Monday, 19 March 2018

Finally a decent advent calendar

Back when I were a lad we had an advent calendar. We used the same one each year, it was made of layers of card with numbered doors on the front about the size of postage stamps. When the right day arrived the door would be opened to reveal a picture. It was not massively thrilling, but Christmas drawing closer was so I suppose it added to the excitement in a small way. After Christmas the doors would be folded back and it would be put away for next year.

Nowadays you can get advent calendars with toys, chocolate and booze behind the doors. Not the sort of thing I'd actually spend any money on but when I was offered a free beery one there could only be one answer.

As I usually do I enjoyed drinking the free beer. Particularly as since I finally found some German beer I really enjoyed I've been keen to learn more about the fourth ranked Great Beer Nation. This selection provided a great overview of German, and quite possibly Austrian, beers: pale lagers, dark lagers, wheat beers, bocks, dopplebocks and even a pale ale. Though as I don't know a much about German beer I can't really rate how respected the breweries are. Except for Salvator which I was very pleased to see as I'd even considered buying some shortly before the box arrived.

There's also a ludicrously thin beer glass that you won't be able to wash up unless you have a dishwasher but more importantly the Germans seem to be big on re-using bottles. So they're all thick bottles with easily removable labels are a welcome addition to my homebrew stock. And one of the bottles even came with a Santa hat:

Admittedly it's not quite as exciting as a pump clip with a flashing LED but it still amused me, cheers Kalea!

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Greene King's Heritage Beers

I can't think when I've last put as much effort into finding beer as I did with Greene King's heritage beers. Three bleedin' trips it took me before I found them and even then it was only because I saw on twitter they had been reduced to clear that I wandered away from the beer section and found them in another display.

Still, on the plus side they were reduced to £1.87, which seemed very reasonable, particularly as the strong one is 6.5% ABV. It was in fact the pints bottles that caused my, and Tesco's, difficulties. They're made to a historic bottle design and so of thicker glass. The cardboard trays the bottles come in couldn't cope with the weight so the bottles were insecure. Tesco's response was to try and shift them as quickly as possible by giving them a massive display and a cut price.

Two beers "inspired" by records from the 1800s have been produced in the heritage range, both made using pale malt made from Chevallier barley. Chevallier is a land race barley that once the most popular variety in Britain. The Suffolk Pale Ale at 5% ABV also uses land race hops: Saaz and Strisselspalt. The stronger beer went a little off piste as one of the hops used (Bramling Cross) comes from Wye College breeding programme that started in the 20th century.

I didn't get upset by this though, as unlike some brewers that wander they didn't claim to be following a specific recipe, and I was keen to try beers made with Chevallier. The beers taste great too, the historic inspiration certainly made them crank the hops up from what's normally found in Greene King beers. More beers are planned for the heritage range and I look forward to seeing what comes next.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Networking and CPD in Edinburgh

Last weekend I was back in Edinburgh for some Continuing Professional Development and networking. I went via the Lake District so I could get in some snow, having felt left out in Surrey.

This is not Edinburgh
If I'd known Snowmageddon was coming I might not have bothered, but nevermind I'm sure it was character building. Particularly the bit when I found the limitations of Grivel spiders whilst high on a steep slope of hard snow.

Events in Edinburgh started with a a pub crawl on the Friday. I skipped the first stop, The Hanging Bat and went straight to The Blue Blazer. It was packed when I got there but some experienced loitering soon saw me shifting to a vacated table where I could await my fellow crawlers in comfort.

The Blue Blazer
We ended up having two pints in here as people gathered, but made up for it by missing the next pub on the list and going straight to the Bow Bar. My dad used to drink there when he was a student at the Royal Dick.

The Bow Bar
Again we had two pints here. Rather reckless behaviour on a pub crawl if you ask me, but at times like this you just have to go with the flow. We skipped a pub again which made up for it a bit and went straight to The Malt Shovel.

Here there was a delicious range of beers from Greene King. The Scrum Down was surprisingly bananery. The Greene King esters I was informed.

Things were definitely getting messy by this point as we then had an unscheduled stop at The Halfway House, where I had another rugby beer that was considerably worse than Greene King's offering. Horribly astringent.

The Halfway House

Never mind we were into the home straight. At The Guildford Arms they had Jarl on so I went for that and at the last stop, The Cafe Royal, I had nothing as I was keen to be able to find my way back to the hotel.

The Guildford Arms
Networking and CPD resumed on Saturday lunch time at Andrew Ushers.

Andrew Ushers
The free beers were both pale and hoppy and served from the evil keg. I have to say I did find them too cold and fizzy. Perhaps hoppy beers aren't suited to keg dispense?

The main event was the evening dinner with beer supplied by Timothy Taylor's.

More giant beer mats?
The main speech from Peter Ells, their recently retired Head Brewer, was a cracker. I was slightly disturbed by some comments after it from the chairman though. He said the students present had an excellent opportunity to network and speak to potential employers. Does this mean I've been doing it wrong? I thought "networking" was just a synonym for "getting pissed".

Monday, 19 February 2018

Heineken H41

Lager yeast, Saccharomyces pastoriaus, has long been known to be a hybrid species with Ale yeast, S. cerevisiae, as one parent. It was only in 2011 that the other parent, S. eubayanus was discovered. A couple of years back Heineken started making a beer with a strain of this yeast and I finally got my hands on some recently. I was very curious to see how it tasted, after all, under the beers classified by their yeast system this is an entirely new kingdom of beer.

As it turns out, the S. eubayanus used by Heineken has a lot in common with other wild yeasts: it makes a spicy, phenolic flavour. So as far as flavour goes it's more like it's made with a wheat beer yeast than anything else. Not massively exciting, but I'm glad my curiosity has been satisfied at last.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Carlsberg's new barley varieties

I'm sure like me you've been trying to figure out what's going on with the new Carlsberg barley varieties written about in Beer magazine.

This account looks a little confused to me so I had a go at seeing what I could find. Null-lox barleys have been around for a while now, they lack the enzyme lipoxygenase so ultimately make beers with lower levels of the cardboard/paper tasting aldehyde formerly known as trans-2-nonenal (T2N). Of course you could just stop under kilning your malt or pay more attention to oxygen pick up and storage temperature.

I didn't get what this had to do with sweetcorn flavoured DMS though, but digging around it seems that breeding with null-lox barleys has moved on and they have now been bred to produce less DMS precursor too.

So that's the paper and sweetcorn flavours accounted for, but I couldn't find anything any mention of improved clarity. However, as barleys have already been bred that are free of the haze forming polyphenol proanthocyanidin perhaps that trait is being bred in too. 

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

A research trip to London

One advantage of being on the sausage is you have more time for drinking. So with no worries about work I joined my local brewery on their belated xmas do researching pubs in London.

We had a brief stop in Surbiton to check out The Antelope, a pub with a brewery out the back and no Stella.

They did have an unfeasible number of beers on though.

As it was a marathon not a sprint I had their very pleasant session bitter. The barman would be hard put to out beer bore me so no complaints there and place wasn't busy during our visit so I can't comment on the hippy/trendy crowd. Though the barman was wearing dungarees which is probably a sign of something.

The day's main target was our next stop: The College Arms near Tottenham Court Road.

They've recently started selling Horsell Gold, another session beer.

It was good, but I'm sure it tastes better in Horsell. We hadn't made any plans for after but fortunately people on twitter had helped me out with suggestions.

The Fitzroy was another cracking Sam Smiths pub.

Feel the history! Or possibly marvel at the refurbishment.

I even enjoyed the Old Brewery Bitter. There are apparently five products in Sam Smith's pubs that aren't own label and Angostura bitters is one of them. As usual I failed to spot any of the others, though it was suggested the toilet paper may be one of them.

No sparkler was used in the serving of this pint
Speaking of which, for some reason there were photos of George Orwell around the time of the Spanish Civil War on the way to the toilet. And they weren't by Vernon Richards.

From the old and traditional we moved on to the modern and murky.

It was a hoppy beer but I don't believe for one minute that level of murk comes from just hops. When I used Vermont yeast I found it totally non-flocculent so I fined it before bottling, which brought it down to a much more pleasant looking slight haze and funnily enough the finings didn't totally destroy the hop flavour.

 We headed sarf after that for some Harveys.

Mild, bitter and Old were on. I went with the latter to bring me back into balance after the previous modern hop monster.

Then it was on to The George, the famous galleried coaching inn. But who wants to see famous galleries? So here's a picture of a room inside:

If I remember rightly I started on a pint of something weak from Wimbledon and then had something else. Yup, it was time to go home after that .

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Charlie Bamforth on oxygen, beer and brewing

At the recent IBD Southern Section AGM Professor Charlie Bamforth gave a talk on Oxygen, Beer and Brewing. He places rather less importance on brewhouse oxygen pick up than I heard about at the GBBF lecture in 2016. Science, eh? No one said it would be easy! Anyway, here's the talk and my notes:

Oxygen is needed for yeast growth, some strains need more than others. More oxygen, more yeast material, less esters

Clarity: more oxygen, less clarity.
Flavour stability: oxidation gives cardboard flavour
Lack of cold storage and distribution is more of a problem than oxygen in beer.

Main point: Keep oxygen out of finished beer and keep it cold (refrigerated distribution, packaging lines that give minimum oxygen pickup) are much more important than low oxygen brewhouse.

Different beers age differently and countless changes are taking place not shown on the standard diagram:

Bland beers toughest to achieve flavour stability on. With hoppy beers loss of hop flavour bigger problem than cardboard flavour development

To achieve haze stability need to get rid of polyphenols, haze forming proteins, beta-glucans, pentosans and calcium oxalate.

Flavour involves 2000 compounds

Get oxygen level as low as possible: 100bbp too high these days

Iron, copper and manganese need to be as low as possible.

Bud flavour is stable for 110 days at 20°C, One month at 30°C, one week at 40°C, nine months at 10°C, well over a year at 4°C. Nothing you can do in the brewhouse is as important as this.

Carbonyls react with SO2/metabisulphite so it will remove stale flavours if added (need less than 25-30ppm)

(E)-2-nonenal has a cardboard flavour. But not all cardboard flavour in beer is from this!

Carbonyls come from other sources: bitterness substances break down to carbonyls. Alcohols break down to carbonyls. Amino acids break down to carbonyls. Unsaturated fatty acids break down to (E)-2-nonenal so people focus on unsaturated fatty acids which is BULLSHIT. It will help but it's not the solution.

People talk about lipoxygenase but with oxygen and metal ions unsaturated fatty acids can still be oxidised.

There's lipoxygenase free barley.

For flavour stability some people measure 'nonenal potential'
Ultimately taste force aged beer: 30°C for four weeks or 60°C for one day
Higher temps give much more cardboard flavour which partly explain why such an emphasis on cardboard

Nullox barley vs regular barley:

Steep, germinate and kiln, then mash, boil, whirlpool, package: lots of room for variation in these processes!
On a scale of 1-5 the trial scores 3.7 and the control 4.1. Not much difference! And both still stale!

Hot/cold cycling for haze development: it's about time until you can see a difference not intensity.

Oxygen in a brewhouse first reacts with gel proteins cross linking thiol groups to give the white uber tieg on a mash.

So oxygen in mash slows lautering.

Oxygen in the mash reacts to oxidise polyphenols and adds colour. This is important for Coors light.

Also more polymerisation of polyphenols so they form complexes with proteins. If it happens in the mash it reduces the amount of haze forming proteins and polyphenols that go into the wort. So lower oxygen in mash means greater potential for haze in beer. Low oxygen brewhouses increase problems with haze and tubidity in beer. So oxygen in mash definitely has an effect on the physical stability of beer, but the jury is still out on flavour stability. Lipoxygenase is only one of the ways that oxygen can be used in a brew. Also it's not very heat stable, so if you mash in at 65°C it's destroyed quickly.
Other enzymes in a mash will consume oxygen e.g oxalic oxidase, ascorbic acid oxidase.

Rather than worry about low oxygen brewhouses avoid splashing, don't continue running pumps once tanks are empty, don't use air as a motor gas.

If wort is oxidised yeast will break down carbonyl compounds (e.g. acetaldehyde and diacetyl). If young yeast is added to stale beer it will clean it up as it mops up oxygen and carbonyls.

Keep out the oxygen, keep it cold and drink it young