Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Towards a Fresh Revolution

On Saturday I went to Canterbury to sample the Kent green hop beers. There was a fine selection on offer, and most were very good. Using undried hops means the amount of aromatic oils is higher and the beers can have a fresh 'zingy' taste. My overall favourite of the day was Wantsum Brewery's Bullion. It's good to see Bullion being grown in Britain, let's hope more are planted.

The green hop beer tent was there as part of the Canterbury Food and Drink Festival, so there was plenty to eat and drink, as well as bands and morris dancers.

I managed to meet up with lots of friends, old and new, and managed to pace myself pretty well throughout the day.


Yes, it is a rather appropriate flautist
Though I did have to pause and have a coffee mid-afternoon.

Los Amigos de Lúpulo
Which was just as well as we went on to the Foundry brew pub afterwards for more important and informative discussions.



Monday, 29 September 2014

The new Old Dairy Brewery

I had a busman's holiday on Friday, visiting the Old Dairy Brewery at their new site in Tenterden. The new kit looks great and the brewers are certainly being kept very busy.




Fortunately I avoided most of the hard work, though I did lend a hand once or twice, and then it was off for a beer or two with some of the guys and chewing the fat about brewing. 

Thursday, 25 September 2014

How do people choose which beers they drink?

I’ve been pondering again of late. How do people decide on which beer to drink when they get to the bar? One thing I’ve noticed is that to some extent beer taste seems to be imprinted. Certainly the first time I tasted cask beer was a magical moment that had a massive influence on my future drinking habits. I’ve seen others beer nerds talk of defining moments in their drinking too.

Following on from that I’m wondering just how much is our beer choice is determined by habit, and we simply drink what we’re used to. Having discovered the joys of cask beer I very seldom feel the urge to drink anything on keg, and when I do it usually tastes too cold and fizzy. Yet when I drink wheat beers, a style of beer I’ve mainly drunk served from kegs whilst I’m abroad, I’ve happily drunk it in its cold and fizzy form, whereas the cask wheat beers I’ve tried at home usually haven’t seemed right.

I’ve also noticed some neo-kegist heretics confess to their history as keg lager drinkers. Perhaps if you're already used to cold and fizzy beer going from bland keg lager to more flavoursome ‘craft’ keg is a smaller step than going to beer served as god intended?

And I know neophilia is rampant amongst beer nerds, but people often seek out the new within their beer comfort zone. I’ll always check out all the hand pumps when I’m in a pub, others go wild for the latest ridiculous  innovative beer ingredient.

Economic determinism must come into it too, as price will influence most people’s choices, but once you’re down a pub you’re paying a premium anyway, often doubly so in ‘craft’ beer bar.

Anyway just pondering. As ever, anyone else's thoughts on the matter are welcome.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Hops in Worcester and Beer in Hereford

The other week the IBD had a trip to see the hops at Stocks Farm and Wye Valley Brewery. The day started off with a talk about the breeding programme that has seen Charles Faram selling some interesting new British hops. They're getting new hops into small scale production in as little as four years from seedling, which is impressively fast, and certainly quicker than the procedure used at Wye Hops. I suspect the less methodical approach leaves more chance of the hops being susceptible to common diseases though.

We were then shown round the hop yard. Here's Ali Capper of Stocks Farm and the British Hop Association in front of some Sovereign plants.


These were normal height hops:


And here's some whizzing along conveyor belts:

video

The success or failure of hop crops may be a lot more controllable than it was back in the day but there still seems a lot of variation in yield:


At Stocks Farms they've gone from growing four high alpha varieties to nine aroma varieties, which fits in with the way a lot of world hop growing is going. 

After that it was on to Wye Valley Brewery, where the Head Brewer Gareth Bateman showed us round. They've got a shiny new 80 barrel brewery and are brewing ten times a week.

I was driving so couldn't make the most of their hospitality but it's nice to hear they're doing well.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Marstons on the telly

Channel Five have recently shown a three part series on national brewery and pub company Marstons. I doesn't seem to have gone down well with my fellow beer nerds, but there was no way I was missing it as my mate Phil was in the trailer.

I can see why people weren't keen, as rather than having it as a straight documentary they got a comedian to narrate which did grate a bit. There was a lot of interesting stuff though, and I have to say I enjoyed watching it.

It was nice to see Phil at work too, and even though it makes him more famous than me I'm sure my fame has risen by being a friend of his.


Thursday, 18 September 2014

Making a 100% Wheat Beer - Ernst Schneider Weiss

Feeling nauseated by the official commemorations of the start of the First World War, my thoughts returned to an idea for a beer I'd had that I could name after one of the people that ended it. I'd got hold of some spelt wheat malt, an old husked variety, and I was curious if it could be used as 100% of the grist. Normal 'wheat beers' actually contain a proportion of barley malt as too much huskless wheat causes grain beds to become too compact and give poor wort run off.

I first got an inkling my plan might be flawed when I look at the spelt grains. They look suspiciously similar to normal wheat:

Spelt

Bread Wheat

But I'm not the sort of person to be put off doing something simply because it looks doomed to failure from the start. So I got the mash started, having first looked up top tips on temperatures in Brewing with Wheat. I decided to include a ferulic acid rest so mashed in at a much colder temperature than normal.

It started going wrong from the start and the grains sank like stones. My calculations were rubbish too and the temperature was way out. As I needed cold liquor to make adjustments, and after the rest add more hot liquor to bring the temperature up, I ended up with a very thin mash. It also looked decidedly odd. Is that proteinaceous material floating on top?



Odd looking mash
The run off was rubbish too, and took ages. When I dug out the mash tun I could see a load of grains at the bottom, all stuck together. They tasted sweet too so the sparing was not only slow but inefficient also.


Sticky sweet grains

This of course lead to me getting less volume of wort than I'd planned. The fermentation went well though.

Vigorous fermentation
Until it conked out early, leaving a high final gravity. I cranked up the priming sugar when bottling to get the carbonation up, though the head retention is surprisingly poor. The taste is good, if perhaps too full bodied, I'd say it's probably the best wheat beer I've ever made.

Ernst Schneider Weiss
Though admittedly it doesn't have much competition and I won't be making it again.

Here end a chapter, but a chapter only, of the history of my brewing with wheat. 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Sobering statistics

There was some sobering reading in issue 157 of the Journal of the Brewery History Society. In an article entitled "Consolidating the global brewing industry, 1992 -2012" Jens Christensen gives a detailed analysis of how four companies came to control 60% of the world's beer production, with international and large national companies controlling another 35%.

It makes the big six seem quite quaint in comparison.And though a craft beer revolution is apparently sweeping the planet the statistics brought home how much it is a niche interest. On the plus side big, and even ginormous, breweries can still make good beer. But I did find it disquieting enough to ask for Napalm Death's view on the matter: