Thursday, 17 April 2014

How water affects beer flavour

It is often said that the balance of sulphate and chloride affects beer flavour, but I haven't seen any evidence to support this. Until that is I dug out a paper from 1981 by Dr David Taylor titled: How Water Composition Affects Taste.

Reading through it my heart sank when I read the line: "Contributions made by various ions are well known, if somewhat empirically." Oh dear I thought, here we go again. Sulphates make beer dryer and enchance bitterness, chlorides make beers sweeter, etc. as I've seen before in other sources. But where's the evidence? Then in the tables that followed there was some. A weak lager and ale were made and analysed for flavour on a scale of 0-5 then compared with different salt additions. 

The salt additions are high but I still found it interesting seeing the effects quantified. 

Differences in taste scores for 1033° lager plus 100ppm chloride as calcium and sodium salts (original beer 180ppm SO4 ions, 200ppm Cl ions)
Flavour + CaCl2 + NaCl
Sweet +0.4 +0.6
Bitter +0.2 +0.2
Metallic -0.5 -0.3
Salty +0.5 +0.5
Body +0.6 +0.5

Drying -0.4 -0.4
Mouthcoating +0.5  0
Bitter 0 0
Metallic -0.2 -0.5

Differences in taste scores for 1038° ale plus 200ppm chloride and 200ppm sulphate (original beer 200ppm SO4 ions and 300ppm Cl ions)
Flavour + CaCl2 + CaSO4
Sweet +0.1 -0.5
Bitter -0.5 +0.2
Metallic -0.8 +0.3
Salty +0.1 +0.3
Body +0.8 -0.8

Drying -0.6 +0.8
Mouthcoating -0.3  -0.8
Bitter -0.1 +0.6
Metallic -0.1 +0.6

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The return of the Farnham Whitebine

The most exciting hop news in the best part of a century is now out: Farnham Whitebines are returning home. Hogs Back Brewery have announced they are now planting their own hops, including Farnham Whitebines.

I had heard this was happening but I figured it was their news to tell. As Farnham Whitebines have long been an obsession of mine I think it's fair to say that I'm rather pleased about it. 

There is a rather large hop aphid in the ointment for me though, as I've been boycotting Hogs Back's beers for many years. Ho hum.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Almost Famous in Farnham

It was Farnham Beerex time for me again on Friday. I hadn't actually bothered to get tickets this year but as things turned out I ended up writing something for the programme on Farnham hops so I had to go. Fortunately I had no trouble getting a ticket on the door and getting my mitts on a copy of my parvum opus.

Slightly surprisingly I wasn't mobbed by fans after my autograph, it must have been due to English reserve.

As I started at about 7.30pm I paced myself and began with lower gravity beers. Having heard that the people at Surrey Hills prefer Ranmore to Shere Drop I gave it a go, but have to say Shere Drop is still the one for me.

As the evening progressed I tended towards darker beers, and beer of the festival for me was Dark Side of the Moose.

One for my friends from Kent
The beer range reduced dramatically towards the end of the night, but I wasn't too discerning by then so it wasn't much of a problem. In the traditional manner there was a folk band that played The Wild Rover and by then I'd enough beer inside me to no, nay, never with the best of them.

Mindful of the need to get the train home I poured myself  home at a respectable hour, safe in the knowledge I had black pudding waiting for me in the morning.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

A visit to Greene King brewery

I went Greene King brewery the other week. They'd kindly agreed to host a meeting at short notice and used the opportunity to show off their new microbrewey. 

We were shown round after a very interesting talk from Musk, the people that built the kit.

But  I have to say my eyes kept wandering to the old copper stuff.

We weren't shown much of the old brewery but we did get shown one particular part. Can you guess what's coming? Look down the end there.

That's it, the 5X vats.

I finally got to see them. I also got to see their new cartoonish craft beers, which I must admit made me think that they really don't get it. But with a heritage like they have I don't really get why they're trying to appear to be something they're not anyway.

Monday, 7 April 2014

The greatest living Yorkshireman?

Welcome supplies arived from Yorkshire on Friday. My Uncle Ian was visiting and as is a long standing family tradition he'd brought down a load of proper pork pies for those of us that live in a deprived area. And on top of that he'd brought me a particularly expensive bottle of Sam Smith's beer. Could my own uncle be the greatest living Yorkshireman?

Sadly not, as such generosity would automatically disqualify him. Sorry Ian, but you know the rules:

See all, hear all, say nowt
Eat all, sup all, pay nowt
And it ever tha does owt for nowt allus do it for thisen 

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Essence of Orval

I cultured the dregs of last bottle of Orval I drank. I was thinking I'd get round to the long overdue Orval inspired home brew I've been promising myself for some time. However, as is so often the case I didn't get round to it, but the unused starter left me with about a pint of beer with a strong Orval yeast flavour.

Unlike Orval it was pretty flat though so I decided to mix a portion of it with some beer from the supermarket, as an essence of Orval additive. It worked quite well, particularly with English pale ales, though perhaps that's not surprising as that's apparently what Orval was originally modelled on.

I'm going to do this one again.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Cask beer in the US

American has long been known as a backwards beer country but things are starting to change. I was delighted to see that New Brewer magazine has an article on the one true living beer.

Things are definitely looking up for those that want to drink beer as god intended. A cask beer supplies retailer states:

"Cask ale is growing as rapidly as craft beer in the U.S. and maybe even more so."

Though he continues:

"Thankfully, we are also seeing an improvement in the standard of the pint crossing the bar, but there are still improvements to be made."

There still seems a need for  more information on cask beer. The article will no doubt help, but the author seems to have worked out his own way of making cask beer, which I think it's fair to say is slightly odd. He adds a yeast starter to each cask, which I've never heard of anyone else doing, and is surely impractical unless you're filling a very small number of casks. There's also no mention of the fact the beer still needs to have some fermentable sugar when racked, either from the primary fermentation not being completed or as added priming sugar. He also rather oddly talks of goosenecks instead of swan necks and gives the dreaded sparklers more prominence than they deserve.
Perhaps there is a need for beer missionaries to cross the Atlantic and spread the good beer news? From the South of England preferably, we don't want to encourage sparkler use.

As a small contribution I will add that:

  • Beer should be racked to cask with 0.5 to 2 million yeast cells per ml.
  • There should be 2 degrees sacch (0.5 degrees plato) of fermentables in the beer
  • The CAMRA guide to cellarmanship is an excellent source of information for those looking to serve beer from casks.