Monday, January 31, 2011

Arise Morana!

For nearly 45 days she has slumbered, this goddess of death and winter. Her time is nigh, to come forth from the darkness of slumbering into the glorious light of a Devils Backbone glass.

Yes, tomorrow is the day when Morana Dark Lager makes its debut. The beer itself is a 14° Czech tmavé, a style of beer which is neither a dunkel nor a schwarzbier.

Historically speaking, most beer in Bohemia was warm fermented until the revolution started by Josef Groll's introduction of Bavarian brewing techniques in 1842, resulting in the creation of Pilsner. So in contrast to Franconia and Bavaria, there was no tradition of dark lager on which pale lager built. The dark beers of Bohemia switched to cold fermentation some time in the late 19th century, hundreds of years later than the Germans were making dunkel and schwarzbier.

So if you want to try an authentic Czech style tmavé, made with a double decoction mash, water that is softer than Plzeň and of course only Saaz hops, then Devils Backbone is the place to be in the near future. Personally speaking, I will be there tomorrow for dinner - hopefully with my Pub Guide collaborator Mark Stewart, and most definitely with growlers to fill.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Future of the Pub

It has been suggested to me that I am more of a pub fan than a beer geek, and I guess that is a fair comment in many ways. All you need to do to understand this fact is look at the 40 boozers and bars that I chose from the many in Prague to go into my book. There are a few well regarded beer geek hangouts which didn't make the cut, simply because I didn't enjoy going there when I lived in the city. Conversely there are a few pubs that serve generic macrobrew that I enjoyed going to, in spite of the beer, because they had a good atmosphere.

One of my friends of Prague posted this slideshow about how pubs have changed in Prague since the Velvet Revolution and it got me thinking about how pubs changed in the 10 years I lived there. One of the first pubs in the city that I went to regularly is called Planeta Žižkov. Back in 1999 Planeta served Lobkowiz beer, but today it is just another Staropramen pub. I guess these pictures are fairly recent, and it still looks pretty similar to the days when the manager of the language school I worked for would get drunk and sack everyone. A very good reason not to go to Planeta these days is the minor fact that right opposite it is the venerable U Slovanské Lípy, a proper boozer with awesome beer at insanely low prices.

Of course the slideshow and accompanying commentary by and large lament the changes in pub culture brought about by the free market, whilst ignoring the advances that the free market have bought to the Prague beer scene. Without the free market, would a place like Zlý Časy be able to offer beers from around the world, including Left Hand's magnificent imperial stout? Perhaps I am going out on a limb here, but without the free market would consumers be able to choose to go to a non-smoking pub like Pivovarský klub? Let me clarify that though by saying I do not, never have and never will support a blanket ban on smoking in pubs (and I say that as a non-smoker). Sure it is nice to go home from the pub reeking of only booze instead of booze and smoke, but I have always held the opinion that I know when I go to the pub that people are likely to smoke, and so I make an informed decision whether or not to go.

As much as I hate to see pubs shut, and during a decade of drinking Czech lager I saw many of my favourite watering holes disappear or change under new management, I come to the conclusion that if the pub is to survive then it needs to adapt to the market place. One of the curses, for want of a better word, of the craft beer movement, at least here in the States, is that craft beer is more expensive that macrobrew. A pint of Pabst Blue Ribbon costs about $2.50 here in Charlottesville, whereas something from Samuel Adams usually runs to double that, and very "exotic" beers can cost as much as $15 a pint. In effect craft beer, at least in the US context, becomes a niche product only available to those sufficiently well off to pay for it, and runs against the grain of beer as the everyman drink.

The economics of beer drinking in the US is viciously slanted against pub culture, especially when the economy isn't doing so well. People will still drink, sure, but I wonder how many people are abandoning the pub simply because a 6 pack is a cheaper option than a couple of pints? Perhaps this explains why many people here brew their own beer?

An average batch of homebrew for me costs about $1.75 a bottle, and even my recent barleywine will stretch that out to only about $2.50 a bottle. Thus it was with interest that I read on James' blog about North Dakota possibly allowing home brewers the possibility of getting a license to sell their beer at trade shows. I think this kind of legislation is an excellent idea, and of course it promotes the free market (so no doubt the big brewers would be horrified at all the extra competition). Given the possibility of selling their wares, homebrewers would be encouraged to improve their procedures and recipes. If I could sell my beers for just $0.75 more than cost then I am making a little cash out of my hobby, and hopefully giving people something reasonably priced and good to drink. Now imagine you could get a license to sell your beer on draught from your kegerator, in your garage or basement, suddenly we are seeing a return of the public house.

Perhaps, and this is just romantic surmising I am sure, the future of the pub is a return of beer as a cottage industry?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Collection of Updates

As you can imagine, having several projects and plans all bubbling along together often means that beer related stuff that I am up to doesn't get written about on this here blog of witterings. So I thought I'd lump a load of odds and sods together and make one post out of them - sort of like making a soufflé and hoping it doesn't go all flat on me.

First up, the International Homebrew Project. If you recall, and if you are one of the homebrewers to have emailed me confirming your intended participation, the democratic opinion of the beer to make turned out to be a historical recreation of a milk stout, hopped with Challenger and Goldings. As I said previously, when I get the recipe from Kristen I will posting it, so please be patient and in the meantime perhaps stock up on your hops and have a look at these recipes from Ron's blog for different iterations of the Mackesons milk stout recipe.

On my own brewing front, I have bottled both my Thunder Child Extra Stout and Mrs Velkyal's Session Beer, an Irish Red Ale single hopped with Fuggles. Both beers were on the high end of the final gravity range for their style guidelines, but tasted good in their green state - which is really all that matters. My barleywine is still in primary and I am playing with ideas of what to do with it next, whether to go to secondary and add another batch of yeast, or to dry hop, or just go straight to bottle and leave it be until Thanksgiving.

There is a new version of the Pocket Pub Guide to Prague available through I heard from a few people that the download was taking an age, which is hardly surprising as the document was some 600Mb, mainly due to the fact that I used massive picture files in the text. Well, I resampled the pictures to make them smaller, without too much loss in sharpness, and the new version is only about 6Mb and should be much quicker to download. While talking about the Pub Guide, my collaborator is in the Charlottesville area for the next 6 months and we are discussing a couple of project ideas - he also bought me a bottle of Matuška Černá Raketa, a Czech Black IPA.

If you follow my Twitter feed, you'll have seen me make mention a few times about the upcoming release of Morana Dark Lager, the tmavý ležák I helped brew with Devils Backbone. February 1st is the day to put in your calendar - I for sure will be there with growlers to fill and a belly aching for beer.

I think that's everything.....

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Wish List

When I go to a bottle shop I am instinctively drawn to the British beer section, swiftly followed by the "European" section - I say "European" because you sometimes get the feeling that there are only 5 types of beer: American, British (usually with Irish beers included, though not mentioned specifically as "Irish"), Belgian, German and "European" or "Other". It is in the "European" sections that you find Czech lagers more often than not, although I have seen them in the German section, oh such delicious irony.

This habit got me wondering over the weekend about the breweries whose products I would love to see available in Virginia, assuming of course that they aren't already elsewhere in the US. So here, is my wish list:

Kout na Šumavě, as I have mentioned many times, make the best lager on the planet. End of story. Full stop. To achieve this magnificent feat of zythophilic engineering there is no imperialising, no india-ising (made up word I know, but you know what I mean), but making great beer using excellent local ingredients (sounds like a story I know from history...). I have heard rumour that someone is trying to bring it in to the States, so hopefully rapture is near indeed.

Leicestershire based Everards make honest to goodness superb ales. Again you won't be finding any imperial best india bitter shite going on here, but traditional British bitters and ales, superbly made. They bottle, to my knowledge, 3 of their line, Original, Beacon and Tiger. Don't just take my word for how good their beers are, see here, and here.

I have raved many times about Lovibonds on here, Jeff was the first Brewer of the Week and yes my Lovibonds glasses are my favourites. The best thing to put in a Lovibonds glass though would be a Lovibonds beer, in particular the Wheat Wine you see in the picture, or the Henley Dark. I can't comment on the 69 IPA, because you can't get it here - but if past experience is any guide, then I look forward to it when I am home in Blighty come this summer.

A Kentish brewery making a range of lovely drops of ale that in my opinion deserve a wider audience. You see that bottle of Timothy Taylor Landlord in the back of the picture there? I would love to find that in a Virginia bottle shop as well.

These are just some of the beers I would love to see available over here, and maybe some of the distributors are listening. I can think of a few other breweries that I would love to see over here, purely on reputation as I haven't actually had any of the beers, Hardknott springs to mind, as does Dungarvan. What beers would you like to see available where you live?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Brewer of the Week

This week's interviewee is the brewer for Devils Backbone. As you are probably aware, I have attended a couple of brew days out at the brewpub, and had a wonderful time on both occasions, so I am particularly pleased to be able to post this interview today.  By the way, the chap in the picture of the brewhouse is Aaron, Jason's assistant and another top bloke. For those of you able to get to Devils Backbone on or after February 1, the Morana tmavé we brewed in December will be available, and from what Jason has told me, it promises to be a wonderful beer!

Name: Jason Oliver
Brewery: Devils Backbone Brewing Company

How did you get into brewing as a career?

In 1995 I stumbled across the job title of brewmaster in a career book called "Unique Careers" and it clicked. It was if the clouds parted and the angels were singing. It was perfect. I wouldn't have figured it out by my own. It was fate that led me to that book. What else can a person with a history degree and a minor in philosophy do?

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

I think there are many. For me it's a never ending thirst for learning in the subject of beer & brewing. There are so many dynamics in brewing that if you are a good brewer, you are constantly learning. It keeps it fresh and stimulating. If your not striving to learn more, to become a better brewer, it's going to show.

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 homebrew for about a year. I loved it. I haven't scaled any up but if I did it would be this Persimmon Grand Cru I did once. It was a great beer.

If you did homebrew, do you still?

I practically live at work, so does that mean I still homebrew? I don't really have a good set-up for homebrewing anymore so I haven't hombrewed in a long time.

What is your favorite beer that you brew?

There are so many. Usually it's the seasonal ones because I may brew that individual beer only once or twice a year. Variety is the spice of life. Of the year round beers it would be the Gold Leaf lager. It's a simple pure pale lager. Off flavors cannot hide so on a technical level it's a good one.

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

I enjoyed most of them, it might be more interesting telling of the brews that were a bitch like the first time I brewed Winterbock at Gordon Biersch in DC. It was a 15 hour brewday, or the first time I filtered Triple at Virginia Beverage Company in Alexandria. I was learning how to use a DE filter and it was a 14 hour day. That said, both of those beers were great despite being a pain in the ass. I really enjoyed brewing the seasonal / special beers at all breweries I worked at.

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

It changes. The keller pils called Trukker Pils here is a favorite as is the Four Point Pale Ale. I like the Four Point because it is hoppy as hell but only 4% abv. A great complex session beer that you can really throw back. I like the pils because pilsners are probably my favorite type of beer. Pale, crisp, and hoppy. Delicate yet slightly assertive. They are awesome beers.

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

It is of the most importance to me. I studied history after all. I think the ingredients are as important as the method. I am intrigued by technique as much as I am about recipe.

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

I would love to do something with Firestone Walker or Russian River. Both Matt and Vinnie are amazing with hops, and I dig what Russian River has also done with sour beers.

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

Free beer for everyone.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Einbecker Project

Homebrewers, in my experience, are a curious bunch. Always engaging in seemingly odd experiments with their beer, whether it be aging it on white grapes, messing about with hop varieties or trying to prove a point. Mrs V often laments that I seem to be incapable of just settling on a recipe and brewing it time after time for consistency and reliability, a tweak here, a tweak there and so it goes.

My particular experimental side veers toward the historical. I have always loved history, much to the chagrin of my school geography teacher who seemed baffled that having got top grades in geography, I chose to study history for my Standard Grades and Highers (for those not familiar with the Scottish education system, that's kind of GCSE and A-Levels, kind of). My interest in beer history is thus only natural, and was a driver in the upcoming recreation of a milk stout for the International Homebrew Project. However, I have another historical homebrew project that I am playing around with.

Think bock and you immediately think stronger than average lager from southern Germany. Take a step back from there are you find a warm fermented beer from the town of Einbeck in modern Lower Saxony, in the north of Germany. I am sure you know that I am a Germanophile, what perhaps you don't know is that back in the 18th century my father's ancestors came from the kingdom of Hanover, which largely corresponds to modern Lower Saxony and was, at the time, in personal union with the United Kingdom of Great Britain. Reading Designing Great Beers one Saturday afternoon, as I am wont to do, I decided that I would try to recreate something approaching the original Einbecker bier.

Apparently the original was:
  • 2/3 malted barley, 1/3 malted wheat
  • highly hopped
  • warm fermented (sorry but using the term "ale" for a German beer just sounds wrong)
Now, I will be honest and say that I am in the process of my research, and I am not sure yet how Einbecker bier would relate to some older North German beer styles such as Mumme and Broyhan, but that is the joy of loving history - learning these things. So if you can add to or correct anything I have said so far, please do.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Milk Stout takes on Challenger to take Gold(ings)

In the end, the votes were quite conclusive. This year's International Homebrew Project will be brewing:
  • milk stout
  • hopped with a combination of Challenger and Goldings
  • recipe inspired by a historical precedent
Surprisingly there was a late surge for brewing an Export India Porter, which admittedly I would have loved to have won, but we go with a simple majority. At this point I want to thank Kristen England of the BJCP, and Mr Recipe for Ron Pattinson's Let's Brew Wednesday series, for offering to supply me with an authentic recipe for the project. As soon as I have that recipe I will post it here.

Kristen's involvement came about because when Milk Stout took such a commanding lead in the poll, I was looking at the Mackeson recipes over at Ron's blog, and they all use invert sugar number 3, and I couldn't find much in the way of how long it took boiling the sugar with citric acid to create said version of invert sugar. As you can imagine, I am chuffed as chips to have Kristen's input and help on this project.

Just so I can get a rough estimate, if you are planning to brew for the project - drop me a quick email with the subject line as "I'm In". Oh, and if any of you are graphic designers and would like to design a logo for the project, that would be awesome.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Glass of the Peapod?

With less than 16 hours to go until the International Homebrew Project polls shut, it looks as though those of us who take part in the project will be brewing:
  • a milk stout
  • single hopped with Fuggles
  • based on a historical recreation
Of course, there is still time for a Liverpool in Istanbul style comeback (that still gives me goosebumps 6 years on - great night, and I turned up for a job interview the next morning reeking of booze and not caring whether or not I got the job - I didn't get the job) on the part of either of the porter contenders in the poll, and possibly the Challenger/Goldings option on the hop front. It would though take a serious turn of the tide for the historical recreation to be overturned, stranger things have happened mind.

One thing I would like to include in the project is an extra blog post. On the first Monday in February, the 7th to be precise, I would like to ask everyone who brewed for this project, to write about their brewday and put a link to their post in a comment to my post on that day. This is so I can get a firm idea of how many people have taken part. There have been about 25 votes for each of the polls, so I would like to see about that many brewing posts.

On a different homebrew note, I will be brewing again tomorrow morning in order to get all three of my carboys busy with beer. Having been slack about brewing my Thanksgiving barleywine, I will be rectifying that and have a preliminary recipe of:
  • 6lbs Light DME
  • however much Special Roast I have left
  • maybe some Caramel 40
  • a touch perhaps of Chocolate malt
  • definitely no peated malt for this one
  • Admiral and Northern Brewer hops for bittering
  • EKG for flavour and aroma
  • Whitbread or Nottingham ale yeast - both are dry yeasts.
Never let it be said that I am anything other than thoroughly scientific!

Have a good weekend people.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Microbrew is Meaningless

I read an article yesterday about some university professor who stated a preference for Coors over and above many a craft ale. As you can imagine, the ire of the craft beer legionnaires was duly raised - I mean, how dare someone state a preference? The professor then went on to say that when he was in Prague, the pale lagers he drank were "uniformly terrific", and of course in the minds of the craft beer legionnaires this was proof positive that he had been drinking the very microbrewed beers that he had been putting down in his article.

Now believe it or not, I don't enjoy ranting that much, unless of course we are in beer's natural environment, the pub for those unsure of where that would be, and I am with friends generally putting the world to rights. However, when I see ridiculous statements along the lines of Pilsner Urquell being a microbrew then I am sure you can appreciate my annoyance.

Pilsner Urquell is not, never has been, never will a microbrew. That's not to say that I think Pilsner Urquell is a bad beer. When you get it from a good pub, using a tankove system, and thus unpasteurised, it is still one of the truly great beers of the world - one of which is mentioned in my Pocket Pub Guide to Prague. I don't care if it turns up at festivals purporting to be about craft beer, it simply does not fit the given criteria of a craft beer according to the Brewer's Association. Production is about 8.5 million US barrels a year, and the company is an entirely owned subsidiary of SABMiller. To put their production volume in context, 8.5 million barrels, or about 10 million hectolitres for the metric among us, is almost 1 hectrolitre produced for every man, woman and child in the Czech Republic. That's 100 litres, or 200 large beers in the pub - in American measurements that is 3381 ounces of beer, or 211 16oz pints of beer. If you were to scale those numbers up for the population of the USA, Pilsner Urquell would need to produce nearly 300 million barrels a year. In it's proper context then, Pilsner Urquell is a macro-brewery plain and simple.

The comments thread that followed the initial article showed quite clearly the perils of attempting to jelly mould any given concept outside that concept's original context. Hence, the division between "craft" beer and industrial beer is largely irrelevant outside the American context. Without the lunacy, and inherent hypocrisy, of Prohibition, the idea that good beer was invented in the 1970s holds no liquor. Given that, it makes the claim that Pilsner Urquell started out as a microbrew just as spurious and irrelevant as claiming "Guinness is a lager" (yes, that was in the comments as well!).

You cannot take modern concepts and force them into history, you must allow history to speak for itself. If, in 1839, you had sat down with the good burghers of Pilsen and tasted whatever it was they were about to dump, you wouldn't have been saying "let's start a microbrewery"! You would have been saying something along the lines of, "we need to invest in the latest technology and make ourselves a more consistent, better beer". Along with the other burghers of the city, you would then spend vast sums of money building a state of the art brewery, hiring a Bavarian brewer - because, let's face it, Bavarian brewers tend to be the best at what they do. Hey presto, Pilsner Urquell is tapped on November 11th 1842 and becomes a phenomenal success. If you have ever been to the brewery in Plzeň, one thing is plainly clear, this brewery was built for volume. It was never built as a little operation that became popular and had to scale up. You have to remember that at the time, every pub in Plzeň would have served a locally brewed beer and so you had to be prepared to supply hundreds of pubs almost instantly.

Coming back to the professor's claim that the beers he enjoyed in Prague were "uniformly terrific" and subsequent claims that he was drinking microbrew, again I doubt that would stand up to reality. Admittedly here I am surmising, but if the professor was there as a tourist, without the benefit of insiders to point him in the right direction, then most of the pubs he went to would have been in Staré Město, Nové Město or Malá Strana. Most of the pubs in question would have been serving Pilsner Urquell, Budvar, Staropramen or Gambrinus, none of which are microbrew in a Czech context. Budvar though is right up there in terms of being a great beer, but again I would say that within the Czech context it would be spurious to label it "microbrew". However, and I think this is the best light from which to see the professor's article, even bilge water like Staropramen is a damned sight better than Coors or Miller, so it is no surprise that he was blown away by "uniformly terrific" Czech pale lager. Speaking from more than a decade's worth of living in Prague, given a choice between a god awful Gambrinus and an equally god awful lager in the UK (Foster's springs to mind) or the US, I would take the Gambač every time. When it comes to craft pale lagers, there are few that I would take over a Budvar, but that's a different post.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Results Are In

It took an early lead and then held on grimly to the end - no I am not talking about the rare occasions on which Liverpool have managed to win this season. I am, of course, referring to the International Homebrew Project poll from last week to decide the overall style for the beer we will brew. So, a porter or a stout it will be.

Rather than drag this out for the entire week with different polls appearing day after day, I have decided to just put them all up today and let them run until Friday. Over the weekend, I will take the results of the polls and come up with the recipe that we will all brew. With a projected brew date of the first weekend in February, that gives everyone a couple of weeks to get ingredients together and clear space in fermenting vessels and such like.

So the polls this week are:
  • the sub-style to brew?
  • hops to use?
  • interested in a historical recipe?
Getting voting people!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Brewer of the Week

For the first Brewer of the Week interview of 2011 we head up the coast to Massachusetts (yes I had to check how that was spelt) and the Blue Hills Brewery in Canton, and their award winning brewmaster.

Name: Andris Veidis
Brewery: Blue Hills Brewery, Canton MA

How did you get into brewing as a career?

I enjoyed visiting Harpoon in Boston back in the 1990’s, and eventually I was hired there as an intern.

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

Creativity and open mindedness

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

Yes, a long time ago, but it was on a small scale

If you did homebrew, do you still?

No, because I get to brew every day at work!

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

They are all my children.........

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

American Stock Ale at Main Street Brewpub (now closed) in Worcester, MA. It was the first beer that I brewed which I later perfected the recipe at another brewery.

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

Probably the IPA, because it’s so smooth.

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

Huge! I don’t want to make what everyone else is making. I want to differentiate my brewery in the market.

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

A brewery in the South or Southwest, because of the regional differences in styles and flavor profiles.

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

Piebalga Gaishais Alus, a beer from Latvia, because I just love that great taste.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I Gather You Hunt, Sir?

In the past, whenever Mrs Velkyal and I headed down to South Carolina I had but one thing on my zythophilic mind, a trip to the Flying Saucer. While we were in Columbia over the Christmas period (am I allowed to say Christmas? Isn't it "the holidays"?) I decided that I really needed to finally get my arse round to Hunter Gatherer, Columbia's only brewpub. I wish I knew why we had never visited, it may have had something to do with Flying Saucer's high flying mini-skirted waitresses, but I digress.

I was getting snippy last Monday, I don't know Columbia well enough yet to feel confident driving without the good lady wife, or her father, but I needed to get out of the house and have some me time (in Myers-Briggs speak, I am an INTJ and need me time to re-charge batteries). A quick look on Mapquest showed me that from the in-laws' place to Hunter Gatherer was about 7 miles. So, I announced to the gathered family members that the next day I would walk into town for a beer or two, Mrs V having promised to help paint her grandmother's kitchen.

So yes, I walked 7 miles to go to the pub. I had my Walkman on (it is a Sony Walkman MP3!), listening to Wolfstone, and set off, notebook, camera and tastebuds in tow. The walk took me about an hour and 45 minutes, so I must assume that your average Mapquest user is in fact a three toed sloth. I arrived just after opening time, and just in time for lunch, and having read they do 4oz pours for $1 ready for the flight that followed.

First up was their American Wheat Ale, a style which so far has left me cold, and not particularly refreshed. Anyway, this Wheat Ale poured a slightly hazy golden, topped with just a wee bit of white head - I had seen the head straight from the tap and it looked decent, but seemingly American drinkers like their beer head to look like scum on top of a London cup of tea. Back to the beer though, the nose was distinctly malty, bready and biscuity. There was however an aroma I couldn't quite place, until as I inhaled deeply with my eyes closed I realised it was wet cat. Finally I understood why American hops were considered "catty" way back when. As the beer warmed, the expected grapefruit citrusy thing came through more. Tastewise, this was rather like a nice lemon meringue pie, with a digestive biscuit base. Overall, a decent refreshing beer, though I fear American Wheat Ales won't be jumping to the top of my must have beer list any time soon.

Next up was their Pale Ale, which is a deep orange amber colour with a touch of white foam. Being a classic American Pale Ale, can you guess what the nose was? Yes, citrusy, grapefruity hoppiness - which is exactly what I want and expect from an American Pale. Drinking the beer was an exercise of sweet caramel malts providing a nice counterbalance to the zingy, orangey bite of the hops. Clean and very easy to drink. When I took Mrs Velkyal to the pub the next day, she had this and remarked that it would rival her beloved Primator English Pale Ale for preferred beer - high praise indeed!

Third in the line-up was the ESB, which as you can see from the picture pours a deep copper, again with a white head. The nose was sweet candy and spiciness, which put me in mind of Goldings hops - I did ask but the brewer wasn't around and the barman didn't want to say for sure. Tastewise, this was quite tangy in an almost sourdough bread way, the spicy hop bite playing nicely with the maltiness of the beer. Overall, I thought this to be a good solid bitter, crisp with a long dry finish.

Their special on the days I visited was a winter warmer called Ye Olde Bastarde, a deep russet beer topped with a dark ivory head. The nose was full of cocoa and sweet grass. The sweetness of caramel malts was very much to the fore in the flavour department, with cocoa and toffee dominant, but the hops play through with a mild spicy bite that stops the sweetness from being overpowering. Very smooth drinking, and drink plenty more of it I did, but had there been a live fire in the pub I would have abandoned my station at the bar, and any plans on being coherent when I returned to the in-laws'.

Being lunchtime, I decided to have a stab at the food. When I lived in the Czech Republic, I had a routine, when I went some place new, I always tried their fried cheese and chips - I am convinced that quality fried cheese is always a good sign in a kitchen, either that or I just like peasant food. Anyway, my equivalent here in the States is to try the burger and chips, which, in this case, came topped with horseradish cheddar, and hash browns rather than chips. A good solid burger at a decent price, no complaints at all. The following day when we returned, I had their special of beer braised chicken thighs, served with grits and a mushroom onion gravy, and it was excellent.

Having had a couple more pints of Ye Olde Bastarde, and spent my entire time there looking wistfully at the bottle of Talisker right in my line of sight, I sent Mrs V a text message simply saying "Flying Saucer has serious competition". Good beer, a nice neighbourhood pub atmosphere, good food and reasonable prices, only $3.75 a pint for the standard range of Wheat, Pale Ale and ESB, makes Hunter Gatherer a must visit place whenever we are in South Carolina.

Monday, January 3, 2011

International Homebrew Project 2011

Last January I organised the International Homebrew Project, whereby readers of this blog decided on a beer recipe to brew and then blog about. Due to various misfortunes, only myself and James from A Homebrew Log actually brewed and blogged about the American Pale Ale which was the chosen beer.

This year I want to do better, and so I am getting the ball rolling now. Over the coming weeks, I will post a series of polls to decide the following:
  • beer style
  • hops to use
  • yeast
My proposed schedule for actually brewing the beer and writing about it is something like this:
  • February 5th/6th - brew
  • February 19th/20th - bottle
  • Week beginning March 13th - blog
In the sidebar then you can see a poll, to decide the main beer style to be brewed, the poll is open until Friday. 

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 ...