Xtract Pilsner 2006

Fermenting: 24/04/2006 Bottled: 16/05/2006

Xtract Pils Label

I have very good memories of this beer. Last year I put it on in July, in the middle of winter, which helped this lager ferment quite coldly – about as cool as you can expect a yeast to stay active. We’ve been having a bit of a cold spell this autumn, so I thought it was a good opportunity to revisit an excellent beer.

The Xtract Pils is a 3kg can of nestle malt and saaz hops, which, when fermented using the included Saflager S-23, produces an impressively clear, flavourful beer with a great hop aroma. I think the thing that suprised me most about this beer last year was the fantastic head – thick, tightly packed and foamy. Much more than you could expect from a homebrew, even one with 3kg of malt.

The Xtract series are amazingly simple to turn into beer. Pour the can into the fermenter, top up with water, sprinkle the yeast. I’ve made cordial up at mission that was more complex.

This may take up to 3 weeks to ferment (current temp 16° C and falling), and another couple of weeks after that in secondary, but we’ll have a fantastic beer at the end.

Bottling notes: A lovely straw-yellow or pale-orange colour. Tasted so good it was worth drinking flat.

Web office

Web 2.0 Logo

Lots of people hate the phrase Web 2.0. It implies that a completely new world wide web is being created to replace the old browsing experience, when really it is just a gradual improvement. But you can’t tell me there aren’t some excellent innovations being created, mostly due to AJAX leading to a very different way people use their computers, all based around the web browser.

Most corporations pay Microsoft a lot of money to provide them with software and support to enable their office to work. Standard office applications on a corporate desktop are Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook and Access.

There are non-Microsoft alternatives, but they all struggle to get onto work desktops, for a variety of reasons. Openoffice.org, for example, will do everything a normal user needs, and is free. It is certainly an improvement over Works or Office 97, if that’s what you are using at home, and can’t justify a purchase/install of Office 2003.

But why download and install 90MB of slow loading java based software when you can use the web for free, right now?

A free, web 2.0 based productivity suite could comprise:

Now I know that a lot of those programs are still in development, but that’s not such a bad thing. They are listening to users, creating programs based on peoples needs, rather than just to sell and add-on pack.

If you want to check out what web 2.0 is all about, visit koolWeb 2.0. Not only is it a cool example of AJAX in action, it links to the best web 2.0 sites/applications out there. It is a bit suss, though. Digg at number 1, and Land of PureGold at 56, despite it appearing to be plain html to me.

Wikipedia links: Web 2.0 AJAX Writely GMail Category: Web 2.0

Cascade Pale Ale

Fermenting: 05/04/06 Bottled: 23/04/06

Cascade Pale Ale

In July 2004 Cascade started making their own homebrew kits. Brewery branded homebrew kits aren’t overly great – Coopers being the exception. Coopers is actually the largest single manufacturer of home brew kits in the world, exporting to 36 different countries and in five different languages.

But we aren’t talking about Coopers, who I have no trouble with. The real problem in Australia, as far as brewery branded homebrew products go, is Lion Nathan. Lion Nathan, originally a New Zealand company, owns a malt producing company called Maltexo. Maltexo produces homebrew kits (usually 1.7kg cans of hopped malt) and starter packs (including fermenters) under many different brands.

In Australia the main two are Tooheys and Malt Shovel Brewery. Visit their shop if you’d like. Other brands made in NZ by Maltexo are Black Rock, Brewiser, Wander, Brewtec, Mac’s, Beermakers and Goldrush.

The quality of these kits, though, is not great. Black Rock make some nice beers, as do Malt Shovel but all the rest are standard supermarket stuff – your Bilo or Franklins no-name kit is probably exactly the same. As an aside, about the only thing the malt shovel beers share with the James Squire range is the parent company, although they claim that brewing ingredients are selected by Malt Shovel brewers.

But on to Cascade Homebrewing – The CUB/Fosters Group’s entry into homebrew supplies. Fosters chose cascade as the branding for the hopped malt kits, but I’m not sure why. I guess Cascade comes across as a beer appreciators brand, as opposed to posers brands (Crown or Fosters) or bogun brands (VB, Melbourne Bitter, even carlton mid and draught don’t come across as posh).

The kits are made at the Cascade brewery in south Hobart, where Cascade premium, light et al is made. The marketing guru’s have made up some fictional twaddle to put on the labels. This is the blurb from the can of Cascade Imperial Voyage Pale Ale:

At day’s end, as guards muster convicts below deck and the captain retires to his quarters, a small band of sailors retreat to a dark cargo hold in the creaking barque’s belly.

By lamplight, they behold their illicit bounty – barrels and sacks of barley, hops and sugar. Encircling a makeshift fire, they brew a familiar beer: a pale, earthy ale with spicy aromas to magically carry them home to the comforts of England. Most evenings they laugh and sing and enjoy the fruits of their labour. The robust brew sees them through the four-month voyage to Van Diemen’s Land…and safely home again.

You can view the other ripping yarns at the Cascade Hombrew website.

Made this one up pretty simply with a bag of Coopers Brew Enhancer 2 – 500g Dextrose, 250g Maltodextrin and 250g Light Dried Malt. I might add some english hops for aroma in a couple of days. The Bohemian yeast is probably a bottom fermenting lager, so if the Lord would provide some cooler temperatures over the next week or so, we should get a very nice, crisp & clean beer.

Starting Gravity (SG): 1036 Final Gravity (FG): 1008 Alcohol: 4.2% by volume