Monday, December 29, 2008

Research causes Cancer in rats.

I read the other day that :
"Pint of beer raises cancer risk by fifth, says expert"
The expert - is someone from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF). A highly reputable body, I'm sure.

Now what does that mean? it sounds bad - like that's going to increase my chances of getting cancer by 20% right? So that's from what, 80% to 100% or something? How can I (as a beer producer) live with myself? It turns out that they're talking about bowel and liver cancer. I'm mainly interested in bowel cancer (I have my reasons) so let's try to figure out what my odds of getting such a thing are. According to these guys, as a man I have something like a 1 in 18 chance of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer at some point in my lifetime. I'm not saying that's trivial - it's vastly higher than my lifetime chance of winning the UK National lottery jackpot so I should really be taking it more seriously than that (and yet oddly, the BBC don't have a big 50 minute primetime show about bowel cancer - go figure).

Anyhoo -raising my risk of colorectal cancer by a fifth is like saying I have a risk of 1.2 in 18 (am I right?) or about 1 in 15.

If you're interested in the WCRF, you might like to note that in the summer they said that sausages are even worse than beer.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas is coming...

Well, that's it - the cards for our customers are in the post. "Customers"? - actually that's a bit weak - but something like "valued retail partners" sounds a bit creepy. Anyway - you know who you are - thanks, and keep the orders coming.

Since our first brew in July, we've done a lot of work on our Stout, which went from 4.0% to 4.5%, got a proper name
("Dry Stout"), pump clip and lots of compliments. That said - we've come to the conclusion that it worked better at the lower strength, although some of the minor tweaks we've made have been positive. Accordingly (fanfare), I'm happy to announce (drum roll) the imminent return of "No. 2 Stout".

Our strong beer (the 6.5%) "Genuine Stunning" turned out really well. The good news is that we haven't sold it all yet - so some can can go forward into our "Ageing Program" which will allow us to produce some proper blended beers over the next few months - I feel a proper porter coming on - watch this space.

We're now producing a golden ale - called "Golden" - this was an experiment for us. We find a lot of these modern pale ales rather samey - grapefruit (or at least citrussy) aromas and often pithy or astringent in the mouth, sometimes with a sort of musty, dusty malt taste. Or if they're not like that - they can be rather faint or even watery. (See - I'm really not keen.) That said - I appreciate why we have them - hoppy, sessionable, quenching, popular and economical. All things I'm in favour of. So we decided to try to tick those boxes, without brewing a cliché. The idea was that it should be easy to brew, easy to sell, and easy to drink. Well - it's turned out to need just as much care as any other beer (of course) - and 4 separate hop additions, throwing Goldings into our usual blend. But we've got what I wanted - a pale gold ale with a hoppy niff (not grapefruit), tasty, with a balanced bitterness which leaves room for a couple more. It seems to be going down well. I actually like it - which is as it should be.

What news of the Best Bitter? I hear you all clamour. Well - we've increased the hopping across the board by 10%. That doesn't sound much - but it's enough to lift the beer quite noticeably. We were really surprised at how much difference it has made - not so much to the late bitterness (we didn't want it too long) but the nose is more distinct (still quite soft - which is good), and there's more hop in the mouth. Becky really likes this now.

"How do you come up with names for all your beers?" Is a question that we don't get asked. Our cunning plan was fiendishly simple: The regular beers were to be named for their style, so we'd have "Dry Stout" and "Best Bitter" - the first few (test) brews were numerical, which gave us "No. 1 Bitter", "No. 2 Stout" and "No. 3 Bitter". There was almost "4F" (don't ask).
It's a combination of marketing sense (oxymoron?) - the brand is "Stringers" not Old Cowtilter (or whatever) and a pet peeve - what kind of thing is Stunned Mullet? (that's a real name from the past - not our past of course). If I go up to the bar and see a clip (and it just had to have a picture of a fish with a bad haircut on it - you know it did) what's it going to be? Dark? Light? Bitter? Mild?

Of course, simple plans never work out. The seasonal beers, which tend to the historical, need to be distinguished, it looks like "No. 2 Stout" is to be a regular and I want to shoehorn a lower strength bitter in to the range but I don't know what to call it. I've fond memories of Brakspears "Ordinary" - at least that's what it was called, it's name seems to be "Bitter". Which seems a bit terse, even for me.