Sunday, 16 June 2019

A visit to Spaten brewery

After visiting a brewery that started in a garage our next stop was an altogether larger concern:  the Spaten brewery  Now owned by ABInBev it was Gabriel Sedlmayr's  brewery, a fact they seem very proud of.

This was in the entrance:

And there's a portrait of him upstairs:

His copied British malting techniques to make paler malts from which he made the first amber coloured lager.

Today the brewery produces the Löwenbräu and Franziskaner brands as well as Spaten. Annual production is 3 million hl, 60% wheat beer and 40% lager.

We were shown round a brewhouse, proudly displayed to the road outside by large windows, though it's not actually been used since 2006. The copper is made from old 1950s vessels and is used to clad stainless steel ones from the late 80s/early 90s.

10 tonnes of malt are used for each batch, giving a brew length of 800-900 hl. The lagers are mashed in at 60°C and the temperature is stepped up to 78°C, presumably with a couple of rests along the way.

Next door to the copper clad brew house were some rather less pretty vessels and there were no big display windows in this room! Hop pellets and extract are used during the one hour boil in a Jetstar wort boiler with an internal calandria and slight over pressure. Slaked lime and ion exchange is used to treat the brewing liquor before addition of calcium chloride and a lactic culture goes in the mash and kettle. It's particularly important for the alcohol free beers and the wort is acidified to pH 4.8-4.9.

The hot wort is filtered with perlite (60g/hl). Horizontal tanks are used for the lagers and CCVs for the wheat beers. The wheat beers are mashed in at 37°C, then stepped up to 44°C and 62°. And though it's not in my notes probably 78°C for mashing out. 

The filters are pretty substantial:

For PVPP a leaf filter is used, and a candle filter for kieselguhr filtration.

There are 34 fermenting vessels of 3400hl, holding 4 brews. Weiss beer is fermented for three days at 21°C and is bottled two weeks after brewing. The yeast count is lowered to two to three hundred thousand cells per ml by centrifugation and lager yeast is added as it settles better.

The bottling hall has three different lines, rated at 40, 50 and 60 thousand bottles per hour, which is all the more impressive when you see that they use recycled bottles. There were five to seven staff per line: perhaps one person on bottle washer, one on crate filler, one on palletiser, one on bottle filler, one on labeller and maybe other looking at conveyors and quality.  The didn't want us taking pictures of that so you'll have to take my word for it. Kegging is carried out at a rate of 500 kegs per hour.

We also got to have a look in the cellars which date from 1848-9. They had the world's first artificial cooling in 1873, though the machine only worked for three days before breaking!

Personally I'm more alle macht den räten
The cellars have holes in the roof where ice as dropped in:

And there is a museum in the cellars:

Where a bottling dalek can be seen:

As well as the old tat often found in historic breweries:

After the cellars we moved up in the world for a pork and lard based lunch and great views of Munich and the tank farm:

For those that care about the distinction between the bourgeoisie and the petite bourgeoisie this brewery was definitely not craft, but at no time did I think the people working there were any less passionate about brewing as any other brewers we met. 

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

A visit to Giesinger brewery

To complete my meticulous researched and completely objective analysis of the ranking order of the four First Class Beer Countries I went on the recent IBD study tour of Germany.

The first stop was Giesinger brewery in Munich, named after the local area it's in.

At first I thought it was a brewpub but it's expanded past that stage.

We were made very welcome and the CPD flowed freely.

Though the brewery was started in a garage at their current site they are now working to capacity of 12,000hl and are planning a new 60,000hl brewery with its own packaging on site. Production is carried out by two shift of workers.

At Giesinger they think that Munich is ready for "classical beer but with more power" (more malt, more hops, more strength). "In Munich you can't just start up and make IPAs, you need to do classical styles. We do both, the best of both worlds."

They use 30 types of malt, 20 types of hop and 10 types of yeast.

Some of the beer is made in open fermenters:

 Bocks getting up to 14 days in them before having four weeks in the Conditioning Tank. Craft ales will ferment faster but spend up to eight weeks in CT.

The beer is unfiltered and unpasteurised, bringing it closer to how god intended.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Nationalism and culture

One of the strangest things I saw about CAMRA's revitalisation process* was the accusation that it was racist to Belgians. This was down to a motion recognising the value of all quality beers but advocating cask beer as the pinnacle of the brewer's art (the vast majority of cask beer being made in Britain). I thought it was rather cleverly worded myself, accommodating heathens people of other faiths, but without falling into the heresy of indifferentism. And anyway, what's wrong with a British beer consumers' organisation saying British beer is best? Would we accuse a Belgian beer consumers' organisation of racism for saying Belgian beer is best? No, surely we would just accept that as a normal thing for them to say, so we should accept it here too and celebrate our beer culture.

This is not to say we should succumb to nationalism though, the drinking class has no country. But let's face it, the beer in some countries is better and the four First Class Beer Countries have great beer cultures too. I have carried out extensive research into them and have just come back from a study tour of Germany which confirmed my findings, so for those of you who are still unclear on this matter here's the ranking:

1. Britain
A well kept pint of cask ale is indeed the greatest beer in the world. It has only been when drinking cask beer that I've felt the magic come and angels dance on my tongue. Served as god intended without artificial carbonation, there is no better beer. And to back it up it will be found in pubs, the greatest places that can be found to drink beer, where you can relax and unwind in a comfortable and cosy environment.

2. Belgium
Like Britain, Belgium retained a strong ale drinking culture against the onslaught of lager following The Great Schism, but in this case in the form of bottle conditioned beers (and let us not forget they are something our Mother Church recognises as real ale). Draught beer is however inherently superior to beer in small pack, both in the taste and that you have to go out to drink it, interacting with the local beer culture. You don't get pubs in Belgium but some of the bars do feel pub like so their second place rank is well deserved.

We now come to the lower tier of the First Class Beer Countries. Though there's no way the order of the first two countries could change I was a little bit at sixes and sevens about this one. However my research has confirmed that the third ranking beer country is:

3. The Czech Republic
Being on the lager side of The Great Schism confines them to the lower tier. As night follows day with lager extraneous CO2 will be involved, going against god's intentions. The Czechs didn't invent lager, but they did invent golden lager in Pilsen. Having said that, some of their lager is good (in fact I've got a soft spot for Pilsner Urquell), and unfiltered lager (which brings it closer to how god intended) is becoming more common. The Czechs stuck to very traditional brewing techniques, including decoction mashing. This helps drive off the sulphury DMS making them less diabolical and they're a bit relaxed about diacetyl so a small amount can be found in some of their lagers and they're all the better for it. Czech bars at their best can be pub like but I found them less cosy than the Belgians manage. I've only even been served beer for breakfast in the Czech republic though so that's got to mean something (even if it's only that I seldom have breakfast in Wetherspoons!).

4. Germany
The last of the First Class Beer Countries is Germany. Again, on the lager side of The Great Schism, they've not kept up with decoction mashing to the same extent as the Czechs, so DMS is more common in their beers and they're more down on diacetyl so they have a bit less character. German bars often look a bit like restaurants, though some have more pubbiness, and the Germans are famous for their beer festivals and beer gardens, both great contributions to beer culture. I have seen beer served directly from wooden barrels in German bars, which surely can't be far from beer as god intended. I also recently learnt that in Bavaria wheat beer accounts for around half of beer sales. Does this mean that in a lager drinking country people are moving closer to beer as god intended, albeit in a cloudy and phenolic form? Maybe they do have something on the Czechs...

Anyway, that wraps up a brief overview of the ranking of the First Class Beer Countries and I hope it's clear there was no racism here, merely a statement of facts.

*Does anyone else remember that?

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Crimes against cask

Being a second generation CAMRA member I'm used to moral certainty when it comes to beer. And although at times I have sinned and fallen short I am well aware of the evil that is extraneous CO2 and the sins of pasteurisation and filtration.

So I was shocked to discover whilst washing casks what can only be a new type of sin previously unknown to me. 

There in the small print on a sticker was evidence of grave crimes against cask:

"Once opened, use with[in] two weeks"! I don't know what numbskull came up with that sticker but unless they get on with some pretty serious repenting they are surely doomed to spend eternity in the fiery pit. Now with skill and dedication it may be possible to keep cask beer on for more than three days* after it's been opened but two weeks is bleedin' well taking the piss. Jesus Christ, it's hard enough doing beer as god intended without such wilful stupidity. It would be nice if people at least had some idea what they're doing when they serve cask beer. 

I won't be naming the company involved, as a brewer that works there assures me the sticker dates from when the company was under previous ownership. And he had mentioned to me before the poor reputation they had inherited and were trying to overcome, so I didn't leave him on the rack for too long before accepting his explanation and letting him go.

* And for those of you of a heretical disposition the recommended time a keg should be left on is five days. Oh yes it is.

Friday, 12 April 2019

On the origin of evil

It's well known that keg beer is inherently evil, but when exactly does it become evil? This is something that I've been giving much though to, having become part of what I can only describe as the axis of evil myself. 

After the horrors inflicted on my taste buds, and soul, on Saturday I became truly forsaken this week as I found myself kegging beer. "Eloi eloi lama sabachthani" I thought as staff shortages lead to me doing the evil deed. But as I delivered god's love in liquid form over to the forces of darkness, 30 litres at a time, my mind turned to theological matters. Once beer is in a keg its chance to be served as god intended is gone, so surely filling kegs is sinful and though I wasn't drinking the stuff I was indeed sinning. 

The extraneous CO2 used to serve keg beer is often seen as the essence of evil, and for the laity it is an excellent indicator that the beer should be shunned. But the use of the gas is also an excellent indicator that earlier malevolence has been inflicted on the beer in the form of filtration and pasteurisation, reinforcing my view that  the evil starts before the beer is served. Though those of a nervous disposition will be pleased to hear that in this case the beer had suffered neither of those indignities. 

Much talk has been made recently of the brewer's intentions, and though I must admit I've thought it a right load of bollocks, does the evil start as soon as a brewer intends to keg their beer? And surely they would only do such a diabolical thing because there are customers willing to pay for such morally bankrupt products? I forget the details but it was either tennis players too lazy to walk to the pub or troops en route to join a global imperialist slaughter that first led to beer being kegged so either way it was not an auspicious start. Can original sin be traced back to those drinkers?

I am no great theologian but I can see evil at every stage of keg beer production, packaging, and consumption. Which is why, weeping inconsolably as I filled the kegs, I had to accept that I had become part of the axis of evil. Whether I am the biggest sinner I couldn't say, but I really need to stop my pondering and get on with saying a few more decades of Hail Protzes if I'm to save my immortal soul. 

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Culture in Hampstead

I do occasionally look at culture outside of Petri dishes. I can remember seeing The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice by the late great Bob Calvert soon after he died. And in the 30 years since then I've seen at least two more plays. There was The Accidental Death of an Anarchist about poor old Pinelli when it was on in Woking, and I got taken to see Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell at some point too. So three plays in 30 years makes it pretty clear that not only am I a regular theatre goer, but another visit was due.

Handily for me another of Bob Calvert's plays was being revived, in the same upstairs room at the pub in Hampstead I'd last seen one. Mirror, Mirror was written in 1979, but set in 2030. It's stood the test of time remarkably well, seemingly spookily like it was written about modern internet culture. He was a bright lad Bob, such a loss.

But what about the pub? A quick look at What Pub showed it's undergone some remarkable changes in the 30 years since I last visited. I remembered it as an ordinary, slightly scruffy boozer but at one point it became a Wetherspoons, before being tarted up and becoming the original home of Camden Town Brewery. This caused me some concern as they don't do beer as god intended, but I was reassured to read that two real ales would be available. Sadly it was not to be.

This is the future that crafties want
Being greeted by the sad sight of two unused hand pumps surrounded by evil keg took me back 30 years too, to the dark days when it was not uncommon to find pubs were keg only establishments. To think that this pub was once a Wetherspoons, where hand pumps would have pride of place and the beer would have been considerably less than £5 a pint showed how things are degenerating.

The Camden Pale served from the devil's drainpipe was, I suppose, some improvement on the keg bitter of 30 years ago but still so, so inferior to cask. I brings me no joy to report that the fools and charlatans that told us craft keg was no threat to cask have been proved wrong. Satan and his servants are attacking cask beer on many fronts and the struggle of the faithful for beer as god intended is as important as ever.

Friday, 29 March 2019

'Spoons vouchers: It's that time of year again

One of the blessings bestowed upon members of the one true catholic and apostolic beer consumers organisation is £20's worth of 'Spoons vouchers each year.

This boon granted to the faithful is not without controversy. Some of this can be dismissed as the bleatings of the petty beergeoisie or scheming of servants of Satan, but I do occasionally ponder if they have a point.  Before once again deciding "no".

Sadly for me the vouchers came out after I'd stopped regularly drinking in a 'Spoons so I've never got the most out of them. I did use to try and remember to take them with me if a trip to a 'Spoons looked likely, and then I'd blow that quarter's £5 in vouchers in an evening by sharing them with my friends. But many went to waste which was deeply unsatisfying. So I now give them to a mate who visits 'Spoons more often than me and can make the most of the discount. I don't think it makes him visit them any more frequently, it just means he spends less money when he goes to them. Which is really why I find those who are so opposed to the vouchers they destroy them so hard to understand.

Now I can understand not liking 'Spoons. They generally have all the atmosphere of a waiting room and must surely damage the trade of other pubs. But even if you can't find a friend that drinks there anyway and so deny Tim Martin some of their money you could always punt them on ebay and spend the cash somewhere you find more deserving.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Gassing quickly in Liverpool

Despite the fact I once lived in Liverpool I don't think I've ever been to a pub there. I was only a baby though so I've got a decent excuse. The other week I returned for BeerX, SIBA's annual get together. For those unfamiliar with the British brewing industry SIBA are a beer wholesaler with a side line as a trade organisation representing the interests of their executive. 

A few enquiries made before my visit showed that Liverpool is a beer oasis and the list of pubs I'd been given to visit looked an impossible task. It looked like it would be fun trying though, so I made a start as soon as I'd arrived. 

First on my list was The Fly in the Loaf, a bizarrely named pub owned by Heron and Brearley, the parent company of Okell's brewery.  

Disappointingly H and B had merged it in with Market Town Taverns, a pub chain in Yorkshire they bought. This meant it served a wide range of guest beers with only one Okell's beer on sale.

Part of the plan of buying MTT was to sell more of Okell's beers, but with the Okell's pubs in England now mainly selling guest beers it looks like they're actually selling less. Management decisions, eh? I did my bit for Manx brewing by having a delicious pint of Okell's bitter and then I was off to find some gents to take photographs in.

The photogenic bogs were in the next pub, and sadly this furtive photo was the best I managed of the legendary gents in the Philharmonic:

Annoyingly someone was dicking around with their phone at another urinal rather than getting on with the business in hand so I couldn't get the bogs in all their glory. Never mind, the rest of the pub was impressive too...

...and I enjoyed the beer from Oakham:

 Next stop was the Roscoe Head:

Where I was delighted to see they had Landlord on:

It was a cracking pub, I could certainly see why it's been in every edition of the Good Book. That they're selling "Save The Rosecoe Head" T-shirts is a very worrying sign though.

Then I was off again, following in the footsteps of the local anarcho-syndicalists on my way to The Dispensary.

Sadly this was a bit of a disappointment after the quality pubs I'd been in that night.

The place was almost empty and the Pale Rider was no Landlord.

Oh well, you win some, you lose some. And after this promising start my exploration of Liverpool pubs mostly fizzled out as things got in the way. Certainly the few others I did manage to pop in to aren't really worth writing about. I must write more about the SIBA do though, the AGM was mostly dull but I did find the talk on Health and Safety interesting and it be good to get my notes up.