Sunday, 27 February 2011

69 is a magic number

The 69 hop varieties stretched across 15 metres of Brew Warf floor

We did it! Thanks to a well stocked hop store at Brew Warf and Melissa Cole allowing us to raid the cupboard at Lovebeer, 69 hop IPA is now a stark reality. I won’t bore you with a big long list again but Motueka, Glacier, Nelson Sauvin, NZ Cascade, Strisselspalt were added to the other 64 varieities to make the task of choosing a name for the beer a great deal more enjoyable . Now is a good time to introduce my brewing colleagues for the most numerously hopped beer ever to be made ever in the universe ever.

Steve Skinner
Not to be confused with Steve Skinner the Archbishop of Truro, Steve Skinner is an American brewer abroad. Steve grew up in Michigan and was an avid home brewer while he worked as a personal chef and butler to someone very rich and very lazy. It was only when he met Phil Lowry that he started to brew on a commercial scale. Steve has “been around a bit” in terms of collaborations, consorting with a list of names which reads like a who’s who of the London craft brewing scene.

Phil (Phillip to his mum) Lowry
Born Bertram Prendergast, Phil grew up in leafy Kent. Schooled at Eton and Winchester Phil developed a love for beer at a young age and after completing his degree in cookery and needlecraft at Oxford he embarked on building his own beer retailing empire. Phil’s greatest achievement was introducing me to Jean-Marie Rock. Passionate and knowledgeable, Phil will have tried more different beers this month than most people would drink in a lifetime.

Angelo Scarnera
Very much the quiet man of the Brew Warf team, Angelo is set to take over the reins when Steve returns to America. A deeply passionate brewer and a nice chap!

The Brew
With this brew we were pushing the Brew Warf equipment to its limits and Steve had to be on his game to keep it from derailing. I wasn’t really any help as I spent most of the day playing up for the cameras, complaining about my hangover and dragging random people through the brewery to meet the team and watch the brew going in. Ever the goal hanger I did personally add all 69 hop varieties. The hopping rate of the beer turned out to be 8.75g/litre or 3.1lb per barrel.

For the first time in my brewing career I sampled a few beers while I worked. Phil and Steve kindly provided me with an unending range of bottled beers from the US, London, Yorkshire and Kent. Some were superb, some were not!

The wort that is in currently in the fermenter tasted very promising. It should be ready to sell by mid March in cask at Brew Warf and other leading beer houses.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Radical and hardcore are just words

The date: 25th February

The place: Brew Warf

The Hops:

1 Sovereign

2 Challenger

3 Northdown

4 Goldings

5 Pilgrim

6 Fuggles

7 Boadicea

8 Progress

9 Pilot

10 Pioneer

11 Phoenix

12 Target

13 Bramling Cross

14 Admiral

15 Beata

16 First Gold

17 Saaz

18 Bobek

19 Atlas

20 Aurora

21 Lubelski

22 Marynka

23 Celeia

24 Savinjski Golding

25 Saphir

26 Tradition

27 Mittlefruh

28 Magnum

29 Spalt

30 Tettnang

31 Northern Brewer

32 Hersbrucker

33 Perle

34 Herkules

35 Brewers Gold

36 Mount Hood

37 Cascade

38 Amarillo

39 Willamette

40 Centennial

41 Galena

42 Santiam

43 Sterling

44 Ahtanum

45 Simcoe

46 Citra

47 Warrior

48 Cluster

49 Palisade

50 Crystal

51 Vanguard

52 Apollo

53 Chinook

54 Sorachi

55 Nugget

56 US Northern Brewer

57 Summit

58 Bravo

59 El Dorado

60 Sonnet

61 Columbus

62 Delta

Monday, 14 February 2011

Tell me how to win your heart, cos I haven't got a clue

Google stole my idea.

Brew one is in the 2nd FV and looks and smells good.

Brew 2 is now planned for 25th February. I am booked into Brew Warf with Phil Lowry and Steve Skinner (not that Steve Skinner). The beer will be a double IPA with at least 50 hop varieties. I'm hoping for 60 but time will tell. I am struggling for a name for it though!  

Thursday, 10 February 2011

12 Brew one Sharp's and Otter Imperial Pilgrim Barley Wine

Otter Brewery

In my 12 brew posts I want to steer clear of history, the colour the pump clips, what flowers are growing around brewery gates and other such irrelevancies. Beer is as always the important thing. Otter is such an exceptionally beautiful brewery, in a stunning location, making beer in a gentille English way that you can’t discuss its beers without mentioning these things. The brewery is in glorious isolation in a green and tranquil valley. The few times I have visited there I have felt like I was on holiday. Otter make some excellent cask ales but if beer tasted of where it was made they would be among the very best in the world. Otter brewery sell more beer than Thornbridge and Brewedog combined but you probably can’t remember the last time you read about them on a blog. You get the impression that they don’t much mind this low profile (sorry Patrick!).

Otter beers are all-malt, whole-hop ales fermented using the dropping system. The dropping system involves carrying out the first day of fermentation in one tank before using gravity to transfer (drop) the beer to a second vessel to complete the job. The thinking behind this is to get the beer off of the trub and provide a second charge of oxygen for the yeast. The result is a clean yet complex beer.

Keith Bennett

Keith went to a Rudolf Steiner school where the kids make their own rules. He has never really recovered from this. Keith is Keith, you can take it or leave it but you won’t change it. After he graduated with a degree in pure mathematics he took the logical career step of getting a job as a Postman. It was only a matter of time before his love for beer drew him to the mash tun via Heriot-Watt University. At university Keith was known for his love of the student union and ability to survive on a liquid diet. He was also quite proficient at getting me kicked out of lectures by throwing his voice (that’s my story anyway). Perhaps Keith’s proudest boast is that he is the most fertile man in the universe. He has successfully sired three children despite his partner taking the contraceptive pill, although even Keith’s monster sperm have yet to find a way through his sutured vas deferens. Keith’s other special talent is doing a spectacularly accurate impersonation of Dr Evil without even trying.

Brew Number 1

Our one avowed intent will be to brew an Imperial Pilgrim barley wine brewed from English ingredients using the dropping system (can you see what I have done there?). The recipe is well modified Concerto pale ale malt, Optic crystal and roasted barley hopped with Pilgrim hops in the kettle, hop back, Fermentation and Conditioning. Pilgrim is quite a new hop and is an excellent all rounder providing a rounded bitterness and hoppy aroma (yes sometimes hops do smell of hops!), perfect therefore for a classic barley wine. The only unknown is how well the Sharp’s yeast responds to being “dropped”.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Prologue to 12 Brew One: Otter Brewery and Keith Bennett

You have probably seen the film Misery. The first scene involves James Caan's character finishing a book and following a time-honoured ritual of drinking fizzy wine and smoking. A similar ritual involving neither the smoking nor rotten grape consumption took place in my front room on Saturday. In a scene repeated every year for the last 10, I celebrated my end of term with a couple of Orval, a Westmalle Tripel and a few other beers which feature a dangerous paucity of hops (I know I’m shameless). Fortunately I wasn’t visited by a rotund mentalist trying to break my ankles with a sledgehammer.

Next Saturday sees the first brew in my 12 brews in 12 months. This one’s a bit different to the others because I’m playing at home. My brother in beer for the first brew Keith Bennett, Head Brewer of Otter Brewery is coming to Rock to make our brew. The beer will be a strong ale, the full details of which will follow in an forthcoming post. I’ll also use that post to tell you a little more about the charming Otter brewery and its slightly less charming (in the best way) Head Brewer.

Friday, 4 February 2011

New Seasonal - Atlantic IPA

This is the first post since I have entered the magical world of having 100+ followers. Bless you, you beautiful, beautiful people. Love is too trivial a word to fully convey what you mean to me.

The winter stout is sold out. I could have made more but I’m out of the specially roasted coffee and without it the beer would not be the same. So unpack your Speedos and thongs, spring is officially here!

Atlantic IPA, like IPA, is a name of a beer which is not constrained by having any specific meaning. I did argue that it was a silly name when we first used it back in 2003. You could sail the Atlantic forever and still not arrive in India. Since then another brewery have used the name to convey the American nature of their Atlantic IPA so I suppose the Atlantic aspect of the name (nomenclature) qualifies the IPA rather than describing it. For a few years Sharp’s Atlantic IPA has only been a bottle brand but now it has returned to the cask in a new guise.

Rather like a celebrity who puts on a load of weight before losing it and making a fitness DVD, Atlantic IPA is back and far sexier! When I walked past FV14 (containing the Atlantic IPA) at 6 the other morning I found myself stricken by an attack of Tourette’s. I don’t know what possessed me but I spontaneously shouted “sex!”.  Fortunately none of the brewing team were in the vicinity to misinterpret this as a request. I have since determined that the root cause of this reaction were the hops in Atlantic IPA.

The pulse quickens as I type Centennial, Simcoe and Citra. Yes the hops which automatically make you a good brewer are finally in my hop store and this beer. I am shifting the stock of my trophy cabinet to accommodate the variously-shaped accolades which are sure to follow. Citra as you are no doubt aware is very high in linalool, geraniol, beta-citronellol and alpha-terpineol all of which are found in various fruits and scents from the across the natural world. This means that the fragrance it imparts in beer is reminiscent of these alluring natural aromas (grapefruit, passion fruit, gooseberry, lime and lychee). There is a line of argument which suggests that if you are going to selectively breed hops to have high yields of these oils you might as well add a blend of the purified essential oils to beer to give you the notes on the aroma. That of course is wrong because purification is unnatural and forcing hops to breed in a state of the art laboratory until the DNA analysis reveals that you have the right genotype is simply giving Mother Nature a helping hand.

Along with the vast quantities of fragrant oils Citra et al. have very high levels of bitterness (alpha acids). I have added all of the A-list hops to Atlantic IPA in the hop back to control the extracted bitterness. I have also used a hot thick mash and low colour special malts to balance the bitterness with sweet fullness.

The beer is yet to be racked but I am very pleased with how it is tasting in FV. I am going to run the beer past the flavour panel before I release it, just to check that I haven’t happened upon a Tourette’s-inducing beer.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011


I found out on Monday that I had new bosses. Forgive me for not revealing this earlier!

Sharp’s former owners have always been in the brand building and selling game so I knew that at some point the business or its brands would be on the move. So far every conversation I have had with the new powers-that-be has made me more excited than the last. We are staying in Rock as exclusive brewers of the Sharp’s brands and it’s business as usual but with more support and investment. The prospect of taking beers I have nurtured for years to a new level of consistency and technical excellence makes me as excited as it is legal to be.

In terms of the blog, Molson Coors are very happy for me to continue uncensored and the 12 brew project is still very much on track with two brews nearly confirmed for February. My suggestion of Carling Brown Label the offal-flavoured lager is being considered by the board but I don’t expect it to make it to market.

In the words of Anthony Newley “It’s a new day, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new life, for me oooooooo and I’m feeling good!”