News, nuggets and longreads 24 July 2021: decoction, dimples, De Baets

Here’s all the writing around beer, pubs and brewing that leapt out to us in the week past, from packaging problems to dirty old rivers.

No news this week – let’s jump straight into the good stuff with a piece for Ferment, the promo mag of a beer subscription service, by Matt Curtis, on why canned beers sometimes don’t seem quite themselves. He calls this “can shock”:

“I’ve experienced the phenomenon with pretty much every beer I’ve packed since joining the industry,” Zoe Wyeth, a production brewer at Villages in South London, and previously for Suffolk-based Burnt Mill, tells me. “It’s pretty strange that a beer can taste how you’d expect when taking a sample straight from the [tank] but opening up a can straight off the line it feels like something is a bit off.”… Zoe agrees with my assessment that freshly packaged beer tastes “unbalanced, like all those lovely hop aromas and yeast esters are disjointed from the malty background.” It’s interesting to hear that tank samples taken before packaging don’t taste this way, reinforcing my theory that the very act of packing and immediately shipping beer is having a short-term negative effect on its flavour… Bottle shock isn’t solely the premise of beer either. In fact the term comes from the wine trade and is also sometimes referred to as “bottle sickness.”


At Casket Beer Kevin Kain has been inspired by Matt’s forthcoming book, Modern British Beer, to reflect on trends in beer glassware in the UK:

For Five Points Brewing Company in London, glassware is an “advertiser and an amplifier”, as Ed Davy from the brewery notes. It’s no secret that glassware offers a wonderful opportunity to advertise a brand… Regarding amplification, Davy says “well-designed glass can improve the drinking experience by intensifying existing elements of the drink.” While different styles of glassware can amplify in different ways, he adds “you can create feelings of nostalgia by serving cask ale in ‘traditional’ dimpled jugs”, and this is something the brewery does at its taproom for its cask beer.

Eoghan Walsh continues his series of posts about the history of Brussels beer in 50 objects with a bottle of water from the river Zenne:

Right from its founding, Brussels’ residents tinkered with the Zenne digging channels and creating new man-made islands. The Grand Île was one of these, engineered in the 11th century and home to a church honouring the mythical dragonslayer. It was here that the densest congregation of Brussels breweries emerged, remaining a brewing centre even as the Zenne’s influence on Brussels’ form and function declined. These were household breweries, or breweries in outhouses, cantilevered over the river and brewing for the neighbouring streets in the most populous district in Brussels. The earliest brewers harvested the Zenne to make beer, their successors extracting water to clean their equipment. 

Macro shot of text and diagram: 'Yeast'.

At Craft Beer & Brewing, Joe Stange prods Belgian brewer Yvan De Baets to elaborate on his claim that “yeast is the biggest myth about saison”:

I mean that for many people, a saison can be made only with “saison yeast.” But what is it? A “saison yeast” seems, for some, to be a yeast named “Saison Something” or “Something Saison,” sold by a commercial yeast company. It’s a sort of magic powder: You add it to a wort, and you get a genuine saison… My point is that these two (or three) yeasts do not represent all the strains that have been used for making saison—nor all those that could still be used… Meanwhile, could some other classic or newly discovered yeasts—such as a local wild yeast—be used for brewing a genuine saison, respecting its spirit? Of course!

SOURCE: Tandleman.

Tandleman provides notes on a new opening in London – Pivo, a specialist Czech beer bar. This sounds like the kind of place we’ll want to pop into next time we’re in town:

This is a modern looking two roomed establishment with contemporary rather than traditional furniture, a big bar, large windows and a downstairs area, which you could describe either as cosy, or claustrophobic, depending on your sensibilities.  We chose upstairs and were rewarded with good views of the whole room. Service was quick and pleasant considering that it was the first couple of hours of opening, the choice of beers was good and rather unusual. Prices were very fair indeed, ranging from around £5.50 to £7 or so a pint, for beers that you won’t usually encounter, plus Budvar, which you will.

Beer being poured, from an old advertisement.

Pivo also gets a mention in Anthony Gladman’s piece on decoction for Good Beer Hunting – an article we watched him researching in real time via Twitter, with questions and hints popping up over the course of the past few months. In it, he gets an answer to something that’s always puzzled us – if we accept that decoction makes better lagers, why should that be the case?

“If you have [malt] that converts the minute you add water, that’s not the point of brewing,” [Eric] Toft [of Schönram] says. “I want to be able to create the wort myself, rather than having it done in the maltings. I try to get malt that’s not as highly modified as it could be. I always ask the maltsters to leave the mashing to me. I’d rather spend an extra half hour, hour in the mash. With decoction I achieve this higher degree of apparent attenuation that I can’t with infusion, at least not in the same time.”… Toft runs trial brews once or twice a year to compare the results of infusion and decoction mashing on the same batch of malt. In his 90-hectoliter (77-barrel) brewhouse, a decoction brew will use an extra 10 liters of fuel oil. “By using 10 liters of oil more per brew I get a final attenuation of 87%. If I do a step infusion I save the 10 liters, but I only achieve 84%,” he says.

Finally, from Twitter, some remarkable – you might almost say incredible – statistics…

For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.

One reply on “News, nuggets and longreads 24 July 2021: decoction, dimples, De Baets”

Matt’s piece further undermines the bogus “Hops fade fast; drink this beer before it was even brewed” guff spouted by some of the breweries who seem to churn out variations on a theme on a weekly basis

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