Based on the edge of Hop country between London and Kent, I'm tending to brew seasonally from what grows in my own garden or can be foraged from the local meadows and country side.

Slow cooker spent grain beer bread

Spent grain beer breadThis recipe is based on the Herbed Crock Pot Bread Recipe by Tiffany and Alison Holsts “beer braid”. I found the original herb bread recipe too sweet and as a home brewer I’m always after more ways to use up spent grain. The recipe and method really isn’t that different, though I don’t have a dough hook so knead it by hand.

The flavour will obviously vary a lot depending on the beer and grains you use, but works well with dark beers and associated grains. As you’re using spent grain, this will be a lot softer than a traditional malted loaf.


  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup of beer (warm) – what ever you have to hand
  • 1 packet quick bread yeast
  • 1 cup of spent grain
  • 2½ cups strong bed flour


Put the first 5 ingredients into a warm bowl, mix thoroughly, cover and ignore for about 10 minutes.

Line your slow cooker with parchment paper, try to get this smooth as the bread may expand until it presses into the paper. Depending on the size of loaf and the size and shape of your slow cooker.

Add the flour and spent grain, and stir until you have a firm dough. You made need more flour or beer depending on how wet your spent grain is. once you have a firm dough turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes ( or until the dough springs back when pressed gently). If you have a dough hook, do whatever I don’t have one so don’t know but it’s probably much the same.

Shape the dough into a suitable shape for your slow cooker and put it in ( your slow cooker should be cold at this point). Put the lid on your slow cooker and turn it onto high, go and do something else for an hour. Check to see if it needs longer by testing with a skewer, I find with my crock pot it tends to need about 1½ hours. If it seems ready check that the bottom has browned. This produces a soft load with a pale crust, if you want a bit more of a crust put it into a hot oven for a few minutes.

Loft space oast house

There are many articles on the internet about how to dry your own hops, or build a tiny oast house and I’m sure they’re all very good. However being in the UK I don’t really have the space for even more brew kit, and my chest freezer is full of vacuum packed hops from last year. Which left me with a problem of what to do with this years, it was either give them away, throw them away ( never! ) or experiment with drying them. Obviously drying them was the way to go, but how to do so without building/buying yet more equipment and without sacrificing the sitting room or such for a week whilst hops dried. The obvious and easy answer was to second the loft, which was already full of stuff anyway. It already had good airflow, which is to say it’s drafty, so that’s a plus and it’s dry so that’s also good. But no flat surfaces or much space and it’s not exactly warm so that’s a problem.

These minor details were not however insurmountable issues. A clean dust sheet stretched out between the rafters provided somewhere to put the hops and to help them dry a small electric heater and a dehumidifier beneath the dust sheet did the job.

Hops in the attic

Hops in the attic

As this was an experiment and I was being cautious I kept the heater at a fairly low-level and turned it off when I went to sleep or went out – as it’s not worth burning my house down for a few hops. I think I was being over-cautious and could have left it running at a higher setting without much danger. I had 6kg of Northdown and 4kg of Fuggles to dry, I did them as separate batches to avoid mixing and as I only had a single sheet up and due to weather I had to harvest them a few days apart anyway. Next year I might use multiple sheets to speed up the process, depending on the spacing of harvesting. To make sure they dried evenly I tried to turn the hops a few times a day with an old tennis racket I had lying around in the loft, this actually worked really rather well. After a couple of days drying that had become 1.4kg of Northdown and 0.6Kg of Fuggles, which when vacuum packed don’t take up too much room.
Dried hops
Two months later and no sign of rot or decay so I think I’m probably safe to say that the drying worked, though I’ve yet to brew with them which will be the real test. Assuming that they brew OK then I’ll certainly be taking this approach with the majority of my hops again next year. Though i will still keep a certain amount in the freezer for green hop brewing.

So with no construction involved and only using stuff already lying around the house it seems I can quite happily dry 10Kg or more of hops ready to be vacuum packed and stored. Really the only downside is everything that was under the dust sheet has been covered with a fine coating of lupulin and I’ll be finding stray bits of hop in the loft for years to come. Not really too much of a price to pay.

Negroni Muffins

Negroni Muffins
Whilst not strictly brewing or in fact brewing by any stretch of the imagination these are rather nice.

  • 150ml Negroni
  • 1/4 cup dried orange peel
  • 2 large beaten eggs
  • 50g melted butter
  • Orange juice
  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Put the dried peel in the Negroni and leave for a bit to soften and absorb the Negroni.
Add orange juice to the Negroni until you have a cup of liquid.
Mix all of the wet ingredients thoroughly.
Blend dry flour and sugar.
Combine wet ingredients and dry ingredients quickly.
Put into a muffin tin and cook for about 10 – 12 minutes at 200 C in a fan heated oven.

If you need other units – you have the internet.

Homebrew year by numbers 2015

It’s the new year so time to reflect on the year gone by, looking at the numbers I have to admit I have a brewing problem. According to my notebooks there were 40 brew days in 2015.
This resulted in:
bottling 162.5 gallons of beer, 15 gallons of wine and 5 gallons of mead.
The berries, leaves, flowers and grapes for the wines were all either from the garden or foraged for locally.
The beer used approximately 5.7 kg of hops all harvested from my back garden.

Total spend on brewing equipment, malts and yeasts including a shiny new GrainFather came to about £1,200. Which means for all of the booze I was paying about £6.60 a gallon or 82p a pint, call it 90p if you include electric and such. Which as I don’t drink neither wine nor mead by the pint isn’t bad. Though of course if I don’t include the GrainFather as that should last many years (lets say 5 and so just include a fifth of the price) then I only spent £720, lets call it £800 for electric and other forgotten costs, that makes it just £4.30 a gallon or 55p a pint (about half the price of the cheapest ale in Tesco’s) – I can live with that.

Now to make that cost even nicer, the calculated duty I would have paid on that if I’d bought it came to £1,145. If I include the VAT payable on that duty it comes to £1,374 – which is £174 more than I spent or if you include electric and other random costs by brewing costs probably came out the same as I saved from the tax avoidance alone. Or If we use the lower figure calculated from spreading the cost of the grain father over a few years then my savings from tax avoidance alone were £574 which rather nicely is about what I spent on building my home bar.

Double Tap Bar

The Double Tap Bar

All told I’d call that a successful year.

Black Crow Lager

A Disreputable recipe – this is something akin to a black lager style beer using English hops (because that’s what grows in my garden). This is a basic black lager – somewhat alone the lines of Asahi black taste wise. The recipe is heavily based upon the Briess Schwarzbier recipe.

For 1 Gallon:
14 oz Czech Pilsner Malt
13 oz Lager Malt
1.5 oz black malt
1 oz chocolate malt
0.8 oz Roast barley
0.2 oz Early bird – main boil
0.2 oz Early bird – last 30 minutes
0.2 oz Early bird – last 10 minutes
Saf-lager S23 yeast

O.G.: 1.048
F.G.: 1.006

Being lazy I did my normal 72°c mash for 2 hours, then sparged around 80°, fermented at a bit below 18° (The house is kept at 18°c I put the bucket in the porch in winter).