Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Once You Go Black

Thankfully in this part of Virginia, Hurricane Sandy was something of a damp squib, with damp being the operative word. It rained for the best part of 36 hours but the winds never really got much above strong breeze (that's force 6 to those of us used to the Beaufort scale). Either through design or luck we didn't lose our electricity (unlike many, it seems, our power lines are underground and not prone to trees falling on them). All in all, I am grateful to have been spared the brutality experienced further north, and I hope all my readers in that part of the world are OK.

On a whim last night Mrs Velkyal and I decided that it was about time we used our wood fire in anger, rather than just being a mildly diverting centrepiece to the main room upstairs. Having traipsed out to the shops, after discovering my car battery to be flat as I had left the headlamps on over the weekend, we lit our first fire using some compressed sawdust, nut shell and wax thing called a '2 Hour Fire Log'. With a fire burning in the hearth, I was overcome with an urge for something dark, a porter or stout perhaps, and just so happened to have this in the fridge:


I was introduced to this beer a few weeks ago by our fantastic next door neighbours, who have a small farm called Ted's Last Stand, and it was love at first sip. At 8.8% this is something of a bruising stout, but I love it (say it quietly but Guinness FES may have some competition for my affections), great dollops of chocolate, as if some perverse Willy Wonka had blended Dairy Milk with 85% cocoa dark chocolate from Ecuador and a trace of roasted coffee to just take away any excessive sweetness. As much as I love this beer, and it will make fairly regular appearances in the cellar over the course of the winter, it is definitely not a 'drink ten pints and stumble home' affair, but one, sat next to the fire, reading a book? Perfect.


However, me being me, having let the last lascivious drops of Double Stout find their way down my throat, had the urge for another beer....what to bring up from the cellar...? How about this?


Yes, that would do the trick. Unlike the Double Stout, this is a beer I know well and love to break out when it is colder than an polar bear's bum. There is something about Old Engine Oil that is deeply entrancing, whether it is the deep darkness or the lingering dry roastiness of the beer or the fact that 6% you can justify a full pint and then drink it slowly and enjoy the beer as it warms, both literally and figuratively. The only regret I had was that the fire in the background was not in some fine drinking establishment, preferably with one of the autumn rugby matches on the tele...


I can't remember what actually was on the tele, not being a big watcher thereof, but eventually Mrs V and I adjourned to the downstairs living room of our house, turned on the oil radiator and I cracked open a Southern Tier 2X Stout, no pictures, no notes, just a lovely, strong milk stout.

Drink enough of these beers and my favourite line from White Chicks becomes gospel truth...



...because you'll be legless.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mmmmm.....Lager.

You know me by now, unless this is your first visit to Fuggled, in which case welcome, I am a lager drinker, nay a lover of lager. Whether it is a Bohemian Pilsner, Schwarzbier, Vienna or Baltic Porter, the lager 'family' of beers is the one I like to spend as much drinking time as possible with. That's not to say that warm fermented beers aren't wonderful as well, but just that beer that takes its own sweet time to be ready is my preferred tipple. Given a bank of taps pouring pale ales in various states of Indianess, stouts, porters, brown ales and wheat beers, if there is a solitary good lager available then I will gladly ignore everything else, even if it is super rare, super strong and aged in gorilla snot barrels.

Without being mean, any brewer can chuck more hops into the kettle, or add spices to secondary and get something that is at least drinkable, but it takes a master brewer to have the confidence to brew a great lager, such as Devils Backbone Vienna Lager, Victory Prima Pils, or Kout na Šumavě 18° (it also takes a master brewer to do the whole extra hops and spice thing well without turning the beer into a flavour mess). We can argue all day about the merits or otherwise of decoction mashing, for the record I think it makes a better beer though I know at least one of my favourite lagers is done with infusion mashing, but one thing is clear, lager is a labour of love, and if a brewery does it properly then it ties up capital and equipment for a very long time.


Take Budvar for example. I remember reading that each batch of their flagship 12° lager takes 102 days to make, from start to finish. Primary fermentation lasts 12 days and then the beer sits in the lagering tanks for 90 days, that's three months, 12 weeks (1 week for each degree of Plato as used to be the norm), just sitting around. Would most people recognise a difference if they brought it out after 60 days? Probably not, but some traditions are worth keeping regardless of what science tells us with numbers.

Brewing, any brewing, is not just about the numbers. Sure your pilsner might have a starting gravity of 1.048 (12° Plato), you might even have gone crazy and hopped it to 40 IBUs but it might still suck because there is too much alcohol from the yeast over attenuating and making it thin in the body (more alcohol is not always a good thing). Perhaps you used some high alpha hops for bittering rather than Saaz all the way through. Perhaps you didn't wait for the lager to tell you when it was ready and just pulled it from the tanks after 28 days regardless. Lager, in  my thoroughly unhumble opinion is not something to be taken lightly, and one of the reasons I brew them so infrequently is simply because I want to do them justice and I don't really have the equipment to do so.

This is one of the reasons I enjoy living in this part of Virginia, I have access to great local lager whenever I want it, made by brewers who do it properly and rightly win awards as a result.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

There's A Gale Coming

Today, assuming no lapse in common sense, will be my first bash at using some of my new brewing equipment. I decided to get myself a bigger cooler for mashing in, going from 2.5 gallons to 5, though I am keeping my batch size the same. This basically means that I can do any strength beer I want without resorting to using malt extract to bump up the gravity.

With a bigger mash tun comes more wort, so I have temporarily borrowed a friend's flat bottomed brewpot until I am employed again and can get one of my own. With more wort comes the need to finally break out my wort chiller, which has sat in its box since I bought it about 18 months ago. All in all, I am looking forward to getting some brewing done, especially as this batch is destined for Mrs V's uncle and his annual gift baskets for his clients.

The beer I plan to brew today is a strong ale, though not barleywine strong, essentially it is an 'old ale' in BJCP parlance (although there is no real difference between old ale and barleywine), but I like to think of it as just a Strong Ale. The recipe is:
  • 86% Golden Promise Pale Malt
  • 5% Munich Malt
  • 4% Malted Oats
  • 4% Pale Chocolate Malt
  • 1% Peated Malt
  • 21 IBU Kent Goldings for 90 minutes
  • 9 IBU Kent Goldings for 15 minutes
  • Wyeast 1028 London Ale (Worthington White Shield apparently)
You can see a couple of twists in there, the use of malted oats and peated malt, which are intended to give the beer a warmth and smoky background ideal for sitting in front of the fire during the dark days of winter. According to Beer Calculus, that little lot should give me the following numbers:
  • O.G. 1.073, 17.7° Plato
  • F.G. 1.018, 4.6° Plato
  • ABV 7.5%
  • SRM 16, light to medium brown
  • IBU 30
The name for this brew? Dark Island Winter Gale.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Too Many Hops?

There are times when I get the feeling that I come across as being something of an anti-hop crusader. However, I prefer to think of it as being sick of the apparent notion that seems to float around the indie beer drinker world that the more hops there are in a beer, the better. The reality though is that I like beers with a firm hop bite, a nice hop flavour and a pleasing hop aroma, I like the hopping to be a distinct element of the beer, not the sole focus of the beer - and no, IPA is NOT 'all about the hops'.

Having said that, and for fear of completely contradicting myself, there are times when I think beers have, to bastardise the Emperor's line from Amadeus, 'too many hops'. By this I don't mean that a beer is 'too hoppy', whatever the hell 'hoppy' actually means anyway, but rather that some beers have such a melange of hop varieties as to effectively become a mess.

Often, though not always, such beers are in the generic world of 'pale ale' or a 'black india' version of something. When I read a list of 7 or 8 hop varieties, usually, though again not always, the high alpha varieties, I can't help but wonder at times if the beer that results would benefit from fewer hop varieties and more attention being paid to the effects of the remaining hops so they are more distinct and pleasurable when drinking.


In thinking about many of my favourite beers to drink, as opposed to sample, they tend to have a maximum of three hop varieties, though in reality the vast majority use just one or two. Take my current favourite pilsner (sorry Pilsner Urquell, you've been usurped for the time being), Port City's Downright Pilsner, which gets all 43 of its IBUs from that majestic hop, Saaz, or even my favourite IPA being brewed in Virginia today, from St George down in Hampton, with its judicious, and exclusive, use of Fuggles. From further afield, take one of my favourite stouts, Wrasslers XXXX from Ireland's Porterhouse, hopped with Galena, Nugget and East Kent Golding (which reminds me, I should stock up on this beer at some point). With all three beers the hops are noticeable without intruding on the drinking, in a sense you could say that the hops know their place.

Maybe this feeling harks back to something I mentioned in my previous post about balance being an essential part of my definition of 'good' beer. For me it is not just a case of the overall beer being balanced, but that there is balance within the elements of a beer as well, and perhaps it in the hopping that this balance is most important and most easily disrupted.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Defining 'Good'

Yesterday my good friend, and once upon a time drinking buddy, Pivní Filosof, tweeted the following:
"Too many people trying to define what "craft beer" is or isn't, not enough talking about what makes a beer good..."
So, I thought that what would be a better way to mark the 750th post on Fuggled than to finally try and define 'good' beer? I am perfectly aware that I might be on a hiding to nothing here, but here goes.

Firstly let's think about words for a moment, what does 'good' mean? Well, if you do a search on Dictionary.com, you will see that it lists many possible meanings as both a noun and an adjective. I won't list all the options here, but if you click the link then you can check them all out for yourself. One thing I will reference here though is the etymology of the word, which apparently comes from Old English:
"god (with a long "o") "having the right or desirable quality,"
Apparently the Old English is itself derived from the Proto-Germanic 'gothaz' meaning "fit, adequate, belonging together".

Using the definition of 'good' as something which has the 'right or desirable quality' brings us rather quickly to the sticking point in trying to define 'good beer', what is the quality in your beer that is 'right or desirable'? Ultimately 'good beer' is a very personal thing, something unique to each drinker, which then raises the question, what is 'good beer' for Velky Al? Let me answer that question.

The 'right or desirable' qualities that I look for in a beer can be best summed up as:
  • flavourful
  • balanced
  • refreshing
I realise that even within that fairly short list there are any number of personal preferences as to what constitutes flavour, balance and refreshment, but as this is my definition of good beer, let me attack those one at a time.


I like beer that tastes good, again that awkward word 'good' pops up. Good tasting beer to me is one where you can taste the elements of the beer as expected for that particular style or type of beer. If I am drinking a stout for example, I want to be able to taste the roastiness, coffee and chocolate that you expect from that kind of beer. Likewise if I am drinking a Vienna lager, I want none of the roastiness of stout, but rather the toastiness that comes with using Vienna malt. You could argue that it is about 'authenticity', is this really how stout, pilsner, mild or whatever is supposed to taste like?


I sometimes wonder if 'balance' is becoming something of a dirty word in the beer word, in much the same way 'session' is interpreted by some as meaning 'insufficiently sexy'. In my definition of 'good' beer though, balance is important, mainly because I like drinking beer. I am not the kind of person who is happy to go to a beer festival and sample 10 to 15 2oz samples, I prefer beer festivals where you order a half pint, or a full pint, and you stand around drinking and talking with friends. In my experience, beers which are imbalanced are not beers that I want to drink more than a single serving of. An absence of balance normally, though not always, means that a shit ton of hops have been dumped in making the experience of the beer like sucking a grapefruit. Alternatively imbalanced beers can have too many hop varieties, and when I read the hopping list of some beers having 7 or 8 different high alpha hops I can't but wonder if the brewer is simply having a lupulin wank.


Drinking is primarily about refreshment, whether after a day of manual labour or sitting in a cubicle staring at a computer screen, both require refreshment and there are few feelings in the world as wonderful as that first sup on a pint at the end of a day. A refreshing pint can just as easily a stout as it can be a witbier, indeed when I was laid off last week I found the couple of pints of Left Hand Milk Stout I had at McGrady's very refreshing, especially as one definition of 'to refresh' is 'to cheer' and I certainly felt happier after the pints than before.

Thankfully with those criteria of 'good beer' there are many individual beers that I consider 'good' and am more than happy to drink, regardless of corporate structure, method of dispense or style. Good beer is really something intangible, indefinable in some ways, as it is, in the final analysis, what the individual likes to drink.

Perhaps that is why more people want to try and define 'craft beer' because that is, seemingly, an easier task, though as I have written about before, a pretty daft one.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Reason to Cellar

I got laid off last Thursday, economic problems etc, etc. Long and the short of it though is that I am looking for full time work, not something I particularly enjoying but there are bills to be paid, body and conscientiousness kept together and all that stuff. Admittedly the world didn't seem so bad after a few pints of Left Hand's lovely Milk Stout and my pre-arranged haircut.

Thankfully my cellar is pretty well stoked at the moment, and I still have my occasional gigs at Starr Hill's tasting room, not mention I make passable homebrew, so the beer front doesn't look too bleak at all, especially not as I managed to snag a couple of cases of Port City Brewing's lovely Downright Pilsner just before the axe fell.

Hopefully I won't be unemployed for too long, both from a financial perspective and the fact that I get bored beyond witless when I am not gainfully employed - you have to pity Mrs V really. In the meantime, chin up and all that British stiff upper lip malarky. Still, I guess I have some decent beers to choose from when I am celebrating my new position!

In the spirit of shameless self promotion, here is my LinkedIn profile, if anyone in the Charlottesville area would like to have a look.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Brewer of the Week

This week we head north to Minnesota. The name Kristen England is no doubt familiar to many homebrewers, he was the Education Director at the BJCP, collaborates with Ron Pattinson on his 'Let's Brew Wednesday' historic recipes, provided the recipe for this year's International Homebrew Project and so on and so forth. Well, now Kristen has his own brewery, so in the immortal phrasing of Ron, 'time to let Kristen take control'...


Name: Kristen England
Brewery: Pour Decisions

How did you get into brewing as a career?

Hmmm…well it’s still not actually a career, 2nd career I guess? It’s another form of science which got me hooked…science begets science, as it where…is. Do I have to get paid for it to be a career? If so, this is definitely not a second career.

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

I don’t think there is a single one. I think there are a lot of comparisons between chefs and brewers. There is definitely a set that they both share. Thick skin is a huge one. You get better by learning from your failures. Accept them and move on. Being able to ‘kill your babies’ is important. You may make the world’s best soufflé but if people don’t dig it, it doesn’t matter. Yelling at people that something is perfect when they just aren’t buying it, no matter how much you are right or love it, is a sure way to 1) alienate your peeps and 2) to fail in a giant flaming fireball. Passion is probably the most important. Wait, I mean bullocks. Yes, that’s it..big old bullocks. Passion is a tag line…or a tasty delicious fruit. That word ranks up there as one of the worst words in the history of time with me. Everyone is passionate about everything. ‘Well Jim, you have more passion than anyone we’ve ever seen but, I’m not sure that’s enough to let you drive the battleship…’ Passion says nothing about a brewer than a tag line. Ask any chef or brewer that when they’re 16 Red Bull’s in and they’ve been up 20 hours trying to fix broken the boiler/oven what passion does for them. Persistence, love and pride are vastly superior. You keep at it, no matter what, until it goes right because you have pride in what you do, in yourself and your brewery. That being said, I think if passion in beer were measured in units, I think they would have to be called Calagiones and measured on a log scale. Screw this base 6 stuff… ‘Oh, you think your beer is good, suck it buddy. Mine has 4.3 Calagiones! That destroys your meager 2.9! BRING THE PAIN!!! TASTE THE PASSSION!!!! Chicka pow!!!’ Seems Ruhlman agrees. http://ruhlman.com/2012/10/the-fallacy-of-follow-your-passion/'


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

I started home brewing about 9 years ago and like everything else I pick up as a hobby it got carried away. I’ve made well over 1000 batches of beer in various sizes over that time. As a scientist, I experimented with every technique and ingredient I could get my hands on… even weird or esoteric ones. Oh yes, from peanut butter to those little sacks that make up a piece of orange to natural red dye that, apparently, turns your pee bright red. Not something one is prepared for when waking up at 0630 to get to work after a mean pissup the night before! I’ve made so many different recipes and then versions of those recipes I have lists of beers in pretty much every style I want to make at the brewery that seems to be ever growing. The hardest part is to be calm about what I want to brew and not try make everything at once. It’s something I thought was extremely important with regards to starting a brewery. I knew at some point I would be involved in a brewery. The amateur days are the times where one can do whatever they want, learn as much as they can, compete against some of the best brewers in the world. Challenge yourself…all the while drinking beer.


If you did homebrew, do you still?

I won’t be home brewing, per se, any longer. The wife is extremely happy to hear about that as the vast majority of my stuff is still in boxes when I moved in with her 7 years ago. Now the stuff I was able to unpack will get moved to the brewery. So basically she’ll have all the room back she used to keep uncluttered (read empty). I’ll still be ‘brewing’ mead, wine and cider though. Man can’t live on beer alone…gotta combine that with all different types of liquor to keep the old liver guessing! We’ll be using my old home brew kit at the brewery to teach classes on and let some of the home brew guys have a little fun on. They’ll get to do their favorite recipes and share them with the world (branded of course). It’s one thing for your friends to say they love your beer, it’s a completely different thing to put it out there for the world to taste and comment. Bascially letting them share their favorite things with our fans. If the beers do well, we’ll definitely put them in the rotation! I also have a 2.5bbl pilot system that I can use to do some fun one-offs. Basically a nicer, larger home brew rig. Lots of cool stuff planned for the tap room.


What is your favourite beer to brew?

Wow, a favorite to brew is really hard. I would say I have two. My Berliner Weiss takes the least amount of time to make of any beer but the sour, puckering awesomeness you get out of something so simple is extremely gratifying. The other would be a traditional Czech ‘Desítka’. Triple decocted, 100% floor malted Bohemian pils malt, 2+hour boil and 100% Saaz hops. If you take most current literature into account, making a triple decocted 1.040 beer is pointless. Today’s malt is fully modified and doesn’t need it. You are wasting time, energy, blah blah blah. Rubbish. You go ahead and tell me that the numbers are same. The mash efficiency, the hop BU’s and so on. I’ll point to the Czech brew masters that have been doing it the same way for over 150 years that say they would love to quit triple decocting if they could. But they can’t. The beer suffers and the patrons complain. How do I justify making a beer for my customers I know could be better just to save myself time? The time and energy that goes into it that makes a product so thoroughly enjoyable is worth it. As it was explained to me in Jihlava by an 80+ year old bar goer (translated). “A properly made Desitka tastes like Jesus massaging your tongue.’ I would agree.


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

None.


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

This is definitely a loaded question. Every brewer is supposed to say, ‘ALL OF THEM!!!’ I won’t say Desitka as I just lamented on it. Both the Pubstitute and Patersbier I can drink year round. A few Paters and then switch to the Pubstitute as you can have tons of them over conversation and not turn into a wonky twat…the wonky part anyway. The AK (pale mild/golden bitter) we’ll be coming out with shortly called ‘The Actress and The Bishop’ would be close as it is suicidally quaffable. That’s one beer I have to keep off tap at the brewery when we are working as both the beer nerds and ‘normies’ drink it dry. In the winter, I can murder a double stout. Something big and rich to get me started for the evening. In the summer, Berliner Weiss with fresh raspberry syrup. I mean, Berliner’s on their own, are excellent. Chuck in some raspberry and the things are sublime! Really, really bloody marvelous...

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

Authenticity is a relative term. There is so much rubbish out about beer styles and their history it depends who you talk too. Current literature is troublesome with all the circular referencing. A brewery focused on ‘tradition’ can easily get their asses handed to them for following one story when another is true. In the world of beer, you’ll find many wonderful stories ruined by fact.

At the end of the day, it’s all about what’s in the glass. When I do something ‘traditional’ I ensure that it’s massively researched, probably overly so. A lot of beer styles are just snap shots in time. When I say IPA, what do I mean? If I put IPA on the label people are going to get angry here in the Midwest if it’s not strong and bitter. We have vernacular for a reason. If I want a bacon cheeseburger and you bring me a veggie ‘not dog’ I’m going to be pretty pissed about it. The need to preface traditional things is of vast importance. Making an authentically shitty beer for its own sake is asinine. If they filtered through a sheep’s bladder, it doesn’t mean you have to also. Make the best possible product but be open about what you are doing and changes if they matter. Meaning don’t tell me you made a ‘traditional’ Gose and just add salt to a witbier. I just think it’s a case of putting the cart before the horse. Spend more time in the brewery, less time at how to ‘spin’ the beer and everyone benefits.

I think the most important thing about authenticity in brewing is being authentic with your consumers…and I guess yourself. From gypsy brewers to ‘brands’, the world if full of ‘breweries’. A business address does not equal a brewery. If your product is made in northern California, it is not a ‘local’ product in Eastern Guatemala just because the business is based there. If someone brews your beer, puts it in cans, you are a beer company, not a brewery. If you contract someone to brew your ‘recipe’ and you have no hand in the process, you are not a brewer or a brewery. Everyone has a different idea of their business model. I personally don’t care what your plan is as long as you make a great product. That being said, I will always support local. All things being equal, I think it’s very important to spend my dollars on things around me. However I won’t put my local blinders on if the product isn’t up to par just because it’s local. I think it’s important for a company to receive honest feedback as if you keep your locals happy, you’ll be happy. The problem is in today’s brewing world, people have gotten away from this. It’s sometimes impossible to find where something was actually made. Every time I pick up a new brand, I turn that can or bottle or look at that keg collar and see where it’s really made. “Brewed and bottled by Thrusty Passion brewery, Western Kreplakistan.” Hmmm…yet the front of the bottle says, “Crotch Crescent, Oxford” (and yes, I’ve been to Crotch Crescent). I think it’s simply a matter of people not liking to be misled. Honesty, above all else = authenticity to me. On a similar vein, I love this tweet by Greg Kock of Stone Brewing, “If your beer isn't actually brewed there, why do you spend so much time, energy & money trying to convince people it is? How about #honesty”.


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

All your questions open ended aren’t they!? Collaborations to me should be about what each person brings to the table and not just about marketing or because it sounds cool. There are so very few collaborations that kick actual ass that it’s something that really needs a lot of thought put into it.

Does it have to still be in operation? I say no. I would love to have done collaborated with Guinness Park Royal. My granddad used to run their men’s club for years and the stories my mum tells would be a great tie-in. Oooooo, or the old Courage brewery…oh yes, that would be sweet! Breweries around today? Another hard one! Depends on the type of beer we’d be doing. I would love to do a historic collaboration with Fullers. Ron’s been doing them with John for a while and I’d love to add my $0.02 (US). I could drink their stuff all day. I would really enjoy doing something with Pivovar Kout na Šumavě. I think they are one of the best breweries in the world. A little place in Hungary near where my wife’s family is from called Rotburger would be really cool. If you make me choose the US, doing a historical IBSt with Russian River aged in some nice barrels would kick some major ass (hope Vinnie is listening!). Doing one of the first IPA’s with Stone’s Mitch Steele would be a great continuation from what we’ve done in the past (I helped Mitch with historic IPA recipes in his new book. IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale. Buy it!).

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

Invented…depends who you ask invented what. I would probably have to say something like the Czech Desitka…yes yes I’ve talked about it before. You don’t really see them in the US so people don’t know how awesome they are and what they are missing!! It’s such a simple beer that started with suboptimal ingredients. You have water that lacks so many minerals it’s nearly distilled, malt that was of low quality and hops with little bittering ability. The amount of time and energy into making a beer so wonderful is staggering. Coming up with so many rests, how to get there, what to do, what to add, its massively difficult when you have the roadmap, inventing it, that’s just bloody brilliant. Rain man brilliant. Oh, and I guess the second would be malt liquor. Billy Dee and I would have been best friends and I would be been luckier than Nigella Lawson’s knickers with more street cred than Grand Master Flash! That would’ve been sweet…

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cop That!

The other day as I was looking for something entirely different, I came across an online copy of Joseph Coppinger's 'The American Practical Brewer and Tanner'. This book was eagerly sought out by Thomas Jefferson as it contains a method for malting 'Indian corn' and in 1814 Jefferson's enslaved brewer, Peter Hemings, successfully made a beer using malted corn.

Something that really jumped out at me as I read the process for malting corn was Coppinger's claim that malted corn is 'peculiarly adapted to the brewing of porter'. Coppinger goes on in later sections of the book to give three processes for brewing porter, a description of porter malt and also a section on using 'essentia bina', a colouring derived from brown sugar which I assume is similar to black treacle. Coppinger claims that porter
is a liquor of modern date, which has nearly superseded the use of brown stout, and very much encroached on the consumption of other malt liquors, till it has become the staple commodity of the English brewery, and of such consequence to the government, in point of revenue, that it may be fairly said to produce more than all the rest.
I find that comment about porter superseding brown stout very interesting, as conventional wisdom is that porter preceded stout, though of course we know that at the time 'stout' was a synonym for 'strong'. Coppinger continues that:
when well brewed, and of a proper age, is considered a wholesome and pleasant liquor, particularly when drank out of the bottle; a free use is made of it in the East and West Indies, where physicians frequently recommend the use of it in preference to Madeira wine
More things of interest there, porter was considered better when bottled, and that it was being shipped from England to the Colonies in both the Caribbean and India - where have we heard that story before? But that last phrase got me thinking, doctors prescribed it more than they did Madeira wine. We all know that the hopped up pale ales that were shipped to India underwent a process of madeirisation on their 6 month journey around the globe, so it stands to reason that porter was affected in the same way, and don't forget that more porter went to India than pale ale. It makes me think that an experiment along the lines of Martyn's IPA 'hot maturation experiment' would be fascinating!

I can see Coppinger turning up in quite a few posts over the next wee while, especially as he has a few interesting looking recipes for various types of ales from the early 19th century...

Monday, October 8, 2012

Reason to Celebrate

July 1st 2012 is a date that may prove to be decisive in the history of brewing in Virginia. That was the date when a law came into effect which allowed breweries to sell pints of their products in their tasting rooms. The main reason it may prove to be decisive is that I am fairly sure we will now see a flourishing in the numbers of small breweries opening up and taking advantage of the law to build a following without having the hassle of distribution to deal with straight off the bat.

One such brewery is opening its doors to the public on Saturday, the first of several that I am aware of in the Charlottesville area. Beer Hound Brewery is the brainchild of one of the members of the homebrew club I go to, and owner of a local homebrew shop - Fermentation Trap. Beer Hound is located in Barboursville, about 15 miles north(ish) of Charlottesville, just off the main highway that runs through the area, Route 29, which runs from Baltimore in Maryland to Pensacola, Florida.


The brewery is based in the same location as the homebrew shop, and they have a nice bar where you can try the 8 beers they will have available, which on Saturday will be:
  • Archie- American Brown Ale
  • Scottie- Scottish 60/-
  • Teufelhunde- Belgian Abbey Blonde
  • Fang- Oatmeal Stout
  • Kujo- Rabid Pale Ale
  • Olde Yella- American Pale Wheat
  • Scrappy Doo- Marzen Oktoberfest
  • Winston- Root Beer
As you can see from the names there is something of a canine going on here, that's because Kenny, the brewer, and his wife love dogs and it is pretty normal to see their dog at the shop. One thing that is interesting to note in that list is a 60/- Scottish ale, a new brewery doing a session beer? I like the sound of that and will hopefully be able to get over there on Saturday to try the beers. Given that Beer Hound is on the opposite side of town from most of the breweries, it is effectively Mrs V and I's local brewery now.

Hopefully in the near future I can impose on Kenny to do the Brewer of the Week interview, in the meantime I am looking forward to trying the beers and welcoming another brewery to the area! You can follow Beer Hound on Twitter at @BeerHoundBrewer or on their Facebook page which I linked to above.

Picture credit: not mine, taken from Beer Hound's Facebook page.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Brewer of the Week

A little known fact, I almost moved to Poland in 1999, to Poznan to be precise. At the time I was engaged to a Polish girl and would visit whenever I could from the UK, meaning a long bus ride from Inverness to London, and then another 24 hours to Poznan - it was a bit of a trek for sure. When I was in Poland I would drink the macro brands, Lech, Zywiec, EB and something I vaguely recall being called 10,5. Anyway, in another first for Fuggled, this week's interview is with a Polish brewery in Grodzisk Mazowiecki, just to the east of Warsaw...


Name: Piotr Wypych
Brewery: Artezan

How did you get into brewing as a career?

Via homebrewing

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

Patience and accuracy


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

Yes, all our beers (4 so far) do have their roots in our homebrew recipes.

If you did homebrew, do you still?

Yes, but not so often

What is your favourite beer to brew?

Weizen

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

I didn’t


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

Witbier

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

Not so much, let your experiemce be your guide.

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

Cantillon. I would like to learn more about sour beers

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

Duchesse de bourgogne

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Raiding Blue Mountain

I generally don't drink during the week. It's a habit I picked up years ago when I moved to Prague and taught English to business people. The first lesson of the day often began at 7.30 in the morning and meant travelling across the city to get to their offices, which in turn meant getting up at 6am most days. When you have students to teach that early in the morning, and they are usually C level executives (Chief Something Officer), turning up bleary eyed and incoherent was not recommended.

The exceptions to that rule these days are the monthly meeting of the homebrew club, and other special occasions as warrant it - and no, Wednesday is not generally a special occasion. Tomorrow though is. All this week the good people at Blue Mountain Brewery have been holding an Oktoberfest out at the brewpub in Afton, and tomorrow is their Steal the Glass night. That's exactly what I intend to do, pop along, have a couple of pints of their Oktoberfest lager and steal the glass it comes in, which looks kind of like this:


According to the blurb for their Oktoberfest lager, named Humpbock for a local landmark, the beer:
"uses the eponymous Munich malt in combination with Pils and Vienna malts and is hopped exclusively with the noble Hallertau variety hop. Deep malty flavors dominate this quaffable beer. 26 IBUs."
I don't know about you, but that sounds worth drinking to me, and I have found myself wanting more beer glasses of late, so why not kill two birds one stone?

Picture credit: I didn't take this pic, it was posted on Blue Mountain's Facebook page.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Getting It Right

I have written before about the fact that this part of Virginia is well stocked with breweries rather adept in the lager making arts, especially the guys at Devils Backbone and Blue Mountain, whose Vienna Lager and Classic Lager, respectively, are two of my go to tipples. I have also written many times about my ongoing attempts to find a Bohemian style Pilsner to satisfy my longings for something akin to the many golden drops I drank when I lived in the Czech Republic. This weekend I added another Virginia brewery to my list of go-to lagers.

Based up in Alexandria, I have been aware of Port City Brewing for a while now, mainly because their porter is quite simply sublime. The porter was the first of their beers I ever tried, when I was up in Alexandria to have my biometrics taken as part of the process of getting my unconditional green card sorted. It is an insanely easy beer to drink, which if it didn't pack a 7.5% punch I would happily drink all night, though if I am doing the drinking at home I might actually do so. Anyway, last week during one of my lunchtime wanders I popped into Market Street Wine to see if they had anything interesting on which to spend my tip money from a previous shift at Starr Hill, and so I picked up a single of Port City's Downright Pilsner. Just a side note, having the option of buying singles is great, too often have I bought 6 packs only to not really enjoy the beer and have 5 more to dispose of.


Come Friday night I got home and made a beeline to the fridge. Sadly I didn't take any pictures of the beer itself, I was too busy enjoying it. According to a tweet from Port City, the beer is simplicity in itself - 100% pilsner malt, 100% Saaz hops for 43 IBU, unfiltered, naturally carbonated. Sure enough the beer poured a touch hazy, reminding my of the kvasničáks I loved drinking in Prague, topped off with a firm white head, I was excited to say the least. Aromas of bread, a touch of grainy cereal and the lovely hay and lemongrass of Saaz. Tastewise it is on the nail, a bit of biscuit and bread balanced with the bite of a well hopped beer, I loved it. The only thing missing was being in a beer hall like the sadly gone Radegast and being able to order a tuplak, a one litre glass. I think I'll be buying a case of this in the coming week, and foisting it on my Czech and Slovak friends when they come round to celebrate the establishment of Czechoslovakia, later in the month.


Having been suitably wowed by such finesse in bottom fermenting, I grabbed myself a six pack of Port City's Oktoberfest while I was at Whole Foods yesterday, to compare with Paulaner's Oktoberfest Wiesn - I treated myself to a 1 litre glass with a can of the Paulaner from World Market. One of my criticisms of a lot of Oktoberfest style lagers made over here is that they tend to be a bit too sweet, overloaded with caramel malts which makes them heavy to drink. Port City succeeded in not falling into that trap, making a nice clean, crisp beer with a nice juicy sweetness rather than the cloying caramel thing that some brewers go for. I can see the rest of the six pack being gleefully poured into the tuplak (sorry, just can't call it a maß) and polished off with abandon, I wonder if I can persuade Mrs V to don a dirndl...


So there we have it, another brewery in Virginia making good lagers. Happy days all round.