Fun but knackering. That was my US holiday. Beer, old friends, new friends, food and frolics. Plus a little pretend brewing. Pretty much perfect.
Last Thursday I trekked down into deepest rural Virginia. Roseland Virginia, to be precise. Not heard of it? I'm not surprised. It's not so much a town as a few houses scattered at the feet of wooded hills. Take a look on Google Maps and you'll see what I mean.
Not the place I'd choose to build a brewpub, but what the hell do I know? Brew good beer and people will come, Devil's Backbone proves. My biggest challenge was how to get there, being carless and all. Luckily the brewer, Jason Oliver, offered me a lift. He collected a bleary-eyed beer writer at 6 am. The three-hour drive passed in a blur of beer and brewing, past and present, up and down, backwards and forwards.
Hang on. I've not told you how all this came about. I'm doing things backwards again. Alastair Reece, blogger, expat and homebrewer came up with the idea of a collaboration. (At least I think it was him. My memory isn't the best.) Brewing an historic beer together at Devil's Backbone. After kicking around a few ideas in emails, I finally persuaded Jason and Al that a Barclay Perkins Dark Lager from the 1930's was our man. You can never have too many Barclay Perkins recreations.
It's a funny recipe. No sugar and no adjuncts, save for a little roasted barley. Very unusual for Barclay Perkins. They loved their flaked maize. The mashing scheme is very different from that of their top-fermenters. It's a complicated step affair, with the temperature raised by steam a couple of times. And the dark grains added part way through the process. Luckily the equipment, a German job bought second hand from Japan, was well suited to the process.
I did my usual pretending to brew bit: throwing in the hops. But that wasn't my only contribution. Oh no. I'd already hoyed in a couple of sacks of malt. (There's a difference with British brewing kit: no Steel's masher.) And later raked out some of the spent grain. Feel like a professional now.
Jason seemed pleased with how things turned out. He may enter the beer for the GABF competition. He won three medals last year, so it may be in with a shout. Weirdly, given how many categories they have, there isn't one for 1930's British Dark Lager. Leaving Jason in a quandary as what to enter it as.
I had time to see most of the boil before heading back with Al to Charlottesville, where he lives and I had a Greyhound bus to catch. Al just had time to pick up a bottle of a 1930's Barclay Perkins Milk Stout he'd brewed as part of an international homebrew project.
Lovely place, the Greyhound bus station. Like the third-class waiting room in hell. Just with dirtier toilets.
* peevy, adjective derived from the noun peeve, Newark slang for drink. As in the phrase: "get that peeve down yer neck"
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