Showing posts with label porter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label porter. Show all posts

Friday, June 8, 2018

Blackwall Sails Again

Of the various brewing projects I have done local, and not so local, breweries, I think Blackwall London Porter is perhaps my favourite. It is the only one to have picked up a gong, taking a silver medal at last year's Virginia Craft Beer Cup, it is the only one to date to have been bottled, the label is pretty much as I envisioned, oh and it was a damned fine beer. That's not to denigrate any of the other beers I've done, just that Blackwall has a special place in my beery heart these days.

This weekend sees the return of Blackwall at the original Three Notch'd tasting room here in Charlottesville, but only 2 barrels worth. Why so little? Well it all started a few months ago...

Three Notch'd have moved their main base of operations to a large brewpub facility on the other side of Charlottesville, and the original brewery and tasting room have become their sour house. When I heard that they were going to be producing more soured beers, I sent the brewer responsible for that a message, suggesting that given Blackwall's 19th century roots, we should look at aging a batch in order to get the brettanomyces character that was an integral part of well vatted porter. Brian, the brewer, was enthusiastic about the idea, it was just a case of finding time to do a run.

Eventually, using the original Three Notch'd pilot system, a 3 barrel batch was brewed, with a single barrel being put into an oak barrel, with brettanomyces added for good measure. How long will it sit there? Not sure, we haven't talked about it yet, but as I said, the unaged version of Blackwall has been kegged and will be available from this weekend at the tasting room.

I am confident it won't last long, so if you're around, get out and get some. I might pick up a growler or two, and a bottle of Orval for the dregs to do my own souring.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Blackwall in Bottles, and Harrisonburg

As I wrote about in my previous post, today sees the release of my new beer with Three Notch'd Brewing.

Blackwall London Porter will be on tap at the Charlottesville tasting room from opening time today. It is also being released today at their tasting room up in Harrisonburg, to my shame I am still yet to get out to Three Notch'd there, hopefully one day soon.

I mentioned on Monday that the beer is also being bottled, a first for my various brewing projects, though today's launches are draft only, so here's a sneak peak at the label.

When Dave at Three Notch'd told me the beer was going to be bottled, he asked me to come up with some ideas for the label. The only thing I knew I wanted on the label, without a doubt, was the part of the London docks where Blackwall actually is. The map used on the label dates from 1852, tying in with the era of porter I was looking to recreate. Three Notch'd use a local design company called Okay Yellow to do their label work, and I think they have captured my intention perfectly.

To say I am excited about today's release is an understatement.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Blackwall London Porter

On April 26th 1607, three ships came sailing into the Chesapeake Bay, they were the Susan Constant, the Discovery, and the Godspeed, and in their bowels lay the genesis of both the United States and the British Empire. These intrepid souls had set out on their journey on the 20th December 1606, setting sail from Blackwall in London, and sailing via the Azores and the Caribbean. Eventually the 105 men and 39 sailors would establish Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the then new world.

Blackwall is an intrinsic part of London's history as one of the great ports of the world. Not only did the colonists that established Virginia set sail from Blackwall, so to did Martin Frobisher in his search for the North West Passage, and it was here that the East India Company would build its ships to travel to the fabled Orient. By the 19th Century, Blackwall Yard was lending its name to a new type of ship that replaced the East Indiaman, the Blackwall Frigate, and eventually got into building steam ships as London held on to its position as the pre-eminent entrepot of the age.

What does this have to do with beer? Well, it was around this time last year that I got an email from the guys at Three Notch'd Brewing letting me know that we needed to find a new name for Session 42 because a brewery that is not even in the Virginia market has decided to trade mark the term 'session' and was doing what American craft breweries seem to do best and threatening legal action. One of the names that popped into my head at the time was Blackwall Best Bitter, but eventually we decided to go with Bitter 42. However, I really liked the name Blackwall, and given the history tying that part of London with Virginia, I decided to brew a porter using the name.

Now, as anyone who knows their beer history will tell you, porter didn't exist in 1606 when Christopher Newport and his crew set out from London, so doing a 17th century 'porter' was out of the question. Thus I came to the 19th century, when arguably London was at its peak, and the beer being drunk by the mass of people working in the docks and moving all the goods from place to place was porter.

I didn't want to just take a recipe from Ron's excellent book of homebrew versions of historic beers, but I did use it as my primary source for learning about the ingredients and their proportions for my recipe. Thus I settled on this as my interpretation of a 19th century London porter:
  • 53% pale malt
  • 30% brown malt
  • 15% amber malt
  • 2% black malt
  • 32 IBU of Fuggles for 60 minutes
  • 15 IBU of Fuggles for 30 minutes
  • Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale Yeast
According to Brewtoad, this would give me:
  • OG: 1.069
  • FG: 1.020
  • ABV: 6.4%
  • SRM: 32
  • IBU: 47
Happily the trial batch turned out pretty much as I wanted it to, and next Thursday will see a much bigger batch being released by my friends at Three Notch'd. If you're around the Charlottesville area, head out to the tasting room around 6ish and give it a bash. Apparently it will be available in bottles as well, so take some home and wait for winter to actually turn up to drink it by the fire!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Several Jars of Porter

A couple of months back a friend, and colleague at the company that is my day job, of mine was in Oxford for work. Naturally I asked him if it would be possible for him to bring me back a bottle or two on Oxford beer. After a week of seething jealousy as him sent me messages from places like the King's Arms, he came back to Central Virginia with a bottle of Shotover Brewing's Oxford Black Porter, which spawned a plan to do a tasting of as many porters as I could lay my hands on.

Originally the plan had been to find as many British porters as possible, but then I decided to broaden that out to include US made porters as long as they didn't have weird shit ingredients - I really fail to understand why craft brewers insist on putting extraneous shit in their dark beers (or in their beer at all to be honest).

Thus after Thanksgiving I had collected the following porters for my tasting:
This weekend just gone, and last night, I got round to drinking this little bevy of dark bevvy and here are my thoughts, a la Cyclops...

Fuller's London Porter
  • Sight - dark chestnut brown, light tan head
  • Smell - chocolate, caramelised sugar, roasty
  • Taste - toast, cocoa, molasses
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
  • Notes - very smooth, complex, moreish

Shotover Brewing Oxford Black
  • Sight - dark brown, red edges, off white head
  • Smell - spicy, slightly phenolic, touch of band-aid
  • Taste - lightly roasty, bready, trace of rubberiness
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 1/5
  • Notes - bit thin, muddle of flavours

Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter
  • Sight - rich dark brown, red edges, loose tan head
  • Smell - light coffee, cinnamon, molasses, slight tobacco
  • Taste - dark brown sugar, some coffee, roasty notes
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
  • Notes - dry, slightly lactic finish, great balance

Deschute's Black Butte Porter
  • Sight - rich dark chestnut, crimson edges, tan head
  • Smell - molasses, bittersweet chocolate, burnt sugar
  • Taste - bittersweet chocolate, slight roast
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
  • Notes - medium bodied, great balance, moreishly drinkable

Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
  • Sight - deep brown, light tan head, dissipates quickly
  • Smell - bitter chocolate, molasses, light roast coffee
  • Taste - bready, nutty, cafe creme
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
  • Notes - beautifully balanced, medium-full body, ideal for fireside in winter

Port City Porter
  • Sight - very dark, almost black, ruby edges, tan head that ligners
  • Smell - burnt sugar, light treacle, coffee, chocolate
  • Taste - sweet molasses, chocolate spread on toast, spicy
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
  • Notes - rich, unctuous brew, really well integrated
Other than the Shotover, each of these porters was a beer than I would be happy to drink whenever the porter mood strikes. If there was one take away from this mini session it was the American made beers tending to be sweeter, fuller bodied, and maybe a bit more complex, without having that much higher an alcohol content - only the Great Lakes and Port City brews were over 6%. It seems sometimes as though porter kind of gets lost in the IPAness of the modern craft brewing world, but for those of us who like dark beers, there are some decent ones out there.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Down the Isle

The Black Isle is neither an island, nor black, being a rather fetching shade of green most of the time, and always a peninsula. The Black Isle Brewery is on the Black Isle, and is most definitely a brewery. A long time ago now, I lived on the Black Isle, in Fortrose to be precise, and I remember seeing the signs to the then newly opened Black Isle Brewery. I don't remember ever trying their beer back then, being more of a Caffrey's drinker in those days. Thus, correcting that particular fact was very much on the cards while I was home.

I wasn't expecting to correct that fact quite as soon as I did. Mrs V and I spent the first Sunday of our trip mildly jet lagged, wandering along the banks of the River Ness while my parents went to church. We arranged to meet my parents outside the Marks and Spencer, and so I popped into to pick up some beer to see me through the afternoon and evening. One of those beers was a heather honey beer brewed at Black Isle, I enjoyed it muchly. On the day we also went to the Cromarty Brewing Company, which I wrote about last time, we swung into the Black Isle Brewery.

The brewery has free samples in the shop and does tours of the brewery, though as I work in a brewery and have access to as much stainless steel as a chap could possibly need I really didn't feel the need to go on a tour. I did though feel the need to pick up some bottles and a rather natty bottle opener, which I used in anger that very evening.

Yellowhammer poured a golden straw with an inch or so of pure white head. Having been described to us as an "ale that's like a lager" by the girl in the brewery store, I was expecting something in the realm of k?lsch, which it would have been but or the Cascade derived grapefruit flavours. Either way it was a perfectly drinkable thirst slaker that I wish I had seen on cask in my pub adventures.

Goldeneye Pale Ale does exactly what it says on the tin, or bottle in this case. Pale, plenty of New World hoppy flavours and aromas, berries, tropical fruit, you know the thing. Add to that a good malty backbone to balance everything out and you have a beer that would more than pass muster on this side of the Atlantic.

Going a little darker, Red Kite pours a rich garnet, with a thin slightly off white head. This really was like drinking dessert, with aromas of caramel and creme brulee, whilst tasting of dates, toffee, and spicy hops, think sticky toffee pudding and you're pretty close. Did I mention that sticky toffee pudding is one of my favourite desserts yet?

As the evening wore on I opened a couple of heavier hitters, a porter and Scotch ale, both beers were solid examples of the style which I would be  more than happy to drink again when next I head home, though I would love to try them on draft rather than in the bottle.

There's something wonderful about sitting in the garden, as the evening sun sets slowly into the northern sky, with a glass of well made beer. Life's simple pleasures at their finest...I was beginning to realise just how well endowed in the good beer department the Highlands are.

Monday, February 17, 2014

#IHP2014 - Brewday

I like to start my brewdays early, usually mashing in around 7am and getting through the whole of my brewing by midday. Saturday was no different, other than the blanket of snow on the ground, and the fact that the beer being brewed wasn't a product of my imagination. This weekend I brewed a recreation of a porter that was brewed in 1834, at the St. Stephen's brewery in Norwich, as part of the International Homebrew Project.

I tinkered a little with the recipe, going with a blend of pale malts, and having to use from extra light malt extract as my mash tun is tiny and only produces 3 gallons of 1.042 wort. In the end my recipe looked like this:
  • 2lbs Extra Light DME
  • 1.25lbs Brown malt
  • 1lb Maris Otter
  • 1lb Golden Promise
  • 0.4lb Black malt
  • 1.5oz Fuggles for 95 minutes
  • 0.5oz Fuggles for 35 minutes
  • Wyeast 1968 London ESB

Everything went swimmingly, perhaps a tad too swimmingly as I ended up with a 17°P wort rather than the expected 16°P, but a little extra booze never hurt anyone, right?

I will let the yeast do its thing for the next couple of weeks, before bottling and letting it sit for 3 weeks and then do a full write up on the beer itself at the end of March, and if it tastes as great as it smelt during the brewday, then I am in for a treat!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

#IHP2014 - Reminder

This weekend is the brewday for the 2014 rendition of the International Homebrew Project.

For those of you who are planning to brew, I hope you've got your ingredients in; pale malt, brown malt, black malt, Fuggles hops, and an English yeast strain. Nothing too challenging there.

So far I have heard that people from the US, UK, Ireland, Czech Republic, Tasmania, Israel, and South Africa are planning to take part. Anyone else? Poland, Latvia, Argentina?

If you need reminding of the recipe, take a look at the IHP2014 page, up there in the navigation.

I will be brewing my version on Sunday, and plan to continue using the #IHP2014 hashtag on Twitter - so if you have a Twitter account, please do likewise.


Monday, January 27, 2014

#IHP2014 - The Recipe

1834, what a year that was.

The Spanish Inquisition officially came to an end, by royal decree. Charles Babbage began his conceptual designs for the 'analytical engine', a mechanical precursor to the computer. The Zollverein came into effect, abolishing customs duties between the German kingdoms, which would eventually lead to the creation of modern Germany.

The following people first saw the light of day:
And the following breathed their last:
And in Norwich they brewed porter.

According to Ron Pattinson, St Stephen's Brewery in Norwich, made a grand total of 4 beers, an X, XX, table beer and the following porter...
  • 72% Pale Malt
  • 21% Brown Malt
  • 7% Black Malt
  • 60 IBU of Fuggles for 120 mins
  • 22 IBU of Fuggles for 30 minutes
  • Nottingham Ale yeast/WLP002 English Ale Yeast/Wyeast 1968 London ESB
The vital stats for the beer are:
  • OG: 1.066
  • FG: 1.022
  • ABV: 5.9%
  • IBU: 82
When this beer was recorded in 1834, the mash lasted 2 hours, at a consistency of 1.4qt of water to a pound of grain, at 156°F. The boil was also two hours long, and in the words of Kristen England, the beer was:
Massively rich and chewy. Cocoa, burnt biscuits, graham crackers, coffee and carbonized sugars. Loads of raw grassy character with the mouth drying tannins to boot. Finishes thick but not sweet in the least. The dark acidic character of the malts really extend the finish that keeps going and going.
As I mentioned in the post announcing the style for this year's International Homebrew Project, the brewday is scheduled for the weekend of 15th/16th February.

For those that can't get hold of Brown Malt, here are some instructions to make your own.

If you are planning to take part, let me know either in the comments or drop me an email...

Monday, January 13, 2014

#IHP2014 - The Style

Sometimes it seems as though if a style of beer is to become popular then it needs a compelling back story, or a completely fabricated, mythological pile of codswallop. Whether it is the disgruntled citizens of Plzeň smashing up barrels of beer on the steps of the city hall in 1839, leading to the creation of the pale lager that now bears the city's name, or IPA being invented with extra hops and alcohol to survive the journey to the mysterious east, it sometimes seems that tall tales and beer go hand in hand. Another beer with a myth of grand proportions is porter, that dark brew that according to legend was invented to replace a mix of beers known as 'three threads', a myth thoroughly debunked by Martyn.

For last year's International Homebrew Project we brewed Burton Ale, a style of beer which has all but disappeared. This year I decided that it would be fun to turn the tables and brew something which is alive and kicking, and so I decided that porter would be the style.

As ever there is a poll in the sidebar with a list of porters for which I have access to the recipe. If you intend to take part, vote for a recipe, and in a couple of weeks I'll post the project recipe. The schedule for this year's project is as follows:
  • Poll until January 24th
  • Monday January 27th - recipe posted
  • Weekend of February 15th/16th - brewday
  • Monday March 31st - blog about the beer

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cop That!

The other day as I was looking for something entirely different, I came across an online copy of Joseph Coppinger's 'The American Practical Brewer and Tanner'. This book was eagerly sought out by Thomas Jefferson as it contains a method for malting 'Indian corn' and in 1814 Jefferson's enslaved brewer, Peter Hemings, successfully made a beer using malted corn.

Something that really jumped out at me as I read the process for malting corn was Coppinger's claim that malted corn is 'peculiarly adapted to the brewing of porter'. Coppinger goes on in later sections of the book to give three processes for brewing porter, a description of porter malt and also a section on using 'essentia bina', a colouring derived from brown sugar which I assume is similar to black treacle. Coppinger claims that porter
is a liquor of modern date, which has nearly superseded the use of brown stout, and very much encroached on the consumption of other malt liquors, till it has become the staple commodity of the English brewery, and of such consequence to the government, in point of revenue, that it may be fairly said to produce more than all the rest.
I find that comment about porter superseding brown stout very interesting, as conventional wisdom is that porter preceded stout, though of course we know that at the time 'stout' was a synonym for 'strong'. Coppinger continues that:
when well brewed, and of a proper age, is considered a wholesome and pleasant liquor, particularly when drank out of the bottle; a free use is made of it in the East and West Indies, where physicians frequently recommend the use of it in preference to Madeira wine
More things of interest there, porter was considered better when bottled, and that it was being shipped from England to the Colonies in both the Caribbean and India - where have we heard that story before? But that last phrase got me thinking, doctors prescribed it more than they did Madeira wine. We all know that the hopped up pale ales that were shipped to India underwent a process of madeirisation on their 6 month journey around the globe, so it stands to reason that porter was affected in the same way, and don't forget that more porter went to India than pale ale. It makes me think that an experiment along the lines of Martyn's IPA 'hot maturation experiment' would be fascinating!

I can see Coppinger turning up in quite a few posts over the next wee while, especially as he has a few interesting looking recipes for various types of ales from the early 19th century...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Perfecting Homebrew

There are very few beers that I brew which I go on to brew twice or more, LimeLight is an obvious exception, as is my strong Thanksgiving ale Samoset, though the recipe changes most years. I have been thinking though of late that one of the things I would like to do when Mrs V and I move into our new house is to get a kegerator and develop a range of "house" ales, a couple of which would always be on tap.

In thinking about the types of beer to focus on, I gave myself some fairly simple criteria:
  • at least 2 session beers
  • at least 1 style which is difficult to get in Virginia
  • one lager
  • to cross the spectrum of colours
Having pondered, I decided on the following:
  • 3.5% - 3.7% Ordinary Bitter
  • 3.9% - 4.1% Blonde Ale
  • 5% - 6% Porter
  • 4.2% - 4.8% Pilsner
I wanted to have 5 beers in total though, and it wasn't until I had the magnificence of Oliver Ale's "Ape Must Never Kill Ape" last week that I knew what I wanted to do, a "Belgian Mild" which would have an abv of less than 3.5%.

Yes, they are all styles that I have brewed before, and in the case of my Ordinary Bitter won a gold medal for, but they are the styles that I enjoy drinking the most and at the end of the day homebrewing is all about having beer that I want to drink.

Naturally I will still make bits and pieces that either take my fancy or are brewed for special occasions, such as my Samoset Thanksgiving ale, whatever the International Homebrew Project throws up and our internal Iron Brewer project with the homebrew club, the next round of which requires honey malt, Hersbrucker hops and ginger.

If you also homebrew, what beers would you want to perfect to have on tap regularly?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Running for Stout

International Stout Day is now but a day away. When I learnt about the project, I contacted several pubs in Charlottesville to see if they were doing anything special, and hopefully to persuade them that having multiple stouts available would be a good thing. For the sake of full disclosure, this may have been an act of unrepentant self interest - I love stout and am always happy to see more of it on tap in my favourite drinking holes.

Naturally, the first place I asked was Beer Run, and of course they have extra stouts on tap in honour of the day. Making a guest return is the world's most famous stout brand, Guinness, which has been replaced of late with a rotation of other stouts. Where would International Stout Day be though without a nod to Guinness?

Also on draft will be Founder's Breakfast Stout (I am assuming a little here as it was a picture of Breakfast Stout that Beer Run used to advertise their draft stouts). I have to admit that I have never tried this one before, it is, I believe, an Oatmeal Stout, so I imagine I will enjoy it muchly when I swing by tomorrow. The third stout on tap is Beer Run's regular strong stout, Bluegrass Brewing Company's Bourbon Barrel Stout. I don't often partake in the Bourbon Barrel, mainly because at about 9% abv, it packs too much of wallop to have a few pints and then drive home.

In a nod to the history of stout, Beer Run will also have a few porters on tap - and while talking about the difference between the two styles, I recommend Martyn Cornell's excellent post on the subject. On draft will be porters from Flying Dog, Troegs and Left Hand.

Plenty of dark goodness to be had then at Beer Run. What are other Charlottesville pubs up to? What about your locals? Anything good going down to honour my joint favourite beer style?

Late update: just heard from the guys (or possibly gals) at Beer Run, that there will be no capping fee on any bottled stout tomorrow! Trust me, they have an excellent selection to choose from.

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, January 10, 2011

The Results Are In

It took an early lead and then held on grimly to the end - no I am not talking about the rare occasions on which Liverpool have managed to win this season. I am, of course, referring to the International Homebrew Project poll from last week to decide the overall style for the beer we will brew. So, a porter or a stout it will be.

Rather than drag this out for the entire week with different polls appearing day after day, I have decided to just put them all up today and let them run until Friday. Over the weekend, I will take the results of the polls and come up with the recipe that we will all brew. With a projected brew date of the first weekend in February, that gives everyone a couple of weeks to get ingredients together and clear space in fermenting vessels and such like.

So the polls this week are:
  • the sub-style to brew?
  • hops to use?
  • interested in a historical recipe?
Getting voting people!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hitting the Mark

I posted the following status on my Facebook account the other day:

"you can keep your extreme beers as far as I am concerned, nothing beats balance, complexity and drinkability in a beer. Williamsburg Alewerks' Washington's Porter is great example of just that".

The more I think about beer, both in the context of the stuff I buy and that which I brew, I am more and more convinced that those three descriptors are the basis of good beer (regardless of who brews it):
  • balance
  • complexity
  • drinkability
I happily admit that my preference in beer is toward the maltier end of the spectrum, and on the occasions when I do venture into hop head territory, I like a beer that has a solid malty backbone. Balance is something though which is difficult to achieve and is the key criteria by which a beer should be judged in my world - I don't suck lemons as a general rule, any more than I drink syrup (on a side note, one thing you will never see me do is drown pancakes in syrup).

I know very few people who don't like complex flavours in their beer, but I wonder sometimes if people confuse complexity with extremity, or in some cases simply too many flavours. By complexity I mean a beer that develops while drinking it, you could say unravelling as the temperature rises and releases differing aromas and flavours. The thing I find with a good complex beer is that the flavour improves as you drink it, unlike some well known beers which taste awful when served a single degree above freezing. Forgive the crappy analogy (are not all analogies crap at the end of the day?), but a good beer is like a Gypsy Rose Lee interpretation of burlesque, beertease you could say.

It stands to reason that beer is made for drinking, so a beer really isn't all that great if you can have a half pint and not want more. When I say "not want more" I am thinking of a situation where you don't have to drive home or similar, but you drink it and by the end of it you aren't interested in taking another drop of it. I often have to suppress my sarcastic side when I hear people describe something as "very drinkable", what the hell did you expect?

I find then, that when I go to the pub, I am looking more and more for beers that I can sup several of and not worry too much about my legs refusing to function when I get up to go home. Sure, I like stronger beers such as barleywine and imperial stout, but find myself distinctly unfussed by double IPAs and the like - I can sup on a barleywine over a longer period of time than I can a DIPA, and still enjoy the beer.

Coming back then to the Porter in the second half of the quote there, Williamsburg Alewerks' Washington's Porter. When Mrs V and I went to Williamsburg in October, I bought a growler of the porter from the brewery shop and duly put it in the fridge when we got back to CVille. There it sat until I used about a pint in my porter fruit cake. It went back into the fridge, with me fully intending to drink it that evening after the baking was finished. 

For reasons that escape me now, it sat in the fridge for a further 3 weeks, until I used it in a date, apricot and cranberry fruit cake on Sunday. I was convinced it would be lifeless and dull having been opened some 21 days prior, yet it was in excellent condition and the remaining half a growler or so (about 2 pints), was gently imbibed over a few hours. Lots of chocolate and coffee flavours, laced with a US Fuggle bitterness made it my beer highlight of the weekend. At 6.3%, it doesn't really fall into the category of a "session beer", but it hits the mark perfectly in terms of balance, complexity and drinkability.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Got Milk Stout?

Why is it that some beer styles suffer from an image problem? I have mentioned this before but when I was younger, brown ale was considered a old man's drink. Now that I am approaching the half way point of my allotted three score years and ten, I enjoy brown ale muchly and have started brewing my own - a northern style brown ale so far, and planning a recreation of Mann's Brown Ale.

Another beer which suffered an image problem when I was young was milk stout. Milk stout suffered the same kind of image problem as dark lager in the Czech Republic, it was a woman's drink. Czech tradition says that dark lager is for women because it gives a girl bigger breasts, milk stout was likewise recommended to nursing mothers for its nutritious value. Just a quick aside, there may be some scientific backing for these traditions as darker beer is apparently higher in oestrogen.

Anyway, I was in Beer Run on Friday because the Downtown Mall was preparing for the visit of Barack Obama to rally the troops for Tom Perriello (political note: if I could vote here, Tom would get my vote, if you can vote in the 5th District, please get out and vote for Tom), and I didn't want to deal with the guaranteed travel nightmare. Beer Run had a special on Friday night, where all the taps, and the handpull, were taken over by Terrapin Beer and Left Hand Brewing. Most of the 14 beers available were still there on Saturday when I met up with James from A Homebrew Log to trade beers and collect his entries for the upcoming Palmetto State Brewers' Open. Looking at the beer list, the only beer, other than the cask, that really took my fancy was Left Hand's Milk Stout.

What a nice pint that was! We were sat out on the patio, the sun was shining and the temperature was just about what you would expect, apparently, for a Virginia autumn day - not too cool, but fresh. What then could top an imperial pint of a rich, creamy milk stout that was insanely easy to drink? To be honest nothing could have topped that, it was the perfect beer for the time and place, so I had another, interjected though with a pint of the Left Hand Black Jack Porter, which was also very nice.

So yes, I will be hunting out more of the Left Hand Milk Stout, as well as whatever other milk stouts I can find, maybe I will brew one as well. One thing that came to mind over the weekend was how many more beer styles are there which I dismissed in my youthful ignorance that will loom over the horizon to steal a little corner of my zythophilic heart?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Not Again!!

I am a glutton, for punishment it seems, given the near apoplectic rage that comes over me when reading beer and homebrewing magazines that go on spouting bollocks when they really should know better.

Again, the target of my ire is the "Buyer's Guide for Beer Lovers" in the latest edition of All About Beer magazine. Before I rage though, let me say that the article about cask ale in the US was excellent and please, please, please people on this side of the Atlantic, badger your local pubs and various drinking holes to start offering cask.

Now then, to that which caused my irk. Who actually decides the category that a beer falls into? Whoever it is needs to re-read the style guidelines printed with the tasting notes, which claim that strong ales are "higher alcohol versions of pale ale" which are usually "deep amber". Then, when you go and look at the beers falling under that category, the top one listed is the Imperial Porter from Rogue Ales, which our apparent experts on beer describe thus: "brown black colour with a rocky reddish tan head".

Anyone else seeing the problem here? The label says it is an Imperial Porter, a name lumped together with the Baltic Porter category (perhaps the plebs don't know where the Baltic Sea is, and after all if you want to make a stronger version of something why not just label it "imperial"?), so why oh why, for crying out loud is this beer not in the Baltic/Imperial Porter category?

The label says it is a porter, the colour says it is a porter, so put it in one of the porter categories you mongs!

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Challenge to Bloggers/Readers

My somewhat over active brain has been at it again, damned thing really should know when to quieten down and just let me get some sleep. Today's post really comes out of a conversation I had with a colleague from the Starr Hill Brewery yesterday in the tasting room. Sundays are usually seriously quiet and so we have more time to talk, one topic that came up was the kind of range of beers a brewery has, in particular the core brands, using Starr Hill as an example, the core range is as follows:
  • Jomo Lager - a Southern German style lager
  • Amber Ale - an Irish Red Ale
  • Pale Ale - erm, guess what, it's an American Pale Ale
  • Northern Lights - an American India Pale
  • The Love - a hefeweizen
  • Dark Starr - a dry Irish stout
Obviously some breweries have far larger ranges, but I think in general Starr Hill covers the bases of what most people drink in the US. Part of the conversation was what range of beers would we have if we had our own brewery? A challenging thought, especially given all the styles of beer that are out there, but it got me thinking, what kind of beers would I make if I owned a brewery or brewpub - which is in some ways like asking which of the beers I already brew at home would I carry over into a business?

The first thing that I would say is that I would want to push cask ale as much as possible. Having tried the same beer on keg and on cask at a brewpub near Washington DC recently, all I can is that Tandleman knows a thing or two because the cask was infinitely superior. Running concurrent to a commitment to cask ale would be insisting on bottle conditioning. I know of only one brewery that bottle conditions over here (admittedly there are huge gaps in my knowledge of the American scene at the moment), but I think it is no coincidence that Bell's Brewery make my favourite beers at the moment.

As for the range of beers, I would have a core consisting of:
  • Experimental Dark Matter - dark mild, very dark, complex and yet perfectly sessionable
  • Blondynka - a proper pilsner, yes, triple decoction, Saaz hops, only Pilsner malt, at least 45 days lagering
  • Copper Head - a best bitter, like many things British, a much maligned style because it isn't done properly
  • Old Baldy - an American IPA, big malty brew with hops galore, none of your thin hopbominations here
  • Skippy Porter - a smoked chocolate porter, hopped only with Fuggles and it tells
  • 94 - a Dortmund Alt, not a common style over here, but one that I love so it would have to be there
My challenge then to my readers and other bloggers is what kind of beers would you make if you ran or owned a brewery/brewpub? I know a few of my readers already do brew on a commercial scale, what do you think of my line-up?

Happy thinking!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fuggled Review of the Year - Specialty Beer

The last of the beer style awards for this year is another rather large catch all category, basically the beers that don't fit in any of the other categories.

The top three in this category are as follows:

The Starr Hill Barleywine was a small batch made by Starr Hill back in the autumn and for a while was my favourite beer. Big sweet maltiness with a huge whack of spicy hops made this beer simply a magnificent drink. Of the Starr Hill beers I have had this year, the Barleywine was far and away the best and if I were in their shoes I would be doing this on a yearly basis and releasing it bottle conditioned in the same way Fullers do their Vintage Ale.

As I noted earlier this week, Lovibond's make excellent beers and the Gold Reserve is a notched up version of their Henley Gold wheat beer. Referred to as a "wheat wine" and with the brewer's weight in honey thrown in as well, this is a strong, sweet and yet a grassy noble hoppiness that just balances it out nicely.

Back in June, myself and Evan Rail got together to do a comparative tasting of Fuller's London Porter, Lovibond's Henley Dark and Ron Pattinson's re-creation of a 1914 London-style Porter recipe brewed in conjunction with De Molen. Rich and yet dry, it was a pleasure to try a re-created Edwardian beer.

As ever the decision is tricky, but for the pure pleasure of discovering a beer style I had never even heard of and it being a moreishly drinkable beer, the Fuggled Specialty Beer of the Year is:
  1. Lovibond's Gold Reserve
A second award there for the Lovibond's Brewery and my most keen wish for 2010 is that their beers somehow find their way to the USA, in particular this little corner of Virginia, where I know for sure they would be very much appreciated.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lights! Darks! Cut!

I wonder if you are anything like me. I guess you are in some ways, after all you are reading this blog, so I guess you like beer, I like beer; perhaps you brew your own, as do I - though I hope yours turn out better than my last effort; but do you pick up beer in the shop purely on the strength of having a funky bottle or label? I have done this to great effect with CDs, for example I picked up the Envy of Angels album by The Mutton Birds purely because I liked the atmospheric photo on the cover. It was that whimsy which took hold of me in Florida in July and as a result I bought a bottle of something called Mississippi Mud.

Reading the blurb, this was a "black and tan", a blend of a robust porter and a continental pilsner which I found intriguing as I always thought a black and tan was part pale ale and part stout, but I guess any blend of light and dark can be called a black and tan - thinking here of the guys in the Starr Hill tasting room on Saturday who blended our stout with the special saison we had on tap. Czechs do a similar thing with a pale lager and a dark lager, which can be an excellent alternative to drinking the straight up pale lager, most definitely the case at Zlata!

But what of this goodly looking 1 quart (that's almost a litre there for the Brits/Euros/RoW) bottle in front of me?

Well here goes with the Cyclops fun and games:

  • Sight - deep crimson, tiny ivory head
  • Smell - toffee, chocolate, light lemoniness
  • Taste - smooth chocolate with crisp lager bite
  • Sweetness - 3.5/5
  • Bitterness - 3/5
What a lovely surprise this was, almost like a slightly more bitey (is that a word?) Hobgoblin, it has all the big flavours you associate with a porter but a slightly thinner body that makes it very easy to drink. Part of me would love to dry mixing Pardubicky Porter with Primátor Exklusiv or similar to make the ultimate big hitting Czech black and tan (without the legal strictures of making a ?ezák with beers of the same gravity of course)!

As I say, it was the bottle that caught my attention here, and the bottle itself will be put to good use for making starters for my homebrew so hopefully I can avoid stuck fermentation in the future.

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

I have to admit that there really are not that many things that I miss as a result of this pandemic. I am sure that comes as something of a ...