Sunday, 25 July 2010

Celebrity Brewing Fad?

First we were subjected to the Morrisey Fox brews, now it looks like Guy Ritchie, AKA former Mr Madonna wants to open his own brewery in Wiltshire.
Is brewing suddenly becoming cool? Is the latest celebrity fad to own your own brewery? Is this a good or a bad thing for the industry?
The answer to the first question is no, it's not suddenly cool, it's always been cool even if most people haven't realised it yet!
I don't own a crystal ball so won't predict any more celebrity breweries. But the third question will be a mixture of prediction and personal opinion which any one of us is qualified to answer.
Personally I'm not sure about this one, will a movie producer/director help promote real ale, or help themselves to a quick profit and sell the brewery quickly when they get bored or realise just how much work is involved?
I'd like to think that it will help give the brewing industry a bit of a boost, a bit of 'cool' but I'm also wary that the beer could quite easily be sub-standard and not be taken seriously which in turn do more harm than good, after all he wants to produce beer in it's traditional style apparently, what style is that then? tell me it's not brown and boring please!
There is an instant positive which I can heartily back though and that's the creation of jobs which will always be a good thing and I applaud him for that.
I guess we'll have to wait and see how successful this venture is, I'd like to think more so than the Morrisey Fox one that ended up in them having to sell the pub they took over. Watch this space.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Bored, No Really!

Just when you thought it was safe to buy beer from Brewdog again, they've gone and released a new beer called End of History(EOH).
EOH is a 55% abv beer that is presented in either a stoat £500 or a squirrel £700! Yes these prices are insane but Taxidermy is an expensive thing to produce!
If you work in the beer world, you knew that sooner or later something like this would happen, if not it's yet another marvellous stunt to promote this crazy craft brewery from Aberdeenshire. Or not. There has been much criticism of this latest release, some of it about the way these animals were killed/procured etc...some of it is about the strength of the beer and of course there's the arguments about the price. I put my own view to James Watt over Twitter, I've yet to have a response but I'd like to think he's intelligent enough to take it on board even though he has posted a response on beer advocate which is erm...less than eloquent?
Apparently EOH is already sold out, if this is the case they have done extremely well in selling this one to the beer geeks or roadkill enthusiasts. Even if I'd had the money lying about, I doubt I wouldn't have wasted it on this, frankly I'm a little tired of the Brewdog roller coaster and want them to get back to brewing fantastic beers such as Riptide, Chaos Theory, Paradox Smokehead etc..this(or at least a small part of it) was how Brewdog became so loved amongst the beer enthusiasts.
I'm not going to waste my breath saying stop it with the stunts because they won't listen to me but I would like them to start brewing the Chaos Theory again, in my opinion this is their best beer by a country mile.


Dragging my lardy arse out of bed isn't my idea of fun but I was looking forward to the day, I leave the house at 6am to get across London for the 7.15 train from Paddington to Cardiff Central where I would get a connecting train to Pontypridd, the home of Otley Brewing Co.
I took the opportunity on the train to get some more sleep, it was badly needed today and I woke myself up a couple of times with my own snoring. Only those people on the train know what I must've looked like, I imagine it was like one of the seals on pier 39 in San Francisco though!
I arrive at the brewery and instantly it's different, the mash tun isn't a 5-barrel any more, it's a 10-barrel, there's two extra fermenters and some building has taken place to increase storage space. Otley Brewing Company has gone up in the world since I was last here, good thing too, Britain needs more forward thinking breweries to expand a bit and become more accessible to more pubs & bars.
Anyway because I was coming from London we were starting later than normal, the mash started at 11am, we got the water up to temperature and holding the thermometer under the tap made me start sweating even before lugging the 25 kilo bags of malt into the mash tun.
Mashing in is a two person job for an amateur like me, I climbed up and down with the 25kg bags of Malt pouring them in, the last but one was REALLY hard work on my unfit body, the Malt mix was 60% Pale Malt(85kg) and 40% Torrified Wheat(62kg). So I poured whilst Matt started 'mashing in' getting the lumps out, once I'd finished dumping the malt I helped out with mashing in, it's an awkward job and an extremely physical job for any of you that haven't seen or don't know the process, it makes your arms ache like they have probably never ached before, you know you're doing a hard days work.
Once we had finished mashing in it was time to go and get the Strawberries and the Szechuan Pepper from Nick's pub The Bunch of Grapes. Yes you read correctly, Strawberries and Szechuan Pepper, for ages now I've been wanting to put Strawberries into a brew, Nick came up with the idea of adding Szechuan which I thought was a bit bonkers but that's Nick all over really, bonkers with hints of genius.
Now the Strawberries we got were Dutch, we would have liked to have used British but they were such poor quality that Nick's supplier refused to pay for them, que sera sera. It helped us come up with the name.
Once back at the brewery we started playing around with ways of extracting the most aroma from the Strawberries. We got 3 pint glasses and stuck some boiling water in them.
In glass no.1 was an uncut Strawberry. Glass number two had a quartered Strawberry and the third glass had an uncut strawberry and one szechuan peppercorn.
We didn't much aroma from the first glass, it was there it just didn't quite want to come out and play. The strawberry in the second glass was far more happy to give us the aroma we were looking for. The 3rd glass I didn't need to stick my nose in, I could smell it 3 feet away, the peppercorn was giving off an amazing spicy, peppery aroma that was blowing the strawberry almost out of the glass!
So we had two glasses that we were getting big aromas from and we decided that the logical thing to do was to mix the two and see what happened. It worked, Nick's crazy idea was indeed a stroke of genius!
Next step was cutting up the 5 kilos of strawberries which I happily did. Then it was choosing the bittering hops, for bittering we chose Amarillo and Pioneer, 500g of each.
12.15pm. Now it's time was time to sparge, now I know what you're thinking, that sounds like something a fat bastard like me would do after a meal, it's not, it's getting the wort from the mash tun to the copper. Again for the laymen out there Wort is the liquid/liquor that is produced by the malt being boiled which extracts the sugars out of the malted barley. It has an almost sickly sweet aroma that also smells something like weetabix when you pour hot milk on it.
Run off finished at 13.10pm and gravity during run off was 1070.
After sparging I had the unenviable task of digging out the mash tun. Since the mush tun size had increased from 5 barrel to 10 barrel it actually made it easier to clean out. Instead of hanging over the edge you just shovelled it out from the hatch at shoulder height so instead of my stomach muscles taking a beating it was my shoulder that would be hurting the next day. Of course you still have to climb in to finish it off and whilst inside it was shaking around a bit which scarred the shit out of me but I got it done and it was that much easier on the body!
First hops(bittering hops) were in next and this happened at 15.15pm 500g of Pioneer hops and 500g of Amarillo hops went into the boil, Szechuan Pepper went into the kettle half an hour later, 15.45pm.
It should be pointed out that whilst there was waiting around time, I was cleaning up after myself, sweeping hops, mopping the floor etc...This prompted the assertion from Charlie and Matt that I was a cleaner brewer than Melissa Cole! Heehee!
During one of the earlier hiatuses we had decided to aromatize the brew with Pacific Gem hops, I love Pacific Gem, it's sweet, citrusy and when we stuck a few in the glass with the strawberry and szechuan pepper from earlier, oh. my. God what an aroma, if my beer smells anything like this and tastes as clean as I hope then I'm going to be well happy! The Strawberry and the Pacific Gem worked so well, I was lost for any words other than 'awesome' or 'oooooh yeah' I couldn't help sticking my nose in the glass and being blown away by that aroma, being a tubby git, if I could have eaten it....
At 16.15 it was time for the second(aroma hops) hops (1 kilo) and the strawberries(5 kilos) to go in. In they went, this was right at the end of the boil so as not to lose all the flavours & aromas.
Five minutes later we started the transfer of the now deep red, almost mulled-wine coloured liquid into FV1, when Matt told me that the colour wouldn't transfer to the fermenter I remember being quite gutted, but it smelled delicious.
We activated 100g of Belgian yeast 35 minutes later and 15 minutes later I pitched the yeast and started making beer!
And then it was time to clean the kettle. Good brew day, I really enjoyed it and I'm really looking forward to trying the beer.
Just for the record, original gravity was 1046.5 and final gravity was 1010.5.
The name of the beer is S.O.S.
If you get to try it I'd appreciate some feedback.
See you at GBBF.

Beer and Cheese Matching with Garrett Oliver

Last night I was lucky enough to be one of 70 people who were invited to the White Horse in Parsons Green for a beer and cheese matching with Brooklyn Brewmaster Garrett Oliver.
This event was probably one of the most exciting beer events of the year as Garrett doesn't get over to the UK very often and it attracted the great and the good, the nameless and the downright shameless of the beer world, oh and me!
Having just shlepped all the way across London in the muggy heat of the tube I decided to be sensible when I got to the White Horse and ordered a Dark Star Hophead even though there were people enjoying the Dogfish Head beers that were also on tap!
I was enjoying the conversation with Des now of Coppertun and Chris Pople who writes the popular Cheese and Biscuits blog when I realised everyone was going upstairs for the tasting so up we all went. I was also talking to Brewdog Emperor James Watt who wasn't at all badly behaved irritating(must have been ill or something ;-p) but was back to his eloquent and friendly best. He did however let on that when they open the Brewdog bar in September(ish) they're going to have a tattooist on site to Brand you with Brewdog should you feel the need, also if you do you'll be able to drink in the bar for free for life! That's a bit tempting although I'm not sure that I'd visit Aberdeen often enough to make it worthwhile.
Anyway on to the tasting, Garrett Oliver is a master, Brewmaster, Ring Master and probably Jedi master. The force is strong with this one!
We started off with the single hopped Soraci Ace which was matched with Roasary Goats Cheese - now it should be noted that I'm not, or rather wasn't a fan of goats cheese until last night. I've long known that beer and cheese match very well but this first pairing was phenomenal. The Beer is a Belgian style Saison with Lemongrass and Lemon peel on the nose. when you taste the cheese the creaminess of this goats cheese works perfectly with the dryness of the beer. Great Match!
Garrett pointed out that the guys at Brooklyn only make beer that they like to drink which frankly in my humble opinion makes them geniuses. People make better beer when they want to drink it, after all why make shit beer if you have to drink it afterwards?
The second match was Local 1 with Brillat-Savarin cheese, now rather than not being a fan of this cheese, I had never even heard of it! At this point I wasn't at a beer and cheese matching, I was at a cheese discovery! The cheese itself is a triple creme style cheese which is awesome - Dredge would FABPOW this one for sure! The Beer is a strong pale ale(9% abv) and comes in a cork and caged bottle. The first thing that hit me about this beer was the nose, there was a distinct grape quality to it and an almost ribena-ish hit as well. Lovely. In the mouth there was tonnes of grape for my palate and I love grapes! The cheese really helped bring out the alcohol of this beer and even more grape, another 'grape' match(sorry).
The third pairing was Hereford Hop and Brooklyn Lager. Now Brooklyn Lager is a Vienna style beer that was first produced in 87/88 and was the first beer at Brooklyn but I wasn't sure that this match worked completely, it's one I may have to experiment with at home. I found that the lager didn't really come through on this on as the cheese was a tad too strong but as a craft beer the Brooklyn Lager stands on it's own as a great beer. I took another, smaller bite of the cheese and sipped the lager and it seemed to work a bit better, again, a match to try at home.
Next we had the Brooklyn Brown Ale with Ossau Iraty cheese. The beer has a caramel malt which brings out the lovely roasty/chocolatey flavours. It's almost homely roasted flavours would really combine well with roasted veg and meats. Garrett then pointed out that if you break the cheese and take a sniff you'd smell Lanolin or a wet wool coat after a rain storm, the 'English one' of my bosses made some quip about Welshmen that got a (very) cheap laugh, cheeky b****rd. Anyhow back to the pairing, again this is one that I wasn't overly keen on this one, maybe because my palate is too under developed but for me it was the complete opposite of the previous match, the beer completely overwhelmed the cheese.
Note : at this point there was a break of a couple of minutes because the cheese or the beer(unsure which) wasn't quite ready, during the break a gentleman who looked a bit like a politician came round to each table giving out cards with HIS business on it - advertising at someone else's presentation, hmmm, arrogant, rude and generally fucking irritating, this gentlemans name? Rupert Poncenby, for my part I think his actions were out of line and he's not someone I would actually give any time to if I have any choice. Bad Form Poncenby.
Anyway, rude bastard aside, onto the next pairing and this one is pretty spesh!
Dark Matter with the Ossau Iraty cheese again and this one really worked well. The beer has grape and blackcurrant flavours and the cheese has hints of vanilla and coconut. The Ossau Iraty seemed a lot drier with this beer and it really helps this pairing with the sugaryness of the beer.
Next up is the Brooklyn EIPA and Montgommery's Cheddar. The beer didn't have much aroma to speak of but it's bitter and really works well with the cheddar, the beer has been heavily dry-hopped with East Kent Goldings and holds it's owm against a strong cheddar like the montgommery. I'm not sure exactly why this works so well but it really does!
Over on the other side of the room I see John Cryne nodding off, oh well can't keep everyone happy I suppose!
The last match of the evening was my favourite, the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout with Colston-Bassett Stilton. The beer has big marmite and unsurprisingly chocolate characteristics with hints of coffee too. The cheese is very bitter, very soft, almost sweaty and at this point Garrett declared 'People that don't like Stilton are bad people' and I wouldn't say I'd agree with that but this match works extremely well and I had to have seconds!
Garrett also pointed out that he sometimes serves this beer with a barley wine as it works so well, beer with beer? really? well I guess that breaking new ground is what craft brewing is all about and I'll have to try that match in a couple of weeks when I put the Thomas Hardy's Ale on tap at The Rake! He also said that even though there are many more styles of beer than there are wine, beer lists are still Passe in bars, pubs and restaurants, as wine is still number one when it comes to food matching.
That's all for now, this was a great evening, I felt privilaged to be there and would like to extend my thanks to The White Horse and Garrett Oliver for hosting such an interesting evening.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

LOBI Week at The Rake

Click on the link to find out the details folks. Right Here.
Hope to see you at The Rake from the 26th to the 31st July!!

Friday, 16 July 2010

Kernel Drives SIBA Nuts

This is just a quick shout out of Congratulations for Evin O'Riordan of the Kernel Brewery who won Best Bottled Porter and Beer Over 5% and Bronze and Gold in the Overall Bottled category at the SIBA South East competition today!
Top work sir! well done!
Great to see a small London brewer doing so well. Thoroughly nice chap too!

mOtley brew

Well, that's it, it's gone, the mOtley brew, 5.5% version that the good Otley folks made to the same recipe as it's more notorious 7.5% big brother is now finished. The next time you see it will be April 2011 on Otley's seasonal sales list.
I'm off to Wales on Tuesday to brew a new beer with Matt Otley I'll let you know more when we finish it, until then I'm busy Judging SIBA south east today and I still have to finish a post about Tuesday night's wonderful beer and cheese matching with Brooklyn Brewmaster Garrett Oliver.
Until next time.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Smoking Ban 3 Years On.

I say all this as an ex-smoker who quit the cancer sticks over 5 years ago now.Ok so it was reported by the MA this week that the smoking ban went live 3 years ago this week. Has it really been that long?
Whingers and Moaners of the world claim that the smoking ban caused hundreds of pubs to close in that time, well guess what, I think that's a pile of shit!
Publicans had plenty of time to get their pubs ready, it's not like this thing happened overnight and people didn't know it was happening, get real!
Pubs with licensees who took the time to prepare themselves have flourished or at least made a living, pubs that were run by bone idle fucking lazy twats have gone under, good riddance.
It is FACT that most people(including smokers!) that drink in pubs and bars agree that they are now nicer places to go into and as a result the industry has gained new customers and more people are drinking beer! Whoopie! I think that's cause for celebration myself.
I also welcome the news that the government has shelved plans to look at the ban again with a view to a possible relaxation of it, screw that, that would just mean if you moan enough about stuff you get your own way, where would we be if all parents acted like that, Christ on a bike we'd be in trouble!
Personally I say make it illegal but the government makes too much cash off of it to ever have the balls to do that!
Let the backlash begin.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Happy 4th

So here I am watching CSI Sunday on 5 USA, it's my viewing of choice on a Sunday night. It got me to thinking, here's the result.
I would like to give a shout out to say happy 4th July to all American craft brewers, breweries, beer people, beery people.
Suffice to say the first time I came across an American beer it was Budweiser and I thought it was shit, guess I was right!
It somewhat prejudiced my opinions of American beers, like the prejudices of thousands of people out there who think that all American beer is shit.
The first time I tasted an American craft brew was when I was working at The Crown and Greyhound in Dulwich Village, it had just been installed, it was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, I was blown away, I had never tasted hops like it, I don't remember the year but it can't have been more than 5 years ago, I have been mad on hops ever since.
My next big revelation was going to The White Horse's American Beer Festival, this was two years ago, just before I joined Utobeer.

I haven't looked back since then, safe to say that some of my favourite beers are American, they include the ever consistent Goose Island IPA, I had the pleasure of meeting Brewmaster Greg Hall at The Rake, he even graciously signed the 'brewers wall', our little wall of fame.
Other favourites include Stone Ruination, 21st Amendment Brew Free or Die IPA, Bear Republic's Racer 5 IPA, Great Divide Titan IPA, Odells St Lupulin, I could go on but I'd only be boring you with my favourite beers and I know you have your own.
I would like to point out that it's good to see brewers in Britain starting to get on the craft beer bandwagon, if you're going to jump on one it might as well be a worthwhile one!
So Hats off also to the following breweries who are pushing the boundaries of craft brewing this side of the pond that I have had the pleasure of dealing with, Otley, Brewdog, Lovibonds, Hardknott, Kernel. It's been a pleasure that I am proud to say that I have helped bring to the UK, I urge more pubs and bars to 'get crafty' and stock some of the best that the USA has inspired.
So America, thank you, for your imagination, your innovation and your passion.
Happy 4th of July!

Beerymoon - Part Seven

I have to complete this series before I forget everything I drank, ate and did. Pity it's so fucking late really, I'm going to be knackered tomorrow!
The last post about San Francisco is not about the last place we went, it just happens to be my favourite, It's 21st Amendment. The first time we went in there it was on the Saturday night just before the baseball game we went to. I went for the Brew Free or Die IPA, I love the name and it's fair to say I love the beer too, it's a big but drinkable IPA that's really well balanced. Fair to say I don't think I had a better beer the whole time we were there.
The bar is laid out nicely, it's square, there's a lot of space behind there. There's a restaurant area with an open kitchen at the back, above the kitchen there's a mezzanine area. It's all pale wood, a bit like an all bar one only better and with cooler beer!
The service is impeccable as usual, there are enough seats around the bar to satisfy most people that want to sit at it whilst still having room for those that just come to the bar for their drinks.
Mrs RBF had a Watermelon Wheat beer, now I'm not one for sticking fruit in beer but this is presented differently.
Unlike the 'tards that put lemon in Hoegaarden or the brewer 'tards that say putting orange slice in the Blue Moon will enhance the flavour, the slice of Watermelon is served wedged onto the rim of the glass having no contact with the beer and it provides a tasty treat to go with it!
I could easily have spent the rest of the trip in this bar but it wasn't a beer trip(if I say that enough times, I might just believe it!).
I decided that I couldn't come to this place without trying the food and I was going to get a burger before another customer sat next to us at the bar ordered jerk chicken and my mind was made up!
It was so well presented and really hit the spot! I'm not usually someone who likes spicy food but I have found my perfect match for the spicy foods from now, unfortunately I'm going to have to make do with another hugely hopped IPA as you can't get the Brew Free or Die IPA over here. What a perfect mix, the heat of the Jerk played off against the cool of the Hop. It was heaven, I have to cook it, and soon! If you want to read a better post about this kind of beer and food match, then you can read Mark's version here.
There were other beers we had there(one or two anyway) but I stuck to the Brew Free or Die IPA most of the time.

I'll leave you with this thought on San Francisco and I'm going to quote a young man who's far too excited about beer in general(and we thank him for that!)...
FABPOW!!! Best place to get beer anywhere on the planet! I can't wait to go back.
That's the last post on San Francisco, I can heartily say we love it there, if you go we're sure you will too. Until Next time.