The June Session – attempt #1

I was so look­ing for­ward to our first Ses­sion. This month’s chal­lenge was to blog about a local brew­ery or brew, per­haps to act as a guide to tourists or vis­i­tors to your town. Liv­ing in Lon­don, we have a great choice of beer brewed with­in 150 miles, and we could (we excit­ed­ly thought) even extend our options fur­ther by opt­ing for some­where near Bailey’s orig­i­nal manor (Som­er­set).
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Alas, it wasn’t to be. A tough day at work round­ed off a stress­ful week, and before we knew it, we were in a mid­dle-of-the-road pub (Greene King!!) drink­ing for the sake of drink­ing. OK, so I’m pret­ty sure it’s with­in 150 miles, but I wouldn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly rec­om­mend it to tourists.

Still, this led nat­u­ral­ly onto a fri­day night cur­ry, which for us means a bot­tle of fan­tas­tic Lion Stout. I can­not get over how deli­cious this beer is. The most remark­able thing is the incred­i­bly long and rich after­taste, although I also find the dark beige head very appeal­ing. It’s 8%, trea­cley with­out being sick­ly, roast­ed with­out being over­ly bit­ter – it’s dessert and cof­fee in one sweet deca­dent glass.

Of course, if you’re a Lon­don­er you can’t get much less local than Sri Lan­ka…

lion stout
Find out about the ori­gins of beer-blog­ging Fri­day on Appel­la­tion Beer

Link to Gas­tro­nom­ic Fight Club, host of this month’s ses­sion.

German beer prices up because of growth of biofuels

Ochsenfurter KauzenAccord­ing to the Ari­zona Star, the price of beer in Ger­many is going up because bar­ley farm­ers are turn­ing their fields over to crops which can be used to make bio­fu­els.

Hel­mut Erd­mann, the direc­tor of the Ayinger brew­ery in Bavaria says:

Beer prices are a very emo­tion­al issue in Ger­many – peo­ple expect it to be as inex­pen­sive as oth­er basic sta­ples like eggs, bread and milk

In my expe­ri­ence, beer real­ly is con­sid­ered an every­day essen­tial. There’s bare­ly any tax on beer, as far as I can tell – cer­tain­ly noth­ing like the lev­els we have in the UK – and it’s pos­si­ble to pick up a bot­tle of, say, Sal­va­tor for 79c in most Ger­man super­mar­kets.

Old article on London Stout

450px-truman_black_eagle_brewery_2005.jpgIn the Novem­ber 1854 edi­tion of Fraser’s Mag­a­zine, there is a fas­ci­nat­ing arti­cle called sim­ply “Lon­don Stout”. It paints a vivid pic­ture of how a mid-Vic­to­ri­an Lon­don pub would have looked:

One of the ear­li­est things to strike our coun­try cousins is the uni­ver­sal appear­ance of the names of cer­tain firms, paint­ed in the largest let­ters upon the most florid back­grounds of the numer­ous pub­lic house signs of the metrop­o­lis. “What does ‘Reid’s Entire’ mean?” asked a fair friend of ours the oth­er day, look­ing up with her brown eyes as though she had asked some­thing very fool­ish, and point­ing to the puz­zling inscrip­tion on a neigh­bour­ing sign­board.

Lat­er, the writer describes a street porter-sell­er “with his lit­tle rack of quart mugs brimmed with the frothy liq­uid, or rat­tling the shiny pots against the rails by their sus­pend­ed strap”.

The best sec­tion, to my mind, is a detailed descrip­tion of the inte­ri­or of the brew­ery of Tru­man, Han­bury, Bux­ton and Co at Spi­tal­field, East Lon­don.

After the process of mash­ing the wort is pumped up into a large cop­per, of which ther are five, con­tainig from 300 to 400 bar­rels each, where the wort is boiled with the hops, of which often two tons are used in a-day. The boil­ing beer is now pumped up to the cool­ers. To get a sight of these the vis­i­tor has to per­form a climb­ing process sim­i­lar to that required get at the upper gallery of St Paul’s, and, when he has reached the high­est point lad­ders are capa­ble of tak­ing him, he finds his nose on a lev­el with a black sea, whose area presents a sur­face of 32,000 square feet.

Pho­to adapt­ed from an orig­i­nal by , and used at the Wikipedia arti­cle on the Black Eagle Brew­ery, on Brick Lane.

Homebrewer’s recipe calculator – free toy!

Just a quick plug for an excel­lent prod­uct I found a few months ago and have been using ever since

Qbrew is a free-source homebrewer’s recipe cal­cu­la­tor which you can down­load and use to for­mu­late recipes. Basi­cal­ly, you can put in the quan­ti­ties of malt (or extract) and hops you’re using, set your “effi­cien­cy” (i.e. how good you are at turn­ing raw ingre­di­ents into alco­hol) and end up with pre­dic­tions as to the colour, bit­ter­ness and strength of your beer. There are a load of recipe “styles” you can com­pare your beer too and there’s even a handy hydrom­e­ter cor­rec­tion tool.

How do you work out your effi­cien­cy? Well, if you have a few brews behind you, you can put in the raw ingre­di­ents and play with the set­ting until you get Qbrew to end up with your end prod­uct.

Once you can get over the dis­ap­point­ment of being told you are only 60% effi­cient, it’s an extreme­ly use­ful way to pre­dict future brews. [Var­i­ous snot­ty home­brew books say that “begin­ners should achive around 80% effi­cien­cy”! I blame Lon­don tap water]

I’m fair­ly new to home­brew­ing, so was sur­prised to find that there are a num­ber of home­brew­ing pro­grammes out there – though most of them you seem to have to pay for, and I’m not sure if the added fea­tures are worth it (“Hop Time Degra­da­tion” cal­cu­la­tor, any­one?)


Big brewers supporting small ones

News from the “Morn­ing Adver­tis­er” that Charles Wells pub com­pa­ny are to open a spe­cial­i­ty beer pub in their home town of Bed­ford made me think about the big brew­ery busi­ness mod­el.

In a peri­od when small pro­duc­ers and local pro­duce are cool, and big brands just aren’t, more and more of those big brands will want a piece of the small­er ones. In the past, they’d have tak­en over small­er brands, incor­po­rat­ed them, and even­tu­al­ly done away with them alto­geth­er. Now, it makes more sense to keep them intact, but at arms length.

McDon­alds aren’t hid­ing the fact that they own a share of Pret a Manger, the posh high street sand­wich chain (itself now also a big brand). They just don’t pub­li­cise it much. It’s insur­ance for them in case the bot­tom falls out of the lit­tle brown beef pat­tie mar­ket, and also pro­tects them from accu­sa­tions of being low-class, or ped­dlers of only unhealthy food. They’re hedg­ing their bets.

Charles Wells Pub Com­pa­ny, a part of the grow­ing Wells and Youngs’ empire, are help­ing the par­ent com­pa­ny to cov­er itself here, too. Peo­ple can’t accuse it of crush­ing com­pe­ti­tion, or reduc­ing vari­ety if it keeps open­ing pubs sell­ing bou­tique beers – beers, of course, which don’t direct­ly chal­lenge it in the mar­ket­place.

Mar­ket forces might be work­ing out in the favour of the British drinker: if cus­tomers want choice and the prod­ucts of small­er brew­eries, the big brew­eries are going to get in on the act and help out.