Wednesday 24 February 2010

10. Cardamom Red Wheat

Brew details
Malt: Pale ale malt, Roasted Wheat, Golden Naked Oats, Glucose
Hops: Northern Brewer, Brewer’s Gold, Willamette, Mystery Slovenian ‘Tryal’
Spices: Green and Black Cardamom, Black Pepper, Malabar Cinnamon
O.G. 1065
Yeast: Weihenstephan and Belgian Wit

This should be an interesting one. I’m hoping that interesting won’t be a euphemism for crap. I love the aroma of cardamom and think that it will go well with wheat beer flavours. Most people assume that the flavour of wheat beer is largely due to the wheat. Well in truth it isn’t. It’s the yeast. I am using two wheat beer yeast in competition. In the Belgian corner is Hoegaarden’s (InBev) wheat beer yeast facing the German Weihenstephan or Gloria as I like to call her. The Belgian is spicy with some clove character while the German is strongly banana with some phenol thrown in. Both are exhaustive fermenters so tend to give a dry tart beer.

This wheat beer will be red due to the use of roasted wheat instead of wheat malt. I’ve been dying to use the Roasted wheat since it arrived from Simpsons. It’s got a kind of burnt toast aroma. Just sniffing it makes you hungry. I’m hoping that this will work with the spices to counter the banana notes from Gloria.

My concern about this beer is that there may be too much going on. Potentially we’ll have;

1. Roast
2. Caramel
3. Citrus
4. Cloves
5. Cardamom
6. Cinnamon
7. Banana
8. Cereal

It could start to smell like a dustbin. We shall see!

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Flavour compound of the Week - Iso amyl ethanoate

Iso amyl ethanoate, also known as isopentyl acetate, banana oil, isopentyl ethanoate, pear essence, 3-methylbutyl acetate and 3-methylbutyl ethanoate is a bit confusing really. It’s known in brewing as both the pear drop ester and a banana ester. How can it be both? Well that depends on what else is going on flavour-wise and the concentration of the ester. In confectionary it is used to make both pear drops and banana sweets.

Iso amyl ethanoate (pronounced eye so A mile ee fan oh 8) is produced in fermentation by yeast metabolism. The mechanism of ester production and control is very complicated and linked to yeast growth. I won’t try to explain because I haven’t got time to get my text books out and it would make tedious reading. Strong worts and warm fermentations tend to lead to higher levels of esters in the beer. Again yeast strain is important. Yeast used in Belgian beers tend to be much more ‘estery’ than UK beers. Lager type yeast produce very low levels of esters when compared to ale strains.

Iso amyl ethanoate is also a bee hormone. It is secreted by the sting of a bee when it is deployed to encourage other bees to get stinging. Not therefore a good choice for a fragrance for lip balm or hemorrhoid cream.

Sunday 21 February 2010

14th Post in February

I'm not superstitious in any way but I'm just putting this post up to remove the number 13 from the front of my blog.

Also I wanted to clear up any confusion about the tasting next Friday. Jet from TV's The Gladiators will not be appearing.

Everyday is like Sunday

Another Sunday brings another day in the brewery with a mild headache. I was prevented from going to the CAMRA Kernow Bodmin Beer Festival by yeast work and a prior commitment. I was however genersously kept up to speed by freinds attending the event. I was delighted to hear that Winter Berry was the second beer to go, being sold out by 4PM very closely followed by Chestnut Porter at 4:30.

I was particularly pleased with Winter Berry's perfomamce given that it is a modest 4.3%ABV and the heavyweight beers tend to be cleared out early on. I'm not sure if they have a beer of the festival award at Bodmin. In any case, significant prizes at CAMRA Kernow events are reserved for beers brewed within the TR1 Postcode so if my beer was to prevail it would only be due to clerical error.

My drinkability test of the 6 Hop IPA was a great success. I managed to consume the majority of the minikeg with no loss of enthusiasm and enjoyment. It also went beautifully with a very well-cooked wild seabass.

Anyway, I'm off to write a yeast plan and get an effluent sample. What better way to realx on a Sunday?

Saturday 20 February 2010

New Seasonal Ale - 6 Hop IPA

We (the brewery) were at an outside tasting one day and a normal bloke came up to the bar. He demonstrated that he wasn’t an especially clever bloke by asking for a beer which was not on the bar. He was after an IPA. When quizzed as to why he wanted an IPA he said “I like IPA”. I asked him what it was about IPAs that he enjoyed. He replied that they were easy to drink and light in flavour. Any beer enthusiasts reading this will no doubt be spitting out their supper before saying IPA should be 7% ABV and aggressively bitter you retard!

The number of IPAs in the world must be in triple figures and they vary from 3.4% ABV to 11% ABV, from 20BU to 120+BU and from pale straw to deep red. So what does IPA mean? The answer it seems is whatever you want it to mean! The only two constants seem to be that it isn’t dark and it’s never light on hops.

I don’t want to get into the history of IPA. A very clever man has written a brilliant book on the subject which I would recommend that you read.

The reason for my discussion of the initials IPA is that my next Seasonal Ale is a 6 Hop IPA.
When you are designing a beer this range of attributes gives you some latitude to go with what you feel is best. There has of course been some input from the marketing department who use market trends, consumer preferences and a flipchart to come up with some of the attributes that will appeal to the Mr and Ms Target Consumer. The two things written on the flipchart at the end of their deliberations were “golden” and “3.8% ABV”.

3.8%ABV and a golden colour puts it closer to the UK consumer’s session bitter understanding of IPA. In order to cover the US end of the IPA spectrum I decided to use an amount of hops large enough to annoy all the brewers who have to dig them out of the hop back at the end of the brew. At 3.8% ABV, using this amount of hops risks making a harsh, overly-bitter beer with poor drinkability. For this reason I have been gentle with the hops and taken the citrus and resinous flavours, leaving the astringency in the hop cones. This may disappoint hopheads but hopefully delight everyone else.

The 6 hops are:

1. Hallertauer Northern Brewer – rich herbal bitterness
2. Mysterious Slovenian trial hop with no name (exclusive to Sharps) – strong fresh fruit
3. Bobek (Slovenian hop with a name) – sweet citrus with tropical fruit
4. Hallertauer Brewer’s Gold – citrus with the accent on lemon
5. Cascade – citrus with pineapple and pomelo
6. Willamette – citrus leaning towards grapefruit

Malt-wise the grist is Tipple pale ale malt, amber malt for some biscuit and crystal for a golden colour and some sweetness to balance the generous hoppiness. The beer is fermented by Sharp’s yeast in the Sharp’s Cornish squares over the course of a week. Sharp’s yeast adds a juicy fruitiness and crisp bite. It then spends a week in a conditioning tank and another conditioning in the cask.

How does it taste? First impressions are quite positive. I am taking 9 pints of 6 Hop to a 1 dinner party tonight to road test its drinkability.

Friday 19 February 2010

9. Proper 2% lactic ale

As I got carried away with the 12% red last week I am doing the 2% lactic ale for real this week. I’m employing a different tack to the sloe version this time. I’m starting with a higher (OG 1036) then infecting it with the lactics straight away. The theory behind this is to get a big drop in pH early on to limit the fermentation. Being anaerobic the lactics won’t be able to get going until the yeast has used up the oxygen so there will be some saccharomyces fermentation (respiration).

I’ve used plenty of special malts (roasted wheat, crystal, rye crystal and brown malt) in the grist again to give sweetness and depth as balance against the lactic acidity. Hops are 100% Hallertauer Northern Brewer. This year’s crop is the best I have known and I have been dying to use it alone in a beer. They will work well with the special malts.

My elite bottling team and I bottled the chestnut porter and the chilli double IPA on Wednesday. I am hoping that the extra carbonation of bottle conditioning crisps up the porter because when tasted flat out of the cask it’s a bit over-full. There is a cask which has been warm conditioned being sampled as I type at the Bodmin CAMRA beer festival. Early reports of that are encouraging so I may be worrying unduly.

The chilli double IPA tastes very good. The sweetness of the malt, the burn of the ethanol, the bitterness of the hops and heat of the chilli conspire to throw a sexy party in your mouth! (I’m not sure whether that is a desirable mental picture or not) I had to prize the sample pint glass out of the hand of one of my elite bottlers or he would have finished the lot. The fact that it’s already this good worries me immensely. Something has got to go wrong. I hope against hope that it’s ready for sampling at the Sloney Pony next Friday, fingers crossed.

My 12% Red from last week is fermenting very slowly which is a concern given that it’s only down to 1025. Conking out at 10.5% ABV is unusual for Sharp’s yeast. The beer may be destined for the effluent plant, I hope not.

Flavour compound of the Week - Diacetyl

Diacetyl or 2,3-butanedione is a buttery (butterscotch) flavour. It provides welcome depth to some ales but is generally as welcome in lagers as a turd in a swimming pool. It is produced by yeast during the biosynthesis of the amino acid valine during fermentation. Production depends on 2 things, wort composition and yeast strain. Some yeasts only produce it when under stress or severe starvation, others fart out the stuff under most conditions.

Diacetyl is a vicinal diketone (VDK). VDKs are analysed for using a expensive lab equipment in commodity breweries. Most brewers nowadays use the phrase VDK instead of diacetyl. This is beause a few beer nerds have learned the word diacetyl and the brewers like to keep one step ahead!

Personally I hate it. I really do. It’s a sickly rotten smell which destroys the perception of freshness in beers. Pah! Like H2S a lot of people either don’t mind it or can’t taste it. I couldn’t send beer out exhibiting either stench with a clear conscience. I wouldn’t rate a beer with perceptible levels of diacetyl as any better than poor.

Some bacteria and wild yeast produce diacetyl prodigiously, so like H2S and 4VG it could indicate that your beer is off. In my opinion it certainly indicates that it’s crap.

Thursday 18 February 2010

52 Brew First Ever Tasting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The fantastic people at the White Horse, Parson’s Green, SW6 have agreed to let me showcase my first few brews on Friday 26th February. On show will be:

1. Trappsit IPA
2. ESB Barley Wine
3. Strong Winter Berry
4. A young Chilli Double IPA
5. Turbo Yeast Abomination from hell (Maybe)
6. 2009 St Enodoc Double
7. 2009 Single Brew Reserve

More fun than a millenium barn dance at Yeovil Aerodrome hosted by Jet from Gladiators. Must not, repeat must not turn into an all-night rave.
This is a completely free event. All you have to do is turn up at the White horse at 6PM on Friday 26th Feb. Can you please leave a comment if you are interested?

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Record Breakers

The title of world's strongest beer is once again back in the UK. I am overwhelmed with excitement about this. Making beer with a high concentration of a constitiuent chemical is why I think every brewer first took up the mashing fork. It's something we all strive for and to acheive the highest concentration of ethanol in a beer by freezing it inside a chemical drum in a Scottish ice cream factory and removing the ice is sheer unadulterated genius.

Techical brilliance like this will no doubt win the respect and priase of all brewers. It is a phenomenally important achievement. Similarly Michellin-starred chefs across the globe will look in envy at the producers of the soup with the highest concentration of salt and makers of the potatoiest bubble and squeak.

I'm off to grow 8 foot long fingernails........

Monday 15 February 2010

Ooooo hops!

I have just heard that the wonderful people at Charles Faram hops have got some hop samples spare for me to use in upcoming 52 brew, brews. The list as it stands is:

3.Brewers Gold
8.Mount Hood
10.First Gold
11.Bramling Cross

I have also this year got my hands on some brand new Slovenian hops which are the result of some trial breeding of Styrian Goldings. I’ll be using these in our summer seasonal. It doesn’t get any newer or exclusiver than that!

Sunday 14 February 2010

I am the brewer of human kindness - I will rack an extra pint

As I am working on Valentine’s Day I thought I would send my undying love to all (well all those who deserve it) who honour me by following my blog. Beer of course is THE drink of romance. I would estimate that most of Northern Europe wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for beer’s aphrodisiac properties.

Every Sha-la-la-la
Every Wo-o-wo-o
Still shines
Every shing-a-ling-a-ling
That they're startin' to sing's
So fine

Saturday 13 February 2010

Flavour Compound of the Week - Chloride

“Chloride?!!” I hear you say. Yes chloride like all ions is a flavour compound. All brewers worth their salt add chloride (I would just like to point out that this is a very hilarious joke). Chloride adds a sumptuous sweetness at low concentrations. Higher concentrations make beer harsh and upset yeast. Brewers adjust their brewing water to achieve a balance between chloride and sulphate. Sulphate adds a dryness and accentuates hop bitterness whereas chloride acts to enhance the sweetness of the malt. If you want to test the effects of out for yourself add a pinch of salt to a cup of water and see how it tastes sweeter and smoother. Because Rock is a few steps from the Atlantic our water is slightly higher in chlorides than breweries not near the sea. This is why our beers are more rounded and less harsh than some.

8. 2% (12%) Red ale

Blog hi,

It’s been a busy week. On top of my normal fraught working duties with sales growth at 60% compared to last year I’ve been out at St Austell Brewery looking at Roger Ryman’s shiny new bottling line and spent a very pleasant day in Dorset including playing with Toby Heasman’s centrifuge. That’s this week’s excuse for being slack on the blogging duties. That’s three breweries I have visited in a week. It’s always enjoyable to see other breweries particularly ones with nearly 3 centuries of history under their belts. It’s also nice to spend time with other Head Brewers who are really good blokes. Although we are all in competition for beer sales there is a tangible feeling of brotherhood between us. At least I like to think so!

So where am I with the 52 brews? The formerly chestnut-less porter has been racked into casks with the roast chestnuts. It’s sweet but there is plenty of drying roast notes, bitterness and alcohol to provide balance. It was nearly a very expensive brew because my first attempt at roasting them nearly set fire to brewery.

The Dark Saison has ripped down through the fermentables and is at a very dry final gravity of around 6 degrees making it slightly stronger than I was anticipating. This will be racked tomorrow and stored until next season in the cellar.

I was due to do a 2% red ale this week but I got carried away on Thursday and brewed what is potentially a 12% red ale. I’ll do the 2% red next week. The strong red is reddened with the use of rye crystal this should also give a tartness to break up the residual sugar on the palate. What should also help is very potent Willamette hop tea added to the fermentation vessel. This evening I have the first brews in bottles to tuck into with some pork fillet marinated in the ESB Barley Wine. All in the cause of quality control of course

Friday 5 February 2010


The Sharp’s Brewing Team are on the move. Tomorrow 15 of us are getting in a minibus stocked with beer and being chauffeured to Bridport to visit the only thatched brewery in the UK (world?). Darren Batten, the Head Brewer extraordinaire is selflessly giving up his Saturday lunchtime to show us round his charming brewery which dates back to 1794. It’s going to be a real insight for some of our team who have never been in a brewery which is more than 18 months old. Afterwards we are retiring to a public house to enjoy England putting 25 points on Wales in the 6 nations (at least that’s what we will imagine is happening).

If you are passed on the A30 tomorrow by a minibus with 15 sets of buttocks pressed against the windows it is definitely not us!

Flavour Compound of the Week – Di Methyl Sulphide

Dimethyl suphide (DMS) which looks like a very short caterpillar smells like cooked cabbage or canned sweet corn. It is either a desirable flavour note or an off flavour in Pilsner style beers depending on your point of view. DMS is formed during fermentation from dimethyl sulphoxide which is formed during kilning from the precursor S-methlymethionine. The reason it is found more commonly in pilsners is that the more gentle kilning of lager malt removes less S-methylmethionine than that of ale malts. The brand Rolling Rock used to stink of the stuff. Maybe it still does, that is if it still exists? Some German pilsners are also characteristically high in DMS.

Most commodity beer brewers go to great lengths to avoid DMS in their beers. I remember being at Well Park Brewery (beer factory) in Glasgow when 4 tankers (120tonnes) of beer arrived from the Bass brewery in Birmingham. The Process Team Leader explained that they were Carling Black Label and had been sent up to blend off with beer brewed at Well Park because they had too much DMS in and the Bass brewery didn’t have any beer with low enough in DMS to dilute the DMS down below the flavour threshold.

DMS is also formed in large amounts by some bacteria and wild yeast so presence in a cask ale is often due to an infection. I know some hardened ‘lagerheads’ who didn’t object to the taste of DMS until it was pointed out to them. One of them has never forgiven me for highlighting the DMS in his favourite Canadian/UK lager brand becuase it runied his enjoyment of the beer. I managed to forgive myself in the end.

Thursday 4 February 2010

7. Dark Saison

The Dark Saison is in FV. Saison is my favourite beer style. Until I first tried one I couldn’t believe that it was possible to make a beer crisp and fresh with an ABV of around 6%. Up until recently anything over 5% in the UK was thick and sticky. The best Saisons are more refreshing than cask session ales. The only clue that they are 6-7% is the burn of the ethanol and hit of fresh fruit from the esters. Saisons are typically golden in colour. There are a couple verging on amber but none are anywhere near dark. In beer, with darkness tends to come fullness and richness. Some weaker stouts use the astringency of roasted malts to dry up the finish but as a rule the darker the colour the fuller the flavour. To make a dark beer true to the crisp fresh Saison Character is therefore a challenge!

I am using all the weapons in the brewer’s armoury to ensure freshness in the Dark Saison. The following give a dry and refreshing beer,

Low mash temp
Wheat in grist
Glucose = ethanol
High yeast pitching rate
Highly attenuative yeast
Low beer pH
High bitterness
Roasted barley/wheat

Malt was pale ale, wheat and roasted barley. Hops; Willamette, Cascade and Brewer’s Gold. To this I added 10 degrees of fermenability in the form of glucose and am fermenting the wort with yeast recovered and propagated from a bottle of Dupont Avec les Bons Voeux left over from the Christmas tasting. We shall see how it goes.

The Chestnut Porter is chugging away in the FV. It has fermented down through 60 degrees of gravity over the last 6 days so should go into cooling tomorrow. Once the yeast has flocculated out it’s going into a cask with the roasted chestnuts and some priming glucose. The finished beer is destined to be served at the Bodmin Beer festival on 19th and 20th February. I am also going to bottle a small amount. It smells like a monster. We all of course know what a monster smells like.