Saturday, 18 October 2014

Another dent in the can

There's another tasty titbit on the can question in this month's Brewer and Distiller International:

"The quality-limiting step of the can packaging operation is the seamer, which is still of an insufficiently hygenic design to embrace sterile filling."

Which does lead me to wonder what shelf life they put on non-pasteurised craft cans. If I can ever force myself to fork out for one I must remember to look at the best before date.

The article also had a passage that got me pondering how I'd managed to live through a beer revolution that's affected my own drinking habits without really paying much attention:

" the early 1990s the futures of bottled beer was in some doubt, until the sudden advent of alcopops and front-of-shelf premium lagers. Before this watershed the march of can products appeared irresistible."

Now that's not to say that over the years I've taken to drinking alcopops. Or premium lagers for that matter. But premium bottled ales keep my cupboards full. And the garage. And there's a few in the airing cupboard come to think of it. Decent bottled beers are always something I've sought out, but their steady rise hasn't had the sudden impact of the arrival of golden ales, or beers that taste of grapefruit, did. It has appreared more slowly, like the road starting to go gently down hill when cycling it's just got easier to find decent bottled beer. Much like cask beer slowly changed from being something you had to seek out to something you'd be surprised about if it wasn't there.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Gog standard beer

I seem to be falling ever further behind my fellow beer nerds in chasing the latest in fashionable beers. In a recent beer geek poll I found I'd only drunk four of the top ten pale ales in Britain. The only non-CAMRA beer festival I got to has rants against keg beer in the programme. And I've never bought a craft beer can, not even in 'Spoons.

Quite how I've fallen so far behind, despite my dedicated beer nerdery, has been a cause for some reflection. My love of cask beer, and antipathy to keg must explain a lot. As does the Guinness FES test, as I seldom feel the urge to pay specialist beer shop prices for strong stouts when I can pay supermarket prices.

But I was still left wondering why I was lagging with the pale ales. Then I realised I had another benchmark beer: Goose Island IPA. Whenever I feel the need for an American hop hit I have an excellent beer easily available in local supermarkets. In fact there's several, and I probably buy more beer of that ilk from Oakham or Thornbridge. So pricer options for beers of similar style have little appeal.

I've now realised my buying habits generally entail needing to know if the beer is significantly better than Gog standard (Guinness or goose) before I'll fork out significantly more than supermarket prices..

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Gluten free beer

We've had a few projects about gluten free beer at work so I was interested when the IBD magazine had an article on it. It was written by someone from a company that makes a protease normally used to prevent beer from forming chill hazes. By happy coincidence the enzyme breaks down the immunoreactive epitopes in gluten, so it also makes beer safe for coelics.

The author included a list of gluten free beers available in various countries, and listed the grains they're made from.

I noticed a couple of the British ones were made from sorghum which piqued my interest, I've wondered what it tastes like for some time. So when I was next at Utobeer I ignored all the beers I might actually like and picked up a bottle of St Peter's Gulten free lager. It's not easy being a beer nerd.

The lager is slightly oddly made with Amarillo hops, but not a huge amount, and has an unpleasantly harsh tang to the aftertaste. I suspect it's made with sorghum malt extract which could explain the tang. Having paid Borough Market prices for the bottle I made sure I finished it, but it didn't taste great so I won't be getting any more.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Are dried yeasts what they claim to be?

I went to a SIBA meeting on Wednesday and a bloke from Surebrew gave a brief but interesting talk. For starters it was amazing to see a question and answer session on Brettanomyces, when barely over a year ago one of my beers was wrongfully disqualified from the specialist beer section of a SIBA competition because no-one knew what Brettanomyces was.

But it was when he was asked about dried yeasts that it got really interesting. He said Safale 04 is Whitbread B, something I'd previously seen Graham Wheeler (PBUH) say over at Jim's; US 05 is apparently composed of several strains, and Nottingham Ale yeast is in fact a mix containing 70% lager yeast. I'm quite astonished by this last point, and it also seems to me that it should be relatively easy to investigate if it's correct. If I remember rightly lager yeast can ferment melibiose whereas ale yeast cannot, and ale yeast is able to grown at 42 degrees C whereas lager yeast cannot. I'll have to check the details, and see what we've got a work, but this is one I'd really like to look into...

Friday, 3 October 2014

Oxygen uptake with bottle caps.

Canned beer has become fashionable amongst some of my fellow beer nerds, and lack of oxygen uptake in the container causing staling has been one of the attractions. This prompted Rob Lovatt from Thornbridge brewery to point out to that oxygen pick up after packaging is only part of the story and small scale canning lines have a real potential to introduce oxygen during filling.

This did still leave me wondering how much oxygen can get into bottled beer. So I asked the engineer who sits next to me and he said very little unless the capping goes wrong. But it would still be nice to have a figure. And then, as if by magic, an article by Peter Heumüller and Graham Jennings in Brewing and Beverage Industry International had exactly that:

"Oxygen permeation rates are detectable, although the metal of the crown cork and the glass bottle are perfect barriers. A detailed measurement showed values of typically 0.001cm3 / cap / day."

So there you have it. 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Is Kronenbourg 1664 now awesome?

Not generally being keen on either lager or keg beer I don't think I've ever drunk Kronenbourg 1664. But seeing as Mark Dredge is now promoting it does this mean it is, in fact, awesome?

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Towards a Fresh Revolution

On Saturday I went to Canterbury to sample the Kent green hop beers. There was a fine selection on offer, and most were very good. Using undried hops means the amount of aromatic oils is higher and the beers can have a fresh 'zingy' taste. My overall favourite of the day was Wantsum Brewery's Bullion. It's good to see Bullion being grown in Britain, let's hope more are planted.

The green hop beer tent was there as part of the Canterbury Food and Drink Festival, so there was plenty to eat and drink, as well as bands and morris dancers.

I managed to meet up with lots of friends, old and new, and managed to pace myself pretty well throughout the day.

Yes, it is a rather appropriate flautist
Though I did have to pause and have a coffee mid-afternoon.

Los Amigos de Lúpulo
Which was just as well as we went on to the Foundry brew pub afterwards for more important and informative discussions.