Busy Weekends and Home Brew #5

Action-Packed Weekends in August

An excellent weekend meeting the likes of Huw, M, TFS, Cerridwen, JimMcG and others in York was followed by a weekend listening to some great music in rain and a muddy field at V Festival!

Fortunately, I didn’t get this muddy!
I’m just so glad I wasn’t camping and must say I felt rather smug on the bus back when it all ended, knowing that I would be sleeping in a nice, clean and dry bed in a hotel! 
We stayed two nights in the hotel and it cost only £50 in total. Food and drink wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be, even at the festival. One of my friends drove down and refused to accept petrol money so I just bought her a bottle of Prosecco as a thank you gift which was gratefully received – sorted!
That weekend of much drinking was followed by a weekend of much eating, when I went down to London to visit family. I have a cousin who lives in Peckham and my aunt and uncle were visiting from Hong Kong so I thought I’d pop down for the weekend.
Ended up visiting places that I’d never been to before, eg Tate Modern Gallery, Shakespeare’s Globe, Hampton Court Palace and also managed to visit Mayfield Lavender Farm. Used my spanking new Oyster Card (which I ordered online) – get me trying to be a Londoner! 🙂
As the crow flies….at Hampton Court Palace
I have to admit that our capital city is great – I’d love to spend more time in the city so that I can experience all it has to offer.
The weather was great, my trains ran on time, there was no Tube strike, so all in all, another excellent weekend! I even managed to have a little chat with my cousin after I found out that he has savings but has not started a pension.  He’s 26 and works freelance so has no company pension to join. I’m going to email him some info and hope he gets the ball rolling!
My costs for this weekend were mostly related to travel (the 3 T’s – train, taxi and tram) – the train fare’s on my credit card so I’ll be paying that next month.
Latest Home Brew
I’m not a big cider drinker but one of my friends bought me a home brew cider kit for Christmas and I’ve finally gotten round to making it! My cider-drinking friends were very happy when I put this brew on as they were finally getting a chance to sample some home brewing that my beer-drinking friends have been enjoying!
The kit was the Strawberry and Pear Cider kit from the Make Your Own range; the instructions were easy to follow, although I had no idea at the time if I was doing it right because the brew didn’t behave in the same way as a beer brew would behave. Plus, it all smelt very different while it was fermenting, so it was very much fingers crossed when it came to bottling!  In all, there were 42 bottles (21 litres / 37 pints), costing me nothing apart from my time and effort (and a bit on my water bill!). 
A little over a month later, the resulting brew is very clear, sparkly, refreshing and not as sweet as commercial fruit ciders. Can’t really taste strawberries or pears, it just tastes….fruity! It’s a dark pink in colour, although it looks a lot darker in the photo I’ve taken.
I have no idea what the alcohol content is as there was nothing about using a hydrometer in the instructions, but it shouldn’t be more than 4.7%. I’m trying a couple of bottles this weekend to test…haha!
All in all, I’m quite pleased with this. However, as I’m not a cider lover, I can’t see me drinking many of these but I hope my friends will enjoy it – I’ll be turning up at house parties with the stuff!
For my next brew, I’ll be back brewing beer, this time a kit given to me for my birthday so more free drinks!
This weekend?
After three back-to-back weekends packed with social activities, this weekend, I have absolutely NOTHING planned and I’m really happy about that! Looking forward to spending much time in my pyjamas catching up on blog reading haha!
Whatever you’re doing (or not), have a good one all!

Gambling for Cashback, Home Brew Beer #4 and OOO

Oh look – a post on two of my vices – gambling and drinking! 🙂

Conscious that I’ve not made much headway in my goal to earn £500 from online activities, I had a quick browse through TopCashback* to see if there were any decent offers that didn’t involve me spending a lot of money.

The following offers jumped out at me…

In my mind, I couldn’t lose with either of these offers – if I bet my respective £10’s and lost, I would still make £17.30 profit with William Hill and £16.25 profit with Betfair!

Yes, I know that this past year, I’ve done a pretty good job at keeping my gambling to a minimum, but TFS will understand why I had to jump on these offers as he’s taken advantage of similar himself (although he’ll note that I’m less adventurous with my bets!).

First Account

So, I opened my William Hill account and deposited a tenner.

I placed a bet on a football match (won’t bore you with the details) and won £3.33

Not much but I didn’t lose any money, ie still had my original stake, which was the main point.

Second Account

I opened my Betfair account and deposited a tenner (or rather, just over a tenner as I read the small print re qualification for cashback).

Another couple of bets on football matches and I won £5.65.

All in all, including cashback, I made a total profit of £62.53 – not bad for a few minutes’ work!

And the £10 deposited in my each of my new accounts? I withdrew it all so I can’t place any more bets!

These gambling cash backs were tricky ones to test my willpower but I believe I passed the test, although with me rolling the dice to choose an investment earlier in the month, some may think I haven’t totally gotten rid of my gambling bug and chances are, I never will but I reckon I can keep it under control

More ‘sedate’ cash backs to be earned over the coming month or so, as I’m due to renew my various insurances (home, travel, car and landlord).

Anyway, if you choose to do so, please gamble responsibly!

Home Brew Beer #4

Time for another home brew beer update and this time, I went for Young’s American Amber Ale kit.

I brewed it at the beginning of April and the brew has finally conditioned to make a very nice hoppy-flavoured beer!

When I bought it, the kit cost £28 (down from £32) but it looks like I can get it cheaper now which is good news as I definitely want to do this one again.

I brewed just over 21 litres/37 pints, so the cost of this one worked out as £0.67 per bottle or £0.76 per pint! I handed out samples to friends and colleagues last week and received some great feedback (and requests for seconds!), so this one is a good brew.

The beer is still a touch cloudy though not too much – recent bottles have been much clearer than the picture shown, which was taken of the first bottle I opened a few weeks ago.

Strength of the beer is about 5.0% ABV, enough to give me a smidgen of a hangover anyway, after I had a few bottles the other Friday night!

I think this brew is better than the Woodforde’s Wherry I did and maybe slightly ahead of the St Peter’s Golden Ale.

For my next home brew, I think I’m going to try a fruit cider kit. I’m not much of a cider drinker but I got a kit as a Christmas present and well, I may as well make use of it, even though I’d much rather continue brewing beer! Plus my cider-drinking friends have been feeling rather left out compared to my beer-drinking pals – it’s their turn to sample some of my home brew!

Update when I’ve gotten round to brewing it!

And finally….

OOO (Out Of Office)

I’m about to head out for my usual trip to Hong Kong to see my folks so won’t be about for a while.

I don’t have any posts scheduled so updates will resume upon my return, and I’ll have a big catch up on my blog reading when I’m back.

See you all then!

 [*referral link]

Home Brew Beer #3, a new Challenge and Bonus update

Six months ago, I started brewing my own beer.

Anyway, in January, I brewed and bottled my third batch!
Carbonation hasn’t quite completed in all the bottles, but some of them are ready so I cracked a few open last weekend.

I brewed a bitter, namely Woodforde’s Wherry, which is a premium kit (two can) and cost £19.

As I didn’t need to buy anything else this time round, this was a particularly cheap batch (just over 21 litres/37 pints brewed), which worked out as £0.43 per bottle or £0.51 per pint! Even students can’t get beer this cheap at the NUS bar!
Strength of the beer is only about 4.0% ABV, clarity is so-so, still a little bit cloudy and with some bottles, you have to let the yeast settle at the bottom of the glass. But taste-wise, it’s a pretty good bitter and maintains a surprisingly good head too! In time, the cloudiness will hopefully clear up.
Am pleased with this one, even though I’ve sampled it early, only a month after it’s been bottled. Don’t think it’s quite as good in flavour as the St Peter’s Golden Ale I did but will do this kit again, especially as it’s great value for money and the kits are often on sale.

New Challenge
So I achieved one of my 2015 goals early in Feb, that of completing the Rubik’s Cube. It was a tough challenge and gave my brain a good work out but I wasn’t expecting to complete a goal so quickly.
I realised that I couldn’t not set myself another challenge so had a think of something else that I could learn, which would make me think and work my brain.
Well, Graham from MoneyStepper gave me the idea, as did Huw of FFB40 and my friends mentioned it too recently.
What’s my new challenge/goal?

To learn how to play poker.

I know plenty of card games but this one seems to have eluded me so far.

No, I’m not aiming to be some card shark or aim to earn a living from playing the game.
I just want to learn what the game is all about and how to play it.
Unlike some other forms of gambling, there’s some skill involved and well, I’d like to learn some of that if that’s possible.
It could be that I could turn out to be a dreadful poker player – Can I maintain a poker face? What’s my ‘tell’? Anyway, I won’t know until I try, will I?
I don’t think that completing this goal will be as straight-forward as the Rubik’s Cube but let’s say that if I can be a somewhat competent player by the end of the year, that will be a raging success, though I’m not sure how I can measure such success. I must have a word with those friends who were talking about poker nights at some point…
But first, I need to learn the basics!

Bonus Update

So I found out that I was getting a work bonus in March. This has now hit my bank account.

I’m actually quite tempted to go on a shopping splurge but no, I must not. I will however be treating myself to something.

I’m not sure exactly how much but at the moment, I reckon I will save at least 80% of my bonus, which will bump up my savings rate dramatically this month.

Full update at the end of the month/beginning of April!

Have a great weekend all!

Home Brew Beer #2

Following the success of my first ever attempt at brewing my own beer, I brewed and bottled my second batch in November!

I had believed that I had purchased all the equipment that I needed for my home brewing but as with any hobby, you end up buying more gear, which has ultimately added to the end cost of the beer.
My kitchen is pretty cold (when there’s no cooking going on) – I think I just about got away with it with my first home brew batch as I was brewing at the tail end of summer but I knew that if I wanted to brew in the winter, I needed to either brew in a warmer room or buy equipment to ensure optimum temperature for the brew.
I opted for the latter and bought a brew belt for £24, which is just a plastic heating element that goes round the outside of the fermenting bucket that heats the brew and keeps it at a constant temperature for optimum fermentation. I found that it was very simple to use and worked well.

Which Beer Kit?

My first kit was a basic Coopers Aussie Lager kit. For my second attempt, I’ve gone for a premium kit, St Peter’s Golden Ale which cost £26. The main difference that I saw in the two kits (aside from the price) was that the premium kit contained two tins of malt extract (compared to one tin of extract and a bag of brewing sugar) and also a packet of hop extract. Everything else, including how the ingredients were mixed etc was exactly the same.
As before, I didn’t follow the very brief instructions that came with the kit but instead followed the notes that I’d made for my first batch, which I knew worked for me.
I was able to get 35 bottles from this brew (just over 17 litres/31 pints), which works out as £1.43 per bottle or £1.61 per pint.
A couple of my friends who sampled my first brew said they would pay for future bottles but well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, this is all just strictly fun (and good drinking I hope!).
Anyway, this beer took a while to be even drinkable, 2 months in fact:

This pint had a decent head but it’s hit and miss with this batch

Whilst this brew is slightly cloudier than my first one, it tastes a lot better, is quite strong (4.5% ABV) with lots of flavour, although I don’t think I primed the bottles with enough sugar as some of the bottles lack a full foamy ale head when the beer is poured out. Still, apparently it continues to mature so future bottles I open may get better. In any case, I will definitely buy this kit again to make.

I’m giving away around 10 bottles to friends so I’d best get my next batch on soon!