Wednesday 31 May 2017

Back from the USA (again)

Just got back from yet another US trip. Here's a quick visual report.

Lets’ Brew - 1857 Barclay Perkins X Ale

I know. May is over. But I can’t help myself. Plus I’ve published so few Barclay Perkins Mild Ale recipes from the 19th century.

Nearly 20 years on and not much has changed. OK, the OG has dropped by six points. But the hopping has remained identical. And all fresh English hops. This was brewed in May 1857 and the hops were all MK (Mid Kent) from the 1856 harvest. Basically as fresh as was possible.

The grist 100% HW (Hertfordshire while malt). Meaning the ingredients were all pretty local. About as local as you could get, it your brewery was in London.

It’s interesting to not how different the fermentation profile is compared to the Porters and Stouts in the same brewing book. The Ales fermented much cooler. This beer was pitched at 59.5º F and reached a maximum of 75.23º F. The Porters were pitched at 66-67º F and peaked around 80º F.

I’ll be fascinated to see how soon the foreign ingredients kick as we track Barclay Perkins Mild Ales through the 19th century.

1857 Barclay Perkins X Ale
pale malt 14.75 lb 100.00%
Goldings 150 mins 2.50 oz
Goldings 90 mins 2.50 oz
Goldings 30 mins 2.50 oz
OG 1065.4
FG 1011.4
ABV 7.14
Apparent attenuation 82.57%
IBU 94
Mash at 150º F
Sparge at 172º F
Boil time 150 minutes
pitching temp 59.5º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

Tuesday 30 May 2017

Bitter Lagerbier

This is a class of beer to which I’ve seen references before. It seems to be a general term (I’ve also See Rheinesches Bitterbier used) for proto Altbier and Kölsch.

It seems that towardst the end of the 19th century some North German top-fermenting breweries started to brew beers using methods similar to bottom-fermenting breweries. Presumably to try and stave off competition from Lager. As both Altbier and Kölsch still exist, you could say that the attempt was successful.

Düsseldorfer, Kölner, Wachholder beers. (The latter is a stimulus for bacteria).

Original gravity: 8-9% Balling. Either an infusion or decoction mashing method can be used. These bitter beers should be gold-coloured, and are often produced by the method of "mixed production" (see page 57).

Pitching temperature; 8° R [10º C] Fermentation: 6-7 days.

It is pumped after a good break, fermented at 5° R [6.25º C] in large storage casks, and is cleared with wood chips. After sufficient bunging these beers are usually clear. - In the case of Bitterbiers, the break only occurs when cold, as the protein goes into the yeast head. - In order to produce the strong hop flavour, a large amount of hops are added to the wort in the brewing house, and also in the lager barrel of boiled hops together with the water they were boiled in is added.

Since the yeast quickly degenerates, the old yeasts of the main production are usually used.

The treatment and character are very similar to bottom-fermented beer; it also served in a similar way.

If these beers were less bitter, they might sell more outside the production area. On the other hand, the heaving hopping gives them a long shelf life."
"Die Fabrikation obergäriger Biere in Praxis und Theorie" by Braumeister Grenell, 1907, pages 77 - 78.

The OG Grenell specifies looks a bit low to me. I’d expect a Lagerbier to be a minimum of 12º Balling.

Though Kölsch is a golden colour, I don’t think anyone would say that of modern Alt. So has Alt become darker over time, or was it always more of an amber colour and Grenell just got it wrong?

The primary fermentation temperature of 10º C is pretty cool for a top-fermenting yeast. I guess you’re going to get a pretty clean beer with few esters at that temperature. Though the lagering temperature looks higher than for a bottom-fermenting beer, which would start a 5º C and then drop to -1º C or so.

It’s the hopping I find most intriguing. They’re clearly doing a type of dry-hopping in the lagering vessel, though they’re using boiled rather than raw hops.

I love the final comment about how the beer would sell better if it weren’t so bitter.

Monday 29 May 2017

The most awesomely unexpected labels ever

Not really. Just a random collection of stuff. Apologies for the artifice.

Blame my family. And the fact I quite like them. Spending time with them is fun. Whatever they might think.  If I want the kids to remember who I am, best I don't spend every minute at home chained to my computer.

Drinking another floor beer. Makes me feel good in so many ways. The obvious one, plus helping tidy the house.

As you can see, I'm pretty eclectic in my taste, drinking both old school and new school beer. And why not? I even drink some Heineken products. Why? Because I like them, simple as that. I've lost pretty much any snobbiness I have had about beer. I'll even drink evil keg, if I have to.

I love it the way a couple of the kabels specifically say "craft beer". Whatever that might actually mean. Probably just that it's double the price of an "ordinary" beer.

Sunday 28 May 2017

Deutscher Porter

Here’s a style you should have heard of: German Porter.

Over the last 150-175 years Porter, of one description or another, has been brewed continuously in Germany. Oddly enough, it was in East Germany, even in the communist period, where the tradition of brewing Porter remained strongest. Only to disappear after reunification. In recent years a few East German brewers have started making the style again, but these new Porters, weak and very sweet, bear to resemblance to their predecessors.

I’m not sure why Porter should be considered Gesundheitsbier (Health Beer), unless they’re thinking along the lines of Invalid Stout or Nourishing Stout.

"Gesundheitsbier (German Porter).
The decoction method and high-dried malt are employed with up to 1/3 caramel malt. Original gravity: 14-18.5% balling.

Hops; 700-750 gr. Per Zentner [50 kg.] of malt; These are added, as well as soon as the wort has covered the bottom of the kettle (3 additions are better!)

Boil time: 2-3 hours. Or until there is a good break.

Fermentation: as for Einfachbier, but slightly longer (for high extract); After the main fermentation, lagering takes place in cool cellars. After 10-14 days lagering or longer it is bottled. The secondary fermentation also takes longer as a result of the high gravity.

Before sending out one may add up to 1 kilo of Farbmalz, to obtain the desired colour.

This bottled beer is usually pasteurised to prevent further fermentation in it and make the beer keep better.

If the brewer has two kettles, then usually two kinds are made: standard Porter and from the second wort Einfachbier or Braunbier, as is also the case in England."
"Die Fabrikation obergäriger Biere in Praxis und Theorie" by Braumeister Grenell, 1907, pages 75 - 76. (My translation.)

That’s an OG of 1056º to 1074º, which covers the gravity range of a London Porter and Single Stout of the period pretty much exactly.

A hopping rate of 750 gr. per 50 kg. is the equivalent of about 5lbs per quarter of malt. In 1905, Whitbread’s Porter contained 5.47 lbs of hops per quarter*. So pretty much exactly the same.

Whitbread’s Porter wasn’t as boiled as long as Grenell suggests, just 1.5 and 1.75 hours for the first and second worts, respectively.

The lagering period is pretty short at two weeks. Though a London Porter by this point probably didn’t get more than a week in cask before being consigned to pubs.

Adding Farbmalz just before consignment to customers seems odd. How would that even work? I wonder if he means Farbebier? I.e. Sinamar. That would work.

And here’s someone else getting parti-gyling wrong. London brewers did parti-gyle their Porter and Stouts, but they weren’t using the spargings alone to make a beer, rather blending all the worts post-boil to get several different strength beers. They certainly weren’t making anything even vaguely as weak as Einfachbier or Braunbier at this point.

* Whitbread brewing record held at the london Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/09/099.

Saturday 27 May 2017

Let’s Brew - 1839 Barclay Perkins XXX Ale

One final Mild for May. A rather beefy beer.

I can guess what you’re thinking: that isn’t a Mild, it’s a Double IPA. Or a Barley Wine. Anything but a Mild. But that’s definitely what this is.

The recipe is very much like the XX. There’s just a bit more of everything. All of Barclay Perkins beers were pretty strong at this point. The only one under 6% ABV was their Table Beer, which was a sort of low-gravity Porter. Though even that was 3.5% ABV. And that was for the kiddies.

You may have noticed that some of Barclay’s Ales of this period had very long boils, as much as 5 hours in some cases. It would be nice to compare and contrast Ale boil times with those for Porter and Stout. Unfortunately, even though they’re in the same brewing book, there are no details of boil times for the Porters.

What’s odd is that the Ale and Porter records are in different formats, too. No idea why that should be. They didn’t have a dedicated Ale brewery at this point.

Barclay Perkins only started brewing Ales in the 1830’s. As did all the other big Porter breweries. It’s undoubtedly related to the 1830 Beer Act. This introduced a new type of the pub, the beer house, which couldn’t sell spirits. These seem to have greatly boosted the popularity of Ales, prompting the Porter brewers to get in on the action.

Until then they had only tied their pubs for Porter and Stout, letting them buy in Ales from wherever they liked. By the 1870s Ale had outstripped Porter in sales, even in London. Ale, in the form of Mild Ale, was to retain its dominance for almost a century.

1839 Barclay Perkins XXX Ale
pale malt 23.50 lb 100.00%
Goldings 240 mins 3.50 oz
Goldings 90 mins 3.50 oz
Goldings 30 mins 3.50 oz
OG 1104
FG 1018
ABV 11.38
Apparent attenuation 82.69%
IBU 114
Mash at 147º F
Sparge at 165º F
Boil time 240 minutes
pitching temp 58º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

Friday 26 May 2017

Döllnitzer (Leipziger) Gose

Now we’re done with Grenell’s description of Berliner Weisse brewing methods, it’s time to continue with some other old top-fermenters. Starting with a style you might have heard of: Gose.

“Döllnitzer (Leipziger) Gose.
Original wort: 7-8% B. Infusion procedure.

One uses air-dried malt and 2 parts air-dried malt with well-modified kilned malt, but lower quality will also do, as it works just as well.

The Gose is a cloudy, slightly acidic beer and was already mentioned as an export beer in 1755, but originally came from Goslar and was later produced in Döllnitz. Nowadays it is produced in the Leipzig area by a number of breweries, but the yeast is taken from the distillery Libertwolkwitz.

Hopping rate: 125 g per Zentner [50 kg.] malt.

The yeast is pitched immediately. Degree of saccharification 45%. Secondary fermentation in bottle. Before filling, add 1/3 of water and 1 gram of salt (dissolved in water) per litre; if foam is forced out of the bottle, insufficient salt has been added.

Cardamom-liquorice is also added.- "Genuine" Gose should taste full-bodied and oily. Gose is not filled into barrels, not even stoppered, but it has a plug of yeast.

The yeast is repeatedly skimmed off and only the last covering left.

For Gose do not take red, yellow, brown, etc. bottles, otherwise the light splits the fine proteins, creating ammonia and muddying the beer.

This also applies to other beers!”
"Die Fabrikation obergäriger Biere in Praxis und Theorie" by Braumeister Grenell, 1907, page 74. (My translation.)

Interesting that the grist is a combination of air-dried and kilned malt. Most beer were either one or the other. This would imply that Gose, containing a third kilned malt, would have been darker in colour than a beer like Berliner Weisse.

I’m intrigued to learn that Gose was cloudy. Not sure I’ve heard that before. And most other sources, if they mention acidity, say Gose was very sour, not slightly sour.

Interesting to see that it’s another beer than was watered before bottling. This practice seems to have been pretty widespread for old German top-fermenting styles. If they mean real attenuation by “Degree of saccharification”, then the ABV would be just 2.3%. And that’s before watering it down.

Cardamom-liquorice is my translation of Kardamon-Süssholz. Does it mean coriander? Or a type of cardamom? And was there really any liquorice element? I really don’t know.

125g of hops per 50 kg. of malt is a very low level of hopping. An English Mild Ale of this period contained 1 – 1.5 kg. of hops per 50 kg. of malt. Not really surprising that a beer than was soured by lactobacillus during primary fermentation didn’t contain many hops. Too many would have killed all the lactobacillus.

If you weren’t supposed to use red, yellow or  brown bottles, what colour were you supposed to use? Or is the implication that you should use earthenware bottles? I’m confused. I also wonder why they got the yeast from a distillery rather than a brewery.

Thursday 25 May 2017

Bergen op Zoom

Rested from my US travels, Dolores and I decide on a little Dutch trip. Groningen, is the destination. Plenty to do and a brewery in the centre of town.

And, while we’re up in the far North, we may as well include Leeuwaarden and Haarlingen, too. Been wanting to go to the latter for years.

You’re probably asking yourself: “Then why is the title Bergen op Zoom?” There’s a good reason for that: engineering works. All over the place. Instead of a direct 2-hour train ride a journey of indeterminate length with a couple of changes, including a replacement bus. Think I can do without that on a day off.

But Dolores has already bought cheap tickets. We’re committed to travel, unless we want to just throw away the (admittedly quite small amount of) money we’ve spent.

“Try and find somewhere we can go in the Southwest. There doesn’t seem to be any disruption there.” Dolores asks. “OK, I’ll take a look.”

It’s a challenging assignment. Preferably somewhere we haven’t been, but which also has an interesting museum and somewhere decent to drink. And far enough that it’s worth using the tickets.

Middelburg we’ve been to. Rotterdam isn’t far enough. We’ve been there loads of times. And is an ugly shit hole. Roosendaal, looks pretty crap. Den Bosch would be a possibility, if the trains to there weren’t messed up, too. Bergen op Zoom is the only place that fits all of Dolores’s demands. So Bergen op Zoom it is.

Being hardened train travellers, we prepare ourselves for the journey. Sandwiches, reading matter and something to drink. Plus distress flares and a satellite phone in case things go really badly wrong.

Remember me mentioning the cans I was given at Daredevil in Indianapolis? And me mentioning that they would come in useful later. This is when. Absolutely perfect for train drinking. And way better than the cans of Heineken they sell in stations.

We’re talking a train from Sloterdijk station. We always avoid Amsterdam Centraal, if possible. The centre of town is just too effing annoying nowadays, with idiot tourists blocking your way.

We notice that our train appears to have been cancelled. Not because of engineering works but on account of a good old-fashioned technical fault. Dolores asks an NS employee what we should do. She directs us to the platforms outside the main station where we can take a train to Leiden and change there.

Did I mention that we have first-class tickets? Just as well; seeing as the little sprint we step on is pretty crowded. I settle into my seat and pop the first can. A Kölsch-style Ale. “That’s wrong on so many counts, Dolores. It wasn’t brewed in Cologne and Kölsch isn’t an effing Ale.” Dolores just nods absentmindedly. She’s quite good at ignoring my beer rants.

Dolores starts fiddling with her tablet and headphones. “Is my beer talk that boring?” “It isn’t you. It’s that woman” her eyes dart to a someone on the other side of the aisle, “I can’t stand her irritating voice and the shit she’s talking.” She does have a rather bad case of verbal incontinence. Personally, I can shut it out. I hadn’t even noticed, if I'm honest.

The change in Leiden is pretty smooth. They must have rerouted the train, because I realise it’s the one we originally intended catching. No problem this time with annoying talk from fellow passengers. We’re in a silent carriage. It’s a two-can journey.

The town centre is just a gentle stroll from the Bergen op Zoom railway station. It seems quite a pretty place. Our first port of call is on the main square: Biercafé 't Locomotiefke. A chance for us to take our bearings. And have a beer. It’s been ages since I had one.

They’ve only just opened and it’s empty inside. Making it easy to admire the beer memorabilia sprinkled about the walls. And the model train that circles the room slightly above head height. It’s an old school beer place, meaning the beer list is mostly Belgian. They have draught De Koninck so Dolores is a happy girl. As am I with my Tripel Karmeliet. Happy, I mean, not a girl. I was still definitely a boy when I went to the toilet last.

We don’t stay long. We’re heading for the town’s museum, Het Markiezenhof. But first we nip down a side street to check out an interesting-looking bakery. Unfortunately, they’ve sold out of sourdough bread.

Het Markiezenhof is a palace-like house with its origins in the late Middle Ages. One wing was done up French style in the 18th century, complete with formal garden outside. It’s nice enough, but I prefer the older bits myself.

There’s a large exhibit devoted to fun fairs. The models of rides are fine, but I’m not so keen on the stuff preserved in formaldehyde. Bit creepy. I don’t have much of a stomach for gore.

I’ve already earmarked somewhere for lunch: De Teerkamer on the main square. The purple wallpaper is very, er, early 1970’s. But the food is cheap. Just €5.50 for Dolores’s uitsmijter. Bargain. I have prawn croquettes and chips.

Dolores is keen to fit in as much possible while we’re down here. After realising that there’s a brewery in the centre of town, I suggested to Dolores that we continue on to Goes in Zeeland. Another town neither of us have ever been to. It helps that we can get a direct train back to Amsterdam from there.

Goes is smaller than Bergen op Zoom and not quite as pretty. At least the bit we see as we march from the station to the main square.

When I see the Slot Oostende logo, I realise that I’ve already drunk bottles of a couple of their beers. Ton Overmars stocks a couple. The building is rather schizophrenic. The front, where the brewery is housed, is plain and modern. Behind is a much grander, older section. Which is where we seat ourselves.

Rather like Oude Daen in Utrecht, albeit on a much smaller scale. It’s quite busy, mostly with young things. Dolores gets I Blond, I get a Dubbel. The beers are both perfectly fine. But a little pricey at €4 and €4.50. By means of comparison, my Tripel Karmeliet earlier was just €2.75. We’re in a small, provincial town and they’ve brewed the beer themselves. They should be able to sell it cheaper.

We only stay for the one. Time is passing and we’ve a 2.5 hour train ride back to the capital.

My cans are all done. Luckily I had the foresight to bring along two bottles of Gulpener Lentebock as well. They lubricate my wheels nicely for the return journey.

Biercafé 't Locomotiefke
Grote Markt 11,
4611 NR Bergen op Zoom.

Het Markiezenhof
Steenbergsestraat 8,
4611 TE Bergen op Zoom

De Teerkamer
Grote Markt 13,
4611 NS Bergen op Zoom

Slot Oostende
Singelstraat 5,
4461 HZ Goes.

Wednesday 24 May 2017

I'll be in Edinburgh soon

The 8th June, to be precise.

I'll be talking Scottish beer (and trying to flog books) at the Hanging Bat:

More interesting than me droning on, are the four historic William Younger beers Hanging Bat has brewed:

1851 60/- Ale (6%)
1851 80/- Ale (7.5%)
1851 Stock Ale (8.5%)
1885 140/- Ale (9.5%)
I'm really excited about trying the beers. A few pints of the 140 bob should really improve my presentation skills.

It's another leg in my weird Macbeth tour. Which rambles pointlessly around countries and continents.

Buy my new Scottish book. And put me out of my misery.

Let’s Brew Wednesday - 1839 Barclay Perkins XX Ale

Another Mild for May. This time a lightly beefier one from the 1830’s.

It’s as uncomplicated as an early 19th-century recipe can be. The original only had two ingredients (other than yeast and water): Herts white malt and MK hops. So not only two ingredients, but also ones that were relatively locally-sourced. This would be the case for much longer. After 1840 foreign hops and foreign barley were imported in increasingly large quantities. The UK wouldn’t be self-sufficient in brewing materials again until the 1940’s.

I’ve actually reduced the hopping a little – it actually worked out to 9 oz. in total. But as they were all from the 1838 harvest and this beer was brewed in September 1839, it seems logical to knock it down a bit to take into account their age.

Probably not most people’s idea of a Mild: pale, 9.5% ABV and 90 IBU. It just shows how much a style can change over time.

1839 Barclay Perkins XX Ale
pale malt 19.75 lb 100.00%
Goldings 150 mins 2.75 oz
Goldings 90 mins 2.75 oz
Goldings 30 mins 2.75 oz
OG 1087.3
FG 1015.5
ABV 9.50
Apparent attenuation 82.25%
IBU 90
Mash at 149º F
Sparge at 168º F
Boil time 150 minutes
pitching temp 58º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

Tuesday 23 May 2017

Berliner Weisse more methods

I’m surprised at just how many different ways there were to brew Berliner Weisse. Though there were quite a large number of mostly pretty small breweries making it. So maybe I shouldn’t be so shocked at the diversity.

Not sure who or what R.S.O. was. But they recommended this method:

"III. Method. - R. S. O. shares the following procedure in the "Klein- u. Mittelbrauer":

Mash in at 5 o'clock at 28° R. [35º C], at 6 o'clock it is 35° [43.75º C], at 7 o'clock 44° [55º C], at 7:30 48° R. [60º C]; at this temperature there is a rest of 0.5 hours; Then go up at 8:30 to 54º R [67.5º C] and at 9 o'clock to 62º R [77.5º C], then let down 2/3 of the mash into the lauter tun (which must be preheated beforehand with hot water), bring what remains in the pan quickly to the boil, which lasts, according to wishes, 5-20 minutes, and immediately mash out at 61º R [76.25º C]. The wort should run off crystal clear and its flow should not be interrupted."
"Die Fabrikation obergäriger Biere in Praxis und Theorie" by Braumeister Grenell, 1907, page 72. (My translation.)

As you can see this method consisted of a step mash and a short boil of two-thirds of the mash. I assume that the boiled mash was added back to the main mash in the lauter tun to hit the mash out temperature of 76.25º C.

And here is the final method. Bet you’re glad that we’re done, aren’t you?

“IV. Method. Sometimes the following infusion method is also used:

Mash in in the pan at 28-30° R [35-37.5º C], and mash for half an hour while stirring continuously with the fire covered; then it is slowly heated in 1.25 hours to 51-52 ° R. [63.75-65º C], and 1 pound of hops per Zentner [50 kg] of malt are added, Then the wort is left to rest for 30 minutes, then heated to 61-62° R [76.25-77.5º C], and then left in the mash and lauter tun, where the mash itself reaches a temperature of 60° [75º C]. Continue then as per method II.

The method with boiling is, of course, much more reliable, although boiling has no influence on the character of the beer. Take care that at mash out a temperature of 61-62º [76.25-77.5º C]  is maintained (at which all the germs and bacteria are rendered harmless), the method I is also recommended for rapid cooling, as well as for the immediate pitching of yeast.

If one has to struggle with "difficulties" in the clarification in bottles, the first wort and sparge are pumped into the kettle and there, during run off, the temperature is held at 78-80 ° R [97.5-100º C]. In case of "irregular fermentation", one reverts to boiling the wort.

The bottles are difficult to keep clean to avoid a "thread pull" (ropey beer), which often occurs in the summer.

As a fairly high amount of wheat is employed, the "run off" takes more time (5-6 hours); if the run off is too quick, the sediment will sit too fast. It is also not always appropriate, especially in the case of a fine grist, to sparge immediately after mashing out, in order to avoid clogging the holes in the false bottom. Here the use of a mash filter is recommended.
"Die Fabrikation obergäriger Biere in Praxis und Theorie" by Braumeister Grenell, 1907, pages 72 - 73. (My translation.)

Interesting what Grenell counts as an infusion mash. Because there are still several different mash temperatures and a rest. I assume it’s infusion because there is no boiling of the wort. Though it does recommend holding the wort at just about boiling point during run off if there are problems with clarification.

These last two paragraphs seem to refer to Berliner Weisse in general, rather than to method IV in particular.:

“In the summer, when the carbonic acid content is too low, often 500 gr. of cooking sugar is added per barrel, too.

Weissbier requires a careful final handling by the publican, as otherwise the quality of the beer suffers a lot. But since nowadays every one becomes a landlord, and very seldom understands something from the handling of the beer, sales have been decreasing.”
"Die Fabrikation obergäriger Biere in Praxis und Theorie" by Braumeister Grenell, 1907, page 73. (My translation.)

Not sure why the CO2 content would be too low in summer. Surely there would be a more lively fermentation in warm weather?

That final comment could just as well be talking about cask beer in the UK. Just like cask beer, a lot of the old German top-fermenting styles were sent out to pubs before fermentation was complete. The final stage needed to be completed by the publican. I’m sure there were plenty of ways he could cock things up.

Monday 22 May 2017

Random English labels

I'm afraid you're not even going to get some of my pathetic sketches this time. Just the briefest of bullshit and then some pretty labels.

The reason? I've another trip coming up. And I need to bash out some quick posts.

The reason I have so many fresh labels is another matter. I've been making a real effort to get through my floor beers. That's the beers clogging up the living room floor. It's incredible how quickly it can change from just a couple to 150. I've no idea how that can happen. It's almost as if they're breeding.

Below are labels from some of the English beers in the pile I've finished off. It's stuff I picked up on a couple of my UK trips. To be honest, I have trouble remembering all the different trips. Thus year will be even worse. Atlanta and Asheville later this week. Edinburgh a week or so after I return from that. Sheffield at the end of June. Berlin and Newark in August. Washington DC in September, maybe. Chile in October. I think that's about all I currently have planned.

Incidentally, despite my already crzay schedule, if you're a brewer or home brewer club in Europe and would like to host a Macbeth event, get in touch. I'm sure I can squeeze the odd weekend in.

Sunday 21 May 2017


It’s an indication of how full my schedule has been that even on my final day, I’m squeezing in a brewery visit. Literally on my way to the airport.

Goose Island, to be specific. I check out of my hotel and jump in a cab. There’s a bit of buggering around at Fulton Market where a lorry is blocking the street. My driver tries to take a detour around it, but only finds a dead end. After a bit of messing around we get through.

Inside the brewery, Mike Siegel comes to greet me. He has Tyler of Present Tense with him. He just happened coincidentally to be in the brewery. Nice to see him again, too.

We go down to the pilot brewery to have a taste of the test run of our next collaboration beer. It’s just about finished in primary, though still a bit yeasty. Still a bit rough around the edges, but some time in oak should knock those edges off.

I’m really interested in getting a look at the snapped brown malt Andrea Stanley (of Valley Malt) has made for the project. The corns are very unevenly coloured, some near black others as pale as pale malt.

“Usually I’d reject malt that looked like that.” Mike says. It does look a bit odd.

Mike can’t stay with us long. He has a party to show around the brewery. He leaves us at the little bar area inside the brew house. We’re free to pour whatever we fancy. So I get myself a Bourbon County Stout. “Why not?” I think.

Tyler and I have a pleasant chat about various things, including his brewery (Present Tense). Which still isn’t fully up and running. A shame, because the cask of ESB he let us try in September was lovely stuff.

When Mike has finished showing his guests around he comes the bar for a chat. And gives me a few bottles to take home, as does Tyler. I love Mike’s (literally) white label bottle which simply says in large letters “Test beer, not for sale”. No worries on that count. I plan drinking it myself.

I can’t stay too long. Got a transatlantic flight to catch. Soon another taxi is taking me along the concrete hell of the motorway to O’Hare.

I’ve a few tasks to accomplish. Like getting Andrew his bottle of Bourbon. And myself some food for the plane. I buy two sandwiches and it comes to almost $25. They aren’t even that big or particularly good. Robbing bastards. I should remember not to shop in airports.

There’s not much in the way of a bar in sight. So I make do with an Italian food place. Calamari and bourbon. That should set me up nicely for the flight.

Which it seems to do. I nod off nicely shortly into the flight, only to awake in Amsterdam with a yellow stain down the front of my shirt. Presumably from the dinner that was served.

The end of a really fun trip. Where once again I met loads and loads of people. Most of them pretty nice. Just three weeks and one day until I next cross the Atlantic. “You’re crazy, Ronald.” As Dolores always says.

Goose Island Beer Company
1800 W Fulton St,
IL 60612.
Tel: +1 800-466-7363

Buy my new Scottish book. It's why I was in the USA.

Saturday 20 May 2017

Let’s Brew - 1838 Barclay Perkins X Ale

Pretty sure that it’s still May. Got to keep those Mild recipes coming.

I was rather shocked to see how few Barclay Perkins recipes there are in my book “Mild! plus”. Just a couple from the 1930’s and 1940’s.

I’ll admit to ulterior motives. And not just trying to slip in as many Barclay Perkins references as possible. Though that’s always good, too. No, my aims are far more noble. I want to remind everyone that Mild Ale wasn’t always a low-gravity beer. That it’s a piss simple recipe for me to write is by the by.

The original recipe was slightly more complicated than mine, the grist being about a 50-50 split of Herts. pale and Herts. white malt. I suppose you could use half mild malt and half pale malt to emulate this.

The hops in the original were half 1837 EK and half 1838 MK. So all pretty fresh hops (it was brewed on 22nd November). Usually to interpret MK as Fuggles and EK as Goldings. But this is a few decades too early for Fuggles, leaving me no option but to go for all Goldings. You may have noticed that there are rather a lot of them. Which brings me onto another point: Mild Ale wasn’t always lightly hopped.

The mashing scheme is pretty complicated: and infusion mash with a strike heat of 170º F, flowed by an underlet at 190º F, then a third mash at 200º F. There were two further mashes for return worts. This is pretty typical of the multi-mash schemes favoured in London in the first half of the 19th century.

Not much else really to say. Other than: drink Mild!

1838 Barclay Perkins X Ale
pale malt 16.25 lb 100.00%
Goldings 300 mins 2.50 oz
Goldings 90 mins 2.50 oz
Goldings 30 mins 2.50 oz
OG 1071.5
FG 1012.4
ABV 7.82
Apparent attenuation 82.66%
IBU 89
Mash at 151º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 300 minutes
pitching temp 59º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

Friday 19 May 2017

Crystal Lake

Another day of travelling ahead. Though not that complicated. Just a single flight to Chicago.

The taxi queue outside the hotel is as weird as yesterday. This time it’s the turn of the rearmost taxi. I’m glad the drivers are keeping track. This time mine doesn’t get lost. Though I guess the airport is pretty easy to find.

Checking in and security are a breeze once more. Why isn’t it like this in European airports?

Sweets. I need to buy Alexei some sweets. Andrew gets bourbon, Alexei gets sweets. I see a spot selling just that. I get him two packets. What the fuck, $14! It shouldn’t really be more than $4, the robbing bastards. I must remember not to shop in airports.

I need some food. Ah, there’s a steakhouse. That’ll do. As usual my arse is parked adjacent to the bar. I order a Sun King Osiris. and a steakburger. That should see me through the next few hours. I have to say that the beer choice is usually pretty good in US airports. Unlike most countries. (Wetherspoons in the UK being an exception.)

The woman behind the bar is quite pushy. She keeps asking everyone if they want more drinks. No thanks, missus. I’m happy just nursing this pint, thank you.

As I walk to my gate I pass a Granite City brewpub bar. Damn. I remember now noticing it when I flew in. I blame my poor whatdoyoucallit, that thingy. What is it? Memory, that’s it.

Sadly, my United flight isn’t overbooked. Looks like I’m condemned to more years of working.

Once again, I have little time to rest after my arrival in Chicago. I only have an hour or so before I need to be on a train to Crystal Lake, which is about 75 km northwest of the city centre. Why did I agree to do this event? Because they asked me. It’s as simple as that.

It’s my final event of the trip. I realise that I’ve only really had one free day.

I take a double-decker commuter train. It’s pretty full, but I get a seat. Everyone but me is clearly on their way home after a day’s work. My work is just beginning.

I’m trying to take a photo of the outside of Duke’s Tavern, location of tonight’s event, when someone pops out and say “Ron, we’re in here.”

After a second or two, I recognise who it is: Les Howarth. We met in Chicago last September. He takes me inside to meet some other members of his home brew club.

We start the evening with some food. Just as well, as it’s hours since I last ate. Obviously accompanied by a beer or two. Once that’s all out of the way we repair upstairs, where the meeting will take place. It’s supposed to start at 19:00.

I have some equipment difficulties. There’s no projector, just a large TV. And I don’t have the right cable to connect by laptop up to it. They’ll just have to make do with my laptop screen. Fortunately, it’s not an enormous room.

There’s beer to accompany me droning on. That’s been the plan for most of my events. Me talking, home brewers serving historic Scottish beers. It’s worked out pretty well, really.

I get a few laughs, which is usually a sign of things going well. But I can’t linger too long afterwards. If I miss the 21:00 train I’ll have to wait until 00:30 for the next one. Which would have me getting to bed far too late.

Once I’ve dumped all my stuff back in the hotel, I realise that I’ve still got a bit of a thirst. The internet tells me that there’s a TGI Fridays a couple of blocks away. That’ll do for a quick eye-closer. On my last night in the USA.

It doesn’t have the greatest beer selection. I go for a Sam Adams Rebel. It does the job. I vaguely stare at the basketball on TV while I drink it. The trip is winding down. No more events, no more talking.

Just one place I need to drop by on my way to the airport tomorrow. Then I’m done. At least until the end of the month. When I’ll be back in the USA again. This time for Asheville Beer Week.

Duke's Alehouse and Kitchen
110 N Main St,
Crystal Lake,
IL 60014.
Tel: +1 815-356-9980

TGI Fridays
153 E Erie St,
IL 60611.
Hours: Open today · 10:30AM–2AM
Tel: +1 312-664-9820