News, nuggets and longreads 14 August 2021: Ethics, pottery, super yeast

We’re on our travels (London) so it’s just a quick round-up this morning. Still, there’s plenty of good stuff to read, from the technicalities of yeast to the significance of pottery.

First, a potentially interesting resource is emerging at Laura Hadland’s website – a directory of sustainable, ethical brewing companies in the UK. In the wake of recent campaigns against sexism and bullying, various people have been asking “But who should I buy from?” This attempts to answer that question. What will be especially interesting, we suppose, is whether people pipe up now to say, “Er, actually, that brewery might not be so squeaky clean…”

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve enjoyed Mark Johnson’s reflections on pubs under varying degrees of restriction. He has a knack for honestly interrogating his own feelings and reporting from the gut. In his latest piece, he reflects on his first trip to the pub in the wake of the removal of restrictions:

I enter the pub, walk up to the bar area for the first time since March 2020, order a beer, go to take a seat and then just… stay. Stood up. Still a reasonable distance from any staff. Pint resting on the bar. And I’m just there. No drama. No feeling of trepidation. No reticence from staff. Just having a pint in a pub… For somebody who can over-romanticise much about beer drinking, nothing about the action felt monumental. It felt noteworthy but undramatic.

Eoghan Walsh’s mission to record the history of Brussels’ beer in 50 objects has reached number five: The Coudenberg Cruche. That is, a chipped old jug:

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Spain, Lord of the Netherlands, and patron of rapacious conquistadors. Charles would start his days in Brussels with a warm beer, and go from there. Breakfast of fowl at five in the morning, then mass. A 20-course noonday lunch of game from the nearby Warande hunting grounds, and heaps of oysters, eel pies and anchovies. More anchovies at eight, and a midnight supper… Charles would wash it all down with lashings of chilled beer (or wine) – particularly beer from Mechelen, where he grew up – served from ceramic jugs into his four-handled mug. With this diet, it is no surprise gluttonous Charles regularly suffered debilitating attacks of gout.

We’ll be honest – some of this goes over our heads – but Lars Marius Garshol’s attempts to explain the science behind why Kveik is a ‘super yeast’ gets it closer to our heads than most writers could manage:

When I say kveik is unusually robust, what do I actually mean? It can handle higher temperatures than most yeasts. It has higher alcohol tolerance (13-16%) than most yeast (8-10%). It can be dried (that’s unusual). Richard once remarked that kveik dried by farmhouse brewers at home was in many cases healthier after rehydration than dried yeast from multi-billion-dollar companies. It can be frozen (also unusual). It can probably handle higher sugar concentrations than most yeasts (not documented, but I’m pretty sure it’s the case). It can be stored for longer than most yeasts.

At Craft Beer & Brewing Annie Johnson offers tips on brewing saison with extracts:

A typical all-grain grist might consist of 100 percent pilsner malt, or it may include portions of wheat, spelt, or other grains. (What did the farm have for surplus that season?) For our purposes, a straight pilsner-malt extract, or pilsner extract with a bit of Munich for color, plus flaked, malted, or torrefied grains such as oats, spelt, or wheat work nicely. Other options include rye, corn, or rice—but keep in mind that you can’t use corn grits or ground rice unless they’re pre-gelatinized. You can use a cereal cooker for that; otherwise, be sure to get the flaked versions. However, don’t over-complicate the mash bill—this is not a kitchen-sink beer.

We’ll admit that this leapt out to us because we haven’t brewed for years but, having moved into our own place, the temptation is rising – and extract brewing would make it a lot less time consuming. Maybe soon.

At Lior Locher’s Beer Musings, Lior Locher offers a small, lyrical piece about growing up around the smell of hops:

Hops smell like home. Like summer holidays. Like barbecues. Like stories from aunties and uncles. Smells allow us to bypass our rational mind altogether as memories and clusters of feelings emerge. Walkaround full-body polaroids.

Finally, from Twitter…

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