Dan’s Top 5 Glastonbury Essentials

Hey folks,

As the fabled festival of Glastonbury is almost upon us, I thought I would give you a list of my top 5 things to bring to Glastonbury. If you forget everything else, at least remember to bring these essentials, and you’ll be fine.

  1. A Good Tent

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but getting a good tent is crucial to staying dry throughout Glasto. Let’s face it- no matter what the forecast is, it will inevitably rain at some point. If you buy a crappy tent (for example the cheap one-man pop-ups) I can almost guarantee that it will leak at some point. Plus, you’ll need some space to store all of your booze and somewhere which will keep your spare undies dry (clean, dry clothes will feel heavenly after two days of not showering). Here is an example of a shit tent:

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I would recommend at least a two-man tent if going alone, or a three-man if going in a pair. As a general rule, whatever the tent says it sleeps, add one per person sleeping in it, as you will need space for your stuff. Also, aim for a minimum 2000mm waterproof rating (hydrostatic head), ideally 3000mm or 4000mm for guaranteed toastiness. I bought this one last year and it has served me very well, so will be taking it along to Glasto.

2. Sleeping Bag and Inflatable Roll Mat

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Again, this one may seem quite obvious, but if you’ve never been camping take my advice- you will need the roll mat. If you just take a sleeping bag and sleep on the ground not only will you be freezing cold, but you will also find it incredibly uncomfortable. A roll mat will keep you nice and warm and also give you something a little softer to sleep on. Some people like air beds and bring these along, but I find that they are uncomfortable to sleep on. My favourite are the self-inflating roll mats. These are somewhere between the traditional thin roll mat, and an inflatable mattress. I bought a double one as well as a double sleeping bag, and I would highly recommend them both.

3. Wellies and Waterproofs

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I cannot stress this enough; IT WILL RAIN. Wellington boots have been a festival staple for many years and for good reason. It’s a very simple formula:

bare ground + rain + lots of foot traffic = shitloads of mud

So whatever you do, bring wellies. I would recommend Hunter if you’re feeling fancy, but any old rubber boots from your local gardening store will do the trick just as well. Remember- you will be spending a lot of time on your feet so make sure they fit well and get insoles if necessary. You can thank me later. Waterproofs are also a must. If the heavens open up, you will be extremely happy you brought that unattractive waterproof jacket. If you’re low on coin, you can always opt for a poncho. These will keep you just as dry but aren’t as expensive as a waterproof jacket. If you want sturdy ones which won’t rip like those £2 plastic condoms you can buy, I would recommend these.

4. Phone Power Pack

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Ok, this one may not be as essential as the three above, but it will be nice to be able to take photos and be able to contact your friends while at the festival. You can pick up a power pack pretty inexpensively, and this one will re-charge your iPhone 6 8.1 times before running out of juice.

EE have announced that there will also be a charging station in the middle of Glasto, but by all accounts it takes forever to charge and the queues will be significant. Splash out £25 for a power pack and dodge the queues.

5. Booze!

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Now that you’re warm and dry, and the basic needs for shelter and 4G have been fulfilled we get to the fun stuff- alcohol. Glastonbury is the only festival which allows you to bring your own alcohol into the stage areas, so if you pack smart you will be able to save yourself a lot of money. I would recommend bringing something which you wouldn’t mind drinking warm (needless to say there will not be an opportunity for refrigeration, unless you get creative or bring a cooler). I would recommend bringing spirits, then purchasing cold mixers from stalls while you are there. But remember- you cannot take ANY glass into the festival. That means no glass bottles, not even ones filled with perfume. Decant your alcohol into plastic water bottles (remembering to label them clearly- nothing worse than taking a full swig of vodka expecting sweet hydration on a hungover morning), these will be lighter to carry than glass and much less likely to be stolen. If you’ve read my blog before you may already know that I personally cannot live without beer, so will be lugging along a couple of crates of the golden nectar, fully expecting it to be warm by the time I get around to drinking it.

I recently heard an innovative approach to festival booze, but I’m not sure how effective it is in practice. The theory is that if you freeze wine in a sack (you know, take out the contents of one of those ultra classy ‘boxes of wine’) and put it in a cooler full of ice, you can have cold wine all festival long. Still, this will require bringing a full cooler (pretty heavy) and I’m not sure I’d want to drink cheap white wine all week long… I think I might just fill my Camelbak with alcohol and be ready to rock.

And last but not least don’t forget YOUR TICKET!!! Without it, all is lost.

Did I miss anything off the list? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below. Look out for my post-Glastonbury post sometime next week, and thanks for reading!

The Cap Collector

Hey guys,

So a few months ago I had an idea. Since my household gets through a fair quantity of beer, and I am delving further and further into the craft beer world, drinking more and more interesting beverages, I have decided to collect the caps from my bottles. Currently the end goal is to construct a beer pong table using the caps to create a mosaic-like design on the surface of the table. I realize that this is not an especially original idea (in fact I stole it from my buddy in Boston who already has a beer pong table made out of caps) but it does give my consumption an end goal. It feels nice every time I drop a handful of freshly liberated caps into my collecting basket, and hear that satisfying clink. I have been collecting for a couple of months now, and here is where I am currently:

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Not quite there yet… I think I am going to have to step up my game. As to the quality of the caps, I am planning to sort them when I have collected enough, taking out any dented caps or otherwise scarred ones. Furthermore, I’m not particularly thrilled with the mass-produced brands which are in there (Budweiser, Foster, etc) but I will definitely need them for block colours and to pad out the design. Plus I feel it will be fun for people to study the table and look out for the more interesting caps among the ones which they can recognize easily. Out of the ones which I have collected so far, here are my favourites:

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I especially love the Camden Brewery caps and the Brew Dog ones. It is always nice to have some classic German beer in there as well, in the form of Weissbier from Franziskaner and Erdinger. The St Peter’s cap with the raven is also very cool, with a nice homage to the monastery originally on site in the form of the key in the middle of the design. However, I am concerned that at the current rate of collection I will not have enough caps until Christmas at the earliest! If anyone has any other ideas of what to do with the caps, I am open to suggestions, post them in the comments below!

As always, stay tuned for more content, I am planning to be a lot more active on this blog in the coming weeks, with a couple of special Glastonbury posts coming soon. So excited for it, despite the forecast currently not looking great…

“Warcraft: The Beginning” is almost upon us!

We have just over a week to go before the release of the film which I am most excited about this year- Warcraft: The Beginning. The UK release date is 3rd June, and I will most certainly be lining up to see this one more than once. Having been an avid World of Warcraft player since its release in 2004, I have always been intrigued by the lore behind the game. The game itself incorporates thousands of little story lines, and each character in the game has their own purpose and background, making it a truly rich and immersive experience. However, these only compliment the main story line, which has evolved with the release of five expansions since the original game was released (The Burning Crusade in 2007, Wrath of the Lich King in 2008, Cataclysm in 2010, Mists of Pandaria in 2012, and Warlords of Draenor in 2014). Each of these expansions pushed the main story line of the inhabitants of Azeroth further, and welcomed heroes to join the leaders of the various factions in their struggles and conflicts, both among each other (mainly between the two main factions- Alliance and Horde) and with external forces.

Each expansion also brought with it a jaw-dropping cinematic, which always got me excited for the upcoming game content. Throughout the years these cinematics have been getting more and more visually stunning, and I have always wanted Blizzard to create more content in this format. Thus, I was incredibly excited upon hearing rumours of a Warcraft film all those years ago. Alas, it was not to be. Year upon year, we have waited as fans and anticipated more news about the possibility of a film, and I cannot believe that the day is almost upon us.

With a fantastic cast and a great director (all of whom are fans of the game as well), I am sure that it will not disappoint. No doubt I will be releasing a review having seen the film, but until then, you can be certain I will be counting down the hours to its release.

You can check out the film’s official website here for trailers, wallpapers, and more goodies.

Anyone for a stout?

Howdy,

Just thought I would post a quick update on my recent beer-exploration, and its all about dark beers! The porter, named after the profession who would enjoy a glass of the refreshing beverage in between work, is a truly smooth and refreshing beverage. I have been getting my hands on several varieties of these beauties, having gotten hooked on the dark stuff from my recent visit to The Porterhouse on Maiden Lane in Covent Garden. If you have never been to this place, I would seriously recommend a visit. It’s a lovely Irish Bar, but not what you would expect from one. Completely classy and beautifully finished, with a huge selection of Irish brews on tap, including some world class porters, which lend their name to the establishment. If you are looking for a quiet place to have a nice drink and some food, this is definitely not for you. The Porterhouse is a very lively bar and gets absolutely packed almost every day after work, so it is definitely a place to grab a couple of quick drinks and sample some porters, rather than somewhere to settle in for the night. They have live music and usually some sort of sport on the TV, so needless to say it is my kind of place…

Unpaid endorsement aside, I have been really enjoying my porters and stouts, and am considering brewing up a batch of the dark beer myself. It would be great to enjoy a tasty home made stout, perfectly chilled, in the summer heat (fingers crossed the UK will see some sunshine this summer). However for ease of refrigeration and storage I may make my first batch of stout the first batch I bottle rather than keg. I am getting slightly concerned over drinking the sheer quantity of beer I am planning to brew, although I suppose that’s nothing a small gathering of friends cannot remedy on a couple of sunny afternoons in the garden.

How do you feel about dark beers? Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts, or a tasty recipe for one if you are willing to share!

Until next time.

American IPA Barreled

Howdy folks,

So last night I barreled my second brew from a kit, the Cooper’s American Beer’s IPA (see previous post for details). It was in the fermentation vessel for a good 17 days; I think the fermentation was finished after 14, then I dry hopped it with the hop pellets included in the kit for a further 3 days before barreling. The concern at the moment is that there was quite a lot of hop sediment suspended in the brew, I’m hoping this will sink to the bottom during conditioning or else I am in for another cloudy beer…

This is also the first time I am using the King Keg, and am pretty pleased with it so far. The larger top opening meant that cleaning it was a breeze (not looking forward to cleaning my other keg, which is a very basic plastic pressure barrel), and it seems to be a much sturdier build than the basic plastic pressure barrel included in my starter set. I have also upgraded the tap to a sparkler tap, which should hopefully give a much nicer head when the brew is finally ready to drink (which I imagine will be in 3 weeks or so). For now, its time for the secondary fermentation. I like my American IPAs to have a decent level of carbonation, so I injected a barrel of CO2 straight into the keg after racking and sealing. This, alongside the decent amount of priming sugar used, should ensure a good level of fizz. It has another week or so to ferment and then Mr King Keg is taking an extended vacation in my cellar to condition and clear. Looking forward to trying this one.

More updates coming soon, thanks for reading!

Second beer kit- American Beers IPA

Howdy,

Last Monday I began fermenting my second beer creation, again from a kit. This time it was the American Beers IPA (which you can buy here). In general I love IPA’s and so I am really looking forward to trying this one when it’s finally ready to drink in a couple of week’s time. Just in time for summer to begin rearing its sunny head (hopefully). Decided to brew this one with my girlfriend, and so this batch is officially titled “Dan and Hannah’s Summer IPA”.

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The initial hydrometer reading was quite high (1.057) so I am expecting the beer to be quite strong, at around 6.2% ABV. The kit suggests that the final strength will be around 6.5% ABV, so the initial reading seems to be in the right ball park. I bought a higher quality yeast, however the yeast which came with this kit looked pretty good so I decided to stick to the kit and keep the higher quality pale ale yeast for a later batch. The kit also comes with a hop sachet for dry hopping 2-3 days before the end of the initial fermentation. I will be testing the gravity today and possibly dry hopping today/ tomorrow depending on the reading. This kit is certainly more involved than the last one, which just came with two metal containers of the concentrated malt extract and one sachet of yeast. However, I am itching to get to the next level of home brewing and begin brewing from malt extract, and then later on (possibly by the end of summer) begin brewing all grain. Further down the line I am also hoping to do a bit of DIY and turn a fridge into a kegerator to store all of these brews at perfect temperature.

Will post an update once I keg this bad boy in my newly acquired King Keg!

Quick update on the first brew

Hey guys,

Thought I would give you all an update on the St. Peter’s Golden Ale I made from kit (see previous post). After racking it into the plastic pressure barrel which came with my starter kit, I left it to condition for a week and a change before giving it a little sample. Not too bad! It is a little flat for my liking, this could be due to either the sub-par pressure barrel which came with my starter kit, or to a miscalculation when adding the priming sugar before barreling. Either way, I am happy with the result and will enjoy drinking it over the coming weeks.

In other news, I am absolutely hooked on home brewing. I have already bought extra kit (a higher quality “King Keg” plastic pressure barrel with CO2 canister attachment, and an upgraded lid for my current pressure barrel) and a second kit. This time it will be the American beers IPA kit. Stay posted for more updates on my home brew journey.

First Batch of Home Brew!

Howdy folks!

Sorry for the pause in updates, I have been travelling and unable to let you guys know how I’m doing on the home brewing front. I made my first batch of home brew from a basic kit I bought on amazon, “St. Peter’s Brewery Golden Ale”, the package is pictured below in case any fellow home brew adventurer’s want to follow me on my journey towards the Holy Brewdom.

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Making a beer from a kit was a relatively simple and easy task, and as a result I now have 36 pints going through the final conditioning stage of the brewing process. However, everything was also made incredibly simple and easy to understand by following the instructions in Greg Hughes’ amazing book, Home Brew Beer. The entire process is very well explained, along with pictures for every step of the process, so following it was an absolute breeze. I highly recommend the book to anyone who wants to start out brewing their own drinks at home, and there is even a large section dedicated entirely to recipes for various beer and ale types, so you can truly brew anything your heart desires.

Unfortunately I do not have many pictures from the process to show, but here is one of me softening up the contents of the brew kit in order to make it easier to remove from the tins:

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In explanation- beer making from a kit requires mixing two tins filled with a treacle like substance (the products from a boil evaporated until thick and less space-consuming) with water, then adding yeast (included in the kit), and waiting for the entire thing to ferment. After this, you simply decant or rack the beer into bottles or kegs (depending on your preference) with a little sugar to carbonate the beer, and leave for two weeks (or more in some recipes) for the beer to clear, also known as conditioning. This is the stage I am in right now, having racked my beer into a plastic keg which I received with the starter kit.

The down side with brewing beer from a kit is that you have no control over the flavour, and essentially it is simply practicing the last couple of stages of beer brewing- the fermentation, and then the racking process.

I am really looking forward to moving on to the more complex process and the next stage in becoming a brewmaster- brewing from malt extract. This includes the boil  stage of the brewing process and allows much more control and customization of the flavour and end product. The final method (and most complex one) is called “all grain” brewing. This is when you literally start from the grains and make the malt extract yourself, however is much more time consuming and requires even more equipment. One step at a time, young brewmaster…

I will post an update when the beer is ready to drink, cannot wait to taste the fruits of my labour! Until then, keep your eyes peeled for more views and reviews, both to do with home brewing and other things.

A new adventure!

Hello folks!

I have recently decided to follow my passion for beer and begin growing my own hops in the garden and making up my first batches of delicious home brew. I am a little apprehensive but thoroughly excited to see the fruits of my labour, and am already looking forward to my first harvest sometime in September.

Today I took the first step and ordered my hop rhizomes (that’s the little plant cuttings from which hops grow), as well as a starter beer-brewing kit. I will make a couple of practice batches of beer between now and harvest time, so the first few times that I brew will be using a kit containing all the necessary ingredients, as opposed to my own garden grown hops. However, this should mean that when the big day comes I will be fully prepared to make the most of my organic hoppy produce. The dream is to one day have a full hop farm, with a brewery and pub attached, but I think this is something which will not come into fruition until much later on in my life- but one has to start somewhere! To begin my home grown hop garden I have ordered 4 rhizomes of Fuggle (a classic British hop variety), 4 of Cascade (an American hop variety used in IPAs and other American Ales), and 4 of the Prima Donna hop, also know as First Gold. The last one is a particularly interesting breed as it is a dwarf hop, meaning it will not grow anywhere near as tall as the others and is usually grown by those with limited growing space. Overall I feel these are a good mix for my first year of growing, and are used in a lot of beers which I enjoy. I am definitely planning to brew a fair amount of IPAs and American Ales, and I think Cascade will allow me to do this nicely.

I shall keep you posted on my progress, and will be uploading photos from my first batch of brew (which should be happening sometime next week) as well as when I plant my precious little hop rhizomes. In the meantime, I’m planning to learn as much as I can about the process of brewing, as we all know- knowledge is power.