Thursday, January 05, 2017

The Professor on Lemons, Peaches and Cask.

"So,", chuckled the Professor, "I gather it's all over for craft cask".

"Over-supply, is it?  Or perhaps something...", he paused, portentously, "Else?".

He threw open the doors to his workroom, from which, for some days, had been issuing a rattling and clinking cacophony.  We followed, and stood open-mouthed at the sight and sound that greeted us.  A huge assemblage of pipe and little paddle wheels was channelling thousands of marbles around tortuous and intersecting paths, almost filling the room.  The clinking marbles hurtled into cunningly gimballed cups, which flipped their contents onto new paths according to no obvious rule.  He handed us ear-defenders and then held up a sign:

"ANALOG COMPUTATION" He dropped it, to reveal another:

We noticed that the flow of marbles into two large buckets, which had been rapid, had begun to slow down.  Which a final convulsive flipping of cups and clattering down pipes. the monster spat out its , last marbles into the buckets.

"Take them off!" He removed his own ear-defenders, dislodging a couple of pairs of spectacles in the process, "See?"  He gestured at the fuller of the two buckets, a yellow one, "Every time!"

We didn't see,  and said so.

"The Lemons!  The lemons win out every time!" He pointed at a neighbouring pink bucket. "So few peaches.  Indeed, if I set the parameters only slightly differently - No Peaches AT ALL!  But I seem to have mislaid the stepladder, and that adjustment is now " He chuckled, and pointed towards the very top of his machine "beyond my reach."

"What we have here is a model of a market in which purchasers, represented by these little cups, can make their choices - lemons or peaches. Now the peach is high-quality, and would, you'd think do well in the market, assuming the price is right, Whereas the Lemon , er. Isn't or Doesn't. They're sour.  No-one likes them as much as peaches. For the sake of argument. Clear?"

We nodded.

"But, you see,  the buyers - the cups - aren't 100% sure of the difference between a lemon and a peach.  So the price they'll pay will be some sort of average.  More than they'd otherwise consider a fair price for something they're sure is a lemon, but less than you might think a peach would be worth.

"What this means, is that peach producers " He indicated a large pink hopper near the ceiling, "will be disinclined to put their fruit in this market at all"

We asked the professor if this was like a craft cask producer giving up on the format.
He nodded, "Yes, quite so, but there's more to it than that"

"Now we have less peach in the market, the average price must fall, since, while the buyers aren't sure they're getting a lemon, they know there's a reduced chance that they're getting a peach.

"And now more peach producers will pull out, the lemon proportion goes up, the average price falls, until there's no incentive to drop peaches into the top of my machine.  And everyone has to have lemons no matter how much they would like a peach."

He grinned, "Of course, I don't eat fruit." He proffered a tin, "Biscuit?"

Becky has suggested I should credit George Akerlof whose "The Market for Lemons"  foreshadows the Professor's machine.   I thought you'd get (or at least, google) the reference. I mean, I'm not that smart.  Anyhoo. There you go.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Mutiny - Too niche?

Great News! This little guy has been picked as CAMRA's Champion Bottled Beer of Britain, for 2016.  I know it's getting on for 2017 now, but you will appreciate that the CAMRA mill grinds exceedingly slow.   What with the members votes, regional tastings and what have you, leading up to the final (held in a safely roped-off area at the NEC surrounded by the BBC Food & Drink Fair) it's taken this long for the organisation to strain, purple-faced, and plop out a result.

We're pleased, of course, and genuinely consider this an honour. Say what you like about CAMRA, but decisions like this come out of a huge collective wealth of beer drinking experience, expert as well as enthusiast, unswayed much (we like to think) by considerations of trendiness.

So thanks to everyone who helped get us here - particularly those folks who knew the beer was special without being told - and bought it.
And now, let's answer a few questions:

Barrel aged?
No. It matures in a Stainless Steel tank for a minimum of 3 months.

Nope.  We tried oak chips a few years ago, but it was a waste of time.

Coffee? Chocolate?
No. It's beer.

No, seriously, it's beer. Vanilla is for ice-cream. Or cake. You could have cake, or ice-cream, as well!

Is it really bottle-conditioned?
Yes, it's bottled pretty much flat with a dose of sugar and a dab of fresh yeast.  Then it has 2 weeks warm-conditioning.  Then (finally) we can sell it.

A "dab" of yeast?
Er, yes. Actually, we target something like 600k cells/ml. Which is considered rather a lot round here.

Why do you have to make it so strong? I mean, 9.3%, sheesh!
OK, consider, what we call large glass of wine  is probably 250ml. So that large glass of Malbec your mother is drinking delivers more alcohol. Are you calling your mother a drunk? Shame on you.

Of course, some of the flavours we're after depend on the alcohol to develop. So I'm afraid you'll have to grin and bear it.

That said, we have considered blending the Mutiny with our regular Dry Stout. You could try that.

Well, then, why don't you bottle-condition your weaker beers?
Because we don't believe it adds anything to them.  We don't do this just to be eligible for CAMRA awards. It's about the beer.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Over to you. (Not "over you") Bottle conditioned beer.

Some of our beers are bottle conditioned. This means we bottle them with the beer (pretty much) flat, but make sure that there's enough yeast (and sugar for it to eat) for the beer to carbonate naturally.  We store the beer warm for a couple of weeks so that the bottling yeast can do its thing, and then (once we've tested it, natch) it's released for sale.

At this point it's over to the retailer - we'd love them to store the beer cool at all times, but obviously this isn't always possible.  We're confident that the beer won't over-condition (the food for the yeast should be pretty much all used up by the time it leaves us) but warm, or agitated, beer can be prone to gushing.  This will not only produce a lot of foam and loss of beer (horror!) but also disturb the sediment.  The sediment spoils the look (and some would say the taste) of the beer but also triggers more bubbles - making the situation worse.  So don't open the beer as soon as you've bought it.  You'll be disappointed. And wet.

Anyhoo, once you've bought the beer, it's over to you.  It's become clear to us that some folks aren't sure how bottle-conditioned beers should be handled (there's no shame in that, it's not something we were born knowing) so, if needed, here's some tips for managing your bottle-conditioned booty:

  1. Always store and transport bottles upright (with the top, er, at the top).  The aim is to keep the sediment on the bottom of the bottle, not to shake it up into the beer.
  2. Allow the sediment to settle before serving.  This can easily take 24 hours if the bottle has been bounced around in the boot of a car. Longer is better (but waiting is hard).
  3. Store them in a cool place away from direct sunlight.  If you're lucky enough to have a (unheated) cellar, that's where you want it. 12°C is generally thought to be the best temperature for storing and serving. 
  4. When you pour the beer into your glassware of choice, try to do this smoothly, avoiding "glugging". You should be aiming to leave a little in the bottle.  This is all about getting the beer while leaving the sediment.
I have to point out here that some beers which claim to be bottled-conditioned,  are no such thing. While they may contain a little yeast (which certainly does no harm and may protect the beer against oxidation somewhat) it's often no more that will "paint the bottom" of the bottle.  These beers have usually been force-carbonated before bottling.  Nothing wrong with that of course, some good beers are packaged in this way, and unless the thin film of sediment has broken up , they can be good to go as promptly as a filtered beer.  The downside, at least from our point of view, is that folk's expectations have been changed - some don't expect to have to do anything to enjoy their beer. (In which case, please consider choosing our filtered products.)
You probably don't want to store your beer in the fridge (it's too cold, really) but half an hour or so in the fridge won't do any harm. Some beers drink nicely a little colder.  Indeed, if you've been forced to store beer warmer than the ideal 12°C, carefully moving it into the fridge for a while will be useful.

And what about "laying down" beer?   Some folks suggest that bottle conditioned beer will continue to improve (like "fine wine")  over years.   If you want to try this, firstly, don't actually lay the bottle down - you want them upright. You probably do want a real cellar, unless you can think of another way of keeping a stable low temperature, dark environment for your stock. Strong dark beers will usually remain perfectly drinkable for a number of years, decades even  (that best before date assumes less than ideal conditions).  Do cellared beers keep on getting better?  That's a matter of taste, with which there is no arguing.

Monday, April 25, 2016


Ah, tradition...

Added Colour. (Malt extract)
Head Enhancer (Yeast)
Anti-foam  (Hop)

I'm sure there's more.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

On allergens.

Worst. Pint. Ever.
So, all this allergen labelling eh? We get asked (mainly in relation to CAMRA festivals) to make statements about our beer, allergen-wise.  As we all (should) know, there's now a "requirement for allergen information to be provided for foods sold non-packed or prepacked for direct sale".  This means beer, and applies to us.

Just the other day Becky was asked if isinglass needed declaring - she was being polite on the phone while I was in the background muttering "not fecking relevant", etc. That said,  I recently saw a cask from a local brewer labelled (with enthusiastic, but ill-informed, candour) "Gluten (barley), Gluten (wheat), Fish (isinglass), Sulphur Dioxide" and more.

So, and bearing in mind that I'm not a trading standards officer (or a lawyer), here's the way (we think) it works:

There are 14 allergens that might need declaring:
Cereals containing gluten (that'll be your Barley, wheat, oats etc.)
BUT NOT "Gluten" itself, although you might want to clarify the situation by stating, for example,
Malted barley (gluten)
BUT NOT  wheat and barley based glucose syrups or maltodextrin. 

Crustaceans and products thereof.
Relevant? We don't use chitin based finings, but if you do...

Egg and products thereof.
Anyone putting eggs in beer anymore? We don't.

Fish and products thereof
BUT NOT fish gelatine or Isinglass used as a fining agent in beer and wine.
OK? Because there's no evidence it's ever caused a problem for anyone.

Peanuts (I'm tired of writing "and products thereof", but yes, those too).


Including lactose, but not lactitol
Oh, by the way, Lactic acid isn't produced from milk.

Because peanuts aren't nuts.
See here.

Celery, Mustard, Sesame seeds

Sulphur dioxide / sulphites
BUT ONLY when at concentrations of more than 10 mg/L, which you shouldn't have in beer anyway.

I thought that was just plain poisonous?

(including squid ink - I'm looking at you, HardknottDave)

Here's the reference.

So what should that sticker on that cask have said? Well, if that's how the brewer chooses to pass on the allergen info, then "Made with Barley, Wheat" would probably have done it.  We just say it on our website.*

And does anyone need to declare / label Isinglass? No. Isinglass finings in beer are specifically excluded from the labelling requirement. You may wish to inform the consumer, but please don't say it's an allergen, because it's not.

And what has this got to do with Gluten Free beers?  If they're made with barley and wheat, but processed to remove gluten then you'll still have to label for those grains, but you'd also be able to label them "Gluten Free".
But don't say something like "Barley (gluten)  Gluten Free" - that's confusing, and the point of labelling is NOT to confuse the consumer.

*and, of course, on our bottle labels.

requirement for allergen information to be provided for foods sold non-packed or prepacked for direct sale - See more at:
requirement for allergen information to be provided for foods sold non-packed or prepacked for direct sale - See more at:
requirement for allergen information to be provided for foods sold non-packed or prepacked for direct sale - See more at:
requirement for allergen information to be provided for foods sold non-packed or prepacked for direct sale - See more at:

Friday, September 04, 2015

Cows, magic beans, etc.

A cash cow on a hill of beans, earlier.
"Dad! Dad! Tell us about the brewpooch shares and the Asset Matcher, please?"
"I'm sorry kids," said the nice Woodsman, "that's far too complicated a story for your young heads,  but I'll tell you the story of the cows and the beans. And then you must go to sleep, you rascals."
"Once upon a time, a group of feeble-minded sons of poor widows agreed to meet up.  It so happens that they'd all swapped cows for magic beans. Now, some of those widow's sons had many more magic beans than they knew what to do with, while others felt that more beans would be a good thing and so brought additional cows with them to the meeting, in the hope of making more swaps.  So the meeting hall filled up with sons, cows and beans. And the doors were barred.

"Inside the hall (we're told) many swaps were made, many cows and beans changed owners, and everybody had a lovely time.  Some, who on that far-off day when they'd first heard of the magic beans, had only one cow, now had two cows!  Everybody felt they'd done well, and everyone expected to live happily ever after.

"The End."

The nice Woodsman stood up and snuffed the candle, "Now, you two, snuggle down and off to sleep"

"But Dad! What about the beans? Were they really magic?"

The woodsman shook his head, "We'll never know, for the widow's sons and all their cows and beans are all locked in the meeting hall, to this day".

"Good night!"

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

making beer is easy

"Thing is, making beer is easy." He knocked his glass emphatically against the looming t-bar. Ignoring the gaffer's raised eyebrow he slurred on, "This stuff, all this lit-up bollocks, all this marketing shite, dressing it up. There's nothing to making beer. Piece of piss. Easiest job I ever had. I mean, what do we do? It's just cooking isn't it? Not f-ing haute cuisine. Big pan of veggie soup is all. My gran used to make yoghurt in her airing cupboard. Same thing really. Rubbish at cakes. Lovely pastry. Shortcrust. Makes you wonder how so many people fuck it up. Other hand, some of it is on another fecking level."