Friday, 26 August 2011

The Summer's Young and Helpless

August bank holiday unfailingly brings scorching weather to Cornwall. Such was the heat today that the 2 foot-deep lake left by this morning’s torrential rain outside the brewery was a mere 6 inch-deep puddle when I left this evening.  I am starting to think that all the pall-bearers on St Swithin’s reinterment must have been Cornishmen.  My sympathy for the tourists driving around looking for something to do all day is deep and sincere, right up to the point where they decide to spend the afternoon aimlessly wandering around Tesco, getting in my way and running my foot over with their trolleys.

Climatically it’s been a strange year. This has upset the barley plants. This means that malt next year will be more expensive and not as good for making stable beer. This is not good news for maltsters, terrible news for brewers and depressing and expensive news for drinkers.

In the world of the beer enthusiast, white malt is never foremost in the mind. But it is what us brewers rely on to provide sugar for fermentation, body for the beer, foam for head retention and the nourishment to allow our yeast to do its magic. The malt is the foundation of the beer. If it isn't right none of the other aspects of flavour, clarity or stability will be right.

Traditionally wine producers had recourse to have a bad year when nature shafts the crops. These days I can’t see drinkers of big wine brands such as those advertised by showing beautiful people being nice to each other, accepting that their Californian White Zinfandel (blended and bottled in Avonmouth by a team of Eastern Europeans on less than minimum wage) is not going to be quite as sweet this year. Posher wines of course still enjoy a few grand crus.

Brewers are never allowed to have a bad year or a grand cru. I envy the brewers with an ever changing portfolio of beers because these beers taste how they taste and that is how they should taste. When you have regular brands they need to taste the same irrespective of the changes in your ingredients. It is in years of bad crops that the commercial brewer really earns his/her money using experience, understanding and skill to continue to delight the drinker.

On the other hand, hops look promising but until they are in and dried you can’t start counting chickens or any other fowl for that matter. Although saying that, supply of some of the more en vogue varieties may not meet the current insatiable demand.

Finally one of my beers appearing at the Rake this weekend will not taste quite as I had previously indicated. The spontaneously refermented blond came up short of the desired volume so I had to blend it with an unsoured blond. The result I think is just as good and probably slightly more accessible to the sourosceptic.    

Finally, finally to those who gave special birthday presents this Thursday I thank you for freeing me from my prison of lies. A nice final cut.

4 comments:

BeerReviewsAndy said...

Happy belated birthday!!

Bummer about the barley...it's been a crazy year for growing stuff, all my autumnal fruit and veg in the garden is just about ready, my apples are bending my trees, chillis were slow to get going and are now going mental and my tomato plants have made my greenhouse look like a jungle

I even managed to grow a melon....up north!!

unfortunately i've not managed to persuade the mrs that the hedge at the bottom of the garden would be better replaced with a lot of hops..

Stuart Howe said...

Are you sure it was a melon and not a mutant marrow Andy? If I were you I would accidentally plant the hops. They are known to grow wild all over the UK so it was bound to happen in the end!

A lot of the barley was so ahead of time that the seeds started growing before they left the parent plants (known as pregermination).

BeerReviewsAndy said...

that sounds like what happened to my cauliflower...went to seed before I could harvest it!!

It's definitely a melon although it fell off the plant the other day so im going to cut it open today and see if it's any good.

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