Saturday 30 September 2017

A visit to Cambie Hops and De Plukker brewery

The study tour of Belgium was timed so we could see the hops in Popereinge. Due to excellent work from the organisers we visited Cambie hops, which as well as the hops has the De Plukker brewery on site.

The hops are grown organically and are mostly English varieties, though Cascade is also grown and Centennial is being trialled. 

Cultivated using the German system you'll notice

The farmer seemed remarkably relaxed about Verticillium wilt saying if he gets a bad patch he will grub up the plants and replace them with a wilt resistant variety, but didn't think wilt persisted long.

The brewery was small, but more than ample for our modest needs, and it was good to taste beers made with the  hops growing only a few metres away. 

Thanks to Richard Rees for the pictures

Wednesday 27 September 2017

A visit to De Dolle brewery

The first brewery on the IBD study tour was De Dolle. I can remember drinking their beer on my first beery trip to Belgium, which must be 20 years ago so it was good to eventually get to the brewery. It's a cracker too.

It was bought by the current owners in 1980, but the brewing kit dates back to 1921. It has a mash tun with rakes. Which is just as well, as they don't sparge, doing two mashes instead (first at 63°C for 60 minutes, then at 73°C for 30 minutes).

They have a coolship too, a bit of kit which cropped up surprisingly often on this trip.

There was a Baudelot cooler as well. Another feature that we saw quite a lot on the trip.

Doesn't Baudelot cooler sound much better than "radiator type cooler"

For a brewery of this size they have a well equipped lab, perhaps because they carry out  mixed fermenations: Lactobacillus is added to some of their beers on the second day of fermentation. This might be why they had a very peculiar looking fermentation (at 25°C+) going on in one of their open fermenters. There was no yeast head on the beer, but it could be seen fizzing away so there was certainly a vigorous fermentation going on. Weird it was.

The beer was good though, I really need to look more into brewing with Lactobacillus myself.

Thanks to Richard Rees for the pictures

Monday 25 September 2017


The word "adjunct" crops up regularly in beer geek discussions and I can't help but think that, as Inigo Montoya put it:
"You killed my father, prepare to die"
 No, hang on, not that one. I mean:
 "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
 "Adjuncts" seems to be used a lot to describe what I would call novel ingredients or flavourings. In The Handbook of Brewing Graham Stewart states in his chapter on adjuncts:
In the United Kingdom, the Foods Standards Committee defines a brewing adjunct as “any carbohydrate source other than malted barley which contributes sugars to the wort.”
In the notes for the Diploma in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling there are lists of solid and liquid adjuncts:
Solid Adjuncts:

Liquid Adjuncts:
Glucose Syrups
Sucrose Syrups 
Invert Sugars
Malt Extracts
So that's the sort of thing we're talking about. And note there's no mention of cacao nibs or dingleberries.  I suppose some of the strange things added to beer have some fermentability but I'm still not convinced that adjuncts is the best term for them.

Sunday 24 September 2017

Chew, chew, chew that is the thing to do

The difficulties of getting alcohol from a starchy substrate is one of the reasons that brewing is much more complicated than wine making. When the vital malting stage is factored in it's a long and involved process. Sake making doesn't involve malting but is just as convoluted.

There is however another, simpler, way of getting fermentable sugar from starch that is used to make Chicha de Muko: chewing grains and spitting them out. Not the most appetising way of making booze but saliva contains an amylase enzyme so the science is sound. I decided to give it a go.

I got a load of corn on the cob when they were reduced in the supermarket and separated the kernels.

Then I got on with the chewing and gobbing stage.

You're then meant to make balls of the chewed maize into cakes and leave them for a day, but I hadn't let the grains dry out enough so it was quite sloppy. I left it for a day and after that it smelt like it was starting to ferment already. I added hot water until the temperature got to 65°C to hopefully help any starch breakdown complete. This made things more dilute than I would have liked with a gravity of 1.020. I guess I should have heated the mash.

When it had cooled I pitched some brewing yeast and after a day there were small but definite signs of fermentation.

A day later they'd subsided though so I guessed it was time to drink it.

My first attempt at scooping out the liquid left me with more bits than a North Eastern IPA so I poured it though a sieve.

This gave me something that I wouldn't have to chew again. The taste was slightly sour and decidedly savoury. I had a couple of glasses which went down easily enough, but there wasn't enough alcohol to have any noticeable effect. I really should give it another go and try and make it stronger but I'm not sure it's worth the effort.

Thursday 21 September 2017

We love to hate

Over at Boak and Bailey's they were recently pondering the stages beer geeks go through as their experience grows and their interest waxes and wanes. One thing not mentioned that I've been pondering for some time is that a love for something often comes hand in hand with a hatred for something else.

This is often seen a lot in politics, and in some cases quite rightly too, but the most hated enemy can well be someone that to outsiders seems politically close. In sport this is even more obvious, as being a fan of one football club in a city usually implies undying hatred of the city's other team. In the world of beer geekery the desire to link your enthusiasm for one type of beer to hatred for another, and even drinkers of it, seems common.

When I were a lad it was considered right and proper for CAMRA members to denigrate mass produced lager, but since then our mother church has gone more ecumenical and a papal bull has banned this. CAMRA itself, and CAMRA members, often get stick from a range of sources. And it's now become almost routine for some to dismiss craft beer fans as annoying hipsters.

Whilst a bit of friendly rivalry can be fun, needing to have an enemy is not without problems, particularly when people take things way too seriously.

Wednesday 13 September 2017

Westvleteren 12

The first stop on the latest IBD study tour of Belgium was at the In De Vedre cafe, the only cafe at which the Westvleteren monks sell their beer. I had to try the Westvleteren 12 whilst I was there. Beer geeks have often voted it the best beer in the world, but I'd never had it myself.

It was good, and I'd happy drink it again. But is it the best beer in the world? No, nice though it was it's not even my favourite Trappist beer. It's rarity leads to over-hyping I'm afraid. So drink it if you find it, but don't fret if you don't.