Thursday, 31 May 2012

Musings about mild in May

I brewed a mild on the big kit for the first time this month, and it certainly generated more interest than any of the other seasonals/occasionals I've done. But it didn't sell quickly.
Is it a case of people who like mild really like mild, but there aren't many of them? Or is it that people running pubs don't buy mild 'cos they don't think it will sell? Would it have sold if they'd bought it?

Is it that being in Kent people prefer hoppy beers? Or is it that hoppy beers are the in thing at the moment?

I was out and proud with the beer calling it a "dark mild" and not trying to hide it. Should I have been sneaky? I'm not sure this would really have made a difference. Or maybe the heat wave put people off dark beer?

Dunno really. We brewed a couple of batches but I think that's it from us as far as mild goes until next May.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Boozing in Branscombe

I spent the weekend in Devon visiting the lovely Lisa's older sister and her partner. We managed to get in a drop or two whilst we were down there, taking in pubs in Colyton and the excellently named Beer.
But the high spot was without doubt a visit to Branscombe. The wonderfully old fashioned Fountain Head Inn impressed us so much we've made plans to come back in June for their beer festival.

I've been trying to use a mate's scientific pub scoring system to rate pubs but seeing as they had strawberry-pink china mugs hanging above the bar (which did indeed make me ridiculously over excited) I've used George Orwell's scoring system for this one:

Though to be honest I've had to look up Orwell's scoring systems and work out the scores when I got home so I just assumed they had Guinness on, didn't ask after tobacco, and I'm not entirely certain about the games situation.

After a couple at the Fountain Head we moved on to The Mason's Arms, another excellent pub, now owned by St Austell. There were six hand pumps, including a couple of guest beers, but I went straight for the Proper Job. The draught version has dropped to 4.5% ABV which makes it much more drinkable so I had a couple of those too.

It was great drinking outside in the sun. And being a hot weekend meant the drive home on Sunday with the car window stuck down wasn't half as bad as it could have been. I also saw a sign for Weyhill as I was coming back on the A303 so there may well be a detour after the next visit to Devon.

Monday, 28 May 2012

The Goldings varieties in the modern age

The origins of the Goldings varieties part three: The Epilogue.

Having covered the pre-history of the Goldings and the origins of the ten cultivars it's now time to look at the Goldings hops that are available to brewers today, including one born on the wrong side of the blanket.

Clonal selection is used to improve traditional hop varieties whilst maintaining the desired aroma characteristics. Selecting the best plants of a hop variety should also protect against the problems found in some of the Oregon State University hop collection where weeds and hybrids have been cultivated in error.

Four Goldings clones with a range of maturity times were selected and released, and later virus free stocks were made available for growers. These were called Wye Cobb, Wye Early Bird, Wye Eastwell Golding and Wye Mathon (1). They seem to have been widely adopted as the Goldings varieties my suppliers have available are Cobbs, Early Bird, Mathons, possibly some Canterbury Whitebines and Early Choice.

It would appear Eastwell Goldings are still in production too, though they're listed as Redsell's Eastwell not Wye. Canterbury Whitebines are the oldest of the Goldings varieties, being the same plant as the Farnham Whitebine and it's good to see that, at least to a small extent, they're still worth growing. Petham Goldings, Mercers, Canterbury Goldings and Bramlings seem to have dropped out of production, though the last of these still has a role our story yet.

The Goldings varieties I've details so far came from clonal selection but Early Choice is a different matter entirely. In fact it's a different variety entirely. The other well established method of improving hop varieties apart from clonal selection is to breed from them. Early Choice comes from a seedling of Bramling (2) and an Italian male, from which it obtained the all important Verticillium wilt resistance. It was raised by Professor Salmon in 1927 and named and introduced in 1948 (3).

Selling Early Choice as Goldings seems to be carrying on the long tradition of being a bit free and easy with the term. And as in Pervial's time it seems not everyone is happy about this. Goldings are not routinely sold by variety, at least not by my suppliers, being called either "Goldings" or "East Kent Goldings". The latter is now a Protected Designation of Origin, which specifies not just the area in which the hops can be grown but also the traditional varieties and typical composition of essential oils, which excludes Early Choice.

Of the five compounds listed in the PDO documents I've found an oil analysis for four of them for Early Choice, and Eastwell Golding for comparison (4).

 A case of close but no cigar: a good start but the selinene level is distinctly different. I don't know to what extent this affects the flavour. I've been told there are subtle differences in flavour between the traditional Goldings clones, but the difference between them and Early Choice will clearly be greater. Though having said that the flavour is not necessarily inferior: another great English hop, Challenger, has high selinene levels and I'm quite partial to a pint of Coniston Bluebird.

That brings us up to date with modern Goldings hops, which those of you who've got this far will be glad to hear leaves only the hilarious outtakes for part four.

  1. Neve, RA, 1986. Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Vol 92, p22.
  2. Bramling is perhaps best known now as the mother of Bramling Cross, fathered with a different male. 
  3. Burgess, AH. Hops, 1964, p45. 
  4. The individual oil components are quoted in relation to beta-caryophyllene (no, that means nothing to me either).

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Dire predictions about CAMRA come true

 "CAMRA officially breaks 140,000 members! 12.9% growth in the last year."

Tweet from @tonyjerome CAMRA's Head of Marketing.

It's seems that as many beer bloggers have predicted CAMRA is indeed in terminal decline.

No, hang on a minute that's not right. I mean CAMRA is bigger than it's ever been and is still growing.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


Those that drink in the ways of righteousness may be thinking, hang on a minute, shouldn't that be Mild! But fear not, it's due to May being mild month that I finally finished reading Bitter! Ron Pattinson has done a discount on his mild related books during May, and as I bought a copy of Mild! plus it was really time to finish reading Bitter! 

Bitter! is volume III in his mega book series on the four British beer styles. Or volume XII in his mini book series if you go by the cover. At 560 pages it seems more mega than mini to me so I'll stick with that. I've got a copy with the bottle of Bass from Manet's "Bar at the Folies-Bergère" on the front, though Ron has now entered his pastel period as far as covers go.

It's packed full of information on bitter beers through the ages, based on historic reports, brewing records and recipes. There are the some typos, and even randomly appearing blank pages, but this doesn't give me my usual urge to put the boot in. There's just so much quality data with Ron's explainations of what it all means that I found it a delight to read. And let's face it, if Ron spent time re-checking all his work we still wouldn't know the truth about Scottish beer.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Woking Football Club beer festival 2012

What a momentous year it's been for Woking FC. First being promoted from the Southern League for not very good teams back to the One that used to be called The Conference, and second having a beer festival, an event that will surely go down in the annals of the club as their greatest moment since beating West Brom.

There is often a worry that local beery events will have an unrighteous brewery involved but as a mate of mine was organising this one I knew we were safe. About 30 beers were on offer, which I suppose is modest in size for a beer festival, but it was enough to keep me going, especially as I couldn't be doing with halves.

On the down side being at a football club meant there was a giant screen showing a football game - Chelsea were playing someone from Germany. As my interest in football rarely goes beyond 1911 when Bradford City won the cup this wasn't for me, but fortunately there was another room free from this unwelcome distraction.

I was very taken with Butcoombe Gold (4.4% ABV), made using only Maris otter pale malt and Fuggles hops. English hops, and Fuggles in particular, seem to get some stick from some of my fellow beer nerds but I think you can make great beers with old varieties, you just need to use lots of them.

Vale Black Beauty Porter (4.3% ABV)  was another delight and the lovely Lisa was so taken with Tring Colley’s Dog (5.2% ABV) that she went back for more.

The festival looks set to become another regular fixture in the beer calendar, so thanks to all the volunteers that made it happen, I'm looking forward to the next one.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Pottering about in Puttenham

After the excitement of looking through the Wye archives I went to see some Surrey hops the next day.

First we went to Badshot Lea to have a look at where hop grower Peckham Williams' estate, Badshot Place, used to be. It's houses now.

Then we popped to Puttenham, home of the last hop ground in Surrey. The sat nav got some strange ideas but I decided to 'continue off road' wasn't for me. Fortunately after our slight detour we spotted the unmistakable sight of  a field of  hops.

Sadly no Whitebines, these are Fuggles:

Then it was on to the Good Intent. A cracking pub and look what they have on the wall:

Yes, it's a scuppet! It was even better on the ceiling: 

It doesn't get much more exciting than that.

The nearby hop kilns (now housing) were good too:

Here's the scores for the Good Intent.

A high score for the Good Intent but I'm still not entirely happy with my mate Jim's scientific scoring system. I feel like I've been given the SOP but not had the training. I may well need to go on one of his Good Beer Guide ticking expeditions.

Monday, 14 May 2012

More hop history research

Thanks to my blog writing I've ended up doing some serious writing. And this in turn lead to me spending Friday afternoon looking through the archives held by Wye Hops Ltd at China Farm near Canterbury. 
I've written up my blog post on the Farnham White Bine hop as an article* for the journal of the Brewery History Society. Sadly the pictures are of the usual low standard regular readers of this blog will have come to expect. So the editor asked hop expert Peter Darby if he could find something better, and as well as sourcing some pictures Peter was kind enough to invite me over to further my research using the Wye archives.

The collection is a fantastic resource and I looked through hop text books going back nearly two centuries. Look at some of these delights:

That was enough to get me excited:

Here's the book I was after that I couldn't find on the internet:

Here's Percivals famous article:

And there was much more. I barely scratched the surface of the information on offer, but you'll be pleased to hear I found more fascinating facts about Farnham I'll bore you with later.

* Now with 16 more references! A bit more information on Peckham Williams! A slightly more upbeat ending! Surely a reason to join the Brewery History Society if you haven't already.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Woking Football Club beer festival

What's better than having a beer festival you can walk to? Having two beer festivals you can walk to!

There's now going to be one at the football club too. I'll be there on the Saturday.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Brewer's Apprentice by Greg Koch and Matt Allyn

I've finally got round to reading The Brewer's Apprentice: An Insider's Guide to the Art and Craft of Beer Brewing, Taught by the Masters. A rather modest title, which presumably goes down well across the Atlantic.

But I couldn't help but think that the authors were setting themselves up for a fall. Which indeed they do quite rapidly. The 'masters' tell us on the first page of chapter one that "malt houses let grains such as barley germinate and being to grow, creating starch." As a mere journeyman brewer I was under the impression plants got energy from sunlight and stored it as starch, so I was somewhat surprised to see this claim that starch is created by grains when they germinate during the malting process. I was even more surprised to see diastolic enzymes mentioned in the explanation of mashing. Presumably they reduce blood pressure*.

Embarrassing howlers aside it's not a bad book: a rather basic home brewing guide with chapters broken up by interviewing prominent brewers. And a self confessed cat rapist, but enough fun has been had with his contribution already. Some of the things said in the interviews got me pondering, which is a good thing, though I'm not sure how much use they'll be to people new to brewing.

* They meant diastatic enzymes. During the malting process enzymes are created (or activated but I won't go on about our old friend Protein Z 40kDa here). Starch levels actually fall sightly.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The green, green hops of home

If you live in Kent that is. I don't myself, but I am a brewer of Kent.

The brewers of Kent and Kentish brewers (well most of them) have come together with plans for a Kent Green Hop Beer festival.

Each of the breweries will produce beer with fresh, undried, green hop grown in Kent. A firkin of each  beer will be sold at the Canterbury Food Festival and the rest will be distributed to pubs by the brewers.

So if you fancy trying the taste of fresh hops Kent is the place to be in September.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Long Live May Day!

It's today that we remember The Haymarket Martyrs and start drinking pints of mild. Except my mild won't be ready until tomorrow, but to be honest I could do with a rest after the excesses of the weekend.

Mild is not a style of beer I drink that often, as outside of beer festivals you don't see it much round my way and in general I prefer bitter anyway. But mild certainly has its place, and I was pleased to see the excellent Oscar Wilde mild win Champion Beer of Britain.

I myself had a magic mild moment many years ago in the sampling room of Harveys brewery. The stuff was simply delicious. I'm looking forward to trying mine and if it even comes close I'll be happy.