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. 

 Stuff:



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?