Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Honoured and Humbled

I am honoured and humbled to have a couple of my beers reviewed by two of the world’s finest and most discerning beer writers. Please follow the links to their blogs.



Whilst on the subject, I got my copy of Zak Avery’s 500 beers from Amazon on Friday. It is a very lovely thing indeed. Out of the 500 beers I have had about 420 so I’m searching out and looking forward to the remaining 80.

Fermenters are GO

Yesterday morning we unloaded and installed the FV19 and 20. Here are some pictures of the process. My Engineer, Captain Chaos has been nothing short of heroic in his efforts to get the vessels in place in a very short time frame. If he is reading this he should feel proud for a moment but then get back to the FV room and finish plumbing the bloody glycol supply in!

Well done Pete!

Saturday, 27 March 2010

52 Brews goes global

It had to happen, ‘52 brews’ has gone global! The organisers of the event formally known as Beers of the World Live (Tasting Beers Live) have kindly allowed me to appear and showcase the beers from the blog and many more. The date 18thJune, the place Birmingham NEC. It doesn’t get any more global than that!

Also appearing will be Sharp’s Marketing Manager and Michael Bublé impersonator James ‘blue eyes’ Nicholls. I’ll update the blog with which beers I will be showcasing and the timings of my slot when I get confirmation from Castle Anthrax. Further details of the event will also be available on http://www.tastingbeers.com/live/ but they are currently going for the ‘least frequently updated web site’ world record so you may have to wait.

As well as a tutored tasting of 10 beers we will be giving out Sharp’s fun packs. I will also be around after the formal 'Masterclass' to kick and punch if desired.

Friday, 26 March 2010

14. Dangerously unbalanced session IPA

Did anyone see In search of the perfect loaf on BBC4? I like bread, I make my own and eat a loaf every day. I have met and socialised with a few bakers and have always found them to be good blokes. I won’t go too deeply into it because it’s not really something I should blog about but this programme and ‘baker’ (Director of daddy’s business which will shortly do several lucrative national deals for the supply of bread to large multiple retailers) made me so angry that I had to break something. Why does everyone in food television have to be a Nigel or Nigella? Do only ponces care about what they eat and drink?

This particular Nigel didn’t turn his oven up he ‘rocked it up’ and he referred to CO2 as ‘yeast exhalate’. Yeast being a single celled fungus hasn’t got lungs so using the phrase was stupid as well as smug. I’m sure that the bread his workers make is very good but if people like him start brewing beer I’m going back to the lifeguarding. Sorry if that passage offends or alienates anyone.

(I’ve just broken my office punch bag.)

Anyway I digress. This week’s brew is dangerously unbalanced session IPA. This raises the question of what is balance in beer? Balance according to my dictionary is “A harmonious or satisfying arrangement or proportion of parts or elements, as in a design”. So the brewer arranges the elements of beer flavour to ensure that they are in a satisfying arrangement. As we all know satisfaction is a subjective concept. What satisfies one may horrify another. I have found that the notion of balance in beer is a fluid one. These days you even hear of double IPAs which are by their very nature skewed towards hop notes and bitterness being described as balanced. Balance, when I was at school was when the taste sensations of sweet, bitter, fruit, dry, sweet etc were equal. If you were brewing a strong beer which was going to be sweet you would use more hops. If you were brewing a moreish session beer with a dry finish you would hang back on the hops to allow the drinker to appreciate the fruit and malt in equal measure.

In new and exciting beers balance is passé, hops, spices, fruit and dark malt need to standout like an African at a BNP meeting. These beers are new and they are exciting but in my experience most palates prefer balance so they are not likely to contribute too much to the history of great beer. I like that because making balanced beers is difficult. A shaven monkey can make a beer which is very bitter/sour/sweet/burnt, it takes skill and training to master balance.

So for my dangerously unbalanced session IPA I am going for brutal hoppiness allied to bone dryness. I am setting out to appeal to the hophead’s hophead and horrify people who aren’t cool and down with it. I’m sure this has never been done before especially not in America, so I can honestly claim to be breaking the mold in brewing and eschewing the dreaded average beer concept. I feel like I am at the top of a ladder looking down on all the other brewers as I push on to new heights in innovation. Check me out!

Malt and sugar: low colour pale ale, glucose

Hops: Phoenix (14.4% α), Herkules (16.1% α), Summit (17.1% α), Apollo (19.5% α)

Yeast: Sharp’s

OG: 1036

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Flavour Compound of the Week - Myrcene

Myrcene (or systemically 7-Methyl-3-methylene-1,6-octadiene) is a highly volatile terpene and major component of hop essential oil. Dr R Quincy of Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office once said “the world of forensic medicine is the most important and fascinating sphere of police work.” The same cannot be said about hop chemistry and brewing, especially to the layman or moderate beer enthusiast. Taste is complicated enough without complex and uncontrolled organic chemistry going on beyond our view. It is important for brewers to understand the basics of hop chemistry such as the chemicals responsible for flavour, their concentrations and volatilities but knowing oxidative pathways and esterification yields is of no practical use. Most people who use long-winded explanations about which sesquiterpene is oxidised and esterified in their FVs are either mental or trying confuse or impress someone by pretending that they are on Silent Witness.

Noble hops (Saaz, Spalt, Tettnang etc) have very subtle aromas because they are classy. Whereas less noble hops (Amarillo, Galena, Cascade) have strong aromas because they are tarts! Myrcene has a floral aroma and is found in high concentrations in the less-noble hops and is in part responsible for this tartiness. Personally I blame the parents.

Myrcene gets its name from the plant Myrcia which is especially rich in the substance.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Off the Scale Hop-Based Excitment

My second box of green sensuality has arrived from the patron saint of hops, St Paul of Corbett at Faram hops. This time the varieties are even more exciting and I now have enough for the 50hop IPA. Words cannot convey the level of excitement in the office at present. My hands are greener than Maid Marion’s undergarments. It’s a shame that Simpson’s Malt don’t love me as much as Faram hops or I’d have some inspiring crushed grains to enjoy as well (have a word Richard!)

My 52 brew hop stock is now:

1. Sorachi Ace

2. Liberty

3. Galena

4. Chinook

5. Palisade

6. Summit

7. Ahtanum

8. Apollo

9. Goldings

10. Simcoe

11. Sovereign

12. Crystal

13. Atlas

14. Junga

15. Marynka

16. Lubelski

17. Sybilla

18. Mittlefruh

19. WGV

20. Beata

21. Admiral

22. Phoenix

23. Pilot

24. Fuggles

25. Cascade

26. Brewers Gold

27. Boadicea

28. Centennial

29. Challenger

30. Willamette

31. Mount Hood

32. Hersbrucker

33. First Gold

34. Bramling Cross

35. Northdown

36. Target

37. Sonnet

38. Herkules

39. Magnum

40. Celeia

41. Cluster

42. Progress

43. Chinook

44. Pioneer

45. Bobek

46. Tryal

47. Northern Brewer

48. Perle

49. Eden

50. Nugget


Kommen sie bitte und look at my new FVs

My new FVs are being loaded today for delivery on Monday. Here’s one in all its shimmering beauty. I have pasted a life-size German onto the image so that you get an idea of the scale of the vessel. 38,000 litre Cornish square (rectangular) open fermenters made in Germany. It simply doesn’t get any hotter than that.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Cardamom Wheat RIP

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

I have just tried the cardamom wheat from bottle and it is utterly pants, totally without appeal, beyond repair, beneath contempt. It smells like drain cleaner, is harsh, saccharine bitter and cloying. It’s the first beer brewed on the blog that I haven’t liked/loved. I know where I went wrong and my excuse is that as I usually deal with tonnes of material so when confronted with small quantities I can go over the top. In this case it was about 10 too many cardmom pods. I’m not going to bother repeating the brew as I am convinced that cardamom isn’t a beer-friendly ingredient, certainly not as the main focus of the recipe.

On the positive side, the latest batch of our Honey Spice Tripel is utterly awesome if I do modestly say myself. I’m sure that like every other batch of this beer so far it will sell out before it hits the shelves.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

13. 7 peel Citrus Tripel

This is the first tripel I have brewed on my 52 brews. Tripels are a Belgian style and are generally pale and strong. The archetypal triple is Westmalle and my personal favourite. A good tripel should be strong fruity and flavoursome yet dry and clean. Being pale, tripels (I think) lend themselves very well to ‘seasoning’ with some citrus peels.

The peels I will be using are:

1. Navel Orange
2. Mandarin
3. Lime
4. Lemon
5. Grapefruit
6. Clementine
7. Pomelo

You would have heard of most of these but maybe not pomelo. My first experience of pomelo was when one of my racking team came to my office with what he described as ‘space fruit’. I had to agree that in its plastic wrapper and protective net, it did look like something from outer space. It apparently originated from galaxy of Lidl which is just past the tyre centre on the left. The skin of the pomelo struck me as made for brewing as it produces gallons of oily zest.

For the hops I am going for Cluster and Chinook which are both highly citrus and will add to the punch of the peels. I have resisted the temptation to use abbey or trappist yeast on this brew because they have a ‘habit’ of reducing the contribution of hops to the aroma.

Malt will of course be just pale ale with enough glucose to dry the beer up but not so much that it castrates the yeast. OG 1085 and an ambitious PG of 1008.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Flavour Compound of the Week – Isovaleric Acid

I was fresh out of university working at a brewery whose name has been deleted to protect the innocent and they were launching a new Pilsner for their pub estate. Lots of money was spent on new bar fonts and a launch party. A few days before the launch the beer was racked into kegs and the production staff assembled to taste the shiny new beer.

The beer looked impressive, glimmering pale straw with a good pilsner head. On smelling the beer I was instantly taken back to my college bedroom and the unmistakable honk of Matt Allcock’s trainers. I assumed that I had caught a whiff of the barrel washer's feet and went in for another sniff. Whack! There is was again, Allcock’s trainers.

Standing only feet from the Head Brewer and only being the brewery oily rag I didn’t ask anyone else if they could smell cheese and had a couple of sips of what aside from the Stilton was a sound Pilsner before leaving the tasting to cleanse my palate. After the tasting I was discussing the beer with some of the other operators and they spoke of a similar experience.

It turned out that the hops in the new beer were anything but new and had been festering in the top of the brewhouse for 18 months. What we were all smelling was of course isovaleric acid (3-methylbutanoic acid), the cheesy hop aroma. Isovaleric is also a major cause of smelly feet.

The Pilsner was not a major success

You know that you are getting old when......

On Saturday I am leaving my youth behind. Gone is the Saturday night binge, letch and fight as I am hosting my first ever dinner party.

However as I am never off duty my guests will be subjected to beer and food themed evening. The television will also be strategically left on so that I can torture myself with England's latest rugby lowpoint.

Le menu is as follows. Notice the professional .oOOo. It's the small things that make a big difference.

Welcome Drinks
Drie Fonteinen Millenium Gueuze and Chalky’s Bark


Warm Goat’s Cheese and Caramelised Onion Tart
Accompanied by Chalky’s Bite


Main Course
Salmon and Monkfish Waterzooi with Crostini and Game Chips
Accompanied by Gentle Jane


Double Belgian Chocolate Mousse
Accompanied by Chestnut Porter


Cheese and Biscuits
Accompanied by Winter Berry Strong


Cornish Coffee and Petit Fours
England 50 France 0 (penalty count)

Thursday, 18 March 2010

14th Post in March

14 That's numberwang.


Gentle Jane Update

I have just tasted Gentle Jane. She was racked yesterday. I really like her. The aroma is almost perfumed, with sweet citrus, sherbert lemons and a hint of ginger. The taste is superbly bittersweet with so much going on that every sip is another experience. The trappist yeast has really stamped its mark on the beer with its characteristic rounded fruits and this seems to blend seamlessly with a real punch delivered by the hops and heat of the spices. The chilli and ginger work well with the hops adding to their impact on the palate. Most importantly, I think, is that even though she's got loads going on she's still eminently drinkable.

Hopefully the festival goers rate her as highly as I do.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Immobilised Yeast

A Burton-based brewing company have recently announced a new innovation in brewing. They are applying immobilised yeast technology to ‘condition’ beer in the cask. Their new system will mean that beer is always bright as the yeast is trapped inside a calcium alginate gel.

Beer can flow across the gel matrix to the yeast and the yeast fermentation products back into the bulk beer. If the beer is bright before the immobilised yeast goes in then I assume that it has been processed in the brewery to remove the yeast of primary fermentation (fining, centrifugation and/or filtration). The question is then, is this cask ale or simply filtered beer with a system to prevent oxygen damage? Having beer which is readily bright will make running a cellar slightly easier. This new system will of course still need the beer to be sold in less than 5 days and require good cellar temperature and hygiene control. I think therefore that it won’t convert very many non-cask pubs to ‘cask’ ale.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

12. Hop-free gruit wheat with yarrow, turmeric, bay and lemon balm

In the days of old where knights were bold and brewers had very little idea about how to make safe good tasting ale, we used to use gruit. Gruit was a blend of botanicals which were added to make the ale taste less rank and slow its destruction by bacteria.
If you are interested there is a web site dedicated to the subject.

According to this web site my gruit isn’t really gruit because it only contains one of the three herbs reported to be traditionally used (Myrica gale, yarrow and marsh rosemary). I would argue that most ale brewers probably used whatever was good locally and weren’t too concerned about writing it all down in case someone publishing a web site about gruit in a few hundred years was interested .

My wort will have an OG of 1080 mashed from 50/50 malted barley and wheat. I’m then going to boil the wort for 2 hours to make sure it’s completely dead before adding the non-gruit gruit at the end of the boil.

I’m fermenting this with a trappist yeast warm with some top pressure.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Black Tie

Being a Head Brewer isn’t all bad. Working 70+ stressful hours a week with only a couple of days off per year does come with some perks, such as never being more than a few feet from a beer you know that you will enjoy and the occasional brewer’s dinner. On Friday night I shall be at such a dinner. I am going to the BFBI Western Banquet. The banquet is the opportunity for the BFBI (the brewer’s suppliers) to recognise and reward the custom that us generous brewers bring their way. They are a great opportunity to meet up with friends and colleagues in the industry, discuss the latest hot topics and wind up the competition.

I always start conversations at dinners by apologising for what Sharp’s are currently rumoured to be doing wrong in the market place. This generally clears the air and allows people to get whatever beef they have with Sharp’s off their chests. I used to let it get to me but now I just laugh it off. Normally when asked to substantiate any claims of (pardon the pun) ‘sharp practice’ against the brewery, the accuser will cite something they heard from someone or an excuse their sales team are using for the loss of an account. No one in Britain likes success, especially when it’s at their expense and it’s easier to accuse Sharp’s of giving away beer than to acknowledge that maybe we are really quite good at making and selling beer that people love to drink. If we had been “giving away” beer for as long as the accusations have been in circulation then we would have gone under years ago. Also if the beer was anything other than consistently excellent, sales growth wouldn’t be snowballing as the beer becomes a favourite in more and more pubs.

To go from 10,000 barrels to 65,000 barrels a year in 8 years we must be doing something right! We are still a long way from where we are determined to be and are dedicated to getting bigger and better.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Flavour Compound of the Week - Geraniol NSFW

Geraniol or 3,7-Dimethylocta-2,6-dien-1-ol is a fruity/floral (rose-like) aroma. It is used as a ‘floral’ hop note in flavour training kits so when you hear a beer described as having a flowery hop note, geraniol is probably responsible. As always I add the caveat that beer aroma is a terrifically complex thing so the floral character you experience could also be in the absence of geraniol. Geraniol is found in the essential oil of hops although it is likely that geraniol in beer comes from hydrolysis of geraniol isobutyrate than from the essential oil. Cascade is particularly high in geraniol.

Geraniol like iso amyl ethanoate is an attractant to bees but strangely is also used in mosquito repellant.

On a molecular level geraniol looks like German balloon dog porn. Anyone got a bucket of water?

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

CTs are GO! (nearly)

My vessel shifting team and crane driver worked admirably against the world’s stroppiest lorry driver to unload my new conditioning tanks (CTs). We then did a fine job of getting two, 4 metre wide tanks through a 3.8 metre door and they are now patiently waiting for cladding before being moved to their semi permanent resting place and being filled up in a desperate hurry. Sales growth is meaning that we are on the edge of capacity and every day we run out of space, people or barrels. The CTs and subsequent fermentation vessels (FVs) will be filled up the very second that they are ready.

The Cardamom wheat has been racked off into a cask for cellar conditioning. I tried some during the transfer it is really quite good. Time will tell.

Hopfen Weisse is fermenting very well and will be chilled down tomorrow. It smells phenomenal at the moment.

One of the brews of Gentle Jane is cold enough to taste and I am very pleased with how it has come out. The other half smells encouraging. Fingers are now crossed that the trappist yeast will flocculate (clump and settle out) as well as the Sharp’s yeast so that we can move the brews to conditioning on time and so it will be ready for racking next Wednesday.

A surfeit of manpower next Wednesday means I can bottle the Dark Saison and the 12% Red.

I did want to put a juicy picture of one of the CTs sailing majestically over a sunlit brewery on this post but my digital camera has become a tosser. Instead I have posted a picture of the punchbag in my office.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Flavour Compound of the Week - Dextrins

As we all know starch is lots of units of glucose bolted together. Yeast can’t eat starch because it’s so big. Yeast doesn’t have the necessary tools to unbolt the glucose. During malting and mashing, enzymes unbolt the glucose so that when the brewers add yeast it has something to eat.
This week’s flavour compound is made when the malt enzymes can’t finish the job and is known as dextrin(s). Dextrins are like starch, lots of glucose molecules bolted together, they are just much smaller. Dextrins make a beer feel full and sometimes sweet in the mouth. The more the brewer and maltster convert into sugar the thinner (lighter) and drier the resultant beer feels. Dextrins are not the only source of body in beer but are generally considered as the most significant.

New Conditioning Tanks Leave Factory

Look at my sexy tanks!

5 tonnes of smooth German steel, hand crafted by men in leather trousers, leaving for Rotterdam today. Slipping into Rock in the ealry hours of Tuesday morning under the cover of darkness.

Oooooooh sexy sex!

Cardamom Wheat Update

The cardamom wheat has gone through a number flavour changes during fermentation. When it started fermenting it smelt like toilet duck then slightly old pot pourri and it now smells like Savlon cream smeared on an overripe banana. The fermentation has been extended slightly due to my second brewer. I’m hoping that conditioning will give a more restrained aroma or I will have to blend it off with something a lot less Unilever.

11. Hopfen Weisse

Hopfen Weisse is a hoppy and strong German wheat beer (correct me if I am wrong please). I’m going to cheat on this one because I have run out of time this week and use the wort from today’s Gentle Jane (please see earlier post). To this wort I’m going to add more wheat malt and a plenty of hops. I’m going German and American for this beer with Hallertuaer Hersbrucker and cluster for aroma and Magnum for a bushy moustache and a dodgy Hawaiian shirt.

For yeast I am using some Gloria Estefan cropped from the cardamom wheat so there may also be some Hoegaarden yeast in there too. OG will be 1080 and I’m looking to ferment warm until dry and bitter so about 9% ABV. For those of you who blindly follow IBUs it will have about one hundred and twelvety.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Gentle Jane

I’m not really a fan of giving beer names. Brewing something I’m proud of and calling it Old Sphincter or Hepatocyte Blaster seems a bit silly. I prefer a couple of words which qualify the beer and potentially make it sound appealing like 6 Hop IPA or Winter Berry. I’m fortunate that the Sharp’s marketing department have the taste to steer clear of references to canine genitalia and geriatric flatulence.

There’s a story behind the name Gentle Jane. You will notice I didn’t say it is an interesting story. Gentle Jane is a name I gave a deliberately-soured blonde ale I made in 2006, principally because ‘Deliberately Soured Blonde’ sounds like an homage to purported effects of Stella Artois. Since then I’ve used it a couple of times to name beers which are wrought from multi facetted production techniques and hence defy pumpclip-sized descriptive names. I chose Gentle Jane in the first place because this is the name of a beach just along the Camel Estuary from the Doom Bar. Doom Bar is of course our biggest-selling brand.

The current incarnation is a beer brewed especially for the Whetherspoon’s April Beer Festival. The grist for Gentle Jane is fairly standard fare; pale ale and wheat malts. The hops are where it gets slightly interesting. I’m using my new and exclusive Slovenian Styrian Golding hybrid hop as a the only variety and adding it a higher rate than we have ever used before. The beer should have a huge hop character. To back up the hops and add even more punch I’m adding ground ginger and chilli powder with the hops.

The beer is then to be fermented warm in our open squares using a 50/50 blend of Sharp’s yeast and ‘trappist’ yeast. The classification trappist does not mean that the yeast has taken a vow of silence and promised to conduct a solo sex life. It means that the yeast has been isolated and used by trappist monk brewers (or nowadays the blokes who work for them). In the case of the yeast I am using, the monks in question brew in the municipality of Chimay in Belgium. I do hope the yeast strains get on with each other. Sharp’s yeast is generally disobedient, aggressive and has the sex drive of a Labrador puppy. I have also asked my brewing team to keep the swearing down while we have holy yeast in the FVs.

I haven’t brewed Jane yet so I can’t tell you what it(she?) tastes like. I’ll update the blog with the details when it’s in the FV.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Throbbing Hop Excitement

I walked into my office this morning to find the most exciting parcel ever to grace its floor. It contains bags of 21 different varieties of hops. This has been kindly sent down by Charles Faram Hops (thank you Paul). The bags are batch samples so are all of awesome quality. I'm going to use them in my 50 hop IPA and the stand-out hops in single varieity hop brews yet to be decided.

I had to get my second brewer to lock them away as I was spending far too long stroking them and making noises normally associated with nuisance phone calls.

Think I might go and ask him for the key...

White Horse Heaven

I’d like to thank everyone who made the blog tasting on Friday for coming along and making it a great night. You are all very beautiful and charming people. Feedback was very positive and seemed genuine. Everyone had a favourite with a small majority favouring the Winter Berry Strong (WBS), Chilli IPA and Trappist IPA coming a close joint second. Of course WBS isn’t a blog brew it is our winter seasonal on steroids, it was however brewed on the same equipment as the blog beers. Only the Turbo Yeast Abomination (from Hell) was slated by everyone who tried it. It is a pretty crap drink! But not unintentionally so. We are putting it to good use in the brewery as a floor cleaner.

I’m seriously looking forwards to sharing the next few off the line with you in the near future.

Feel free to leave your tasting notes from the event in comments.

Rock and roll!