Friday, 1 April 2011

Boggle Goes East


Thus spake Boggle in response to an enquiry about what I was doing on March 31st, from Dark Star's Matt Wickham. Then come and brew at Brodie's, he says. I'd wanted to head out to the King William IV pub in Leyton for a while, as part of an infrequent effort to get around the members of the London Brewers Alliance, and to get a look at the brewery. And a chance to get my hands dirty? You're on! So it was that I made arrangements for a rare day out, and headed east...

We (being Matt & Karen Wickham, London Amateur Brewer 'Stig', and your correspondent) are the guests of James Brodie, who is brewing one of the beers for his upcoming Bunny Basher festival, an 8.8% Grand Cru. The recipe calls for around 35% wheat, with two hops in the boil and another two for dry-hopping. Say no more.

The mashing-in is a collaborative effort, with all of us taking turns - cue forehead-slapping from Don Burgess, Demon Brewer. With the porridge steeping, we get on with some other brewery jobs, removing keystones and shives and rinsing and sterilising casks. At lunchtime we're ready to transfer the wort to the copper. I'm always fascinated with the ways small-scale brewers do this. Brodie's uses a push-pump while a sparging ring is connected to the mash tun. I take charge while the others go for lunch, and am rewarded with a nice pint of James' 7-Hop IPA, fermented to 7.7%. I keep an eye on the wort transfer and sparging, and in between sterilise, rinse and hammer keystones into a few more casks.

As the transfer finishes, the others return from lunch. By then, we've had a few beers, including the amazing Brainwave, a 2.9% golden ale single-hopped with Simcoe. I never thought of Simcoe as a particularly subtle hop, but this beer is full of lovely red and tropical fruits and more flavourful than you might imagine for something around 3%. Matt Wickham notes that two of the best beers he's tried this year are 3.0%, this one and Redemption's Trinity. Delightful stuff. At the other end of the scale, as I'm prepare to head off, I sample a bottle of Brodie's 10% Superior London Porter. It's one of those that doesn't drink like 10%. Beautiful mouthfeel, complex and slightly warming. Between these and the bottles we've chipped in to lubricate the day, I've got a real buzz on as I head back onto Leyton High Road. I've also got a bottle of lager, conditioned for 10 weeks at 5 degrees, says James. I'm popping it open when I finish this.

I've gone on in the past about the 'new' London brewing scene, and some others have been pleasantly surprised by the emergence of new and creative brewing and bars who want to sell their beers. Brodie's have an advantage by being a fer-real brewpub, but they have built a market outside the bricks and mortar for their 'no limits' approach to making beer. I didn't get a chance to spend much time in the pub, but I mean to go back for Bunny Basher and drink some of that Grand Cru.

Meanwhile, this week, London's Antic Pub Group announced they intend to brew, having purchased Meantime's old kit and employed the services of an ex-Firkin brewer. I hope they take a moment to look around the scene in London before they finalise their range, though. According to their MD, the first brews will be an ordinary bitter and a best bitter, I assume to be dispensed in the casks so beloved of Roger Protz and his ilk. Being merely a noisome blogger, I don't know if that's an attempt to stretch their 'ironic' pub branding into wet sales, but it's said that brewers need to be more innovative and find fresh ways to bring younger drinkers to ale, and Antic will be starting with a clean slate and perhaps 30 pubs to showcase that approach. London - Brodie's, Kernel, Saints & Sinners, Redemption - is setting the bar high with their beers. The usual won't do anymore.

And to finish a cracking day, when I got home Postman Pat had delivered my set of new Frank Sidebottom badges. Ace, fantastic and top!
Pics (from top): Doodle the brewery dog: "neither a brewer nor a dog" says James Brodie, worried about the Trades Description people; Matt & Karen Wickham, branded as you'd expect; sparging with a Batman stylee; fantastic Frank badges - buy a set and contribute to the statue fund!

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