Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cask Vs Keg. Summary of findings.

In other news, I've invented "Kask", or possibly "Ceg". It involves a keg, a handpump and an optional cask breather / aspirator.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Oh! Xmas tree!

Not Brewers of Europe HQ
Went to Belgium t'other day for the "Celebration of Beers from NW England" thingy at the Brewers of Europe house in Brussels. One of the best free Eurocrat piss-ups of the festive season, I'm told. Chap from a family brewer stood up and made an impassioned plea for tax-breaks to reward him for watering his beer down.

What are they like?
Meanwhile, out in the city, the light-hearted hunt for the weakest beer bottomed out at 5.2% abv. Granted, we weren't trying that hard (so don't tell me about all the sensible beers missed), but heck.
We had to deliver our own beer to the reception after a transport hiccup. This involved much running around with heavy wheely cases. But it did mean that we had empty cases for the bringing back of beer, glasses and chocolate.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Yay! Us!

Still childishly pleased to walk off with armful of certificates. Even CAMRA ones. (I kid. Am Chuffed)
Becky also v.pleased to get her hands on CBEN Gold! That's for environmental stuff.
We have a SIBA (North) bronze in here somewhere as well, but we're in such a mess, what with the "on-going facilities upgrade", that I can't find it.
P.S. "Furness Abbey" (that's the one that got the gold RAIB there, i.e. some people who drink a lot of beer, and might therefore be expected to know something about the subject, thought it was the best bottle conditioned beer in Cumbria, for what that's worth, while beating our own second-placed "Mutiny") is named for the ruined Cistercian monastery nearby us. The beer is not intended to be a copy of, or even, particularly, in the style of, a Belgian Dubbel. Look on it as a beer from an alternate reality. It's the beer that might have been brewed if things had gone differently. So it'll be like those belgo beers, at the same time it'll be like a British strong bitter. But mainly, it's from our imagination. Y'dig cats?
P.P.S. We're off to Brussels shortly, as it happens, which should be nice.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hazy beer. After all this time.

Now, here's a beer that's meant to be hazy.  If anything, it's meant to be a little more hazy than this, but this cask has been in store for 4 months and it's difficult to produce a completely stable haze. 

We keep the odd cask hanging around in our cold room (~10°C) so that we can do a bit of due diligence on shelf life / cask washing etc. 

Update: For the avoidance of doubt, this beer ("Wheat") is the only pale beer we make that's intended to look like this.  There's a stronger, more heavily spiced version on the drawing board. Later.

It's a wheat beer of course -  "one grain in three" being wheat.  Wheat malt, that is.   This leads to relatively high protein levels in the finished beer which helps us with the haze.  There's some oat malt in there too. It had a fairly short mash, the pH dropped with a touch of lactic acid, and a quite hot sparge.  We've found that this helps a bit also.  The boil was shortish and on the gentle side.  As well as (some) hops, it was boiled up with  Lemon Balm (stalks and all) so I think we picked up a fair dollop of tannins and other hazy plant stuff.  No kettle finings of course.

We used a yeast that isn't terribly flocculent (altho it does clear, given time)  and of course, there's no fish-guts or anything in there.

It looks good.   And (even after all this time) it tastes good. So, we're pretty pleased with ourselves.  All the effort we put in was worth it.

You can imagine how well I take it when someone complains that it's "not clear".

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Stringers / NorthBar / Leeds

We're planning to be there.  We're not doing one of those FIGJAM* MTB** type efforts. We just fancy going to Leeds for a few jars and this looks like the best place to be on a Wednesday in August, in Leeds.  Say "hello" if you spot us.  We'll be the ones drinking "West Coast Blond", "Best", "No. 2 Stout", "Hop Priest", plus the fizzy muck "Wheat" and "Mutiny".  There's a few cheeky bottles there also. The "Damson" (last year's, of course, also featuring some bullaces) is very good.

I must remember to take a camera. If I do, I'll post some pictures.

* F_ck I'm Good, Just Ask Me
** Meet The Brewer

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

That'll do.

No more opinions, nothing about the beer business (which I understand less the more I find out) and deffo no more taking offence at interweb dimwittery.

From now on, nothing but naked marketing messages.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Asymmetric warfare

Oh no, here's me responding to Boak&Bailey again. Their "Try Jumping on This Bandwagon" piece attracted some interesting comments.

 One commenter suggested that the looming entry of bigger producers (corporates) into a sector of the market that the smaller producers (indies) might have thought they had more-or-less to themselves ("craft", non-brown, non-crap-lager) wasn't anything to be worried about, since this was essentially the same as the competitive situation that applied in the brown beer sector. The conclusion drawn being that since the indies had been able to compete against the corporates in brown beer, they'd be perfectly able to hold off the corporates in the non-brown market.

This isn't a good description of what happened, or what might happen. Firstly, we start in different places. It's a simplification, but we might start off by saying that corporates had the "brown" market to themselves, and the "non-brown" market pretty much didn't exist. What happened then was that a quantity (let's call it n hl - so many hectolitres), of brown beer market (and hence, production) was lost by the established corporates to the indies who were starting at square one.

Meanwhile (again a simplification), indies were developing a (pretty much) completely new market for non-brown products in a way the corporates were slow to recognise. Now they have spotted it, and here they come. Maybe.

A moments reflection will reveal these apparently complementary cases to be strongly asymmetric. We know that the corporates enjoy economies of scale, marketing and distribution resources, as well as access to market, which the indies didn't (and still don't) have.

Consider one simple measure - the number of people employed by the two kinds of producer: Small brewers generate about one job per 500hl annual production compared to maybe one per 3,000hl in the industry overall. So, by the way of a thought-experiment, let's go back in time to a point when indies (small) won 100,000 hl of sales from corporates (big). That might have created 200 jobs in the indies at a cost of 33 jobs in the corporate workforce. A net gain of 167 jobs. That's a fair few micro-breweries completely staffed right there. More choice for the drinker. More jobs. Brilliant.

Turn it around though, and it's not so rosy. I can't see that the corporate toy breweries will be as efficient as the rest of their operations, but suppose (remembering they get to share a lot of the facilities of their parent operations) that they are only three times as "efficient" (labour-wise) as the real micros.  100,000 hl of sales won here (by the corporates, from the indies) will wipe out 200 jobs in  the indies (that's at least a couple of dozen micros wiped out) while creating only 67 jobs for the corporates.  A net loss of 133 jobs.  Less choice. Less jobs. Not good.

[supplemental] I suppose my main issue with the "it'll be alright" argument is that simply because the corporates didn't entirely succeed in  making use of their (anti-) competitive advantages then, it doesn't follow that they won't do so going forward.

[supplemental] A bigger brewery writes: "We are a regional brewery with a national reputation which means we can be innovative and individual like a craft brewer, have the passion and adaptability of a micro-brewery, but also have the large scale infrastructure to provide quantity and consistency." [my emph.]  See?

There's a whole lot of ways that these situations aren't symmetrical, which I won't bore you with.  I suppose the interesting questions are: Is it fair?  Is it desirable? Is it likely?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sounds like Teen Spirit. Eh? I said "What"?

Pete Brown recently raised the question of the acoustics of modern bars, while admitting the possibility that he's turning into a grumpy old get. Well, according to HardknottDave "the future of pubs, beer and nearly everything else is in the youngsters".   That's true in a sense.  For sure, the future  belongs to those people who are young now.  But they won't be enjoying it as young people.  They'll be older then.  Taking the UK: In 2007 , for the first time, there were more over-65s than under-16s,  The median age of the population is rising, the proportion aged between 16 and 64 is shrinking.  The under-20's, who made up about a third of the population when I was born, now make up less than a quarter. 

When we were young we were, no doubt, smarter than we are now.  Of course, we didn't know shit, but we made up for that lack of experience by being generally quicker.  Sadly, we weren't smart enough to use hearing protection when working in noisy environments. I'm a bit mutton in one ear due to rock 'n' roll related hearing damage, and of course there's the general age related deafness that comes on most of us as we get on a bit.

We (many of us) take hearing so much for granted, that we forget just what a neat trick it is.  Particularly when we're indoors, we're immersed in an incredibly complicated sound field,  with many moving sources of sound and a  varying mix of more or less reflective and dispersive surfaces.  If you think about it, the ability to "focus" on a conversation and extract information from the jumble of noise is remarkable.  You'll have heard of what's sometimes called the "cocktail party effect",  this kind of selective attention enables us to pick out those sounds that are important to us, be it a conversation or whatever, and dismiss or ignore the competing clatter.

Unfortunately,  age related hearing loss very often affects our ability to get speech, as we tend to lose the high frequency sensitivity that I gather is particularly important for distinguishing consonants.   At the same time,  what's termed spatial hearing loss  specifically undermines our ability to selectively attend to sounds by their origin in space.   So what you've got here is an age related double whammy, which will definitely knacker your ability to hear (and therefore make) conversation in noisy environments as you get older.

It's been said that young people positively enjoy acoustically "bright", "lively" environments.  And that a lack of ambience (in the technical sense of reverberation) will create a dead, dull, vibe-sapping feel to a room.   I don't know if the young do actively seek out acoustically challenging environments, but it does seem likely that before the onset of hearing decline, they will be more tolerant of background noise.  I'm sure there are young people who equate noise with excitement.  Good for them.   Of course, we shouldn't forget that some young people will have hearing issues which will cause similar problems to those experienced by us old gits.

What we're talking about here is a (largely) invisible handicap, which designers of indoor spaces should consider.  It's perfectly possible to construct and furnish a room with well defined acoustic properties.  It's not all or nothing of course.  I could cobble together a dead room, or a really nice bright one.  Bring loads of people into my lively room and it could get quite dull and oppressive.  If you've ever been into an anechoic chamber (or even a good vocal booth) you'll know how weird that sounds / feels.  I've seen people put sheets of hardboard on a (carpeted) floor for an acoustic musician who couldn't handle the sound of a relatively dead space with very little in the way of what are called early reflections.

Booth seating is a particularly boss solution to the kinds of acoustic problem we get in bars.  Soft furnishing is always good, of course.  As the lovely soft sound absorbent human bodies come in to a place, they tend to arrange themselves on the soft furniture, keeping the overall distribution of sound absorption about the same, be the room full or empty.  Booths offer acoustic "micro-climates" with tightly controlled reflections (limiting distracting clatter) while allowing the occupants to partake of the general ambience of the room.  It's not that hard to come up with other schemes that can create a variety of sounds and "feel" in quite small spaces. It's not all about the colours and the pictures on the wall.  Careful arrangements of absorbing, reflecting and diffracting surfaces allow the designer to shape the sound field in a way that can define distinct areas and give an overall acoustic that doesn't vary too much with occupancy.

Or you can just fit a place out the way you like, and tell all the people who don't like the acoustics to f*ck off.  But that doesn't sound like the best way to run a business to me.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Enough with the categories?

There's lots of fun to be had categorising things.  Boak and Bailey have a go here at dividing brewers into conformist and (of course) non-conformist. Elsewhere we're familiar with  another dimension on which brewers are characterised as more or less progressive / traditional. I say this is a different dimension since we can choose to ally ourselves (i.e. conform with) a progressive movement, with other progressive brewers. Progressiveness can be as shallow and conformist as any churning out of brown bitters.

Of course the whole idea of brewing progressive, extreme beer is a distinctly modernist sort of thing.

There are those who explicitly categorise themselves as contemporary1, progressive, even post-modernist.

What I've made here is a pretty much standard, if slightly wobbly,  partitioning of the field:  On the one hand, traditionalists turn out traditional products.  (Unless these products are from a foreign tradition,  in which case they're a sort of non-conformist alt-traditionalist). On the other hand, the avant-garde, the progressives (modernists) reject stultifying styles and (sigh) "push the envelope".  And on the third hand (?) there's the noisy post-modern stance bringing us concept beers and irony.

The problems with this kind of analysis are all too clear.  How do we categorise, for instance,  a UK based lambic blender?  As a producer of delicious beer, I'd hope.   But beyond that, how will they fit into a traditional / modernist / postmodern mapping. Not well, I'd suggest.  Are they non-conformist?  It's a traditional product, just not traditional around here. Or any of the brewers who use mixed fermentations - a touch of brett here, wild yeast in the fruit beers there.  An old tradition producing more-or-less non-standard beers.  How non-conformist is this?

I think that what we're seeing is a more of a metamodern2 aesthetic.
People are happy to look to the intent of traditional forms. Less concerned with pursuing an illusion of novelty.  Less afraid of finding value in a romantic tradition. We swing from mad beers to comfort beers, from the extreme to the classic.  And back again.  Our utopia isn't in some golden age, or in some futuristic bye-and-bye.  Neither are we living in some grim (all bets are off) relativistic post-modern dystopia.  For now we choose fun and beauty. Not so much because they're necessarily true, but because they're fun and beautiful. Which is true enough for me. We can enjoy beer for what it is, or what it tries to be.  Not so much for what we're told it is, or what it isn't. But because it's good.

 1This being now, all current brewers are contemporary.

 2See here for much, much more on the metamodern thang.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sticks and Stones

I've been called  two kinds of fascist of late.  Beer Fascist (altho' that blog's had an outbreak of revisionism, and it's now referred to as "Beer Dogma") for something I said here.  And "Word Fascist".

For the record, I'm neither.  And I really don't like being called any such thing.  For a start it's terribly ill-mannered, it's also an appalling misuse of a word that thinking people would reserve for, well, actual Fascists.  It seems that  there's a surprisingly common conception among these beer bloggers that daring to disagree with them is something only a fascist would do.

[update, that'll be sticks, of course.  I'm wearing the wrong glasses]

Since Alan McLeod has chosen to delete my comment, I emailed him, and bless him, he replied.

As one beer fan to another, and while I appreciate that your post is not about word fascism, as a matter of common courtesy,  I'd be grateful I'f you'd either remove the allegation that I'm any kind of fascist, or allow me to reply.
Jon K
Alan McLeod

to Jon
You are rather pushy today, Jon. Courtesy is not a word I would associate with your comments and, frankly, I really don't care all that much given your goings on. I will do two things, however, I will make it a footnote and change it to fascism. But I am not interested in more of the telling others what to write or think so if you would not engage further I would appreciate it.

True to his word, he's removed the offensive characterisation to a footnote.  Hardly satisfying, but I'm not sure I expected anything more.

I'm really not sure what Alan means by "goings on" Has anyone any idea? It sounds very sinister doesn't it? What's this "telling others what to write or think" thing?  When did I do that?

Thursday, March 08, 2012


Is brewing with a portion of non-malt sugar somehow cheating? Is it underhand and un-principled to get some of your gravity from malt extract? I don't see why. No more so than getting some of your flavours from chocolate, say, or vanilla. Or coffee. Or coriander, orange peel, melegueta pepper, sage, or any of the number of things brewers use as well as malt and hops.

And hop extracts? Don't get me started. Pellets are cheating? Only whole cones? Who'd say such a thing? That would be ridiculous.

If you find that you're putting in so much of [whatever] that the beer's spoiled, why then, you've put in too much. Including malt. Otherwise, you go for it.

Today, we're not going for that. Today it's all-malt and a load of whole hops. But we keep our options open.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Siba Craft Beer in Keg Comp 2012

Transcribed by your humble servant:

Bitters, Pale & Golden Ales
Gold Ilkley MJ Pale 3.7
Silver Naylor's Bullet 4.3
Bronze Marstons Banks's Bitter 3.8

Premium Bitters, Pale & Golden Ales
Gold Thornbridge Chiron 5.0
Silver Magic Rock High Wire 5.5
Bronze Inveralmond Lia Fail 4.7

Strong Bitters and IPAs
Gold Thornbridge Jaipur 5.9
Silver Allendale APA 5.5
Bronze Coniston Infinity IPA 6.0

Dark Ales, Stouts and Porters
Gold Hepworth & Co. Conqueror Sussex Stout 4.5
Silver Bradfield Farmers Stout 4.5
Bronze Magic Rock Dark Arts 6.0

Pale and Golden Lagers
Gold Freedom Freedom Four 4.0
Silver Brewsters Helles 4.0
Bronze Oakwell Acorn Lager 3.8

Premium Pale and Golden Lagers
Gold Williams Bros. Ceilidh 90 Lager 4.7
Silver Hawkshead Lakeland Lager 5.0
Bronze Oakwell Oakwell Lager 5.0

Speciality Beers
Gold Freedom Organic Dark Lager 4.7
Silver Thornbridge Versa 5.0
Bronze Hardknott Queboid 8.0

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Why certainly, if that's what you want.

Saw this recently:
And here are the images referred to:

Well, one is a cartoon character from a fictional work, who refers to herself as "Not bad, just drawn that way" Her appearance is a key plot component. And the other is a not-very-good drawing of a woman wearing a bunny costume, serving drinks, which has been stuck on some point of sale for a beer for no particular reason (over and above being somewhat eye-catching).

We've got no general problem with pictures of lasses on pump clips. Here are some we use:

You tell me the difference.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Craft. Oh for goodness sake. #3

It's a way of doing things, isn't it? It's in the making. It's not, as such, a property of the made thing. It's not a style, or kind, of thing. So why look for it in the product? It's in the process.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Craft. Oh for goodness sake. #2

And now it's kinda kewl to put yourself on the outside of that old "craft" debate. You know the one: Does "craft" mean anything? Does it mean anything in the UK brewing "scene"? Can it mean anything specific to our industry / tradition? It has been going on for a while now.

But the alternative (that isn't an alternative), Huh , who cares, I know what I mean when I say "good". I know what I like. That's an asocial, narcissistic way of looking at things, isn't it? And to imply that anyone still engaged is dumb, well that's like: "Is that thing still happening? It's like so yesterday, I am so over that." Amusing in a teenager, but pitiable in a grown-up.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Craft. Oh for goodness sake.

Ok then - a craft brewery is a small, independent producer of beer.
Why small? Because craft is NOT about mass-production.
Why independent? Because it's about the beer, and the brewers, not about the financial targets of the parent company.

What do I mean by small? Well, we're fortunate enough in the UK to have a definition for a small brewery: i.e. one that makes "Small Brewery Beer", i.e. less than 60,000 hectolitres of beer per year.

What do I mean by independent? That the brewery should be owned (mainly) by its management / workforce.

Update: This would have been a good place to suggest (as Boak & Bailey did), that "The brewers are the management".

But what does Craft mean? How about asking the V&A? Do they have a beer collection? Should they?

Update: Small-ness & Independence are necessary, but of course, not sufficient conditions for craft-ness.