Sunday 9 December 2012

Would Alexander Buckthorn Please Stand up?


WIGIGs are a lot of work. On top a lot of other work. And hence I have not had as much time as I would like to update you with progress. Maybe my imminent nervous breakdown will afford me more time.
Project Wheatcore is all but sold with a good deal of pleasant feedback received. Well done James. Total Citra disappeared without touching the warehouse floor!

The Sea Buckthorn and Alexander seed pale ale is dosed up with the sea buckthorn juice and seeds and is conditioning nicely in CT12. It was made by Melissa and I using best pale ale malt, low colour cara and a little crystal to an OG of 1045. Hops were Pilgrim, Cascade and Aurora, all chosen for their fruitiness rather than their hop notes.
If you are into disgusting flavours I would strongly recommend Sea Buckthorn juice. This forager-friendly superfruit does not taste at all super. Rather it smells like bad feet and/or builder’s armpit and tastes like battery acid without the sweetness.  We have added it in parts per million concentration. High in vitamin C it should serve to sharpen the beer flavour and provide protection against oxidation.  Alexander seeds are a lovely spice, similar to red peppercorn but with a lovely savoury citrus edge. With the sprinkling I have put in this beer it’s unlikely they will feature strongly but may play a supporting role.
We have decided to call the beer Alexander Buckthorn after the famous beer evangelist who brought lager to Europe in 1247 as a message from god. Buckthorn was also credited with the invention of the spatula and the bob hairstyle. A truly great man.  

Our Alexander will be released next week….

My latest WIGIG is conditioning in East London under the painstaking care of Jim Wilson from Tap East. It is a Weisse bier with an OG of 1065 hopped with cascade and cluster in the kettle and dry hopped with whole Citra in the cold tank. Also in the cold tank we are adding a blend of rose flowers and dried apples to counter wheat-based beers’ tendency to have a stodgy and grainy texture.

Scaling brews down from 26,000 litres to 400 litres is a crazy novelty and at times I struggled to get my head around the being Gulliver in Lilliput. Under Jim’s control the brew went through with more success than some I have done on my own brewery. This beer will be available at Tap East before Christmas.

Sunday 18 November 2012

Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire

Time shifts so much when you are busy. It seems like our torrential summer was only last week yet now the Christmas music is playing in Morrison’s. Since my last update my Autumn Red has won Supreme Champion Beer of Cornwall, which was nice. James’ and my Project Wheatcore is flying out to pubs and bars across the land. James is supercharging some of it back at Camden for release in keg.
Sometimes in brewing things don’t turn out how you expect and this was the case for Project Wheatcore. I was aiming to make it big, bold and fit for winter but it has come out light and fresh providing more refreshment than satisfaction. The concept of WIGIGs is all about experimentation so this kind of surprise is not unwelcome.

Next up in the WIGIG series is a single hop pale made with Citra used as a first wort hop and then as a dry hop. The malt is pale ale malt with some low colour carapils for roundness. The beer was fermented cool to limit ester fruits and then dry hopped for 6 weeks at just above freezing. Because of the generous rate of dry hopping the beer will have a slight haze.
The beer could be described thusly. The aroma is an effusive mix of fresh tropical fruit, sweet nettle and candyfloss. The flavour is light on malt with a crisp fruitiness leading to a long aromatic finish.    

I am brewing the next WIGIG with the splendorous Melissa Cole on Friday. It is planned to be a Sea Buckthorn Pale Ale with plenty of US hops. More details will follow as things develop.
At the end of the month comes my first playing away WIGIG which is going to be a Hopfen and Blumen Wiesse brewed at Tap East. If you are around Stratford on the 30th why not come and Join Jim and I for some brewing fun? I want to involve as many people as possible in this beer. It should be a great day of brewing and sampling.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Toothpaste Adverts and Mass Murder

I had some terrific feedback from Hayle Bay Honey. One landlady said it’s the best beer she has ever sold. Before you quip that she only opened in September, she has been in the trade for 16 years. Another couple of pubs sold out in an evening. Not everyone liked it. The (bar)steward of a very westerly club called in to tell me it was sh1te. I’m glad he took time to provide the constructive feedback and I’m sure he understood and valued what I was trying to achieve.

With “edgy” artistic endeavours you will always get polar views.  When my band Snot Trof used to play gigs you inevitably ended up with sparsely populated venues but those who were beating each other senseless on the dance floor were in audio heaven. Apart from that 12th Birthday party at TGI Fridays that was.   
WIGIG 2 which was eventually renamed as Triple A (AAA or Anglo, American Ardennes ) has gone in days. I’ve just been down to the cellar to steal some and there’s none there. It will now be on bars or in cellars so you should find some if you drink in brilliant pubs. I’ll send anyone (Sharp's Brewery staff and friends excluded) who can guess why the original name of BEARS was dismissed, a case of beer.
This brings me on to the next WIGIG, Project Wheatcore. It is a collaboration between James(z) from Camden Brewery and I. We are setting out to brew the ultimate wheat. We are borrowing from Germany, Belgium and the UK to get a wheat beer which gets the best from the grains but really showcases my favourite yeast in the whole world ever, the Belgian Wit. It’s juicy, fruity and refreshing but still allows the other great ingredients to show off their olfactory moves.
The grist will be wheat malt, pale ale malt (Concerto) and low colour cara. We are using malted wheat because just to add more difficulty to the challenge, we are attempting to achieve a clear beer in cask using only finings. Hops will be Hallertauer Northern Brewer in the kettle with Cascade and Aurora in the hop back. Dry hops of a yet-to-be-decided sexshy variety will added if we don’t get the weight of hop in the beer we are after. We are leaving it un-spiced allowing the yeast to paint pictures of spices in the mind of the consumer.
To make this beer extra special the plan is to brew it live in front of a Dutch hardcore DJ playing a full set in the brewhouse. If we get it right you should be able to taste every one of the beats in the flavour of the beer. 

I also have another potential WIGIG in FV. It’s 100% Citra-hopped amber ale. Can’t decide if it’s a keeper for bottle or will work as a WIGIG. Plenty of time to decide…  

Friday 28 September 2012

The Night is a Very Dark Time for Me and B.E.A.R.S

I start this post on a negative note. I have heard from my favourite landlady that possibly the best pub in the world has not been listed in the Good Beer Guide for 2013. In my opinion this is a tragic omission and will mean that fewer people get to the sample the brilliance of the atmosphere and beer. Check out the You Tube clip here and support them on their facebook page.
Back to the WIGIGs

Wgig one is all sold aside from a few reserved for special occasions and aging.

Wigig two is in CT2 doing rude things with some ground coriander.

WIGIG 2, tentatively named B.E.A.R.S. (Belgian English American Red Spice) is showcase for the best ingredients from three great brewing nations. Belgian yeast, English malts and American Hops . If this beer were human it would be the love child of a ménage a trois between Morrissey, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Marilyn Monroe. Not sure how that would work and don’t really want to visualise it so we will move on.   
Belgian beer wouldn’t be as special without the yeast. Tripels for example would be as characterless as the variously-named superstrong tramp fuel available in cans from all good corner shops if it was brewed with a standard ale or lager yeast. Belgian yeast is the cinnamon in the Chelsea bun, the centrepiece of any beer in which it is used. For B.E.A.R.S I am using one from a brewery I fell in love with on my first visit to Low Countries, La Chouffe. One of their beers, Lowie Kators (now brewed elsewhere) was I swear better than ecstasy. Having now brewed with the yeast a couple of times, to me the ester profile is very close to the Scourmont strain. Maybe they borrowed it from the abbey? Or maybe I have an unscrupulous yeast supplier!

English malt is the best in the world. I will admit to having scant experience of US malt and only a fleeting involvement with continental grains but on the basis that English brewers traditionally have the simplest brewhouses I stand by my assertion. In B.E.A.R.S the malt is Cassatta pale malt enriched with Simpson’s finest crystal malt and roasted barley.

American hops are currently en vogue and why wouldn’t they be? They are like Hollywood stars, genetically superior, attention-grabbing sex bombs. The starlet in B.E.A.R.S is Simcoe, a 12 year old hop variety with pine and nettle notes. For a newly-developed mega-alpha American variety Simcoe has a restrained bitterness on the palate. The supporting cast features Cascade and Centennial.

The challenge in brewing this beer was to keep these effusive, primadona ingredients in harmony and not turn it into a shouting match. Key I hope to a winning combination is judicious subtlety.
How have these superstars of the ingredients world come together? I would suggest you buy some and tell me.    
Last but by no means least. Congratualtions to my chef colleague Alyn Williams on his newly-acquired Michelin star. Richly deserved.   

Saturday 25 August 2012

De Mooie Pruik

I heard a horrible rumour that my blog was back

It isn’t really, I’m just using the vessel of its dearly departed soul to tell the world about a new level of brewing excitement at Sharp’s. The last 8 months has been a bit of battle with capacity and demand. With every month that passed I thought we had enough space in the brewery to brew what we can sell, then we would accidentally sell some more. A lot of the one off brews and experiments I was looking forward to had to be put back in the diary again and again. My Giles, my yeast supplier’s hairline must be a few inches further back due to my terrible habit of ordering specialist yeast props then cancelling them on the same day.
I did get time to help launch the Connoisseur’s Choice range, to tour the breweries of Belgium with Institute of Brewing and Distilling, to speak at the European Beer Bloggers Conference and judge the final of the Champion Beer of Britain and the World Beer Awards. My inspiration levels have never been so high! 
Enough about me, how have you been?
Thanks to a hard year of project engineering, management and implementation of new equipment the brewery is now doubled in capacity and capable of keeping up with sales growth. So now I have time for the kind of wholesale experimentation and boundary pushing I love.
Previously my experimentation as seen on the blog was restricted to consumption by the privileged (or occasionally unlucky) few. With this new initiative they are to be scaled up and will be in pubs and bars across the UK for you to sample.
The brews will range from 40 to 80 barrels in size, will cover the whole spectrum of colours, bitterness levels and novel ingredients. “Celebrity” brewers in the form of guest beer writers, visiting brewers and colleagues will also add to the diversity of the brews.
Rather than give the new beers a name like the blue sky series, envelope pusher’s choice or Howe’s random madness Marketing have come up with a peach of an acronym. WIGIG, when it’s gone it’s gone. These are truly one off experiments brewed live before a studio audience with no retakes allowed (well not quite an audience).
The first WIGIG beer is Hayle Bay Honey IPA.
There is a story that this recipe emulates a cask of IPA which washed up on Hayle Bay after falling from a ship destined for India in the 18th century. It was found to be too bitter for West Country palates so it was sweetened with local honey. Although appealing this story is a load of old bollocks.
This beer features UK and US influences with the hopping regime from America and the wort production technique and liquor salt profile truer to the original IPAs of Burton. Cornish Honey is thrown into the mix to protect against over dryness from the sulphates.
Simpson’s low colour pale malt is mashed with their excellent 140 crystal in high sulphate liquor using a single temperature infusion mash. The wort produced is then boiled with Cascade hops before being run through a vessel containing honey with Citra and Centennial hops on the way to the wort chiller. The 1066 wort is then fermented down to 6.6% ABV before moving to a dry hopping tank for 6 weeks to steep in 160kilos of whole Citra and Centennial at 4oC.
The beer is then centrifuged and reseeded with young yeast and racked into casks.
The result is a rollercoaster of taste. The aroma is a fruit and herb explosion where every sniff gives another nuance. Just when you have convinced yourself there’s nothing left to get, another aroma comes through long and strong. Mint, basil, grapefruit, Earl Grey, lime, you could spend an hour working through this aroma.
The honey is the first to kick off in the mouth with a rounded sugar sweetness but is almost instantly usurped by the hop notes. The transition from sweet honey to mineral dryness is fast with the hop fruit and spice spanning the change. The hops continue to the last with a finish which lingers for minutes rather than seconds. 
WIGIG number one hits the streets next week and is already mostly sold. I hope you manage to track some down and approve.  
Others in the WIGIG series will include
Blume Hopfen Weisse
Bilberry Wit
Cornish Gose


Friday 13 January 2012

Nothing is Forever

Friday mourning, I’m dressed in black,
Douse the house lights, I’m not coming back. (well, maybe?)

Those of you who know me will appreciate that I don’t really do half-arsed. The demands, pressures and constraints of my life are at present such that my blog cannot be all I want it to be. So, Real Brewing at the Sharp End must come to its end (see what I’ve done there). I would like to thank everyone who has followed, commented, enjoyed or got wound up by the blog for sharing in a couple of momentous years in my brewing life. Most of you may hopefully read my words again in the not too distant.

Au revoir, I love you and whatever happens, don’t forget me.