Thursday 31 May 2018

Foraged brewing

There were a couple of excellent speakers at the London and South East homebrewing competiton.

First up was a gentleman whose name I've unfortunately already forgotten speaking on local brewing and foraged ingredients.

He started my discussing what is meant by local: distance or terroir? If you live in St. Louis is Budweiser your local beer? Corporate buyouts have lead to a narrow (mono?) culture and big businesses are more profit motivated [small businesses of course just do it for the passion]

We’re still cavemen but now get our food from supermarkets or online. Getting into the foraging, but not yet the homebrewing, he mentioned he'd collected and gutted some road kill and put it in freezer but may not eat it. Which is probably for the best really.

He continued that there are few small scale maltings in UK, but we can get good malt. I think there are five floor maltings that brewers can buy malt from which really ticks the authenticity box better than a modern small scale plant will in many ways. I know a few people are looking into setting up small maltings so something might emerge in the near future.

Brewing local: using locally grown/foraged ingredients or collected yeast. You can but should you? Locally
grown/foraged will also be seasonal. Can now buy all foods all year round but they’re not in season locally.

Foraging: Don’t Die! Various plants will grow locally, you won't want to use them all!

The beers he's made with foraged and local ingredients included a Sussex "lambic".

The wort was pre-acidified (1ml/L, pH 4-4.3) and added 1% alcohol, though he said the alcohol probably wasn't necessary. Pre-acidifying malt is commonly carried out by lambic brewers and prevents the growth of potentially pathogenic enteric bacteria.

A primitive beer made with 1/3 birch sap, filtered stream water, grains smoked in birch, foraged juniper (astringent and peaty)
One half done as mixed fermentation and one half with bugs in sap left out 24hrs.
This one tasted smoky, slightly sour, refreshing.

If carrying out pontaneous yeast capture you might find that after six months wild yeast can clean up some of the crap flavours. Can hop wort to stop Lactobacillus or add alcohol to tailor the organisms captured (e.g. acidify to stop mentioned earlier). You can re-culture from successful captures, and a blog got mentioned:

A rosemary beer had unsurprisingly a taste of rosemary and was slightly sour.

He talked of the different pellicles you might see: some good, some bad. I didn't get the details down about which ones you should just dump, but I think it's fair to say if you see mould floating the beer's a lost cause. 

Dandelion wit was slightly sour, refreshing. If inoculating with flowers fill up the wort with flowers, not just add a flower!
Leave plenty of time to ferment out! At least six months. Perhaps add bottling yeast.

Dandelion hayson was posted about on Milk The Funk
Hay in mash. Added dandelion greens for bittering. Flowers at end of boil. Cultured yeast from hay, some with Brett. And some with Brett. and saison yeast. Bit of a curry flavour!

Wine makers are very good at making foraged drinks. [Though they normally add loads of sugar too]
Tinctures can be good as can add flavours to beer using a pipette rather than a batch at a time.

Various books were mentioned:

Homebrewers Almanac is good, [Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers sounds far too new agey for me to be interested in] Brewing Local inspired the talk, Against All Hops is interesting (smoked pig’s head porter!), I totally failed to get down what he had to say about Wildcrafting Brewer but it looks like it's a general booze book not beer specific, Edible wild plants and herbs is a good reference book, American Sour Beer I've already said is excellent. My notes fizzled out a bit after that, but I have got down that 100% spontaneous took 4-5 days to get going, so perhaps better to capture wild yeast and propagate it first. I guess that was from the questions at the end.

Then it was back to a bit of mingling before the next speaker. 

Tuesday 22 May 2018

May is the month of mild

May is the month of mild,
Month we all love so well;
Mild is god's own beer,
Gladly it's praise we tell

I was starting to panic about this year's Beery Month of Obligation. Well over half way through it I'd not seen a drop of mild and I didn't know where to look. Fortunately for me a tweet from Lars Garshol helped me track down mild to the Royal Oak in Borough. So with a slight detour on the way to a home brew competition success, and spiritual well being, were mine.

In fact this year I'm feeling positively virtuous as they had both light and dark mild on.

The light wasn't that light mind.

But the dark was properly dark and the one I preferred. If I saw it more often I'd drink a lot more of it. Sadly though as Harvey's are supporters of the Small Brewer Duty Reform Coalition there's no chance I'll be seeing it in my local.

Friday 18 May 2018

Living the dream: a visit to Mogden sewage treatment works

I was accosted by a train nutter on Monday. My quiet reading on the finer points of fermentation was interrupted by someone keen to tell me about the gaps in railway tracks. Not something I was desperate to learn more about, but it's not like I had a choice. Fortunately I soon changed at Clapham Junction. Whilst my new friend was heading home I was spending my free time visiting a sewage works. Which did give me a little twinge of doubt about which of us was the sane one.

Mogden sewage treatment works holds a special place in the hearts, or possibly wallets, of brewers as its name is immortalised in the Mogden formula, the way in which effluent costs are calculated.

It was built on a farm in the 1930s to replace 28 smaller sewage works. It now deals with over two million peoples worth of sewage. It was originally surrounded by fields but now is surrounded by housing so controlling the smell and mosquitoes is a key concern!

As is often the case I can't remember the name of the speaker but I think it's fair to say he was a big cheese in big jobs. We got told all about the sewage treatment process and of course about the famous formula:

Here it is

Bask in its glory
The cost is calculated on the conveyancing of the effluent, the volume, the biological treatment cost and the amount of suspended solids. To reduce the effluent costs reduce the volume, Chemical Oxygen Demand, and suspended solids.

The situation is complicated slightly by the fact that as different sewage works deal with different issues there are in fact many Mogden formulas:

But I feel confident that being at Mogden sewage works we were seeing the original and best.

Sewage is treated in several stages:

First it is screened to remove solids like wet wipes, traffic cones and dead goldfish. This forms "rag" which is taken off in lorries.

Grit is then removed in a process that sounded a bit like how a brewery whirlpool operates.

Primary treatment next takes place in a settling tank.

These have a sloping floor on which the sludge settles from which it can be scraped off and pumped away for further treatment, whilst the liquid goes to aeration treatment.

In final settling tanks live and dead microbes settle out as more sludge which is sent for treatment and water which can be sent to the river.

The sludge is thickened with a polymer so there's less to pump and it goes to anaerobic digesters linked to Combined Heat and Power generators which make a Gigawatt a week.

I'll have to check with Alanis Morissette but it may well have been ironic
that one of the khazis at the sewage works was out of order. 
After digestion the sludge is de-watered in centrifuges and goes to farmers.

And here's a heron
After the tour it was on to the networking.

The Pride was drinking well