Friday, 6 October 2017

Ingredients seminar at Thornbridge brewery.

Last month I was at Thornbridge brewery for the British Guild of Beer Writers and Brewery History Society seminar on ingredients.

We were welcomed by one of the owners, whose name escapes me. 

He owns the means of production

By the time of the first speaker I'd got my notebook and pen out so I can say with some confidence that it was Mike Cable from Wild Beer brewery next.

He'd titled his talk about all the weird and wonderful ingredients they've used "Innovation in brewing adjuncts", which shows that misunderstanding what the term adjuncts means is now common.

The list of things they've used was quite impressive:
  • Brewing liquor steeped with kombu seaweed
  • Cherry tree branches, flowers, ground pepper corns and lentils in the mash
  • Cocoa nibs, fruit juices, barrel staves, mushrooms, cockles and oysters in the boil
  • In the cellar/infusions fruit juice, fruits, cucumber, beech leaves and fig leaves
I wonder what the hit and miss rate is though? It's fun playing around with strange ingredients but not all of them are going to work. He did say fruit juice can cause problems due to pectin and prolonged fermentation.

Jenn Merrick, ex-Beavertown and due to open a new brewery soon, was next.

We heard more about brewing with fruit from her. In fruit beers customers expect to taste the fruit mentioned on the label. The aroma compounds in fruits are very similar to those found in beer (esters, higher alcohols, terpenes, etc.)

Intact and broken down fruits have different flavour compounds. You need to prepare fruit for brewing:
  • It may be better to use a puree rather than juice. 
  • Crushed skins of citrus fruits are high in oils
  • Frozen fruits have the cells broken down
  • Dried or powdered fruits are also available
The amount of fruit should be limited so it provides less than 20% of the fermentable extract or it thins the beer too much. The beer may also need to be mashed at a higher temperature or have lactose added to give it more body.

Fruits have tannins and bitterness as well as sugar, which becomes apparent post-fermentation.

Currently "breakfast juice" and "milkshake" IPAs are popular but it's hard to balance fruit and hops in really hoppy IPAs. May need to drop almost all the bittering hops and add lots of dry hops.

It's best to add fruit to the conditioning tank to avoid microbiological problems and ethanol helps solubilise flavour compounds. No heating avoids loss of aroma compounds and prevents forming a pectin gel.

Hop companies are now doing extracts of hop and fruit essential oils.

Rob Wilson from Toast Ale followed. The company was founded as part of a campaign against food waste called Feedback.

For their beer a third of the mash is fresh surplus bread. The company is based on the following principles:
  1. Make fantastic craft beer
  2. Use as much bread as possible
  3. Communicate about food waste accessibly
  4. Donate 100% of the profits to Feedback
  5. "To change the world you have to throw a better party than the people and corporations fucking the world up".

They get the bread for free from sandwich companies and currently use a tonne a months. 

Some light refreshment followed in the form of a beer tasting with the Thornbridge head brewer Rob Lovatt.

Coritani at 7.4% ABV was labelled an Imperial English IPA and described as "Timothy Taylor Landlord" on steroids. It was made with Maris otter pale malt, crystal and Munich malts, Savinjski golding hops and a Yorkshire ale yeast.

Very nice it was too. Then it was Days of Creation, a sour red ale flavoured with raspberries. No hops were used at all in making it so the lactic acid bacteria can grow (the background bitterness beers pick up from the brewery give it 6 IBUs!). The beer was fermented as normal, then centrifuged and put in French wine barrels to which Pediococcus and Lactobacillus were added, and three months later three strains of Brettanomyces and fruit. The barrels are kept at greater than 15°C, but not too hot or Acetobacter growth is encouraged. Humidity is keep high to keep down evaporative losses (topping up barrels disturbs the pellicle).

The day having been started by a member of the capitalist class next was had an aristocrat: Prince Luitpold of Bavaria.

He also owns the means of production

His family ruled Bavaria for 738 years and had a monopoly on wheat beer for 200 years. The origins of the Oktoberfest are as a wedding party for one of his relatives. He owns a brewery and they brew to the reinheitsgebot and he passed round a book from shortly after it was written which details it.

I hope these are the right pages

He made that case that beer is made from water, malt and hops, and it's possible to make drinks with other ingredients but they are not beer. He'd brought some beer too, and I see from my notes there was an unfiltered lager with a bitterness of 22 IBU and Hallertau aroma hops. I seem to remember there was a wheat beer too but I have no notes on that.

I think it was lunch after that, as the next page in my notebook is my scribbled notes for the discussion panel I was on later.

Things resumed with Scott Williams from Williams brothers.

They've been making heather ale since 1987, the recipe based on ones used by various home brewers. Bell and ling heather are used, which flower for three months. Bog myrtle is also used which adds bitterness and astringency. All are added to the boil. Heather ale was written about by the Romans, and may be the origin of Asterix's magical potion!

Their spruce beer is based a viking recipe. Spruce needs to be new growth but pine is much easier to harvest.

Their elderberry beer is based on an old Welsh recipe and also contains bog myrtle.

They also do a beer with gooseberries.

The cask version of their heather beer has some hops added to extend its shelf life. The recipes are true to their historic nature but commercially drinkable, and "normal" beers help pay the mortgage (their Joker is the best selling premium bottled ale in Scotland). We got give an comic about the heather ale legend. I know a lot of beers have creations myths, but I think it is fair to say that this one does have a proper legend.

Carl Heron was crisp malt next to talk about adjuncts. Unfortunately I seem to have missed getting a picture of him so have a picture of Thornbridge brewery instead

Not quite up to Donnington standards
Now back to the adjuncts. Hammer milled raw wheat or barley can be used to make up to 20% of the grist in a lauter tun or mash filter (though it wouldn't work in a mash tun). Exogenous enzymes are still needed.

Maize needs to be cooked at 85°C with some barley malt. Rice is cooked at 75°C for 45 minutes.

Micronised grains are 'popped' and the cellular structure is disrupted by subjecting them to infra red light for 45-60 seconds. The "micro" comes from the wavelength of infra red light used (1.8-3.4 micrometres).

Flaked maize is torrified first and can be used to to 20% of the grist (more is high diastatic power malt is used). It give 328 litre degrees per kg (LDK) of extract and has a colour of 1.3 EBC and a maximum moisture of 8.5%.

Flaked rice micronised first, has 305 LDK of extract, negligable colour and a maximum moisture of 8.5%. Its neutral flavour can accentuate hops in beer. It can also  be used to to 20% of the grist (more is high diastatic power malt is used).

Flaked oats (micronised) give 292 LDK, 1.2 EBC and have up to 11% moisture. They be used up to make up 15% of the grist. They are high in glucans so improve mouthfeel and head retention.

Torrified cereals are subjected to intense heat by passing through a fluidised bed of hot air (750-780°C) for 30-40 seconds. The cell walls break down and the grain expands.

Torrified wheat has 310 LDK, 2.5-4.5 EBC and max. moisture 10%. It's usually used as 7% of the grist to aid head retention. It can replace raw wheat in wheat beers. It tends to give head positive proteins, but not haze positive proteins.

Flaked barley is torrified first. It has 308 LDK, 2.5-4 EBC and max. moisture 10%. It give a bit of an astringent bite to beer and aids head retention.

After that it was the discussion panel, and as I was at the time brewing to the Marx Beer Purity Law I made the case for pure beer. I was supposed to have the prince in support but he'd have to leave early. I basically said that most of the novel ingredients used were gimmicky rather than innovative, and the beers that you'll go back to for more are made with standard ingredients. My opposition were Rob Lovatt, who actually seemed to agree with me, and Jenn Merrick, who was prepared to accept the prince's point that some drinks shouldn't be called beer. So the discussion went rather well for me. I still lost the vote at the end though.

After that the business was over so it was back on the coach to the stately home and a chance to see the original Thornbridge brewery.


Then it was off to Froggatt for some climbing for me, sadly it was a bit of a wash out.

Monday, 2 October 2017

A visit to Rodenbach brewery

Day two of the IBD study tour kicked off with a visit to Rodenbach brewery. This was the one I'd really been looking forward to. Like porter brewers of old they still have masses of oak vats they mature beer in for two years.

We got to see the vats, lots of vats: 294 in total. But we didn't get to see the new brewhouse, which is a shame. They have a Muera mash filter and brew four to 12 brews a day, with a brewlength of 250hl. 17% maize is used in the grist, the malts being Pilsner, Munich, Vienna and cara. The grist is hammer milled in a wet mill. The mash kettle starts at 53°C for the malt, and the maize first goes into a  cereal cooker at 90°C. When the maize is added to the mash the temperature rises to 63°C and it is then stepped up to 73°C and finally 78°C for mashing out. Hops are added to 10 IBU (mainly for foam stability) at the start of the one hour boil.

In the Fermentation Vessels (750hl of wort in 1000hl cylindroconical FVs) yeast and lactic acid bacteria are added and fermentation is carried out at 21°C for four days before chilling. The beer then goes to horizontal maturation vessels for five weeks at 15°C.

Young beer can be sent to vats for maturation or used for blending.

They used their own maltings until 1975 and we had a look round that.

As well as seeing the old brewery. 

Then it was on to the vats:

It was like being in a Barnard drawing (though the Rodenbach vats are covered):

Thanks to Geoff Latham for the picture

The vats range from 120 to 650hl in size and they have over 12 million litres in maturation. The vats are steamed lightly after two years as the want to preserve the microflora (Brettanomyces and Pediococcus). Old beer is also mixed with young beer on each fill.

When vats are ready for blending after two years ten vats are blended at a time. Gas chromatography is used to measure fruity esters (ethyl lactate and ethyl acetate), and the taste is also assessed. Classic Rodenbach has 1/4 aged beer, Grand Cru 2/3 and Vintage is 100% aged. Some beers have fruit added (sour cherries, cranberries and raspberries) for six months after the beer has matured for two years.

The trip ended, as it should, with a tasting.

 Though it's not to everyone's taste I am rather fond of the Grand Cru so I did well at this tasting. 

Thanks to Richard Rees for the pictures of Rodenbach

Saturday, 30 September 2017

A visit to Cambie Hops and De Plukker brewery

The study tour of Belgium was timed so we could see the hops in Popereinge. Due to excellent work from the organisers we visited Cambie hops, which as well as the hops has the De Plukker brewery on site.

The hops are grown organically and are mostly English varieties, though Cascade is also grown and Centennial is being trialled. 

Cultivated using the German system you'll notice

The farmer seemed remarkably relaxed about Verticillium wilt saying if he gets a bad patch he will grub up the plants and replace them with a wilt resistant variety, but didn't think wilt persisted long.

The brewery was small, but more than ample for our modest needs, and it was good to taste beers made with the  hops growing only a few metres away. 

Thanks to Richard Rees for the pictures

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

A visit to De Dolle brewery

The first brewery on the IBD study tour was De Dolle. I can remember drinking their beer on my first beery trip to Belgium, which must be 20 years ago so it was good to eventually get to the brewery. It's a cracker too.

It was bought by the current owners in 1980, but the brewing kit dates back to 1921. It has a mash tun with rakes. Which is just as well, as they don't sparge, doing two mashes instead (first at 63°C for 60 minutes, then at 73°C for 30 minutes).

They have a coolship too, a bit of kit which cropped up surprisingly often on this trip.

There was a Baudelot cooler as well. Another feature that we saw quite a lot on the trip.

Doesn't Baudelot cooler sound much better than "radiator type cooler"

For a brewery of this size they have a well equipped lab, perhaps because they carry out  mixed fermenations: Lactobacillus is added to some of their beers on the second day of fermentation. This might be why they had a very peculiar looking fermentation (at 25°C+) going on in one of their open fermenters. There was no yeast head on the beer, but it could be seen fizzing away so there was certainly a vigorous fermentation going on. Weird it was.

The beer was good though, I really need to look more into brewing with Lactobacillus myself.

Thanks to Richard Rees for the pictures

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.