Saturday 26 January 2013

Single Brew Reserve 2012

The start of the year is an exciting time at Sharp's because the Connoisseurs’ Choice beer which has been sat in cold tank since late summer or autumn is due back from the bottlers. The first beer back this year is Single Brew Reserve (SBR). For the last 3 years I’ve used this beer to showcase the hops I love. In 2010 I used Bobek, last year it was Saaz and this year Citra. When Citra burst onto the scene I was a bit of a sceptic because a lot of what was brewed with the hop in was of the brutal, unrelenting “I dare you to drink this” hop-tard fodder variety. At more than 14% alpha acid Citra is a very bitter hop.   

When I actually got to use it I instantly fell in love. The huge amount of essential oils available from Citra make getting aroma, structure and finish without the grapefruit ball-gag bitterness much easier than in some of the US varieties.  Easier doesn’t of course mean easy and version 1 of SBR did not make it past the CT.

Single Brew Reserve 2012 was brewed from pale ale and carapils malt hopped at first wort with a tiny amount of Citra just to give a tingle of bitterness amidst the carapils sweetness. The in process-tasting of SBR before the cold conditioning phase saw a member of the brewing team enter “doesn’t taste of much” on the brewing record. I was pleased because I was after a balanced neutral unassuming beer onto which I could overlay the beautiful perfume of the Citra oils. I dry hopped the SBR with 1kg per hectolitre of 2011 crop Citra in porous sacks and left for two months at just above freezing. Every week I checked the tank the flavour had evolved with new aromas developing before becoming overridden by the next. Only when I was happy that the beer had reached its optimum did I book the tanker and bottling slot. The beer has been lagering without the hops since early December at the bottlers just to refine the flavour further.

I won’t tell you how it tastes only that I am as happy as it is possible for a tortured artiste like myself to be with the beer. I set out to make an aromatic beer with all the tropical, blackcurrant, citrus fragrance and appeal of Citra but with a crisp, subtle, moreish flavour that makes tucking in to a few almost unavoidable.

Our marketing department are currently in a meeting with a flip chart visualising a release date for SBR2012 as I write. In the meantime call our shop or mail me if you want some.

Next week Spiced Red my next Connoisseur’s Choice beer is back. Spiced Red is a 9% red barley wine brewed with rye crystal, fermented with a crazy Irish yeast which has a pronounced strawberry jam flavour, is spiced with coriander and dry hopped with freshly-cropped Hallertauer Perle hops. More on this later.  

Saturday 19 January 2013

Ich Bin ein Craft Brewer

I should have seen it coming when they started to dry hop the water in the water coolers. Brettanomyces-flavoured PG Tips in the canteen was also an indication that change was afoot. But it was when my brewing team were issued with baseball caps and GreenDay CDs that it all fell into place. I am a now brewing craft beer! 

Photo credit Charles Best 2012 we will be placing an order!
Sharp’s have been incorporated into Molson Coors’ triangle of craft with the newly ‘Cossi’ficated William Worthington and Franciscan Well breweries completing the trinity. We are very much the big brother in triangle at 25 times the size of Worthington’s and 150 times the size of Franciscan Well.
I suppose now I am a craft brewer I should start doing things like using whole hops, dry hopping beer in FV and CT, using spontaneous fermentation, novel yeast strains, collaboration brewing and making keg. Oh wait, I’ve been doing that for 10 years. That’s a relief!  

Dry hopping and spontaneous fermentation brings me on to my latest WIGIG Panzerfaust, the world’s first, strongest and most environmentally-sound Gose. Panzerfaust is a collaboration brew with Adrian Tierney Jones, a man who once interviewed Morrissey for NME but is equally at home brawling on the pavement in Southwark in the early hours of the morning. The challenge was originally for me to brew a Gose true to the Leipzig tradition. I saw this as too easy and not craft enough so Black Gose was born.

Gose is a refreshing, sour beer with a high salt concentration so our black gose has a generous concentration of chloride, potassium and a good amount of sodium (too much makes the beer undrinkable). The sourness in the cask version comes from lactic acid derived from lactic acid bacteria which has been purified to remove the bugs. In the aged bottled version this will come from the spontaneous fermentation expected to happen at any time in the IBC in the yard of the brewery (or when it warms up maybe).
Sour, salty black beer does not sound appealing but a balance provided by non-fermentable sugars and dextrins from judiciously large amounts of special malts makes what is currently macerating in Simcoe in CT 16 multifariously enjoyable. So much so that the 9 pint sample keg I sent to Mr Tierney Jones’ Dartmoor estate disappeared overnight.  So far it is a riddle of a beer, complex and refreshing and doesn’t drink like a black beer at all. 

Once simcoeified and lacticated, Panzerfaust will be unleashed on drinkers across the UK and Ireland in February.  

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Gwaneth Paltrow and Alexander Buckthorn Naked in East London

A fleeting post to announce the announcement of the launch of Alexander Buckthorn (no E) which went on sale on Monday. The High Council of Pickiness that is Sharp’s flavour panel gave it a large thumbs-up on Friday. The official Melissa Cole© launch coincided with the launch of my other latest WIGIG/collaboration a 7% ABV wheat beer, spiced with rose flowers and dried sour apple. They were both launched at Tap East on 11th January to resounding praise.

The Wheat has been named Gwaneth which is the Cornish word for Wheat. I think it’s delicious and showcases the glittering brewing talent that is Jim Wilson. I’m sure that when the work doubling as Danny Dyer dries up, Jim has a long successful brewing career ahead of him.

Last Thursday, Baron Adrian Tierney-Jones and I brewed not only the world’s first ever Black Gose ever but also the world's strongest and most environmentally sound. What are boundaries there for, if not to break?   

More about the Black Gose shortly.