Friday, 26 June 2009

25 Today, and a new Daleside seasonal release!

In the last few weeks I have been given the privilege of milling the grains, monitoring the fermentation and transferring the new Daleside summer seasonal beer Summer Blonde, which arrived in pub cellars only a few days ago. The very pale hoppy summer seasonal at 4.7%abv retains the soft rounded house character of Daleside’s beers whilst integrating well balanced bouncy tropical fruit and citrus notes from the hops. By my rating an excellent quality golden ale for drinkers of the north east to look out for.

I can also mention that today is my birthday and I have the day off to get ready for my trip up to Scotland to climb Ben Nevis. This has also given me the time to prepare the formidable quantities of strawberries for the maturation of my pending strawberry beer and to get tucked into my new presents, which include a really nice watch, beer books by Randy Mosher, Pete Brown and a new one by various authors in Tribute to the late Michael Jackson called Beer Hunter, Whisky chaser.

Because of the big climb, I also decided to make last night the time to open a bottle of my highly reserved 2008 Vintage ale (less than 30 bottles left now). It seems to have taken on a slightly drier character since its early bottling in January. The body has changed and the alcoholic notes have mellowed. Still fine stuff, but I sometimes wish I’d made a bit more than two gallons.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Strawberry beer.

Now here’s a moment in my brewing life that’s out of the ordinary. This weekend I have been making the base beer for my first ever fruit influenced beer, a strawberry influenced golden/pale ale. Here is a basic outline of the methods:

Total volume: 4 gallons
OG: 1048 PG: 1012

In the mash:
British lager malt, Torrified wheat, Wheat malt, Crystal malt (1%) (I was going to use around 5%carapils but they smelt distinctly cheesy and were replaced by the tiny quantity of crystal)
Mashed at 66oC, sparged at 76-78 oC.

In the copper Hallertau Perle hops were used to create 20-25IBUs, and then used late at around 55min before flameout at 60min. A British ale yeast strain was pitched for primary fermentation.

The plan is to create a fairly light, soft natured golden/pale ale with some underlying sweetness to be matured in around 1-1.5kg of fresh strawberries per gallon for a number of weeks. In theory sugars from the fruit will trigger a second fermentation in the conditioning vessels effecting the flavor profile over time. Has anyone else ever tried making fruit beers, if so let me know what you think?

Friday, 19 June 2009

The return of Beers of the World Live

Me and my old man, wearing identical t-shirts in support of Daleside brewery.

Last weekend me, my parents and fiancée visited beers of the world an annual event held in an area of the Birmingham NEC arenas good food show sectioned off by large wooden barrels. Now a few people unfamiliar with the event have perceived this as some sort of beer festival, well its not. Think beer festival with bells on and your getting closer, but its actually a very different affair altogether. The simple beer festival operates to promote and celebrate (usually) micro and regional cask ale brewers of the area and beyond, beers of the world draws ones attention to the brewing scene world wide, and beers from across the globe are served in bottled form into neat 50ml sample glasses.

Moments of calm before the event begins. Beer stalls in their final moments of preparation.

This year the beer range was (as last year) immense. In fact I felt this year the range of beers and beer styles available was even wider than last year, with a broad selection of wheat beers, pale ales, stouts and porters, oak aged barley wines, fruit beers, pilsner, hells, dunkel and bock style lagers, chocolate, coffee and honey beers, Japanese strong ales, new world India pale ales, American amber ales, Wheat Wines (some kind of hybrid style between wheat beer and barley wines), strong British bitters and various others were available with all but the very rarest beer styles being under the same roof. I myself was privileged to sample over twenty different beers during the day (something not so easily achievable in a beer festival as this would equate to over 10 pints of beer, a challenging volume), many of them fine beers indeed. But the beer of the day was neck and neck between the stunning showcase of English hops that is Meantime IPA, and the bold, balanced and immensely complex Thornbridge Bracia with its exuberant roast grain and warming alcohol signatured palate. Besides these Fullers London Porter (from Protz’s tasting board), Destutes Cascade, Brewdog Zeitgeist, Cains Bock, Brasserie Decazeau Saison Cazeau and a superbly balanced British pilsner called Three lions by a brand new craft brewer H2O Lager Co.

Educational seminars are also held including the light hearted non-demanding beer and food demonstration by the Heary Bikers. This year the two chefs pulled out some classic beer and food combinations for the audience, a great improvement from last years array of mostly random international pilsners with bits an pieces of savory dishes. In fact even the presentation was better as the boys made a decent job of explaining how and why the combinations work.
Sadly another seminar, about American craft beer was cancelled. However stealing the limelight once again was another classic seminar by Roger Protz, this time without his sidekick Jeff Evans. Some may remember my first encounter with Roger from an earlier post concerning last years beers of the world. But this year the subject was beer styles, or to put it more accurately historic British beer styles of most significance (playing to his strong points as a writer), and as members of the masterclass me and my Dad got to sample each of the 6 beers Roger discussed.

Protz in action, taking us through beer style after beer style, the influences and the history.

As a bonus I also managed to grab another autograph when I met face to face with Beers of the World magazine editor Sally Toms. A rather youthful, friendly character, BOTW subscribers will be familiar with her opening Editors Notes section of each magazine that brings a kind of positive down to earth introduction to each edition. But one of the more interesting additions to the show was the beer and food stand, which presented a vriety of bees to match ether sweet or savory food. I found the pairings well chosen myself tho I only managed to get hold of savory samples. In combination with the Hairy bikers this made for a good introductory education for those willing to explore beer and food education. Secondly it didn’t delve into anything too complex such as compex dishes with specific beers, but concentrated on beers most obvious tried and tested affinities, cheese, sausages, and chocolate based disserts.

Savory or sweet. Boards offering beers with various foods were on offer.

Sadly at 5:40 final orders were called, and my whole other-worldly state of feeling like a kid in a giant sweet shop came slowly back to earth. Not a bad day out at all, and even if your not dedicated enough to stay the whole day various other events and stands are present selling various food and drink, gardening items and novel kitchen utensils. But overall Beers of the World live has proven to be a spectacular and well justified tribute to the world of beer and brewing, suitable to those already immersed in the beer world as well as those just getting in. The event shall have a lasting impression, lets hope for more of the same or maybe more next year.

A typical stall at BOTW live, each holds an impressive, ever changing (as the day goes by) range of beers many of them virtually impossible to find in the UK, making golden opportunities for beer hunters.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Hero’s outside the mash tun; The Drayman

Every morning at Daleside brewery, after the days brew has been set in motion, a group of men arrive at the brewery to load up their vans with casks of beer before setting of on separate adventures of delivering beer in various lands afar. As you have probably guessed, the men I am referring to are the Draymen. To many outside the trade these can be referred to as the blokes who deliver the beer, but the centuries old romantic role of the drayman (or woman) has always had a more integral role in a brewers operation than simply transporting beer. The dray person provides the essential personal interface between pub/customer and brewery (as you can guess a customers impression or relationship with a dray person affects their overall impression of the brewery). They also collect feedback from customers as well as priceless information on how the pub trade is fairing up, what beers are selling best etc. In short draymen are the arms and (in part) ears of the operation, the brewers front line, always ready to deliver the goods far and wide no matter how elaborate the rout or how many runs are needed. Draymen also bring back empty casks or collect materials or equipment when needed.

“Steady away for a Monday!”
Draymen Dave and Steve loading vans in morning.

I have often thought how pleasant it would be delivering beer whilst gently cruising across the Yorkshire countryside in a transit van. Historically, when beer was carried by horse drawn drays, draymen were entitled to a free pint of beer in each pub for delivering the goods, but this has changed alittle. Today most micro brewed beer is delivered by transit van or in some cases by car. Larger regional brewers tend to prefer the lorry. But some traditionalists such as Youngs of London or Samuel Smiths of Tadcaster have, until recently tried to keep the horse drawn dray method going. Potentially good for benefits, but I myself would probably prefer the transit van.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Hero’s outside the mash tun: Beer writers.

As many people who know me well know that I am a collector of head brewers autographs. As an almost side project to this I also try collect autographs off beer writers which I know well and respect (excludes certain pretend celebrity brewer beer writers and beer writers who seem to only go on about market shift). In short beer writers are orators of the brewing art. Over the years I have read through a decent quantity of beer and brewing literature and over time have realized just how important beer writers are for craft brewing and how craft brewing itself brought upon the birth of beer writing. In recent times we have witnessed the almost rebirth of beer being taken seriously. Funnily enough I have never heard beer writers write anything about the splendors of being able to neck more pints of Stella on a night out than you’re mates (to assert ones masculinity) before ordering a kebab, getting into fight in the kebab shop, getting arrested, then perhaps finishing the evening throwing up in the cell. But things have moved on sice those bleak days of the 1970’s.

An interesting thing I got told a little while ago was that I myself could join the British Guild of Beer writers and therefore become (in theory) an official beer writer. All I have to do is write to a beer writer called Adrian Tierney-Jones (author of The Big Book Of Beer, and others) and (I assume) send him some of my work. Then if I’m good enough I might get an official beer writer badge, and pen. But I don’t know.

Since I first started reading about beer I have noticed the slight differences in styles between writers and in some cases subject matters. Some like to tie in the subjects of sport, history and culture others are more interested in the industry in general. Some (like Roger Protz) are firmly traditional whereas others opt to draw attention to the newer wave of innovative brewers that use attention grabbing marketing and beers completely out of the ordinary. You may be surprised to hear that a good number of wine writers are also beer writers and sometimes cider writers.

Also noticeable is slight differences in tastes between writers. Those familiar with the work of the late M. Jackson beer hunter will be aware of his fondness for beers on the slightly more extreme side. Others prefer stouts and porters slightly more whereas some are more dazzled by beers where flavors developed through fermentation take dominance such as various Belgian brews, Barley wine or German wheat beers.

I myself have tried to study my own tastes and have realized that my tastes in food show good relation to my beer preferences. For example I do eat a fair bit of milk chocolate, and I am a big fan of dark mild’s, stouts and beers that have deep chocolaty malt depth. I also (admittedly) have a soft spot for coriander spiced beers and also love Indian food. So if your not very experienced with beer you could also try this. Find something you already like it could be (for example) cherry, strawberries, tai curry, champagne, cigars or honey. Then you have a starting point for finding the right beer for you.

But with beer writing writers want to admire the diversity of all beer styles therefore beer writers try not to show too much favoritism to any specific style or beer, although some have admitted to being partially inclined towards a specific style. To become a beer writer myself seems a little daunting as I consider myself pretty amateur compared to the folks mentioned here. My favorite all time beer writer would have to be the late Michael Jackson Beer Hunter, the grandfather of beer writing. At the moment I am also very fond of Jeff Evans, Melissa Cole and a few others.