Saturday 31 December 2016

Random Dutch beers (part forty-nine)

Just time for a couple more sketches of Dutch beers before the end of the year.

Oddly, both Boks. I stumbled on a couple I hadn't tried this year yet in local supermarket Deen. Odd, because it's really past the end of Bokbier season.

I'm starting with something even odder: a genuine Trappist Bok:

La Trappe Trappist Bockbier, 7% ABV (€1.00 for 30 cl at Deen)
It's a typical red-brown colour, but a little murky. My fault. I forgot it was bottle-conditioned when pouring. My tasting notes are going to be crap, seeing as I have a cold and my nose is pretty blocked. Is that cream and caramel in the aroma? There's something sweetish lurking there. It's quite sweet in the mouth, but with a balancing bitterness. Like raisins dipped in dark chocolate, then liquidised. In a good way.

"Do you want to try my beer, Lexxie?"

"No. Can I drink my Smirnoff Ice now?"

"I suppose so."

It's the last day of the year. Not sure if that's a reason for sadness or joy. I guess I should be optimistic. First obective for 2017 is finishing my book on Scottish beer. The manuscript is about half done. And about three-quarters of the recipes - 240 so far. Which reminds me: I should be writing some now. See you in a while.

. . . . .

Just polished off two more recipes. Time for my reward.

Gulpener Herfstbock, 6.5% ABV (€0.96 for 30 cl at Deen)
Quite pale this one, more red than brown. The decongestants have kicked in so I've a bit more sense of smell. Aroma of sweet red cherries, though not quite maraschino. Quite sweet and fruity in the mouth, like a cheap whore.

"Do you want to try my beer, Dolores?"

"No, not now."

 What? It's after 1 PM.

"Do you want to try my beer, Andrew?"


Not doing very well for second opinions today.

Let's Brew - 1969 Truman LM

Ah, the happy hours I spent drinking this type of beer in the 1970’s. Ordinary, watery Mild. It’s sad that it’s become such a rarity.

Mild – especially cask Mild – is a cracking long drink. A beer to accompany, rather than dominate, an evening down the pub with your mates. I was reminded just how much I missed that sort of beer and that sort of session when I spent a Saturday evening with Jeff Bell in The Royal Oak in Southwark a couple of weeks ago. Sometimes you need to down at least half a gallon.

Earlier that same Saturday, appropriately enough, is when I collected this recipe. From a Truman’s Ale brewing book in Derek Prentice’s possession. It was great going through the book with him. He could explain exactly what all the Brewhouse names stood for.

I can’t help wondering how close this beer is to the cask Mild Truman introduced in the early 1980’s. The two have similar gravities: 1032º for this, 1034º for the 1980’s version. It’s strange. The 1969 Mild feels way in the past to me, as it’s before my drinking time. While the 1980’s version feels like an old friend, as I drank it reasonably often. Yet just 13 years separate the two. Perspective is everything.

Let’s crack on with the recipe. It’s quite an odd one in several ways. For a start, it’s coloured with roast barley, which isn’t a very common ingredient in Mild. In fact, it’s not a very common ingredient in English beer at all. Nor are roast malts that common in Mild. Not unheard of, but not that common. A spot of black or chocolate malt occasionally.

Impressively, the recipe boasts three types of unmalted barley. In addition to roast barley, there’s also flaked barley and – this is a first – pearl barley. Again, I was glad to have Derek at my shoulder. I’d have missed it, as it’s listed as “P. Brights”. In all, unmalted barley makes up 15% of the grist.  

You may have assumed that brown sugar is a substitute for some other type of sugar. It isn’t. The original really did contain Tate & Lyle brown sugar. Though it did make up slightly less than half of the total sugar. Most of the rest was liquid cane sugar. There was also a touch of something called B.C.L., which I’m guessing is some sort of dark sugar. I’ve substituted No. 4 invert.

More sugar, in the form of primings, was added to the fermenting vessels just before the end of primary fermentation. It would have upped the gravity by a degree or two. Not sure if Truman were still brewing cask at this point. If they were, the FG would have fallen a few more points before being sold. So don’t worry if your attenuation is a bit more than I’ve listed.

I know nothing about the hops, other than that they were English. Fuggles, which were the commonest hop grown in England, probably isn’t far wrong. They probably wouldn’t have wasted Goldings in a Mild. Feel free to use any traditional English hop variety.

1969 Truman LM
pale malt 4.50 lb 64.84%
crystal malt 0.75 lb 10.81%
roast barley 0.25 lb 3.60%
flaked barley 0.33 lb 4.76%
pearl barley 0.33 lb 4.76%
cane sugar 0.50 lb 7.20%
brown sugar 0.25 lb 3.60%
No. 4 invert 0.03 lb 0.43%
Fuggles 90 mins 0.50 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.50 oz
Fuggles 30 mins 0.25 oz
OG 1031.9
FG 1011.6
ABV 2.69
Apparent attenuation 63.64%
IBU 17
SRM 22
Mash at 150º F
Sparge at 165º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 62º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread ale

Friday 30 December 2016

End of year round up

Everyone does these things. So what the hell. I need to get a couple of posts in before the end of the year. I don't what this year to be a record low.

What have I rounded up for the end of the year? A couple of bottles of port for a start. We forgot to drink them at Christmas. Too busy with that infernal jigsaw. Which we did eventually finish. Some of the pieces are pure white with a single black line. Here's proof we did finish it*:

See how near-blank some pieces are?

The hours of frustration it cost. But, on the upside, we were so distracted from ever other human activity - including eating and drinking - that we've loads of booze left over. Enough to make it a very merry New Year indeed. As I told the kids, you need to finish off all the drink before the New Year. It will all go off the minute the clock strikes midnight. As least that's how my Mum explained everyone drinking like crazy on New Year's Eve to me. So it must be true.

My treat bottle of Westvleteren 12 is sitting safely behind me. Though the minikeg of Adnam's Christmas Ale is almost done. Dolores likes it, as I expected she would. She's a big fan of British beer, especially in cask. How simpler that makes my life. As does her love of curry.

The kids have barely touched their Christmas rum, three-year-old Havana Club**.

Sherry, Amstel Bock, Limoncello. More stuff I've rounded up for the end of the year. There must be a cocktail in there. No Adnams any more, though. Dolores has just served herself the last two-thirds of a pint. She deserves it.

That's enough rounding up to last me until next year. I've rounded up well enough for a good time before all the booze turns bad. As it does on the turn of the year.

* The jigsaw is safely framed and hanging on our living room wall. In the vague possibility that you were interested.

** Alexei says that he hasn't finished his birthday Zubrovka yet. Though he's drinking it as I type. Bastard. He hasn't offered me any.

The 1950’s pub (part three)

It’s been rather a while since the first two parts of this series. In case you’ve forgotten, we’ve already looked at the types of bar in a pub and the drinks sold in them. Now it’s time to look at the different types of pub.

The author identifies three main types of pub, though I’m not sure I can really see a clear distinction.

pub types
Speaking generally there are three London pub types all with their particular colours—colour is very important in pubs. First, the alehouse type which follows the functional tradition in its use of solid carpentry, scrubbed wood tables and bar-top, and "grained oak" or "teak" paint. A particularly satisfying sort of pub, this type has an immensely long history, stemming from the middle ages, when any wayside house opening its doors for the sale of liquor would automatically invite the passer-by into the kitchen. It is in fact the kitchen vernacular. Many London pubs and public bars are of this type, or of the type of its younger and slicker town cousin the City Tavern. ”
"London Night & Day" edited by Sam Lambert.

I can remember pubs with a “grained oak” paint job. I always thought it looked a bit odd and very 19th century. Basically it’s a way of painting wood grain onto a surface. The idea being to make any old wood look a more expensive, darker hardwood. It’s generally pretty unconvincing. I think the Bun House in Bromley by Bow might have had it.

I’ve had to blank out a word in the next section. Which is an indication of how sensibilities have changed over 60 years. I doubt anyone batted an eyelid at the word’s use in this context back in the 1950’s.

“In the city tavern, wines and spirits and bottled beers tend to take precedence over beer-in-cask, though there tend to be even more casks (chocolate or n***** brown now) which will be for port or sherry, rather than beer. The third type is the GIN palace, be-mirrored, be-lettered, be-plushed (walls and bar mahogany, either the real wood or paint-grained), the great Victorian contribution to the architecture of drink and as a building type, one of England's most prized possessions. ”
"London Night & Day" edited by Sam Lambert.

It just sounds like a slightly more upmarket version of the first type. Bottled beer as a sign of class in something I’ve come across more often in the 1950’s. The posher rooms in a pub also tended to sell a greater proportion of bottled beer.

I think we all understand what is meant by a gin palace. Those magnificent late Victorian and Edwardian gems of etched glass, mahogany and tiles. I was in a great example a few weeks ago: the Princess Louise in Holborn. Where the interior has recently been fully restored, complete with partitioning and snob screens. Well worth a visit if you’re in London and want to see what pubs were like 100 years ago.

Sadly, many brewers were less understanding than Sam Smiths, owners of the Princess Louise. Many magnificent pubs were horribly mutilated by philistine owners.

“Unfortunately the brewers, who have lost touch with their best traditions, are trying to break up gin palace interiors in the mistaken notion that they represent a vulgar phase in the history of drinking. To kill them, they are putting in jazz wallpapers, chromium bars, and graining that gives the effect of pickled or even of grey-wood panelling, a beastly development of genteelism, which tends to give the pub the semblance of a night-club or road-house, two very inferior institutions. Worse still, in the cause of "supervision" the licensing magistrates are helping on the bad work by demanding that the succession of intimate little bars, which are the pride and pearl of the English pub should be gutted in favour of one large bar. Result—loss of the cosiness and surprise that used to make a pub the favourite meeting place of friends. If you are one of those people who resent such atrocities and are not afraid to say so, you can help in the fight against the genteelising of pubs by speaking out boldly about the decorations to your neighbour over a pint of wallop. If your temperament is more retiring, just do it by choosing to drink in the un-tarted up ones. We aren't suggesting that the pubs we list are all period pieces; but they are some of the best that remain and all still have something of the real pub character.”
"London Night & Day" edited by Sam Lambert.

The author clearly isn’t keen on tarted up pubs. And with good reason. Expensive, attractive interiors were ripped out and replaced with cheap tat that started falling apart after a couple of years and needed a further refurbishment, usually equally shoddy.

Thank Stalin this is no longer true:

“Tourists should bear in mind the anomalies of the system of licensing hours, but it is safe to assume that pubs in and near the West End are open from 11.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 5.30 until 11 p.m., and that others open half an hour later and close at 2.30 and 10.30. Hours on Sunday are shorter.”
"London Night & Day" edited by Sam Lambert.

Throwing away the ridiculous restrictions on opening hours introduced during WW I was the best development in UK pubs since, er, WW I.

Thursday 29 December 2016

A landlord’s week in the 1950’s (part two)

Here’s the rest of a landlord’s week, starting with Monday.

“Monday night being dart match night, when we are hosts to another pub's team, I spend in the public bar. My wife makes stacks of sandwiches — which disappear with an alacrity only surpassed by the dishes of pickled onions.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 116.

Monday has always been a typical day for things like darts matches and pub quizzes. A simple way of drumming up custom on a slow day. In Leeds I remember it being sandwiches and slices of black pudding that were passed around.

“Tuesday is a comparatively quiet day, so I give the full-time barmaid the day off, and spend the whole day in the pub, with only three hours break in the afternoon.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 116.

Clearly the full-time barmaid was the one in charge during the landlord’s absence.

I’m sure this piece of advice still applies:

“Wednesday is delivery day, and the day I give the cellar a thorough clean out. I check my supplies and out-going "empties" keenly, but not suspiciously. Draymen are the wrong men to offend.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 116.

We’ve already heard that draymen could be rather light-handed. Doubtless why the landlord checked what was going in and out of his cellar.

Pubs were important social centres, and often the base of sporting clubs:

“Thursday is a busy day; Friday is busier. Thursday night I preside over the football club meeting, doing the same for the dart club on Friday evening. I am the chairman, treasurer, and assistant-secretary of both clubs. I like to know what goes on.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 116.

And here we are all the way around to Saturday:

“So we come to Saturday—in many ways the fullest and happiest day of the week: when I have to be at the bank early to make sure of getting plenty of change; when I have to complete the wages sheet and expenses account; serve in the bars and look out for bookies' runners; stoup and change the barrels as required; go to the football match; agree or dispute in the evening that Portsmouth must buy a centre-half; enjoy the sing-song, drink my own draught beer, and do my pleasant utmost when tired out to get the customers out of the doors in reasonable time after I have called "Time!"
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 116.

Interesting that he went to the football. Though the games did fit in nicely with afternoon closing. It was probably so he can discuss the game with his customers. Though he couldn’t have gone every week, as they’d only play at home once a fortnight. Portsmouth were a decent team in the 1950’s, winning the First Division one year.

Gambling in pubs was – with the exception of a few pennies on darts or dominoes – strictly forbidden and could get a landlord into a lot of trouble. This was also before betting shops, when off-course betting on horses was also illegal. A bookie’s runner would surreptitiously collect bets from drinkers.

Wednesday 28 December 2016

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1912 Thomas Usher 100/-

It's almost New Year. And what shouts end of year more than a Strong Scottish beer? Or someone who’s been drinking it.

Strongish, really, for the date. Or for the OG. In terms of ABV, it’s not strong at all. By any standards, other than 1918.

As usual, I struggled to find an apt style in BeerSmith. So I just added one. It’s called “Scottish Shilling Ale medium strong”. Even with my own definition of the style, I couldn’t hit all the parameters. Because BeerSmith expects better attenuation than the Scots went for. Not a dig at BeerSmith. I probably just haven’t found the right parameter to tweak.

I really like that you can customise BeerSmith. I should have started earlier. Maybe I should put together an historic styles add-on and flog it. That should earn me enough to retire early, shouldn’t it? No, I don’t think so. If only.

On with the recipe. Onwards to oblivion and back. I finished that bastard jigsaw. Incidentally. Rather, me and the kids did. Infernal effing thing. One of the pieces was totally white, other than one short black line.

Excuse the flim-flam. Need some padding, as this is more of the same, just at a different strength. Which is pretty much what 20th-century Scottish brewing was about. Pale malt, sugar and shit, plus a decent amount of hops.

1912 Thomas Usher 100/-
pale malt 8.00 lb 65.31%
crystal malt 0.50 lb 4.08%
flaked maize 0.75 lb 6.12%
No. 2 invert sugar 0.75 lb 6.12%
cane sugar 2.25 lb 18.37%
Fuggles 120 min 1.00 oz
Fuggles 60 min 1.00 oz
Fuggles 30 min 1.00 oz
OG 1064
FG 1029
ABV 4.63
Apparent attenuation 54.69%
IBU 33
Mash at 148º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

Tuesday 27 December 2016

A landlord’s week in the 1950’s (part one)

There’s so much great material in in “Beer in Britain”. I particularly like the details of day-to-day life in a pub.

The article by a publican relating his daily activities is of particular interest. I’m sure some of it would be much the same today. Though, of course, little details like afternoon closing mostly no longer apply.

Oddly, Sunday, the day with the shortest opening hours, was the landlord’s busiest. First the afternoon session:

“Sunday is my busiest day. Up at 7.30. I let the two cleaners in, have a pot of tea, and set about cleaning the beer pumps. Cellar-work is a job I never delegate. I clean all the pumps every Sunday morning; and one pump each day during the lunch-hour. It is not enough that justice should be done to the beer: it should be seen to be done.

Next, I prepare tills, with plenty of shillings in each. In these days of shilling-in-the-slot meters, a lack of shillings can lead to a lack of customers. I light the fires, take a bath, change into a good suit — no shirt-sleeves in the bar for me — and have breakfast. Then I take my two children along to cheer our Sunday league football team.

Back home, for a last-minute check-up. The barmaids have laid out little dishes of biscuits and salted pea-nuts along the counters. The glasses are polished; the whole place is clean. Open the doors at 12 o'clock, and for the next two hours we are all kept at full stretch.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 115.

Chatting with Jeff Bell the other week, he told me that it’s best to have one person in control of a pub cellar. If multiple people are busy in one cellar they tend to undo each other’s work. Quite clever that, cleaning a pump during opening times so the punters could see it being done.

It’s hard to believe that not long ago men would wear suits on far more occasions – such as going to the pub – that they do nowadays. I blame the 1960’s for turning men into scruffs most of the time. Even when I started work in the late 1970’s, you were expected to wear a tie if you worked in an office.

I can remember the Sunday lunchtime sessions when I lived in the East End of London in 1979. We’d be leaning on the door at 11:50, along with a fair crowd of others. Once the pubs were open, it was a frantic rush to get your fill of beer in two scant hours before they shut again. Everywhere was always heaving. It’s just not the same now they can stay open ll afternoon. (Much better, really, if I’m honest.)

Now the evening session:

“The pub closed, I check and clear the tills while the barmaids clear up; hard-spile the beers, check up on all doors, windows and toilets, and sit down to dinner by half past three. Then watch "Brains Trust" on television, and maybe doze off in my armchair, but fully awake for Children's Hour.

I am down in the bars again, half an hour before opening, laying and lighting fires, arranging tills, and stacking the off-licence bar shelves with cigarettes. Open at seven, and for over an hour two of us sell cigarettes and bottled beers like automatons geared to top speed. Then, that fantastic rush-hour over, I relax to the tempo of a busy evening, deliberately spending most of my time serving in the saloon bar. There I enjoy arguments on sport, and reminiscences about the Navy, but keep no one waiting for service.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 116.

I love the details of the TV programmes he watched on Sunday afternoon. Even when I was a kid, it was only at the weekend that there was any telly before 5 PM. Hard to imagine that now.

The landlord in question ran a modern estate pub. Which would have had a separate off-licence section. In the days before licensed supermarkets, pubs were responsible for a large proportion of off-sales. And on a Sunday evening, there would have been few other places to buy fags.

Next time it’s the other six days of the week.

Monday 26 December 2016

Beer and food pairing in the 1950’s (part two)

We’re getting to the meat now, so to speak. With specific beer and food pairings, sort of. As well as some non-parings.

First one of the latter:

“Bottled beer is becoming too popular at table. To bombard the tongue with bubbles of gas while eating is wrong. For an appetizer, yes: and at least one strong light ale now brewed with a slightly bitter tang, sold in something less than half-pints, makes an excellent aperitif. Beer, while it assists the appreciation of good food, also makes bad food endurable, and by the standards of former rough, farm-worker's fare food to-day is insipid. Mrs. Carlyle at the Frome inn could not stomach the meat, but she ate the bread with the aid of her pint of porter. In refreshment rooms a good frothy ale — and here's every excuse for bottled  — often gives a flattering zest to rigid sandwiches or cardboard-tasting pie.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 105.

I wish he’d named that Strong Light Ale. Even though that’s a bit of an oxymoron. Light Ale was, by definition, not particularly strong. If it were, it would be called a Pale Ale. I guess with “something less than half-pints” he means a nip bottle. Which was a popular bottle size for stronger beers. Probably to save drinkers the shock of the price of a half or a pint.

I’m with him on fizzy beer. But it’s a problem that’s easily solved with a spoon. A minute or so’s agitation knocks most of the CO2 out of a beer.

Beer certainly will liven up crap food, or at least take your mind off it. In 1958 memories of rationing, which had only finally ended a few years earlier, in 1954, were still strong. And the often unpalatable food that was served up as a result. People had plenty of experience of eating rubbish food.

Now for some examples of cooking with beer as well as drinking it as an accompaniment to food:

“Beer has its place in food as well as with it. Welsh rarebit, when the cheese is blended with a little four-X ale, is delicious. The Suffolk farmer's pig absorbed a quantity of old ale in the curing process, being immersed for three weeks in a liquor of it before smoking. The flavours of beer, oak smoke, and barley-fed pork were combined in the result, and the fat was very rich. When a friend, thinking to give me a treat, partnered one of these hams with audit ale, he overdid it, especially as we were in a small sloop on a choppy sea. Mild beer would have been fitter. On the whole, mild is the best accompaniment to a square meal. Bitter has its virtues, and can give the motorist's appetite an edge which the walker's has gained naturally. Old beer is too sweet for a full meal: it is the ale of evening, of a companion rather than a crowd, and its accompaniment should be slight—a biscuit, or walnuts.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 107.

It’s weird that he’s still calling Mild four-X Ale. True XXXX Ale hadn’t existed since before WW I. True, there were still beers called XXXX in the 1950’s, but they were just ordinary strength Mild Ales of around 3% ABV. A proper XXXX Ale was 8-10% ABV.

That marinated pig has me salivating like a dog outside a butcher’s shop. But I can see the author’s point about Audit Ale not necessarily being the best beer to slop back on a sloop. It was powerful stuff, even in the 1950’s:

Audit Ale 1951 - 1958
Year Brewer Price per pint d OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1951 Friary Holroyd 46.5 1084.6 1022.1 8.17 73.88% 51
1953 Friary Holroyd 45 1084 1025.1 7.67 70.12% 51
1955 Dales (Brewed by Wells & Winch) 36 1062.2 1023.5 5.00 62.22% 115
1955 Greene King 36 1083.2 1017.7 8.59 78.73% 100
1955 Wells & Winch 36 1062.2 1023.3 5.03 62.54% 115
1958 Lacons 54 1095 1017.8 9.65 81.26% 90
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

I’m also with him on Mild going particularly well with food. It matches perfectly with hearty pub meals like pies, stews or fish and chips. That’s me drooling again, imagining a crusty pie, covered in rich gravy with a pint of Harvey’s Mild to wash it down.

Not all Stouts were good with food:

“Sweet stout is popular, but to me it is as mawkish as a Victorian ballad. A bitter tonic stout, on the other hand, is the best awakener of the sedentary man's digestion, or stand-by if he is hard-pressed and has only ten minutes in which to snatch a bite. A tonic stout is worth a bushel of indigestion tablets, not to mention tranquillizers.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 107.

Proof, incidentally, that not all Stout other than Guinness was sweet in the 1950’s. Again, I’d have to agree with him. For most English dishes a beer like Mackeson is way too sweet. Though perhaps it might work with pudding. This talk of “tonic” is very 19th century, when doctors often recommended a Pale Ale like Bass to aid digestion.

At first I thought this next paragraph was a mention of the elusive commercial style of Home-Brewed. But I’m sure it’s meant more literally – beer brewed by someone at home.

“Finally, there is — or was — homebrewed. There was a jolly miller once who lived on a hill in Suffolk. The sails of his mill twirled merrily in March, and as often as you paid his bill he celebrated the fact with a pint of his home-brewed. It was cloudy — most home-brewed was — but very good, and an inducement to prompt payment. I remember too on my entry into a farmhouse being met by two powerful mingled odours. One came from a batch of loaves fresh from the oven. As to the other ... I sniffed questioningly. The old farmer tapped his nose, put a finger to his lips and opened a door. In a little room a mash-tub was steaming. He was breaking the law; but his tough old age and his son's and daughter's blooming health demonstrated that they understood the basic principles of good living.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 107.

Home brewing wasn’t necessarily illegal in the 1950’s. It was perfectly fine, as long as you bought a licence. As late as 1960, just a couple of years before licences for home brewing were abolished, more than 1,000 were issued:

Brewing licences 1945 - 1960
Brewers for sale
Year ending 31st March No. Duty paid £ Other brewers - not for sale Total
1945 703 249,637 3,734 4,437
1946 680 255,863 3,512 4,192
1947 648 248,690 3,224 3,872
1948 625 240,265 3,073 3,698
1949 602 229,913 2,998 3,600
1950 567 212,902 2,673 3,240
1951 539 201,909 2,406 2,945
1952 524 199,122 2,225 2,749
1953 501 199,893 2,015 2,516
1954 479 197,056 1,758 2,237
1955 460 192,395 1,523 1,983
1956 426 192,956 1,396 1,822
1957 416 192,387 1,412 1,828
1958 399 198,331 1,317 1,716
1959 378 191,053 1,189 1,567
1960 358 196,675 1,055 1,413
1962 Brewers' Almanack, page 67.

Sunday 25 December 2016

Drinkalongathon 2016: milky coffee and Christmas Bake off

No photo this time. It's too depressing. A milky coffee.

Suggestion of Dolores.

The bottle of Lagavullin is just behind me. I could stiffen up my coffee.

But my crazy days are behind me.

Drinkalongathon 2016: Lagavullin and Top of the Pops

The duck is tied up, stuffed and in the oven. phew. Required emergency surgery to stop the stuffing falling out.

The alcoholeiness of the Lagavullin helps me remember the true spirit of Christmas: a single malt Islay. And I manage to fit together a few more pieces of this infernal puzzle. You try figuring out a black and white jigsaw puzzle.

This is how far I've got:

Follow the railways is my tip.

Drinkalongathon 2016: white Sardinian wine and goats cheese thingee

The first proper scran of krimble.

The white wininess of the white wine cuts through the milky fatness of the chesse and stabs the fatiness of the pastry through its heart. Good one, Dolores.

Alexei is off to see his mates. I'm off to the kitche. I may be a while.

Drinkalongathon 2016: Abt and Harry Potter

First Abt of the day. Always a solemn moment.

Managed to get all the outside edge done. I'm so proung. The quasi-religiosity of Abt goes well with the mysticism of Harry Potter. And the devilishly difficult jigsaw.

Drinkalongathon 2016: Isaac's Rose and jigsaw puzzle

It's a slow start this year, as you've probably noticed

The lightness of the AK complements the absurb difficulty of the OS jigsaw puzzle. Though  thye two are also connected, as it's a map of Newark-upon-Trent.

Still a couple of hours before I need to put the duck in the oven. And the isn't a euphemism.

Drinkalongathon 2016: bacon and cheese sandwich and fino sherry

And with Come Dine with Me Christmas Special.

The slight saltiness of the sherry accentuates the over-the-top saltiness of the bacon. While the cheesy commentary of Come Dine with Me fits perfectly with the, er, cheesiness of Beemster Extra Oud.

Running out of adjectives already and its not even noon.

Saturday 24 December 2016

Drinkalongathon 2016

Yes. I'm still doing it. Even though none of you bastards ever drinkalong. Bastards. Have I mentioned that I think you're bastards for not joining in? Yes? OK. Best mention it again then - you're bastards for not joining in.

Drinkalongathon will return tomorrow. Crappier, more superficial and much, much more rushed than previous years. Should be a classic.

Not that that's going to stop me. "You always do what you want to anyway, Ronald. Why do you bother asking me?" Dolores is a big fan.

You know the score: Islay whisky, fried things, string and, most importantly, eggs. Soft-boiled, hard-boiled, raw. Eggs are the key. Remember that.

Let's Brew - 1917 Truman Government Ale

I was dead pleased to discover that one of the two Truman’s brewing books Derek Prentice has in his office at the Wimbledon Brewery covers almost all of WW I.

It certainly has the most interesting period, i.e. 1917 and 1918, when brewers didn’t to become inventive. This beer was brewed in July 1917, when the first set of heavy restrictions on brewing were just starting to bite. And when gravities began to plunge fearlessly from the roof.

It’s basically a weakened version of their Mild, X Ale. That was still a respectable 1048.5º right up until June 1917, not much lower than the pre-war gravity of 1052.5º. This version of GA was the first step on the road to gravity Armageddon. A couple of years later and it would be firmly encamped in non-intoxicating territory.

There are a couple of significant differences between this recipe and X Ale. Almost certainly the result of restrictions or shortages. Out were flaked maize and liquid glucose, replaced by more pale malt. Ironic, in a way, that wartime problems improved the recipe.

It’s a pretty simple recipe, containing just three ingredients: pale malt, crystal malt and sugar. All it says for the sugar is “Fowler”, which I know was a producer of invert sugar. So I’ve guessed no. invert. There are half a dozen types of pale malt made from barley from different countries. So feel free to throw in some US six row if you fancy.

The hops are specified as Pacifics and CF. Pretty obvious that the first is Cluster, but I’ve no idea about the other. Pretty sure that they’re English. Fuggles seems a safe bet, but you could also use Goldings. This being a Mild, my money would be on Fuggles.

For once, the BeerSmith calculated colour matches the original exactly. Not sure what that tells me.

1917 Truman GA
pale malt 7.00 lb 86.63%
crystal malt 80 L 0.33 lb 4.08%
no. 2 invert sugar 0.75 lb 9.28%
Cluster 90 min 1.00 oz
Fuggles 90 mins 0.50 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 1.50 oz
Fuggles 30 mins 1.50 oz
OG 1036
FG 1009
ABV 3.57
Apparent attenuation 75.00%
IBU 65
Mash at 149º F
Sparge at 175º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 60.5º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread ale

Friday 23 December 2016

Beer and food pairing in the 1950’s

As I keep telling you, there’s very little that’s new. Like beer and food pairing. People have been doing it for longer than you might imagine.

This is one of the earliest references to a ploughman’s lunch. A meal with a much shorter history than you might imagine. As Martyn Cornell has pointed out in great detail.

By Adrian Bell

GONE are the days when the public-schoolboy of 12.5 drank four-X ale for breakfast. There are octogenarians of a physical and mental alertness which shows that it did them no harm; it occasioned, one said, "much cheerfulness." Beer for breakfast seems unthinkable now that the milky breakfast is universal; yet beer was taken for breakfast by farm men for so long as horses were used. By eight o'clock a carter with a load of corn for a destination 12 miles distant had been travelling three hours. He drew up at an inn and had his quart of mild along with his bread and fat bacon.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 105.

A couple of pints for breakfast would certainly have cheered up my schooldays. Though I’m pretty sure some of the sixth form used to slip off down the pub that backed onto the playing fields at lunchtime. What really killed of breakfast beer was WW I and the restricted pub opening hours in brought along. Before the war, when pubs opened at 6 am, workers would nip in for a quick pint before their day’s graft.

I really like this next paragraph. It should be nailed to the screen of those “drinks” writers who only ever discuss wine, or, at a pinch, brandy and whisky.

“It is only the mystique that has grown up about wine, carefully fostered by gourmets who have seldom known an open-air appetite, that has disguised the truth that for an unsophisticated palate beer is a far better partner of food. Wine is too insistent: even at its suavest, every sip imposes its individuality and usurps the palate. Draught ale out of a cool tankard defers to the steak, the fowl, the cheese: it is like good prose to wine's poetry, and like good prose does not draw too much attention to itself.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 105.

There was a great one on Saturday Kitchen recently. A “drinks” writer was looking for something to pair with a curry. After briefly mentioning, in a slightly condescending way, that many would pair beer with a curry, she inevitably went and picked a bleeding wine. Now, I quite like a glass of wine myself, but it’s totally and utterly pointless drinking it with spicy food. The combination does neither party any favours. A strong Stout, like Guinness FES works best with spicy dishes in my opinion.

And here’s that early reference to Ploughman’s Lunch”

“Beer can create balance where there is unbalance; it is a grand corrective to starch. Cheese, of course, is the third partner. In a certain inn to-day you have only to say, "Ploughman's Lunch, please," and for a shilling there is bread and cheese and pickled onions to go with your pint, and make a meal seasoned with gossip, and not solitary amid a multitude. Or, if you prefer, bring your own food: it is all one to the landlord. Where else can you have this conversational sort of picnic but in the ale-house?”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 105.

If you could be arsed to read Martyn’s article, you’ll know that the text was changed for the book version of “Beer in Britain”. In the original newspaper supplement it said “Ploughboy’s Lunch”. And that, while the term had been thought up by the Cheese Marketing Board in 1956 to encourage cheese sales, snacks of bread and cheese to accompany beer had been around much longer.

Next we’ll be looking at some specific examples of beers matched with food. It’ll be so exciting.

Thursday 22 December 2016

Beer in 1958 (part six)

There are some real surprises in the second half of the beer and money article. Like the fact the tourism brought in more money than the financial services industry. I bet that isn’t true today.

Inns and Dollars
What is Britain's biggest dollar earner ? Not cars. Not Scotch Whisky. But Tourism.

Tourism is also claimed to be Britain's largest invisible export. It earned £l80m. worth of foreign currencies last year, compared with the impressive amount of £125m. earned in 1956 by the City's banking, insurance and other financial services. Britain, in fact, earns more from tourism than Switzerland, Italy, Austria or France.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 122.

I wouldn’t have guessed that the UK earned more from tourism back then than France or Italy. Who were these tourists? Where did they come from?

The next paragraph I found so baffling it took several rereads before I was certain: only three hotels had been built in the UK between 1945 and 1958:

“The brewing industry's hotels and inns play their part in all this. One of the three hotels built in Britain since the war was built by a brewer in Coventry at a cost of £800,000.

Motels too - a completely modern facility – are being built by brewers. These include the New Forest Motel near Southampton, the Devon Motel on the Exeter By-pass and the Royal Oak Motel near Folkestone. A brewer was also jointly responsible for the Dover Stage Coachotel.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 122.

I still found that statement amazing. Were there really only three hotels built in that period? I can understand that while building restrictions were still in force (until sometime in the early 1950’s) it wouldn’t have been easy to build a hotel. But years had passed between then and 1958.

There’s still something called the New Forest Motel, but it’s not that close to Southampton.
The Devon Motel has been renamed the Devon Hotel and is located on the Matford roundabout on the Starcross road from Exeter.

The Royal Oak today

I’ve been able to discover a little about the Royal Oak Motel. It was built in 1953 beside the Royal Oak pub and hotel (owned by the Hythe Brewery) and was supposedly Britain’s first motel. It closed in 1989 and is now home to an advertising agency.

The Dover Stage Coachotel was built in 1957 and was, according to the Dover Historian website only the third hotel to be built in the UK after the war. It was run by Watney. It was demolished in November 1988 and the site is currently occupied by a car park.

Pubs, unsurprisingly, have always been very popular with tourists. Though I’m 1950’s licencing laws weren’t.

Major attraction to tourists
The 'British Pub' is a major attraction to tourists, especially Americans. When opening the Hotel and Catering Exhibition in January, Mr. Ernest Marples, the Postmaster General, said :

"Scores of American visitors were enamoured of our little country inns and when they returned to the States they spoke about them in such glowing terms and created such a good impression that more and more people in America were interested in them."”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 122.

Presumably the first large groups of US citizens to get a chance to love pubs were the millions of servicemen who passed through the UK during WW II. Though from what I’ve read many of them weren’t keen on British beer.