Monday 31 December 2018

Golden Pints 2018

Everyone seems to be going a bit off piste with their Golden Pints this year but that hasn't stopped me copying and pasting the categories from last year. I'll have to see if I can think of anything new to add. 

Best UK Cask Beer:

Irving and Co. Iron Duke. I did some beer tasting for our Mother Church's strong bitter category at Woking Beer Festival and this was the well deserved winner. Lovely it was. 

Best UK Keg Beer:

Always a tricky one this. I definitely have drunk some keg beer this year, but was any of it British? I had a pint of Carlsberg at a friend's anniversary do. Foul it was, but it must have been brewed in Britain. And at a Homebrew event in London they only had beer served from the devil's drainpipe, but one of them was Paulaner and the other was a 12% ABV maple stout that, perhaps unsurprisingly, I can't remember who made it or where but I've a feeling it wasn't British. Oh, and I had to switch to Guinness at a gig, but that's brewed in Ireland. OK, it will have to be the Carlsberg. 

Best UK Bottled Beer:

An outstanding bottled beer for me this year was some home brewed Wheeler's Entire Stout I got sent. But as far as commercial beers go I went to great lengths to find Greene King's Heritage Beer, which was great but the winner is Thurstons Time Machine. It's a cracker. 

Best UK Canned Beer:

Since the tragic closure of Wine Rack in West Byfleet I've hardly drunk canned beer, but whilst it was open I did get through a few tinnies of  Moor Hoppiness.

Best Overseas Draught:

Brewers overseas are overwhelmingly heathens, so draught beer usually comes via the devil's drainpipe. I did manage to have some cask beer when I was in Amsterdam, but it was brewed by a British brewer so I don't think that counts. I'll go for something I drank in Britain though, that 12% ABV maple stout I'm sure was brewed overseas. Very sweet and ludicrously strong it was but still nice. 

Best Overseas Bottled Beer:

Rather than revert to my usual of Orval for this let's go with Westmalle Tripel this year as I bought enough bottles of it before having a go at brewing my own version. Mind you, I did the same with Orval so maybe that should be the winner. 

Best Overseas Canned Beer:

Can't think of any foreign cans I've had. 

Best collaboration brew:

Or collaboration brews for that matter.

Best Overall Beer:

Seeing as it's the pinnacle of the brewers art: Irving and Co. Iron Duke.

Best Branding:

Oh I don't know. Do other people pay more attention to this than me? Let's go with Thurstons as there's another excellent label from Too Much Black Coffee on the Time Machine. 

Best UK Brewery

By rights it should go to Irving and Co. but I only had a pint or two of one of their beers. So instead I'm going to go with a brewery whose beers I'm always delighted to drink and I finally got to visit there this year: Timothy Taylors

Best Overseas Brewery

This one will have to be Westmalle. 

Best New Brewery Opening 2018:

Can't think of one.

Pub/Bar of the Year:

The Crown of course. 

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2018:

Can't think of one of these either. 

Beer Festival of the Year:

Definitely the Carnivale Brettanomyces this year. I had a wonderful time and I even wrote up the talks for the IBD mag

Supermarket of the Year:

Not bought a lot of beer from supermarkets this year but Tescos had the Greene King Heritage Beer so them.

Independent Retailer of the Year:

Seeing as Wine Rack closed their shop nearest to me they're not winning. So it's Cobbett's Real Ale this year. 

Online Retailer of the Year:

Don't think I've bought any beer online this year. 

Best Beer Book or Magazine:

The best magazine remains the IBD one. I look forward to it each month. A book released this year saw me become a published photographer though so the clear winner is CAMRA's Essential Home Brewing. I really should get round to writing up my thoughts on it...

Best Beer Blog or Website:

Last year I discovered the wonderful world of blogs by people ticking off the entire Good Beer Guide. Clearly it's an almost impossible task but that should never stop you starting anything. The intrepid travels around the country (despite his dodgy knee he doesn't like to talk about), drinking in pubs and being rude about the locals make the British Real Ale Pub Adventure this year's winner. 

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer:

Another tricky one this but I actually met @Ramblin_Dave thanks to twitter and he gave me some lovely Bretty beer so him. 

Now what can I add...Best Podcast should really be added to the list and for me that's the MBAA, and I normally like to use the opportunity of Golden Pints to take the piss out of someone but Pete Brown's short temper got a mention in my last post so I'll leave it at that. 

Monday 24 December 2018

The cask beer conundrum

The sad news that cask beer sales have suffered a downturn has lead to much musing on the internet. Strangely enough most has come from people that I suspect don't normally drink real ale. Indeed the person that's written the most is self confessed keg beer drinker Pete Brown (part onepart twopart three).

The best selling product in my local
Yet those of us that drink in the ways of righteousness have, if anything, been puzzled. Kevin Travers wrote in my local CAMRA newsletter News and Ale  that he agrees real ale is everywhere now and adds:
"... the range and quality of real ale is is probably greater now than at any point in my lifetime"
When similar sentiments were mentioned to Pete Brown on twitter he reacted in his usual calm and considered manner by comparing those saying it to climate change deniers. But the fact remains that my own experience mirrors that of Kevin. Is the Surrey/Hants Borders area bucking a nation trend? Probably not. Overall cask beer sales may be down, but availability is certainly up. So what is going on?

Annual sales figures don't really give enough information so we don't know how things have changed seasonally and regionally, and until we get more details we have a very incomplete picture.

We can see some generalities though. Cask beer is now, quite rightly, considered something essential to have in a pub. But draught beer sales are in long term decline, and the decline is likely to continue. For many years cask beer fared better than average but this is no longer the case.

Draught beer is already a premium product compared to beer from supermarkets so the reactionaries, economically illiterate and, let's face it, diabolically inspired that call for cask beer to be increased in price are talking nonsense if they think that would help cask beer sales. Our mother church has long recognised that promoting pubs is key and those concerned about the decline in cask beer would do well to honour the sabbath and spend at least one evening a week in a pub drinking cask beer.

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Parti-gyling at Fuller's brewery

A couple of weekends back I went to a home brewing convention. My plans for meeting up with people didn't go entirely as expected as I bumped into Ron Pattinson by the bar as soon as I'd arrived. Take it from me, going drinking with Ron does not do anything sticking to your plans.

There were a series of talks at the event and annoyingly the organisers hadn't put a timetable online. Luckily I was in time to get to the talk that most interested me, John Keeling the former Head Brewer at Fuller's talking about parti-gyling.

Parti-gyling is a way to get several different beers from the same mash, and Fuller's can potentially get Chiswick, London Pride, ESB and Golden Pride by separating the strong and weak wort into different coppers and then blending different proportions of the worts into fermenters.

John kicked off with an interesting insight into what's needed in a brewing team. He's always said you need brewers, engineers and quality assurance people, but he would now add a home brewer (though the home brewer would need to be trained up!).

He was firmly of the opinion that mash tuns produce the best wort, with less undesirable components than you get from lauter tuns. Though to be fair to continental brewing methods the places I've worked at which have lauter tuns re-circulated the wort until it was bright, which isn't something I can say about all the places I've been at with mash tuns.

Fuller's sparge to 1.005.

Fuller's have two mash tuns and two coppers, which is definitely a greater capex cost! Sadly no quadratic equation was shown during the talk. I strongly suspect they're something I could once do, so it would have been nice to see an example of the calculations and see if I could make sense of it!

Scaling up mash tun and copper size makes it harder to do small volumes of beer, and running two streams in parallel means using more energy [and fighting over utilities!]. So the strong worts (1.080) are fed into one copper and weak worts (1.018-1.020) into the other.

Proportions of wort from the different coppers go into different Fermenting Vessels (FV).

To hit target gravity Fuller's aim to be 5% over and then cut to target strength in the FV (this is liquoring back not be be confused with high gravity brewing which I really should post about one of these years).

As Fuller's go back a bit they have extensive files. 

There were bottles of modern ESB and the Past Masters version using the 1981 recipe. I managed to get a thimbleful of the latter. Pah.

The modern brew is all malt, but back in the day it was 6% flaked maize in the mash and some sugar was used. The adjuncts are handy for nitrogen (i.e. protein) dilution which helps with beer clarity and the sugar also has the added benefit of helping you make more beer without bigger equipment.

There were some questions and answers after the talk, and for those of us with a well filled beer cellar it was interesting to hear that John is now of the opinion that Fuller's Vintage Ale is at its best after 10 years. Which as is often the case makes me think that more research is necessary ...