Wednesday 31 August 2011

How Not To Grow Your Business, pt. 94

Say you were looking to diversify your pub's offer. Say you approach a supplier to get some new beers on the bar. Would you do it this way..?

Hi we own a pub here in XXXXXXXX, and would like to know who's Dick you need to suck to get a fucking keg of your beer.

I can confirm this was not the work of our own beloved Rabid Bar Fly. I also imagine Dredgie will be tutting over the poor grammar. I am reasonably confident that the pub won't be getting any beer from that supplier.

Monday 22 August 2011

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

An interesting weekend for coverage of beer.

Friday evening's BBC1 'One Show' featured a piece by food critic Jay Rayner on microbrewing. He focused on the traditional role of women in brewing, so took a trip to Brodie's to chat with Lizzie and sample some beers. he also took some of the Brodie's bottles to some unsuspecting ladies in Essex, generally getting a positive response. (His piece starts at about 18 minutes)

Now, I don't get a lot of traffic, but I'm certain Jay must be reading, or at least noticed my last post (here, but don't click if strong swearwords offend) on a gathering of brewsters at Brodies. Good job he didn't take any of the beer from that gathering to the Ladies Wot Lunch in Chigwell, eh?

His piece was followed by a bit of beer and food matching with the show hosts and guest Jane Seymour. Jay let things down a bit by protesting he preferred wine with food, labelling online enthusiasts 'beer obsessives' (they exist, but it's a bit unfair to broadbrush the online beer community that way) and then describing Chris Evans' Jaipur as 'Indian Pale Ale'. Still, a very good piece.


Then, we have these new shelf talkers Tesco are using in-store to promote beer, in particular their 'fuller flavoured lagers'. Young Dredgie picked up on them and also the puff piece in yesterday's online Observer to plug them.

I popped into my local Tesco this morning. Sure enough, there's several of these cards covering a range of 'styles', including the offending lager one featuring SNPA and an Innis & Gunn bottle of something. Their merchandising is a bit odd, with no signposts indicating where 'Beer' is in-store, just one for 'Lager', but then a large featured facing for World Speciality Beers. No Goose Island IPA or Brooklyn lager on the shelves, more of the shelf talkers and a mixed bag of beers. Personally, it's about what I'd expect from a bigger supermarket, and certainly there's more effort than in the past to mix the offer up at this store.

Then we come onto the piece online. It's got a byline, but I wonder if it hasn't just been recycled from some press release. From the headline suggesting brewers, having 'cashed in' on real ale (which brewers? How?), are now turning to 'lager', the hopeless paragraph containing a potted American brewing 'history' claiming that craft brewers owe their success to Prohibition (if Horst Dornbusch had written this, Ron Pattinson would be all over him), and the inexcusable confusing of ales as lagers (even setting out the full name of SNPA - a beer Tesco has listed for some years now, by the way - surely a clue in the name, lads?). And poor Iain Loe of Camra may have to wear a paper bag on his head for a few days after being quoted in this rubbish.

Over the years beer lovers have had to become used to second-rate coverage of beer in our quality print media. But this really is scraping the bottom of the barrel. A good start to the weekend had the gloss taken off by lazy PR puffery masquerading as news.


Friday 5 August 2011

Brewstered In Leyton

WARNING: before you read any more, please note that I have included the full name of a new beer, and it might be offensive to you. If you object to use of strong swearwords, click away now. Thanks.

To Brodies on this inaugural International IPA Day to record a gathering of brewsters. I'm not sure if it's a first in London, but I think it's the first time that a gathering of all-female London brewers have been at the controls. If I'm wrong, somebody will tell me. There's a couple of LABers, one Barleys Angel, some curious newcomers.

Meet the 'family': Lucia, Hazel, Jeanette, Laura, Jonny and Karen, with Charles Manson at the back;
2nd pic, the same but with Lizzie Brodie (holding Alexandra)

The small brewhouse is packed to bursting. I'm met at the door by Stig (@TheHappyBat) who has devised the recipe using five different malts and three different hops. She has synthesised various smoked beer recipes, ruling out the more extreme ingredients (liquid smoke? Don't they use that in barbeques?) to come up with a beer with the working title of Absolute Cunt.

Lizzie Brodie is in charge, backed up by brewery team Eric Lanouilh and Jon Queally, looking even more like Charlie Manson in his sopping wet Brodies hoodie. Mashing in is sort of taking place as I arrive, with a huge quicksand of chocolate malt and wheat sitting on top of the mash while Eric purposefully works it over with a shovel in the style of Kirk Douglas fighting the giant octopus in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Yarr!

Looking on, @MrsBeeryMatt, @shoozographer, @hackneyhaz, @lucia_murphy, @JonnyBright and the unTwittered Jeanette from Lebanon all realise that the sun is over the yardarm on this wet August day, so while the mash is resting it's into the William IV for a livener. I'm on the Brodstar. It could do with a bit of carbonation from the cask (I hear there is/was some keg), but the hopping is lovely - full of fruit with a nice finishing citrus kick. My pint is gone in a few minutes.

Stig has to leave, so the rest troop back to the brewhouse after a while to help with the sparge and runoff. First hops are chucked into the copper (Hercules?) as the wort transfer starts. With so many hop monkeys, the shitload of Chinook hops are readied in record time. I've said before that I enjoy the 'no-limits' approach Jamie takes, and Lizzie is the same, it seems. There's as much malt here as you'd find in some batches double the brewlength, and in some cases, five or more times the hopping. Later on, the transfer to the FV will be described as 'like treacle'.

Jeanette, Laura and Karen are today's hop monkeys;
Karen covered in Chinook stickiness

Eric is watching the runoff so it's back to the pub. Lizzie and Jamie are generous hosts, and Lizzie has laid on a cracking buffet lunch. I'm working my way through Hackney Red IPA and Brodies IPA to support #IPAday, then it's on the bottled lager.

Over lunch I'm pondering the attraction of good beer. Sure, social lubricant and all that, but to give up time to stand in a tiny brewhouse stirring the equivalent of a hundred thousand bowls of Ready Brek for 10 minutes or getting your hands sticky with hops is different to meeting your mates for a pint. Hazel and Jonny, who discover they have the Forest of Dean in common while chatting - scary when you consider that it's also Demon Brewer Don Burgess's stamping ground; Laura, a Glaswegian with 'a Napoleon complex and a Kodak Brownie'; Lucia, formerly behind the bar at the Jolly Butchers and now homebrewing. All ages, all backgrounds, all here. I might have met all these people in one of our better London bars, but it's the brewers that are proving to be the tie that binds. This new wave of London brewers seem happy to let nosy buggers wander round or get their hands dirty. The next wave of London brewing will be cutting their teeth on the beer that Brodies, or Kernel or Redemption are brewing while they were in the brewery.

Trick of the light?: Queally is disturbed by the new batch of Hackney Red; Maddy, Karen and Laura aren't...

By the time I'm ready to leave, our brewsters are working in shifts on Lizzie's daughter's colouring book, and plans for a big birthday bash at the pub are being firmed up. Absolute Cunt should be making its debut during the Brodie's Birthday Bonanza fest at the King William IV during first weekend in September.

Thursday 4 August 2011

That There International IPA Day

I remember my first trip to the US. In 2002 I headed for San Francisco, with plans to see Las Vegas, San Diego and Los Angeles. I had no idea what kind of beer I might find, but I knew there was a scene brewing there.

I did my travelling, visiting several brewpubs in a few cities, and for the first time, drank beers that were mental with hops. Hops that British brewers didn't seem to use. Cascade, Amarillo, Centennial... Brewpubs in Vegas casinos, restaurants in San Francisco, bars in San Diego. Walk around a bit, be a tourist and these places eventually revealed themselves to me. No interwebs, no insider info.

And when I got home, I can remember waking up in the middle of the night, having DREAMED those big West Coast IPAs. The hops haunted me, gave me some kind of synaesthetic wake-up call that stayed with me and stays with me now.

There was a year or two when it all got unimportant. Then I drank Great Divide Titan at The Rake, and I fell in love with those big IPAs all over again. Moving a few years on, the British beer scene has watched and adapted, and now in London, I can drink Brodies or Kernel, their interpretations of those superbly hoppy IPAs impress and delight me. Hops prevail and our own brewers have caught the wave.

#IPAday is a superb way to catch the wave around the world. One day to capture a global experience spanning years and continents. Why not. I've been drinking variations on the theme all day, and I'm going to pop a Kernal Citra IPA open once this is posted. Job done. For today. I won't be reporting on my IPA drinking tomorrow but it'll be there next week, next month and next year.

Monday 1 August 2011

One Summer Morning In Bermondsey...

To the Kernel to rack off my 50th birthday beer, where I find the arch interior undergoing some minor demolition and Dominic Driscoll from Thornbridge watching wort recycle. These two events are unrelated.

worty saison; Dom watches a sci-fi nightmare come true

Dom is down for GBBF, but takes the opportunity to pop in with some saison yeast for Evin, so a new beer codenamed 'Saison De Dom' is about to be run off into the copper. I am there to help out with the bottling of the beer Evin has been putting together for me. It's a raspberry porter using some of his superb Export India Porter as the base beer. The beer has been sitting on a bed of lightly mashed working-class raspberries for a month.

I chat with Dom, asking if he misses the hands-on small-scale experience now he's playing with a 30-bbl computer-controlled plant. He says not, though as he doesn't have a hop monkey to sort out the additions while he sits on the bridge and pushes buttons, he still gets up close and personal with his ingredients.

As my beer is brought out and made ready for bottling, Charles Faram and one of his team arrive. They're also down for GBBF, and are popping into a couple of South London customers to talk hops and other things. Evin produces some of his latest Citra-hopped IPA. I've been drinking this, and reckon it's the best Citra he's done so far. Just the beer for a warm morning.

boggle's birthday beer - soon, my pet, soon...

A sample of my beer is drawn and measured with a hygrometer. It's tart. Very tart. I'd wondered if the residual yeast in Evin's porter would be able to cope with the fermentables in the raspberries, and it turns out there's probably still quite a bit to attenuate out. We agree that a few bottles with different levels of priming and reseeding should be incubated to ensure either the beer doesn't remain flat (it's a bit listless right now), or become 'bottle bombs'. Hopefully we'll know by the end of the week, so I should have the bottles in good time for the Big Day.

How do you get a bottle? Rather than receive birthday presents, I'm aiming to give them away. If I see you and know you, you'll get one (while stocks last, though I don't think I know that many people...) But, here's a chance to WIN WIN WIN! Study the first picture above and tell me who you think that is with their backside hanging out of the Kernel's copper. First correct answer will get a bottle.Link