Tag Archives: beer

Alcohol and Drugs History Society Conference 2017

June 22-25 saw the ADHS conference being held in Utrecht, the Netherlands, an absolutely gorgeous town. It is small, criss-crossed with canals and dappled all green in summer. The people are friendly, the beer is cheap and there are dozens of delightful bakeries dotted about to light up the mornings with coffee and appleflaps. I really enjoyed the week I stayed there.

The conference was well-organised by the Utrecht team and very impressive on the whole. Before discussing some of the papers and the events of the conference, here are a bunch of photos of lovely Utrecht and a few of the presentations and talks.

There were a number of keynotes and an emotional roundtable discussion in addition to the standard program. In a fresh approach for a conference, there was also an organised tour of the oldest coffeeshop (read: marijuana shop) in Utrecht, dating back to 1981. This was truly a unique experience. You can imagine how it went. It’s one thing to get drunk with your colleagues, as so often happens at conferences, but this was next-level stuff…

It was a pleasure being able to see Charles Ambler present, having cited a lot of his literature on the regulation of alcohol in the British colonies of Africa. His paper was a bit more ambitious than I was expecting, trying to draw a connection between “decolonisation” and the evolution of international drug regulation. He was also one of the few presenters to mention Burma, surprisingly, in the context of indirect rule in the Shan States and the weakness of the central government.

One of the best panels was on intoxicants in the early modern period of European history. Jenni Lares gave a tight, contained historical analysis of female alcohol sellers in 17th-century Finland, trying to exercise a comparative approach with Bennett’s work on brewsters in England. This was followed by Richard Yntema‘s detailed investigation into the political economy of alcohol in the Netherlands in the same time period, using a lot of quantitative data. Then Alex Taylor focused on tobacco smuggling into England, which was very good fun.

Victoria Afanasyeva went deep into women’s history in the French temperance movement, something which has been little investigated – surprising given the attention it has been given in the US and UK. It was pleasing to be able to sit in on some opium papers, a subject of endless fascination for its contemporary “problem” associations. I particularly enjoyed Thembisa Waetjen and Jamie Banks discussing South Africa and indentured labour in this context.

There were many more great papers which I won’t go into for brevity’s sake. My own paper went down fine. A couple of the panels were a little squished for time – some were 90 minutes for two presentations, others had to fit in four papers in the same time period, leaving little for discussion.

One thing I noticed was a distinct lack of engagement with local-language sources by the colonial historians. This is quite standard in the discipline, but seems very limiting when you come from an anthropological background and consider that it is, indeed, 2017.

There was also a strong European focus, with the US and colonial history bringing up the rear. Little attention was given to Asia and Africa and almost nothing before the early modern period, when drugs history apparently “starts”.

The society is mulling over the location for the next conference and I hope to be able to get there. Shanghai is being considered, which would be simply sensational.

The first drink

Just like losing your virginity or going overseas for the first time, everyone has a story about their first drink. Or if they’ve forgotten that – then their first drunken experience. Or if they’ve forgotten that, maybe their first drunken vomit. That one doesn’t go away. Given I’m writing a PhD about beer, I figured I should share the story of my first drink.

It was not that scandalous, nor soaked in vomit, sex or larrikinism.

I was eight years old.

My father was getting married on the following day. I was sitting at the lounge room table of Dad’s old sharehouse with him and a bunch of his male friends; they had been working on something to do with the wedding, either detoxing from the Buck’s night tradition or trying on suits or something like that.

Everyone was having a beer and relaxing. My Dad poured a half measure of beer into the glass in front of me. I stared at it.

This was a big moment. I was about to “have a beer with the boys”. The mens’ eyes darted from my puzzled face, to Dad’s grin and back again – themselves cheekily chuckling. I lifted the glass to my lips and sipped.

It was absolutely, petrifyingly disgusting. What the hell?

“Um, Dad, can I have Coke?” I asked.

A wave of merriment rounded the table. The little bugger doesn’t like it!

“Sure sonny Jim,” said Dad. And he went to the fridge, got a bottle of Coke, and proceeded to pour it into the same glass, into the beer, filling the cup to the brim – 50% beer, 50% Coke. Why Dad, why?

OK, I thought. This wedding is a big deal, yeah yeah. I will drink the gross beer, for my Father.

Thanks a lot.

How things change – and yet how some things stay the same.

Coffeebeerian Porter

As I understand it the “home brew & coffee” establishment Coffeebeerian is based in Bali, where they do all their beer brewing. They also support an outpost in Jakarta as a secondary location. I visited this quiet, odd outpost – all the odder now that Indonesia’s new liquor laws bar alcohol sales from convenience stores. Jakarta is drier and more expensive than ever.

When entering Coffeebeerian I was welcomed by two choices: cider or porter. The kegerator behind the bar looked identical to standard home brew kit, corny kegs and all. I chose the porter.

I was informed this dark ale was between 6% and 7% alcohol; though if I had to guess I would put it at about 5% ABV. The beer was served extremely cold, appropriate for the tropics but not for the beer style. Even so, a pleasant roasted cocoa and vanilla aroma wafted above the solid brown head, enticing in the dry heat. Retention was strong, the beer was sinkhole black and the french fries were standing by.

On tasting a touch of oxidised character was present, but full malt and roast cocoa flavours managed to push it into the background. Charcoal hinted at the sides of this fairly thin-feeling porter, with good carbonation assisting its drinkability. Who would have thought that when stumbling into a cafe in Jakarta one would be confronted by corny kegs of thin, fizzy, freezing-cold porter?

It wasn’t a great beer, but it worked well enough for me – previously gasping for air in a sea of expensive, elusive Bintang.

I drank a few schooners of this draught beer at Coffeebeerian, Jakarta.

Mort’s Pale Ale

In addition to detailing a recipe and beer, this is the first article and photo series on the blog that gives a general outline of my brewing space. The idea is that when I post recipes in the future this piece can be referenced by readers. It’s a bit of a blow-by-blow, but hopefully not too dull for a home brewing audience.

After many years on this giant rock I have come to the conclusion that every human should have an endless supply of hoppy Pale Ale at home. But how does one engineer an endless supply? By constantly brewing, of course! When I ran out of Pale Ale recently I decided to get serious and brew up the next batch with pictures – and on a week night, no less.

If you’ve checked out the brewing page on this blog you will see that my house Pale Ale (Tanji’s) is a 4-5% ABV beer, but for this batch I wanted to do something a bit heavier, a bit hoppier, using American rather than Australian hops. It’s a simple recipe with cheap grain, but that’s the beauty of the style.

I thought I would name the beer after a Terry Pratchett book given his recent passing. I wasn’t a huge Pratchett fan but I did read Mort when I was a teenager and loved it – I should really hunt down a copy and read it again (I do respect Pratchett hugely). This isn’t the first time I’ve named an experimental brew after a recent dead person. I made a rice lager when Võ Nguyên Giáp died, I may be cracking onto a theme. I’m not too morbid really but I do like the idea of drinking to the dead.

Mort’s Pale Ale
1060 OG, 1008 FG. 7% bottle ABV. WLP001.

Fermented at 17°C from:

55% :: Joe White Ale Malt
20% :: Joe White Pilsner Malt
20% :: Joe White Wheat Malt
5% :: Weyermann Melanoiden Malt

30m split mash (15m 70°C/15m 65°C) with calcium chloride.

30m boil:

– Irish Moss @ 10m
– Yeast Nutrient @ 10m
– 32 IBU of Chinook hops @ 0m.

I brew in a garage accessed from the backyard, usually accompanied by friends and with drop-ins by this little girl. This puppy is truly a champion brewmate: she generally keeps her opinions to herself, but will gently nudge with her nose when I am about to do something stupid like transfer wort to a fermentor with its tap open. Thanks Norva, you’re adorable.

For any non-Australians reading; yes, the shed in which I brew is infested with venomous redback spiders. I have even had the little mongrels drop down from the roof on me while I was brewing. I only saw one during this brew, but it was a big female (these are the ones to watch out for, the blokes are useless) and given most bites occur in the warmer months between December and April – in the afternoon or evening, i.e. right when I brewed this batch – I wasn’t taking any chances. Sorry little spidey, but it had to be done. You are now gone. What is life without death?

I bought the grain for this batch pre-milled from local supplier Full Pint, around the corner from the Kooinda Brewery. The grain bill is all pale base malts for a golden EBC with wheat and melanoiden for head retention and bubbles. I used Australian base malts because I try to keep things local on the boring beers and because they are cheap. I chose Chinook hops for this beer – I have used them many times over the years but never Han Solo . This is unusual for Australian home brewers as most usually SMaSH out all the American hops early on in their brewing journeys. My house Pale Ale – Tanji’s Pale Ale – is a single Australian hop beer, so I also thought it would be good for a comparison.

You can see below the bench where most of the brewing goes down. It’s pretty self-explanatory. Crown Urn, a few stainless pots, digital scales, corona mill, mash paddle, colander, brew cupboard. I have expanded my equipment a bit since this was taken but the fundamentals are the same.

I made this beer with a 15/15 split mash BIAB method (something I’ve been experimenting with and have since abandoned) in a Crown Urn. I don’t chill – the hot wort goes straight into the fermentor. I added some calcium chloride to the mash as this is a pale beer and I use regular Melbourne tap water. It is generally recommended to salt your water in this way down here when brewing low EBC beers. Many brewers don’t bother, and sometimes I don’t either, but from everything I’ve read it’s good practice.

The first mash was a breeze. This particular BIAB bag split the first time I used it; after being sewn up with cotton thread it has lasted for a further twenty brews – though I notice it is getting a little thin on the bottom. I use a jumbo-sized stainless steel mash paddle for easy stirring. I gave the mash a stir twice and mashed for fifteen minutes at 70°C.

While this was happening I filled my secondary mash vessel with hot water, aiming to hit 75°C. I usually have to add four to six litres of boiling water from the kettle, depending on the recipe, then touch up with cool water to the desired temperature.

I then transferred the grain into my secondary mash vessel, which has about a third of the water of the primary mash vessel. However, during transfer the grain brings over a substantial amount of water, with the aim of bringing the volume up to about 50% of total wort volume.

Unfortunately I didn’t raise the temp of the secondary strike water in time; the second mash took place at a measly 65°C. Alas alack! But a slightly drier body on this beer won’t be an issue.

At the mash’s end (15 + 15 = 30, so thirty minutes after mashing in) I removed the grain bag, placed it on a colander above the secondary mash vessel, donned a pair of thick PVC gloves and proceeded to squeeze every last millilitre of wort from the bag. I then recycled the spent grain into the compost, added the secondary wort back into the urn and ramped it all up to a boil.

I hunted around in my hop freezer for some Chinook and weighed it out on the kitchen scales, which has a handy backlight for dark evenings such as this.

These hops are getting a bit old but still smelt alright. The wort churned to a boil in fifteen minutes; I held it at a vigorous boil for twenty minutes while I got my bits and pieces ready.

At the twenty minute mark of the boil, ten minutes before finishing, I added some Irish Moss and Wyeast Yeast Nutrient to the urn. Then I went and found a fermentor – I chose my last two 30l water drum (I have slowly converted all vessels to stainless steel) – and gave it a good scrub and clean with hot water and sanitiser. I threw the hops into the bottom of the fermentor and set it up for wort transfer.

At the thirty minute mark I drew off some wort into a jug for a yeast starter and set it aside in the freezer to cool. At the same time I took a vial of WLP001 out of the fridge and set it on the bench to reach room temperature. Then I hooked up the silicon hose, flicked the tap and let the smooth, syrupy wort flow. I usually mash quite a cloudy wort with this system but it doesn’t affect the clarity of the beer.

When the urn had emptied I spread some industrial-strength glad wrap over the top, sealed it with an o-ring and pushed the fermentor under the bench to cool overnight. I retrieved the starter wort from the freezer when it had reached an acceptable temperature and drew some off to check the gravity.


It relaxed at 1060; later I plugged in the numbers and saw this gave a mash efficiency of 75%, within my acceptable ball park. I then returned the wort back into the jug and took the WLP001 I had set aside earlier. I pitched a third of the vial of WLP001 into the jug, gave it a swirl and glad-wrapped it. I put the remaining WLP001 back in the fridge for another day, banged the jug of starter wort on the bench, and locked up the garage for the evening.

Exactly 24 hours later, when the wort had reached ambient temperature, I pitched the starter into it. I let the yeast get a hold overnight, then put the fermentor into the fermentation fridge, replacing a Red Ale that had been fermenting in there from a brew earlier in the week.

I set my temperature controller to 17°C and let the yeast do its thing while I went away for an epic Buck’s weekend. When I returned 60 hours later the yeast had risen, hit krausen and was deflating. Fermentation was raging.


Bottling went smoothly – the sample from the hydrometer read 1008, giving an ABV of 7%, and tasted clean, piney, of course green and a touch alcoholic.  It should clean in the bottle.  I used dextrose to bottle prime as usual.  I filled a few 2l growlers, a couple of large 2.25l soda bottles and the remainder of the beer in 750ml longnecks.

A few weeks later the time for tasting had arrived.

It looks good, a gleaming gold and cloudy yellow with mellow lemon, pine and lime hop aroma. It is still a little young in terms of clarity and carbonation – although enough time has passed to carbonate the beer with yeast, it has been stored in cool temperatures (~11°C) so hasn’t fully sparkled yet. Still, the head retained well with lovely lacing thanks to the wheat.

The beer is light on the lips and in the mouth. Malt aroma is non-existent and malt flavour is subtle and restrained, piggybacked by a light alcohol burn. It is barely bitter, dry and refreshing – a nice summer beer (pity it’s winter!). There’s a firm lemon hop flavour up front and centre – an unusual one, it doesn’t taste at all like I was expecting from Chinook.

The aroma is spot on, if a little less punchy than I would like, and the alcohol taste is a bit too dominant but I think this Pale Ale will age well. It should be perfect in another month.

Lastly, I was surprised at how similar this beer is to my standard Tanji’s Pale Ale – as it uses completely different hops. It is hopped in the same way however, i.e. most hops added to the wort after the boil, when temperature is around 90°C.