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News, Nuggets & Longreads for 30 July 2016: Belgians, Bark, Berlin

Here’s all the beer and pub news, opinion and pondering from the last week that’s made us sit up and take notice, from eccentric Belgians to Berliner Weisse.

For Draft magazine Kate Bernot has taken an in-depth look (1,700 wds) into the use of roots, bark and other bits of tree in the outer limits of brewing experimentation:

Wood is not uncommon in a brewhouse; beers aged on fresh oak or made with spruce tips are familiar. But brewers, especially those in arborous domains, have recently begun to eye entire trees—bark, leaves, sap, needles and all—as ingredients. Juniper, cedar, birch, Ponderosa pine, white fir and other timbers all confer their own distinct flavors, from vanilla to citrus to herbs. More than that, brewers say the final beers express the rusticity of their surroundings, that desirable sense of place that has led to a revival in foraging and local sourcing.

Dany Prignon portrait.
By Breandán Kearney from Belgian Smaak.

At Belgian Smaak British Guild of Beer Writers’ Beer Writer of the Year Breandán Kearney has profiled the enigmatic Dany Prignon of Brasserie Fantôme. It’s an interesting long read (2,000 wds) altogether but it was this bit that really made us spit out our cocoa:

And it’s odd that as the owner and production manager of a brewery, he doesn’t even drink beer. “I don’t like it,” he says, as if this assertion were completely normal. “I taste it, but I prefer soft drinks.”

Andrew Cooper (left) and Brett Ellis of the Wild Beer Company in the summer of 2013. (Our photo.)
Andrew Cooper (left) and Brett Ellis of the Wild Beer Company in the summer of 2013. (Our photo.)

For All About Beer (disclosure: we write for AAB too) Mark Dredge considers the survival and possible revival of coopering skills in the UK and the possibilities custom-made vessels open up for brewers:

Wild Beer Co. has worked with White Rose to have a very heavy char on some barrels: “We are re-charring them for a specific flavor in a specific beer,” says [Andrew] Cooper, looking to get a fiery, smoky quality. This specificity is another new aspect of coopering and brewing; the brewery can manipulate wood to give unique qualities, and it’s an extension to choosing different hops, grains or yeast strains.

Vintage illustration (1869) of a man peering into a microscope.

Ed attended talks by brewing professors David Quain and Charles Bamforth on the subject of beer quality, and shared what he learned:

Worldwide there is only one set of draught beer standards: the German DIN. These say that less than 1,000 colony forming units/ml is good, 50,000 is unacceptable and 100,000 means need to line clean. Research in the on trade showed that these standards are not always reached… Nozzles are often removed at the end of the day and put in soda water. Strangely enough this isn’t very good at killing bugs and line cleaner or sanitizing tablets work better.

Record Cafe.
Picture by Richard Coldwell from Ouhouse.

For his blog Ouhouse Richard Coldwell wrote about the Record Cafe in Bradford, West Yorkshire — the kind of two-in-one business that fascinates us and that we’re surprised there aren’t more of:

Keith Wildman opened The Record Café in November 2014. His sort of blueprint was to open a bar with good cask ales but he started to think that if he’s going to have cask ales then why not get some quality keg beers in as well. He sort of thought that he liked records too, oh and Charcuterie, so there had best be a bit of that too

Gary Gillman continues to mine the archives for contemporary accounts of beer drinking and pub-going, and especially for vintage tasting notes that can help us gain an understanding of the experience of drinking beer in the past. This week, he took us back to Berlin in the 1890s through the words of Frank G. Carpenter:

A man connected with our consulate asked me if I would not have a glass and he took me to a ‘white beer’ saloon and ordered a couple of glasses of white beer. A moment later the waiter brought them. Each glass was big enough for a baby’s bath tub and there seemed to be fully two quarts of beer in it. It was the color of golden syrup and the foam which ran over the top was as white as snow. Each glass was about eight inches in diameter, and I am sure that the contents of mine would have filled the crown of my plug hat.

Whisky expert Bill Linnane has been reflecting on the nature of grief, family, taste and the behaviour of connoisseurs, which of course reflects the experience many of us have with beer:

Why whiskey? Why did I throw myself headlong into this, of all things? Why not sport, cars, stamp collecting, Pokemon – anything; why? And the answer is a Shauvian ‘why the hell not?’ But the big questions is ‘how’ – because behind every superfan is a newcomer who was scared to ask a question. So here’s how it happened for me.

(Via @thebeernut.)

And, finally, in the long-tail of brewery takeover news

7 replies on “News, Nuggets & Longreads for 30 July 2016: Belgians, Bark, Berlin”

I don’t remember plug hats being big in Berlin in the 1990s.

Thanks for referencing this here, B&B.

I had to look up plug hat! I don’t know if the term is still current in the U.K. and Ireland, but it isn’t in North America.

It’s a hat with a rounded crown and a short stiff brim, a Derby qualifies I think.


Most odd, a brewer of an artisan brewery who doesn’t like beer… I wonder how he formulates the many products. Fantome IIRC used to have a lot of flavoured beers so maybe that is a clue, the idea of adding something to modify the basic flavour of malt and hops.


The link to the coopering article contains the text of the article, not the URL!

Interesting reading it in conjunction with the tree beer article, the latter emphasises that wooden barrels are just part of a continuum. Technically our heather beers are “tree” beers (heather moorland is considered a kind of forest as the main plant is woody, albeit much smaller than normal trees) – when I was at Wincle the other day they had just collected theirs for their Glorious 12th beer. I then went on to the Cheshire Brewhouse who have close links with The Junction and have been inspired to do some barrel ageing – will be interesting to see how that works out.

“This specificity is another new aspect of coopering”

Not really – variable charring is an absolutely fundamental part of wine coopering, it’s routine for serious wineries to age some of the final blend in heavy char and most of it in light char, or some in second/third-use barrels, or in French versus American oak etc. And soaking charred oak chips in a tea bag can get 80% of the effect for a much lower cost…

PS Popped my Batham’s cherry at the Vine the other day – very nice but I’d tend to agree with the article here a few years ago, that part of the hype is down to exclusivity. It is at the GBBF this week though….

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