Thursday 28 February 2013

I'm searching for the light - but it's all black

Blackened is the end
Winter it will send
Throwing all you see
Into obscurity

Craft Beer Rising was a juxtaposition of a cold warehouse and the warmth of the friendliest industry in the world. Brewers, salesmen and marketers mixed in a harmonious couple of days where love for beer was the theme making the madness of craft debate as irrelevant as the subplot in a Steven Segal film. I did hear of some brewing companies so incensed that breweries capable of making the same beer twice could claim to be craft that they were going to remove the term from all of their promotional literature. I would suggest that they also change the term brewing to homebrew to properly reflect their capabilities as brewers.

Frankie Valli once wrote this song about his love for craft and I think the words resonate to this day.

We take the pressure and we throw away
Conventionality belongs to yesterday
There is a chance that we can make it so far
We start believing now that we can be who we are

Craft is the word
Craft is the word, is the word that you heard
It's got groove it's got meaning
Craft is the time, is the place is the motion
Craft is the way we are feeling

The Mr Real Ale black IPA is in CT with stacks of harrrps (craft spelling) and is now black. There is some controversy about the appellation “black IPA”. It seems that some crazy people think that a beer can’t be black and pale at the same time! The UK’s biggest selling cask ale Greene King IPA is not in any way related to the Indian subcontinent yet it is still referred to as an India Pale Ale. At what point does a phrase or term lose its meaning? Like the term value used to describe beef derived from horses and seafood derived from potatoes. And the term passionate used to describe the impeccably dressed robots who work for Costa and Starbucks. Some argue for Cascadian dark ale but I am opting for blackened IPA because the beer Simon and I brewed wasn’t born black it became black at a later stage. The beer still has no link with India.  

Unspontaneous Panzerfaust is now all but gone but blackened IPA will need another couple of weeks on the harrrps and is likely to be released mid March. Spontaneous Panzerfaust has a fungal/bacterial bloom on it but won’t really get going until the weather warms up.

Last but not least The Driftwood Spars are having a Beer Appreciation Weekend on 15th-16th March. I am working as a chauffeur that weekend for my old mukka Jean-Marie Rock of Orval fame who is gracing the event with his celestial presence. I am sending a cask of the Dubbel Coffee Stout. We will be there most of the weekend with me popping in and out to sort things at the brewery and watch England be deprived of the grand slam by Steve Walsh the refereeing world’s answer to Ferdinand Marcos.  

Friday 15 February 2013

The Last of the International Playboys

There is a competition that all serious brewers want to win. Craft fundamentalists will argue that the US World Beer Cup is the gold standard but the oldest and biggest brewing competition in the world is the International Brewing Awards. More breweries enter the IBA than any other awards. What makes the awards most important to me is that the judges are all trained tasters and most are technical or head brewers. Any brewer who is honest with him/herself will hold the opinion of his peers in the highest esteem.

Why am I talking about (building up) the IBA? Because today through disbelieving eyes I read that I (Sharp’s) have won two gold, one silver and a bronze medal! Quadrupel got Bronze in strong bottled ales, Special earned silver in the cask ales 4.9% - 6.7% ABV category, Cornish Coaster won gold in the cask ales 2.9 - 3.8% ABV category and my new Spiced Red won gold in the strong bottled ales category.

If someone had offered me a single medal earlier I would have ripped their hand off. Four medals including 2 golds is bloody staggering!

Taking on the best brewers on the planet and coming out with 2 golds a silver and a bronze is very close to the best feeling a brewer can get.

To see how the other brewers you know got on click here!

Wednesday 13 February 2013


Look at my flesh and bone
Now, look, look, look, look,
Look at his tower of stone
I see craft beer rising
Look there, on the horizon
And I'm coming home, I'm coming home, I'm coming home

We are taking a bar at Craft Beer Rising on which we will be giving tastings of all of WIGIGs so far and our connoisseurs’ choice beers in bottle. I have also supercharged a couple of the WIGIGs for this event. Hayle BayIPA has been soured with lactobacillus and was tasting mind-blowingly sensational earlier. Total Citra has also been made slightly more total with the addition of (yes you guessed it) more Citra.

If you read this blog but never get the chance to try the beers, Craft Beer Rising will give you the opportunity to try all of them in one place. I am also going to be there on the Friday ducking the punches and sniper’s bullets. It would be great to see you (most of you anyway) and taste some beers.

While I am on the subject of WIGIGs (which is the subject of this blog after all), this time next week my next limited edition brew will be in the FV. As is fitting with the WIGIGs the beer will be a bit of a first. It is a black IPA but will be brewed as a non-black IPA before I colour it with a black-coloured wort boiled so extensively that very little roast, chocolate flavour remains. It is hoped to be the palest-tasting black IPA ever made. What’s the point of that? I hear you say. Good question.

My partner in innovation next week will be Simon Martin (Mr Real Ale More details later.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Too Much Mustard Gets Up Your Nose

I once drove past Scary Spice on the A4251 and a mate of mine serviced Ginger Spice’s boiler but I’ve never visited Longstanton Spice Museum. Not much of an anecdote but you have to admire the gossamer smoothness of my link into these words about my latest creation, Spiced Red.

Spiced Red was brewed at the height of the pre-Christmas and year end madness last year so I let my instincts guide me. Obviously with a cost per batch of £20,000 I backed up my instincts with some science and experience but the three month process was an enjoyably heuristic one.  

I used best pale ale malt, crystal rye and roast barley to give a brownish-red body. Sucrose (alcohol) and a blend of three hops (bitterness) were added in the kettle to give balance against the sweetness of special malts. The beer was then fermented by an Irish yeast which has a really intriguing flavour. It made just about everything I brewed with it a really sweet strawberry jam flavour. I studied the formation of 2,5-dimethyl-4-hydroxy-3(2H)-furanone (strawberry jam/candy floss aroma) in fermentations as my university thesis and this yeast took me back to the lab like it was yesterday. At the end of fermentation the beer smelt sensational. I was almost tempted to leave it be, but when the 2012 crop Hallertauer Perle arrived fresh, green and stunningly aromatic I just had to go with dry hopping. I simply cannot convey just how sexy these hops were.

Whole hops in sacks were added to the CT once the beer had cooled below 1oC. Also added in conditioning was coriander. Coriander shares a lot of component oils with hops. Linalool and geraniol from the coriander help lift the levels of these oils derived from the hops giving a spicier hop note than was possible from the hops themselves. I’m glad I went for coriander because it has made what are the best Perle I have ever used even better and given another layer of intriguing complexity to the beer

In Spiced Red I attempted to design a beer full of enticing aroma with a rich but clean flavour and a drinkability belying its strength. Although referred to as a spiced beer I wanted the coriander to sit alongside the hop notes and wonderfully complex fruits from this idiosyncratic yeast. As always it’s up to the drinker to decide if it’s job done.        

The last Connoisseurs Choice beer for 2012 (2013) is Dubbel Coffee Stout.

Dubbel Coffee Stout is a 7% ABV stout currently fermenting with yeast from Abbaye Rochefort before marinating ground natural-process Fazenda Das Almas coffee beans in cold conditioning. This coffee was supplied by our local roaster, the brilliant Origin and has perfumed my office wonderfully over the last couple of weeks. Dubbel Coffee Stout is due for release in April so please watch this space.