Sunday, 29 March 2020

Cask in crisis

That the devil has long been trying to destroy cask beer is obvious to anyone who has eyes to see with. The mysterious creation of lager yeast paved the way for unnaturally cold and fizzy beer, and the invention of the infernal sparkler was clearly part a diabolic plan that culminated in nitrokeg bitter. But now the dark lord has gone further and unleashed pestilence upon the land to shut the pubs and deny people beer served as god intended.

Our mother church has long accepted bottled conditioned beer as real ale, and has recently declared that even some other lesser forms of packaging are also valid. But we know they're not the same thing. So as I still have to go to work whilst the rest of you are lying around all day wanking I did get to thinking that surely being in a brewery I must be able to find some cask beer. And as it happens it was dead easy. The shop is still open and they sell beer on cask.

So I helped myself to some on Friday and very nice it was too. Even in these times of lockdown there may still be opportunities out there to take communion and for the good of their soul I urge the faithful to be vigilant and seize these opportunities when they can. Whilst keeping social distancing and being hygienic of course.

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

A spectre is haunting Cumbria

After a very enjoyable weekend in Edinburgh things went rapidly downhill. Whilst there I'd unexpectedly reached the pinnacle of my brewing career, winning the coveted golden dipstick. But my enjoyment was to be short lived.

First there was the train journey to Penrith which took seven hours. It was supposed to be less than two. Matthew Lawrenson made a valiant attempt to get some liquid support to me at Preston but in the end it was stoicism that got me to my last stop.

I thought things were looking up there, as I was met at the station by friends who whisked me over to Brathwaite. But I was to find the day's suffering was not yet over. On entering The Royal Oak I was horrified to see there was no bleedin' Sneck Lifter.

Instead there was a hobgoblin leering at me. Hobgoblin is a bit of a bogeyman to crafties but I don't mind it myself. I do mind it replacing Sneck Lifter though, as it's just not as good. Sadly I was greeted by a similar sight at a Jenning's pub in Keswick. The hobgobin was leering at me again, I suspect he's haunting the whole of Cumbria, but not a Sneck to be seen. Or Cockerhoop for that matter.

Once I'd got home I emailed my contact in Cockermouth who was able to confirm the full horror of the situation. Orders have come through from Wolverhampton to "re-invigorate the flagging Jennings brand by....... discontinuing the two best beers!" It's said they may return as seasonals but in which season exactly are they going to bring back the strong, dark Sneck Lifter if not Winter? And bollocks am I going to be drinking Hobgoblin in place of Sneck, though the Dog and Gun in Keswick still has Old Peculier on which certainly kept the Winter chill at bay and did go some way to easing my distress.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

A visit to West Berkshire Brewery

The latest IBD mini-seminar was at West Berkshire Brewery, where we got to hear about lots of lovely shiny things we'll never be able to afford. Then it was time for a tour.

They've spent £12 million on the brewery so they'd been able to afford a few shiny things.

We were shown round by the Production Manager,

They have a 24 head bottling line.

And a 24 head canning line.

And lots of space.

Space is the absence of time and of matter

They've a way to go to get that 12 million quid back. This was a yeast propagation vessel and I definitely want it:

Here's some fermenting vessels:

And here's a hop rocket. I want one of them too.

Racking port not 12" about the bottom of the cone:

Combined cask and keg racker depending on if god or the devil is winning:

Some filter housings and a centrifuge at the back. I wouldn't mind one of them too. 


More stuff:

The brew house is continental style with a Mash Conversion Vessel and Lauter Tun. They have a 60hl brew length and since the addition of a pre-run vessel (extra tank for wort collection) do up to four brews a day.

The brew house was branded as "Renegade", which was their crafty sub-brand. But no one seemed to care so they've dropped it.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

The Eagle Ale House

I have a policy of never saying no when I'm asked down the pub. After all, what would I be doing otherwise that's better than going to a pub? So I was put in a quandary when a friend called on a recent Saturday morning to say he was on his way to the Eagle Ale House and would I like to join him? I had a cold so was planning a quite day ticking things off my to do list. But a quick perusal of the list showed there wasn't much that couldn't be put off, so after a quick run around I was on my way to the station.

I've wanted a have a drink in the Eagle Ale House for a long time. I did once deliver beer to it whilst in a previous job, and I've met one of the guys behind it, Dave Law, a few time. He's a tireless campaigner against the evils of the pub companies, which was why my friend wanted to drink in his pub.

It is, as you'd expect, a proper pub: tiled out the front and bare floorboards inside, with six hand pumps on but no food. Lovely. For practicing Satanists it looked like a range of devil's drainpipes were on the other side of the bar, and there were even bottles of Big Drop in the fridge for those doing the modern version of Lent.

We arrived early so it wasn't busy, but it was filling up nicely by the time we left. Being of an infirm disposition I stuck to session beers and even had a few halves of coke to slow down my intake. Mostly it was something pale and hoppy that was only 3% ABV, though I stray into dangerously strong territory for a mild at 3.5%. You have to boost your mild score when you can.

The plan had been to move on to another pub, run by another campaigner, but it was on the other side of London and what with me being poorly I couldn't face it. So it was an early return to the station for us, and we only stopped at one more pub on the way. We were practically tee total really.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

The black malt in the copper mystery solved

My current boss, has been a brewer for many a year, occasionally drops a fascinating fact into the conversation. He started out working for Courage, so Imperial Russian Stout occasionally crops up, and I'm pleased to say that last week the mystery of black malt in the copper was solved.

For those of you unfamiliar with brewing Imperial Russian Stout the instructions tell you to add black malt to the copper (kettle) two hours into the three hour boil. Nowadays it might be common for hops to be added at just about any stage of brewing but having malt anywhere but the mash tun is decidedly odd. As indeed my boss said when he talked about it. He couldn't work out why until he realised that the malt in the copper acted as an abrasive agent to scrub off some of the crud that builds up on the heating element during a long boil of a strong wort so restoring some efficiency.

I for one have been able to sleep easier in my bed knowing this. I wonder if he ever brewed an AK in his Courage days?

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Golden Pints 2019

The Golden Pint is not made
but grows on a green tree:
A strong man with his crystal eyes
is a man born free.
The oxen pass under the yoke
and the blind are led at will:
But a man born free has a path of his own
and a house on the hill.
And men are men who till the land
and women are women who weave:
Fifty men own the lemon grove
and no man is a slave.

And to think they gave Herbert Read a knighthood when he can't even get a rhyme right, the women should clearly have been waving. Just shows how ridiculous the honours system is. Anyway, the Golden Pints are not something I take notes for but I'll see what I can dredge up from my memory for the past year.

Best UK Cask Beer:

I have undoubtedly drunk more from Thurstons brewery than anything else but this year but a pub I go to in Dorking has started regularly, but not always, having Timothy Taylor's Landlord on and my eyes light up whenever I see it so it's got to be Landlord.

Best UK Keg Beer:

The have been at least three occasions this year when I have suckled from the Devil's drainpipe, a couple of them even of my own free will. The Hog's Back beers drunk under duress when I went to see the mighty Hawkwind weren't anything special and cask would definitely have been an improvement. Thurstons trial of their Saison on keg was a must and if it becomes a regular thing could imperil my immortal soul. But the winner is one from Abbeydale. After a long session on Harvey's excellent cask beer I was tempted into the Rake for one more. As the cask there isn't great I couldn't help but think it was a disappointment. So we eyes wandered to see what was in the over chilled and carbonated section. Spying a Brett. beer I went for it and I have to say it was well done. So the winner is a bretty pale ale from Abbeydale.

Best UK Bottled Beer:

Small pack beer for me this year has mostly been stuff blagged from work. Beer's so much cheaper when you don't pay for it! Mostly I think it was Ridgeway beers, I've definitely developed a taste for one of the Bad Elves. The winner is one my favourite sister bought me though: Tynt Meadow. I'd wanted this beer for a long while and it's very good indeed.

Best UK Canned Beer:

Again, work has proved fruitful for cans thanks to Laine brewery so I'll go with All For One from them.

Best Overseas Draught:

Did I go overseas this year? Oh yes, Germany. Can't say I was overwhelmed with any of the normal lagers but I was quite taken with the Schlenkerla so that.

Best Overseas Bottled Beer:

For this one the winner's got to be Obadiah Poundage though, what a beer.

Best Overseas Canned Beer:

Hmmm...did I have anything canned from overseas. Don't think so.

Best collaboration brew:

Not really my thing.

Best Overall Beer:

Lovely, lovely Landlord.

Best Branding:

What's Lindsay at Too Much Black Coffee done this year? Oh yes, VIPA.

Best UK Brewery:

I know Landlord won best beer but I've never been as keen on the rest of their range so Thurstons can have this one. The Milk Stout's too sweet mind.

Best Overseas Brewery: 

Let's stick with Schlenkerla.

Best New Brewery Opening 2019:

No idea.

Pub/Bar of the Year:

It can only be The Champion Pub of Surrey: The Crown, Horsell.

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2019:

No idea for this one either.

Beer Festival of the Year:

The GBBF wasn't a vintage year for me this this time round, but it's still the best festival.

Supermarket of the Year:

Not had much call for supermarket beer this year.

Independent Retailer of the Year:

I've used it as a pub more than a shop but Cobbetts Real Ale.

Online Retailer of the Year:

Not bought any beer online.

Best Beer Book or Magazine:

Boak and Bailey's Balmy Nectar mentions me by name, thus making me even more famous. So it should be a shoe in, but unfortunately for them also published this year was The Craft Brewing Handbook, surely one of the greatest books ever written, so it's got to be that.

Best Beer Blog or Website:

Martyn Cornell has had some cracking posts recently, making a trip to try Mercers Meat Stout  and breaking the fantastic news that confirms Fuggles aren't a continental interloper and that they're descended from Goldings so demonstrating that Farnham Whitebines really are the daddy of them all. Well, mummy really.
But no competition can see off Boak and Bailey in the blog stakes, they tirelessly bring out a stream of interesting stuff to read, so they're the champions this year.

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer:

For coming up with a beer that's truly innovative (I mean, have you ever heard of another beer made with hop leaves?) Danielle Bekker @BinaryBotanical has got nothing but stick on twitter. Those crafties love innovation provided it tastes of American hops. Yet despite all the stick she's never told anyone to go do one which surely deserves an award. So here one is.

Monday, 23 December 2019

The New IPA by Scott Janish

Scott Janish's The New IPA is a welcome addition to the literature available on hops. Subtitled "A scientific guide to hop aroma and flavour" it covers where hop flavours come from and how they're affected by the various processes and parameters of brewing. This does make the scope of the book rather extensive, and in addition to chapters on hop components and the effect of hop additions at different times information on the effect of things like liquor treatment, grist composition and yeast strain on hop flavour is also included.

I found the details on how addition timings affects the concentration of various hops oils and which varieties are high or low in different compounds particularly interesting. Another step has been taken on the long journey to turn hop additions from an art to a science!

The information in the book comes from a variety of sources. There are well over 300 references cited many of which, if I ever have the time, deserve further study. The author also details his own practical experience and experiments, both as a home brewer and as a professional brewer, and in the final chapter other professionals also provide their tips. This does mean that some of the information provided has more weight than others and I did have to raise an eyebrow on reading that limit dextinase is considered more important for wort fermentability than beta-amylase. It is perhaps best to think that the text provides signposts for further research rather than definitive conclusions, but when looking at something as complicated as beer flavour practical experience in your own brewery will always count the most.

The book is self published, and though a good job has been done, there is room for improvement - I'm sure underlining text is now considered a crime against typography! My criticism are however minor and I would strongly recommend this book as an addition to any brewer's bookshelf.