Friday, January 31, 2014

Brewer of the Week

A list of the world's great brewing nations easily trips off the tongue, England, Belgium, Bavaria, Bohemia. One country that seems to be overlooked quite often is the Netherlands. Historically there are many links between Dutch brewing and England, as there are in many other walks of life. Today's Brewer of the Week interview is with a brewery that are reviving historic Dutch beer styles, including those made with a majority of oats in the grist and a medieval dark beer called poorter...


Name: Frederik Ruis
Brewery: Witte Klavevier

How did you get into brewing as a career?

I'm not a brewer but cooperate with brewers. For me the start was a visit to the old brewery where my brother used to live. From that moment I started researching brewing history and it still inspires everything we do.

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

Right from the start I thought new beers had to contribute something new, something else next to what's already there.

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

First beers I brewed myself where several Koyt beers with malted oats as the main ingredient.


If you did homebrew, do you still?

Right now I cooperate with others to make an early Dutch beer with 80% malted oats.

What is your favourite beer to brew?

The Koyt beer is by far the most challenging and therefore I enjoy it the most. Commercially it's a nightmare because oat malt is about the most expensive malt there is.

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

Right now that would be the heavy black beer we started making. We also do some barrel aging of this beer.

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

The Witte Klavervier brewery used to have a half share in a farm where the grains and hops were produced and they had their own malting. That kind of authenticity is totally gone, but we're working against all odds to bring it back somehow.

How about the flavour of fermentation and aging on wood? What about long cooking times, evaporating water instead of mixing in sugar-syrup? These are all inspired by early brewing methods.


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

We're collaborating with several other breweries, making 100% oat beers and barrel aged beers. It's good to be in contact with colleagues, talk and drink some beer. Next I participate in a group trying to revive old beer styles.

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

I'm particularly jealous of the Belgian spontaneous fermentation culture. It dates back a very long time, in the Netherlands as well as in Belgium, and still remains over there. That's really great and I wish them luck.

Note: All pictures on this post were taken from the Witte Klavevier website.

Monday, January 27, 2014

#IHP2014 - The Recipe

1834, what a year that was.

The Spanish Inquisition officially came to an end, by royal decree. Charles Babbage began his conceptual designs for the 'analytical engine', a mechanical precursor to the computer. The Zollverein came into effect, abolishing customs duties between the German kingdoms, which would eventually lead to the creation of modern Germany.

The following people first saw the light of day:
And the following breathed their last:
And in Norwich they brewed porter.

According to Ron Pattinson, St Stephen's Brewery in Norwich, made a grand total of 4 beers, an X, XX, table beer and the following porter...
  • 72% Pale Malt
  • 21% Brown Malt
  • 7% Black Malt
  • 60 IBU of Fuggles for 120 mins
  • 22 IBU of Fuggles for 30 minutes
  • Nottingham Ale yeast/WLP002 English Ale Yeast/Wyeast 1968 London ESB
The vital stats for the beer are:
  • OG: 1.066
  • FG: 1.022
  • ABV: 5.9%
  • IBU: 82
When this beer was recorded in 1834, the mash lasted 2 hours, at a consistency of 1.4qt of water to a pound of grain, at 156°F. The boil was also two hours long, and in the words of Kristen England, the beer was:
Massively rich and chewy. Cocoa, burnt biscuits, graham crackers, coffee and carbonized sugars. Loads of raw grassy character with the mouth drying tannins to boot. Finishes thick but not sweet in the least. The dark acidic character of the malts really extend the finish that keeps going and going.
As I mentioned in the post announcing the style for this year's International Homebrew Project, the brewday is scheduled for the weekend of 15th/16th February.

For those that can't get hold of Brown Malt, here are some instructions to make your own.

If you are planning to take part, let me know either in the comments or drop me an email...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Across the Mountain

There were just four more drinking days left in the year, and 6 before I had to go back to work, so what else to do on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year? Visit a brewery of course.

Sometimes it seems as though the boom in local brewery openings is concentrated to the west of Charlottesville, where you can find Devils Backbone, Blue Mountain, Wild Wolf, and should you carry on the I-64 to a small town called Staunton, there is Redbeard Brewing. So with no commitments for several days, we met up with my good friend, and occasional collaborator, Mark, and ordered a flight of 6 beers...



The six in my flight were:
  • America's Pale Ale
  • 221 Baker Brown Ale
  • Best Coast IPA
  • AM OG Stout
  • Black Rye IPA
  • Xmas Beer
Each of the beers was perfectly acceptable, and in the 221 Baker Brown and AM OG Stout beers which made for a lovely pints on a Saturday afternoon. I was a little disappointed that their bitter, called Mycoft (are you spotting a theme yet), wasn't on tap, but that's just an incentive to get down there again when it is back.


I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by Redbeard, decent beer, a relaxing pub like atmosphere, and a distinct lack of fripperies, and 'craft beer' nonsense waffly bollocks. Compared to some places that are springing up, it was refreshing in more than just the liquid way.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Reasons to Fly

I love to travel. In my decade of living in the heart of Central Europe, I went for trips to Slovakia, Croatia, Tunisia, Germany, France, Ireland, and of course several trips home to the UK. It helps that pretty much everywhere in Europe is about 3 hours away from Prague by plane. Since moving to the US, Mrs V and I have taken several trips to various parts of the country, whether together or individually, probably my favourite place so far was North Dakota, wild, barren, and insanely beautiful. Only rarely do I travel for work, such as the occasional industry conference or sales trip.

Before taking such trips I spend time surfing the interwebs looking for information about pubs, breweries, restaurants, and sights worth seeing. Most of the hints, tips, and recommended places I find are written up by travel writers, whose jobs seem impossibly romantic. Imagine being paid to travel, sleep in fancy hotels, eat in several restaurants, and drink the local beer. It was with these lingering romantic notions that I sat down to read Evan Rail's latest Kindle single, 'Why We Fly'.


Taking something of a departure from his previous Kindle singles, about beer strangely enough, Evan looks at life as a travel writer, whom he describes as being
someone who can visit a first-tier destination like the Louvre and leave after ten minutes of taking notes, since there's always another museum and another deadline directly ahead...who can bluff past the waiting list for a trendy nightclub and then leave without even trying a drink...who will take an inordinate number of pictures of the inside of his hotel room in its just-made state and who annoyingly wants to photograph the restaurant menu as well as the food".

Couched within the tale of an unexpected ferry crossing, 'Why We Fly' is compelling, punctuated with wry observation of both his life as a travel writer and the interactions that are part and parcel of his work, and like a wonderful session beer, each page is a pleasure that makes you look forward to the next.

If you have read Evan's beer writing then you will enjoy his travel writing just as much, and if you haven't read his beer work, where exactly have you been? So pop on over to Amazon and buy 'Why We Fly'.

Monday, January 13, 2014

#IHP2014 - The Style

Sometimes it seems as though if a style of beer is to become popular then it needs a compelling back story, or a completely fabricated, mythological pile of codswallop. Whether it is the disgruntled citizens of Plzeň smashing up barrels of beer on the steps of the city hall in 1839, leading to the creation of the pale lager that now bears the city's name, or IPA being invented with extra hops and alcohol to survive the journey to the mysterious east, it sometimes seems that tall tales and beer go hand in hand. Another beer with a myth of grand proportions is porter, that dark brew that according to legend was invented to replace a mix of beers known as 'three threads', a myth thoroughly debunked by Martyn.

For last year's International Homebrew Project we brewed Burton Ale, a style of beer which has all but disappeared. This year I decided that it would be fun to turn the tables and brew something which is alive and kicking, and so I decided that porter would be the style.

As ever there is a poll in the sidebar with a list of porters for which I have access to the recipe. If you intend to take part, vote for a recipe, and in a couple of weeks I'll post the project recipe. The schedule for this year's project is as follows:
  • Poll until January 24th
  • Monday January 27th - recipe posted
  • Weekend of February 15th/16th - brewday
  • Monday March 31st - blog about the beer

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Three Times Eight

Doesn't necessarily equal 24, what it does equal though, if you live in the Charlottesville area, is an opportunity to get along to Sedona Taphouse tonight and enjoy some Three Notch'd beers as part of their latest Tap Takeover.



The eight beers available tonight are:
  • 40 Mile IPA
  • Jack's Java Espresso Stout
  • Killer Angel Double IPA
  • Oats McGroats Oatmeal Stout
  • Sweet Winter Ale
  • Session 42
  • Brother Barnabus Tripel
  • Tollan Amarillo RyePA
I won't be making it out myself as I am in my dry January stint, read Pete Brown on this, and won't be touching a drop again until February 1st, which is thankfully a Saturday.

I believe, and I am sure if I am wrong I will get an email fairly soon, that the Oats McGroats is the base stout for the Jack's Java.

Oh, I almost forgot, happy New year everyone!