Monday, August 8, 2022

Brewing with Murphy & Rude

Hopefully by now you have read my article about Charlottesville's Murphy & Rude Malting Company on Pellicle. One thing that I mentioned in the piece is that I have brewed several times with their malt in my own homebrewing shenanigans, usually as a specialty malt on top of a base of Golden Promise or Maris Otter. When Jeff suggested then that we brew a batch of my best bitter recipe using just his malt, I jumped at the chance. For the eagle eyed among you, you will have noticed us doing so in some of the pictures on the article.

It was actually Jeff who suggested brewing the best bitter, and I am never one to turn down the opportunity of a collaboration, though it is definitely the first time I have brewed with a malting company. I momentarily played with the idea of creating a new recipe specifically for this project, but when I mentioned it to Mrs V she suggested that we stick with my tried, trusted, and oft brewed best bitter that is the basis of Three Notch'd Bitter 42. Fun fact, the first time I met Jeff, at Kardinal Hall, to discuss the article his first words were "you're miss Ashley's husband, right?" - Mrs V is a Montessori teacher, and Jeff's kids went to her school, though were in a different teacher's class.

Anyway, I took a look at the Murphy & Rude website to decide what malts would take the place of my regular Golden Promise and Briess Victory combination. The base malt was pretty obvious, Jeff does an "English Pale" that he describes as:

"Well-modified pale ale malt kilned to slightly higher temps at the end of curing to release the slightest bit of nutty sweetness (Grape Nuts®, saltines, sunflower seed, honeysuckle) and unlock hints of pretzel and pizza crust."

With a Lovibond rating of 3-3.5° it is just in the same ballpark as both Golden Promise and Maris Otter from the UK.

The specialty malt to replace Briess Victory was more of a challenge as they do a Biscuit malt, which I had previously used as a substitute for Victory to good effect, and a Belgian Amber that sounded intriguing. The Biscuit is described as:

"A fantastic malt for adding body, smoothing out competing dark malt flavors, or delivering buttery or baked dough sensory attributes mid-palate. Biscuit malt is also a great selection when seeking additional body for sessionable beers without adding significant color"

while the Belgian Amber thus:

"Built upon a higher kilned base malt to deliver exponentially more depth than a traditional Amber. Flavors of biscuit bottom, roasted peanut shell, toasted Grape Nuts®, Bran Flakes®, and hard pretzel, with the slightest bite in the background. Great for big Belgians, Fall seasonals, spiced beers, Double IPA".

I took Mrs V's advice though and stuck with the Biscuit, which is a bit paler than the Briess product.

The only challenge in the brewing was the temperature, it was bloody hot that day. If memory serves it was the first 95°F day of the year in central Virginia, though it was much cooler a few weeks later when it came time to drink the beer and see how it had turned out. Throughout the fermentation process, Jeff kept me up to date on how things were progressing, and basically we hit every number and milestone as expected.

Other than a touch of chill haze, the beer was exactly as I had hoped it would be. We went classic with this version of the recipe, using East Kent Goldings for the 40 ish IBUs, and my house yeast strain Safale S-04 to get to the 4.2% abv. One thing that really took me by surprise was just how much additional flavour came out by virtue of using really fresh malt, rather than just freshly milled malt. In the Pellicle article, Josh Chapman at Black Narrows Brewing commented that closing the circle between supplier and producer really benefits the beer, and that freshness really shone through in the beer that we produced.

With the new brewing season almost upon us, I rarely brew during the summer, I have started to work out how I can get back to doing all grain brewing rather than extract brewing. I have nothing against extract brewing, indeed my kegerator currently houses a 100% extract ordinary bitter that is delicious and I plan to brew it again soon. However, with all grain back on the horizon as a viable option, I plan to use Murphy & Rude malt wherever possible.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Distributed Denial of Standards

It should come as no surprise that I spent Saturday afternoon in the pub. It was, after all, the traditional English football season curtain raiser, the FA Community Shield - though my brain still thinks of it as the Charity Shield. I am a Liverpool fan, have been since I was knee high to a grasshopper, and so by virtue of winning the FA Cup last season we got to play Premier League champions Manchester City. Enough though of my footie choices, this is a booze blog after all.

I was sat in the pub, the kind of place that is owned by Brits looking to recreate something of the British pub on foreign shores, the kind of place that I love. Mismatched tables and chairs, dark wood, an almost forbidding air. Even though my first visit to the place was for the Champions League final that Liverpool lost, I had a great time and decided this pub would be a place to visit whenever I am in Mrs V's hometown of Columbia, South Carolina.

The pub in question has a decent number of taps, with a blend of well regarded national craft brands and a clutch of local brews from throughout South Carolina, as well as the stock in trade Guinness, and the usual domestic suspects in cans. The atmosphere during a match was almost like being back in Zlatá Hvězda, raucous, a distinct blue tinge, and not from cigarette smoke, with plenty of banter between fans of different clubs. I was kind of in my element, at least during the Champions League final, as the Community Shield didn't attract anything like a sizeable crowd, but I was cool with that given the ongoing pandemic.

Anyway, having tried a couple of local brews that didn't do anything for me, and the one I really enjoyed on a previous visit having kicked, I had a Guinness while I pondered my next beery move. They had Devils Backbone Vienna Lager on tap, so I decided on a pint of that. It was pure vinegar, a fact that my server recognised when she tried it and apologised, taking the beer off tap. That was how I got talking to Lesley (I am assuming on the spelling here), the Cicerone Certified Beer Server, who also works at Hunter Gatherer, Columbia's original craft brewpub that I have a massive soft spot for.

We got talking about line cleanliness in particular and I learnt something that was actually new information for me. Line cleaning, at least in the US (meaning this likely varies state to state), is a service provided by beer distributors. Having not heard this before, I sent a quick message to a mate of mine that used to work for a big Virginia distributor and is now general manager of a brewery near my house. He confirmed that it is indeed the standard that distributors clean lines, so I bluntly asked:

"So shit draft beer is the distributor's fault?"

His response was just as blunt...


Our conversation continued, and of course pubs can clean their own lines if they have the necessary equipment, which I get the sense many an American pub doesn't, and are thus at the mercy of the distributor's commitment to cleanliness. Imagine being at the mercy of the one part of the American beer system that gets precisely none of the shit for a bad beer. How many customers had the Devils Backbone Vienna Lager and decided that obviously the brewery is shit because it is owned by AB-InBev, when the problem is the distributor not caring for the product appropriately, and ensuring that it cleans lines regularly.

This experience left me wondering about beer distribution in this part of South Carolina in general as it was the second egregious experience with bad beer while I have been down here. I only realised the first when I got to Florida for our beach week, having muled a mixed case of beers down. The case included a couple of four packs of a go-to pilsner of mine, Eggenberg's lovely Hopfenkönig, I wish I had checked the bottom of the cans earlier...

I seriously purchased beer that was canned before the pandemic began...28 months ago. I opened a can and while it was far from terrible, it was not the great pale lager I have come to love. Of course there is a large dose of caveat emptor here, especially given I have had out of date beer from this retailer before. I have to admit that I feel far less sympathy with a bottle shop in this instance than with a pub, unless distributors actually have a sale or return element to their contracts by which they remove out of date goods from the shelves - which I believe is not a common thing here. Being an idiot I turned down the option of a receipt, and so have no recourse to get my money back, but I will be far more careful in future buying from this particular retailer.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Top Ten Virginian Beers - 2022

This is the tenth iteration of my annual list of the top ten Virginia brewed beers that I have drunk in the last 12 months. I say this every year, but it is worth repeating, this is a purely subjective list of the beers I have enjoyed most. I have not tried every single beer in Virginia in the last 12 months. Neither is there some arcane, near gnostic, scoring system in place, just the beers I enjoyed drinking most, after all that's what this whole beer malarky is about surely, finding stuff you enjoy drinking. Anyway, let's dive in:

  1. Wheatland Spring Farm and Brewery - Found Artifacts Unfiltered Pilsner (4.8%). A new brewery to grace the list, and to take away the coveted top spot into the bargain. I had tried a couple of other Wheatland Spring lagers earlier in the year, so when I saw the words "Unfiltered Pilsner" on the label in Beer Run I just picked up a couple of 4 packs. While it may be unfiltered it is far from being some hazy mess, indeed it was an clear as you would expect from many a "filtered" beer. Found Artifacts is as good a German style pilsner as I have ever had, and sitting under our awning in the boiling Virginia heat it went down an absolute treat. I will be buying plenty of this whenever I see it in the store.
  2. Port City Brewing - Franconian Kellerbier (5.0%). For the third year in a row, Port City's delicious Franconian Kellerbier is in the top 2 beers of the year for me. This year was a little bit special though as I was up in Northern Virginia for work and had the chance to try it on tap at the brewery itself. What a treat that was, and as usual it has been a regular in the fridge while it has been available. The only downer was that it came out a little earlier than previous years and so I had to find something else to drink while shelling peas in early summer. It's a hard life.
  3. Starr Hill Brewing - Dark Starr Stout (4.2%). Something of a comeback kid here as Dark Starr is no longer a regular part of the Starr Hill constellation of brews, but this year they made a special batch, and even canned some. Fair to say that I got my arse to the new Starr Hill tasting room in Charlottesville and caned several. It was everything I remembered, roasty, smooth, and thankfully not adulterated with nitro. I would be thrilled if it were to complete the comeback by being a permanent again.
  4. Devils Backbone Brewing - Alt Bier (5.8%). I can't remember the exact reason for heading down to Roseland to visit Devils Backbone, might have been because it was a Sunday or something equally meaningful. I don't need an excuse to go to the original Devils Backbone brewpub and grab a seat at the bar, but when Alt Bier is on tap you can guarantee I will be there. Not only is altbier a style that I love, but Jason knows how to do it properly and makes a moreish delight.
  5. Port City Brewing - Downright Pilsner (4.8%). Another common visitor to my fridge that I have raved and written about many times before. There is a reason I spent 18 months bugging the beer buyers at my local Wegman's to stock this, it is just a great Czech style pale lager. The thing that keeps me coming back is that it is properly bitter and hoppy, without being over 5% abv. I don't know what it is about Czech style pale lagers that terrifies American brewers, but 44 IBUs at 4.8% is the right ballpark rather than 25 IBU at 5.5% that seems to be the norm.
  6. Decipher Brewing - Krypto Pilsner (5.5%). The second new brewery on this list, Decipher is based on an industrial estate in Charlottesville, which is overlooked by Monticello. On my first visit to Decipher I noticed they had Krypto on their "coming soon" list, and they have a Lukr tap, so I wanted to make sure I had some when it was available. What came out of the tap was a lovely 14° pale lager, that went down with inordinate ease. I had several, and it cemented in my mind that Decipher's tasting room and beer garden will be a place I visit plenty. Have to admit though that this would be higher up the list if there were a decoction or two in the mix as the Maillard reactions involved would elevate an already good beer.
  7. Basic City Brewing - Our Daily Pils (4.7%). We seem to have a slew of good pale lagers in Virginia these days, and I am most certainly not complaining! Our Daily Pils shares a trait with many of my favourite pale lagers, it is actually bitter, not shying away from the almost pithy  character that I just love. It also has a fuller, more pillowy body that makes it a delightful drink - and makes me wonder if they are using a different yeast strain than many of the other local breweries who use the Augustiner strain. Whatever yeast they are using, it makes a very nice beer.
  8. Beltway Brewing - Fest! (5.8%). In my annual mass Oktoberfest tasting, Beltway's Fest! was kind of a surprise winner. I had it on tap one Friday afternoon at Kardinal Hall, when note taking is most definitely not on the agenda, and so enamored was I of it, I ordered a second to put some thoughts on my phone. Usually I prefer the paler modern interpretations of Oktoberfest beers, but when a darker märzen is not a syrupy crystal malt mess then I enjoy them too. Such was Fest!, not as dark as many US brewed Oktoberfest lagers, but with plenty of malt heft and a clean finish to make more than a couple a distinct possibility.
  9. Decipher Brewing - 80/- (4.3%). Not only are Decipher a new brewery on the list, but Scottish Export as a style is making its debut too. Mrs V and I popped into Decipher for the first time, and given the place was empty just grabbed a couple of seats at the bar while we killed half an hour. Scottish Export ales are not something you see very often in Virginia, but served up in a nice dimpled mug it was a deep crimson reminder of home. In my experience many American brewers overload their Scottish ales with crystal malts and so you end up with intensely sweet swill that you just don't actually get in Scotland (hint, most of the colour comes of roasted barley). Decipher avoided that pitfall and produced a lovely session beer into the bargain.
  10. Port City Brewing - Rauch Märzen (5.5%). Holding steady in 10th place this year, Port City's rauchbier reminds me so much of Brauerei Spezial's rauchbier that was such a delight when I visited Bamberg in 2019. I really don't like rauchbiers where the brewery waffles on about the beer having a "hint of smoke", and Port City has way more than a hint, smoke is the soul of the Rauch Märzen. Once the nights really start to draw in and the brewery release this again, my fridge will be well stocked.
So there we have it, my top ten beers from Virginian breweries in the last 12 months. It is great to see new breweries on the list, as well as the return of an old favourite. I say this every year, but this is a purely subjective exercise and I make no claims to having tried every VA beer out there. I am always open to recommendations of good beers to try, so leave them in the comments...

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Brewing Local

I am just going to set my stall out right from the beginning..."local" should mean more than just the location of the factory. To put it another way, don't ask me to support local businesses if said business is not also supporting local businesses. I have posted about this before in the context of breweries, but my train of thought here was triggered by homebrew stores.

I have this crazy notion that I would like to brew a beer using only Virginian ingredients. The malt is not a problem, Charlottesville is home to Virginia's only craft malting company, Murphy & Rude, and I have brewed with their malts before and think they are excellent. Not only is the grain malted in Virginia, it is grown on Virginian farms. Hops though...I went to my nearest homebrew store and they don't stock any Virginia grown hops, in fact they looked at me like I had grown an additional head when I asked about sourcing locally grown hops.

Thank goodness though for the internet. I could, had I so wished, buy VA grown hops from a homebrew store down in Roanoke, but the shipping costs were about three times that of the couple of ounces of hops I wanted. I reached out then to a hop grower directly, in this case Mountain View Hops in Floyd, VA, mainly because they grow Challenger hops as well as the more usual C-hop suspects, you know Chinook, Cascade, etc. Challenger is a British hop variety that I have used before and really like for it's orange and spice character - think adding ginger and cinnamon to marmalade and you're kind of there. To make it worth their while I bought half a pound of whole leaf hops, which arrived just the other day and is now in the freezer.

I was however more concerned, if that is the right word, about yeast. Could I call my beer a truly "Virginian" beer if I chucked in a packet of my go-to yeast, Safale S-04? Well, not really, in my opinion, which I assumed left me with the option of doing a wild fermentation by putting the wort in a fermenter outside, perhaps near my apple trees, and letting nature do its thing. I might still do that to be honest, but not for this first project, I would want to learn how to collect and isolate actual yeast from my environment rather than a hodge podge of yeast and bacteria. Enter into the scene RVA Yeast Labs, based just down the road in Richmond.

I did a Google search for "Virginia yeast company" and the guys at RVA Yeast popped up, as did another couple of options, but I decided that I will buy my yeast for this project from them for one simple reason. They have a selection of "Native Yeasts" that includes a strain from a brewery about 35 miles from my house, Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery - maker of some of the best beers in central Virginia and possibly the most beautiful brewery to sit and drink at. Apparently this strain has:

"citrus esters, a nose of sweet honey and a dash of phenolic spice, this strain will complement a variety of dry Belgian style beers. We highly recommend this strain for Belgian triple and Saison."

Now...if you know me you will know that Belgian tripel and saison are not something I drink very often. For this project then, I am trying to get myself out of the standard taxonomy of beer style to create something that is as technically competent as I can make, tastes good, and that I enjoy drinking, those are my metrics of success, my "north star" you could say...

So here's my recipe:

  • 65% Murphy & Rude English Pale
  • 21% Murphy & Rude Biscuit
  • 11% Murphy & Rude Malted Corn
  • 3% Murphy & Rude Roasted Barley
  • 17 IBU Mountain View Challenger for 60 minutes
  • 9 IBU Mountain View Challenger for 15 minutes
  • 4 IBU Mountain View Challenger for 5 minutes
  • RVA 806 - Lickinghole Creek Ale yeast
In terms of the numbers for this experiment:
  • OG - 1.050
  • IBU - 30
  • SRM - 18.7° (deep amber/brown)
  • ABV - 5.2%
The malted corn is in there as a nod to the fact that I live pretty close to Thomas Jefferson's plantation, Monticello and he hunted out a copy of Joseph Coppinger's "New American Brewer and Tanner" precisely because it contains a method for malting "Indian corn". Obviously the water will be coming out of my well.

I plan to brew this as one of the first brewdays of my next homebrew season, Virginia summers can make brewing outside a nightmare, so I tend to only do so between September and May, especially if I am doing an all grain batch rather than chucking extract in a pot and boiling for an hour or so.

So coming back to my original theme, if you want to hold on to the moniker of "local homebrew store" how about making a point of selling locally grown and sourced ingredients for homebrewers to play around with? Until such a time, maybe we just refer to them as the "nearest homebrew store", after all there is more to local than location.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Genius of Marketing

There was a fairly simple plan, recreate the glassware experiment that I did a decade ago, but this time with Guinness rather than Victory Prima Pils. Having bought a four pack of Guinness Draught, the one in nitro cans, from my local Wegmans I picked out what I felt was a suitable selection of glasses for such an experiment...

The selection consisted of, in no particular order, a "Franconia" glass, dimpled mug, tulip pint, straight edged pint pot, and a Willibecher. My intention was to pour the beer from the cans in the exact same manner - straight down and slowly lift the can until it is drained - so that I could ascertain whether the glassware had any impact on the pour itself, and then see if there was any noticeable difference in aroma, flavour, and all that jazz.

First up was the tulip pint glass, in this case a Samuel Smith's branded glass as it is the closest thing I have to the classic Guinness glass that preceded the current one with all its angles and shapes.

Obviously the can is smaller than a full imperial pint, hence the head space there that would send a "to the top" warrior into apoplexy. Still, it looks the part, decent half inch of foam, had a lovely bubble cascading thing going on, and took a couple of minutes to really settle out. It looked like a Guinness. It even smelt like a Guinness, with it's roasty notes and a bit of graininess, an aroma I know well from nearly 30 years of regularly drinking the stuff. The "like Guinness" theme continued with the flavours and all that other stuff that people go on about, it even had a goodly amount of foam that clung to the glass as I drank.

Ok, time for the dimpled mug...

If there was one glass that I thought might make a difference to how the beer poured, and therefore looked, it was my trusty old man dimpled mug. As I said earlier, the pouring method was exactly the same for all the cans I drank, so imagine my surprise when it looked basically the same as the previous pint, with the foam cap almost identical. It also smelt, tasted, and all that other stuff, imperceptible from the tulip glass.

Third time's the charm so they say, on then to the straight edged pint pot...

Erm...the same again. Looks, smells, tastes, other stuff, the same, again. I was starting to think that to get something even marginally different from the tulip pint I would have to get out a wine glass - I don't own any of those fart arsey stemmed glassware Teku things so beloved of true believers. Maybe next time I will try that, as it was I just knocked the experiment on the head, pretty sure that the Franconia glass and Willibecher would make next to no difference.

The whole notion of "proper glassware" is something that I find deeply suspect, like the old imperial dude wandering around in his birthday suit with nary a bairn to point out his nudity. That's not to say I don't like different shaped glasses, take one look in my cupboards and you'll find mugs of various kinds, pints of various kinds, snifters and goblets, and even a hand blown glass from Williamsburg. I just don't buy into the idea that a particular shaped glass is the proper option for a given style, or even beer from a particular country. Take a look on Ebay at the range of glasses available for Guinness, Pilsner Urquell, or even PBR, and it is clear that breweries are more than happy to slap their branding on basically anything transparent and used in a bar.

Having done this experiment twice so far I am still in the "nope, doesn't make a difference unless you want it to" camp, but as a marketing tool, glassware is pure genius.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Lukr At That Cask Ale

Take a moment to think about what a pub that specialises in cask/real ale looks like...

Chances are that when you thought about the bar itself it looked something like this:

The beer engine is synonymous with real ale, and has a history that dates back to the 17th century when Dutch inventor John Lofting developed the first beer engine. Joseph Bramah would, in 1797, improve on this to create the beer engine as we know it today. Until the introduction of the use of CO2 to push beer to the tap in the 1870s, the beer engine was the standard for serving beer.

As I was pottering round the old interwebs this week, digging further into the history of beer taps in central Europe - yeah, I am an odd one - I learnt that the beer engine as we know it today is not the only type of tap for dispensing real ale. Enter the Aitken Tall Fount, also know in some circles as the Scottish font. Taking a quick look at the Aitken Fount (actually pronouced "font"), it bears a very strong resemblance to the type of taps I discussed in my previous post (image from the "Beer Tap" page on Wikipedia.

Well, would you look at that, it's a side pull tap, in the same vein as the much vaunted Lukr tap. As Rob Sterowski pointed out in a tweet, the ball valve is the simplest form of valve, and possibly that we had engaged in this discussion before:

I still don't remember having discussed this before, so I am working on the idea that with was all new to me. Although I grew up in Scotland, I have no recollection of having ever seen these kind of taps in the wild. There are 2 main reasons for that in my opinion, although I have drunk beer for as long as I have legally been allowed, I never paid much thought to methods of dispense until about 2008, and secondly my reading would suggest the continued use of the Aitken fount is more of an Edinburgh thing than a West Highland thing, and I have only passed through Edinburgh twice - on the train to and from Harrogate for my few days in the British military. 

In my experience, if you go to any pub in the west of Scotland that serves real ale, you will see a line of hand pumps like the ones in the first picture, which was taken in Glasgow's wonderful Bon Accord. My preferred drinking hole when I am at my parents place near Inverness is a similar story, as you can see here:

I read on a forum a claim that Aitken founts were once the dominant method of dispense throughout Scotland, but that in the 1950s and 1960s they were ripped out in favour of newer CO2 driven taps, and only clung on in a few places, mostly in the east of Scotland - hmmm...where does this story sound familiar from?

From what I understand, one of the major differences between the hand pump beer engine and the Aitken fount is that the Scottish tap uses a small amount of top pressure to push the beer to the tap, which would immediately make such taps anathema in CAMRA purist world. Even so, this got me thinking...

The Aitken Fount is clearly part of the same family as the Lukr Tap, to Rob's point, a ball valve is the simplest form of beer tap, and it makes me wonder if there is an opportunity here in the US for fans of cask ale?

One of the challenges that real ale faces in the US, outside of the occasional place that really specialises in doing it "properly" is that to do it properly takes knowledge of cellarmanship, how to use a beer engine, and also if you are going to be purist, sufficient turnover of stock to make sure the beer is freshh. Thank goodness then for the cask aspirator that extends the shelf life of real ale to give it some hope of viability.

What then if a pub which already has Lukr taps installed for the lager offerings uses them for real ale? Could the Lukr tap be used for traditional British styles like mild and bitter in an attempt to recreate the Aitken Fount? From what I have read, there is no reason to limit Lukr taps to lager, and with the inbuilt filter screen, I imagine a pint of ale drawn through the Lukr tap would look very much like this picture that Tom Cizauskas took...

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Central European Tap Dance

Look at this glorious glass of beer...

If you've been keeping abreast of my mini-series about Schilling Beer Company in New Hampshire, you will hopefully recall that this is their magnificent Malý 8° lager, had on tap at the brewery's tasting room in Littleton. What I didn't mention in that particular post was the method of dispense, and fairly obviously, this particular beer was poured using a Lukr tap, also known as a side pour tap, sometimes also known as a slow pour tap. Whatever you want to call it, this was poured from a tap that is currently all the rage amongst the lager brewing and drinking community in the craft beer world, and is often touted as being the "traditional" method in Czechia.

I still remember the first time I saw a Lukr tap in the wild back in Czechia. It was around 2009 and Mrs V and I had gone to Purkmistr, a brewery and hotel on the outskirts of Plzeň, for a long weekend. Said tap was, for whatever reason, in the room that the hotel used for serving breakfast. I don't recall if they were in use in the restaurant or bar, but I noted them because they were so different from the taps I had seen in pretty much every pub I went to at the time. Almost every pub I frequented had standard taps like those at Pivovarský klub or U Slovanské lipy...

From what folks back in Czechia have told me, the Lukr tap really took off when the concept of the tankovna pub blew up as well, around 2008. The whole concept of it being "traditional" never really sat that well with me, purely based on personal experience, and then I came across a picture in Der Böhmische Bierbrauer on the Austrian National Library website.

Look at those taps in this illustration. Ok, minus the more modern look, they are most distinctly "side pour" taps. Being side pour rather than the modern standard format, they would have relied on a ball valve to control the flow of beer from the tap to the drinking vessel. Then I came across this illustration, again from Der Böhmische Bierbrauer:

A tap system that bore an uncanny similarity to the one I had seen in Purkmistr, clearly there was something here...oh I didn't mention these illustrations yet:

Each of these illustrations came from an edition of Der Böhmische Bierbrauer which contained an article about the new innovation for pouring beer, attaching a CO2 tank to the barrel that would push the beer to the tap. The article had the glorious title of "The Practical Use of Carbonic Acid for Serving Beer" and appeared in Der Böhmische Bierbrauer in 1894. Before the use of CO2, it was traditional for beer to be poured either via gravity or pulled through the line by a hand pump.

Intrigued, I dug further, finding images of such historic side pour taps in use in Germany in the 1930s - sorry folks I am not paying $20 a piece for a stock images of beer being poured in Mannheim at a radish festival, so have a link instead. Eventually I came across the Historische Bierzapf-Säulen website and learnt that the idea for using CO2 to dispense beer from a tap was patented in 1877 by a high school teacher and chemist Wilhelm Carl Raydt, originally from Lingen in modern day Lower Saxony. The new method of pouring beer apparently took off in northern Germany and the industrial cities, but met resistance in traditional Bavaria, which for many decades stuck with the anstich method of tapping beer.

The Historische Bierzapf-Säulen site is a beer history nerd's wet dream. The oldest illustration on the site that shows a side pour tap in use is from the 1880s, and purports to show the Berlin pub "In der Katschemme". There is even a Pilsner Urquell pub in Hamburg in one of the pictures from 1900. The guy behind the website, who clearly has a love of historical beer taps, and the beautifully decorative towers that were once part and parcel of taprooms in central Europe is also the owner of Storchenbräu in Pfaffenhausen, about 100km/62 miles west of Munich.

From what I can ascertain, side pour taps were in use in Germany until the 1960s, and if film evidence from the former Czechoslovakia is correct, there also, being replaced by the more modern flow control taps we are used to seeing in central European pubs today. Though they did seem to still be in use in at least one Zoigl pub in around 2012, and judging by the design of the tap, it is not a Lukr made tap.

Central Europe, broadly modern day Germany, Austria, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, and Hungary, is full of stories like this, where there are parallel foods, drinks, and ways of doing things that each group of people claim as "traditional". Of course, until the First World War, most of the region lay within either the German Empire or the Austro-Hungarian Empire, so such commonality is to be expected. To give a small example, recently Mrs V and I went to dinner with some friends. The husband is Serbian, the wife is German - weird fun fact, they met in Lavka in Prague, and lived there for a period that overlapped with Mrs V and I, though we only met them here in Virginia. Dinner that night was a traditional Serbian meal called "podvarak", basically pork shoulder slow cooked in the oven on a bed of sauerkraut. The Czech national dish is "vepřo-knedlo-zelo", slow roasted pork shoulder, dumplings, and cabbage. In Germany there is "sauerkraut und Schwein", erm....slow cooked pork with sauerkraut, often served with potato dumplings. Where modern borders create breaks and barriers, reality is a continuity of shared history and experience.

To come back then to the side pour tap, what we are seeing is a revival of a central European way of doing things that was lost in the rush to modernity that was the 1960s. The uniqueness of the Lukr tap is in an innovation within the tap itself, which I can find no evidence for in the old texts, a filter screen that in layman's terms, turns the tap into a shower head, much like the sparkler does on a beer engine, thus creating the voluminous wet foam that the tap is rightly renowned for.

Brewing with Murphy & Rude

Hopefully by now you have read my article about Charlottesville's Murphy & Rude Malting Company on Pellicle . One thing that I menti...