Sunday 26 June 2011

Taste me you will see - More is all you need

I heard on Wednesday that I achieved a merit in this year’s Master’s degree so I am quite pleased. A distinction would have been nice but I have the excuse that my job is quite demanding at times (when there is a y in the day that is).

Friday was a fun non-brewery day with a few hours spent at Ringwood, a brewery which puts most other 50k barrel per year breweries to shame. For that matter in terms of engineering it casts a pretty significant shadow over my 110k barrel per year brewery. After spending an hour or so sightseeing in Bath (from a near stationary car in a traffic queue) I arrived at the venue for the BFBI banquet. It was a good night and I met some lovely people and caught up with some old friends. As I always say after these events, I am sorry for anything I did or said which was obnoxious. I’m sure I didn’t but the mind plays tricks when one gets tired and emotional. It was a privilege to hear a speech by Gordon Banks. The 1966 world cup was nearly a decade before I was conceived and football is an ugly game played by ladyboys but hearing Gordon’s recollections took you to the changing rooms and for a few drunken minutes you could feel just what it meant.

After a rather unpleasant journey back from Bristol I returned to the brewery to find Ian Scott, the Chairman of the of the BFBI and host of last night’s Banquet on his hands and knees picking swarf out of the vacuum relief valve of FV23. How’s that for customer service!

Beer is finally in FV24 and FV 25 will be filled tomorrow.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

My Heart Beats for You

I have just finished caressing the 9s of a special beer for the Stratford on Avon beer festival. The beer for want of a better name is to be called Wild Amber Massive (not my fault). It is an amber beer fermented very warm in an open tank with abbey yeast. The beer was then racked into casks with a blend of wild yeast strains only one of which survived to do anything. The beer has been rounding off for the last 3 years in the cellars and tasted very good when sampled yesterday. The original beer was light for its 8.8% strength. Thanks to the wild yeast and the long maturation the final beer is incredibly dry for an amber ale at 9% ABV. If you are going I would value your comments.

If you are organising a beer festival, why not ask me for a special beer? We can do business, I'll do ya a very special price.

I have used all my restraint to not quote Shakespeare in this post. I have always wondered how people who live in Stratford feel about him, given that everyone they meet will probably say “ah Shakespeare country!” when they hear.

I was thrilled to get a call from one of the men responsible for developing my love of beer yesterday. Saint Roger of Protz called to ask what I am brewing this year for inclusion in the Good Beer Guide. I still get a little tongue tied when I speak to him. Not least because of the time I tried to kiss and cuddle him in a pub car park. Better than inner city sumo I suppose.

If anyone is wondering, the “real” ales Sharp’s are making this year are
  • Cornish Coaster
  • Doom Bar
  • Sharp’s Own
  • Sharps Special (bottle and cask conditioned)
  • Chalky’s Bite and Bark (bottle conditioned)
  • Single Brew Reserve 2011 bottle Conditioned
Seasonal beers Atlantic IPA, Honey Gold, Autumn Red and Abbey Christmas
As well as 20 or so one off brews

I’m sure this will all be reported in the GBG.

I leave you with this thought. How stupid do you have to be to buy an automatic soap dispenser which is designed to stop you getting your hands dirty when dispensing soap?

Friday 17 June 2011

Always and Forever

Dirty Daphne the DAF unit was brought on line yesterday. Daphne weighs 3 tonnes, blows air through the waste water from the brewery and is making the project engineer’s Portakabin smell worse than normal. Daphne is beautiful because she reduces the brewery’s waste by removing solids from liquid effluent. Working in a larger brewery gives you an insight into all kinds of interesting albeit smelly technology! Next year we will have a machine which turns waste water into energy for brewing. Modern day alchemy, as long as it works.

Next Friday I have day away from the brewery planned to visit Ringwood Brewery to see the UKs finest racking line. I also hope to bump into my former boss Jeff “zippy” Drew a man who puts all of us mortal Head Brewers to shame by running two regional breweries simultaneously. In the evening I shall be attending the BFBI western section annual banquet. The Howe dinner jacket gets its annual airing.

I got an e-mail this morning from Will at Van Dieman Brewing in Australia telling me how he made a beer similar to my Winter Berry Ale. I must say his version sounds better than mine. If you’re reading this in Oz I would suggest that you seek it out. My sample is apparently on its way around the world. Can’t wait.

For every beat of yours, mine beats in time

If you ever listen to the song

Trust that the words are true

All this must be very clear to you

Saturday 11 June 2011

The Rain in Spain

A quick post taking advantage of the lull in the proceedings of the arrival of FVs (fermentation vessels) 23, 24 and 25. By Thursday these 3 x 45,000 pint FVs will be full of fermenting Doom Bar and Honey Gold. We seem to have come a long way in a short space of time. A couple of months ago FV installation was undertaken by me, the crane driver, Captain Chaos and a big hammer. Today we have a team of 10 blokes with hard hats, high viz vests and clipboards scurrying around with laser rules and spirit levels.

I was delighted, thrilled, excited and enchanted to learn yesterday that my beer (Chalky’s Bite) has been chosen from a 25 strong shortlist for serving with the starter at the All Party Parliamentary Beer Dinner in July. It’s the second time I have had this honour but this time, work allowing, I will be attending. I have been invited along for the last three years only to have to cancel at the last minute due to an issue in the brewery. I hope it’s third time lucky this year. I have downloaded a "how to speak posh in three weeks" audio course so I should be fluent by mid July.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

It's Show Time

Every June the area around my house is transformed from pastoral calm to gridlocked mayhem. Not as a result of an influx of tourists but by a procession of country folk attending the Royal Cornwall Show. Like Royal Berkshire I am not quite sure why the Cornwall show is especially regal. It just is. As certain as the sun rising, mid June sees a flurry of holiday requests and a string of life threatening illnesses amongst my team which mean they are unable to work. One year I saw one of the brewers who informed me of impending paralysis and  coma on the phone at 6:30AM propping up the bar in the beer tent at 2:30PM. Perhaps with such healing powers it should be called the Holy Cornwall Show?
I am afraid that as a townie much of the show activity is lost on me. Although I do remember being fascinated by the level of cleanliness achieved in the perianal area of a cow in 2006. I shall be there on Saturday this year checking that the beer being sold in the Sharp’s bar is up to standard. After a week of antibiotic-derived abstinence I anticipate my sensory analysis will need to be quite exhaustive.

I have just heard from the living legend that is Jasper at Camden Brewery that our blend is to be unleashed on the public. He has confirmed that it will be available at the following top line establishments at some point in the very near future: The Horseshoe, Southampton Arms, Jolly Butcher and Euston Tap. I was honoured to learn that it is to be called Camden Howe. I hope you manage to get your hands on some.

Saturday 4 June 2011

Aqua Vita Benjamin - Aqua Vita

The circle of life continues. My old brewhouse has just rolled past my office window while my new reverse osmosis machine is being brought to life in the new brewhouse. Reverse osmosis is a wonderous process by which more or less everything that is in water is stripped out. Water remains one of the areas of brewing where even the educated consumer tends to be misguided. I have heard so many times that the same beer can’t be brewed elsewhere because of the water. You also get brewers who claim that their wells were blessed by ancient water fairies and hence have magical properties.

Water is H2O. There cannot be an argument about that. The same H2O flows out of the Grimsby sewage works as flows out of the filling machine on the Evian bottling line. What makes water different for brewing is what is dissolved in it. Being the 21st century brewers can adjust what it dissolved in the H¬2O without the need for water fairies. The first step is to remove what shouldn’t be in there. This is where reverse osmosis comes in. There are thousands of barriers to making the same beer in two breweries but the water supply is never one of them. Having an ancient well below your brewery is of no consequence to the quality of the beer you make today unless it is poisoned. When I am feeling particularly boorish and someone asks me where the water I use comes from I say the oxidation of hydrogen!

I hope someone is still reading. Today I received a bottle of the banoffee imperial stout that I brewed with Sam from Sipsmiths. I was there for the brewing and left Sam and the film crew to look after the fermentation and packaging. I was impressed with how it came out. Here’s the objective feedback I provided:

“Plenty(!!) of carbonation due to incomplete primary fermentation. The banana flavour from the yeast hasn’t come through greatly. This is probably because the temperature of fermentation wasn’t high enough. Beer smells inviting with good roast and a nice edge of hop resin. Flavour; very rich with good bitter, sweet and roast balance. Finish is big with long bitter and roast notes. Very much in the mold of a new world (US) imperial stout. Doesn’t taste oversweet which would be a concern at the high gravity at bottling. This because very high rate of the hops and roast barley. A sound example and a very good beer considering the constraints of production, just a shame about the lack of iso amyl acetate on the nose. I did an ABV on it and it’s surprisingly up to 7.8%.”

My flavour panel were very impressed by the beer which was surprising as they tend to favour lighter coloured drinks.

I did a parallel brew on my pilot equipment a couple of weeks ago and will bottle that next week to send up for their opinion.

I have just been evaluating my progress towards the 12 brews in 12 breweries and have had to call on a little poetic license to get to 5. Here’s where I am at so far.

1. Otter at home

2. 69 Hops with Brew Warf

3. Blend with Camden

4. White Shield with Steve Wellington

5. Banoffee Stout in a Sam from Sipsmiths’ kitchen

The next two are likely to be although yet to be definitively confirmed a collaborative brew with Alistair Hook at Meantime and something exciting with Adrian Redgrove at Castlerock.