Saturday 31 July 2010

Thank you CAMRA

My ticket to the GBBF trade day arrived yesterday. Tuesday isn't an ideal day to get pissed conduct beer research, but with the huge selection on offer I'm sure I'll soon get into my stride.  

Is there a beer bloggers meet up arranged? It would be nice to meet some of you. 

Thursday 29 July 2010

Purifying a culture

Reading Amber, Gold and Black has inspired me to try brewing a few beers. In fact I haven't got as much inspiration from a book since I read Radical Brewing

For one of the beers I needed a Brettanomyces yeast and thanks to the wonder of the internet I got a culture from a home brew shop. The culture was in liquid medium, which I have to say made me a little wary. With liquid cultures all you get to see is a turbid suspension, but you have no idea which organisms might be in it. Before I used it for brewing I thought it prudent to streak it out on an agar plate so I'd be able to look at the colonies of whatever was in there and see if they were what they were supposed to be. It was a good job too, as when I stuck a loop in the vial I could feel there was something a bit solid in there, most likely a filamentous fungi. I streaked it out and sure enough what mostly grew was mould. 

On the plus side there were some yeast colonies in there as well, and thankfully some of them had separated out from the mould (the dots on the right). I picked a couple off and subcultured them onto a fresh plate with gratifying results:

The culture is a bit older than in the first picture so the yeast colonies are larger but I think the difference in pretty clear. I've saved the Brettanomyces on an agar slope as I don't need it just yet but I now feel confident about using it. 

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Christmas came early today

Brewing Santa has been looking after me today. First we had an unexpected delivery of 50 new plastic casks. The were definitely addressed to us, and the banding was ours, but we certainly hadn't ordered any. Closer inspection showed they had the same serial numbers as the other plastic casks we've bought, but with an added metal band around the bung hole. 

We can only assume we've been given a free upgrade to the latest version. I'm a bit wary of contracting the company that manufactures them in case it's all been a terrible mistake and they want them back. 

Then in the afternoon a very nice man from Jim's emailed me his brewery's HACCP documents. Having these to work from will save me countless hours of tedium.

Thanks brewing Santa! I'll be sure to leave a pint and a packet of pork scatching out for you on Christmas eve. 

Monday 26 July 2010

Straight outta Compton

No, not that Compton. I mean the village near Guildford. After Saturday turned into a hungover washout the lovely Lisa and I decided we needed to go for a healthy walk on Sunday. We wandered through graveyards, fields and woods and must have gone well over two miles before we came to the first pub, the Withies Inn

It turned out to be the poshest pub I've ever been in. As it was a nice day most people were outside and waiters wearing waistcoats were scurrying round attending to them. I feared for the health of my wallet when we hit the bar but at £3.10 for a very nice pint of Adnams bitter it could have been worse. 

We also headed outside where the unusual umbrellas on some of the tables caught my eye. Looking closer I saw what was strange about them: they were advertising champagne.

This Compton was a bit different from the one NWA were singing about. 

Sunday 25 July 2010

Another pub crawl in the city

Due to a unfortunate circumstances beyond my control we had to cancel our latest trip to the lake district. On the plus side this did leave us with a work free Friday - an ideal opportunity to visit some of those city pubs that are annoyingly closed at the weekend. So we hooked up with our mate Dan and headed up to the big smoke. 

On the South bank there was some sort of art thing, looking like what you'd do if you wanted to play with lego but only had bricks. 

Normally the only sort of culture I come across is found in a petri dish so I felt quite highbrow and sophisticated for pausing briefly to look at it. Refined intellectual pursuits done with my throat was feeling a little dry so it was time to move on.

The lovely Lisa wanted to get a watch strap in Covent Garden so we went shopping before starting on the pub crawl. We passed the Coal Hole on the way though so were able to have a pre-pub crawl drink. I went for a pint of Timmy Taylor's. I can't get enough of it.

We then had the excitement of the Covent Garden watch shop but we soon reached the proper start: the Old Bank of England.  Dan hadn't been here for about ten years, the lovely Lisa and I slightly more recently. As ever I had a pint of Pride so for a bit of variety I took a picture of the ceiling instead of the usual view from the balcony. 

We got to a new pub for us next, the Olde Watling. The had a good range of cask beers on including a mild, a lager and a wheat beer. I went for the wheat beer but it wasn't very good. It took me a while to work out if I didn't like it because of the wheat beer flavours, or if it was just off. By the time I'd decided it was off I'd drunk nearly half a pint so thought it was a bit late to take it back. Never mind, there was plenty more beer waiting for me. 

Our next pub was my favourite of the trip, the Old Jamaica Wine House. This was a Shepherd Neame pub and they're not brewery I'm that keen on. The pub interior made up for it though being nicely sectioned off into cosy little looks and crannies. I had a pint of Master Brew but after I'd ordered I spied they had something on called 'City Slickers'. The barman was kind enough give me a taster after seeing me eye up the hand pump and it seemed better than the usual offerings of Shep's. Apparently it's brewed specially for only two pubs. I'm not sure if it's brewed on the  pilot plant or if it's a re-badging of something else but it was pleasantly pale and hoppy and I wished I'd ordered it. 

And as it happened I got to. Leaving the Old Jamaica we bumped into my favourite brother-in-law heading home after a head days work to the lovely meal my sister had cooked him. He didn't have time to join us, but he did recommend we alter our plans to include the Cock and Wookpack. This turned out to be another Shepherd Neame pub. Now normally one Shep's pub on a pub crawl could be considered a misfortune but two is carelessness. In this case though it was welcomed as it was the other pub serving City Slicker so I had a pint. 

It was food time next, so despite the warning that it would be full of wankers in suits we went on to The Counting House. Another Fuller's pub, it was time for more Pride and the pie platter. And chips. And nachos. I was stuffed but Dan still managed to minesweep some more nachos that had been abandoned on the table next door. Like in The Old Bank of England we ended up on the balcony, and the view of the bar looked much the same, so I stuck with my policy of taking photos of the ceiling. 

Despite eating all the pies, and in Dan's case anything else within a three metre radius, the beer was starting to catch up with us. We managed to waddle on to the Lamb Tavern a Young's pub. It's in the middle of Leadenhall market, which is certainly different.  

I had a pint of the ordinary which went down surprisingly well but we'd definitely had enough by then so it was time to go home.

There seemed a lot more walking than normal in this pub crawl and we were knackered by the time we got home. In fact even the power of pork didn't revive us fully the next day and we ended up staying in. I think we may be getting soft and need to do some more training. 

Friday 23 July 2010

Exclusive news!

Ed's Beer Site can announce a world exclusive on the latest beer from Brewdog called Selling your own granny. Here's the press release:

‘This 66% ABV beer should be drunk in small servings whilst spouting nonsense based on half digested theories you don’t really understand. As Orwell didn’t say “During times of inane drivel, telling inane drivel becomes a revolutionary act”
Once again at Brewdog we’ve gone so far we’ve come back. Fighting against the tide of bland corporate beer you can actually afford we bring you beer you can’t afford with a gimmick you wouldn’t want.

Selling your own granny: the name drives from the fact that at Brewdog we’d sell our own grannies if we thought it would generate publicity. Our team of skilled taxidermists have stuffed Scottish singing sensation Susan Boyle and rammed a giant bottled of 66% ABV quintuple IPA up her arse. Made with insane amounts of hops and infused with clootie dumplings and the finest Fraserburgh smack this pushes the limits of what constitutes beer. Only one bottle has been made which can be yours, complete with a certificate of authenticity, for £1000.

In true Brewdog fashion we’ve torn up convention, blurred boundaries and used student humour. This beer is an audacious blend of eccentricity, artistry and the sort of bright ideas you get from people who have “you don’t have to be mad to work here but it helps” signs above their desk. Brewdog: Selling your own granny.'

Tuesday 20 July 2010

The boil

After a spate of problems struck brewing bloggers I dug out some of my revision notes from when I was a brewing student to remind myself exactly what the boil does during the brewing process. Soon after I'd read them a wine maker visited the brewery I work at and asked if we boiled the wort to sterilise it. As I'd freshly read up on it he got more than he bargained for."Oh no, it's much more than that" I said and taking a deep breath I burbled on until I saw his eyes start to glaze over.  

Here's the notes for those of you that are interested. There are a few things that confuse even me though. Why is there a question mark after saying the optimum pH for trub formation is 5.2? And what exactly did I mean by saying a wedge disrupts bacterial cell walls at low pH? I may have to investigate further...

Briefly descirbe the various processes that occur during wort boiling:

 Extraction and transformation of hop compounds – extracts bitterness, aroma and limited antibacterial activity.
 Formation of protein-polyphenol complexes 
 Wort sterilisation
 Destruction of enzymic activity
 Increase in colour – maillard reactions
 Decrease in pH
 Production and removal of unwanted flavour compound (sulphur compound)
 Concentration – evaporation of water and volatiles.

Wort boiling aims to facilitate:

Flavour, aroma and colour development
Stabilisation (physical and biological)

 Extraction and transformation of hop compounds – extracts bitterness, aroma and limited antibacterial activity.

- Alpha acids are essentially insoluble in wort but are isomerised during the boil to iso-α-acids (approx. 30-35% efficiency, less in high gravity brews). The iso-α-acids have the bittering and antibacterial properties. A long boil increases utilization but drives off aromas. Humulones are converted to cis and trans iso-humulones.
- Hop oils are also extracted but are very volatile so need to be added late or specific aroma oils towards the end of the boil.
- Hop polyphenols are also extracted and play an essential role in break formation, also give some limited bitterness.

 Formation of polyphenol complexes

- Polyphenols come from the hops and the malt
- Malt polyphenols appear to be more actively involved in trub formation.
- Protein-polyphenol complexes form due to interaction between negatively charged proteins and positively charged polyphenols.
- Heat increases this reaction and causes co-precipitation of the proteins and polyphenols due to the coagulation of the proteins. The longer and more vigorous the boil the more mixing and precipitation.
- This complexes form the hot break, cold break on chilling and chill hazes later on.
- Trub can be removed in a whirlpool, centrifuge or hop back.
Optimal pH for trub formation is 5.2 (?)

 Wort sterilisation.
- Heat kills all living organisms in the wort.

 Destruction of enzymic activity.
- Heat denatures all the enzymes and stabilises the protein and carbohydrate profile of the wort.

 Increase in colour – maillard reactions
- Wort becomes darker due to oxidation of polyphenols and production of melanoidins.
- Melanoidins are formed by the reaction between amine groups in amino acids and carbonyl groups in sugars.

 Decrease in pH
- This is mainly due to the production of melanoidins.
- Lower pH helps trub precipitation, increases wort colour, give better and cleaner hop bitterness, decreases hop utilisation and helps inhibit bacteria as low pH causes intracellular pH to drop and the cell wall is disrupted by a wedge causing leakage.

 Production and removal of unwanted flavour compound (sulphur compounds)
- DMS produced but also evaporated by the high temperature. The precursor is SMM from barley which converts to DMS on heating.
- DMS can end up in beer if there is poor whirlpooling, too high fermentation temperature (so SMM is still being converted into DMS) or too low fermentation temperature so not enough DMS is driven off. Or bacterial contamination.
- SMM from the barley can be converted by kilning and boiling to DMSO which will survive through to the fermentation at which point the yeast will convert it to DMS but a vigorous fermentation will drive it off. Too hot and too much SMM to DMSO though, too low and not enough DMS driven off.

 Concentration – evaporation of water and volatiles.
- Want minimum of 7% boil off per hour. Good rolling boil for trub formation and driving off of volatiles. High pressure boiling will save time and energy but produce off flavours and hazes as the volatiles are not driven off.

Sunday 18 July 2010

White Shield is moving again

Battered old warhorse Worthington's White Shield is moving to a new brewery again. Once one of the few remaining bottled conditioned beers in Britain, Brewer and Distiller International reports that it fell from selling 25,000 barrels pa to just 400 when it was brewed under contract by King and Barnes (which is also where it went a bit rubbish). Current owners of the brand Coors have been investing in it and "it is now thriving to such an extent that it is being taken back to the 'big' brewery, where the staff are delighted". Let's hope the flavour improves with this move, it used to be good stuff.

Saturday 17 July 2010

Tonbridge beer festival

I called in briefly at Tonbridge beer festival yesterday. Though organised by SIBA it had much the look of a CAMRA festival, except the glasses weren't oversized. Probably just as well as I was driving. 

It was pretty empty, but then we did get there early in order to hear the competition results being announced. I bumped into the Munton's sales rep who'd been involved in the judging and had a gossip with him. We didn't win anything though, so it looks like a change of malt supplier will be in order...

Wednesday 14 July 2010

Strange Dogfish head beers

When I was buying a crap Brazilian lager for the World Cup beer sweepstake I made sure I got some stuff I was actually wanted to drink too.

The beers from Dogfish head brewery in Delaware have interested me ever since I bought their 22% ABV World Wide Stout back in the days when Safeways was my local specialist beer shop. As I have relatives in Delaware I've been giving my mum a shopping list when she goes to visit but sadly for me she insists on bringing the clothes she's packed back with her so there's not much room for beer. 

As I'd got a tip off from a blog comment that Dogfish head beers could once again be bought in Britain they were the first things I added to my online shopping basket once I'd got the required Brazilian gnats piss. 

My first choice was Midas Touch, a beer based on analysis of the residue of a 2700 year old drinking vessel. I have a fascination with old beers. I've brewed a few based on recipes in Old British Beers and How To Make Them and the blogs that tend towards the historical, like those of Ron Pattison and Martyn Cornell are some of my favourites. 

Despite the wide range of beers that can now be bought some of the beers that interest me aren't available commercially so at times I have a go at 'brewing beers like those you can't buy' . Some of my efforts in this direction have been brewing unhopped ales. The blurb about Midas Touch suggested it was unhopped:

This recipe is the actual oldest-known fermented beverage in the world! It is an ancient Turkish recipe using the original ingredients from the 2700 year old drinking vessels discovered in the tomb of King Midas. Somewhere between wine & mead; this smooth, sweet, yet dry ale will please the Chardonnay of beer drinker alike.

The taste did remind me of my own attempts at ales, though more complex. It manages to be sweet and dry at the same time and almost like a fizzy wine. On the website it says that Midas Touch as 12 IBUs so there must be a small amount of hops added. It's certainly an interesting drink, but I won't be rushing out to buy it again. 

Next up was Palo Santo Marron, a beer aged in vats made from an exotic South American tree. Surprisingly it was quite mild in taste (at least as far as strong wood aged beers go) and went down rather easily. I enjoyed this one more, but not enough to fork out a fiver for a 355ml bottle again anytime soon.

So there you have it, I'm glad I drank them but having done that I'll save my money for cheaper stuff in future. 

Monday 5 July 2010

Damned if you do and damned if you don't

The anti-alcohol lobby opened a new front this morning: 'think of the children'. On the radio they had some raving alkie talking about how bad she was at one point (up to four bottles of scotch a day) intercut with tiny Tim or whatever her offspring was called saying how bad he thought it was. 

This was then followed by Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin and some anti-alcohol bloke discussing how booze is too cheap in supermarkets. 

The BBC website also had an article about some children feeling scared when they see adults drinking too much: 'Childwise research director Rosemary Duff said the 30% who felt scared when adults drank was a "sizeable minority".

But she said it was also a concern that nearly half of children were "not bothered" by drunkenness, which, she said, suggested drinking culture had become "ingrained".'

So there you have it, drinking alcohol is bad because it scares children. Unless it doesn't scare them, in which case it's also bad.

I wish these sanctimonious killjoys would just bog off and leave us to get pissed in peace. 

Sunday 4 July 2010

We have it in our power to build the world anew

As it's the forth of July I put on my Tom Paine T Shirt and raised at toast to him. Sadly I didn't have any Harvey's Tom Paine to drink but a bottle of Goose Island IPA was a good consolation.  

I spent a very enjoyable afternoon drinking in the sun with the lovely Lisa and our friend Dan. The trouble is with afternoon drinking what do you do in the evening? Though not ideal for a Sunday there was no escaping the obvious answer: drink some more. Just a small nightcap though, there's beer to be made tomorrow. 

Thursday 1 July 2010