Showing posts with label historical beer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label historical beer. Show all posts

Monday, January 5, 2015

#IHP2015 Style Poll

Fare thee well 2014, greetings 2015!

It being January, two things are true for me; firstly I am engaged in my annual 31 day booze fast, not for any daft ideas of detox or getting healthy, just because I think it is good to take a break from time to time and just after 6 weeks of near constant imbibing seems as good as any; secondly, it's time to think about styles for this years International Homebrew Project.

As in years passim, we will recreate a beer from the past, the only question though is what kind of beer will it be? Hence the poll in the right rail. I have decided that this years choices all date from about 1850 to 1865, for no other reason than capricious whimsy. Your choices are:
  • 1860s English Double Stout
  • 1860s English IPA
  • 1850s English Pale Ale
  • 1860s English Mild Ale
  • 1850s English Stock Ale
  • 1860s Scottish Strong Ale
Have at the poll folks, it will be open until Friday January 30th.

As in previous years, these recipes are the work of Ron Pattinson, but this year they come from his superb resource, The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer. If you don't own it, you should.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Rolling Back the Years

A few weeks ago, as you may recall, I spent a very pleasant Friday at the Blue Mountain Brewery brewing an iteration of a beer style that is all but dead. Once upon a time, Burton Ale was popular enough to be lauded as one of the four types of beer being brewed by British breweries. Today you may as well go looking for the faerie folk as try to get a Burton Ale in your watering hole of choice. Unless of course, your watering of choice is Blue Mountain Brewery this Friday.

Friday sees the release of Sensible Mole, our recreation of Courage Brewery's KKK from 1923, and named for a scene in The Wind in the Willows. While it is one thing to take a historical recipe and re-brew it, the question remains, is this how it would have tasted? Unless you happen to have someone for whom Burton Ale was a regular part of their drinking life around, it's difficult to answer with much real confidence. However, looking at the numbers involved in the brewing, and a knowledge of how the beer was made, can give us some pointers. Let's start with some numbers:
  • Original Gravity: 18° Plato
  • Terminal Gravity: 6° Plato
  • Alcohol by Volume: 6.5%
6° Plato is a very high finishing gravity for an 18° beer. Usually beers of that strength attenuate out in the range of 8-8.5%, so we have a lot more residual sugar to give the beer sweetness and body. Expect then a beer than has a thick, full mouthfeel, and plenty of lovely malt sweetness, which is just as well, considering the following number:
  • IBUs: 102
102 IBUs, or about 3lbs of hops to the barrel, is seriously, seriously bitter. If you remember from the post I wrote about the brewday itself, most of the hops went into the boil right at the beginning. The dominant hop in the beer is one of my favourites, Goldings, so don't go expecting the grapefruit and pine resin thing of 'hoppy' beers in the American context to be the dominant feature, think Seville oranges and great hefty dollops of spice. We also used Goldings for the dry hopping, so again expect a thoroughly British aroma to the beer, more spiced marmelade is the order of the day. The original recipe called for Cluster for the 30 minute addition, but we had to substitute that out for Nugget, so expect some floral characteristics from that, and maybe a trace of grapefruit. The combination of Goldings and Nugget has me thinking of taking wildflower honey and mixing it with your favourite thick cut Seville orange marmelade....yum. But don't forget the bitterness, it'll be there in abundance.

To quote Kristen England on his version of this recipe:
Big, dark, and hoppy as hell. Herbal hops, spicy endive, cedar, hints of grapefruit and sweet lady fingers flow into a rippingly tannic, crisp finish. A nourishing British, hop-centric, cracking pint for all you 'op 'eads from days gone by.'

Sensible Mole promises to be a beer unlike anything I have ever tried over here, and I for one am very much looking forward to a glass or two come Friday.

Friday, April 4, 2014

My Name is Rat, and I Approve This Ale


5 years since the Armistice brought the Great War to an effective end, the man that would become George VI married the woman I only ever knew as the Queen Mother, and the Irish Free State joined the League of Nations.

At the Anchor Brewhouse in Horsleydown, the Courage Brewery was making a beer which in the pubs of London was known as Old Burton, though in the brewery itself it was called KKK. Burton Ale has become something of an obsession of mine, rich as it is in history and brewing possibilities. Like all beers, Burton Ale has evolved, changed, and been understood in different ways throughout its history, and today it is all but ignored.

When I wrote a post called 'Time For Burton' at the end of last year, I suggested that Burton Ale was just the kind of beer that the 'craft' beer world should revive, much as is happening with Grodziskie. A comment on that post inspired me to comment on Facebook that it really was suprising that Burton Ale, big, boozy, and bitter, wasn't being made by 'craft' breweries, and would any of my pro-brewer friends be willing to pick up the baton?

Enter Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton. It's fair to say that I have a very big soft spot for Blue Mountain, they make one of my favourite pale lagers in the US, Blue Mountain Lager. They make one of my favourite winter beers, Lights Out. They make probably the only strong pale lager in the US that doesn't make me want to lament a total absence of balance, über Pils. Yes, it is very fair to say that Taylor and co know what they are doing. About half an hour after my post, Taylor had responded and initiated the traditional back and forth via email that eventually lead to last Friday's brewday, when we recreated .

We were forced into a slight change for our version of the beer. For some reason brewing supply companies on this side of the Atlantic don't seem to stock invert #3, the dark version of invert sugar syrup which gave the original much of its colour. Unfortunately British brewing supply companies that carry invert sugars don't have distribution or their products in the US, can't imagine why. What to do, what to do? Baker's invert sugar syrup was the answer, fully inverted, but also clear, so we upped the black malt a tad to adjust the colour.

By the time I turned up at 8am, the mash was already done and sparging was underway. Patrick, the brewer, had got in at 5am to get started, and with a 3 hour boil ahead of us, it's just as well he did. The colour of the wort was startling, deep, deep brown, but it lightened up with the sparging, and adding 10 gallons of clear invert syrup lightened it further so that it ended up a rich red/brown shade.

Another shock was the amount of hops we chucked in for the bittering addition. 22lbs of East Kent Goldings, for 15 barrels of beer! With the other additions of Nugget, and the Goldings used to dry hop the beer, we used something like 3lbs of hops per barrel, or a calculated 102 IBUs - take that, random IPA!

There are few things I enjoy more than a day in a brewery, the ceremonial dumping of the the hops, the chat about beer and brewing, discovering that one of the reasons the brewery wanted to do this project was precisely because it took them our of their comfort zone, and of course digging out the mash tun. Call me crazy, but that really is something I look forward to getting stuck in to.

Anyway, we ended up with about 15 barrels of dark, bitter, so very bitter, wort, which is being fermented by the McEwan's yeast and when it hits the taps at the brewpub will be about 6.5% abv, rippingly bitter, with plenty of residual sugar to take the edge off the hops. Simply put, it will be like nothing out there at the moment. Taylor is also planning to put some in some of his barrels to age for a year or so...

The name for this most auspicious brew....Sensible Mole, obviously.

Monday, March 31, 2014

#IHP2014 - The Drinking

It's fair to say that I really enjoy brewing historical beer recipes, and the International Homebrew Project is probably my favourite homebrew project each year. This year's IHP beer was a porter originally brewed in 1834, in Norwich in East Anglia, at a brewery called St Stephen's. 6 weeks ago I brewed by version of the beer, and last night I popped open a bottle...

As you can see from the picture, it pours absolutely jet black, absorbing the light, with dark brown edges, and a lingering light brown foam that lingers and lingers. Damn it looks inviting. The aroma is dominated by bittersweet chocolate and coffee, the classic roastiness of brown malt, backed up with a supporting cast of tobacco, spice, and earthy hops, and just a slight trace of booze.

The roasty theme continues in the taste, again a coffee element with a hefty dose of dark bittersweet chocolate chucked in for good measure, and a pronounced nuttiness, that made me think of a tablespoon of Nutella stirred into an espresso. The bitterness of the hops is very much present, but not in a grimace inducing way, the balance is surprising really.

This is one full bodied, velvety beer, which still has a little bit of boozy hotness which once is settles out will make it dangerously moreish. The thing that surprised me most about this porter is having a calculated 82 IBUs and yet it has a wonderful balance to it.

I imagine I'll be brewing this again at some point, probably when the nights start to draw in again after summer.


I will be posting links to other versions of the International Homebrew Project as I come across them, or am sent the link.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

#IHP2014 - Write Up Reminder

Seems an age since I brewed my version of a porter originally brewed in 1834...

Well, this weekend I will get to drink the stuff, and then on Monday write about it on here.

Also on the historical brewing front, on Friday I will be at Blue Mountain brewing helping to brew a Burton Ale from 1923, originally brewed by the Courage Brewery in England.

Should be a good weekend all round.

Monday, February 27, 2012


Generally speaking I brew on a Saturday. Mrs V goes running on Saturday mornings and so I try to have my mash started by 7am, half past at the latest. Starting early means finishing before lunchtime and having the rest of the weekend to just lounge around, I also usually do the laundry while the wife is out, productive wee bunny that I am on occasion. This Saturday was no different other than it being the prescribed weekend for those of us taking part in the International Homebrew Project.

To my knowledge, homebrewers from the US, UK, Ireland and Latvia took part this year, if anyone from anywhere else brewed then please let me know. The beer, as I have mentioned several times, was a recreation of a 120/- beer from Edinburgh's Wm Younger's Brewery in 1853. Despite the hugeness of the beer, over 9% and at least 90 IBU, this was a beer for drinking young, or "mild" to use the parlance of the day.

I posted my exact recipe on Friday, though my actual hopping was slightly different due to a higher alpha acid rating on the Kent Goldings I bought that afternoon. Usually I use a single ounce for my hopping, not being a massive hophead, so chucking 4 packets of hops in total into the kettle left a lot of hop sludge as you can imagine! I also missed the target gravity of 1.114, coming in at 1.110  instead, though if the Beer Calculus tool on Hopville is correct, the dry Windsor yeast currently doing a number on the fermentables will produce a beer with 10.5% abv.

Just a quick note to the other brewers, I have adjusted the schedule slightly, and now plan to do a write up on how the beer turns out on Friday April 13th rather than the first week in April. Being such a big beer I want to give it just a little time in the bottle.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Brewday Approacheth!

I brew more Saturdays than not at the moment. I think part of that has to do with the fact that during the summer I really need to use the storage room, that doubles as my beer cellar, to keep the temperature for primary fermentation around the 68°F. Given the amount of other stuff in the cellar, I only have space to keep a couple of carboys on the go at any one time. During the winter though I can ferment inside at reasonable temperatures and use the cellar for lagers and those ales that work at lower temperatures, thus giving me more fermentation space. To say my cellar is starting to creak and groan with homebrew is an understatement.

This weekend I will be brewing again, though as part of the International Homebrew Project. If you recall, those that took part in the poll decided to brew a historic Scottish mild, from the 19th century. Being a 19th century beer, the term "mild" has a different meaning, which was that the beer was still young and hadn't developed any of the raciness of an "old" ale. A mild ale was not necessarily, if at all, the low gravity session beer we expect today, indeed the beer we are brewing has an estimated 91 IBU and 9.1% abv, putting it very much in barleywine country by today's style guidelines - indeed, I am thinking about letting a couple of bottles of this age for the rest of the year to enter in the Palmetto State Brewers Open to defend my Strong Ale gold medal.

The recipe is posted over on the IHP 2012 page, but I have to modify it a little for my purposes because I have a small mash tun, which handles about 5lbs of grain, so I will be topping this up with judicious amounts of dry malt extract. My exact recipe is as follows:
  • 4.5lbs Golden Promise Pale Malt
  • 4.25lbs Munton's Extra Light DME
  • 2.25oz Kent Golding hops @ 90 minutes
  • 1.75oz Fuggles hops @ 20 minutes
  • 0.5oz Fuggles hops for dry hopping
  • Dry Windsor yeast
I will be tweeting during the brewing, using the hashtag #BrewdayIHP, so if you are also planning to brew and have Twitter, let us know about it, and also put your final numbers in a comment to this post. Happy brewing everyone!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Time Travel for Brewers

It's that time of year. The days are noticeably longer now and I am past the half way mark in my annual alcohol and carb fast, which has so far yielded a weight loss of more than 10 pounds - so long holiday bloat! It also means that it is time to announce the plans for this year's International Homebrew Project.

Last year we ended up brewing a 1933 milk stout recipe from the English brewer Barclay Perkins, kindly provided by Kristen England, who also does the historic recipes on Ron's blog. For this year's project I have decided to change the format slightly. There is still a poll over in the side bar, but there are just 4 options:
  • Pale
  • Mild
  • Stout
  • Surprise Me
The first three options are pretty self explanatory, the fourth is a catch all for the several weird and wonderful recipes Kristen has floating about.

For this year's project we are planning to brew a genuine 19th century recipe from a Scottish brewery, the exact recipe to be revealed when the poll closes. I am going to leave the poll up until January 31st with the intention of publishing the recipe on February 3rd.

The eagle eyed among you will notice that I have added a page up in the top navigation, IHP 2012. The proposed schedule for the project is on that page, and I am leaving the comment option on so that you can let me know that you intend to participate. Last year we had brewers from the US, UK, Ireland and Latvia take part, so I'd love to see more people joining us this year.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Get Horner

The other day my good friend, and much missed drinking buddy, Evan Rail, posted about the 19th century Central European brewing texts which are available on Google Books.

One of the things that was mentioned in the books was Mozart's favoured tipple, Horner Bier. From what Evan mentioned in his post, and in the comments which follow, Horner Bier was pale, sour, effervescent, and made from oats. My initial thought was that it sounded remarkably like an oat based Berliner Weisse, and thus it turned out to be.

Horner Bier was described in 1816 as being "a white, unhoppy beer, similar to Hanoverian  Broyhan". That description is my own translation of the German text, and as with any translation there is room for debate, in particular around the German word "hopfenloses", which I have translated as "unhoppy" but might equally be translated as "hopless". Given that hops had achieved widespread acceptance in German brewing by the 14th century, I am assuming that hops were present, but not an important flavour factor, in this Viennese speciality. According to various guidelines, Berliner Weisse has an IBU rating in the single digits, which may attest to Horner Bier being unhoppy rather than hopless.

Being somewhat prone to experimenting with my homebrew, I have decided to attempt to create a Horner Bier. I do though have a major point that I need to resolve, was the beer made with 100% malted oats, or was there a portion of barley in there as well? Once that is decided, I am basically planning to take Berliner Weisse as my model, and create an oaten version thereof, with the follow characteristics:
  • OG - 1.032
  • FG - 1.004
  • ABV - 3.7%
  • IBU - 8
I am thinking at the moment to use a German Ale yeast for the primary fermentation and then inoculate it with lactobacillus delbrukii in secondary to get the sourness. But as I say, the only question I really have at the moment is the grist - any thoughts?

Friday, May 20, 2011

What's in a Name?

Whilst looking through the pictures that are already on Fuggled, I rediscovered this little delight:

I took the picture at Hotel Pegas, a hotel and brewpub in the centre of Brno, the second city of the Czech Republic, during a trip down to Moravia in 2009. The sign was in fact one of a pair, unfortunately I didn't take a picture of the other, or if I did, I can't find it. The second picture though was a German version of the Czech sign, which translates roughly in English as "Original Porter from ?eské Budějovice" - or Budweis as it is also known.

You can see from picture that the brewery making this porter was Mě??ansky Pivovar, the brewery that today is known generally as Samson, though was originally called "Die Budweiser Br?uberechtigten - Bürgerliches Br?uhaus-Gegründet 1795 - Budweis". I am guessing from the fact that the sign was in both German and Czech that it dates from the period known as the Czech National Revival, which led to Josef Jungmann publishing the first Czech dictionary and eventually the building of the Czech National Theatre in June 1881 - the original building burnt down in August 1881 and was re-built and opened in 1883.

I don't know about you, but I find that sign fascinating on so many levels. Firstly the fact that it was made in both Czech and German pointing to the multi-cultural nature of Bohemia. Secondly, the brewery that produced the beer was using Budweiser as an appellation, and this before Budvar was even created in 1895 (so if anyone say Budvar is the original Budweiser they are wrong). Thirdly, and perhaps most intriguing was that the brewery was making a porter, a style more commonly associated with London and the Baltic region.

In the modern Czech brewing law, a porter is a dark beer brewed to greater than 18o Plato, about 1.076. However, it is dangerous to read the modern Czech interpretation of porter back into the 19th century, so what was this beer? I would like to posit a theory, and I am perfectly happy for it to be complete bullshit, but I think without much more evidence available (until I finally get round to reading a book I have on brewing in ?eské Budějovice pre 1895) I think it holds water.

As discussed elsewhere, tmavé up until the late 19th century was warm fermented. Even today if you go to the legendary beer hall U Flek?, their tmavé is distinctly stout like. From what I understand of that beer, the recipe is largely the same today as it was in the 1890s, but it is cold fermented and lagered. What is today called tmavé in the Czech lands bears an uncanny resemblance to porter, whether Baltic or otherwise. Was it then a version of porter that was poured down the drains of Plzeň that eventually led to Pilsner?

Obviously without the brewing records it is impossible to know for sure was Budweiser Porter was, but I am thinking that a little homebrew project to brew a Czech Porter would be interesting, and I have to do something with the 5 extra ounces of Saaz that I have knocking about in the fridge. When it comes to the yeast strain, I think a German ale strain is in order, something from Dusseldorf for example. I imagine that the beer would have enjoyed a long cool conditioning phase, somewhat akin to Scottish beers, and so once fermented in will sit in the cellar for a while.

Another project for an every growing list.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lazarus Lager

Unless you've been living under a rock, as opposed to on this rock, you will know that I am rather partial to lager. My "go to" beer of late has been Devils Backbone's lovely Vienna Lager, I have also been availing myself of various American made pilsner style lagers, some decent, some not. Despite the fulminations of some in the beer world, Britain has a decent history of brewing lager style beers. The very first cold fermented beers in Britain are reputed to have been brewed in Scotland, as early as 1835. Unfortunately, being in the days before refrigeration, the yeast didn't survive more than a few brews, and although the 19th century saw several more attempts at brewing lager it wasn't until the early 20th century that British brewers started to make a more concerted effort to make lager.

In the 1930s, the London brewery Barclay Perkins, located in the Anchor Brewery in Southwark, employed one Arthur Henius, a Dane, to head up their lager brewing operations. During that time, Barclay Perkins produced three lager styles, two pales and a dark. Where am I going with all this historical information? Well, quite simply, last Thursday saw the culmination of a project between myself, Jason Oliver at Devils Backbone and Ron Pattinson of Shut Up About Barclay Perkins.

When we heard that Ron was coming over to the States, and would be just a couple of hours away in Washington DC, we decided that it would be good to try and arrange a brewday with Ron, and to brew a historical beer. Previously Jason had used a recipe from one of Ron's books as inspiration for his 1904 Ramsey's Stout, and with an interest in brewing forgotten beers it was natural to try and arrange something. The seemingly now tradition thread of emails ensued, unfortuantely Nathan Zeender from DC couldn't make it down for the brewday, though was involved in the email chain.

We went round several ideas of beers to recreate, and eventually came to the notion of brewing a British lager. From there it was a short step to deciding on a British dark lager, and it just so happened that in Ron's possession was a recipe from 1934 for Barclay Perkins' Dark Lager. It had to be done.

The recipe was fairly simple, the malts being lager, pale and caramel, added to the mash late on was roasted barley, in order to get colour without the harsh roasted flavour you associate with that grain. I was surprised when I saw the recipe that it was hopped only with Saaz, surprised but delighted!

Naturally we wanted to be as authentic as possible, and so various salts and minerals were added to Devils Backbone's insanely soft water to mimic as close as possible the hard water of London (when we brewed the pilsner last year I learnt that their water is softer than Plzeň!). From reviewing the brewing log's technical details Jason decided that it would be more authentic to do a temperature control mash rather than a decoction. At the end of the day we had 10 hectolitres of 14.25o Plato, dark brown wort, which had about 25 IBUs of Saaz goodness and should be ready for drinking some time in July I imagine.

It seems to have become traditional that these brewdays inevitably involve sampling various beers. Ron bought with him a bottle of the new East India Porter from Pretty Things, a recreation of a 19th century porter made with extra hops to survive the sea journey to India (sound familiar? cough, splutter, black IPA my arse cough). Keeping with the theme of historical beers, Ron also brought along a bottle of the first in the Fuller's Past Masters series, which you can see in the picture, and was a lovely beer. So lovely in fact, I wish I could find it in the States.

We had a really good day, it was a pleasure to meet Ron in person, and as ever to go brewing at Devils Backbone.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Ron Would Love It!

Sometimes I feel inordinately lucky to live in a part of Virginia which has at least 4 craft breweries within about 30 miles, I say "at least" because the 4 I am talking about are all west of Charlottesville and there may me more to the north, south and east.

Having spent the weekend working the tasting room in the Starr Hill Brewing Company and having a great, if exhausting time, last night Mrs Velkyal and I took my good lady wife's parents to another of the local brewers, . I remarked to Mrs V on the way home that of all the brewpubs in the area, Devil's Backbone is the only one we have taken all of our visitors to, but I digress.

I needed a pint, hefting kegs and cases of beer is heavy work, pouring samples and chatting with customers means being on your feet for the whole shift and constantly on the move, it is tiring but I love it - I have to admit though I am not sure entirely what I love more, talking about the beer or making sure that it is in the best possible condition within the realm of my influence, essentially making sure the lines are clean, but again I digress.

Devil's Backbone currently have a stout, nothing remarkable about that you might think, but this one is not an Irish Stout, it is a recreation of a 1904 London stout from Whitbread, including, according to the brewer's blog, the requisite specialty grains and fermented with the Whitbread yeast. What a simply lovely beer it was! A touch sweeter than you would expect from an Irish stout, but with big cocoa aromas and a smooth texture reminiscent of pouring warmed dark chocolate straight down your gullet. I wish I'd had my camera, speaking of which - I imagine this on cask would be magnificent!

According to
, coming soon will be an attempt to recreate Pilsner Urquell, from the original recipe using the traditional methods - triple decoction, enough Saaz hops for 40IBUs and bohemian malts are I assume already ordered, quite though how they will get the water to the required softness I have no idea. But this I am looking forward to. Will my search finally be over? Will this little corner of American finally have a pilsner worthy of the name? Will I be agitating for it to be a regular beer if it is good?

There is only one downside to Devil's Backbone. It is not in Charlottesville itself and thus I can't walk home merrily pickled. Every trip then is one to savour.

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...