Saturday, January 31, 2015

#IHP2015 Double Stout Fun

The masses have spoken...well, 16 of them.

This year's International Homebrew Project returns to the Truman Brewery, but this time to their London location, to brew their Double Stout recipe from 1860.

The grain bill is is fairly simple:
  • 81% Pale 2 row malt
  • 16% Brown malt
  • 3% Black malt
The hop selection likewise is simplicity itself, just Goldings, but lots of them. 130 IBUs worth to be precise.
  • 52 IBU for 90 minutes
  • 49 IBU for 60 minutes
  • 29 IBU for 30 minutes
For yeast, Wyeast 1098 or 1099, British Ale - Dry and Whitbread respectively.

Strike temperatures for the single infusion mash is at 164°F and sparge at 175°F. The boil is 90 minutes.

You should be targetting the following stats:
  • OG - 1.079/19° Plato
  • FG - 1.025/6.3° Plato
  • ABV - 7.1%
  • SRM - 28
For fuller details of the mashing schedule, see Ron's book The Homebrewer's Guide to Vintage Beer.

The schedule for the project this year is:
  • Brewday - Weekend of February 14/15th
  • Writing - Monday March 23rd

Friday, January 23, 2015

#IHP2015 Poll Reminder

7 days......

No, don't worry, the spirit of a dead girl in a well isn't coming for you through your TV. It's just a simple reminder that there are 7 days until the International Homebrew Project 2015 poll closes and the recipe will have been chosen.

As things stand there are 3 recipes in the running:
  • 1860s English Double Stout
  • 1860s English Mild Ale
  • 1850s English Stock Ale
Admittedly the Double Stout is leading by a fair stretch at the moment, but things can change.

If you are planning to brew the winning beer, please email me to let me know (if there are any professional breweries thinking about brewing the recipe on the pilot system, I would love to hear about it!).

Sometime next week I will post a schedule for the brewing/bloggin part of the project, in the meantime, have a great weekend folks.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Question of Six

Yesterday on Facebook, Beervana's Jeff Alworth asked for the first adjective that comes to mind when thinking about the following breweries:
  • Sierra Nevada
  • Dogfish Head
  • Rogue Ales
  • Budweiser
  • Lagunitas
  • Goose Island
I responded to Jeff's request, but thought to myself that it would be a worthwhile exercise to follow that up with some unpacking of my thoughts for each answer.

Sierra Nevada - Solid

The guys from Chico and Hendersonsville have become a more regular visitor to the Fuggled beer garden in the last year or so. Why? Because their beers are simply solid, well made examples of styles. Whilst not being an exuberant fan of the standard pine/grapefruit thing with American hops by any stretch of the imagination, SN's Pale Ale is just a very good beer that is nice to drink. Their Oktoberfest likewise, Tumbler as well, Kellerweis too. It seems that everything they brew they brew well, and I look forward to trying Nooner in the near future, maybe as part of a pilsner blind tasting. I love the fact that they bottle condition, and can condition too, their beers, making them softer on the palette as they lack the prickly CO2 of forced carbonation. Yep, Sierra Nevada are something of a default setting for me, something that I am always happy to see available, and something I am always happy to drink.

Dogfish Head - Eclectic

It seems at times that there is always something new and strange going on at Dogfish Head, they are almost the Willy Wonka's of the brewing world, and while I can appreciate the creativity they bring to the scene, I rarely choose to drink a pint of their beer. My issue with Dogfish is simply that level of creativity makes me unsure of whether I would like a full pint of their beer, and given the price of a pint sometimes I am loathe to send money on something that I am sure I will finish (I envy those out there who have far deeper pockets than I and feel no compunction about sending $15 for a 16oz glass of something rare or weird). Having said that, I have a few bottles in my cellar, including a Midas Touch, and a 120 minute IPA from 2009.

Rogue Ales - Anti-worker

Forgive the politics here but any company that fires workers for wanting to unionise will not see a single penny of my money. Yes I am a terrible lefty who believes in collective bargaining, not crossing a picket line, and single payer universal healthcare. The last time I had a Rogue Ale was quite some time ago and I don't remember being bowled over by it, so I get the feeling I am not really missing much in my personal boycott.

Budweiser - Bland

At first I am tempted to be a smart alec and refer to the Budvar, but I knew exactly who Jeff meant. I have no problem with Budweiser in general. Their beers are superbly well made in terms of process control, consistency, freshness, and all that stuff, but I just find them bland, and I am not a fan of the exceedingly dry crackeriness that seems to be the hallmark of their main brands. I will admit though that the occasional Michelob AmberBock will find its way into my drinking life, usually when at the beach and I can't be arsed with something challenging while lounging next to the pool, but even then, as well made as it is, it is still pretty bland. Not bad, just dull.

Lagunitas - Meh

Another well regarded brewery that simply does nothing for me, other than Brown Shugga which quite like from time to time. Little Sumpin' Sumpin' I find inoffensively dull, IPA I don't think is all that great, and in the words of a friend's father, an escapee from the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Pils 'is simply not Czech'. Nothing else to see here, move along, move along.

Goose Island - Consistently Good

I first had Goose Island beers a couple of months before they were bought by AB-InBev, and I liked them. When they were purchased I didn't rush into the frenzied whirlpool of labelling them sell outs, crafty, or any other ridiculous epithet. Brewing is a business, and like any other business, big businesses will want to buy smaller businesses that they believe can benefit their business. Since being bought out I have noticed that the Goose Island IPA, which I will drink from time to time, has got consistently better and is always a decent pint, which is always a good thing in my book. At Mrs V's uncle's wedding recently I drank a fair few pints of the IPA and enjoyed them all.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Localising the Revolution

For some reason that escapes me, I have been thinking about the so-called 'craft beer revolution' an awful lot so far this month. Maybe it's the absence of alcohol in the bloodstream? Anyway, I was thinking about the origins of this 'revolution', (though I prefer the term renaissance) and in looking at early pioneers there seemed to be a common theme. Essentially it boiled down to taking established beer styles from the UK, Germany, Belgium, chucking in a shit ton of Cascade, Centennial, or Columbus hops and labelling the beer an 'American 'Insert Beer Style'. Imitation being the highest form of flattery, lots of aspiring brewers jumped onboard and thus the American Pale Ale was born, an offshot of the English Pale Ale, the American IPA was born, an offshot of the early English IPAs, and so on and so forth (this may be an oversimplified view of history, but I think it holds water as a general scheme of things).

The best thing about this renaissance was not being cowed by a given beer style, for want of a better word, and using ingredients that were more readily at hand to create something both identifiably within a tradition but also unique, and the drinking world would be all the poorer without Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, perhaps the archetype of my theme here.

Skip forward some thirty years to the modern day and you have a situation where the 'craft beer revolution' has spread beyond its American heartland to the wider world. Breweries in the UK, Germany, Czech Republic, and Belgium, for example, are taking American styles and brewing them for their own markets. Personally I think this is a pity in many ways.

Mrs V and I are planning to head back across the ocean again this year, though this time back to what we consider in oh so many ways our spiritual home, Prague. We are both looking forward again to long walks by the Vltava, the Christmas markets, and sitting with our friends drinking excellent beer in watering holes like Pivovarský klub. I am already looking forward to my first půllitr of a well made desítka. I doubt I will be drinking much in the way of pale ales hopped with Cascade, Amarillo, or Citra. What would interest me though would be a Czech brewery doing Czech interpretations of the 'new' styles that are sweeping the beer world (there's an interesting circularity in that but I won't unpack it here). Imagine a Czech IPA, hopped with Kazbek, Saaz, or Premiant.

Maybe brewers in other countries could do likewise? A German stout using Tettnang and fermented with an altbier yeast strain, a Belgian IPA where all the ingredients are actually Belgian rather than just the yeast, more British 'craft' breweries having faith in both traditional and new British hop varieties

I guess my fear here is that the wave of innovation, creativity and excitement around beer could be diluted if 'craft beer' becomes defined in the minds of many as being 'pale beer made with New World hops', much like the multinational brewing industry became defined as being 'pale lager of indeterminate flavour'. The seemingly inexorable rise of American hopped IPA (and variants) is, in my as ever unhumble opinion, in danger of becoming as dull and uninspiring as the mass produced pale lager.

Monday, January 5, 2015

#IHP2015 Style Poll

Fare thee well 2014, greetings 2015!

It being January, two things are true for me; firstly I am engaged in my annual 31 day booze fast, not for any daft ideas of detox or getting healthy, just because I think it is good to take a break from time to time and just after 6 weeks of near constant imbibing seems as good as any; secondly, it's time to think about styles for this years International Homebrew Project.

As in years passim, we will recreate a beer from the past, the only question though is what kind of beer will it be? Hence the poll in the right rail. I have decided that this years choices all date from about 1850 to 1865, for no other reason than capricious whimsy. Your choices are:
  • 1860s English Double Stout
  • 1860s English IPA
  • 1850s English Pale Ale
  • 1860s English Mild Ale
  • 1850s English Stock Ale
  • 1860s Scottish Strong Ale
Have at the poll folks, it will be open until Friday January 30th.

As in previous years, these recipes are the work of Ron Pattinson, but this year they come from his superb resource, The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer. If you don't own it, you should.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Session: Reading Material

This month's Session is being hosted by the august Alan McLeod of A Good Beer Blog. Alan has asked the question 'What beer book which has yet to be written would you like to see published?'.

Like many of you fine folks that read Fuggled, I spend almost as much time reading about beer as I do brewing and drinking it. Most of the books I have are of a more reference nature and so I dip into them regularly, and often in search of inspiration for my homebrewing activities. Side point, reading reference books is nothing new for me, when I was the shy kid at Sgoil Lionacleit in the 1990s I would spend most lunchtimes sat in the library reading encyclopedias, and even today I am happy to potter around Wikipedia.

When it comes to the beer books that have yet to be written, I think a coming together of my various interests would be my first stop, history and theology being two of them (if you don't already know, I studied to be a minister, though was never ordained). A history then of beer in monastic communities would be interesting, especially if it could go back to medieval times, and included lots of period correct methods for the various stages of brewing. Given that I wrote my BA dissertation on the missionary movements of the Celtic Church prior to the Synod of Whitby in 664, I would be particularly interested in brewing in the monasteries of Ireland and Scotland.

Another book I would love to see published, though it is has already been written, is the 'Geschichte des Brauwesens in Budweis' by Reinhold Huyer, though published in English. The book is a history of brewing in Budweis, which today is České Budějovice, and was published in 1895, the year Budvar was established. Though I have a CD-ROM copy of the text floating around somewhere, the 19th century German typography is a bitch to read, and I'm a lazy git quite often.