Saturday 31 December 2016

Golden Pints 2016

After another year of only posting objective facts it's nice to once more an excuse to publish my own biased opinions.

  1. Best UK Cask Beer:
    Thurstons Horsell Hop. Green hop beers are fab. And I helped pick the hops.
  2. Best UK Keg Beer:
    I had one of these this year. Oh yes, though it was probably from a key keg so not really keg beer. In fact more cask in a kosher condom, as our mother church have given key kegs their approval. I didn't actually have the beer in the UK mind, but it was made in Britain: Gadd's Bretted IPA. Glorious it was.
  3. Best UK Bottled Beer:
    Sticking with the Brett. here, Old Diary Tsar Top. Sadly it's not made anymore, but on the plus side I still have stocks of it.
  4. Best UK Canned Beer:
    I seldom buy canned beer but I've been lucky enough to have some posted to me. I can't remember being blown away by any of them but I enjoyed Northern Monk Smokin' Bees Imperial Whisky Honey Smoked Porter so that.
  5. Best Overseas Draught:
    The foreign draught beers that stick out this year are lagers, which just shows how open minded and cosmopolitan I am. I was delighted to finally find some decent lager in Germany, so thanks for the Franconia recommendation from (I think) Rob, but the winner was in Prague: Únětice 12°.
  6. Best Overseas Bottled Beer:
    Orval again, still got a a bit of an obsession with this one and its bretty goodness. Drank a fair few bottles, and currently on my third go at making it myself. Which I really must blog about as I'm getting there.
  7. Best Overseas Canned Beer:
    I did have a few tinnies on my travels but I can't recall for certain what any of them were. Forst lager was probably one so that.
  8. Best collaboration brew:
    Can't think of one. And to be honest I still don't get the point.
  9. Best Overall Beer:
    Thurstons Horsell Hop
  10. Best Branding:
    Thurstons again. More excellent work from Too Much Black Coffee. I mean, just look at the Woking beer festival staff t-shirt:

  11. Best UK Brewery: Thurstons
  12. Best Overseas Brewery: Únětice
  13. Best New Brewery Opening 2016:
    I like to let breweries bed in a bit before judging them so no award here.
  14. Pub/Bar of the Year:
    The Crown, Horsell.
  15. Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2016:
    Can't recall going to anywhere new this year.
  16. Beer Festival of the Year:
    I was knacked at the GBBF this year so it wasn't a vintage one for me. Instead I'm going with Carnivale Brettanomyces. I did a talk there, and I've since written two articles about it for the IBD magazine. But most importantly I drank a lot of great beer with great people.
  17. Supermarket of the Year:
    Booths again
  18. Independent Retailer of the Year:
    Cobbett's Real Ale. I've been to any specialst beer shops often this year, but I must have been to Cobbett's more than any other, and I like their teeny tiny micropub.
  19. Online Retailer of the Year:
    Not bought any beer online this year.
  20. Best Beer Book or Magazine:
    I've been reading a lot of brewing text books of late, which has rather dampened my enthusiasm for reading other books on beer. Even my beer nerdery has its limits. I look forward to seeing Brewer and Distiller International each month though, so that wins.
  21. Best Beer Blog or Website:
    Boak and Bailey have been as good as ever, but still insist on taking holidays at the same time so their regular flow is sometimes interupted. Ron Pattinson never stops though, after all obsessive is all 73 of his middle names. As well as his detail excavation of brewing records his accounts of wandering around getting pissed are also highly entertaining, so a well deserved win for Shut Up About Barclay Perkins.
  22. Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer:
    Pilot Brewery have come up with some corkers, and they're from Leith, much like myself, and went to Heriot-Watt, much like myself. Writing this I realised I don't actually follow them on twitter though, and have only seen retweeted stuff, so I can't choose them. The twatty beer doodles have been good, but did skirt dangerously close to heresy at one time, so not them either. You can't take any chances with your immortal soul. No, the clear winner for me this year is @brouwervanklomp (yes, I know).
  23. Best Brewery Website/Social media:
    OK, Pilot can have this one, I really do need to follow them on twitter.
  24. Bonus category
    Brewer of the year:
    I made a nomination for the BGBW award this year, but my man didn't win. So he's winning this one: Glenn Whatman of Old Dairy Brewery. He's won both SIBA and CAMRA national awards, so is already this year's winner so by any objective reckoning.

Friday 30 December 2016

Box Steam Full Steam Ahead

Unexpectedly Box Steam Brewery sent me a bottle of their Full Steam Ahead. I'm always happy to be sent free beer, but this one was brewed to celebrate their tenth anniversary, and came in a big bottle at 10% ABV so I wasn't sure what to do with it. "Drink it" I hear you say, but when? Something like that is clearly best saved for a special occasion.

Christmas seemed like an ideal opportunity, but as it happens we didn't get round to it then. I'd got into the spirit of excess though, so polished it off on Boxing Day. Oak Aged it said, and I suspect it picked up some bugs during ageing, there was a touch of tartness to it. But in a good way, as it helped to balance a big beer that might otherwise have been cloying. It did remind me of those other aged beers, Liefman's Goudenband and Greene King's Suffolk Strong, and despite its strength I polished it off quick enough. Here's hoping that Box Steam have other significant anniversary's coming up soon.

Saturday 24 December 2016

The Story of the Whirlpool by H Ranulph Hudston

Not coming from an engineering background at times I find myself simply in awe of engineering innovations. Brewing engineering of course, I couldn't give a monkey's about steam engines or bridges or whatnot. In particular, the elegant simplicity of whirlpools strikes me as a true marvel: cloudy wort is pumped in tangentially, trub and hop debris settle in the middle, bright wort is run off. If I had to come up with a trub separation system I'd probably think of some filtration system that would get horribly clogged in a matter of seconds.

In fact prior to the invention of whirlpools settling tanks were used with work run off by a float pipe, as H Ranulph Hudston recounts in The Story of the Whirlpool*. Which just goes to show I'm no engineer. Hudston was inspired to invent the whirlpool by none less than Albert Einstein and a cup of tea:
"He observed that when he stirred his tea, the errant leaves in his cup immediately migrated to the centre where they settled, the larger leaves being in the middle of the pile. He pondered the phenomenon, decided why the leaves overcame the centrifugal force of the swirling liquid, and produced the mathematical picture of the forces exerted and currents produced in the teacup. No practical use was made of this readily observable phenomenon, at least in the brewing industry, until the year 1960, when it was introduced by the author into Molson's Brewery, Montreal."
Trub in wort
 Wort was fed into the settling tanks over an umbrella to aerate it. When the pipe was moved to the side of the tank to avoid it Hudston noticed that the trub was more compact and there was a small clear peripheral band around the bottom of the tank. Further adjustments were made so the incoming wort went in a circular path:
"The result was a definite heaping of the trub in the centre of the tank and the formation of a distinct wide band, clear of trub, around the bottom. On the next brew, the wort was drawn from this bare area through a conveniently located outlet at the edge of the bottom. The wort ran clear for the entire brew; therefore the use of the float pipe was abandoned."
The brewery were also using a centrifuge to clarify the wort, but trials showed that more wort was produced using the whirlpool, so it took over. Hudston gave a talk on the principles and use of the Whirlpool tank at a Master Brewers Association of the Americas convention in 1960, and their use quickly spread around the world.

* The Story of the Whirlpool. H.R. Hudston. MBAA TQ vol. 6, no. (3), 1969, pp. 164-167

Tuesday 20 December 2016

The Pound pub

Something I've always wondered about the "umpteen pubs closing a week" stats is how many of them re-open? Though with most of the ones I know there's no going back The Stabbage in Woking has re-emerged as The Pound pub. Sounds rough, doesn't it?

But as with all drink related matters these things have to be investigated thoroughly so I popped in. 

The place was reasonable busy, with TV screens everywhere and a pool table. Much to my surprise they had two cask beers on, neither of which tasted of vinegar though they were lacking in condition. The cask beers weren't a pound a half either, but at £2.75 a pint were cheaper than the 'Spoons down the road.

They did have drinks going for a pound a pop though, including one branded as Friary Meux bizarrely enough. 

When I were a lad Allied Breweries branded their many local pubs as Friary Meux after the closed brewery in Guildford. Friary Meux bitter was their rather poor weaker cask ale, but the keg bitter was John Bull. And I'm sure that Friary Meux had gone before the dark lord Satan unleashed nitro-keg bitter upon the earth. So I guess that makes the Friary Meux Smooth Bitter a neo-retro brand. Weird, eh?

Friday 16 December 2016

Free will and determinism

An old school friend I hadn't seen in 20 years recently tracked me down thanks to the blog. He was back in town and wondered if I fancied a pint. There was only one answer I could give to that question.

Since we last met I've become a professional brewer and he's now a keen homebrewer and is on the committee of SOBA. Was it free will that lead us both to make beer a big part of our lives? Or was it inevitable after we'd tasted Burton?

Thursday 15 December 2016

Imperial Beer Club

I've had some more of my favourite beer come through the post: that's right, the free stuff. This lot was from Imperial Beer Club, a company dedicated to stronger beers.

When I'm down the pub I stick to cask beer of modest strength, but in the safety of my own home I'm quite partial to the stronger stuff so I was looking forward to this box.

The contents weren't quite what I was expecting though, but I'm probably just showing my age. The strong beers that generally grace my beer cupboards are Imperial Russian Stouts, Belgian Ales, and Barley Wines. The beers in the box however all had some quirk to mark them out as crafty compared to the more historic styles I usually drank. I was also surprised to see that a few of them had added lactose. I guess it's now part of the craft brewers' tool box to correct over attenuation.

I started with Pressure Drop's Syd Strong Cascadian Dark Rye Ale, which was perhaps not my best idea as I'm not fond of mixing dark malts and American hops. Sure enough, there was an unpleasant mix of roasted malt and citrus flavours, but the citrus soon faded leaving something drinkable enough.

Tempest had a Brave New World IPA certainly has the bitter, American hop flavour I was expecting. A bit sweet though.

By The Horns Bastard Brag Black IPA again had a harsh roast flavour over a thin body.  Do people really like this sort of thing? Probably. The harshness does mellow but I didn't really get much hops. This beer style is just not for me.

Their Hercules Hold Strong Scotch Ale was more up my street. I was barrel aged, which no doubt is where the slight sourness came from. There was quite a thick body to it, help by the addition of lactose. It was kind of like a chewy Goudenband, so not much like a Scotch Ale if you ask me, but a nice drop all the same.

Tempest's Mexicake Imperial stout had had various flavourings added to it. It was a good full bodied stout but the added vanilla was overdone a tad and the slight hint of chilli was discordant to me, it would be better off without it.

From Siren there was Blacklight Banana Imperial Stout. It was brewed as part of the Rainbow Project, which causes a minor flutter amongst beer geeks online every year but is not something I've ever paid much attention to. The beer represented the colour violet because bananas are violet under UV or something. Anyway, it was slightly smoky, full bodied imperial stout. I didn't really notice much banana thought, but I can't say that concerned me.

Mad Hatter's Return to Madness Imperial IPA. Was as brisk as a volcano on pouring. It was surprisingly dark, with a very fruity smell, thought I didn't get much phenolic flavour as I would have expected due to them using a Belgian yeast. It was way too sweet too, which makes me wonder if it fermented out properly. The claimed ABV is 11% but I wonder if it really got there.

Mad Hatter Schwartzwalder Kirschetorte was named after the German for Black Forest Gateau. It had lots of ingredients, including lactose, thought it was a  bit thinner than I expected, and I didn't get the cherries at all. It tasted like a good stout though, and was nicely balanced.

Siren's Pompelmocello IPA also had added with lactose, which I must admit was a surprise in an IPA. Particularly as the body was very thin, thought its sharp taste might have accentuated that. I wonder how thinner it would have been without the lactose? It was big on the citrus taste but i prefer things with more body.

To confirm I was getting the full craft experience there was also a small can from Northern Monk: Smokin' Bees Imperial Whisky Honey Smoked Porter. It was a big boozy beer. I didn't get any honey, but then that's a delicate flavour and this beer was full on. It was slightly smoky but it worked well and I enjoyed this one. 

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Mercer's Meat Stout

Some details of the intriguing Mercer's Meat Stout are mentioned in the latest issue of the Brewery History Society newsletter:
"The Whitbread archive contained an analysis of the Meat Stout. The brew of 80 barrels at 1056°OG contained: one hundred weight and 92 pounds of meat extract, caramel from Boakes, Roberts & Co of London, along with five malts, flaked maize and other sugars. A further 45lbs of extract was added to the fermentation stage"
For those looking to introduce bovril into their brewing I make that 7g/l in the copper and 1.5g/l in the FV, which for a five gallon (23L) batch is nearly 200g (seven ounces) in total.

Sunday 11 December 2016

One foot in Gravesend

For me culture is normally something found in a Petri dish. Though I don't do much microbiology nowadays I occasionally dust off a loop, and I still look back fondly on the time I spent with bacteria. The excitement of finding Salmonella, or acid-fast cells on a slide. The wondrous heamolysis of beta-haemolyic Strepotocci or the many charms of Pseudomonas. The melted wax colony morphology and seagull shape of Campylobacter. The mucoid capsule of a good Klebsiella. I could go on. Delights one and all. But where was I? Oh yes, Gravesend.

Thanks to some friends I occasionally get a dose of high culture and find out that I am not a complete philistine. So it was that I visited Gravesend to see an art exhibition on a lightship. Dead good it was too, Weird mind, but good.

Visiting a new town also provides some prime ticking opportunities, and Gravesend was no exception. Close to a closed pub is The Compass micropub, occupying a site formerly used as a estate agency. I think that makes it a points victory for the forces of righteousness.

Though it's not a micro as some pubs I've been in, it doesn't take many people to fill it up, though there is another room out the back. The beers included Gadd's Dogbolter, a beer I once made myself very ill on when I was a student. Some people may consider of 5.6% ABV or more sessionable but I'm not one of them.

The next pub The Three Daws where I drank mild, but this was no session beer either at 4.9% ABV. It was delicious though, so it's a shame I can't remember who brewed it. Cracking pub too.

We called in at 'Spoons for some food, and had a maudlin drunk latch onto us. Occupational hazard of going to the pub I guess. The poor bloke had suffered tragedy in his life and obviously felt the need to talk about it.

A tactical withdrawal saw us back at The Compass where we got the back room to ourselves. I had a great time visiting Gravesend, catching up with old friends and going to great pubs really does have a lot to recommend it.

Friday 25 November 2016

Woking beer festival 2016

Seeing as there have been two blog posts  about beer in Woking recently I supposed I'd better pull my finger out and report on this year's beer festival. Despite suffering from senile lightweightism I managed to end up at every session this year: working, judging and just plain drinking.

I've taken to volunteering to work on Friday night as I've enjoyed the festival since it started so I felt ought to give a bit back. The work isn't really hard, but coming at the end of the week and after I'd already done a day's work I must confess my brain was a little slow at times. I didn't drink much as I was driving but a half of Harvey's Old went down well during my break.

On Saturday lunchtime I was back for judging. It was for the South East region ordinary Bitter category. Not the sort of thing you often see beer geeks rave about but if done well they can be very good. And seeing as they'd got through to the final most of these were.

The judging was run in a very professional manner, and panel were almost unanimous in the choice of Alton's Pride as the winner. I was actually the exception, as I'd scored that one second, preferring Tring's entry, but they were both great beers. 

Then in the evening I was back as a punter. This time my choice for beer of the festival Thurston's Horsell Hop did win when CAMRA tallied the votes. Admittedly I may have been a bit biased as I'd helped pick the hops.

But there really is something special about using fresh hops and it seems a lot of other people thought so too. 

Tuesday 15 November 2016

Flavour units

Flavour units are in interesting way of giving an indication of the sensory level of a particular flavour unit in beer. Paul Hughes and Denise Baxter discuss them in a chapter in their book Beer: Quality, Safety and Nutritional Aspects.

The flavour unit (FU) is a dimensionless number calculated by the concentration of the flavour compound divided by the sensory threshold. If a compound is present at less than one flavour unit it is below the sensory threshold, if it is present at one to two FUs then it is detectable and if it is present at greater than two FUs it is likely to have a major effect on flavour.

Paul Hughes was one of my lecturers at Heriot-Watt so I have come across flavour units before, though they're certainly not something widedly used in the industry. They sound very useful for describing beer flavour but I suspect that using them involves a lot more work than, for example, simply listing the lab analysis (or more likely calculated) International Bitterness Units (IBU) even though IBUs are a very poor flavour indicator.

Beer flavour is extremely complicated but the provide a handy table of the compounds which sheds some light on it.

Number of flavour units

Greater than two (substantially affect beer flavour)

Most beers

Carbon  dioxide

Niche and defective beers*

Modified iso-alpha-acids
Hydrogen sulphide
Dimethyl sulphide
 Acetic acid
Iron, copper ions

0.5-2 FUs (cause small flavour changes)

Most beers
Isoamyl acetate
Ethyl hexanoate
Isoamyl alcohol
Fatty acids (C6-C10)
Ethyl acetate
Butyric acid
3-Methylbutanoic acid
Phenylacetic acid
Non-volatile acids
Other hop compounds

Niche and defective beers
Modified iso-alpha-acids
Dimethyl sulphide
Acetic acid

0.1-0.5 FUs (changes at these levels do not affect beer flavour)

Most beers
2-Phenulethy acetate

The complexity of beer is highlighted by the note "compounds present at less than 0.1 FU are considered to account for less than 30% of total beer flavour", which to me still sounds a reasonable about for compounds you're not even close to tasting individually.

The authors conclude the chapter:
"For many beers, bitterness, alcohol and carbon dioxide dominate the sensory profile of beer, and are characters readily perceived by the consumers. Other characters, such as hoppy, fruity/estery, dimethyl sulphide and sulphury, contribute to brand differentiation. Finally, compounds such as diacetyl and aliphatic aldehydes are often indicative of defective beers."

The flavour unit ranking reminds me of George Fix's primary, secondary and tertiary effects, though with a lot more specificity. And though I fully approve of obsessing about all the details when brewing, remember some are more important than others.

* Sounds like a synonym for craft beer, doesn't it?

Thursday 10 November 2016

Back in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is clearly growing on me. After a three year gap between visits it was only three months later that I returned again. It was for another cracking do though: Ron Pattinson's birthday celebration.

I caught up with the Saturday night warm event at Dopey's Elixer, a bar with the feel of a pub. It was a really nice place I'd happily go back to. The others had only been to one place before hand, so I didn't really have to play catch up. In fact the drinking was so sedate me and John Clarke that went on to the Wildeman for more afterwards.

That's Ron's famous brother sitting at the bar
The main event kicked off at noon on Sunday at the Butcher's Tears brewery.

Starting this early was a bit of a concern. Several recreations of historic beers, previously brewed on Ron's birthday were laid on, and they started at ESB strength and worked up from that. The delightful Dolores had put on a good spread though, and having some food to soak it up defintely helped.

There was quite an international contingent, and meeting people from various countries once again reminded me how much of European culture we miss out on being on an island. It was American that impressed me the most though. Paul Langlie had a ring that worked as a bottle opener.

How cool is that?
And very impressively someone else that sounded American, whose name now escapes me but must be living locally, cycled up with a small keg of beer in his rucksack and started serving it. In fact come to think of it I'm sure he was opening a brewery soon so he's definitely one to watch out for. Once I'm reminded who is he is.

I also got to meet Roel Mulder who I'd exchanged some emails with when I was writing up the Carnivale Brettanomyces talks for the IBD magazine.

And there was a DJ that even played some Hawkwind at one point. It doesn't get much better than that. Eventually there was a bit of wandering on which didn't go entirely to plan due to things being shut on Sunday. It was probably best to have a break though, as I ended up drinking jenever with John and the Langlies at about midnight. Just the one mind, it had been a long day.

Wednesday 9 November 2016

Top 10 Beer Blogs

Back when I were a lad, and where twitter is was all fields, there was a blog ranking site called Wikio. I didn't really get what the point of blog ranking was, but it seemed popular with my fellow beer nerds, and anything that links to my site sounds good to me, so I signed up.

I had no idea how they worked out the ranking, and sometimes they changed it anyway, causing abrupt changes in position out of proportion to any changes made to the blog. This didn't go down well with people who'd seen their rank fall and interest in the ranking system declined. The site was then re-branded as ebuzzing before even the people behind it had had enough and gave up the ghost. I was never that taken with it anyway (no, I never made the top 20).
I was however interested by a recent email about a new beer blog ranking site. Now you may think it's another random and arbitrary selection, hurriedly made up by someone with little understanding of beer culture. But you would be completely wrong: I'm in the top 10. Admittedly, the list only goes down to 10, and the selection does seem a little odd, but it's clearly a highly significant and objective ranking that absolutely accurately reflects the importance of this blog and gives it the recognition it deserves. 

Saturday 5 November 2016

The taste of porter in 1818

Having fallen behind on the backlog of beery things to read I've just got round to finishing the Spring edition of the Journal of the Brewery History Society. It's a good job I'm working my way through though, as there's an excellent article by A. Pryor on porter production which even contains some contemporaneous tasting notes from 1818:
"[the taste of porter] is made a little more clear by the evidence of Arthur Aikin ... He likened porter's taste to dry white wine, compared to that of ale which was more like sweet wine. When the Committee asked Aikin whether the taste of unwholesome ingredients could be tasted in porter he replied 'generally the empyreumatic flavour is so prevalent I do not perceive any other flavours in London porter'."
It seems empyreumatic is a word which is still used to describe wine.  The article continues:
"Another witness, Daniel Wheeler, had been introduced to the Committee as the patentee of a new malt colouring used the same word when he was asked about its taste. He replied 'empyreumatic - rather a burnt flavour - like toasted bread'. Thus, it seems that the traditional brown malt had created a flavour which had the pleasant bitterness of a dry wine, the new roasted malt flavouring gave the beer a more acrid, burnt flavour."
My attempts at making all brown malt porters have definitely had a touch of the empyreumatic about them, but no way as smoky as a rauchbier.

Monday 31 October 2016

Why brew crap foreign beer styles?

Earlier this month I was surprised to see on a British beer blog an in depth article about the controversy surrounding pumpkin beers. I've always believed they're very much an American thing, brought in to go with their seasonal tradition of eating pumpkin pie. But it seems some British brewers have started brewing these beers.

I think I've had a grand total of half a bottle of pumpkin beer myself, something my favourite brother in law had bought out of interest and was kind enough to share with me. At the risk of sounding misogynistic* I have to say we weren't impressed.

Pumpkin doesn't have much flavour so in pumpkin pie most of the flavour comes from the spices added, and it's the same for pumpkin beer. Beer that's sweet, spicy, seasonal and best avoided is not something alien to these shores though. We have our own tradition of sweet and spicy beers that are best avoided coming out every Christmas.

So why are British brewers apparently brewing a crap foreign beer style when they could be brewing our own indigenous crap beer style? Or even better brewing beer that tastes like beer.

* It's OK, I checked my privilege first and found that I still have far less than I want.

Friday 21 October 2016

Glowing in the glass or is hazy lazy?

On Monday the IBD held a meeting on fined and unfined beer under the heading "Glowing in the glass or is hazy lazy?". It was held at the Moor brewery, proud proponents of unfined beer:

Though I'm not sure why they have to have a sign banning their customers from garnishing their drinks with fish.

Admittedly I did once leave half a whelk in an ash tray, but I've never even considered adding seafood to my pint. Perhaps it's a craft thing.

Head Brewer and owner Justin Hawke kicked off proceedings with a presentation on why they don't fine.

He's from the US but lived in German and is now in Bristol. In his brewing he tries to blend the balance of British beers, with American hops, and what he liked in unfiltered German 'naturtrub' beers. 

He sees his beers as modern, forward thinking, real ale and hates the rift in the UK between 'real ale' and 'craft beer'.

He doesn't use isinglass finings and with the help of Eddie Gadd (who does use isinglass) he was able to get SIBA to accept unfined beer, and now his beers have been recognised by CAMRA too. He's committed time and money to getting the flavour and balance right in his beers.

He pointed out that historically most beer will have been cloudy...

...but rather over egged the pudding when he said it's a niche fad as not much fined cask ale is sold globally.

As overwhelmingly most beer sold globally is industrial lager I think it's fair to say that globally most beer is bright.

He works hard to keep the yeast count consistent at 0.5-1 million cells per ml (3-4 million for wheat beers) as no one wants a pint of yeast slurry. Hops contribute little to the haziness in his beers, in fact the hoppy ones drop bright quicker.

He listed a number of benefits to not fining beer, and said he doesn't get complaints about haze as he has successfully educated the trade.

Best practice is needed to make good hazy beer and it is not an excuse for bad brewing.

The person that was meant to speak next couldn't make it due to a (fortunately minor) car crash so Adam Johnson from Murphy and Son steeped up to give the presentation. A lot of the talk was going through the ways hazes can be caused and how to prevent them, which I've recently written about myself so I'll be brief here.

 I liked the term for grades of haze though:

And the imhoff cone picture was interesting:

As was the point that the fish used to make isinglass are all eaten so it is very much as co-product.

I also liked the flavour stability diagram:

The spider diagram of fined and unfined beer was a real eye opener though:

It's from an article in the Journal of the Institute of Brewing (113 (4) 347-354, 2007) that was actually looking at alternatives to isinglass. And the bloke that sits next to me at work was one of the authors. If you can't see what it says on the slide it's saying how flavour profiling of fined and unfined beer found no difference in taste or aroma. Now it may be that is not always the case but it does support my feeling that fining has a minor effect on the flavour of beer.

The meeting was packed (around 75 people were there) and after the talks various brewing big nobs gave their considered opinions. And there were a few not so considered opinions. A lot of people had concerns about consistency, as yeast haze will settle out even without finings so the beer will be constantly changing. The lack of filtration or pasteurisation also caused concerns about microbiological problems.

It was mentioned that with no finings there's more flavour in the beer (though there's no reference for this!) and live yeast scavenges oxygen so gives the beer a fresher taste. The problem of causing more confusion for bar staff and customers was highlighted, and it was conceded that it's easier to make bad cloudy beer with excess yeast and horrible yeast bite than good cloudy beer.

Protein got a brief mention as a possible haze cause, but I don't think polyphenols got a look in at all. When deliberately hazy hoppy beers first started being sold all the talk was of hop haze, but it seems it's all down to yeast nowadays.

It was a very interesting evening with a generally positive discussion, and most of those with reservations about hazy beer at least seemed open to the idea. I'm not totally adverse to not fining beer, and I very rarely use finings for my homebrew. I'm not convinced by the case for it commercially though, despite the fact some are doing well with it. Certainly in my last job any casks that didn't drop bright were sent straight back, and there was a constant trickle of complaints about 'bits' in bottle conditioned beer, despite the information on the label. 

Thursday 20 October 2016

Ranking how different factors affect brewing

I've noticed when people get to arguing about how a particular factor affects beer they always seem to go on as if it is of prime importance. I'm not always convinced. For example, home brewers seem to spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing about liquor treatment, when from what I can see ion balance has a relatively minor effect.

So I was pleased to see that in George Fix's Principles of Brewing Science he classifies a number of factors as being of primary, secondary or tertiary importance. Mastering primary effects he says is crucial for every brewer, whereas the secondary and tertiary effects are fine tuning.

Here's his ranking:

Relevance in brewing:




Maillard products
Hops and hop chemistry

Beer clarification
Water chemistry and water treatment

It's interesting to see where he places things, but when I try and slot things in he doesn't list I keep thinking "it depends", with things such as the beer style and if you do get it wrong how badly being variables. Also as he's talking about brewing other important points such as carbonation and the use of sparklers isn't listed. I shall ponder some more.

Tuesday 18 October 2016

The Twelve Point Yeast Management Plan

Reading the second edition of Brewing Yeast Fermenation Performance I realised it was not an update of the first edition but contained completely different content. So I had to go back and read the first edition. I didn't enjoy it as much, perhaps I've been over doing it on textbook reading, but there's a gem right at the end:

Yeast Management and Fermentation Performance: a Brewer's perspective
byWarren Quilliam, Gavin Hulse and Anna Cameron-Clarke

The Twelve Point Plan

  1. Ensure that the propagation technique is such as to produce biomass rather than alcohol, and then minimise the contact between the propagated yeast and the alcohol.
  2. Top up the various propagation stages at the appropriate times. Each brewery would need to establish their specific exponential growth pattern to determine the ideal top up timing. This should occur towards the middle of the exponential growth curve to expose the yeast to the sugar spectrum it can expect in the main fermentation process.
  3. Provide the yeast with the ideal oxygenation regime during propagation to ensure optimal growth potential.
  4. Provide the fermentation with enough nutrients (especially FAN) from the raw materials (paying more for better quality malt invariably costs far less at the end of the day).
  5. Provide the yeast with stress-free conditions during the fermentation process. This relates to temperature control and rate of oxygenation in particular. The wort should be collected at a temperature suitable for the brand profile. Sufficient oxygen must be provided to enable yeast development but also accommodate the required brand profile characteristics. Starving the yeast of oxygen might give the product a higher level of ester but will also cause the development of stress products.
  6. Minimise temperature shocks. If a refrigerant temperature of close to zero degrees Celsius is capable of controlling the fermentation process, it would certainly be of benefit to the growing yeast cells, which would not be subjected to temperature shock if the refrigerant were at a lower temperature. Similarly the cone temperature, which is often controlled at -4 degrees Celsius, could be contributing significantly to yeast autolysis at the interface. Consideration should also be given to a two-phase water chiller for reducing the temperature of recovered yeast, rather than the sudden reduction of temperature using propylene glycol or compressed ammonia at very low temperatures. The rate of chillback of the fermentation should also be prolonged to ensure that the possibility of temperature shock is minimised.
  7. Recover the yeast on time. When the fermentation has reached its attenuation limit there is no need to keep the yeast in contact with the product. Yeast which is still in suspension will mop up any residual fermentable sugars that may remain in the beer. More harm than good will result from delaying yeast recovery. It is also essential that all the yeast is removed and that slurry consistencies and crop sizes are monitored as indicators of fermentation performance.
  8. Scrap the 'tired' yeast. Phenomenal improvement in yeast performance has been reported if the first 10 to 15% of the recovered yeast is scrapped. Improvements in protease levels, attenuation, pH and flavour were reported after removal of the early flocculating 'tired' yeast from the base of the fermenter prior to recovering the crop.
  9. Ensure homogeneity, gas stripping and temperature control in recovered yeast. Gentle but effective agitation is critical to minimising yeast stress through the achievement of homogeneity and the removal of entrapped carbon dioxide. It is also critical that the temperature increase in the recovered yeast is restricted to a few degrees Celsius prior to pitching, or the quality of the subsequent fermentations will be negatively affected.
  10. Minimise the recover to re-pitch time. It is not always practical to minimise the occupancy of the recovery and pitching yeast vessels, particularly if the brewery uses several strains of yeast. The longer the yeast spends away from the nutrient, despite the temperature, the more prominent the stress placed on that yeast.
  11. Minimise mechanical damage. Consideration has been given to the gentle handling of the product. Care needs to be given to the selection of pumps, the complexity of the pipework, the number of valves, the action of agitators and the design of chillers in order to protect the yeast from unnecessary mechanical stress. .
  12. Use the best yeast … scrap the rest. With every fermentation potentially different to the others, it is critical that the brewer responsible for selecting the yeast scrutinises every aspect of the parent fermentations, ensuring that the best yeast is selected for the subsequent fermentations.

Sunday 16 October 2016

So. Farewell then SABMiller.

The world's second biggest brewery has now been taken over by the world's biggest brewery. Their main office is (or should that be was?) in my home town of Woking so I've taken a few pictures.

Now you see it

Now you don't

At the Capgemini building next door to what was SABMiller house the signs have been rebranded with Asahi stickers:

Apparently SABMiller staff are/were in five office blocks in town. As Asahi have taken over Miller Brands some people will be keeping their jobs, but most will be losing them. It's this point I find a lot more troubling than ownership of beer brands I don't drink. Certainly Group Technical will be closing down, and with it brewing science will be diminished.

Friday 14 October 2016

Get some pork on your tenedor

Work recently took me to Segovia in Spain. It's a pretty town full of historic whatnots.

La única iglesia que ilumina es la que arde

Acueducto not aguaducto. Perhaps a Welsh style mutation from the Spanish?
There's a fortress as well but I didn't get that far.

But what about the beer I hear you ask? Well there was a promisingly named shop:

But sadly it was a clothes shop. We did find a bar that actually had a beer list. The beers all seemed to be from Heineken but it was good to see some interest being taken in beer.

This was a Belgian style beer from Southern Spain
After that we wandered on to a tapas bar to be greeted by a keg font and small glasses. Did this mean we'd stumbled upon a craft beer establishment where awesome ales could be had at enormous expense?

Nah, it was just industrial lager. Dirt cheap mind.

The thing that most impressed me with Segovia though was the fine selection of pork products they had on offer, and the tapas bar didn't let us down. I was delighted to discover the Spanish even have their own version of pork scratchings.  

They were somewhat marred by actually having meat on them, which makes them lose the lardy lack of redeeming features of the British variety. I consoled myself by shovelling vast quantities into my mouth.