Friday 29 November 2013

6 Years Gone in an Instant

It’s been a while. I’m on a train. All the elements of a great train journey are in place. The bloke opposite keeps staring at me, there is a screaming toddler 3 rows down and an unnerving smell is coming from the woman behind me. As I can’t think of any proper work to do I’m taking he opportunity for to do a long since due post. 

A lot has happened since my last effort. I’ve been to half of Europe looking at breweries, had several good dinners, great games of rugby, have almost bought a shiny new brewery for the Franciscan Well expansion in Cork, brought a couple of new beers to fruition with two more in tank and ready to bottle before Christmas and last but by no means least won around 10 other international medals in various beer competitions.

We decided to keg Pilsner because a trial in a select range of pubs was staggeringly positive. This coincided nicely with the win in the World Beer Awards, which was nice! Taking a highly conditioned live bottled beer and moving it to keg was a serious challenge in term of flavour matching. When you make a wholesale change to the format a beer is presented in you are never going to get identity. You need to capture the elements of the flavour which work in the original format and translate them to the new package. With the Pilsner it was the sweet fruitiness in the mouth and clean crispness of the finish which needed to be ported across the format change while adapting the dryness of the beer to make it work with a lower level of carbonation. I love the keg version more than the bottle but they are both beautiful in their own way. The flavour panel and I tried the beer side by side and were resounding in their approval for both. Given the amount of reorders we have had the drinkers tend to agree.

The Connoisseur’s Choice 2013 beers are all brewed and fermented with the Honey Spiced IPA back from the bottlers and for sale in our shop. I set out to make Honey Spice showcase the best that modern hop varieties can give. I’ve made no secret of my disdain for the unbalanced hop bomb which rips through the palate like lemon juice and crushed glass chewing gum, a beer brewed for idiots by idiots. We used £7,000 worth of hops in Honey Spice IPA so there was a major risk that we’d be in that realm of flavour. I am delighted to report that what we have produced is perhaps almost not bitter enough although still above the limits of accurate measurement in terms of bittering units.

My assistant after the selection process
 Last Saturday I had the extremely enjoyable task of selecting the vintages for the 6 vintage blend from my cask stock in the brewery cellar. A journey down beer memory lane! It doesn't seem like 6 years have passed since I brewed these. Some of the beer was stunningly beautiful, almost a shame to not be launched on their own and some of the 5-6 year old beers were a fresh tasting as when they were racked. The soured beer which was had a mild acidity to it 2 years ago was almost pure vinegar. I had to resist the temptation to add these but I am going to get a small amount bottled to either sell as hopped vinegar or extreme sour beer for any UK craft beer fashionistas who are following the US trend of replacing fizzy bile with fizzybattery acid as de rigueur in the “awesome” beer appellation. The blend is due to be assembled in tank on Monday ready for bottling mid-December. This is a beer I can’t wait to sample. 

Last of the Connoisseur’s Choice beers this year is the Premiant-themed Single Brew Reserve 2013. First wort and dry hopped with Czech Premiant hops, it is sitting in CTs 16 and 17 and smells absolutely stunning. An orange/lemon hop rhapsody I haven’t yet dared taste for the fear that it might not live up to the promise of its aroma.   

All of these beers are to receive a full all-guns-blazing extravaganza of pyrotechnic marketing brilliance in the launch in the weeks before Christmas. Then they will be available to enjoy.