Thursday 28 January 2016

Tasting panels

I their weekly roundup Boak and Bailey had a link to a post about tasting panels with a very interesting introduction:
"trained tasters are no more likely to be accurate in a triangle test — spotting the odd one out among three beers — than anyone else"
I know from being on the tasting panel at work at there's more to it than the training. So I had a quick word with someone from our sensory department and here's the basics of how you get on the tasting panel for doing triangle tests:

  • First screening: you're given couple of easy triangle tests to carry out to make sure you have a sense of taste.
  • For Quality Assurance compliance you're then given 15 triangle tests and must score at least 60%.

  • Once on the panel scores are monitored and if you drop below 50% you're dropped from the panel.
Training for beer profiling (i.e. scoring beer for different attributes) is something else, and perhaps more like the training that the trained tasters in the original post had received.

Tuesday 26 January 2016

A win for wild hop

I was delighted to see that the Sussex hop was chosen as the overall winner of the British Hop Awards. In my previous job we were the first brewery to use it, which may even make us innovative. That's right, in brewing you can be innovative by doing everything exactly as you normally do, but using a new hop variety. Harvey's later used Sussex hop in a beer they also named Wild Hop, which did lead Miles Jenner to phone us and check this didn't cause any problems, but we told him not to worry.

The Sussex hop was first grown by Peter Cyster, a retired hop farmer, propagated from a wild hop he liked the look of. Oil analysis has shown it's a new variety, and if I remember rightly it was suspected it was a daugher of Boadicea as it's a also a dwarf variety, and Boadicea is grown on the hop farm where it was found.

I visited the farm back in 2011, when Sussex was grown in one corner. I was surprised to see that the winning hops were grown by A H Hoad and Son, but they've now been growing Sussex for two years so production of the variety is spreading. I have a slight edge on them as Peter Cyster was kind enough to give us some plants at the brewery and I've been growning a Sussex since 2012. I don't think mine will be winning any prizes though, but it goes well in my annual green hop beer.

Sussex hop

Saturday 23 January 2016

The Bermondsey Beer Mile

Long after it was discovered by the riff-raff I finally went on the Bermondsey Beer Mile. Of course there's no Kernel now, but I'd been to that one before so I was ahead of the game with that.

As is often the case with route finding it was the start that was the most difficult part, but after some aimless wandering we finally found Four Pure at the back of an industrial estate.

William Morris would be proud

There's clearly money behind this outfit as they had a lot of impressive looking shiny things.

The facilities for punters were basic but the place was still busy.

As it was the start of a marathon I went for the weaker end and started on a Session IPA. There were a lot of hops there but some of them were oxidised so a noticeable cheesiness came through. With lots more beer to come I decided not to finish this one, which did lead to the idea of using a scientific system for scoring the breweries. As with pubs, it would be a binary system, with 1 for if the beer was finished, and 0 if it wasn't.

 The next stop on the crawl was Partizan, an interesting name.

Sadly there were no tachankas parked outside and they didn't even have Bella ciao on the stereo.

It would seem they're partizans of the petite bourgeoisie:

Very petite in fact, as the place was small with old looking kit. They definitely haven't got the funding of Four Pure. 

Of the beers they had on one was a Brettanomyces Apricot IPA. I know what you're thinking - sounds like a horrible mess doesn't it? Being a pioneer of the Brettanomyces revival I had to try it though.

The bizarre mix didn't have the effect I was expecting, as I couldn't pick out any Brett, apricot, or indeed new world hops. It just tasted horrible. The fact it was a proper opaque London Murky might well have been the reason, but anyway it was a resounding 0 for Partizan.


With two breweries down and the scoreboard still showing zero I didn't have high hopes for Brew By Numbers but I was pleasantly surprised.

Twice bitten and getting exceedingly shy I asked for a taster first but I needn't have worried with 0505 IPA. Strong, cold, fizzy, hazy, with citrus and pine. This was the sort of thing I was looking for in Craftlandia, and though I couldn't drink many of them I finished this one quite happily. One point to Brew By Numbers.

I believe it's BBNo. that got funding from Brewdog, and they were definitely way ahead of Partizan in terms of investment but they were still lagging behind Four Pure.

Our next stop was U Brew, which turned out to be a commercial home brewing operation, where for only £480 per year you can brew your own beer. Bargain, eh?

shiney, shiney

They didn't have any of their own beer on sale, but I think they are looking to install a commercial brewery. I had a couple of tasters I wasn't impressed by so I just asked for a Harbour beer. They sell their stuff in Sainsbury's so it can't be bad I thought. How wrong I was. It tasted like fucking quavers, so it's 0 for U Brew.

Next stop was Anspach and Hobday. You can't see the brewery here but there are some teeny tiny plastic fermenters at the back.

Still being in craft mode I had the IPA. I hit gold again with another one that was actually drinkable: hazy, hop and pleasant, so a 1 for Anspach and Hobday.

With only two out of five scoring on the Bermondsey Beer Mile things weren't looking good but I had high hopes for the next one. When we'd asked for directions at U Brew the bloke there rather dismissively said that Southwark Brewery did cask beer. "Thank fuck for that" I replied, and I wasn't disappointed.

Look at them there - lovely, lovely handpumps with proper pints of proper beer:

And you can actually see through the beer:

After my holiday in craftlandia I felt like I'd come home. So we stayed for two. The porter was full of flavour and very drinkable, if perhaps a little thin, and the Best Bitter was quite minerally but a delight on the tongue. As two beers were drunk that means in binary Southwark brewery score 10. And using the scientific scoring system we can see it's been proven that one cask brewery is as good as five keg breweries.

That has added to the growing realisation I have had that the proverbial CAMRA dinosaur is, in fact, me. So no more will I try to convince myself I have a wide ranging taste in beer. I shall resign myself to sitting in pubs, drinking proper beer that tastes like beer should, and writing angry letters to What's Brewing. Still, at least I can go back to ignoring keg beer.

Thursday 21 January 2016

Hydrolysis gain

Hydrolysis gain was a tax dodge used back in the days when beer was taxed on its original gravity. As beer is now taxed on its alcohol content it is completely obsolete, but I'm not going to let that stop me. Oh no. 

My researches on brewing sugars, of which they'll be more to come if I get round to it, renewed my interest in the process as I'd never really got my head round it. 

It works like this:

Disaccharide plus water        Two monosaccharides
C12H22O11 + H2O 2C6H12O6

This will happen during fermentation as fermenatable disaccharides will be broken down into two monosaccharides e.g. sucrose → glucose + fructose

I couldn't see what the gain was though, as you won't have made any more fermentable material.

 It took a fair bit of rumaging to find the answer but in an old copy of the Brewers Guardian (Oct 2009) I found an article by Charlie Bamforth where he explains:

"The specific gravity of wort of wort will basically depend on how many sugar molecules are present by unit volume"

As original gravity is a measure of density, not fermentable material, lower gravities, and therefore tax bills, could be obtained by having the fermentables in a small number of large molecules rather than a large number of small molecules.

At Bass brewery they took it rather further than using sucrose instead of invert sugar:

"In most standard worts, of course, most of the sugars comprise maltose, However if you mash at a slightly elevated temperature the predominant component will be dextrins ... Consider a molecule of maltose: molecular weight (mw) 342 because it comprises two glucose units (each mw 180) less the molecule of H2O (mw 18) that is lost when they join together. Now take a molecule of dextrin with perhaps 6 glucose units. Its mw is 990 (6 glucoses at 180 each less the five molecules of water lost when they join together). So for every three maltoses (total molecular weight 1,026) we can have one dextrin (mw 990). Specific gravity being weight per unit volume, assuming a similar volume for both a wort that is primarily maltose and another that is primarily dextrin, then the weight of 1 ml of the latter will be less. In other words, in the old days one would have less duty to declare. The trick then was to add an enzyme to the fermenter that would convert the dextrins into fermentable sugars."

So that was how it was done, and one of the reasons why sucrose became more widely used than invert sugars.

Tuesday 19 January 2016

Holiday in Craftlandia

On Saturday I finally got round to doing the Bermondsey Beer Mile. As I'm now a light weight I was a little concerned how I'd get on, which wasn't helped by the song that started going round my head. Where once I'd heard the a stirring call to arms from Natalie Merchant, this time it was Jello Biafra sneering at me:

So you drunk cask beer
For a year or two
And you know you've seen it all
In a locals's bar
Thinkin' you'll go far
'Cos you've been on a pub crawl

Drinking twiggy beer
That is always clear
In your run down public house
Braggin' that you know
How the fuggles taste right
And the beer's drinking well tonight

It's time to taste what you most fear
CAMRA card gets no discount here
Brace yourself, my dear,
Brace yourself, my dear:

It's a holiday in Craftlandia
Where grapefruit if for life
It's a holiday in Craftlandia
Don't forget that murk is rife

You're a beer-belly sneech
Who always likes to preach
You want everyone to drink like you
Sip cask while you bitch
Craft sellers get rich
But your mates get bored of you

Well you'll drink harder
From the keg at the back
Double fisting IPA
Pound IBUs
Till you feel
Like your tongue is skewered on a stake

Now you can go where people are one
Now you can go where the beer is AWESOME
What you need, my son,
What you need, my son:

Is a holiday in Craftlandia
Where hipsters beards are black
A holiday in Craftlandia
Where you'll drink keg or crack

Whole hop, Whole hop, Whole hop, Whole hop ...

And it's a holiday in Craftlandia
Where you'll drink big and bold
A holiday in Craftlandia
Where cheap beer's never sold

Whole hop.

Tune in next week to see how I got on in my holiday in craftlandia.

Saturday 16 January 2016

Death of an icon

Sad news I heard on twitter was confirmed when I visited a supermarket recently: Special Brew has had its strength cut. And the cans have shrunk.

When the bastards brought in high strength beer duty Spesh proudly stood above all the other tramp juices that cut their strength and stuck to its guns at a glorious 9%. Originally brewed for when Winston Churchill (bad cess to him) visited Copenhagen I occasionally partook of its syrupy goodness myself. But no more. Next time I find myself going wild camping I'll have to track down some of the craft tramp juice that's now available in cans.

Saturday 9 January 2016

Beer on toast

Now you may think there's enough beer in my life already. And you'd be right. But when my favourite niece bought me some spreadable beer what could I do but open up a whole new avenue of beer consumption*.

The spreadable beer comes from Italy, which just shows the extent of the craft beer revolution. Unless it's made by a multinational, in which case it's part of an evil plot to destroy craft beer.

Actually, looking at the ingredients it says it's made with 40% craft beer so we can rest easy about the evil plot.

As to the taste it's kind of like lemon curd, but with beer. It's really too sweet to taste like beer (it's 47.5% sugar) but as a beery spread it's OK on toast.

* I haven't yet tried beer in the French manner so there are still other avenues to be explored. Or not as the case may be.

Tuesday 5 January 2016

Brewing Sugars

There's a fascinating article on brewing sugar in the latest IBD magazine. The editor visited Ragus, the manufactures of the big blocks.

Brewers commonly use invert sugar, that is sucrose (a disaccharide) that has been split to its constituent monosaccharides glucose and fructose. The received wisdom in the industry is that invert sugar is better for brewing with, as saving the yeast from having to invert it itself stresses the yeast less. I've always thought this sounds dubious but I could be wrong. The article lists the benefits of invert sugar as:
  1. Reduced crystallisation
  2. Higher concentration and more stable - Golden Syrup [an invert sugar] is 83-84% sugar, with an 18 month shelf life
  3. It is sweeter than sucrose so less can be used to get the same level of sweetness
  4. Sucrose needs breaking down by yeast to ferment so invert is more readily fermentable 
  5. Readily available to make colour, flavour and texture
One of the founders of Ragus invented Golden Syrup in 1883 whilst working for Abram Lyle:

"The sugar cane refining process produced a treacle-like syrup that usually went to waste. In 1883, Charles Eastick, a chemist at the Abram Lyle & Sons (now part of Tate & Lyle) refinery in Plaistow formulated how it could be refined to make a preserve and sweetener for cooking."
So the fact invert sugar was made from a waste product and can be made to a high concentration (the maximum concentration of sucrose syrup is 67%) sounds a more likely reason for why it became popular with brewers to me.

There are some differences between the brewing sugar syrups and blocks Ragus make:
"in liquid form they consist of 95% invert and 5% sucrose, while in crystalline block form they contain 75% invert, 5% sucrose and 20% wheat-derived glucose. They are all 95% readily fermentable ... and with extract values between 321.5 L°/Kg and 326.5 L°/Kg"
Brewer's Sugar No.1 is subtle in colour (25-35 EBC) with a mellow flavour.
Brewer's Sugar No.2 is amber in colour (60-70 EBC) with a strong flavour.
Brewer's Sugar No.3 is dark brown in colour (120-140 EBC) with a rich flavour.
Brewer's Sugar No. 4 is very dark in colour (550-650 EBC for blocks, 625-724 for the syrup) and is derived from caramel rather than the dark cane sugars Nos. 1-3 are made from.
There are also Ragus Brublocks, containing the same amount of extract but made from 75% glucose coloured with cane molasses (No.1 and 2) and caramel (No.3). These are less fermenatable with 80% of the extract readily fermentable, 4% slowly fermentable and 16% unfermentable. Other products include a Dark Brewing Syrup (2875-3375 EBC), glucose chips and priming sugar.

Brewing sugar use has declined in recent years, though as Harvey's and Timothy Taylor are customers of Ragus there's no doubt it can be used to make world class beers. Ragus only sell by the tonne, but is it available 25kg at a time from bakery wholesalers so perhaps its use will start to creep up. It's a handy way of increasing your wort gravity and/or extending your brewlength after all.

Monday 4 January 2016

Beer colour

There's a handy little table of beer colour descriptions next to EBC numbers in Brauwelt International:

EBC units
Descriptive words
Light straw-yellow
Intense gold
Lustrous bronze
Glowing amber
Deep black

For those of you watching in black and white SRM numbers are half the EBC numbers.

Friday 1 January 2016

Will Goldings confusion ever bleedin' end?

Here I am, innocently spending New Year's Day researching hop diseases and what do I find? Another true Goldings clone that's what! Once again I am reminded of John Percival's words that: 'nothing is so puzzling or so annoying as the use of the term "Golding".'

Anyway, we can now add to the list Calais Golding: a true Golding, almost identical to Early Bird but heavier yielding and early maturing.