Friday, October 29, 2010

Humourless Lupulin Loonies

Sometimes, when working at the tasting room, I give tours of the Starr Hill brewery. I try not to waffle on endlessly about the arcane minutiae of brewing, but rather focus on the general process and hope not to lose my audience with trivialities. One thing that I have started to do recently is to go into more detail about the different hop varieties that are used in the brewing world.

This added spiel in my tour came about because I have a bad habit for earwigging (do Americans use that phrase? I honestly don't know, but just in case, it means to listen to other people's conversations). I was sat in Devils Backbone drinking some of the Trukker Ur-Pils and generally chilling out, when I overheard someone claim that "I only like hoppy beers" and then grumble his way through a pint of the pils. His mutterings were mainly related to the perceived lack of hops in said beer and how he wanted an American IPA to get some hops. I have heard similar comments from people drinking an English IPA and restrained myself from smacking them upside the head.

I hate to say it, though say it I shall, I find this kind of attitude remarkably common among the Zythogelicals of this world, and usually what they really mean is "I like my beer to taste of grapefruit". If you follow my Twitter feed, you most likely saw my trick question that I posted, regarding which is more bitter? Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Pilsner Urquell? Given that you are an intelligent and learned reader, you know that the answer is of course,......Pilsner Urquell, beating SNPA by 40 IBUs to 37.

It seems elementary to say it, but different hops produce different aromas and flavours. The lemony, floral grassiness tinged with spiciness that Saaz is known for is no less "hoppy" that the pine resin, grapefruit things going on in Cascade. The same is true of Fuggles and East Kent Goldings and their earthy flavours. It stands to reason that 40IBU of Saaz is different from 40IBU of Cascade or 40IBU of Fuggles, but in terms of bitterness, the beers in question are as bitter as each other, so to say one is not "hoppy" enough is just plain daft in my book.

Perhaps, and I admit this may be cynical, but discussions with various brewery related people and bar staff confirm my thinking, many self confessed "hopheads" are in fact devotees of a single family of hops and as such fail to appreciate the delights of other hop varieties. I can't imagine wanting to limit my beer drinking experience to simply those beers that conform to my concept of "hoppiness". To be honest overloading stouts, porters and weizens with Cascade and co leads to some practically undrinkable beers, but I guess you could just claim it as an innovation and create a new style.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Church of Beer

This morning whilst standing on the patio "walking" the dog (it was pissing down and the dog has an aversion to getting soaked having just woken up, I entirely understand) it struck me that the beer loving world, Zythophilia if you will, has many parallels with the church world. Before I go any further though, yes I am aware that any analogy is flawed and this is just a bit of fun rather than an attack on any person's faith and to clarify, I am apathetic - I don't care what you believe, as long as you are a decent human being and buy your round in the pub.

Let us first of all consider the most evangelical, even Pentecostal, of beer drinkers - the "Zythogelical". Often to be found wearing the latest clothes, listening to the latest music and using the latest craze in social media, the Zythogelicals are the most visible and vocal of the various beer drinking denominations. Zythogelicals also tend to be the most fundamentalist about the beer they drink, "give me death or craft beer" being their rally cry. Their enthusiasm for the new brewery, the new beer is unrivalled and they will go to great lengths to partake in Zythogelical festivals and gatherings. As with evangelicalism, there is a charismatic wing to the Zythogelical world that actively seek out ever higher and more potent imperial highs. Zythogelicals are known to be very opinionated and when not at a festival or imperial experience opportunity can be found online, in particular on sites that advocate the rating of beer. Priests within the Zythogelical world can be identified by the many medals they wear.

Take a step away from the modern hubbub of the Zythogelical world for a moment though and you will find a quieter, more reflective denomination within the beer world, the Taverners. Taverners share the Zythogelicals' love of quality beer, but their house of worship, and leaders are markedly different. Forsaking the bright lights and thumping bass lines of Zythogelicalism, Taverners love dark wooden panelling, comfortable booths and when the chance arises, sitting at the altar, known as "the bar". For a Taverner, there is nothing better than supping ambrosia with a select few fellow Taverners and discussing the wider issues that affect this life, all the while experiencing their beer with an understated, knowledgeable appreciation. Within the Taverner world however, there is a clash of opinions as to how beer should be served, which has lead to Cask Taverners and Keg Taverners. The split though is largely amicable, as long as the beer is good. The Taverners are, if anything, the Methodists of the beer world.

There is of course a section of the beer drinking world that gets very little attention, the mainstream Pivniterians. Pivniterians are not elitist by nature, preferring to seek a universal common ground. The common ground they have found is in the appreciation of pale lager, almost to the exclusion of any other form of beer - chosen as it is the least offensive form of beer to the majority of people. Generally speaking, Pivniterians believe their faith to be a private matter and perform their rituals largely in the comfort of their own home. Often the only evidence of a Pivniterian meeting house is a number of used cans in the bin. Pivniterians are known to be suspicious of bottled beer, considering it "showy".

Naturally within any movement as diverse as Zythophilia there are people that travel freely within the major denominations, zythomencials if you will, just as there are those who fit no particular group and refer to themselves simply as zythophilians.

Zythophilia then, just as religion, is a fascinating study of the human race.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Slaking the Relentless Thirst

I like beer. That may be a fairly obvious statement given that I write a blog about beer, drink beer and brew my own beer, not to mention working in a brewery tasting room. Rarely does a day go by when I don't think about, read about or wonder about something to do with beer.

Of the many things I like about beer, possibly the best aspect is meeting other beery people. Since Mrs Velkyal and I left the loveliness of LagerLand for the United States of Ale, we have been fortunate to meet many fellow travellers in the beer world. Of those fellow travellers, Eric Delia, author of the Relentless Thirst blog, has been one of the highlights.

Recently Eric and his future wife came up to Charlottesville from Richmond and we met up in the Starr Hill tasting room and then went for some food and beer at Beer Run. I came prepared with home brew for Eric to take away and try, some of which he is blogging about today. A week later, when passing through Richmond from Williamsburg, we met up again for food and beer, and Eric gave me some bottles of his home brew, about which I will write about now.

The first bottle I popped open was his dunkelweizen, although just as with mine, Eric thinks of it more as a wheat porter or stout. As you can see from the picture, it is certainly very very dark, pitch black would be an apt description really. Unlike a stout though, the dunkelweizen was very well carbonated, that head remained until the end of the beer and there were constant streams of bubbles refreshing the head. The nose was quite roasty, in particular a roasted coffee aroma, though in the background there were floral hop traces. Drinking the beer confirmed the stout/porter thing, up front was caramel and coffee, but as the beer warmed a dark chocolate note came to the fore. The body was quite velvety despite the weizen style carbonation, and all in all this was a very good beer. I would be happy to have more. Given the similarities to my own dunkelweizen, the beer gave me an idea to re-seed my next batch of dunkelweizen with brett and see where that takes the beer.

Next up was Eric's pale ale, which judging from the cloudiness of the beer I left in the fridge too long, or wasn't as careful in my pouring as I should have been. The beer itself though was amber, topped with the thin white head you can see in the picture. I have to admit here that I was expecting this to be a typical American full on assault on the olfactory glands, you know the kind of thing, grapefruit, grapefruit and well, more grapefruit. What I got was a nice balance of citrus, floral and a spicy notes, no one of them overpowering the others, but creating a whole which was very pleasant. In the mouth, there was a nice malty sweetness than balanced out the hop bite, and even a slightly fruity thing going on. I liked it immensely. Again a good beer to sit in the pub and drink all night whilst putting the world to rights. (I am starting to think that is my key criteria when evaluating a beer, could I drink this all night in the pub?).

I left the most intriguing beer to last. The dark amber delight you see in the picture is a chilli pepper beer, an ingredient I don't recall having ever had in a beer before. The nose was fragrant hops to begin with, kind of herbal in you like, but as the beer warmed up the chilli really started to be more and more noticeable. The same could be said of drinking the beer, out of the traps was a malty sweetness tinged with pepper, but as time passed the pepper came to the fore, but without being too much. The more I drank the warmer the chilli effect became, and I liked it a lot. The body of the beer was very smooth, almost oily, I imagine from the use of chilli peppers. Fascinating and very tasty drinking.

3 very good beers from a singularly excellent person.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Get Ready for 2011!

Due to last year's positive reaction, I have once again teamed up with the obscenely talented Mark Stewart of Black Gecko Photography, to bring you the 2011 Fuggled Calendar.

Featuring some of Prague's most popular and well known pubs, including Zlý Časy and U Fleků, Mark's evocative photography captures the vibrant nature of Czech pub life. Below are a couple of pictures that didn't make the cut this year as a taster for what you can expect.

Priced at only $15.50 plus shipping, that's about €11.10 or £9.80 for my Eurozone and British readers respectively, just click on the link to the left and have some of the most beautiful pictures of Prague pubs and beer you will find, on your wall for 2011.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Everyone Else is Writing About Styles So I May As Well Jump on the Bandwagon

Beer styles seems to the topic de jour in the blogosphere, "do they matter?" asks Mark Dredge, Pete Brown tells us that his post is the last he will ever write on the topic and Adrian Tierney-Jones gives us more thoughts about beer styles.

My take on beer styles is this, if you are going to insist on them, then don't do it half-arsed and make sure you have your bloody facts right. Take for example a thread I started recently on RateBeer about Czech style dark lager, known either as "Tmavé" or "Černé" in the Czech Republic - that's "dark" and "black" respectively. The crux of my argument is that Czech Dark Lager is neither a Dunkles nor yet a Schwarzbier and as such, should not be lumbered in those categories but should stand alone. Of course you then have the problem of putting a fairly pale dark lager such as Kozel Černý in the same category as Kout na Šumavě's almost black 14º Koutský tmavé - two beers which very nicely show the inconsistency of naming protocols.

Of course, beer styles have their uses in helping people decide what they what to drink, or at least that is the argument you hear quite often from defenders of styles. I am not convinced by that argument to be honest. I would argue that most people choose their beer primarily on the basis of colour - I well remember speaking with my friend Rob, back in Prague, about his idea that beer lists should have a little box showing the colour of the beer and I still think it is a good idea. Rightly or wrongly, we generally expect darker beers to be sweeter and less bitter than pale beers, hence one of my problems with Black IPA/CDA/Insert Name of the Week. I don't want beer that messes with my head - but then I don't believe beer to be an existential experience to chase, which is an entirely different post.

I wonder though sometimes if the ever increasing number of styles and sub styles isn't a product of the proliferation of competitions and awards? I am sure this is something of a chicken and egg situation, but it seems at times as though some brewers decide to make something different, or at least change the hops and claim it is an innovation, and so the competitions in order to remain relevant add another style, another gong and so the cycle goes.

As I said earlier, if you are going to insist on beer styles, then do it thoroughly and properly - otherwise, what is the point?

Monday, October 18, 2010

As Things Should Be

If you are a regular follower of this website then you will of course know that Mrs Velkyal and I got out of town this weekend and headed up the I-64 to Williamsburg, oh and thank you for being a regular reader, it is much appreciated. We had in mind a few things to do over the weekend, admittedly mostly beer related though not exclusively. I am fairly sure that you are not here for the delights of Colonial Williamsburg, and delightful it is, but rather for the beer stuff, so to the beer stuff we go. Also if you read this site often, you will know that I planned to mark the 5th anniversary of meeting Mrs Velkyal with a bottle of J.W. Lees 2005 Harvest Ale, here's a picture, it was very nice!

The first order of business over the weekend was a trip to Williamsburg Alewerks, a brewery that could very easily become a favourite of mine. At the Connoisseur session of the River Bend Beer Festival last month, I tried their Cafe Royale, a barrel aged imperial stout aged that is obscenely smooth and drinkable for such a potent brew, so I knew I wanted to get down to the brewery do a tasting, pick up some more beer and perhaps get some merchandise.

Down a winding lane in an industrial estate, the brewery has a shop right next door and it has to have been one of the best tasting/merchandising setups I have seen in a brewery. Everything was nicely laid out and it felt clean and welcoming. We did our tasting, including their porter from a wooden cask, though not primed I believe as it was flat, but it made an interesting counterpoint to their standard porter, with which I filled one of my growlers. I also bought a boxed set of their Brewmaster Reserve series, which includes the aforementioned Cafe Royale, an American Barleywine and a Farmhouse Ale.

As I have written about before, I have a soft spot for glassware. That doesn't necessarily mean that I am convinced by the whole glass shapes for certain beers thing, but I like to have branded glassware floating about. The hand-blown goblet I got on Saturday then has instantly become one of my favourites, not quite in the same league as my Lovibonds glasses, but still, very, very nice. I am sure you'll see it around on Fuggled when I post tasting notes, but you can also see the type of glass here.

While at the Alewerks, we were talking with the girls in the shop about a pub that had been recommended independently to both Mrs Velkyal and myself, a place called Green Leafe. Having been assured that it was worth going to, we went to. One quick aside, parking in Williamsburg can be a pain in the backside at times, especially when you don't look a little bit into the distance and so circle the parking garage a couple of times before realising that's what it was.

Green Leafe is quite simply a pub, as a pub should be. Not too bright, bare wooden floor and an atmosphere suggesting that serious drinking gets done in this place, oh and they had a hand pump! Unfortunately though they had nothing on cask on Saturday, but they had some very good beers including the 10.10.10 Vertical Epic Ale from Stone Brewing. The only bum note beer wise was having Old Speckled Hen from a nitro tap. We ended up sat at the bar for a few hours, chatting with the excellent bar staff and enjoying some of the best fish and chips I have had in a very long time, and discovering the joys of soft pretzels with mustard just in case the fish and chips hadn't quite only filled my left leg. In the world of Mrs Velkyal and I, we can only give Green Leafe the highest praise possible, if we lived in Williamsburg, it would be our local.

All in all then we had a good weekend, with plenty of good beer, decent food and walking for hours on end with our dog, rounded off with a stop in Richmond for lunch at Legend Brewery with Eric of Relentless Thirst fame.

Is it possible to have a better weekend?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Breaching the Cellar

I mentioned on Wednesday that Mrs Velkyal and I are heading down the road to Williamsburg today for the weekend, but didn't tell you why we are getting away for a couple of days.Quite simply it is because yesterday marked 5 years since we met in Pivovarský klub back in Prague.

You could say then that good beer (part of me is tiring of the whole "craft beer" appellation - a beer is either good or it isn't) has been part of our relationship from day one. Unfortunately this wouldn't really be true because the very next time we went out we were boozing up on Gambrinus or some such other junk. Eventually though we turned PK into our regular haunt, not just because we met there but because it was convenient to our flat and we liked the atmosphere.

I am not generally the soppy romantic sort, or at least not in the buying flowers way of thinking about it. Tonight though, I will be breaching the hallowed sanctum of my beer cellar for some beers to celebrate both our meeting and some of the momentous events that have followed. With that in mind, I will first polish off my bottle of J.W. Lees 2005 Harvest Ale for the year we met. That will be followed by a bottle of the 2008 Fuller's Vintage Ale for the year we got married, and lastly the 2009 Vintage for the year we moved to the States.

While being utterly sentimental, this is the song that sticks most in both our minds from the night we met and went on from PK to the meat market which is Lucerna, it also came on the radio just as Mrs V's limo pulled up to Prague's New Town Hall for our wedding.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Nostalgic Beer Photos

Mrs Velkyal and I love taking trips. When we lived in Prague we would quite often, as in every other month or so, go off on a jolly. Most of the time we stayed in the Czech Republic, going to places like Český Krumlov or Liberec, sometimes though we would jump on a plane, such as we did for Ireland and the UK. We haven't done much of that kind of thing since we got to the US, usually if we take a trip it is down to South Carolina to visit family. This weekend though we are staying in Virginia but getting out of town for a couple of days and going to Williamsburg.

We first went to Williamsburg with my parents earlier this year, and we liked it immediately. We've been back a couple of times since, in order to go to the water park, but this weekend we'll be wandering around the town itself a bit more. Naturally there is a beer activity planned for the trip, well possibly two if you include maybe meeting up with fellow blogger and homebrewer E.S. Delia in Richmond on our way back. On our first trip down there I picked up a mixed case of beer from the Williamsburg Alewerks, including the brown ale I wrote about some time ago. At the recent River Bend Beer Festival, Williamsburg Alewerks had the best beer of the 13 I tried, an imperial stout with coffee - if I remember rightly it was called Coffeehouse Stout and bloody marvellous it was too! Hopefully then at the weekend I will pick up some more, and maybe fill a growler or two with it, we'll see.

Thinking about this trip got me in a slightly nostalgic mood, and I was looking back at some of the beer related pics Mrs Velkyal and I took on our various trips, and so here are some of them....

The bar in Dublin's Bull and Castle

The amber lager from Hotel Pegas in Brno

A lovely pair at Purkmistr near Plzeň.

The bottom of a glass of Fuller's 1845, drunk in Bicester.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Bar End Mutterings

I am in one of those moods today. I am sure you know the type, all the thoughts in your head are converging and splitting off like Spaghetti Junction. As such, it would be so easy to go on a random waffle and/or rant about something and end up in Manchester when I wanted to be in Somerset (thinking about it, the South West of England wouldn't be such a bad place to be right now - see what I mean, one throwaway line and I am thinking about River Cottage and maybe going for a spot of fishing by the sea).

Anyway, beer, this is after all a beer blog. A couple of things that caught my attention recently, firstly why were most of the beers I had over the weekend murky? Not slightly hazy, not a touch cloudy, but downright murky? Only one of said beers was from a hand pump, and that right at the end of the cask, so I kind of turned a blind eye to that, but I can't remember ever having had a murky beer from a keg before - just unfiltered beer or a systemic problem in the bar? I fear I may have to sell my soul and buy a smart phone at some point so I can take decent pictures when in the pub (yes I am one of those people who thinks of phones as a communications device rather than a life defining gadget).

Secondly, bloody hell beer can be expensive over here, especially if you drink "craft" (cynical note perhaps, do you ever get the feeling that the "craft" tag is being used as a synonym for "premium" and to jack up prices?). Now, before anyone gets all righteous and tells me that I don't have to drink "craft" beer, I know I am my own worst enemy in this because I like going to the pub for a beer or three when I could buy a six pack and sit at home, but sometimes I wonder if Virginia's licensing authorities should get its head out of its arse and let people sell beer without having the restriction of having to serve food as well? I also accept the fact that drinking imperial pints rather than American pints whenever I have the option (that's 20oz instead of 16, or 568ml instead of 448ml) is possibly not fiscally sound. Just as a example, for the same price of a single imperial pint of something or other at the place I frequented on Friday night, I could drink 13 half litres of exceptional lager in Prague - as I say, just an example.

Thirdly, and completely unrelated to beer, is it really necessary to turn the entirety of October over to Halloween? It's bad enough that Christmas gets earlier and earlier every year, but going nuts over Halloween? Has nobody told the marketing cretins of this world than saturation just ruins holidays and events? Random thought for the day, consumerism leads to a loss of perspective in life. Discuss.

As I said, my mind is not in the most coherent of moods today.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Brewer of the Week

A couple of weeks ago a press release popped into my inbox. Said press release was telling me that there was a new brewery opening in Texas. Naturally then I dashed off an email to the brewery to ask if they would like to take part in the Fuggled Brewer of the Week series as I like to give smaller and new breweries a little bit of attention. Thankfully the guys at Jester King said they would be happy to take part, and so without further ado....

Name: Jeffrey Stuffings
Brewery: Jester King

How did you get into brewing as a career?

I started out homebrewing and realized that it was all I wanted to do. I’d be at my old job writing recipes and reading brewing books and articles when I was supposed to be working. There really wasn’t much of a choice to make.

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

I’d say that it’s painstaking attention to detail. If you pay very close attention to your process and keep careful notes, it’s easier to identify one variable to experiment with while keeping all the other variables the constant. That way you can learn how tweaking different variables in the brewing process affects the finished beer.

Before being a professional brewer, did you homebrew? If so, how many of your homebrew recipes have you converted to full scale production?

I homebrewed quite a lot before becoming a professional brewer. I’d say I averaged about one brew a week. All of our recipes at Jester King so far (five of them) have been converted from homebrew to full scale production recipes.

If you did homebrew, do you still?

I still homebrew in five gallon carboys at the brewery in order to continue to experiment as grow as a brewer.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

So far it’s been Commercial Suicide – our 3% ABV, English-style mild that we partially ferment in medium toast, Kentucky oak barrels. The smell of toasted oak in the brewery when we’re prepping the barrels for filling is fantastic.

If you have worked in other breweries, which other beer did you enjoy brewing, and why?

Although Jester King is the first brewery I’ve working professionally, I’ve been very impressed with the other craft breweries in Austin/Central Texas. Specifically, the level of attention to detail and craftsmanship we’ve witnessed at Real Ale in Blanco has been very impressive.

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

Right now I’m pretty excited about our lineup of farmhouse ales that we age in oak wine barrels with wild yeast. We ferment them very dry and develop a lot of complexity in the oak barrels.

How important is authenticity when making a new beer, in terms of flavour, ingredients and method?

I’d say it’s pretty important. I’ve never understood the point to trying to do exactly what someone else is already doing. We try to incorporate a lot of local ingredients and well as the natural flora and fauna into our beer making process to try to achieve something that is both original and remarkable. I think craft beer is largely about enjoying the local flavor, originality and creativity of your neighborhood brewers.

If you were to do a collaborative beer, which brewery would you most like to work with and why?

We’re pretty excited to work with Mikkeller and De Struise Brouwers and hope to do so soon.

Which beer, other than your own, do you wish you had invented?

Cantillon Gueuze is pretty amazing. I also love Schlenkerla Urbock.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Doing It Jazz Style

I think I mentioned on Twitter or Facebook, or quite possibly both, that I was planning on brewing a porter at the weekend. The weekend became Monday and the porter became brewing beer jazz style, as in making it up as I went along rather than brewing whilst playing the trumpet.

As I only had Admiral hops in the fridge, I popped round to Fifth Season to get some EKG and 1056 American Ale yeast, at this point the plan was to make a bigger batch of the Red Coat Export India Porter to satisfy the various bods who have asked for a bottle. I also picked up an extra pound of DME to bump up the fermentables a tad.

Eventually I had everything to hand in order to make the Red Coat, and for reasons best known only to the workings of my brain I decided to change tack. Thus it was that recipe became as follows:
  • 3lbs Light DME
  • 1lb Extra Light DME
  • 0.25lb Caramel 120
  • 0.25lb Special Roast
  • 0.125lb Carafa II de-bittered
  • 0.125lb Peated malt
  • 0.5oz 10.5% Admiral @ 60 minutes
  • 0.5oz 4.5% EKG @ 45
  • 0.25oz 4.5% EKG @ 15
  • 0.25oz 4.5% EKG @ 1
  • 1056 American Ale yeast
According to the various online tools I use to work out colour and bitterness, this beer has an SRM of 24 and an IBU rating of 21, the original gravity was 1.060 or 15º Plato. As to what the beer actually is, well your guess is as good as mine. Given the similarities to the original Red Coat it could quite well be a peat smoked porter, though it is stronger than a brown porter and less hoppy than a robust. It could also be an smoked American Brown Ale, but for the use of British hops. A quick aside here, I am starting to love the BJCP styles, simply because they give me rules to break! Whatever it is, it is dark, reasonably hopped, and hopefully about 6% abv with a decent peaty whack - one of the comments that came back about the peat smoked mild I made was that the smokiness could be increased, so an extra half ounce went in this one.

All said and done, I have a beer fermenting away happily, as you can see from this picture:

On a related note, and this isn't something I would normally do, but the picture below is the medals I won at the Virginia Beer Blitz. I had never won a medal for anything before, so I am probably inordinately chuffed at having done so, and it has made me more enthused to make more beer, improve my skills and hopefully add some more gongs to the collection.

Whilst talking about improving your brewing skills, this month's Brew Your Own magazine has a lot of interesting stuff about extract brewing, including a piece talking with professional brewers who do the whole extract with grains thing and have won multiple awards at things like the Great American Beer Festival.

Anyway, more ingredients arrived yesterday, so more brewing on the horizon.....

Monday, October 4, 2010

Why Beer?

Mrs Velkyal and I went out to a local vineyard yesterday to do a tasting, and support a friend of ours on her first day working in a tasting room. We had a very pleasant couple of hours sampling the various libations on offer, and then a fun drive home discussing the differences between a wine tasting and a beer tasting.

First things first, let me state here categorically that I like wine and have been known to drink several bottles in a sitting, quite often on a Saturday in February or March whilst watching the 6 Nations in the pub, one game after the next, eventually lamenting the inability of Scotland to beat Italy. I have written before though about the differences between beer people and wine people, and naturally I prefer the former as a general rule. I find though that beer people also like good wine, spirits, cheese, food, life in general, whereas the wine folk are more likely to only drink wine, believing beer to be below them - this is purely anecdotal by the way.

When it comes to wine, I like red wines, big, bold, fruity and powerful red wines. I love Malbec, whether Argentine or Chilean, it is just my favourite wine, and I have a liking for port as well. White wines are not my thing, light reds usually leave me cold. This got me to thinking about how different that is from my approach to beer. Like most tipplers, I have styles that are my "go to" styles, stout and Bohemian Pilsner in particular, but I can't think of a beer style that I would refuse to drink.

One thing I found particularly interesting was that delicate wines do nothing for me, yet a delicate session beer is something I consider a thing of beauty and worthy of revelling in. As such, the wines I enjoy are the opposite of the beers I like the most - I wonder why that would be? Mrs V suggested that one reason could be the fact that I don't really like the perceived pretentiousness of wine culture, and as such that skews my view of the wine itself. That's an interesting point, especially given my ire when I read and listen to nonsense about beer being the new wine. - beer is beer, not some lifestyle accessory or indicator of how cool or committed to "the cause" one is.

I guess in the final analysis it is very simple, I just prefer beer to wine, just as I prefer "peasant" food to haute cuisine (sometimes I thing it should be called haughty cuisine), pubs to wine bars and paper books to the Kindle or similar. On a slight side note, I was thrilled on Saturday to pick up a four pack of the recently released Guinness Foreign Extra Stout and will be doing a tasting of said delight with some other stouts of similar strength in due course.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Brewer of the Week

For our interview this week, we head up to Canada and a brewing tapping in to that country's extensive links with Blighty!

Name: Ancil Hartman
Brewery: Heritage Brewing and Scotch Irish Brewing

How did you get into brewing as a career?

I started off washing kegs. The parents of a friend of mine owned a brewery. They needed help and I needed a job. Eventually, I worked my way up to brewing.

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

I think being open-minded and willing to experiment is really important when you’re brewing. What I like in a beer may not suit everyone else’s tastes so I need to keep that in mind when I’m creating new flavours. Being able to fix equipment is important too.

Before being a professional brewer, did you homebrew? If so, how many of your homebrew recipes have you converted to full-scale production?

I did a little bit of homebrewing at the beginning. I liked experimenting with full flavoured porters and stouts, styles I couldn’t find at the time in the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario - Ed).

If you did homebrew, do you still?

I don’t have as much time to homebrew now but I still get to experiment- just on a larger scale at the brewery. We also talk to a lot of homebrewers who come to us with questions about recipes or equipment so we try and give them insight into any hiccups they might across.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

I like brewing our Black Irish Plain Porter. It’s really cool seeing all the dark malts come together to create this rich chocolate flavour.

If you have worked in other breweries, which other beer did you enjoy brewing, and why?

This is the only brewery I’ve worked in. Other brewers have come in and brewed with me and I have always enjoyed the brewing discussions.

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

My favourite would have to be our Sgt. Major IPA, but just below room temperature. When it’s a little less cold, it really brings out the flavour of the hops. It’s actually really addictive.

How important is authenticity when making a new beer, in terms of flavour, ingredients and method?

If you mean style authenticity then micro brewing is all about pushing the boundaries, using different ingredients, experimenting with flavours, and deviating from the norm. Micro brewing is equal parts style and creativity.

If you were to do a collaborative beer, which brewery would you most like to work with and why?

I’d like to work with Guinness. They’re the only company that is original enough to have their own category in the beer market. I mean, what other brewery has an international day devoted to drinking their beer?

Which beer, other than your own, do you wish you had invented?

Kilkenny. It’s one of my favourite beers to drink hands-down. Everything from the pour and colour to the taste and texture is smooth and almost creamy.

Get Your Coat Love

I have said it plenty of times on here as well as my various socials, I am an abysmal beer tourist. You see, I have this tendency to find a ...