Saturday 28 February 2009

Let's Brew 1910 Fuller's Porter!

I'm posting this in response to a specific request. Fuller's 1910 Porter.

Before we begin, this is not the same recipe as the current Fuller's London Porter.

You'll note the many and varied types of sugar in this brew. I'm not 100% sure what all of them are. Maybe you should consult my earlier posts about brewing sugars. It'll save me having to do it. Here's part one and here's part two.

As a special extra treat, here's the fermentation schedule.

The original was brewed using the dropping system of fermentation. Here there's a description of Fuller's dropping system. I'm so good to you.

More recipes when I'm asked nicely/can be arsed.

Brewing the past

Time for another project. I haven't started one in days. Any guesses as to what it might be? The title may give you a hint.

You may have spotted my interest in beers of bygone days. Interest is putting it lightly. Full-blown obsession is more like it. I do my best to get a few old recipes brewed for me. But there are limits to how far I can take that. Some things are never going to fly as commercial beers. De Molen has a limited brewing capacity. I'm a lazy git. There are loads of reasons why I can only commission a few beers each year.

I've noticed that I get quite a few homebrewers reading my blog. (Mike: "You should drop that homebrewing shit.") Why don't I inspire them to brew old recipes? Seems like a perfect match. I provide the recipes, you lot do all the work. I can't see a downside. Apart from not necessarily getting to drink the finished product.

Project get-my-homebrewer-readers-to-brew-old-beers has already begun. The first recipe was posted yesterday. More will follow. As it's almost March Mild Month, expect loads more installments of "Let's brew Mild!"

It has crossed my mind to make it a competition. Bringing as many of these recreations as possible would be nice. But where? Dolores won't let you lot in the house. So no chance of holding it at mine. Maybe one of the festivals on the geek circuit like GBBF or Essen. Your suggestions are welcomed.

Friday 27 February 2009

Let's brew 1849 Barclay Perkins EI Porter!

I can hear Mike's groans. Yet more homebrewing shit. But, after the responses to my questions posting more recipes, it genuinely is by popular demand.

Barclay Perkins EI seems a good place to start, seeing as how I've already mentioned it this week. And one of you requested it specifically. This recipe is a sort of test. Mostly of my ability to rescale the details from a brewing log. Let's put the change in scale into perspective. The original batch was 1,451 barrels. Being honest, I'm not sure if the water volumes are correct. Feel free to pick holes in any aspect of the recipe.

[I've corrected the temperature of the 3rd mash which was incorrect in the intial version of this post.]

There are several details missing from the original log: mashing times, boil time, hop additions. I've made an educated guess on what these were likely to have been, based on brewing manuals of the period.

Hitchcock suggested beginning with a relatively low temperature for the first mash, 160 to 163º F, "the object being to go so low as to prevent acidity in the wort". The mash was left to stand between 1.5 to two hours, depending on the weather. The hotter it was, the shorter the time stood. (Source: "A Practical Treatise on Brewing" by Thomas Hitchcock, London, 1842, page 47.)

The second mash was at 170 to 178º F, again left to stand for 1.5 to 2 hours. The third mash was at 184 to 186º F, left to stand for 45 minutes. (Source: "A Practical Treatise on Brewing" by Thomas Hitchcock, London, 1842, page 47.)

Barclay Perkins were still mashing their Porters three times in 1849, though the process varied for different beers. TT, their standard Porter was mashed twice, then sparged once. The strong Stouts BSt and IBSt were mashed 3 times and sparge 3 times. The others, EI, Hhd and FSt were mashed three times and sparged once or twice for a return wort.

Roberts recommended splitting the hops into two equal halves, adding the first to the wort at the start of the boil, the second after forty minutes. In total, the wort was boiled briskly for 65 minutes. (Source: "The British Wine-Maker and Domestic Brewer" by WH Roberts, Edinburgh, 1835 page 281.)

As I said before, feel free to comment on the recipe. I don't really know what I'm doing. Any help will be much appreciated.

Truman's Ales 1831-1832

This week I finally ordered into directories the remaining photos from my last archive visit. A load of Truman's Ale logs from the 19th century. I thought I may as well take a look at them while I was fiddling around.

I've not spent much time on Truman's logs. Especially the Ale ones. There are a couple of reasons why. Most obvious is that I hadn't photographed many until recently. And their 20th century logs are a nightmare to understand. I can't even work out what type of beer most of them are for. The handwriting is often a problem, too. They only seem to have employed brewers with scruffy handwriting. Some entries are little more than squiggles.

Rather than attempt extracting everything from the logs, I've just gone for OG and hopping rate. For a couple of reasons. Most important of which is that I don't properly understand the mashing details. Boiling is easy. The logs don't give any details at all. Ingredients? Pale malt and hops. Not much to say about those. Occasionally there's a bit more, like EK or white malt. But not often.

In this period, Truman's naming convention was simplicity itself. A number of X's with sometimes a K stuck on the end. Except for Table Beer.

As you can see, they weren't brewing a great deal of session beer. Even the Table Beer had a gravity of about 1040. Take a good look at those OG's. Now think about IPA. Remember that old wives tale about IPA being a strong beer? Take a look at the table below. To be extra fair, I've only included IPA's that were exported to India.

The strongest IPA had a gravity of just 1070. That's weaker than every single Truman Ale, with the exception of the Table Beer. Which was the stuff they let their toddlers drink. Anyone out there still think IPA was a strong Beer? I bet there are. No amount of facts will persuade some geeks that what they believe is fantasy.

Getting back to the real topic of this post, what does the first table tell us? Firstly, that Truman had two parallel ranges of Ales. Those with a "K" suffix and those without. I don't think that I'm going out on a limb when I say it stands for "Keeping". The difference between the K Ales and the straight X equivalent is mostly the hopping. The grists, basically just pale malt, are the same for all the Ales.

X, with 4.5 lbs to 7 lbs of hops per quarter of malt, was the least heavily hopped. No surprise there. (The one with 14 lbs per quarter was party-gyled with XXXX, before you ask.) XX and XXX were both hopped at between 6 and 8 lbs per quarter, a pretty typical figure for the period. XXK had 10 lbs of hops per quarter and XXXK 14 lbs. XXXX was hopped at 10 lbs per quarter, XXXXK 14 lbs per quarter.

Gravities start in the low 1070's for X and go over 1100 for the strongest. It's pretty hard to equate such powerful beers with modern Mild.

If you're lucky, there will be more Truman archive Ale fun tomorrow. That's if I don't overindulge in cask Fuller's ESB tonight.

Thursday 26 February 2009

Historic recipes

Here's a quick question. A couple of quick questions, in fact:
  • would you like me to post more historic recipes?
  • is the format I use for recipes OK, or would you like it scaled down to 5 gallons?
  • which beers would you most like to see recipes for?
Mike, I know, I know. There's already too much homebrewing shit in this blog.

Another nail in that IPA myth

Thanks to reader Gary Gillman for helping me stumble across this one. I'm back to the "IPA was brewed strong so it could survive the journey to India" myth. It pisses me off so much every time I hear it repeated. I'm going to keep shouting the opposite until people start paying attention.

The following passage gives a very different reason for IPA being the strength it was:

"ALE, PALE OR BITTER; brewed chiefly for the Indian market and for other
tropical countries.—It is a light beverage, with much aroma, and, in consequence of the regulations regarding the malt duty, is commonly brewed from a wort of specific gravity 1055 or upwards; for no drawback is allowed by the Excise on the exportation of beer brewed from worts of a lower gravity than 1054. This impolitic interference with the operations of trade compels the manufacturer of bitter beer to employ wort of a much greater density than he otherwise would do; for beer made from wort of the specific gravity 1042 is not only better calculated to resist secondary fermentation and the other effects of a hot climate, but is also more pleasant and salubrious to the consumer. Under present circumstances the law expects the brewer of bitter beer to obtain four barrels of marketable beer from every quarter of malt he uses, which is just barely possible when the best malt of a good barley year is employed. . With every quarter of such malt 16lbs. of the best hops are used ; so that, if we assume the cost of malt at 60s. per quarter, and the best hops at 2s. per lb., we shall have, for the prime cost of each barrel of bitter beer—in malt, 15s.; in hops, 8s. ; together, 23s ; from which, on exportation, we must deduct the drawback of 5s. per barrel allowed by the Excise, which brings the prime cost down to 18s. per barrel, exclusive of the expense of manufacture, wear and tear of apparatus, capital invested in barrels, cooperage, &c., which constitute altogether a very formidable outlay. As, however, (his ale is sold as high as from 50s. to 65s. per barrel, there can be no doubt that the bitter ale trade has long been, and still continues, an exceedingly profitable speculation, though somewhat hazardous, from the liability of the article to undergo decomposition ere it finds a market."
"Ures' Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures and Mines" by Andrew Ure & Robert Hunt, 1867, Page 306

A word of explanation. "Drawback" was the money refunded to a brewer when beer was exported. The idea being that excise duty was only payable on beer consumed in the UK. It was a bit complicated in the period 1830-1880 because there was no tax as such on beer. It was the raw materials, malt and hops, which were taxed. Hence working out how much tax had been paid on a particular barrel of beer wasn't easy. So instead there was a simple flat-rate refund.

Anyway, what Ure is saying is that it made no financial sense for a brewer to export an IPA with a gravity lower than 1055, as he wouldn't get his 5 shillings a barrel back from the taxman. He implies that without this rule, the gravity of export IPA would have been lower.

I'm intrigued by his assertions that a Pale Ale with an OG of 1042 would survive the journey better and be more suited to the tropics.

Let's recap:
  1. IPA, at around 1060, was an ordinary strength beer
  2. it would have been weaker, but for the tax regime
  3. its gravity didn't help it survive the voyage
As I'm having trouble getting some people to listen, I'm going to continue shouting at you about the strength of IPA for some time yet.

Barclay Perkins EI

Brewhouse names and beer codes. You'll have noticed how they fascinate me. I spend much of my free time contemplating them. The most incomprehensible I've found in brewing logs are those of Barclay Perkins. I've not decoded half of them.

EI is one that had flummoxed me. Then this week I stumbled on a explanation. At least I think I did. I found a mention on the web of Barclay Perkins Export India Porter. It referred to a recipe in the Durden Park "Old British Beers and how to Brew them" book. Which is embarrassing. I own the book and hadn't noticed it.

First thought that crossed my mind was "I can't remember seeing an Indian Export Porter in the Barclay Perkins logs." Then the penny dropped. Export India = EI. It makes sense. As you can see in the tables below, EI was brewed to standard Porter strength. The main difference with standard Porter (TT - don't ask me to explain that code, either) was the hopping rate. As you would expect, it was greater for EI.

Now I only have to work out what Hhd and FSt mean. It keeps my brain active, I suppose, trying to work it out.

Oh, and that's another not-that-strong export beer. EI would have been in the range 5 to 5.5% ABV.

Wednesday 25 February 2009

A hundred years (almost) of Whitbread Mild

It's February, so time to continue my March is Mild Month series of articles. (Articles? Random bunches of numbers with the occasional bit of doggy opinion.) I'm not going to let my choice of Mild Month be dictated by anyone. Not even zealots.

I like to stay with fashion. CAMRA-bashing is currently de rigeur. I want to stay with the herd. . . . No, I have an issue with a piece of CAMRA dogma. Why is May Mild Month? What's wrong with March? Personally, I think there's room for two Mild Months. But what do the fat cats at CAMRA HQ say? "May is Mild Months". The blind, bigoted, trotskyite, reactionary, luddite, fanatical, purist bastards.

Glad I've got that off my chest. Back to Mild, a subject always dear to me. The tables below tell part of the history of Mild. From its heyday in the late 19th century to the sad days of the early 1970's. If you want to read the full history of Mild, why not buy Mild!, a book packed with Mild fun?

Pretty impressive drop in gravity, eh? From 1061º in 1881 to a low of 1027.6º in 1947. For those who still think IPA was a strong beer in the 19th century, I've come across plenty with lower gravities than 1061º.

Apologies for the inappropriate illustration. You try finding Mild labels.

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Early 20th century German lager

Looking back on recent posts, I realise I've been short-changing you on tables and numbers. This post will have little else.

It's been a while since I've written about anything German. Or lager. Both of those topics, as you'll have noticed from the title if you're paying attention, will be covered today.

Remember who I keep banging on about how beer styles mutate over the years? That doesn't only apply to Britain. Lager styles have changed, too, though not quite as dramtically.

What do I mean? Take a look at the gravities. The dark lagers in particular had higher gravities than today. But the the crap degree of attenuation left them under 5% ABV, despite having gravities over 1055. Modern dark lagers are quite different. Look below.

Modern dark lagers are below 13° Plato, yet have a tad more alcohol than 100 years ago. The gravity of Export has been whittled away even more. Increasing the degree of has maintained its alcohol level, too. In general, modern lagers are considerably more attenuated than their ancestors.

Imperial Mild!!!!!!

Finally, as promised, my Imperial Mild recipe. I'm so excited. Are you excited? This is finally it. When I reveal the full glory of Imperial Mild. Or XXXX as Truman called it.

I had to go back a fair bit to find it. All the way to 1832. There is a XXXX Ale in the later logs, but it's got a K stuck on the end. So XXXXK. As I understand London logs, not the same as XXXX at all. K = Keeping = Stock = not mild. This is a super-strength Mild.

Truman 1832 Imperial Mild Ale. That has a ring to it. I'd buy a beer called that. I'm sure plenty of others would, too.

So, recipe time. Yep. Time for the recipe.

It's funny when you have kids. Your perspective on the world changes. I might spend 30 hours a day glued to my computer, but I still do my best to give them the odd tattered rag of my attention.

Andrew: "Let's make a magazine, dad!"
Alexei: "Achey 47!"
Ron: "Good suggestion, Lexie. You can write an article on the AK47. And one on vodka."
Andrew: "WW I: Why it wasn't really that depressing."
Ron: "I'll write an Mild Mania! With a recipe for Truman 1832 Imperial Mild Ale. And more exciting 19th and 20th century Milds."
Andrew: "Brilliant, dad. That'll really draw in the readers."
Ron: "What are we going to call the magazine?"
Alexei: "%^&**&^%^$$%%^^&&!!!!"
Andrew: "Shut up!"
Ron: "Shut up! That's perfect."

Issue 1 of "Shut up!" will be out soon. When I've convinced the kids there's money in it. Just think Mild Mania! 150 years of Mild recipes. And Alexei's take on vodka. If you buy one homebrewing magazine/crazy comic/history book this month, it has to be "Shut up!".

Monday 23 February 2009

Alexei's Life

There's one rule you soon learn as a parent: don't favouritise one child. It can reach crazy proportions. Counting out the number of chips each gets, for example. Or getting the ruler out to measure the width of pie slices. Me and my brother were exactly the same.

Or a bit like the BBC. Where, for balance, Labour, the Conservative and the Lib Dems all get their say. You get the drift. It's Lexie's turn for an advert from dad.

I can't complain (though I probably will). Lexie has furnished me with reams of quality material. It's only fair that I push his book in return. Doesn't cost me anything, either.

So buy "Alexei's Life". A sad little boy is sitting at his computer, waiting. A tear is in his eye. You don't want to torture a poor innocent, do you?

You can find a button (courtesy Andrew) to heal his pain to the left.

Child labour

It's half term for the kids this week. Andrew was already complaining about getting bored yesterday. Before his holiday had even started. Big mistake on his part. "I know something you could do to keep you occupied, Andrew."

To be fair, Andrew was keen enough when I told him what it was he could occupy his time with: working on my books. Why was he so keen? Simple, I let him keep half of the money I make from the books. What we earned yesterday alone is a small fortune for Andrew.

One of the Mini Book volumes Andrew will be working on is "Decoction!". The printed copies arrived this morning. I'll start sending them out tomorrow. Andrew will put the "for sale" version together.

If you look at the book purchasing buttons to the left (also Andrew's work) you'll see one for "Andrew's Comic". This is one of Andrew's own publishing projects. I've reproduced the cover to the right. It would make his day if someone bought one.

More homebrewing fun tomorrow. Mike will be so pleased. He loves it when I post "homebrewing shit" as he call it.

Let's brew 1860 Truman XXX Mild

Not quite the Imperial Mild I mentioned yesterday. I'm working my way up to that. Just a Triple Mild, or XXX as the Victorians knew it.

Mild has changed quite a bit over the years. The beer below, Truman XXX Mild from 1860, is a typical strong Mild from the mid-19th century. Not many people today would imagine that Mild could have such a high gravity. 1087º in this case. You'll not that the beer is pale in colour, too. With half the grain bill white malt, it must have been pretty pale.

Before anyone brings it up, I'll apologise for the missing details. Truman logs of this period don't mention mashing times or boil times. In fact, the mashing details overall are a bit vague. I think I've manged to work out what little there is. The temperatures do look a bit high, though.

As a special treat, here's the log:

See if I've missed anything.

More tomorrow. Maybe even at last an Imperial Mild.

Sunday 22 February 2009

Let's brew 1920 Fuller's XX Mild!

Fiddling around trying to get page numbers into "Mild!" I got to read most of the contents again. It contains some information I've never published elsewhere. A collection of Mild recipes, for example. Then I remembered a broken promise.

Last year during Mild month I promised you some Mild recipes. I forgot and all you got were images of old brewing logs. So, as part of my March is Mild Month project, I'm finally fulfilling that promise of nine months back.

So here's a good example of a Best Mild from between the wars, Fuller's XX from 1920.

More tomorrow. I've done Best Mild. Maybe it'll be Imperial Mild next.

Saturday 21 February 2009

MIld! available for purchase

A second of my Mini Books is now available for purchase: Mild! Look to your left and you'll see that a copy of Mild! is just a few mouse clicks away.

It's taken a good deal of shouting to get it into a fit state to publish. I've been having terrible problems with page numbers. These have now been fixed. Though mending the broken family relationships it caused could take a while longer.

I'll be making the other books in the series available as they are published. Actually, a short time after they've been published. I want time to distribute the numbered copies first.

More books more

Books again. Bit of an obsession, books. Buying them. Publishing them. Books, books, books.

Just two arrived today. Dolores still isn't aware of the extent of my buying frenzy. Another dozen or so are underway. And no-one, NO-ONE, mention the Institute of Brewing and Distilling book auction to her.

Here's a quote from one that arrived today: "Shepherd Neame: A story that's been brewing for 300 years". It's taken from a letter to a publican about his returns to the brewery:
"The waste [returned beer] you sent back is not of our brewery and perfectly valueless to us. Therefore if you think it worth the carriage back, we will send it. If not, we must send it down the gutter. We have also to complain of the manner in which our last casks came home - hoops off and musty - and if the next parcel should come home in the same way, we must charge you the expense of cooperage, etc."
Those publicans, eh? What a bunch of crooks.

Friday 20 February 2009

Amsterdam Pub Guide printed version available now!

The title says it all. Literally.

I asked the question, several of you replied. A couple wanted printed books.

Once I knew your desires, I burst into action. "Andrew! You have to make my books available on Lulu."

"Daaad, I'm trying to learn French vocab."

"What's more important, Andrew? Passing some stupid exams and having a career, or pandering to dad's publishing delusions?"

Just look to your left and you'll see whose argument prevailed. I know you were after other books. My Mini Book Series ones. But there's more work in that. And Andrew has to sleep occasionally. For the moment, only the Amsterdam Pub Guide is available. But in two forms. Black and white and full colour.

If I cut his sleep down to three hours a night, I might get some of the Mini Book Series volumes available over the weekend. . . . Andrew! . . . wake up!

My publishing empire

I've just sent volume IV of my Mini Book Series off to the printer. The minibook project is continuing. It isn't one of those things I've forgotten about.

Volume IV is entitled "Decoction!", in case you'd forgotten. Rather a loose title, as the book doesn't only cover decoction mashing. It's packed full of central European beer fun. Really. Even Mike might enjoy some of it. I explained this to Mike on Monday evening in Wildeman.

"I'm getting another book printed, 'Decoction!'." To which Mike replied: "Sounds fascinating. But I think I'll wait until 'Trips!' comes out." "It's not just about decoction techniques, you know." "I still think I'll pass."

Ungrateful bastard.

What is the point of this post? I've been trying to work that out. Probably not what it was when I wrote the first paragraph. Andrew has been nagging me about the books again. "Why don't you sell them over the internet?" he asks. It's a good question. What do you think?

One thing is certain. Any books for sale won't be identical to the ones I hand out.

There are a couple of options for selling books. I could go the pdf route. You send me the money, I send you a pdf. If you wanted a hard copy, you'd have to print it yourself. An alternative is to make the book orderable from Lulu (the people who publish it). You pay them and they send you a printed copy. The profit is then passed on to me.

So many options. With my trademark indecision, I can't work out which is the best route. Please decide for me.

Thursday 19 February 2009

Internet books

Dolores had a shock today when six books arrived in the mail. I've been making a deliberate effort to improve my collection of brewery histories. But don't tell Dolores that. She'll go spare. I've already had the "where are you going to put them, Ronald" speech. I don't fancy getting the "we could have gone on holiday with that money" lecture just yet.

Today's arrivals were a mixed bunch. Two books by the Whitbread archivist. Both about Whitbread, funnily enough. "Whitbread in South Wales" and a pictorial history of the Chiswell Street brewery. Nice to see a mention of one of my favourite brewery company names: Evan Evans, Bevan.

"The Younger Centuries" is, by the look of it, a not particularly informative history on William Younger, published in 1951. I've just flicked through it. I found a couple of mentions of Edinburgh Ale. Maybe worth a couple of quid after all.

What I really wanted to tell you about was another modest volume. You're often not really sure of what you'll be getting, when you buy a book over the internet. You can't tell sometimes if it will be a gem or a dud. "The Story of Beer" this one's called. Sounds like a kid's book. But it was published by Truman, Hanbury and Buxton. The story of brewing is told through a tour of their Black Eagle brewery.

That's quite handy. I've Truman brewing logs for the period in question (the book was published in 1951). Brilliant. Now I've pictures of all the equipment and a description of how it was used. That will be perfect for the last chapter of my book.

Funnily enough, that wasn't what excited me most. The last third of the book is nothing to do with the story of beer. Not directly, at least. It's a list of all Truman's tied houses, organised by town. Why is that so fascinating?

Truman was a big brewery, at the time. But nothing like one of the national brewing groups that emerged in the 1960's. A London brewery, really. That's why the list of their tied houses came as such a surprise.

Here are some of the places that caught my eye. And the n umber of Truman's pubs they had. Remember, these all only tied houses:

Swansea 41,
Sunderland 11, South Shields 2, Newcastle 2, North Shields 1, Durham 1,
Wolverhampton 7, Brierley Hill 5, Nottingham 4, Coalville 2,
Barrow-in-Furness 4, Ulverston 3,
Ellesmere Port 3, Manchester 1, Liverpool 3, Exeter 2.

It reads like the football results.

Truman had pubs in almost every English and Welsh county. Why on earth did they have so many in the North East?

Wednesday 18 February 2009

St. Bernardus Prior advert

The kids have been learning how to edit video. I'm not complaining. It keeps them occupied for hours.

Mostly they create short dramas. But today Lexie asked "Daaad, can we film a beer advert?" Who am I to argue with such a wise choice of subject. "OK. As long as I can play Beer Man." It's the part I've been waiting all my life for. Finally a role I can put my soul into.

We decided to make an advert for St. Bernardus Prior. For no other reason than I was about to opene a bottle of it. Even though I say so myself, the bottle opening and beer tasting sequences are particularly compelling. Hypnotic, almost. Lexie's performance as Beer Yuck Boy almost matches it for intensity and raw emotion.

The final cut is, at four minutes, a little long for an advert. But there's not a second that could be edited out.

I'm not sure why I'm telling you this. It's not like you'll be able to see the advert. Unable to face the Whitbread Gravity Book this evening. I really should be transcribing from that. But I have to rest sometime, you know.

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Blind Tiger - again

How to fill the free hour before heading for Newark airport? I know - go to the Blind Tiger. I told you I liked the place. Here's the proof.

Sadly, there's only one draught beer today. The one below:

Lagunitas the Hairy Eyeball
It's dark. The head doesn't look good. It has a "flowers of yeast" look about it. I wonder what style it is? Only joking. Thick and chewy. A bit too sweet for my taste. Not very well balanced. I suppose it's an "English-style" Barley Wine. Not great.

It's less crowded today., which I like. I need to relax, I'm knackered. Even my whisky breakfast hasn't livened me up. (I really did have half a bread roll and 200 mils of bourbon for breakfast. I needed to use it up.) Pippi Langstrumpf is serving again. Her mouth is permanently twisted into a smile. Not sure if that's charming or creepy. Let's see what I think after another beer. I've read people banging on about Storm King. One of them then.

Bum. It just ran out.

Thirsty Dog Imperial Stout
Totally opaque. Like a black hole wearing shades. Nice tan head, if a little thin. Mmm . . smells like a coffee/grapefruit cocktail. This is what I came to the States for. No, it isn't a multiple pileup. More a fender bender. There's plenty of coffee. Some might say too much. Not me. There's liquorice in spades, too. And loads of dark fruit. It's probably stupidly strong [9.7% ABV]. Just what I need. You'll see my secret shame in the photo. A glass of water. I told you I was knackered.

Captain Lawrence Smoked Porter
I've run out of black similes. Fucking black. That'll have to do. Not much head. It tastes quite light. Not surprising. consiidering the last two alco-bombs I've had. Quite fruity and with a firm hop presence (eat your heart out, Jilly Goolden). Not a great deal of smoke going on. Pleasant enough.

Time for another Hairy Eyeball. It's a Strong Ale, according to Pippi, "Not a Barley Wine." Shows how much I know about beer.

Blind Tiger Ale House
281 Bleecker St.,
New York,
New York 10014.
212 - 462-4682

Lagunitas Brewing Company
1280 N McDowell Blvd,
California 94954.
707 - 769 4495

Thirsty Dog Brewing Company
529 Grant Street Suite B,
Ohio 44311.

Captain Lawrence Brewing Company
99 Castleton Street,
New York 10570.

Monday 16 February 2009


I didn't quite go straight home after leaving the Half Pint. I made a couple of emergency stops.

The first was at a liquor store on 7th Avenue. It was on the way to the subway station at Christopher Street. It had a jaunty red neon sign. How could I resist?

Inside it looked just like the ones you see in films. Usually when a couple of armed, masked men burst through the door and ask for all the dosh. It wasn't quite like that. A couple of Japanese girls were running their eyes of the American wines. I was only interested in what was behind the counter. Bourbon. Just a small bottle. I'm not an alcy. The salesperson slipped the bottle inside a brown paper bag. How quaint. I considered drinking from it on the subway just for the pose value, but managed to restrain myself.

I'd only had that pie to eat since breakfast. Getting more food seemed a sensible idea. A gourmet deli lurked between 23rd St. subway station and the hotel. Quite upmarket. Dead upmarket. Towards the back was what I was looking for. The cold meats counter.

There was in impressive display of meats. So impressive I started to photograpgh it. "Are you trying to take a picture of me?" the server asked. "No, the meat", I replied. "That's not allowed." Land of the free, eh?

Just when I was on the home straight I was seduced by more bright lights. My favourite type of bright lights. Ones attached to a pub. I've started to believe what I tell the kids. That it's bad luck to walk past a pub that's open without having a beer.

My time in the States had been so filled with work that I'd had no time to do the ordinary boring things. Like go to a supermarket. Or visit a normal bar. Jake's seemed to fit the bill on the latter count.

I'll not pretend that it's a wonderful hidden gem. It's a pretty bog-standard bar. Maybe slightly flasher, by a tiny little bit. I didn't care. There was a stool at the bar with my name on it. They stocked something called Jake's Ale. I ordered one. And another. I won't bore you with tasting notes because I didn't take any. It was inoffensive enough, let's leave it at that.

There was a row of large tellies behind the bar. One was showing footie. What turned out to be Big Phil's last game in charge of Chelsea. How weird. I was sitting in Chelsea (the New York one) watching Chelsea (the southern bastard ones) play. I don't think anyone else noticed.

Jake's Saloon
23rd Street & 7th Ave.
206 West 23rd Street,
New York, NY 10011.
Tel: 212 - 337 3100

Sunday 15 February 2009

Beer nationalism

Beer has no nationality. Beer is beer. I like it or I don't like it. Or I'm equivocal. That happens, too. The world isn't black and white. Like my clothes, it comes in a variety of shades of grey.

Stonch's post about Tetley's Dark Mild was the hammer that smashed into the frozen gearbox of my brain. Thinking about prejudice. Loving poor beers from small breweries, whilst ridiculing decent ones from the big boys. Opinions based on prejudice. Like beer nationalism.

"What is beer nationalism?". That's a good question. Not one I'm going to answer, but good nonetheless. Just think of nationalism. Then add beer. Get the idea now? I'm not the Open bloody University, you know.

The world of beer is one exciting whole. Not a series of competing fragments. "Which country brews the best beer?" What sort of stupid question is that? "Where's the pub?", "Can I have a pint of that, please?", "What are you having?" They're good questions.

Saturday 14 February 2009

The Half Pint

The review in New York City Beer Guide (my source of info on NYC pubs) was less than enthusistic. But I decided to give the Half Pint a try, anyway. Mainly because it was just a couple of hundred yards from the Blind Tiger.

A good deal of indecision preceded. It took me about 20 minutes to make up my mind to leave the warmth of the Blind Tiger. It was now or never. The light was beginning to fade. If I wanted to get any photos, I couldn't wait any longer.

My original plans had been far more ambitious. I'd hoped to fit in a couple of pubs in the East Village, too. That's always been one of my favourite bits of New York. But after a busy week and a couple of beers my ambitions were considerably diminished. I could only just be arsed to make the small walk to the Half Pint . . . . .

The Half Pint
Noisy, packed, full of tellies and no cask (it's run out, just as I probably should have when I discovered the full horror of this place). I can't imagine anywhere less suitable for tasting beer.

I'm getting hungry. I've had nothing since my breakfast roll. Ooh look. There's pie on the menu. Chicken Pot Pie. I'll have one of those. At least my waitress is cute. I just have to block out the baying hordes and concentrate on her arse, then I'll be fine. This would be a nightmare, if I weren't an unrepentant lech.

For reasons too complicated to explain, I've ended up with a Young's Chocolate Stout. CAMRA definitely wouldn't let me drink this. It's OK, but not what I should be drinking in the USA.

The pie isn't bad. Much like the pies in a dish you find on British pub menus. Though$11.95 is a bit steep. I guess I'm paying for the atmosphere.

I may as well have another beer. Time for an IPA, so I've chosen a Lagunitas IPA. Amber colour, with a head. Grapefruit cordial. I've nothing else to say. Still not getting any tongue-stripping.

Time to go home.

The Half Pint
76 West 3rd Street,
NYC 10012,
Tel: 212 260 1088

Lagunitas Brewing Company
1280 N McDowell Blvd,
California 94954.
707 - 769 4495

Friday 13 February 2009

Not true to style

I'd been waiting for this. It's a major reason why I monitor the Ratebeer reviews of my two Whitbread recreations. And someone finally said it ". . not quite to style . .". Whitbread SSS was the beer in question.

Not to style. What on earth does that mean in the context of a recreation of an historic brew? That Whitbread weren't brewing stylistically correct Stouts in 1914? Or that in 1914 they weren't brewing a Stout according to 2009 style guidelines? Either way, it's a ludicrous way to judge a beer.

In 1914, Whitbread were by definition brewing to style. Being one of the large London Porter brewers, their beers had helped to define the style in the first place. SSS is a typical Triple Stout from before WW I. I should know. I've looked at plenty in brewing records. So by the standards of its day, it's definitely to style.

Expecting a beer originally brewed nearly 100 years ago to fit a modern specification is just crazy. How on earth could they guess how a small bunch of fanatics would define Stout a century later? Mystic Mogg move over.

And exactly which style isn't it true to? Ratebeer classifies it as an Imperial Stout. But that's not what it was. It was a Triple Stout. That lies between a Double Stout and an Imperial Stout, in terms of strength. Amazingly, given the mad proliferation of styles in the last 10 years, Triple Stout isn't recognised by either the BJCP, Ratebeer or BeerAdvocate.

Eventually, I knew a reviewer would say "not true to style". It gave me a cheap laugh. I hope it tickles your ribs, too.

Blind Tiger (full story - part two)

This is part two of my first Blind Tiger experience. Being the second half of something, it starts rather abruptly. Hence this extra preamble. Uh . . . yeah . . .

A bloke at the bar just offered me a taste of his homemade Barley Wine. He said he'll bring a galss of it over later. I never refuse a beer. Especially if I'm not paying. A couple of beers inside me and all's well with the world. Cask beer. Dontcha just love it? No need for defizzing.

The stranger with the shaven head has just brought over a taster of his Barley Wine. It's pretty good, as well as being free. Very, very dry. The brewer bloke reckoned it had an OG of 1100 and an FG of 1000. Just as well I didn't have a pint. It must be crazy strong. What a friendly bunch Americans are.

It's bizarre seeing names that pop up all the time on beer forums there on the boards. But most are keg. I'd have to ask for a special dispensation from CAMRA to drink keg. I forgot to fill in the form before I left.

Here's a funny thing. In meetings (at work) I often struggle to keep my eyes open. I'm a nodder. Yet in a pub, despite tanking myself up with a depressant, it never happens. I can happily sit in a pub alone for hours. What does that say about me?

Oh, look. They've just put a pin on the bar. That must be the Chelsea Black Hole Stout. Just in time. My glass is only a quarter full. . . . God, they're selling Palm. PALM!! And i's more expensive than everything else. Why the flip would anyone want to drink Palm here?

Chelsea Black Hole Stout
That reminds me. I haven't seen today's footie results. It was a bit scary the way the the barmaid tilted the pin to serve. If the cask's that empty it should be chocked up. I feel inclined to offer my advice, despite knowing bugger all really about cellarmanship. The beer itself is black as Thatcher's heart. It tastes, well, like cask Stout. No surprises there. Quite similar to the last Stout, but with even less carbonation. I'm not complaining.

Some people have just walked past with drinks piled with fruit. A celery stick protrudes jauntily. More a vegetarian meal than a drink. I wonder which beer that is?

Chelsea Brewing Company
Chelsea Piers, Pier 59
New York,
New York 10011.
212 - 336 6440

Thursday 12 February 2009

Drinking the past

Mike's getting restless. He's very excited by the beers I brought back from the US. The recreations brewed by Kristen. "When can I come around?", he keeps asking.

I can't say I blame him. There's some very tempting ones. Lichtenhainer, Grätzer, almost the full range of Fuller's beers from 1910. It's been a struggle to keep my hands off them. I've been dying to try a Grätzer. Can you believe I have two different Lichtenhainers in my posession. That's something I never imagined happening. There's a WW I Barclay Perkins X, too. [I'm on a theme-maintenance roll: two Barclay Perkins mentions already this week.]

Interest in old beers is greater than I imagined. My Whitbread recreations have gone down very well. Let's hope the next two - hopefully being brewed very soon - are as well received. Other projects to delve into brewing's past have come to my attention. Exciting times indeed.

I'd like to go one step further. Not just recreate the odd individual beer, but the complete pub experience. An Edwardian pub with a full set of draught and bottled beers from the period. There would have to be an Edwardian interior, too. It could make for a unique brewpub concept. You could even have a chain, with each link a different period.

What do you think? Would there be enough consumer interest? Or would it only appeal to a few weirdoes like me?

Wednesday 11 February 2009

Blind Tiger (full version)

You'll have to excuse me if I don't complete this post today. I'm not sure I can face typing it all out.

Did I mention that what I post is often taken verbatim from my notes? I call them notes. Others might consider them a short novel. Especially when I'm on my own. Then I only lay down my pen to pick up my glass.

So here we go with possibly part one of Saturday in the Blind Tiger . . . . . .

I can see why this place comes highly recommended. Peering through the crowds, I think I spot an excellent beer selection. Not as big as in some other bars, but good quality stuff. From my miniscule knowledge of American beer.

I've started off with a Southampton Burton Ale. Handpulled. Judging by the head, they've got a sparkler on. A pretty nice slurping Bitterwith low carbonation, a bit of sweet malt and a gentle bitterness in the finish. [Due to me misunderstanding the chalkboard (it was too far away, really) I at first thought it was 6% ABV. Not $6 a mug. Ratebeer tells me it's 4.2% and a Bitter. I'm so pleased that I could recognise a Bitter.]

I could be mean and clain that Burton Ale should really be dark. But I'm no style nazi. I'm no kind of nazi. It's really rather good. A nice temperature, too.

The only downside is that it's a bit full. I hate crowds. Poor old misanthrope me. And ever since breaking both my ankles, I prefer to sit if I'm staying for more than one. I always stay for more than one. Only the good fortune of arriving at exactly the right time got me a seat.

Six dollars a "mug". What size is a mug exactly? Is it a common measure? Me stupid foreigner. Look, European beer is my thing. I have to draw a line somewhere, or I'll go completely crazy. My ignorance of local drinking customs is almost total. Gives proceedings an air of mystery.

I couldn't leave the other handpump, dispensing Otter Creek Russian Imperial Stout, untroubled. Well it's nice and black. Not a great deal of head on this one. No sparkler, I guess. What head there is has a dark tan colour. Looks good. The aroma is roast, almost to the point of dead match-heads. It stops just far enough short of nastiness. In the gob, it's like treacle fudge. The underlying sweetness is balanced by a good dose of hops and some roast bittereness. Tastes like there's some c-hops in there, but not enough to annoy me. Damn, damn good. If I were in scoring mood, I'd give it 80+. Great to get a beer this strong cask-conditioned and in good condition.

Two beers. That can't possibly be all I drank in the Blind Tiger. And it isn't. Me, arse and a negative. I warned you at the start about possible motivation issues.

More tomorrow. Unless I get sidetracked again. Who is the kind, bald stranger? What does he offer me? And I drink another Stout. What is it and does it make me scream like a madman? Find out tomorrow. . . . . or the day after. Sometime fairly soon.

Blind Tiger Ale House
281 Bleecker St.,
New York,
New York 10014.
212 - 462-4682

Southampton Publick House,
40 Bowden Square,
New York 11968
Tel: 631 - 283 2800

Otter Creek Brewing
793 Exchange St.,
Vermont 05753.
800 - 473 0727

Tuesday 10 February 2009

Imperial measures

I'd planned relating my Saturday visit to the Blind Tiger to you today. Then something I read on the bus got me thinking.

I picked up a copy of Ale Street News when in the Defiant brewery with Lew Bryson. It has an excellent article by him about Imperial beers. This is the sentence that set the gears in motion: " RIS [Russian Imperial Stout] was big and strong because it had to survive the sea journey to St, Petersburg".

Before I start, my thanks to Lew for prodding me in the direction of a new thought. Yet one more thing I'd accepted without properly considering.

I'm sure that I've said similar myself. "Russian Stout had to be strong to survive". But is it true? Did it have to be that strong? The journey to St. Petersburg is relatively short - compared to North America or India, which were also important export markets.

A variety of beers were exported from Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries. Stout was one. All the London brewers' logs I've seen include export beers. There are Export Stouts, but also Export Porters.

The Export BSt (Brown Stout) of the Griffin brewery was a fairly modest 1071 in 1838. It wasn't even their strongest stout DBSt (Double Brown Stout, I guess) was 1084. By 1867, they had two export Stouts, Crs Exp at 1061 and SSS Exp at 1094.

Over at Chiswell Street, Whitbread had four Stouts in 1844:

S Exp 1076,
S 1078,
SS 1089,
SSS 1100

The export Stout was the weakest of the bunch.

Truman's, in 1857, had Export Keeping [Porter] at a puny 1056. They had loads of stronger Stouts. I'm not going to bore you by going through them all. Even I'm starting to fall asleep. So many gravities.

Things were different at Barclay Perkins. In 1856, they had two export Stouts: Export Brown Stout at 1093 and IBSt (Russian Stout) at 1107. Both pretty powerful beers, though the domestic Brown Stout had the same gravity as the export version. (By 1910 the gravity of Export Brown Stout had fallen to 1076.)

There were export beers at the usual gravities. 1056 to 1100. Why was Russian Stout so strong, then? Because it was for the Russian flipping court. They always got top of the range. 1100. That was the magic number. Whether it was Edinburgh Ale, Strong Burton Ale or Stout. The very best had gravities over 1100.

Alcohol wasn't brewers' main defence against infection. They relied more on a combination of high attenuation and heavy hopping. What they considered a "true" secondary fermentation, was a long, slow process where brettanomyces (though they didn't know that's what it was at the time) chewed its way through anything fermentable.

Burton brewers, I'm pretty sure, achieved high attentation without the aid of brettanomyces. But don't quote me on that. I've not seen any positive evidence. The German bloke who wrote the book about top fermenting beers. What was his name? It's one of the books that's in a bag, due to our kitchen rennovation. I'll remember it in a minute. He was gobsmacked at the keeping qualities of English Pale Ale. I saw an advert recently from the 19th century where they guaranteed that their Pale Ales would last six months.

Thanks again, Lew. You made me consider the true nature of Russian Stout. What was it? Luxury beer.

Apologies for the low laugh count today. It's hard to drag much humour out of this stuff. Tomorrow I'll get back to grumbling about the young and giving American beers a hard time. I might throw in something about the Chelsea Hotel. (None of my American colleagues, including the ones born and raised in New York, had heard of it.) I made pages of notes. There will be weeks of suffering as I describe pies and show you photos of every beer I drank.

Monday 9 February 2009

Heartland Brewery

At least Heartland (this branch of it) is easy to find, being on the ground floor of the Empire State Building. I'm pretty sure I've drunk here before, when it was just an ordinary pub. The bar was in a corner of the building, so I guess there's a 1 in 4 chance it's the same space. As usual, I digress.

Before we go any further, I'll point out no actual brewing takes place at this location. Heartland is a chain of brewpubs across New York City. Some of which brew [correction: the beers are brewed by Greenpoint Beer Works].

They've got 6 regular beers, most of which look pretty dull: Lager, Light, Red Ale, Pale Ale, Wheat Beer. What is it with brewpubs? I've chosen the most interesting, an Oatmeal Stout.It certainly looks the part, black as a coal mine at midnight, with a thick, creamy head. Smooth and roasty, with the faintest touch of hops. I'd drink it again.

There were no cheering crowds as my limo rolled into Manhattan. I must have been early. The Chelsea Hotel is as wacky as I had expected, the walls covered in paintings. My room is, in reality, a small flat, complete with kitchen. Pretty cool. If they haven't sold my credit card. They forgot to return it to me when I checked in. I only noticed when I wanted to pay for a video game.

I've been unable to find Toys 'R' US supposedly at 1293 Broadway (between 33rd and 34th Streets). I did find a games shop, but they didn't have what Andrew wanted, End War. I found something for Lexie, though I'm not sure he deserves it, after breaking the screen on their netbook in a fit of rage.

I've just noticed that their seasonal beer is Summertime Apricot Ale. Have I jumped forward in time six months? Last time I checked, it was still February.

Heartland Brewery
34th St & 5th Ave.
Tel: 212-563-3433

More New York

I'll be posting more about New York. With lots of nice photos.Just as soon as Dolores gets home and shows me how to suck the photos out of my flippy top. She handles all the networking at home.

I was very impressed by the Blind Tiger. A great little pub. Like a New York version of Wildeman.

Sunday 8 February 2009

Blind Tiger

Just a short post today. I leave for Amsterdam this evening and have lots still to do.

I made it to the Blind Tiger yesterday. I'm so glad I did. I has a couple of excellent cask-conditioned beers and a Palm. The last one is a joke. It was weird seeing Palm amongst all the American micro beers. It was more expensive, too Why on earth would anyone buy it?

About the only negative was that it was packed. Then again, it was Saturday. I also nipped into the Half Pint. They were out of cask beer and it had ludicrously loud music. I didn't stay long.

I'm typing this in the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel. There's no wifi in the rooms. It's an impressive place. It's not so much a room as a small flat, complete with kitchen. Nice to see that Dylan Thomas lived here during his final binges. Very appropriate.

I'll post more about My mini pubcrawl tomorrow. If I can keep my eyes open.

Saturday 7 February 2009

The Big Artichoke

I'm just planning my day in the Big Artichoke, as I believe locals endearingly refer to New York. Day? What I mean is a pub crawl.

You can see my list to the right. List of pubs. The Blind Tiger, which someone recommended, is literally number one on my list. You'll have to make do with reading it sideways. I've no image manipulation software on my flippy-flop. I just hope it doesn't inspire a stalker.

I can't see me getting around all eight. Maybe two or three. Though the Hop Devil is pretty much a certainty. Because it's on St. Mark's Place. I used to do some of my boozing down there. In a basement bar that sold Prior Double Dark, a lager Mild that was one of the better beers you could find in NYC in the mid-1980's. I wish I could remember what the place was called. I once drank in there until closing time at 3 AM. I was playing darts partnering with an English colleague who was rather good. Mostly due to his efforts, we won several pitchers of Prior. We went into work without sleeping or going home. Happy days.

Friday 6 February 2009

I got to a shop!

On my sixth day in the USA, I finally got the chance to visit a shop. My heart is still pounding from the excitement.

Two shops, to tell the truth An A&P supermarket first. I really splashed out. A couple of bananas, two rolls, a piece of Jarlsberg and stainless steel cleaner. The last was at the request of Dolores. It's for cleaning our new kitchen.

Next door to the supermarket there's a liquor store, as I believe they call them here. An offie to me. I didn't let the cases of Bud and Corona in the window put me off. At the back there was a selection of stuff I might actually want to drink. Just one slight snag. Most were in six packs. Not much use to me, with just 48 hours left in the country. I didn't bother looking to closely at them and concentrated on the big bottles. 650 cl. Is that what's called a growler? It's a word that's confused me a deal. Sounds like the name of a cartoon dog.

I got two. I've tried Stone before, so I avoided the Arrogant Bastard. Though it does describe my character to perfection. Brooklyn No. 1 and Southern Tier Imperial Gemini were my choices. I'm halfway through the latter. Here's what I think of it:
Southern Tier Imperial Gemini
Pale amber colour, little head.
Lemon, lime and grapefruit aroma.
Bitter taste with lime and resin aromas.
Bitter finish with wood, resin and citrus aromas.
It's citrusy, that it tastes like shandy with added bitters. A bit one-dimensional , despite the 6 types of hops.

New York tomorrow. I'll be arriving in style, in a chauffeur-driven limo. It's the only way to arrive in New York.

Thursday 5 February 2009

American beer

I managed to four beers in today. Two at lunch, two with dinner. I'm so lucky.

Lunchtine drinking can be problematic in the States. At least that's what I've read. I was hesitating ordering a beer, when a colleague soleved my dilemna my by asking for a chardonnay. Then I looked at the menu and my spirits fell. A choice of 20, all mediocre or worse. I ended up with a flavour-free Dos Equis. Well two, actually. I'm so crazy.

Tea, sorry, dinner, was better. No worries about the accceptability of getting a beer. Amongst the usual multinational bollocks, there were, at least, two regionals. Now, which should I order? Sam Adams Winter Lager or Yuengling? I went for the former. Being positive, it was more flavourful than Dos Equis. But not much. Bit of chewy caramel and little else. It wasn't nasty. Positive. Be positive.

I'm back in my hotel. Obviously. How else could I be typing this in on my fliptop? Now where can I get my hands on something more challenging? Not at the hotel bar. The best they have is Flying Fish Extra Pale Ale. I had one last night. It's local, there's that going for it. Maybe I should say no more. I struggled to finish it.

Ooh look. There's the beer box. A lot more chance of flavour there. Let's give Kristen's Columbus IPA a try. How about my tasting notes? You've shown interest in them, that's my excuse.

Orange colour, little head (it's been rebottled so that's to be expected).
Grapefruit, lemon and sherbert aroma.
Sweetish/bitter taste.
Grapefruit, orange, resin and wood aromas.
Bitter finish.
Caramel, grapefruit, malt and resin aromas.

Quite pleasant, in a citrusy sort of way. Though I'm not sure I could drink ten of them. Finally something with tongue-stripping qualities.

I'm starting to wonder if there's something wrong with my tastebuds. Even the DIPA doesn't seem that extreme. Must be the American air.

Wednesday 4 February 2009

Back in New Jersey

The last 36 hours have been some of the most knackering in a long time. And almost beer-free. Work, dontcha just love it?

But my spirits rose as soon as I entered my room. When I saw The Box on the desk. (This sounds like a reading primer: the box sat on the desk. The box is full of beer. Ron is happy.)

It's full of beer. Not just any beer. Fuller's 1910 X, AK and Porter. A couple of versions of Barclay Perkins X from WWI. Lichtenhainer. Graezer. 1850 Salvator. Barclay Perkins IBSt. And much more. I'm so excited.

There's a glass of Fuller's AK in front of me. I'm raising it in a toast to Kristen. Thanks mate. I don't owe you one. Not even a couple. I owe you several.