When I was 18 or 19 I discovered Fullers ESB. While all my mates were complementing their outfits with bottles of Mexican urine with slices of lime shoved down the neck I was revelling in the bitter sweet kaleidoscope of flavour. What’s more mine was a whole satisfying pint not a 330ml rejection of manhood. Despite being twice the size of everyone else, the result of drinking twice as much as everyone else did have an inevitable impact on my state of consciousness. One such evening I decided to stay at my mate Geoff’s house to save a very long unsteady walk home. Geoff’s old man was a very discerning gentleman. Bottles of Chateau l’extorsion filled his garage and he would only ever shop at Waitrose. I was asked if I fancy a beer and as I was no longer responsible for getting home safe I naturally said yes. I was presented with some of Geoff’s father’s private reserve of Hofmeister Lager Beer. After 3 cans of thin, gassy, metallic ordure I was more sober than when I had arrived home. I should at this point state that strength has no bearing whatsoever on quality.
7 years later I once again ran into the Hof. I was in planning at the Foster’s factory on the M4 and we were discussing some out of spec Foster’s Ice. The conclusion of the discussion was that the beer was beyond repair and to send the beer to CCT16 otherwise known as the Hofmeister tank. At this point in time the glory days for Hofmeister were over and it was being ‘brewed’ by pumping all the ***k ups into a tank and adding de-aerated liquor (water with the oxygen removed) to bring the ABV down. I was only at the Foster’s factory for 4 months but in that time beer was only ever sent to CCT16, it was never packaged. Ironically the main brands only spent 3 days in ‘lagering’ while the Hofmeister was getting months and months of extended cold storage. A year or so later I read that George the Bear was hanging up his Trilby. I wonder if CCT16 was ever packaged.
So in honour of this classic and much-missed brand I am resurrecting it for the 52 brews. Believe it or not this beer is going to be the most technically difficult to pull off on a small scale. I have to admit to never having brewed Hofmeister so I am using my experience of standard commodity lager brewing techniques to make an educated approximation.
It is likely that Hof was brewed from about 60% low colour malt, and 40% maize grits. The maize grits were there to save money and dilute flavour and have to be cooked before use to gelatinise the starch granules. The low colour malt would have been very poor quality so would require temperature-programmed mashing to degrade gums and proteins. This means heating the mash while mixing through about 20oC with one of the temperature increases provided by mixing in the boiling maize porridge. Because the proportion of malt was so low there would not be enough natural malt enzymes to free up the starch and break it down into sugars. Bacterial and fungal enzymes were therefore required. Doing all this on a 60litre scale will be a pain the 4rse. The wort produced will need to be around 1080.
The Hof would then have been boiled for an hour with some liquid iso alpha acids and maybe some cheap pellets added for aroma at the end. This should be easy enough to achieve. The wort would then have been fermented warm with a hybridised yeast in a cylindroconiocal vessel to ferment out in 2-3 days. I haven’t got a 60 litre cylidroconical and will have to use a lager type yeast at 20C
In its hay day the green beer would have been centrifuged down to a low level of yeast cells before cold conditioning 0C for a couple of days. In a pipe on its way to the filter the beer would have been diluted with de-aerated liquor from 8%ABV down to 3.2% and the CO2 level, colour and bitterness would be adjusted to spec using CO2, ammonia caramel and iso alpha acids. I am not going to filter my beer but I will be diluting it and adding bitterness and colour. My beer will be bottle conditioned rather than kegged or canned but I am going to heat the beer up to 45C for about 10 minutes in a sealed container to mimic the effects of pasteurisation.
I hope that this beer is going to be as complex and sophisticated as the original Hofmeister.