First true 4 kg beer kit on the market
When we started the devlopment of our new Bulldog Brews beer kits, we had one simple guideline. These kits should contain the best raw materials available regardless of cost and also more malt than any other beer kit out there. The old "Premium" type kits usually contain 3 kgs although there are a few containing up to 3.6 kgs.
With the 3kg and above kits, the beer yeast often struggles to do a good job and the normal reaction to this from manufacturers is to use a low end, fast fermenting yeast strain, designed to blast through any fermentation. The advantage from a manufacturers point of view is of course fewer complaints because it "works". The disadvantage is that it will produce boring beers, all tasting the same. Getting it right at the 4kg level is very difficult. Fermentations might end prematurely, clearing not work well etc. This took us a long time to master because we refused to use the "wham bam" type of yeast.
First American Craft Beer Kits on the market
Our latest additions to the range are the Evil Dog Double IPA (7.1%) and the Four Finger Jack American Pale Ale (4.6%), both bursting with exciting American hops delivering unprecedented flavours and aromas. This is something totally new in home brewing and it's taking home beermaking straight into the American Beer Revolution. Both of these kits use the newly developed "Craft Beer" yeast strain which up until now has never been available in a beer kit.
Home brew varietal brewers yeast strains
We decided to use true varietal brewers yeast for the Bulldog Brews beer kit range. There are a number of these available today, all frequently used by mirobreweries to achieve good quality beer. They are sold under a variety of brand names and are all rather expensive so you don't often see them in a beer kit although some of you geeks out there of course have found out that you can improve a standard kit by switching the yeast to something better.
There is no need for that with the Bulldog Brews kits, they already contain various very high quality brewers yeast strains, optimised for each type. There are even one or two strains which are not yet available (anywhere) on the market. The advantage with these strains is that they produce fantastic beers. They can be a bit temperamental though and they require a longer fermentation time than the fast and cheap strains.So notice that our beer kit instructions are different - the old "truths" no longer apply so be careful and follow the instructions closely until you have got enough experience of these new yeast types so you can start experimenting a bit.
Amongst the varietal strains we can also mention the “Warm Lager Strain” which produces very good lager beer at room temperature. We use this and other highly specialised strains in the Bulldog Brews range. We are planning to release the various beer strains as individual products as well within the near future. Taking the malt extract up to 4 kgs per 23L kit also proved to create some difficult clearing problems and some malt extracts simply could not be used. With careful selection and blend of extracts and the use of heavily flockulating yeast strains, we eventually proved that clearing will work even in such extreme kits.
Varietal finishing hops for homebrew kits
As you probably already knew, we have had the Better Brew finishing hop pellets in our range for some time, a very popular product. For the Bulldog Brews range, we tried fresh hops, hop oils and hop pellets to achieve the extra fresh hop taste and aroma to our beers and in the end we chose the pellets mainly because of the simplicity in using them. The results were similar for the different types of hop additions.
We are course usig teabag technology here so you don't need to mess around with loose hop pellets or straining bags. With teabag technology, using hop pellets is just as simple as making a cup of tea. Let the “teabag” soak in a mug of boiling water for 10 minutes, then add to the brew. Simple as that. In our instructions we recommend adding this infusion on day 4, that is in the middle of the fermentation. But we also give the user the option to increase or decrease the level of hop aroma by adding the infusion at the start (less aroma), or at the end, just before bottling/kegging (more aroma).
For the American Craft beer making kits, we use a much larger teabag (two actually, we couldn't get that much into one bag) in order to achieve the powerful hop aroma in these kits. It is also important to add these hop pellets very late, typically 1-2 days before bottling, in order to get the full level of aroma required in craft beers.
The hop pellets will not normally add any bitterness, we have already hopped the extract to the preferred level for each type. Their sole purpose here is to add a fresh hop aroma which you would not get from hopped malt extract alone.
Is the 4kg malt beer kit really better than a 3kg kit?
There is some common "knowledge" that going above 3 kgs of malt extract per 23L actually reduces the quality of the beer. We can only say that it appears to be a misconception. It does however depend heavily on the actual malt extract used. With the wrong type of extract you certainly get no better quality above 3 kgs. However, the proof is in the pudding, or rather in the brew. Try our Triple Tykes Special Export Ale and you will be convinced!
Adding sugar to beer kits
For home brew Lagers, there is the problem with colour. Malt, when extracted, goes darker than the original wort so although a microbrewery could use raw materials corresponding to 4 kgs of malt extract, you can't do that if you use extract because the colour of your Lager will become too dark even when using freshly produced extract, let alone what it would look like after 6 months of shelf life or more.
So for the lightest of the Bulldog beers, we have stayed around the 3kg level of malt extract and added invert sugar to achieve the higher start gravity and at the same time produce a light and refreshing lager style beer. We consider invert sugar to be better than Dextrose and much better than normal sugar for this purpose. It is more expensive and difficult to handle but we decided to use only the absolute best for all the new Bulldog Brews beer kits.