Saturday, 24 September 2022

Thoughts on beer blogging

Boak and Bailey were recently asking about why beer blogs die, which got some interesting replies. I don't blog much myself nowadays so it did get me pondering. Partly I post less because I've been doing it so bleedin' long I've said a lot of things already. And for me anyway Twitter definitely has a part because things now move more quickly and more briefly. 

I'm not sure the world of beer bores has become more toxic though. When I started blogging whinging on about CAMRA was one of the main topics, something I myself indulged in until I realised the danger I was putting my immortal soul in. Then there was the rise of Craft Beer in Britain which was new and exciting and an excellent opportunity for conflict to arise. And nothing drives social media like conflict. As craft beer has now moved from being "revolutionary" to business as usual the craft crusaders seem a lot quieter. I mean there may have been some wailing and gnashing of teeth when Heineken's takeover of Beavertown was completed but I can't say I noticed anything. 

I also think that as time as moved on my interests have moved on. I spend less time reading beer blogs as well as less time writing them. For example, at the moment I'm more likely to read Ron's blogs about wandering around getting pissed than I am his ones about beer history. I'm also trying to get out training more often, admittedly not entirely successfully, and as far as beer goes there is something more worthwhile to devote my time and effort to. Having a blog still has it's uses though and I will continue to post stuff up at times but my output is likely to remain sporadic. 

Friday, 16 September 2022

Back to a hop farm

It feels like I haven't been to a hop farm since 1911, though I suppose it can't be quite that long ago. So it was good to return to one of the Redsell's farms for an IBD do. 

They grow 90% English hops (mostly East Kent Goldings, Challenger and Fuggle with some Admiral) though they do have some foreign varieties. 

American hops Cascade and Centennial are grown and the high alpha variety Eureka is being trialled.

Lager hops Perle, H. Tradition and Akoya are being trialled. Akoya has been bred as a Perle replacement, having greater drought resistance.

They do have trickle irrigation at Redsell's but it's not as good as rain. 

They don't seem to have safety shoes though. 

The English hop crop is estimated to be down 20% and overall Europe down 22%, the American crop is expected to be close to average. 

And in amongst the CPD and networking I managed to get some green hop beer in too :-)

Sunday, 28 August 2022

The centre cannot hold

Ripley is a pretty village, famed for its retrospective inbreeding and web fingered inhabitants. It is also blessed with a large number of pubs, but I fear that might be changing soon. 

I've been over a couple of times recently to catch up with my web fingered friends, as the inhabitants aren't allowed to leave without a visa, and both times I've been deeply disturbed: the pub was practically empty apart from us. And the signs are not good: 

Being isolated from civilisation, and with the aforementioned exit visa requirement, the natives of Ripley have long been staunch pub supporters. I mean it's not like they've got anything else to do apart from stay in and watch DVD boxed sets. But it seems no more. The two evenings I've been down recently the number of people in the pub apart from me and my friends varied between nought and two. This is not good. If pubs in Ripley are quiet what hope is there for the rest of Britain? As a #PubMan I fear for the future. 

Saturday, 2 July 2022

A visit to Beavertown's breweries

I leapt at the chance to visit Beavertown's breweries. As founder members of the United Craft Brewers, an organisation whose importance to British brewing cannot be understated, I was very curious to see what can be achieved with little more than passion, millionaire parents and selling a big chunk to a multinational mega-brewery. 

The site looked big to me, though one of people I spoke to there says it's nothing compared to full size industrial brewery.

The automated brewhouse has a brew length of 150hl and is in theory capable of 12 brews a day (that's a lot for a lauter tun, the slowest step) but I was told they've only gone up to 11. Still pushing it to call it craft if you ask me!

They've still clearly had some problems though judging by the bags of rice hulls. These are added to the mash to help separate the wort from the grains, particularly if using lots of difficult grains like oats. I first came across this idea from homebrewers so maybe they are still a bit crafty.

The MCV in action:

The Lauter Tun filling:

A rolling boil:

Fully automated yeast propagation plant:

If I remember rightly they use four yeasts to make five beers here: Gamma Ray and Neck Oil (assuming they're different beers), Lagunitas IPA, a lager and a hazy pale ale. The dry hopping is automated too, 

CIP (Clean In Place) tanks:

Warehouse space:

We then moved on to their older and small brewery, which they've kept going:

This definitely looked more craft.

Barrel aged beers:

Canning line:

Fermenting vessels:

Mash tun:

The mash tun is dug out by hand, so definitely craft. They have a 50hl brew length and brew four times a day, running 18 hours a day. 

We had some pizza here and a beer or two to wash it down. OK, two. Then I headed home, it was a bit of a trek. 


Some exciting details I missed in the report in the IBD mag:

12m diameter lauter tun
14.5 m diameter whirlpool to cope with the hops
160kph kegging line filling 30L kegs (now stopped doing 50L) soon to be expanded to 240kph by adding a new lane
30,000cph canning line doing 330 and 440ml in 4, 6, 12 and 24 packs

Thursday, 26 May 2022

The Popular Wallop

I'm as mild mannered man as can be
And I've never done them harm that I can see
Still on me they put a ban
And they threw me in the can
They go wild, simply wild over me

If you ask me reports of mild's revival have been greatly exaggerated. So over three weeks into May I had to take a diversion via the Royal Oak to fulfil my beery obligation before it was too late. Being a Harvey's pub it's never let me down when I've needed mild and sure enough, there it was on the bar. 

I did feel a  slight twinge not ordering the best, as it's one of my favourite beers. But then I wasn't here to enjoy myself, so mild it was. Which to be fair was perfectly pleasant.

And with that mild, and my soul, was saved for another year. 

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

The retro-pre-emptive tick

 Though my pub ticking may be nothing to write blogs home about I do have the occasional high spot*. And it seems I may have found another! 

Sir Quinno has been lucky enough to get to Lundy and has said the Marisco Tavern should be recommended for the Good Beer Guide. This is something I heartily agree with because I've been there. 

In 2003 I went to Lundy on a climbing trip that was memorable for a number of reasons. I lead my first climb graded Extremely Severe (Fear of Faust, E1 5a), something which puts me at the cutting edge of climbing just as soon as I can find of way of travelling back in time about 70 years. I later managed to get on the wrong route completely so what should have been a straight forward V Diff was in fact a considerably harder Hard Very Severe. And I really learnt a lesson about how the joys of drinking and climbing don't necessarily mix well. 

On the last night of our trip as the pints went down we were planning what to do in the morning before we went home. We were tempted by the fizzy keg climb Double Diamond (HVS 5b) on the impressive Flying Buttress. I was also tempted to pour more beer down my neck, it was the last night after all. When it started raining heavily I agreed to lead the climb before heading back to the bar, confident it would be far too wet to climb in the the next day. So when I was greeted with blazing sunshine when in my hungover state I peered out of me tent in the morning I was not filled with joy. 

We abseiled down to the start of the climb OK but sat on a boulder in the cave beneath the climb we really weren't with it and flaking the ropes took far longer than it should have. Then it was time to climb and after going up a damp corner there was a desperately thin unprotected traverse until a crack in the middle of the slab could be reached and a nut jammed in for protection. Fortunately the climb got easier as you went on, which is just as well as I was getting weaker and was exhausted by the time I reached the top. 

But back to the ticking. It may come as a surprise to you to learn that Good Beer Guide pubs are not the only things that can be ticked. Climbing routes can also be ticked off in guide books, which did once lead to a discussion on retro-ticking. This concerned whether it was acceptable to transfer old ticks to new guidebooks. I can't recall why this was considered important, but hey, it kept us off the streets. And has given me an idea for a new innovation in ticking: the retro-pre-emptive tick!

Seeing as the the Marisco Tavern is a cracking pub, with good quality beer, it should surely be in the Good Beer Guide and as such I am retrospectively pre-emptively ticking it! 

* Isle of Man compleator 2017. 

Saturday, 30 April 2022

One for the theologians

Having managed to drink a light mild AND a dark mile on the last day BEFORE May I wonder if this might be taken into account in the beery month of obligation?