Thursday, 31 December 2009

Brew-I unofficial religion, join the facebook group now!

To all wishing to follow the brewing force officialy by joining the unofficial religion of Brew-I, join my facebook group here. And to all followers of the force, a happy new year.

Monday, 28 December 2009

An unexpected gift

Behold its presence, the black viscous headless liquid clinging to the glass as you swirl it. It took a good couple of hours to finish this one, and a couple or so mouthfuls to start enjoying it to its full. Most of you are probably awair of Brew Dogs Tactical Nuclear Penguin, at 32% abv the new worlds strongest beer, and one monster of a beer too. Before you know it its commin at ya with immensely rich malt balancing brisk, chalky, woody, oak charred intensity like some kind of beer-Islay malt hybrid. The drinking experience is like flying through dark fictional realm of Mordor, on a dark windy night, with He-mans arch enemy skelator by your side, listening to Decapitated, on the back of a giant winged Loch Ness Monster...

Well that's what I though anyway.

But there was more to Christmas than this one beer, and a few other great ones were found. The Belgian Brasserie Ellezelloise Hercule Stout paired great with Christmas pudding Flying Dogs Gonzo Imperial Porter went even better with some leftovers of my chocolate heavy wedding cake (a truly sublime pairing). The enjoyment of this was heightened by listening to this years excellent Christmas number 1 in the pop charts (probably the best Christmas number 1 I've ever heard) whilst kicking back and chilling out with family and friends. All beers are set for new year now. Cantillon Iris has been moved forward for this event, alongside a bottle of something rather interesting I found in San Francisco, a very famous IPA called Pliny the Elder. Till then a happy new year to all.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Honeymoon in Hawaii

Greetings all and I have to say it’s good to be back. A few of you are probably aware that my honeymoon was (for the most part) in Maui, one of the Hawaiian islands. A Day or two was also spent in San Francisco but this wasn’t nearly enough and we vow to return sometime. Anyhow from what I have noticed (could be wrong here) no beer bloggers I know of to date have covered Hawaii, and it is a rather pleasant place so I thought it would be great to cover it. The reasoning behind our decision to go to Maui was firstly that Helen wanted to go to somewhere sunny, preferably an island where a beach was present, I wanted somewhere to hunt beer and since Hawaii is part of the USA I thought bingo, there’s bound to be some craft brewers.

Beer in Maui

I must first of all mention that 90% of the craft beer available in Maui I found was from ether one of two breweries. These were Kona brewing (from the big island of Hawaii) and the Maui brewing company based in Maui.

Maui brewing company:

The three seemingly core brands are available virtually everywhere on the island on tap or in rather neat sized cans. Apart from these many more quality beers can be found at the Maui brewing company brewpub including the silky smooth chocolate stout, crisp citrusy Puao Pale ale and the liquorishy, Dunkel lager. Another interesting find was the PIA HALE mild ale, which technically could be called a mild, but just seemed a bit wrong served so cold and keg conditioned.

Me and the wife at Maui brewing company brewpub.

Bikini blonde lager.

Bikini blonde lager is great as your everyday session beer, and I did have allot of this stuff. Notably it’s a Helles, and probably the best ive tried. Straw colored and quaffable yet soft and flavorful Bikini blonde offers lush floral herbal hops to the nose leading to a palate of fresh smoothly rounded creamy malt and delicate herbal grassy hops with a slight lime/citric hint. This one went nicely with seafood chowder.

Big Swell IPA.

A bold, brash mouthful of hops is the easiest way to describe this one, with big sappy malts balancing. Pretty orthodox but well crafted American IPA, this one served well with a Hula cheeseburger and Maytag bleu cheese. With a little tobasco sauce this proved a rater intense combination.

Coconut porter.

Coconut porter is a very intriguing interpretation of the style. The first time I tried this one I found the coconut flavor seemed to build into it as you drank. But it is rather balanced with lots of coffee-chocolate, bready, roast malt notes harmonizing well with the obvious coconut dominated flavor profile. It seemed to pair well with allot of island cuisine, nicely with Kona coffee cheesecake and exceptionally well with banana bread and Pineapple upside down cake.

Kona brewing company.

Sadly I don’t have as much to report on Kona. The amber hued full bodied Fire Rock pale is worth a try, and Longboard lager comes across as a decent clean cut pilsner, but the magic of Maui brewing company beers just wasn’t there. Then again I never got hold of any of the famous Pipeline porter.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

That would be an ecumenical matter.

Most people are aware Christmas has some religious roots, and those who know me know I am a religious man. I know what your thinking, and although I was lead vocalist for a death metal band in my university days I am not a Satanist. For my religion I decided to combine the well known and respected religion and discipline of Jedi with the discipline, art and science of brewing. I call it; Brew-I.

As I am a follower of the brewing force I myself am obliged to conduct rituals to follow it. These include brewing, enjoying great beer and reviewing it in my personal notebook, assisting brewing activities at work, as well as educating those less strong with brewing force about the wondrous world of beer. Alongside me are masses of followers of craft brewing, many of them at one with the brewing force. But these unknowing followers can be broadly categorized as ether followers of the force (ones working in the brewing industry or pub trade, or simple beer advocates), High priests (those who write or speak publicly about the beauty of beer), or Warriors (brewers and head brewers). Here are some examples of these righteous ones.

Brew-I followers: Beer Nut, Dave (Daleside No1 Dray), Gus Odlin (John Bull, Alnwick)

High priests/orators of the brewing world: Pete Brown, Melissa Cole, Jeff Evans, Mark Dredge etc.

Brew-I warriors: These include the practitioners of the brewing art; Martin Dickie (Brew Dog), Craig Witty (Daleside), Randy Mosher (also classed as a priest), Ed, John (more hops) Mayer (Rogue), Alistair Hook (Meantime), Woolpacker Dave, and the artist formally known as Wurst.

Ok I suppose Brew-I isn’t a real organized, established religion, but arguably it almost could be. In my quest so far I’ve read so much material from enthusiastic young (and old) bloggers and beer writers, been to events such as Beers of the World, GBBF, and discovered hundreds of diverse, well crafted beers brewed by brewers skilled and passionate about their craft. On some occasions I have even been lucky enough to meet the brewers themselves, and have the autographs to prove it. But lets not forget amongst all these hero’s, that at the centre stage of all this culture, history, tradition, passion, science, art and new wave radical brewing revolution pandemonium, are our friends…… The yeast.

But the thing is with this whole star wars/brewing world comparison is that its almost explainable. You can almost see the similarities between Darth Vader and his powerful empire trying to conqor the galaxy against the rebel alliance just like how InBev-AB dominating global beer markets against the groups of smaller rebel craft brewers. Then most fittingly you have CAMRA (the Wookies), the great Michael Jackson beer hunter (Yoda), and Obi Wan Kenobi (Randy Mosher) alongside many other comparable figures I could probably think of if I thought hard enough.

But I suppose in real life things arn’t so black and white. Like Pete Brown once mentioned the beer industry needs big brewers, small brewers, governing bodies, consumer movements and so forth. It’s all part of the natural balance of the force. It seems that most are in agreement that the real evil lies with the governments tax hiking reaction to binge drinking thinking it will solve something (or just make it look like they are tackling the problem whilst getting more revenue in the process) and the neo-prohibitionists who feed off statistics directly influenced by young chavs getting boozed up on cheap supermarket pap.

So to conclude let us say a prayer…

Our lord Jackson, who art in heaven, beer hunter be his name. Give us our daily beer…

That is all on my religious views, may the brewing force be strong with you.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Currently on Honeymoon

Greeting all. By the time you read this I will be In Hawaii hunting out beers from the Maui brewing company on my Honeymoon. Strangely they seem to like their beer in canned form which im not used to but I suppose its the beer not the package that matters.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Urbock 23

Ok this is it folks, my last blog entry as a single man. The hours tick away and I’m still pondering on which beer to have as my official last beer as an unmarried man. The nightcap before the big day, something to see me off so to speak. From what’s available (most of which is scheduled up in ‘operation winter beaver’) The Thornbridge Alliance Madeira cask reserve looks a tempting option. But anyhow, here is a short beer review for the meantime.

From the Castle Brewery in Austria comes this rather elegant golden UrBock 230(The term Ur indicating originality), a smooth and warming lager at 9.6% abv. The nose brings up front dried spiced fruit and warming alcoholic notes, whilst the palate follows with warming cognac/sherry like notes, creamy malt and well integrated peppery dried fruits and herbal hop notes that continue nicely into the finish. Great stuff, and thanks to Drayman Dave for bringing this one back from Austria. Very drinkable stuff for the abv, with a cleanness of texture from the yeast, maturation and filtration that really brings a touch of elegance. Good job I have another bottle tucked away for next year.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Hops anyone?

Have you ever spent nearly an entire afternoon bagging hops into small pellet sized pouches? Well that what I was doing last Saturday. Me my parents and future wife took on the task of packing up around ten bags per each of the ten chosen hop varieties we needed, all of which are to be used as wedding favors for my imminently impending wedding day.

The plan is simple. During the sit down meal the ten tables (including the top table) are named after different hop varieties and the individuals on the table get one bag of hops each of the specified variety. The varieties were kind-of chosen to suit the personalities sitting at each table, but were arguably also chosen because they are amongst my favorite varieties. The varieties are as follows:

- Cascade
- Goldings
- Fuggles
- Styrian Goldings
- Centennial
- Chinook
- Challenger
- Northdown
- Saaz
- First Gold

So mostly British and American varieties, but the absence of German varieties is mainly because Helen didn’t think the names sounded classy enough.

So whilst indulging in the brilliant aromas that filled the kitchen and educating my Dad on each variety at a time as we went through them I decided that this would be a fitting moment to have a beer that truly showcases brilliant hop aromas and flavor. So from the cupboard came the famous Goose Island India Pale Ale from Chicago, which did the trick brilliantly. With a great aroma and not so much bitterness I can understand how this has often been termed an English style IPA. Its not overpowering at all and everyone loved it, especially my old man who thought it actually made the experience of bagging hops ‘more’ interesting. The only slightly worrying part of the day was finding that the Northdown had gone a little brown, but the Cascade for the top table were super fresh.

The countdown continues…

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Collaborative brew

Noticed allot of collaborative brewing going on these days. Stone and Brew Dog, Thornbridge and Brooklyn. It was only during my stag weekend that me and the lads from back at Heriot-Watt university (Simon and Ed) decided it would be a good idea to try one, even though we live hundreds of miles apart. So this Ed's 'Leaky Tap' home brewery down in Surrey Meets my 'Panda & Frog' kit used at Daleside brewery, meets Simon's 'Amber Dawn' home brewery in Cambridge brew was decided to be conducted as three separate identical as possible brews in three different counties.

Me Ed and Simon on my stag weekend.

Collaborative brew example: Thornbridge Alliance, a truly stunning barley wine style ale found in both European and American oak matured versions.

Following this, once we have all the beers bottled we then send each other the beers for comparison. Obviously we knew of non-controllable water differences, copper evaporation rates and the fact that Ed and Simon can’t use Daleside breweries house yeast strain so have to opt for a similar commercial culture (brewing this at work, I didn’t want to risk any wild yeast contamination problems) . But we thought differences in the results would make it more interesting, like a taste the difference southern vs Yorkshire vs south eastern comparison.

The Beer.

The plan was for an old school British India pale ale, because in our day at Heriot-Watt University doing Brewing & Distilling as post grads, we were the only three English students on the course. So the style was both patriotic and fitting because at the time we were all along way from home (sort of), and amongst many Indian students (so you could almost imagine your in India, ignoring all the Scottish weather, lectures and signs in English etc).

So here is what I have brewed so far, Ed and Simon are still to brew:

Ed, Rob and Si’s Reunion IPA.

In the mash tun.

Optic pale malt: 96.5%
Crystal malt: 2.5%
Amber malt: 1%

(Note: all percentages refer to extracts not by weight)

Target OG: 1064

In copper.

The boil lasted 1 ½ hours with the following additions.

Northdown 90min (for 40 IBU)

Northdown 15min (for 3-5 IBU)

Challenger 3min (for 1-2 IBU) + finings and yeast aid

Fuggles 0 min added after wort had cooled for 30 min.

Actual OG: 1061.8

Target final gravity: 1014

Final gravity: 1012.9

Abv: 6.4%

IBUs: 45-50

Pitched with Daleside breweries house yeast strain this one fermented down inside of around 4 days before being force cooled and transferred to demi-johns. From recent tastings the mid amber beer is firm and hoppy with plenty of fruity English hops dominating and a slight harshness that hopefully shall fade with time. Bottling commences Monday evening. Until then shall look forward to another tasting. Anther thought was wouldn't it be cool if Daleside did a collaborative brew, with Roosters perhaps? Yorkshire Dales? Or Acorn? We could put it on the website and make a video even? Can't see it happening though.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Operation Winter Beaver

It's around this time of year that I have all my warming winter brews stockpiled up in my beer cupboard ready for the winter season. This annual stockpiling or gathering of beers I term 'Operation Winter Beaver' and usually starts in October time. This year however I have decided to take this a step further and have decided to separate the beers into different groups, each group to be consumed on a different days. The largest and most impressive of these is the group for Christmas day. So as the build up for Christmas gets going, here's what I will be drinking Christmas Day. The list is in approximate order starting in the morning. Let me know what you think?

Morning/Xmas dinner.

Hanssens Artisanaal Oude Gueze (Straight from Belgium to serve as a fine quenching morning appetiser)

Samuel Smiths Winter Welcome (Used most years for Christmas dinner, it goes pretty well with turkey)

Guiness Forgne Extra Stout (With dessert, which is usually Christmas pudding. But I don't think anything could top the legendary pairing experience of chocolate cake and cream with Meantime's Coffee Porter from back in 2007)


Svyturys Ekstra (Optional support pilsner depending where mood takes me)

Cantillon Iris (Highly regarded wild beer admired by experienced beer lovers Boak & Bailey. This was a must have when I visited Cantillon earlier this year)

Chimay Grand Reserve (seem to be having this one religiously every year now)

Struise Brouwers Pannepot 2007 (Picked up in Brussels and have never tried before, looks like it could be quite dark, its spiced, and its 10% vol, so a definite wild card for the day)

Abbey St-Remy Trappist Rochefort 10 (Again often reserved for Dec 25th. The 8 is coming out Christmas eve)

Stone Brewing Old Guardian Barley wine 2009 early release (The optional bonus beer, for a possible beer and cheese showdown in the evening! My parents picked this one up whilst over in California visiting my auntie Wendy)

Well that's what I have so far, some of this may be changed round. But until then I have weddings to attend (my own) and some quality beer hunting in Hawaii to carry out. I must also note the mixed responses I get from people when I talk about 'operation winter beaver' as the word ' beaver is interpreted in different ways. But its usually carried out pretty accurately. I thought another quality idea would be to set up some sort of 'follow Rob' kind of feature on the blog, where users can click on it any time on Christmas day and it would bring up what beer I'm drinking e.g:

'it is 4:43pm, I will now be approximately half way through the 500ml bottle of Wood's Christmas Cracker 6%abv'

And so forth. But the problem is I don't have the computer knowledge to pull it off. Like the Idea tho.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Randy Mosher, another great beer writer.

Randy Mosher: Cheers

Have you ever read a book and thought afterwards that if you had written it you would have written just about the exact same thing. Well that's what I thought about Randy Moshers Tasting Beer. Its a pretty interesting read that outlines pretty much all that is fascinating about the beer world.

But what really sets the book apart is that Randy's material seems set in the new world of craft brewing. No extensive ramblings on traditions and how such and such brewery has been been brewing real ale for so many years. This stuff just cuts to the core factors that make beer and brewing fascinating, diversity of flavour, creativity, beer styles, culture and science.

I will repeat that again.... Science. Something that's often swept under the carpet alittle by some beer writers. And the section on beer and food is also very informative. After this I will be strongly hunting Randy's other book Radical Brewing. As a beer writer and experienced home brewer Randy hails as some kind of Yoda like character of the brewing force. Strong with the brewing force, orator for the rebel brewing alliance. Let his work continue.

Monday, 2 November 2009

A Halloween of more beer.

It’s the same story every year. I head out to collect my bottle of Wychwood Hobgoblin and any other bottled seasonals from the supermarket, we watch some scary films, then go to bed. Well most years anyway, Halloween has seemed pretty dull since I got into my twenties. This year me and the lovely Helen decided a slightly different approach was needed after a heavy stag weekend the previous week, so we got a log fire going and had a roast beef dinner.

Our dog Troy is intrigued by wood fires, they make him sleepy

Oddly enough not many Halloween seasonal beers could be found this year, this happened last Christmas and I was told it was something to do with the recession making the supermarkets want to tone down that kind of thing. But anyhow I had some decent fireside beers in but no Hobgoblin this year which was sort of sad because it would have done a better job of pairing with the roast beef than the Hambleton Ales Nightmare that was used, not that it’s a bad beer, it just lacked that heavy malt substance that was required for the pairing, next time I’m going for something on the lines of a Brooklyn Brown ale, Meantime London Porter or a heavy Belgian Dubbel.

Anyway I digress.

Daleside Monkey wrench is a pretty solid strong ale for the fireside, favored by many of the Daleside staff. The way I see it, Black Sheep have their Riggwelter, Theakstons have Old Peculiar, Daleside have this voluptuous, caramelized expression of rich malts that more than gives the latter two a run for their money. I have to admit the cask version is much superior.

Next up was this bizarre little number from Brewdog. Dogma (formally known as Speedball) took awhile for me to get my head round. The easiest way to describe it is to say its almost like an American IPA base beer with a crazy mix of honey and spices added. At 7.8% a.b.v the bottle mentions the ingredients Guarana, poppy seeds, kola nut and heather honey. The palate opens with warming alcohols and a clean smack from plenty of US hops. Then it comes at you with interludes of honey, spice and even some strange undertones of cocoa and heather over a nutty texture that seems out of place. Pretty fascinating stuff, and 10/10 for effort to Brewdog for this one. But the flavors just didn’t harmonize in any way, the effect is bizarre. Its almost like listening a record from The Smiths full volume whilst someone plays some new school Cannibal Corpse over the top of it. Now you see what I mean.

And finally we did watch a scary movie, but wasn’t nearly as freaky as this beer. Overall I would say its worth a try, but not one of my favorite Brewdog beers.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Beer Quest to the extreme!!: Stag inferno extravaganza!!

Last Friday my stag weekend kicked of after much anticipation for the greatest pub crawling, beer hunting extravaganza I have ever experienced. As mentioned in my previous post we were joined by Ed, the Daleside crew and others including best man Chris and the deadly Nick Windoo (deadly at chess that is) for a 2 day tour of many of York’s great pubs including Guy Fawkes, Brigantes, The Ackhorne, The Maltings and various others.

Having the period of 2 days to hunt beers we had a pretty good run at it. Steady away on the Friday, then steady away Saturday lunchtime (due to everyone being hungover). For a good part of the sessions I did remember getting the urge for the darker beers, and the fine roasty Summer Wine Teleporter, and full nourishing Collermans oatmeal stout didn’t disappoint. Later exotic bottle beers such as Goose Island India Pale Ale, Rodenback Grand Cru and J.W. Lees Harvest Ale 2006, rich, silky smooth with warming vanilla and sherry notes, were enjoyed. So as planned a great amount of beer territory was covered and the session was very spread out and slow paced for the most part. Amongst the great range of brilliant beers consumed it was difficult to pinpoint a single ‘greatest’ beer of the weekend as it would have to be many. I suppose its true what our lord Mr Jackson used to say, its all about mood and moment.

But one of the most interesting experiences of the weekend, was that of walking into the Punch Bowl Weatherspoons to find the very beer I designed for Daleside brewery on cask, Daleside Autumn Leaves. It wasn’t bad stuff ether, bready, grainy chewy malt at the centre with leafy earthy hops interplaying and blackcurrant notes to the finish. It suddenly dawned on my what a peculiar creation this indeed was, it doesn’t drink like a 3.4% beer, and expresses that wholesome, rounded malt accent that many Daleside beers do.

But it wasn’t all about the beer, as you can probably guess from reading Ed’s blog, and the previously stated ‘rules’ were for the most part followed pretty closely. But rules are not that important, and no rules were drawn against strip clubs, after all, it was a stag weekend.

Moment if indulgence with a Rodenback Grand Cru.

On first visit Brigantes was impressive, good beer range, nice interior, pleasant atmosphere.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Robs beer quest: The quest steps up a level.

Next weekend folks I will be attending a very important beer hunting event. A one that I will (probably) only get to attend once in my beer drinking days. That event is, my stag weekend. Joining me on the event will be fellow blogger and home brewer the mighty Ed. Yes you may know him. Alongside others strong with the brewing force we will be venturing through the streets of York hunting pubs guided only by a map devised by my work mate drayman Dave, Daleside breweries number one dray, who knows York better than I know the intricacies of my beer cellar (/cupboard).

So among the cobblestoned streets of York we shall hunt out the finest in Yorkshire beer. But why York I hear you ask? Well out of the many options (Brussels, Munich, Portland Oregon) the best man found it the most realistic, affordable and easily achievable option, and you can’t argue with that.

But as exiting as it gets I also have been given the horror stories. Like how I will probably end up handcuffed to a lamppost naked or dumped on boat to Dubai. Or even worse handcuffed to a lamppost naked on a boat to Dubai. So because of this I have devised a list of simple rules for stag attendees.

Rules of the stag.

1. No shots.
2. No drinking games.
3. No beer bongs.
4. No illegal drugs. No drugs at all (except ethanol), unless medical emergency arises.
5. No D.I.Os (down in one)
6. A minimum time of 50 minutes should be spent in each pub. This allows sufficient time for participants to consume 1-2 pints or 3-4 half pints of session strength beer during the stay, with an optional toilet break.
7. No Extremist homicidal nutcases, or even just dangerous nutcases.
8. No Chavs.
9. No trendy bars or club, full of young’uns dressed in trendy clothes acting all loud with bumpedy bump music, plastic chairs, flashing lights everywhere, tv screens showing mute music videos with no half decent beer or spirit options in sight.
10. No Hawaiian shirts (especially blue ones).
11. No stripping anyone to lampposts (or any other objects) naked.

Ok so it’s a little strict, but no true beer enthusiast wants to be rushed on there beer, especially if it’s a good find. And lets face it how can you enjoy a beautiful beer, discuss the entirety of its glory, and jot down tasting notes if the music’s so loud you cant even think and your too busy concentrating on how to get through this crowd of dancing people without spilling the stuff. But I have to have a bit of a moan, that’s what being a CAMRA member is about after all. Another possible turn up for the event will be the mighty Craig Witty, Daleside frontman and head brewer, so get your autograph books at the ready.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Italian craft beer

Everyone knows the Italians are gaining a talent for craft brewing. Heres an essential website for a few Italian chaps i met at the john bull just earlier, check this out:

Saturday, 17 October 2009

My first double brew: Wedding ale.

As many may have guessed a double brew is the act of brewing twice in the same day. At home (my Panda & Frog home brewery) a typical brew day lasts between 5 and 6 hours and this was expected to be a long tedious effort requiring a full Saturday. For a change I decided to conduct this operation using my own kit at work (Daleside brewery). Sure this meant changing water treatments and lugging lots of kit down to Harrogate by car, but the advantages, including the availability of hot liqor on tap, better cooling systems and the use of water hoses to clean down equipment made it worthwhile.

In fact if this was a normal brew day it would have been the easiest ever, but this was a double brew, the theory being to start a second brew whilst the first brew was already in motion. This meant that once brew No 1 had runoff onto the copper and the mash tun emptied, brew No 2 could then be mashed in (thus setting brew No 2 in motion). This was a little trickier than I anticipated with the further risk that by the end of mash for brew 2, brew 1 would still be in running off from the copper. So I had to make sure brew 1 was fully ran off into the fermenter, and the copper empty before sparging the mash of brew 2. But my main problems included electrical faults and timers (for the copper) switching themselves off at critical moments.

Runoff of Brew No 1 from copper to fermentation vessel.

Left to ferment: Both brews took around 5 days to ferment to terminal gravity.

Despite this both brews went well (except brew 1 was a couple of liters short) and fermented down from gravities 1051.7 to around 1012.4 before being transferred to only just fill a 9 gallon cask. Only once have myself and Daleside head brewer Craig Witty tried this fairly fruity, slightly malt balanced pale ale which will be served at my wedding in December alongside a couple of other Daleside beers. Let us hope the 70-72 pints of wedding ale get shared round as many guests as possible, but don’t leave the cask so quickly that some late arrivals don’t get any.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Strawberry beer: The result!

After 5 weeks maturation with strawberries before bottling and a few months maturation in the bottle my strawberry beer has finally matured into a drinkable state. As you can see virtually no clarity was achieved but the aroma brought nothing but ripe, fresh strawberry fruit, which I am pleased with. The palate brings a half decent mouth feel, a slight malt sweetness balanced by a little acidity. A slight sourness is then evident in the finish, but nothing overpowering with plenty of background acidic strawberry notes.

To the disappointment of some tasters this beer came out nothing like many commercial (lambic imitatated) fruit beers that are dominantly sweet, fruity and brightly colored. With this much of the character of the base beer was still obvious and the aroma was better than expected with drinkability being decent enough to have a couple in an evenings session.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

If you were a beer, what kind of beer would you be?

I have often been fond of personifications. It was only few months back whilst on a trip to Ben Nevis for a mountain climbing weekend with a few others I was discussing how I sometimes secretly had the urge to compare different women to different beers. For example you could take lovely rounded oatmeal stout and compare it to TV comedy actress Dawn French. A generously spiced, rich winter warmer to TV Chef Nigella Lawson, and a can of Stella to Paris Hilton (all fancy on the outside, over pasteurised fizzy pap on the in). We also discussed what world wide brew would most accurately represent each of the characters of the women on the trip. We had a good range from Fullers London Porter to Destutes Mirror Pond Pale ale. Then the suggestion was made that both men and women could be compared to beers and more people were nominated as different beers. For a few we couldn’t decide on anything obvious, which included myself. Though at times I have thought of myself as more of a mild ale, sometimes I recon I could be of of the more eccentric Belgian offerings, a Rochefort 6 perhaps?

But all this comparison work provided some inspiration for my next brew, wedding ale, which was originally design to reflect the character of the bride (my bride at my wedding in December, the lovely Helen). I'm not 100% with it yet but here is the outline so far:

OG: 1051
AG: 1012

International bitterness units: 26

Malts: Pale, Vienna, Crystal, Cara and a touch of pale chocolate.

Hops: Challanger, cascade, Styrian goldings and Willamette.

So basically a rounded amber ale at around 5% abv with a good dose of late hop flavour. This one I'm actually double brewing and transferring into a 9 gallon cask for the wedding, so it should be exiting to get my own homebrew on hand pull for the first time. I have even designed a pump clip so all that’s left to do now is putting it all into practice. Exiting stuff though.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Autumn Leaves… While autumn begins.

There has never been a time when I have thought of autumn as my favorite season. Don’t get me wrong I like it the way I like most seasons for there various benefits. Though I have never been as fond of spring for some reason, but have always loved winter, and summer has its plus points. But this autumn is to be like no other for myself, for a start it will be my last autumn unmarried and secondly it will be my first knowing an actual beer I designed is out in the pub world being enjoyed by anyone who wants a try.

I mentioned in my last post about the beer about it going to London. Well I was wrong, its not just going to London, its going all over the UK via pub companies, there could be a cask in your nearest town centre, there could be a cask at your local, or a mates local, there could even be a cask behind you right now… go ahead look… I dare you….. Look again!! Had you going!

The beer has a definite autumnal character, leafy hop and aged fruit with a nice rounded mouth feel. Strangely enough when I designed this beer I didn’t specifically intend on designing a seasonal beer, and to be honest I never thought the design would be used, and if it was it would for a one off brew, which makes me even more chuffed. It was just the other day another load of my babies left on their journey to the customer, we waved goodbye, a moving moment indeed.

Friday, 4 September 2009

A walk on the spontaneous side

Last weekend me and my lady friend Helen partook in a splendid venture into Brussels, Belgium for a beer hunting holiday. As my first visit to Belgium, I was impressed by the overall diversity and choice of beers available, and the Belgians overall respect for beer in bars, restaurants and elsewhere. Admittedly I have already covered allot of literature on Belgian brewing, and tried many offerings at home, but of particular fascination ifound were the spontaneously fermented Lambic beers, which until recently I had only tried before in commercialized fruit beer form. So much so we decided to visit the Cantillon brewery in Brussels, a tiny little wooden cave like place that actually doubles as a museum. Here we got to see the tools of the Lambic trade, try some samples, and get the head brewers autograph. Following this we used the latest edition of the good beer guide to Belgium, written by Tim Webb to hunt out some spectacular traditional bars filled with elaborate beer ranges. Here allot of new beer hunting territory was covered, but classics such as Duvel and Delirium Tremens were equally welcomed.

Cantillon's mash tun. Old style.
Another interesting aspect of the holiday I found was the pricing of beers, which seemed to ignore the general UK system of higher abv = higher price, and all standard ales ranging between 6-12% abv were of similar price. It was also noted that the most expensive beers on beer lists were usually traditional gueze or lambic brews found most commonly at 5-6% abv. This would probably make little sense to the average Northern boozer but I myself found it quite fitting as these beers prove to be some of the most fascinating of the holiday. At one point I even considered attempting a gueze home brew but until I find some sherry casks (as lambic beers are fermented in wooden barrels) and age some hops till they become incredibly cheesy it wouldn’t be possible. Plus I would have to have the patience to wait 3 years for the Lambic to mature in the barrel, before I could blend it with some young Lambic to create gueze. Alternatively I could blend my younger Lambics with various fruits such as cherries, grapes or raspberries, or even send them off in neat form. So as we have gathered Lambic brewing it pretty unique, and the beers are worlds apart from your average pint of cask bitter.

The famous open ship vessel, used by Lambic brewers to cool the wort overnight whilst exposed to the atmosphere, this allows air born wild yeast to and bacteria to contaminate the brew and initiate fermentation of the brew.

maturation Barrels at Cantillon

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Hero's outside the mash tun No 3: The Distribution manager.

After covering draymen and beer writers, I thought that this time it was the distribution managers turn to get a mention. The distribution manager ultimately manages the distribution of all stock that’s not going out via a distributer. As with my previous post of this series, in tribute to the drayman, the distribution manager essentially manages the activity, routs and stock that the brave drayman must deliver. On occasions the distribution manager may him/herself be needed to act as a support drayman when needed. Our very own distribution manager at Daleside, Col, considers himself not only as a manager but as supporting GDB (general dogs body) being able to work in or outside the brewery. Col also knows allot of different pubs, what their like, how to get to them, and who runs them, essential knowledge for the role.

Col hard at work, the expression suggest he's really up for managing some dray runs.

Planning the action.

Col delegates dray runs for the following day with Draymaster Steve.

Col hails from a splendid coastal Northumberland village called Craster, here Col as told us about how, as a boy, he used to have to save little friend Timmy from great white sharks and giant killer jellyfish back in 1975. But this was only one of many adventures of Cols long history of working inside and out of the brewing world. It was in fact a few years back now, after working at Daleside for awhile, Col decided to leave the company and start up with his own venture in brewing. His own brewery, but this would be no ordinary brewing venture, Col had an idea for an innovation that he thought would blow all competition out the water. An idea so clever he would soon become world famous for. The idea, as it happens, was not for any novel advanced wort separation method, marketing ploy or new waste management system, but to man the entire brew house operations, distribution and clerical work at some levels, by badgers.


It was thought at these early stages that by using organized teams or large groups of around 40-50 highly trained badgers per BBS (badger brew squads), that a shift by shift work Rota could be established. Significantly the badgers would not require payment, just feeding, and Col would have so many badgers that if one rang in sick, another could be brought in from a different BBS. In the seat of power Col could simply control movements of beer, brewing activities and cleaning and maintenance operations, all badger executed via a single glass plated office suspended above the brew house. From here he could watch over the badgers at work and communicate to them via various speakerphones, or via a large megaphone that could be heard by the entire brew house (in the case of any badger misbehaving). Badgers mashing in, badgers scrubbing vessels, badgers on forklifts, this was the dream, this was a big dream… Of badgers.

However sadly these plans didn’t quite work out the way Col hoped. Firstly there was already an established brewery under the name he wanted. The badgers were too small to operate forklift trucks or vans so specially designed badger sized vehicles had to be looked into, difficulties arose disciplining the animals, then came the trouble with the RSPCA, but that’s a different story. But one of the most tragic moments of this tail, was when one of Cols favorite badgers, named Geoffrey code B1051 of BBS4 tragically died from falling into the copper during a brew.

R.I.P Geoffrey of badger brew squad 4. All he wanted to do is add some late hops.

Saddened by this, Col decided to spread Geoffrey’s ashes by Craster bay, and was determined to keep brewing. However over some time the badgers started getting increasingly unruly. So uneasy Col became, that he started claiming that the badgers were threatening to not only overthrow his leadership, but mass together into a small army and invade Craster itself. This made Col very worried, so much so that he considered contacting the government but everyone advised not to as he would probably risk being taken away by blokes in white coats. Luckily Cols best mate Lance said he had some gear, and could step in and handle the situation. So he did.

Cruel but necessary, Lance was confident that the 9mm round could halt the charge of a hostile fully grown adult male badger.

So that was the end of Cols brewing ventures, later he thought of trying again, maybe this time with ferrets or perhaps a mixture of small mammals, but his friends put him in place, it wasn’t going to work. Since then Col has found piece in his work, and is even an honorary member of the RSPCA.
But the moral of the story is to always think things through before you do them, just like Col and other distribution managers do today on a daily basis. Making sure the beer is delivered at the right place and time and pre-prepared to be collected when necessary. In a sense the distribution manager is a central hub of operations, always ready to knuckle down no matter how busy it gets. But if you do manage to bump into Col, don’t mention about the badgers, he likes to keep the traumas of the past behind, and so do well all. But as a nice down to earth bloke I’m sure he could tell you all about distribution management, various pubs, or how he has met the band members from various groups such as Slayer in his younger days. Though if you’re looking for him on the weekend I would advise to start by looking in Hales bar in Harrogate, and asking for Carla.

Note that some information on this blog post may be inaccurate, or exaggerated.

Also note that no badgers were killed or harmed during the making of this blog post.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Vintage 2009 ale brewing

Last Saturday I home brewed what I consider to be the most important brew of the year, my annual Vintage ale. Last years vintage (Panda & Frog home brewery 2008 reserve) was designed as an English style barley wine, coming out at a whopping 1.112 original gravity and abv of 12%. It was matured for 4 months before bottling and I consider it one of my finest brews of all time. This year I have gone for a considerably lower 1.087 OG and aim for around 80% attenuation bringing it to around 9%abv using a yeast strain I have only read about but read good things. The strain in question is White labs own California ale strain, and this was chosen to suit the style being brewed, which is and American style barley wine, mid bronze in color from the use of Marris otter pale malt, Munich, Vienna, Cara and cara vienne malts with 75IBU’s coming from decent quantities of Chinook and Centennial hops.

Another interesting thing about these vintage ales, are that for them I only take the first runnings from the mash and thus only brew 10 liters at a time and bottle into tiny 330ml bottles. This time the run off from the copper was tediously slow with the large amount of hop and trub material in such a small volume. I shall let all know how this one goes.

On a different note, a big congratulations to my Local the John Bull in Alnwick for winning the CAMRA North Northumberland pub of the year last weekend. And this weekend I shall be assisting host a BBQ for a few of my mates and family try my new Autumn Leaves beer as from the previous post. It also appears that by a very close victory, you the readers have voted Hopback Summer Lightning as the beer for the summer, a solid choice.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

I am incredibly proud to present!! Exclusively!!!

Note: the pump clip is actually brown and yellow, but my pc seems to think its blue.

Last week I executed my very first brew at Daleside brewery under the supervision of brew master Craig Witty. Moreover, not only was this to be an exclusive Daleside seasonal release, this was a brew designed almost entirely by myself. Autumn Leaves, at 3.4% abv is a deep chestnut brown session ale of subtle malty balance with some nutty texture, woody fruits and some dryness. Word has it this offering will be available in London in the near future via disclosed pub groups. Any fans of session bitters or mild ales this is highly recommended.

The brew day kicked off pretty early at 6.30am as usual, which on any other day I would be jumping with excitement however this was the day after my GBBF adventure and the lack of sleep kept me calm as cows. It was also interesting, as my first experience working in the brew house to watch everyone else carry out my daily duties whilsty I look after my baby upstairs.

Hops, lovely hops

Many differences were noticed between home brewing and using Dalesides kit, more twiddling around with valves to control temperatures, more cleaning, more pipe work to play around with and less use of plastic spoons /paddles. But at the end of the day I felt it went pretty well, and the product was (an artist strives for perfection but never admittedly gets there) rewarding, with fellow staff having mixed opinions but overall finding it pleasant. Not bad for my first little contribution to the brewing world. If anyone finds it, North or South, I would love to know what you thought.

Transfer into fermenter

The next day!

I didnt brew it, it was our friends the yeast

Monday, 10 August 2009

Not hitting target gravity

Some home brewers maybe familiar with the deflated feeling. The one you get from (after six hours of brewing) finding your 1.060 strong ale has actually came out at 1.052. It doesn’t often happen, usually im within about 2 or 3 degrees off target gravity, but this time it was a bit more serious. As as other things the 34 bitterness units I aimed for may have been raised slightly changing the balance of this beer, but its always a good idea to asses where things may have went wrong.

How to hit gravity:

The core principle is to match up the percentage used of each grist component (malt or adjunct) with the extract in litre degrees obtained from each component. From these, and the known volume you’re brewing, you can work out quantitatively how much of each malt you will need to theoretically hit target gravity (given a theoretical 100% efficient extraction).

At this point you need to know the efficiency of your brewing system witch is derived from the difference in what extract you should get from the malts your putting (as just described) in comparison to the extract you actually get in the fermentation vessel. Additionally what you can do is get a gravity reading of wort from the copper (once its full) termed the copper up gravity. Under the same logic you can use this to get a gauge of the efficiency of your mash separation method (whether mash tun, lauter tun or mash filter), and what the gravity of the wort will be in the fermentation vessel. I have often contemplated using this method, but find it takes a little long to bring the temperature of the wort sample down when I have only minutes to return it to the just starting to boil copper.

Mashing in
That’s the basics, some other things to consider are the various factors that effect extracts, including:

Length of the copper boil; boiling longer drives off vapors condensing the worts sugar content. Very simple. In fact some strong ales such as Bass No1 barley wine rely of extreme boil lengths to maximize start gravities.

Malt quality; for example over or under modified malts can give poor extracts that can be harder to ferment due to insufficient wort nitrogen, watch out for them!

The mash separation system used and how the grain is prepared; For example the use of a mash filter over a mash tun gets a higher extract into the copper using a more finely ground grist. Mash tuns require coarsely ground malt that allows the malts husk material to act as a natural filter bed during run off, using a finer grist increases extract but the mash tun user risks losing the natural filtration from the in tact husk material. Secondly the grain is also sensitive to sparging temperature, the hotter the sparge the higher the extract. I tend to sparge around 76-77­­­oC, much higher and you can risk extracting unwanted bitter tannins from the grain.

Mash and wort acidification; Increases extract and run off rates, reduces color formation during the boil but does lower hop alpha-acid isomerization meaning you get less bitterness from the hops used (but that’s a different subject). Mash and wort pH can be tinkered with via various water treatments, the use of acid malts (often used in pilsner and pale lager formulations) and decoction mashing.

A final and very valuable factor is volume; Stopping the run off from the mash tun early leaves you with lesser volume of wort at a higher gravity than if the total volume was collected. Some brewers do this on purpose to then liquor back a controlled volume and hit target gravity, a method called high gravity brewing.

However taking these factors into consideration I have no clear explanation for the reading. The only logical one is that the base malt used was from a stray bag of marris otter at work that was delivered by accident and no malt spec was available for it, so I had to guess at the extract alittle.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

A splendid day out at the GBBF

There’s something about British beer that arguably demands some representation. Even if some people think its represented largely by old fat bearded blokes with notebooks. Then there’s the large number of bloggers who take great joy is slagging off CAMRA at any opportunity for undefined goals, contradictory ideals eth. But there is no doubt that the Great British Beer festival wouldn’t be the Great British Beer festival without CAMRA.

And Tuesday August 4th this was where I enjoyed one of my most memorable days for Daleside brewery, representing the brewery, sampling beers (well, it would be rude not to), and having a good chat with the folks from other breweries/collecting successive head brewers and brewery owners autographs. The first of these (surprisingly) was from a New Zealander chap called Kelly Ryan from Thornbridge brewery, my first encounter with (as some call) a new wave radical brewer. As enthusiastic as he was and as much as I wanted to talk about beer, I was in direct competition with the head brewer of the mighty Dark Star brewery, who I also obtained an autograph from. Then as the day went one Dalesides number one Dray, Dave (who I attended the even with) picked out brewer after brewer, autograph after autograph. Everads, Cains, Kelburn, Loddon and the mighty Acorn brewery from Barnsley, as well as splendid chap called Simon Theakson from (you guessed it) Theakstons.

However the main focus of our interests for the evening was the beer on offer, which covered beer from corner of the UK as well as international beers. We also came across an old friend of mine, Mighty Oak Oscar Wilde Mild, one of my all time favorite mild ales, but the beer of the night this time went to Shrelenkeria Rauchbier Urbock. The bock version of the original smoked beer, that certainly has a lot more rich malt substance balancing the smoked malts than other versions of it. Coming in possibly a close second was Hop Devil Ale, by US craft brewer Victory, a hoppy but well balanced amber bronze ale displaying characteristic Chinook hop notes. But after all that excitement it was time to head home, too early for Mellissa Cole’s walk sadly. We are also sorry to have missed Woolpacker Dave, The beer nut and a few autographs such as Nick Stafford, but you can’t do it all and as I said to Dave I think we made good progress. All in a days work.

Ahh home. Geordie beer down south seemed alittle odd at first.

Although from York, Dave enjoyed celebrating his Welsh roots at the Welsh bar.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Bottling Strawberry beer

Today I decided that after 5 weeks of maturation, to bottle my stawberry. The tastings concluded that the strawberries had indeed taken effect (I also noted the peachy pink like colour of the cloudy liquid). The taste was slightly familiar, like commercial examples yet alittle heavier on the alcohols and bitterness. There was also an underpinning acidity to it that seemed to run into the finish, not overpowering but definatly influential.

I also had a try of the single bottle I bottled straight from the FV at the end of the fermentation. In other words the strawberry beer without the strawberries, which (as the fermentation finished early at final gravity 1.016) fobbed quite violently on opening. The beer itself was not suprisingly full of yeast but had almost wheat beer like quailities of chewy bubblegum like notes, probably derived from the 11.3% torrified wheat and 14% wheat malt used in the grist.

At the end of it all only around 3 out of the 4 gallons brewed could be bottled due to the mass of strawberried soaking up significant amounts of beer, and me and Helen agreed it was not a bad yet not impressive strawberry beer. I will see how this one develops in the bottle, but untill then will be more exited about my first visit to the GBBF on tuesday. Hopefully I will be obtaining as many head brewer autographs as possible and bumping into some well known bloggers and beer writers such as Melissa Cole, Dave, Beer Nut, Sausage (not sure if hes going) maybe Ed and others. See you all there.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Dublin beer adventure

Last weekend was my surprise weekend from the lovely Helen and it was only shortly before boarding the flight that I found out I was going to Dublin. Although not a primary target for my beer geeking adventures, I have always wanted to check it out as of having only very few previous encounters with Irish micro brews, I have also heard of blossoming brewing movements from Ireland, from literature and fellow bloggers such as The Beer Nut.

The first stop was the Guinness storehouse to checkout some old brewing memorabilia and a free pint of the stuff at the gravity bar. Following this a good number of bars and pubs were visited, some more exiting than others. It should be noted firstly that Dublins bars, at many points seemed to vary as much as a pack of jellybabies. Most showed almost identical broad ranges of keg beers, Paulaner Hefeweazen and Guinness seemed everywhere, most have a busy atmosphere and the themes vary alittle. Virtually no cask beers were in sight anywhere but the broad range of keg beers offers some compensation.

None the less it was time to hunt out some key target locations. First up a place I have been wishing to visit for sometime now called The Porterhouse. This famous brewpub has two locations in Dublin, and one in London. Like all good brewpubs the theme of the place seemed centered around the beer and a vast selection of bottle and kegged world beers were on offer, alongside some pretty good food. It was noted that all of the house beers available, with exception to TSB (a cask conditioned interpretation of an English bitter) were served in keg form and of excellent standard. Porterhouse Red was truly superb with earthy goldings hops at the core and the lagers of worthy standard, even the easy quaffing, more minimalistic ‘Chiller’ lager had its qualities.

Bull & castle beer range
The next highlight of the trip was in the form of the Bull & Castle, with its upstairs beer hall, restaurant and world beers including a broad range of Irish microbrews. Although not a brewpub, this placed housed a range of beers so spectacular that our visit to Dublin could have been justified by the session embraced in it. Our final hunted location however was not so appealing, the brew pub Mssrs Maguire seemed to more of a general trendy bar with a brew pub theme on the side than truly beer devoted porterhouse. The 5 house beers were tucked together at the corner of the bar of decent character but the rest of the beer range was uninspiring. The Irish red style ale Rusty was a decent take on the style, but only a shadow of Porterhouse Red. The plain porter, again had nothing on Porterhouses stouts but was half decent and the Bock was strong, sweet and… quite two dimensional.
All in all a rather enjoyable weekend, I couldn’t help noticing that my beer hunting in Dublin was dominated by the discovery of more often than not stout and porter style beers. Here were some key findings:
Battle of the black ones. Stouts and Porters encountered.

Guinness: Everyone knows it, and from the gravity bar is just that bit fresher, with hops and roast malts that tad more pronounced. As a good beer to fall back on in those tricky social situations where you find yourself at a substandard bar your you cant really fault it too much, compared to many other national brands it stands out head and shoulders.

Beamish: Exceeded expectation considering it’s a mass market brand. Lots of full rounded malty flavor brings a distinct bitter grain like note to the finish that’s reminiscent to the aftertaste of chewing on chocolate malt. Sadly the aroma was alittle masked by the think blanket of foam derived from the Nitrokeg serving method.

O Hara’s Stout: Mouthfilling and smooth with subtly balanced roast grain. Nothing too forward, but very well crafted.

Porterhouse Plain: Probably the beer of the holiday. Clean and velvety in texture with pronounced dry coffee and chocolate cascading throughout. Veers more towards London porter than anything else, but as porters go this ones up there with the greats.

Porterhouse Wrasslers 4X Stout: Described by Michael Jackson (our lord) beer hunter as the best stout in Ireland. Firm yet wholesome with masses of roast grain coming at ya left right and centre, this one takes no prisoners and satisfies throughout.

Porterhouse Oyster stout: The smoothest most meaty of the porterhouse stouts. Very mouthfeel driven with less pronounced roast malts or bitterness.
To finish things off....

I have often been intrigued by cheese boards, this one was served with honey and relish with no blue cheese or apple, a fine companion for my St. Bernardus 10, to polish off the holiday.