Sunday, 22 April 2018

Confused about CAMRA


Now the votes on CAMRA's revitalisation process are in beer geeks have reacted in the only way they know: by saying what they always say. A volley of rattles have been thrown from the prams of crafties, accompanied by the usual abuse they think it's OK to heap on people they assume are old. And on the other side those opposed to change are happy CAMRA has stayed true to it's original aim. Apart from one loonspud who's delighted a Commnunist conspiracy has been defeated. 

But I really don't think the results are at all as clear cut as that. All but one of the resolutions to change CAMRA's constitution passed, including what I would have thought would make the crafties happy:
"To play a leading role in the provision of information, education and training to all those with an interest in beer, cider and perry of any type"
Surely that's widening CAMRA's remit to include craft beer?

The proposals that failed to pass looks to me that it's actually about defending pubs and acting as the de facto beer consumers' organisation in Britain:
"To act as the voice and represent the interests of all pub goers and beer, cider and perry drinkers"
Why this not going through has caused so much outrage amongst crafties is a mystery to me, but I have seen a couple say it was the only important point in all the revitalisation proposals. For a long time CAMRA has been focused on defending pubs and has acted as the de facto beer consumers' organisation in Britain and I can't see that changing.

I know I'm not the only person a bit bemused by the reaction on twitter (shout out to @jwestjourno and @desdemoor !) but it does feel like fact are far less important than preconceived ideas on the internet. Mind you, that's not exactly new!



Thursday, 12 April 2018

Bollocks from The Guardian

Brewers and beer geeks across Britain have been bemused by The Guardian producing an impressively incomprehensible article about brewing. Now anyone can make mistakes and brewing can get technical at times, but the author clearly has absolutely no idea what they're talking about.

Global brewery AB InBev a patented a new system for saving energy when brewing by stripping unwanted volatile compounds from the wort (unfermented beer) by bubbling inert gas through it rather than using a vigorous boil.

Bizarrely though The Grauniad starts with a headline talking about putting fizz in beer and then goes on to talk about malting and fermentation:
"The Belgium-based company AB InBev says it has developed a technique to generate gas bubbles needed for the malting of grains before fermentation without the need to boil the water and hops."
The process has nothing to do with malting, fermentation or fizz in beer so it's not surprising that so many people have been confused. If you're keen to know more about what's really going on there's some brief information about the project here and more details in the patent here.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

If you thought dad dancing breweries were bad...

...check out the dad dancing maltster trying to go "craft".



I really don't know what to make of it, but nautical themed cartoons aren't what I look for when I'm after malt. I don't need each malt type to be given a themed brand either, but UK figures for the malt analyses would be nice.

Paul's Malt were once a big British maltster, before being sold to Irish agricultural company Greencore who sold them on again to multi-national malting company Boortmalt. Reviving the Paul's brand looks like how they're hoping to sell to craft brewers. That and nautical themed cartoons obviously.

Still, as Paul's Malt has been revived how about reviving the Paul's Brewing Room Book? It contained a lot of useful information which would be handy for craft brewers.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Brewing water and liquor treatments

My dedication to blogging is such that I've failed to write up a talk I gave on brewing water at the SIBA conference years back up until now. But with Boak and Bailey reviving #beerylongreads I figured it was time to pull my finger out.

I was given the title "Aspects of Water Quality" and asked to cover far more than I had time to.


So I quickly rattled through the first bit and focused on ions in water and liquor treatment. 




I'd co-authored some papers on brewing water and liquor treatments for Brewers of Europe so was quite clued up on the subject. 

You can also add sodium metabisulphite

I'm not entirely certain what they did with them as I never saw the final copy, but I did once meet someone from Spain who'd read them so I guess they're out there somewhere.


  • Brewing water: the ingredient, needs treating. 
  • Process water: washing, sterilizing, pasteurisation refrigeration. Should be potable and softened. 
  • General purpose water: Washing down and office use. Should need no further treatment. 
  • Service water, boiler feed. Should be softened and ideally demineralised. 

Now to get to the meat of the matter. First you need to get your water analysed in a laboratory for mineral ion content. You can an analysis on the website of your water company nowadays, but water supplies can change so it's still best to get your own analysis. I know Murphys, who supply liquor treatments will do a free annual analysis for their customers. 



You can do some analysis easily yourself, tasting and looking at the water before using it. Measuring the pH isn't of much use for telling you how to treat your water, but a change might alert you to the fact the water company has switched to a different supply. There are kits you can use to do your own testing, which you can get from supply companies or even from aquarium shops. 



Back before people had learnt how to adjust water chemistry different places became known for doing different types of beer their water was best for: Burton-upon-Trent for pale ales, London and Dublin for porters and stouts, Munich for dark lagers and Pilsen for pale lagers.  

mg/l is the same as ppm for those of you watching in black and white

The different mineral compositions in the water affects the pH of the mash, as does the grist composition with roasted grains lowering the pH. If brewing liquor comes from the brewery's own source it will need to treated to bring it up to drinking water standard. 




Now lets start looking at the chemistry and I must warn you maths will follow. For those of you that are starting to get scared at this point smiley faces and frowns will be used to highlight the good and the bad points.


As bicarbonate is generally bad for brewing it is likely it will need removal and there are several ways this can be carried out.

Temporary hardness that is

Reverse osmosis and deionisation require expensive kit. The most common method used in small breweries is to add acid, represented by the 2 H+ ions in the lower equation. They reach with the calcium bicarbonate, Ca(HCO3)2, making water, H2O, and carbon dioxide, CO2.


It's also common to add mineral salts (to the grist rather than the water) to get the calcium level up. Calcium sulphate (gypsum) and calcium chloride are the most commonly used.


Calcium has a number of beneficial effects, the only real negative is that as it lowers mash pH it decreases hop utilisation:

Magnesium, like calcium, will reduce wort pH but it is only half as effective. 


Table salt (sodium chloride) is included in some liquor treatments, but I suspect mainly as a cheap way of increasing the chloride concentration. 




The balance of sulphate and chloride ions is considered important due to the effects it has on beer flavour. 



Though the research I found on it suggests the effects may not be huge:



Generally zinc is the only element that wort may need supplementing with. 



The anions (negatively charged ions) listed here get frowns across the board:


And now to the maths. It is possible to do some calculations to work out how many grams of mineral salts you need to add to get the desired ionic concentration in wort. Calcium sulphate will also contain some water which needs to be factored into the calculations.

Having calculated how much calcium sulphate we need to add to get the desired calcium concentration we then see how much sulphate this adds:



Similar calculations can be carried out for calcium chloride. There are also calculators online that can do this sort of thing for you. 

A useful way of looking to what liquor treatment brewing water will require is to calculate the Residual Alkalinity. By working out how much the calcium and magnesium present in the water will break down the bicarbonate it is possible to determine the Residual Alkalinity that may require further treatment. 



A multi-national company I brewed for whilst I was at Campden BRI went for very simple liquor treatment for all beers: use Reverse Osmosis water and add gypsum to the mash to give 100 ppm of calcium.

The basic requirements for brewing liquor ion composition have been summarised quite simply:

Sulphate/chloride ratio to taste!
A more sophisticated view of suggests the following Residual Alkalinity (CaCO3 mg/l) for different beer styles:
Pilsner: -35 to 35
Light beer: less than 90
Dark beer: less than 180

There is information out there. The water book is over long and rather dry* but does contain a lot of information. I wouldn't recommend reading it cover to cover, just look up the chapters you need. 

The Handbook of Brewing contains a good chapter on water, and is now up to its third edition. 

Supplies of liquor treatment are of course also a good source of information on the subject, unlike the SIBA technical helpline which had the plug pulled on it. 





*Yes, I even managed to work a joke into a talk on brewing water. Not a great one I'll admit, but you can only work with the material you've got.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Pre-wedding pub crawl in London

Apparently you're not allowed to have stag dos anymore. It seems that nowadays husbands to be aren't keen on ritual humiliation. So I'll just say I recently found myself going out for some pre-wedding drinks with friends.

We set off from Waterloo and passed some mysterious boats whilst heading north of the river



What's going on there I've no idea but I bet it makes them ill.

Our first stop was meant to be the Lyceum Tavern.


Sadly the staff were enjoying conjugal relations with close relatives so it wasn't bleedin' open. Fortunately our next stop was.


The Coach and Horses must have been a Watney's pub at some point.


Which reminds me of the joke about the innocent lad visiting London for the first time. He calls his dad from the payphone in the corner of the room and say's it's all going really well. He's found a building with a red light outside with lots of friendly people in it. "Get out of there" his dad shouts back, "that's a Watney's house!".


No Watney's for us though, but the fact the groom didn't even finish his first pint was an indicator of how things went. Poltroonery and senile lightweightism meant we were all on to halves depressingly early.


An innovation in pub crawling was the detour to a hat shop. It was certainly different but I'm not sure it will catch on.


The next pub was surprisingly named after the classic Dumpy's Rusty Nuts instrumental Crosskeys.


I must say I fully approve of this and we even did a little jig outside in the traditional manner.



The beers were from Greene King and Brodies, and perhaps more importantly the crisps were from Tayto.


It was a Sam Smith's pub next so no chance of more Taytos there.


The beer was getting to the bottom of the barrel too, so my mates had some pretty rough beer.


But fear not, I'd got the first pint and mine was fine. The Flying Horse followed, where again the beer wasn't great.



Nice malt and hops table downstairs though.


Then it was The Fitzroy, another Sam Smith's pub. Given the experience in the previous one it was declared that keg beer was an acceptable choice.



The lager came in a very thin glass as you can't see in this photo:


There was also a breakthrough in finding non-own label products:



With the angostura bitters the count is now up to three. On the way to our next pub we were tempted to go off piste by a dodgy George Orwell plaque.



Good job too, as not only was The Wheatsheaf a cracking pub...


...it had Landlord and Exmoor Gold on on. I had a pint in this one, I can't resist Landlord.


The Dog and Duck followed.


I think I had a beer called "Dave" in this one.



And guess who used to drink here?



It was getting a bit like Krays pubs in the East End. I guess Orwell drank in a lot of pubs in central London. Another Coach and Horses was our next stop.




I was a bit suspicious of the trough at the bottom of the bar in here. I wonder if it was originally for gobbing in?



Nice pub though, and more pleasantly they had four types of picked eggs. I was also far enough gone to buy one.


This is the beetroot one:


Didn't taste of beetroot, or vinegar either, which counts in its favour if you ask me.

Our next stop was for its historical significance, as they don't serve pints or real ale in the French House. We were scoring the pubs using the Scientific Scoring System and I had to save one of my friends from straying from ecumenicalism into outright heresy when he tried to give it a point for beer quality as "his Guinness was nice".



It was back to beer as god intended at the Lyric, though the pub only scored a lowly three out of ten.



As did the Queens Head, but we were definitely flagging by this point.

The Conquest of Bread

We made a last stop at The Harp and then it was time to pour ourselves home.




The Scientific Scoring System was used throughout the pub crawl.



We determined that the Dog and Duck was the best pub. Subjectively I'd preferred The Wheatsheaf, which really shows the importance of rigorous scientific analysis so pub quality can be objectively determined.