Saturday 24 August 2013

Midsummer Murders

I’ve probably blogged about the Cornish summer tourist peak before. There is no more effective way of reminding you of the beauty of the peace and tranquillity of a rural existence than a visit to a supermarket that you didn’t want to visit in the first place, which takes 10 times longer and involves battling with families of tattoo-pocked greasy blobs squeezed in ill-fitting shorts as they meander pointlessly through the shop like a atoms in an excited gas. Given the evident attraction of entire afternoons spent in Tesco I am surprised it hasn’t got a brown sign. Fortunately I’m a very laid back and tolerant person so it doesn’t annoy me but I can appreciate how some people would be moved to devising schemes of mass murder involving health screening trucks advertising free donuts leading to a rendering plant in the car park. 

I received a bottle of the woodlice beer from Honest Brew on Thursday and it shows the potential to be a quite accomplished beer. There were no prawn, urine, ammoniacal notes although the late hop was obscured slightly by strong higher alcohols and esters. Dry hopping and bottle conditioning should redress the balance between the hop and products of yeast metabolism. Any contribution from the crustaceans should also be easier to decipher once the beer is cleaned up. Much credit must go to Andrew and Craig for staying until 2am after the live brewing session to finish the brew. I departed in desperate need of bed suffering from the effects of two-days-at-the-GBBF-based fatigue. Better or at least more sensible men than me!

The finished version of Project Crustacean should be available to sample in a couple of weeks. I’m 
 looking forward to it!

Enjoy your bank holiday weekend. Mine will be an abstemious one as I am judging the final round of the World Beer Awards next week so I need my tasting faculties to be à point . Which is nice.    

Friday 2 August 2013

Watersports and the Woodlouse Hospice

I could answer the question “why brew with woodlice?” with another question. Why not? I could but that would be stupid. Most people could instantly think of several good reasons why not. Woodlice are ugly, creepy-crawly, little prehistoric throwbacks which live under rocks amidst detritus and decay.  If Wikipedia is to be believed they also taste of strong urine. If this is case the people who are seen enjoying potted woodlouse here must be urolagnic or have no sense of taste. They claim woodlice taste of prawns. I am yet to try a cooked woodlouse. Given what Wikipedia say about it, it seems strange that I’ve not yet found the time. 

Here's one watching TV with my kitten
The other aspect of using living things for brewing with is one of conscience. Although dirty-looking and not the kind of thing you would like curled up on your lap of an evening, the woodlouse does fulfil at role in the ecosystem. They are perhaps more worthy of a place in this world than the guests on an episode of Jeremy Kyle or indeed the host and counseling team. To that end I have, for the last few months set up and ran a woodlouse sanctuary (hospice) where all their needs are catered for until they shuffle of this mortal coil. Once expired they have been cryogenically-stored (put in my freezer) until their big day in the Honest Brew Brewery. 

Woodlice, like all animals are made of carbohydrate, protein and lipids. They will therefore enrich the wort with fermentables, free amino nitrogen and trace elements which could be used in yeast metabolism. I’m hoping that bearing in mind the strong urine reference above they may act like the fish sauce in Thai cooking. Fish sauce smells like something unmentionable suffering from something even more unmentionable on its own but adds real depth and breadth to Thai curries.

I will add the crustaceans to the boil as a powder so we get a good degree of dissolution. They should dissolve completely by the end of the boil. As well as the novelty of seeing woodlice beer being brewed those who come along to the event will get to try some of my short run beers, some beers from the brilliant Franciscan Well brewery in Cork and will get a full-on super involved rant/lecture about what we are actually doing on a scientific/technical level and why. You will get to ask me questions, argue with me, insult me and finally expose me as the fraud you know I am. I hope you can join us.  
I am transporting all of the water for the brew up from my sand, GAC, RO and salt-adjusting treatment system in Cornwall because the local mains water is a bit crap. More details about the recipe and desired outcome will almost certainly follow.