Monday, 25 September 2017


The word "adjunct" crops up regularly in beer geek discussions and I can't help but think that, as Inigo Montoya put it:
"You killed my father, prepare to die"
 No, hang on, not that one. I mean:
 "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
 "Adjuncts" seems to be used a lot to describe what I would call novel ingredients or flavourings. In The Handbook of Brewing Graham Stewart states in his chapter on adjuncts:
In the United Kingdom, the Foods Standards Committee defines a brewing adjunct as “any carbohydrate source other than malted barley which contributes sugars to the wort.”
In the notes for the Diploma in Brewing the Institute of Brewing and Distilling there are lists of solid and liquid adjuncts:
Solid Adjuncts:

Liquid Adjuncts:
Glucose Syrups
Sucrose Syrups 
Invert Sugars
Malt Extracts
So that's the sort of thing we're talking about. And note there's no mention of cacao nibs or dingleberries.  I suppose some of the strange things added to beer have some fermentability but I'm still not convinced that adjuncts is the best term for them.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Chew, chew, chew that is the thing to do

The difficulties of getting alcohol from a starchy substrate is one of the reasons that brewing is much more complicated than wine making. When the vital malting stage is factored in it's a long and involved process. Sake making doesn't involve malting but is just as convoluted.

There is however another, simpler, way of getting fermentable sugar from starch that is used to make Chicha de Muko: chewing grains and spitting them out. Not the most appetising way of making booze but saliva contains an amylase enzyme so the science is sound. I decided to give it a go.

I got a load of corn on the cob when they were reduced in the supermarket and separated the kernels.

Then I got on with the chewing and gobbing stage.

You're then meant to make balls of the chewed maize into cakes and leave them for a day, but I hadn't let the grains dry out enough so it was quite sloppy. I left it for a day and after that it smelt like it was starting to ferment already. I added hot water until the temperature got to 65°C to hopefully help any starch breakdown complete. This made things more dilute than I would have liked with a gravity of 1.020. I guess I should have heated the mash.

When it had cooled I pitched some brewing yeast and after a day there were small but definite signs of fermentation.

A day later they'd subsided though so I guessed it was time to drink it.

My first attempt at scooping out the liquid left me with more bits than a North Eastern IPA so I poured it though a sieve.

This gave me something that I wouldn't have to chew again. The taste was slightly sour and decidedly savoury. I had a couple of glasses which went down easily enough, but there wasn't enough alcohol to have any noticeable effect. I really should give it another go and try and make it stronger but I'm not sure it's worth the effort.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

We love to hate

Over at Boak and Bailey's they were recently pondering the stages beer geeks go through as their experience grows and their interest waxes and wanes. One thing not mentioned that I've been pondering for some time is that a love for something often comes hand in hand with a hatred for something else.

This is often seen a lot in politics, and in some cases quite rightly too, but the most hated enemy can well be someone that to outsiders seems politically close. In sport this is even more obvious, as being a fan of one football club in a city usually implies undying hatred of the city's other team. In the world of beer geekery the desire to link your enthusiasm for one type of beer to hatred for another, and even drinkers of it, seems common.

When I were a lad it was considered right and proper for CAMRA members to denigrate mass produced lager, but since then our mother church has gone more ecumenical and a papal bull has banned this. CAMRA itself, and CAMRA members, often get stick from a range of sources. And it's now become almost routine for some to dismiss craft beer fans as annoying hipsters.

Whilst a bit of friendly rivalry can be fun, needing to have an enemy is not without problems, particularly when people take things way too seriously.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Westvleteren 12

The first stop on the latest IBD study tour of Belgium was at the In De Vedre cafe, the only cafe at which the Westvleteren monks sell their beer. I had to try the Westvleteren 12 whilst I was there. Beer geeks have often voted it the best beer in the world, but I'd never had it myself.

It was good, and I'd happy drink it again. But is it the best beer in the world? No, nice though it was it's not even my favourite Trappist beer. It's rarity leads to over-hyping I'm afraid. So drink it if you find it, but don't fret if you don't.

Friday, 25 August 2017

A visit to Únětický pivovar

The last visit I organised for the Brewery History Society trip to Prague was to Únětický pivovar. I'd become a big fan of their beer on work trips to Prague, and previously scouted out the feasibility of a visit.

The brewery is in a glorious old brewery building:

The the actual brewhouse is surprisingly small nowadays:

So they still have space for a boules rink:

Once again there were lots of open fermenters:

And an awful lot of conditioning tanks:

And yes, we did drink some beer straight from them:

Sunday, 20 August 2017

The GBBF: give the little guys a chance

This year there has been a blessed silence from the choir of whingers that pipe up when the Champion Beer of Britain is announced. Instead in the blogosphere there has been a more measured discussion on the selection of beers for the GBBF. I must admit I didn't really pay much attention to what beers were on offer this year, which could be considered bad form. Though the reason I didn't peruse the programme closely was I was simply enjoying myself too much, so perhaps not all bad.

Some of the commentators on the Tandleman's blog post have been complaining that the beer selection was dull, and more exciting beers should be chosen. Marble Brewery, whose beers were not there this year, are also mentioned as a sign that beer from good breweries is not ordered.

I'm not so sure myself. Though CAMRA does indeed move in mysterious ways, I like that they try to be inclusive. Small breweries, that never feature in the lists of usual suspects, have a chance to showcase their beer at a national level. And take it from me, if you work at one of these small breweries this is proper exciting stuff. So at the risk of offending breweries that think they are entitled to a permanent slot, and beer geeks that want to see a 'best of ratebeer' selection, is say let the little guys have their day in the sun.


Saturday, 12 August 2017

How evil is evil?

Whilst over in London for the GBBF I had the chance to try Fuller's unfined keg Pride. Considering the lengths some craft brewers will now go to to deliberately make cloudy beer it was surprisingly bright.

Certainly if I was handed a pint of cask beer looking like that I might eye it suspiciously but I wouldn't take it back. The beer tasted like normal Pride, except it was colder and fizzier. And it cost a pound a pint more, so it's not something I can recommend.

There is also the doctrinal matter to take into consideration. As a keg beer, served using extraneous CO2, it's undoubtedly evil, but how evil? It's not filtered or pasteurised so I did wonder if drinking it is a venial or mortal sin. More work for the CAMRA theologians there. I took the precaution of saying an act of contrition and three Hail Protzes after finishing my pint just in case.