Wednesday, 21 January 2015

So much for Worthington's

Early last year I pondered Where's Worthington's wonders, as despite the flash new White Shield brewery and a highly respected brewer in charge their output seemed to be zero. I was soon reassured that barley wine was coming, which I hoped meant the wonders were on their way.

But since then the head brewer has left and the plant has been mothballed. I've now seen the news that by the end of June Molson Coors will decide what to do with it. Though I suppose there's still the chance they'll find some enthusiam I have to say I don't hold much hope.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Dealing with gushers

There's nothing that makes a beer look more unprofessional than having it gush all over the floor when it's opened. As a trained brewer I of course know the Standard Operating Procedure of how to deal with this. Sadly it consists of going "Aaaaaagggghhh!" whilst running towards the sink and trying to catch as much of it as I can in a glass.

Getting gushers is an unfortunate but not unknown occurrence when buying bottles from micro craft breweries. There's worse though. What if it's from an entire batch of your home brew? An altogether more calamitous situation. But fear not, disaster can be averted using this one weird trick you won't believe. Actually, you probably will, but it seems it's the done thing to included dubious phrases like that when putting stuff on websites and who am I to differ?

Basically what you need to do is release the excess pressure a bit at a time. Back when I started home brewing digital scales were not the sort of thing you found in a kitchen so excess priming sugar and the inevitable gushing that follows happened all too often. Fortunately there's always a slight pause before a gushing beer can build up a head of steam, and it's thanks to this that the situation can be saved.

Take a broad headed bottle opener and slightly ease up the crown cork until the bubbles start to build. Let them slowly rise up the neck of the bottle when they reach the stop lifting the cap. Often the bottle will re-seal, but if it doesn't you won't have a horrible mess, or even worse a big waste of beer, you'll have foam oozing out from under the cap. Now's the time to grab your bottle capper and clamp down the top. The oozing will end and peace shall come to everyone.

I added Brettanomyces to this beer and then bottled it too soon.

This process will need to be repeated numerous times as only  a small amount of carbon dioxide will be vented each time. So let the beer settle down and then do it again, a few times a day, for a few days. Eventually the bubbles will lose their ferocity and the beer will be safe to open and drink in the usual manner.

If the situation is really bad put the beer in the fridge before releasing pressure as colder beer will absorb more CO2 so will be less lively.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Greene King - Beer Genius

Greene King, Britain's largest craft brewer will be launching a new training website for their pub staff next month. It's going to be called Beer Genius and will be divided into three sections:

  • Beer Genius
  • Cellar Genius and
  • Commercial genius
Greene King own a lot of pubs so have a huge amount of staff turnover. The website will help with training staff in serving and keeping beer, as well as running pubs. There will be short videos showing how to do things, and online modular courses. The best bit though is that it will be freely available for anyone to view.

Nosing around the Greene King website to see if you could look at anything yet I saw they already have Cellar Doctor online, and after a few clicks I found their views on one particular cask conundrum:

Any casks not stillaged on day of delivery must be vigorously rolled around the cellar before being placed on the stillage. 

I'll be doing some more nosing next month as I look forward to seeing the new site.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Class war on the hop front

Having been to a few hop farms I must confess I've always thought that hop picking looks like a shit job. I could be wrong though, I do know a brewer that takes a holiday every year to go and pick hops. Still, one thing I am certain of is that it was definitely worse when hops were picked by hand. Reading about what East Enders put up with when they went to the hop farms of Kent shows things must have been really tough back home if they though it was an improvement.

When George Orwell did his brief stint as a hop picker in 1931 things were better than they'd been in previous decades but conditions were still harsh:

"When one starts work the farm gives one a printed copy of rules, which are designed to reduce a picker more or less to a slave. According to these rules the farmer can sack a picker without notice and on any pretext whatever, and pay him off at eight bushels a shilling instead of six – i.e. confiscate a quarter of his earnings. If a picker leaves his job before the picking is finished, his earnings are docked the same amount. You cannot draw what you have earned and then clear off, because the farm will never pay you more than two thirds of your earnings in advance, and so are in your debt till the last day.The binmen (i.e. foremen of gangs) get wages instead of being paid on the piecework system, and these wages cease if there is a strike, so naturally they will raise Heaven and earth to prevent one."

The Encircling Hop by Margaret Lawrence includes the list of rules sent to hop pickers coming to the Whitbread owned Beltring farm, one of which is about striking:

"After the tally has been set, and not dissented from, anyone going on strike, or leaving work during a strike, or leaving work before it is finished, will be paid off at one penny per basket"

The fear of strikes and the measures taken to prevent them suggest that they did occur and I finally found an account of one in a book a mate got me for my birthday.

The Hop Bin is an interesting collection of articles covering the history of hop picking in Kent and Sussex. Included is the reminiscences of someone who manged a hop farm in Faversham, which mentions a stirke, and well, well, the workers won it:

"Now I worked for a family company that had been hop growers for about five hundred years. My governor's father was a major, and his father was a 'Sir'. Now they do say that the old grandfather had a problem about what they were going to pay the pickers. The pickers had a strike. And the grandfather went up the hop garden and said 'Don't stop but I'm not going to pay you any more.' Now that night they reckon the pickers went up to the big house and they collared the old chap and they put a rope under his arms and they dropped him in the well and held him just above the water. And they said 'If you don't give us any more money on these hops we'll drop you down into the water'; and he said he wouldn't so they dropped him in the water. When they pulled him out the second time he said he'd give them the extra money. So they evidently got round their little problem by that method."

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Lautering and sparging temperature

I'm sure that like myself many of you have spent  time wondering about sparge temperatures. How exactly was 78°C decided upon? What happens if you go higher? And come to think of it why do some people sparge slightly lower?

As I could only remember something vague about extracting things you don't want it was time to turn to the text books. And fortunately for us these points have clearly been pondered for some time as Wolfgang Kunze has an excellent explanation in Technology Brewing and malting:

"The lautering temperature is very important. As the temperature increases the viscosity of the liquid decreases. This means that the lautering would be fastest at 100°C. Although undissolved residual starch is in every case washed out of the spent grains during sparging (continuation of mashing), late saccharification by α-amylase can only occur provided it has not been inactivated by temperatures above 78°C. Lautering at 100°C consequently always results in “blue mashes” (iodine test)."

And then there's a handy which reinforces the important point:

Because α-amylase is destroyed at 80°C it is necessary to keep below this temperature during lautering.

So there you have it, even when you get to sparging you still need some α-amylase activity to prevent starchy wort.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Gone for a Burton

Though in recent years I've very rarely seen Ind Coope Burton Ale the knowledge that it was still being produced has been a comfort to me on the long, cold and lonely Winter nights.

But no more:

A truly great beer has been killed off. Time for some wailing and gnashing of teeth I think. I'll pass on the rending of garments though, it's a bit chilly for that. 

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Golden Pints 2014

That time of year has rolled round again so here's my Golden Pints:
  1. Best UK Cask Beer
    I don't really drink much cask beer nowadays. Only when I'm down the pub, at beer festivals or visiting breweries. A few stick in the mind from this year, which isn't bad going as I usually have trouble remembering more than a weekend ago.
    The Sharp's Atlantic before the GBBF was very good, but it's not a fair test as it was free and free beer tastes better. The other one I particularly remember was getting some draught Old Dairy Tsar Top. I've mostly had it from bottles and it was good to finally see it on hand pump so that's my winner.
  2. Best UK Keg Beer
    I've mostly been drinking keg this year. When I was at that keg only brewery for an evening that is. They did have one I liked though, the Camden Brewery unfiltered lager. I've noticed neo-keggist heretics often rave about unfiltered beers, which does lead me to believe that they are not beyond redemption, and are groping their way towards beer as god intended. Perhaps calling for an albeergenisan crusade is a little harsh and a more ecumenical approach is called for. After all, our own mother church has adopted some vague drivel about a a positive line on craft beer.
  3. Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer.
    As part of my economy drive I've drastically cut down on my beer purchases but I did get a crate of the excellent Westerham Audit Ale so a clear winner there.
  4. Best Overseas Draught
    Unfiltered lager again, this one from Únětický pivovar.
  5. Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
    That would be Magnifica from  Birra Dell'Eremo.
  6. Best collaboration brew
    A category that fails to excite me. I may have had some collaboration brews but I can't remember any.
  7. Best Overall Beer
    Tsar Top. Oh yes.
  8. Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label
    Thurstons Brewery Milk Stout. The metallic bottle label looks particularly good. The excellent designs are by Too Much Black Coffee.

  9. Best UK Brewery
    Seeing as they got overall beer it had better go to Old Dairy.
  10. Best Overseas Brewery
    And this one had better go to Birra Dell'Eremo. 
  11. Best New Brewery Opening 2014
    Can't think of one.
  12. Pub/Bar of the Year
    The Crown in Horsell.
  13. Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2014
    Can't think of one.
  14. Best beer and food pairing
    I normally end up at at least one beer and food pairing event a year. Can't say it's ever made a blind bit of difference to my drinking and eating habits though, so I'll stick with beer and cheese and onion crisps.
  15. Beer Festival of the Year
    GBBF. Love it.
  16. Supermarket of the Year
    As Dumpy might put it, it's got to be Booths.
  17. Independent Retailer of the Year
    Since last year's runner up Cobbett's Real Ales have now started stocking Orval and opened a micropub in a back room they clinch the title this year.
  18. Online Retailer of the Year
    Don't think I bought any beer online this year, but this online beer seller sent me free beer so them. Unless they're scoundrels that is in which case it's nothing to do with me.
  19. Best Beer Book or Magazine
    American Sour Beers
  20. Best Beer Blog or Website
    Easily Boak and Bailey again. And I got to meet one of them this year.
  21. Best Beer App
    Fiz. Took me a while to get into it but then I was hooked.
  22. Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer
    The twatty beer doodles by @broadfordbrewer have been the thing on twitter that sticks out for me.
  23. Best Brewery Website/Social media
    I like what Jon puts on the Stringers brewery blog.

I also like the idea of having 'Golden Post' awards but didn't think to keep track of things thoughout the year so won't get round to it. I do have a clear winner for Best Impassioned Rant though. Everyone else seems to have gone for this excellent post on Braumeister. But it's not ranty enough for me. For a good rant I want to be able to see the bulging eyes and flecks of foam, and above all I something I can laugh at entertaining. So the best rant is going to Matt Curtis for his post that introduced John fucking Kimmich to so many people. Can't say I agreed with a word he said but the post lead to so much fun it's a well deserved winner.