Saturday, 17 October 2020

Beer and bugs

 As every beer blogger knows getting free beer is the easiest thing in the world. Though breweries might grizzle about it, threaten them with a bad review and they're sending you a case of beer as fast as their little legs can carry it. But despite this due to my insatiable greed I immediately said yes when offered a Hobgoblin beer and bugs snack pack

Hobgoblin is a bit is a bit of a bogeybeer to crafties, and at one point there was a bit of a twitter thing of people mocking those that dared to say they liked it. I'm not entirely sure why, though it might well be due to Hobgoblin having a well know advert that does a bit of mocking itself: "What's the matter lagerboy, afraid you might taste something?". Crafties being at heart lager drinkers themselves no doubt feel slighted. 

I'm not a huge fan myself, though back in the days when I had to buy beer I did enjoy more than a few bottles of the Hobgoblin IPA, which predictably was also treated with distain by the craftily inclined. I was thinking about this again recently when I saw established breweries worried about falling cask beer sales being told that they need to update their beer range. After all, when established breweries have branched out into the craft sector it has always been greeted with universal acclaim. 

The bug bit really interested me though. Over the years I've heard a few things about eating insects but have never done it myself. Well, not deliberately anyway. There were of course beer and bug matching suggestions so I worked my way through both:

Hobgoblin Gold with with chilli and lime crickets. The beer was a bit of a disappointment as it mostly tasted of diacetyl. Personally I don't mind a bit of it but this was too much for me. The crickets were very spicy but certainly tasted better than they looked. 

The IPA  was hoppier and all the better for it, but disappointingly still a noticeable level of diacetyl. I found the Peri peri crickets spicy but milder than the last packet, still pretty full on though. 

Ruby next, didn't notice any diacetyl this time just the burnt sugar taste. As I said, I'm not a huge fan but it did grow on me. The smoky BBQ crickets taste like you expect, but like the others the flavouring is laid on too thick. Overall they could do with toning it down a bit. And they need to do something about the legs. After munching through a bag of crickets you notice you've got lots of insect legs stuck to your teeth. 

Finally it was on to King Hobgoblin, the stronger one. The greater strength definitely improved it, and it reminded me of Old Peculier. The toffee crickets were really good,  clearly desert insects work! I'd overdosed a bit on insects by this point so most of them went in my muesli the next morning. 

I found the beer and bug thing really interesting, and I'll be eating more in the future, particularly as I've still got some more to cook.

They'll probably go in a cricket and grasshopper curry. There was also a packet of insect protein powder. I'm not sure what to do with that one, maybe my brother will want it, it might be the sort of thing he's in to. 

Sunday, 27 September 2020

Postmodernism - is it bollocks?

 I read with interest Lily Waite's recent blog post about beer and postmodernism. It's well written (even if some of the history is wrong) and I was able to follow the point being made. But at the end, to sound a little crass, I couldn't help but think so what? Beer might be described as hyperreal or a simulacra but if I've got a pint in my hand why should I care? Postmodernism might by sceptical towards reason but my reason tells me to be sceptical towards postmodernism. 

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Keep it real

Back in the days when a brief glimmer of hope flickered for festering plague pits, I mean pubs, I visited a few with my friend Tim. He did all the planning while I just tagged along so lets see if I can work out where we went and what I drank from the pictures. 

The first one is easy: Boxcar brewery where I had a pint of keg Best Bitter. In these ecumenical times I couldn't tell by looking if it was evil keg, or if it was served from a CAMRA kosher key keg. I can speak infallibly when I say it would have been better on cask though. 

I think it was this one next: a pint of murky cask beer: 


Again our Mother Church provides no help with this one, being neutral on the use of isinglass finings. I can't help but think that not using them is slightly blasphemous though. Surely the fact that the swim bladders of certain tropical fish make an ideal raw material for clearing yeast from cask beer is so improbable it must be proof of the existence of god, even more so than bananas?

The beer was the best bitter from that London brewery all the crafties like. The name escapes me at the moment though. Five Points maybe? And even if it wasn't fined it still tasted fine. 

If I've got the order right it was something a bit different next: Ayinger Kellerbier. 

This was also served from the keg but I had no fear for my immortal soul here. They have different brewing traditions on the continent so I wasn't risking eternal damnation, I was in fact showing how cosmopolitan I am. Not sure what the pub was though.

Excellent choice of what to photograph in the next pub saved me from more embarrassment as this must surely be The Carpenters Arms. 

This was a Krays pub apparently, though a mate who lived in the East End did point out they'd probably been in most pubs in the area. I'm not going to forget what the beer was here as it was lovely, lovely Landlord, which is probably the best beer in Britain and therefore the world. 

I think it was the Well and Bucket next. We clearly went there as I've got the evidence to prove it:

We did end up in another keg only emporium at one point and this could well be it. When I were a lad confronting such a horror would have made me turn tail and take my custom elsewhere but I'm a bit more laid back nowadays. And I hadn't done the planning. It looks like more murky keg. If I remember rightly this was from Magic Rock and was a bit cheesy. I notice that a lot in beers loaded with lots of American hops but it doesn't seem to bother anyone else. 

Tim had sensibly factored in a beigel in Brick Lane before our final stop, which I'm sure you can all recognise from the special feature:

Two of my mates did when I sent them the picture anyway. Perhaps you're confused that due to refurbishment it was moved from the corridor to the gents? Anyway, it was of course The Pride of Spitalfields, one of my favourite pubs.

It was back to beer served as god intended here, with no hint of blasphemy you'll note. I think I had a Pride and an ESB, though the ESB was a bit of a waste as I was too far gone to taste much difference by then. 

We had started our research trip at midday when pubs are perhaps not their busiest but I was sad to see how empty most of them were. The only one that was at all crowded was The Pride, which I might add had the biggest cask beer range. Which just shows that for pubs cask beer is where it's at. 

Sunday, 9 August 2020

When BRAPA comes to town

I have been known to spend my spare time trudging up and down mountains.  Boots, waterproof and a rucksack full of supplies are standard issue, so it's always a bit of a surprise when someone dressed in shorts and a t-shirt comes running past. To be honest, fell running looks a bit bonkers to me, but heroic bonkers. Which is pretty much how I feel about the people currently ticking off the entire Good Beer Guide. I've done a bit of pub ticking in my time, and was even a 2017 Isle of Man compleatist. But the whole book? 4,500 pubs? Sounds both bonkers and heroic to me. So when I saw that Si of BRAPA fame was in my local area I immediately offered to assist with getting a few more ticks chipped off the monolithic block. 

We started with the Garibaldi in Knaphill, a pub I first drank in as a teenager, though it's sadly gone downhill or should I say upmarket since then. No longer a two bar boozer it's been knocked through into one and is much more foody. 


With the current plague situation they were a long list of rule for us to read and I must confess my attention had wandered before I got to the end. This did bring to light a problem with visiting new pubs that has been compounded by the new rules: what to do when you need a wee. We could see some portaloos had been brought in but were slightly worried we might be arrested if we didn't follow the correct procedure. Fortunately as this was the first stop we could solve the problem by simply heading on to the next pub: The Royal Oak

I've popped into this pub occasionally over the years but never been that taken with it. The welcome, like the decor, was a little cold. It was early though and maybe with more people there it would have warmed up a bit. Si cracked first and had to go in search of the loo, but I could  hold on until I was on more familiar ground at The Crown. As this is my local I was back on home turf and knew the rules and where the facilities were. 

Si showed impeccable taste by agreeing with me it was the best of the pubs we'd been to. And he certainly knows his pubs. Over a beer we compared notes about other bloggers we'd met, so if your ears were burning that day now you know why. I dropped him off in the town centre to brave the wilds of Woking on his own as I had to work the next day. 

I caught up with him again a couple of days later at the Sun Inn in Dunsfold, not to be confused with the other Sun Inn a couple of miles down the road. We met in the garden where Si already had a pint. As I was driving I didn't have anything, which was a bit foolish really as it means I can't tick this pub myself. We discussed the rules of pub ticking as everyone makes their own. Except for Retired Martin, who only does it because he was cursed by a gypsy to wander Britain, visiting every Good Beer Guide pub but only able to have a sip of beer in each. He really should have bought those clothes pegs. Si is perhaps unique in that he has a pint in each tick, most people I think will settle for a half. 

The Merry Harriers was the next stop, the only pub I've seen which offered llama trekking. Not that we actually saw any though. I did have a half here, which is good enough for me to claim a tick. It was something local I think, probably Crafty Brewery as they're not far away. Then it was on to Godalming, a town that strangely causes people problems with how to pronounce it. But not me as I know how to do it. The pub was of course The Red Lion, a cracking pub with a great range of beer. Which is probably helped by the fact they only one from the owners, Greene King on. They had table service here, our beer being deposited near us on the world's smallest ironing board. I'm not sure if it was a comment on the state of our t-shirts or not. Then it was time to head off,. I dropped Si off in Guildford where staggered off to get some sustenance before the next days onslaught, while I slunk back home for another quiet night in. Certainly less heroic, but possibly less bonkers.   

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Fruity folly and pasteurisation perils

Another brewery has come a cropper with cans of their fruit beer exploding. This time though a novel approach to the problem has been taken as they say they "are obsessive in our focus on quality" and it's up to the customer to keep their beer in a fridge if they don't want it to explode!
They also waffle on about their robust laboratory programme and expensive equipment, despite the fact it has obviously failed.

Of what they mention it appears they're actually relying on flash pasteurisation (i.e. heating the beer rapidly for a short period of time in a plate heat exchanger and holding tube) to prevent microorganisms growing in their beer. Beer, already having been fermented, is quite a hostile environment to most microorganisms and only requires a low level of pasteurisation to become microbially stable. Since the work Del Vecchio in the 1950s the amount of pasteurisation a product has is measured in Pasteurisation Units (PU). I won't go into the details about PUs here but the higher the number the higher the degree of pasteurisation and the more heat and/or time needed to achieve it.

The level required to might be 15 PUs (or sometimes even less). As the table below shows fruit juice requires considerably more:

Twenty times more in fact! Hardly surprising that beers with a large amount of added fruit continue to have problems with fermenting in the can. If you're going to include new ingredients in your beer you may need to change your processes too if you want to avoid problems.

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

First the Whorst

The current plague situation has definitely caused in upsurge in internet beer nerdery. Reports have come in that ex-beer blogger Whorst has been sighted on a home brew forum. Back in the days of coal fired computers, when people still paid attention to blogs, he very active in the blogosphere. Though he had it in for the Tand for some reason. At this rate it seems I'm going to have to pull my finger out and do more blogging myself.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Desperate measures

As I've still had to bleedin' well go to work the current plague situation has affected me less than many. But I haven't managed to escape its effects entirely. There's the queuing two metres apart to get into supermarkets...where  it then reverts to the usual free for all. And my current training regime is entirely limited to what I can do on my own in my living room, so Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has gone out of the window but I'm doing alright at re-learning side kicks. Then there's the pubs. Shut, shut, shut.

This has not done any favour for my weekend enjoyment but it was only recently that I realised there were more serious spiritual implications. As I've been able to fulfil for cask beer at work I arrogantly assumed I'd be able to live through the lockdown with no risk to my immortal soul, until The Beer Nut reminded me that May is the month of mild. I had entirely forgotten, which I suppose shows how my routine has been upset more than I'd realised. 

May being the beery month of obligation the faithful are called to promote mild during this time, and I always make sure I drink a pint and sometimes even two. How could I do that when the pubs are shut though? Working at a brewery wouldn't help as we don't make mild. In fact there's four breweries on site and not one of them makes a single mild. Our mother church makes allowances for when you can't get to pubs but who makes bottle conditioned mild? No one I know. So in these desperate times desperate measures are called for and I improvised as best I could. 

We make an old ale, which I think can be considered a strong mild. 

It's filled with extraneous CO2 though, which as we know is the essence of evil. So I used a fork to drive it, and Satan, out. 

Then to try and restore the beer to how god intended I poured in the dregs of a bottle conditioned beer:

Was this enough to fulfil my obligations? I really don't know, I haven't seen CAMRA issue a special dispensation during these troubled times. I can only hope that on the day of judgement my efforts are taken into consideration.