The Friday Pint 2 #24 – One month to go…

This week saw us move into the last month before next month’s Birmingham Beer Bash. If you haven’t already got your ticket(s), I’d suggest buying them now to avoid disappointment. Over events like B³ have had a rush for tickets in the last few weeks, leaving many people disappointed, so really it pays to buy in advance (you’ll also be saving money as well).

We now have the tokens that you’ll be using to buy your beer and food with at the Bash. There’s 31,000 of them in total, weighing 35kg, and I’ll be behind the scenes sorting and counting them all, making sure they keep flowing.

Since my last post on B³  we have also announced many more breweries, two dinners, and a number of fringe events. From personal experience, I’d highly reccomend trying to get into the talk on hops by Paul Corbett from Charles Faram on the Friday.

Over the next few weeks there will be more announcements, and I’ll be highlighting what I’d be excited by if I was out there drinking. For more information in the meantime, visit http://birminghambeerbash.co.uk/

For updates as they’re announced, you should like Birmingham Beer Bash and follow @birminghamcubed

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The Others – An Introduction to Malt

The Others is a monthly series looking at the people who aren’t brewers that help to produce beer and get it onto your tastebuds. This month, an introduction to malt…

In the world of beer, malt is the rhythm section of the band. Without malt, there can be no
sugars for the yeast to ferment into alcohol. Ale can be made without hops, but it can’t be
made without malt.

Malt is made by restricting the germination of grain, most commonly barley. First, the grain
is steeped in water. This process takes around 2-3 days. The immersed grain is left in water for about 12 hours, before being drained and left to stand for a further 12. This is then repeated twice, at which point the grains will start to show signs of a small rootlet.

The next stage in the process is germination. Grain is spread out on the malting floor and
germination continues for 4-5 days. During this time, the grain is reguarly turned to control the temperature, and prevent the build up of carbon dioxide, which would prevent the rootlets matting together.

During germination, the barley corn produces enzymes, that break down the cell walls that
hold the starch. In normal circumstances, this starch would then get broken down into simple sugars, which would provide nutrients to the new plant that would grow from the grain. In malting, this process is restricted, and the starch is retained in the malt.

The final stage in the malting process is the kilning. The malt is loaded onto the kiln,
where hot air is blown through the grain to reduce the moisture content to around 3-4% and stop the germination process. It is at this stage that different colours and flavours can be produced, by varying the time and temperature of the kilning.

In the brewing process, the malt is milled to release the starch, which is then converted into fermentable sugars by submerging the malt into hot water (or liquor, if you want to be
technical). The amounts and types of sugars that are obtained from this process (called
mashing) depend on the length and temperature of the mash.
The enzyme that breaks down the starch into sugars is called amylase of which there are two types that the brewing process is concerned with, α-amalayse and β-amalayse. The former breaks down the starch in an haphazard way, exposing the ends of chains so that the β-amalayse can cut pairs of glucose units from the ends of these chains. β-amalayse produces maltose and β-limit dextrin. β-limit dextrins are non fermentable sugars, which remain throughout fermentation, and contribute to the mouthfeel of the finished beer.

The optimum temperature for the amylases is between 63-65C. α-amalayse has an optimum range of between 63-68C, and β-amalayse has an optimum range of 60-65C. If the mash temperature is too high (>75C for α and >70C for β) the amylase will become inactive. Just a slight variation in temperature will result in a different production of sugars and resultant body and mouthfeel. A mash at 65C will produce a much lighter bodied beer than a mash at 65C.

Next month, I will be looking back at my visit to Warminster Maltings, one of just two
malthouses that still use traditional floor malting methods.

 

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The Friday Pint 2 #23 – Bourbon The Fourth Of July Part 5

The end is in sight. Just four bourbons stand between me and a place on the board, and a free t-shirt.

Today’s line up begins with one that would have featured last time, had it not run out. John B. Stetson is a rather light, yet flavoursome bourbon. It’s warming, rather than harsh and burning. I could happily sit and sip something like this over an evening. If I have any criticism of this, it’s that it might just be a bit too easy to drink. If I feel like I could down several, it’s probably slightly dangerous.

Next up is Willet Pot Still Reserve, which comes in a rather nice looking bottle. It’s darker than the John B. Stetson, which based on previous sessions, probably means it has got a harsh burn on the aftertaste. It smells sweeter, which I’ve found is also an indication that it will have a harsh burn aftertaste. In a way, it has, though not as strong as some of the other bourbons I’ve tried over the last few weeks.

The penultimate bourbon on the card (following a rather lovely Beef Wellington, The Rockstone is a great place to get food if you’re ever in Southampton) is Jim Beam Devil’s Cut. Normal Jim Beam was one of the first bourbons I tasted, and my preferred choice for quite some time, on the rare occasions I actually drank bourbon. Whilst the Devil Cut isn’t bad, there isn’t enough reason for me to want to drink it again, unlike some of the bourbons encountered during these sessions.

Which brings us to the end, Kentucky Vintage. There doesn’t seem to be as much aroma to this as the others in this session. Taste wise, it doesn’t really seem that inspiring either, with the burn not really accompanied by any sort of enjoyable flavour. Ignoring all of that though, I’ve finished. I have a T-shirt and my name on the board.

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Now, for Mission: Ginpossible…

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The Friday Pint 2 #22 – Marketing

This week, those irritating darlings of the craft beer scene unveiled their latest venture.

Some of you will already know to who and what I’m referring to, but for the many of you who aren’t aware, I shall elaborate. This week, Scottish brewers Brewdog announced the launch of Watt Dickie, an “Ice distilled beer” designed to be drunk as a spirit.

The description of this new “spirit” contains much of the language that irritates me about Brewdog’s marketing approach. As much as it does irritate me though, there is a slightly larger part of me that actually admires it. The marketing team at Brewdog know what they’re doing. They know that the stunts, and the extreme beers get people talking about their brand, which in turn creates awareness.

After writing that paragraph, a thought has occured to me. Outside of the relatively small “craft beer circle”, how many people are actually aware of Brewdog. Whilst they have featured on national media, the coverage they have had is still much less than the bland beers that Brewdog’s beers are a reaction against.

Many breweries don’t have the budget for any sort of marketing, and rely on reputation and word of mouth to sell their brand. In many ways, reputation is much more valuable than a well orchestrated marketing campaign. The latter will cost you money, whereas the first only requires you to consistently produce a good product, which will only cost you the money you were going to spending in the first place.

On the whole, the idea of marketing strikes me as a necessary evil to sell things that people don’t really need. If people need something, they’ll buy it anyway. It’s the things they don’t need that you have to convince them that they do need.

 

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Bourbon the Fourth of July Part 4

So, once again, for the penultimate time, I find myself at The Rockstone, for another four of the bourbons on the card.

First of today’s four is Seagram’s VO. It has a slightly sweet aroma to it, which also transfers to the taste. It drinks rather nicely, with the burn being more warming than offputting. Seagram’s VO fits in nicely with the types of bourbons that have been my favourites from the three previous sessions.

Next up are two bourbons from Old Fitzgerald, Old Fitzgerald and Old Fitzgerald 1849. The 1849 is slightly darker, which is to be expected from a bourbon that has been in the barrel longer. There seems to be a slight difference in aroma, with the 1849 seeming less sweet.

The standard Old Fitzgerald has a burn that lingers at the front of the mouth. The burn seems pretty much instant in its attack as well. Whereas previous bourbons have had some sort of taste, then an afterburn, this seemingly doesn’t.

In comparison, the 1849 had to linger somewhat longer before some sort of burn starts to kick in. Even then it’s not as strong as the standard Old Fitzgerald. The 1849 also has an aftertaste that comes through after the burn, which is a pleasant surprise.

Last of the session today is Planton’s Special Reserve. It is tempting to work through the remaining four today and get my t-shirt and name on the board, but I feel that a plan should be stuck to, and that another four would have me drunk, rather than just feeling nicely warm and pleasantly happy.

The Planton’s Special Reserve has an unexpected aroma, in that I’ve never detected it before on a bourbon or whiskey, and that is summer fruits. I’ve gone back to it a few times, and it’s definitely there.

There also seems to be summer fruits on the palate as well, a mixture of raspberries and blackberries and strawberries. They’re not overly strong, but they’re detectable, and it makes a pleasant change from all the bourbons that have been either vanilla or burn.

Of this session, The Planton’s Special Reserve has been my favourite. I now have four bourbons left to go. After the next session, I shall be finding a time to drink my favourites from each of the five sessions, in an attempt to determine which one I like the most.

And then, Mission: Ginpossible…

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Dancing Man Brewery – Gunslinger IPA

A few weeks ago, whilst in The Platform Tavern to consume the rather delightful Pole Axed, I was handed a pre-release bottle of Gunslinger, that had been bottled the week before. I opened it that weekend, fully aware that it would not be fully conditioned yet. I did write a review of that bottle, but I felt it unfair to judge the beer as it was, especially when I served it a bit too warm.

Gunslinger went on sale this week, and if there is any left (around 120 bottles were produced I believe) you can find it on sale at The Platform Tavern, or Bitter Virtue.

I bought four bottles myself, and have opened the first of those tonight. I don’t think I’ve made any secret of my liking of the Dancing Man beers on this blog. There has been a constant improvement in the core range since the brewery first launched their beers in January 2012. Even Troubadour, which I described as “the perfect example of a dull brown ale” I have since found to be actually quite nice.

So, just where does Gunslinger fit into the range? For some reason, it doesn’t seem right to compare it to the likes of Pilgrims, Big Casino, and even Pole Axed. If there’s one thing I can say with some certainty, it’s that Gunslinger doesn’t knock Pole Axed off the spot of my favourite Dancing Man beer (and that of “Dancing Man beer that should be brewed more and stuck in bottles”).

I like Gunslinger. It’s strong, bitter, and full of citrusy hoppy goodness. Also, it drinks like an 8.5% IPA, which in my mind is a good thing.

Having heard about the plans the brewery has for it’s future, I suspect there could be more one off releases like Gunslinger. If you’re in Southampton in the next few weeks, try and buy some, it’ll be worth it.

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The Session #76 – Compulsion

So, after missing a month or two, I once again find time to contribute to The Session, which is this month hosted by Glen Humphries of beer is your friend.

The topic this month focuses on what compels us to buy more beer, especially when some of us already have fridges and cupboards and boxes full of the stuff.

I’m certainly guilty of buying and hoarding beer. Some of it has a virtual date on it. I’ve not actually written on any of my bottles when I’m going to drink them, but there are some that I’ve mentally earmarked for certain special occasions, birthdays, weddings and the such.

At the other end of the scale, there are the casual beers. These usually don’t last long, as I don’t need a reason to drink them. They’re easily available, relatively cheap, and I enjoy drinking them.

Inbetween those beers are the beers that make up the bulk of my hoard. The mixture of rare beers or beers that could benefit from a bit of ageing (those many bottles of Bourbon County for example). Whilst I don’t find it impossible to open these bottles, I do tend to look for a special occasion, or theme to do so. As an example, two weekends ago I finally opened my 2003 bottle of Edwin Tucker’s Empress Porter, in a verticle tasting which included the three subsequent releases (from 2006, 2010 and 2013).

So, with that in mind, what does compel me to buy more bottles?

Well, if I didn’t, I’d soon find myself running out of beer to drink at home, though as things stand, I’d be good for a few weeks, and probably months. The main reason is probably that I enjoy it. I enjoy going into bottle shops. Most times I probably end up spending more than I should, but I end up leaving with good beer, that I can either drink myself, or in most cases, share with friends or family.

Last week, as I was walking to Bitter Virtue, I began to wonder if my buying patterns would be different if I had such a shop on my door step. I came to the conclusion that I would probably still have a hoard of vintage beers and 750s, but that the more casual beers would be bought on a night by night basis. It would be a win-win situation. I wouldn’t need to store the beers myself, and I’d have access to a much bigger choice. All I’d need to do is walk a bit further to pick them up (and also pay for them, but then I would have had to have done that if I was storing them at home anyway).

Looking back on all of this though, I suppose the biggest reason that compels me to buy more beer, is that I like drinking beer. It seems a rather obvious answer, but there you go. I like beer, so I buy beer.

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The Friday Pint 2 #21 – Excuses

So, last week I failed to post an edition of The Friday Pint.

I had written one. Last week I paid a visit to the Hampshire Archive in Winchester to look at a brewing record book from a brewery in Southampton from 1928. Most of it was somewhat difficult to decipher, yet there were some things that I managed to pick out, and I had written a rather nice post about the whole thing.

The problem is, despite me hitting save, it seemingly disappeared between me leaving the Archive, and returning home to an internet connection enabling me to upload said post. That being said, I could have easily written a post about the bottles I decided to open that night, which ended up being one of the best (if not the best) nights I’ve had in recent memory.

Earlier in the day, I decided to do this weeks bottle shop (I’m using pass number 4 of 10 this weekend to attend Southampton Beer Festival) last week, rather than having to carry around a bunch of bottles all day. I drank half of what I bought that evening.

First up was a bottle of Bristol Beer Factory’s Southville Hop. I hadn’t gone in wanting to buy one, but I did buy one because it’s an awesome beer, and the weather dictated that I should buy a beer like Southville Hop.

This was followed by three beers that I’d love to drink again, Oude Geuze Boon VAT 44, Magic Rock’s Unhuman Cannonball, and Drie Fonteinen’s Intense Red. Each one in it’s own right was a beer that made me think “I don’t think I can top this tonight”. If it weren’t for the fact the Intense Red cost £10 for a bottle I’d go back and clear the shelf. Saying that though, it will still be tempting to treat myself to another one if it’s still in stock come the next time I do a bottle shop at Bitter Virtue.

On the homebrew front, I pitched the Brettanomyces Lambicus into my Nelson Sauvin sour beer attempt last Friday. It also had the dregs of the Boon Vat 44 added to it as well, and will probably have more dregs added as I empty suitable bottles for refilling.

I’ve also had positive reactions on the Flyer IPA and Rudi Can’t Fail, which is encouraging. Whilst there is a part of me that wants to make a whole range of varying styles and experiments, I’m starting to find myself wanting to make more of what I’ve already made. Rudi Can’t Fail will definitely be rebrewed, and my 2.8% smoked porter from last December will also be rebrewed.

All I need to do is drink the previous batches to ensure I have bottles to put it all in.

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