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Almigo brews a beer - Beer #2 The replicated/midnight pirate

It's been a while between (home)brews. After the thrilling success of the Citra Warrior IPA, this time I'm turning my attention to replicating a beer that went down an absolute storm when I tucked into it the first time - The Pirate Life Pale Ale.

But would my replicated pirate plunder proudly on the seven (beer) seas or sink before it even got out of the docks to cause mayhem up and down the coast? Let's find out!

The recipe

There's a few recipes for replicating a good ole pirate and the one I'm using hails from Small Batch Brewing, the crew behind the delicious IPA I made originally. So for this all grain brew we're using:

1.102 kg of Traditional Ale Pale Malt (Joe White)
84.9 grams  of Crystal Medium (Simpsons)
67.6 grams of Caraamber (Weyermann)
9.7 grams of Mosaic hops
9.4 grams of Cascade hops
US-05 Yeast

Sourcing the ingredients

Happily everything including the hops and yeast were available online through Cheeky Peak Brewery although the small amounts of the Crystal Medium and Caraamber had a confused Ian from the brewery double checking via the phone that I had my sizes right (appreciate the check there Ian!). After a quick 'It's for a small batch' explaination he happily milled them up in a big bag, popped everything in the post and before you know it, it was Christmas all over at my house.

Not counting postage, you're looking at roughly 18 or so bucks for what you need here with plenty of hop pellets left over for other brews. Considering a Pirate Life can costs around $6 around these parts and I'm planning on brewing 12-14 replicas, I'm really hoping this pulls off as I'll be a very happy brewer indeed.

A brew day (well night) dawning

After a big weekend celebrating the last remaining days of school holidays (it involved a 40th birthday, an impromptu reptile show, a junk market, a B&B and some terrible traffic just outside of Brisbane) I finally had the whole night to myself. Time to break out the new pot I bought ages ago and give it whirl. 

Bought from Kmart for something like 18 bucks, while I wouldn't have any problems whatsoever with boil over given it's massive size it turns out it was less than ideal for my current kitchen as I'll explain shortly.  
Still, what's a brewing session without a couple of lessons along the way?

So first things first, everything got a good soaking in the last of my sodium percarbonate. Everything had been cleaned since last time but it would hurt to do it all over again. 

This time I remembered to put the grains in my brew bag outside to avoid my three year old having fun leaving milled grain dust footprints all over the house. 

Popping it into the massive pot showed up the first hiccup - it was partially submerged in the 2 liters of water for mashing. Which meant I was turning it over every five minutes to make sure everything got a soaking. To keep myself amused while doing this, I had Netflix's Luge Cage Season 2 on. It's getting better with every episode.

After the mash in went the hops and I started the boil. Halfway through it I realized I'd made a couple of mistakes. 
1. It was taking forever to boil so I popped the lid on for twenty minutes to try and get the heat up. Don't do this. It'll lead to a few things staying in that were meant to evaporate. Gah. 
2. I never hit a roiling boil. Popping in the thermometer showed me it was topping out at just 85 degrees and that's where it dawned on me. The slightly indented base on this monster pot wasn't making contact with the induction cook top surface. It was still getting heat but not enough to do it's thing. I couldn't do the boiling inside...but if I ventured out into the cold...

So at 11pm when the Gold Coast was probably at its coldest (and we've had a cold snap in the last couple of days so I was well and truly rugged up for this) I fired up the end burner on the BBQ to hopefully get a boil happening. While the rest of the neighborhood slumbered, I was getting my brew on. And thankfully it was blasted by the chill on the outside, it warmed up enough to get boiling. Fantastic. 
So rather than 60 mins at 100 degrees, it went through 40 mins at 85 degrees and then another 50 mins at 100 degrees. How this is going to effect it (if at all) will be revealed at drinking time. Here's hoping it's not an overcooked pirate...


Thankfully my murky pond water did hit it's correct original gravity in the end which I was very happy to see. Now to see if everything else turns out correctly. 


The next day

Brrr, another cold morning. Time to rug up. First the kids, then me, then the brew. 

No evidence of the yeasties kicking off their dance party yet but any day now..


...and things are happily burping away through the blowoff tube. Any worries about it being too cold for the yeast at time of year have got well and truly out of the window. This one is off and racing!

Stay tuned for the next Midnight Pirate (named as such after finishing up around midnight after all these little bumps along the way)!


With a couple of days left on the ferment, I figure now was a good time as any to learn about making this pond water (hopefully) look a little clearer. So I've been reading up about cold crashing (bringing the temp down to about 2 degrees aka spend some time in the fridge) and/or using gelatin to really get some clarity. Options I completely overlooked in my first brew.
Cue that Old El Paso commercial:

The only problem I that there's no room in the fridge for my carboy. At all. So the next coldest part of the house would be...well outside at night really.

Now this was a good idea in theory because it was bloody freezing almost a couple of weeks ago when I was boiling the mix. However when I set up shop outside last was mild. Typical gold coast weather. You wouldn't get cold wearing just shorts, even though it was slightly warmer inside. So in went more water to chill and the ice to help things along. I don't think it got anywhere near 2 degrees sadly.

The gelatin? That was the easy part. Heat up 3/4 a cup of water to warm (not hot) in the microwave and put in a teaspoon of the stuff, making sure it's not flavored gelatin you're using. Microwaving it and stirring it for about ten seconds at a time to help it dissolve in. If it forms jelly lumps, you've overcooked it.

Once that's done, into the carboy it goes!

Apparently you have to do this when the beer is just out of the taps cold. Which it wasn't. I must spend some time inventing a carboy cooling system that I can plug in or something because the fridge is just not an option at the moment...although we'll see if either trick gives us results tomorrow..

It's a good time at the moment while we're going stuff for a quick gravity reading. While it looks murky fermenting, the color is not too shabby in the light!

This is very pleasing as going back on my notes when I reviewed the Pirate Life: It's a brew for bruisers and it comes out in a deep bronze deeper than that deep sea bit on that map I forgot where I put, you know where me booty be buried.
So the color is going well then.

My original gravity was 1.04 and now we're at 1.10, so 3.94% ABV. Another 24 hours might be all it needs to hit that 4.5% minimum the style calls for. I smell a hint of fruit (almost like grapes) and a quick belt gives it a nice bitterness. I can't taste anything that really seems odd so far so this is a good sign.


The readings hit the same - this thing has done it's fermenting for now. I'm happy to report that the extra couple of pellets I threw in earlier today as a last chance bonus dry hop have helped to contribute to a lovely stone fruit aroma. Also it's ever so slightly less bitter. Although it's not as powerful in ABV as the usual take, it's going to drink well I reckon.
Is it clearer though? I'm going to say slightly. The color though is freaking amazing.

So today is bottling day and once again my little bloke Jackson couldn't wait to roll up the sleeves and give me a hand. I siphon out the brew out on the messy back table, he throws a carbonation drop in and puts the cap on, then I use Cappadonna to give it a snug seal. Job's done!

And now we have a batch of 11 before the trub wanted to be a part of things, taking a quick bath to clean off any overflow. (Big thanks to Jezza for the beer, more bottles to the collection!)

I also learnt a top tip today too. Since I got my capper way back when, it's been creaky and a bit jerky as well as grindy in it's operation. So out of interest I hit it with the can of Inox I had lying around and instantly it's one smooth capping action right now. Inox - works with stubborn locks and now with beer cappers! (Why didn't I think of this earlier?)


Well at least two weeks in the fridge. The recipe calls for another month after that for aging but I'll be champing at the bit to get into it in 14 days so I'll report back round then. Til then, keep crafting!


Time for some labels! A quick morning's work on photoshop has come up with a passable pirate label.

And it doesn't look half bad on the bottles either!

A post shared by Al Shield (@almigov2) on


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