Tuesday 29 April 2014

What will Brewdog do next?

Brewdog's latest labelling spat has got me thinking. When Jody Scheckter had a run in with the Portman group he stuck to his guns...and got his beer pulled from supermarkets at considerable cost to himself.

Will Brewdog do the same or are they just blustering and will quietly cave in?

Place your bets now!

A visit to the pubic triangle

I was briefly in Edinburgh last night, staying close to the pubic triangle, the part of town known for the number of strip clubs there. Don't blame me, I didn't book the hotel, and anyway I  only had eyes for the beer. It was a chance for me to go back to the Blue Blazer, an old favourite from when I was a brewing student.

There was a good range of beers on tap, though given the area they're in it's probably for the best they didn't have Twickenham Naked Ladies on. I was after something local anyway, but not being a fan of heavy I passed on the Stewart 80/, instead going for Dark Island. It didn't have quite the body I'd hoped for but went down quickly enough all the same. I only had time for one so that was it and I was off to meet some maltsters.

It was nice to be back in Edinburgh, I hope it's for longer next time.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Early hop varieties

Amongst the mound of beery things I've been reading of late has been the excellent 'The Hop Industry' by Hubert Parker. As is common in hop books there's a health history section and it includes more details of some information that's long intrigued me. The seminal booklet Old British Beers and How to Make Them contains some brief words on early hop varieties. The relevant passage is shown in the second picture down of this post.

Parker gives greater coverage, and quotes extensively from J. Mill's New System of Practical Husbandry (1763):

"there are several sorts (though the botanists allow but one species) of hops. The most esteemed are, the long white, the oval, and the long square garlic hop. These differ from each other in the colour and shape of their bells, or hops, in their degree of beauty, and in the time of ripening. The long white is  most valued because it is a great bearer, and produces the most beautiful hops; for the beauty of hop consists in their being of a pale bright green colour. The oval hop is beautiful but does not yield so large a crop. There is a sort of this kind of white hop, called the early or rath hop, which ripens a week or ten days before the common, and is therefore of advantage to those who would be first in the market, but is is tenderer than the other and does not bear near so plentifully. The long square garlic hop is the greatest bearer, more hardy, and somewhat later ripe than the former: but by reason of its nearness towards its stalk, it is not so beautiful to the eye, and therefore is not so much esteemed as the other sorts."

Handily the book is online, so I can say it's redness towards its stalk not nearness as Parker has it.

And I can quote further directly from Mills, giving information on the all important bine colours:

"The several kinds and goodness of hops may likewise be known by the colour of the vines, binds, or stalks. The whitish binds produce the white hop, both the long and the oval : the gray or greenish binds commonly yield the large square hops and the red binds bear the brown hop, which is the least esteemed."

 He later continues:

"There are two principal forts of hops, viz the green and the brown. The former yields by much, the best colour when dried, and the other is the most plentiful bearer. Brown hops are fit for brown ale, but the hops for fine pale beer must be green ; for which reason these last are most esteemed."

More from Parker will follow.

Thursday 17 April 2014

How water affects beer flavour

It is often said that the balance of sulphate and chloride affects beer flavour, but I haven't seen any evidence to support this. Until that is I dug out a paper from 1981 by Dr David Taylor titled: How Water Composition Affects Taste.

Reading through it my heart sank when I read the line: "Contributions made by various ions are well known, if somewhat empirically." Oh dear I thought, here we go again. Sulphates make beer dryer and enchance bitterness, chlorides make beers sweeter, etc. as I've seen before in other sources. But where's the evidence? Then in the tables that followed there was some. A weak lager and ale were made and analysed for flavour on a scale of 0-5 then compared with different salt additions. 

The salt additions are high but I still found it interesting seeing the effects quantified. 

Differences in taste scores for 1033° lager plus 100ppm chloride as calcium and sodium salts (original beer 180ppm SO4 ions, 200ppm Cl ions)
Flavour + CaCl2 + NaCl
Sweet +0.4 +0.6
Bitter +0.2 +0.2
Metallic -0.5 -0.3
Salty +0.5 +0.5
Body +0.6 +0.5

Drying -0.4 -0.4
Mouthcoating +0.5  0
Bitter 0 0
Metallic -0.2 -0.5

Differences in taste scores for 1038° ale plus 200ppm chloride and 200ppm sulphate (original beer 200ppm SO4 ions and 300ppm Cl ions)
Flavour + CaCl2 + CaSO4
Sweet +0.1 -0.5
Bitter -0.5 +0.2
Metallic -0.8 +0.3
Salty +0.1 +0.3
Body +0.8 -0.8

Drying -0.6 +0.8
Mouthcoating -0.3  -0.8
Bitter -0.1 +0.6
Metallic -0.1 +0.6

Wednesday 16 April 2014

The return of the Farnham Whitebine

The most exciting hop news in the best part of a century is now out: Farnham Whitebines are returning home. Hogs Back Brewery have announced they are now planting their own hops, including Farnham Whitebines.

I had heard this was happening but I figured it was their news to tell. As Farnham Whitebines have long been an obsession of mine I think it's fair to say that I'm rather pleased about it. 

There is a rather large hop aphid in the ointment for me though, as I've been boycotting Hogs Back's beers for many years. Ho hum.

Monday 14 April 2014

Almost Famous in Farnham

It was Farnham Beerex time for me again on Friday. I hadn't actually bothered to get tickets this year but as things turned out I ended up writing something for the programme on Farnham hops so I had to go. Fortunately I had no trouble getting a ticket on the door and getting my mitts on a copy of my parvum opus.

Slightly surprisingly I wasn't mobbed by fans after my autograph, it must have been due to English reserve.

As I started at about 7.30pm I paced myself and began with lower gravity beers. Having heard that the people at Surrey Hills prefer Ranmore to Shere Drop I gave it a go, but have to say Shere Drop is still the one for me.

As the evening progressed I tended towards darker beers, and beer of the festival for me was Dark Side of the Moose.

One for my friends from Kent
The beer range reduced dramatically towards the end of the night, but I wasn't too discerning by then so it wasn't much of a problem. In the traditional manner there was a folk band that played The Wild Rover and by then I'd enough beer inside me to no, nay, never with the best of them.

Mindful of the need to get the train home I poured myself  home at a respectable hour, safe in the knowledge I had black pudding waiting for me in the morning.

Wednesday 9 April 2014

A visit to Greene King brewery

I went Greene King brewery the other week. They'd kindly agreed to host a meeting at short notice and used the opportunity to show off their new microbrewey. 

We were shown round after a very interesting talk from Musk, the people that built the kit.

But  I have to say my eyes kept wandering to the old copper stuff.

We weren't shown much of the old brewery but we did get shown one particular part. Can you guess what's coming? Look down the end there.

That's it, the 5X vats.

I finally got to see them. I also got to see their new cartoonish craft beers, which I must admit made me think that they really don't get it. But with a heritage like they have I don't really get why they're trying to appear to be something they're not anyway.

Monday 7 April 2014

The greatest living Yorkshireman?

Welcome supplies arived from Yorkshire on Friday. My Uncle Ian was visiting and as is a long standing family tradition he'd brought down a load of proper pork pies for those of us that live in a deprived area. And on top of that he'd brought me a particularly expensive bottle of Sam Smith's beer. Could my own uncle be the greatest living Yorkshireman?

Sadly not, as such generosity would automatically disqualify him. Sorry Ian, but you know the rules:

See all, hear all, say nowt
Eat all, sup all, pay nowt
And it ever tha does owt for nowt allus do it for thisen 

Thursday 3 April 2014

Essence of Orval

I cultured the dregs of last bottle of Orval I drank. I was thinking I'd get round to the long overdue Orval inspired home brew I've been promising myself for some time. However, as is so often the case I didn't get round to it, but the unused starter left me with about a pint of beer with a strong Orval yeast flavour.

Unlike Orval it was pretty flat though so I decided to mix a portion of it with some beer from the supermarket, as an essence of Orval additive. It worked quite well, particularly with English pale ales, though perhaps that's not surprising as that's apparently what Orval was originally modelled on.

I'm going to do this one again.