Monday, 19 October 2015

British Breweries wearing the Poppy with Pride

Three of Britain’s most innovative breweries have joined forces with the Royal British Legion to support the Poppy Appeal this year. XT Brewing of Buckinghamshire, Raw Brewery of Chesterfield and the Big Hand Brewery of Wrexham are collaborating on a very special beer during the month of Armistice. Each brewery is making the ‘Lest We Forget’ ale locally and following the same recipe then contributing a cut of their takings to the Poppy Appeal.

The collaboration between these breweries and the RBL with the Lest-We-Forget is inspirational and shows how forward thinking local producers can work together to help those who helped us in the defence of freedom. The members of the collaboration are all very proud to be working together and hope to extend the project further in 2016 to include more innovative craft breweries from around the country.

Back in 2013 the Royal British Legion Marlow branch and XT Brewery, created a unique charity beer to raise both awareness and much needed funds for the Royal British Legion (RBL) Poppy Appeal. Brewed for the month of Armistice the beer was a great success and contributed over £3000 to the Legion in its first year.

The beer aptly named ‘Lest We Forget’ at 4.2% is a red malty beer brewed with aromatic English malts and balanced with hops from around the Commonwealth including Galaxy from Australia, Admiral from England and Pacific Gem from New Zealand.

Encouraged by the success of the first year,  XT and The RBL worked together again in 2014 and released the beer once more to mark the month of Armistice and raise funds for the appeal. The beer spread its wings and was shipped further afield using the combined resources of other local brewers to help distribute the Lest into even more pubs and clubs.

Now into its third year two more breweries have joined the collaboration. The Raw Brewery and the Big Hand Brewery have thrown their considerable brewing experience behind the project. They are making the Lest for their local pubs and RBL clubs and raising even more funds for the Poppy Appeal.

Lest We Forget - three words renown across the world in remembrance of those who fought, and those who died fighting for freedom. It means that we will never forget! We honour the period of remembrance by wearing poppies, a flower that bloomed throughout the fields of battle grounds in France and Belgium during World War One. The poem, ‘Flanders Field’, written by Canadian physician, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae after witnessing his friend and fellow soldier struck down in the midst of battle in the First World War.  The poem inspired Moina Michael to use the poppy as a symbol of remembrance in 1918 and was adopted by the US Legion in 1920 and the British Legion in 1921      

The Royal British Legion, founded in 1921, is the UK’s leading Service charity. They provide practical care advice and support to serving members of the Armed Forces, veterans of all ages and their families. The Royal British Legion boasts some 360,000 members, they are not only a campaigning organisation challenging those in authority, with a fund-raising organisation reliant on a huge network of volunteers, but the RBL are the nation’s custodian of the Remembrance

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Cervesa Mallorca! – The Growth of Craft Beer in Spain

Mallorca may not bring to mind artisanal beers savoured in moderate volumes – but the influences of quality beer creeps further and further each year and this beautiful Mediterranean island is now home to several innovative micro-breweries.

No holiday would be complete without spending a little time researching my favourite local malt beverage and trying to meet up with any local brewers. Tucked away in historic towns across the island there are now seven local producers making a seriously wide range of beers. Finding them however did prove a little tricky.

I started my beer travels at a wonderful bar in the capital: Palma. Having become used to the bars selling only one ‘cervesa’, which quite often wasn’t even branded, seeing a long line of taps in the Cook & Beer brewpub was a very welcome sight. English, Belgian and a wide selection of local beers were available and all delivered up by a very enthusiastic barman-brewer who took time to talk us through all of the local breweries and recommended bars.

In the same neighbourhood as Cook & Beer is the Tramuntana Brewery and bar, named for the beautiful mountain range that runs along the northern coast and a nearby bottle shop: Del Món both well worth searching out. Forastera brewery has some funky looking beers and they are located further south towards the airport.

Heading east from Palma to Algaida, Cervesa des Pla make a very interesting soured honey-wheat beer called Xeixa. Finding the beers can prove difficult, but one of the more widely available in supermarkets is Cas Cerveser Galilea based in the mountain area of Puigpunyent. Sullerica from Soller on the western coast make a wonderful black ale brewed with cacao. The smallest brewery is Talaiotika from Porreres started by a winemaker and chef.

Beer Lovers Brewery from Alcúdia have developed a great local following and produced some wonderful English and American influenced beers and taken more to hoppier styles than some of the other local beers. They have a patio bar and hold regular beer and food matching events.

All the breweries produce an astonishing range of styles – they realise they are never going to compete for the ‘session’ lager market – the prices of ‘Euro-Fizz’ are just so low that you wonder how the cost even covers the tax and delivery. They need to persuade buyers to spend potentially ten times more for their product; so the market looks for fuller flavoured beers. Styles range from pale wheat beers all through to some very convincing dark porters and chewy stouts.

The bottled beers are all bottle-conditioned and filled at the breweries. The draught beers are on keg – but they are ‘keg conditioned’ that is to say the kegs are filled with ‘live’ beer, unfiltered and the beers then gradually develop their own ‘fizz’ so no extra gas is added.

The bottles and the draught beers are all generally pretty hazy and quite lively which seems to be the mark of a ‘craft beer’. I have noticed on the Continent and North America beer lovers have developed the idea that good beer is defined on appearance:

Clear Beer = Filtered = Industrial = Bad!

Hazy Beer = Unfiltered = Craft = Good!

Versus the way the English notion that the method of dispense determines the quality:

Keg Beer = Industrial = Bad!

Real Ale = Craft = Good!

Where really it’s simpler than that:

Good Beer = Good!

Bad Beer = Bad!


Sunday, 22 February 2015

Bastard Bunny Brew Ha Ha

The Animal & MoogBrew - Bastard Bunny Brew Ha Ha 7.2%  IPA

The Bunny is a collaboration brew with MoogBrew – a trendy little brewery in Taplow, Buckinghamshire. It was a chance meeting with MoogBrew at a beer festival. They said they had made a beer called Bastard Bunny… we immediately suggested a joint-brew under our Animal brand. Only Bigger. With Lots More Hops. The Bastard Bunny character is originally featured in the NME magazine - the guys from Moog are mates with Dave Anderson who created the character. The beer will be launched at the Evening Star in Brighton - here is the flyer as drawn by Dave to celebrate the Bunny ...

A true American style double IPA thumping in at a hefty 7.2%  – very generously hopped  with truckloads of American greenery – Chinook, Cascade, Columbus and Summit on pale malts. 

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Bermondsey Beer Mile

The Bermondsey Beer Mile is a popular crawl to some of London's hippest new breweries. It's an interesting view of craft-brewing life in London today - still joyfully in a state of independence and not overtly commercial. How things will develop in the coming years is anyone's guess - but this is a tour worth doing sooner rather than later... before the informal charm is polished away.

The breweries all set up temporary bars and trestle tables on Saturdays for you to enjoy their draught craft-keg or bottled beers. The breweries are built into railway arches with paved yards to the front. Mostly the beers are strong IPAs, hefty stouts and porters or whacky Saisons and experimental brews - didn't see a session bitter all day. There were quite a few 'table IPAs' under 3% available too - surprisingly tasty. The beers on draught were sold in 2/3 pint glasses.

The trestle tables, working brewery surroundings and slightly ramshackle feel all make for a very sociable day - we found all the other beer tourists very friendly (especially as you will generally be trailing each other all day) and every stop would be a babble of chatter among similar minded beery folk.

The tour is made up of seven breweries and one bar, and for ease I would suggest starting at the furthest point and working your way back towards central London. The breweries are generally open from 11am to about 5pm on Saturdays - except Kernel which closes at 2pm. This makes things a little tricky as they are the mid point. So if you realistically want to do the whole set you'll need to start early.

To start the tour head for London Bridge station and the overland 'Southern' trains. You need platform 14 and the train to South Bermondsey. The train journey is just 5 minutes and they run every 15 minutes.

Leave South Bermondsey station and head for Fourpure Brewery Unit 22, Bermondsey Trading Estate, SE16 3LL - 0.3 miles away. Walk out of the station and down towards the right, Rotherhithe New Road and after around 500m on the right you will see Bermondsey Trading Estate and Screw-Fix. Walk through the estate following the road and back under the railway arches, the brewery will be right ahead of you. 

Fourpure Brewery is probably my personal favourite; it's a professional looking set up and one of the largest. They purchased the 20 barrel kit from Purity Brewing. Their beers are all sold in keg or can - yes cans! Cans may have a reputation for holding the most awful of beers and to many should only be used by louts and tramps - but honestly - give it a try and you will be very pleasantly surprised.

Next head to Partizan Brewery - 8 Almond Road, SE16 3LR - 0.4 miles. Walk out of the trading estate and turn left back the way you came. Then take the next major right up Galleywall Road. At the end of the road turn right and then immediately right down Almond Road. Partizan is in an arch on the left around 300m down the lane. 

Partizan is rather different to the orderly Fourpure, seating is outside on pallet stacks and a temporary bar is placed in front of the brewkit. The brewery itself is amazingly squashed into a fairly small railway arch, the 6 barrel plant came from Kernel. The beers are all one-off specials and they use more unusual ingredients.

After Partizan go on to Kernel Brewery Arch 11, Dockley Road, SE16 3SF. This is 0.7 miles away and will take around 15 minutes. Return to the top of Almond Road and turn left, then carry on until you turn right down Blue Anchor Lane, then cross St James Rd, with the railway on your right, go down Lucy Road and Kernel will be on the right.

Kernel is the original and set the mold for this south London 'new-wave' of breweries. They are the one everyone wants to copy and they also started this Saturday-at-the-brewery trend. There is a huge range of beers on tap and bottle. Right next door is a bakery and cheese maker and several people were in the brewery enjoying their bread and cheese lunch with beer.

Next up is Brew By Numbers - 79 Enid Street, SE16 3RA. This is around 0.5 miles away.With the railway on your right, turn right down Rouel Road. Left then right, this turns into Enid Street and Brew By Numbers is on the right. 

Brew by Numbers - again quite a lot of equipment and stock all piled into a railway arch and the temporary bar area opens out on to the yard in front. A fine selection of beers all number coded by style / recipe - now who would number their beers? Silly idea! 

Lunch Time! There is an artisan street market selling all kinds of cracking food called the Maltby Street Market. Leave Brew by Numbers along the railway arches until you reach Abbey Street and turn left then first right down Gelding Place. The market is in this area. There are lots of street traders along here and plenty of places to enjoy a hearty lunch (if a little pricey)

Next up is Anspach & Hobday and Bullfinch - 118 Druid Street, SE1 2HH. (Two breweries in one) 5 minute walk, 0.3 miles. Walk to the top of the market street with the arches on your left, then turn left down Millstream Road and back under the arches. Turn right onto Druid Street and Aspach is on the right hand side. 

The two breweries here offer some indoor seating and a fairly wide range of beers.

Next door is the Bottle Shop - this is worth a visit as it fits in with the character of the day and is both an informal shop with a range of bottled beers and a bar with seating on a mezzanine area under the railway arches. We enjoyed an excellent tasting session with Weird-Beard Brewery who were doing a meet-the-brewer night.

Also in the same arches is the newest of the breweries in our crawl: Southwark Brewery - newest and yet the only one of the group to make their beers for cask. The brewery was only a week or two old when I visited and we had a very interesting chat with the guys there talking through their set up.

By this time it was early evening and the last visit of the day is very close to Tower Bridge - the Dean Swift pub - this is tucked away in a side street under the once mighty Courage Anchor Brewery.

Thanks to North Oxon CAMRA and John from Turpin Brewery.

Monday, 27 October 2014

ALPHA ACID - An Ultra Bitter Experience

XT Brewery, Alpha AcidThere are a few ultra IBU beers out there, and it is a challenge both to brew these beasts and indeed a serious struggle to actually drink them.

It had been an idea burning away in my head for some time that we should try and brew up one of these horrors. Prompted and encouraged by our friend John Bishop from the St Albans beer festival I started planning how to meet this challenge ready for the festival in September 2014

The Alpha Acids in hops are the source of the bitterness we brewers use in our beers - the bitterness of a beer is generally measured in International Bittering Units IBUs - from no effect at 0 up to 100 which is the top level generally agreed to be max out point of human perception. A bog standard 'English Bitter' is somewhere around 30 to 40 IBUs for a 4% ABV beer.

So it had to be XT- AlphaAcid 

The Press Release:
Alpha Acid, is a heavily hopped IPA style beer with a mouth puckering bitterness which was available for the first time at the 19th St Albans Beer & Cider Festival September 2014. The beer measures in at 6.0% ABV and 1000 units of bitterness and is brewed by XT Brewery Company of Long Crendon, Bucks with masses of intense American Hops to produce what is possibly Britain's Bitterest Beer.

The beer makes full use of alpha acids. Alpha acids are the components in hops which gives beers their characteristic bittering flavours, normally balanced with the sweetness of the malts.
Beer Organiser John Bishop said "When one considers that an English IPA is normally between 40 and 60 IBU this beer definitely hits harder than your standard pint and tips the scales well into unbalanced and bitter! Definitely not one for a session or those with a weak constitution! I am certainly looking forward to sampling it myself. This beer is bound to create quite an interest on curiosity value alone and will undoubtedly be extremely popular by many of our more adventurous visitors so come early to the Festival if you want to try some".

It was planned as a pale beer - but actually ended up a rather interesting milky pale green.The IBU level was a calculated value based on standard brewing formula - we didn't have the opportunity to have it scientifically measured before the festival.

It is certainly a beer for the drinker who wants the challenge and bragging rights rather than a nice balanced session ale - I rather enjoyed making it and I hope the drinkers who tried it will remember it even if they didn't actually like it.

I  am not sure if it was Britain's Bitterest Beer - there are plenty of other green beasts out there but I hope it comes in the top 10 ... looking forward to 2000 IBUs

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Long Crendon Cider - craft cider

Long Crendon Cider

The launch of Long Crendon cider will take place at the Eight Bells pub, Long Crendon, Bucks during the 2014 Easter Beer Festival, a fitting venue as the cider is produced at Long Crendon Manor and sold exclusively through XT Brewing Co, who are also based in the village.

Cider has been made at Long Crendon Manor for a number of years using their own orchard apples for household and local consumption. However, when XT started brewing beer they also took an interest in the artisan cider from the other end of the village, which had previously only been available in the Manor kitchen or occasionally the Eight Bells and the Cross Keys in Thame.

It was Spring last year when alcoholic coercion from Russ and Gareth of XT morphed into business planning by Tim and Sue at the Manor to move on from the old hand scratter and butterfly press to an electric miller and a brand-new Voran hydraulic press. Supplied by Vigo, the twin bed press is capable of providing a force of 380 Bar (that’s a whopping 5,500 Psi!) to extract the juice from the apple pulp. This means that the process is very efficient and the apple pommace which is left over after pressing is perfect for being fed as a supplement to the Gloucestershire Old Spot and Large Black rare breed pigs at the Manor.

Apples sourced from the Manor and a number of local orchards are harvested in the summer to produce a medium dry cider. Still and clear, it has an ABV of 5.5% and is appropriately called: Late Summer cider. These apples are hand-picked (good quality wind falls are fine!) and are usually left for a week or two before crushing and pressing which allows the natural yeasts and acids to get to work under the skin.

The Autumn varieties are made primarily using the famous Dabinett cider apple from Herefordshire. Again, according to the time of harvesting the apples, the three Autumn ciders on offer are: Early Autumn, Mid-Autumn and Late Autumn. Strengths are also 5.5% ABV and the tastes Medium Dry, although the Autumn ciders have a very different colour and flavour to the Late Summer cider.

Packaging this year is in 10l and 20l polypins available through XT Brewing Co.

The significant investment in the cider process at Long Crendon Manor means that production volumes this year will be significantly greater than last year to provide a larger and broader offering in 2015.

Long Crendon Cider –

Late Summer – 5.5% ABV Medium Dry. Still.
Early Autumn – 5.5% ABV Medium Dry. Still.
Mid-Autumn – 5.5% ABV Medium Dry. Still.
Late-Autumn – 5.5% ABV Medium Dry. Still.