Wednesday, 20 February 2019

G for Germany

I will be travelling to Germany for a study tour with the Institute of Brewing and Distilling in May. As a life long fan of cold, fizzy, sulphurous and quite possibly diabolically inspired lager I'm particularly looking forward to this one. To help me maximise my Continuing Professional Development whilst I'm out there can anyone more experienced in the ways of Luciferian libations give me recommendations for beers to drink and places to go to in Munich, Regensburg and Bamburg? Though there will no doubt be a packed schedule on the tour there should be some free time for further study in the evenings.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

How to make Britain's most popular beer

Industrial lager may be in decline, but a lot of it is still sold. So it was interesting to see Roger Putman give some details in the IBD magazine of how Carling, Britain's best selling draught beer, is made.

The image on the Carling beer mat did get me thinking they're playing to the home crowd but I'll leave that for now
He starts by informing us that raw barley is hammer miller into the grist case with the malt. For those not familiar with hammer milling it means grinding the grains to a powder which helps to get the very high rates of extraction of fermentable materials found in mash filters.

Very high maltose syrup is used in the kettle to give 20% of the grist. For those not familiar with high gravity brewing very high maltose syrup is important because it reduces the amount of esters produced during fermentation, something which high gravity brewing raises.

The beer has a dimethyl sulphide specification of 50ppb, giving it a characteristic taste.

The Original Gravity is 1.068 and the yeast is pitched at 14°C and allowed to free rise to 15°C where it is held until half gravity when it is allowed to free rise up to 20°C. Higher temperatures also increase ester production so the lower initial temperature helps restrict it.

Green beer conditioning is carried out in the Fermenting Vessels until the diacetyl level is in spec. [not stated, but I guess it's something like less than 30ppb]. The beer is then crash cooled into "maturation" tank at -1.5°C to hasten formation of haze forming protein-polyphenol complexes so that only 24 hours storage is necessary before filtration, dilution and carbonation.

It's not in the article but I did hear Carling is fermented to 8% ABV, which would give the base beer a Final Gravity of around 1.007.  We do know for certain though that it's cut to 3.7% ABV at packaging. High Gravity Brewing is really something I should get round to doing a post about, but basically it's making more efficient use of brewing vessels by brewing beer to a higher strength that it's sold at and diluting it with De-Aerated Liquor (water with a very low oxygen content to prevent stale flavours developing) prior to packaging. It's not to be confused with liquoring back which is the process brewers use to hit target Original Gravity in which wort (unfermented beer) is produced slightly stronger than required and then cut (diluted) to the required strength prior to fermentation.

A few more details would be nice, and it might take a few goes to get it right, but if you're interested in making a beer that sells over 3 million hectolitres (528 million pints) a year I think that's a good starting point.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Every cloud and all that

Though I must admit to feeling irrational sadness that ownership of Fuller's Brewery has changed from one group of capitalists to another, a local paper did point out something that can make my heart swell with irrational local pride: Asahi's European headquarters is in Woking. They're based in one of the old SAB Miller buildings, so it sounds like Fuller's will be run from my home town.

The article then goes on to say that Asahi is now the third largest brewer in Europe, which looks like it's overstating the case to me.  But I could be wrong, brewery and brand ownership is hard to keep up with.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Pride in The Pride

When I found myself back in the East End there was only one thought in my mind when it was time for refreshment.

They didn't pass that time
One of my friends mentioned a 'Spoons but I was having none of it: "Let's go to The Pride" I said. And so we did.

I used to drink in The Pride often but I don't get up that way much nowadays.  The call of the ESB was strong but a rare outbreak of being sensible struck and I stuck to the pride. Lovely it was too. Not in the sense of making me want to shout "awesome" or even talk about the beer. It was just something good to drink whilst I chatted to my friends.

The Pride is a proper boozer, and though there were heathens at one table knocking back the Stella there were plenty drinking in the ways of righteousness. Pubs, and cask beer, may be in decline but the decline is far from terminal and in some places both look to be in positively good health.

The special feature is still there too

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Where has all the cask beer gone?

I've spotted an interesting titbit about what's happened to cask beer sales. Writing in Brewer and Distiller International (August 2009) Paul Buttrick wrote:
Boddingtons was selling 10,000 barrels of cask beer a week in the mid 1990s, will we see Tetley cask bitter falter in the same way with the Leeds brewery shutting next year?
10,000 barrels a week is far more than any cask beer does now, and I can't remember when I last saw Tetley's in cask. Admittedly this is going back a few years but the big brewers have mainly retreated from producing cask beer. Beers produced for mass consumption, not for discerning beer nerds, unsurprisingly sell in large volumes. And big companies are good at getting their beer sold. It's no coincidence that Doom Bar started outselling Greene King IPA after Molson Coors bought Sharps. So I can't help but wonder how much of the decline in cask beer sales is due to fall in "mass market" beer, and how do sales of cask beer with a bit more character compare? Mind you, I don't think sales of industrial larger are looking too peachy so maybe it applies to beer in general.

Monday, 31 December 2018

Golden Pints 2018

Everyone seems to be going a bit off piste with their Golden Pints this year but that hasn't stopped me copying and pasting the categories from last year. I'll have to see if I can think of anything new to add. 

Best UK Cask Beer:

Irving and Co. Iron Duke. I did some beer tasting for our Mother Church's strong bitter category at Woking Beer Festival and this was the well deserved winner. Lovely it was. 

Best UK Keg Beer:

Always a tricky one this. I definitely have drunk some keg beer this year, but was any of it British? I had a pint of Carlsberg at a friend's anniversary do. Foul it was, but it must have been brewed in Britain. And at a Homebrew event in London they only had beer served from the devil's drainpipe, but one of them was Paulaner and the other was a 12% ABV maple stout that, perhaps unsurprisingly, I can't remember who made it or where but I've a feeling it wasn't British. Oh, and I had to switch to Guinness at a gig, but that's brewed in Ireland. OK, it will have to be the Carlsberg. 

Best UK Bottled Beer:

An outstanding bottled beer for me this year was some home brewed Wheeler's Entire Stout I got sent. But as far as commercial beers go I went to great lengths to find Greene King's Heritage Beer, which was great but the winner is Thurstons Time Machine. It's a cracker. 

Best UK Canned Beer:

Since the tragic closure of Wine Rack in West Byfleet I've hardly drunk canned beer, but whilst it was open I did get through a few tinnies of  Moor Hoppiness.

Best Overseas Draught:

Brewers overseas are overwhelmingly heathens, so draught beer usually comes via the devil's drainpipe. I did manage to have some cask beer when I was in Amsterdam, but it was brewed by a British brewer so I don't think that counts. I'll go for something I drank in Britain though, that 12% ABV maple stout I'm sure was brewed overseas. Very sweet and ludicrously strong it was but still nice. 

Best Overseas Bottled Beer:

Rather than revert to my usual of Orval for this let's go with Westmalle Tripel this year as I bought enough bottles of it before having a go at brewing my own version. Mind you, I did the same with Orval so maybe that should be the winner. 

Best Overseas Canned Beer:

Can't think of any foreign cans I've had. 

Best collaboration brew:

Or collaboration brews for that matter.

Best Overall Beer:

Seeing as it's the pinnacle of the brewers art: Irving and Co. Iron Duke.

Best Branding:

Oh I don't know. Do other people pay more attention to this than me? Let's go with Thurstons as there's another excellent label from Too Much Black Coffee on the Time Machine. 

Best UK Brewery

By rights it should go to Irving and Co. but I only had a pint or two of one of their beers. So instead I'm going to go with a brewery whose beers I'm always delighted to drink and I finally got to visit there this year: Timothy Taylors

Best Overseas Brewery

This one will have to be Westmalle. 

Best New Brewery Opening 2018:

Can't think of one.

Pub/Bar of the Year:

The Crown of course. 

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2018:

Can't think of one of these either. 

Beer Festival of the Year:

Definitely the Carnivale Brettanomyces this year. I had a wonderful time and I even wrote up the talks for the IBD mag

Supermarket of the Year:

Not bought a lot of beer from supermarkets this year but Tescos had the Greene King Heritage Beer so them.

Independent Retailer of the Year:

Seeing as Wine Rack closed their shop nearest to me they're not winning. So it's Cobbett's Real Ale this year. 

Online Retailer of the Year:

Don't think I've bought any beer online this year. 

Best Beer Book or Magazine:

The best magazine remains the IBD one. I look forward to it each month. A book released this year saw me become a published photographer though so the clear winner is CAMRA's Essential Home Brewing. I really should get round to writing up my thoughts on it...

Best Beer Blog or Website:

Last year I discovered the wonderful world of blogs by people ticking off the entire Good Beer Guide. Clearly it's an almost impossible task but that should never stop you starting anything. The intrepid travels around the country (despite his dodgy knee he doesn't like to talk about), drinking in pubs and being rude about the locals make the British Real Ale Pub Adventure this year's winner. 

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer:

Another tricky one this but I actually met @Ramblin_Dave thanks to twitter and he gave me some lovely Bretty beer so him. 

Now what can I add...Best Podcast should really be added to the list and for me that's the MBAA, and I normally like to use the opportunity of Golden Pints to take the piss out of someone but Pete Brown's short temper got a mention in my last post so I'll leave it at that. 

Monday, 24 December 2018

The cask beer conundrum

The sad news that cask beer sales have suffered a downturn has lead to much musing on the internet. Strangely enough most has come from people that I suspect don't normally drink real ale. Indeed the person that's written the most is self confessed keg beer drinker Pete Brown (part onepart twopart three).

The best selling product in my local
Yet those of us that drink in the ways of righteousness have, if anything, been puzzled. Kevin Travers wrote in my local CAMRA newsletter News and Ale  that he agrees real ale is everywhere now and adds:
"... the range and quality of real ale is is probably greater now than at any point in my lifetime"
When similar sentiments were mentioned to Pete Brown on twitter he reacted in his usual calm and considered manner by comparing those saying it to climate change deniers. But the fact remains that my own experience mirrors that of Kevin. Is the Surrey/Hants Borders area bucking a nation trend? Probably not. Overall cask beer sales may be down, but availability is certainly up. So what is going on?

Annual sales figures don't really give enough information so we don't know how things have changed seasonally and regionally, and until we get more details we have a very incomplete picture.

We can see some generalities though. Cask beer is now, quite rightly, considered something essential to have in a pub. But draught beer sales are in long term decline, and the decline is likely to continue. For many years cask beer fared better than average but this is no longer the case.

Draught beer is already a premium product compared to beer from supermarkets so the reactionaries, economically illiterate and, let's face it, diabolically inspired that call for cask beer to be increased in price are talking nonsense if they think that would help cask beer sales. Our mother church has long recognised that promoting pubs is key and those concerned about the decline in cask beer would do well to honour the sabbath and spend at least one evening a week in a pub drinking cask beer.