It’s brewing day! Finally, after spending far too long disinfecting all my kit and scraping the chemically burned skin from my hands, I’m ready to actually start making some beer.
What’s in a name?
There have been more than a few raised eyebrows at this beer’s name – Two Badgers in a Hammock. It’s hardly the wackiest name for a beer, though, and I think there’s something warm and cosy about drinking something with a unique and personal name. It comes from some drunken chat my dad’s friends were having as we all walked back from the pub after a rugby match:
“Would you look at that arse! Look at it, it’s like two ferrets in a hanky!”
“What about that one? Two badgers in a hammock.”
Only two ingredients?
Two Badgers uses Muntons Premium Best Bitter as the malt, topped up with refined brewing sugar. The water I’ve used is straight from the tap – I’ve heard claims that hard tap water can affect the taste of the beer, but everything seemed to taste fine in the last brew.
Present, but not in the picture above, was the little packet of yeast that will be doing all of the actual work. While I was running around boiling the kettle and stirring everything up, my yeast was relaxing in a weirdly patriotic mug enjoying its appetiser of demerera sugar.
What’s all that boiling and stirring nonsense?
The first step was to get the thick, syrupy malt sugar out of the can and into my fermenting barrel. It’s too thick to get it out cold, so it got to enjoy a little bath first. Once it was warm and gloopy I poured the syrup and mixed it with the sugar and around three litres of boiling water.
I say “around”. The last time I made beer I actually measured our the boiling water. My measuring beaker doesn’t have a handle, so I scalded my fingers every bloody time every-so-carefully poured the hot water into the fermenting bucket. Does the precise amount of boiling water at this stage even matter? No. No it doesn’t.
Proceeding with 100% fewer injuries this time, I made up the mixture to 20 litres with cold water and mixed it all up. This wasn’t quite as much water as I needed, but it’s hard enough getting down the rickety stairs to my basement already, without a brimming bucket of beer to worry about. Once I was all set up downstairs I could top up the mixture using the (fortunately cool) measuring beaker.
Is it really that simple?
Pretty much. All I had to do now was pour in the (now healthily frothing) yeast mixture, stir everything together, and let it sit for a few days. Obviously I couldn’t bear to make things that simple for myself, however, so there’s one more step: testing.
A hydrometer is a handy piece of kit that measures something called “specific gravity” – how dense a liquid is relative to pure water. It looks a bit like a buoy but with more lines on. That, plus a handy table, tells me that my proto-beer is around 1.034 times as dense as water. So Two Badgers in a Hammock could be up to 4.5% alcohol – pretty similar to a lot of my favourite professionally brewed beers, so hopefully I’ll be in for a treat.