Friday 23 December 2011

I used to love Christmas

That was before I became a Head Brewer. Now it is spelt S-T-R-E-S-S. The stress comes from having to brew and package more beer than your brewery should be able to make for a couple of weeks and hoping that demand will predictably fall once the resolution season kicks in. This year the Christmas “demand uplift” has been phenomenal. This week we have sold more than 973,000 pints and last week wasn’t far short of this. Fortunately I have a great team and the yeast and equipment have been the epitome of reliability. My brewery is so empty now even the echoes have echoes and it will be weeks until stocks are back up to less worrisome levels.
The tsunami of sales have also seen the last of the DW cross the shop counter and in the New Year Mr Wickett and myself will be presenting Cornwall Hospice Care with a Cheque for around £6500. Thanks to those who bought some and especial thanks to those who helped to produce and package the beer. You should feel proud.      
This is will be my last post this year and as well as my apologies for not completing the 12 brews I send my love for the depths of winter.
I leave you with the lines of the poem taken from the St Breward church sundial (pictured above).
Seize the Moments as they fly
Know to live and learn to die

Saturday 3 December 2011

What is Good Beer?

I was reading Mark Dredge’s post on using too many hops in beer and the resultant comments and it got me thinking; what is good beer?
The answer to that is simple: Whatever the person drinking the beer is looking for. It’s a bit like a cup of tea. I like a loose leaf lapsang made with soft water whereas most people like PG tips with plenty of milk and maybe one lump or two. Are they all idiots or am I? Don’t answer that!
I must warn you that I am now going to launch into my traditional sermon a lot of which I will have covered before. Sorry but I can’t help it.
You can argue that a beer brewed at high gravity using raw barley, enzymes, maize, hybridised yeast and post fermentation bitterness is a better beer than a reinheitsgebot-brewed, ice cave-aged whole hop pilsner if you are a thirsty drinker looking for cool clean refreshment on a scorching summer’s day. To a hophead who habitually shifts the frame of reference of his palate towards the extreme, a well-balanced, quenching cask ale which tastes of malt, hops and fruit is abjectly inferior to an ultra-pale, 1 Simcoe cone per ml, baseball bat of unrelenting grapefruit pith brewed by a 20 year old with his baseball cap on sideways, in a converted garage.
As a brewer I look for beers which I know are hard to execute, made well. Bunging a load of hops in or putting your brew in a barrel you have bought off a distillery is not difficult and certainly not big and clever. All too often the world of beer writing, blogging and the enthusiast is seemingly equating new and different to good and better. It very seldom is. For some their livelihood relies on uncovering the next big thing. One style of beer or brewery becomes de rigueur before being chip wrapping.  
There are of course some drinkers who dismiss the new and innovative as second best to the old fashioned and traditional. In my opinion they are just as wrong as the fashionistas.

There seem to be a lot of people who profess to be beer lovers and yet seem to want to change beer completely. They can’t think that much of it if they champion the new and innovative to the detriment of the classic. A true beer lover embraces change enthusiastically but shows the necessary understanding and appreciation of our heritage and the passion and expertise of the brewer. I think only when you understand the complexities and elegance of brewing can you appreciate the true art of the brewer and how to judge him. You might not agree and why would you? You probably won’t be a brewer and if you are I bet you don’t sell much.

A great Lambic is not the Lambic which has a lower pH than all the others. It’s the one with highest degree of complexity and balance between the components of that complexity. So a great IPA or double IPA is not the one with the highest concentration of iso alpha acid. Very bitter and very strong beers have their place but to label subtle and well-constructed beers as crap because the analytical numbers don’t add up to 10,000 is ignorant and worthy of a slap. Who wants one? Eh?!
You decide what constitutes a good beer but in my experience the more you understand of what goes into a making a beer and the more widely you educate your palate, the more rewarding the experience of the decision making becomes. Everyone is entitled to an opinion but I think everyone should be able to reasonably justify that opinion when it is challenged.

Fashions change, balance and complexity never go out of style.