Showing posts with label oliver breweries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label oliver breweries. Show all posts

Saturday, February 14, 2015

'Merican Mild Month?

Each May in the UK, CAMRA encourages drinkers to indulge in Mild, a style of beer that is perfectly suited for drinking several of during a session.

CAMRA's definition of mild is as follows:
Milds are black to dark brown to pale amber in colour and come in a variety of styles from warming roasty ales to light refreshing lunchtime thirst quenchers. Malty and possibly sweet tones dominate the flavour profile but there may be a light hop flavour or aroma. Slight diacetyl (toffee/butterscotch) flavours are not inappropriate. Alcohol levels are typically low.

Pale milds tend to have a lighter, more fruity aroma with gentle hoppiness.

Dark milds may have a light roast malt or caramel character in aroma and taste.

Scottish cask beers may have mild characteristics with a dominance of sweetness, smooth body and light bitterness.

Original gravity: less than 1043
Typical alcohol by volume: less than 4.3%
Final gravity 1004 - 1010
Bitterness 14 - 28 EBU
I think I can count on the fingers of a single hand the number of milds I have drunk since moving to the US in 2009, two in particular stand out, Olivers Dark Horse and a pale mild brewed at Blue Mountain Brewery last year.


When I talk to my beer drinking mates, not all of them beer bloggers, craft aficionados, or IPA addicts by any stretch of the imagination, a common theme comes up again and again, they wish there was more session beer available, and what could be better than encouraging breweries to make milds, whether dark or pale, hopped with British hops or not, there is so much scope for brewers to play around with in this particular style?

In my homebrew messing about I have brewed several iterations of American hopped dark milds and have found that hops like Citra and Cluster lend themselves very well to complement the light roasty notes of a good dark mild. If you were to brew a pale mild, I imagine New Zealand hops such as Motueka and Pacifica Jade would work well.

Come on brewers, show us the mild mannered Clark Kent beers for a change instead of Superman!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fuggled Review of the Year - Dark

I guess I probably drink more dark beers than anything else, whether they be milds, brown ales, stouts, porters or one of the various dark lagers, the only exception is Black IPA generally speaking. Of the many dark brews to have crossed my lips this year, the highlights are:
  • Virginia - Champion Brewing Pacecar Porter
  • Rest of US - Oliver Breweries Ape Must Never Kill Ape
  • Rest of World - Sinebrychoff Porter


Champion have been open for a grand total of about 9 and half weeks, indeed their official grand opening was last Friday night. Mrs V and I popped over on the first night of the soft opening and I loved the Pacecar Porter at first taste. Roasty, nutty, chocolatey and deliciously smooth. The Charlottesville area has a seriously encouraging new brewery to add to the existing clutch doing great stuff. Pacecar is, in my opinion, Champion's best brew and I look forward to drinking a lot more of it.


In May I went to DC to attend a conference for my previous employer, when a colleague and I got bumped from the meet and greet networking dinner as more potential clients decided to come than expected. With a sudden free night, my colleague and I jumped into a taxi and headed to the legendary ChurchKey, positioned ourselves at the bar and I ordered the 3.3% abv 'Belgian' Mild they had on tap, polished it off and ordered another, and so on for a good 6 hours. That beer was Oliver Breweries' Ape Must Never Kill Ape Belgian Mild, described as:
"English pale malt, dark crystal, chocolate, carafa 3, Belgian biscuit and caramel vienna. Bittered with Kent Goldings and Czech Saaz, finished with Fuggles and German Tettnanger then fermented with Belgian DeKonick yeast and cold conditioned with vanilla beans"
Or as I put it, bloody marvellous.


The bottle had sat in my cellar for three years before I finally decided to open it and try the first warm fermented Baltic Porter I had ever tried. As I said about it on Ratebeer:
Pours an inky black with a steady schmeer of light brown foam. The aroma is rich dark chocolate, with traces of spice and a very faint sherry note. Tastewise, rich malty sweetness and a riot of chocolate and coffee fight it out and yet find balance with a subtle but firm hop bite.

As ever I have to pick just one of the lascivious dark beauties, and the winner is the one I want to spend another night with...
  • Oliver Breweries' Ape Must Never Kill Ape
What more could you want from a beer than to spend an entire night drinking it, pulled through a beer engine, and then be able to function the next morning?

Picture credits: Ale Must Never Kill Ape label taken from Untappd, Sinebrychoff from this All About Beer article.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Fuggled Review of the Year - Amber

Continuing my traipse through a year's worth of drinking brings me to the amber category, or to define it more tightly, anything darker than a pilsner but lighter than a brown ale - how's that for obfuscation? Having set out my rather liberal criteria there, here are the year's highlights:
  • Virginia - Devils Backbone Vienna Lager
  • Rest of US - Oliver Breweries' Best Bitter
  • Rest of World - Timothy Taylor Bottled Landlord


There really is no getting away from the fact that I drink a lot of Devils Backbone Vienna Lager, it is essentially my go to beer. If a pub has it on tap there is a very good chance that I will drink nothing else for the rest of the night. When I went to Baltimore and stumbled across the Union Pub in DC, it was Vienna Lager that encouraged me to stay a while. When my mate Mark and I went for our pub crawl on Saturday, it was Vienna that made me consider staying for more than a solitary pint at Trinity Irish Pub, though the pub's charms soon got to me as well. Now that it is available in bottles, you can find said bottles in my fridge fairly regularly.


Back in September I went to Baltimore with my best friend and we drank a lot of beer from Oliver Breweries, whether at the Pratt Street Ale House homebase or at the Wharf Rat. Most of the beer that I drank was Stephen Jones' simply flawless, moreish best bitter. The only sad thing with this beer is that I can't get it in Central Virginia, yet - hopefully something that will change. Failing that, I can see another weekend in Baltimore before my mate heads off on his next assignment with work. At least this time I will know exactly what I want to drink.


What can I say about Landlord that hasn't been said already? Except that whenever I see it over here and can get hold of it then it is a complete no-brainer. Simple yet complex, clean yet flavourful, bottled Landlord could easily be the finest beer ever made, anywhere on the planet.

Three beers that share a characteristic that I prize highly in the beers I drink, simplicity married with tons of flavour. Of these three my amber beer of the year, largely because of how excited I get when I have the chance to drink it, is:
  • Timothy Taylor Bottled Landlord
A classic, simple as.

The pictures for Oliver Breweries' Best Bitter and Timothy Taylor Landlord are taken from their websites respectively.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Bitter Two

I am sure I have mentioned this many times before, but getting a good bitter in the US is pretty bloody difficult. Few of British bitters make it to these shores, I am glad that I have found a supplier of Timothy Taylor Landlord, and even fewer American brewers seem interested in brewing the style. I can only think of one brewery in the Mid-Atlantic region that has a classic, English, Bitter as part of its core range - Oliver's Ales in Baltimore. Sadly, Oliver's don't bottle their beer and their casks are not distributed in this part of Virginia.

What is a chap to do then? The answer is pretty obvious, brew my own. Crafting a good bitter recipe has become something of an obsession for me, and today I will continue my efforts. When I changed the name of my brewing operation from Green Dragon Brewing to Dark Island Brewing, I also identified several beer styles that I planned to brew repeatedly until I had a recipe that I was really happy with, thus my first Bitter was composed of the following:
  • 77% Maris Otter Pale Malt
  • 13% Crisp Amber Malt
  • 10% Briess Caramel 20 Malt
  • 15 IBU Kent Goldings for 60 minutes
  • 7.5 IBU Kent Goldings for 15 minutes
  • 1 IBU First Gold for 1 minute
  • Wyeast West Yorkshire Ale Yeast
What I ended up with was reasonably tasty, 4.1% bitter that looked like this.


While I was happy with the end product, I didn't want to just settle for that recipe being my bitter. I wanted to play around with yeast strains and maybe the hopping a little bit, and see if I can improve on a very encouraging start. As such, batch 2 of Dark Island Bitter, which is being brewed today, has a couple of changes. Firstly, and mainly because my local homebrew shop didn't have any First Gold hops, I will be using Styrian Goldings for the last hop addition, as well as bumping the flavour hops to get 15IBU of Goldings goodness. Secondly, and this change was planned, I am using Danstar's Windsor Ale Yeast, which I have used a couple of times before to good effect, including my gold medal winning bitter from last year's Dominion Cup.

If everything goes to plan, batch 2 will be ready in time for New Year's Eve, when I will be hanging out in the mountains of West Virginia and comparing it with my best mate, with whom I polished off most of batch 1 a few weeks back, not to mention vast quantities of Oliver's Bitter in Baltimore. A prospect which pleases me muchly.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Please Sir, I Want Some (Balti)More

As I mentioned in Monday's post, I spent last weekend in Baltimore being shown the delights of that city by my best friend.

My friend and I have spent many, many hours in pubs in various countries in the thirteen years we have known each other. We have enjoyed beer in dives, expat hangouts, brewpubs and basically anywhere that sells alcohol, there was a time when we would buy a case of beer on a Friday afternoon to drink on our balcony in Prague before hitting the town. We have drunk in Czech cities, towns and villages, Slovak cities, towns and villages and now American cities, towns and villages.

In the weeks before our trip I did plenty of research on places that I wanted to go to while in Baltimore, even though, as I admitted on Twitter the other day, I am a useless beer tourist. I am not much of one for visiting breweries and doing tours, there are only so many mash tuns that I am interested in seeing, my interest in beer is primarily based on the fact that I like drinking it. Having arrived in the city in the early evening our plan was simple, get checked in and get checking out the pub scene, starting with a place to eat as well as drink.

That place ended up being in Fells Point, a pub called The Wharf Rat, which I had only learnt about on Tuesday or Wednesday last week, courtesy of Joe's post on cask beer in the USA. Having walked in, the first thing I noticed was a bank of five handpumps and made a beeline for that part of the bar. I could almost have whooped for joy when I saw the magic words "Best Bitter" on one of the pump clips. The bitter was from Oliver Breweries, whose head brewer follows my Twitter account and had warned me that he didn't think the bitter would be available at Pratt Street Ale House over the weekend. Moments later a proper pint of rich copper liquid with a nicely sparkled head was nestling in my grubby mitt, and what a delight it was, a perfect example of one of the most criminally underrated styles of beer.

Oliver Breweries was to become something of a theme of our weekend. Nursing hangovers on the Saturday morning after a somewhat boisterous crawl of pubs and bars, we wandered from our hotel to Pratt Street and the eponymous Ale House, home base of Oliver Breweries. I was hoping that they would, by some happy fate, have more of the bitter to act as a hair of the dog that bit us, though in all honesty the dog that bit us was more rye sized than bitter. Let me take this moment to thank the inventor of ibuprofen for his sterling service to the drinking classes, a handful of pills and my headache was on the wane.

With places at the bar duly taken, the bar itself being my preferred location to drink, I ordered a pint of Dark Horse, Oliver Breweries' mild - what a weekend, bitter and mild in the same city! Dark Horse was the ideal pick me up after the excesses of Friday, a subtly malty beer with just enough hop bite to give some balance and an superb moreishness. Our barmaid soon learnt that when we had two fingers worth of beer in the glass, it was time for a fresh one. It was almost like being back in Central Europe with an endless conveyor belt of beer deposited in front of us. When her shift came to an end, we decided to move on and try some other places, one of which I will talk more about on Friday. Eventually though we ended up back at the Wharf Rat for more best bitter, more banter and more just being a proper pub, eventually kicking the cask.

Pratt Street Ale House and The Wharf Rat appeal to two different sides of my love for beer and the drinking of it. The former has a classic American sports bar environment, good beer and good food, a place to sit and watch the game with plenty of tasty beer, but thankfully lacking pretension. The latter what I regard as a "proper" pub, a place where socialising is at the very heart of your visit, lubricated with quality session beer, a place that is unfalteringly down to earth. These are the kind of places where, in my unhumble opinion, beer and beer drinkers are most naturally at home, I loved them and whenever I am in Baltimore again, I will most certainly be stopping by for more.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Attack of the Clone

Back in May I went to what is probably Washington DC's most famous place for beer, ChurchkKey, a place with something like 50 taps, countless bottles and most importantly 5 beer engines. Other than a solitary pint of Williams Brothers Midnight Sun, I spent the evening downing a reasonable number of Oliver Ales' Ape Must Never Kill Ape, a dark Belgian ale with the ABV and drinkability of a Mild. I loved it, and it is most definitely an early contender for the Fuggled Dark Beer of 2012.

There was only one problem, I wanted more of it and driving a couple of hours to DC for a few Friday night libations is not really something I would do, and Oliver Ales' beers are only available in Baltimore and Northern Virginia as I understand it. What I could do though was brew something vaguely similar in my kitchen. Incidently, my double brewing session yesterday was the last I will be doing in my current flat. We closed on our house on Friday, get the keys today hopefully and start the process of shifting all our stuff to the new place.

The page for Ape Must Never Kill Ape on RateBeer describes the beer thus:

A Belgian inspired dark ale, using english pale malt, dark crystal, chocolate, carafa 3, Belgian biscuit and caramel vienna. Bittered with Kent Goldings and Czech Saaz, finished with Fuggles and German Tenttnanger then fermented with Belgian DeKonick yeast and cold conditioned with vanilla beans

Clearly that gave me the outline of the Belgian Mild I wanted to brew, though I have no plans to age it on vanilla beans. My recipe then was:
  • 66% Golden Promise pale malt
  • 13% Vienna malt
  • 7% Pale Chocolate malt
  • 5% Crystal 20 malt
  • 3% Crisp Amber malt
  • 3% Caramunich I malt
  • 3% Carafa III malt
  • 10 IBU Styrian Goldings for 60 minutes
  • 8.5 IBU Czech Saaz for 15 minutes
  • 0.5 IBU Czech Saaz for 1 minute
  • Wyeast 3944 Belgian Witbier
All of that gave me a very dark beer with a starting gravity of 1.038, 19 IBUs and an estimated colour of 25 SRM, or "Brown to Dark Brown", though to my eye it looks darker than that. As you can see from the picture, the yeast is munching away happily on the sugars, hopefully the beer will have an ABV of 3.9%, a tad higher than Ape Must Never Kill Ape's 3.3%.


Not so much a clone then as a thoroughly shameless homage to the best beer I have had served through a beer engine on this side of the Atlantic. If this turns out well, I am half tempted to take a bottle up to Baltimore with me when I head up there to spend inordinate amounts of time and money with my best friend.

Friday, May 4, 2012

In Excelsis!

As I mentioned on Wednesday, I spent a chunk of this week up in Washington DC at a conference and that I was hoping to find a good pub to while away a few hours after everything work connected was done with for the day. Eventually then a colleague and I jumped in a taxi and headed to Churchkey.

I had heard mention of Churchkey from various sources. Having climbed the stairs and had my ID checked, I stood in wonder at the bar. I barely noticed the 50 something tap handles crowding the wall behind the bar, for there, at the very heart of it all were handpumps, five of them. Yes, you read that correctly 5 handpumps in an American pub. Sure, Charlottesville has a couple of places with a solitary handpump but having a choice of cask ales was magical, perhaps even mythical. I have to admit though that I can only remember 2  of the available beers, because they were the two I drank, Williams Bros Midnight Sun Porter and a beer called Ape Must Never Kill Ape, a 3.3% abv beer from Oliver Breweries up in Baltimore.

I am planning a trip to Baltimore with my best friend in August.He is from the city and when we were flatmates in Prague in 2000 we drank shed loads of beer on the balcony of our flat while he told me that one day he would show me his home town. Suffice to say that the Pratt Street Ale House, home of Oliver Breweries is very much on our list of places to get slaughtered in. Quick side note, sampling dozens of weird and wonderful beers is all good and well, but sitting with your best mate getting totalled is the pinnacle of the drinking world. Anyway, the AMNKA is a session strength Belgian inspired dark ale, which according to the commercial description is made with:

"English pale malt, dark crystal, chocolate, carafa 3, Belgian biscuit and caramel vienna. Bittered with Kent Goldings and Czech Saaz, finished with Fuggles and German Tettnanger then fermented with Belgian DeKonick yeast and cold conditioned with vanilla beans"

Absolutely packed with flavour this beer is, a veritable melange of coffee, chocolate, toffee, grass and so many other flavours that you need a good few pints to really examine it well. I didn't have my note book so I had a good few pints just because it was so damned good. Another silly little aside, the glasses at Churchkey are 16oz nonic kind of things, which just look weird to my proper pint trained eye.

We sat at the bar for a good few hours, watching ice hockey, drinking beer and talking about work and life in general. We chatted with random strangers at the bar, naturally plugging this here blog, and if they come back and read this post then I hope they took the time to learn a bit more about the Scots language.

Churchkey seems to be finding that most elusive of balances, at least in my experience, of being a beer bar which keeps the tickers happy and a pub where regular drinkers feel welcome, and they have simply excellent bar staff. What a great way to waste several hours.

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...

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