitterness in beer.

This really wasn’t for me. It’s nothing personal, but a two out of five.

2 out of 5

1001 Beers: 9. BrewDog Punk IPA

Punk IPA

Punk IPA

From: Scottish

Brewed by: BrewDog

First brewed: 2007

ABV: 5.6%

Obtained from: Beerhawk

When you read of BrewDog you read of a brewery that started with the goal of pushing the boundaries of brewing. They were rebels that didn’t care for established order of things. I care little for mythologising the history of beer and its makers, so I’ll take Punk IPA on its merits.

The hoppiness is rich and far-reaching. The mix of hops is strong and forceful, but not so strong as to be off-putting. The flavours are complex and they give you a lot to think about. I definitely found the hop flavours more prominent than the malt ones; its a personal preference but I think this ranks as a positive aspect to the beer.

Bottle Cap

One of the things I noticed first about this IPA was how fizzy it was. It seems like an odd thing to make note of, but the fizz in this beer was more prominent than many others I’ve tried. It gave each sip a real edge to it. This strong fizz worked well with the tropical fruit flavours that I’m also a big fan of in beers generally.

A strong showing here from Punk IPA. There’s a definite re-drinkability. A well deserved four pints.4 out of 5

1001 Beers: 8. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Pale Ale

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

From: United States

Brewed by: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

First Brewed: 1980

ABV: 5.6%

Obtained from: Beerhawk 

This beer, according to my book, has a very important place in the contemporary history of beer. I try my best to ignore any kind of mythologising about the importance of the beers I try for this project, but its hard to avoid how much this beer is talked about in treading new ground in the realm of small, pioneering breweries.

Taking the beer on its own merits, it has an immediate freshness. The hoppy tastes are crisp and light. They sit loosely on the tongue while the fruitiness comes in. The fruity tastes are sweet and rich, they linger in the mouth long after every sip. It feels very summery, it would be best drank outside on a warm, sunny day.

This beer gives you all the vital elements you want in a pale ale. It doesn’t blow you away or change the way you think about beer in one can. But it does give you everything you want from a fairly strong pale ale. It feels like a real classic; something that you can absolutely rely on.

This beer is really good. It’s up there with the beers I’d have first off on a visit to a pub or a bar. A very respectable four out of five.

4 out of 5

1001 Beers: 7. Arrogant Bastard Ale

Arrogant Bastard Ale

Arrogant Bastard Ale

From: United States

Brewed by: Stone Brewing

First Brewed: 1997

ABV: 7.2%

Obtained from: Beerhawk

The first thing I noticed upon drinking this dark coloured ale was how forceful and intense the bitterness was. The writing on the can boasts of how strong and aggressive it is in a very self-aggrandising paragraph; with regards to the bitterness of the hop flavours it certainly tells the truth. The bitterness stays in the mouth and lingers a while after each sip.

Speaking of sips, this is a beer that must be consumed in small increments. Taking large gulps of Arrogant Bastard Ale would be too overpowering to be enjoyable. In such a large can this becomes a beer to drink slowly and thoughtfully, and at over 7% ABV each sip packs a punch. Despite its strength one can is unlikely to get you drunk, but I reached that point where you’re aware for some time that you’ve had a drink.

There are some very dark fruity notes to this beer as well. The fruitiness tastes most like some kind of dark berry. This brings a sweetness that in my opinion is much needed, if the bitterness was left unchecked it really wouldn’t be tolerable. This is a good bitter beer that even a fan of sweeter beers can enjoy.

I wouldn’t rush to get this beer if given the option but its still enjoyable and certainly makes its way into the list of beers I would drink again. All things considered I give this a well earned three pints.

3 out of 5

Ben’s Brew 2: IPApricot


Beer in glass

Homebrew number two was envisaged as a light, fruity IPA. The fruit I finally settled on was apricot because that’s what caught my eye at the time I went shopping. It was also a first attempt at all grain brewing. Having had a reasonable result with malt extract brewing I decided to go a step further and try using real barley malt and hops. Having bought the ingredients and large metal pot (and gone through the necessary but boring process of sterilising everything), I got to work.

Adding malt 1Adding malt 2

First step is the mashing process. This involves heating the barley malt in water to extract the flavours. I put the malt, about two and a half kilos of it, in a large mesh bag that makes it easy to remove the malt grains after the mashing process is finished. It’s a bit like making a really large cup of tea but with barley malt rather than tea leaves. You heat this all up to about seventy degrees for around three quarters of an hour. I’m making about twenty pints (two and a half gallons) at this point, but you put something closer to four gallons of water in the pot as a lot of liquid boils away by the end of the process.

Wort 1

Once we take the grains out of the pot we’re left with a liquid known as the wort. The wort has to be brought up to a boil. Once this has happened it’s time to add the hops. As this is an IPA there’s going to be a lot of hops in it. When you add the hops to the wort makes a difference to the taste of the final beer. From my limited knowledge of brewing, the basic rule of thumb is: add them earlier to make it bitter, add them later to make it sweet. I added mine in small amounts every fifteen minutes over a period of about an hour or so.

HopsBoiling wortFinished wort

Once we’ve reached this point we’ve completed almost all of the brewing process. All that we have to do now is let it cool to room temperature, siphon it into the fermentation vessel, and add yeast. Adding the apricot comes a little later on as apparently adding it too early int he fermentation process doesn’t always make it taste great. The adding of fruit will come in about a week.


Once the wort has been siphoned and the yeast added the beer has to be put in a place where it can stay at a constant temperature, in my case this was in a kitchen cupboard next to the washing machine. Next thing to do is what takes up most of your time when brewing beer: waiting. After waiting a week I went out and bought ten apricots, sliced them, put them in two muslin bags, and put them in the fermentation vessel.

(At the time I thought slicing them would be enough but after checking the beer a couple of weeks later I changed my mind and decided they needed mashing up so I just picked up the muslin bags and squeezed them.)

Adding apricotApricot in brew

This is the point where things really start to go a bit wrong. After a while more waiting…


…and waiting…


…and waiting…


…and visiting the Houses of Parliament…

…I thought it was ready!

Then I remembered about adding priming sugar, or brewing sugar, or whatever its called. That I didn’t know the name of the thing I knew I forgot about speaks volumes about how badly things go from here. After some hasty reading of what the sugar is and does and when it needs to be added I just put some dextrose sugar that I’d bought into the brew. The sugar is meant to carbonate your beer, but I know that my adding of sugar was wrong because – spoiler alert – its flat as hell. I’m still not sure what I did wrong and what I was meant to do instead but – another spoiler alert – I’m not going to brew again until I actually learn a bit more about the science of brewing.

So I waited another week or so and decided that it was time to bottle the beer up. Things only go downhill from here. It was an odd colour but at this point I was trying to remain optimistic – unlike one friend who said it looked like yogurt. As I later found out, this weird colour was sediment, lots and lots of sediment. There was near a centimeter of it at the bottom of each bottle once I left them to sit for a while.

Bottled beer

The next few steps happened over a couple of weeks but I’ll just run through them nice and quickly.

  • I decided to buy a water filter to get rid of the sediment, it took me ages to find a UK supplier of water filters, when it arrived I realised I only had one piece of PVC tubing.
  • I cut the tubing in half before realising the now two pieces were so short they were unworkable, the tubing was too narrow to fit the in and out fittings on the filter, I made a lot of mess and lost a couple of pints of beer to spillages.
  • I bought new tubing that would fit, the new tubing did fit but wouldn’t stay on the fitting, I couldn’t be bothered to buy new fittings that would solve the problem, I removed the screw top lid of the filter and tried filtering the beer by placing the ends of the tubing in the filter, I caused a tremendous mess and lost half the beer to spillages.
  • I realised the filtering process hadn’t worked and there was still sediment in the beer, I passed caring and just decided it was finished.

So, after all the stress and irritation was over it was time to give my second homebrew a taste. My apricot IPA is – in two words – not great. It’s so incredibly flat that it’s hard to appreciate anything else about it. It is fairly hoppy and the malt flavour is nicely balanced. The apricot is there in the flavour, but preferably it would be a lot more noticable. Its hard to tell from pictures but the colour has turned out alright. In terms of strength it doesn’t pack much of a punch. Using my new hydrometer I got a reading of 4.07% ABV. This beer certainly doesn’t taste disgusting by any means. But, it’s just so flat; it’s basically impossible to get past that fact.

I’ve tried to brute force my way through my ignorance of the brewing process, and that isn’t really working. So I’m going to take a break from homebrewing until I figure out what on earth I’m doing. Until then, I’m off for a beer. Cheers.