Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Original Budweiser?

Look at this label.


Clearly the label dates from the period of Budweiser's history when it was brewed by Anheuser-Busch for Carl Conrad's company, C. Conrad & Co. As such it belongs to the period between 1876 and 1882, when Conrad went bankrupt and the brand become the property of Anheuser-Busch in their own right.

I find this label fascinating for one simple reason, the description of the beer, which reads, for those unversed in German:
"Budweiser lager beer, brewed from the finest Saaz hops and Bohemian malt for C.Conrad & Co..."
Why is that interesting? The use of Saaz hops and Bohemian malt for a start, and also the absence of rice, beechwood aging, or anything else that modern Budweiser is well known for.

Was Budweiser originally an all malt lager, made with Czech hops? If that were so, it certainly sounds much closer to the Czech lagers I came to love in my decade in Prague. That in itself raises further questions, when did rice come into the picture, and when did they switch to German hops instead of Saaz?

If anyone has definitive answers I'd love to know.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Blackwall in Bottles, and Harrisonburg

As I wrote about in my previous post, today sees the release of my new beer with Three Notch'd Brewing.

Blackwall London Porter will be on tap at the Charlottesville tasting room from opening time today. It is also being released today at their tasting room up in Harrisonburg, to my shame I am still yet to get out to Three Notch'd there, hopefully one day soon.

I mentioned on Monday that the beer is also being bottled, a first for my various brewing projects, though today's launches are draft only, so here's a sneak peak at the label.


When Dave at Three Notch'd told me the beer was going to be bottled, he asked me to come up with some ideas for the label. The only thing I knew I wanted on the label, without a doubt, was the part of the London docks where Blackwall actually is. The map used on the label dates from 1852, tying in with the era of porter I was looking to recreate. Three Notch'd use a local design company called Okay Yellow to do their label work, and I think they have captured my intention perfectly.

To say I am excited about today's release is an understatement.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Blackwall London Porter

On April 26th 1607, three ships came sailing into the Chesapeake Bay, they were the Susan Constant, the Discovery, and the Godspeed, and in their bowels lay the genesis of both the United States and the British Empire. These intrepid souls had set out on their journey on the 20th December 1606, setting sail from Blackwall in London, and sailing via the Azores and the Caribbean. Eventually the 105 men and 39 sailors would establish Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the then new world.

Blackwall is an intrinsic part of London's history as one of the great ports of the world. Not only did the colonists that established Virginia set sail from Blackwall, so to did Martin Frobisher in his search for the North West Passage, and it was here that the East India Company would build its ships to travel to the fabled Orient. By the 19th Century, Blackwall Yard was lending its name to a new type of ship that replaced the East Indiaman, the Blackwall Frigate, and eventually got into building steam ships as London held on to its position as the pre-eminent entrepot of the age.

What does this have to do with beer? Well, it was around this time last year that I got an email from the guys at Three Notch'd Brewing letting me know that we needed to find a new name for Session 42 because a brewery that is not even in the Virginia market has decided to trade mark the term 'session' and was doing what American craft breweries seem to do best and threatening legal action. One of the names that popped into my head at the time was Blackwall Best Bitter, but eventually we decided to go with Bitter 42. However, I really liked the name Blackwall, and given the history tying that part of London with Virginia, I decided to brew a porter using the name.

Now, as anyone who knows their beer history will tell you, porter didn't exist in 1606 when Christopher Newport and his crew set out from London, so doing a 17th century 'porter' was out of the question. Thus I came to the 19th century, when arguably London was at its peak, and the beer being drunk by the mass of people working in the docks and moving all the goods from place to place was porter.


I didn't want to just take a recipe from Ron's excellent book of homebrew versions of historic beers, but I did use it as my primary source for learning about the ingredients and their proportions for my recipe. Thus I settled on this as my interpretation of a 19th century London porter:
  • 53% pale malt
  • 30% brown malt
  • 15% amber malt
  • 2% black malt
  • 32 IBU of Fuggles for 60 minutes
  • 15 IBU of Fuggles for 30 minutes
  • Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale Yeast
According to Brewtoad, this would give me:
  • OG: 1.069
  • FG: 1.020
  • ABV: 6.4%
  • SRM: 32
  • IBU: 47
Happily the trial batch turned out pretty much as I wanted it to, and next Thursday will see a much bigger batch being released by my friends at Three Notch'd. If you're around the Charlottesville area, head out to the tasting room around 6ish and give it a bash. Apparently it will be available in bottles as well, so take some home and wait for winter to actually turn up to drink it by the fire!