Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Fermentability and mash temperature

When I wanted to make some low alcohol beers by producing a low fermentability wort a colleague dug out a paper for me relating mash temperature to fermentability. Though there are other factors at work as well I found it a great help.

Here's the figures:

Temperature °C and apparent attenuation %
65°C 82%
70°C 70%
75°C 50%
80°C 30%

For those that don't know what I'm talking about when you mix malted barley with hot water (the mash) enzymes from the malt break starch down to fermentable sugars. The higher the temperature the quicker the enzymes themselves break down and the less fermentable sugar is produced. 

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Immanentizing the Eschaton

It was the beer that finally immanentized the Eschaton. Thanks to some fellow workers from Woking beer festival I’d finally got my mits on a can of Heady Topper, a beer made by John fucking Kimmich himself.
After a week spent on a mountain top retreat, drinking nothing but water and mediating on the structure of iso-humulones I felt ready to drink this elixir. I'd saved the can for my birthday and invited people round to take part in this joyous occasion. Wanting to get the beer to the right temperature I went to get it out of the fridge and got the shock of my life. It was gone. 

You can imagine the panic I felt. It was like losing a winning lottery ticket, only worse. Had I been burgled by a jealous beer geek? Had one of my friends nabbed it and necked it without me noticing? In fact it was nothing of the sort, my lupulophobic brother had simply moved it to make space for a bottle of an inferior fruit based beverage.
Panic over I let the can warm a little until it was cold but not ice cold whilst getting in a quick final meditate to try and calm my nerves about whether I was worthy not. Then at last the moment arrived. As the great man himself instructs I drank directly from the can and that moment I learnt that everything they said about the beer was true. I would even say I felt angels dancing on my tongue, except my fellow beer nerds would only start arguing about how many angels can fit on a tongue. 

I turned to the friend I was with to describe the wonder I had just drunk and was shocked to see him some way below me. I had actually started levitating! His startled face was squinting at me and I realised I had also started glowing with divine light. I lowered him the can for a sip and soon he was floating beside me, a look of ecstasy upon his now luminous face. 
We wafted from the kitchen to the living room where the can was passed round. "This tastes like grapefruit" said my brother*. "It's beer" said my sister in law. But whatever their tastes the power of the beer was unstoppable and before long we were all bobbing around the ceiling. "Turn the lights off" I said. Seeing as we were now all glowing with diving light I didn't see any reason to waste electricity. How I wondered could this state of bliss be improved? It was after that I made a mistake I know I will regret for the rest of my days."I could do with another pint" I thought. After all one can doesn't go very far between ten people. 

So I wafted back into the kitchen and helped myself to some home brew. All it took was one sip, and I came crashing down to earth. And my divine light went out. From the thumps and groans in the living room, not to mention the sudden darkness, I could tell I'd wrecked it for everyone else too.
"Someone turn a bleedin' light on" I heard someone shout. I flicked a light switch to see a heap of my family and friends glowering at me. "Anyone want a home brew?" I said hopefully, but I knew nothing could make up for the mistake I'd made. Without a word they untangled themselves and left. Abandoned, I spent the rest of the evening knocking back the pints, but the beer tasted like ashes in my mouth. I've been to paradise but I've never been to...Actually I'll stop there, there are depths to which even I won't sink.

*This bit's actually true

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Brewing yeast website

Leeds University have an excellent website about brewing yeast, containing a wealth of information. Check it out: http://www.virtual-labs.leeds.ac.uk/brewing/index.php.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Judging the Champion Beer of Britain

After the excitement of last Friday night I was back the next morning to judge a regional heat of the Champion Beer of Britain competition. I was very interested in seeing how it happens, and it meant free beer, so what's not to like?

Six of us were assembled, on a small stage in the main hall of Woking beer festival. Empty glasses labelled with a letter, bottles of water and cream crackers were laid out on the table. All very professional looking. The were six beers to judge and they were brought to us in turn in a random order. Each was judged out of ten for appearance, aroma, taste and aftertaste, though the points for taste were doubled to give and overall score out of 50.

The blurb on the scoresheet has information about different areas of the tongue detecting different tastes which has been disproven, and more disturbingly research carried out at my current workplace has shown people score beer the same whether they swallow it or spit it out. I hope this revolting part of wine culture does not move into the world of beer.

When the tasting was done the scores from each judge were added up to give the total for each beer. In a dramatic* turn of events the top two tied so we were brought fresh samples of each to score again. This time there was a clear cut unanimous winner, though surprisingly four of the tasters had given higher scores to the runner-up beer first. The winner was Palmers Tally Ho!, I'll be watching out to see how it does in the national competition.

*Not really

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Which Side Are You On?

The discussion about the re-launched Let There Be Beer campaign has now reached the point that I actually know why people are against it. Still don't agree with them mind.

Amongst the mass of incoherent ranting a comment from Dave Bailey has brought some clarity to the matter. He aligns himself with discerning drinkers, so feels more in common with wine drinkers than drinkers of mass produced beer. I myself feel no affinity with any inferior fruit based beverage, and the best pint I ever had came from a national brewer. I'd rather see someone drinking pretty much any beer rather than wine.

There seems to be clear division between whether we should be promoting beer as a premium product or beer for mass consumption. I find one of the beauties of banging on about beer is that in the broader scheme of things it's pretty much irrelevant, but having said that if we're not aiming to make decent beer available to all at a reasonable price then it's not my revolution.

So beer geeks, the line has been drawn: Which Side Are You On?

Come all you beer drinkers
Good news to you I'll tell

Of how the good old Campaign
Has come in here to dwell

Which side are you on boys?
Which side are you on?

My daddy was a drinker
He's now in the Rising Sun
He'll be with you fellow drinkers
Until the battle's won

Which side are you on boys?
Which side are you on?

They say with beer drinkers

There are no neutrals there
You'll either be a CAMRA man
Or a mug for 'craft' hot air

Which side are you on boys?
Which side are you on?

Oh drinkers can you stand it?
Shit, how much for a can?
Will you be a craft wanker
Or will you be a man?

Which side are you on boys?
Which side are you on?

Don't fork out for keg beer
Don't listen to their lies
Poor folks can drink good beer
and still have cash for pies

Which side are you on boys?
Which side are you on?

Sunday, 9 November 2014

The other side of the bar

Having enjoyed many CAMRA beer festivals over the years I decided it was about time I did a bit to help out, so I volunteered to work a shift at my local festival. What with work being work, and Friday traffic also doing its usual stuff I was running a bit late so ended up driving there. Despite the obvious drawback to this it worked out rather well in the end, but more on that later...

On arrival you get given a sponsored T shirt and a voucher for a burger. There was a brief team talk about what we needed to do, and we were told the very reasonable rate at which we could buy beer ourselves. Had I not been driving it would have been a cheap way to get pissed, though I don't suppose it would have helped my adding up, and there wasn't much time for drinking anyway.

The first punters started pouring in at 6pm, and some of them were certainly very dedicated as I'm sure some had googly eyes by seven. Most of the bar work I've done has been at festivals like Reading or Glastonbury, and though the bar did get busy at times it was a walk in the park compared to them. The customers all seemed good natured, and even the disappointment of time being called didn't upset those who'd not had the wit about them to get a beer in at last orders. I've only even seen one person being bounced from a CAMRA festival, though I did hear an ex-boss of mine managed to get herself booted out of Woking one year. She was one of the most unpleasant people I've ever met though so I dare say she was asking for it.

Once the punters have all gone there's time for staff to get some more beers in but I was heading home. I gave a couple of fellow workers a lift back, which lead to what I believe could well be the high point of my life. In the general chit-chat I mentioned I was off to the States next year, and hoped I could find the John fucking Kimmich beer. "I've got some of that in the cupboard, you can have a can" piped up one of my passengers. "It was alright" the other chipped in. You could have knocked me down with a feather at this point. Except as I was driving I was sitting down. Could the holy grail of craft ale really be within my grasp soon? As it happens, it could:

It's my birthday next weekend so I'm saving it for then, which also gives me time to go on a spiritual retreat and purify my body, mind and soul so I'm in a fit state for the momentous tasting.

Monday, 3 November 2014

It's not about the craft

Well I didn't think my fellow beer nerds would like the re-launched Let There Be Beer campaign, but I must admit the level of vitriol has taken me by surprise. Still, the twitter rants did let me know the advert was out.I thought it was alright, not massively exciting, but not appallingly crap either:

Others have dismissed it as an abject failure though, and suggested the millions behind the campaign would be better spent promoting beer by funding new pubs or breweries. I'm no marketing expert so I wouldn't know, but as the companies providing the money already have thousands of pubs and hundreds of breweries I don't think that would make much difference.

As the advert itself is quite inoffensive, in the main the outrage seems to be based on the perception that global industrial brewers are trying to leech off the current excitement about quality beer. I think this view is  mistaken. As far as I can see the main aim of the campaign is to get people to drink beer instead of wine, and they are trying to be genuinely inclusive of all types of beer in the campaign.

The fact the main focus is on pairing beer with food looks like a definite attempt to move into the territory currently occupied by wine, and apparently their pairing suggestions will include beers from all breweries great and small. Of course I could be a dupe of multinational corporations, but I have to say I'm quite pleased to see a generic campaign to promote beer.