Sunday 31 December 2017

Golden Pints 2017

Golden pint it speaks to me,
denying my reality. 
Lose my body, lose my mind.
Blow like wind,
I flow

It's that time of year again, when the best beers and stuff get blogged about. And it's all thanks to Andy Mogg and Mark  Dredge, who've both gone on to bigger and better things than blogging. I haven't though so here goes:

Best UK Cask Beer:
Thurstons Unamerican Pale Ale. You move to the middle of the Irish Sea for six months and what happens? Your local brewery makes a cracking beer using all English grown hops (Endeavour, Jester and Chinook) but with an intensity of flavour you'd expect from American hops. Dead good it is.

Best UK Keg Beer:
Goose Island IPA. OK, I'm not sure where it's brewed now but probably America. It's back on form though and I drank it in England so it's the winner for me.

Best UK Bottled Beer:
Still Old Dairy Tsar Top, and my stocks still haven't run out, though annoyingly a couple have been wasted on job interviews recently.

Best UK Canned Beer:
Stone IPA was canned beer I bought most this year. But it's definitely brewed in Germany so I can't claim ignorance on that one. So I'll go with Moor Hoppiness. It would be even better if someone could come up with some sort of transparent beer container so you could see when yeast is pouring.

Best Overseas Draught:
The Pilsner Urquell from a wooden barrel and drunk in the brewery cellar was glorious.

Best Overseas Bottled Beer:
Orval's losing its top spot this year as I've renewed my love for Liefman's Goudenband. I really must brew more with lactic acid bacteria next year.

Best Overseas Canned Beer:
I'll put Stone IPA here.

Best collaboration brew:
The Fuller's and Friends boxed set was great fun, and good beers too.

Best Overall Beer:
Thurstons Unamerican Pale Ale

Best Branding:
Also Thurstons Unamerican Pale Ale

Best UK Brewery:

Best Overseas Brewery:
Liefmans. They'd be even better if they brought the old brewhouse back into use.

Best New Brewery Opening 2017:
Can't think of one whose beer I've drunk but I'm sure Sophie de Ronde is making great beer at Burnt Mill Brewery so them.

Pub/Bar of the Year:
The Crown, Horsell again. It's good to be back.

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2017:
Not that it's actually open yet. And I'll probably never go to it. But the two fellas behind Two Fellas micropub in the Isle of Man are such fine fellas I'll give them a plug.

Beer Festival of the Year:
GBBF again. It was a vintage year for me this year.

Supermarket of the Year:
On the strength of their Fuller's boxed set Waitrose knocks Booths off the top spot this year.

Independent Retailer of the Year:
It is part of a chain but Wine Rack is so good it's got to win something from me.

Online Retailer of the Year:
Haven't bought any beer online this year. I do need to get more Goudenband though so could well end up buying beer online soon.

Best Beer Book or Magazine:
The best beery book has been Pete Brown's Miracle Brew. Slightly oddly a couple of people said my post on it was nitpicking. Which does make me wonder what part of anal retentive they don't understand. And to be honest the bloke who taught me proof reading would have said I was being sloppy and made me do the whole thing again more thoroughly. But anyway, the book's a great read.

Best Beer Blog or Website:
I'm a bit twitchy about putting things behind a pay wall, it seems like a virtual version of the enclosure act to me. So I was wary when Boak and Bailey set up their Patreon page, even though their beery ethics are much more scrupulous than mine. But they're still making lots of great stuff freely available and this side of libertarian communism we've all got to make a living so I'm going with them.

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer:
Boak and Bailey pulled a blinder in the tweet stakes too:
They like my beer and do hand knitted beer mats! They're not getting two awards though. Instead it's going to @jan_marble, whose slagging off of people from a company account never fails to get me reaching for the popcorn.

Best Brewery Website/Social media:
Can't think of one. I only really notice things about brewery websites when they're horribly clunky and I'm not sure I regularly read any brewery blogs.

Wednesday 27 December 2017

A visit to Liefmans Brewery

The last brewery on the IBD study tour was Liefmans, and it was a case of leaving the best till last. Which makes it all the more annoying that I lost my camera on the way home, and I haven't been able to scrounge any pictures of the brewery from other people.

All I've got is this picture from my phone of the wonderful woman who used to run the place:

She's the one on the left
She still calls in regularly for a glass of Goudenband.

The brewery has had a financially troubled history and is now owned by Duvel Mootgat. The current brewery was built between 1928-1930, though since 1991 it's been used for fermentation only with wort being brought in from other breweries. At the moment it comes from De Koninck and bottling is carried out down the road from Achouffe.

The product range has "commercial" (like Fruitesse) and "traditional" (like Goudenband ) beers. My personal preference was for the latter, but it's the "commercial" beers that make up the vast majority of sales.

Cold, aerated wort is trucked in from De Koninck and sprayed though a fish tail into the fermenting vessels. The yeast contains lactic acid bacteria. It's perhaps not surprising they stopped brewing at Liefmans as it was a long winded process: mill on Monday, brew on Tuesday, grain out on Wednesday. They had two mash tuns, two mills, two grist cases, two Hot Liquor Tanks and three coppers. The brew length was 440hl and the boil went on from Tuesday night to Wednesday morning.

10% flaked maize is used in the grist, as well as some dark malts (caramel and black?). The hops are mostly Saaz, though some WGV is also used.

It's a shame I've got no pictures as they have cracking coolships, with a trough below in which the trub would be strained though a cloth to get more wort. The wort was cooled to 60°C in the coolships before going to a Baudelot cooler.

The two 440hl Fermenting Vessels are open copper rectangular vessels equipped with scrapers for cropping the yeast. When the yeast head is scraped from the top it slides down a chute to open and uncooled round vessels where it says until it's repitched. Fermentation is carried out at 22°C for six days. 

We did have the process of making their fruit beers explained to us in great detail (and they've also started a barrel ageing programme). I was bursting for a piss at this point though so my notes are a little lacking. It's hard to take notes when you're hopping from one leg to another and thinking arid thoughts.

Tuesday 19 December 2017

The flavour benefits of S. cerevisiae & B. bruxellensis mixed culture fermentations

I've been catching up with some of the excellent Master Brewers Association of the Americas podcasts recently. I was delighted to spot one that involves Brettanomyces: Co-fermentation Trials with S. cerevisiae & B. bruxellensis and the Organoleptic Benefits of Mixed Culture Fermentations

The Orval Brett.getting ready for mixed fermentation
Here's my notes:

Nick Mader of Freemont Brewing Co. carried out a series of fermentation trials using Saccharomyces cerevisiae BSI 565, a highly attenuative Saison strain and BSI drie a Brettanomyces bruxellensis strain isolated from a lambic beer.

They were cultured in a wort of 13.4° Plato (1.054) and 5.2 pH which was oxygenated to 10ppm O2

Five trials were each carried out in triplicate. The cultures used five trials were:

  1. Pure Sacch.
  2. 75% Sacch. /25% Brett.
  3. 50% Sacch. /50% Brett.
  4. 25% Sacch. /75% Brett
  5. Pure Brett.

Only 2.5% difference in apparent attenuation was found in the mixed cultures, so mixed culture fermentations had similar attenuation to pure Sacch.

Pure Brett. had 77% apparent attenuation (3.1°P FG)

Fermentations were carried out at 20°C

Laboratory (GC) and sensory analysis was carried out.


Ethyl acetate (in high concentration solventy taste, in medium conc. fruity). Highest conc. in pure Sacch. Decreased at first with Brett. in mix and then increased as Brett. conc. went up, so at 75% Brett. it's almost as high as pure Sacch. Ethyl butyrate had negative linear relationship with % of Brett.

Ethyl hexanoate, oxanoate and decanoate similar. Decanoate 3x higher than anything else in pure Brett. fermentation though

Iso amyl acetate high in the pure Sacch. fermentation but even 25% Brett. is enough to hydrolyse it immediately. Not detectable in pure Brett. fermentation.

Negative correlation in higher alcohols with Brett. conc. so really low in pure Brett. fermentation.

Phenolic compounds:

4 Vinyl Guiacol, 4 Ethyl Guiacol and 4Ethyl Phenol (barnyard, horse blanket) were measured.

4VG lower in mixed cultures. 4EG and EP increased with Brett. conc.

Pure Sacch. had high 4VG, Pure Brett no 4VG detectable.

All mixed culture fermentations had all three (4VG, 4EG and 4EP)

Mixed fermentations: wide array of ester and phenol concentrations. Pretty pleasant taste.

Pure culture fermentations had compounds in high concentrations but fewer of them. Mixed fermentations had more compounds in medium concentrations which gave a more complex taste.

I thought that last point about mixed culture fermentations really interesting: less intensity but more variety in flavour compounds giving a more complex taste. It looks obvious now, but it was useful to hear it stated.

Friday 15 December 2017

A visit to Brasserie de la Senne

Help me!
The forth day of the IBD study tour of Belgium started with a visit to Lambrechts to hear about keg washing and filling. It was interesting stuff, and I did ask them for a quote on some equipment, but I know you're only here for the beer so I'll move swiftly on to our next stop Brasserie de la Senne.

We were shown round by one of the owners, Yvan de Baets. He is a big fan of British beers, and mentioned his fondness of Harvey's Best. The brewery was originally started in 2004 using kit made from old dairy tanks. After two years they moved to cuckoo brewing  at De Ranke until they were able to re-start in Brussels in 2010. At the current site they brewed 9000hl last year and are planning to move again to a new site soon.

The beers are brewed for balance and drinkability with hop, malt and fermentation flavours coming through so he doesn't use new world hops: 95% of the hops used are German or Slovenian. One Saccharomyces yeast strain is used (though a Brettanomyces strain is also used in some beers).

To get the right ester profile in the beers flat, wide fermenting vessels are used. This keeps the hydrostatic pressure low. He also said this means less amino acids are used during fermentation so the beer has better mouthfeel. The large fermenting vessels are filled to a depth of 2m, and the smaller ones to only 1m.

The mashing temperature profile is 45-62-72-78°C, though the times are varied for different beers. Some beers are re-fermented with a Brettanomcyes bruxellensis strain found in the wild by a homebrewer in Brussels. Some beers are also barrel aged.

They have a 20hl brewlength and brew twice a day, six days a week.

Pelleted hops are used, as he says whole hops lose their aroma quickly as they age. 10-15% crystal sugar is added to the copper for beers over 6.5% ABV. This raises the alcohol but keeps the drinkability. The also use liquid invert sugar for the secondary fermentation in bottle and keg.

The yeast is used 30-35 times then re-propagated as after this flocculation decreases. The yeast is a top fermenting strain but it is bottom cropped. The beer spends five to six days in the fermenter and two weeks in the maturation vessel. The collect wort at 21-22°C, with weak beers the temperature is allowed to rise to 26°C to encourage ester formation, for strong beers the temperature is kept to 24°C to limit higher alcohol formation. Secondary fermentation is carried out at 23°C for 15 days and carbonation of 5.5g/l is aimed for in bottles. The Bretted beers have an additional three months conditioning at 15°C.
Not sure how balanced 4.5% ABV and 60 IBU is mind

Thanks to Richard Rees for the brewery pictures.

Tuesday 12 December 2017

The Portman Group

The canned version of Tiny Rebel's Cwtch has had a complaint against its branding upheld by the industry watchdog The Portman Group. As is usually the case when things like this happen twitter has been aflutter with people outraged, though over at Boak and Bailey's blog there is a more measured response.

The Portman Group do come across as rather po-faced, but they don't seem to be being vindictive in their judgement. And it's worth bearing in mind that The Portman Group is an industry body, and it's the self regulation of brewers that stops state regulation coming in. I'm not sure what the people howling with outrage think would happen if self regulation collapsed. Do they really think we'd be left alone to get on with things as we fit? As Malatesta put it:
"... these institutions cannot be usefully destroyed without replacing them by something better."
So until such a time someone comes up with a better alternative to The Portman Group I think we just need to suck it up and be grateful it's not state imposed.

Saturday 9 December 2017

Ancient Brews by Patrick McGovern

Patrick McGovern is a biomolecular archaeologist who has been researching ancient beers and brewing beers inspired by them with Dogfish head for many years. His research and details of the beers made are recounted in Ancient brews.

It starts off covering some of the same ground in Uncorking The Past, though this time it's definitely written more with the beer geek in mind. Brewers will be pleased to hear that calcium oxalate plays an important role in the story as an indicator a vessel contained a fermented malt beverages. So next time you're descaling a fermenter think happy thoughts about the historical importance of beer stone.

Each chapter covers a beer from a different time and place, and comes complete with a recipe for the beer and historically appropriate food to go with it. The research is fascinating, but the recipes are a bit of a let down. After using the best modern analytical techniques they could to identify ingredients used to make drinks from residues found at ancient sites they then had to come up with recipes for Dogfish head. Due to legal, commercial and availability reason the recipes are more beers inspired by the research than attempts at genuine recreations. Surprisingly considering how advanced American homebrewing is they all start with a malt extract base too.

So modern malts and hops, as well as modern brewing techniques (e.g. everything is boiled) and pure cultures of yeast strains are all used. I found this a shame as homebrewers don't have the constraints that Dogfish head do so could go further in trying to be historically accurate. As it is you're given information about ancient brews but will have to go a lot further with the materials and methods that would have been used if you want to truly try and recreate something ancient. The book is certainly a big step in that direction though and it's definitely given me a few ideas about things I'd like to try.

Tuesday 5 December 2017

Why did no one ever tell me about Wine Rack?

Not since the whole Chiron incident have I felt so much that people are deliberately keeping me in the dark. After having popped to the shops in West Byfleet (walking distance from my mum's house) I went to a cash machine near a shop called Wine Rack. With a name like that it obviously held no interest for me. And saying "wine and spirit specialist" on the sign did nothing to help.

But as I walked past it I noticed it had some beers in the window so thought it worthy of investigation. Once I'd got inside I was delighted to see it was an Aladdin's cave of beers:

They had the new Trappist beer from America, as well as classic Belgian ones like Orval and Westmalle. The American offerings also include beers from Crooked Stave, and there's a fine German selection too. Not to mention the British beers. I can't believe there's such a great range of beers for sale so close to my mum's. Or that no one told me about it. The shop's name doesn't help but surely someone could have told me? Oh well, at least I know now.