Boddington’s Bitter: 1968 v. 1982

We’re fascinated by beers that Aren’t What They Used to Be. How much of that is down to contrast with what else is around, or jaded palates?

We’ve just written a piece for All About Beer considering Guinness from this angle but also had the chance to return to an old obsession: Boddington’s Bitter.

We wrote a #BeeryLongreads piece on it which is worth a look but, in brief, 1970s real ale campaigners and aficionados loved Boddington’s Bitter because it was pale, dry and very bitter. Somewhere along the line, it lost its spark.

The other week we got a look at some original brewing logs from Boddington’s and tried to answer a simple question: what changed between the 1960s and the 1980s?

Continue reading “Boddington’s Bitter: 1968 v. 1982”

News, Nuggets & Longreads 12 March 2016

Here’s the most noteworthy beer- and pub-writing of the last week, from home-brewing to the March blues for brewers.

→ For Vice‘s ‘Munchies’ section Chloe Scott-Moncrieff reports on ‘London’s Secret Homebrewing Club’:

Around the long table, I meet Tom Burrows, a 28-year-old physicist… “I think you can find lots of scientists in homebrewing,” he admits. “Although I know an accountant who doesn’t stick to recipes and while he has some misses, he’s created some brilliant beers.” He sounds slightly envious.

(Via @totalcurtis.)

→ Frank Curtis works with the malting industry in the US and has written an insider’s-view guest post for the London-based blog run by his son, Matt. The bit that really caught our attention was the idea of ‘craft’ malt:

Troubadour Malt, is located in Fort Collins, Colorado and I’ve followed their development with interest from the very first ideas to the consistent delivery of product – all produced from locally grown barley. Troubadour Malt is owned by Steve Clark (the engineer and scientist who designed the plant) and Chris Schooley (the artist and craftsman who kilns and roasts the malt to a wide set of specifications).

→ Dave Bailey at Hardknott provides a customarily frank account of the struggles of running a brewery in the post-Christmas doldrums:

It is my feeling that this year the post Christmas beer sales slump have been worse than ever. Dry-January seems to be getting ever more popular. Yes, I’m sure you, the reader, has decided for whatever reason that you are right to take part. You help us out every other month of the year shouldn’t feel any guilt. Perhaps you are right, but it still puts a great big hole in our cash-flow and our yeast maintenance alike. Not to mention the problem of managing stock.

(If we were managing his PR we would advise him against posting this kind of thing; as nosy bastards keen to know what’s going on behind the scenes, we’re very glad he does.)

→ Blogger Glenn Johnson keeps a close eye on the Micropub movement (we quoted him as an authority in our big state-of-the-nation piece last summer) and this week provided an update on two new entrants to the club in the Midlands.

The Tremenheere, the Wetherspoons in Penzance.

Wetherspoon’s watch: the pub chain’s headline-grabbing abandonment of Sunday roasts, the raising of prices, and the handing-off of several London pubs last year have raised questions about whether JDW might be struggling; but with their latest profit report they insist it’s all fine. (All links to The Morning Advertiser.) J.D. Wetherspoon also makes a cameo appearance in obituaries for Bristol reggae DJ Derek Serpell-Morris: he visited all of their pubs and collected receipts to prove it. (Via @fly_redwing.)

→ BrewDog watch: the Scottish brewery featured in an episode of the BBC’s Who’s the Boss (iPlayer) which no doubt raised awareness of BrewDog without necessarily improving its reputation. Mitch Adams sticks up for James Watt here; and there’s some (thin) commentary and a round-up of Twitter reactions from The Drum here. Meanwhile, the brewery’s Islington hot-dogs-and-beer bar has closed but Keith Flett doesn’t think there’s any cause for concern.

→ Andreas Krenmair has been home-brewing Berliner Weisse to historic spec, without a boil.

→ And, finally, a vital question has been answered: yes, you can use apps to swap faces with beer packaging.

News, Nuggets & Longreads 27/02/2016

Here’s all the beer- and pub-related writing we’ve found most interesting in the last week, from Vietnam to mince pie stout.

→ For the Wall Street Journal Emma Hurt has been exploring Vietnam’s nascent craft beer scene:

“When they first tried our beer, people would say, ‘This doesn’t taste like beer,’ ” says Alex Violette, the brewmaster at Saigon’s Pasteur Street Brewing Company. “I would respond, ‘No, what you’ve been drinking doesn’t taste like beer. It tastes like water. This is beer.’ ”

(Via Joe Stange.)

→ Ed has been ageing porter with Brettanomyces and his experiments lead him to a pleasing conclusion: ‘Those old brewers knew what they were doing when they aged porter for a year.’

Continue reading “News, Nuggets & Longreads 27/02/2016”

Thornbridge Jaipur and BrewDog Punk IPA

Yesterday BrewDog released DIY DOG, a free book containing recipes for every beer they’ve ever produced, and the first thing we did was look at the entry for the original Punk IPA.

We think it’s pretty cool that BrewDog have released all this information, not only because it’ll be handy for us as home brewers, but also because it enables us to prod about and indulge our nosiness.

In Brew Britannia we set out how Martin Dickie began his career at Thornbridge before founding BrewDog with James Watt. While it’s obvious that both breweries’ flagship beers, Jaipur and Punk IPA respectively, shared certain key characteristics, we’ve always wondered just how close the family resemblance might be. Or, to put that another way, was the UK craft beer [def. 2] boom of the last decade or so built around two iterations of what is essentially the same beer?

Thornbridge Brewery as it looked in 2013.
Thornbridge Brewery as it looked in 2013.

Mitch Steele’s excellent home brewing manual IPA published in 2012 (our review here; buy it, it’s great) contains instructions for brewing a clone of Jaipur. We know from a conversation we had with brewers at Thornbridge in 2013 that it’s slightly off the mark in that, for one thing, it suggests using Vienna malt which (if we understood correctly) was actually only part of the Jaipur grist for a short while. (Maybe in the period when it Wasn’t the Beer It Used to Be?)

So, with that adjustment, and assuming Mr Steele’s recipe to be otherwise roughly right, here’s how it stacks up against the specifications BrewDog have provided for their original version of Punk:

c.2009 Jaipur (adjusted) 2007 Punk IPA
ORIGINAL GRAVITY 1.055 1.056
TARGET FINAL GRAVITY 1.010 1.010
ABV 6% 6%
Malt Maris Otter pale ale 3.5% EBC ‘Extra Pale’
Mash temperature 65°c 65°c
First hop addition 7.3% Chinook
5.2% Centennial
6.2% Ahtanum(18.7%)
10.2% Chinook

11.8% Ahtanum(22%)
Second addition 7.3% Chinook
5.2% Centennial
6.2% Ahtanum
-(18.7%)
11.8% Chinook


11.8% Crystal(23.8%)
Third addition 21.9% Chinook
15.7% Centennial
25% Ahtanum

-(62.6%)
18.7% Chinook

11.8% Ahtanum
11.8% Crystal
11.8% Motueka(54.1%)
Boil time 75 mins ‘we recommend a 60 minute boil for most ales’
IBU 55-57 60
Yeast ‘neutral ale’ Wyeast 1056 (American Ale)
Fermentation temp. 19°c 19°c
Dry hopping None None

Those really do look like pretty similar recipes to our untrained eyes.

Having said that, there are obvious differences, and also a few important bits of information missing — for example, we don’t know the alpha acid levels of the BrewDog hops.

So, Experts, it’s over to you: how far would you expect e.g. the final addition Motueka in Punk to go in distinguishing one beer from the other? Is that, or any other difference, sufficient for you to feel Punk was a really distinct product c.2007?

In the meantime, that leaves us about where we started, except now we wish we could walk into The Rake at about the time we started blogging and order a pint of each to compare.

Home Brewing Mojo

Homebrewing yeast, book, notes and bottle.

We had a bit of a wobble when it came to home brewing, hardly touching the kit for more than a year, but now the magic seems to be back.

What went wrong? A couple of batches that didn’t turn out as we’d hoped. A load of lager that froze because we made a stupid mistake with a fridge. A few late starts because we didn’t have a bit of pipe or a tap, which in turn led to tired out, late finishes. And, of course, the increasing availability of the kind of beer we wanted to drink at reasonable prices on the high street.

A 25kg sack of malt went untouched until we decided it was probably past its best and, anyway, might start to attract vermin, so we threw it away. What a waste.

The kit literally gathered dust.

Then, last October, we gave ourselves a stern talking to and ordered just enough stuff for a single brew. If it wasn’t fun, and the beer was rotten, we’d made no serious commitment.

Amazingly, it went better than ever. Having had a break, somehow the routine had embedded itself as habit and we suddenly knew what to do without panicking, rushing or repeatedly consulting guidance online. Water was heating before breakfast, recipe formulated over a plate of scrambled eggs. We didn’t make any stupid mistakes — forgetting to fit the hop strainer, leaving taps open, breaking thermometers in the mash — the kind of thing we used to do all the time.

Giving up on liquid yeast and just pitching dry yeast straight into the fermenting vessel seems to have removed one entire level of stress, too.

Even cleaning seemed easy. (Bar the frustration of trying to buy thin bleach which is apparently on its way to extinction.) We were done by lunchtime leaving the afternoon free for a session in the Star Inn.

The resulting HLA wasn’t amazing but it wasn’t bloody bad either and we achieved exactly the kind of lower bitterness, high aroma Proper-Job-type hop character we were aiming for.

Since then we’ve managed to not screw up a batch of lager, not screw up another HLA and, today, (tempting fate) we’re in the process of not screwing up a Victorian porter.

With less anxiety, brewing leaves plenty of long gaps for reading, watching films, undertaking errands, so that it feels like a kind of productive loafing. We’re glad to have it back in our lives.