Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1944 Tetley Mild

Yet another beer from 1944 for your delectation. Even better, it's a mild. Even better that that, it's from Tetley.

The history of Tetley Mild during WW II is an odd one. Introduced early in the war to replace the three Milds that they had brewed before the war. What’s strange is that, introduced at 1032º, by 1944 the OG had risen to 1034º. An increase in gravity is the last thing I would expect to see in the later war years.

The grist is, however, clearly showing the effect of the war. Pre-war, Tetley used grits in some of their cheaper beers. By late 1941, this had been replaced by flaked rice. Which in turn was replaced by flaked oats in 1943. In 1944 this was supplemented by flaked barley, which was a universally used adjunct by the end of the war. Flaked barley continued to be a common ingredient until the early 1950s when flaked maize became easily obtainable.

The malt and adjuncts were complemented by three types of sugar: E.R.C., Barbados and G & S caramel. As I haven’t the slightest idea what E.R.C. was, I’ve substituted No. 1 invert. I’ve no idea how accurate this is.

As was usual by this point in the war, all the hops were English: Kent from the 1940 (kept in a cold store) and 1942 harvests plus Sussex from 1941. All quite old and none at all from the most recent season.

1944 Tetley Mild
pale malt 5.25 lb 69.91%
flaked oats 1.00 lb 13.32%
flaked barley 0.25 lb 3.33%
No. 1 invert sugar 0.67 lb 8.92%
brown sugar 0.25 lb 3.33%
caramel 2000 SRM 0.09 lb 1.20%
Fuggles 120 mins 0.25 oz
Fuggles 90 mins 0.25 oz
Fuggles 30 mins 0.25 oz
OG 1034
FG 1004
ABV 3.97
Apparent attenuation 88.24%
IBU 10
SRM 15.5
Mash at 151º F
Sparge at 165º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 63º F
Yeast Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire Ale

Many, many more recipes (though not this particular one) are available in some of my recent books:

 Like Armistice!, for example.

Recipes, recipes, recipes: 

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

I’m going home

I awake with a thirst. And the sight and smell of the debris of last night’s room service. I could really do with something other than tap water to drink.

Crappy American bogs. Turning my grillox into bouncing bombs, skimming over the water. Disgusting. Am I the only person who has this problem?

After drying my bollocks, I pull on my kecks and walk outside in search of a vending machine. Pulling the room door shut behind me. Only when it’s closed do I think to check my pocket for the key card. Damn. It’s still inside the room.

Nothing for it but to toddle down to reception and ask for another key card. Luckily I don’t have to queue and the bloke behind the desk isn’t weird about giving me another key. He did check me in yesterday, mind, and seems to remember me.

Relief washes over me like a stream of warm piss down the leg while showering. Then I remember that I forgot to buy a drink. Fuck. I trail back downstairs. I’m getting some exercise, if nothing else.

I’ve arranged for a late check out as my flight isn’t until after 5 PM. My arse not being in the mood for running itself around town, I watch a couple of episodes of Fixer Upper to run down the clock. While finishing off the remains of my room service meal. I hate waste.

Next thing I know, I’m in a cab gliding along the freeway, airport bound.

I check in at the kerb (which they oddly spell “curb” over here) again. As my little grey trolley disappears down the belt, I pray that it makes it home OK. Especially as it holds the kids’ whiskey. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to that. I can imagine their little heartbroken faces as Dad tells them there’ll be no whiskey.

The selection of refreshment opportunities is surprisingly poor at Atlanta’s international terminal. I’m tempted to try one of the domestic ones, but I really can’t be arsed. Just too much messing around. So it’s Jekyll Island Seafood or Belgian Beer Bar. I don’t think the Belgian place does food. And I want to eat something substantial before boarding. Jekyll Island it is, then.

I check the menu before entering. Just to make sure there’s something I fancy eating that won’t leave my children destitute.

With no room at the bar, I sit at a high table next to it.

“I’ll eat later. How much is a neat double Jim Beam?” I ask the waitress.

“I’ll have to check. Most liquors are $9 to $ 11, but you get a dollar off for a double.”

“A double Jim Bean, no ice, then, please.”

What do I want to eat? Something fairly substantial, but not too heavy. A shrimp burger sounds nice.

“Could I have the shrimp burger, please?”

“We no longer have that,” my waitress replies, “would you like something else?”

If they don’t sell it anymore why the fuck don’t they take it off the menu?

“I can recommend the fish sandwich.”

“OK, I’ll have that.” I can’t be arsed to search through the menu again. And, after all, isn’t a shrimp burger a sort of fish sandwich? “And another Jim Beam, no ice, please.”

When I’ve spent about as much as I can afford, I transfer myself to a seat by my gate. Powering up my laptop and getting stuck into some more Taskmaster. It’s an excellently mind-freeing way of whiling away time.

I bundle my way onto the flight early again, arranging all my shit at my seat. No need for that blanket. I’m naturally sweaty enough to generate my own heat.

When the trolley comes around I grab myself a wine, but I’m already getting dozy. Before I know it the land of nod is making me its king.

I awake to see that it’s already light outside. And that I’ve missed both meal services. I couldn’t give a toss about that as it means I’ve had at least four hours of proper sleep. I’ll take that over a couple of shit airline meals any day of the week.

Waiting for my bag continues to be anxious time. Will the little fucker pop out this time? I see people I recognise from the flight flicking their bags off the belt. Bastards. I’m still a bit dozy. But yes, there it is, that scruffy little anonymously grey trolley bag. Without damp patches, too! Result.

I drag my sleepy arse off to the 397 stop. Ignoring the illegal taxi touts who are still waving their self-made “Official taxi” signs.

Something’s changed when I try to change to the 15 at Haarlemmermeerstation. Where’s the 15 stop? The usual lane is blocked off, and the stop where I just got off has a GVB sign saying it’s not in use. Bugger. Where does it stop now? I can’t be arsed to look. I’ll just walk it. Only ten minutes. Though I do feel totally knacked.

Odd completing the journey’s final leg on foot.

Jekyll Island Seafood Restaurant
6000 N Terminal Pkwy,
GA 30320.
Tel: +1 404-209-0907

Monday, 17 June 2019

Back to Atlanta

I’ve had few breakfast so far. For various reasons. Mostly because I’d have to pay for one in the hotel. Or simply that I haven’t been in a hotel.

Today is an exception. The breakfast room is on the 20th floor, with panoramic views of Raleigh. Two eggs over easy, bacon, spuds and coffee. Some fried mushrooms, black pudding and tinned tomatoes would improve it. But it’ll do for now. At $8-odd, the values isn’t bad for a hotel.

Stuart is picking me up at 10:30. It’s been fun spending some time with him the last few days. His daughter was a good laugh, too.

On the way to the airport he tells me how his business has been affected by an increase in aluminium prices prompted by a rise in the import tariff.

“I can’t pass on the increase, so I’m having to eat the extra cost. It may be only a cent or two per can, but it adds up.”

I check my bag in at the kerb. A pretty handy feature of some US airports.

I grab a soft drink in a shop, then orientate myself. Where’s my gate? And where’s the closest bar to it? There’s my gate and that looks like some sort of hospitality just beyond it. Whiskey River? Now that just sounds perfect.

I can’t squeeze in at the bar. I sit at a long table flanked by barstools adjacent to it.

”No, I don’t intend eating. A double Jim Beam, no ice, please.”

My airport bar whisky choice has changed, you might have noticed. No longer Jack Daniels. Why, I’ve no idea. Like those young people, I just changed my preference randomly, just for the sake of it. Doesn’t make me feel any younger, though.

Why do they have one of those electric bucking bulls? And why are all the seat backs made of cow hide? I thought the theme was whiskey, not western?

A couple of Jim Beams later, I ask for the bill. Wow! Only $11.99 a double. Dirt cheap for an airport. I’d have had another couple if I’d known they were that cheap.

In Atlanta I wait at the carousel nervously. Will my bag appear? The experience last week is making me mistrust baggage handling. I can do without extra concerns when I travel.

A taxi takes me downtown again. It only seems like a few days since I was last here. Hang on – it is.

I remember from a previous visit that there’s an offie on Peachtree. I nip there to get the kids’ bourbon. God, they have some expensive whiskey in here. I’m glad I checked the back of the first bottle I chose. That bugger was $99.99. I don’t love the boys that much. $30, tops. I settle on Jim Beam Repeal Batch, at a far more reasonable $25.99. No point going crazy. They’ll only drink it, anyway.

I’ve arranged to see John Roberts at Max Lager’s again. It’s close to my hotel, I’m a lazy bastard. And it’s always fun chatting with John.

Remembering what happened last time, I head straight upstairs. Sure enough, John is there waiting. Who says you never learn anything new after a certain age?

Unfortunately John can’t stay long., having another appointment. After he’s gone I drop down to the bar below for a couple more drinks and some food. It’s about time I ate, having fasted since breakfast. I wolf down a steak. Dead good, it is.

Back in my room, I’m feeling peckish later in the evening. And do something I never do: order room service. Pulled pork sliders and chips. It’s the first time since day two that I’ve had more than one meal in a day.

My stomach is back to normal. Great. Just in time for me to leave. Thank you gut. You vindictive, spiteful bastard. I hate you. Just wait until we get home. Then you’ll be punished.

Whiskey River
Terminal 2, Gate D14,
Raleigh-Durham International Airport

Max Lager’s
320 Peachtree St NE,
GA 30308.
Tel: +1 404-525-4400

Sunday, 16 June 2019


I keep finding stuff that I forgot that I had. And have never looked at properly. That's the problem of going crazy snapping old documents. You end up with thousands of photographs.

The document in question is LMA/4453/D/08/010, held at the London Metropolitan Archives. It's a brewing record, but I've no idea where it's from. It's in the Whitbread archive, but I'm pretty sure it's not Whitbread. The brewhouse names aren't right.

Even worse, it seems to be miscatalogued. According to the archive's website, the LMA/4453/D/08 records are the notbooks of F.G.S. Baker.  But going deeper into the catalogue, the notebooks all have LMA/4453/D/07 number. LMA/4453/D/08/010 I can't find anywhere in the catalogue. Brilliant.

It's ll a bit of a mystery. They look like records from another London Porter brewery. But a second division one, as the batch sizes are 400-500 barrels. About half that of Whitbread's.

That's all irrelevant, really, as it's not the brewing records themselves that caught my eye, but a couple of pages at the back. Where it lists the beer in vats. Not just that. It shows the dates when the vats were filled and when they were emptied.

It shows that Porter was being vatted for betweeen 3 and 8 months. Which is surprisingly variable.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Let's Brew - 1944 Fullers BO

Continuing with my 1944 theme, here's another Fullers recipe. This time something a little stronger.

What would you do if you were a dedicated Best Mild drinker at the start of the war and were pissed off by the reduction in its strength? Switch to Burton.

By 1944, Fullers standard Burton, BO, was looking very similar to pre-war XX. Not so great if you’d been a Burton drinker, as its gravity had been reduced by around 25%. As BO was always part-gyled with XX and X, the recipes were obviously identical.

I wonder how many drinkers traded up like this? It seems that many Porter consumers switched to draught Stout after WW I. Post-war Stout being very similar in nature to pre-war Porter. You can see here how the balance between two change pre- and post-WW I:

Whitbread Porter and Stout 1914 - 1920 (barrels)
Year Porter London Stout Total
1914 123,085 13.67% 198,806 22.07% 900,636
1921 15,688 2.32% 133,563 19.77% 675,647
Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers LMA/4453/D/01/079, LMA/4453/D/01/086, LMA/4453/D/09/108 and LMA/4453/D/09/114.

Burton remained a mainstream beer, which is reflected in the batch sizes which were usually around 100 barrels. Smaller than those of X, which were 250 – 400 barrels, but around the same size of those of XX.

1944 Fullers BO
pale malt 8.25 lb 80.49%
flaked barley 1.50 lb 14.63%
glucose 0.25 lb 2.44%
caramel 1000 SRM 0.25 lb 2.44%
Fuggles 90 min 1.00 oz
Fuggles 30 min 0.75 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.50 oz
OG 1044
FG 1011
ABV 4.37
Apparent attenuation 75.00%
IBU 23
SRM 19
Mash at 147º F
After underlet 150º F
Sparge at 168º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 62º F
Yeast WLP002 English Ale

Many more recipes (though not this particular one) are available in my excellent book, Let's Brew:

Friday, 14 June 2019

Around Raleigh

With nothing planned today, I have a lie in.

I eventually roll myself out of bed around 10:30, putting on the TV and cracking open an 1804 Barclay Perkins TT. It’s great to have the chance to drink some at my leisure. All a bit rushed while I was presenting. Plus I had other things to concentrate on. Like what the hell I was going to say next.

I’m still enjoying some of Mike's Porter when I get a message from Stuart: do I fancy some lunch? Hell yes. He’ll be around to pick me up in about 30 minutes. Which should give me time to polish off another bottle of Porter.

We toodle on down to Flying Saucer, which is just over the road from my hotel. Because of parking difficulties, we end up having to walk as far from the car as we would have from my hotel.

Inside it looks very much like the Flying Saucer in Houston. Which I guess is the point of pub chains. It’s not very full – more staff than punters.

“What can you recommend that’s local and isn’t full of weird shit or sludgy?” I ask Stuart, who makes a few suggestions. I plump for a Duck Rabbit Oyster Stout, which in the wacky world of modern beer passes for staid and boring.

Not having had any breakfast, I’m ready to eat. I get a Reuben sandwich. Not I imagine, that that will be of much interest to you.

I’ve only had two beers, when Stuart asks if I’d like to go somewhere else. As it’s past two, some of the other breweries will be open. Raleigh’s too small a city for there to be much of a lunchtime trade.

Raleigh Brewing is our next stop. A fair-sized production brewery with an attached tap. Thankfully, it’s air-conditioned. Outside the pavement is melting. Or at least that’s what it feels like. Maybe it’s just my feet. So hot it’s painful to be outside.

“What would you like to drink,” Stuart asks, “the Porter is fairly normal.”

“That’ll do.”

I’ve drunk a lot of Porter so far this trip. Not complaining. IPA can get so fucking boring. The only reason I ever drink it in the US is because it’s relatively novel to me. I rarely touch the stuff back home.

Stuart spots a clutch of brewers at another table and wanders over for a chat. It turns out that we’ve just missed the governor, who was here to celebrate the raising the self-distribution cap from 25,000 to 50,000 barrels.

I get chatting with Todd Ford from Noda Brewing in Charlotte. A very pleasant chap, who seems genuinely interested in the beer history I spout at him. Interested enough to buy a couple of books. Yippee! He's off to the UK soon and I recommend some good cask ale spots in London.

My next beer is a Session IPA. A perfectly respectable – and quite normal – beer. It has to be my last. Stuart has a meeting and needs to shoot off.

I’m on my own this evening, which will give me some time to wander a little in downtown Raleigh. Only after getting stuck into some more of Mike’s Porter. I’m really starting to get a taste for the 1804 TT.

When I venture outside a 6 PM, it’s still hot. Way too effing hot. How do people stand a whole summer of this? Just as well I don’t have far to walk. There’s a beer spot even closer than Flying Saucer: State of Beer. Which is a bottle shop with a bar and a few seats outside for on-premises boozing.

Despite my hotel being downtown, the street has some pretty small two-storey houses on it. This is no metropolis. It goes from downtown high-rise to suburban housing in half a block. Nothing wrong with that.  It’s nice to get to smaller places sometimes. Most of my time in the US is spent in larger cities.

I get myself a beer inside and wander out to find a seat. Oh no. It’s a sludge beer. Damn. I knew I’d slip up eventually. Differentiating sludge and non-sludge beers can be tricky using the name alone.

It doesn’t taste that bad. Sure, there’s an orange-juice thing going on, but it could be worse. At least it’s full of boozy goodness.

I’ve got a sandwich, too. Well, a wrap. I suppose that’s a sort of sandwich. With a little jar of chick peas as a side.  Little being the operative word. There can’t be more than 30 chick peas. They do taste nice, mind.

I can’t finish my sarnie, nice as it is. I wrap the remainder and stick it in my bag. I’ll finish that back in my room.

The sun has now set. It’s warm, but not crazy hot. I can cope with this.

There’s a weird mix of runners – all toned muscles and trainers – and fat bastards like me. So I sort of fit. Oh, I get it. There’s a running shop next door. All the fit-looking people must come from there. Munching salads every one of them

There’s a bus stopped at the traffic lights. Like most I’ve seen in North Carolina it holds a single passenger. Not big on public transport down this way.

The trip is winding down. Tomorrow I’m flying to Atlanta, the day after, back home. Other than the stomach problems in Asheville, it’s been pretty good.

It’s very white here. Other than the black guy making the sandwiches. But that’s just generally true of the beer scene over here. In Europe, too, I guess.

Time for another beer.

Zillicoah Maple Baltic Porter
Can’t really smell the abomination of the maple. OK, I suppose. I’m surprised how many Asheville beers are on the tap list. I wouldn’t have named my brewery Zillicoah. Too difficult to remember.

I only have the two beers. But . . . With my hotel whisky all drunk, I decide to drop by Flying Saucer for a quick double bourbon. Purely for medicinal purposes.

Back in my room, the bed soon swallows me up.

Flying Saucer Draught Emporium
328 W Morgan St,
NC 27601.
Tel: +1 919-821-7401

Raleigh Brewing Company
3709 Neil St,
NC 27607.
Tel: +1 919-400-9086

State of Beer
401 Hillsborough St,
NC 27603.
Tel: +1 919-546-9116

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Asheville to Cary

Still worrying about today’s arrangements, I send Mike a message saying that Stuart is picking me up from the cabin. He suggests that he picks me up instead and that I meet Stuart at the brewery. It makes sense, as the cabin is pretty hard to find.

I have one of the apples that’s in the fridge for breakfast. Accompanied by one of the cans of Simpler Times Lager sitting next to it. Breakfasts have been few and far between this trip. Bacon even rarer. Probably better for my health this way.

Just before Mike arrives, John appears with one of his dogs to say goodbye. He's wearing a Mondo t-shirt.

As we’re on the short drive, Mike says: “People think it’s weird when I tell them I don’t want to get any bigger. Expanding makes no sense to me. I’d have to work more and brew beers I don’t want to.”

Being constrained by consumer tastes is a recurring theme amongst the brewers I talk to here. The public’s thirst – well, the beer geek side of the public, the majority still drink pale Lager – for just a few hyped styles is clearly wearing thin.

Stuart is already lurking outside Zebulon when Mike and I pull up. We go inside and Mike gives me a mixed case of 1804 and 1832 Porter. Both Barclay Perkins beers originally. TT to be precise.

It's a four hour drive to Raleigh. It starts in beautiful countryside, steep wooded hills flanking the motorway in lush green. You can’t tell just how hot it is from inside an air-conditioned car. It looks like it could be no warmer than a warm English day. Which is probably about as warm as miserable February morning here.

Stuart and I chat about beer, politics and Yorkshire accents - he's from the mining town of Maltby. How he’s adapted his accent, mostly for reasons of comprehensibility. I understand from my own experiences abroad. Not just in Holland, but also in the US.

When I lived in New York in the mid-1960s, I regularly encountered incomprehension. Despite having the mildest of accents.

We get onto the topic of public taste. “I had to rename my ESB to get people to buy the cans. They’d buy it in the taproom, but not in shops. I started calling it Carolina Amber and sales shot up. Though it does still say ESB in small letters.”

“It’s the same in the UK. Loads of Bitters – like Pedigree – have been rebadged as Amber Ales. It’s stupid. What the hell is an Amber Ale? It’s such a vague term.”

The journey passes quickly and pleasantly. Which is how I like my journeys to go down.

When I get out of the car at the hotel, it's like opening the oven door when I’m cooking Sunday dinner and sticking my head inside. Fuck me it's hot. I hope I haven’t baked my brains.

I rest for an hour - with some of the Mike’s Porter to help me relax. Then Stuart picks me up and drives us over to Cary, where Fortnight is located.

At the brewery, he gives me some cask-strength bourbon from wet barrels they got from a distillery. It puts some fire in my belly for the talk. I do love me some strong whiskey. It helps me whizz along behind Mike as he shows me around the brewery.

It’s full of the usual shiny things, interspersed with wooden casks and stacks of empty cans. There’s also a tub of hops that Stuart is deliberately ageing. 

So far, much like any other modern brewery. But Stuart also brews kombucha under contract. Which means he has some really unusual pieces of equipment, if you look closely. Dolores would be interested, as she makes the stuff herself.

Back in the bar, it’s time for a beer. Unfortunately, due to technical issues, there’s currently no cask. Which is a shame. Instead I try the Scottish Table Beer Stuart has brewed from one of my recipes.

It's pretty noisy in the bar so a couple of minutes into the talk, they rig up a mike for me. Saves me shouting.

I quite enjoy the talking bit. At least when people are paying attention. Which the ones close to me are. The blokes at the bar not so much. But I guess they’re here to sink a few beers, not listen to some old English twat drone on about Shilling Ales.

It takes me a bit over an hour to run through the talk. It’s been a while since I gave this particular one. I’ve managed to build up a nice little portfolio of lectures. Most, I’ve given multiple times. Though there is the odd one, like the History of UK Lager, which I’ve only done once. 

I’ll be presenting the Scottish talk at the NHC in Providence next month. I know from my last appearance that they’re really strict on timings at the NHC. You have an hour and you’ll be hoiked off at the end of that time. 45 minutes talking, 15 minutes Q & A. That’s all you get. This has been a good rehearsal. Telling me I need to tighten the lecture. I may have to prune the slides.

Talk done I get down to the serious business of selling books. And obviously chat with the punters a bit. I shift more than half of the copies of Scotland Vol II I have, plus a couple of Mild! Plus and Porter! That’s a relief. What remains is carryable by an aged weakling like me.

When it’s clear that I’m not going to sell any more books, I sit and chat with Stuart, a couple of his staff and some of the audience.

Getting peckish, Stuart suggests we head to the Abbey Road Tavern and Grill to eat. The burgers are dead good, apparently. And they have good food. I’m sold.

I have a burger. It is pretty good. And the first food I've had since the apple for breakfast. No wonder I’m feeling a bit pissed.

Sleep ambushes me without even the distraction of a Scotch.

Fortnight Brewing Company
1006 SW Maynard Rd,
NC 27511.
Tel: +1 919-342-6604

Abbey Road Tavern & Grill
1195 W Chatham St,
NC 27513.
Tel: +1 919-481-4434

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1944 Lees Bitter

Another beer from 1944 to bring back that D-Day feeling.

Five years of war have taken their toll on Lees Bitter. Mostly in the form pf a 9-point drop in OG.

There have been some changes to the grist. Most notably in the form of flaked barley. This wasn’t a voluntary change. Brewers were compelled by the government to use flaked barley in the later war years. It replaces a small amount of the pale malt, but almost all of the glucose. The proportion of invert sugar and black malt is much the same as in 1939.

The hops remain all English, but come from two different harvests: 1942 and 1943. Though the bulk – a little over 90% - were from the earlier year. I’ve no idea what variety they were.

The materials – malt, sugar and hops – for this brew cost £170 18s 8d. Which for 118 barrels, works out to a little under £1.50 a barrel. In a pub today, you’d be lucky to get a half pint for that amount.

Lees Bitter remained at this strength for the remainder of the 1940s, before being increased in 1950 to 1041º. Happy days.

1944 Lees Bitter
pale malt 6.75 lb 78.90%
black malt 0.01 lb 0.12%
flaked barley 1.00 lb 11.69%
glucose 0.125 lb 1.46%
No. 2 invert sugar 0.67 lb 7.83%
Fuggles 105 mins 0.50 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.50 oz
Fuggles 30 mins 0.50 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.25 oz
OG 1038
FG 1008
ABV 3.97
Apparent attenuation 78.95%
IBU 20
Mash at 149º F
After underlet 152º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 105 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast Wyeast 1318 London ale III (Boddingtons)

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Ambling around Asheville

Have a weird dream about a sort of historic Lager festival. Which bizarrely features Johnny Depp. Have a good long kip, mind. Thankfully the cabin has airco, which helps me sleep.

The walk downhill isn't as long as I feared. I say hello to the goats on the way. Already getting quite warm. Loads of funny bird noises and odd-looking birds flying around. While I wait for Doug, only the occasional car passes. 90% are huge pickups.

It’s hot. Very hot considering the altitude I’m at. Fortunately I only have a few minutes to wait before Doug turns up in his RV.

He’s an energetic retiree, who only acquired his interest in beer after stopping with work. Frustrated by the absence of fellow aspirant BJCP judges to study with in his immediate area, he decided to set up an internet group. He hosts regular webinars for the group featuring various experts. Today it’s my turn.

Usually his guests are remote, sat in their own homes. This time is very different as we’ll be sitting side by side.

The webinars kick off with a beer tasting and Doug hasn’t picked up our bottles yet. We head off to Appalachian Vintner to get some Sam Smiths Taddy Porter. It’s odd going there two days in a row.

We’ll be performing in a training room at White Labs. Doug is worried that we won’t have access to it until one, which would only leave us an hour to get everything set up. Fortunately we can get in at noon when we arrive.

Jo a very friendly woman, is our contact. “Do you need anything?” she asks.

“Glasses for our beer tasting.”

Good idea. I wouldn’t want to be drinking from the bottle.

Pablo, who works here drops in to see us. He tells me that he translates technical beer articles into Spanish. There’s a hard job. I know from my experience of translating German brewing texts into English just how difficult it is. Such a specialised and specific vocabulary.

Before kickoff, I get a beer. Well, two beers: the same Maibock fermented with two different yeasts. I can’t say I can spot a huge difference between them

Doug has never hosted a webinar outside his home. Setting up takes rather longer than expected. We’re finally ready just about on time, but when we listen back to a test, the sound isn’t right. Queue some frantic fiddling.

I’m giving a stripped-down version of my Zebulon talk. Aiming for it to last one hour rather than two. It ends up being not too far off. Then there’s a Q & A. I always enjoy answering questions, for some strange reason.

When we’re done, I finish off my lunch - Hansen’s Ferment Board. Cheese, cold sausage, pickled vegetables and bread made using their own beer yeast. A pickled egg too! The kimchi is nice, but not quite as good as what Dolores makes. She’s really got the hang of it.

Once we’ve got all the kit back into Doug’s RV, we go downstairs to the restaurant. It’s very modern and bright. But pretty cheerful. I like cheerful. Even when – unlike here – it’s also cheap.

Pablo and Jo join us for a quick beer. I can’t stay too long. I’ve arranged to meet Stuart Arnold, owner of Fortnight Brewing, and his daughter Ellie in Hi-Wire at 6:30.

Doug drives us there in his RV. The satnav keeps trying to guide us to South Slope, the old location. But I saw the new brewery yesterday. We parked right outside it when we went to Appalachian Vintner. It’s a couple of miles south of the town centre.

 “Type ‘Appalachian Vintner’ into the satnav”. I suggest to Doug. That does the job.

After half an hour of waiting, it hits me. They’ve probably been directed to the old location, too. Luckily, I have Stuart’s phone number. And Doug has a phone. We’ve soon sorted things out. Ten minutes later they appear.

Doug has to leave as he has quite a drive home. We say our goodbyes.

Ellie slaps me on the shoulder and says: “Let’s get some beer.” I’m warming to her already.

We grab a table outside. It’s hot, but at least there’s a bit of a breeze.

“I’m hungry,” Ellie says, “can we eat?” But Stuart has another idea: more beer.

They were at Zebulon earlier and tried all the Porters. “Which one did you like best?” I can’t help but ask. “Some of them are quite challenging.”

Ellie’s reply surprises me: “The 1750.”

That’s one of the ones I thought was challenging, due to the high degree of roast topped off with Brettanomyces.

We get a cab up to South Slope, where Ellie insists that we start at the Funkatorium, as she loves sour beer. (That explains her preference for the 1750 Porter.)  It’s the sour subproject of Wicked Weed. Stuart, as a small brewery owner, isn’t so keen. I can see his point. But he isn’t being an arse about it.

I have an Infidel Porter. I can't do the sour stuff anymore. Not even when my stomach is at its best. Just asking for trouble now.

“I’m hungry,” Ellie says, “can we go somewhere to eat?” It’s decided that Bhramari will be our next stop. Not sure if it’s meant to include a food element.

It seems to specialise in weird shit. Shit. Ellie insists that I get samplers of a couple of their beers.

“You’re not going to like them, Ron.” Stuart warns me. “Don’t try them just to be polite.”

I get two samples, just to be polite. The Good Fight and Molly’s Lips. The latter is a Black Gose.

“I’m not trying them just to be polite.” I say, being polite.” This Englishness will be the death of me.

The Good Fight is OK, so I order one. Ellie then gets herself a cocktail.

“I thought you really liked the beers here?”

“I do, but I need a cocktail.” Fair enough.

As we’re leaving the bar I hear one of the staff tell a customer that the kitchen is closing in 15 minutes. “Best be quick if you want to get some food.” I warn.

Her cocktail contains a weird glittery purple ice cube. Is that safe to eat? It must be, as Ellie is sucking on it.

No food is ordered. But Ellie is still hungry. If she was hungry three hours ago, she must be starving now. When we continue on to Thirsty Monk, it’s clear that food is definitively off the menu.

Stuart and Ellie both have a four-beer flight. I can’t be arsed to piss around with that level of complication at this point in the evening. I go for a Tricky Monk. For two simple reasons: it’s a straightforward Tripel. And full of alcoholey goodness.

Thirsty Monk was the first real beer place in Asheville, specialising, as the name implies, in Belgian beer. It recently added its own brewery.

Ellie says "I'm pissed."

"When you say are you speaking in English or American?" I ask.

She's bilingual. Judging by her state of wobbliness and lack of anger, I’d guess she’s speaking English. The fact she hasn’t eaten could have tipped it either way.

My Uber driver, hearing my accent, is keen on discussing Brexit. Not sure I am. I’d prefer to forget about the whole sorry affair. I mostly simply comment how crazy everyone has gone. And how glad I am not to be living in the UK

He struggles to find the cabin. Just as well I've been here before. I realise that he’s taken the wrong turning.

“You’ve taken one turning too soon.”

We retrace our steps and continue to the correct turn. Pretty obvious the last one was wrong. This road is far crappier.

I walk the last bit to the cabin. Harder than it sounds, as the darkness is near total. Thankfully I make it to the cabin without breaking my ankle.

Tomorrow's arrangements aren't 100% clear. Which worries me slightly. Best send out some messages tomorrow morning.

The last of the whisky speeds me down the motorway of slumber.

White Labs Kitchen & Tap172 S Charlotte St,
NC 28801
Tel: +1 828-974-3868

Hi-Wire Brewing - Big Top
2A Huntsman Pl,
NC 28803.
Tel: +1 828-738-2448

The Funkatorium
147 Coxe Ave,
NC 28801.
Tel: +1 828-552-3203

Bhramari Brewing Company
101 S Lexington Ave,
NC 28801.
Tel: +1 828-214-7981

Thirsty Monk
92 Patton Ave,
NC 28801
Tel: +1 828-254-5470

Monday, 10 June 2019

Lucid and mobile

I was prompted to consider my mortality again by a Twitter post of Rebecca Pate. Fretting about the Grim Reaper's approach when turning 35.

Consider yourself lucky to be so young, was my first thought. My second: you shouldn't be worrying about death when you're under 60.

I regularly have a birthday party. Once every decade: 40, 50, 60. The interval may reduce to five years as get further down death's highway. No point denying the inevitable goosestep of time. May as well embrace and attempt to smother it.

The exact moment, I'm not sure of, but there was a point, when, rather than seeing each year added as another milestone on the road to extinction, I began viewing my age as a cricket score. Each number added, a little victory.

I've knocked off 62. Like a nervous lower-order English batsman, at the crease early after the usual high-order collapse, I'm amazed to have got such a high score. I'm setting myself little goals. Not dreaming of a century, but determined to hit 70.

That's my current aim. 70. Lucid and mobile.

Memorial Day

I awake to total silence. Well, other than the air conditioning.

I finish off yesterday’s chicken sandwich from Gabe for breakfast. It still tastes pretty good. Probably much healthier than my usual bacon-heavy hole filling.

Stomach about as full as it’s been the last few days, I stroll down the hill, saying hello to the goats on the way again, to the house.

Inside, Kaycee offers me a cup of coffee, which I eagerly accept. While I’m getting my caffeine fix, we chat a little. I ask if they get coyotes around here, remembering the concern at Jester King about their goats. No, they don’t. But they do sometimes see a red wolf. And there are hawks nesting up by the cabin who sometimes attack their chickens. A black beer stole the goat’s food, too. Having animals like that around would really freak Dolores out.

John drives us to Appalachian Vintner, picking up Chris Whaley on the way. Noticing a tractor parked in his drive, I assume that it belongs to his wife Jessica, as she’s a farmer. It isn’t. Chris acquired it from his uncle.

Because it's a holiday, Appalachian Vintners is the only place open before 2 PM. A wine and beer shop, it also has a bar section where you can drink on premises.

Once we’re settled at the bar, John asks: “What do you think about hazy IPAs, Ron?”

I just roll my eyes despairingly, which gets a laugh. John can’t really talk. He’s drinking a mango guava vanilla lactose Berliner Weisse. I’m not joking. Someone really brews that abomination.

I peruse the tap list a couple of times, hunting something that isn’t sludgy or full of all kinds of shit. I settle on an Edmund’s Oast Bound by Time. A little hazy, but without lumps. A fairly straightforward IPA.

Fonta Flora Hulihe’e is my next choice. A bit hazy again, but pretty normal. Phew! Ordering beer in the US is getting to be a nightmare, if you want something that isn’t weird.

We have a few beers and chat. Can’t stay too long, though. I’m giving the Porter talk again a 4 PM.  I don’t need to be there quite so early today as everything was left from yesterday. I only need to plug in my computer and away we go.

Though there is some more gear to arrange as Art Whitaker, of Milk the Funk, is recording my talk.

Spotting someone wearing a Bierpallieters t-shirt, I ask if he’s been to their festival. “Oh, yes,” he says, “it’s wonderful.” He’s not wrong there.

Gabe has made me a sandwich again. She really spoils me. This time I manage to chomp down the lot. I’m obviously getting back to normal. Or somewhere close.

Since I’ve been over, I’ve been engaging in an email conversation with Doug Piper about a webinar he wants to do with me. For his BJCP study group. Once I would have baulked at the idea, but age has mellowed me. As has getting to know quite a few people at the top end of its hierarchy. We make arrangements to meet tomorrow.

I notice that the barman who served us in Appalachian Vintner is in the audience. What a small world.

It’s a smaller crowd today. Around 20. Things run much the same as yesterday. Except there’s a group that keeps speaking amongst themselves. I’m tempted to tell them to shut the fuck up. I’m supposed to have a monopoly on talking. But I’m far too polite.

Talking done, we go to Zillicoah, which is sort of a half brewery.  A fermenting house, really, as their wort is produced elsewhere. I’ve nothing against that. Whatever financial model works. They clearly have a great deal of control over the finished beer.

As is proved by the beer I get: Helles. One of the trickiest styles to do well. As a lover of Augustiner Helles, my standards are high. Only handful over here have been up to it. But this one is. Light, without being bland. And drinkable as fuck.

Giant corrugated iron shed is how I would describe the building. Sitting between railway tracks and the river. No great beauty. That’s all compensated by the large beer garden outside. Running down to the aforementioned river. Lovely.

We sit outside and drink a couple of Helles. This is fun.

“What about some tacos?” Mike asks, “There’s a food truck.”

I can cope with that. Not too heavy. We amble down to the truck.

Peering through the window, I’m impressed. They’re doing it the proper way. Cooking everything to order. Even the bread component.

The tacos are dead good. Really dead good. Tempting a stomach-challenged me to stuff my face.

We don’t make it a late one. Mike has me back at the cabin by 9:30. He has work and shit tomorrow.

I watch some TV while the fireflies flash neon green distractions outside.

And sip a somnambulant whiskey to hasten me to my dreams.

Appalachian Vintner
745 Biltmore Ave #121,
NC 28803.
Tel: +1 828-505-7500

Zebulon Artisan Ales
8 Merchants Alley,
NC 28787.

Zillicoah Beer Co.
870 Riverside Dr,
NC 28804.
Tel: +1 828-424-7929

Taqueria Muñoz
1438 Patton Ave,
NC 28806.
Tel: +1 828-412-3331

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Sunday in Weaverville

The phone rings about 9 Am. I’m sat, as always in my room, glued to my laptop. Would I like to come over for some brunch? Yes, I think I would.

It’s not far. The house is just across the driveway. And my guts have settled somewhat. I’ve already successfully downed a whole glass of water without needing to sprint to the bog five minutes later to puke it up.

Chris and Kirsten are an intriguing couple, having lived many years in Japan. I pick their brains a little as we nibble on eggs and bacon. Based on what they tell me, including Kyoto on my upcoming trip with the kids was definitely a good idea. They also warn of the summer heat, which I hadn’t taken into account.

Breakfast stays where it should: in my guts. Not all over the carpet, as I’d feared. Good start to the day. This is what it’s like when you get older. Simply succeeding to breakfast is a victory.

After brekkie, they drive me to the parking lot of an Ingles supermarket, where I transfer to Gabe’s car. A bit cloak and dagger. Though it makes practical sense. It means they don’t have to drive all the way to Weaverville.

Being a paranoid bastard, I want to be at Zebulon well before three when the VIP session starts. Lots can go wrong, and has done in the past. Even with a simple setup of just a laptop and projector. That’s why I carry a bag of cables with me.

Fortunately things go pretty smoothly. Leaving me plenty of time to warm up with some beer. What should I have? No contest. Warwick’s IPA is on handpull today.

I get myself a pint, obviously. With the softer carbonation, it’s even nicer than yesterday. If only you could still get this beer in Newark. Though maybe you can, as my school friend Henry made a version at his Cat Asylum brewery.

The draught beers, other than the handpull, are all different today. A set of Porters to accompany my talk, The Rise and Fall of Porter. Each beer demonstrating a phase in evolution of Porter, and dating from 1750 to 1922. Really looking forward to trying them all.

Mike has gone to a lot of trouble, getting different brown malts made for added authenticity. I said in a talk just a couple of weeks ago: “Anyone who tells you that they’ve brewed an authentic 18th-century Porter is a liar.” But Mike has. As he used 100% diastatic brown malt, something which isn’t commercially available.

Gabe has made me a chicken and cheese sandwich. It’s very nice, but I only manage half. I save the rest for later.

The VIP guests wander in. I chat with them and sign their books. Quite fun, really. I get to talk about beer to people who won’t drift off or tell me to shut up after two sentences (I’m looking at you, family.)

There’s an English bloke called Peter who owns a brewery in Asheville. He tells me of his struggles to get the locals to drink English-style beers. Why does that not surprise me?

By the time everyone has assembled, there are about 50 in the audience.

Mike kicks off proceedings with a short introduction. After which someone from local maltster Epiphany talks about making brown malt. It’s quite technical, but I find it interesting. Then again, I was mesmerised by a talk on keg fillers in San Antonio.

My contribution goes pretty well. I get multiple laughs, which is always a good sign. No-one falls asleep and no-one leaves. I take that as a big thumbs up. Especially as I’m on for two hours.

What I say isn’t pre-scripted. And, as I’m happy to take questions during the talk, can leap off on tangents. Loads more fun the wading through exactly the same shit stream. I’d get bored if I had to listen to myself endlessly repeating the same words. I really can’t understand how anyone can enjoy being a stage actor, saying the same stuff night after night. It would drive me nuts.

The Porters lubricating the talk are a diverse bunch, from easy-drinking to downright challenging.

1750 porter: 100% diastatic brown malt
1804 Barclay Perkins TT: 50% lightly smoked brown malt, 14% amber
1824 Adulterated Porter
1832 Barclay Perkins TT: 15% lightly smoked brown malt, 2% black
1849 East India Porter: similar to above but with 100 IBUs and dry hopped
1870 Porter: 12% lightly smoked brown, 7% black, 16% invert 3
1900 Porter: 15% unsmoked brown malt, 7% black, 9% maize, 15% sugar
1922 Porter: 10% unsmoked brown malt, 10% sugar, 1% oats 1.032 OG

I’m slightly surprised by the two I like most: the 1824 Adulterated Porter and the 1922 Porter.

The first is really a domestic recipe which contains harmless extra ingredients such as liquorice and capsicum. I really liked the extra dimension added by the liquorice. I understand now why some professional brewers started adding liquorice to their Porter and Stout after 1880. Has anyone else brewed a Porter with liquorice recently? I think not. Despite all the other shit brewers throw into Black Beers nowadays.

The second is a feeble Whitbread recipe that’s only about 3% ABV. It certainly didn’t drink as watery as it appears on paper. Mike reckons that it’s the high percentage of dark malts that give it a decent body. I could drink the stuff all day.

There’s the usual post-talk book flogging. And chatting with anyone who comes up to me. I’m a pretty open sort of bloke.

After a little winding down, Mike drives me to John’s. We drop off my bags in the cabin then amble down to John’s house, pausing to say hello to the goats on the way. We’re really out in the sticks here.

In the house, we meet John’s wife Kaycee and their unbearably cute daughter, who’s just about two years old. She gurgles happily as she toddles around the room.

Walking in, I noticed John’s massive record collection. He has even more vinyl than my friend Lucas. He tells me he pruned the collection when moving up from New Orleans, getting rid of 30,000 records.

Chris and Jessica arrive, too. Obviously, we drink some beer. I usually only drink American beer while in the US. But I can’t resist Abt and Aventinus Eisbock. Those beers are just so good.

We eat some takeaway Thai food, which is reassuringly fiery. Which perhaps isn’t the greatest for my still dodgy stomach. Luckily, it doesn’t object too much.

“Would you like to play Cards Against Humanity?” someone suggests. I’ve no idea what it is, but agree anyway.

Turns out it’s a really good laugh. Especially after a few beers. I can’t be bothered to explain exactly what it is. Look it up on the internet.

It’s quite late when John drives me up to the cabin. It’s not far, but it’s pitch black and the way uneven.

A sip of whisky strokes me into sleep.

Zebulon Artisan Ales
8 Merchants Alley,
NC 28787.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Let's Brew - 1944 Fullers XX

With all the fuss about D-Dy this week, I thought I'd publish a recipe from 1944. And what could be more typical of what was being drunk at the time than a Mild Ale?

Five years into the war and Fullers were still producing a stronger Mild, XX. It had lost 8 gravity points, but the gravity was still fairly respectable.

The grist was pretty much the same as in 1939. The only real change was the replacement of flaked maize by flaked barley. There was also a slight reduction in the proportion of glucose.

There were bigger changes with regard to hops. Not in terms of the type, as Fullers continued to use 100% English hops, as they had before the war. The difference was the quantity. The rate had fallen from 7 lbs per quarter (336 lbs) of malt to 5.25 lbs. That’s a reduction of 25%. Which is a bout in line with the reduction demanded by the government. In 1941, the quantity of hops available to brewers was reduced by 20%.

The reduction in hopping rate is reflected in the drop in (calculated) IBUs from 28 to 20. It makes XX look very much like the Milds I knew in my youth in terms of strength and bitterness level.

1944 Fullers XX
pale malt 7.00 lb 82.35%
flaked barley 1.25 lb 14.71%
glucose 0.125 lb 1.47%
caramel 1000 SRM 0.125 lb 1.47%
Fuggles 90 min 0.75 oz
Fuggles 30 min 0.75 oz
OG 1034.5
FG 1010
ABV 3.24
Apparent attenuation 71.01%
IBU 20
SRM 12
Mash at 147º F
After underlet 150º F
Sparge at 168º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 62º F
Yeast WLP002 English Ale