Sunday 27 June 2010

I'm so Sorry

Taking time off has resulting in various issues which have buried me 12 feet in the compost heap. I am sorry but 52 brews and flavour compounds will have to go onto a back burner until I manage to dig myself out.

Sorry to disappoint.

Thursday 24 June 2010

Big Lunch Update

Entries for the Big Lunch Beer Challenge are coming in by the van load so please keep them coming. I have secured a panel of celebrity judges including Tim Hampson, Melissa Cole and Adrian Tierney Jones. Watch this space for more updates.

So many times, it happens too fast
You change your passion for glory
Don't lose your grip on the dreams of the past
You must fight just to keep them alive

It's the eye of the tiger, it's the cream of the fight
Risin' up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night
And he's watchin' us all in the eye of the tiger

Wednesday 23 June 2010

26 Fungal Strong Ale

What do you call a mushroom with a whoopee cushion? A fun-gi! Mycologists reading this will no doubt be questioning the use of a plural term for fungus to refer to a mushroom with a puerile sense of humour.

My first job after paperboy was mushroom picker. Stooping in damp darkness, washing ladders in bleach and slicing ribbons off of my thumb with a veg knife are my abiding memories of the glamorous world of mushroom farming. It was ordinary white mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) that I used to pick. None of these "shit take" things (as my Nan used to say). Fungal ale will use a range of interesting fungi to hopefully give weird and wonderful flavours. The selection of mycological superstars lighting up fungal strong ale is as follows:

Lentinula edodes

Agaricus bisporus

Brettanomyces bruxellensis

Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Aspergillus oryzae

Look at me with my italicised latin names!

With this beer I am after a fragrant bittersweet mélange of fungal excitement. I’m looking for deep complex and probably to most drinkers unappealingly different. I’m sure that it’s all been done before but I think it’s quite exciting.

Tech Spec:

Malt: Pale ale

Hops: Northern Brewer, Perle and Brewer’s Gold


Yeast: Yes

Monday 21 June 2010


Dave Wickett was a lecturer in economics but decided to take up commercial brewing in 1990 and opened Kelham Island Brewery. The rest as they say is history. The first time I encountered Dave was in 2004 when a bloke called Mr Wickett from some brewery or other kept on leaving messages for me at reception. I was almost as busy then as I am now and I assumed he was trying to sell me something or accuse me of getting his daughter pregnant so I ignored him. The temp receptionist put him through to me by mistake and I encountered Dave’s assertive charm for the first time. He was a lot more restrained than I would have been in his position.

Dave explained that he was in the beer trade and hailed from Cornwall and asked if he come around the brewery when he was next visiting the area. He failed to mention that he had just won Champion Beer of Britain! Dave is a modest man. Since that first tour I have bumped into Dave a few times and have always enjoyed his company and his beer.

Last month Dave’s son Ed was down on some in at the deep end work experience at Sharp’s. Dave came down collect Ed after his last day at work and popped up to my office. It was then that I learned that Dave is terminally ill with cancer. I didn’t expect to get as upset as I did and I resolved there and then to make a beer in Dave’s honour and donate the money from the sale of the beer to a charity of his choice.

The beer will be a bottle conditioned strong golden ale which will be bottled into a limited run of 1000 champagne bottles. I asked Dave to select the hops suggesting that some of the US hops that Dave helped make so much a part of modern UK cask ale brewing would be fitting. Dave went for Willamette, Amarillo and Cascade. Dave is coming down in July to help with the brew.

The beer will be called DW and the proceeds of the sale will go to a Cornish hospice charity. I’ll update the blog as things progress.

Any help in promoting sales of the beer would be gratefully received.

Road Show Report

Maybe it's because I'm only starting
That I think it won't take too long
Maybe it's because I can see you laughing
That I think you've got it wrong

The roadshow is over, lives have been changed and people have been touched by the phenomenon of the 52 brews. The crowd were on the most part receptive to the ideas of the 52 brews but I fear that some of the challenging flavours were a step too far for some of their palates. What was good is that everyone had a different favourite. A couple loved Heston.

I did have 12 bottles of each of the beers left after the tasting but these have disappeared. A Crimewatch reconstruction and a UK-wide manhunt has revealed that the beers are in the possession of one Phil “light fingers” Lowry. Apparently he is distributing them to prominent members of the beer community. If you know Phil you should contact him.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Flavour Compound of Last Week - Beta Farnesene

The grey drainpipe above is Farnesene, or systemically  (E)-7,11-Dimethyl-3-methylene-1,6,10-dodecatriene. It is described as having a sweet woody and citrus aroma. It is a major constituent of the essential oils of most hops. I apologise for the brevity of this post but I am playing catch up after Belgium and before Birmingham while trying to get my thesis progress report together for submission on Monday. If I get in a really bad mood I'll post it on my blog so you have to be bored to death by it as well!   

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Buble Pulls Out

It is with deep regret that I must reveal some tragic news. Owing to an incident involving a jar of mayonnaise, a clothes peg and a Land Rover Discovery, Sharp’s Marketing Manager and Michael Bublé impersonator James Nicholls will no longer be appearing at Beers of the World Live. The following beers are confirmed to be included in the show line up. I hope that this makes good everyone's loss in some way.

1. Chalky’s Bite (warm up beer)
2. Hopfen Weisse
3. Heston's Offal Ale
4. Citrus Tripel
5. 50 Hop double IPA
6. Chechen 25 grain Imperial Stout

The “52 Brews Show” starts at 15:30hrs on Friday after the Punch and Judy show. If you are planning to attend the tasting please do not drive as 150ml samples of the above-listed beers will put you way over the drink drive limit.

Monday 14 June 2010

25 Barley Tikka Vindaloo

You’re probably reading this because watching Outer Mongolia Vs Luxembourg to a cacophony of horn noise is not as fun as the almost continuous adverts of prancing Zulus and African song suggest.

Chicken tikka massala is the most popular dish in the UK. It follows then that barley tikka vindaloo will soon be the most popular beer. My love affair with curry is almost as longstanding as that with beer. I once drove from Cornwall to Edniburgh to get a curry from my favourite curry house  and news of the closure of Al Nahal in West Watford hit me like a death in the family.

The major challenge in executing this beer is to keep it in within the limits of a sound and appealing beer and not let it deteriorate into amber aftershave. Aside from the chilli which needs to be assertive in order to stay true to the name vindaloo, I want to use the spices to support the spice notes from the hops.

The spices I have opted for are the following classic curry spices
  • Chilli powder
  • Ginger
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Cardamom
  • Fennel
I have avoided the temptation to add garlic. I can’t see any way to add garlic without the beer smelling like a belch. The base beer will be as fruity and spicy as I can make it in order to give it a boldness which will cope with the spices.

I was thinking about marinating the malt in yoghurt and spices before mashing but that would have been stupid.

The beer will be best served with popadoms which have been karate chopped.

Tech Spec

Malt: Pale ale, cara

Hops: Goldings, Tyral, Hallertauer Brewer’s Gold

Yeast: Belgian Wit

OG: 1080

Saturday 12 June 2010

Mijn hart is volledig

When I thought this week couldn’t get any better I find that THE blog on Belgian Beer has written what I think is a fair and balanced review of some of my Belgian-accented beers.

Dank u zeer inderdaad Filip!

Flying High

I’m back and still coming to terms with one of the most fantastic experiences of my life. Everything about Orval was inspiring. From the stunning Abbey set into a beautiful Ardennes forest, to the self-assured brilliance of Jean-Marie Rock. Meeting other brewers and talking about brewing is always enjoyable, especially when they share your background and values. As your minds engage it almost feels like you’re having an intellectual cuddle. It became clear that this great beer was born of the aspects of brewing that I feel most passionately about, scientific and technical endeavour. At one point I choked back a tear. I hope he didn’t notice, wouldn’t want him to think I was a bit ‘funny’.

The most exciting outcome of the trip is that Jean-Marie is coming back to Rock to oversee my attempt to capture the essence of Petite Orval later in the year.

On the train back from Florenville, (station nearest the abbey) a bloke in the seat behind us played you’re beautiful by James Blunt on his IPhone speaker. ATJ and I both knew to whom Blunt was referring. I started to sing along, much to the amusement of the rest of the coach and chagrin of Mr Tierney-Jones.

This is a short post because I have a huge amount of catching up to do after a three days away from the brewery. I will write more details later.

Sunday 6 June 2010

I'm Throwing My Arms Around Orval

I need you to keep a secret. I’m off to Orval on Wednesday and more excited than ever. Yes indeed the crash of the cask washer, the relentless chug of the double diaphragm pump and the screams of my brewing team as they are flogged will be replaced by pastoral calm, quiet reflection and bird song. Please just don’t tell my yeast, boiler, chiller, Eurostar, cask washer, racker etc………

In the absence of your love
And in the absence of human touch
I have decided
I’m throwing my arms around, around Orval
Because only beer and monks accept my love

Saturday 5 June 2010

Flavour Compound of the Week - Octanoic Acid

Does anyone know what a goat smells of?

Having spent most of my life in big towns and cities I have never been near a goat. Certainly not near enough to smell one (honest). I imagine that most of those reading this have also probably never been intimately acquainted with a goat. So describing an aroma as capryilc or goat-like is a bit like saying something smells like the moon. The best way to learn what is meant by goaty is to smell goat’s cheese next to a mild brie. The smell that’s on the goat’s cheese and not on the brie is carprylic. Alternatively befriend a goatherd and get sniffing.
Octanoic acid is described in such a way. Octanoic acid is a short chain fatty acid. Short chain fatty acids are the building blocks of yeast cell walls. The source of octanoic acid in beer is poorly or dead yeast cells. A yeast cell is like a big balloon full of microgiblets (technical term) and a range of chemicals being used to fuel the yeast or build another yeast cell (including octanoic acid). When the yeast is stressed the balloon can become porous and the chemicals and microgiblets leak out. By stressed I don’t mean late for work or in the midst of a bad relationship, I mean placed in a harsh environment. In extreme cases of stress the yeast cell dies and the balloon bursts, this is known as autolysis. Yeast stress, death and autolysis are thought to be the source of octanoic acid in beer. The stress leading to the release of octanoic acid is most oftern caused by high levels of ethanol (alcohol). Alcohol is excreted (pissed out) by yeast as it eats sugar. Unsurprising then, that it doesn’t enjoy swimming around in large amounts of the stuff!

Other short chain fatty acids such as decanoic, dodecanoic and hexanoic acid are also thought to contribute to goat-flavoured beer.

Friday 4 June 2010

24. Kerry Katona's Deep Frozen Black Forest Ale

When I was growing up I was a big lad. No one loves a 17 stone 14 year old apart from the coach of the rugby team looking for a battering ram. The only time that I had a slow dance in the darkness of the school canteen was when one of the popular girls did it for a bet. One morning I learned that a rumour was circulating the school about Howe’s secret girlfriend. For a while I was delighted to hear that I was thought worthy of secret liaisons. This was until I found out that the girl’s name was Sara Lee™ and she was in fact a Black Forest Gateau. The originator of the rumour met with a nasty playground accident only hours later.

Enough of my miserable adolescence. This week’s brew is Kerry Katona’s Deep Frozen Black Forest Ale. The rumours of my love affair with this sublime piece of German gastronomy were not entirely without foundation. I once ate one half frozen because it wouldn’t thaw out fast enough. So what facets characterise a Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte?

• Sweet
• Cream
• Chocolate
• Cherry
• Alcohol

All these sound like typical aspects of a pretty good beer to me. So how am I going to set about achieving it?

Sweetness – high gravity and crystal malt
Creaminess - oats, roasted barley and cara malt
Chocolate - Brown and chocolate malts
Cherry and alcohol - Macerating sour cherries in neutral beer-derived spirit and adding this to the beer.

I’m going to cold condition at about -4, not to freeze distil but to try to disrupt the cherries and bring about a greater extraction of their goodness.

Why Kerry Katona? Kerry is the queen of frozen food. I firmly believe that in centuries to come she will no longer be remembered as the rough one out of Atomic Kitten and will rise to the status of the patron saint of frozen value food. God bless her for making barbeques slightly more affordable and a lot less wholesome.

Tech Spec:

Malt: Pale Ale, caramalt, crystal, brown, chocolate, rolled oats

Hops: Bramling Cross, Northdown, Pacific Gem

Yeast: Old English Ale

OG: 1100

Thursday 3 June 2010

Attention Home Brewers!

Are you the best? Do you have what it takes to design a winning beer? Would you like to see that beer brewed on a commercial scale and enjoyed across the nation? Then you should enter the Sharp’s Big Lunch Beer Challenge.

The Big Lunch Beer Challenge is run by Sharp’s in association with the The Big Lunch and it aims to find the best homebrew in Britain. The challenge will be judged by a trained panel of tasters and beer experts led yours truly. All you need to do is to send 6x500ml bottles of your beer to me at Sharp’s Brewery, Rock, Wadebridge, Cornwall, PL276NU.

The successful brewer will be invited to Sharp’s to work alongside me to produce a commercial version of their winning recipe which will then be sold in stores across the country. I will give as much practical feedback on the beers which do not come out on top as I have time to.

What am I looking for? I am not concerned with trueness to style or extreme flavour sensations. The winning beer will be technically sound with no off flavours and a good balance. Most importantly it should be pleasant to drink and moreish. The max ABV is 5.5%. You will have to move fast as the cut off date for entries is 10th July.

For more details and to enter please visit the Big Lunch Beer Challenge website.

Good luck and I’m looking forward to being wowed by your efforts.

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Brewhouse for Sale

I have a "top of the range" Moeschle 50 barrel brewhouse for sale. 1 very careful owner. It served me well from 2001 to 2008 and is capable for producing 75 barrel brews at 1040. It comprises a 35 tonne malt silo with malt handing system. A 2 tonne/hour Alan Ruddock mill and covneyors, a 2 tonne max charge mash tun. A 60 barrel working capacity barrel combined copper and hop back and hot and cold liquor tanks along with all pumps heat exchanger oxygenation etc etc. All tanks are fully clad 304 stainless. The kettle and HLT are steam jacketed. As part of the package you get me for the day to help commission the kit.

If you are interested please contact ABUK

The image above is for promotional purposes only and differs from the actual brewhouse.