Friday 30 April 2010

It's a Gay May Day

Brewers don’t do bank holidays (busy ones at least). Yeast doesn’t look at the calendar and stop fermenting and bateria never take a day off. Also due to the fact that everyone else is drinking the weekend away because there’s no work on Monday there is generally a bit of brewing to re-stock going on. We hit our latest record this week with sales of 1800 brewer’s barrels (520,000 pints) for the week. As a result we are refilling vessels as fast as we can to prevent a stock out.

Being a bank Holiday this of course means that there will be beer festivals. I’ve done an extra special beer for a couple of the local ones, a cask version of St Enodoc Double. At 8.5% I was concerned that with the lower carbonation of cask ale it would be a little cloying but it came out very well and worryingly drinkable! St Enodoc Double cask will be available at and If you get to try some please let me know what you think.

The village of Padstow, which I can see out of the lab window will be crammed with merry makers playing with their Oss. I am pleased that this has fallen on a weekend because when it's on a week day it means that we lose half the brewing team to “stomach bugs” the next day. If you go, don’t miss the excellent Cornish Coaster in the “Rusty Donkey". If you don’t know the way ask a local.

Thursday 29 April 2010

19. Battle of the Yeasts

The 50 hop was racked into cask yesterday and I had my first taste of the Shellfish Stout in bottle. I am really pleased with both of them. The IPA, even after dry hopping, I fear will be slightly too reserved for the true hop disciple so I am doing another one with more hops in the boil. I think it is a wonderful drink but if I am to impress those who demand papillial erosion from their beer, it needs more nuts. I have got a 500ml pot of 30% iso alpha acid that a hop merchant gave me gathering dust in the lab that I could use but that would be cheating. The Shellfish Stout is superb, sublime and fantastic. You can really taste the shellfish. They give the beer a salty almost samphire-like character which works brilliantly with the generous hops and dry malt. It’s almost like you are drinking it on Padstow harbour on a November morning with your arm around Rick Stein. I wish that you could try some. I really do!

The first beer to go down to the effluent plant was only partially a 52 brew beer. The 12% red had “issues” in the fermenter and in the cask was carrying the early signs of wild yeast infection. It was also too sweet and just toilet all round. Serves me right for slipping it in, in the first place (as the actress said to the bishop). I bottled the Dark Saison a couple of weeks ago and have sent it to Lord ATJ, who suggested it as a brew, for a professional review. I really enjoyed it and it had my flavour panel searching for Jilly Goolden-style superlatives last Friday. I tried one of the bottles of Cardamom Wheat again last week and it still tastes like something Barry Scott would shout at you.

We are fast approaching the half way point in the journey of discovery that is 52 brews in a year. So far I have made stars of the hop (50 hop and DUSI) special malt (25-grain Chechen Imperial Porter), Herbs and Spices (Gruit Ale and Cardamom wheat), bacteria, shellfish and even animal organs (Heston’s Offal Ale). It is now time to turn to the Cinderella of brewing, Saccharomyces cerevisiae (brewer’s yeast).

I once read an article in the Brewer’s Guardian by a very well regarded brewing academic which basically said the yeast strain is largely incidental to beer character. At the time being newly graduated I took this as gospel and assumed that the brewhouse and process stages along with control of fermentation were where the true key to flavour control lay. Quite a few years on I can only assume that the eminent professor was talking about strain of yeast within a style of yeast because I have found the contribution of yeast to be absolutely pivotal to a number of defining beer attributes. If he wasn’t then he should have spent longer brewing and less time studying barley beta glucans.

At a few times in my career I have had run ins with yeast. Yeast can be a dream come true or a nightmare made reality. Once a few years back I was at a brewery, (name withheld), where the yeast just started to do stupid things. We looked at changing the yeast and got in samples of commercial yeast strains which had similar flavour characteristics. We did small scale trials on the same wort pitched with different yeast. All were significantly different from the brewery strain and each other. I was stunned at the degree of variation within a group of yeasts which were all described as top fermenting British ale yeast with a fruity and dry flavour. Fortunately the brewery in question’s yeast started behaving again.

Battle of the yeasts isn’t just about what flavours a yeast strain can produce, it’s also about how much and how quickly. I am creating an even field by ensure that the cell number, viability and condition of all the yeast are equal. The contribution of the yeast to the flavour will depend on which compounds it produces as well as how well it competes for nutrients in the wort. The yeast may be able to produce pronounced, characteristic aromas like bananas and cloves but if it is last to the oxygen and sugar feeding trough, it isn’t going to be able to ferment strongly enough to contribute to the overall flavour. Conversely Sharp’s yeast may compete well for the available nutrients but its naturally clean and gently fruity contribution may be drowned out by the more expressive Belgian and German yeast.

In the words of Harry Hill, there’s only one way to find out. FIGHT!!!!

Wednesday 28 April 2010

Stout Success

Germany is not noted as a major beer importer. In fact according to the latest figures I could find imports account for less than 2% of consumption. In the proud and patriotic United Kingdom we import nearly 10% of what we drink. I heard yesterday that a prototype stout I made for a fairly large German brewery has been the Del Monte thumbs up by their buyer and brewing team. The design brief was to closely match Guinness. I am happy to say that I failed miserably in achieving this. I did consider getting some John Smith’s Extra Smooth and adding some roasted barley extract, ammonia caramel and a few milligrams per litre of iso alpha acids to it but I thought I’d take a risk on a rounded hoppy stout with dry and moreish finish. I’m quite pleased that they liked it because it’s the first commercial stout recipe that I have ever written and I was pleased with the result. The next stage is a modest sized brew which will be trialled in a few of their pubs. Fingers crossed that the German public like it as much as their brewers.

With my smarm-filled self satisfaction for the day over with I can go back to being stressed about lack of pins, a broken racking head, missing flow meter readings, a late HEPA filter and some oh-so-fun job interviews.

The last couple of yeast vials have arrived for my battle of the yeasts on Friday. I now have;

1. Sharp’s

2. Trappist (Scourmont)

3. Abbey

4. Old English

5. Champagne

6. Gloria Estefan

7. ESB

8. Moortgat

The contenders are warming up and the tension is building. There was a minor scuffle between Sharp’s and Champagne (he doesn’t like the French) but I calmed things down by rustling a sachet of Turbo Yeast™ at them. No one ***ks with Turbo Yeast™.

This brew should prove to be interesting.

Sunday 25 April 2010

Flavour Compound of the Week - Acetaldehyde

Dave Pollen was one of those teachers that you will always remember. I remember his pronunciation of the element Platinum, his irreverent humour and the Francis Rossi pony tail which on his receding late forties head made him look like his hair had slipped back 6 inches. Aldehydes always remind me of Dave because he once nearly blew himself up in front of the class trying to make one in a test tube. Dave was a good bloke who helped me get my chemistry A level at night school and even made the Born-Haber cycle interesting, although mainly because he confused himself while explaining it.

This week’s flavour compound is Acetaldehyde or systemically ethanal. Acetaldehyde as you may have noticed from the balloon dog is ethanol with one less hydrogen atom. An enzyme in the body (alcohol dehydrogenase) removes this hydrogen in order to facilitate the excretion of alcohol. High levels of acetaldehyde in the body correspond to the reported symptoms of a hangover but a direct link has not been established. The "hair of the dog" hangover cure is thought to work by affecting the activity of alcohol dehydrogenase. My advice for avoiding hangovers is don’t drink too much. Advice which I should have taken last weekend.

Acetaldehyde is produced during fermentation and smells like the bruised skin of a green apple (unripe Granny Smith). Some say the term green beer comes from the green apple-like aroma of beer at the end of fermentation due to acetaldehyde. I suspect that the use of the word green is meant to convey the fact that it is unripe or not ready for consumption.

Acetaldehyde is also produced by a few spoilage organisms which I won’t bore you with.

Saturday 24 April 2010

Flavour Panel End of Term Exam

Our flavour panel were screened and selected to have tasting abilities and taste vocabularies which range from better than average to excellent. Over the past few weeks I have been subjecting them to the fraught and stressful annual tasting ability surveillance tests which involve measuring their ability to detect and describe key flavour notes and off tastes such as Citral, Diacetyl, Iso amyl acetate, 5-methyl furfural etc etc etc.

The results are in and a few of the panel follow the blog so here is a posh graph which gives the results. You will note I am prefect and got 100%. I should do though as I am a brewer and familiar with the flavour standards. Click on the image to enlarge it.

This is the first stage of this year’s screening. I have yet to put them through the triangle taste tests where they have to identify if a beer in a set of three is different or not. This sounds easy but it normally sorts the men from the boys or the ladies from the maids. Tris beat me on one of the triangles last time.

Alas, any of the panel who fall below better than average will not be able to contribute to the marking in future panels and will have to be exterminated!

Please excuse the inflammatory question but I wonder how many of the panellists selected to judge prominent beer competitions undergo similar screening?

Friday 23 April 2010

18. 50 Hop IPA

The picture above is not the Devon and Cornwall constabulary’s latest drugs haul, it’s the bags of 47 of the hops for my 50 hop IPA. The others came from bails or fresh packs and I had already wasted enough time getting this lot together!

Yes it’s here, the sexiest beer on the blog so far. Hops have always been the stars of the beer show and these days they have been elevated to a saintly status. The hop itself has been improved by selective breeding and other cutting edge biotechnological techniques. Mr Fuggle (if he ever really had anything to do with the advancement of hop cultivation) probably wouldn’t have dreamt that one day we would get to the likes of Apollo and Summit.

The development of hops has been driven by the richer (bigger) side of the brewing industry and as a result those involved have striven for higher and higher levels of alpha acid (a groups of compounds in part responsible for bitterness in beer). When first used, hops would have had an alpha acid level of around 4% max. These days modern varieties are closer to 20%, the hop equivalent to the Belgian Blue cow. This is great news for big brewers who buy the hops, get someone to chemically remove the alpha acids as a green gloop and then add this to their beers. They can buy 5 times fewer hops and get the same amount of green gloop! Why turn the hops into green gloop you ask? We buy about 30,000kg of whole hops per year. To make the same volume of beer that Sharp’s make in a year InBev would use about 500kg of green gloop (the beer would be vastly different). I’m digressing again.

As a wonderful coincidence the genes coding for compounds responsible for citrus, fruity and floral hop aromas have been carried through the breeding process with the alpha acid genes meaning that these beefcake hops also have stunning aromas. The brewer’s palette now has a much broader spectrum of colour when it comes to the contribution of the hop. Without modern hop varieties craft brewers would be castrated with regard to making hophead-friendly beers and the citrus and fruity notes which are common place these days would be unheard of.

50 hop IPA (sorry I didn’t get to 52) is a fun experiment. Brewers will no doubt question the logic behind putting the namby pamby noble hops into the ring with these steroid-fuelled monsters. What possible contribution can Hersbrucker make in amongst Centennial, Simcoe and Sorachi Ace? Probably none but you can seldom pick out all the instruments in an orchestra.

Getting the hops into the beer on this scale posed a bit of problem. 50 handfuls of hops into 60 litres of wort doesn’t go easily. I got around this by doing a standard boil with 15 (lower alpha) varieties then straining them out. I then brought the wort back to boil and added 30 more for long enough to get them wet before stopping the boil and steeping them for 2 hours. I will add 5 varieties in a tea bag to the cask.

Half the batch will be bottled with a hop cone in each bottle. I have chosen Bobek for this as it has a nice little cone which should easily fit into the neck of the bottle.

In the words of Pop from the League of Gentlemen, "Something happen today... ...something good!"

Tech Specs

Malt: Pale Ale, Crystal, Roasted Barley

Yeast: Sharp’s

OG 1065


1. Sorachi Ace
2. Liberty
3. Galena
4. Green Bullet
5. Palisade
6. Summit
7. Ahtanum
8. Apollo
9. Goldings
10. Simcoe
11. Sovereign
12. Crystal
13. Atlas
14. Junga
15. Marynka
16. Lubelski
17. Sybilla
18. Mittlefruh
19. WGV
20. Beata
21. Admiral
22. Phoenix
23. Pilot
24. Fuggles
25. Cascade
26. Brewers Gold
27. Boadicea
28. Centennial
29. Challenger
30. Willamette
31. Mount Hood
32. Hersbrucker
33. First Gold
34. Bramling Cross
35. Northdown
36. Target
37. Sonnet
38. Herkules
39. Magnum
40. Celeia
41. Cluster
42. Progress
43. Chinook
44. Pioneer
45. Bobek
46. Tryal
47. Northern Brewer
48. Perle
49. Eden
50. Nugget

Thursday 22 April 2010

Meet the Brewer

Andy from real ale reviews has kindly asked me to be the brewer who can be met on his website. Thank you Andy!

I long for the day that my blog can look as well put together as Andy's site! Click the link below if you want to have a look. Feel free to leave comments like "Howe you are a plank" and general complaints about my appearance.

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Customs Visit

You may have detected a tension in blogging over the last few weeks, this was because of an impending customs visit. The Customs Officer is the most powerful mortal on the planet when it comes to breweries. If I had killed one of my staff, the police would have to get a warrant to search the effluent tank for their body (whoops! Have given the game away there). If Gordon Brown was so concerned about the effects of my beer on his subjects that he wanted to stop me brewing, he would need to go to parliament to pass a law. The Customs Officer doesn’t need a warrant and can turn up at any time and tell you to stop brewing.

The customs visit is simply an audit of the financial and physical trail from mash tun to the point at which duty is paid (brewery gate). As a brewer you need to have documentary evidence of where the malt has gone all the way through to how and when the firkin left the warehouse and how much beer was in the firkin. If there are any gaps in the chain of information you are in le merd. Say for example an operator leaves a valve open on a tank and some of the beer is lost to the drain. If you haven’t got a record of this which tallies with the volume lost, the brew in question, the vessel in question, the date in question and the malt used to make the brew in question you are liable for the duty which would have been paid on the beer when it ultimately left the brewery. If your records are dismally poor you could even lose your licence to brew

Brewers don’t generally get into brewing because they have a passion for record keeping so it’s not the first thing you focus on when plying your trade. When you have experienced a bad customs visit it quickly rises to up your agenda. The first paragraph probably had you thinking that Customs Officers are akin to Arnold Schwarzenegger in a visitor’s badge. I am pleased to say that our two day audit was virtually pain-free and that both of the Customs Officers where lovely, charming people who made the whole process pleasant and educational. I have a few points to work on but I now have a greater understanding of what is expected of me. Phew!

Monday 19 April 2010

Away Day

I did get my day away from the brewery after all. The volcanic dust cloud did not affect the M5. I went up to London for a pub crawl. On my way up I popped into Henley and visited Jeff at Lovibonds Brewery. Jeff is a top bloke and a brews very good beer. He’s not claiming to be inventing the wheel. He’s doing something original (to the UK) and worthwhile, quietly and purposefully. I wished I’d had longer to spend with him and wasn’t driving because I could have easily drunk his beer all weekend! I also wished I’d had time to see Andy at Rebellion (sorry mate) and Chris and Steve at Loddon (sorry guys).

The dark side of Henley for me was a visit to the corpse of Brakspear crawling with very well-off maggots. The analogy is a bit unfair on the paying guests of the Hotel du Vin but looking in through the brewhouse window it felt like they were walking on my grave. The most poignant moment was seeing the mistletoe that I had hung up at Brakspear’s last Christmas as a brewery. Traditionally every Christmas the brewer or fortunate other was hoisted up to the eves of the roof to tie on a bundle of mistletoe. Legend had it that as long as the mistletoe remained in place the brewery would prosper. Mine was still there 8 years on but the brewery has been eviscerated. Maybe if Peter Scholey had done it we’d all still be there. Or maybe Mr Scholey knew something so delegated the morbid task to me!

The picture at the top of this post is of the malt barrow in the old malt store taken on the last day as a brewery by Nigel Grant the Bottling Manager. It’s the only time I have ever seen the room empty. God knows how many tonnes of Maris Otter this barrow carted across those noble old floorboards. He sent me the picture down when I started at Sharp’s and it brought a tear to my eye.

London was as expensive and fun as always and I tried to track down Gentle Jane without success at a few branches of ‘Spoons. I did try a number of the other festival brews and was impressed, underwhelmed and disgusted with an equal number. Two of the beers I gave back over the bar for disposal, one of which has been much-vaunted in the blogosphere. I’m not naming names because my opinion is irrelevant and this isn’t a beer review blog but to call this hazy and acrid beer, balanced and well-crafted is as to describe Katie Price as beautiful. Maybe I am out of step with 'beer fashion' as well as celebrity culture.

Flavour Compound of Last Week - Maltol

Maltol or 3-hydroxy-2-methyl-4H-pyran-4-one is produced primarily during malting and to a limited degree during wort boiling through the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction was first described by Louis-Camille Maillard and involves sugars like glucose reacting with amino acids to produce compounds, some of which are flavour-active. The Maillard reaction is very complicated and maltol, rather poetically, is produced through dehydration of a 1-deoxyosone yielded by 2,3-Enolisation of an Amadori product.

Maltol has a freshly baked bread or caramel-like aroma. It is used as a flavouring in food production.

The Maillard reaction is often used interchangeably with the phrase “caramelisation of malt sugars”. Caramelisation is not the same as the Maillard reaction because the Maillard reaction requires the presence of amino acids. Caramelisation is the pyrolysis (splitting by heat) of sugars alone. It is unlikely that caramelisation actually confers much flavour to beer as the temperatures and concentrations of sugar in worts are probably too low to yield a great enough concentration to be perceptible. That is unless you have a very useless kettle which burns wort. Any caramel flavours are likely to be courtesy of Monsieur Maillard and his lovely reaction.

Please note the spelling Maillard. I have known a few people who tried to demonstrate their brilliance by quoting the Maillard reaction who have proved the complete opposite by calling it the Mallard reaction. I assume that this is what happens when you sear duck breast in a hot pan.

Thursday 15 April 2010

17. 25-Grain Chechen Imperial Stout

The origins of the Chechen imperial stout can be traced back to 1800’s when Tsar of Chechnya and Olympic horse wrestler Sergei Walankov commissioned a brew from Moore’s brewery in Toxteth. A bottle of this beer was recently sold at Christies for £25,000.

I have of course just made that up. I am not aiming to make an imperial stout with this beer, just a very strong very dark ale hopefully with balance and depth. Chechnya was chosen as a name because it represents my rebellion against the constraints of the style. Also I’ve already used Kazakhstan.

Some of the 25 grains are being used with poetic licence. Distilling malt and caramalt will be too pale to give anything in the context of the recipe but help to make up the numbers. The contribution of some of the non malt grains (adjuncts) will the interesting to see.

Tech Spec


Hops: Target, Northdown and fuggles

Yeast: Sharp’s

Fermentation: Warm and open


1. Pale ale (Tipple)

2. Pale Maris Otter

3. Distilling malt

4. Caramalt

5. Low colour caramalt

6. 140 crystal

7. 280 crystal

8. Black

9. Roasted barley

10. Chocolate

11. Munich

12. Imperial

13. Amber

14. Vienna

15. Roasted wheat

16. Rolled oats

17. Golden naked oats

18. Pin head oats

19. Brown malt

20. Peated malt

21. Wheat malt

22. Torrified barley

23. Torrified wheat

24. Maize flakes

25. Mild ale malt

Life is a pigsty

I’d like to apologise to anyone affected by the volcanic dust cloud for any disruption or distress caused. The dust cloud was a result of me booking a day off in Edinburgh. My flights have been cancelled and I have had to forfeit £400 worth of hotel vouchers. I’m glad I wasn’t looking forward to it.

Clearly god wants me to stay at the brewery and create magic this weekend. Thank you god.

Wednesday 14 April 2010

Sentimental Journey

Heston is doing well and will be going into cooling tomorrow. There is no aroma of meat, blood or guts just the typical fruity smells of a good fermentation.

I get another day away from the brewery on Saturday as I am flying to Edinburgh for a couple of nights on Friday afternoon. I lived in Edinburgh when studying brewing and haven’t been back there for about 6 years. I’m quite looking forward to it. The rose coloured spectacles of time have obscured memories of English bashing and the biting Edinburgh wind. I’m looking forward to a few beers in the Bow Bar and the Guildford and a huge curry at the Guru on Dundee Terrace. I’ll also be close enough to a ‘spoons to try a few beers at their beer festival. Hopefully they’ll have some of my “thin and boring” beer on.

When I lived in Edinburgh my flat had a gale force wind travelling through it most of the time and I lived on Tesco Value tuna and chicken breasts (the days before Lidl). This time, thanks to cashing in my Tesco Clubcard Tokens, I am lodging in style at the £200/night Caledonian at the end of Princes Street and trying  Restaurant Number One on the Friday night.

Edinburgh is where I learned about brewing science and as importantly about how the palate shifts with the beer we drink. I used to love a pint of Deuchars at the Caley sample room. Velvety, bittersweet and moreish. After I had worked at Brakspear for 6 months I travelled back to Scotland for a reunion. The first thing I did when I got off the train was to head to nearest pub for a pint of Deuchars. I was presented by what I thought was yellow hand soap. It tasted bland, slimy and other than the diacetyl was flavourless. Two more pints at different pubs seemed the same. Nothing had changed in the beer. What had changed was my palate. After drinking the brutally-bitter Brakspear beers for 6 months the smoothness and delicate flavour of the Deuchars just seemed like nitrokeg.

I’m convinced that drinkers who habitually consume very bitter, very dark or very sweet beer experience a perception shift in their palate that prevents them from appreciating more subtle beers. It happened to me. I’m now very careful about sticking to one type of beer all the time. I drink Sharp’s beers all day every day (in the context of moderate and healthy consumption) so tend to drink more idiosyncratic beers when away from work to ensure that my palate is not becoming skewed. Even if I’m wrong, at least I have a good excuse for drinking challenging beers.

Friday 9 April 2010

16. Heston's Offal Ale

George Mallory was asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest and he answered “because it’s there.” Someone asked me why I wanted to brew a beer with offal and I gave the same answer. They then pointed out that it was a stupid answer. I tended to agree.

Perhaps Heston’s offal ale is a satire on the beers which are brewed using innovative techniques which have no demonstrable bearing on the flavour of the finished beer. Perhaps it’s a dig at the claims of marketers that make about how particular locations, water supplies or claddings around the outside of sealed stainless vessels are somehow important to flavour or the integrity of a brand. Maybe it’s just a bit of benign innovation.

I should (owing to legal pressure from Little Chef PLC) at this point mention that the soubriquet Heston is a reference to the services on the M4 and not to the father of snail porridge, Mr Blumenthal.

From the offal I am hoping to get a different dimension to this beer. Without any intended pun I want this beer to have more body than any other beer. I am after real gratifying fullness. A beer akin to your mother’s best stew on a cold winter’s day (assuming your mum’s stew is any good of course).

To cope with the expected effects of the offal I am making the base beer dark, strong and very bitter.

I am going to trim the obvious fat off of the meat (liver, kidney and heart) and then grill it to render off as much cellular fat as possible. Fat destroys foam and gives rancid flavours as it ages so I need to prevent as much as possible from getting in the beer. The meat is then going into the wort at the start of the boil and will be boiled for an hour or so before being sieved out and eaten.

Fermentation will be warm and rapid using a lot of yeast to absorb as much fat and iron as possible.

Tech Specs:

Malt: Tipple, Black, Crystal, Chocolate

Hops: Apollo, Northern Brewer, Summit

Yeast: Old English Ale

OG: 1090

Flavour Compound of the Week - Trans-2-nonenal

Trans-2-nonenal (3-Hexyl-2-propenal) gives beer a cardboard flavour. It reminds me of old chip wrappers. Try an out of date bottle of commodity lager if you want to taste it on beer. It is produced by the oxidation of a precursor derived from malt. Trans-2-nonenal is a member of a large group of compounds called unsaturated aldehydes which give beer an old and stale flavour. If you limit the concentration of oxygen in the beer you reduce the rate of oxidation of these unsaturated aldehydes. Brewers who filter yeast out of beer work very hard to keep oxygen to a minimum so that it doesn't damage the flavour.

Anheuser busch used to have the industry's lowest specification for oxygen concentration in beer. Any form of flavour in a cool crisp beechwood sawdust-matured Bud would stick out like a sore thumb! I'm not sure if InBev have continued this tradition. I'm sure les comptables are looking into it. In cask and bottle conditioned beer yeast will absorb oxygen to keep the beer fresher for longer. All beer goes stale and old in the end (yeast seldom survives in the bottle/cask for more than a year or so).

Some drinkers enjoy very old beers which are full of what are described in brewing text books as stale flavours. Some say that they taste like drinking the contents of an pub ashtray out of a prop forward's rugby boot. I find them interesting but aside from lambics which are already just about as oxidised as they can be, I’ve never found a beer to improve after 4-5 years.

Each to their own.

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Success is a Journey, not a Destination

My delight is beyond measurement. Zak Avery Beer Writer of the Year and all round solid geezer has written very positive review of another one of my 52 brews. I promise that Zak is not a relative of mine and that no money has changed hands! There is also a glowing appraisal of my physique. My diet and fitness book The Howe Plan is currently at the printers and will be available on a hook in all good brewery toilets very soon.

The gravity of the Shellfish Stout has shot down so that will be going into cooling tomorrow. A service on the brewery steam boiler on  Friday afternoon will provide me with the elite bottling team to package the 12% Red, the Dark Saison and the latest vintage (Jan 2009 brew) of Massive Ale.

Also I am making some significant progress on a new secret project ‘Project Pater’ which I hope to be able reveal shortly. I am not known for my excitability but ‘Project Pater’ has had me bouncing around like a spring lamb.

Speaking of lamb, Friday also brings the birth of Heston’s Offal Ale with chicken liver, pig's kidneys and lamb's heart. Boundaries of taste decency and brewing are there waiting to be broken.

Sunday 4 April 2010

1000 hits in 8 days

I put a hit totaliser on my blog eight days ago and I am proud to see that the total is now over 1000.Two or three of these will be real hits and not due to me deliberately trying to increase the count.

Thank you for visiting my blog, you are very beautiful people and I love you with all that I am.

I am as happy as a bloke in a business suit running through a some unraveled bog roll with a briefcase .

Saturday 3 April 2010

Flavour Compound of the Week - Trichlorophenol

Mmmmm TCP! I really love the sweet, clean smell of TCP. I have fond memories of using it as a mouthwash as a child. Before you ask (assume) it wasn’t as a punishment for another bout of Tourette’s, it was for mouth ulcers. So why you ask is TCP a flavour compound in beer? The truth is that it isn’t, unless the beer has been touched by what is known in the brewing trade as a tosser. TCP is only present in beer if the beer has been in contact with hypochlorite. Hypochlorite is a sterilent used in breweries and pubs (where it is used to clean beer lines). If hypochlorite solutions are not rinsed properly, free chlorine (Cl-) attacks phenolic compounds in the beer to produce TPC or similar compounds.

Once at Sharp’s we had one such tosser, who decided to rinse a tank out with hypochlorite before filling it with beer. Don’t ask why. When I sampled the tank two days later I was not best pleased. The tosser in question reconsidered his career in brewing after he collided with a full 9 gallon barrel in a mysterious accident about 5 minutes later (only joking HSE).

Friday 2 April 2010

15. Shellfish Stout

Oysters and stout seem to have been happy bedfellows since stout first emerged in the 18th century. This association was as a beer and food partnership rather than a product and ingredient. It wasn’t until the 20th that breweries started to add oysters to beer.

As the 52 brews are about experiment and innovation I am taking the idea one step further and using cockles and mussels as well. I am hoping that the salts from the shellfish and shells will add sweeteness to the beer by increasing the concentration of chloride and possibly some iodine. I’m also trying to get some richness from the meat to increase the umami sensation on the palate.

The fantastic people at Rock Shellfish were kind enough to give me the shellfish fresh from their farm at the end of the road to the brewery. There was rather too much for the brew. The rest will be steaming in boiling gueuze, in my kitchen in about an hour’s time.

I added the three shellfish to the kettle and boiled them with the wort for 20 minutes. I shared the cooked meat that was left in the kettle with Kelvin, my man in the brewhouse. We agreed that even after 20 mins in the dark depths of the boiling wort they tasted excellent, if a little bitter from the hops.

Tech Spec

Malt: Pale Ale, Crystal, Chocolate, Roasted Barley, Black, Roasted Wheat

Hops: Northern Brewer, Perle, Bramling Cross, Progress, Challenger

Yeast: Old English Ale

O.G. 1070

Fermentation: Warm and open

Boat Race Excitement

The brewery offices are like the Marie Celeste this morning. Most of the sales staff and the Directors are up in London setting the bars for the Boat Race. Doom Bar is the official beer of the Boat Race so every opportunity to sell and promote is taken. Last year we sold nearly 10,000 pints on the route. We have taken more this year so we don't run out. 

Cambridge did send me a rowing kit in the hope that I would turn out for them but alas as always brewing comes first.

The best of Cornish luck to all involved!

Oh and here's a picture of some tw4t in a romper suit.

Thursday 1 April 2010

Full Brewery

Sorry about this but I just wanted to put up a picture of my full brewery. All the tanks are in and everything is full of beer. It will remain so until after the summer. We now have space for 742500litres (1,325,898 pints) of beer.

I promise that this will be the last new tank picture this month.

Home Brewing

I was asked to come up with a recipe for Brewuk, a home brew advice and retail site. Quite an honour!

If you are keen home brewer and want to give it a go follow the link.

The recipe is a totally new one which I've never acutally brewed myself but according to Brewuk it's a blinder!

Nothing says I love you like low colour caramalt

It seems that Simpson’s “The Home of Good Malt” do in fact love me after all. With our latest delivery of crystal and roasted I received a range of 10 or so special malts from Wheat through to 1300 colour roasted barley. This is just in time for my Shellfish Stout which will be brewed tomorrow.

More excitingly I have been sent a newly-developed, never previously brewed with, low colour, high moisture caramalt. Simpson’s have asked me to brew with it and feedback on how it fares. The low colour cara has a really good sweet/sourness when chewed but without the caramelised or burnt notes of standard caramalt. It should give body and depth to pale beers without adding colour or darker malt aromas. I am going to be doing a small brew with this and my new Slovenian hops to make a beer which will be very novel!

My Gruit ale, which smells like Paxo stuffing and washing up liquid, my citrus tripel and the dangerously unbalanced session IPA (DUSI) are all to be racked off into casks today. It looks like I have succeeded in attaining the dryness on the DUSI as the gravity is now less than 0. To say that it’s very hoppy is an understatement, sniffing the FV makes you sneeze!