Monday 31 October 2011

First round to us.

In our trademark dispute with a French Champagne company we've won the first round, with the judge saying: "the opposition has failed in its entirety". And we got awarded costs.

But sadly this is not yet the end, as they may well appeal, and the dispute now stretches over several brands.

Sunday 30 October 2011

The mysteries of mashing

I was at Murphy and Son's, purveyors of fine finings to the brewing industry, the other week. The BFBi had organised a technical trade day and I'm always keen to keep up with my CPD. Sadly, as a Collecting Presents Day it was a bit of a flop as a biro and a bottle opener was about it. But on the plus side some of the talks were quite interesting.

In particular the talk on brewing liquor (water) treatment solved one of the mysteries of mashing that has had me perplexed for some time. Back in the day a certain town became famous for making certain types of beer using their distinctive local waters. Pale Ales made from the gypsum rich water of Burton-upon-Trent, Porters and Stouts from hard London water and pale lagers from the soft water of Pilsen are some well known examples.

Some of this I can understand. The dark grains used in stouts and porters lower the pH of the mash to an optimum level, offsetting the buffering action of the high concentration of carbonate in London water. But pilsners and pale ales? Both are made with very similar types of malt so how can very soft water and hard gypsum rich water both be ideal? The answer it seems is the different mashing techniques used. Though the malt may be similar the barley is different. Superior British barley being low in protein means a straight forward infusion mash can be used, with the malt and the liquor being mashed at around 65°C. Inferior foreign barley being high in protein traditionally had a stepped temperature decoction mash, starting at a low temperature and being raised in stages.

I'd always thought the importance of decoction mashing was the 'protein rest' stage where proteolytic enzymes can work at their optimum temperatures, but it must be important for the breakdown of starch too. Brewing liquor for infusion mashes needs to be high in calcium as the calcium stabilises the α-amylase enzyme required for starch breakdown at high temperatures. With the complex process of temperature rises it seems decoction mashing removes this need and allows our continental cousins to make pale beers with low calcium water.

Monday 24 October 2011

Brewing politics

As I mainly consider beer drinking to be a spiritual matter I haven't paid too much attention to the politics in the brewing industry. But I do love a good gossip so I was interested to hear that there are further divisions in the BBPA, this time between the brewers and the pub companies. SIBA seems to be emerging as the new Brewers' Society, with many in the wider industry impressed by the cringe worthy 'Proud of British Beer' video. There's no accounting for some peoples taste.

Monday 17 October 2011


For our latest holiday the lovely Lisa and I went to Glenridding, a great place for the hills but sadly not a great place for pubs. Still, one of the local shops has a cracking beer range so we managed to get by.

Being keen mountaineers we had apline starts most days. One the continent this means being worken by someone shouting in German at 3am. As we were in England this would have been a bit excessive, so we adapted the alpine start a little - we had a lie in but made sure we had some muesli before going out.

The weather was a bit hit and miss but we managed to get in some canoeing on Ullswater and got out into the surrounding hills on three days. As the Travellers Rest has rubbish beer the Ramblers Bar was our watering hole of choice. It looks like the function room attached to the hotel so even though it had three beers on and Shakira shaking her hips on the big screen it didn't really do it for me.

More often than not we ended up back at the cottage drinking beers for the excellent bottled range on sale at the minimarket. In fact I fear that middle age has caught up with me, as despite the delights of Shakira on Sunday night I ended up sat on the sofa under a duvet watching Downton Abbey. I really must put more effort into aging disgracefully.

The lovely Lisa striding off on Striding Edge

Sunday 16 October 2011

The Travellers Rest, Glenridding

Well situated for when you're coming off the hills this pub is sadly one to avoid. They were happy to sell beer that tastes like vinegar and when I asked for it to be changed they came up with the tired old excuses: "It's meant to taste like that" and "Everybody else is drinking it". "Well I'm not" I said, and off I went, taking my thirst, and my money, to the other pubs in the village.

Saturday 15 October 2011

The Kirkstone Pass Inn

We got to the Kirkstone Pass Inn last Friday. A proper old fashioned pub with local beers on tap, and how's that for a beer garden:

Thursday 6 October 2011

Wild, wild hops

It has its advantages living in a hop growing area. As well as being able to do the fresh hop beer we've got hold of some hops that a retired farmer has grown from a wild plant he liked the look of.

We must score points for being innovative craft brewers for using a new hop variety. But on the other hand the hops are apparently most like fuggles, a very traditional variety.

Still, as brewing has such a long history it's very hard to do anything that really is innovative. As the fuggle also came from a local wild hop our innovation is merely redoing something that was done long ago. Perhaps it's as the venerable Jorge (or was it Ron Pattinson?) put it: "there is no progress in the history of brewing, merely continuous and sublime recapitulation".

Monday 3 October 2011

I am now a part of history

Today I got a book from the Brewery History Society - and I'm in it! Yes, I am now a part of history.

Like all sensible people I don't normally think about Christmas until after November 15th but dare I say it Kentish Brewers and the Brewers of Kent would be an ideal xmas gift for any beer lover.

I will be available to autograph copies, for a modest fee.

Sunday 2 October 2011

Congratulations to The Crown

I was please to see that The Crown in Horsell has got the recognition it deserves.

Long considered by me and the lovely Lisa to be the best pub in Woking it's now made it into the good beer guide. So well done to everyone at The Crown.