Codemakers Xmas Beer

How we made our X-X-Xmas moonshine beer

This year, rather than sending Christmas cards, and in the spirit of our new 'Maker' tag, we decided that we should live up to our new name and have a bash at producing some homemade Christmas beer for our wonderful clients, friends and associates.

Inspired by a very successful Derby Beer Festival this summer, we decided to try our hand (guided by an excellent local Artisan Brewer) at producing a light, crisp, traditional British Pale Ale to give as a gift and spread some Christmas Cheer!

We started by cleaning and prepping the brewing area and equipment thoroughly, and I got my first introduction to the kit required for making home brew:

  • 20 litre plastic bucket with a heating element fitted, the Hot Liquor tank
  • Insulated Mash Tun
  • 30 litre plastic bucket with two heating elements fitted, the Boiler
  • A Wort Chiller
  • 30 litre Fermentation bucket
  • Hydrometer
  • Hydrometer Jar
  • Racking cane
  • Tubes
  • More tubes
  • Lots of empty beer bottles!

Now, this was no usual home brew kit that you can buy in the shops – we were starting with raw ingredients; Malted Barley, Hops and Yeast. I felt a bit like a mad scientist, meddling with forces I didn’t understand. Luckily we had Jim the Brewmaster on hand to help us through the process.

We started by heating 20 litres of water to 80°C in the HLT, and measured out the grain, about 5 kilos, whilst that was happening. When combined in the Mash tun, the water and grain needed to be at about 65°C, and then be left to steep – mash – for 75 minutes.

I was amazed how long the initial processes took. After the mash there was 90 mins of boiling and adding different types of hops, at several points according to specific timings. And of course everything had to stay very, very clean.

Once the boiling had finished we cooled the Wort with the Wort Chiller; a coil of copper tubing attached at both ends by lengths of tubing. One end is connected to the cold water tap which runs through the tubing, cooling the wort to 20°C – a cosy temperature for our mutual friend yeast, which makes possible bread, wine, Marmite… and beer.

Here comes the science bit…

An important bit of kit for a home-brewer is the Hydrometer, which is used to determine the A.B.V and whether or not the fermentation is complete. Specifically it is used to measure the gravity (affected by sugar content) and potential alcohol before fermentation and then again after fermentation. By subtracting the first reading from the last and using the equation (O.G. – F.G.) x 131 you arrive at the A.B.V. of your brew.

Easy, right?

Our ‘Xmas Cheer’ was coming in at a very respectable 4.9% A.B.V.

We then poured the cooled wort into the fermentation bucket, creating a lot of splashing to help aerate the wort; like you, yeast needs O2! Now we carefully added the yeast and the whole lot was left to ferment in a dark place for 3 weeks.

Our ‘Brewmaster’ kept a close eye on things and transferred or ‘dropped’ the ale to another container for conditioning and dry hopping, when fresh hops are steeped in the beer for 7 days to add extra aromas. 2 weeks later we were bottling, and this turned out to be a lot less messy than I anticipated. All that was required now was to add some priming sugar to add a bit of fizz, and the lovely yellow crown caps to keep it all in, and we were there.

Now, this all seemed like a good idea at the time, and I think for a first attempt at brewing it has been pretty successful. We had fun making it, doing something a bit different and learning a few things along the way.

If you have been lucky enough to receive a bottle, please note it is ok to drink (at your own risk!), slightly chilled, but watch out for sediment as this is an unfiltered beer. Let the beer settle for an hour in the bottle before opening, and pour slowly. As mentioned, it is alcoholic with an ABV of 4.9% and we think it tastes great! We’ve spun gold from grain for you this Christmas, and we hope you enjoy it!

Cash for your Charity!

We are also offering the chance for you to win a £100 donation to the charity of your choice. Simply tweet a piccy of our triple-xmas beer with the hashtag #xmasbeer and mention us @_codemakers and we will select one lucky person or company at random.

If you haven’t yet received yours, send us your details and we’ll get a bottle over to you asap (subject to availability, it’s going fast!)

Here’s to a very Merry Christmas and an exciting 2015. Burp!