Thursday, 22 September 2011

Angerfist the Tortoise

Last week was my first time off in 3 years. I have been away in Crete enjoying the sea, the sunshine and most importantly the fun which can be had with the beer named Vergina. The comic value of Vergina is limitless. Relaxing with a couple of Verginas in the hot tub, enjoying a Vergina on the terrace in full view of the German family in the villa next door, a contemplative Vergina in the still of night, warm Verginas, cold Verginas, foaming Vergina, Vergina shandy. I could go on all year!

In true beer blogger style I conducted side by side tasting of the domestic and international beers and have rated them in this handy table.

I have returned to some exciting developments. Firstly the brewery has a wondrous new 4” water supply.  Mr Sharp was “careful with money”. When he bought a new water supply in 2001 it was just about adequate for building the brewery but not really for brewing beer in it. Mr Baker and Keohane were equally “careful”. The brewing and racking teams and anyone who has tried to fill a kettle upstairs at 3PM or washed their hands in the upstairs toilet have struggled manfully with this supply for the last ten years. Recently it has been causing us serious problems. With the new supply, for the first time we have enough water everywhere at all times. A major step forward for brewing, racking and tea making. This good news has been tempered by an increasingly bleak outlook with regard to getting a large enough quantity of exciting hops for my needs next year. 

The second development is the pitter patter of tiny feet in the Howe household. I am the proud father of a Mediterranean tortoise. She is only the size of a chicken egg at the moment and sleeps most of the time. I have decided to call her Angerfist as it seems fitting for a small docile animal which lives on a diet of wild flowers.  Apparently if I don’t manage to accidentally kill her in the meantime Angerfist will be the size of a side plate in 3 years. 

And finally here's a picture of me and the rest of the Brewer's of the Year.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

15 Great Men and me

I'm writing this on a train back from London. The bloke in front is listening to repetitive African music, the woman to my left is on her phone shouting at her friend. Nothing she has said so far has been worth saying let alone listening to. If she is reading this over my shoulder ( I’ve just increased the font size so she can) she should also note that she is wearing too much perfume and has lipstick on her teeth and moustache. None of the above-listed petty irritations can burst my bubble this morning. Last night I had another fantastically memorable night, this time at the Houses of Parliament with 15 other All Parliamentary Beer Group brewers of the year.

Walking through the crowds of tourists into the entrance was quite a novelty. I suspect that in my pinstriped suit and gold tie I looked a bit like the MP for Henley on Thames rushing back to vote against a bill to ban badger strangling. Looking around the terrace by the Thames I saw pretty much every brewer who I have ever looked up to during my career. Names like Powell-Evans, Theakston, Drury and Wellington conjure flavours of great ales from the past and present in the mind. At dinner I was sat between Giles Dennis, formally of JW Lees (the man who gave the world JW Lees Vintage Ale) and my local MP the wonderfully down to earth Dan Rogerson. 

The dinner itself was like a beer journey back through time for me. I was delighted that Chalky’s Bite was selected to accompany the starter of gilt head bream. The main was paired with another beer I brewed 12 years ago, McMullen’s Hertford Castle which went brilliantly with the rump of lamb. And the dessert of Pear tartin was served with Fuller’s Golden Pride, a beer which I used to have to round off an evening on ESBs in the Boat at the bottom of Gravel Path in Berkhamsted as a teenager. In fact I think this very beer was in my stomach when I finally decided that life as anything other than a brewer would be an empty affair.

Being the youngest person in the room was intimidating at first (Stefano couldn’t make it) but brewers being brewers I was never short of warm company. At least 5 of the brewers have retired but the next generation continue on the work they began. Nigel Griffiths the MP for Burton on Trent gave a speech about beer in the UK today and concluded that although beer sales were falling the quality of beer today is better than it has ever been. The 15 men in that dining room last night have all been instrumental in making that the case. 

I left at 11 with the party still in full swing in the commons Stranger's Bar and walked alone through the deserted vast stone spaces towards the exit. It was magical, right up to the point where the security guard caught me taking pictures on my phone in a restricted area!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

I Hate Colds

I've got a cold. I hate colds.

For someone who spends at least two hours a day tasting and smelling things, the diminution of the ability to taste is the cruellest torture. I could embrace the other symptoms of a cold with gay abandon but an olfactory epithelium covered in mucus makes me want to punch walls until my hands fall off. The virus is thought to have been an important cog in the machinery of evolution. 

Today I think evolution is overrated. I’d rather be an amoeba than a brewer with no sense of smell.