Saturday, June 26, 2010

In Liverpool...

... well I'm not now, but I was on thursday. Delivering beer, of course. Not very much beer, but to one of my favouritest pubs, the Dispensary on Renshaw St. (or, as it has been called, "Rapid Hardware St."). When we lived in Liverpool I used to drink in the Dizzy (or Dissy, or even Dispo) a fair bit, and it's nice to hear that it's just recently been declared Liverpool CAMRA pub of the year - well deserved. It's one of the establishments that Cains revamped a few years ago, having previously been the Grapes - a boozer I'd never been in (and I wasn't alone in that).
Look down and you're lost.

It's more-or-less a city centre pub, and it's practically on the main route for the students as they run giggling into town, but it's got a proper feel to it. It's not full of suits guffawing about who they f*cked over in the office today, and it's not full of unstable all-day drinkers. You can go in with the spouse and have a quiet drink, perhaps before (or after) something cultural. You can go in with a few mates on a bit of a crawl. You can watch the footy. You could, if you wished, stay there from noon to midnight. There's a range of proper beer including some unusually good Cains. It's a proper pub. Go there.

And then I called in at the shop for a cup of tea and a chat. Now, when I say the shop, I can only mean Probe Records of Liverpool. And I do. If you don't know where that is - get to know. If you know it already - they're moving soon, to the Bluecoat. When they do, perhaps they'll update the website. You'd hope.

Update: They have! Updated the website, that is. With news of the upcoming move. Blimey.

You might have gathered that I really like Liverpool and that I miss living there a bit. You'd be right. Why did we leave? It's a long story, and there's a man with a gun in it. But we like it here a lot too. So that's alright.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

You put *what* in it?

We were pleased to see that some of our beer was on at a Vegan Beer Festival recently, along with beers from Belvoir, Buxton, Magpie, Marble, Spectrum & Springhead.

Most of our beers are brewed using nothing except malt, hops, yeast, water, and (sometimes) sugar. There's some unmalted barley in the stout, and we've been known to throw carefully infuse some lovely black treacle or fine malt extracts into some of our irregular beers. Our yeast is non-GM, and as far as we know, our suppliers haven't figured out a way of getting animal products into the hops and malt. Even the sugar we use is free from animal products, non-GM, and would be suitable for vegan, vegetarian, Kosher and Halaal diets. Although, obviously, since our beers are alcoholic beverages, you might want to check with your local zealots before ruining your chances of paradise by drinking some of our delicious frothy ale.

We do have some flaked maize in the malt store, but we haven't used it in anything yet. If we do, we'll tell you.

Since all our cask output is "real ale" it will contain live yeast, which can cause a visible haze in beer and may contribute interesting tastes and aromas in the finished product.

Animal products in beer.

Many pale beers will have been processed using fish derived "isinglass" finings, to produce a "clear" product by promoting a rapid and stable settlement of yeast. Brewers typically add isinglass as the beer is transferred to cask, and while pretty much all of this will remain in the cask as sediment, it does mean that beers fined this way cannot be enjoyed by vegetarians / vegans. Some brewers even use isinglass in their dark beers.

It's not just beer - wine producers might use any, or all, of: isinglass, gelatin, egg albumen, modified casein (from milk), chitin (derived from the shells of crabs or lobsters) or animal blood.

Some brewers manage to avoid the use of isinglass by relying on a highly flocculent yeast or by sending beer out with rather low levels of residual yeast. We've found that neither of these approaches will give us beer that reliably conditions in cask and suits normal cellar operations. Personally, I don't mind hazy beer as long as it's clean, and I find that small amounts of suspended yeast help, rather than spoil, the taste of beer. However, we've found it pretty near impossible to sell unfined pale beers, so we do normally use isinglass in them.

Not needed in dark beer.

On the other hand, our dark beers work perfectly well without finings, so we don't put any in, making them suitable for everyone, including vegetarians and vegans. Yay!

Any utensils or containers that may have been in contact with isinglass will, as a matter of course, be cleaned thoroughly after such use, and before being used for anything else.

Bottled and kegged beer.

Given that beer destined for bottles and kegs will usually be filtered (or centrifuged) to remove yeast and other hazes, you might think that these products won't have been processed with isinglass or animal gelatin.  This is often not the case. Depending on the kind of filtration used, the filter run or use of consumables can be improved by fining beforehand.

We're just looking at bottling now. We hope that we'll be able to avoid finings, but this is liable to have a slight cost impact on the finished item.

Even bottle-conditioned beers may have been fined, but you should check with the brewer.