Monday, April 30, 2012

Little Lager Land

It seems that the term "Little [insert country name]" is used with abandon to describe places in New York where immigrants from a given nation settled on arrival. Hence you have Little Poland, Little Italy and Little Germany. It is the spirit of that naming convention that I think Nelson County, with a bit of Albemarle County thrown in, here in Virginia should be given the name "Little Lager Land".

On Saturday, Mrs V and I decided we would head out to Blue Mountain Brewery as the brewer there had told me that they now had their new maibock available. Blue Mountain is very, very popular and knowing that we hate crowds, Mrs V suggested going for opening time. Having stationed ourselves at the bar, Mrs V asked for samples of the Classic Lager and their summer seasonal "Summer Loving", a hazing wheaty looking thing that was refreshing and clean, it was almost a shame it was pissing down. I had come for just one beer, Maggie Maibock.

As you can see from the picture it is a nice deep golden colour, though with no much head. Something that baffles me is bars that serve you beer with no head. I won't bore you to tears with tasting notes, suffice to say that it was big, sweet and a touch boozy - basically everything you expect from a maibock, and it seemed to suit the pouring rain much better than Mrs V's Summer Loving.

Pints polished off we headed down to Wild Wolf Brewing as we had not been before. Wild Wolf, as a brewpub, has only been going for about 6 months and as such I won't write too much here about their beer, other than there is potential there and Mrs V commented on the Alpha Ale that it would be much better if it had more body to balance the hops.

Having had the sample equivalent of a couple of pints, we were getting hungry and as we were in the area we popped by Devils Backbone, for the first time in a few months. Again stationed at the bar, a couple of Vienna lagers were soon in front of us, followed, in my case, by a 1949 Lager, a pale lager based on a period recipe, and not bad it was. I finished up abandoning lagers though for a Ramsey's Draft Stout.

There are many moments here that I am very happy for the local breweries and the fact that they have lagers at the very heart of their offerings. Blue Mountain's Classic Lager and Devils Backbone Vienna are two of my favourite beers and in general both breweries do lager well, which naturally makes me a cheerful chap on a rainy day.

Friday, April 27, 2012


One of my favourite words is "simplicity".

Looking at the dictionary definitions, the word means:
  • the state, quality, or an instance of being simple.
  • freedom from complexity, intricacy, or division into parts: an organism of great simplicity
  • absence of luxury, pretentiousness, ornament, etc.; plainness: a life of simplicity
  • freedom from deceit or guile; sincerity; artlessness; naturalness: a simplicity of manner
  • lack of mental acuteness or shrewdness: Politics is not a field for simplicity about human nature
While it is true that beer can seem like an ever changing kaleidoscope of colours, flavours and aromas, beer is ultimately a very simple drink, possible to brew with just four ingredients. Given my bias toward Czech pale lagers, you can't really get much more simple and beautiful than Pilsner malt, Saaz hops, yeast and water.

I like to think that beer is the very essence of the third definition above. It is not a luxury item, there is no pretension with it, it is not an ornament to get out when vicar comes for tea, it is an integral part of life. You could call it a commodity, and indeed in many parts of Europe that's exactly what it is, along with bread, butter, and salt, it is an essential. I like that way of thinking about beer, it is the everyman drink, from lords to layabouts, the majority of people drink beer.

Many of the folks I have met as a result of beer would qualify for definition number four, good, honest, down to earth working people who enjoy pints afterwards. I remember a story about the word "sincere" which literally means, or so I recall, "without wax". A sculptor made a bust of a Roman dignitary, it might have been one of the Caesars, and accidentally broke off the nose, which he re-attached with a blob of wax. In the heat of the midday sun the wax melted and the nose fell off, revealing the sculptor's fraud. It seems to me that the people who most "get" beer are not the ones making all the noise about the latest, greatest trend in beer styles, beer cocktails or fad breweries, it's the ones in the pub drinking with their mates, or sat reading the paper, passing the time with a pint.

Perhaps then we should celebrate more of the simple beers, the Pilsners, Stouts and Pale Ales, instead of being blown about by the winds of fashion, looking for the next great thing and in doing so miss the very heart of beer.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

So Stylish

Sure, beer styles aren't perfect, and yes it is true that brewers, whether pro or home, brew beer rather than styles. However, beer styles do serve a purpose as a frame of reference for both drinkers and brewers. If I brew, for example, a 10% pale lager, hopped with Tettnang to 55 IBU and lagered for 60 days, then it is quite clear that it is not a Premium American Lager. The question though that has been bouncing around my head for the last couple of days is "who decides what style of beer a product is?".

It is clear in my mind that the final say should rest with the actual brewers themselves. The one group of people who should resolutely not be allowed anywhere near the decision making process for a new beer is the marketing department. If a brewer, for example, brews a generic pale lager, and the company markets it as a Pilsner, it does nobody any favours, least of all the consumer.

Someone with sufficient knowledge of Pilsner beers, whether German or Czech, will be disappointed drinking a generic pale lager which has been labelled a Pilsner because it doesn't have the requisite hoppiness, body and flavour. If said drinker is also a member of sites such as BeerAdvocate and RateBeer, they will then give their opinions on the beer as a Pilsner and likely how it fails as one and score it accordingly.

Worse yet are reviewers who, through no fault of their own, have never had the inestimable pleasure of travelling to Germany or the Czech Republic to drink the real thing in it's natural environment. Having grown up on beers from green bottles which have been pasteurised and then travelled long distances in less than prime conditions, it is no wonder they come out with some of the drivel you read on the rating sites. It makes me want to scream when I read that an American made Pilsner "has the right amount of skunkiness" for the style, when in Germany and the Czech Republic such a beer would be entirely unacceptable. You only have to drink fresh Pilsner at the source to know that the bottled version is a travesty.

Having said that, if a brewery sticks with the decision to market a generic pale lager as a Pilsner, and the beer is listed as such on the rating sites then the brewery deserves being beaten with the big stick of public opinion. It is a different situation when the beer is clearly labelled as a certain style but listed on the rating sites as something else, take this example for one of my favourite beers:

Why, oh why, is Williams Bros 80/-, known in the US as Heavy, listed as a "bitter"? The commercial description attached to the page claims that the beer is a:

"traditional Scottish ale brewed with an emphasis on the malt characteristics. Lightly hopped, as is true to this style of beer, with fruity malt aromas and a toffeeish mouth feel"

this despite the fact that the site's definition of "bitter" reads:

"gold to copper color, low carbonation and medium to high bitterness. Hop flavor and aroma may be non-existent to mild"

while their definition of a Scottish Ale is:

"generally dark, malty, full-bodied brews"

Whoever listed Williams Bros Heavy as a Bitter is clearly as clueless as people that believe Miller Lite to be a Pilsner.

My problem with all of this is that ultimately two constituencies are affected, the consumer because they are buying into false expectations and the beer itself because when it is mislabelled by either the brewery marketing department or the self appointed arbiters of style it will be panned for not being something it isn't.

Monday, April 23, 2012

What's In a Name?

Like most homebrewers, I am sure, I like to give my beers names, and I like messing around with fonts to create labels - not really having much of an artistic talent for drawing. As well as naming my own beers, I have chosen the name for a couple of commercial beers.

When we brewed a Tmavé at Devils Backbone I came up with the name "Morana" as she is the Slavic goddess of winter and death, an effigy of whom is burnt each spring to mark the end of winter. More recently another local brewery, Blue Mountain, had a spot of bother with the labelling authorities here about a beer they wanted to call "Chocolate Orange Bourbon Porter" but were told the name is misleading. To solve their problem they turned to the power of social media, and asked their fans on Facebook to come up with the name, my entry won. The name I chose was "Isabel", named for the Princess Imperial of Brazil, which is the world's leading producer of oranges and cocoa and Isabel herself was descended from the royal House of Bourbon.

With my own beers, I like to give them names which are linked to either the style or the place where they originated, or some link to the ingredients. My Charlottenstädter Pils is named in part after the town I live in, but with the French "ville" replaced with the German "stadt" as it is a German style Pilsner, which I will be bottling tomorrow as it has been in the lagering tank for 35 days now. When I eventually make a Czech version I will have to come up with an alternative to Šarlotovický Ležák, because our new house is about 15 miles outside of town. Our new address is, officially at least, in Gordonsville, and one of the meanings of the name Gordon is "large fortification", so my Czech lager could be called "Pevnost" which means "fortress".

Talking about German beers, I am awaiting my score sheet for the only beer I entered in this year's National Homebrew Competition, an altbier called Cobbler's in honour of the first Altbier I ever had, from the Schumacher brewery. I am kind of nerovus about the score, as altbier is such a difficult beer style to find over here, other than Uerige that is, which I haven't seen around for a while.

Anyway, just a few random, and likely unconnected thoughts, having been inspired by Boak and Bailey's post today about naming their beers.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Brew Tunes

I might brew this weekend. I am working at Starr Hill tomorrow, but Sunday morning is always a nice time to break out the mash tun and kettle. If I do brew then I will make the first batch of this year's LimeLight, my annual witbier with lime peel instead of orange and hopped exclusively with Saaz.

Whenever I brew though, I love to listen to music on my Spotify account, so I though today rather than bang on about something or other in the beer world, I would introduce you to some of the new stuff on my Spotify and give you an insight into what I am listening to at the moment.

Vukovi - Schwagger

I first heard about Vukovi, a Scottish band with a Serbian name that means "the wolves", whilst listening to Vic Galloway on BBC Radio Scotland. You have to love being able to listen to Radio Scotland online! Anyway, they were on his show and did a few live songs, including a heavied up cover of Katy Perry's "Part of Me" which was fantastic. I have become something of a fan, listening to them regularly, and loving this song.

Jakil - Swings and Daffodils

One of my favourite functions on Spotify is the "Related Artists" option, and it was clicking on that from Vukovi that brought this band to my attention, and this track from their EP Swings was the stand out.

The Vatersay Boys - The Gael

Last of the Mohicans is a film that I can watch anytime, and the most distinctive piece of music from it is The Gael. The Vatersay Boys are from the Outer Hebrides and to get my brewing going of a morning there is nothing like listening to some ceilidh music from home.

Vukovi - Vincible

More Vukovi, just because.

Have a great weekend people!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What Happened?

Later this year I will be 37 years old, which means that for more than half my life I will have been drinking legally. Ever since that first, legal, pint of Guinness in the Dark Island Hotel back home on Benbecula, I have had a taste for beer. Oh alright then, I was known before I turned 18 to enjoy the occasional can of whatever muck was available, Tennent's Lager most often, though also the odd Budweiser. I was never one of the "sit in the bus shelter on a Friday night drinking whatever we could persuade the older kids to buy for us" set, but I had a beer from time to time.

Bit of a digression there, but anyway, a couple of weeks ago I wrote a post listing five beers that changed what I drink and how I think about beer. Another slight digression, but one thing that hasn't changed is the kind of place I enjoy drinking in, pubs, proper pubs, not bars or clubs or glorified restaurants, but pubs, even if they are something of a hen's tooth over here. Without wanting to sound like a complete curmudgeon, here are a few beers that I once loved, which now leave me disappointed...

In 1999 when I moved to Prague, Velkopopovický Kozel was something of a minor beer celebrity. I had heard so much about this pale lager which was so unlike the Carling and Fosters most pubs served in Britain, it had a real hop bite to it. My first pint was at the sports bar I went to every weekend for ten seasons and I loved it. Eventually the brewery was bought by Pilsner Urquell and in turn Pilsner Urquell was bought by SABMiller, and so began the desecration of a once lovely beer. When I left in 2009 I found a Kozel bar whilst out walking and popped in to sample the wares, and while the 12° was ok, the rest of the range was thin, insipid and a mere shadow of its former self.

The other beer I drank a lot of back in my early Prague years was Gambrinus, the picture here is their 11° Excelent. While Gambáč was available as both a 10° and a 12° beer, it was the 10° that you saw most often - most pubs would have three taps, Gambrinus 10° on one, with Kozel Černý and Pilsner Urquell taking up the other two. Again Gambrinus was something of a sad story, perfectly drinkable for many a year and then around 2006 strange things started happening, it became thin and noticeably watery. I am not sure when they started watering down a 13° beer, post fermentation, to create the 10° and 12° but they should never have started.

Once upon a time I drank smoothflow ales, I liked them and then I moved away from Britain and didn't have the option. Perhaps they were always bland, watery messes, but I have a sense that in the 13 years between leaving Blighty and sitting in my Charlottesville living room this morning, they have got worse.

Over to you then, what beers did you once love and now find disappointing?

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Little Bitter Would Be Better

About this time last year I decided that I wanted to brew a best bitter but ended up falling way short on the gravity I was looking for and made the beer an ordinary bitter instead. Skip forward a few months and Fuggold Bitter, named for obvious reasons, was, I felt, the weakest of the various beers I entered in the Dominion Cup. The world being full of little quirks, my bitter placed ahead of a couple of ESBs to take gold for the English Pale Ale category.

Coming back to 2012, one of the local breweries here has decided to work with the homebrew club I go to, the Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale, to pick a medal winning beer from 2011 for the Great American Beer Festival's Pro-Am competition later this year. Hence I brewed a new batch of Fuggold Bitter yesterday.

I tweaked the recipe in two ways yesterday, last year the beer was a mini-mash to supplement dry malt extract and was fermented with the Windsor yeast strain, this year the beer is all grain and I am using Safale US-05 as it is similar the brewery's house ale yeast.

The recipe itself is quite simple really:
  • 67% Maris Otter
  • 13% Amber Malt
  • 13% Brown Malt
  • 7% Crystal 10
  • 19 IBU Fuggles for 60 minutes
  • 10 IBU Kent Goldings for 15 minutes
  • 1 IBU Fuggles for 1 minute
  • Safale US-05
I hit my gravity just right at 1.038 and within a couple of hours of pitching, the Safale was doing a right number on the fermentables. If everything goes well, I will have a 3.7% abv bitter to bottle in a couple of weeks.

Knowing the standard of the other brewers taking part I will be quite surprised if Fuggold Bitter gets the nod, but you have to be in it to win it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

International Homebrew Project - The Drinking

It was eight weeks ago that I mashed my grains, added my dry malt extract to bump up the gravity and chucked in a shitload of hops into a kettle to make a mild, a Scottish mild no less, for the International Homebrew Project. Based on a 19th century recipe from the William Younger's brewery for a 120/- ale, my wort was 1.110 (about 26° Plato). By the end of the boil, having added judicious amounts of Kent Goldings and Fuggles, the estimated IBU rating of the beer was 93, so much for Scottish beers being "traditionally" low on hops. Once primary fermentation had slowed to barely a flicker, I dumped my dry hops into the carboy and then bottled a week later. For 6 weeks now the beer has say conditioning...

Finally the time had come to open a bottle and see what had become of the beer, and with that reassuring pffft that is every homebrewers favourite sound I popped off the cap and poured.

I was kind of surprised at the colour of the beer, a deep, entrancing amber which failed to form a head, though swirling the glass after the initial mouthful produced a decent layer of firm, whipped cream type foam. The aroma was a heady mix of grass, spice, perhaps a touch of tobacco and a little background alcohol. Drinking it though was quite a shock, thoroughly, thoroughly bitter, but at the same time a juicy malt biscuity thing make sure the hops didn't rip my tongue out and stomp all over it. The finish was long, as in progressive rock guitar solo long, and bitter, puckering while not being like sucking a lemon. Goodness me, what a lovely beer! The body was positively voluptuous, the mouthfeel a sensual satiny smoothness, like melted chocolate, goodness me this is a beer that could get me into trouble, so dangerously, and temptingly, delicious it is.

All in all I very happy with how this one turned out, and I am planning to enter it in the Dominion Cup later this year, probably in Category 23, and also in the Strong Ale category of the Palmetto State Brewers Open, in the meantime, I might just have another over the weekend.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

International Homebrew Project Reminder

For those that took part in the brewing of the historic Scottish ale, remember to blog about it tomorrow, please remember to put a link to your post in the comments section after my post tomorrow.

If you brewed the recipe but don't blog, feel free to leave tasting notes and any comments about the beer in the comments after my post tomorrow.

I am really looking forward to this beer when I get home from work tonight...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Session Beer Every Day Please!

I had a very nice Session Beer Day, or at least a very nice Session Beer Afternoon. I spent it propping up the bar of McGrady's Irish Pub, drinking Williams Brothers Scottish Session Ale and chatting with mates. That's what going to the pub is really all about. We didn't avail ourselves of the pool table, this time, though I will admit to chucking a couple of songs on the jukebox, all the while wishing they had more Rammstein, Smiths and Smashing Pumpkins options - sometimes though T.a.T.u. hits the spot even it is was in English rather than Russian.

The only dark cloud on an otherwise golden afternoon was the sinking feeling that once the session beers have run out they will again be few and far between until the next Session Beer Day. Before you know it, the taps will again be flowing with over strong, over hopped pale ales, with only Guinness available for the rest of us.

I don't want to sound like a grumbly malcontent, but having a choice of flavourful session beers on tap should not be a once a year thing. If every pub in Charlottesville were to ditch Guinness and replace it with Starr Hill's Dark Starr Stout, which is 4.2% and has won more awards than any other dry stout in the US, it would be a major step forward.

Yes there are more brewers making session beers, so pubs it is your turn to start selling them on draft more often.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Snack Time!

"Two pints of lager and a packet of crisps please".

Sure that might be something of a cliché, but it does illustrate that few things go together like beer and snacks. Here I am strictly speaking about snacks rather than some little pretentious morsel, usually in a tower, with a smear of cat's piss jus or some such silliness on the side of a square white plate the size of the City of London. Beer and snacks are just perfectly natural bedfellows, like bacon and egg or fish and chips, everyone I know gets the munchies when they've had a few pints, and on Saturday in honour of Session Beer Day I drank mostly Williams Brothers Scottish Session Ale.

In the pubs I frequent here in Charlottesville, snacks either don't seem to be part of the menu or are a mere dollar cheaper than a sandwich or main course. If I am at Beer Run and get the munchies I will often have their Hogwaller sandwich, which consists of ham AND bacon AND cheese, with a side of potato salad. If the venue happens to be McGrady's then a Philly Cheesesteak wrap with tater tots is in order. While they are both delicious, they are sometimes just too big for my purposes. So this got me thinking about the beer snacks I loved in the Czech Republic, and here are a few of my favourites.

Let's start off with Nakládaný Hermelín, possibly my favourite cheese dish on earth other than just eating straight up extra mature cheddar. Hermelín itself is a soft cheese similar to Camembert or Brie, though normally sold as small wheels of about 4 or 5 inches in diameter. To make nakládaný Hermelín you simply slice a wheel in half, lengthwise, and then marinade it in oil, garlic, onions, peppers and various spices. It takes about 3 days to be ready, though I know some people who wear you have to wait 2 weeks for the full flavour to develop. Once it is ready, spread it on some nice thick cut rye bread and have a pint of the best Pilsner you can find.

The one delicacy that I loved most when living in the Czech Republic was called Škvarková pomazánka. Škvarky are basically bits of fried bacon, though usually they come with a healthy dose of lard as well. Whip it all up with some eggs, onions and mustard and hey presto you have a lard and bacon spread which is utterly delicious on toasted rye bread, and serve with a pint of the finest Pilsner you can find.

Inevitably when you get home, having had many pints of finest Pilsner you can find, you might still have the munchies, and this is where topinky come into their own. Quite simply, take old bread - most Czech bread is rye bread - and fry it in oil. Once it is nicely fried up, rub cloves of garlic on the bread and enjoy. Personally I think this is best done at home rather than in the pub mainly because you don't want to be breathing garlic fumes over your friends, and it is definitely not recommended if you are out on the pull.

So what are your beer snacks of choice?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Why I Blog

I have always enjoyed writing, and I hope it is something that I am not too shabby at. I make no claims to be anywhere near the standard of my favourite authors, Umberto Eco, Nick Hornby and Andrei Makine among them. However, in addition to my regular ramblings about beer on here, I occasionally write on another couple of blogs, one about whatever pops into my head and the other about philosophy and religion. Writing has always been part of my life, when I was a practising Christian I had about 30 poems published in various magazines and anthologies, as well as writing music reviews for Cross Rhythms magazine. I have written technical documentation, articles about real estate in Prague and sales proposals, I am even trying to write a novel, though that is going through a major mental revision at the moment.

It is just shy of four years ago that I wrote the first post on this blog. In that first post, I said that my posts could consist of:

"posting pictures and stories about beer, and most importantly the people that my journey brings me into contact with".

When I started blogging there were only two other beer bloggers that I knew of in Prague, Evan Rail and Max Bahnson. At first I read them, then met them and today I feel honoured to call both of them my friends. In various constellations we have shared many a beer, and to this day they are two of the people I miss most from Prague. Many a Saturday afternoon finds me wishing I could send either of them a text message and arrange to meet for a pint at Pivovarský klub or Zlý Časy.

In November 2008 I realised a long standard ambition to visit Ireland. Mrs Velkyal had a friend that had married an Irishman, and so as we had a long weekend and it was close to my birthday we flew over. The Irishman was to become the author of The Tale of the Ale blog, and since then we have shared several beery adventures. One trip took in the delights of Prague, Brno and Southern Moravia, while more recently me met up in Paris to wander the streets and down many pints. During our initial trip to Ireland we went to Galway and found the most perfect pub on the planet. Sheridan's on the Docks, now sadly departed, had Budvar and Galway Hooker on tap, a peat fire and the rugby on the tv, it was simply idyllic. At the end of the trip Mrs V and I met with the eponymous Beer Nut and Barry, an Irishman writing about beer life in Germany having Bitten the Bullet.

Within weeks of moving to Charlottesville, we had met with one E.S. Delia, and his lovely wife to be, whose blog Relentless Thirst gave me plenty of insight before moving over. Eric had commented on Fuggled before we moved and invited us to his rooftop tasting. Meeting and getting to know Eric has been one of the highlights of life in Virginia.

I could wax lyrical about the people I have met, and friends I have made as a result of beer, but one story stands out. As you may know I work at the Starr Hill tasting room occasionally. Last year, I was there for my one day that month and my colleague asked me to come and chat with a customer, a fellow Brit. A couple of minutes later my colleague asked me where I thought the customer was from. Given the slight London/Estuary thing going on his voice, I assumed he was from the south-east corner. The customer's response was "I'm Scottish", and through a series of questions and stunned responses it transpired that we had both grown up in the Outer Hebrides, from adjacent islands and he had been 2 years ahead of me at school. We know a lot of the same people and happened to meet in the brewery on the one day of that month I was working. He is now my regular drinking buddy here.

That's what beer means to me, and by extension blogging about it. The people I have met. Beer people are good people, and this blog has opened many doors to meet them. That then is what drives me, writing not just for myself, but for the people I have met and hope one day to meet.

This month's Session is being hosted by the guys at Brewpublic and the theme is "what drives beer bloggers?".

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Some Advice for MolsonCoors

I realise that this is maybe somewhat cheeky, but I would like to offer MolsonCoors some advice.

It seems, if the news is correct, that they are intent on buying a company called StarBev. Perhaps the jewel in StarBev's crown is Staropramen in Prague, but they also own breweries in other Central and Eastern European countries as well as distributing a range of western brands in the region. Obviously then the purchase is to gain a foothold in the CEE marketplace, which happens to include the country with the highest beer consumption per capita in the world, the Czech Republic.

There is though, I believe, an opportunity for MolsonCoors to do something good for the beer world in Central and Eastern Europe through their purchase of StarBev, and in particular their Czech brands. Beyond Staropramen, the purchase of StarBev has brought Ostrovar, Měšťan, and most of all Braník into their portfolio.

Braník is something of a sad, cautionary tale of the pitfalls of privatisation and calamities of consolidation. If I remember rightly, when Staropramen in some form or other took over Braník they eventually shut the brewery itself, which is a lovely building overlooking the river in south Prague, and moved production to the main Staropramen brewery. The brands themselves became something of an underappreciated runt of the family and eventually their pubs started to disappear. Caught up in all this though was a legendary beer, the 12° Černé pivo, or dark beer, reputed to have been a close second to U Fleků's magnificent 13° tmavý. Unfortunately I never tried the Braník Černé, though I believe it was until recently sold in Germany.

In some ways I guess I am out of concert with a fair few people when it comes to talking about the large brewing multinationals, I simply don't see them as some monolithic monstrosity which is the antithesis of good beer, and MolsonCoors are a case in point. Over the Christmas holidays I revelled in the delights of a beer called Worthington White Shield, an IPA of such outstanding drinkability that I really hope the rumours are true and it will be available Stateside in the coming months. Sure, MolsonCoors are never going to qualify for anyone's definition of a "craft brewery", but in White Shield they have a beer which makes an absolutely mockery of the idea that only small breweries make great beer.

It is my experience of Worthington White Shield that I think gives MolsonCoors an opportunity in the Czech Republic to revive a legend and bring back Braník Černé from the dead, to once again be enjoyed by the beer loving people of Prague and beyond.

* the picture is not mine, it is the work of Hynek Moravec and used under the licence terms of Wikipedia, the original file can be seen here.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Moving Up

If everything goes according to plan in the next few weeks, Mrs Velkyal and I will soon be on the move again, though not quite as drastically as upping sticks from Prague to come to Charlottesville. We are in the process of buying our first house, a brand new 3 bedroom place about 15 miles outside town. Quite what we will do with 3 bedrooms and a house that is 3 times bigger than our current flat is beyond me, though I am already scheming as to what to do with the acre and a half of land the house sits on. Look away now if you are delicate of stomach, I won't be growing hops - mainly because Saaz and Fuggles rhizomes are a pain in the arse to get hold of.

One thing that buying a house will most certainly necessitate is some form of house warming party, and naturally I want to have a selection of homebrew available for said august occasion. At the moment my cellar is positively groaning with homebrew, and I have more in the lagering tank to boot. Between now and moving in I am sure I will drink plenty of my beer, so I am planning on brewing a couple more beers with the bash specifically in mind.

As it is that time of year, I will be brewing up my annual spring/summer witbier, LimeLight, in the coming weeks, though for the first time it will be an all grain brew, and with a couple of tweaks. Mainly I plan to chuck in some malted oats into the mix, and perhaps a touch of acidulated malt as well. As is traditional for this beer, it will be single hopped with that most noble of noble hops, Saaz, with lime peel and coriander bunged in the boil as well.

One thing I want to do with the other brew is have a nice session beer available, being fifteen miles from town I don't want people drinking hefty brews and then driving home. At the moment I am torn between a best bitter and a 70/- or 80/- Scottish ale. For some reason I am never happy with my bitters, even the ordinary bitter than swiped gold at the Dominion Cup last year was, in my opinion, not all that great. In contrast the 2 Scottish ales I have brewed have been almost dangerously drinkable, especially the cask version I did way back when. Clearly I am leaning toward the 70/- or 80/- option for fear of inflicting an experiment on friends.

Speaking of experiments, whenever IPA gets discussed in the Starr Hill tasting room I start talking about hot maturation and the process of madeirisation as described in Martyn Cornell's magnificent post on the subject. I would love it if a brewery made an experimental batch of their regular IPA and then hot matured it, though I doubt there is a brewery, "craft" or otherwise, with the balls to actually do so. However, with the way the new house is situated, with lots of south facing walls and fences, I am thinking to brew up a classic English IPA and repeat Martyn's experiment. Heck, I might even try it with an American IPA and see what happens.

Life then is certainly full and busy, and with my new job going well, I like it this way.

Best Beer Ever!

Shock, horror, a new post at Fuggled! Yes, it has been a while, but mitigating circumstances, I have been heads down writing my first book, ...