Wednesday, October 12, 2011

600 Not Out

Back in November 2009 I marked the 300th post of Fuggled. At that point I had been in the States a matter of months, and so, obviously, it was a somewhat reflective piece about the fine people I had met as a result of this blog and was heavily Prague centred.

Almost 2 years have passed since that post, and this post is my 600th. In that time I have drunk a lot of beer, brewed and fair bit of beer and learnt a hell of a lot more about beer. From having deep discussions on the merits or otherwise of decoction mashing with Tom Cizauskas and Eric of Relentless Thirst fame, to being sat on the terrace at Devils Backbone on a breezy yet sunny spring day, beer has been the focal point of so many of the good times since moving the States. It is through my homebrewing that I have come to know the many fine people at the Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale homebrew club, and through their advice and opinion I like to believe that I have become a better brewer myself. One thing I can say that seems to be a transnational fact, beer people are by and large good people.

My brewing highlights of the last two years have all taken place in the very same building, again Devils Backbone. The first time, Jason was brewing a pilsner based on research into the original recipe and done properly - triple decoction mash, 100% Saaz hops to get 40IBU and water softer than ice cream with sun stroke. We had a great day, and Jason brewed a great Pilsner, I can give no higher accolade than to say if I had been served it in Pivovarský klub it would not have been out of place with the great Czech lagers of this world.

The second time I brewed at Devils Backbone was probably the highlight of my beer life so far. During the pilsner brewday Jason and I kept coming back to the topic of Tmavé pivo, or Czech dark lager. Neither a dunkel nor a schwarzbier and descended from warm fermented beers made in Bohemia as late as the 1890s, tmavé is one of the unique beer styles of Bohemia that I believe is misunderstood outside the Czech lands. We agreed then to brew our own version of the beer, and it was up to me to do the research and eventually formulate a recipe. So I trawled through websites in Czech, Slovak and German, looking for clues to the makeup of the grist - the hops were something of a no-brainer really, 100% Saaz. I contacted brewmasters in the Czech Republic who were very helpful and eventually Jason and I finalised the recipe. Brewing my own recipe on professional equipment, with a master of lager brewing was an awesome day, and when some 2 months later I went down to the brewpub to try the beer I was blown away, and about 3 weeks later all 2000 half litres of Morana were gone.

I always enjoy those days when I get to brew with Jason. Brewing with Jason and Ron Pattinson when we recreated a London dark lager from the 1930s was just as immense. Talking with Ron about beer history and beer styles is like having a walking encyclopaedia with you. I learnt shed loads of stuff that day, and we drank some great beers made as a result of his work. You can imagine then that a cask of the Barclays London Dark Lager going off to the Great British Beer Festival and getting good feedback was something that had me buzzing for days.

Another of the highlights in the life of Fuggled is the Brewer of the Week series, and I want to thank every brewer that has agreed to take part, and perhaps a gentle reminder to those who said they would and have yet to get their answers back to me.

So here I am, 600 not out and with no intention to declare for a while to come....

BTW - it seems today is a day for marking the longevity of blogs as Mark over at Pencil and Spoon is celebrating 3 years of his blog, as is Dave from Hardknott Brewery two guys whose blogs are always worth reading!

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