Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sterling Job!

Two of my favourite things right now involve the world 'sterling'.

First up is Raheem Sterling, who plays for Liverpool, and has had an outstanding season terrorising many a defence in the Premier League. The other is called 'Of. By. For.', the latest beer from Three Notch'd Brewing.

'Of. By. For.' is one of those beers that I always insist on trying, but always dread, an American made pilsner. If you've followed my witterings for any reasonable amount of time, you will know that I go on ad nauseum about my love of pilsner, and how it is so difficult to find well made representations of the style on this side of the Pond. Thus it was that I lurched up to the brewery on Friday after work, a man on a mission...

To perfectly honest I don't remember much about those first pints, they slipped down so easily, and I was in something of a dash to get home. On Saturday afternoon Mrs V and I were in town, running errands, when she commented that she 'fancied a drink'...well, we were in the neighbourhood anyway, and the football was on, oh and Derek was there, so a couple of hours, and 6 pints, later I knew I had fallen in zythophilic love with Dave's latest offering.


As you can see from the picture, it pours the perfect wan golden that is expected of such a beer in the Czech Republic, with a slight haze, and a voluminous pure white head, oh I was transported back to the beer halls of Prague, Plzeň, and Brno. The aroma was laden with lemon blossom, freshly mown grass, and that cracker graininess that pilsner malt delivers. Given that Sterling has a healthy stock of Saaz its heritage it was very much in the ballpark I was expecting. But what about the important bit, the drinking itself, it was lovely. Dry without being thin, zingy without being overly bitter, and packed, I say packed, with hop flavour. If there is one criticism, it is that at 5.6% it is a touch boozy, but it is incredibly moreish so you can happily banish that particular thought.


I see many pints of this wonder in my future....many pints, and not infrequent litres.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Rolling Back the Years

A few weeks ago, as you may recall, I spent a very pleasant Friday at the Blue Mountain Brewery brewing an iteration of a beer style that is all but dead. Once upon a time, Burton Ale was popular enough to be lauded as one of the four types of beer being brewed by British breweries. Today you may as well go looking for the faerie folk as try to get a Burton Ale in your watering hole of choice. Unless of course, your watering of choice is Blue Mountain Brewery this Friday.


Friday sees the release of Sensible Mole, our recreation of Courage Brewery's KKK from 1923, and named for a scene in The Wind in the Willows. While it is one thing to take a historical recipe and re-brew it, the question remains, is this how it would have tasted? Unless you happen to have someone for whom Burton Ale was a regular part of their drinking life around, it's difficult to answer with much real confidence. However, looking at the numbers involved in the brewing, and a knowledge of how the beer was made, can give us some pointers. Let's start with some numbers:
  • Original Gravity: 18° Plato
  • Terminal Gravity: 6° Plato
  • Alcohol by Volume: 6.5%
6° Plato is a very high finishing gravity for an 18° beer. Usually beers of that strength attenuate out in the range of 8-8.5%, so we have a lot more residual sugar to give the beer sweetness and body. Expect then a beer than has a thick, full mouthfeel, and plenty of lovely malt sweetness, which is just as well, considering the following number:
  • IBUs: 102
102 IBUs, or about 3lbs of hops to the barrel, is seriously, seriously bitter. If you remember from the post I wrote about the brewday itself, most of the hops went into the boil right at the beginning. The dominant hop in the beer is one of my favourites, Goldings, so don't go expecting the grapefruit and pine resin thing of 'hoppy' beers in the American context to be the dominant feature, think Seville oranges and great hefty dollops of spice. We also used Goldings for the dry hopping, so again expect a thoroughly British aroma to the beer, more spiced marmelade is the order of the day. The original recipe called for Cluster for the 30 minute addition, but we had to substitute that out for Nugget, so expect some floral characteristics from that, and maybe a trace of grapefruit. The combination of Goldings and Nugget has me thinking of taking wildflower honey and mixing it with your favourite thick cut Seville orange marmelade....yum. But don't forget the bitterness, it'll be there in abundance.


To quote Kristen England on his version of this recipe:
Big, dark, and hoppy as hell. Herbal hops, spicy endive, cedar, hints of grapefruit and sweet lady fingers flow into a rippingly tannic, crisp finish. A nourishing British, hop-centric, cracking pint for all you 'op 'eads from days gone by.'

Sensible Mole promises to be a beer unlike anything I have ever tried over here, and I for one am very much looking forward to a glass or two come Friday.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Speaking My Language

Just a moment ago, Melissa Cole tweeted about some comments Garret Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery made on a post over at The BeerCast.

Naturally I popped on over and read the original article, which is interesting reading in it's own right, but Garret's comments almost had me shouting 'amen' at the top of my voice, and so I reproduce the entire comment here for liked minded souls' edification, and I encourage you to read the original article as well:
Whoa. I must admit that although I’ve spent a lot of time drinking craft beer in the UK the past few years (and 20+ years before that), I have never heard of Brewmeister. Nor have I tasted their beer or knowingly spoken to anyone who works for them. So, essentially, I know nothing about them. However, if the “charges” made are true, they are simply the latest of a new breed of brewers that we’ve seen here in the U.S. all too often lately.

Welcome, then, to the age of the “clown brewery”. I won’t name names – you know who they are. Instead of making beer to be delicious, instead of making public statements and representations that will lift all our boats, instead of standing ready at all hours to assist their fellow brewers….they put on the clown show. “Our beer is the strongest in the world.” “We have higher IBUs than any beer ever produced.” “We made a beer at the bottom of the ocean, in a cage filled with snakes.”

So let me be 100% clear. Not only do such people laugh at us beer fans, all day, every day….these people don’t even LIKE you. Do you understand? They think you’re a dupe. And like every con artist, they have nothing but contempt for their “marks”. They want fame, and they want money, plain and simple. And there’s always someone who’ll give them both. As Kurosawa said in his film title, “the bad sleep well”. Are you surprised at a lack of apology?

The current hot climate of craft beer breeds a lot of weeds. Craft brewers who speak ill of other craft brewers. Brewers whose beers are heavily flawed or have no consistency, not because the brewers are uneducated, but because they think that quality doesn’t matter, and we’ll drink anything with a cool or shocking name, story or label. Even better if it’s “rare”. A lot of them will say “hey, we’re just like punk rockers, we do things our way.” No, you’re not a punk rocker, you’re a leech and a poseur. I took the Ramones bowling. No one can tell me anything about punk – I was there and lived it. And the Ramones could PLAY. I know – I produced shows with them. So no, there are no excuses, and these people are not “punk”. There’s a big difference between artistic freedom and narcissistic cynicism.

At this year’s Craft Brewers Conference, there were 9,600 attendees. Last year there were just over 6,000. We have, in the US, 1,800 firms that have filed for federal brewer’s licenses and plan to open in the next year. From the stage, Paul Gatza, head of the Brewer”s Association, told the crowd that our culture was being threatened by new brewers who had a greater commitment to themselves than to their customers. As he pointed out, we’ve built a great thing in craft beer. Finishing his statement, he said ‘Guys…don’t fuck it up.” Here here, Paul. Only you, the beer fans, can make sure that the newbies, who we welcome with open arms, come correct.

There are also great newbies out there. Wonderful people making wonderful beer. Each one of them has left an easier and more secure path of life, leapt into thin air, and tried their best to make beers worthy of your table. I have nothing but mad respect for them. Support them, each day, every day. If they’re local, buy a pint of their beer before my beer, as a matter of principle. I hope you buy our beer too, but the new good brewers need you. The clown brewers detest you. Understand that. You know what to do.

I have no idea who the “Richard” is who posted here, but while I cannot speak to the veracity of his specific statements, I can certainly see the tide of crappiness, both organoleptic and spiritual, that some people hope to bring us. It’s dangerous to speak out these days, and some people may well take isolated quotes from this post and try to hang them around my neck. But yes, there are bad people abroad in the land. Thankfully, their ranks are small, measured in dozens, if that. They are no match for you. Send the bad ones back whence they came, plain and simple.

Garrett Oliver
Brewmaster
The Brooklyn Brewery