Tuesday 31 December 2019

Golden Pints 2019

The Golden Pint is not made
but grows on a green tree:
A strong man with his crystal eyes
is a man born free.
The oxen pass under the yoke
and the blind are led at will:
But a man born free has a path of his own
and a house on the hill.
And men are men who till the land
and women are women who weave:
Fifty men own the lemon grove
and no man is a slave.

And to think they gave Herbert Read a knighthood when he can't even get a rhyme right, the women should clearly have been waving. Just shows how ridiculous the honours system is. Anyway, the Golden Pints are not something I take notes for but I'll see what I can dredge up from my memory for the past year.

Best UK Cask Beer:

I have undoubtedly drunk more from Thurstons brewery than anything else but this year but a pub I go to in Dorking has started regularly, but not always, having Timothy Taylor's Landlord on and my eyes light up whenever I see it so it's got to be Landlord.

Best UK Keg Beer:

The have been at least three occasions this year when I have suckled from the Devil's drainpipe, a couple of them even of my own free will. The Hog's Back beers drunk under duress when I went to see the mighty Hawkwind weren't anything special and cask would definitely have been an improvement. Thurstons trial of their Saison on keg was a must and if it becomes a regular thing could imperil my immortal soul. But the winner is one from Abbeydale. After a long session on Harvey's excellent cask beer I was tempted into the Rake for one more. As the cask there isn't great I couldn't help but think it was a disappointment. So we eyes wandered to see what was in the over chilled and carbonated section. Spying a Brett. beer I went for it and I have to say it was well done. So the winner is a bretty pale ale from Abbeydale.

Best UK Bottled Beer:

Small pack beer for me this year has mostly been stuff blagged from work. Beer's so much cheaper when you don't pay for it! Mostly I think it was Ridgeway beers, I've definitely developed a taste for one of the Bad Elves. The winner is one my favourite sister bought me though: Tynt Meadow. I'd wanted this beer for a long while and it's very good indeed.

Best UK Canned Beer:

Again, work has proved fruitful for cans thanks to Laine brewery so I'll go with All For One from them.

Best Overseas Draught:

Did I go overseas this year? Oh yes, Germany. Can't say I was overwhelmed with any of the normal lagers but I was quite taken with the Schlenkerla so that.

Best Overseas Bottled Beer:

For this one the winner's got to be Obadiah Poundage though, what a beer.

Best Overseas Canned Beer:

Hmmm...did I have anything canned from overseas. Don't think so.

Best collaboration brew:

Not really my thing.

Best Overall Beer:

Lovely, lovely Landlord.

Best Branding:

What's Lindsay at Too Much Black Coffee done this year? Oh yes, VIPA.

Best UK Brewery:

I know Landlord won best beer but I've never been as keen on the rest of their range so Thurstons can have this one. The Milk Stout's too sweet mind.

Best Overseas Brewery: 

Let's stick with Schlenkerla.

Best New Brewery Opening 2019:

No idea.

Pub/Bar of the Year:

It can only be The Champion Pub of Surrey: The Crown, Horsell.

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2019:

No idea for this one either.

Beer Festival of the Year:

The GBBF wasn't a vintage year for me this this time round, but it's still the best festival.

Supermarket of the Year:

Not had much call for supermarket beer this year.

Independent Retailer of the Year:

I've used it as a pub more than a shop but Cobbetts Real Ale.

Online Retailer of the Year:

Not bought any beer online.

Best Beer Book or Magazine:

Boak and Bailey's Balmy Nectar mentions me by name, thus making me even more famous. So it should be a shoe in, but unfortunately for them also published this year was The Craft Brewing Handbook, surely one of the greatest books ever written, so it's got to be that.

Best Beer Blog or Website:

Martyn Cornell has had some cracking posts recently, making a trip to try Mercers Meat Stout  and breaking the fantastic news that confirms Fuggles aren't a continental interloper and that they're descended from Goldings so demonstrating that Farnham Whitebines really are the daddy of them all. Well, mummy really.
But no competition can see off Boak and Bailey in the blog stakes, they tirelessly bring out a stream of interesting stuff to read, so they're the champions this year.

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer:

For coming up with a beer that's truly innovative (I mean, have you ever heard of another beer made with hop leaves?) Danielle Bekker @BinaryBotanical has got nothing but stick on twitter. Those crafties love innovation provided it tastes of American hops. Yet despite all the stick she's never told anyone to go do one which surely deserves an award. So here one is.

Monday 23 December 2019

The New IPA by Scott Janish

Scott Janish's The New IPA is a welcome addition to the literature available on hops. Subtitled "A scientific guide to hop aroma and flavour" it covers where hop flavours come from and how they're affected by the various processes and parameters of brewing. This does make the scope of the book rather extensive, and in addition to chapters on hop components and the effect of hop additions at different times information on the effect of things like liquor treatment, grist composition and yeast strain on hop flavour is also included.

I found the details on how addition timings affects the concentration of various hops oils and which varieties are high or low in different compounds particularly interesting. Another step has been taken on the long journey to turn hop additions from an art to a science!

The information in the book comes from a variety of sources. There are well over 300 references cited many of which, if I ever have the time, deserve further study. The author also details his own practical experience and experiments, both as a home brewer and as a professional brewer, and in the final chapter other professionals also provide their tips. This does mean that some of the information provided has more weight than others and I did have to raise an eyebrow on reading that limit dextinase is considered more important for wort fermentability than beta-amylase. It is perhaps best to think that the text provides signposts for further research rather than definitive conclusions, but when looking at something as complicated as beer flavour practical experience in your own brewery will always count the most.

The book is self published, and though a good job has been done, there is room for improvement - I'm sure underlining text is now considered a crime against typography! My criticism are however minor and I would strongly recommend this book as an addition to any brewer's bookshelf.

Monday 9 December 2019

A new definition of Craft Brewery

In the excellent The Craft Brewing Handbook editor Chris Smart puts forward a new definition of "craft brewery" that gets closer to the real meaning of "craft", and indeed reality. First he rapidly demolishes guff about brewing less than 6,000,000 US barrels a year (7,000,000 hl), or crap about which particular capitalists own the company.

Instead he puts it down to something that surely makes more sense to any definition of craft: what the brew length is:

Brew length, the amount of wort produced for fermentation in each batch, seems a more equitable metric to me. It’s hard to argue that a brew length of just 10 or 20 hL isn’t craft. By comparison who would consider a brew length of 500 hL as craft? Not many, so, the number and perhaps a workable definition lies somewhere in between. It is worth noting that beer produced by a larger brewer in a pilot facility or smaller brewery would be covered within this definition as craft, personally I’m very comfortable with that. It is pretty arbitrary but I would consider anything below a brew length of 50 hL is craft, anything bigger than, say, 200 hL is possibly not, and we can all argue about the middle ground, preferably over a nice pint (or half a liter if you’re metric).

It does make more sense to me, though it's still not without problems. Is a flashy automated 50hl brewery that does eight brews a day really craft? And we have muttered at work that having to dig out the mash tun by hand provides an elegantly simple way of telling if a brewery is or isn't craft. But having said that just going on the brew length does work rather well, and if there is a grey area I quite like the suggestion that it should be argued about over a nice pint.