Saturday 30 April 2011

Beer festival at The Crown

After a hard day slaving over a hot mash tun (actually I wasn't brewing but slaving over a hot labelling machine doesn't sound as good) I made it to the beer festival at the Crown last night.

There were a dozen beers on. Best of the festival for us was Dark Horse Maypole, a balanced but refreshing beer, with Dark Star American Pale Ale, an unbalanced but refreshing beer coming second.

I'm off to Brighton today so am looking forward to more delights from Dark Star.

Friday 29 April 2011

Bah! Humbug!

Did I get to go to a street party? Did I get to drink an appropriate beer?

Did I bollocks. I had to go to work.

Thursday 28 April 2011

Vote for Your Top CAMRA Campaigners

On CAMRA's website there's a chance to vote for your top 40 campaigners.

I've met a couple of the people listed so they're getting a vote. But I can't vote for the man I'm sure all beer bloggers want to vote for, the defender of the faith, because I don't know his real name. So if you'd let me know who you are Tandleman you've got my vote.

Monday 25 April 2011

Egham beer festival Spring 2011

I call in for a swift half at the latest Egham beer festival on Friday. Despite it being just after 11 am the place was starting to fill up with eager drinkers. Egham beer festival has established itself as a real tickers festival, with the organisers going to great lengths to get new beers.

This is fine by me as it gives us a chance to brew something different, and it's fine with the punters as it gives them new beers to tick. This is the only beer festival where I've seen people putting beers into plastic bottles to drink later, which is taking the whole beer nerd thing a bit too far for my taste.

But then again, who am I to pass judgement on other peoples hobbies? I was about to drive hundreds of miles so I could risk my life climbing rocky outcrops.

Monday 18 April 2011

Ale Top Trumps

During last night's festivities I picked up a packet of Ale Trumps.

There are cards for 34 beers, rated on age of brewery, barrels produced, refreshment, colour, ABV and rarity.

I'm not quite sure who they're aimed at but being easily amused I couldn't resist.

Sunday 17 April 2011

Acidity to pH ready reckoner

Confused by seeing acidity expressed as a percentage on Ron's blog? Not up to doing the necessary calculations yourself? Then use this ready reckoner:

0.01 4.38
0.02 4.23
0.03 4.14
0.04 4.08
0.05 4.03
0.06 3.99
0.07 3.96
0.08 3.93
0.09 3.90
0.1 3.88
0.11 3.86
0.12 3.84
0.13 3.82
0.14 3.81
0.15 3.79
0.16 3.78
0.17 3.76
0.18 3.75
0.19 3.74
0.2 3.73
0.21 3.72
0.22 3.71
0.23 3.70
0.24 3.69
0.25 3.68
0.26 3.67
0.27 3.66
0.28 3.65
0.29 3.65
0.3 3.64
0.31 3.63
0.32 3.63
0.33 3.62
0.34 3.61
0.35 3.61
0.36 3.60
0.37 3.59
0.38 3.59
0.39 3.58
0.4 3.58
0.41 3.57
0.42 3.57
0.43 3.56
0.44 3.56
0.45 3.55
0.46 3.55
0.47 3.54
0.48 3.54
0.49 3.53
0.5 3.53
0.51 3.52
0.52 3.52
0.53 3.52
0.54 3.51
0.55 3.51
0.56 3.50
0.57 3.50
0.58 3.50
0.59 3.49
0.6 3.49
0.61 3.49
0.62 3.48
0.63 3.48
0.64 3.48
0.65 3.47
0.66 3.47
0.67 3.47
0.68 3.46
0.69 3.46
0.7 3.46
0.71 3.45
0.72 3.45
0.73 3.45
0.74 3.44
0.75 3.44
0.76 3.44
0.77 3.44
0.78 3.43
0.79 3.43
0.8 3.43
0.81 3.42
0.82 3.42
0.83 3.42
0.84 3.42
0.85 3.41
0.86 3.41
0.87 3.41
0.88 3.41
0.89 3.40
0.9 3.40
0.91 3.40
0.92 3.40
0.93 3.39
0.94 3.39
0.95 3.39
0.96 3.39
0.97 3.39
0.98 3.38
0.99 3.38
1 3.38
1.01 3.38
1.02 3.37
1.03 3.37
1.04 3.37
1.05 3.37
1.06 3.37
1.07 3.36
1.08 3.36
1.09 3.36
1.1 3.36
1.11 3.36
1.12 3.35
1.13 3.35
1.14 3.35
1.15 3.35
1.16 3.35
1.17 3.34
1.18 3.34
1.19 3.34
1.2 3.34
1.21 3.34
1.22 3.34
1.23 3.33
1.24 3.33
1.25 3.33
1.26 3.33
1.27 3.33
1.28 3.32
1.29 3.32
1.3 3.32
1.31 3.32
1.32 3.32
1.33 3.32
1.34 3.31
1.35 3.31
1.36 3.31
1.37 3.31
1.38 3.31
1.39 3.31
1.4 3.31
1.41 3.30
1.42 3.30
1.43 3.30
1.44 3.30
1.45 3.30
1.46 3.30
1.47 3.29
1.48 3.29
1.49 3.29
1.5 3.29

Farnham beer exhibition 2011

I was at the excellent Farnham beer exhibition last night. All the beers were on top form, and the beer of the night for me was Exmoor Gold. Now where's my fried pork products...

Friday 15 April 2011

Signs of life

Either the hop plants have started growing or there are now some very pampered weeds at the back of the brewery.

Monday 11 April 2011

Calculating the pH of old beers

Looking at the figures for historical beers that sometimes appear in some of my favourite blogs I've found it frustrating that acidity is given as a decimal figure, not as the pH that I'm familiar with. The pH scale was developed in 1909 by Sørensen at the Carlsberg brewery laboratory, so was first used in research on beer, but compared to how long beer has been around it is still relatively recent which I guess is why it's not used.

As the beer historian bloggers aren't scientists they've been unable to help me to convert acidity to pH. But as I am a scientist I thought I'd give it a go at working it out myself. It's been a while since I've done calculations like this but it's good to try knocking the rust off my drink addled brain every now and then.

If calculations about acidity in historic beer don't interest you look away now.

From a recent post at Ron's Shut up about Barclay Perkins we get an analysis of Dreher's Vienna lager that lists acetic acid as 0.12.

This I take to be a percentage volume, so I'll divide it by 100 to get the concentration [0.0012].

The disassociation constant (Ka) of acetic acid is 1.75 x 10e-5 and its chemical formula is CH3COOH.

As acetic acid is a weak acid I'm using the simplified formula:

Ka = [H+][CH3COO-]/[CH3COOH]

(so to put in the figures we have gives us)

1.75 x 10e-5 = [H+][CH3COO-]/0.0012

(multiply this by 0.0012 to get)

2.1 x 10e-8 = [H+][CH3COO-]

(as [H+]= [CH3COO-] we have)

2.1 x 10e-8 = [H+] squared

(take the square root)

1.45 x 10e-4 = [H+]

(as pH = -log[H+] )

(find the log)

(take away the minus sign)

Which gives us the pH as 3.83

When we made lager during my studies at Heriot-Watt the final pH was 3.84 so this looks like a good figure for a lager pH to me.

For comparison Murphy and Son give an acceptable pH range for cask conditioned ales of 3.7 to 4.1 and a pH of 3.3 for lambic beer is given here.

Looking at some of Ron's other figures we can see acidities for a range of barley wines. Applying the same formula to the most acidic (1870 Bass barley wine at 0.23 acid) we get a pH of 3.69 and for the least acidic (various at 0.04 acid) we get pH 4.07, so I'm feeling fairly confident in my workings and my assumptions that brewing chemists' acidity scale was based on acetic acid and expressed as a percentage. Though if anyone knows better or spots an error I've made I'm all ears!

Edited to add:

More info here:

This free acid is represented in the tables as acetic acid; but there is reason to believe that only a part of it is acetic acid, and that beer probably contains lactic acid and some substance analogous to glucic acid, which, according to Graham, Hofmann, and Redwood, appears to be produced in the fermentation of beer-worts, as practised in this country.

Friday 8 April 2011

Beer bloggers conference agenda announced

The ad-hoc grassroots organising committee has fulfilled its mandate and produced an agenda for the European beer bloggers conference:

"Conference to be held May 20-22 in London.

•Our talks and speakers range from "History of Brewing in London with Peter Haydon from Meantime Brewing" to "Shaking up the Brewing Scene with Martin Dickie from BrewDog" to "Do’s and Don’ts of Beer Blogging with Pete Brown, Mark Fletcher, & Melissa Cole".

•We have beer-oriented educational sessions including "Identifying Flavours and Off Flavours in Beer with FlavorActiV", "Beer and Food Pairing with The Beer Academy", and "The Effect of Ingredients on Beer Flavour with Fuller’s".

•You will experience beer tasting sessions including Live Beer Blogging and the Night of Many Beers. You'll have the opportunity to taste beers from upwards of 20 UK and international breweries over the weekend including Budvar, Adnam's, Shepherd Neame, BrewDog, Wells and Young's, Abbey St. Martin, Pilsner Urquell, Camden Town, Williams Brothers, Rogue Brewery, and many more.

•Two beer-pairing dinners are included. For blog posts summarizing the content and beers of the conference, please see: "

In the main the talks and the breweries don't really excite me so I've decided it's not for me.

Wednesday 6 April 2011

Inspired by Colne Spring Ale

Benskin's Colne Spring Ale was one of the beers that really caught my eye in Martyn Cornell's beer history book Amber, Gold and Black. A barley wine that was inoculated with a Brettanomyces yeast, I was amazed to see that Colne Spring Ale was produced up until at least 1970. As a beer nerd finding this out caused me more excitement than you would believe, as I'd always thought Brett in British beers had died out around the time of the first world war.

Originally isolated by Niels Claussen in 1904, the name Brettanomyces (British fungus) was chosen as it was responsible "that peculiar and remarkably fine flavour" found in English stock ales. Nowadays it's most often associated with Belgian lambic beers hence the decidedly unbritish species names like B. bruxellensis and B. lambicus.

I resolved to bring Brettanomyces back to Britain and brew a beer inspired by Colne Spring Ale. I was able to get hold of a culture of Brettanomyces claussenii which was originally isolated from an English stock ale in 1910. Over on Ron's blog there are a few bits of information on Colnes Spring Ale which I used to help me design a beer.

I was a bit worried about using the Brett though so I tried to find out more about it. Much to my disappointment I found there's surprisingly little information out there. The best source I could find came from a bloke who went to Heriot-Watt the year after me. He did a project brewing Brett only beers and reported his results in a useful powerpoint presentation and a detailed blog.

I decided to add the Brettanomcyes to my beer after the primary fermentation was finished, and I then let the Brett fermentation continue until it seemed to have ended a month later. After that I bottled the beer with a small amount of priming sugar and after another month it was lightly carbonated.

The taste was quite unusual. There's obvious alcohol, and some sweetness is still there but somehow it seems dry too, almost sherry like but with a hint of that 'funky' Brett flavour.

I've since found there are actually some tasting notes for the original on Rate Beer describing a taste like port so it seems my beer isn't a million miles away from what I was aiming for.

More exciting beer brewed with Brettanomyces blogging to follow...

Sunday 3 April 2011

Brewery on the telly

The excellent West Berkshire brewery was on food writer Nigel Slater's programme tonight. You can watch it here.

Friday 1 April 2011

Designing a beer

Working as a brewer I sometimes get asked how I come up with the recipes for new beers. So here's how I designed our stout:

First there was the extensive field research into existing beers of that style to see what sort of taste I'm after.

Then I used my detailed knowledge and extensive training on the materials used in making beer to have a brain storming session on which ingredients to use :

Next I reviewed the brewing literature:

Then I performed a series of complex calculations regarding the strength, bitterness and colour:

After that it was time to give it a go. And there you have it: