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.