Sunday, 30 January 2011

Beer and Cheese... Round 2.

Good news folks, looks like I've managed to get myself another chance at doing a beer and cheese evening, but this time at a completely different venue.
Confirmed for Saturday the 12th of March, at the Bamburgh Castle Inn, Seahouses. Starting at 8pm, it should be a busy affair with hopefully more people turning up than last time. I'm figuring that since this time the event is being held on a weekend (and not mid week), and at an actual pub (not some remote country club), in a densely populated area that's easily accessible via public transport the chances of gaining ticket sales are better. Furthermore, this time ticket prices at £10 per head instead of £18 (I always knew that would burden things).

As for the set up. Well that I'm keeping  more or less the same. Six beers, six cheeses with a few extra bits. Some of my old pairings from last time will be changed, others will be re-used and the presence of a few hand pulls and decent bottled beers at the bar should add appeal for attending beer enthusiasts.

If anyone wants to go, just let me know. But until then I have a bit more research to do.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Operation Elizabeth (the sad demise of)

It has been almost 3 months now since my newly acquired cask Elizabeth was filled with 8.7% old ale. Since it's filling I have refrained from touching it, but have sampled occasionally from the one gallon of un-oaked old ale I had left to one side (as a sort of a control sample).

Just the other day however, temptation got the better of me and I cracked open the shive and syphoned off a sample. With this I could compare my oaked sample to un-oaked samples from my one gallon demi-john. Here's some overview.

Appearance: Very very dark brown almost black (coloured malts were accidentally overdone remember), some, but not much clarity.

Aroma: Venous, almost cabernet sauvignon-esque. Lots of alcohols (but not too much), yeasty dark chocolate hints and loads of oak. Massively different from the un-oaked sample.

Palate: Starts with venous alcoholic notes then becomes massively salty and dry. Waves of salt over-ride the after taste with the base beer more or less in the background.

I'm not a fan of it, and in the words of Ice Box (from my previous post); "to put this in the politest way possible Rob, that is absolutely f***ing rank!". It's hard to think of any way of rescuing it? Even with blending I can't see a decent product coming from it and sadly it may have to go down the drain. It's never nice to throw beer beer away. Like taking your old dog to the barn. But things must move on.

It seems the problem lies from my process, or more accurately from when I soaked the barrel over the weekend in hot water saturated in salt before filling. I did wash it out with sterile water afterwards but that wasn't enough I thought. So after a few words with Elizabeth's creator Johnathan Manby it became apparent that the only possible cause of the problem was that I didn't wash the barrel out thoroughly enough after the salt water step and obviously underestimated the effect of soaking the wood three whole days. I should have probably used copious amounts of hot water, cold water, more hot water and maybe some steam. This is what I plan to do for my contingency plan: Operation Elizabeth II.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

A day in the life of... Me

A lot of people in the past have asked what I get up to all day in a brewery. Here's some typical goings on....

6:11: Arrive at work, switch boiler on, assess and contemplate tasks of the day.

6:15: Boss man Craig arives and Brewer Matt turns up to prepare mash tun for the daily brew.

6:20: Check progress of all ongoing fermentations.

6:40: All transfer apparatus is assembled. This involves assembling the pipework to transfer fermented beer from fermentation vessel to secondary vessels.

7:30: Dray men Draymaster Steve and Number 1 Dray Dave arrive, have a coffee and commence loading vans.

Steve and Dave load vans using the Daleside cask elevation system (DCES) shown right, some people call it a ramp.

As some may remember, I mentioned Draymaster Steve way back. His 18 years of training still serve him well. Rumor has it he once navigated his van through the city centre of Leeds blindfolded. Guided only by his Chi Dray senses, Steve managed the one way system and executed his 27 drops within 1 hour without error.

Thats what I heard anyway. Dave uses a sat nav.

07:35: Our resident caskwasher Matt AKA Ice Box, master of the cask, turns up to commence a long day of cask washing.

Knocking out clean casks faster than a Japanese hamster with a sample can up it's ass. Ice Box works this ghetto style.

07:40: With vans loaded and cast out into the world, the daily transfer of beer can begin.

08:00: Any forward orders are prepared and/or malt or other materials are received and put in stock.

09:00: Breakfast time; toast and coffee normally. This is also a good time to check if anything exciting is going on in the beer blogging world.

09:30: Completed transfer apparatus is cleaned out and put away. The empty fermentation vessels are subjected to CIP (cleaning in progress) which involves more pipes, a pump, and cleaning agents such as hot caustic.
10:15: Mash tun ready (meaning the mash/grains are finished with). Spent grain from the mash tun is discarded into our spent grain skip via a large metal shoot. Here it is in action.

 Ice Box (in da house) separates the spent grain in the skip with a rake.

12:00: Lunch time. Have lunch, check again for anything new and exciting happening in the beer blogging world.

12:30: This is about the time when my casual blog browsing stops and I ring the office to see if the all the orders for the following days deliveries/collection are confirmed and on the system. Stuart (below) is the  man with the scores for this one.

Office staff sometimes come over to visit us. Here Stuart boasts with joy about how he had just cracked level 14 on space invaders 2 at the desk. Happy days.

12:31: THE PICKING LIST IS READY! This is our cue to move to deathcon 4. Casks out, pipes out, sample glass ready.

12:32: Some go outside for a smoke to ease the tension.

13:30: Racking in progress. Meaning casks are filled with beer ordered by customers.

14:45: Racking complete. Pipes are washed out, floors cleaned down.

15:00: Our brewer has usually completed his transfer to the fermentation vessel by this point, its time to start wrapping things up.

15:00: Dray men Dave and Steve return from long hours of vegging out in lay-by's to pass the time delivering beer drop after drop, pub after pub after shop.

15:15: All ongoing fermentations are checked again.

15:20: It's around this time the farmer turns up in his truck to collect his spent grain. This gets used as feed for his cattle. Sometimes however he runs a bit late and does't make it till the next day, in such cases head man Craig sends a gentle reminder text to help things along.

Craig texts:"Get your fat, black, lazy carcass off the Virtual Agriculture 4 and get down here to collect your grain. Bitch!"

It's ok, Nigel doesn't read this blog. (I bloody hope not!)

15:30: Our brewer finishes things off up in the brewhouse (or as I call it, theatre of beer). The copper boiler is cleaned out, floors are cleaned down and kit is pre-prepared for the next days brew.

15:45: Staff room cleaned.

16:00: Ice Box finishes up on the cask washer. It'll be back to the ghetto for him soon.

16:15: With everything switched off and cleaned down, it's time for a bit of a natter, mostly about Dave and Steve's daily encounters.

16:25: Go home.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

One I brewed earlier

Reader's of Rob's beer quest will remember this post from awhile back. Happy days ay.

Well, it's been about a year now, so I decided to crack open a bottle. Or should I say another bottle. After bottling I kept sampling 'The Megalodon' on a bi-monthly basis. When it was young it tasted a tad harsh... Like battery acid. A barrage of alcohols competing with hop resins and various other flavours trying to develop. Even after nine months it still tasted like battery acid. I was even considering changing the label from the giant shark to some old tramp passed up on a park bench. Or maybe just ditching the whole batch.

Last night tho, this baby showed some promise, coming across as something resembling a heavily hopped Barley wine that needs a tad more time to develop. Carbonation has improved a little, and the brutal hop assault has mellowed a bit tho it still possesses the pine-resinous notes from the Simco hops and a bit of that pithy, sherbet like effect you get from extreme hopping with C-hops (my wife describes this effect as tasting like 'fairy liquid'). An oily viscosity dominates with plenty of fusel alcohols giving the perception of richness and lots of alcohols (over 9% alcohol, remember).

It's nothing special, and difficult to drink after about half a pint. I'm in no rush, I'll give it more time.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Knaresborough; A great place for a booze-up

Last Wednesday  was an official work social with a difference. A meeting of Daleside staff past and present including Olly Fozard (now at Copper Dragon) and Dan Paquette (of Pretty Things), also blogged about here. So it was cool to meet all the old crew and finally visit the quality pubs of Knaresborough.

First up, Blind Jacks. A quality little pub with a good cask and keg range. One of those places you could sit in all day slowly going through the beer range. After this we visited The Marquis of Granby, a very popular place amongst Yorkshiremen (it's a Sam Smith's pub).

Dan likes brunettes, this one could knock back a few pints

Beer and darts, not the best pairing

The Daleside 'past masters' social continued to the Osset Brewery owned pub The Cross Keys. More great beer, ramblings about brewing and the industry with the odd moan about Brew Dog. About three hours later I woke up for work... Not pleasant, but happy times.  

Thursday, 6 January 2011

The 2/3rds-pint schooner; progress, or just wrong?

It's the hot topic of the week, the introduction of the 'schooner' or 2/3rds of a pint glass.

In one corner; the fierce traditionalist of the British pub scene, who thinks it's all just a ploy to get more money out of the customer whilst confusing bar staff with the extra glassware. Then after that there's the fear that if it takes off things could change. The ways of old; blokes on the town, knocking back pint after pint, whoever drinks the most is the most manly. Not that that doesn't still happen.

But then in the other corner; numerous beer enthusiasts across the nation, the British Beer and Pub Association, Brew Dog, beer writers and almost everyone else who thinks it's ether responsible or good for consumer choice.

At the end of the day, the customer decides what they want, and if they have more options to choose from then all the better. Right?

For me, well I'm not one for getting all patriotic about the 'British pint' Al Murray style. I like a pint of real ale, but find the whole term 'pint of real ale' a bit dated. For a start I only really drink pints when presented with a narrow range of beers to try, if the range is broad I usually get a half of various (more choice, same volume). Secondly the term 'real ale' is just an explanatory term invented by CAMRA in the 70's to differentiate to their target audience the difference between cask and keg conditioned products. But since cask beer is basically now revived, I say call it cask/naturally conditioned beer and ditch the 'real'. But that's a different blog post in itself.

Lets not digress. The option of getting beer served in a 2/3rds pint glass sounds to me like a great idea especially for pubs that offer 8+ different beers on tap. Customers who want to try an unknown beer but were usually deterred by the thought of being stuck with something they don't really like will benefit. Those who drink the same beer frequently and are intrigued to try something new will benefit, and those who are driving or only have only a limited time in a pub will benefit.

But here's the best thing, and its from a point made here.

“While the pint remains a great British icon, the two thirds pint will give greater flexibility over how beer is served. This is particularly important when it comes to getting more women to choose beer, as many avoid the traditional pint glass”

It's what Cole, Brown, Brew Dog and the rest of them have been ranting on about for such a long time now. If the move changes the image of beer in the UK to be more approachable to audiences that previously turned their backs on it, then this is surely a great move, and that's even if converts only a few people to great beer.

Monday, 3 January 2011

The last feast of the festive season

Just the other day, as the wife was cooking up dinner I decided to open my very last seasonal beer. My last beer of Christmas, as you could call it was the Belgian 9% Abbaye Des Rocs Spéciale Noël, the beer I never got round to opening over Christmas (it was kind of a backup beer). A sweet centred Belgian strong ale with upfront carbonation and spicy mixed raisin like fruit notes. Worth getting again next Christmas I would say, but more memorable for how awesomely it pairs with sugar glazed ham and layered potatoes, my complements to my missus Helen for this one.

Firstly the gammon joint was boiled to remove it's salty edge before being simmered in cider with onion, cloves, bouquet garni and peppercorns. After this the ham was roasted with wholegrain mustard, cloves and dark brown sugar resting in more cider. Whatever liquid was left in the roasting tin was used as sauce.

It sure is delicious, and pairs effortlessly well with this beer. Upfront carbonation lifts the fat whilst the beer's sweet, spicy centre marries well with the sweetness of the glaze. Subtle spicyness is a big feature, and sweet clove notes really resonate together between the beer and the ham. In conclusion, it rocks even more than the Christmas dinner or Christmas pudding pairings of last year. As a bonus it was even picked at random (being one of those beers your sure you've tried before but can't remember) so a new resolution for this year is to keep up the beer-food pairing experimentation.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

New Year Post; some random thoughts

When you first start getting into beer, its all about the beer...

The beer, the label, the brewery, what it's like, how it's so individual. Picking out ones you haven't tried in a pub, supermarket, farm shop or off licence. Oh, I haven't tried this one, but then the book you got last Christmas tells you what beer style the beer is, about the brewer and what hop varieties they used. Where this style of beer originated from and how the beer got it's name.

I remember it was Michael Jackson beer hunter who once compared the understanding of British beer to sex, meaning the more you know about it the better it becomes. True to a certain extent loads of British beers are instantly lovable.

The road to beer geekism can be complex and revealing. Some beers you hated years back can become favourites. Other beers can raise your expectation of beer entirely. But read more books, meet more beer enthusiasts, try more beer and food pairings. Beer and cheese, beer and chocolate, beer and sausages and every ones favourite, beer and more beer.

Life is like a giant pint of beer... Don't ask me why, it just is.

Then after studying brewing at University and a whole bunch of homebrews things get even more involved. Maybe I over attenuated that last batch, or what if I changed the hop additions in the next? Now I know why that bottle of Brew Dog Punk IPA throws a haze too long in a really cold fridge. Why the flavours of naturally conditioned beer can change over time. Why cask ale is a more inconsistent product in pubs that don't really care much for it but just take it on because it's the way the markets going.

But at the end of the day real beer is about real people. The people who craft it, drink it, love it, and are inspired by it. To others beer might be just about getting hammered, refreshment just enhancing ones image of masculinity. But beer means different things to different people, which is a signature reason of
/hy the beer blogging world is so diverse. And why the beer blogosphere involves so much debate, camaraderie, disagreements and sometimes conflict.

Sometimes I think, maybe I should blog more about the issues affecting the brewing industry today, maybe it might get me a higher rank in Wikio. Probably not. But to me, making a point count often seems futile. No matter how much Pete Brown's argument tears apart the governments reasoning for tax hikes or the like, or how many bloggers fight the corner of the developing craft beer scene nobody, except other bloggers seems to take much notice. I could be wrong, there could be numerous MP's on the side of the beer enthusiast. But the way the brewing industry has segregated and evolved has ensured that the beer enthusiast is is part of a developing niche, but the CAMRA member recognised is represented. Luckily the two groups do cross over a lot, and for the new year, I would advise all UK beer bloggers to keep the faith in our developing craft brewing scene and take heed of Rob's beer quest's new year message...

So when the duty is due to rise,
and no one else seems to care,
and the government wants to be seen as responsible by pointing fingers.
alcohol concern!
Tax the abusers!
Above 7.5% is irresponsible!
Pubs are closing everywhere,
and every news story about alcohol abuse sports the same old picture of someone pulling a cask conditioned pint, 
extinction for the pub looms, only fond memories will remain,
The malt prices are going up, hop prices are going up
And all this time your 5 barrel plant is running at a loss,
Then when you tell people you like beer they only seem to associate you with the lager louts or old bearded CAMRA stereotype blokes.
It might not be as bad as it seems, it might be exaggerated,
but even so, just remember this video
And have a cracking new year!