Showing posts with label kristen england. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kristen england. Show all posts

Friday, October 12, 2012

Brewer of the Week

This week we head north to Minnesota. The name Kristen England is no doubt familiar to many homebrewers, he was the Education Director at the BJCP, collaborates with Ron Pattinson on his 'Let's Brew Wednesday' historic recipes, provided the recipe for this year's International Homebrew Project and so on and so forth. Well, now Kristen has his own brewery, so in the immortal phrasing of Ron, 'time to let Kristen take control'...

Name: Kristen England
Brewery: Pour Decisions

How did you get into brewing as a career?

Hmmm…well it’s still not actually a career, 2nd career I guess? It’s another form of science which got me hooked…science begets science, as it where…is. Do I have to get paid for it to be a career? If so, this is definitely not a second career.

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

I don’t think there is a single one. I think there are a lot of comparisons between chefs and brewers. There is definitely a set that they both share. Thick skin is a huge one. You get better by learning from your failures. Accept them and move on. Being able to ‘kill your babies’ is important. You may make the world’s best soufflé but if people don’t dig it, it doesn’t matter. Yelling at people that something is perfect when they just aren’t buying it, no matter how much you are right or love it, is a sure way to 1) alienate your peeps and 2) to fail in a giant flaming fireball. Passion is probably the most important. Wait, I mean bullocks. Yes, that’s it..big old bullocks. Passion is a tag line…or a tasty delicious fruit. That word ranks up there as one of the worst words in the history of time with me. Everyone is passionate about everything. ‘Well Jim, you have more passion than anyone we’ve ever seen but, I’m not sure that’s enough to let you drive the battleship…’ Passion says nothing about a brewer than a tag line. Ask any chef or brewer that when they’re 16 Red Bull’s in and they’ve been up 20 hours trying to fix broken the boiler/oven what passion does for them. Persistence, love and pride are vastly superior. You keep at it, no matter what, until it goes right because you have pride in what you do, in yourself and your brewery. That being said, I think if passion in beer were measured in units, I think they would have to be called Calagiones and measured on a log scale. Screw this base 6 stuff… ‘Oh, you think your beer is good, suck it buddy. Mine has 4.3 Calagiones! That destroys your meager 2.9! BRING THE PAIN!!! TASTE THE PASSSION!!!! Chicka pow!!!’ Seems Ruhlman agrees.'

Before being a professional brewer, did you homebrew? If so, how many of your homebrew recipes have you converted to full scale production?

I started home brewing about 9 years ago and like everything else I pick up as a hobby it got carried away. I’ve made well over 1000 batches of beer in various sizes over that time. As a scientist, I experimented with every technique and ingredient I could get my hands on… even weird or esoteric ones. Oh yes, from peanut butter to those little sacks that make up a piece of orange to natural red dye that, apparently, turns your pee bright red. Not something one is prepared for when waking up at 0630 to get to work after a mean pissup the night before! I’ve made so many different recipes and then versions of those recipes I have lists of beers in pretty much every style I want to make at the brewery that seems to be ever growing. The hardest part is to be calm about what I want to brew and not try make everything at once. It’s something I thought was extremely important with regards to starting a brewery. I knew at some point I would be involved in a brewery. The amateur days are the times where one can do whatever they want, learn as much as they can, compete against some of the best brewers in the world. Challenge yourself…all the while drinking beer.

If you did homebrew, do you still?

I won’t be home brewing, per se, any longer. The wife is extremely happy to hear about that as the vast majority of my stuff is still in boxes when I moved in with her 7 years ago. Now the stuff I was able to unpack will get moved to the brewery. So basically she’ll have all the room back she used to keep uncluttered (read empty). I’ll still be ‘brewing’ mead, wine and cider though. Man can’t live on beer alone…gotta combine that with all different types of liquor to keep the old liver guessing! We’ll be using my old home brew kit at the brewery to teach classes on and let some of the home brew guys have a little fun on. They’ll get to do their favorite recipes and share them with the world (branded of course). It’s one thing for your friends to say they love your beer, it’s a completely different thing to put it out there for the world to taste and comment. Bascially letting them share their favorite things with our fans. If the beers do well, we’ll definitely put them in the rotation! I also have a 2.5bbl pilot system that I can use to do some fun one-offs. Basically a nicer, larger home brew rig. Lots of cool stuff planned for the tap room.

What is your favourite beer to brew?

Wow, a favorite to brew is really hard. I would say I have two. My Berliner Weiss takes the least amount of time to make of any beer but the sour, puckering awesomeness you get out of something so simple is extremely gratifying. The other would be a traditional Czech ‘Desítka’. Triple decocted, 100% floor malted Bohemian pils malt, 2+hour boil and 100% Saaz hops. If you take most current literature into account, making a triple decocted 1.040 beer is pointless. Today’s malt is fully modified and doesn’t need it. You are wasting time, energy, blah blah blah. Rubbish. You go ahead and tell me that the numbers are same. The mash efficiency, the hop BU’s and so on. I’ll point to the Czech brew masters that have been doing it the same way for over 150 years that say they would love to quit triple decocting if they could. But they can’t. The beer suffers and the patrons complain. How do I justify making a beer for my customers I know could be better just to save myself time? The time and energy that goes into it that makes a product so thoroughly enjoyable is worth it. As it was explained to me in Jihlava by an 80+ year old bar goer (translated). “A properly made Desitka tastes like Jesus massaging your tongue.’ I would agree.

If you have worked in other breweries, which other beer did you enjoy brewing, and why?


Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

This is definitely a loaded question. Every brewer is supposed to say, ‘ALL OF THEM!!!’ I won’t say Desitka as I just lamented on it. Both the Pubstitute and Patersbier I can drink year round. A few Paters and then switch to the Pubstitute as you can have tons of them over conversation and not turn into a wonky twat…the wonky part anyway. The AK (pale mild/golden bitter) we’ll be coming out with shortly called ‘The Actress and The Bishop’ would be close as it is suicidally quaffable. That’s one beer I have to keep off tap at the brewery when we are working as both the beer nerds and ‘normies’ drink it dry. In the winter, I can murder a double stout. Something big and rich to get me started for the evening. In the summer, Berliner Weiss with fresh raspberry syrup. I mean, Berliner’s on their own, are excellent. Chuck in some raspberry and the things are sublime! Really, really bloody marvelous...

How important is authenticity when making a new beer, in terms of flavour, ingredients and method?

Authenticity is a relative term. There is so much rubbish out about beer styles and their history it depends who you talk too. Current literature is troublesome with all the circular referencing. A brewery focused on ‘tradition’ can easily get their asses handed to them for following one story when another is true. In the world of beer, you’ll find many wonderful stories ruined by fact.

At the end of the day, it’s all about what’s in the glass. When I do something ‘traditional’ I ensure that it’s massively researched, probably overly so. A lot of beer styles are just snap shots in time. When I say IPA, what do I mean? If I put IPA on the label people are going to get angry here in the Midwest if it’s not strong and bitter. We have vernacular for a reason. If I want a bacon cheeseburger and you bring me a veggie ‘not dog’ I’m going to be pretty pissed about it. The need to preface traditional things is of vast importance. Making an authentically shitty beer for its own sake is asinine. If they filtered through a sheep’s bladder, it doesn’t mean you have to also. Make the best possible product but be open about what you are doing and changes if they matter. Meaning don’t tell me you made a ‘traditional’ Gose and just add salt to a witbier. I just think it’s a case of putting the cart before the horse. Spend more time in the brewery, less time at how to ‘spin’ the beer and everyone benefits.

I think the most important thing about authenticity in brewing is being authentic with your consumers…and I guess yourself. From gypsy brewers to ‘brands’, the world if full of ‘breweries’. A business address does not equal a brewery. If your product is made in northern California, it is not a ‘local’ product in Eastern Guatemala just because the business is based there. If someone brews your beer, puts it in cans, you are a beer company, not a brewery. If you contract someone to brew your ‘recipe’ and you have no hand in the process, you are not a brewer or a brewery. Everyone has a different idea of their business model. I personally don’t care what your plan is as long as you make a great product. That being said, I will always support local. All things being equal, I think it’s very important to spend my dollars on things around me. However I won’t put my local blinders on if the product isn’t up to par just because it’s local. I think it’s important for a company to receive honest feedback as if you keep your locals happy, you’ll be happy. The problem is in today’s brewing world, people have gotten away from this. It’s sometimes impossible to find where something was actually made. Every time I pick up a new brand, I turn that can or bottle or look at that keg collar and see where it’s really made. “Brewed and bottled by Thrusty Passion brewery, Western Kreplakistan.” Hmmm…yet the front of the bottle says, “Crotch Crescent, Oxford” (and yes, I’ve been to Crotch Crescent). I think it’s simply a matter of people not liking to be misled. Honesty, above all else = authenticity to me. On a similar vein, I love this tweet by Greg Kock of Stone Brewing, “If your beer isn't actually brewed there, why do you spend so much time, energy & money trying to convince people it is? How about #honesty”.

If you were to do a collaborative beer, which brewery would you most like to work with and why?

All your questions open ended aren’t they!? Collaborations to me should be about what each person brings to the table and not just about marketing or because it sounds cool. There are so very few collaborations that kick actual ass that it’s something that really needs a lot of thought put into it.

Does it have to still be in operation? I say no. I would love to have done collaborated with Guinness Park Royal. My granddad used to run their men’s club for years and the stories my mum tells would be a great tie-in. Oooooo, or the old Courage brewery…oh yes, that would be sweet! Breweries around today? Another hard one! Depends on the type of beer we’d be doing. I would love to do a historic collaboration with Fullers. Ron’s been doing them with John for a while and I’d love to add my $0.02 (US). I could drink their stuff all day. I would really enjoy doing something with Pivovar Kout na ?umavě. I think they are one of the best breweries in the world. A little place in Hungary near where my wife’s family is from called Rotburger would be really cool. If you make me choose the US, doing a historical IBSt with Russian River aged in some nice barrels would kick some major ass (hope Vinnie is listening!). Doing one of the first IPA’s with Stone’s Mitch Steele would be a great continuation from what we’ve done in the past (I helped Mitch with historic IPA recipes in his new book. IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale. Buy it!).

Which beer, other than your own, do you wish you had invented?

Invented…depends who you ask invented what. I would probably have to say something like the Czech Desitka…yes yes I’ve talked about it before. You don’t really see them in the US so people don’t know how awesome they are and what they are missing!! It’s such a simple beer that started with suboptimal ingredients. You have water that lacks so many minerals it’s nearly distilled, malt that was of low quality and hops with little bittering ability. The amount of time and energy into making a beer so wonderful is staggering. Coming up with so many rests, how to get there, what to do, what to add, its massively difficult when you have the roadmap, inventing it, that’s just bloody brilliant. Rain man brilliant. Oh, and I guess the second would be malt liquor. Billy Dee and I would have been best friends and I would be been luckier than Nigella Lawson’s knickers with more street cred than Grand Master Flash! That would’ve been sweet…

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.

Friday, February 4, 2011

International Homebrew Project Recipe

So here it is, the recipe for the International Homebrew Project 2011. A quick recap, those that took part in the polls voted to brew a historical recreation of a milk stout, hopped with Challenger and Goldings. Therein lay one of our first hurdles, Challenger is a relatively modern hop, and so with the agreement of the majority of people who have told me they plan to brew for the project, we shifted to a combination of Fuggles and Goldings.

In thinking about the ingredients for the project, I have decided to push the brewing weekend back to the first weekend in March - so people can make arrangements for getting amber and brown malt, not to mention the invert #3 sugar. If you can't get amber and brown malt where you live, then here is a very useful article about making your own. On the making invert sugar syrup, as I plan to do, this post from Northern Brewer is useful. From my understanding, the #3 version was reasonably dark, so simmer it for about 90 minutes.

The recipe itself, kindly provided by Kristen England, is a recreation of a 1933 Barclay Perkins Milk Stout. So, as Ron would say, over to Kristen, though note I have changed his tables into bulleted lists, personal preference, that's all (and nothing to do with my shoddy HTML skills, honest guv).....

Milkstouts show up here and there throughout English beer history to the current day. There we never massively popular on a grand scale but always had their almost cult following. The most well-known is Mackesons XXX stout which currently has very little lactose in it. Most of the milk/sweet stouts are now made in happy, warm and tropical places. Jamaica, Trinidad, Malta, etc, etc. This ‘whopper’ of a stout is actually very low in gravity. It has pretty much every dark, toasty and delicious malt and sugar. Then you throw in two separate dose of lactose, one in the copper, one after for a grand total of about 22% lactose. The beer is very dark and roasty. The bitterness is quite high as these stouts weren't known to be exceedingly bitter. Lactards beware!
  • OG - 1.053
  • FG - 1.029
  • ABV - 4.4%
  • IBU - 39.1
  • SRM - 105
  • EBC - 207.8
  • Apparent Attenuation - 45.12%
  • Real Attenuation - 39.96%
The recipe is listed first in pounds, then kilograms and finally as a percentage, based on 5 US Gallons, or 19 litres.
  • Eng. 2 Row - 5.29/2.41/40.7
  • Amber malt - 1.04/0.48/10.6
  • Brown Malt - 0.58/0.26/5.9
  • Crystal 75 - 0.58/0.26/5.9
  • Invert # 3 - 0.5/0.23/5.1
  • Roasted Barley - 0.84/0.38/8.5
  • Lactose in boil - 1.26/0.57/12.8
  • Lactose priming - 1.04/0.47/10.6
For the extract brewers amongst us use 4lbs or 1.82kg for 5 US gallons or 19 litres respectively.

The mash is 90 minutes at 151°F or 66°C, with a water to grain ratio of 0.92qt/lb or 1.92l/kg.

Expect a long brewday for this, given that the boil is 2.5 hours. Talking about the boil, here's the hopping schedule, by ounces then grammes respectively.
  • Fuggle 5.5% @ 150mins 1.15/32.5
  • Goldings 4.5% @ 90mins 0.7/19.8
The yeast recommended for this recipe is Nottingham, or Wyeasts 1318 London Ale III.

Grist & such

The base malt for this beer is the toast mild malt. If you can’t get it, some Optic would be nice or even Maris otter. ***For the extract brewers out there the only real change is that you’ll use pale malt syrup instead and the poundage is listed and highlighted above. The amber and brown malt add a good dose of complexity and flavor but don’t dominate the palate like the 8.5% of roasted barley.


The hop additions for this beer are mostly for bittering. The neat thing about this beer is that milk stouts at a later time are much less bitter than this one. Nearly 40 bus is quite a bit! One addition at the start of the boil and then another addition an hour later. If you wanted to dry hop this beer you can do a simple combination of fuggles and goldings but I wouldn’t go higher than about 1g/L. Any more you really are going to have a striking hop nose.

Mash & Boil

The techniques used in this recipe are very straightforward. There was a simple multi-infusion mash where additions of hot liquor were added to keep the mash at the wanted temperature. You dough in a bit thick and then have a good sparge. This mash is very simple as there are a lot of things easy to extract out of here. The No3 invert sugar should definitely be added but can be substituted by using a mix of treacle and golden syrup. White sugar and blackstrap can be used in a pinch at about a 10:1 ratio. The lactose is the big boy here and there are two separate additions. The first one goes in during the boil and the second goes in at priming which we’ll cover later. Both invert #3 and the first lactose addition goes in at 30 minutes.

Fermentation, Conditioning & Serving

A simple fermentation at 68F (20C) will do good to ensure a nice and fruity beer that finishes well. This beer was meant to be bottle conditioned but you can serve it out of a keg. The second dose of lactose goes in with the priming sugars. NOTE – lactose is NOT the priming sugar. The lactose and priming sugars can be boiled in a little water together and added at once. Shoot for around 2.0 volumes of CO2 if you can. The more ‘fizzy’ the less mellow it will be. For serving, I suggest you keep this thing out of any sort of refrigeration. Cellar temp is ok but this really does best at room temperature or warmer.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Milk Stout takes on Challenger to take Gold(ings)

In the end, the votes were quite conclusive. This year's International Homebrew Project will be brewing:
  • milk stout
  • hopped with a combination of Challenger and Goldings
  • recipe inspired by a historical precedent
Surprisingly there was a late surge for brewing an Export India Porter, which admittedly I would have loved to have won, but we go with a simple majority. At this point I want to thank Kristen England of the BJCP, and Mr Recipe for Ron Pattinson's , for offering to supply me with an authentic recipe for the project. As soon as I have that recipe I will post it here.

Kristen's involvement came about because when Milk Stout took such a commanding lead in the poll, I was looking at the Mackeson recipes over at Ron's blog, and they all use invert sugar number 3, and I couldn't find much in the way of how long it took boiling the sugar with citric acid to create said version of invert sugar. As you can imagine, I am chuffed as chips to have Kristen's input and help on this project.

Just so I can get a rough estimate, if you are planning to brew for the project - drop me a quick
email with the subject line as "I'm In". Oh, and if any of you are graphic designers and would like to design a logo for the project, that would be awesome.

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...