Monday, 1 March 2021

Avenge Kronstadt!

A hundred years ago today the sailors of Kronstadt naval garrison rose in revolt against the dictatorship of the Russian Bolshevik “Communist” Party. Strikes had broken out in Petrograd (St Petersburg) in February which prompted the Kronstadt sailors to send a delegation to investigate and report. The sailors themselves had been unhappy with management of the Navy and had deposed their commander in January.

The report of the delegation prompted the passage of the following resolution:

1. immediate new elections to the Soviets (councils). The present Soviets no longer express the wishes of the workers and peasants. The new elections should be by secret ballot, and should be preceded by free electoral propaganda.

2. Freedom of speech and of the press for workers and peasants, for the Anarchists, and for the Left Socialist parties.

3. The right of assembly, and freedom for trade union and peasant organisations.

4. The organisation, at the latest on 10th March 1921, of a Conference of non-Party workers, solders and sailors of Petrograd, Kronstadt and the Petrograd District.

5. The liberation of all political prisoners of the Socialist parties, and of all imprisoned workers and peasants, soldiers and sailors belonging to working class and peasant organisations.

6. The election of a commission to look into the dossiers of all those detained in prisons and concentration camps.

7. The abolition of all political sections in the armed forces. No political party should have privileges for the propagation of its ideas, or receive State subsidies to this end. In the place of the political sections various cultural groups should be set up, deriving resources from the State.

8. The immediate abolition of the militia detachments set up between towns and countryside.

9. The equalisation of rations for all workers, except those engaged in dangerous or unhealthy jobs.

10. The abolition of Party combat detachments in all military groups. The abolition of Party guards in factories and enterprises. If guards are required, they should be nominated, taking into account the views of the workers.

11. The granting to the peasants of freedom of action on their own soil, and of the right to own cattle, provided they look after them themselves and do not employ hired labour.

12. We request that all military units and officer trainee groups associate themselves with this resolution. 

13. We demand that the Press give proper publicity to this resolution.

14. We demand the institution of mobile workers' control groups.

15. We demand that handicraft production be authorised provided it does not utilise wage labour.

The tyrant Lenin reacted with fury, unleashing a tirade of lies and calumnies about the rebels which are parroted by his acolytes to this day. The Red Army, led by the butcher Trotsky, was sent in and attacked on the 7th  March, but were beaten back, having lost substantial forces to defections. A more serious attack on the 10th March was also defeated, with many casualties on the Bolshevik side. The final attack, with much larger forces, occurred on 17-18th March and succeeded in capturing Kronstadt and crushing hopes that the Bolshevik dictatorship could be sent the same way as the Tsar's.

Though the forces of reaction had proved stronger, the Kronstadt rebels remain an inspiration to all who fight for a free and equal society to this day, and I will be raising a glass to them tonight.  

Friday, 19 February 2021

The mystery of Glucose Syrups

John Percival wasn't wrong when he said that "nothing is so puzzling or so annoying as the use of the term Golding" but I bet he'd have had a few words to say about the term "glucose syrup" too. You might think it's straight forward: glucose syrup, a syrup of glucose, but in fact you'd be wrong. 

As the Handbook of Brewing puts it:

"glucose syrups used in brewing are in fact solutions of a large range of sugars and will contain, in varying proportions depending upon the method of manufacture, dextrose [glucose], maltose, maltotriose, maltotetraose, and larger dextrins."

"Glucose" syrups are in fact hydrolysed (i.e. broken down) starch solutions. Starch can be thought of as being made up of large chains of glucose units and depending on where the chain is broken a range of molecules will be produced: a single unit broken off gives glucose, units of two are maltose, three maltotriose, four maltotetraose and longer molecules we usually call dextrins. 

Here's  a table showing the composition of different glucose syrups made using acids and/or enzymes to hydrolyse the starch and comparing the sugar spectrum to wort:


So the amount of glucose in a glucose syrup is in fact highly variable. When buying a glucose syrup you need to look carefully at what its composition is, the one I use mostly at work is actually high in dextrins and has very low fermentability. 

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Trying beers from lagerland

 One of  my favourite types of email landed recently. It was the type that has "would you like some free beer?" in it. Much better than the ones with "we've made some food, here's a link to some pictures". The beer in this case was from the Engel brewery, somewhere in Germany, and sent to me by The Sausage Man. Not sure what's going on there. 

The word "Engel" caused me a feeling of unease so I had to look up what it means. You'll be pleased to hear that it's not the singular of authoritarian sidekick, but in fact means "angel". Which is nice. 

The beers were a mixed selection, though I was pleased to see there was no helles (the German for "boring"). They also send a tall, chunky glass, sadly too narrow to clean easily so soon to be sent to the back of the cupboard. 

I started on the Dunkel, which had a reassuringly wonky label showing that the beer's craft, though I'm not sure what was going on with the screw top. It has a rich brown colour, with not much on the nose apart from a whiff of brimstone, showing that this was indeed a lager. Indeed it's clean tasting with a slight malty caramel taste with a touch of DMS.




The Pilsner poured a clear golden colour and had some honey on the nose. It was slightly sweet, with again some DMS. It was crisp and refreshing but I'd have preferred some more bitterness. 



And as if by magic that's exactly what the next beer had. The Keller Pils had a slight haze and there was a yeast sediment in the bottle, moving closer to beer as god intended. It smelt of traditional hops, was smooth and full bodied, and had more bitterness than the previous beer which was what I was after. 




The Dunkel Hefeweizen was the real star. Yeast in the container from which it is served and none of that lager malarkey. This is how god wants beer to be, none that brimstone business. The best wheat beer I've had in ages. 

 



Back to lager with the Kellerbier, a touch of lagery DMS on the nose, smooth mouthfeel with a malt taste balance by the bitterness. 




They also threw in a shandy, which to be fair definitely has the edge on Shandy Bass, though I can't see myself ever spending money on such things. 





And that ended my latest research. On this evidence I'd still place Germany forth out of the the First Class Beer Countires, so good but still room for improvement. 

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Brewdog's 10 biggest mistakes

After listening to the soft hitting interview on Radio 4 and reading capitalist brewery owner James Watt's humblebrag about his 10 biggest mistakes I got to wondering what are really Brewdog's 10 biggest mistakes?

I was an early fan of Brewdog, back in the day when I had to go to specialist beer shops to find their beers. I can remember when they first got a beer in a supermarket and I've watched their growth ever since. Having said that, I also went off Brewdog early on, once I realised they were twats. 

What first pissed me off can't really be called one of their biggest mistakes, as they've done very well out of it, but selling off a very small part of their company to their fans, and then selling off a larger chunk at a lower price to venture capitalists seemed an incredibly cynical move. 

Having tits on a beer bottle was definitely a mistake though, as it rapidly vanished from their website:


I don't remember them getting much flak for it, perhaps because they managed to hide it so quickly. But then  I don't remember them getting much flak for this one either:


Which is certainly as bad, if not worse, than that awful CAMRA young members' leaflet that had everyone up in arms.

The second biggest mistake I think they made was when they dobbed themselves in to the Portman group to generate some publicity. Putting the whole brewing industry at risk of greater regulation for their own personal gain is a dick move, even more so when they duped Zak Avery into writing stuff to support them. Arseholes. 

The general drivel about them being somehow different from any other bunch of capitalist bastards trying to separate you from your cash also grates, but it's hard to pin down a specific mistake as it permeates their marketing output. In fact, I can't be arsed to look any closer, or indeed keep going with singling out any of their many mistakes. Instead I'm going to try crowd sourcing rather than crowd funding. So here's your chance to see if we can get to 10 by putting in the comments what you think are Brewdog's biggest mistakes. 



Saturday, 2 January 2021

#PubMan

 At school they may try and instil in you unlikely career ambitions or even more improbable sporting dreams, but I knew I had a higher calling. I was going to be a #PubMan. 

Daddy, where do you go in the evening?

A high powered job may give you some recognition in business circles and a fleeting sporting achievement may win you some ephemeral fame but do they give you the respect, admiration and overall satisfaction that comes with being a #PubMan? I think not. 

It is not an easy path to follow. As the years, and decades, have gone by I've kept plugging away, week in, week out, pint after pint. Slowly working my may up to regular status, and when I've moved or the pub's changed for the worse find a new local and starting again. But I've not let the setbacks demoralise me and when doubts have struck (should I have gone on more pub crawls? Is only every being a compleatist for one Good Beer Guide 'county' enough?) I've pressed on. And finally after the most difficult of years I've got the recognition sought for so long. I am a #PubMan. There is no higher accolade. I will walk, and drink, with my head held higher. 

Thursday, 31 December 2020

Golden Pints 2020

 

The golden pints above you
Show me where you've gone
The magic in your blogs no longer
What we gaze upon
I have actually seen a couple of other people doing them this year but still. I blame twitter. I'm not stopping though!


Best UK Cask Beer:

A tragic year for cask beer as Des De Moor's diabolical plan took full effect. I have been able to have communion with the one true living beer more than most as the shop at work sells it but there's no denying that I've lacked spiritual sustenance this year. 

Best cask beer for me this year was when I managed to get a pint of Coniston Bluebird during a brief flowering of freedom. 





Best UK Keg Beer:

I've definitely suckled at the Devil's drainpipe this year as I was lead into a den of iniquity in between lock downs. I can't say that something cheesy from Magic Rock impressed but I can't think of any other UK keg beer I've drunk so that's the winner. 


Best UK Bottled Beer:

My bottled beer drinking has overwhelmingly been what I can blag from work. This is economically beneficial but I do at times pine for beers we don't bottle. Fortunately we do a wide range and the one I've most enjoyed is Ridgeway Very Bad Elf. 


Best UK Canned Beer:

Thanks to an xmas pressie I've drunk a UK canned beer this year. The winner is: Gipsy Hill Hepcat. Definite grapefruit taste. Craft.  


Best Overseas Draught:

Not that I've been abroad this year but whilst being dragged round dens on iniquity in London I was able to avoid harm to my immortal soul in one by sticking to foreign beer from the Devil's drainpipe, which is not haram on account of their different brewing traditions. Even if they are heathen. Ayinger Keller beer was the winner in question.  


Best Overseas Bottled Beer:

Not wanting to die with a full beer cellar when the plague struck the first casualty was that bottle of Obadiah Poundage porter I'd been saving. Very good it was too. 


Best Overseas Canned Beer:

Another tricky one as the only overseas canned beer I think I've had didn't impress, still the winner it has to be: To Øl Gose To Hollywood, bit and all.


Best collaboration brew:

Sticking to ripping off Robbie I'll go with the Obadiah Poundage.


Best Overall Beer:

Bluebird. 

Best Branding:

Not really my thing this so I'll just go with whatever Too Much Black Coffee have done for Thurstons again. . 

Best UK Brewery

Got to be Coniston. 


Best Overseas Brewery

ABInBev Goose Island. 


Best New Brewery Opening 2020:

Can't think of one.


Pub/Bar of the Year:

The Crown of course. 


Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2020:

Can't think of one of these either. 


Beer Festival of the Year:

I might cry now


Supermarket of the Year:

I don't really buy bottled or canned beer now as I can blag bottles from work. I did do some stocking up when I was near a Booths though which makes them the winners. 


Independent Retailer of the Year:

I think the only one I've been to is Cobbett's Real Ale so them. 


Online Retailer of the Year:

Not my sort of thing either.  


Best Beer Book or Magazine:

Again copying Rob, but really nothing else comes close: Historical Brewing Techniques: The Lost Art of Farmhouse Brewing by Lars Marius Garshol. I really should do a review. 


Best Beer Blog or Website:

I'm getting very much behind on beer nerdery nowadays. Barely blogging, and not reading them like I used to either. There is a winner though, and despite the dire situation it's a  pub blog: retired martin's

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer:

This year I'm going with Alan of A Good Beer Blog fame, he informs, educates and entertains. 



Wednesday, 16 December 2020

A visit to French and Jupps maltings

As there's not much chance to visit places at the moment I made the most of it when business took me to French and Jupp's maltings as they were kind enough to give me a socially distanced tour. The company has been on the same site for over a century, though some of the buildings are now let out as offices and industrial units. 


French and Jupp's originally made old style brown malt shipped down to London for porter brewing, they later made white malts but now only make coloured (i.e. crystal and roasted) malts. 



They have drum maltings where the whole drum rotates during germination to prevent the rootlets of the grains tangling. If I remember rightly they were built for 10 tonnes but they now fill them with 18 tonnes of barley, slightly larger than the ones I used to work with


The green (i.e. unkilned) malt goes to roasting drums where gentle moist heat allows enzymes inside the grain to convert starch to sugar before the temperature is raised and moisture reduced to crystallise the sugar and make crystal malt and cara malts. 


The roasting drum (a modified coffee roaster) below was used to make roasted malts though (e.g. amber, brown, black). 



The malt for these comes from steeping vessels that make chit malt (i.e. malt that has only just had a rootlet emerge from the grain husk) which is then kilned dry before going to the roaster. 



The temperature in a roasting drum can come close to combustion temperature (and even exceed it at times!) so colour development can be rapid and frequent sampling is required. 

Grains cut in a farinator

Chocolate malt

The temperature has to be reduced by spraying on water before the desired colour is achieved as some colour development continues during cooling. 

Old floor maltings

This last picture was taken from a footbridge over the canal that barges full of brown malt used to start their journey to London on.