Tuesday 31 March 2015

History made in London

On Saturday I went to the Mad Bishop and Bear for Ron's book signing. For those that may have doubted if Fullers is a craft brewery the fact it was £4.20 a bleedin' pint proves it conclusively. Still, at least the beer was good. It was Dr Brown (4.1% ABV), a brown ale brewed to a historic Barclay Perkins recipe.

I'd been looking forward to this for weeks as both Ron and the brewer, Peter Haydon, would be there so it was set to be a beery bonanza for beer bores blather.

Ron and the brewer, Peter Haydon
But on the morning before I set off I was astonished to see something that would upstage the main event: Graham Wheeler said he was going. For those that don't know he's the gentleman that writes CAMRA's home brewing books, and as such was my original beer guru.

Knowing he'd be there was a considerable cause of excitement for me, and my prior plan of taking it easy on my liver but turning up half way through the proceedings went straight out the the window. No way could I risk missing him.

As it happens he took the sensible option and turned up part way through the proceedings, a little apprehensive that his online run-ins with Ron might be a cause of friction. But he had no reason to worry, pubs are much more sociable places than the internet.

The great Graham Wheeler
Much beer was consumed, and much beer burbled on about. Though we had got on to philosophy by the end. The thingness of things seems to have cropped up if I remember rightly. It all made sense at the time, though admittedly not by the next morning. But I was only really interested in the lardiness of fried pork products by then anyway.

It was a cracking do, and well worth the subsequent slow start to Sunday I suffered. 

Friday 27 March 2015

SIBA BeerX 2015

I spent a lot of last week up north. Mainly I was there for the the SIBA conference, or BeerX as they call it, but I did manage to nip over to the Lake  District too.

It's not all grim up north

But back to BeerX. I was up there for work, manning a stall and giving some talks. More things I need to get round to writing up at some point.

This year they'd put extra layers of flooring covering the for the exhibition area, which was a relief as I wasn't keen to lose any toes to frostbite. There was a reasonable about of interest at the stall, and my talks went well. The speakers, which included three brewing professors, got taken out for a curry by the IBD. We met up in a pub first and only one of the group blotted their copy book by not choosing cask beer when they had the opportunity. The food at the curry house was good, if slow.

I managed to catch a couple of the professors giving their talks, and I have to say these brewing professors know their stuff. An altogether different affair was the talk by Adrian Tierney-Jones and Roger Protz. After the technical talks this was more like a free form jam session vaguely around the theme of their book. It was chaotic but entertaining, and I enjoyed it immensely, even without taking the free beer into account.

Ah yes, the free beer. By this point I didn't have any more talks to give so I allowed myself to unwind. In fact I kept unwinding until I was put in a taxi at midnight.Along the way we caught a talk by Pete Brown drumming up support for his forthcoming book. The book sounds like it's going be great fun so if I haven't stumped up any money for it yet hurry up.

I did point out where he'd gone wrong about something though, which it seems might make me a bastard. I was only trying to be helpful, honest.

The exhibition finished at noon on the last day, so then it was just packing up and the trip even further north. Via Kempka butchers of course. When you have the chance to get a Yorkshire pork pie it's not to be missed.

Tuesday 24 March 2015

A Sensory Scientist Talks About Beer

Well, not just beer but Dr Joanne Hort is the SAB Miller Chair of Sensory Science and Head of Brewing Science at Nottingham University so she talks about beer quite a lot in her inaugral lecture:

The production values aren't brilliant and as I said it's not all about beer, but there are some real gems in there, particularly about carbonation. It seems in highly hopped beers high carbonation lowers the bitterness, and a dislike of highly carbonated beers could be due to genetic reasons. And moral superiority of course, though strangely she doesn't mention that in the talk, perhaps it was edited out.  

Monday 23 March 2015

Some beers in Bavaria

I recently has a brief trip to the Hallertau region to visit a hop company. It was really interesting being shown round and if I find the time to write it up I have such sights to show you.

I also managed to get in a little freelance research into the local beers, starting at the airport:

The airport has its own brewpub, so maximum points to the Bavarians on for that. I was on the wheat beer which was good stuff. 

As is often the case my planning for the trip was rather minimal and this time consisted of downloading Ron Pattinson's guide the day before I set off. I really must start planning for Portland.

When we'd finished with the hop company we were near Freising. Unfortunately the bars that Ron had visited there all sounded a bit rubbish, so we only used the guide to rule them out. With the help of our host we chose Weißbräu Huber and called in there for a swifty.

Like the best of the bars in Prague, this one looked more like a pub than a bar.

They had an unfiltered Hells on draught so I went for that. Once again I was struck by how quality beer around the world is moving closer to how god intended it to be. I have to say though I can't help but think it would have been better with more hops. Though my experience of lagers is still a bit limited I seem to prefer Pils to Hells.

The landlord was friendly so despite my almost non-existant German I was able to expand my international beer vocuabulary: Obergärige and Untergärige seem to be what we would call Top and Bottom fermented repectively.

Before the plane back we had time to pop to Munich and the guidebook proved useful here. I took my colleage to the Hofbräuhaus

But only to take a quick picture before heading across the road to Augustiner am Platzl, an altogether pubbier propostion.

I went for a Dunkel here. the darker malts making it a much better beverage than the Helles I'd tried.

I'm definitely getting more familiar with lager styles, but had no time for more reseach as after the Dunkel it was time to go back to Blighty.

Saturday 14 March 2015

From the Proletarian to the Bourgeois Revolution

You don't need to be Otto Rühle to see that much of the recent revolutionary rhetoric about beer doesn't quite add up. Beers that "are not in any way commercial" are for sale in every supermarket, "anti-corporate" brewers go multi-national and "peoples' power" means the chance to buy shares at inflated prices. Not exactly a grass roots movement aiming to make good beer widely available.

I had thoughts like this in mind when I picked up Britain's Beer Revolution, a "behind the scenes" look at the "people, breweries and beers inspiring a nation". Being written by Roger Protz, CAMRA stalwart and sometime editor of Socialist Worker; and Adrian Tierney-Jones, beer writer and paragraph break hater, I was intrigued to see what line they would take on this "revolution". 

The book starts with an introductory section about beer and brewing that sadly had me tsking to myself at the factual errors. It's like someone sticks a fork in my leg each time I see them. Maybe I should just start skipping bits like this in beer books, the pain I feel when people get things wrong does detract from my enjoyment. Or perhaps I should offer my services as a technical proof reader, my fees, being nothing, are very reasonable.

But moving on we get to the meat of the book, a tour of the different regions of Britain and the beers and breweries causing most excitement there. Each region gets an introduction, followed by selected breweries getting a few pages each, interspersed with an insiders view from a local, and rounded off with details of beer destinations to seek out.

The book's very much "cheery beery" in tone so no polemics about recuperation, and recent controversies within the beer nerd milieu are lightly touched upon before moving swiftly on, so no calls to drive the neo-kegist heretics from Britain either. Personally I found this a little disappointing as I do like watching a fight. Though to be fair I should mention that despite what its detractors might think our mother church has always been pretty relaxed about decent beer that doesn't meet its kosher definition so the book is only following in that tradition.

And I suppose I should also concede that most people won't come to the book with my preconceptions. They're probably just after information on the contemporary British beer scene, which the book gives a good overview of. The regional structure means there's no geographic bias and the authors have enough space and experience to include more than the usual suspects. A few favourites of mine were missed out, but there's a few that weren't on my radar I've now got a thrist for so I guess things balanced out.

To the dedicated beer obsessive the books probably a bit too general to cause much excitement, but to someone after a good primer on the best of British beer it can be recommended.

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Chemical and microbiological changes as lambic beer ages

Ever wondered how long you should age that bottle of gueuze for? Less than ten years is the answer it seems:

Microbiota and metabolites of aged bottled gueuze beers converge to the same composition 

Spitaels, F., Van Kerrebroeck, S., Wieme, A.D., Snauwaert, I., Aerts, M., Van Landschoot, A., De Vuyst, L. and Vandamme, P.

 Food Microbiol., May 2015, 47, 1-11.

Gueuze beers are prepared by mixing young and old lambic beers and are bottle refermented spontaneously for aging. The present study analysed the microbiota and metabolites present in gueuze beers that were aged between a few months and up to 17 years. Yeasts were cultivated from all beers sampled, but bacteria could not be grown from beers older than 5 years. Lactic acid and ethyl lactate concentrations increased steadily during aging, whereas ethanol concentrations remained constant. The concentrations of isoamyl acetate and ethyl decanoate decreased during the aging process. Hence, ethyl lactate and ethyl decanoate can be considered as positive and negative gueuze beer-aging metabolite biomarkers respectively. Nevertheless, considerable bottle-to-bottle variation in the metabolite profiles was found, which hindered the generalisation of the effects seen during the aging of the gueuze beers examined, but which illustrated the unique character of the lambic beers. The present results further indicate that gueuze beers are preferably aged for less than 10 years.

Sunday 8 March 2015

Draught Burton Ale to be revived

The news that beer drinkers around the world have been waiting for has finally come through -  Draught Burton Ale is being revived:

This classic beer and one time Champion Beer of Britain was run down until finally being killed off by its current owners Carlsberg. But you can't keep a good beer down so rather than wait for Carlsberg to reverse what surely must be the greatest mistake in world history Burton Bridge brewery are making their own version.

It will be launched at the Burton CAMRA beer festival later this month, so those of you whose lives are still incomplete know where to get to.

Friday 6 March 2015

Extreme beer reaches its ultimate conclusion?

I had to raise not one, but two eyebrows when I saw a beer with 'ALMOST UNDRINKABLE' printed on the label.

Having once made a foul tasting beer with 10% peated whisky malt I'm sure a beer made entirely from it is indeed almost undrinkable. But if an experimental brew turns out to be almost undrinkable isn't the correct response to pour it down the drain rather than sell it at a premium price?