Archive for September, 2013


Picture the scene. It’s about eight o’clock and the dog starts barking at the front door. He won’t stop and in the end I give in and open the door so he can run out and see for himself that there is nothing there. I follow him out there and sit down on the wall listening to the distance roar of traffic, is that the A507 or the M1 that I can here? I never can tell. Sitting there in the relative quiet of the evening I realise that I’m bushed. My back aches, my fingers are tingling, my eyelids are heavy but at least the weather is quite nice and I can enjoy the starry skies while the dog investigates a plant pot under the hedge.

This is my world right now because I’ve spent the day pressing apples.

bag of apples

This is half a sack of apples

The saga started the other day when my neighbour, knowing what I’m like, said that I could have what I wanted from his apple tree. That in itself was a challenge. Most of the best apples are still on the tree right now because I just couldn’t get at them. Never the less I still managed to fill three sacks full of apples. I also got half a sack from the pear tree in my own garden.

Today’s task was to press the fruit. I had gotten all the bugs worked out of the system by pressing the pears yesterday. Todays was the main event. My new scratter and fruit press would get to show how much they were worth.

Now, for those who don’t know, the idea is that you take apples from the tree, cut out any rotten bits, cut it into halves or quarters and then place in the scratter. The scratter then pulverises the apples into much smaller chunks which makes the job of pressing easier and more efficient, therefore getting more juice and in the long run, more cider.

The Scratter

The Scratting bucket – I know it looks foul, but this is what it takes, I hope.

My scratter was £27.50 from The Happy Brewer, my local homebrew shop (incidentally a great place to drop into and have a chat with the guy if your unsure, he is a homebrewing genius and what he doesn’t know isn’t worth knowing). It’s a simple design, two blades which rotate inside a bucket, being turned by a drill, which isn’t included. Now I thought at best it would dice the apples into small cubes but it did so much more. It basically turned it into a cold thick apple soup! It was so ready for pressing that once it was spooned into the press it began to fall out of the other end as juice.

The press was a christmas present so I’m not sure from where or how much it was (although I can guess it was somewhere around the £150 mark). This may seem like a lot but I wasn’t expecting too much from the press considering what you can spend on a really expensive press. Nevertheless I pressed my first batch of pulp and was astonished by just how much juice I got and also by just how dry the remaining cake of dried apple pulp was. In all it was a very efficient juicing method, at least much more efficient than I was expecting.

press juicing

The press in action

Now this all seems like a lot of fun and you can’t see why I’m complaining about my back at the beginning, right? Well what I described there was about 40 minutes work when you include all the dicing of apples into the scratter. I was at it for hours. After a while the novelty starts to wear off a bit, only bringing back a little bit of hope every time the press is turned and the sight of a river of juice flowing again showing you why it’s all worth it. Cutting my fingers on the knife and then getting apple juice in the cut was probably the worst part though, like I said, my fingers still hurt.

The bit which probably hurts the most is that I know I’ve got to get up and do it all again tomorrow because I only got  through half the apples. Still, I’ve taken some hydrometer readings and all going to plan I should have 5 litres of perry, 5 litres of pyder and 10 gallons of cider when it’s all done, all around 6%.

As a final point I’d like to say one thing. I’m not a cider maker. I have only tried making cider once before and that was with juice that I bought from Tesco. I have no idea if I’m doing it right or wrong and I’m not saying that this is how it should be done. Please don’t follow in my footsteps and then blame me when it all goes pete tong (although I hope it doesn’t).

Apple Juice

The finished product – a pint of apple juice

Beer pong confuses me

I’m writing this as a plea to anyone on the internet who can explain to me the game known as beer pong. As far as I can see the basic idea of the game is to line up a series of cups filled with beer, you then throw a ping pong ball at your opponents cups in an attempt to land the ball in their beer, if you do so then your opponent must drink the beer. The person deemed to have lost is the person who has no beer left. Is this right? Surely not! YouTube says this is correct:

Does this mean that if your at a party playing this game then a skilled player if forced to not drink? Why would anyone want to do this, surely the object is to do something which allows you to drink more? I mean, what sort of party game keeps people sober? What happens if you just decide to drink one of your beers anyway? Are you disqualified? Is that considered bad form? People of the internet, please explain it to me, what am I not getting?

The Session logo

I know I write this every month, but for those of you who are new this is The Session. The Session is an idea whereby beer bloggers come together once a month and blog about a similar topic. This month the Session is being hosted by Ding of Ding’s Beer Blog, and he asks:

 ‘What the hell has America done to beer?‘, AKA, ‘USA versus Old World Beer Culture‘.

Now I must confess, my experience of American beers is pretty poor. I’ve tried Coors light, I didn’t like it. I’ve tried Budweiser, I didn’t like it much either. I tried Samuel Adam’s, which was alright, ditto Sierra Nevada. I’m sure there have been a few others but for the most part I don’t have access to anything very interesting from America. What I have tried , however, are lots of American style beers which British brewers are coming up with.

The American’s seem to have a mantra of taking an idea, in this case beer, and doubling everything (because bigger is always better) and claiming it must be better because there is more hops in it . Then the new idea catches on, eventually it becomes its own thing and now the world copies the American way of doing things. Now the American craft beer scene is permeating it’s way into the British industry and we’re slowly seeing more and more American inspired beers, which were originally inspired by old style beers in the first place. Brewdog’s Hardcore IPA (9.2%), Fuller’s Wild River (4.5) and Adnam’s Innovation (6.7%) are just a few which spring to mind.

usapint

I got bored so I drew a picture to illustrate a what an American pint is.

This is not a bad thing, the new beers are great. The beer styles which were available before are still here and we can still go to the pub and enjoy them too, but on top of that is a new option.

To me it seems like it’s just the next step, moving on and experimenting with something different. The world changes every day in all sorts of different ways, why should beer stay the same? It just happens that this particular leap in the evolution of beer has happened to take place in America. So to sum up, what have the American’s done to beer? Nothing beer is still here, the old styles are still here and it can still be found being served in the old pubs that it always was. There just happens to also be another option as well.